The success of the Equalitarian movement did not go unchallenged by conservative military personnel. Conservative Army Guards officers launched a failed coup after the first Equalitarian election. The coup made it more urgent to induct more former lower caste personnel into the armed forces, and make it more difficult for the military to launch successful coups. To this end, the militias and Equalitarian Guard Companies were formed, and the program to place command of most of the Navy's ships in the hands of the lower caste was accelerated.
The Combined Forces was divided during the Caste War. The "Invisible" faction, initially led by President Muonze, drew from the newly armed lower castes. Conversely, upper caste soldiers were drawn to the Loyalist faction.
The Army was a major branch and the ground component of the armed forces. Units included the historical Guards, and later the Equalitarian-sponsered militias and Equalitarian Guard Companies.
The Navy was a major branch and operated interstellar spacecraft. During the Caste War, Loyalist naval special forces operated in triunes. After the Caste War, Naval Intelligence included a Civilisational Metalogical Profiling Section that examined the psychology of other Involved civilizations; the terms "metalogical" and "Involved" were adopted from the Culture.