Created By: surgoshan on September 21, 2011 Last Edited By: surgoshan on September 27, 2011
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Soldiers At The Rear

Rear Echelon Melon Famer: Son of a bitch who joins the army then sits at home counting beans.

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Needs a better title.

Similar to the Straw Civilian, this trope shows up in Military Fiction. Unlike the civilian or the Draft Dodger, this guy joins the army when things go bad. Unlike the civilian, it's because he knows the safest place to be is in the military, in a position where absolutely nothing can go wrong. While everyone else is out fighting the Planet of Hats, he's safe and sound back in Muskogee, Oklahoma, sewing buttons on uniforms.

He's the Rear Echelon Mother F... Father. Whereas a civilian might not know any better, being fat and stupid, this guy's actually been through basic training and had to pull strings and know people to get his cushy job. He gets all the perks of being a soldier (drinking and wearing a uniform) and none of the hassle (strangers trying to kill you a lot). He's the military version of the fat, lazy cop.

In fiction, a REMF tends to be portrayed as someone who sought the job and got it because he knows a guy. He pulled strings. He's a Senator's Son. He's a celebrity. Because fiction tends to be black and white, the REMF usually isn't portrayed as someone who got lucky, but as someone who kissed a lot of fat, rich behind.

In Real Life, the REMF is often just someone who happens to not be in the shit. The military is big and a lot of necessary jobs don't necessarily involve you getting shot at by random [INSERT BAD GUY HERE]s; some people are just lucky. He's still a REMF, though. Mother fucker didn't get shot at.

Often, the children of important and or wealthy people do join the military because they want to serve. Fortunately or unfortunately, the military brass aren't morons and know that if the child of a VIP dies on their watch, they're in for a world of trouble. Thus, through no fault of his own, the boy with the silver spoon might spend the war typing up reports.

Along with REMF, Pogue is a term with similar connotations (from POG: Person Other than Grunt). Fobbit (Forward Operating Base + Hobbit)is another similar term, specific to troops deployed but who do not go on patrols for varying reasons.

This guy is often Gung Holier Than Thou and a Miles Gloriosus. A bad Officer and a Gentleman and General Failure are both probably REMFs. A good Drill Sergeant Nasty rarely is. A Draft Dodger may run to Canada or get himself a REMF job. See also Armchair Military.

No Real Life examples, please. Let's avoid a flame war.


Examples:

Anime

Comics
  • Something about Captain America. He was the opposite, but probably met people who weren't?

Film
  • The movie Soldier deals with a Sorting Algorithm of perfect soldierdom. The first generation of perfect soldiers were chosen at birth and trained therefrom. The second generation were genetically engineered. The first generation are led by a battle-tested son of a bitch (Gary Busey). The second generation are led by a REMF (Jason Isaacs, of The Patriot and Harry Potter fame). In the end, the first generation kills the shit out of the second, and all the angels applaud.
  • Arguably, Tony Stark starts out as one, in the first movie, then matures and becomes a decent guy after, you know, nearly dying and being tortured in a cave with a box of scraps.
  • Mister Roberts (US Navy in WW II) the film and the play. The Captain and Ensign Pulver are happy to be out of the line of fire. The title character desperately wants a transfer to a warship.
  • One soldier in Blackhawk Down has always been away from the fighting, a fact he says isn't his fault. It's because he has a rare and valuable skill beloved by the corp that keeps him busy: He can type.

