Follow TV Tropes


Army Scout

Go To
The Warm Spring US Indian Scouts in the Lava Beds during the Modoc War of 1872 to 1873

The Army Scout is a stock character in Western fiction. Armies maneuvering in pursuit of Indians or enemy forces (such as during the Mexican and Civil Wars) commonly relied on local auxiliaries with knowledge of the area to scout in advance of their arrival. These scouts generally were either cavalry soldiers operating in small groups, or civilians hired on a temporary basis. Indians were often hired due to their extensive knowledge of fieldcraft and their familiarity with local languages and customs.

In modern armies, scouts gather information on the enemy by foot or vehicle reconnaissance patrols. They track and report enemy troop and vehicle movement and activities. As well, scouts may direct weapon systems onto the enemy. Scouts help set up observation posts and helps the army with navigation,

In video games, due to the scout's need to move swiftly, they drive is a Fragile Speedster that has no armor and which carries little equipment. This is often translated into poor Hit Points and offensive power, and emphasizes that the scout is not a primary combat unit. This is Truth in Television with scout units in WWII that used motorbikes to check out the town ahead of the army columns.

See also Ranger, Mountain Man, Native Guide, Cavalry Officer and Scarily Competent Tracker, with which Army Scout often overlaps.


    open/close all folders 

    Audio Plays 
  • Ciaphas Cain: Calen from the audio drama Dead in the Water a rare Science-Fiction version. He's a native scout who helps Cain search an island chain for dangerous raiders.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • The Night Unfurls: Scouts like Indriga and Sharl exist as a division of Kyril's company. Their job is to be the first to enter hostile territory stealthily and, if possible, ambush the enemy and start signals. They would then report back so their intelligence can be used to formulate tactics. Occasionally, some apprentice hunters like Hugh play this role for their immense firepower to be put into use.
  • In The Urthblood Saga, Urthfist, the brother and mortal foe of the titular character, regularly uses squads of three Long Patrol hares to scout out the area around his home mountain of Salamandastron, to be on the lookout for his brother's return. There is also a special squad consisting of only a single hare called Traveller whose job is to go father afield to spy on Urthblood and his army.

    Films — Live Action 
  • In Apache, Chief of Scouts Al Sieber becomes the Inspector Javert to renegade Apache Massai. He assembles an elite squad of Indian scouts who travel light and move fast, including Massai's nemesis Hondo, to accompany him on his manhunt.
  • The Burrowers includes a Native American scout who cannot accurately translate another Indian's language. When the imprisoned Indian taunts him, he tortures the prisoner.
  • In Coroner Creek, it is an old army scout who gives Chris the first lead he has had on his fiancee's killer in 18 months: taking him to meet the Apache who was the sole survivor of Miles' double-cross.
  • In Day of the Evil Gun, one of Addis' band of Dangerous Deserters is an Indian scout whom he sends to negotiate with the Apaches. The Apaches send back his body.
  • The Deserter: Natchai and Tattinger, the cavalry captain's best friends.
  • Jess Remseberg, the hero of Duel At Diablo, although he is on a mission to avenge the death of his wife and has to be cajoled into making a detour to serve as an army scout.
  • In The Gatling Gun, Runner (played by Woody Strode) is an army scout accompanying Lt. Malcolm and his cavalry patrol as they attempt to return the stolen gun to the fort.
  • Geronimo: An American Legend: Historical Domain Character Al Sieber, played by Robert Duvall is the chief army scout, being a companion of the main character, and seeing Geronimo as a Worthy Opponent. Several Apache scouts with Conflicting Loyalty also take part in the hunt for Geronimo.
  • The boy Ivan in Ivan's Childhood acts as one for the Soviet Army in World War II. Taking advantage of his small size, he proved successful on reconnaissance missions.
  • Jack Crabb of Little Big Man, served as a scout to General Custer at the battle of Little Bighorn.
  • Major Dundee: One armed mountain man Samuel Potts, Christian Apache Riago, and Paco serve as the scouts for Dundee and his men, venturing ahead to guard for Indians, and having the most knowledge of the area.
  • Gettysburg depicts Civil War scouts performing several functions.
  • In The Outlaw Josey Wales, the title character is pursued by scouts.
  • In the last scenes of the Ford's cavalry trilogy Rio Grande several Navajo scouts are given commendations. This is likely something of an Author Appeal in gratitude to his Navajo employees.
  • In Rocky Mountain, Lt. Rickey's Union patrol has three Shoshone scouts with it.
  • In The Shadow of Chikara, Moon was an army scout for the Confederate Army, and served alongside Cutter for years.
  • Ulzana's Raid: Elderly frontier scout McIntosh is the protagonist, and Native scout Ke-Ni-Tay also serves the group.

