Difference between the Army and the Navy

Updated on October 3, 2017

Being in the army and being in the navy are two different things. Well, they both mean being in the military, being in a specific chain of command, undergoing training, being called on missions, wearing uniforms. Wait a minute… what is the difference between the army and the navy, then? Read on to find out.


Army soldiers during marksmanship training

The concept of an army is as old as time. Ever since people started grouping together and living in communities on different patches of land, they have had to defend their lands and their homes. As their communities became larger and they occupied more land, the more they needed to defend themselves from invaders looking to pillage or even settle in. An army is a group of people who bear arms (the word coming from the Latin word arma) and defend a territory and a people. They acted at the command of the king or of the commander in chief.

Today, the concept has evolved and armies are very well-structured organizations, but they serve the same purpose. Almost all countries in the world have their own armies and they intervene in various types of situations. In some cases, the army only intervenes in armed conflicts, whereas in other areas, they can intervene to help civilians deal with difficult situations, like in the case of a natural calamity. Manpower and good organization can always be useful when dealing with flash floods or massive fires, for example.

There are two meanings to the concept. The first is that the army is a land force: these are the soldiers performing land tasks and doing the actual fighting and shooting. They have to undergo specific training. An example of a special Task Force specializing in ground combat is the Green Berets.

The second concept is that of the army as the military in general, comprising all areas of defense: ground troops, artillery, aviation, navy, nuclear weapons, and intelligence.

Sailors aboard a US aircraft carrier

The navy is the maritime force of a nation. This is a branch of the army specializing in sea or ocean-borne combat. In the old days, the peoples who had ships had the power to subjugate others. This dates back to the days of Ancient Rome and Greece. Big vessels were capable of carrying large numbers of soldiers as it was better than having to march troops to the battle field. Also, long before cannons and fire arms were invented, the ships were used to ram against each other and to cause damage to the enemy. One of the best-known maritime forces in history was the Spanish Armada, a fleet of 130 ships.

Today, the navy has ships, amphibious ships, submarines, and aircraft carriers. They are used to transport troops, ammunition, weapons, aircraft, land vehicles, and other resources from one place to another. Marines train almost like land troops as they too must master marksmanship and combat, but they must also know everything about sailing and fulfilling duties onboard.

The elite of the US navy soldiers are the Navy Seals, a group of marines whose training surpasses in intensity and difficulty that of regular soldiers. The term is short for “Sea, Air and Land” as these soldiers are part of a special force and they need to be able to operate in any type of environment. As of 2017, all SEALs are members of the US Navy.

Army vs Navy

So what is the difference between the army and the navy?

For the sake of the argument, we will refer to the army as ground troops. Therefore, the main difference between army and navy is the environment for which they train to fight in. The army trains to fight on land, whereas the navy trains to fight on water and to work water-borne equipment.

Given the more complex tasks a Navy soldier can be assigned, this means that his training will include most of the things a ground troop can master, plus information about water-borne warfare. An army soldier is usually tasked with ground combat, recon, and search and rescue. A navy soldier can be in charge of transportation, logistics, combat, and search and rescue.

Also, the army has specific ground weapons and vehicles such as tanks. The navy has other weapons and transporters that can also be used in battle. Another difference between the types of conflict each can engage in is proximity; closer proximity in the case of ground forces and long-range in the case of water forces.

Both branches of the military have special task forces. The army has the Green Berets, whereas the Navy has the SEALs.

Comparison Chart

Ground troopsMaritime troops
Tasked with ground combat and search and rescue missionsTasked with long range combat, transportation, search and rescue, and logistics
Can operate land vehiclesCan operate land and sea vehicles
Proficient in close-proximity conflictsCan engage in long-range combat
Its special task force is called the Green BeretsIts special task force is called the Navy SEALs
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