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Do-Anything Soldier

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"In today's modern army, everyone is trained to do everything."
Mike Nelson regarding Terminator Salvation, Rifftrax

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.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • Gundam: Played with. Sometimes played straight, and averted at others. Generally aversions occur when a character is forced into a role they aren't actually prepared for and prove to not be very good at them.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam:
      • In the original anime, Amuro Ray was fully capable of piloting the Guntank and Guncannon, despite them having different roles to the Gundam (the Guntank and Guncannon are meant for long- and medium-range fire support, compared to the Gundam's close combat function). He could even pilot fighter craft with a high degree of skill, thanks to practice piloting the Gundam's Core Fighter.
      • In the original anime, Sayla Mass wasn't very successful at piloting at first (almost getting the Gundam destroyed in her first sortie). She would later prove to be an excellent fighter pilot at the controls of the G-Fighter/ Core Booster.
      • Char Aznable is Zeon's premier ace pilot, but on at least two occasions personally participates in scouting missions on foot. Part of this is justified by him needing to be able to make command judgements ASAP, and so seeing the situation with his own eyes helps in that regard.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team: While the titular 08th MS Team are a Mobile Suit team, they also find themselves acting as liaisons between the Federal Forces operating in the area and the local guerillas who don't have much love for the Feddies. Shiro Amada once found himself engaged in combat as an infantry man, fighting alongside the guerillas against a squad of Zakus.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: When Heero Yuy decides he doesn't want to use the Wing Gundam during a duel with Zech Merquise (due to fearing that Zechs might've sabotaged the Wing), he borrows the Gundam HeavyArms instead. Naturally, despite his training he simply isn't quite as good at utilising the HeavyArms compared to Trowa, the actual pilot.
    • Gihren's Greed: Several pilots are described as having transitioned from conventional arms to Mobile Suits. Lydo Wolf, for example, was a highly successful fighter pilot (to the point he became an Ace Pilot nicknamed "Dancing Black Death" thanks to shooting down several Zakus despite piloting technologically inferior fighter craft). A manga expansion reveals he was an unsuccessful Mobile Suit pilot at first due to being assigned slower machines like GM Cannons or Mass-Production Guncannons (unsuited for his fighting style) and entrusted with fire support duties. He quickly racked up kills once his superiors realised their stupid mistake and gave him fast, maneuverable machines like the GM Light Armor and GM Sniper-II before placing him on the front lines.

    Comic Books 
  • 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. At least partially justified by the fact that the Joes are an elite unit, and so some level of cross-training is expected.
    • Part of the reason Wild Weasel is reluctantly considered a Worthy Opponent by Joe pilots is because he's noted as being capable of flying machines as diverse as high-tech computerised fighter jets to bomber craft to jury-rigged barely functional junkheaps to civilian aircraft. These are all very different types of aircraft and so require very different skills.
  • Suicide Squad's own leader Col. Rick Flag is this in spades. From Ace Pilot to The Handler and The Jailer, all of this despite of his Knight Templar tendencies.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: During the Golden Age of Comics Steve Trevor's job with the USAAF seemed to be a mishmash of spy, commando, and Ace Pilot.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Attack of the Clones, all clones are based on the bounty hunter Jango Fett. However, while most of them are destined to be simple foot-soldiers, some are given specialized training as Pilots, Advanced Reconnaissance Commando (ARC Trooper), Underwater specialists, etc., basically whatever is needed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Kong: Skull Island, Packard's unit is called an assault helicopter battalion, and it operates slightly anachronistic UH-1 Hueys. Once downed, the surviving pilots and door gunners simply operate as infantry and are even geared up accordingly. In a real life Vietnam-era Air Cavalry battalion, the helicopter crews were just that, with the infantry they carried (who couldn't fly the choppers) to and from battle being a separate formation (at least company-size) within the same battalion. This would make some sort of sense if they were meant to be Marines (see Real Life below), but they apparently aren't.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Played for laughs in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines where Colonel von Holstein claims that a proper Prussian Officer can do anything so long as he has read the book of instructions. Despite having never flown before, he then tries to fly a small aircraft from London to Paris using this principle and actually makes a fairly good show of it up until he drops the instruction manual while flying over the channel.
  • 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.

