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Soldiers at the Rear

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"I made coffee through Desert Storm. I made coffee during Panama, while everyone else got to fight, got to be a Ranger. Now it's 'Grimesy, black, one sugar' or 'Grimesy, got a powdered anywhere?'"
Specialist Grimes complaining while making coffee, Black Hawk Down

Similar to the Straw Civilian, this trope shows up in Military Fiction. Unlike the civilian or the Draft Dodger, this guy joins the army when things go bad because he knows the safest place to be is in the military, in a position where absolutely nothing can go wrong. While everyone else is out fighting on the distant Planet of Hats, he's safe and sound back in Muskogee, Oklahoma, sewing buttons onto uniforms.

Whereas a civilian might not know any better, being fat and stupid, this guy's actually been through basic training, but he's currently assigned to a unit that's not going into combat anytime soon, if at all. He still gets all the perks of being a soldier (respect, drinks, and a uniform) but none of the hassle (strangers trying to kill you a lot). He's the military version of the fat, lazy cop. In modern military parlance, he's the "Rear Echelon Motherfucker."

Because fiction tends to be black and white, the REMF usually isn't portrayed as someone who got lucky, or as someone doing a superficially dull but vital job, but as someone who kissed a lot of fat, rich behind. A REMF will be someone who pulled some strings themselves or had Daddy call the right people to get a cushy post. He's a Senator's son, or a celebrity, or he's got a lot of money in the bank. It's never luck, or actual skill, it's who he is and who he knows.

The story in Real Life is, naturally, different. The military is a big organization, and a lot of necessary jobs don't involve getting immediately shot at by random [INSERT BAD GUY HERE]s. In fact, in modern armed forces, there's roughly 10-15 REMFs working in support for every soldier actually pulling a trigger at the front. This doesn't mean the REMF isn't resented, mind you, he's still a REMF who isn't deep in the shit at the moment—many frontline grunts won't care and still hold grudges. There is one and precisely one universal exception: Medical personnel. Doctors and nurses may never see direct combat, but rare indeed is the front line grunt who will speak ill of the people who stitch them or their buddies back together if things go wrong. There are also other personnel who are specifically forbidden by regulations to enter combat zones, like Military Chaplains, and you'd figure regular combat troops would understand.

Often, and perhaps against the stereotype, the children of important and/or wealthy people do join the military because they want to serve. Fortunately or unfortunately, the military brass aren't morons and know that if the child of a VIP dies on their watch, they're in for a world of trouble. Thus, through no fault of his or her own, the kid with the silver spoon might spend the war behind a desk somewhere typing up reports. The same thing can apply to celebrities: had Muhammad Ali accepted his conscription during The Vietnam War, he most likely would have been giving exhibition matches to entertain troops, as Joe Louis did during World War II (though Louis was not drafted). There are exceptions to this rule, and most of them come from wars up to and including the First World War.

Along with REMF, "pogue" is a term with similar connotations (from POG: Person Other than Grunt). Fobbit (a portmanteau of "Forward Operating Base" and "Hobbit", given how Hobbits love to stay at home and never go out on adventures) is another similar term, specific to troops deployed but who do not go on patrols for varying reasons. "Wire Hugger", and similar terms have grown from the recent wars in the Middle East (as in, desperately tries to keep close to the base, even if it means hugging barbed wire).

Being a REMF in an unconventional or modern conflict might be almost impossible, since by definition there isn't a rear-echelon once you're in the theatre. Someone whose job normally isn't anywhere near combat might find themselves under fire or IED attack at any time. For soldiers deployed today in places like Iraq, "REMF" generally means personnel stationed in a totally different country such as Kuwait and Qatar.

Arguably, most of the wars the US has fought since World War II could probably have been said to lack a "true" rear, as that was around the time the US Army commissioned the M1 Carbine: to give REMF troops a decent long arm in case the Germans or any other Blitzkrieg-style enemy force suddenly broke through the lines and struck at all the supporting infrastructure.

If becoming a soldier at the rear is actually because of the individual soldier's actual skills, it is known as getting wise. No wonder becoming the company clerk is one of the favorite tasks amongst the conscripts around the world.

This guy is often Gung Holier Than Thou and a Miles Gloriosus. A bad Officer and a Gentleman and General Failure are both probably REMFs. A good Drill Sergeant Nasty rarely is.

