"In today's modern army, everyone is trained to do everything."
A soldier or similar character who constantly switches roles on the battlefield without regard to service branch or rank. He is also usually capable of handling every task he needs to do by himself. If you see one and the same soldier participating in an infantry skirmish one day, jump into the commander's seat of a tank the next, still later pilot a helicopter and finally go on a risky secret mission deep in enemy territory, then you know this trope is in effect.
A form of Economy Cast
. Often a special case of The Main Characters Do Everything
. Usually requires the character to have a Universal Driver's License
- In G.I. Joe it was typical to see characters doing things they shouldn't have been expected to, starting with General Hawk (the leader) doubling as the Surface-to-Air-Missile operator.
- Lady Jaye and the Baroness, both intelligence experts, both found themselves in the backseat of dogfighting jets at one point.
- While not a soldier as such, James Bond certainly qualifies. The only time he couldn't do everything was in Goldfinger, when he couldn't disarm a nuclear device. This was back before the character transcended humanity as he did in later films.
- The page quote is elicited in the Rifftrax version of Terminator Salvation when John Connor simply starts flying an abandoned helicopter in the middle of a skirmish. This means that he has training as a chopper pilot... despite not being one of the Resistance's chopper pilots.
- In Wing Commander the hot-shot pilots are recruited to infiltrate an enemy ship, a mission that would typically be relegated to a marine detachment.
- Army Air Corps fighter jocks that survived Pearl Harbor are given new assignments as bomber pilots. It's a totally different kind of flying, altogether.
- Par for the course in George Mac Donald Fraser's McAuslan series. During his two years in the 2nd Gordon Highlanders in the twilight of the British Empire, Fraser's expy Lieutenant Dand MacNeill (deep breath) commands a troop train in wartorn Palestine, catches a deserter, commands a desert outpost, stops an Arab riot, manages the battalion football team, mounts guard at Edinburgh Castle, guards a rebel leader, attends a court-martial, wins a quiz show and a golf tournament, competes in the Highland Games, digs up buried treasure, plays miniature golf with a nun, changes diapers, referees a wargame, gets lost inside a monument, acts in a play, and chases a moonshiner in the Scottish Highlands. This is on top of his normal job, which is leading (and parenting) a platoon of obstreperous Glaswegians.
- Specifically invoked in the X-Wing Series, as Wedge Antilles wanted pilots who could double as commandos in a pinch. Therefore when re-forming Rogue Squadron in the eponymous book, if given the choice between two pilots of equal skill, he always picked the one with useful ground-based skills as well. Done the other way around in the Wraith Squadron books, where Wedge wanted commandos who could fly fighters as well.
- In Ghostmaker, the Royal Volpone Bluebloods are an elite Super Soldier force that practices regularly with every conceivable discipline of war they might be expected to use in addition to their standard shock trooper know-how. This allows them to, for instance, storm an enemy's fortified bunker and then seize and use the artillery guns on top with pinpoint accuracy. About the one thing they can't handle is stealth, which is fortunately the specialty of their rival regiment, the eponymous Ghosts — near to every Tanith Ghost regardless of role is accomplished at stealth, tracking, and survival. When they team up in the novel's climax, they perform a next-to-impossible feat by pushing a force of about sixty into the enemy's line in the middle of a torrential storm, running roughshod over an entire army with their interlocking skills.
Manga and Anime
- Space: Above and Beyond featured space fighter pilots who also doubled as land troops for some reason.
- Battlestar Galactica suffered from this notably in the later seasons. Justified, in that by that point they have too few people left to split the work.
- In Ken Burns' TV Documentary The Civil War there were two soldiers - Elisha Hunt Rhodes on the North's side and Sam Watkins on the South - who seemed to be at every major battle of the war in a variety of duties. Rhodes went from Private to Colonel during the war. Justified inasmuch as these were real people.
