If you believe the Joint Chiefs of Staff have any actual command and control of troops in the field, guess again.
While the Joint Chiefs certainly are the public face of the four branches of the armed forces that fall within the purview of the Secretary of Defense, they both collectively and individually can offer little more than advice to both the POTUS and the SecDef.
In fact, rumor has it that the Joint Chiefs only have three real functions;
- Testify before Congress for a bigger slice of the defense budget pie
- Sign clothing regulations
- Attending cocktail parties
By the way, the various generals and admirals who’ve held those particular ranks are correctly referred to as simply general or admiral. There’s no such thing as a four-star general or a full admiral.
Anyhow, the real power lies in the various Unified Combatant Commands, better known as theater commanders.
They’re the ones who answer directly to the SecDef, then the president, in that order. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are completely bypassed.
For those in the know, arguably the most well known former-theater commanders are the president’s Chief-of-Staff, Gen. John Kelly, and his Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis, both retired Marines. They served respectively as the Commander of the Southern Command, and as Commander of Central Command.
But more regarding the real shot-callers, listed in alphabetical order;
United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM), General Thomas D. Waldhauser, U.S. Marine Corps.
United States Central Command (CENTCOM), General Joseph L. Votel, U.S. Army.
United States European Command (USEUCOM), General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, U.S. Army.
United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), General Lori J. Robinson, U.S. Air Force.
United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. U.S. Navy.
United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, U.S. Navy.
United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), General Raymond A. Thomas III, U.S. Army.
United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), General John E. Hyten, U.S. Air Force.
United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), General Darren W. McDew, U.S. Air Force.