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Mildly Military

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"...and drinking, and gambling, and sightseeing..."
"We do not prop ourselves up on ceremony in the [Aerial] Corps, whatever you may have been used to in the Navy."
Lt. John Granby, His Majesty's Dragon

A lot of the time, military forces in the media don't really seem all that military. The characters get to wear neat uniforms and live in a Cool Ship or base, but don't have to deal with the strict hierarchy, discipline and training that exists in the Real Life military. They do not have to shave their faces and their hair can be styled in any way you'd see on a civilian. A Military Maverick who disobeys orders is likely to receive no harsher punishment than getting assigned to Peeling Potatoes, a stint in the brig, or at worst being "disciplined" (i.e. Punched Across the Room) by a superior officer. It seems like the only thing keeping them together is The Code.

While we would like to assume such organizations are highly disciplined in real life, the reality is it will vary depending on the service in question and the situation they are involved with. It can be justified as not being a standard military but is a combined military/civilian organization, a special operations group whose members usually operate independent of the regular chain of command (and possibly of each other), or is a group that merely uses a vaguely similar infrastucture and rank system. Sometimes, the work is set in a time or place where military organizations were just not that disciplined (e.g. The Dung Ages). Most of the time, it appears to be the result of lack of experience on the part of the production on how the military actually operates.

And sometimes, the apparent lack of discipline is the whole point: some military organizations in fiction land are not disciplined because they do not need discipline to begin with. Either the members are competent or simply badass enough so that "normal" discipline is not necessary any more, or the common cause they are fighting for and/or the charisma of their leader is enough to ensure their efficiency when it is time to get serious; in such cases, the Mildly Military organization is actually a group of True Companions with the size and the firepower of a standing army. If well written, it can impress the audience by letting the apparently laid back characters show just how frightfully competent they really are and even make a valid point. Done poorly, it can quickly fall into the realm of Fridge Logic.

Contrast Army of Thieves and Whores, where the army in question truly is an undisciplined rabble. Compare Artistic License – Military when there is an attempt at military protocol but something is still off.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • All iterations of Area 88 qualify. The Area 88 mercenaries are undisciplined and insubordinate compared to real-life mercenaries. And what's with the technicolor flight suits?
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross:
    • The military is highly undisciplined. Hikaru and other pilots regularly talk back to their superior officers, even going so far as to insult them after being given simple orders. In addition, Roy Focker openly carries on a romantic relationship with a superior officer throughout the series. Hikaru especially commits all sorts of insubordination, including deserting his post to watch a beauty contest. No one is ever reprimanded for this behavior. Considering that they are in a crisis (aka first contact with aliens and a Space War), they probably let these things slide as they are minor compared to the bigger problems (aka giant hostile aliens), especially since humanity is desperate for manpower as is.
    • Averted in other Macross series: the military acts like the military and even minor infractions are dealt with harshly. It's repeatedly made clear that Isamu of Macross Plus is toeing the line for a dishonorable discharge, and the only reason he hasn't been booted yet is his borderline-inhuman skill as a pilot. Gamlin, in Macross 7, barely escapes a court martial after he strikes a superior officer. Everyone, including his own superiors, agreed that said officer really deserved it, but that still didn't make it okay.
    • Justified in Macross Frontier and Macross Delta, where the main characters are part of either SMS or Chaos, civilian-run paramilitaries who deploy as supplementary forces. As such, they are not actually under military law and can get away with a bit more.
  • The military in many of the entries of Gundam.
    • In the original series and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, this was justified by the ship having an inexperienced CO and a crew that weren't technically military. In fact, Bright specifically explained to another officer in one episode of Mobile Suit Gundam that he tried to be relaxed about military protocol on the White Base in order to ease his mostly-civilian crew into their roles.
      • To explain further, Bright, an ensign, is the highest ranked soldier left aboard the White Base following Char's initial attack. Captain Paolo, the mortally-wounded original captain, urges him to focus on results rather than worry about protocol. When Bright does try to enforce military discipline on Amuro later on, the results were... mixed.
    • In SEED, Kira gets court-martialed, and The Captain reaches the verdict that she doesn't have the authority to sentence a civilian. The ZAFT military lets its best soldiers wear red suits and get away with almost anything.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny becoming a member of Faith gives them complete autonomy and unquestionable authority. Also notice that Custom Uniform of Sexy are allowed for Minerva crew, and Shinn is almost blamed for his lack of respect.
    • Averted in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team where military law is in full effect and Shiro barely escapes a court-martial, along with his (likely) execution, for consorting with the enemy.
    • Similarly averted in Gundam 0083, where Kou Uraki is court martialed for a year for his theft of the GP03 in order to combat the hijacked GP02A (no matter how much one thinks it might be justified, stealing top-secret military equipment is still punishable by death.) Captain Synapse took responsibility for it and was sentenced to death instead of Kou. He is eventually released because the Federation decides to do a cover up of their epic failure of losing almost half of their entire fleet (2/3 of what was present in the fleet inspection) to their own nuclear launching, treaty-violating GP02A and failure to intercept the Colony Drop afterwards. Once all trace of existence of the GP series were deleted, Kou's sentence became unjust because he obviously cannot commit a Grand Theft Prototype of a non-existent Gundam, thus he is released 3 months after the court martial.
    • For some reason, in Mobile Suit Gundam and Zeta Gundam the crew allow prepubescent children to remain on board even when the ships are about to go into battle.note  Apparently Bright Noa and Char Aznable don't see many problems with possible infant mortalities.
      • In the White Base's case, the children are specifically orphans with nowhere to go and so choose to stay with the crew (who they know). Meanwhile, the majority of non-combat civilians actually do disembark.
    • Gundam 00:
      • Celestial Being. Justified that the organization is an irregular private militia, many of its members are non-military, and its people are eccentric.
      • The A-LAWS, whose senior members sometimes carry "One-Man Army" Licenses, which is pretty much the authority to do whatever the hell they want, regardless of the commander's wishes or battle plans. Most of the license-holders are Innovators, who wouldn't be inclined to take orders from mere humans anyway.
    • In Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, the Titans "have their own protocols," and refuse to listen to orders from regular Earth Federation officers. When Bright Noa tries to bring them into line, they beat him half to death. On the heroes' side, the A.E.U.G. is fairly lax, too; while there is still some respect for the chain of command in the way of saluting and obeying a superior, they are far more tolerant towards backtalk aimed at said superiors (it may get you a "correction", but at least it's not a court martial), their dress code isn't that strict (the ex-Federation officers wear their uniforms, but they don't make any fuss towards anyone else over it), and half their forces are civilian/ex-Zeon volunteers. As usual in Gundam, everyone seems to be on First-Name Basis, even when addressed by rank, such as Captain Bright (Noa), Captain Henken (Bekner), Lieutenant Quatrro (Bagina), Ensign Reccoa (Londe) and even Commodore Brex (Forer).
    • By Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, Bright has more-or-less given up trying to maintain discipline on the Argama. At one point, when Judau is going off on yet another unauthorized excursion, and Astronage asks Bright if it's okay, Bright replies with "You stop him if it's not." The Nahel Argama isn't even a military unit, it's a partisan ship under Beecher's command, and discipline involves squabbling with The Captain until he does the right thing.
    • On the flip side of the Universal Century, Axis Neo-Zeon is barely functional as an organization, and are held together more by personal loyalty to Lady Haman than by military discipline; individuals tend to screw around freely, subordinates either try to manipulate their superiors or simply disobey orders, and their commanders range from treacherous to flat-out insane. Not surprisingly, Neo-Zeon eventually splits in half when Haman's most powerful subordinate decides to take the throne for himself in mid-war.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE displays both mild and hard military discipline on the Diva thanks to the generational structure. The first generation is mild, since the "captain" outright hijacked the ship, put a cocky hotshot in charge of the mobile suit squadron, and lets Flit continue to pilot the Gundam. Generation 2 has the ship under military authority and appointed captain, with pilots that have gone through proper training. G3 straddles the line with its ragtag crew (captain included) and veteran mobile suit squadron.
    • The only military force (of a good half dozen) in Gundam: Reconguista in G that makes any noticeable effort towards acting professional is Towasanga's. And that's the one that has a pilot in an open relationship with his superior. It's suggested that because there hasn't been a war in so long, none of the agencies have much idea on how to even act like a military anymore.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers, kind of. Most characters have military uniforms as their "standard" outfit, but no other appearance restrictions (I.e. shaving) seem to apply to them, though this could be Hand Waved by the fact they are Nations as People. They are also depicted wearing the uniforms presumably off-duty fairly often, and Artistic License is often taken with the uniforms as well. The Nyotalia characters are even worse, with their uniforms going beyond inaccurate and being mostly subject to Rule of Cool.
  • Deconstructed in Irresponsible Captain Tylor. His lack of, well, any sense of pride, dignity, or responsibility is responsible for causing half the crew to nearly descend into insanity. At one point, a GHOST becomes disgusted with him, and leaves. Death is mercy compared to living with Tylor. The section he works in is a dumping ground for the screw-ups who haven't quite screwed up enough to be court martialed, further contributing to the poor to nonexistent military discipline.
  • On a similar note to the above Martian Successor Nadesico has a crew with...very peculiar character traits. However, they are officially just civilians working for a heavy arms company, not the military (though they ally with military, who itself is pretty mild on the military scale), and the company wanted to build the best crew possible for their ship, ignoring all character flaws.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • The Time/Space Administrative Bureau in Lyrical Nanoha is organized rather informally. Not that they aren't fairly loose even for this, but they act more like a police force with expensive toys all the way up to a sizable fleet than they do a conventional military. Their interests seem to be solely in capturing criminals, peacekeeping, and disaster prevention/rescue, never in taking or holding territory.
    • This is given a nice lampshade in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, where during a conversation Hayate had with her former commanding officer, Major Nakajima, it's mentioned that while ace mages (such as Nanoha, Fate, and Hayate herself) tend to get promoted very quickly, the ranks are really there for show more than anything else. It's made obvious what is meant by that during the same scene; Hayate is a Lieutenant Colonel, and thus technically Nakajima's superior, but both of them act like Nakajima's the one in charge. When Hayate gets up to leave after eating with Genya and his daughter Ginga in a restaurant(all three are in uniform), Ginga, a Sergeant Major, respectfully stands up to see Hayate off, but Genya remains seated.
    • Near the end of Episode 6 of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Vita complains that Nanoha should be drilling the forwards on walking and greeting, like they were when they first entered. Nanoha responds that if there's time to do that, there's more time for sparring instruction, which suggests that part of this is pragmatically focusing on actual performance rather than etiquette. This is made clear in a later episode, when Teana violates safety regulations in an attempt to score a win against Nanoha, and is slapped down hard; informality is acceptable, endangering the unit is not.
    • Despite the fairly informal atmosphere, Nanoha, Fate and Hayate make a habit of referring to one another by ranks while on duty, at least while in front of people they don't know well. Similarly, the incredibly professional Chrono exclusively refers to his mother by her title with two exceptions- once when he slips up and calls her "Mom" while flustered, and a second time when her refers to her as his mother in passing.
  • Naruto:
    • The Ninja organizations serve as the setting's military forces, albeit more of the "special" variety. The creator has said that one of his inspirations for the village of Konoha was a military base located nearby his childhood home. Many ninja are...odd, there are plenty of 12-year old ninja (although Naruto and Gaara at least are both power equivalents to nuclear weapons even before much training on their part), and of all the teen main characters, roughly two of them actually wear their village's uniform.
    • As seen in the Fourth Shinobi War arc, this is the status quo in peacetime. During wartime stricter command structures are put in place and the standard uniform replaces personal attire.
  • The Simoun sibyllae are members of the clergy, not the military. Both they and others consider it shocking when the military tries to order them around, or even operate jointly with them, in spite of their controling the near totality of their country's firepower.
  • Virtually every aspect of the minimal military discipline in Strike Witches is justified at one point or another, and averted in several cases. For one thing they're technically Special Forces with a very high success rate with a very limited recruitment pool, no expandability and little to no time to properly train or discipline new recruits. Despite that there is a clearly defined hierarchy (justifiably mixed with True Companions elements) which is followed and the Witches do spend most of their time drilling, training or doing maintenance work and menial tasks, some of their other fun activities actually happen during their allocated leave. They are also aces with a considerable amount of propaganda riding on them, allowing some leeway in their discipline, although they still ultimately answer to military law.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes plays with this trope: the alliance, and especially the "Yang Team" are very casual: you will see them throwing parties, drinking alcohol during strategic meetings, going after every girl they meet, and even making fun of their leader's (lack of) sex life in front of him. Do not take this for a lack of competence or discipline: they know the horrors of the war, and have chosen to enjoy life as much as they can between battles: when the battle starts, you're quick to remember why they were handpicked by Yang.
  • Galaxy Angel's protagonists always seem to get away with ignoring their jobs and leaving their poor commanding officer Colonel Volcott to pick up the slack.
  • Alex Rowe's crew in Last Exile are rather loose with military discipline, although they're more like a mercenary ship than a real military vessel.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion. NERV fulfills many of the same functions as an Air Force or Navy, and is run and organized much like both. However, its personnel are allowed to grow long hair and beards, and dating a co-worker isn't viewed a problem. Partly justified: NERV is a civilian agency and not military. The romantic relationships maybe isn't such a bright idea, considering the usual stability of NERV personnel.
  • Played with throughout Pumpkin Scissors. The eponymous group are often derided by the public and other military bodies for being this way, and it was because of this reputation that Oreldo joined. Given their dangerous missions during the series, this label doesn't really hold up, although the relationships among the protagonists does kind of fit the mildly military idea.
  • Lieutenant Filicia Heideman of Sound of the Sky runs her tank platoon as a family rather than as a military unit, though there are several practical reasons for not running the unit as a more strictly military organization.
  • Surprisingly, the One Piece Marines tend to fall into this. Aokiji goes off on his own to track down Robin, with the Five Elder Stars merely complaining that he should be mindful of his rank. Officers above Lieutenant (and even some lower ranking ones) are not required to wear the uniform, although the preferred uniform for higher-ranking offices is a suit with the "justice" coat (which is invariably worn improperly as a cape), and there are no grooming standards to speak of. Discipline tends to vary between officers, as Garp doesn't seem to mind his men telling him to help fix the wall he broke while breaking in to surprise Luffy, while one soldier who objects to destroying a Marine battleship to kill Luffy immediately gets executed on the spot by Vice-Admiral Onigumo. Officers are sometimes referred to by name and "-san" rather than their rank. And these aren't even the mavericks like Smoker or corrupt officers like Morgan.
  • Kurogane Pukapuka Tai is a huge example of this trope. The heroines are part of the (nearly) all-female crew of a Japanese cruiser in World War II, who run into a German U-boat (crewed mostly by women) and later a British destroyer (captained entirely by women). Romantic entanglements ensue. Not to mention the chief engineer challenging the XO to a fistfight over the placement of a crew member.
  • Sgt. Frog: Done intentionally, the squad is lazy and incompetent, and their only oversight is the reports Keroro has to send back to his superiors, in which he lies outrageously.
  • Mass Effect: Paragon Lost shows a marine blatantly sexually harassing another marine as well as her violent retaliation in front of their CO without any consequences other than him being humiliated that she "shot him down." Rank barely seems to matter, the marines bicker about routine orders, and civilians are brought along on a mission without much concern. Given that the ME universe is usually shown to be remarkably egalitarian, it portrays the Alliance Marines as anything but the disciplined force we're told they are throughout the video games and other media.
  • In Sword Art Online, the Integrity Knights are the closest thing the human lands of the Underworld have to a standing army, but Bercouli, their commander, is fairly relaxed with regards to etiquette, as seen when he insists that Alice, his protégé and subordinate, not salute to him.
  • Downplayed in A Love Letter For The Marching Puppy, which takes place in early 20th Century Japan, in an Alternate History in which women serve in the military. The teachers in the academy are relatively strict about discipline, and don't let the cadets get away with anything too outrageous, but aren't quite as severe as one might expect. For example, when Iindou politely asks about the reasoning behind the decision to remove Kagami from her position as as Iindou's "mode student", she gets a tongue-lashing about not questioning orders, rather than the harsh punishment she might reasonably expect at a Japanese military academy of that day and age.
  • Justified in both Sei Juushi Bismarck and Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. In the former, of the four main characters (Shinji Hikari, Bill Wilcox, Richard Lancelot and Marianne Louvre) only Shinji is explicitly described as being a member of the Federation military, and in the first episode he's wanted for desertion. Bill is a bounty hunter, Marianne a civilian and Richard is simply described as an intelligence agent. In the latter, of the four mains (Fireball, Colt, Saber Rider and April Eagle) only Saber is an actual Star Sheriff while April plays more of a support role. Fireball and Colt are a professional racer and a bounty hunter respectively, and are recruited into the Star Sheriffs in the first episode.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: For all its fascist overtones, the main military rule that the soldiers in Amestris seem to follow is the uniform policy, and State Alchemists aren't even consistently held to that (hence Ed's Iconic Outfit being a bright red Badass Longcoat and black singlet and pants, a look containing zero items from the uniform that, say, Mustang wears). While we're told it's against the rules, Roy Mustang is able to get away with chatting with girls on the phone during work hours, Maes Hughes pays his assistant's overtime in photos of his daughter, and for all the talk about Ed being a "dog of the military", it only comes up very rarely and most of the time he gets to do whatever he wants, disobey orders on a regular basis, drag his younger brother into everything, lie about where he's going and what he's doing and commit the occasional felony without any kind of repercussion, to the point where in his qualifying examination, he threatens the head of state with a spear and said head of state thinks the whole thing is hilarious. And then there's Alex Louis Armstrong, a man who flexes his shirt off every ten minutes or so. It's largely a Justified Trope. The conspiracy at the heart of Amestris is ultimately only using the military as a catspaw in a scheme built around alchemy, rather than force; the only thing it ultimately needs from Ed is that he's still alive and in the country on the Promised Day, and the things he's chasing down could be useful to them, so nobody is going to make a big deal about how he dresses or if he swindles a corrupt official or the like. Similarly, Mustang is viewed as another potential sacrifice, so they're willing to keep him on a fairly slack leash as long as they think he could be nudged into attempting human transmutation, an issue they eventually have to force.

