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Ensign Newbie

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Unteroffizer Manfred "Rollo" Rohleder: Is this your first time at the front?
Leutnant Hans von Witzland: [shrugs] Everyone must start somewhere.

Sometimes, the New Meat isn't a grunt. Sometimes, he's put in charge.

Ensign Newbie is a young officer, fresh out of the Academy, who is given command of The Squad. Sometimes, he was top of his class, and as such was put in command of the best unit in the force, for whatever reason, or maybe he was a prankster, or dated The General's Daughter, and got saddled with a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits nobody else wanted. Sometimes, he's both. What the British army calls, with despairing affection, a Rupert.

Much like the New Meat, he has to learn the harsh realities of war the hard way, without losing his head in the process. On top of this, he has to work five times as hard to earn the respect of the squad (who will probably see him as The Neidermeyer by default until proven otherwise), because he's gotta get them to listen to what he says.

Sometimes it may be that the whole platoon, not only Ensign Newbie, consists of New Meat. That is usually the case in the opening phase of any wars, when soldiers are still inexperienced and have not had their baptism of fire. Such a premise may lead into Failure Is the Only Option, Downer Ending, and War Is Hell.

And heaven help him if the unit happens to be All-Female...

Usually they get an old reliable Sergeant Rock to help him learn the ropes, not only of field command in general, but also The Squad and its little "quirks" in particular. If the Sergeant gets killed early on, expect things to get bad quickly for this inexperienced officer. This being fiction, we can all but guarantee that happening.

Truth in Television: In the US Army, new Butterbars (2nd Lieutenants) are occasionally referred to as highly paid privates by Noncoms (Corporals and Sergeants) or "Bootenants" ("boot" being slang for new recruits). Every experienced Lieutenant had to have been the raw newbie officer sometime in the past. Likewise in the other services: In the Navy, shrugging one's shoulders in confusion is referred to as "the Ensign Salute."

Compare Rookie Red Ranger, when this trope is invoked in a superhero setting.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Gundam:
    • The Trope Namer is Shiro Amada from Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, an Ensign put in command of the eponymous mobile suit team and who is quickly labeled "Commander Newbie" and similar by his subordinate Eledore Massis in the English dub.
    • With his status as the legendary commander of the franchise, it's easy to forget that Bright Noa himself was a teenaged junior officer fresh from the academy during the One Year War, and got thrust into the position of captain of the White Base after his entire chain of command got killed or crippled by Char's attack on Side 7. Granted, the White Base was very much an "entire crew of New Meat" case, with most of the staff comprised of conscripted civilian refugees and a handful of rookie soldiers, meaning that he was indeed the most experienced commander there.
    • Kou Uraki from Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory is a subversion. While he is an Ensign at the start of the series, it's the higher-ranking officers (Burning and Monsha) who are leading the unit. He does, however, get to pilot the Gundam over someone of more experience, for little more reason than because he was the one who grabbed it to stop Zeon remnants from stealing the other one; this causes no small amount of animosity between him and Monsha for most of the series.
    • Mashymre Cello from Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ is a villainous example.
    • Natola Einus in the third generation of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE is Captain Newbie, and she knows it. To her credit, she begins putting everything she has into learning to be a good Captain despite her lack of experience.
    • Another newbie Captain is Otto Midas from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, who was an accomplished desk pilot before being thrust into the shipborne command. Luckily for his crew, his administrative experience made him well aware of his own limitations and ways to counter them, so he has enough common sense to rely on his XO in actual running of the ship, and to stand by them in political matters.
  • Academy graduate Dana Sterling/Jeanne Francaix from Robotech (Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross) finds herself in command of the 15th ATAC hovertank squad when the former commander finds himself busted to private because of problems with The General's Daughter.
  • Agent Jan Suk in Monster is a police-force version. Nobody seems to take the poor guy seriously, though he brings it upon himself sometimes. It probably also doesn't help his case that one of the biggest reasons for joining the force is his love of cop shows.
  • And Officer Chouno from the same author's 20th Century Boys, who has the added handicap of being compared to his legendary detective grandfather. Both are even introduced the same way, throwing up upon seeing a grisly murder scene.
  • Irresponsible Captain Tylor: Justy Ueki Tylor is put in command of the Soyokaze a few days after joining the military. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Seina from Tenchi Muyo! GXP is a Fleet Captain yet he hasn't graduated from basic training until the end of the series.
  • In The Five Star Stories Mishalu Ha Lonn plays a funny variation of General Newbie — by her age and experience she's better qualified for the original trope, but she's a headdliner and a Mirage Knight — a member of an arguably most elite of Joker's knightly orders, and thus officially entitled to commands much, much higher than her experience suggests. She would've normally been slowly eased into her position, hadn't one of the most pressing crises in AKD's history — Emperor's Rescue Mission — happened on her watch.

