How many people does a ‘troop’ make?

Journalists take notice— troops and soldiers are not interchangeable terms.

Journalists take notice—troops and soldiers are not interchangeable terms

Somebody out there, help me: What do the media mean by troops?

Whether I’m listening to all-news radio or watching the nightly news, every so often a report comes on about a military conflict overseas, and I’ll hear that four troops were killed, or we’re sending in more troops, or 23 troops were injured.

I don’t have a military background, but invariably, I find myself wondering: How many people are we talking about?

What constitutes a troop? An individual? I’m not so sure. You don’t typically hear about a single troop.

I’ve done a bit of investigating to try to answer my question. So far I’ve learned that, in the 2008 fiscal year, the U.S. Army had a combined strength of 1,097,050 soldiers. This includes the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve.

What I could not uncover was how many troops it had.

I consulted my good friend Webster, as in “Webster’s New College Dictionary,” which defines troop as: a group of things; a group of soldiers; military units; a unit of cavalry; a great many. You get the idea. Anyway it slices it, Webster’s considers troop as more than one.

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