    Comic Books 
  • In Asterix The Legionary, both Asterix and Obelix join the Roman Legionaires to rescue a friend who had been forcibly conscripted into Caesar's army to battle against Scipio. They proceed to dismantle the army's power structure by taking up their colleagues' work load during the training to speed things up, forcing the Camp Cook to change the military meal to fit their tastes, and generally overriding their commanding officer's orders. By the time the group leave Rome, everyone have gotten used to following the Gauls' pace (while blatantly ignoring their superiors' authority), and they pretty much do what they want.
    • In Obelix and Co., the garrison of Totorum has degraded to just lazing around marking time until they get rotated out without any thought of drill, discipline, or even doing actual soldiering. Their replacement unit is utterly horrified when they see this. Then they get into a fight with Obelix and realize that trying to be a crack unit in this part of Gaul just isn't worth the effort, and settle down to do the same thing themselves.
  • G.I. Joe, as we all know, "America's Highly Trained Special Mission Force", consisting of the elite of the nation's armed forces. As such, Joes enjoy privileges like extremely lax uniform and grooming regulations. Joes sporting full beards, non-regulation haircuts and battle togs including baseball caps, sports jerseys, blue jeans, sunglasses and/or full face masks are pretty much par for the course. In addition, the Joes' observation of The Chain of Command zigzags. Three-star army General Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy, by virtue of his appropriately high rank, pretty much averts this as the overall Commander and head honcho of the team. Meanwhile, Duke, G.I. Joe's First Sergeant, despite never accepting a promotion to a rank higher than E-8 (Enlisted), is nevertheless universally recognized as Hawk's immediate second-in-command and not only gives orders to officers such as fighter pilot Ace (an Air Force captain) and Green Beret lieutenant Falcon, but also seamlessly assumes command if Hawk is ever missing, indisposed, or otherwise unavailable. This, however, is explained by the simple fact that Duke is the second highest authority as far as the G.I.Joe command structure is concerned where Duke is formally second-in-command note . Warrant Officer Flint, Hawk's designated third in command, is also guilty of this to a lesser degree.
    • This was brought up in an episode of the Sunbow cartoon, where Beachhead (described as being fourth on the chain of command after Hawk, Duke and Flint) outright complains to Hawk's face how much he's letting discipline slide. Considering just minutes later the Joes are caught completely off-guard by COBRA and would've been wiped out if not for the unexpected arrival of Sergeant Slaughter, Beachhead had a point.
  • The Punisher: Just about every depiction of Frank's tours in the Vietnam war show US forces at their worst: troops are openly getting high, equipment never gets replaced/gets sold on the black market, and going out on patrol seems entirely optional.
  • Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. is a frequent offender. Crowning examples include their highest authority being either an agent with no prior leadership experience, much less any idea what her rank even allowed her to do, or even more impressive, a young woman no older than her mid-twenties at the most. Of course, this was a political appointments, and such things do happen in real life... but more often in corrupt developing countries than modern First World states.
  • Played for Laughs in Tank Vixens. Of course, given the comic is set in a universe where battles can be won by "pose power", it is perhaps not surprising that the 101st Tank Crushing Battalion in no way resembles a conventional military unit.
  • The Transformers (IDW):
    • Skywatch is supposedly a military unit. Supposedly, given one of their agent seems to be given free rein to do whatever the hell he wants without censure or punishment. (It's later revealed that Spike Witwicky has connections, most notably his high-ranking father, allowing him to get away with running around play-acting at being an action movie hero.)
    • The Autobots and Decepticons themselves are supposed to be armies, but they both have immense discipline problems. The Autobots operate a bit too much as a cult of personality around Optimus Prime rather than a functional military force, while the Decepticons, well obedience to superiors isn't exactly their strong point.
      • That said, it's made pretty clear later on that while Megatron allows his subordinates a lot of freedom (e.g. Skyquake ruled a system he'd conquered as his own mini-empire), when he summons you answer.
    • The Wreckers are specifically chosen from the kind of people who, when they hear phrases like "38% survival rate" and "practically a Suicide Mission", only get more interested. It's hardly surprising that military discipline suffers when the only qualifications are individual skill and a death wish. Just keeping them functional required Ultra Magnus, a bot so uptight and inflexible you could use him as a support pillar, to be put in command.
    • Justified in The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: the war is over and the Lost Light is only run on military lines insofar as that's all anyone on board has known for anywhere up to four million years. On top of that, everyone on the Lost Light (minus a few oddities like Skids, Whirl, Cyclonus, Tailgate and the like) are the kind of people who volunteered to go on an exploratory mission led by a Glory Hound Manchild who uses elaborate displays of stupidity to get other people to do his work for him. As a result, the only person who seriously cares about discipline is Ultra Magnus, who by this point has gone too far in the opposite direction and keeps trying and failing to get Rodimus to court-martial people for misplaced apostrophes on warning signs.

    Comic Strips 
  • Beau Peep is much the same. In fact, probably any gag-strip set in the military. Except Private Murphy's Law, which was drawn by an US Army NCO, published in Army Times, and generally follows military protocol in its humor.
  • Beetle Bailey features extremely laid-back discipline and has not had a real combat situation in the entirety of its 57-year history. Then again, it is a parody. "Laid-back discipline" ... except when Sarge "disciplines" Beetle with a Big Ball of Violence. Of course if you read it from the beginning, it's a series about a college kid whose experiences in basic training when he briefly joined the Army on a lark turned into a 60-year digression from the main plot.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: Played with. When they are off-duty, the soldiers and even commanding officers of the Avalon army are pretty laid-back and often enjoy quipping or poking fun at each other. When they are on-duty or attending an official ceremony, though, they are downright serious and profesional.
  • Advice and Trust: NERV's formality Varies depending on the character. Gendo fired his best pilots only because they did not follow orders, even though they won the battle and he had no replacements. Misato is pretty informal but she puts her foot down when she thinks it is warranted: she was okay with two of her pilots dating each other because she thought it was cute, but she was against them sleeping together, and brought up chain-of-command concerns when her wards argued the matter with her.
  • Child of the Storm plays with this trope. From what little we see of the conventional military organisations, they largely follow SOP... except for the point where Brigadier-General (One Star) O'Neill threatens to kill Lieutenant-General Ross (Three Star) with his bare hands for suggesting experimenting on the temporarily enhanced Carol, O'Neill's niece. Whilst in the presence of Alexander Pierce, Secretary of International Defence, and Lieutenant-General Lane. Granted, it was a fairly informal meeting, while Pierce was HYDRA and keeping up the Reasonable Authority Figure mask, and Lane admitted to Ross that he'd have reacted in much the same way. Plus, it's Jack O'Neill, and with Ross' track record in enhancement, no one could really blame him for getting angry.
    • SHIELD is a bit more informal, especially under Fury's command, as Fury started out as a Field Agent, and was mentored by people - Alison Carter included - who prized practicality over strict discipline. However, they mostly avert this trope.
    • The Avengers, meanwhile, are nominally under SHIELD's command, but for various lampshaded reasons, they do whatever they like.
  • Children of an Elder God: Played with. Nerv is a pretty informal organization, but when Asuka forgot to follow orders during a sortie, Commander Gendo reprimanded her personally and harshly.
  • Evangelion 303: Played with. On the one hand the Evangelion squad members are allowed grow long hair, their commanding officer insists on them calling her Misato at all times, and some of them are dating despite of being members of the same unit. On the other hand their commanders expect obedience and demand discipline from them, Misato chews them out when they step out of line, and some officers think allow relationships between members of the same squad is a bad idea.
  • HERZ: Military organization HERZ is more formal than its predecessor NERV but it's still somewhat lax: a mere Lieutenant like Kensuke isn't afraid of mocking Captain Asuka Ikari, even when they are on duty, and most of staff talks freely and informally.
  • Once More with Feeling: This is actually a plot point. Shinji feels he is not integrated with the remaining NERV workers because they are professional and business-like whereas he is too informal and must come across as a little boy playing war games and then going home. So that he requests for the pilots wearing his own NERV uniforms.
  • Gets subverted in Stargate Equestria when O'Neill sends Rainbow Dash and a wingpony off to spy on the Jaffa ponies. When Dash returns, she reveals that she went by herself despite what O'Neill said, at which point he rips Dash a new one and explains why she should have taken a partner.
  • Varies by character in the Star Trek Online fanfic Bait and Switch (STO). Captain Kanril Eleya nearly always calls her command staff by their first names, and though she follows a semblance of military discipline when speaking to superiors she also isn't afraid to speak her mind. Her first officer Tess Phohl has two modes. She's perfectly professional when speaking as first officer, but when speaking as Eleya's best friend they chitchat informally about everything from holonovels to Eleya's sex life. Her science officer Birail Riyannis doesn't bother with it at all, even on duty. Specifically called out in the short "Downbelow". It turns out it's Eleya's preference to run a loose ship, but that's contingent on the work getting done. In an address to the crew she threatens to dock weeks of pay from entire sections if individual crew are caught shirking combat drills.
  • In Fractured (SovereignGFC), a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover and its sequel Origins, this is mostly played straight by the Trans-Galactic Republic. Especially the case compared to the more resource-constrained Citadel races as Star Destroyers are both larger and more comfortable due to being more advanced technologically wherein building such opulent ships isn't really an issue. Furthermore, the politicians of the Home Galaxy have made the seemingly-silly distinction that the Trans-Galactic Republic has no military, only "protection" forces (Spacelane, Planetside). Hence, on that technicality, being "non-military" fits, even if the ships are huge and armed to the teeth. Never mind that the legal system still calls it "Standardized Regulations of Military Law." This is even lampshaded—something along the lines of "We follow the parts that help us do our jobs, but ignore things like 'rules regarding hair length.'"
  • Ambience: Platoon (Moebius Four) spends some time exploring this. At the start, Franklin tries to defy this and instill proper military discipline in the ship girls, but having the minds of adolescents, it doesn't work despite his pushing for it. After a while he eventually relents, though it takes much persuasion. He later goes on to let slide actions that should have gotten the perpetrator brig time or worse.
  • Pacific: World War II U.S. Navy Shipgirls, the page image, zig-zags this. While STEC was founded by the US Navy, not to mention all of its human members being part of the US Military, it's the ship girls themselves who aren't so keen on following military protocol.
  • Fight Our Battle Cry is a notable aversion. Unlike most KanColle fics, the US Navy shipgirl programme depicted bothers with regimentation. Chain of command, duty schedules, mostly standardised uniforms, even a visit from The Inquisitor General. This only serves to highlight the laxness of the Japanese programme when it later shows up.
  • Subverted in Thousand Shinji. NERV was pretty informal and disorganized, but Shinji changed that. Under his gradual influence, NERV became a more formal and serious military organization.
  • Played with in The Second Try. NERV is a semi-military organization, but Misato is very permissive with her subordinates despite of being a commanding officer. Gendo criticized her behavior when Shinji went against his orders.
  • In Left Beyond, both CATS and the Omega go out of their way to make it clear that just because they have enough firepower to rival small armies, they aren't. The Omega are a distributed AI, so every human and posthuman agent reports to them directly and there's no need for a military structure (the Omega are also used as a Siri/Cortana expy specifically so that people won't feel intimidated by them during off time). CATS is basically a loose group of telecommunication contractors that happen to have access to super-science for the purpose of making sure that the internet never goes down, even in case of Apocalypse. They take their mandate very seriously.
  • In Last Child of Krypton, NERV is a pretty informal military organization. This irritates Gendo, who wants well-trained puppets.
  • The Upheaval World averts this with the Equestrian Leigon. It's run exactly like an actual army: There's a strict emphasis on discipline and protocol, a strict hierarchy, and harsh punishments for everyone who defies the law, up to and including execution.
  • Discussed in The Next Frontier, when one of Jeb's blog entries talks about his initial worries that the single career military officer assigned to an armed exploration ship owned by the civilian Kerbin Space Agency would have trouble adjusting to their much less formal way of doing things. As it turns out, Kurt manages pretty well: He's in the air force, who generally don't worry much about salutes and who calls who "sir" because it gets in the way of their actual duties when they're in the sky.
  • In Discworld fanfics by A.A. Pessimal, the Air Watch is a reflection of air forces such as the RAF and USAF, which in comparison to their respective Navies and Armies are mildly military. The squadron assembled under the management of the City Watch is an offshoot of Sam Vimes' creation, which is even more mildly military. As it consists largely of Witches, the military structure is even more loose and token. But as far as Captain Olga Romanoff is concerned, so long as the others remember she's in charge, that will do just fine. This relaxed and happy state of affairs lasts just long enough for it to come as a shock to Olga when a real shooting war breaks out and, among other things, ma'am-dom is inflicted on her. Suddenly, military structures matter.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aliens: James Cameron has admitted that the Space Marines came off as a lot less disciplined than actual Marines; rather, they were more a reflection of Vietnam-era regular Army conscripts. The behavior is semi-justified by The Reveal of Burke's plan to bring the xenomorphs back to the company and the fact that the inexperienced Lt. Gorman is in charge. Some specific examples:
    • The Marines embark on a mission that may likely involve contact with unidentified, hostile forces, commanded by an unsupervised, inexperienced officer.
    • Their uniforms and some of their weapons are decidedly non-uniform, with personal touches and decorations no actual military would allow. Though this was enforced by Cameron, to give subtle hints to each Marine's character.
    • During the infiltration of the reactor, Vasquez and Drake disobey direct orders from their commanding officer (Lieutenant Gorman) and 2nd in command (Sergeant Apone) and re-arm their smart guns.
    • After locating the colonists, the entire force goes out to recon an unexplored area.
    • During their first encounter with the xenomorphs, the Marines panic like a bunch of schoolchildren.
    • After Gorman is incapacitated and Apone is captured by the xenomorphs, Corporal Hicks is in command (as Ripley herself points out later). However, Ripley (who is a civilian) starts giving the Marines orders. Not only does Hicks allow this, but the other Marines obey her. Of course this one is just about justified by the Marines knowing that Ripley is an expert on the aliens, but still.
    • After the existence of hostile xenomorphs on the planet has been confirmed, Spunkmeyer carelessly exits the drop ship, leaving it wide open for any xenomorph that might want to get inside. Naturally one does. It kills both Spunkmeyer and Ferro, thus crashing (and destroying) the drop ship and marooning the rest of the team on the planet.
  • The movie Basic with Samuel L. Jackson had so many inconsistencies and non-military actions, that the film was hard to follow. For example:
    • Samuel L. Jackson's character wears the rank of specialist (E-4) and has higher-ranking people addressing him as "sir."
    • Female rangers, though as of 2015 there have been female graduates from the training.
  • The horror film House, starring William Katt, has several scenes that take place in The Vietnam War. In those scenes, the soldiers fall into the M*A*S*H variety - no uniform insignia at all, haircuts that couldn't possibly be permitted, even in the most lenient units, and soldiers who don't look, sound, or act like anyone who has ever been in the military all of which was perfectly common on the front lines of Vietnam in the final years of the war.
  • All of the military personnel in WarGames. The only person who has anything that comes close to a military haircut is the four-star general. The rest of the members of the Air Force in the movie look like they haven't had a military haircut in months.
  • The U.S. Army troops in Apocalypse Now, especially the grunts, were rather sloppy about many aspects of military discipline and bearing, like the Real Life U.S. Army in the later years of The Vietnam War.
  • The A-Team wasn't particularly interested in "spit and polish", but being a Special Forces style group with a good track record they were given a lot of slack up until they were framed for stealing money printing press plates. The rest of the military is mildly military in this movie. Face spends at least six years as a first lieutenant for some reason when in real life, he wouldn't have that rank more than two years before receiving a promotion to captain.
  • Zack Snyder's Justice League: When Barry Allen poses as an Air Force Military policeman to get into the Kryptonian ship, the guard asks for his ID card. Barry responds, "Aye aye", which is usually a Navy response. The rank that Victor faked showed Barry's rank as "E7," a senior enlisted rank. The guard would probably have just thought of the response as an inside joke.
  • The First Earth Battalion (part of the U.S. Army) is this in The Men Who Stare at Goats. Justified in that they are Jedi warriors.
  • The Russians and Cubans in Red Dawn (1984) appear to only realize they are soldiers after they're being attacked, then rarely show any evidence of training. This may be excusable in the beginning when they are attacked by the Wolverines, but after the first few attacks, they should have begun to act more like soldiers. This was mentioned in-universe, and explained as the garrison units being half-trained conscripts while the real soldiers were at the front. When the real thing is brought in towards the end the Wolverines are pretty much wiped out.
  • The Recon Marines in Heartbreak Ridge act as if they never attended Boot Camp and have no idea about military discipline. In reality, to get into Marine Recon, you have to pass a series of difficult tests. The NCOs and officers who allowed the Recon Platoon to devolve that badly should have been court-martialed for dereliction of duty.
  • The Kelvinverse Star Trek and its sequels have a lax attitude to military discipline, the main characters only occasionally obey orders without arguing about regulations, and romance between shipmates is allowed. At one point in Into Darkness, an officer actually mentions that Starfleet is supposed to be exploration focused rather than primarily military. On the other hand, Kelvinverse Starfleet is much more willing to punish wrongdoing than in the original timeline - unlike in The Wrath of Khan, when Kirk cheats on the Kobayashi Maru he's put on academic suspension, and when he breaks the Prime Directive in Into Darkness he loses captaincy of the Enterprise, and only gets it back because he's the fall guy for the villains.
  • Pacific Rim: Stacker's "last hurrah", by del Toro's design (he's a pacifist). Noticeably, he stops wearing a uniform and switches to a civilian suit, albeit one that looks a lot like his uniform. The closest thing they have to a command structure is him as "Marshal", then Mako in an unranked secondary role, and that's about it. Supplemental material goes into a little more detail, explaining multiple divisions and some of the intricacies of how they interact. Mako would appear to be the "Kwoon Fightmaster", in charge of combat training. The organization itself is the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps. By the time of the main plot that chain of command effectively no longer exists, and Slacker's command is slapped together from whatever and whoever he can get his hands on and funded by the last dregs of budget and side deals with profiteers.
    • Reportedly, the PPDC's esoteric rank system is a result of Guillermo del Toro's desire not to seem like he was glorifying militarization (what with the heavily armed Humongous Mecha and all the rest of the hardware lying around). Instead, he tried to evoke a Western feel, hence the loose discipline, why Stacker Pentecost is a Marshal, and why the pilots he commands are called Rangers.
  • Ravenous (1999): Invoked. Fort Spencer, the shithole fort that Boyd is reassigned to after being a Dirty Coward in the Mexican-American War is populated exclusively by outcasts and rejects and it's in the middle of nowhere in the Californian wilderness, so none of them (except for Reich), feel any inclination to actually act like they're in the army. Colonel Hart is a bookish, nerdy man who seems totally unfit for command, Major Knox is a massive lush who's almost never conscious, Private Toffler has some kind of unexplained disorder and is always trying to write religious hymns, and Private Cleaves is always getting high on locoweed with George, one of the fort's two Native American camphands.
  • Starship Troopers strangely plays it both ways. Setting aside Hollywood Tactics, on the one hand the Federal Military is extremely strict with almost Spartan-level brutality in boot camp and summary execution by a field officer is threatened for desertion, and the chain of command is absolute. On the other hand the soldiers are severely undisciplined; the first attack dissolves into a confused mass retreat after only a few casualties, fraternization is encouraged by superiors, they throw a frat party in the middle of enemy territory seemingly without setting up a defense perimeter, and a rookie flight officer isn't even remotely disciplined for almost crashing an interstellar starship into the spaceport because of her arrogant recklessness on her first field mission.
  • The Continental Army in The Crossing is this, being made up mostly of local militia with no formal training. Only the ranking officers seem to wear uniforms—with the exception of Colonel Glover, who makes a point of not doing so—and their artillery officer, General Knox, used to run a bookshop. General Gates actually points to this as a humongous weakness in the army, and it's not hard to see why given that they've been terribly beaten by the actual trained redcoats and Hessians up until now. Of course, they beat the Hessians at Trenton anyhow.
  • Another example from The American Revolution in Drums Along the Mohawk, where all the farmers look pretty ridiculous when they muster for the militia. They take a level in badass later.
  • Early Ernst Lubitsch romantic comedy The Wildcat depicts the officers and men of a frontier fortress as bumbling, incompetent Loveable Cowards. It's all Played for Laughs, but Lubitsch later attributed the poor reception of this film to German audiences of the Weimar Republic not being in the mood for movies that satirized militarism.
  • In Stripes most of the haircuts the recruits receive at boot camp are far too long for army regulation.
  • Enforced in the Vietnam scenes in Forrest Gump, where Lieutenant Dan Taylor is out of uniform and orders Forrest and Bubba not to salute him when they first arrive, lest they reveal that he's an officer to any Viet Cong snipers watching over the base.
  • Inverted in Iron Man in the Whiplash Control room scene: while Rhodey is a Lieutenant Colonel, and out-ranks Major Allen, Allen is serving as the Officer in Charge of the operation. In such a position, he is representing the Commanding Officer and has the full authority to make combat decisions based on the information available. For Rhodey to call off the fighters, he would have to officially relieve Allen as the watch officer, which is a major breach of military protocol.