    Comic Books 
  • A criticism some have concerning the recent move by Marvel to replace the original (white-skinned) 616 Nick Fury with his son, Marcus Johnson, a.k.a. Nick Fury Jr, an expy of the Ultimate/MCU (Samuel L. Jackson) Fury. While Johnson is a trained marine and has his father's immortality, there's no explanation why this makes him qualified to replace his father as the primary S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to interact with the Marvel Universe, but despite this he's given a high rank among S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Several appear in Garth Ennis comics, especially his WWII stories. Ken Harding in Happy Valley might be the most traditional example, being a pilot fresh out of flight school (although to be fair he was the best pupil in his class) assigned to fly for a veteran crew just a few missions away form reaching their quota and going home. They like him, but are (unjustifiably, it turns out) afraid he might get them killed so close to the end of their tours. The stammering Lieutenant Popham from Tankies is another example, being an aide from the command center sent to find lost unit needed to Hold the Line. Upon finding them mostly wiped out, he drags the survivors into a Crazy Enough to Work ambush.
  • Punisher: The Platoon:
    • Lt. Frank Castle arrives in Vietnam and freely admits he has zero experience and is counting on his sergeant to teach him what to do. The men take to him after he doesn't send them to investigate a possibly abandoned village but instead has it flattened by artillery. After that they serve as loyally and competently as anyone could hope for.
    • Castle's opposite in the VC is a captain, also with zero ability and latching himself onto Letrong Giap in the hopes of not screwing up (it's stated that his father being a general is how he got the job). Giap sends him on snipe hunts to keep him out of the way and once his head is blown off in an explosion, quips that he'll be able to serve the VC just as efficiently as before.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Local Skirmish: Lt. Alexei has assumed command of a squad in December of 1943, on the Eastern Front of World War II. He's fresh out of officer training and has been serving for only three days, and has never seen a German. This makes it hard for him to project authority with his men, grizzled veterans who have been fighting the Nazis for 2 1/2 years.
  • Lt. Armitage in '71.
    Lt. Armitage: I'm Lieutenant Armitage, your platoon commander. I... just wanted to meet the new boys... I'm a bit of a new boy myself, actually, so...
  • Lt. Gorman from Aliens. He admits as much, saying that the combat drop they're taking part in during the film is only his second non-simulated one.
  • Lt. Wolfe from Platoon. He basically has no clue and always depends on his trusty NCOs (Elias and Barnes). He did begun to grow a pair but sadly died by the end of the movie. [This does happen most of the time when an officer shows up, the experienced NCOs show the Lt. what's what before taking over command.
  • In Star Trek (2009), James T. Kirk is promoted virtually straight from (disgraced) cadet.
  • In Down Periscope the XO is rather young (for an XO), while the diving officer has, due to reasons, never dived a boat before outside of simulators. The admiral assigning the crew was specifically choosing people poorly suited for their job to sabotage the commanding officer of the Stingray, against whom the admiral holds a grudge.
  • Bromhead in Zulu. In Real Life, both he and Lieutenant Chard were actually fairly experienced officers.
  • Lieutenant von Witzland in Stalingrad. He even lampshades it by noting that everyone needs to start somewhere. Needless to say, his idealism is severely tested by the vicious fighting in Stalingrad.
  • Lt. Ring, the platoon commander in Heartbreak Ridge, was just out of ROTC when Gunny Hightower came to the command. He innocently asks Hightower, a decorated combat veteran and one of the few living Congressional Medal of Honor awardees, what college Hightower attended, Hightower tells him "Heartbreak Ridge." Unsurprisingly, Ring is unfamiliar with that "school". Ring is portrayed sympathetically since he was another victim of the dysfunction within the company. His superior officers deliberately sidelined him and did not let him lead his platoon and his previous platoon sergeant was lazy, preferred Ring out of the way and did not give him proper advice. Under Hightower's tutelage Ring quickly turns into an effective leader and gains the respect of his men.
  • Lt Parker, in Fury. The comparison between Parker's apparent youth and the grizzled appearance of the sergeants he's commanding is almost played for laughs. (In real life, actor Xavier Daniel was thirty years old when the film was made.)
  • Lt. Radtchenko, in K-19: The Widowmaker. He's assigned as the new reactor officer for the submarine, after the original one was found drunk on duty. When asked by Captain Polenin what his previous posting was, Radtchenko replies that it was the nuclear training academy. While Polenin is skeptical of his abilities, Captain Vostrikov brushes this off. "He's qualified, or Command would not have sent him."
  • Battle: Los Angeles: Lieutenant Martinez has just graduated from Officer Training. In his first engagement he freezes up, unable to act, and when the casevac helicopter is shot down he goes into a Heroic BSoD. It isn't until Nantz delivers a sharp, confidence-boosting lecture to him that he shapes up. By the time of the highway battle, he's confidently giving orders and deploying his men.
  • Star Trek: Generations: John Harriman is the captain of the new Enterprise. During a maiden voyage that's just for show, he faces an emergency and isn't prepared to improvise with a half-finished ship. He has to ask Captain Kirk for advise.
  • In The Revengers, Benedict and his gang end up in an Army survey camp that is besieged by Indians. The camp is commanded by a young Lieutenant fresh out of West Point and suffering from an arrow wound in the chest. Benedict is impressed by the lad's ability to stick to his principles and his training despite the desperate circumstances. In particular, he knows when to defer to his sergeant.
  • Go Tell the Spartans: Lieutenant Hamilton isn't new to the army, but he's never seen combat before, and the fact that he's been passed over for promotion twice in a row isn't exactly encouraging. He's a fairly decent officer but is out of his depth in the jungles of Vietnam.

