What is a Warfighter?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2019
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The United States Department of Defense (DOD) uses the term “warfighter” to describe anyone serving in a military capacity under the American flag. This term is designed to be as neutral and all-inclusive as possible, and it is frequently used in declarations which are meant to apply to all service members and all services. Members of the public are less likely to describe people as warfighters, although the term is slowly catching on, especially in the video gaming world.

In addition to being used to describe American service members, this term can also be used in reference to allies and people of other nationalities who support United States military operations. It emphasizes the interconnection between allies and people of different nationalities on the battlefield, stressing the idea that all military personnel are warfighters, regardless as to their country of origin and training.

This term is also gender-neutral and branch-neutral, which means that it can be used to describe people in any branch of the armed services, and it applies to both male and female service members. The DOD also stresses the idea that “warfighter” is a service status-neutral term, being used to describe people in the field along with veterans, people waiting to be deployed, and service members in training. This further enforces the idea of cohesion.


The term warfighter is much less clumsy than “service member,” which is one of the reasons it appeals to the DOD. It also creates a rather martial aura, stressing the idea that a warfighter is trained in combat, and prepared to support other warfighters along with the combat mission. It also promotes unit cohesion, by giving the men and women in a unit a collective identity; unit cohesion is crucial for cooperation, especially when people from multiple services or nations are involved.

Whether or not this term will catch on outside of the DOD and the military is in question. If used often enough and reinforced with examples of proper usage, the term may become more widespread among the general public. However, the implications of being a “warfighter” may prevent it from becoming widespread, as many members of the public would like to see the focus of the military shifting to humanitarian operations and other more peaceful activities.


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