  • There's an old joke about an American general visiting an Israeli military base. He's making rounds with the base's commandant (also a general) and glumly notes the total lack of discipline to his colleague, pointing at a private who just passed them without saluting. The Israeli general rushes after the private... only to ask if the guy is upset at him for some reason.
  • There are a number of jokes from Russia that involve soldiers stationed near nuclear weapons screwing around and causing problems. One joke goes that a furious commander catches an officer asleep with his head down on the nuclear launch console. He wakes him up, and proceeds to grill the soldier about what he did wrong, the soldier then insisting that there's no problem as everything is fine. "Everything is fine? Okay. Tell me, then. Where the fuck did Belgium go?!"
  • Another one goes like this: "American and Russian submarines run into each other in the Pacific. They surface to give salute. American submarine sonar operator hears yelling from Russian sub: "Who threw a boot on the controls? Who the fuck threw a boot on controls?" American Captain tells Russians: "In the US we would never have such problem!" Russian Captain replies: "There is no such thing as US no more, WHO THE FUCK THREW A BOOT ON THE CONTROLS?!"

  • The way the Global Defense Initiative is represented in the terrible official Novelization of Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars is appalling. Among other things, it had a Private being promoted to Sergeant on his first day out of boot camp, when he showed no exceptional skill or capability worth promoting him. Not just that, but that apparently the chain of promotion in the GDI military goes from private to sergeant... straight to lieutenant to captain (then possibly major). The only corporal in the book is a technician. One would get the the impression that the author got all of his knowledge of military hierarchy from skimming a few war movies. At least it's mentioned that Vega got promoted on his first day mostly to boost morale than because of anything he did. In fact, his immediate superior fought against the promotion, as Vega's achievements were based either on pure luck or skills he earned prior to joining the military (although it's not entirely clear why the second reason is bad). He is also promoted over much more experienced soldiers in his platoon, which triggers a lot of anger and resentment among them, having the exact opposite effect from what the morale boost was supposed to achieve.
  • Myth Adventures:
    • The Possiltum military seen in the early novels is underfunded and undertrained, so it's justified that they're insubordinate and incompetent. Later, though, an enormous and highly successful Mob-trained army is assimilated into Possiltum's, and we see it from the inside ... and the viewpoint character who infiltrates it is insubordinate, makes trouble with civilians, hires civilians to perform military duties without authorization, ignores paperwork and willfully violates orders. The result? Repeated promotions for "showing initiative." WTF?
    • The main rule of the Possiltum army is the Rule of Funny. Since the main character is trying to screw things up, and hates the idea of being in the army at all, much less having rank, of course he's going to make things work better and be promoted for it.note 
    • The Brass noticed that the supply depot's performance improved by leaps and bounds. They liked the results, even if the methods weren't By The Book.
  • The crew of the eponymous starship in Stanisław Lem's The Invincible seems to simply be unable to decide whether they are in the military or not. They certainly have much more oomph than necessary for a strictly research vessel (it is explicitly called a cruiser, by the way) — their recon planes pack antimatter guns, — there are mentions of uniform and the crewmembers routinely carry sidearms, but on the other hand... The discipline aboard is rather informal, The Captain is a grumpy old man who has a tendency to heap it all onto his exec, and said exec is the most emo thing since emos came to Emotown. He's so emotionally unstable and prone to hysterics and impulsive action that the captain had to dose him with brandy on one occasion.
  • Both of Wedge Antilles' fighter squadrons from the X-Wing Series.
    • Rogue Squadron fits the "do not need discipline" variant for the most part - off-duty they're pretty casual, but they are twelve of the absolute best pilots in the New Republic and deadly serious while prepping for and during combat missions.
    • Wraith Squadron, on the other hand, is a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits, and Wedge usually manages to maintain the right balance between humoring their quirks and keeping order. When "Face" Loran interrupts him during their first briefing Wedge amiably gives him work Peeling Potatoes; afterward the Wraiths keep making wisecracks during briefings, but don't interrupt their commander unless it's for a good reason. He allows romances between squadmates, but public displays of affection are to saved for off-hours or light duty. After Tyria Sarkin attacks Grinder over a bad joke Wedge formally reprimands and grounds her, but later decides to lie about her prior coerced involvement in a black market operation (just short of committing perjury) to keep her in his squadron. When rookie Castin Donn carries himself in a decidedly unmilitary fashion that Wedge would tolerate only from a veteran pilot, Wedge has him smarten up and later punishes Donn for abrasively questioning his judgement in front of the whole squadron.
  • Royal Navy novel HMS Leviathan has the Royal Navy's air force, the Fleet Air Arm, which is very mildly military. This does not sit well with the old-time sailor Commander Markready, with his traditionalism and old-school Navy attitudes.
  • The Phule's Company series, to a degree at least. The protagonist, Willard Phule Jr., is put in charge of the Space Legion's Omega Unit - the unit where "discipline problems" and other misfits are sent.note  Things are very casual, even after he turns them around, but they do know which procedures need to be followed and which ones they can get away with ignoring (or just paying superficial attention to), and they make a point of showing their detractors that they can and do follow procedure to the letter when it counts. Omega company isn't actually that unusual in terms of this trope, however; the Legion is loosely organized (the uniform is officially "something black" for example) and largely consists of people who didn't make the cut for the regular army.
  • The Night's Watch in A Song of Ice and Fire, once you get to know them. Their numbers are, barely, kept adequate through prisoners being sent to the Wall as a punishment in exchange for avoiding death, so this isn't a great surprise that even the volunteers and disciplinary actions are looser in certain areas.
  • Britain's Aerial Corps in the Temeraire series is reputed as a barely-tolerated, unruly band of libertines, both by its other service branches and by the public. Almost all of it is justified by the nature of the series' dragons. Dragons are Bond Creatures, meaning their captains are too rare and valuable to be court-martialed for anything short of treason. Dueling is prohibited for the same reason. Dragons themselves have little respect for (human) rank, so authority among aviators often goes by which of their dragons defer to which other dragons. One particularly useful breed of dragon will only choose female companions, so by the era the story is set in, women can and often do hold high rank and leadership positions in the Aerial Corps. Being bond creatures, dragons generally refuse to serve with any human but a companion who was present at their hatching but can usually be convinced to work with children of their original companion, so officers, even female officers, are encouraged to have children, and they rarely have time to get married for it. The constantly rumpled, disheveled appearance of the aviators, though, is just because dragon riders tend to pack in a hurry.
  • The airmen in Havemercy. They all take orders from their captain Adamo, but there's no military rigor - just don't piss off Adamo too much, or you'll get "put on dog rations." This is justified, since when they're on the ground they're a mess, but up in the air they're "so fucking deadly, so fucking precise." As for obeying th'Esar's not uncommon for them to spit on the ground at the mere mention of their esteemed ruler. They'll fight his war, but th'Esar walks a fine line of disciplining them and pleasing them so they'll keep fighting his war at all. This is the way things have to be, of course - men with weaker wills wouldn't be able to handle the dragons at all.
  • Sister Light Sister Dark: the soldiers of the Hames. It's somewhat justified in that they are supposed to belong to a primitive society, but one still has to wonder what primitive society thought it was a good idea for officers to ride into battle with their infant daughters strapped to their backs. Not to mention the fact that Jenna has almost no experience in commanding anything, and it shows- in White Jenna, her army comes close to mutiny several times. By the third book in the series, they've gotten somewhat better, but next to the Garuns they still look like incompetent fools who shouldn't be trusted with anything more dangerous than a kitchen knife.
  • In The Lost Fleet series the Alliance navy has become this after a century of constant warfare and massive attrition in the officer ranks. Neither officers or enlisted personal salute anymore and ship captains actually get to vote on the fleet commanders battle strategy. When Jack Geary is put in charge of the fleet he reintroduces saluting and makes sure that his orders are followed without any voting. His main problem is that he does not have enough senior competent officers to replace all the idiots and glory hounds who refuse to follow his orders. The only units who still maintain proper military discipline are the Marine detachments. However, even they are frequently subject to this due to the insistence of ship and fleet commanders on micromanaging their actions during ground and boarding engagements. It is a little strange that this is allowed, as Marines are supposed to have their own chain of command. Another strange (and idiotic) thing that appears to be par for the course is the fact that, whenever a ship commander is rescued from captivity, he or she immediately demands to be put in command of an appropriate ship. The current ship commander is expected to be reassigned elsewhere. Geary is incredulous and initially assumes it's a joke. After all, why would anyone replace a competent ship commander, who, likely, has a good working relationship with the crew, with someone who has spent months or even years as a prisoner-of-war, simply because of seniority? After all, the person who's currently in command of that ship has earned that right, and reassigning him or her in favor of some Glory Hound would be an unfair punishment. The only reason the war's been grinding on for a century of brutal, bloody stalemate is because the military of the Syndicate Worlds are as bad or worse, with a command structure that's half feudal and half office politics. That a third-party is subtly playing both sides against the middle to keep humanity's two largest power blocs squabbling amongst themselves probably has something to do with all the above.
  • Catch-22 has, among its many things, a man who keeps intentionally getting court-martialled so as to get sentenced to dig ditches instead of go on the front lines. He also fraternizes with the officers.
  • When The Culture needs some armed forces the Minds politely inform more senior Minds that they are willing to take orders, the crews never wear uniforms, and the whole attitude is as civilian as possible, except that the Culture is amazingly good at kicking butt. Just ask the Idirians.
  • Some of the characters in George MacDonald Fraser's McAuslan series, about the Gordon Highlanders shortly after WW2. The Adjutant (Executive Officer) - normally a "feckless young man much given to babbling" and one of a few Englishmen in a Scottish regiment. Vague, seemingly unmilitary, and unworldy, when he has to lead in the absence of senior officers and take command of the full regiment, he does so admirably, assessing the situation, barking good orders and delegating tasks to the right people for the job. The battalion as a whole really; the enlisted men, particularly the sergeants, run the place. As Fraser puts it:
    It looks terribly military, and indeed it is, but under the surface a Highland unit has curious currents which are extremely irregular. There is a sort of unspoken yet recognized democracy which may have its roots in clanship, or in the Scottish mercenary tradition, and which can play the devil with rank and authority unless it is properly understood.
  • An example from the opposite direction - FT&T in Anne McCaffrey's Tower and the Hive series is suprisingly military for an organisation that is essentially a family-run transport company:
    • They have laws over and above those of other civilians and handle discipline internally
    • They have a well defined chain of command that terminates with the head of state
    • They are careful to make a clear distinction between speaking to 'Grandad' and speaking to 'Earth Prime, sir'
  • The eponymous team of guerrilla fighters from Animorphs. They start the series as five ordinary kids given extraordinary power and aren't very disciplined at all. But as the war goes on and they gradually become combat veterans they slowly grow into this: team leader Jake begins assuming the mantle of command much more confidently while the others grow into their respective strengths. It's lampshaded by Marco in The Reunion when he inwardly notes that he has to stop himself from calling Jake 'sir'. It gets even more pronounced towards the end, when they encounter alien militaries and are explicitly treated as soldiers.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Colonization trilogy, the US military responds to two officers being overly curious about their new space station by simply telling them "It's classified"... Actually, no. The word "classified" is never even spoken (in fact, both officers muse that being told that by a superior officer would be taken in stride and obeyed). Instead, the officers are threatened and, when that doesn't work, attempts on the life of one of them are made. Only one person actually orders them to stop their investigation... but he's not even in their chain of command, so he's not authorized to give them orders (Sam Yeager is an Army colonel, while Curtis LeMay is an Air Force general). One of the officers, an astronaut, tricks his way aboard the space station... only for the station's commander to seriously contemplate spacing him. Oh, and the secret wasn't even that big to begin with and is revealed in short order anyway. Additionally, the astronaut is then told You Can't Go Home Again, although this is partially justified by the mission parameters. Considering the whole series is supposed to be military science fiction, it's surprising that Turtledove would get this so spectacularly wrong.
  • The Alliance Fleet in M.C.A. Hogarth's Paradox military sci-fi stories act a bit more like Starfleet than any actual military. Somewhat justified as the Pelted based it on vague cultural memories from before the Exodus of human militaries, many officers on loan from the Earth Navy are dismayed by the lack of discipline.
  • The Leonard Regime is centered around an unofficial military.
  • Frequently played with in the Ciaphas Cain novels. Most of Cain's actual job description as a commissar consists of maintaining regimental discipline, but he's relatively laid-back about it since he's a decent guy who favors results over ironclad adherence to rules and regs. This especially includes his aide Ferik Jurgen, a perpetually stinky and disheveled artilleryman whose surprising competence, literal-mindedness, and being a blank have saved Cain's ass many times. In Cain's Last Stand, though, even Cain rolls his eyes at some PDF fighter pilots who get a little carried away in a target-rich environment and have to be reminded what part of the enemy fleet they're supposed to be attacking. Cain's relatively lax attitude (and redeploying a company without specific orders but in accordance with strategic objectives) actually causes another commissar to drag him in front of a tribunal in The Traitor's Hand; the tribunal sided with Cain, and the Commissar in question ended up being investigated himself for wasting everyone's time and damn near costing them the war when he tried to arrest him in the process of saving the world.
  • Justified in New Arcana. The Order of Neomages is part of the military, but distances itself from the Army as much as possible.
  • This is the "hat" of the Gzilt in The Culture novel The Hydrogen Sonata. Citizenship is tied to military service à la Starship Troopers: every member of society serves in the military forces at some stage in some way, and holds a lifelong reserve position afterward. However it has been a very long time since the Gzilt have engaged in any kind of combat.
  • Discussed in Ender's Game when Ender switches armies in Battle School: The new army is a lot less disciplined than his previous one, to the point that Ender wonders if the leader even cares. Arguably, this trope is true for Battle School as a whole, who seem to be under a lot less rigid orders than the rest of the IF.
  • Discworld:
    • Armies tend to be quite shambolic, if only for the sake of comedy — although it's also clear that conventionally disciplined, properly trained armies, which do exist, can be expected to had those idiots their butts. The presence of the trope is usually justified by the plots.
    • In Jingo, the Ankh-Morpork army is thrown together in a hurry (the place hasn't needed one for a while), by a bunch of upper class twits who believe that breeding and ethnic superiority will be enough to prevail against the Klatchians, whose own army is far larger, far better-organized, far better-armed, and has actually been fighting wars.
    • By the time of Monstrous Regiment, Ankh-Morpork seems to have acquired a moderately well-organized army, although its discipline at the highest level is somewhat undermined by the presence of Sam Vimes, who holds the highest theoretical rank but who doesn't really approve of soldiering. In that book, the barely-military force is the group of Borogravian soldiers including the main protagonist; this is justified by the fact that the Borogravian army — in fact, all of Borogravia — is going to pieces 'Nam style, and these are a bunch of barrel-scraping new recruits being thrown into action with no training.
    • In Lancre, the royal army is a noble institution that takes its job very seriously. Unfortunately, it consists entirely of Nanny Ogg's son Shawn, who is also the captain of the royal guard, the royal guard, the royal herald, the royal butler, the royal mailman, and countless others. This means that his battle tactics mainly consist of running off to find the king and queen so that they can give him orders that don't involve fighting.
  • The titular characters of David Drake's Hammer's Slammers are mercenaries loosely inspired by the French Foreign Legion, but they have pretty tight discipline and a defined hierarchy, Colonel Hammer tends to react to loose cannons by threatening to have them shot. Now, the regular armies of the governments that tend to hire them, on the other hand... Well, let's just say that they wouldn't be hiring the Slammers if they didn't need them.
  • 1Lt. Youji Itami in Gate is constantly accused of this, even by some of the more martinet members of his own unit. Of course, him being an Otaku and Professional Slacker, these accusation do carry some truth, but he is Ranger-qualified and in the Special Forces, and just feels that his natural laid-back attitude is better for the 3rd Recon.
  • In Victoria, Chief of Staff Rumford purposely encourages a rather informal style of work among his immediate subordinates, because he wants flexibility and character rather than a Pentagonesque military bureaucracy. Part of this is due to his background in insurrectionary warfare, where he got used to playing a little fast and loose with the ordinary rules.
  • The Hexosehr in Into the Looking Glass come across as this due to coming from a very informal species. The human captain is thrown by the Hexosehr captain addressing him as "dude" but the Cunning Linguist says that as near as she can tell it's an accurate translation and the Hexosehr simply don't have the more formal modes of address used in a human military.
  • Justified for the Ranger Corps of Ranger's Apprentice, who are explicitly intended to operate outside the regular chain of command and are usually deployed solo.
  • Bazil Broketail:
    • Wiliger seems to know little about official regulations or just deliberately ignores them — best evidenced in that he keeps wearing irregular uniforms that are either entirely outdated or composed of clothes he personally selected on his own whim. He also plasters an overgrown "109" sign to his cap to proclaim left and right that he's serving in a famous unit (until his subordinates point out that it's against the regimen).
    • At least compared to his predecessors, who actually were needlessly harsh when it came to enforcing the regimen. While by no means negligent, Cuzo has a rather lax style of commanding. He doesn't even seem to care that much when some of his subordinates abandon their posts.
  • In Protector of the Small, Third Company of the King's Own are a group that takes verbal jabs at each other out on the trail, with even Knight Commander Lord Raoul of Goldenlake and Malorie's Peak getting taunted for past mishaps. They are also one of the most capable bands of soldiers in the country, capable of fighting hill bandits and invading armies who attack their people.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team! But then again, they're actually fugitives from the Army. But at least according to the movie, they were like that even before they were sentenced for a crime they didn't commit.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • The team is split into two groups. On the one side, you've got Coulson, May, and Ward, three professional SHIELD agents who are used to giving and taking orders. On the other side, you've got Fitz-Simmons and Skye, the first two being a pair of quirky scientists who act like they share a brain, and Skye being a Boxed Crook who was living out of her car. On the first mission where they all go into the field together, Skye breaks radio silence to ask Ward about the bathroom issues that arise when they're not allowed to leave the van. They don't even have ranks, per se, just security clearance levels.
      Ward: Anything else?
      Skye: Oh, yeah! Fitz wants to know if you left any snacks for us.
      Fitz: Yeah, I'm feeling a bit peckish!
    • Even the professional parts of S.H.I.E.L.D. can get a bit lax at times. Maria Hill, the second highest-ranking agent in the organization, doodles a porcupine on Ward's evaluation to represent his social skills, Chan Ho Yin's official file describes him as "kind of a tool," and the historical documentation on Red Skull may or may not call him a "big fat freaking Nazi."
    • Season 7 uses Time Travel to show us how SHIELD evolved over the years. In the 1950s it is using US Army resources so its bases are run as standard military bases. Its civilian agents are World War 2 veterans so they understand army discipline. In the 1970s it has become much more of a civilian organization though it is run by a general.
  • The Netflix series Another Life (2019) takes this to an extreme. Uniforms were done away with years before, the chain of command seems to depend more on consensus and intimidation (and occasional violence) than actual rank, insubordination is common, and fraternization is rampant and even encouraged. The lack of discipline plays a major part in the expedition's disastrous course and high death toll, as nearly everything that goes wrong happens because someone wasn't following orders.
