Created By: GuyIncogJanuary 23, 2012 Last Edited By: GuyIncogFebruary 3, 2013
Troped

Outranking Your Job

When Colonel Badass should really be Lieutenant Badass.

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Trope
"Never have so few been commanded by so many."
-- Major General Maxwell Taylor, finding himself on D-Day commanding a group of many high ranking officers, but only three enlisted men.

A subtrope of Artistic License Military (or Artistic License Law, for police settings) in which officers are shown performing tasks well below their pay grade. A high ranking officer may be shown commanding a much smaller unit than their Real Life counterparts, personally leading small unit patrols, or even acting in the role of an enlisted man. In extreme cases, everyone in a unit will be an officer, regardless of their actual duties. This trope may also be seen in works involving law enforcement, which may depict lieutenants, captains, or even Da Chief personally conducting investigations and making arrests.

There are a number of reasons this trope may be invoked. It may be done to establish a high ranking officer as a Colonel Badass who isn't afraid to lead from the front. In works that feature Do Anything Soldiers (or if the main characters simply do everything) if one or more of their battlefield roles would be performed by an officer in Real Life, the characters will frequently be officers even if this is completely inappropriate for their other roles. If a character is of appropriate rank initially but is later promoted into this trope, the creator may be trying to avoid Limited Advancement Opportunities while otherwise maintaining the status quo. It's also likely in works featuring a Suspiciously Small Army.

Compare and contrast the Overranked Soldier, who may be in a position befitting his or her rank, but is unqualified (or simply too young) to realistically hold either. Contrast You Are In Command Now, in which battlefield conditions force a lower ranking officer to take command of a larger unit than normal. If the officer in question is being assigned menial tasks by his superiors, see Dude Wheres My Respect. When royalty are on the front lines, see Royals Who Actually Do Something.

See Common Military Units for an idea of the sizes of units real life officers typically command, though this trope may also sometimes be Truth In Television - see below.


Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Anime and Manga]]
  • In Gall Force: Earth Chapter, Sandy (whose rank is not mentioned, and may in fact be a civilian) commands a unit consisting of a dozen or so named characters and at least several unnamed ones, three light tanks, and an armored personnel carrier. Nominally that would make her a lieutenant. However, her subordinates include Lamidia (A major in the Mars Defense Force) and Captain Varji of the MDF Navy, the latter of whom commands a single 2-man tank. Justified in that the resistance forces are fighting a desperate battle, and one could make the arguement Lamidia and Varji are POWs recruited via an Enemy Mine situation.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Comic Books]]
  • Both in the comics and the film, Captain America typically either works alone or commands the Howling Commandos, a squad sized unit. May be justified in that they are a Special Forces-type unit.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Film]]
  • Saving Private Ryan - Captain Miller, who would normally command a company of maybe a hundred men, is given command of an eight-man squad, typically the role of a sergeant or lieutenant at most. Of course, given the mission circumstances, a higher-ranked CO may have been chosen to allow him to draw additional assistance if needed.
  • The Dirty Dozen features Major Reisman leading twelve convicts and a sergeant on the film's climactic raid.
  • Heat features Robbery Homicide Lieutenant Hanna acting as lead investigator for every crime in the film, from the climactic bank robbery to the murder of a prostitute. Hanna does have subordinates under his command, but their duties are limited to assisting in the larger cases by running down leads, not handling cases of their own.
  • Stargate has Colonel O'Neil leading a specialized team of a Lieutenant Colonel, a number of Lieutenants, and a civilian scientist. Justified both because this is an elite unit and because many of the team members have highly advanced qualifications.
  • Lethal Weapon 4 has Murtaugh and Riggs both promoted to Captain when their involvement in a shootout causes the department to lose its insurance coverage. While this is supposedly done to get them out of the field, neither is assigned any additional responsibilities, and both remain Cowboy Cops throughout the film. The only sign they've been promoted is Riggs occasionally waving his badge and saying, "This is your Captain speaking..."
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Literature]]
  • Frank L. Baum seemed to like playing this trope for laughs. It may be that in Oz, this is the normal state of formal militaries.
    • In The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, Queen Ann's army has a number of officers but only one enlisted man, Private Files. After Files resigns to avoid being commanded to perform an illegal order, Ann enlists Tik-Tok to replace him.
    • In Ozma of Oz, Ozma forms an army composed of 8 generals, 6 colonels, 7 majors, 5 captains, and one private named Omby Amby. Amby is later promoted to the rank of "Captain General".
  • Averted in Artemis Fowl: Commander Root is technically too high up to participate in field actions, but quickly reactivates himself when the situation calls for it (he has quite a bit of influence with the commanding officer).
  • Buck Danny: The other characters note that Buck should be a general by now (the series has such a bad case of Comic Book Time that pilots who joined for World War 2 are still the same age and flying to this day), though he remains a colonel so he can still fly missions.
  • Gaunts Ghosts has Colonel-Commissar Gaunt leading large-scale operations from the front, given the rank of colonel to facilitate the paperwork.
  • The X Wing Series eventually sees Wedge Antilles promoted to General, while many of his subordinates are also promoted... resulting in a unit in which half the pilots outrank the commanders of other squadrons. Somewhat justified in that Rogue Squadron is an elite unit.
  • Commented upon in Cryptonomicon -- Sgt. Shaftoe at one point muses that Detachment 2702 has a case of "rank inflation" (because the people with sufficiently high clearances to know what Detachment 2702 is doing tend to be senior officers).
  • Lt. Eve Dallas from the In Death books is a borderline case. While she does run a homicide squad, she spends much more time investigating murders herself than supervising her squad. Note that she is shown as being perpetually behind on her paperwork because of this, and that she knows that one more promotion means she won't be able to do the street-level investigations she loves.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Television]]
  • In Doctor Who Classic UNIT often consists of The Brigadier, one Sergeant, and one Corporal.
  • Battlestar Galactica: How many times did Commander Adama, send his CAG and most of the bridge crew to do ground based operations, Often escorted by Marines but where were their officers?
    • May be justified in that many officers were likely killed in the nuclear holocaust that led up to the series.
  • The Closer: The major case squad consists of five or six lieutenants and one sergeant, with a deputy chief in charge. Ordinarily a police unit will be headed by a lieutenant or captain, with the rest of the squad being no higher ranked than sergeant.