  • Murphy's Laws of Combat often include "The most dangerous thing in the combat zone is an officer with a map."

  • George MacDonald Fraser's semiautobiographical McAuslan series is largely about this, from the point of view of the newbie officer.
    "Thirty total strangers are... wondering if he is a soft mark or a complete pig, or worse still, some kind of nut. When he realizes this he feels like telling them that he is, really, all right and on their side, but of course he can't. If he did, they would know for certain he was some kind of nut."
  • Discworld:
    • Lt. Blouse from Monstrous Regiment is a straight example at first; he's even repeatedly called a "rupert". There turns out to be a twist — he's spent years in a desk job dealing with logistics and administration, but that experience allows him to understand the enemy's codes and on several occasions he turns out to be right, over Jackrum's objections. He can't actually fight, but he certainly has potential as a commander; the only reason he was sent to a field command at all is because the Borogravian army has no-one else to send.
    • The Ephebian captain during the Tsortean War in Eric:
      The captain was eighteen and fresh from the academy, where he had passed with flying colors in such subjects as Classical Tactics, Valedictory Odes and Military Grammar. The sergeant was fifty-five, and instead of an education he had spent about forty years attacking or being attacked by harpies, humans, cyclopes, furies and horrible things on legs.
  • Lieutenant Hal Slater of the CoDominium Marines, in Jerry Pournelle's SF novel West of Honor.
  • Major Major Major Major in Catch-22. Having been promoted directly from private to major by a computer, as a joke, then hurried along through cadet school by instructors who didn't want to deal with him, he's completely unqualified for his role as squadron commander and painfully aware of it. His solution is to avoid all his duties.
  • David Hackworth's memoir About Face lists his own speech to all his new lieutenants concerning why they should shut up and learn from their sergeants (Hackworth was a battlefield commission himself, so he'd been a sergeant AND a Lt).
    Hackworth: Now son, when I was a boy, Sweeney here was leading a platoon in Italy. When you were a boy, Sweeney was leading a platoon in Korea. When you are a general.. what do you think you'll be doing Sweeney?
    Sweeney: Be leading a platoon somewhere sir, can't think of anything else I'd rather do.
    Hackworth: When you are ready to take over the platoon, Sweeney will tell you. Until then, keep your hands off.
  • In Gardens of the Moon, the first book in Malazan Book of the Fallen, fresh out of the military academy, Ganoes Paran gets assigned the rank of Lieutenant while stationed in Itko Kan. Thanks to keeping his cool during the aftermath of the massacre at the fishing village, he is noticed by Adjunct Lorn and made her personal aide and eventually Captain of the Bridgeburners, who are notorious for getting rid of captains they dislike in creative ways. They are not happy about getting assigned a newbie. He gets better at his job. Quickly.
  • Like all military tropes, this is everywhere in the Honor Harrington series. At one point, "training Ensign Newbie" is described, only slightly satirically and in almost as many words, as the primary job of senior noncoms.
    • Prescott "Scotty" Tremaine starts out as a freshly-minted ensign. With the help of Horace Harkness, his own personal Sergeant Rock, he grows out of it.
    • Shadow of Saganami in particular is about four midshipmen, squeaky-new and fresh from the Academy, who are learning how to be ensigns. In a mild divergence from trope the majority of their instruction comes from officers, such as Lt. Hearns, with the wise old senior NCOs only making cameos. Hearns herself also qualifies, as she's incredibly junior to be their Officer Candidate Training Officer, having only a couple of years on them.
    • There's also a novella, "Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington," which features the titular character's own larval stage as an officer. At the climax, she briefly takes control of the ship after the senior staff are incapacitated.
    • "The Service of the Sword" has Abigail Hearns's middie cruise, with her giving orders to the Marine NCO under her command to prepare for contingencies that he thinks will never happen, and him thinking she's a bit of an idiot newbie... and then it turns out she's right. There's a reason she's Honor's protégé.
    • And in Mission of Honor, Lt. Hearns has to send another green middie off as head of a SAR team of a wrecked ship. She gives him instructions on how to behave, ending with
      Hearns: But that's why I've attached the [ship's senior petty officer] to your group. I wouldn't go so far as saying I'm sending him along to 'look after you,' but I will say I expect you to remember he's been in the Navy since you were five T-years old. Use his experience accordingly.
  • Kimball Kinnison is this in Galactic Patrol, which kicks off the main arc of the Lensman series. He owes his first command (WAY above his seniority) to the Patrol's doctrine for dealing with insoluble problems to be to hand it to the best man for the job and then, if he fails, to give it to the top graduate of the current class of Lensmen. To his credit, when he finally solves it and is given an even bigger promotion, he's the first to admit how much he owes his success to everyone around him (and it isn't false modesty).
  • Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain:
    • In the short story "Echoes of the Tomb", the lieutenant in charge of the military is young and insecure (in part because Cain screwed with his self-confidence to win a chess game during the trip there). At one point it is hypothesized that he won't take suggestions — much less ask for them — from a far more experienced (as in, has likely been in the service longer than the lieutenant's grandfather has been alive) Space Marine sergeant. Fortunately, he and the rest of the Mechanicus are dead before the Astartes arrive.
    • While not an ensign (commissars are generally understood to be outside the Imperial Guard's chain of command), Cain's first posting to an artillery regiment has the men (and the colonel!) wonder if the new commissar's going to be a humorless, discipline-obsessed killjoy. Cain quickly reassures them as to that point (without outright admitting that he specifically chose artillery to stay out of harm's way), but the colonel gets suspicious and volunteers him for dangerous missions, along with assigning him the smelliest, dirtiest trooper he has on hand. Fortunately Cain and Jurgen get along famously well, beginning a long and highly successful partnership.
  • The Royal Navy novel HMS Leviathan describes a new generation of inexperienced young officers, Bird and Stiggins especially. Commander Markready, a commanding officer with nearly three decades of service, notes with distaste that practically all of them are on short-service commissions of two or three years - as if they are playing at being Royal Navy officers, and are not prepared to fully commit themselves.
  • Commonly features in Harry Turtledove works; for example, in the TL-191 series, Sergeant Michael Pound (a Tuckerization of fellow author S. M. Stirling) repeatedly has to successively shepherd several inexperienced second lieutenants in command of a tank unit. He's quite bemused when he eventually gets one who's both gung-ho and competent to start with.
  • In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath novel To Ride a Rathorn, Jame is in this situation; as the officer cadet with perhaps the least military knowledge in the whole academy, she's made Master Ten of all 90-odd of her House's cadets because she's the Highlord's sister. She has a lot of learning to do, especially given how much of a loner she is, unused to having to think of others.
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: In Dawn of the Dreadfuls, Ensign Pratt, the third-in-command of the newly arrived soldiers, is a very short and youthful officer who faints the first time he sees a zombie killed up close.