  • Babylon 5: In "Gropos", several visiting infantrymen harass Delenn and are let off with nothing more than Drill Sergeant Nasty treatment. Delenn is a foreign ambassador and such a thing would almost certainly be worth a court martial in Real Life. It's likely that their superior never even realizes this happened, as he only appears when another soldier stands up for Delenn, causing a fight, which is what he breaks up; blink and you'll miss Delenn saying something to Garibaldi out of earshot before the latter intercedes on the soldiers' behalf, presumably asking him to do the interceding at least for the sake of the one who defended her.
  • Battlestar Galactica:
    • Played straight a lot of the time despite a lot of characters shouting about hierarchy and such, but even on their worst day Galactica's crew are still much more professional than many examples of this trope. Commander Adama, for example, while reasonable and A Father to His Men also doesn't hesitate to deal firmly with insubordination or unprofessional performance.
    • While several examples of temporary insubordination or inappropriate behaviour are forgotten quickly because Status Quo Is God, this can be justified given the near-total annihilation of humanity and its military by the Cylons - Adama, Tigh and other leaders simply cannot afford to be as strict on such matters as they used to be. Not only are there no replacements for military professionals (aside from the one-off exception of the Battlestar Pegasus, the only other surviving Colonial flagship, joining the Fleet) and new recruits are thus drawn solely from the civilian population, but the apocalyptic circumstances have fostered a real sense of family among the survivors. And even before the Destruction of the Twelve Colonies, Galactica was an aging warship with relaxed behavior among the reduced crew complement. It was undergoing a decommissioning ceremony when the attack happened.
    • Lee Adama makes this very clear in the S3 finale, where he lists many of the egregious lapses in discipline or regulation (as well as being usually lenient on things up to and including mutiny within the military and military coups against the civilian government) as unavoidable. '[because] We're not a civilization anymore. We are a gang, and we're on the run and we have to fight to survive. We need to break rules, we have to bend laws, we have to improvise!'
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The Demon Research Initiative. The soldiers lacked military haircuts and proper uniforms, didn't use military ranks (instead using the title "agent"), and allowed a civilian to look around their secret operation. Justified, in that their cover as Perfectly Ordinary College Students explains the lack of uniforms and haircuts, they were ordered to show the Slayer (a potential ally) around only after she'd been interviewed by their commander, and using the term "agent" is perfectly reasonable for a secret government organization that probably isn't technically part of the military. The aforementioned person in charge isn't even a military officer herself in fact, but a scientist.
    • In the comics, Buffy treats the Slayer army as a real one, however as she was a shockingly bad instructor and Xander is the only one with any military knowledge they make do as amateurs.
  • Combat Hospital: Much like the M*A*S*H example above, actually military protocol in a day-to-day situation is treated relatively casually in the hospital. However the chains of command are still followed, and Colonel Marks on occasion will dress down officers for not following their responsibilities with regards to rank and uniform.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Averted with UNIT; commanded by the original Brigadier, military SOP were a large part of their character, and caused more than a little friction between the Doctor and the Brigadier.
    • Although in terms of diverse formations, roles and tactics, Doctor Who never really portrays this accurately. The amount of troops available to UNIT varies, they are all light infantry apart from the odd bazooka, and although they manage to get the hierarchy right in terms of order, a private is shown leading and ordering a small group of other privates in "The Poison Sky".
    • How military UNIT was seemed to get milder and milder as the '70s wore on and as their haircuts got longer and longer. Sergeant Benton's relationship to the Brigadier and Captain Yates seems far more familiar than their respective ranks would normally allow.
    • The Doctor is officially "scientific advisor" but he has rank on almost everybody. Granted, this is a justified because, regardless of what his position is on paper, basically everyone at UNIT knows he's a centuries-old time-traveling alien after a while (and by New Who, young recruits worship the ground he walks on because of it) and know he knows what's he doing or that he will just find some ridiculous protocol-breaching reason to take charge anyway. (From "Death in Heaven" onwards, he really does have rank on everyone since there's a protocol in times of planetary crisis to make him officially President of Earth, making him UNIT's Commander-in-Chief, whether he likes it or not.)
  • Fully inverted in I Dream of Jeannie, where NASA, a civilian scientific and exploratory organization is treated like a strict military organization. The astronaut characters are practically never seen out of uniform. While at the time of the series's debut in 1965, most NASA astronauts were drawn from either the Air Force, Navy or Marines (NASA picked its first civilian astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Elliot See, in 1962), NASA was not and is not run like a military or paramilitary organization in real life.
  • In Farscape, the Peacekeepers are extremely variable:
    • Peacekeeper grunts and lower ranking officers like lieutenants were usually very military (disciplined and in uniform.)
    • Captains like Bialar Crais fell somewhere in-between these extremes, with some captains adhering strictly to military protocols and others being much more like the Military Maverick (Larraq).
    • High-ranking Peacekeepers like Scorpius (whose rank wasn't given, but stated to outrank a captain) were given a lot of latitude as to how they conducted their duties. Commandant Grayza usually wore alluring outfits with lots of cleavage (though the actor playing Grayza stated that she interpreted this as being like a soldier whose fatigues are informally unbuttoned to show off their chest). The higher ranking a Peacekeeper was in the series, the more unorthodox their methods tended to be; they could even pursue their own pet projects, and were exempted from some of the totalitarian conditions that governed most troops' and officers' personal lives (like not being allowed to form emotional connections).
    • "Special Ops" Peacekeepers, like Larraq's Marauder squadron, were noted by Aeryn as being (superficially) less disciplined than run-of-the-mill PK soldiers, and they could be seen to modify their uniforms with furs, medals, and other trophies picked up from their missions in the Uncharted Territories.
    • They also made use of civilian research scientists and mercenaries, who could be Sebacean or other races, most of whom may have been some sort of indentured servants or slaves (like Linfer and Co-kura Strappa, and the Collartas from "Thanks for Sharing" and "Relativity"). Non-Sebacean mercenaries were sometimes apparently equals (the Coreeshi bounty hunters from "I Shrink Therefor I Am").
    • In addition to this, the depiction of the Peacekeepers varied in the show from episode to episode between a Nazi-esque military force and an overgrown mercenary force hired by different civilizations to keep order. It's also been implied that over time they've become less of a benevolent police force-for-hire and more of a Space Nazi Empire full of Scary Dogmatic Aliens.
  • Game of Thrones: Justified by the Night's Watch, a combination of a military monastic order and a gulag. Naturally, although fairly disciplined, it doesn't run quite the same as a normal army even at the best of times... and by the time the show takes place it's about as far from the best of times as possible, being drastically underfunded and undermanned, with so few willing volunteers they're conscripting the worst dregs of Westerosi society out of desperation.
  • Averted in JAG. For a staff corps office they take military protocol very seriously.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Giving civilian conscripts the rank of Army Captain on arrival will do that (most Army MDs hold the rank of Captain or higher, or did during the Korean War). Somewhat based on Real Life, as military units based around specialist support instead of combat tend to become the military equivalent of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer. Simply put, the military needs them more than they need the military, so trying to make them toe the line just isn't worth it.
      Hawkeye: I'm not an officer. Two guys from the draft board caught me with a big butterfly net.
    • Lampshaded during an episode when a Colonel who felt he'd been poorly treated (having to wait until critical cases were attended to before his minor wound was dressed) assigned an undercover operative to gather dirt on how Colonel Potter ran the unit without adhering to strict military protocol. When the man was found out and observed that "From a military standpoint, things are pretty loose around here," B.J. shot back, "From a human standpoint, they're pretty tight."
    • Potter, an old-time regular army officer with over thirty years' experience, knew this well enough and ran his command of civilian-minded conscripts intelligently rather than strictly according to the rulebook. This was something Major Frank Burns never understood, and which contributed to his mental breakdown.
      Freedman: Look, Colonel, they don't want to burn the whole camp, just carefully selected bits of it. Actually it's a pretty controlled response to this place. They might actually have found themselves that pressure valve you're looking for.
      Potter: (after a long pause, then to camp) All right, let me have your attention. I am reversing my previous order. You are hereby directed to assemble one regulation, bon-type fire!
    • The above being said, Hawkeye started to straighten up a little bit more when Potter came on board. As often as not, Blake's commands were ignored, and he was known to Hawkeye and Trapper as "Henry". Burns's orders were straight-up disobeyed the few times that he took command, and he was known to pretty much everyone as "Frank" if he was luckynote . On the other hand, Hawkeye tended to defer to Potter's orders more, and only on a handful of occasions (those being O.O.C. Is Serious Business or You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious occasions) did he address Potter by his first name rather than his rank. It was mostly because Potter was a very definite Reasonable Authority Figure at the camp, unlike Blake, whom Hawk and Trap looked upon as an equal, or Frank who was... well... Frank.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: Despite Fort Salem serving as a training ground for the US Army, with the witches themselves being conscripts who will be deployed into combat once their training finishes, there are very few trappings of military life present. The presentation is more as a Wizarding School with an emphasis on combat magic, as opposed to an actual army. One of the more obvious examples of this trope is that they frequently call each other by their first names.
  • NCIS. Compare/contrast with their real-life organization of the same name. Note, however, that NCIS is a civilian law enforcement agency, which manifests itself in the show- Tony is an ex-cop and Kate was Secret Service. One episode Lampshades this at the beginning with a sexual harassment lecturer pointing out that Gibbs's Dope Slaps, Abby's tackle hugs, and the frequent horseplay between Tony, McGee and Ziva are all absolutely against policy, and the rest of the episode is laced with jokes about how they really do not care. They probably get away with it because they're the best team NCIS has.
  • Space: Above and Beyond went up and down on this scale. In an early episode, the rookies are left alone when the officers have to suddenly leave, and none of them is designated as being in charge. This is ridiculous. In the real military, if as few as two soldiers are assigned to pick up trash, it will still be clear who is in charge.
  • Stargate Command and the Atlantis expedition are relatively restrained versions of this trope. Make no mistake, they are very Mildly Military; but this is lampshaded and explained on a semi-regular basis, as well as being a frequent bone of contention between the SGC and their Earth-based antagonists (who are occasionally depicted as having a point). For instance, General Ripper comments on his discomfort with an archaeologist and an alien being on a front-line Special Forces team, but the logic is that since they get the job done they can get away with it, and also the fact that their situation means that they have to play things by ear on a regular basis. Daniel's linguistic and cultural knowledge and Teal'c's first-hand experience are invaluable on a team that regularly makes First Contact. The Atlantis expedition, meanwhile, was actually intended as a bunch of civilian scientists with a military contingent, since no one had any idea about the Wraith. Thereafter, there are power struggles between the military and civilian wings of the mission (in the military case, mainly from generals who are still on Earth - Col. Sheppard, Atlantis's military commander, doesn't always do what its civilian leader Dr. Weir says, but he rarely does what anyone says, and after early friction, supports her unconditionally). However, the civilian contingent largely remains in charge, save for Colonel Carter's tenure as mission leader (and she's a scientist as well as an officer), for various reasons: mainly Doctor Weir's force of personality and hypercompetence, her popularity with both subordinates and residents of the Pegasus Galaxy, and the support of the now-General O'Neill. After that, it was because the civilian International Oversight Advisory wanted Woolsey, their own man, in command of Atlantis.
    • It was also noted behind the scenes in Season 2 of SG-1 when the then Air Force Chief of Staff was briefly appearing As Himself, Richard Dean Anderson asked if he'd ever encountered any colonels as bad about obeying orders as Jack O'Neill. The answer was, apparently, "Son, we've got colonels who're as bad, and worse." Reality Is Unrealistic, it seems.
  • Stargate Universe. Icarus Base was strictly a research base, and a pretty laid back one at that; they just happened to have a military contingent in place, as is standard. Nobody was counting on the bad guys shooting up their base, their planet blowing up, and then getting stranded some unGodly distance from Earth onboard a rickety ship that they can't fully control. Add in the fact that they have to fend off power takeovers from within and hostile takeovers from without and it becomes really clear why SMOP (Standard Military Operating Procedure) went out the airlock.
  • Star Trek:
    • Starfleet is both a military and an exploration and research organization, also acting as top-level law enforcement and the advance scouts and bodyguards of The Federation's diplomatic corps and intelligence network. It acts like a conglomeration of a Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines & Army, local & international intelligence and law enforcement agencies, diplomatic corps, the United Nations, space exploration, and a military & engineering industrial complex, as well as large-scale medical and research bureau. A captain may need to think like Colin Powell or like Jacques Cousteau—or all of these may apply at once. In general, Starfleet officers like to emphasize the exploration part of their job and only reluctantly embrace the martial aspect in times of war - and as an advance diplomatic corps, one of their roles is to try to avoid war breaking out in the first place. Gene Roddenberry suggested something like the civilian space program (if it were operated by the military.) Since he was in the Army Air Forces during World War II, it's very likely that some part of his experience had a part in shaping Star Trek. Nicholas Meyer proudly made military sci-fi, while J. J. Abrams has it stated verbatim in his film that "Starfleet is a peace-keeping military armada" and (per Scotty) "We're not a military agency!". Sometimes characters within the story will comment on Starfleet's ambiguous position. However, all in all, Captain Kirk says it best:
      Christopher: Must have taken quite a lot to build a ship like this.
      Kirk: There are only twelve like it in the fleet.
      Christopher: I see. Did the Navy—
      Kirk: We're a combined service, Captain.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise takes place just as Starfleet has developed a warp engine fast enough for significant travel and exploration. But because of the lack of experienced officers much of the crew resembles a military service less than it does in any other incarnation of the franchise, the ship being staffed by a number of former test pilots, aliens serving in exchange programs and civilian conscripts (the pilot, Ensign Mayweather, technically had more space travel experience than the senior staff due to growing up on a family freighter running supply lines). Cosmetically, though, the uniforms resemble real world flight suits and have mission patches. The MACOs (Military Assault Command Operations), however, are essentially the 22nd century answer to the Marine Corps. While taking a few liberties the MACOs observe military protocol, wear camouflage uniforms, use real-world small unit combat tactics and have a tighter chain of command discipline. In their debut episode, the MACO commander even points out why having The Main Characters Do Everything is a bad idea, insisting that his team handle a combat situation on a planet surface so that Starfleet security personnel are available if Enterprise gets boarded. The MACOs are added in Season 3 because the Enterprise is venturing into the dangerous territory of the Delphic Expanse to meet with a hostile force that attacked Earth, but remain part of the crew throughout the show afterwards.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gradually sheds the mildness of its crew as it becomes clear there is a cold war brewing between the Dominion and the Federation. Once the war goes hot the introduction of the Defiant, which is a legitimate warshipnote  and not an exploration & science vessel and bringing over Worf to command it sees the mildness dropped entirely. Pretty much verifying what fans had long figured: Starfleet wants to be primarily an exploration and science service, but it becomes a proper military when it has to, and is a powerful one.
    • This is not to say that some fairly silly things haven't happened, like a psychologist having to serve as acting pilot of Starfleet's flagship. Jokes immediately abounded about how, both times this happened, the ship crashed. (In Troi's defense, the second crash was intentional.)
  • In a second-season episode of Wonder Woman, Sergeant Diana Prince approaches a controlled area. The male lieutenant that's guarding it asks her if she's authorized to be there. During the exchange, a female captain (who has never met Diana Prince) yells at the lieutenant and accuses him of pulling rank. The lieutenant apologizes and lets both women go. The problem with this is that no one involved realizes that the lieutenant was doing his job and the female captain was pulling rank, violating security procedures in the process.
  • The Military Channel's Special Forces Untold Stories shows re-enactments of operations conducted by real special forces soldiers. These are supposed to be the best of the best, but whenever they're on screen, they look and act like they've never carried weapons and behave in ways that makes them look more like new recruits than special forces soldiers. For example, any time two or more of them are together, they clump together like Cheerios, creating an easy target. This is probably not only the actors' inexperience, but also because the director is trying to get them all into the camera's view.
  • The Outer Limits (1963) episode "The Invisible Enemy". The crew of the (clearly military) M2 expedition to Mars acts in a completely undisciplined manner, repeatedly violates their orders and, as a direct result, gets two members of the expedition killed. How General Winston could have considered them his top team for the job is beyond understanding.
  • In The Facts of Life, Jo's boyfriend Eddie is in the Navy, but other than wearing a uniform and talking about how he has to get back to the base, Eddie's appearance (long hair) and personality provide no evidence of him being in the Navy.
  • Terry Bellefleur and his fellow "Marines" in True Blood. They don't look or act like Marines. After his tour in Iraq, Terry is still a private, although this is never explained. In the flashback sequences, Terry appears to be about 40 years old, in need of a shave and haircut, and his whole team is just one big group of war criminals.
  • One Alas Smith and Jones sketch features a number of Nazi general stereotypes. One of them is the "easy going general who does not need to salute properly." At which point all the other generals makes a Nazi salute in perfect unison, with the last general waving his hand lazily and going "ja ja." He then goes on to noting that his uniform is different from the others.
  • Quincy, M.E.: In the "Holding Pattern" episode, a plane is hijacked with terrorists making demands with hostages on board. When the plane lands at LAX, it's found out that there's a deadly virus on board. Dr. Quincy's Naval Reserve status is reactivated and his mission is to find an antidote. He carries out his mission in civilian clothing.
  • The fourth season of Blackadder mostly averts this, with higher ranking officers being recognized as such, but a lot of the interaction between Blackadder (a captain), George (a lieutenant) and Baldrick (a private) is very casual. Given that they spend most of their time squatting in a trench waiting for something to happen, being 100% professional all the time would be exhausting. Writer Richard Curtis stated that this was Truth in Television, mirroring the clash of classes that occurred in World War I as men from all walks of life found a binding equality in the trenches.
  • Power Rangers S.P.D. features Space Patrol Delta, a military/police organization that primarily acts as law enforcement and fights off attacks on Earth. The Rangers are ranked as cadets, there's a distinct and rigid chain of command, and in at least once case, a cadet is demoted for conduct unbecoming of his rank. However, the Rangers are given a lot of leeway when it comes to personal shenanigans and quirks—which is good, because they have a lot of them. This might be explained thanks to the A-Squad disappearing early on, thus leaving the B-Squad guys the only Rangers around for a while (though they eventually have extra Rangers joinup; the A-Squad reappear too, having done a Face–Heel Turn).
    • Time Force from Power Rangers Time Force counts too. The only higher-up we see is Captain Logan and technically Alex and the team only consists of four actual Time Force members (Wes being recruited for lack of any other options). Jen, however, does tend to keep the team on their toes with training and whatnot. The Silver Guardians, where Eric the Quantum Ranger works, by contrast, appears to be much more disciplined; it's explictly shown he gets promoted after A: getting his Ranger powers and B: the original leader gets badly wounded.
  • The Orville: Being an homage of Star Trek, what we see of the Union fleet tends to be a little easy-going. A captain like Mercer (one on shaky ground too) gets away with starting a shouting match with an admiral. True, Lieutenant Malloy's career has stagnated, but drawing penises on "lots of things" has nothing to do with it. It's frankly a miracle he hasn't yet been drummed out of the service. Lieutenant LaMarr takes the cake, though, being extremely laid-back and even getting permission from Mercer to keep soda at his station. Then there's Yaphit getting away with constantly sexually harassing the doc, despite being a non-humanoid blob.

