By Alex Snyder, Defense Media Activity
Chances are, if you read the above headline, you quickly listed off Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard. But did you know there are actually two more?
That’s right. There are seven branches of uniformed service! The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps are uniformed services as well.
These two branches, established in 1889 and 1917, respectively, don’t fall under the purview of the Defense Department, but both of their missions help service members and others around the world.
USPHS, a division of Department of Health and Human Services, employs more than 6,000 uniformed public health professionals for the purpose of delivering public health promotion and disease prevention programs and advancing public health science. Members of USPHS serve on the front lines in the fight against disease and poor health conditions.
Some of the jobs within the USPHS include environmental and occupational health, medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, psychology, veterinary medicine and health information technology. Personnel serve in military hospitals and federal agencies, and often respond to domestic and international health crises, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Ebola virus outbreak in Liberia.
Neither USPHS nor NOAA has enlisted members or warrant officers. Although commissioned officers in these services typically are classified as noncombatants, they can and do serve in military facilities as part of the armed forces when needed, and may be militarized by the president.
You may be thinking that you’ve never seen a member of USPHS, but chances are you have. Their service members wear the same uniforms as Navy officers – or Coast Guard uniforms when they’re assigned to a Coast Guard unit. Another thing they’ve kept the same? Their ranks. USPHS personnel hold ranks equivalent to Navy officers. However, if you look closely, you’ll notice they wear special USPHS Commissioned Corps insignia. The difference is in the details!
This same detail will help you differentiate NOAA personnel from their Navy counterparts, since they also wear uniforms very similar to naval officers and share the same ranks.
However, their similarities end there. Instead of focusing on responding to health related events, NOAA, which falls under the control of the Department of Commerce, works to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them.
From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s scientists use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision-makers with the information they need when they need it.
According to their leaders, science is the foundation for all NOAA does. NOAA’s weather forecasts and warnings, nautical charts, climate information, fishing regulations, coastal management recommendations and satellites in space all depend on science. Many of NOAA’s scientists are recognized as national and international experts in their fields.
These two very important branches may not be as well-known as their armed forces counterparts, but make no mistake – their missions are just as important.
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