  • Sharpe the TV series suffered from this, owing to the small budget the show had, most episodes retained the named officers from the books, but didn't have the money for a full battalion. So often 5 or 6 officers would be leading only 30 or so men.
  • Soldier Soldier : The 1st Battalion Kings Fusiliers often consisted of the Lieutenant Colonel, A Major, A Lieutenant, The regimental Sergeant-Major, The Company Sergeant-Major, A Sergeant and er... Privates Garvey and Tucker.
  • As a squadron of Do Anything Soldiers, the Marine aviators in Space Above And Beyond not only fly space fighters, but also perform ground missions as infantry. Though infantry units are made up predominantly of enlisted men, no member of the squadron is below the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
    • In "Who Monitors the Birds," Major Colquitt recruits Hawkes (a lieutenant) to accompany him behind enemy lines on a sniping mission. Real Life snipers are almost exclusively enlisted personnel.
  • Lt. Columbo should have been running a squad rather than out investigating murders on his own.
  • The title character on The Commish frequently conducted investigations and made arrests personally, despite being the police commissioner.
  • Generally averted in Law And Order and its spinoffs, which accurately depict police Captains and Lieutenants as supervisors, who almost never personally conduct investigations or make arrests.
  • The Starship Enterprise in all its incarnations seems to be crewed entirely by officers. The "cannon fodder" on a landing party are Ensigns, an officer rank. The only non-officer we've ever seen is Miles O'Brien, who's a noncom.
    • The reason for this is that Gene Roddenberry was modeling Starfleet on the Air Force, the only branch where the enlisted men stay safe back at base and the officers go out to get shot at.
  • Captain Brass of CSI spends far more time kicking in doors and questioning suspects than he does supervising. The same can be said for his counterparts on CSI: Miami and CSI: NY.
  • Tango And Cash: Both officers are Lieutenants. Both are also seen to be Cowboy Cops who only work alone.
  • In a Mirror Universe episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine someone in the Terran Rebellion bemoans the rebellion's many captains and apparently very few footsoldiers.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Tabletop Games]]
  • Warhammer 40 K:
    • The minimal requirements to play a game are two units of troops and the HQ. Meaning you have Imperial Guard generals directing operations from the field rather than in a fortified bunker miles away.
      • Taken even further in Dawn Of War, where the command squad is the Guard's only melee unit until they finally upgrade to the final tier. Meaning the general and his retinue take on everything the other factions throw at them.
    • Tau Ethereals are considered nearly godlike by the lower castes, with the Tau being physically incapable of disobeying their orders,conferring bonuses but huge drawbacks if they die, and yet are often seen deployed into battle. Which is why it's especially hilarious in Dawn Of War to see them charging headlong into melee.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Video Games]]
  • The various Wolfenstein games have Captain BJ Blazkowicz as the player character. He commands no one. Justified, in that BJ works for an OSS Expy.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Truth In Television]]
  • As noted in the page quote above, General Maxwell Taylor found himself in this position on D-Day. Immediately after landing, he found himself in command of a single private; as he gathered more men, a disproportionate number of them were high ranking officers.
  • During World War II, a number of intelligence agencies, such as the OSS, SOE, and MI-6, gave their agents officer rank, with the hope that if captured, they would be treated as prisoners of war, rather than as spies.
  • Many elite units will accept only experienced soldiers into their ranks. As these units tend to be small, this usually means every member will be a higher rank than their counterpart in a conventional unit.
  • In most militaries, doctors, chaplains, and others with similarly specialized training will be officers, but will have fewer command responsibilities than other officers - in fact, international law may prevent them from commanding a combat unit.
  • During the Russian Civil War, the White Guards started with only the officers loyal to their cause. Their first battles were fought by officer-only units, with lieutenants attacking as common riflemen and colonels commanding platoons and companies.
  • Due to cutbacks in the Royal Air Force, officers now command smaller units than their World War II counterparts. Wing Commanders, for example, now typically command squadrons, while Squadron Leaders are actually flight leaders.
[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 69
  • January 23, 2012
    nman
    Is this related enough to Dude Wheres My Respect to merit a "see also"?
  • January 23, 2012
    Tulling
    Do Anything Soldier seems related.
  • January 23, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Not sure if these really count:

