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Designated Point Man

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A "point man" is a member of The Index Team whose job description is simple: When they don't know what they are facing, he goes in first. The relevant skills include high survivability (to hold off until reinforcements arrive) and, of course, good fighting ability (to silence all opposition before reinforcements arrive, if possible). This trope is specifically about specialists who take point routinely. In absence of a specialized point man, Cannon Fodder New Meat can be used in his place, but simply being put on point once does not make him the team's designated point man!

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"Point man" (or "vanguard") is a common military term for the member of The Squad taking the front and most exposed position within a formation (like the point of a spear). Related terms include "to take point", "walk point", and "be on point".

The Leader rarely makes a good point man because even though he is often the best fighter, the consequences of losing him are too grave. Even a Frontline General rarely moves to the point position, though in some settings a leader is expected to show that they practice what they preach and lead by example. A Leeroy Jenkins is either an overzealous point man or someone who shouldn't be the point man in the first place but decides to be one anyway.

Compare/contrast The Sneaky Guy, who is also often sent in first but with a different mission: to scout ahead and return without alarming the enemy. The key difference between a point man and a scout (including an Army Scout) is that the former always stays in contact (e.g. within viewing or shouting distance) with the rest of the squad, while the latter doesn't. Sometimes referred to as the "Polish/Irish Mine Detector".

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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • During the "Sasuke Retrieval Arc" of Naruto, Kiba (and his dog Akamaru) were given this task. They were explicitly stated to be ideal, because their heightened sense of smell let them be more alert for traps or ambushes.
  • Lampshaded in episode 25 ("Maze of Despair") of Outlaw Star, when Gene sends Jim to round up Aisha and Suzuka to get them back to the ship, while he goes to confront Hazanko in order to rescue Melfina.
    Jim: (pleading) But why...? Why can't I go with you? I wanna help!
    Gene: (calmly) C'mon, Jim, we've made it this far with our teamwork. I've always been the point man... and you're-
    Jim: (in acquiescence) ...the backup.

    Comic Books 

    Film 
  • Aliens. When the Marines first land and prepare to enter the colony complex, Sergeant Apone orders Vasquez to take point. She carries a machine gun that is more powerful and does more damage than the weapons the other Marines carry. Which is actually a poor tactic, as she can't use her weapon for its intended role of fire support.
  • Billy in Predator who is an expert tracker of Native American origin and the first on Dutch's team to notice the Predator's presence.
  • Deadshot in Suicide Squad (2016). Thanks to his aim and skill he usually is in the front of The Team scouting out trouble. Also comes into play with their first encounter with Enchantress' soldiers. He takes point in front of the team and sets himself up from an elevated position where he sets up taking down hostiles with headshot after headshot. In fact, the rest of the special forces team behind him just stop shooting, as he kills off the swarming hostiles before they could even get in their line of fire.
  • As mentioned on the first Mission: Impossible film, Ethan Hunt used to be the point man for Jim Phelps' team. Subsequent movies on the series have him alternating between being this and The Leader.
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    Literature 
  • In Shards of Honor, when Aral Vorkosigan has to assault a group of mutineers, knowing they will face nerve disruptors with stunners, he puts himself as the head of the assault team. However, Sergeant Bothari refuses and claims he has earned the first place.
  • Shurf Lonli-Lokli in Labyrinths of Echo is the primary point man of the Secret Investigations team. At one point, Juffin explains to Max that Shurf is the best combat mage on the team whose incapacitation, while bad, wouldn't bring down the entire operation (like Kofa or Juffin's own would). Also, Shurf boasts almost impeccable magical defense and is effectively immune to ambush thanks to his attention to minuscule details.
  • Subverted by Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM): his (very much undesired) reputation of a frontline general who personally leads every charge has little base in reality, as he actually prefers staying in the middle of the squad at all times, as a good commander should. However, the troops under his command are in such awe of his reputation that they have no qualms going in front (and it makes more sense than to risk losing him to a lucky sniper).
  • In The Reckoners Trilogy, this is an official team position that multiple characters go through. Oddly enough the people aren't swapped out because of the point man dying.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Paranoia "Tips for Traitors" article (in Dragon magazine #106 and some later rulebooks) advises Troubleshooter team leaders to order their most dangerous subordinates to take this position, as it is the most dangerous place on the team. Not only is the point man most likely to be hit by the enemies' weapons, he's also the target of the weapons and scrutiny of his own team members, which (considering the nature of Paranoia) is far deadlier.
  • Dungeons & Dragons. In a Player Party, the person in front is usually a member of a warrior class (fighter, paladin, ranger, etc.) because they have the most Hit Points of any class, are allowed to wear the heaviest armor and wield the greatest variety of (and best) weapons. If no fighters are available, a cleric/priest type can fill in.

    Video Games 
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown has an entire Character Class dedicated to this role in the Assault specialist. These soldiers have the most Hit Points of all classes thanks to their Major-rank skill, Extra Conditioning, and are the only ones that can use their guns after dashing (an extended movement that takes both action points), or after moving for the second time, thanks to their most basic skill, Run & Gun. Their Skill Tree mainly revolves around further boosting their defense (survivability) or increasing their Critical Hit chances. One skill in particular, Lightning Reflexes, allows them to automatically dodge the first Overwatch reaction shot. In addition to that, the optional Close Combat Specialist skill gives them a free reaction shot if an enemy moves within a certain distance of them and can trigger with multiple enemies so long as the Assault has ammo in the magazine (or is using a pistol); in case they end up flanked by an enemy that doesn't get close enough to trigger that, the Resilience skill No Sells Critical Hits. Giving them Mimetic Skin, which conceals the user if they're in full cover and out of enemy sight when they start moving, makes them almost the ultimate scout, only beat in raw distance by Supports with Sprinter (move 3 tiles further in normal movement or 6 while dashing) or Snipers with Low Profile (even half cover counts as full cover, so Mimetic Skin can proc anywhere).note 
  • First Encounter Assault Recon has a literal designated point man in the person of the Player Character named Point Man. He doesn't do much in the form of taking point, though, since most of the time he doesn't have a team to take point for.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Binwin Bronzebottom is the point man for Acquisitions Incorporated, by the virtue of being the token party fighter with the highest hit points and armor class.

    Western Animation 
  • Michelangelo is typically the Point Man in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012). He'll typically go in fast and loud so every else can sneakily clean up the bad guys after he creates a distraction.
  • Skipper from The Penguins of Madagascar usually puts himself on point. In one early episode where he teams up with Marlene, she appoints herself the point man, and Skipper whines "I'm usually on point!"

    Real Life 
  • The turtle ships, designed by the Korean Admiral Yi, were created specifically for the purpose of ramming into an enemy fleet formation, hopefully sinking its flagship, then firing cannons like crazy in all directions, while simultaneously no selling attempts to board them with their spiked and armored "roofs". A single turtle ship in the middle of the enemy fleet caused enough confusion for the rest of Yi's fleet to mop up the resistance without losing a single ship.

Alternative Title(s): Point Man

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