What do knights wearing shining armor, archers carrying longbows, men marching in orderly lines, cannons, guns, and bombs have in common? They’re all developments that improved armies. Armies have been around for thousands of years.
WHAT’S AN ARMY?
An army is the portion of a country’s armed forces that fights on land. (The navy fights at sea, and the air force fights in the air.) An army includes soldiers, weapons, and other equipment. It also includes a support system set up to provide soldiers with transportation, supplies, medical care, and information about the enemy.
WHAT DOES AN ARMY DO?
Armies defend countries against invasion. They can also invade other countries or occupy other countries to keep the peace.
Armies do more than just fight wars. They also help out during natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods. Sometimes they build roads, railways, and bridges. They can also help keep the peace inside their own countries during riots and other unrest.
In ancient times many soldiers were untrained volunteers who had to supply their own weapons and equipment. Modern armies pay, train, and equip their soldiers. Countries sometimes draft soldiers, especially during big wars or when they’re being invaded. Drafted soldiers don’t have a choice—they have to serve in the army.
Soldiers tend to be young, in their late teens or early twenties. They have to be healthy and able to run fast and carry heavy loads. Soldiers have generally been men throughout history. During the 20th century many countries began to allow women to be soldiers. Officers in armies command groups of soldiers.
WEAPONS AND EQUIPMENT
Soldiers need lots of equipment to fight and protect themselves. In the past that meant swords, armor, horses, or bows. Today it means guns, uniforms, vehicles, tanks, bombs, and even computers.
In modern armies, soldiers wear bulletproof clothing and use guns with laser aiming devices that tell them exactly where they’ll hit. They consult computers that show what the surrounding land is like and where enemy troops are. Huge planes carry troops and even tanks from place to place.