    Anime and Manga:
    • In Gall Force: Earth Chapter, Sandy (whose rank is not mentioned, and may in fact be a civilian) commands a unit consisting of a dozen or so named characters and at least several unnamed ones, three light tanks, and an armored personnel carrier. Nominally that would make her a lieutenant. However, her subordinates include Lamidia (A major in the Mars Defense Force) and Captain Varji of the MDF Navy, the latter of whom commands a single 2-man tank. Justified in that the resistance forces are fighting a desperate battle, and one could make the arguement Lamidia and Varji are POWs recruited via an Enemy Mine situation.

    Literature:
    • Frank L. Baum seemed to like playing this trope for laughs. It may be that in Oz, this is the normal state of formal militaries.
      • In The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, Queen Ann's army has a number of officers but only one enlisted man, Private Files. After Files resigns to avoid being commanded to perform an illegal order, Ann enlists Tik-Tok to replace him.
      • In Ozma of Oz, Ozma forms an army composed of 8 generals, 6 colonels, 7 majors, 5 captains, and one private named Omby Amby. Amby is later promoted to the rank of "Captain General".
  • January 24, 2012
    AgProv
    Real Life: the Parachute Regiment took significant casualties in the Falklands War. A disproportionate number were among officers. After the death of Colonel "H" Jones, who was leading his batallion from the front, a relatively junior major took over and led 1Para with distinction till the end of the war. But he was judged too junior and inexperienced to take permanent command of the batallion and despite having commanded a British Army batallion in war, he had to stand down for a colonel drafted in from outside the Regiment who had not served in wartime, who did have the right ticks on his CV and had done the appropriate training courses.... Para insiders apparently considered this was something of a disaster.
  • January 24, 2012
    Ghilz
    Inverted with Sisko on Star Trek Deep Space Nine in the later part of the Dominion Wars. He's a captain, but really he seems in command of the entire Klingon/Romulan/Federation alliance, coming up with all the plans, strategy, debriefing and briefing the leaders of the other factions. Nominally Admiral Ross is in charge, but most of the time Ross is just doing what Sisko suggested. And that is on top of his job of commanding Deep Space Nine and the Defiant themselves.
  • January 24, 2012
    Chabal2
    • Warhammer 40 K:
      • The minimal requirements to play a game are two units of troops and the HQ. Meaning you have Imperial Guard generals directing operations from the field rather than in a fortified bunker miles away.
        • Taken even further in Dawn Of War, where the command squad is the Guard's only melee unit until they finally upgrade to the final tier. Meaning the general and his retinue take on everything the other factions throw at them, from armored (or unarmored but huge) Blood Knights to
      • Gaunts Ghosts has Colonel-Commissar Gaunt leading large-scale operations from the front, given the rank of colonel to facilitate the parperwork.
      • Tau Ethereals are considered nearly godlike by the lower castes, with the Tau being physically incapable of disobeying their orders,conferring bonuses but huge drawbacks if they die, and yet are often seen deployed into battle. Which is why it's especially hilarious in Dawn Of War to see them charging headlong into melee.
    • Averted in Artemis Fowl: Commander Root is technically too high up to participate in field actions, but quickly reactivates himself when the situation calls for it (he has quite a bit of influence with the commanding officer).
    • Buck Danny: The other characters note that Buck should be a general by now (the series has such a bad case of Comic Book Time that pilots who joined for World War 2 are still the same age and flying to this day), though he remains a colonel so he can still fly missions.

  • January 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In Doctor Who Classic UNIT often consists of a General, one Sergent, and one Corporal.
  • January 24, 2012
    SonofRojBlake
    More usually, a Brigadier (or more specifically, the Brigadier), a Sergeant and a corporal.
  • January 24, 2012
    crazysamaritan
    Brigadier is a one-star general. The lowest-ranked of the generals, but still a general.

    v - NATO still calls it a one-star rank: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1_star_rank
  • January 24, 2012
    Catbert
    In the British Army, they don't use stars, and the full rank title is "brigadier" instead of "brigadier-general." They consider it a field officer rank, not a general officer rank.

    See here for more info.
  • January 24, 2012
    NativeJovian
    Could probably use a link to Common Ranks for information on what you would expect a person of a given rank to be doing.
  • January 24, 2012
    JoeG
    • The Closer: The major case squad consists of five or six lieutenants and one sergeant, with a deputy chief in charge. Ordinarily a police unit will be headed by a lieutenant or captain, with the rest of the squad being no higher ranked than sergeant.
    • Similarly, Lt. Columbo should have been running a squad rather than out investigating murders on his own.
  • January 25, 2012
    PaulA
    In case we haven't nitpicked the Doctor Who example enough, the classic 1970s UNIT roster was actually a Brigadier, a Captain, and a Sergeant.
  • January 25, 2012
    Koveras
    Note that what a rank's normal function is differs by service branch. Army colonels have thousands of men under their command; air force colonels command hundreds of specialists, plus a few dozen fighter jets.
  • January 25, 2012
    Salda007
    Film example: Saving Private Ryan - Captain Miller, who would normally command a company of maybe a hundred men, is given command of an eight-man squad, typically the role of a sergeant or lieutenant at most. Of course, given the mission circumstances, a higher-ranked CO may have been chosen to allow him to draw additional assistance if needed.
  • January 25, 2012
    GuyIncog
    Thanks for the suggestions, everyone - keep 'em coming.