  • 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. 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.
  • 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 structured command.
  • Quenser and Heivia of Heavy Object are, on paper at least, a maintenance tech and radar specialist. In practice they engage in land battles, sea battles, aquatic base invasions, infiltration of enemy bases/cities, and more. The two tend to complain about this.
  • In Legends of Dune, warship commanders also double as ground force commanders, even though those two should be entirely different skill sets. Likely a case of The Main Characters Do Everything. Then again, the prequels are notorious for assuming space combat and ground combat are pretty much the same.
  • Legend of the 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    "[I]f I'd been ordered to redecorate the Sistine Chapel or deliver a sermon in Finnish, I'd hardly have blinked an eyelid before running to the RSM pleading for assistance."
  • Rudyard Kipling paid tribute to the do-anything attitude of the Royal Marines with his poem "Soldier an' Sailor Too.'
    For there isn't a job on the top o' the earth the beggar don't know, nor do—
    You can leave 'im at night on a bald man's 'ead, to paddle 'is own canoe—
    'E's a sort of a bloomin' cosmopolouse—soldier an' sailor too.
  • In Voyage of the Star Wolf, Captain Hardesty, the new captain of the Star Wolf, sets a goal of having every person aboard be able to operate every duty station aboard. He doesn't expect to actually reach that goal, but he knows that ships which come closer to it are more effective in combat than other ships.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Detective Nick Armstrong is basically expected to be this in The Rookie (2018); as the new night detective for the LAPD, his job is to immediately respond to any cases that come in during the night, requiring him to deal with the immediate details so that he can hand over to more focused investigators in the morning.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Stargate SG-1 Colonel O'Neill is implied to have spent most of his air force career as a ground based commando and this is the role he plays as a member of an SG team, but he also flies helicopters and even test flies experimental fighters on occasion.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: Generally averted, as most of the time it's expected that a mechwarrior will be trained to operate mechs and not Battle Armor or Aerospace Fighters. There are a few exceptions to this, though. The Death Commandos, the most elite force in the Capellan Confederation, are trained to handle a very wide variety of tasks: every commando is skilled in infantry and recon, mech piloting, and even receives training in things like captaining a Drop Ship.
    • Similarly, the Draconis Combine's Internal Security Force and the Draconis Elite Strike Teams in particular. Cross-training is a given; most DEST commandos are elite infantry trained in ninja-type missions such as infiltration and assassination, but generally are also trained as aerospace pilots and Mechwarriors. Later books expand this to skillset to ground vehicle crewing as well as Power Armor combat. This means that a highly skilled DEST agent could theoretically be a power-armor-wearing ninja piloting a Land-Air 'Mech.
  • 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.
  • GURPS has the Soldier skill, which covers a lot, from tactics to chains of command to how to properly hike. Taken up a notch with Ten Hut!, which covers anything a soldier could conceivably do short of firing a gun.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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 extraordinary 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.
  • 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.
    • The Modern Warfare series tends towards this. In a lot of cases they try to justify this via Elites Are More Glamorous (the first player character is in the Special Air Service), but then 2 ended up with you playing as an Army Ranger, Ramirez, who nevertheless still did everything.
  • Command & Conquer: Generals: All infantry units can commandeer disabled (read:pilot was a victim of Sniping the Cockpit) vehicles, no matter their battlefield role. This permanently removes the unit, however (including heroes), although their experience level does transfer. The basic soldier (Ranger, Rebel, Red Guard) is also the only unit capable of capturing buildings.
  • 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.
  • The "Nebelwerfer Hunt" mission of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault is particularly egregious about this as Lt. Powell is tasked with doing anything vital for the mission, be it sniping, anti-tank combat or demolition job, despite being accompanied by up to 4 other soldiers.
  • 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.
  • 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 first game they technically are assigned to a specific squadron that uses a specific fighter type for a given role, they just get shuffled between squadrons every 3-4 levels. And there's one level where everyone gets assigned one specific fighter type because all the others on the carrier are down for repairs).
  • 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.
  • The original 1990s XCOM games lack character classes, meaning that every soldier can perform all combat roles, improving their combat stats as they participate in battles. If a soldier becomes a good shot with an assault rifle, they've also become a good shot with a rocket launcher or heavy plasma. Installments after the 2012 reboot, like XCOM 2, avert this, using character classes that gain skills as they survive missions rather than increasing stats.
  • Taken to an extreme in fanmade The XCOM Files, where same people fight on land and underwater. Moreso, this game answers a long-standing fan question of who pilots the craft — same agents that fight ground battles. This means that any VTOL interceptor doubles as a one-man troop transport — as long as you get missions a single agent can win.
  • In the unofficial remake Xenonauts, there are also no character classes as such, and every soldier can perform all combat roles. This is somewhat averted with the aliens, some of whom specialize in particular tasks (Harridans are snipers, Reapers are close combat specialists etc.).