- Harm from JAG who, despite being a lawyer, seems to be able to perform every single job in the US Navy; from flying a fighter jet to parachuting out of a helicopter with a squad of marines.
- He can also do every job in the Marine Corps, going undercover as a Force Recon Gunnery Sargent, later being complimented as a "credit to the uniform".
- Pollo and Vorenus on Rome went from infantrymen to commanding a squad of German cavalry in between episodes. That was quite frankly the most believable part about their career.
- Legend of Galactic Heroes does this often: In the side stories Reinhard's and Kircheis' first assignment after graduating from military school was driving a scout vehicle in the ground forces. Then an assignment as chief navigator (Reinhard) and security officer on a destroyer, a stint as military police investigators, and a cruiser captaincy for Reinhard with Kircheis tagging along as security officer again. Later, when Reinhard was a commodore commanding a flotilla of 100 vessels, he personally took to the field during a ground assault on an enemy base and captured their commander. In the main series, Reuentahl and Mittermeyer don powered armour and personally participate in the capture of Ovlesser and the station he commands, even though they were already admirals at the time.
- Averted in PlanetSide 1. A soldier can only use things he's certified in; meaning a soldier certified in driving tanks probably won't be certified in piloting bombers. Once you reach Battle Rank 25, you usually have enough certification points to do almost anything; and BR40 unlocks everything. Planetside 2 allows soldiers to use any vehicle and class by default, though specialization requires expending certification points, which are granted every 250xp (roughly 2.5 kills); a BR1 Prowler driver can use the basic tank with a HEAT cannon and 20mm gun, whereas a specialized player can utilize armor-piercing ammo, Enemy Detecting Radar, anchored mode and self-healing armor, among other things.
- Wing Commander series: In the second game Jeanette "Angel" Deveraux was a starfighter pilot, but shortly after the end of the second Expansion Pack she transferred to a special forces team doing reconnaissance on the Kilrathi homeworld, and was captured along with them. A milder example that affects gameplay is how the player and the other pilots constantly switch between different types of space fighters, such as interceptors or torpedo bombers, during the campaign, instead of each being assigned to a particular squadron that uses one type in order to fill a particular tactical niche.
- In the Soviet campaign of the original Call of Duty, you played as an infantryman, then at one point there was a tank mission justified with a blurb about lack of tank crews leading to your reassignment, and then back on foot for the finale. Call of Duty 2 wisely avoided this by making it clear you played as a different character in the tank missions, then World at War did the same thing as the first.
- Common in games: In the Battlefield series, for example, the various class options only covers infantry roles, yet every character can jump into any vehicle at will and take control of them. Players are also able to easily switch classes by taking and swapping kits with a fallen player - your engineer's apparently also qualified to be a medic, he just needs the equipment on-hand for it.
- This could lead to some really strange situations when aircraft come into play. In Bad Company 2, for instance, players entering helicopters would just keep using their class skin..... so a two-seater helicopter like the Hind flown by two snipers (in ghillie suits) looked like the Wookiee Air Force. In Battlefield 3 and 4, players' skins change to a special pilot skin when they enter a plane. Occasionally, bailing out will fail to reset the skin to infantry, and so you might see pilots running around with assault rifles.
- A slightly different example from World in Conflict: 2nd Lt. (later Lt. and Cpt.) Parker is originally an infantry commander, yet throughout the game, he is given command not only over infantry squads, but also armored units, AA batteries, heavy artillery batteries and even attack helicopters in one mission, and in much greater quantities than you would expect for such a junior officer. The Expansion Pack features a different Player Character but he also comes from the infantry corner, yet is on one occasion given control over artillery batteries.
- Averted in the original Operation Flashpoint. There are four characters, one infantry man, one tank commander, one pilot and one special forces soldier that does mission behind enemy lines. The only odd thing is that the pilot starts out as a helicopter pilot and ends up flying an A-10, but it is mentioned that they're short on people.