  • Swan Song: Among the people running the Red Cross camp at Homewood are some officers who look more like Boy Scouts than soldiers.
  • In Team Yankee, the new LT in the tank company is this in spades until the first shots of World War III are fired and he becomes competent under fire. One of his buddies from OCS shows up later and fails to follow his example — the men bet on how long he'll last and he's severely injured when his tank is hit by a "Hind"-launched anti-tank missile.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • In The Warrior's Apprentice Miles Vorkosigan toys with this trope. Yes, he is a seventeen year old kid who washed out of his homeworld's military acadamy, but only one person aside from his original traveling companions (his bodyguard and said bodyguard's daughter) even comes close to figuring the matter out when he surmises that he is a "Junior Officer in way over his head." The rest of what became the Dendarii Free Mercenary Company not only swallows his line about being a representative of some hotshot Private Military Contractors, but starts calling him Admiral Naismith.
    • In The Vor Game, after having graduated from the Imperial Military Academy and becoming an actual ensign, circumstances require Miles to once again don the mantle of Admiral Naismith. After having saved the Hegen Hub from a Cetagandan invasion, he spots another newly-minted ensign supervising a work party installing some new equipment on the Barrayarans' new flagship, and realizes that if he had just been able to follow orders, and do as he'd been told, that could have been him. He feels a little envious.
  • Averted by the Federation in Starship Troopers, where all Mobile Infantry officer candidates are picked from soldiers already in the Mobile Infantry. Still worth noting, when Rico makes his first drop in command of a platoon, at which point he's made at least a dozen combat drops, his CO still assigns the company "field first" Sergeant as his platoon Sergeant to keep an eye on him. Justified as Rico was actually still a cadet with a temporary third lieutenant commission (a rank given to candidates during their field experience deployment so they can fit in the chain of command and taken back as soon as they are back to the military academy) and the officer who was supposed to actually be in charge of the platoon and show him the ropes was ill, pushing the CO to assign him "the best sergeant in the Fleet" instead. Also worth noting that, as noted above, the "third lieutenants" are put directly under an experienced lieutenant to learn the ropes, and once the cadets graduate as second lieutenants they're advised to listen to their platoon sergeants' advice, as they're much more experienced and know what to do.
  • Prince Roger starts as The Load. Then he says he should probably be called "Colonel MacClintock" at military councils and the head of his bodyguard realizes he's Ensign Newbie instead.
  • Sharpe is often assigned Ensign Newbies in the hope that his insane levels of badass will rub off on them. If they don't end up unceremoniously dying they usually do, with Jack Bullen, Robert Knowles, Harry Price and Peter D'Alembord all taking levels in badass. However, Cornwall is not above subverting this — in Sharpe's Tiger we have Ensign Fitzgerald, already a badass and a Father to His Men, who is then brutally murdered by Sergeant Hakeswill. Sharpe's Escape gives us the hopeless, alcoholic, braying, idiotic Upper-Class Twit Cornelius Slingsby, who Sharpe hates and at one point even tries to murder. Then there's the Prince of Orange in Sharpe's Waterloo, who is a (spectacularly useless) General Newbie.
  • Dale Brown plays with this through Hal Briggs who, although a Major that already has Army and Air Force background, is given command of Marine-comprised commando unit Madcap Magician.
  • Lt. di'Ka Jarret is this at the start of Valor's Choice. Thanks to having an experienced Staff Sergeant (the main character) helping him, he grows out of it by the end of the book.
  • In Lady Knight Kel is put in charge of an entire refugee camp despite being an eighteen-year-old who just won her shield. He commanding officer justifies this with two reasons; 1, that her training with commander of the King's Own means she actually has the skills to do it and 2, that she cares enough about the common people that she'll actually try to help them. Nonetheless, a lot of people, including herself, doubt her ability to lead for this reason.
  • Theon is considered one of these by the crew of the Sea Bitch in A Song of Ice and Fire, somewhat unfairly as he does have experience commanding men for Robb Stark in the early battles of the War of the Five Kings, but the way the Ironborn view things is very different from how the rest of Westeros does.
  • Early in the Temeraire books, William Laurence is best described as this. Despite being an experienced Royal Navy captain before his abrupt transfer to the Aerial Corps, he needs considerable guidance from his subordinates where the fine points of airborne combat are concerned and has an uphill struggle to gain their loyalty in any case.
  • These are all over the place in the Stark's War series. Since a tour of duty for an officer is only six months, officers generally rotate out just as they're finally learning the ropes of their position, to be replaced by another newbie. On top of that, most of them don't realize that they're newbies who should be leaning on the experience of their veteran noncoms, and insist on their men following stupid orders rather than risk the unit being a few seconds behind schedule.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wesley's only encounters with vampires thus far have been under "controlled circumstances"; basically, he's in over his head from the get-go.
  • Lt. Jones from Band of Brothers. Fresh from West Point and assigned to command 2nd platoon, Sgt Malarkey is his Sergeant Rock. Due to his inexperience, he joins the patrol as an observer with Sgt. Martin as the leader and another Rock.
    • Not to mention Lt. Dyke who was putting in time just to get combat experience on his way up the ladder. Absolutely ineffectual commander. And of course, First Sergeant Lipton is his reluctant Sergeant Rock.
    • Lt. Winters averted this because on D-Day the entire company was still New Meat with no combat experience. Some of the soldiers disrespect him at the beginning because he lost his rifle during the drop. They quickly change their tune when he leads the attack on the artillery position and proves himself to be a badass.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation
      • Wesley Crusher was put in charge of a science team in Star Trek: The Next Generation, as part of his training to see if he was Starfleet Material. He gets some guff from one of the team members who seems to question Wesley's competence (albeit it's implied that he was instructed to do so as part of the training), but once Wes starts acting like he's in command things work smoothly.
      • One early episode features the difficulty faced by those of low rank assuming command of the ship, when LaForge, then merely a junior-grade Lieutenant and the helmsman (before his upgrade to badass engineer), has to take command of the Enterprise. Cue all sorts of people thinking that they're better than he is, and how awful his decisions are, personified in the Jerkass Chief Engineer Logan.
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • The episode "Nightingale" had Ensign Harry Kim placed in charge of an alien spaceship. His typcial over-enthusiasm at being given command leads him to be a micro-manager who isn't much liked by his crew at first.