See also: Armchair Military, and Desk Jockey. Also related to Mission Control. The Adminisphere is the civilian equivalent, dealing with the disconnect between workers out on the factory floor and their administrators.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Military Police in Attack on Titan are internal peacekeepers and the king's Praetorian Guard, and can go their entire careers without so much as seeing a Titan. The ass-backwardsness of selecting the most elite soldiers to do the least fighting is lampshaded. The same applies to the Garrison forces away from the Front Lines; when Rod Reiss's massive Titan form attacks northern Wall Sheena (the innermost wall), the troops prove rather ineffective, partly because they'd never dealt with Titans before.
  • Irresponsible Captain Tylor: The title character joined the military to get a cushy day job and, to his delight, wound up in the Pension Office. However, he becomes involved in a hostage crisis and is promoted to command rank and assigned to the destroyer Soyokaze. This becomes Reassignment Backfire when it turns out he's surprisingly good at being a starship captain, despite his own wishes.
  • Yang Wen-Li from Legend of the Galactic Heroes only joined the military for the education and the pension and was hoping for a position like this. Sadly, he proved to be a military prodigy and ended up getting his own command, as well as becoming the Arch-Enemy of The Empire (and his own administration).
  • Heavy Object:
    • A majority of the military on all sides fits this trope as Objects dominate the battlefield. It's not uncommon for even units assigned to supporting an Object on a battlefield to see no combat personally. It's considered so safe that civilian students can accompany them.
    • Milinda originally looked down upon this type of soldier. While she, a fourteen year old girl, was risking her life on the battlefield there were grown men and women on the rear line watching in boredom. Quenser and Heivia risking their lives to save her shook up this viewpoint.
    • The PMC Moss Green looked down on a Legitimacy Kingdom force because they were soft from only supporting Objects while Moss Green had been trained to fight actual soldiers in the Northern European Restricted Zone, where Objects are forbidden to enter by international treaties. Their commanding officer is enraged when some of her soldiers are killed by Quenser, viewing it as undignified. As far as Quenser can tell she doesn't really view him or his unit as human beings due to this trope.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Captain Otto Midas is a rare positive example, though he technically isn't a REMF anymore at the time, being assigned to the frontlines and thus becoming something of a Modern Major General. Still he's A Father to His Men and, being a skilled desk pilot, he knows his strengths and limitations, steadfastedly standing by his crew.
  • Cat Shit One: One of the Japanese observers (a chimpanzee) has no problems with the more comfortable aspects of being in the military (such as flashy uniforms) but is very much against getting shot at. He's something of a Butt-Monkey: at one point he photocopies a bunch of decorations to attach them to his uniform to look more impressive, unfortunately his superior (a gorilla) takes immediate notice and asks where exactly he obtained them.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the soldiers guarding Central City are the least likely to see combat. As a result, when Roy Mustang and Olivier Armstrong launch their coup at the end of the series, the Central soldiers' poor discipline and lack of experience makes them easy pickings for the protagonists. Olivier, who commands the garrison at Briggs, located in the harsh northern lands and under almost constant attack by Amestris' northern neighbor Drachma, notes how poorly trained the Central troops are compared to her men.
  • In Sword Art Online, as the human realm prepares for war, Alice notes that not all of her fellow Integrity Knights, the most elite fighters, are at the front lines. Eldrie, her disciple, explains that some of them stayed behind to guard Centoria Cathedral. A few of those knights appear in the Moon Cradle arc, and the fact that they never saw front-line service explains why Kirito never met them before.

     Comic Books 

     Fan Works 
  • Operations Specialist, 2nd Class Kybok in Red Fire, Red Planet. Most of Kybok's fellow Starfleet personnel at Listening Post 204RT rather justifiably view being posted to an early warning station on the edge of the Sol system to be a dead-end assignment. However Kybok's father (Chu'lak from DS9: "Field of Fire") completely snapped from the stresses of serving in the Dominion War and Kybok wants to avoid that fate. But he also wants to serve his country, so he resolved the logical conflict by getting himself put on an unimportant rear-echelon post.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, a student Assassin who is capable of planning ahead knows, if he doesn't do anything about it, that the inevitable conscript military service wnen he returns to his native country will involve front-line service in a dangerous border area where skirmishes often flare up into small wars. He got into the Assassins' School because he is a gifted musician, the sort who will effortlessly meet the Concordat requirement that the Assasin should be musically accomplished. note . Just to make sure he will get a nice safe posting to a military band somewhere, he contrives to get his Assassin training slanted towards anatomy, physiology and medical care, as bandsmen are also medical corpsmen and this opens up assignation to a military hospital. A third insurance policy is being good at sports, as he knows military units gain prestige from winning inter-Regimental sports competitions, and will not risk their best players in the front lines. It also has the potential for postings close to where his girlfriend lives and works.

