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032 Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?

32. Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?
The President

About 1.5 million Americans are on active duty (or working) in the military, which is the organizations and people who fight to protect a country. Who is the leader of all these organizations and people? It is the president of the United States, who is also known as the Commander-in-Chief, or the top leader of the military.

The U.S. military is sometimes called the U.S. Armed Forces. It has five main parts: the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The Army mostly fights on land while the Navy and the Marines fight with boats and the Air Force fights mostly with planes. Finally, the Coast Guard is more involved in protecting America’s coastline, which is the part of land next to the ocean. These five parts work together to protect the United States, but they need strong leaders to be able to work together effectively or well.

Each of the five parts of the U.S. Armed Forces has many commanders and other leaders, but the president as Commander-in-Chief outranks (or has more power than) any of them. As Commander-in-Chief, the president can tell the Armed Forces where to go and when. The president can even lead the Armed Forces on the battlefield, or where the fighting actually takes place. However, presidents rarely do that because they know that the leaders of the Armed Forces have more military experience and knowledge than they do. In fact, only two presidents have ever used their power as Commander-in-Chief to actually lead soldiers (or the people who fight in a war) onto the battlefield. These were presidents George Washington and James Madison.

Some people think that the Commander-in-Chief has too much power to make and fight wars. Especially with America’s recent war on terror (or fear caused by another group of people through violence), many people would like to limit the types of things that the president can do when fighting against terrorists.


on active duty – working in the police or military
* The police officer is on active duty every weekday evening.

military – the people and organizations who fight for a country, usually to protect it
* How many guns does the U.S. military own?

commander-in-chief – the person who leads a country's military (in the United States, this is the president)
* The Commander-in-Chief makes the most important decisions during a war.

coastline – the part of land next to the ocean
* The United States has two coastlines: one along the Pacific Ocean and another along the Atlantic Ocean.

to outrank (someone) – to have more power than another person in the same organization; to have a higher position than another person in the same organization
* In our army, a commander outranks a sergeant.

battlefield – a place where the fighting actually happens, especially in a war
* Have you ever visited the battlefield at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania?

soldier – a person who fights in the military; a person who fights in a war
* The soldiers had to carry heavy backpacks and guns as they walked through the jungle.

terror – fear caused by another group of people because of violence or the possibility of violence
* The rebels created terror in the city by bombing apartment buildings and shopping centers.