Created By: DannyVElAcme on December 1, 2010 Last Edited By: DannyVElAcme on June 23, 2014

No Rank Given

A soldier whose rank is never given.

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Trope
Rolling Updates, I will add more later, but please contribute examples so I can expand it

Alternate title: Unranked Soldier

Exactly What It Says on the Tin, a soldier with no rank. This trope refers to when a character in a work is a military operative, but his rank is never given. This can lead to speculation and confusion about the soldier's place within the hierarchy of the armed forces. This is especially mysterious when dealing with elite soldiers, and when not keeping track, the creators might have them taking orders from a low-ranking officer, yet giving orders to a high-ranked one.

Examples:

Live Action TV

Video Games
  • EVERY elite soldier in the Metal Gear Solid series. Solid Snake, Big Boss, The Boss, Raiden, Grey Fox, Foxhound, Dead Cell, The Cobras, none of them has their rank ever explicitly mentioned.
  • The Soldier in Team Fortress 2, although he was never in the armed forces to begin with.
  • Sam Fischer in Splinter Cell.
  • Gaz in Modern Warfare. Not even the game's subtitles allude to his rank.
  • Everyone except Ohgami and apparently Ayame and Yoneda in Sakura Wars -- possibly justified inasmuch as they're a special steam-powered-mecha-piloting demon-fighting squadron, though. Well, maybe it's less "justified" and more "this is a highly silly series and if you're trying to figure out what their ranks are, you're thinking about it too hard."
  • In the 2010 Medal of Honor, none of the Tier One Operators in AFO Wolfpack or AFO Neptune are ever addressed by rank in-game (indeed, they're not even addressed by name, going only by callsigns), in contrast to the members of Sgt. Patterson's Ranger squad, who are all identifiable by name, rank, and uniform.
  • Of the Razgriz Air Command Squadron in Ace Combat 5, only one pilot still holds any rank in the Osean military or, indeed, exists in the public eye. The other three are rankless and nameless, as far as military is concerned (though they still sometimes refer to each other by their former ranks). The Squadron itself operates outside of the Osean military command, pledging loyalty directly to the President.

Real Life
  • In the United States Air Force, members of the Office of Special Investigations will either wear civilian attire or uniforms sans rank insignia, featuring name tapes identifying them as OSI agents. This is to ensure that they can perform their investigations without relative differences in rank between them and other service members causing problems.
Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • December 1, 2010
    halfmillennium
    Re Metal Gear Solid: in the non-canon Snake's Revenge, Snake's rank is given as Lieutenant. There are a few in-canon exceptions (Volgin, Campbell, Sergei Gurlukovich and Richard Ames all reach the rank of Colonel, and Ocelot is a Major at the time of MGS3).
  • December 2, 2010
    bluepenguin
    Everyone except Ohgami and I think Ayame and Yoneda in Sakura Wars -- possibly justified inasmuch as they're a special steam-powered-mecha-piloting demon-fighting squadron, though. Well, maybe it's less "justified" and more "this is a highly silly series and if you're trying to figure out what their ranks are, you're thinking about it too hard."
  • December 3, 2010
    elwoz
    In Cryptonomicon, when Randy Shaftoe finagles his way back to the Phillipines after having been mustered out of the Marines, at one point he's described as wearing "Army green, no rank," probably to underline that he's not officially in the Army at this point.

    In Real Life I have the impression that a military uniform with no rank markings means the wearer holds the lowest possible rank. I could easily be wrong, or wrong for some nations' armies and/or some branches of service.
  • December 19, 2010
    DannyVElAcme
    @elwoz: Yes, a uniform with no insignia may signify a soldier has the lowest rank(they're called "private fuzzies" in the Army, for example), but they STILL have a rank they're addressed as. This trope refers to soldiers who are never referred to by rank at all, even though they might be actually pretty highly ranked.
  • April 25, 2011
    dalek955
  • April 27, 2011
    Koveras
    Care to explain your reasoning for discarding this, Eskay 64?
  • May 4, 2011
    Koveras
    Of the Razgriz Air Command Squadron in Ace Combat 5, only one pilot still holds any rank in the Osean military or, indeed, exists in the public eye. The other three are rankless and nameless, as far as military is concerned (though they still sometimes refer to each other by their former ranks). The Squadron itself operates outside of the Osean military command, pledging loyalty directly to the President.
  • May 4, 2011
    AFP
    Video game example:
    • In the 2010 Medal Of Honor, none of the Tier One Operators in AFO Wolfpack or AFO Neptune are ever addressed by rank in-game (indeed, they're not even addressed by name, going only by callsigns), in contrast to the members of Sgt. Patterson's Ranger squad, who are all identifiable by name, rank, and uniform.