  • We Are Our Avatars: Saru is considered unfitting for a soldier due to taking in standard military protocol when she feels like it (read: rarely) and is often behaves like a teenager. However, when she's on a mission, she puts away those whimsical behaviors aside to do her duty efficiently.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: Many mercenary outfits fall into this trope, especially smaller ones. Units like the Gray Death Legion, Wolf's Dragoons, and the Northwind Highlanders are all noted for having fairly relaxed views on formality between the troops and the senior officers. Few of them have any issues with fraternization, either: Grayson Carlyle, the leader of the Gray Death Legion, dated and eventually married his second in command with no change in the unit's structure as a result.
    • Pirate bands, for obvious reasons, tend to be even straighter examples of this trope.
    • Largely averted, on the other hand, with the regular armies of the Great Houses, Periphery nations and other government forces. With some exceptions (noble-born military officers with connections and the like) these militaries are organized and behave as professionally as any real life army.
    • Also averted with the Clans, at least after taking their unique cultural mores into account. The Warrior Caste does exalt individual prowess over teamwork, and warriors can challenge their superiors' orders or even take their job. However they must do so within strict rules, conform to military discipline, and (in theory at least) prioritize the greater good of their Clan.
  • Traveller. The IISS is famous through the Imperium for its studied informality. Justified in that it is not a military organization as such (though it takes part in warfare) but an exploratory, intelligence, and scientific institution. Zig-zagged back in that the IISS maintains militaristic Space Swat Teams for various peculiar duties associated with their missions (say extracting an agent in danger, or recovering equipment that it would be inconvenient if the natives find it). We see the Imperium's other military forces (the Army and the Marines) are detailed in later supplements — their own degree of discipline ranges from "comparable to the best armies in the modern-day setting" on up to "the Wehrmacht called and said 'Dear God, tone it down'."
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Imperial Guard is infamous for using summary executions to ensure discipline, but commanders tend to offer more leeway to Sentinel pilots. These soldiers use their bipedal Mini-Mecha to scout for enemy positions and support the rest of the regiment, and are accustomed to acting on their own initiative and operating unsupervised. As such, Imperial commanders usually tolerate Sentinel squadrons advancing without orders and don't try to pin them down with a specific battle-plan. Sentinels who receive orders they don't like have a tendency to suffer mysterious vox failures that work just fine once inspected by the enginseers.
    • Imperial Guard often sees Planetary Defense Force units are this. Their lack of discipline, morale and combat ability can usually be attributed to lack of combat experience, training and communication equipment (and the fact that the Guard tithes the best of the planet's soldiers for use elsewhere in the galaxy).
    • Catachan soldiers are essentially all Ramboes IN SPACE! if they'd been cast in Predator, and are about as disciplined as you'd expect Vietnam-era Special Forces soldiers with giant muscles to be. Where Commissars have the "Look out, sir!" rule that lets a trooper Take The Bullet for him, Catachans had a special rule called "Oops, sorry sir!" where the Commissar attached to them doesn't even make it to the battlefield.
    • Orks have a barbarian culture functioning solely on the principle of Might Makes Right, so their units are explicitly called "mobs" held together by a Nob's gnarled green fist, and the only thing keeping a greenskin army fighting together (instead of fighting each other) is the promise of an enemy to fight. The sole exception are the so-called Stormboyz, Orks obsessed with unit discipline, marching around in goosestep, and Putting on the Reich with standardized uniforms. Other Orks consider them cultural deviants, but put up with the Stormboyz since they're the only ones crazy enough to strap homemade rokkits onto their backs as crude jet packs, and it's always a good laugh when one explodes mid-flight.
    • One of the signs of how far Chaos Space Marines have fallen is that they lack the discipline of loyalist Astartes, and are instead more concerned about their own ambitions and potential ascension to daemonhood than the good of the army as a whole. While loyalist Space Marines have the "And They Shall Know No Fear" special rule that means they always make a Tactical Withdrawal and regroup after falling back, Chaos Space Marines can be routed and driven from the battlefield.
    • The Craftworld Eldar's army consists of a core of Aspect Warriors obsessively dedicated to one facet of warfare, backed by Guardian units that are basically militia. They don't have a formal ranking structure as outsiders would understand, but with leaders like Autarchs and Farseers, who can command with the experience of centuries of combat or maintain a Psychic Link through the entire army, they're still one of the most dangerous forces in the galaxy.
    • Surprisingly averted in case of Dark Eldar, an Always Chaotic Evil race with heavy case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder for who making war is as much a sport and a distraction as it is a way of life. Their society is dependent upon slave labor and captured souls, so whenever they are on the raid in material universe, discipline in a unit is absolute, and whatever feuds the kabals have back home are completely shelved until they return to Commorragh and divvy up the spoils.
    • In a case of Early-Installment Weirdness, the Space Marines in 1st edition. The original Rogue Trader rulebook depicted them more as penal legions, drawing their recruits from convicts and sending them into battle high on combat drugs. Early artwork for the Space Marines drew inspiration from US conscripts in Vietnam; the Space Marines were commonly depicted with graffiti on their armour and weapons, often with misspellings such as "KIL KIL KIL".

