In the 2000s, women can serve on U.S. combat ships, including in command roles. They are permitted to serve on submarines. Women can fly military aircraft and make up 2% of all pilots in the U.S. Military. In 2003, Major Kim Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for landing her combat damaged A-10 Thunderbolt II with no hydraulic control and only one functional engine after being struck by hostile fire over Baghdad.
With very few exceptions, becoming a non-commissioned officer (NCO) or petty officer in the U.S. Armed Forces is accomplished by progression through the lower enlisted ranks. However, unlike promotion through the lower enlisted tier, promotion to NCO is generally competitive. NCO ranks begin at E-4 or E-5, depending upon service and are generally attained between three and six years of service. Junior NCOs function as first-line supervisors and squad leaders, training the junior enlisted in their duties and guiding their career advancement.
Command over the U.S. Armed Forces is established in the Constitution. The sole power of command is vested in the President by Article II as Commander-in-Chief. The Constitution presumes the existence of "executive Departments" headed by "principal officers", whose appointment mechanism is provided for in the Appointments Clause. This allowance in the Constitution formed the basis for creation of the Department of Defense in 1947 by the National Security Act. The DoD is headed by the Secretary of Defense, who is a civilian and member of the Cabinet. The Defense Secretary is second in the U.S. Armed Forces chain of command, with the exception of the Coast Guard, which is under the Secretary of Homeland Security, and is just below the President and serves as the principal assistant to the President in all defense-related matters. Together, the President and the Secretary of Defense comprise the National Command Authority, which by law is the ultimate lawful source of military orders.
Each branch of the service operates its own Service Academy as a four-year institution of higher education. All students receive a full scholarship with a small monthly stipend. Upon graduation, you're commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps or as an ensign in the Navy or Coast Guard. Appointment to a service academy is extremely competitive. For more information, call 1-800-822-8762 (US Military Academy in West Point, New York), 1-800-638-9156 (US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland), 1-800-443-9266 (US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado), 1-800-883-8724 (US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut), and 1-866-546-4778 (United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York).
Tests are administered at participating schools. Neither schools nor students incur any costs for taking the ASVAB or using the Career Exploration Program. A test administrator is provided for every testing session and that person has no additional recruitment responsibilities. Various accommodations are available for the ASVAB, such as having questions read aloud, providing extra time, and other accommodations. School staff members are responsible, however, for tests that are administered with accommodations because test administrators are only able to administer the ASVAB by following the standardized procedure. If the test is being used for enlisting, only scores obtained during standardized test sessions (with no accommodations) can be used.
You often hear people say something like, "I got a 70 on the ASVAB." What they are talking about is the ASVAB AFQT score or Armed Forces Qualification Test Score. Many people think the AFQT score is the overall ASVAB score, but that's not correct. In fact, the AFQT score is derived from only four of the nine ASVAB subtests: Paragraph Comprehension (PC), Word Knowledge (WK), Mathematics Knowlege (MK), and Arithmetic Reasoning (AR).
One ASVAB sub-measure, the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT)--which is just a separate analysis of the same tests that focuses only on four of the subtests--is also population-referenced, but its score from 1-99 is a percentile score. This means that if you score a 73, you scored as well as or higher than 73% of test-takers in the national sample.