      • The episode "Twisted" features a lieutenant asking Ensign Kim what they are going to do. What makes Kim's situation with this so complicated is that, despite being an Ensign, he's still the Head of Operations and a member of the senior staff, which means he has a position of authority despite his rank. It's not the only Star Trek example where a senior staff member is outranked by someone not on the staff, but it's the most blatant.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • Red Squad was on a training mission using a Defiant-class vessel when all the senior staff were killed. The ranking cadet takes command, as is expected of him. Out of what is more selfishness than inexperience, he decides he's better off just keeping the ship and its crew and continuing the mission on behalf of his dead captain who he never reports as dead (he gives a half-assed justification, but it's clear he's just enjoying the ride). He does fairly well for a Newbie at the start, but near the end it shows off just how bad this trope can go. His entire crew dies. The worst part is only two people actually get the hint that he was incompetent, and only one from the start. Nog even comments that the cadet in charge may have been a good man, but he was a bad captain, since a good captain doesn't get his crew killed on a fool's errand.
      • Dr. Bashir's first assignment upon graduating Starfleet Medical was Deep Space Nine, and despite having been promoted to Lieutenant upon graduating as a Doctor from Starfleet Medical he was very much a greenhorn officer, as shown as he talks about being on the frontier "where the action is" instead of in some lab. Major Kira was not impressed. He pretty quickly proves that he knows what he's doing as a doctor but it takes him longer to figure out the whole "being a commissioned Starfleet officer" thing.
    • Star Trek: Discovery:
      • Cadet Sylvia Tilly is promoted to Ensign at the end of Season 1 and then put in the position of Acting Number Two in Season 3. This leads to a deconstruction when the New Meat is put up against a canny, experienced crime lord and does as well as you'd expect — poorly.
  • Crashdown from Battlestar Galactica (2003). When unexpectedly left in command of a ground team he tries to lead a disastrous, by-the-book attack on a Cylon installation. His death "Leading the charge" allows the much more competent Chief Tyrol to take over. Notably Crashdown isn't actually new as an officer, but utterly out of his element.
  • M*A*S*H has a few of these, since doctors automatically get a minimum rank of Captain. Unfortunately, this obligates them to take on the same duties as any Captain, whether or not they want to or have any idea what they're doing. This often leads to a case of Hilarity Ensues.
  • Generation Kill and the miniseries TV show based on it has two significant examples. The general explanation about how a recon company which is a highly trained, elite force has such incompetence in their leadership is that their recon mission was intended to be delivered by small amounts of men lead by lower echelon officers, and supported by the higher ranking intelligence officers in command behind the lines. Instead they were deployed in the field as a whole unit in a motorised infantry role to 'confuse' the Iraqi forces.
    • Bravo Company's commander, a Captain nicknamed "Encino Man" is less panicky but still extremely incompetent as a combat officer. He is bad at motivating his command, he once got an element of the Company lost because he duct taped his humvee windows to make them "tactical" and thus couldn't see properly, tried to assault a position already under fire from mechanised forces which would have caused a friendly fire incident, and tried ordering danger close artillery without knowing what "danger close" meant, against non-existent enemy forces, and then failing to do so because he didn't follow the right orders over the radio to do so.
    • Bravo Company's 3rd Platoon commander is nicknamed "Captain America" (no relation), an inexperienced, completely clueless and panicky, much to the dismay of the men he commands. The miniseries actually tones him down from both Evan Wright's original account and Nate Fick's book, for fear that an accurate portrayal would destroy viewers' Willing Suspension of Disbelief. His Sergeant Rock is Eric Kocher, but in a subversion, Kocher simply promises physical violence if he doesn't start using common sense.
    • Inverted by the fresh-faced young Lieutenant Fick who is actually smart, well-liked and considered competent by those under his command.
    • Their overall Battalion Commander, Lt Colonel "Godfather" Ferrando makes a point to the reporter at the end of the series regarding this, how he gets reports specifically about the three officers mentioned above that are mixed. If he were to follow through by removing them from their positions before they explicitly cross the line in a fashion that proves to him they aren't worth their posts, his Battalion would be a mess, missing three senior officers from one of his three companies and that he would have undermined the chain of command.
  • In McHale's Navy, Ensign Charles Parker joins the crew of the PT-73, a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits regarded by the base commander as a "bunch of pirates." He ends up as The Woobie.
  • In JAG, both Bud Roberts and Harriet Simms quite literally start out as this.
  • The relationship between newly-appointed Cabinet minister Jim Hacker and senior civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby in early seasons of Yes, Minister bears some strong parallels to this trope, even if it differs in many significant details.
  • In the pilot of Stargate Universe, Colonel Young is incapacitated while coming aboard Destiny, leaving Lieutenant Scott in command. Scott's not quite a rookie, but he's no more than two years out of the Academy, and he's never held any sort of command position before. He does well enough, and Young recovers anyway by the end of the pilot.
  • 2nd Lt. Goldman is this at the start of Tour of Duty. He gains experience and maturity quickly over the course of the first season.
  • Medical example: on Miami Medical, the attending — the highest-ranked doctor in the ER — sends a new resident off to her first case on her own, telling her, "Page me when you get into trouble." To the highly-experienced nurse going with her, he says, "Page me two minutes before she gets into trouble."
  • In The Orville Lt. Alara Kitan is only 23 and is given the post of Chief of Security of the USS Orville which surprises her Captain Ed Mercer when he takes over the command of the ship. She points out that her species, Xelayans, don't normally join the military so they tend to get fast tracked into higher posts to make up for this, but attempts to assure Capt. Mercer that whilst she has less experience than he was expecting he can count on her. It does help that she comes from a high gravity planet which gives her super strength compared to most other species when away from her homeworld.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In Nomine: Laurence is the youngest of the major Archangels (this is relative; he was about 750 years old when he was elevated, which was more than a millennium ago), and was made the Commander of the Host after Uriel was recalled to the Upper Heavens. He's in way over his head and often struggles to both keep the other Archangels moving in the same direction and in keeping up with Hell's tricks, and Michael is getting tired of playing Sergeant Rock for him.
  • Paranoia:
    • The setting often runs on this. The fact nothing works as it should results in a lot of deaths, often putting the next highest ranking person in charge... in a society where rank is determined by how much an insane AI trusts you, rather than actual experience or expertise. It is therefore possible for a Yellow ranker to be put in command on his first day out when his superior dies, while the entire team of seasoned, experienced Red soldiers are forced to grit their teeth and go with it.
    • On a meta level, the GM guide is always given to the person least familiar with the game. It's an actual rule.
    • And each Mandatory Bonus Duty is assigned to the team member who scored the highest on its skill test. Choosing Team Leader last is definitely not intentionally designed to put the noob in charge.