    Video Games 
  • BattleTech: Can be played straight or averted depending on the choices you make during random events, but often the game pushes you toward playing it straight as responding to your teammates' various shenanigans with strict measures tends to hurt morale.
  • Manhunt, your third faction of hunters looking to kill you are the Wardogs. While they're the first gang you meet that will stay together, walk in patrols and just generally act smarter, it's stated that a decent portion of the members weren't in the military at all in the first place, something that the gang represents. In reality, many of the members are really just gun nuts and survivalists in green uniforms. Only a few members have actually had military experience at all. As Starkweather puts it when you're first introduced to them:
    Starkweather: Bunch of dickless, gun-ho losers.
  • The Badass Crew you gather in Super Robot Wars usually demonstrates this trope. In the second game of Original Generation, the XO of the Hagane gains a rival who repeatedly points out this behavior…, but said rival is a Neidermeyer with no respect for the lives of his soldiers or esteem for their opinions and input. He thinks this makes him a properly badass captain when it actually just makes him a regular ass. While he could argue that members of the SRX and ATX Teams are members of the military and ought to follow military protocol, those team members are essentially special forces who generally have more important concerns than minutiae.
  • Nintendo Wars until Days of Ruin was a major offender, fairly intentional. Some of the Commanding Officers are obviously too young or old to lead a real military force, and some of their outfits barely even qualify as uniforms. Then we have characters like Grit, a laid-back guy who openly mocks his superior, and Andy, who is easily distracted by a new wrench. And let's not get started on the English version of Jake
  • The special forces unit of Clive Barker's Jericho seems to have a vague chain of command and a few loose cannons, with Delgado in particular being such a discipline problem to hazardous degrees.
  • Valkyria Chronicles:
    • Discipline is remarkably light in Valkyria Chronicles, to the point where Captain Varrot (the party's CO) is able to basically call a general from the regular Army (and her own superior officer) a bad soldier to his face without much more in response than an angry "HEY!"
    • Particularly extreme in Valkyria Chronicles III. In all fairness, they are as close as it's managable in being Army of Thieves and Whores. Everyone has their own custom military uniform, to begin with. In fact, before Kurt is sent to The Nameless, they are about as bad as you would expect from an army with zero discipline. There is a justification to be found here: about the only thing that Galian high command expect of them is that they don't desert; The Nameless can die in droves for all they care.
  • Rainbow Six Vegas 2:
    • You disobey a direct (and sensible) order from your CO to get some rest and (probably) go AWOL along with your team and a helicopter pilot to Costa Rica for the last level to hunt down some terrorist dude. Rather than being disciplined for misappropriating equipment, going AWOL on an unauthorised mission you are offered a promotion to Deputy Director!
    • Another example occurs in the prologue. Gabriel Nowak disobeys an order to hold fire, and in doing so starts a firefight in a roomful of hostages that gets a negotiator killed. And yet, he wasn't kicked off the team for this; he simply doesn't get a leadership position. This affront was apparently enough for him to become the Big Bad and kill civilians in Vegas.
  • The Terran Confederation in the Wing Commander series wavers between "relaxed" and "a complete disgrace". Between the creators of the series having no military experience whatsoever and seven hundred years of history, they're lucky to remember salutes (however sloppily they are delivered at times).
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories has the game start off in a military base where the main character and a few important Non Player Characters are shown to be wearing their uniform improperly. And no one on the base ever seems to mind.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The Systems Alliance is fairly spit and polish, but the Normandy itself goes completely bunny ears after Shepard takes command. Shepard can get away with this because, as a Spectre, they're not answerable to the brass who would otherwise be their superiors, and one minor character who is critical of the Normandy's situation can actually be told off on these grounds. Shepard is also able to blow off the council in the first game because the politics are in their favor for awhile, but this changes as the series progresses.
    • Alternatively, there are many dialog choices to snap Shepard's subordinates into line; the trope is still followed because these are almost exclusively Renegade options, which carry an unfriendly connotation, as opposed to a professional one.
    • Lampshaded in Mass Effect 2; Shepard is no longer working for the Alliance or the Council, but Cerberus, a private organization which is Mildly Military by design. Characters repeatedly point out that Cerberus has looser regulations (including, specifically, no regs against fraternization), with a general attitude of 'anything goes as long as the job gets done.' By extension, the new Normandy is also Cerberus-built:
      Shepard: This is technically a civilian ship. I'm probably lucky you're still wearing pants.
    • In the third game, you can get away with this even more than in the first, right down to keeping an entire cabin full of fish and model ships (plus a hamster) while strolling around in jeans and, in the right circumstances, being romantically involved with your communications specialist or logistics officer. Mind you, given that you are pretty much indispensable at this point - half the galaxy respects you at least a bit, you've got at least one highly placed contact with every still-extant major galactic power except maybe the asari, the most connected information broker in colonized space is an old friend, the only other human Spectre (assuming they survive) is at minimum a personal friend, and both the head of the Alliance military and the leader of the Earth resistance will back you to the hilt - it's perhaps not surprising that you can get away with a few regulatory oddities. Then, in Citadel, the Normandy is briefly taken over by a clone who is much more draconian about regulations, to the point of leaving a note that your hamster should be disposed of at an animal shelter. Shepard is not amused.
    • Joker is a much more straightforward example; no military in reality would ever accept a recruit with a crippling disease.note  In the real world, old knee injuries that have ostensibly healed can be grounds for refusal. His backstory specifically excludes any Child Prodigy plot devices to excuse this with his skill: he's only the best pilot in the Alliance because he worked hard to become the best after joining up. Worse, one of the comics shows that he got his posting on the Normandy by stealing it out from under the original pilot's nose and proving he could run the test flight better, gaining the position through sheer audacity. In real life, a stunt like this would end very differently. Lucky for Joker, the CO of the Normandy at the time (who was also Shepard's mentor, showing where they get it from) also leans towards this trope, albeit to a smaller extent.
    • Ashley Williams has also been labelled this trope thanks to her redesign in the third game. Her previous appearances had tied-back hair and an armour design that everyone else uses. In Mass Effect 3 however, she has her hair down and uses a casual leather outfit with a skirt and heels that makes her look like she stepped off a Tenessee country music catwalk than a military vessel. And while her default "out in the field" outfit is the same armour design that Shepard wore in the second game, this can be enforced by deliberately switching to the leather one.
    • Shepard themselves can fall into this in Mass Effect 3 thanks to their casual outfit, which can include a leather jacket/dress, urban clothing that leaves the arms exposed, and even a hoodie. There is one cutscene in the game that switches Shepard to their dress blues for a military meeting, but it can feel very inappropriate at the end of the game when Admiral Hackett boards the ship and Shepard is saluting him in a hoodie.
    • Captain (later Admiral) Anderson is, for the most part, fairly spit-and-polish, but he is generally more relaxed with Shepard, his beloved protege, particularly by the third game.
      Shepard: Good to see you, sir.
      Anderson: "Sir?" I may have reinstated you, but that doesn't give you permission to get all formal on me.
      Shepard: Then I'm glad you managed to keep your ass alive, Anderson.
      Anderson: [chuckles] That's more like it.
  • Although they are frequently called an army, most sets of units the player assembles in Fire Emblem are just an atypically large Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. Most of the series justifes this, as these groups are rebellions (2, 2nd half of 4, 5, parts of 10), working for in-exile governments for most of the game (1/11, 8) mercenary companies (9 and parts of 10) or not actually an army, just a search team (early 4, 7), 3/12 and 6 don't have good reasons, but employ a greater percentage of professional solders/mercenaries compared to the civilian heavy "armies" of most games. In 13, the Shepherds begin as a band of royally sanctioned vigilantes, but then the actual army is utterly destroyed by a neighboring kingdom, seemingly promoting them to the country's official armed forces.
  • Final Fantasy VIII: For a Military Academy that produces the toughest and most elite soldiers in the world, Balamb Garden is remarkably light on the 'military' side. Dress code is tenuous, chain of command is borderline nonexistent, and the overall discipline of the members is less than you'd expect in stricter private grade schools. At one point, Zell only gets very brief reprimand for bringing a flying skateboard into Garden and riding it to a briefing just before departing on a mission. During the graduation mission, where you are evaluated on your performance, the rubric has some very odd criteria; ignoring orders or talking when you shouldn't is a 1 point deduction, while not saving a random dog you meet during the mission costs you 10 points. And since it's a game, there is plenty of leeway for horsing around and playing card games while on duty.
  • SOLDIER in Crisis Core seems to work like this. Sure, sometimes they act like one would expect a military to act (all the "Sir! Yes, sir!"s when Zack is giving his speech to the new Thirds, for instance) but most of the time they're hanging out on the SOLDIER Floor talking about girls, company gossip, or whatever else happens to come up. Considering the simplicity of the chain of command (there are only three ranks, despite what some fanfiction might assume), the probable youth of most of the members, and that one SOLDIER is almost an army by himself, this is somewhat understandable.
  • The Terran armies in Starcraft, both games. Then again, given that most of the line troops consist of repurposed criminals, this is hardly surprising.
  • Transcendence's Commonwealth has a case of this. The Militia will promote you to Captain after your first successful mission, Major after your second, and Colonel after your third. You can complete all of these missions in the space of a few in-universe days. The fleet is a little stingier, but it's still possible to go from nobody to Fleet Commander in about a week.
  • Skies of Arcadia's Valuan Empire seems to avert this trope for the various mooks seen around. However the higher up the chain of the command you go the less militaristic it becomes. Seems that the Admirals are hand picked for their individual talents (or political connections) and once given command are free to do pretty much what they want to get the job done. Ramirez for example is Galcian's Vice-Captain at the start, dispite having no background in any military or sailing organizations, and then later given admiralship and command of his own fleet. The Nintendo GameCube version provides backstory that show Ramirez did rise through the ranks, starting off as a regular Valuan soldier and advancing rapidly due to his abilities.
  • When building a militia in Dwarf Fortress, you will discover that your attempts at having a nice, orderly militia will be foiled by your dwarves. Instead, you will most likely get a mob of dwarves randomly attacking all goblins in sight, sometimes not even with all of their armor or weapons. Other than that, dwarves tend to have an orderly military.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown:
  • There's some question as to how professional your unit is going to be in the various MechWarrior games. There isn't a lot of character per se until around the time of Mechwarrior 3. Before then, you played a member of the extremely martial Clans for much of Mechwarrior 2, and the Inner Sphere based 1 and 2: Mercenaries had very little interaction with the chain of command, though your lancemates in 2: Mercs varied from military professionals to mouthy psychos—at least they'd obey orders. Come 3, however, and you get your Deadpan Snarker lancemates getting mouthy with Mission Control, and not an awful lot of professional behavior out of people who are ostensibly professional soldiers on a commando operation of significant importance. This trend increases as the series goes on through Mechwarrior 4, 4: Black Knight, and ultimately 4: Mercenaries, where your character has a callsign, a personality, and a tendency to make cracks at everyone, including the people trying to kill him and the people who cut his checks. No, your lancemates don't get any less sarcastic and individualistic as time goes on, either. In the Tournament Play for the games, every unit had their own internal rules, but the trend is that units favoring the Clans adopted a more rigid Fantastic Rank System based on the system the Clans use in the boardgame, with players gaining rank by completing a Trial Of Position against their clanmates, while Inner Sphere units are more egalitarian, such as the Knights of the Inner Sphere and 12th Vegan Rangers of Living Legends having no real leadership outside of one person to handle the paperwork for matches and a volunteer lance leader in each match.
  • Ace Online makes it clear that the mercenary unit Free S.K.A. is said to have "more personal issues", but is just as good as regular Bygeniou army. The instant giveaway is however Operator Gina herself; no army employs their personnel with midriff-baring uniform with fishnets!
  • Tabula Rasa was set with player characters as soldiers in a futuristic military/militia organisation. Being an MMORPG, none of the officers minded their Receptive subordinates faffing about rather than following their orders.
  • PlanetSide:
    • The game is about a Forever War between three opposing factions, each composed of thousands of players. Some players can attain high command ranks, which in theory should give them some sway over players, but when someone starts barking orders over the command channel, they are usually promptly ignored. Mildly amusing when two commanders start broadcasting opposing orders (Defend so-and-so! Fall back from so-and-so!) then start yelling at each other in global chat.
    • There's also extremely lax uniform standards across the board, particularly in the New Conglomerate. As long as you wear something vaguely resembling your faction's colors (which includes the dreaded pink camouflage patterns) you're good to go.
    • Certain outfits are built entirely around this concept. They have extremely open recruitment standards, and the only thing they really do as far as tactics is drop markers and hop onto the platoon voice chat and order everyone to attack or defend, hoping to defeat the enemy by swarming them with raw numbers.
  • In zOMG!, the Barton soldiers wear armor and keep players from going from Barton Town to areas they're not strong enough to survive in, but that's about it. They seem perfectly fine with giving civilians magic rings and letting them run around fighting animated objects. There's no indication of them even trying to go into surrounding areas and fight back against the Animated or protect civilians, at least one is shown wearing a penguin suit over his armor, and others ask players to do various fetch quests like getting their lunches. Given what an utterly insane world this all takes place in, this is all perfectly in-character.
  • KanColle: While it is ambiguous as to how military your unit is meant to be, the fact is that there is no standard uniform and many of the ship girls make backtalk or even flirt with the admiral and generally act undisciplined or unprofessional. Some of the lines imply the admiral returns the favour or outright initiates conduct unbecoming. The official RPG goes a step further by never mentioning any links between the player's organization and the Japanese government or military.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel:
    • While the game primarily takes place in a military academy, from the level of discipline showed by the typical student, you'd think that Thors was actually a high-end civilian high school whose faculty coincidentally happened to be almost entirely ex-military. There is no mention of PT, drills, or training exercises beyond duels supervised by the combat instructor. The behavior of much of Class I (the children of the nobility) is grounds for a disciplinary hearing for conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, which never happens, despite the most egregious instance happening in front of a teacher after they skip their own lessons to barge their way into hers so they can pick a fight with Class VII (the playable characters). It's even mentioned that only 40% of graduates actually go into a military career (despite the fact that producing junior officers is the purpose of a military academy), and a good chunk of them go into the provincial armies rather than the national army.
    • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III takes place at the Thors Branch Campus and training exercises are part of the curriculum there. This is even lampshaded in the game.
      Rean: Then on top of that, training exercises were added to their curriculum. We didn't have anything like that at the main campus. Thors' branch campus... I think I'm starting to understand what the government's trying to do here.
    • Despite the emphasis that the branch campus is more militaristic than the main campus was when Rean attended, the attitude of the students still doesn't seem appropriate for a military school. During Panzer Soldat training in Chapter 1, Ash steals the Hector Instructor Randolph was piloting, and challenges Rean to a one-on-one fight. He does this by attacking Rean unprovoked, forcing Rean to fight back. Despite this, the most he gets is a warning for his behavior. Then there's the field study in Sutherland, in which Rean orders the new Class VII to stay behind at camp while he deals with orders he was given by the imperial government. He orders them to stay behind because they are too inexperienced to help him out. With the help of Ash, the new Class VII leaves the camp, and also takes one of the Soldats with them to help out Rean. When Rean's scolding the new Class VII for their actions, he even tells them that if they were real soldiers, their actions would've gotten them court-martialed. However, Rean's old classmates point out how they used to defy orders all the time, making him look like a hypocrite. This doesn't change the fact that they did defy orders and stole expensive military equipment, making it more a case of Hypocrite Has a Point on Rean's part.
  • The Kyrati Royal Army in Far Cry 4 resemble a rag-tag band of Kalashnikov-wielding thugs than an actual army, which they essentially are. In-game dialog indicates that most soldiers joined up for money and to provide for their families. Since Kyrat has no real infrastructure, they receive no real training or uniforms, with some soldiers wearing civilian clothes, and the ones who do wear uniforms look sloppy and disorganized at the best of times. As you progress in the story, many soldiers desert.
  • The Freedom faction of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. are basically heavily-armed anarchists. They have no real rank structure and very few rules, so members casually refer to each other in a friendly manner and do whatever they feel like doing (or what they're good at). Alcohol and marijuana consumption is also common. However they're still a highly capable paramilitary force and able to give their main rival Duty a run for their money (Duty are by contrast very militaristic and professional - in fact most of them are ex-soldiers).
  • The Kataris 26 in Ghost Recon Wildlands generally go into battle wearing brightly colored clothing consisting of an open shirt, baggy pants, a knit cap with ear flaps, pom-poms and tassels, which makes it look like your back-up consists of a group of militant co-ed campus stoners. The group's second in command dresses like Mr. Rogers. Only Pac Katari, their leader, dresses in a combat uniform.
  • In Exit Fate, your officers don't adhere to any kind of uniform or armament standard, preferring to wear whatever they're comfortable with (suits, pimped-out dresses, ceremonial robes, lab coats, longcoats, bikini tops, the actual uniform of the enemy...) and stick with their preferred weapon of choice. This is because they are unusually gifted individuals rather than rank-and-file troops, and would probably not have joined were it not for the unusual charisma of the protagonist. The actual soldiers wear proper uniforms.
  • This is discussed with the Guardians in Destiny.
    • Being a collection of... colorful personalities brought back from the dead from a wide range of locations and environments whose sole unifying trait is their ability to kill huge numbers of enemies, and made up of a mixture of conventional if punch-happy Titans, Mad Scientist Warlocks, and free-spirited, authority-defying Hunters, it's difficult to keep them organized into a real military force. Instead they operate like a loosely allied collection of Knight Errant warriors who roam the system and fight the enemies of humanity.
    • The Vanguard, the leadership of the Guardians, chose instead to "organize" the Guardians around various incentives to make them want to carry out their missions, mostly in form of loot, glory, and challenge. instead of conventional training, Guardians are put through the Crucible, a live-fire Blood Sport competition where they fight and kill each other endlessly to hone their skills. Instead of organizing conventional military offensives, the Vanguard fight with targeted guerilla attacks and "strike" missions that go after enemy high value targets, which results in the enemy being too disorganized and weak to threaten humanity.
    • Despite their Reality Warper powers of the light, the Vanguard learned several times that when they decide to go on the offensive as a large army it tends to end in disaster. Just before the timeline of the games they got cocky and thought they could root out the Hive on Luna, but only resulted in many guardians dying a final death. This is what inspired the three man fireteam and six man raid teams, they work best in small groups that watch out for each other and allow for more improvised efforts while massive numbers leads to overconfidence (and serves as Gameplay and Story Integration).
    • The Vanguard's leadership consists of three Guardians, one representing each class. The Hunter Vanguard, who never wanted the position and only got it after losing a bet, died a few years ago after slipping out alone on an unsanctioned field mission. He has yet to be replaced, initially because every eligible Hunter immediately found a reason to be as far from headquarters as possible to avoid being selected.
    • The Guardians' Mildly Military nature is directly contrasted with the vastly more militarized and organized Cabal, who occupy vast swathes of territory and build massive fortresses and have intensely disciplined and ordered troops... but who are unable to cope with the sheer mobility, Resurrective Immortality, destructive firepower, and unconventional tactics of the Guardians, not to mention the even more esoteric and strange threats of enemies like the Hive and the Vex. As a result, while the Cabal are able to gain temporary superiority, they eventually always end up being mired in something akin to an endless Vietnam War-style slog on Mars, on board the massive Hive Dreadnaught, and later on when they attack Earth.
  • Blackwatch from [PROTOTYPE] have no ranks or protocol, belittle and mock their officers, and deliberately use improper radio terminology ("kill confirmed, over aaaand oouuuuut."). The sequel exaggerates it for laughs, Blackwatch goons can do pretty much whatever they want as long as they shoot anybody who looks at them funny.
  • The Grey Wardens of Dragon Age have an extremely loose rank structure and don't appear to have any real ceremonial customs or courtesies the way the national militaries in the setting do. This is justified for a few reasons: they are a small, disparate, and decentralized forcenote ; a non-trivial number of their recruits come from criminals, runaways or apostate mages; they owe allegiance only to themselves, and hence operate more like a small mercenary company than a military; and they have a such a single-minded purpose (defeating Blights and destroying darkspawn) that furthering that goal trumps any other concerns a million times over.
  • Soldiers from the European Continental Alliance in the Command & Conquer: Generals mod Rise of the Reds give that impression. Then again they're civilians conscripted and trained in a hurry and given high tech equipment to compensate for lack of training. It shows in their efficiency on the field: they are always starting at a disadvantage, but their high tech make them a defensive powerhouse and if they are allowed to dig in and boom, an ECA army snowballs out of control very quickly as their SuperweaponSurprise enters the field.
  • In Borderlands, the corporate armies are generally varying examples of this. Some are more disciplined than others, but they are all ultimately driven by the money and power of their corporate masters rather than real military discipline.
    • The Dahl corporation prides itself on being highly militarized and emphasizing their weapons and products as being ideal for professional military use, and their corporate troops are extremely disciplined and dedicated - so much so that they're willing to keep fighting for a cause for years on end. This is unfortunate, because while the soldiers of Dahl are very disciplined, Dahl's corporate leadership are a bunch of Dirty Cowards. The moment their colony on Pandora became a liability due to the Crackening, they turned tail and abandoned the planet, leaving countless civilians, prisoners, and soldiers to fend for themselves on one of the harshest Death Worlds in the galaxy.
    • The army of Atlas, the Crimson Lance, is well-trained and highly disciplined as well, but because of an absurd level of incompetence and nepotism at the top levels of Atlas, they are completely hamstrung and their soldiers turned into more brutal and undisciplined thugs. It got to the point that a CEO named his three-year-old son a Crimson Lance admiral, and General Knoxx was nearly Driven to Suicide by having to deal with it all.
    • Hyperion's army is a mixed bag. On the one hand, their troops are elite and well-equipped, but they have very few flesh-and-blood soldiers. The majority of Hyperion troops are actually unstable AI-driven Loader robots or civilian engineers. The Hyperion army depends heavily on its ability to throw hordes of fanatical engineers and Mecha-Mooks at their enemies.
    • The Vladof corporation has a very large and well-equipped army, but according to Moze's bio, they like to screw over their soldiers with bizarre contracts and commanders who change the terms of their contracts on a whim, and then chuck their troops into battles where they have no idea what's going to happen.
    • Maliwan's army is effectively just a horde of brutal thugs who are little better than bandits, including psychopaths who compete over who can be the most evil. Their main claim to effectiveness is the sheer tech advantage they have, with highly-advanced weapons, armor, and transportation equipment.
    • The Torgue corporation doesn't even have an army. They throw guns to their workers - who themselves are little more than bandits - and watch the ensuing carnage as half their workforce kills itself.
    • The Jakobs corporation has the advantage of not having an actual army, just a Ragtag Band of Misfits made up of various mercenaries, smugglers, and particularly skilled Jakobs employees. While this makes it impossible for them to wage a true war, they don't actually have a problem with that, and when they get conquered by a cult their disorganized nature makes them a great guerrilla resistance.
  • The Republican forces in COD 2 Spanish Civil War Mod include several militia forces attached to various political groups which wear different types of civilian clothing, from farmer garb to factory overalls. The only thing distinguishing them as armed combatants are various badges and insignia — and their guns.
  • In The Sims series, Military is one of the careers a Sim can be in; it functions exactly like all the other ones and not very much like a realistic military. Any Sim can join without regard to traits or body shape, they still live at home and carpool/drive every day rather than moving to a base, they won't suffer any more penalties than any other Sim for missing a day's work (though skipping work too many times will get any Sim fired, missing it once will just get you a nagging phone call, rather than someone throwing you in the brig for going AWOL), and they can quit whenever they like. They can also get up to shenanigans like replacing the recruits' rifles with baguettes.
  • Scarlet Nexus: The Squad that follows each of the dual protagonists Yuito and Kasane are members of the OSF, Others Suppression Force, as an arm of a totalitarian New Himuka ostensibly existing to use Psychic Powers to defend the populace against monsters. At first each protagonist addresses their comrades properly with rank, but get told that just their first name is fine. Each character has a Non-Uniform Uniform (including a few cases of Custom Uniform of Sexy), as well as there being lieutenants having a major (Kyoka) following them around and obeying their commands during gameplay.
  • Horizon Forbidden West: Played with in regards to the Tenakth. By any modern standards, their salutes are sloppy, their adherence to protocol inconsistent at best, and their uniform policy horrifyingly lax. But since they based their culture on holograms in an Old World military museum, they are the most regimented, most competent, and most dangerous military in the world. Despite being little more than a hunter-gatherer society, they were able to beat back their far larger and more prosperous neighbors. Unlike the "civilized" Carja (where ranks tend to be based on who your family knows and the priests have too much of a say in military matters), the Tenakth have a strict chain of command, strong traditions of duty and loyalty, and promote based on merit. The Tenakth were the only tribe to explicitly defeat the Carja during the Red Raids, to the point that there was a serious chance of the Tenakth sacking the Carja capital.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Sunrider may be a military assault carrier, but her crew's discipline is rather lax, to the frustration of her XO Ava Crescentia. Justified in that, apart from Lieutenant Kryska Stares, none of your Ryder pilots are actual soldiers: Asaga is an idealistic mercenary and self-styled "Hero of Justice" who also happens to be a runaway princess, Chigara is a mechanical genius who was running a hybrid space dock-and-bakery when you first meet her, Icari is a bounty hunter and underworld assassin, Claude is an unlicensed quack who cons her way onto the ship by pretending to have legitimate medical credentials, and Sola is a warrior-princess from two thousand years ago. The Sunrider was also understaffed and without any Ryders when it fled Cera, forcing Captain Kayto Shields to accept anyone who could fill the missing positions in his crew.
  • Galaxy Angel: Most of the Elsior's crew, barring the commanders, is composed of civilians. Partially justified because the Elsior was originally a ceremonial ship, forced into active military duty due to Eonia's coup d'etat, and because they're the only ones who know how to operate the Lost Technology the ship is made of.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner has several, all of whom have tables at the Strong Badia Vaguely Military Career Fair.
    • The Homestarmy, whose soldiers include a painting, Strong Sad, Homsar, and a popcorn popper (deceased).
    • The On-Point Kings, who are Shady Mercenaries, not Strong Bad and his friends in fake mustaches.
    • The Municipality, the King's private police force, which is The Poopsmith in riot gear.
    • There's also the G.I. Joe parody, the Cheat Commandos, which take everything about Joe and crank it up to 40.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Adeptus Custodes have been reduced to this after ten thousand years stuck in the Imperial Palace, guarding the Emperor's inert form. Their upper ranks have "redefined" their wargear into Stripperific outfits, they refer to their Captain-General as "Little Kitten," and they spend their free time building muscle mass, oiling their muscles, and enjoying "talent shows." But despite being the very definition of Macho Camp, the "Fabulous Custodes" are still the best soldiers in the Imperium, they're just far from professional about it.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • The Blood Gulch crew is almost completely incompetent in every aspect, and apart from Sarge, no one really cares about the so-called "war" between the two sides. On the Red Team, Grif sometimes outright refuses orders from Sarge, while Blue Team has no commanding officer at all, they're all privates. This is justified, though - Reconstruction reveals that the Reds and Blues are made up of expendable washouts for use as Cannon Fodder in Project Freelancer's live-fire simulations. And outside of Blood Gulch, the other Red and Blue teams take their jobs more seriously, to the point that the Blood Gulch crew's usual antics saw Caboose put in the brig and Grif and Simmons facing a firing squad.
    • Even the Freelancers, the results of an experimental and elite military program, are fairly lax about things, and are mostly left to do what they like how they like it. They still get orders (such as Wash's orders from Recovery Command), but they aren't really checked up on all that often, which shows very poor judgment on Command's part, considering the trouble they all get up to. Even in the group's glory days, as seen in The Project Freelancer Saga, the presence of a leader board in the project meant that the Freelancers spent more time acting like competing individuals instead of a proper squad, which is part of the reason why the group fell apart.
  • RWBY: The Kingdom of Atlas is the only kingdom with a standing army. All four kingdoms rely on their Huntsman for protection from the Creatures of Grimm who are trained in Huntsman Academies to maximise their Aura, Semblances and combat skills in a way ordinary people and even soldiers are not. They are encouraged to express individuality and diversity while possessing no loyalty to any kingdom or hierarchy in order to put the needs of the people first. Atlas' controversial decision to merge its Huntsman Academy with its military provides it with super-soldier "Special Operatives" that prioritise their hierarchy over protecting the people. The Special Operatives stand out from the uniform rank-and-file soldiers and officers by personalising their uniforms and appearances as a nod to their Huntsman origins, although this individualism is more muted than is seen with proper Huntsmen.