  • Abbu, the bedouin light cavalryman in the Roman army in the Belisarius Series. The forces led by Rana Sanga have Pathans serving the purpose, with the titular general using knowledge of that to mislead them during their pursuit of Belisarius.
  • In the Doom novels, the Deuteragonist Arlene Sanders is the scout for the Marine company. The first scene involves the squad lost in a fog in the mountains trying to find a terrorist cell that slaughters civilians. Arlene moves in and out of the mist, reporting that the shadowy mass of figures approaching the marines are robed monks—but the incompetent lieutenant panics and disregards her reconnaissance, ordering the soldiers to gun down the innocents. During the demonic invasion on Mars, Fly and Arlene finally regroup and she confirms that she snuck past most of the monster encounters he had to fight through, marking the path she took so Fly could follow.
  • The Eagles series by William Johnstone has Jamie Ian MacAllister (and later his son Falcon) serve as occasional cavalry scouts. Both are independently wealthy and do so out of patriotism and for the adventure. Their experiences range from mundane map-making expeditions to participating in the Battle of the Little Big Horn (two separate books published a decade apart each have a McCallister serving under Major Reno, creating a Continuity Snarl). Cry of Eagles also features two Native American scouts helping the calvary chase Apaches. One of them is an incompetent drunk killed for being a Category Traitor, and the other is a Double Agent who leads the soldiers accompanying him into a trap.
  • Invasion of Kzarch has Sergeant Javer and the s-squad, a group of marines dedicated to scouting.
  • Last of the Mohicans depicts several Native Americans being used for this purpose.
  • Several Louis Lamour novels feature current or former scouts. Often they serve as supporting protagonists, although the one from Under The Sweetwater Rim is The Mole.
  • A small party of enemy cavalry scouts provide a scary antagonist for the newly-conscripted Ragtag Bunch of Misfits Polly joins in Monstrous Regiment.
  • Virgil Cole/Everett Hitch: Both Pony Flores and Hitch have done scouting for the army on a freelance basis.
  • An Invoked Trope in The War Against the Chtorr. When Jim McCarthy pisses off one-too-many people and gets thrown out of the military, the Uncle Ira Group reenlists him under an old law as an 'Indian Scout'. He actually is part-Native American (among a bunch of other ethnicities) which Uncle Ira finds amusing.
  • In Safehold several of Merlin's alternate identities are based on this archetype. It provides him with a useful cover identity to drop off some SNARC-derived intelligence for army commanders who are Locked Out of the Loop.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Deadwood includes Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane, both of whom served as scouts for General Custer. This fact is repeatedly mentioned in the series.
  • Immortal of the week Kern in Highlander was an Army scout who led a massacre on the Lakota village that Duncan was living with, sometime in the 1870s. He killed Mac's lover, Little Deer, and her son Kiani. When their paths crossed again in the modern day, Duncan beheaded him using a Lakota war spear.
  • The miniseries Lonesome Dove features an U.S. Army detachment who try to seize the party's horses for their own use, and has their scout begin whipping Dish and Newt when they refuse to hand over the reins. When Gus and Woodrow exit a general store and catch sight of this, Woodrow (Newt's father) rushes over, knocks over the scout, and beats the holy hell out of him to the point that Gus has to pull him away with a lasso before he can kill the sorry bastard. The rest of the Army detachment doesn't even try interfering.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Space Marine Scouts are their youngest, least experienced members, who have most of their surgical enhancements done but not those that let them wear full Power Armor, and so are better used in support roles like scouting, sniping, etc. They're still considerably stronger and tougher than the average human.
      • Inverted with the Space Wolves' Wolf Scouts, who are veterans rather than neophytes, while the newest members of the Space Wolves are put in assault squads (as Fenrisians first think being a Space Wolf is a Warrior Heaven, putting them in violent melee lets them get it out of their system before joining the more focused ranks, progressing as assault-line-fire support-scout or other specialist). This is opposite to standard practice of scouts becoming fire support-assault-line in that order (some chapters from feral worlds or are more genetically belligerent switch assault and fire support so that recruits can work out unbridled aggression before handling heavy weapons=.
    • The Imperial Guard often uses Sentinel Chicken Walkers as scouts due to their speed and mobility. Because they're used to acting independently, they also tend to suffer inexplicable radio failures when given orders they don't like.

