Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, & Sailors – What’s the Difference?

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

I have tons of friends and family that serve in the military, and I know one thing for sure: when it comes to the military, there are many different terms used to describe the men and women who serve. Words like “soldiers,” “marines,” “airmen,” and “sailors” are often used without much thought because, to most people, they just mean “military.”

But did you know that they actually have different meanings and are used to describe different branches of the military? From my experience, it’s best to know which term to use and when, so buckle up while I break it down.

Are Soldiers Only in the Army?

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Yes, a soldier is a member of the Army, but the term ‘soldier’ can technically apply to any member of any branch, even though they prefer to be called by the proper terminology. I knew someone in the Marine Corps, and they always said they hated being called a soldier or being referred to as ‘in the Army.’

Army soldiers are responsible for defending the country on land and are trained in a ton of cool skills such as weapons handling, survival tactics, and map reading.

There are a bunch of roles they can work within, like infantry, artillery, or special forces.

What Do You Call a Marine Soldier?

A marine is a member of the Marine Corps, which is pretty easy to remember because the word marine is in the name. They’re well known for their ability to fight on land and sea, and they are trained in a variety of intense skills like amphibious warfare, reconnaissance, and marksmanship. Wowza.

They are also known for their distinctive dress uniforms and their motto, “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful). Like, when someone joins the military to become a “marine,” it would mean they joined the Marine Corps.

What Are the Members of the Air Force Called?

“Airmen” are members of the United States Air Force. Easy enough to remember, right? Just like other branches of the military, airmen are trained in a ton of sweet of skills, like aircraft maintenance, air traffic control, and air-to-air combat. See a pattern here?

They can serve in a variety of roles, such as pilots, air traffic controllers, or air defense operators. Think of it this way, if you joined the military to become an “airman,” it would mean that you joined the Air Force.

What Are Navy Soldiers Called?

A sailor is a member of the United States Navy. Sailor=sea=Navy. That’s how I always remember it. They can serve in a variety of roles, such as ship’s crew, submarines, or SEALs which are the ones we always see in movies.

Difference Between Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, & Sailors

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So, now that we know the definitions of these four words, what’s the difference between them? Essentially, soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors are all members of the United States military, but they serve in different branches and have different roles and responsibilities.

While all of them are trained in a variety of skills and are responsible for defending the country, they each have their own unique characteristics and traditions.

Another key difference is the context in which they are used. Here’s a quick bullet list to help you remember.

  • Army: Soldiers
  • Marine Corps: Marines
  • Air Force: Airmen
  • Navy: Sailors

There are other terms, such as “coast guardsmen,” for members of the Coast Guard, which is also a branch of the military but with its own specific roles, training, and responsibilities.

When Do You Capitalize the Words Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors?

You don’t need to capitalize the words soldiers, marines, airmen, or sailors unless you use them in a title or heading. In this case, all words would show proper sentence cap. 

However, you do capitalize the names of the actual divisions, such as Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and even Space Force now. 

Let’s See These Words in Full Sentences

  • My brother is a soldier; he’s currently serving in the Army.
  • I have a friend who’s a marine; he’s been deployed multiple times.
  • I have always wanted to be an airman; flying planes has been my dream since I was a kid.
  • I met a sailor last week, and he told me about his experiences on the aircraft carrier.
  • The coastguardsmen saved a group of people stranded at sea.

I Salute You for Practicing Better English

Now you should understand the key differences and meanings between the terms Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, & Sailors, so be sure to use each one properly.

By keeping these differences in mind, you’ll be able to use these terms correctly and show respect to the members of the military you are speaking of.

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