  • Air Force Blues: The comic takes place in a more-or-less realistic Air Force, but the characters are totally absurd, if inexplicably competent. Leia's uniform violations would never fly in the real Air Force, and Barbie's manner of speaking to those above and below him in rank is unprofessional, to say the least.
  • The standards for military discipline seem to have dropped compared to present time in Stand Still, Stay Silent. The uniforms are quite stylish, a large diversity of hair (including facial hair) styles seem to be acceptable and officers are quite friendly. The Norwegian army can be best described as having gone "full viking" and a Danish admiral doesn't mind an exploration mission used for a cover for illegal looting of ancient books leaving from his base. This gets reinforced for the main cast once they leave, as anyone outranking their Book Dumb Blood Knight of a captain is very, very far away and they eventually get joined by a civilian who only really needs to follow the rules that prevent him from getting sick or killed.
  • Freefall: When the events of the "Gardener in the Dark" arc are reaching a climax, Florence politely asks for the number of the planetary militia. She is informed that he is currently on vacation, and won't be back until after the weekend. Of course, it's a colony world in a universe that averts Casual Interstellar Travel, so any real military is unnecessary.
  • TerSA in Galaxion is Mildly Military, but the eponymous ship's crew takes it up a notch with their mama captain Fusella Miertier. They're really one big family.
  • Grrl Power:
    • Played with. Arc-SWAT is a military organization, and members are given ranks and expected to act appropriately befitting those ranks. They're even given basic training including firearms, despite the fact that most of them are more lethal than the average tank. That being said, supers are incredibly rare, and know that almost all of them could be making obscene salaries in the private sector instead, so discipline standards must be set accordingly. It seems like ninety percent of them spend half their time in remedial PR courses. On the plus side, dress code is relaxed.
      Varia: [regarding a feather in her hair] If anyone asks, it's for religious reasons.
      Sydney: Maxima has gold skin and Harem is wearing purple lipstick. I think you're okay.
    • Maxima, the commanding officer, spends a lot of time snapping at her subordinates for their lax behavior, but in the end she doesn't come down on them too hard. The Rant mentions that she gets ribbed a bit for this at the big DOD dinners, but as long as her people get results, she doesn't care too much.
  • Played with in Lighter Than Heir. The majority of the military does run on fairly tight discipline. The squad of the protagonists...not so much. The military brass doesn't seem overly concerned, because they are more focused on the possibility of the war re-starting.
  • Terminal Lance: Downplayed. When the strip isn't going off in some wildly unrealistic fantasy arc (e.g. "Revenge of the Dependapotomus"), it's simply a vehicle for relating what Marines think and feel during the—often ridiculous, but very real—events of military life.
  • Then there's the webcomic Gone with the Blastwave. The leadership of the main characters' army is so lax they hand out promotions based solely upon killcount, and soldiers can cheerfully wander off, get lost, desert, or make coffee on a funeral pyre with no comeuppance. As one character put it: "Why haven't we lost this war yet?"