    @nman: Do you have an example in mind that would fit both tropes?

    @Ag Prov: That seems more like an example of You Are In Command Now. Thanks, though - I wouldn't have thought of that trope otherwise.

    @Joe G: Nice idea expanding this to law enforcement.

    @Native Jovian: Common Military Units seems to tie them together more clearly, but still a good idea. Thanks.
  • January 25, 2012
    Treblain
    Contrast Limited Advancement Opportunities. The X Wing Series example went into this trope by trying to avert that one.
  • January 25, 2012
    elwoz
    Commented upon in Cryptonomicon -- Sgt. Shaftoe at one point muses that Detachment 2402 has case of "rank inflation" (because the people with sufficiently high clearances to know what Detachment 2402 is doing tend to be senior officers).

    Stargate SG 1 has a bit of this but I think it's more a case of The Main Characters Do Everything. Doylistically speaking, it occurs to me that this trope would naturally pop up in any military story in which The Main Characters Do Everything.
  • January 26, 2012
    GuyIncog
    Bump. What do you guys think? Ready For Launch? Any other examples or ideas?

    @Treblain: Good idea - I don't think they're quite inverses of each other, but aversions of Limited Advancement Opportunities may often fall here.
  • February 1, 2012
    GuyIncog
    During the Russian Civil War, the White Guards started with only the officers loyal to their cause. Their first battles were fought by officer-only units, with lieutenants attacking as common riflemen and colonels commanding platoons and companies.
  • February 1, 2012
    Rognik
    Is it related to Everythings Better With Princesses? Or is that more an example of the inverse?
  • February 1, 2012
    korpse_man
    Put in the tropes you wanted, and added a few new ones and tidied it up a bit. Good to go after a few more examples have been added.
  • February 1, 2012
    JimCambias
    The Starship Enterprise in all its incarnations seems to be crewed entirely by officers. The "cannon fodder" on a landing party are Ensigns, an officer rank. The only non-officer we've ever seen is Miles O'Brien, who's a noncom.

    The reason for this is that Gene Roddenberry was modeling Starfleet on the Air Force, the only branch where the enlisted men stay safe back at base and the officers go out to get shot at. (Air Force vets say this proves they're the smartest service.)
  • February 1, 2012
    korpse_man
    A TV example

    • Soldier Soldier : The 1st Battalion Kings Fusiliers often consisted of the Lieutenant Colonel, A Major, A Lieutenant, The regimental Sergeant-Major, The Company Sergeant-Major, A Sergeant and er... Privates Garvey and Tucker
  • February 1, 2012
    nman
    @Guy. I just figured Dude Wheres My Respect is about a hero doing menial work, while this is about an officer doing stuff that is "below" them, so a little "see also - this trope" would be useful.
  • February 1, 2012
    GuyIncog
    @korpse_man: Thanks for the input, but see the tags. Please do not delete anything in the future - if you think something doesn't belong here, leave a comment explaining why.

    Also note that this trope is meant to have both military and law enforcement examples.
  • February 1, 2012
    GuyIncog
    Looking over the description, I realize I've shorted the law enforcement part of the trope - anybody have any ideas?

    Also, thoughts on a picture for the page?
  • February 2, 2012
    korpse_man
    Law enforcement is a tricky one. The Audience is used to 'Police Work' being investigating crime scenes and interviewing suspects and witnesses. That the main character regardless of rank has to be seen to be doing these to seem like a real 'cop'. Paperwork and delegation is not that interesting to TV producers.

    Lethal Weapon is a victim of this, throughout the series Murtaugh and Riggs go from Detective, to Sergeant, to Lieutenant and finally captain. Yet never take on the additional responsibility that the ranks have. Always remaining Cowboy Cops.