    And a Real Life example:
    • In the United States Air Force, members of the Office of Special Investigations will either wear civilian attire or uniforms sans rank insignia, featuring name tapes identifying them as OSI agents. This is to ensure that they can perform their investigations without relative differences in rank between them and other service members causing problems.

    Oh, and an Alternate Title suggestion: No Rank Given
  • May 4, 2011
    DannyVElAcme
    @AFP: No Rank Given IS a much better title. Consider it changed :)
  • May 30, 2011
    AFP
    Bump. Go For Launch? I'm not sure if I would say the Operative counts (it's not clear if he's supposed to be military, or merely an MIB, though he IS evidently able to muster considerable military forces under his command with little problem.)
  • May 30, 2011
    Speedball
    The Major in Ghost In The Shell is almost exclusively known by her rank, but everyone else in her unit has no rank to speak of.
  • June 20, 2011
    AFP
    Is the sponsor for this one still around? I think this YKTWW is very Tropey.
  • June 22, 2011
    Arivne
    ^ The OP Danny V El Acme hasn't posted in this YKTTW since May 4th, and has only made 3 edits in the main Wiki in June.

    Unless he appears and says something soon, I think it's safe to assume that this is Up For Grabs.
  • June 23, 2011
    Damr1990
    On FullMetal Alchemist, anyone who becomes an Estatal Alchemist also receives militar rank with it( mayor to be precise), neiter Al or Ed knew about it until they were given some soldier to assist them
  • August 25, 2011
    DannyVElAcme
    Bump this *boom!*
  • August 26, 2011
    AFP
    Wow, haven't seen this one in a while.
  • August 26, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Would this count?

    anime:
    • In Gall Force, except for the unnamed captain, the crew of the Star Leaf are all on first name basis (despite some of them having only recently met) and do not use ranks, though clearly Rabby follows Eluza's orders and Pony, Patty, and Rumy follow hers. Similarly, on the Lorelei, Spea and Amy take orders from Shildy, and no one questions Shildy's decision to take the assault shuttle, but their ranks are never given.
  • August 27, 2011
    AFP
    If they are definitely supposed to be in the military, but the ranks are never clarified to the audience, I would say it counts.

    Sidenote: The Serenity example would properly go under Film rather than Live Action TV, since The Operative never appears on the show proper.
  • August 27, 2011
    Trotzky
    Star Trek Voyager: Neelix, Kes and 7of9 are never assigned ranks even though they have clearly defined duties and come to captain's briefings.
  • August 27, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    ^^Presumably:
  • December 27, 2011
    AFP
    Bump
  • December 27, 2011
    Koveras
  • April 16, 2012
    yahagishogo
    More examples:

    Man at Arms from He Man And The Masters Of The Universe. Especially the 1983 cartoon. The 2002 cartoon does correct this and state his rank as a general, however.

    The titular Jason of Star Command. He is described in the opening sequence as an intergalactic Soldier of Fortune. He is in effect, a mercenary and he does explicitly say that he is not under Star Command's jurisdiction. This may explain why he acts as if he owns the place. Commander Canarvin (as played by ultra laid-laid back James Doohan) frequently followed Jason's lead without much question. Commander Stone (John Russel), however, was more assertive in establishing his authority. We get no back story on why Jason is even there, his background, or why he has so much autonomy.
  • February 11, 2013
    DannyVElAcme
    Bumping. Sorry for not paying much attention to my own YKTT Ws, I'm nearing army deployment, so things have been kinda hectic lately :/
  • February 11, 2013
    elwoz
    You might score some more hats if you rolled up examples to date.

    Best of luck whereever you're being deployed to. (Is there a standard thing to say to someone about to be deployed, like "break a leg" is for actors?)
  • June 23, 2014
    Koveras
    • The first season of Raumschiff Gamestar didn't have many ranks except for The Captain, but all of the Gamestar crew has been given official positions on the ship in later seasons (like "First Mate", "Security Officer", etc.)—all except Charles, who has stayed simply "Charles".
  • June 23, 2014
    Larkmarn
    Big Boss is Big Boss' rank.

    Description needs work. It's a bit unclear whether this is about where a character's rank is ambiguous and not mentioned, or where their rank is something explicitly outside the normal rank structure.

    EDIT: Okay, either this glitched and it gave a hat when I tried to take one away, or two people gave hats at the same time I took one away. Either way, weird.
  • June 23, 2014
    DAN004
    Mildly Military organizations (and mercenaries) rarely have a rank system.
  • June 23, 2014
    KTera
    ^^"Big Boss" is a title, not a rank. I don't think his actual rank was ever specified.
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