    Video Games 
  • The Civilization series have scout units that allow civs to explore the map and reveal enemy movements while still generally keep their distance. They generally have weaker attack and defense stats which they make up with higher movement points compared to other infantry and promotions that allow them to breeze through rough terrain and see farther. Since it's generally difficult for them to survive head-on attacks from other units, they can also gain experience by claiming friendly villages first and revealing natural wonders. Some particular civilizations have unique scout units that have additional bonuses, like the Shoshone's Pathfinder in V (can pick whatever bonus they want instead of having a random one assigned when claiming a friendly village) and the Cree's Okihtcitaw in VI (one free promotion when first built).
  • Empire Earth II: The Scout is a, well, scout unit with high speed, high visibility, and very low damage available to every civilization. The Americans get a unique variation called a Frontiersman with even better stats (admittedly, that's not saying much) during the first 5 eras.
  • Job description-wise, the Pathfinders in Mass Effect: Andromeda are this for the Andromeda Initiative, though the Initiative itself is more a colonization effort than it is an "army". Still, the Pathfinder hits most of the points, being a single unit with (relatively) minimal backup tasked with scouting and plotting safe routes and locations for the Andromeda to set up viable colonies, and also hold the task of interacting with, and occasionally dealing with, the local native life to ensure they do not pose a threat to the Initiative. Gameplay wise, however, the Pathfinder as a class is more a Jack of All Stats than a true scout.
  • Red Dead Revolver includes the Buffalo Soldier character, who is representative of an Army scout.
  • While it generally comes down to how and with whom you are playing, Arma multiplayer scenarios with too many players or large areas of operations usually encourage (or require) that at least one player be assigned to this role. How you do it depends on the scenario, but it can be from taking a walk and looking around, to UAVs or just being parachuted behind enemy lines sometime before the operation begins.
  • Rangers in They Are Billions are the earliest military units you can get, are extremely fast runners and their bows make no noise, so they don't aggro great numbers of zombies. To compensate, they're the weakest and least powerful human units in the game.
  • In the Valkyria Chronicles series:
    • Scouts are usually the first class of troop that the player's introduced to. They have a much larger action bar than other units and get a rifle with decent range (although not the firepower of the machine guns shock troopers carry), as well as getting abilities which let them dodge enemy fire better and having much better peripheral vision (making them more likely to shoot at enemy units who move near them during their turn). This is offset by them having much less health and lacking the offensive abilities of other classes.
    • Snipers have much less movement and even worse health, but make up for it with their rifles' long range and high damage, effectively taking the scout's strengths and weaknesses up to eleven. From the second game onwards, they become a potential upgrade for a scout instead of a separate class.
  • Light tanks in World of Tanks are often intended to fill this role, using their speed to drive deep behind enemy lines and scout out enemy tanks for artillery and similar long-ranged tanks to deal with, to the point that a player can get credit for a destroyed tank that they scouted out.
  • XCOM 2
    • Rangers specialized in concealment work well at scouting the map in search of the mission objective or ADVENT pods, or spotting for their Sharpshooter comrades; with certain skills, their concealment is independent of the rest of the squad, so they can recon even after the others have already engaged.
    • The Reapers introduced in War of the Chosen are even better at it, as the detection range against them is minimal until they start shooting (and doing so is not a guaranteed reveal until at most three shots in), they have several abilities that allow them to wreak havoc without any chance of reveal, their mobility gets a bonus while in concealment, and with one specific skill, they can permanently mark all enemy units that they spot directly, even if they move off into the Fog of War. The downside to Reapers is that, as they're so specialised for stealth, their firepower outside of specific skills is very limited, especially compared to Rangers and their shotguns and blades; a revealed Reaper that cannot go back into Shadow concealment is little more than an accurate-but-fragile rifleman with no equipment slots.

    Real Life 
  • Jack Kirby pulled this duty when he was a private in World War II when an officer learned he was an artist. This meant that he had to be the first to enter hostile territory alone and draw maps of it. It was only time he regretted his calling while trying to survive that dangerous posting.
  • One of the first modern wars where Army Scouts were formalised was the Peninsular War, where not only the British could rely (sorta) on local guerilla, but also established a corps of native-born scouts under Maj. George Scovell (codebreaker, founder of the British military police, military theorist, and general badass). Cavalry and Staff officers who were specially trained in drawing maps were responsible for scouting French positions and potential battlefields, alone or in pairs.
  • During the American Civil War, the Confederacy was actually extremely wary of lone Union cavalry scouts; they were often equipped with Henry or Spencer repeaters, and could get off either seven (Spencer) or fourteen (Henry) rounds without reloading in an era where one-shot rifled muskets armed most infantrymen; this was usually enough to allow them to blast a hole in the trap and escape. There are recorded instances of a Henry-armed scout gunning down an ambush party of ten men as they struggled to reload after their first volley missed.
  • It was common in the Indian Wars to use scouts from tribes that were cobeligerent with The Government for reasons that often predated the White's arrival on the scene and would simply consider scouting a way of carrying on their own tribe's particular war. One notable example included the Tonkawa (when the government started hunting down the Comanche), who served such an integral role in the subjugation of several groups that, when the Civil War broke out, members of the tribe ended up targeting the Tonkawa reservations and massacring them. The tribes that gave the toughest resistance would be the ones who were most powerful, and therefore were the ones who had gained the most enemies along the way: it made sense to recruit from the Native Americans' existing foes (the Spanish did this, too, against the Aztecs, who weren't very popular among their neighbors excluding those who were part of the Aztec alliances). Aside from their wilderness skills making them valuable in that area, Indians disliked regimentalization too much to be recruited on the same terms as other colonial forces so they were recruited as scouts rather than units.
  • The Takasago Volunteers, a force recruited for the Imperial Japanese Army in WWII from Taiwan aborigines, due to their knowledge of jungle conditions. They served as scouts with the IJA in the Philippines, New Guinea, and Indonesia.The last Japanese soldier, who held out in Indonesia until 1974, was actually a Taiwanese Aboriginal member of this unit.
  • Robert Baden-Powell's experiences in reconnaissance and scouting during various military campaigns, as well as a fortuitous meetings with American Frederick Russell Burnham, who'd been a scout in The Wild West and taught him much about woodcraft and outdoor living, were the genesis of the worldwide Scouting movement with tens of millions of members.