"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. Sister Trope to Omnidisciplinary Scientist and Omnidisciplinary Lawyer.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- 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.
- 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.
Films — Live-Action
- 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. Though, Terminator 2: Judgment Day mentions that Sarah shacked up with whoever she could to learn military stuff off for John. Flying a helicopter could easily have been one of the skills.
- 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.
- In The Hurt Locker, Sanborn and James make a pretty good sniper/spotter team despite being EOD technicians. Both career fields require years of highly specialized training, and it's unlikely two soldiers in the same squad would be experts in both specialties. On the other hand, the film goes out of its way to avert this trope in other areas, making it obvious that James doesn't know what he's doing when he tries his hand at intelligence gathering or hunting for insurgents.
- Par for the course in George MacDonald 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.
- The Mako Saga: Precisely because it's meant to teach and require every possible skill a soldier could know, no one Mako Assault player can be an expert in everything so the game has to be played as a team. Similarly the Renegades do come out of their training as commandos who can also be Ace Pilots, but they all have their own particular areas of expertise: Lee is by far the best pilot and the main strategist, Mac is the second-best pilot and the best hacker, Link is a sniper, Hamish is the demolitions guy, and Danny is an infantryman and martial artist. They're all competent in each other's skillsets, but they all lean on the others.
- In the Gray Death Legion Saga, set in the BattleTech Expanded Universe, Grayson Carlyle engages in everything from piloting a Humongous Mecha, infiltration/ex-filtration, scouting, and vehicle combat, in addition to his duties as the owner of a mercenary company employing over 300 people. Mostly averted in the rest of the series, which focuses primarily on the battlemech pilots which are often in a more structure command.
- Space: Above and Beyond features space fighter pilots who also double as land troops for some reason.
- Lampshaded in one episode when the 58th complain about this; Colonel McQueen justifies it with the Marine creed that every Marine is a rifleman. (This is not accurate, even in the Marines. Despite the text of the creed, in real life sending naval aviators in as infantry on purpose is a stupid risk of very expensively trained officers.)
- Deconstructed in "Sugar Dirt". The 58th are ordered to land their planes and join in ground combat, which lets their fighters be destroyed on the ground when the Chigs spring their trap.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003) suffers from this, notably in the later seasons. Justified, in that by that point they have too few people left to split the work, but the fact that the show has no Marine among the main cast really shows in how often the main characters have to go outside their specialization.
- In Ken Burns' TV Documentary The Civil War there are two soldiers — Elisha Hunt Rhodes on the North's side and Sam Watkins on the South — who seem to be at every major battle of the war in a variety of duties. Rhodes goes 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 (his previous job in the Navy) 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 Sergeant, later being complimented as a "credit to the uniform". Not to mention that most of their investigations would probably be better handled by the Office of the Inspector General or NCIS.
- Pollo and Vorenus on Rome go from infantrymen to commanding a squad of German cavalry in-between episodes. That is quite frankly the most believable part about their career.
- 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.
- Warhammer 40,000: Compared to many Space Marines, the Alpha Legion don't pick out specialists. Every Alpha Legionnaire is trained in the use of all Astartes equipment; equally capable as close assault troops, heavy weapons troops, fast attack (like speeders and bikes, etc.), trained in the use of Terminator armour, a master of stealth and black-ops warfare (yes, even the black-ops specialist Astartes have their own black-ops division), a brilliant spy and manipulator... Most importantly however, every Alpha Legionnaire is a capable leader and trainer of men whenever necessary. This means three things: 1) the Alpha Legion can use as many or few specialist marines as needed to best complete any mission at any time, 2) the Alpha Legion can employ non-Astartes soldiers and agents in vast numbers, and 3) the Alpha Legion leadership is practically impossible to decapitate, as soldiers are encouraged (and capable of) improvising and acting on their own initiative.
- 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, with even the rest of your tank's crew seemingly being comprised of other soldiers from the same squad as you.
- 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.
- Both of these examples are somewhat justified; the player character on each side is doing several people's jobs at once because their unit is desperately short-handed and/or a scratch-force of survivors from several units who took a hammering in the early stages of the war, so the chain of command is kind of ad-hoc.
- 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.).
- 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.
- Discussed by Gen. Charles C. Krulak, USMC, in his article The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War. In essence, General Krulak claimed that Marines would need to be highly flexible on the modern battlefield. In his hypothetical "Three Block War", a Corporal (a very junior noncomissioned officer) might need to deal with combat, humanitarian aid, and peacekeeping, all within the space of three city blocks simultaneously. Thus, junior leaders must be trained and empowered to make important decisions without seeking input or permission from senior leadership who may not be immediately present or available.