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What is Infantry?

Over the course of history, the infantry always played an integral part in war.
Marines, a type of infantry who specialize in amphibious assault, can be delivered to a combat zone by hovercraft.
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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: Puravida9, Commander, U.s. 7Th Fleet
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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Infantry refers to foot soldiers who fight on the ground using small arms weaponry. Infantrymen are sometimes referred to as grunts because of the hardships associated with humping heavy combat gear through the field. This group is considered the backbone of military service, constituting the critical hand-to-hand battling division of the army. It is considered by some to be the most dangerous and laborious branch of standard military service.

Throughout history, entire empires were won and lost on the blood and courage of infantry. From swords and spears to long bows and lances, from the Roman legion through the Middle Ages when cavalry or horse-mounted soldiers commanded units of soldiers, it has been synonymous with military strength.

When military advances into enemy territory through air strikes or other overt means of attack, it is the infantry that must establish hold and control on the ground. This is achieved through strategically advancing into enemy territory under fire. Many lives are commonly lost on both sides when opposing infantry engage in battle, making service in the division highly dangerous, if not patriotic and heroic. Once land is seized, it is the job of these soldiers to maintain control of the territory and provide ground defense, if required, for friendly forces.

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Smaller units of infantry often engage in patrols. In some cases, patrols are sent ahead behind enemy lines to gather intelligence on troop movement or to capture enemy patrols. In other cases, patrols might be sent to the rear ranks to protect against infiltration or attacks by local rebels. Pursuit of fleeing enemy troops, escort of friendly armored vehicles, and construction of necessary shelters, roads, bridges or other structures are all additional, critical services provided by these units.

Today’s infantry is commonly transported to the battlefield by planes or helicopters and is most often supported by artillery, aircraft, and armored vehicles. Basic equipment includes protective gear, weapons, survival gear, and specialized gear such as communications gear. Of the weapons, rifles, machine guns, shoulder-fired rocket launchers, and grenade launchers might all be used along with mortars and other weaponry.

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