    Video Games 
  • Sakura Wars has our new recruit, Ichiro Ogami, put in charge of the Imperial Combat Revue, Flower Division. Four games later, his nephew Shinjiro Taiga is shipped off to America to lead the New York Combat Revue, Star Division. Then, in the next game, Seijuro Kamiyama leads a newly revived Imperial Combat Revue.
  • Galaxy Angel subverts this twice in reference to the above. In the first three games, Tact Meyers is put in charge of the Moon Angel Troupe. However, he has been in service for a short while beforehand.
    • Galaxy Angel II pulls the old bait and switch by having the protagonist actually placed in the Rune Angel Troupe. However, he only leads the squad (and even then under Tact's direction) until Lady of War Lily arrives on scene.
  • Ace Combat does this several times.
    • The Wardogs of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War are the first noteworthy example in the series, where they lose their older, war-hardened Captain in the second mission. It's even invoked when the AWACS tells the most experienced of the trainees, Edge, to lead the formation, only for her to insist that the player character Blaze leads instead.
    • Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies gives us Mobius One in a lesser example, who is left to lead his squadron mostly by virtue of being the only person left in it by the time the game starts. It's not a straight example, though, since he remains the only member of the squad until the very end of the game, by which point he's more than proven himelf better than everyone they could put under his command combined.
  • Welkin Gunther of Valkyria Chronicles, who earned his squad's respect by making good on a Badass Boast.
  • Wing Commander Prophecy has Lance R. Casey, the player character. Fresh out of the Academy, he received the highest marks in his class (and the most demerits), guaranteeing him a spot as leader of Alpha Wing throughout the game. His friend "Maestro" takes up the Consulate General's Daughter part.
    • To a lesser extent, Christopher Blair qualifies for this trope, at the start of the series. Before your first mission you're told that it's standard policy to put the newbie in command of a mission, so they can gain experience with a more experienced pilot as their wingman.
  • Similar to the 08th MS Team example above, the Gundam-based tactical shooter Zeonic Front has an ensign fresh from the academy, Nikki Roberto, join one of the most elite mobile suit units Zeon has after the second or third mission. Two other members of the unit both express their disgust at this - both the oldest guy on the team (Matt Austin) who doesn't want to have to babysit a newbie, and another female Ensign (Charlotte Hepner) who's worried she's going to be passed over to ever see combat because she's a woman. Said Ensign Newbie, for the record, is painfully aware of what the others think of this, and in particular takes any chance he can get to respond to Matt calling him a "kid" by calling him an "old man".
  • Star Trek Online combines this with a hefty dose of Rookie Red Ranger. The player character is given command of a starship at the rank of Ensign.
    • Acting command about 1/3rd through the tutorial. Official command comes at the end of said tutorial with a promotion to Lieutenant. The story starts you off as an ensign fresh out of the academy. Your first assignment ends up sending you to the Vega Colony to deal with a Borg invasion. Your captain sends you (and you alone) off to another disabled ship to get it back up and running, only to return to find the Borg had assimilated every last officer of higher ranking while you away. All that's left is a handful of other ensigns, all for whom this also happens to be their first assignment out of the academy, technically leaving you the most field-experienced officer. After all is said and done, Starfleet Command gives you official command of your ship because they are desperate for any and all hands they can get to help keep peace in the already unstable Alpha Quadrant.
    • The revised tutorial has you serving as XO to Captain Taggart on a training cruise, mostly made up of cadets from your graduating class. Your ship is ambushed by Klingons, boarded, and Taggart is taken prisoner. The Klingon Captain (who has cloaked his vessel) demands Taggart order you to surrender or he will destroy your ship. In order to save the crew, Taggart tells you that you are now in command and then orders you to lock on to his combadge and open fire. Then you do the Vega Colony mission.
      • The game would later give players the option of skipping the tutorial and just starting the game right off at Starfleet Academy, where you just happened to score so damn well on your grades that the Academy Commandant recommends you for a bridge officer position right away. He tells you to go grab some gear out of the locker and get to work.
  • In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Bastila is technically the leader of your party during the time between when she joins you and when you get to Dantooine. Her inexperience with command shows. Significantly. And is pointed out. Whenever she tries to give an order. Ad nauseum.
    • Star Wars: The Old Republic in the Trooper campaign, the Trooper was made the leader of the new Havoc squad, after the previous Havoc squad defected to the Empire.
  • Final Fantasy VIII: Squall leading his team of rookies (with some more experienced members not joining until later)? Okay. Squall becoming leader of Balamb Garden when he still hasn't technically even completed his first mission? Um...
    • Bonus points for Squall explicitly stating that he didn't want to be leader, everyone just ignores him on that (then again, in FFVIII wielding a gunblade gives you instant badass status).
  • Thanks to daddy's influence, Snowe Vingerhut gets a squad of his own right after graduating the Gaien Marine Knights Academy in Suikoden IV. At first this is just made up of Lazlo and his fellow graduates, but he's soon put in charge of an entire ship of much more experienced knights during an Escort Mission. It doesn't end well.
  • The main character of Dragon Age: Origins was a member of Fereldan's chapter of the Grey Wardens for a grand total of one day before they became the de-facto leader of the order in the country. Mostly because all but two of the Grey Wardens were brutally slaughtered a few hours after the PC was formally inducted. The other survivor is technically the player's senior, but he practically begs the player to take command instead of him. Partially because he's still a rookie himself (he'd only been a Warden for six months at the time), but mostly because he doesn't like the idea of holding the responsibility of leadership (which is ironic, since he's the now-late King Cailan's illegitimate half-brother, giving him a possible claim to the throne). Subverted a bit in the case of Aeducan, the Dwarf Noble who started the game being given nominal command of the entire dwarven army. This is however, a hereditary title, not an actual command. A DLC takes place in an Alternate Universe where the other guy becomes leader. It ends badly.
  • In Vindictus, Ellis is a cadet leader straight out of the Royal Academy who reports directly to Gwynn. He's young and idealistic and has an unspoiled admiration for any heroic deed accomplished in the battle against the Fomors, and soon grows quite fond of your player character. The poor kid is brutally murdered by Information Chief Kalis in the fourth mission of the third boat.
  • Will becomes this in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin after Captain Brenner is killed. It's played darkly straight with the majority of their followers either not listening to or flat-out planning to mutiny against him, and the Heroic BSoD he's going through doesn't help his case at all. It takes a well-timed Rousing Speech and a truly epic Big Damn Heroes moment on his part to make his followers trust him fully.
  • In Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, 2nd Lieutenant Mira finds herself in command when she's the last surviving Imperial Guard officer on Graia — a junior platoon commander left in charge of all the remaining 203rd Cadian regiment. You can see just how relieved she is when the Ultramarines arrive.
  • Ryder was previously a newly minted marine in the Alliance Navy, before s/he had to leave and join the Andromeda Initiative in Mass Effect: Andromeda. Then their father dies and passes the position of Human Pathfinder to him/her. Now a complete neophyte is given an advanced ship, a crew, and an AI connected to their brain. The crew start out treating Ryder like the out of depth newbie s/he is - with not much respect. But as the Pathfinder accomplish more and more, the crew starts to respect him/her.