    Western Animation 
  • In G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, the case could be made that every single member is violating the regulation of the standard battle dress uniform. But another case could be made, that every member is participating in an elite special forces team, and are therefore exerting special forces privileges to express visible distinctions in uniform and hairstyle. Because those unshaved beards have to be earned.
    • Side material and some backstory explains that for the most part the Joes throw out nearly all military protocol upon joining because it's such a mixed unit and fighting Cobra and looking like big heroes to the country is the priority, not showing off military discipline though there are limits to what they can get away with. They also throw away all previous rank and privleges from their earlier positions in favor of the Joe command structure of General Hawk, then Duke then Flint then whoever they put in charge regardless of what their actual ranks are (Duke is only a Sergent and is technically outranked by half the Joes but he's still the boss unless Hawk is around). Ace (an Air Force Captain) for example wasn't exactly thrilled to find out he wasn't getting his usual officer salutes and perks though he changed his tune when he saw the hi tech planes he'd get to fly.
  • Spitfire from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic acts the part, but her tendency to allow her recruits to talk back to her in public, her encouragement of Sociopathic Soldier behavior, somewhat loose loyalty to her squadmates, questionable leadership abilities, and her thinking it was in any way okay or a good idea to grab Scootaloo by the neck/shoulders and shake the kid while screaming in her face reflects very poorly on her as an officer. It's justified a little by both the common reasons; her squad is both a special forces division and straddles the line of military/civilian, and Rainbow Dash has delivered a couple of What the Hell, Hero? speeches to her about these tendencies.
  • On Silverhawks, most of the main cast has military ranks but this appears to have little bearing on their roles on the team. The highest actual rank is held by their pilot (Colonel) Bluegrass. But he clearly reports to Commander Stargazer and (Lieutenant) Quicksilver. Nobody really bothers with uniforms or most protocol.
  • Nigh-universal in Transformers series.
    • The Autobots we see are almost always a military contingent... and always act like they're just guys on vacation. Justified in that Autobots and Decepticons aren't so much an army as an ethnicity. The Autobots had to militarize their entire culture out of necessity, but that militarization doesn't necessarily run very deep. As for the 'Cons, they've always operated more like an oversized street gang than a proper army. Particularly notable with the obligatory Bumblebee, who generally acts like a Tagalong Kid on a military mission who somehow managed to get a formal rank instead of being shooed away or receiving proper training. Even when there is proper training, he will act like he just got out of elementary school and doesn't feel like doing his homework today. As bad as the Autobots can be, they still aren't the Decepticons. When an inclination to disobey orders is considered a valuable trait for your second in command, discipline is going to suffer.
    • In Transformers: Prime, the Autobots on Earth are a close-knit group who acknowledge Optimus Prime as their leader but don't bother to stand on ceremony; he's A Father to His Men and treats them as equal allies rather than subordinates, it helps that the 'Bots have so much respect for him. Plus, they've been together longer than humans have existed; Arcee even calls them a "family" when asked if Bumblebee was her friend. When Ultra Magnus arrives, his hardass attitude clashes notably with the rest of Team Prime, particularly Wheeljack. He starts to recognize that any semblence of military discipline has fallen away because so much of their forces are scattered across the universe, and Optimus tells him their familiar relationship makes them stronger than a conscipted army.
    • Also justified in Transformers: Animated, where Optimus's crew are not, in fact, military. Prime is a military academy washout, Ratchet is a semi-retired medic, Prowl actively avoids military service for philosophical reasons, and Bumblebee and Bulkhead are just low-lever slacker drones. The military Autobots that show up later are more professional, if still not that firm in discipline, but they tend to be the Autobot equivalent of Special Forces (see Real Life below).
  • Villainous example: the Horde from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power contrasts the Rebellion by being a trained, organized army, but it's run in such a slapdash fashion that when one Force Captain, specifically Scorpia, just up and leaves in the fourth season, it takes the Horde leadership several days to actually notice, including multiple days when she was actually supposed to be working.
  • This trope and its relation to the Star Trek franchise is discussed in a couple of Star Trek: Lower Decks episodes:
    • In "Reflections", a group of scientists mock Starfleet, asking why they wear a uniform and get into armed conflicts like a pseudo-navy. Boimler, as part of his "The Reason You Suck" Speech, says that Starfleet doesn't want to be the last line of defense against armed aggressors, but they do it for the greater good.
    • The trope is Deconstructed come "The Inner Fight", which reveals that Mariner went into the Dominion War almost fresh out of the Academy having expected to be largely an explorer, and worse before she could fully recover from losing an Academy friend, Sito Jaxa, to a covert mission, leaving her unprepared for being surrounded by death and destruction. This is actually the reason for her self-destructive behavior—after going through that, she can't bear the thought of giving a friend an order that'll lead to their death.

    Real Life 
  • An awful lot of special ops units can look like this to the casual observer - generally because anyone who can pass selection is self disciplined and motivated enough that they don't need to be ragged about by spit-and-polish NCOs. The key here is that special forces, by definition, don't operate en masse, so they have their own rules that are more relevant to their unique situation.
    • They also, due to their role, don't adhere to the same hygiene disciplines that other soldiers need to adhere to. They are often behind enemy lines, or far ahead of regular units, so asking them to bathe and shave on a regular basis would be dumb. That's why there are so many photos out there of special forces operatives with scruffy hair and beards somewhere between "lumberjack" and "ZZ Top." Special forces also often need to blend in with the local populace, and in most Muslim-majority countries (where special forces tend to have been deployed in the early 21st century), that usually means beards.
    • In addition, in high tier spec ops groups like the Delta Force and DEVGRU, the members are made of mid to high rank NCO themselves (you need to already be an experienced soldier to even be considered for such units), making discipline even more unnecessary.
    • A documentary crew visiting the Canadian Special Operations Regiment were surprised when a corporal stated matter-of-factly that members of the unit normally operated on a first name basis from the lowest-ranked enlisted member to the lieutenant-colonel commanding it except in ceremonial or formal occasions.
  • The United States Air Force is often considered "military-lite" by the other branches, but this is neither new nor unique to the United States. Rather it seems to be endemic to air forces in general. Winston Churchill once referred to RAF airmen as "uniformed civilians" during the Second World War. There are several reasons for this: the physical requirements and level of danger are generally lower (especially in the 21st century). Actual fighting is overwhelmingly done by a comparatively small number of officers, with most enlisted personnel regulated to maintenance and support. Air forces must operate out of airbases, ensuring a minimal level of creature comforts for personnel stationed there (you're probably not going to have to sleep in a ditch). Everyone tends to have a specific task to perform, leaving fewer occasions where giving orders is necessary. The chance that these tasks will have to be performed under direct fire is also extremely low. The result of all this being the emphasis on discipline and subordination to superiors is considerably relaxed. However this is all by comparison to other branches. For actual civilians, life in the air force will still seem highly regimented.
    • On a similar note, non combat-arms jobs like Cooks and Administrators in any military are more lax in their training and operations than those whose jobs are meant to stack bodies. Again though, their life is still highly regimented compared to a civilian working the same job in a non military field, due to the need to adhere to strict regulations. Still, those transfering from the combat arms will experience a culture shock for how much less stress there is.
  • A number of auxiliary units have a history of just being civilian amateurs doing a job when their expertise is needed by the military and then being given uniforms and being put into the command structure e.g.
    • The NOAA Corps has its roots in the Corps of Discovery with Lewis and Clark. It was made into a uniformed service during WWI due to the need for coastal surveyors. If captured, they would be classified as prisoners of war and couldn't be tried for espionage. However the service is not military and maybe the closest to Starfleet. Their purpose is currently to support NOAA's efforts. These are the guys who fly airplanes into hurricanes to take measurements for the National Weather Service.
    • The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is a uniformed service for the same reason (PHS Officers serving in war zones will receive POW status and protections if captured).
    • The US Air Force's Auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol, is made up entirely of volunteers, many of whom use their own aircraft to support search and rescue, disaster relief, Air Force training exercises, etc. And although it is a auxiliary of the Air Force, it technically is only such when the aircraft is being used on a Air Force mission, otherwise it is a private, non-profit corporation.
    • The Military Auxiliary Radio System, an all-volunteer group of amateur radio operators.
    • Skippy of Skippy's List (according to his about page) was in PSYOPS, mostly as an illustrator. Basically, he drew propaganda posters for the Army (in post-war Bosnia, apparently). So yeah, more or less Mildly Military. He was an Airborne Illustrator. He couldn't tell you why the Army felt they needed an illustrator to be airborne qualified though.
  • The United States Lighthouse Board (1852-1910) was like this as well. It consisted of uniformed Army and Navy officers who oversaw lighthouses, but of course their expertise was primarily technical and logistical. The postings were often relatively comfortable, with each officer having his own house at the post, and allowed to have his family live with him (to ward off insanity).
  • During WWII, the Army Air Force created the First Motion Picture Unit for the purpose of creating training and propaganda films. Most members of the unit were civilians specifically recruited for their background in the film industry, and thus many were above normal military recruiting age or were otherwise unfit for combat. Basic training for this unit was greatly simplified, and protocol barely followed, since many of the members had known each other on a first name basis for years from working together in the private sector.
  • The Israeli Defence Forces tend to act like uniformed civilians when off duty. Discipline is much more strict while actively serving, at least for combat units. It's just that in such a small country and with universal conscription, they get a lot of off time, usually to go home for a weekend or holiday—that is, unless intel says they need to be on alert. During these off days, they are essentially uniformed civilians (this typically does wonders for morale).
    • Non-combatant bases (most notably the Kirya) also tend to have a very informal attitude about them, unless they've a lot of work to do.note  However, they still have to make sure their uniforms are proper and not be seen drinking in uniform, lest the hated Military Police or just a mean-spirited officer catch them and bring them to military court. Also, breaking minor laws like jaywalking can also get them doubly screwed when in uniform. In fact, IDF personnel carry their weapons when they're off-duty and out of uniform.
  • The United States Merchant Marine is arguably like this (as are most country's merchant navies). While in and of itself a civilian career, Merchant Marine cadets and officers must wear naval-style uniforms and abide by military custom and are obligated to become a part of the United States Navy Reserve.
  • Paramilitary forces are usually like this, due to not being a proper military, and having laxer disciplinary standards. Some of the more professional ones defy this trope however, and are much more effective for it.
  • The Republican soldiers in the party and union militias in the Spanish Civil War count. Heck they elected officers and could hand in their guns and leave at any point, at least before the commissars arrived from the Soviet Union.
    • The armies of the French Revolution also had elected officers as did the Union army for much of the American Civil War. There are many aspects of the Spanish militias which fits this trope, but not having a military hierarchy imitating 17th century monarchist forces is not one of them.
  • In the U.S., high school JROTC (when not at a Military School) is often this. Even in the top ten percent of programs, there are units that don't even do a military salute. Same goes for other paramilitary organizations affiliated with the U.S. military aimed at youths - Sea Cadets, Civil Air Patrol...
    • Even at a Military School, it's often this. No matter how many restrictions there are on what cadets are allowed to do, there will be all manner of stupid things done in barracks.
    • Same with the Citizen Advancement Training (formerly Citizen Army Training) in the Philippines.
  • The American Volunteer Group, also known as the Flying Tigers, was a mercenary organization created with the tacit approval of the US Government. Claire Lee Chennault, the man who organized the group, figured that strict military discipline was not a good idea, since men who would take the opportunity to resign from their branches of service and travel around the world to fight for the Chinese would not accept a hard-nosed approach. From John Toland's book about them:
    "Uniforms were not worn . . . Though there was no rank and no-one was required to salute, it was the rare man who didn't address Chennault as 'Colonel' and salute. But when the work day was over and the men played baseball or volleyball . . . when [Chennault] acted as umpire, it was a common sight to see some mechanic screaming at him in rage when he called out on strikes."
  • The U.S. Army in the Vietnam War suffered from a bad case of this. Films set during the War show military units that are barely wearing uniforms, soldiers high on drugs, with rock bottom morale. The army was falling apart and filled to the brim with unwilling conscripts, discipline had gone completely to hell, the percentage of heroin-addicted soldiers had reached the double digits, and killing your own commander was so common as to get its own Deadly Euphemism: fragging.note 
  • A French military joke from World War I goes about how an officer was complaining about the poor state of upkeep of a forward post during an inspection. The post commander, slightly annoyed, merely commented "When I am a guest, I am polite enough to not complain about the host's house." Similarly it was common towards the end of WW1 for some of the worse off armies (e.g. Austria-Hungary) to have only one presentable dress uniform shared by all officers within a company or even a battalion for when they were summoned to HQ.
    • Two of Murphy's Laws of Combat state "No combat-ready unit has ever passed inspection" and "No inspection-ready unit has ever passed combat."
  • In Soviet Union most universities had a kind of ROTC attached to them, called "voennaya kafedra" that trained all the male students as the reservist officers. Naturally, being the civilian students who weren't generally expected to serve, they didn't take to their training seriously. So, when they were sometimes called to service (they have the same term as the enlisted draftees, two years, so one of their nicknames was "двухгодичники" "dvukh-goh-deech-ni-ki" - "two-year-ers"), they were the definition of that trope — leading to the other nicknames, such as "Partisans" for the attendees of refreshment courses and "Jackets" for the serving ones.
  • Most police forces. They sometimes have military ranks and follow many military ways, but are supposed to be a civilian force (in Britain and the U.S. they are now called a "service" or "department" instead of a "force" but...). Unfortunately, in the U.S., because of "the War on Drugs" and "The War on Terror", for the past 25 years or so they have become more and more militarized and the training or reforms that can help reduce unintended incidents and outrage is just not there. One of the common criticisms of "militarized" police is that they are not held to the same standards of discipline and training as soldiers of the same nation are when performing policing duties overseas.
  • The Iranian IRGC (or Revolutionary Guard) acts like this. They even take pride in it, their unofficial motto being that their "order is in their lack of order". Military ranks mean little in practice, with common soldiers and high ranking officers interacting casually on daily basis and having people of lower rank serve in "higher" positions compared to those of higher rank isn't that rare (like a Major being the direct commanding officer of a colonel) and their apparent lack of strategy and order used to drive the more disciplined Army crazy during Iran-Iraq war. However, arguably, this is their strength (specially since any conflict they were ever involved in was a guerrilla war or one in which they were heavily out numbered and out gunned). It's next to impossible to break their command structure and conflicting or nonsensical orders that can unhinge most militaries don't effect them since unit commanders (and even common soldiers) are taught when to "disobey a direct order" so they'll just ignore weird orders and do their thing. During the Iran-Iraq war, units caught behind enemy lines, with no means of communication, were as effective as any other unit.
  • The Australians of the Boer War earned a reputation for larrikinism with the British, being incredibly irreverent all around, but especially toward the British officers who were unused to seeing such laid-back and undisciplined behaviour. This characterised the behaviour of Australian troops for much of the following century, with the Australian enthusiasm for the rape and murder of prisoners, people trying to surrender, and enemy civilians earning them a mix of fear and hatred that contrasted sharply with the more ambivalent feelings to the 'restrained' and 'uptight' British.
  • This is a common trait with militias and rebel groups of all stripes, composed as they are of non-professional fighters who've often received little training.
    • This trope was probably true to varying extents for most of military forces throughout history - professional armies of regulars were a rule for a minority of most of humanity's history, with most armies being trained and mobilized (along with mercenaries hired) just on a very as-needed basis with hopefully just enough uniformity to their equipment to avoid friendly fire on the battlefield, and then being demobilized once seen as unneeded.
  • During the Korean War, some Marine reservists, expecting to not see combat during their tenure, were dumped into battle without the benefit of boot camp. As Lieutenant Joseph R. Owen recalls in his memoir Colder than Hell, this led to things like soldiers not referring to their officers as 'sir' and loudly muttering about their officers while they're in ear shot.
  • Early on during the Russian Revolution the Red Army attempted this, as the bolsheviks believed notions of rank and discipline were a bourgeois affectation. After repeatedly getting their asses kicked by the more traditionally organized White forces, Trotsky reorganized the force including bringing in former imperial officers to make it a proper military force.
  • Oddly enough, the Wehrmacht. No army in WW2 allowed their soldiers to grow their hair as long (which made German soldiers something of a darling among the ladies, foreign and domestic) but punishments for uniform violations were quite lax and completely took the backseat when the war started going. It also helped that the new Infantry Manual called for self-imposed discipline, self-imposed by the soldier himself for reason of love of his comrades, his country or professionalism, instead of imposing discipline from an outside source.
    • The the Bundeswehr actually took the part of soldiers growing their hair long even further, as this article attests, doing that during the late 60s and early 70s. When it turns out that lice, dirt, and the risk of hair and skin disease could affect the morale, the Bundeswehr listened to the more traditional-minded officers and reinstated short hair, something with few modifications in the 90s has been the standard since.
  • During Band of Brothers, the actors had to endure strict Training from Hell to get them into character as World War II soldiers. This was something they were required to keep up on set as well. New actors playing replacements did not get this and showed up on set - including a young Tom Hardy on his first job - with their uniforms on wrong, thoroughly annoying the original actors.
  • The Canadian Military Engineers are particularly known for being very laid back and having rather lax standards for dress and deportment as compared to other members of the Canadian Armed Forces, since their jobs include things like construction equatable to a civilian journeyman, camp maintenance and construction with a heavy emphasis on technical and applicable skills, and working with explosives, mines, and improvised explosive devices. It's also very common for members of the CME to be on a first-name basis unless a suitably high-ranked person is watching. It all tends to get a pass since they're often not in the spotlight and it simply wouldn't be possible to expect these soldiers to have pristine uniforms and boots at all times. There's a very good reason the Salute to the Engineers contains the line "They may look like tramps, but they build your camps, and they sometimes lead the advance": they're for the most part seen as Bunny Ears Lawyers who always manage to get their jobs done.
  • This is Defied with the Republic Of Korea Army as they strictly adhere to discipline, conduct, and regulations. As such, exhibiting this kind of lax behavior is grounds for punishment, and expects their troops (including their commanders) to display rigid forms of discipline regardless of circumstance. This is one of the major reasons as to why the ROKA's Entertainment Unit (or also known as the Celebrity Soldier Unit) was permanently disbanded as they are able to do things that the regular grunts from other divisions can't (such as visiting massage parlors, bars and clubs, provide entertainment, etc.).


Video Example(s):


"Now if I was in charge..."

Unhappy with what he views as an unacceptable lack of discipline (the latest example of which is Cross Country installing a tape player in his HAVOC), Beach Head complains but is reminded of the pecking order.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheChainOfCommand

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