Literature
  • REMFs show up a lot in the works of David Drake, as he writes mostly Military Science-Fiction.
    • At the beginning of Redliners, a group of elite commandos on R&R want a drink. The REMF behind the bar sneers at their battered BD Us and refuses to serve them. The Redliners (a term that means "about to blow") take this badly. trouble ensues.
    • In his Ranks of Bronze, the bad guys aren't the people the Roman Legionnaires are fighting against (mostly just bronze age, barbarian aliens). The bad guys are the fat assholes telling the Romans who to fight. And one arrogant prick who happens to be a Roman.
  • Robert A. Heinlein, no stranger to the military himself, also had a problem with REMFs. Sort of. As with every other trope, he played with it.
    • In Starship Troopers, he both despised and avoided REMFs. For anything that required esprit de corps, a member of the MI served (possibly on disability, if it was something like teaching, which requires spirit without the corp). For everything else, they hired civilians. Civilians are like beans; buy 'em as you need 'em.
    • In Time Enough for Love, Lazarus first intends to avoid WWI by fleeing to South America. Then he's faced with the scorn of his birth family and is motivated to join the army; he then realizes that being a lily-white, red-haired gringo in Brazil would paint him as an agent of some European power and get him killed, so his actual best bet is to join the army and be the best damn REMF he can. Unfortunately, his adopted family has some pull, and they put him where every red-blooded, kraut-hating American should want to be. France. Oh Crap!.
    • Also in Time Enough for Love, "The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail". He joined the army because he didn't particularly care for farming. Then he bucked for officer. Then he joined the air force. Then he bucked for bombers rather than fighters. He didn't particularly cotton to getting shot at. Then he bucked for early retirement on disability (crazy on the job) at three-quarters pay.
  • As far as Ernest Hemingway is concerned, you're a REMF, you're crazy, or your dead. And if you're not dead, you're going to be dead. Soon. Alone. In the rain.
  • Ciaphas Cain aspires to be this; early in his career he managed to pull some strings (although by doing well at poker, since he's Conveniently an Orphan like all other Commissars) and get himself transferred to a nice, safe artillery unit. Later his reputation makes this much harder, so he has to find somewhere safe to be when the fighting breaks out. It always leads to a sort of self-targeting Reassignment Backfire when he inevitably gets in danger anyway (and thus even more of a reputation when he survives).
  • In a later book Robert Aspirin's Myth Series, the heroes are trying to disable an army. Some of the gang are disabling from within; after Basic Training, they face deployment. At first they're offered, literally, a shit assignment. They mention they know the Commander In Chief... a few comments later their interlocutor learns they know a Retired Legend... And they're offered their choice of sweet, sweet candy.
  • In Catch-22, Former PFC Wintergreen always manages to avoid being sent into combat by manipulating the discipline system. Many of the other characters would do the same if they thought they could pull it off.

Live Action TV
  • Band of Brothers mostly featured genuine grunts on the ground and in the shit. A few people qualified, though.
    • Many of the higher ranking officers might qualify, as they had no real understanding of the situation on the lines. Captain (later Major) Winters was exempt because he had combat experience and trouble distancing himself from his men following promotion.
    • Captain Nixon never fired his gun in combat, a fact he lamented. May qualify as he spent much of the war cultivating his alcoholism. Probably doesn't, as he jumped out of a plane into three separate war zones and spent a lot of time freezing in a hole in Bastogne.
    • Any soldier who was insufficiently eager to escape from an army hospital and rejoin the effort was viewed with suspicion. If you didn't buy a ticket home with genuine infirmity, then you belonged on the lines, dammit.
    • A little green lieutenant showed up late in the war, desperate for field experience. Everyone smirked at him and hoped he didn't get anyone killed. After one sortie across a river, he was promoted because he was related to someone and everyone shrugged it off.
  • Browncoats all fought, killed, and died, apparently. Alliance all apparently lived rich, fat and happy, far away from the war. Mal never met an Alliance veteran.
  • Possible inversion or subversion in Major Winchester from MASH. He was using connections to keep his Tokyo posting until he ticked off the wrong person, and spent most of the rest of the show trying to pull strings and get back to a nice safe clean Tokyo hospital.
  • One episode of Star Trek TNG dealt with Riker being offered his own command. He turned it down because the ships offered were in areas of space that were less likely to see action.
  • In Blackadder Goes Forth Major Darling is happy to be General Melchett's aide-de-camp because that way he doesn't have to be in the trenches. In the last episode he gets sent there anyway.

Music
  • Credence Clearwater Revival's song "Fortunate Son" is about an unnamed young man from a wealthy, political, and military family. He was in the navy during Vietnam. The band felt that his cushy assignments only came because of who his father was.
  • Roy Zimmerman's "Chickenhawk" satirizes "celebrity" REMFs.

Web Comics
  • PVT Murphy had a comic about "Fobbits", in a visual pun, it's Bilbo in a flack vest and ACU's (and a bag of snacks from the FOB's PX).

Western Animation
  • In Futurama, Fry and Bender join the military purely for the benefits. Unfortunately for them, shortly afterword, war were declared and they are shipped to the front lines.

Real Life
  • Be very, very careful. Calling someone a REMF is an insult. You are calling them a coward, very nearly a traitor. Possibly deliberately someone too cowardly to do his duty and letting someone die in his place. Do not do this. Talking generally about REMFs is one thing. Calling out [[POLITICIAN'S CHILD]] or [[FAMOUS PERSON]] is another. Don't. Just don't. Not even aversion or inversion or subversion.
  • Champagne units are the urExample of this. Celebrities, the wealthy or those with political connections could get sent to whole units that never would see combat. The other wiki lists the members of such a unit. In the US Do D policy has changed. Reserve and National Guard units are more likely to see combat.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • September 21, 2011
    Dracontes
    Roy Zimmerman's "Chickenhawk" satirizes "celebrity" REM Fs
  • September 21, 2011
    SharleeD
    The lieutenant from Aliens started out as this, sitting safe outside the complex while directing the troops a la Mission Control. Subverted by Ripley, who hauled him along when she drove the armored transport into the complex to assist the marines.
  • September 21, 2011
    AFP
    Actually, I've heard that phrase (REMF) used to describe anyone who didn't serve on the front lines, or even to those who do serve there but not in a combat role. Pogue is a term with similar connotations (from POG: Person Other than Grunt). Fobbit (Forward Operating Base + Hobbit)is another similar term, specific to troops deployed but who do not go on patrols for varying reasons.