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • In Girl Genius, The Engineer and former soldier Moloch von Zinzer explains that being able to do more than one job was necessary in the army just to stay alive.
    Von Zinzer: These days, machines are more important than soldiers. If you know how to fix machines it makes you more valuable.

    Western Animation 
  • 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. To be fair, the G.I. Joe force is explicitly presented as a small and highly selected elite outfit, so it's less implausible than it might have been that many of their men should have unusual secondary qualifications.
    • Two examples in particular of the Joes being this are from the "Revenge of Cobra" miniseries where multiple Joes join in an underwater mission alongside their actual underwater specialists like Navy SEAL Wetsuit, and are also seen manning a space station in orbit. Particular attention should be paid to Dusty, who is serving on the space station despite being a desert specialist. This can partially be justified by the miniseries being fairly early into the series and mostly concerned with introducing new characters, since later episodes play up how certain Joes are suitable for certain missions due to their specialities (e.g. Low-Light being assigned guard duty thanks to him being the Joe night combat specialist).
    • Cobra Commander is an unusual example in that despite his reputation as a Non-Action Big Bad, among other things he's been seen piloting Trouble Bubbles and Firebats, acted as a vehicle gunner, drove off a squad of Joes as a flamethrower-wielding infantryman and even participated in underwater combat, squaring off with Joe frogman Wetsuit.
  • Rambo in Rambo: The Force of Freedom. In addition to his infantryman heroics, this version of Rambo is also an Ace Pilot, expert tanker, and has various other unexpected skills as well.

    Real Life 
  • 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 noncommissioned 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 leaders who may not be immediately present or available.
    • The US Marine Corps also takes its creed, "Every Marine a Rifleman" quite seriously, if only for tradition's sake in modern times: Their helicopter and strike aircraft crewmembers are expected to complete Basic along with the ground personnel before going on to flight training. Of course, if they are ever expected to actually fight as infantry, something has gone very wrong.
  • Downplayed but present in many smaller and elite units:
    • In small units, like patrol ships, there are only so many people available to do work, but often just as much work that needs to be done. So you might find things like the operations officer who is also the communications officer and the intelligence officer, and many of the lower ranks cross-trained in each other's jobs.
    • Special forces units are often required to operate isolated or behind enemy lines, so they will all be given at least some training in specialist fields-particularly communications and emergency medicine-in case they find themselves cut off from support or the only specialist available becomes incapacitated.
  • During the American Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee was made up largely of young men from the rural regions of the Midwest, who had a wide variety of skills among them. During the Vicksburg campaign, this army built its own roads, dug canals, operated a fleet of transport steamboats, and and built and operated a fleet of armed river gunboats.
  • During World War 2, submarines of all combatants generally operated in remote areas for long periods of time, meaning they had no way to get replacements in case of casualties. So all navies made a habit of cross-training their submarine crewmen to handle multiple positions and jobs. Even today, United States Navy submarine crew are expected to qualify for submarine duty by learning every station and major piece of equipment on board, so that in an emergency situation every sailor aboard knows what to do, and no critical station is ever empty.