    I would recommend removing the Heat example that's really more a case of The Main Characters Do Everything and also removing the Colombo example for the same reason. I think Colombo just prefers to work alone.

  • February 2, 2012
    korpse_man
    Didn't the original film of Stargate Have this problem? Colonel O'Neil leading a commando unit of a lieutenant colonel, alot of Lieutenants and one scientist?
  • February 2, 2012
    nielas
    ^ The Stargate movie is an example of this though it had more of a justification than the series since that was a special unit composed of the top special forces operatives the Air Force has. Colonel O'Neil is specifically brought out of retirement just to lead it.

    This trope has a lot of overlap with The Main Characters Do Everything since both tropes come from the desire to show your characters as doing the exciting stuff.

    Colombo is a definite example since he should never have been made a Lieutenant if he can't delegate in a murder investigation.
  • February 2, 2012
    JoeG
    • Lt. Eve Dallas from the In Death books is a borderline case. While she does run a homicide squad, she spends much more time investigating murders herself than supervising her squad. Note that she is shown as being perpetually behind on her paperwork because of this, and that she knows that one more promotion means she won't be able to do the street-level investigations she loves.
  • February 2, 2012
    Westrim
    There's another YKTTW related to this one being worked on now called OddlyOvertrainedSecurity. Someone mentioned this there, so I thought it should go both ways.
  • February 2, 2012
    GuyIncog
    Added Stargate (with a note about the justification), Lethal Weapon, and In Death. Keep 'em coming.

    @korpse_man: This trope and The Main Characters Do Everything are related, but I don't see them as an either-or. Yes, Columbo definitely does everything himself. That doesn't change the fact that he's Lt. Columbo doing the work of a journeyman detective - he's simply an example of both tropes at work. Thanks for the feedback, though.

    Still looking for picture ideas.
  • February 3, 2012
    aurora369
    Not related to Everythings Better With Princesses. You were probably thinking about Royals Who Actually Do Something.
  • February 3, 2012
    fulltimeD
    The Galactica example is somewhat justified by everyone else (including the majority of Colonial Marines) having been wiped out in the multi-planet-wide nuclear holocaust that started off the show. The only Marines in existence were either onboard Pegasus or Galactica at the time of the holocaust or were possibly recruited from the civilians, so it's possible there are just that few Marine officers left.
  • February 7, 2012
    korpse_man
  • February 7, 2012
    fulltimeD
    In a Mirror Universe episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine someone in the Terran Rebellion bemoans the rebellion's many captains and apparently very few footsoldiers... this one is also a variation of the "too many cooks"/"too many chiefs" saying.
  • February 7, 2012
    nitrokitty
    When the rank exceeds their ability, not just their responsibility, then its The Peter Principle.
  • February 12, 2012
    pawsplay
    Real Life: In the US Air Force, fighter pilots and other high-profile flyers tend be Lts. and Captains, even if they don't command anyone but the cashier at Mc Donald's.
  • February 13, 2012
    crazysamaritan
    Who do they command if theyre not high profile? Not everyone is familiar with American air force duties.
  • February 13, 2012
    Synchronicity
  • February 13, 2012
    pawsplay
    What I mean is, guy who flies jet fighter = Captain, in charge of one plane and possibly a handful of wingmen.
  • February 19, 2012
    JoeG
    Bumping because of phantom launch.
  • February 19, 2012
    Sackett
    Isn't it the case though that all the way up until colonel rank, officers are usually at the front and may actually be involved in combat? Sure they're the forward command, not actually leading a squad, but they are close enough to the action that they get wounded and do fire their weapons.
  • February 27, 2012
    GuyIncog
    ^ It's not necessarily about whether or not they get shot at. If a colonel is commanding a battalion or brigade and he happens to be at the front, that's not this trope. If he's at the front because he only commands a squad, then he outranks his job.