- In Crysis, the player character's primary job is as an elite commando. He also has a Universal Driver's License and can competently operate everything from M1 Abrams main battle tanks to VTOL dropships.
- In Xenonauts, as there are no character classes as such, every soldier can perform all combat roles. This is somewhat averted with the aliens, some of whom specialise in particular tasks (Harridans are snipers, Reapers are close combat specialists etc.).
- More or less the point of the Dawn Caste in Exalted, who - given time and the right Charms - can be a tactical genius, Musashi-level swordsman, knife-thrower extraordinaire and kung fu master who can put an arrow through your eye from the Silver Chair of Night. And that's just with their Caste abilities; when you consider their other abilities, they can also be guerrillas, ninjas, cavalrymen, sailors or even sorcerers.
- Despite the cast of Darwin's Soldiers having a very diverse spectrum of backstories and skills listed on their character sheets, in practice almost every character except Dr. Shelton did very little except kill lots of enemies in one way or another. Many objectives in the role-play boiled down to either "cover Shelton from the bad guys until he finishes whatever needs to be done," or "rescue Shelton from the bad guys so he can do what needs to be done." This is because Shelton was one of the few characters who wasn't gun-proficient, so to compensate his author always made him doing something technical or scientific or whatnot.
- In the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero cartoons, it was typical to see Army infantrymen such as Snake-Eyes or Duke flying the Skystriker fighter jet; Snake-Eyes even had his own livery on his plane. Zap, a bazooka-man, often doubled as a helicopter pilot.
- Somewhat Truth in Television, at least for some armies. The USMC takes the position that every marine is a rifleman and every officer is a platoon leader. So everyone receives that training, even if it has nothing to do with their "real" job — it doesn't matter if you're a tank crewman or a fighter pilot, you're still trained as an infantryman. This is apparently typical of marines elsewhere too. As Rudyard Kipling put it, "Soldier an' Sailor too.
- Likewise for Army Rangers. Everyone knows how to field strip and use (accurately) several different rifles, machine guns, pistols, sniper rifles, and enemy weapons (a la AK-47). And they have to qualify with said weapons multiple times a year.
- The Army itself gets in on this, too. Everyone from mechanics to computer techs go through basic infantry training, albeit a shorter period of it than those who are infantry by trade.
- Applies to several Navies too. For example, Irish naval recruits are given some basic infantry training and later in their careers have the opportunity to serve with Army units on peacekeeping missions.
- The Royal Navy fielded a light infantry division during WWI. A third of it was composed of Marines, but the rest were seamen and naval officers.
- Most soldiers from a combat arm of an army, whether they cock a cannon or drive a tank, can reasonably expected to know the rudiments of infantry combat as a side-effect of either fighting or supporting them. This doesn't mean they will be good at it.
- In fact, due to the asymetrical nature of modern warfare, it's common for all military personnel, including Soldiers at the Rear, to be given some degree of combat training. Additional training might be given before a deployment on a mission with a particularly high risk of enemy attack.
- It's also necessary due to emergency situations. If you're in a vehicle, whether that's land, sea, or air, there may come a time where you have to bail out and fight on foot until either rescue comes, or you slog it to safety yourself. WWII tank crew were commonly trained to operate their pintle-mounted machine guns from the ground in support of infantry.
- In a number of cases, such as Wake Island, the Philippines, and German East Africa, aircrew and sailors who had lost their planes and ships were pressed into service as infantry or gunners. Marine defense battalions such as the one at Wake had no infantry, being entirely composed of artillerists and machine-gunners, and struggled to field riflemen at all — even though they were expected to defend entire islands all on their lonesomes.
- The IDF provides a strange example: some soldiers can be exempted from carrying arms, but everyone has to learn to fire an M-16 during boot camp. This includes volunteersnote , even though they are always exempted from bearing arms (as well as doing pretty much anything else), but they can ask for their exemption to be revoked.