    Web Comics 
  • Captain Rasho in The Water Phoenix King fits this trope: he is extremely young (despite Gilgam's sneer, he is old enough to shave — barely, which may be why he sports Perma-Stubble!) and it's implied that his parents purchased him a commission in the Bison Guards, not one of the better sorts of military units in his country. And while brave enough personally, he's inexperienced and completely inept at giving orders that will be obeyed, a situation not helped by the lackluster group of losers under him who all joined up for the money, or because they failed at school or business, or because they want an excuse to beat people up and found this the best-paying, most-legal way to do so. He's trying hard, but in way over his head.
  • In Schlock Mercenary most officers in Tagon's Toughs are seasoned veterans (mercs, you know, tend to be ex-military). But there are a few who got their positions for non-combat reasons and when suddenly forced to command find themselves over their heads, particularly Lieutenant Bunnigus (medic), Lieutenant Reynstein (lawyer), and Commander Andreyason (munitions), as Bunnigus admits here. Though in the alternate timeline the chaplain handled his first command fairly well.

    Western Animation 
  • Ultimate Spider-Man plays with this trope. Spider-Man was chosen by Nick Fury to lead 4 heroes just like him, who have plenty of training with S.H.I.E.L.D.. Spidey was put in charge because he has over a year of experience as a superhero.