    @pawsplay - True, but that's appropriate to their rank as USAF pilots.

    Thoughts on whether Colonel Smith from the A-Team qualifies?
  • February 27, 2012
    nitrokitty
    ^ I think he does, because iirc, he was leading the A-Team on a mission when they got betrayed, so he was only leading a small man squad even while he was still in the military.

    Also, would Captain Price from Modern Warfare count? I don't know if the SAS is different because they're a special forces unit, but as a Captain, he should be leading an entire company rather than just the small squads we see him leading in the games.
  • February 27, 2012
    nielas
    Special force units are tricky as they tend to have more experienced soldiers to begin with and thus could have higher ranks.

    The A-Team in the movie is a weird example since it is pretty clear that they all would have been thrown out of the army if they were not so useful as a special operations team and they seem to be outside standard chain of command with their actual ranks not really mattering (Face is not going to order BA around).

  • February 27, 2012
    nitrokitty
    ^ I think we need somebody with more military knowledge to clarify the special forces thing. I think that in the SAS at least, they spend most of their time in their regular units, and then get detached for SAS specific missions, so it is possible that you could have higher ranked individuals working in small groups. If stuff like this is the case for most special forces, we'll need to make a note of it in the description.
  • March 1, 2012
    GuyIncog
    I've already made a note of Special Forces under Truth in Television. I'd agree they and some other specialist soldiers (chaplains, doctors, pilots, etc.) might warrant a mention in the main description, as they technically are the correct rank for their jobs.
  • March 10, 2012
    GuyIncog
    Bump. I'm gonna launch this soon if there are no further comments. Thoughts on where to index it?
  • March 10, 2012
    JoeG
  • March 10, 2012
    surgoshan
    • Invoked in Robert A Heinlein's Starship Troopers. The Mobile Infantry is severely understaffed in the upper echelons (because it has incredibly high standards of morale and psychological motivators), so officers tend to wear several hats, with a battalion commander also commanding one of the regiments of the battalions and also one of the companies. Because Heinlein also loved realism, he couldn't go further than that, as commanding a battalion and a platoon simultaneously just wouldn't be feasible.
  • March 21, 2012
    Westrim
    bump
  • March 30, 2012
    Ghost2267
    • Just to add to the above regarding Saving Private Ryan, it is noted in the movie that Captain Miller remembers how many men have died under his command. Just under a hundred men had died under his command over the course of World War II and he tries to justify the number in his mind by saying that each death saved 10 times more soldiers otherwise it would weigh too heavily on his mind. This definitely implies that as Captain he had at one point commanded the realistic number of men that he should have.
      • Also note that U.S Command initially didn't want to waste too many resources on trying to save Private Ryan expecting that even if the man was still alive that the men sent to rescue him would die in the process. General Marshall probably sent a squad sized group to get Private Ryan because a smaller presence can sneak by the enemy easier and to avoid diverting too many resources away from the war effort.
  • March 30, 2012
    Ghost2267
    Video Game example: Captain John Price from the Modern Warfare series commands a squad sized SAS unit that covertly sneaks into enemy territory and frequently faces company and battalion sized groups. Given the top secret nature of their work that may explain why Captain Price has so few men under his command, smaller presence smaller chance of getting noticed.
    • Probably inherited that from his grandfather the World War II Captain Price since he did pretty much the same thing, going behind enemy lines and absolutely decimating the enemy reinforcements that naturally come when they get caught.
  • March 31, 2012
    Koveras
    • Provided he survives, Kaidan Alenko is promoted to Major (equivalent of modern Colonel in the future) in Mass Effect 3, technically outranking Shepard. However, he still plays the biotic footman role if he stays on the Normandy.
  • July 8, 2012
    Headrock
    This is clearly a sub-trope of The Main Characters Do Everything. In fact some of the examples here are examples of that trope even more than of this trope.
  • July 8, 2012
    DrakeClawfang
    Video Game examples

