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Pre War Civilian Career

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A character's backstory of what their life was like before they joined the military or got caught in the crossfire.

The skills they developed before may come in use in their new environment, or they may leave them unprepared.

Can be a result of Conscription and can overlap with From Nobody to Nightmare and/or Start of Darkness.

See also Trading Bars for Stripes and Recruiting the Criminal. Compare Utility Weapon (for weapons with a peaceful use) and Retired Badass; contrast Call to Agriculture (for careers which follow military service) and Returning War Vet.



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    Comic Books 
  • Battlefields: Sergeant Rock Stiles is asked what he did for a living. He unhesitatingly responds that he worked in a slaughterhouse... before saying it's what people always expect, and in fact he worked in his father's pub.

  • Warhammer 40000 The Misfits: Alaster, as a high-school student, is the best-educated of his squad; Nasty who was in a street gang is a good fighter; and Patreus, who was a monk, is devoted and can also fight. Together they mostly balance out each others' weaknesses.

  • Saving Private Ryan: Captain Miller's background is the subject of a bet. Reiben jokingly suggests he was assembled from spare parts of dead GIs. When Reiben threatens to desert after Wade's death and the ensuing argument about a German POW (who is responsible for Wade's death), Miller reveals he was a schoolteacher.
  • The Postman: General Bethlehem states he was a copier salesman before the war.
  • In 300 Leonidas shows his disdain for the other Greeks by asking a bunch of their soldiers what their professions are.note 
    King Leonidas: You there, what is your profession?
    First Soldier: I am a potter... sir.
    King Leonidas: [points to another soldier] And you, Arcadian, what is your profession?
    Second Soldier: Sculptor, sir.
    King Leonidas: Sculptor. [turns to a third soldier] You?
    Third Soldier: Blacksmith.
    King Leonidas: [turns back shouting] SPARTANS! What is YOUR profession?
    Spartans: HA-OOH! HA-OOH! HA-OOH!
    King Leonidas: [turning to Daxos] You see, old friend? I brought more soldiers than you did!
  • The hero Cage from Edge of Tomorrow mentions that he had an advertisement firm which he lost due to the war brought on by the Alien Invasion. He Got Volunteered and works now in the PR department of the US army.
  • This comes up in the movie Three Kings. One of the Army Reservists, Staff Sergeant Elgin, worked at an airport as a baggage handler before being called up to the Army. When the group finds the gold they plan to steal, he quickly realizes that the bags the gold have been placed in aren't nearly sturdy enough to transport the gold. There's also a brief flashback to Troy Barlow's day job, showing him miserable in an office environment and getting printer ink all over himself.
  • In Francis The Talking Mule, human protagonist 2nd Lt. Stirling was a bank teller before World War II and resumed his job afterwards. The Framing Device is him explaining the story of how he met Francis to his boss.

  • All Quiet on the Western Front: Private "Kat" Katzynski was a cobbler before the war. It's stated this was the only way he and his wife could afford shoes for their children.
  • In World War Z, Todd Wainio is teamed with a unit to take back the country from the zombies. One of them admits to formerly being a professional wrestler. Another he suspects of being Michael Stipe, although he can't get him to admit it.
  • Garth Ennis' War Stories has one story about WW 2 bomber pilots, one of which was an airliner pilot before the war who joined when his wife died during the London bombings. He's noted to be disturbingly good at it, but he never mingles with the rest of the squadron.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Firefly: Malcolm Reynolds was a wealthy rancher on Shadow before volunteering for the Independent Planets' army to fight in the Unification War. His homeworld was glassed during it.
  • NCIS: Gibbs worked at his father's convenience store before joining the US Marine Corps at 18.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Choosing a Background is an important aspect of Planet Mercenary. While, on the surface, it just decides a handful of skill bonuses, it also informs where your character came from.

  • In Journey's End, most of the officers enlisted from school, but the older Lt. Osbourne...enlisted from school, but from his former career as a teacher rather than as a student (although he also mentions being a professional rugby player, and even making it onto the English national team). He's appropriately a Team Mum to the younger officers.

    Video Games 
  • Valkyria Chronicles: Your various squad members all have backstories detailed in the in-game encyclopedia detailing their lives before the Imperial invasion of Gallia, whereupon they were called up under Gallian universal conscription laws. Main characters Welkin Gunther and Alicia Melchiott were respectively a teacher and a baker, while shocktrooper Rosie Stark was a singer.
  • This War of Mine: Every character has a backstory and, with the exception of Roman, a former militia soldier, none has any combat experience, such as Anton, a mathematician; Cveta, a school principal; Marko, a fireman; Marin, a handyman and workshop owner; Katia, a reporter; Pavle, a star soccer player; Zlata, a musician; Emilia, a lawyer; Bruno, a cook with a TV show; Irina, a gardener; Boris, a warehouse stock boy; and Arica, a cat burglar. Some have improved abilities, such as using less resources to craft food or items, greater stamina and carrying capacity, extracting better deals, better stealth, and so on.
  • Overwatch:
    • Jack Morrison (Soldier:76) was a humble son of a farmer before joining the military at 18, then entering the super enhancement program and eventually becoming leader of Overwatch.
    • Zarya was a champion weightlifter, but passed on her chance to compete in the Olympics in favour of enlisting when the second Omnic crisis lead to Russia being attacked. These two key points in her backstory manifest in her ability to effortlessly lug around a BFG and her distrust of Omnics.
    • Hana Song was better known by her pro-gamer handle of D.Va, before being recruited by the Korean military's MEKA program to pilot a Mini-Mecha and fight a Kaiju sized omnic that attacked Korea every few years (and had recently been able to hack automated mecha). Word of God is that the game she was proficient in had very similar controls to the actual suits.
    • Mei is an ambiguous example; she was a member of Overwatch, but worked as a climatologist in the arctic rather than a soldier. In the game (and her short) she wields a freeze gun and responded to Winston's recall, implying that she will serve a combat role in the recalled Overwatch.
    • Similarly to Mei, Winston started off as a scientist and pursued an academic career after escaping from the moon (where his fellow genetically enhanced primates had rebelled), but was seen serving a combat role (notably being the one who first captured Doomfist).
    • Mercy was a top medical researcher, and only joined Overwatch very reluctantly during the first crisis. She still has misgivings about the way her medical technology has been weaponised and isn't completely sold on Overwatch's revival.

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