    Real Life 

  • The Royal Marines officially designate the first Troop Commander post as Phase Two of training. And they come as close to saying 'during Phase Two you will do what your Troop Sergeant tells you to do' as you can get within the confines of military etiquette.
  • There's a lesser version in the Finnish armed forces. Reserve officers are conscripts as well, but they are selected only after the boot camp, and after the Reserve Officer Academy they are assigned as Officer Candidates with rank and tasks equivalent to a Sergeant. Those which pass the candidate period honourably are then promoted to Second Lieutenants (army) or Ensigns (navy). Those who do not are left as Sergeants.
  • Roald Dahl was one of these in the then British colony of Tanganyika at the beginning of World War II, as he narrates in the autobiographical Going Solo. He acknowledges his inexperience to the sergeant and asks him to tell him if he does anything stupid so they actually get along quite well.
  • In the Canadian Armed Forces it's typically a Lieutenant in charge of a unit with a Warrant Officer (or acting-lacking Sergeant) serving as his second in command. The Warrant Officer is much more experienced than the Lieutenant (the former is a senior ncm rank and the latter is a junior officer rank), despite the Lieutenant being officially in charge. Although the troops would never dare say this in front of those two, a common saying is that the Warrant is the father of the unit and the Lieutenant is the mother. In the Canadian Military College system it is unofficially hammered into new officer-cadets that it's the sergeants and warrants who really run things and if a newly minted officer pays careful attention to their sergeant then one day they might be allowed outside without a chaperone.


Video Example(s):


Lieutenant Alara Kitan

Lieutenant Alara Kitan is a Xelayan, her home planet has higher gravity than most so when off her home world she has super strength.

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