    So... maybe Needs A Better Title?
  • September 21, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    Of course, it usually isn't because their uncle knows someone or some nonsense like that. Most low ranking people in the military don't have special connections. In an all-volunteer army, you usually get whatever occupational specialty you want and can pass the training for. Maybe they just want a job that will actually teach them skills with a civilian application and they didn't flunk the apptitude test and end up in infantry instead.
  • September 21, 2011
    Falco
    Of course, the actual phrase is Rear Echelon Mother Fucker, not the bowdlerised version in the laconic.
  • September 21, 2011
    TairaMai
    Real Life: Champagne units are the urExample of this. Celebrities, the wealthy or those with political connections could get sent to whole units that never would see combat. The other wiki lists the members of the Texas Air National Guard's 147th Fighter Group during the Vietnam War. In the US Do D policy has changed. Reserve and National Guard units are more likely to see combat. Sara Palin's son deployed to Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division.
  • September 21, 2011
    TairaMai
    Richard Marcinko mention's several in his book Rogue Warrior.
  • September 22, 2011
    Bisected8
    • Ciaphas Cain aspires to be this; early in his career he managed to pull some strings (although by doing well at poker, since he's Conveniently An Orphan like all other Commissars) and get himself transferred to a nice, safe artillery unit. Later his reputation makes this much harder, so he has to find somewhere safe to be when the fighting breaks out. It always leads to a sort of self-targeting Reassignment Backfire when he inevitably gets in danger anyway (and thus even more of a reputation when he survives).
  • September 24, 2011
    Antigone3
    Would Major Winchester from M*A*S*H count as a reversal/subversion? He was using connections to keep his Tokyo posting until he ticked off the wrong person, and spent most of the rest of the show trying to pull strings and get back to a nice safe clean Tokyo hospital.
  • September 24, 2011
    TairaMai
    Credence Clearwater Revival's song Fortunate Son is about David Eisnhower. He was in the navy during Vietnam. The band felt that his cushy assignments only came because he was a President's son.
  • September 24, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    • In Futurama, Fry and Bender join the military purely for the benefits. Unfortunately for them, shortly afterword, war is declared and they are shipped to the front lines.
    • In Irresponsible Captain Tylor, the title character joined the military to get a cushy day job in the Pension Office. However, he becomes involved in a hostage crisis and is promoted to command rank and assigned to the destroyer Soyokaze.
  • September 24, 2011
    SKJAM
    And the Captain Tylor version becomes Reassignment Backfire when it turns out he's surprisingly good at being a starship captain, despite his own wishes.
  • September 24, 2011
    nitrokitty
    I think we might want to slap a No Real Life Examples on this. I can see this turning into a flame war, real fast.
  • September 24, 2011
    Ramidel
    @nitrokitty: Seconded.
  • September 24, 2011
    surgoshan
    In that light, I included the CCR song but removed the identifying info.
  • September 25, 2011
    TairaMai
    Mister Roberts (US Navy in WW II) the film and the play. The Captain and Ensign Pulver are happy to be out of the line of fire. The title character desperately wants a transfer to a warship.
  • September 25, 2011
    TairaMai
    Correct me if I'm wrong, didn't one episode of Star Trek: TNG deal with Riker being offered his own command. He turned it down because the ships offered were in areas of space that were less likely to see action.
  • September 25, 2011
    TairaMai
    Webcomics: PVT Murphy had a comic about "Fobbits", in a visual pun, it's Bilbo in a flack vest and ACU's (and a bag of snacks from the FOB's PX).
  • September 25, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    I like the current description much better.
  • September 25, 2011
    randomsurfer
    • In Blackadder Goes Forth Major Darling is happy to be General Melchett's aide-de-camp because that way he doesn't have to be in the trenches. In the last episode he gets sent there anyway.
    • MASH: after Frank goes crazy, he gets reassigned to a VA hospital back home and gets a promotion to Lt. Colonel.
  • September 25, 2011
    kuyanJ
    In Catch Twenty Two, Former PFC Wintergreen always manages to avoid being sent into combat by manipulating the discipline system. Many of the other characters would do the same if they thought they could pull it off.
  • September 27, 2011
    dalek955
    Can't remember where I saw this quote, but...
    Safe as houses. Guys in the front lines get their heads shot off, and civilians at home get their heads bombed off. Guys in the middle are safe as houses.
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