    • Final Fantasy VIII, Squall is eventually named Commander of Balamb Garden, effectively the leader of an entire military school of troops. In the one battle where he commands them like his position would demand, he and the other party members infiltrate the enemy Galbadian base themselves while the rest of the Balamb forces engage the Galbadians.
    • Final Fantasy IX, Captain Steiner leads a troop of eight men famous through the kingdom for being incompetent. General Beatrix commands all the Alexandrian military but is shown leading the charge whenever the player goes to battle with the Alexandrian forces.
  • July 9, 2012
    elwoz
    I fixed a typo in the Cryptonomicon example.
  • July 11, 2012
    surgoshan
    • Captain (later Admiral) Aubrey, of the Aubrey Maturin series, really started hitting this trope hard after about ten books. Author Patrick O'Brian had to work hard to justify keeping someone with that much seniority in a ship of the right size to keep things interesting for the readers (admirals mostly did blockade duty, which was important but boring. Also, paperwork.).
  • July 11, 2012
    Perey
    I don't know whether we'd have any luck finding out what the real version of the page quote is, but this is the one I've got on record:

    "When we jumped into Sicily, the units became separated, and I couldn't find anyone. Eventually I stumbled across two colonels, a major, three captains, two lieutenants, and one rifleman, and we secured the bridge. Never in the history of war have so few been led by so many."
    - General James Gavin

    (Notable differences: Different general; Sicily, not D-Day; specific numbers, with just one enlisted man; explanation for the event; closer match to the Churchill quote it's based on.)
  • July 12, 2012
    harrison
    I think I read in a an Ambrose book that all the airmen in Europe during WWII were Sergent or higher, because Goring had some delusion about the "Brotherhood of the Air" or something, but I can't find it again.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    Bump with threat to launch.
  • February 1, 2013
    Westrim
    Bump with promise to launch in seven days or earlier. Five hats, lots of examples, settled explanation, this seems good to go. I'll PM the trope starter since he has it tagged no launching, but hasn't commented since last march.
  • February 1, 2013
    Desertopa
    • In Grandia, Colonel Mullen is apparently the second in command of the entire Garlyle Forces. The lopsided command structure might be best explained by the fact that while the Garlyle Forces are theoretically a private army, they are a de facto empire, ruled by General Baal, Mullen's father.

    Edit: On reexamination, that's really an inversion of the described trope. However, the same game also gives us

    • In Grandia, Sergeants Nana, Saki, and Mio of the Garlyle Forces supposedly each command a squad, appropriate units to their rank. However, these "squads" contain many times more soldiers than appropriate, and over the course of the game they command other sergeants and even ranking officers as Elite Mooks without ever being promoted.

    ...Which is also an inversion. It seems I've rolled a critical failure on my Proficiency: Troping check. The unnamed Elite Mooks under the sergeants' command are straight examples though.
  • February 1, 2013
    Excise
    The most recent XCOM has this. All your soldiers start out as 'Rookies' (no rank given), but by the end of the game everyone's a Colonel or Major.
  • February 1, 2013
    MiinU

    Anime and Manga

    • Patlabor: Gotoh and Shinobi are both captains of the SVU, yet both are noted for having talents deserving of a higher position.
      • The former was too observant for his bosses liking, so they stationed him in the middle of nowehere, to keep him out of their hair. But, according to the JSDF's detective Matsui, Gotoh's exactly where he wants to be.
      • In the second movie, Shinobu is acknowledged as Tokyo's most talented police woman, but ultimately had no choice but to accept a job with the SVU as a result of having had an affair with her former instructor, Tsuge. Word of the affair reached as far as the top brass, which forced her to settle for a position that was beneath someone of her ability.
  • February 2, 2013
    GuyIncog
    Trope starter here - I'll launch it tomorrow if there are no objections. If anyone has any additional examples (or if examples in the thread aren't in the article) just wait until the page is launched and add them then.
  • February 2, 2013
    Westrim
    Sounds good to me.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable