Difference Between Active Duty & Retired Military

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Active duty military personnel are men and women currently in uniform and being paid. Retired military members are former active duty personnel. Here's another definition: Those the Pentagon can order to do something today are active and those the Pentagon used to be able to order to do something are retired.

1 Active duty

Active duty personnel are in one of these branches of service: The Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. They are under orders.

2 Retired military

The retired military are men and women who used to serve in one of the branches of the service. They were under orders in the past.

3 Reserve military

There are also reserve units. These consist of former active duty military members on the path to full retirement plus part-timers. They have to make themselves available at the Pentagon's request, but they hold regular civilian jobs. They are potentially under orders.

4 National Guard

National Guard units are run by the each state, not the federal government. They are also part-time units so sometimes they are under orders and sometimes they are not.

5 Active duty does not mean combat duty

Combat duty means working in an actual war zone. Active duty means being under orders potentially to be sent to a war zone as well as combat duty. Reserve and National Guard units can be called up to both active service and combat duty: Retired personnel are not called up.

Tim Christopher started writing professionally in 2004. He has been published in numerous newspapers in the UK and USA as well as a number of Web sites, the Times, Telegraph and Daily Express among them. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the London School of Economics.