  • The movie Soldier deals with a Sorting Algorithm of perfect soldierdom. The first generation of perfect soldiers were chosen at birth and trained therefrom. The second generation were genetically engineered. The first generation are led by a battle-tested son of a bitch (Gary Busey). The second generation are led by a REMF (Jason Isaacs). In the end, the first generation kills the second, and all the angels applaud.
  • Mister Roberts (US Navy in WW II) the film and the play. The Captain and Ensign Pulver are happy to be out of the line of fire. The title character desperately wants a transfer to a warship.
  • Specialist Grimes (Ewan McGregor), one of the Rangers in Blackhawk Down, has always been away from the fighting, a fact he says isn't his fault. It's because he has a rare and valuable skill beloved by the Army that keeps him busy: He can type. However, he doesn't like being in this trope and actually wants to fight, rather than spending his entire career typing and making coffee. He ends up getting caught up in the worst of the movie's fighting. And copes with the stress by making coffee during the lulls. This is probably one of the most realistic and unbiased portrayals of the regular REMF there is. The logistics system to maintain even a small force in the field is a beast, and most people get shifted to help maintain it without even a whit of corruption or nepotism involved and Grimes is portrayed as a soldier who does an unexciting but vital task.
  • Lawrence begins Lawrence of Arabia like this.
  • The Hurt Locker the unit psychologist (a lieutenant colonel) is criticized by one of the enlisted soldiers for being unqualified to dispense advice about combat stress since he's never left the base. He joins them on a mission a couple days later. It doesn't go well for him.
  • Saving Private Ryan has some clerks who land ashore next to Capt. Miller's position to set up a command center. When Miller's only translator is killed, a replacement is drawn from the command center staff, and he ends up with a green Corporal who had been drawing maps and hasn't fired his weapon since basic training. Resentment towards REMF soldiers even gets a bit of Lampshade Hanging, as Miller immediately takes note that the command center troops all have easy access to hot coffee and fresh food, while he's probably been living on C-Rations since he came ashore.
  • Double subverted in Full Metal Jacket - the officer in charge of the Marine combat correspondents, Lieutenant Lockhart, states his intention to stay where he is comfortable - "in the rear, with the gear" - and that very evening the base comes under heavy artillery attack. Later in the movie, however, it's made clear that being posted on the rear base is still relatively much safer than being a front-line rifleman.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger. After taking the Super Serum and becoming a Super-Soldier, Steve tries to join the war proper, but is told that he's too valuable as a Fake Ultimate Hero and that a single soldier, no matter how super, is not enough to win a war. He's sent out to do stage shows and publicity stunts, and feels more and more useless as time rolls on.
  • In Battleground (1949), Hollie cracks under German bombardment, runs back into the town of Bastogne, and gets himself put on KP duty. This backfires when Bastogne is surrounded and the "rear" disappears, and backfires even worse when Hollie is killed by a German bomb.
  • Norman, the protagonist in the film Fury (2014), was pulled out of the rear in order to replace one of the titular tank's crew, killed in a battle. As a mere typist, he doesn't take the realities of war well, until he undergoes a large amount of Character Development.
  • In The Odd Angry Shot, a pompous admin sergeant-major in an air-conditioned office tries to throw his weight around with the SAS troopers arriving in Saigon for leave. Taking none of his bullshit, Harry threatens to punch his teeth down his throat. A fight is only averted by the arrival of a senior officer.
  • Tropic Thunder: Overlapping with Phony Veteran, it turns out John Tayback, the Vietnam veteran who wrote the memoirs on which the Show Within a Show is based on, is actually a former member of the Coast Guard who never saw active combat duty in Vietnam nor left the United States, and in fact hasn't even been on a boat, having been in charge of laundry back at base. His "tribute" to the (nonexistent) men he fought alongside (not) in the jungle is Based on a Great Big Lie and his wartime injuries are a performance done to sucker people into buying his story, as proven when he drops his "prosthetic" hands and reveals them to actually be gloves.
  • In In The Army Now, the protagonists want to join the army to get the startup money they need for their new electronics store, but don't want to see actual combat. First, they don't join the actual US Army, but the US Army Reserves who typically aren't mobilized for combat. They then choose to join a water purification unit, figuring that it is the least likely to see frontline combat. However, this gets subverted when a conflict flares up between Libya and Chad, two desert nations with scarce water supplies necessitating water purification capability. While in Chad, they get little respect from the combat troops who derogatorily call them "waterboys". However, they manage to bumble their way to success when they end up having to take charge of a Special Forces mission when the original Special Forces unit is wiped out.

  • REMFs show up a lot in the works of David Drake, as he writes mostly Military Science Fiction.
    • At the beginning of Redliners, a group of elite commandos on R&R want a drink. The REMF behind the bar sneers at their battered BDUs and refuses to serve them. The Redliners (a term that means "about to blow") take this badly. Trouble ensues.
    • In his Ranks of Bronze, the bad guys aren't the people the Roman Legionnaires are fighting against (mostly just bronze age, barbarian aliens). The bad guys are the fat assholes telling the Romans who to fight. And one arrogant prick who happens to be a Roman.
  • Robert A. Heinlein, no stranger to the military himself, also had a problem with REMFs. Sort of. As with every other trope, he played with it.
    • In Starship Troopers, he both despised and avoided REMFs. For anything that required esprit de corps, a member of the MI served (possibly on disability, if it was something like teaching, which requires spirit without the corp). For everything else, they hired civilians. Civilians are like beans; buy 'em as you need 'em.
    • In Time Enough for Love, Lazarus first intends to avoid WWI by fleeing to South America. Then he's faced with the scorn of his birth family and is motivated to join the army; he then realizes that being a lily-white, red-haired gringo in Brazil would paint him as an agent of some European power and get him killed, so his actual best bet is to join the army and be the best damn REMF he can. Unfortunately, his adopted family has some pull, and they put him where every red-blooded, kraut-hating American should want to be. France. Oh, Crap!.
    • Also in Time Enough for Love, "The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail". He joined the navy because he didn't particularly care for farming. Then he bucked for officer. Then he applied for pilot training. Then he bucked for multiengined seaplanes rather than fighters to avoid serving on carriers while still accumulating all the promotion and pay benefits of sea duty. He didn't particularly cotton to getting shot at. Then he bucked for early retirement on disability (crazy on the job), getting an honorary bump to rear admiral and three-quarters pay. Then he went back to the farm (loved the farm; hated the farming) and paid a guy to do all the work, and spent his time lounging in a hammock and putting on his whites for holidays.
    • In Glory Road the hero seeks to avoid combat first by applying to the Air Force, then seeking a clerical job in the Army-he makes sure "typing" is listed as one of his skills. He gets sent to south-east Asia as a combat soldier anyway.
  • As far as Ernest Hemingway is concerned, you're a REMF, you're crazy, or you're dead. And if you're not dead, you're going to be dead. Soon. Alone. In the rain.
  • Ciaphas Cain:
    • Cain aspires to be this; early in his career he managed to pull some strings and get himself transferred to a nice, safe artillery unit. Unfortunately, it turned out less safe than expected and gave him a reputation for mighty heroism. Later his reputation makes this much harder, so he has to find somewhere safe to be when the fighting breaks out. It always leads to a sort of self-targeting Reassignment Backfire when he inevitably gets in danger anyway and thus even more of a reputation when he survives.
    • At one point, he does manage to become a true Soldier at the Rear, and it makes his life measurably worse. Instead of being in a unit that spends great portions of its time securing and guarding planets after combat, his garrison status lets his superior officer assign him to increasingly dangerous special assignments, including a liaison position with Space Marines. And because he never has to stay for clean up unless he can somehow justify it, he gets forced into participating into more numerous combat situations then normal. By his own reckoning, Cain thinks he spent more time in gut clenching terror during his garrison time then a front line assignment. His response to this? Play up the idea that he's not cut out for a 'tame' desk job and get sent back to a frontline combat unit, getting him sent to the Valhallan 597th.
    • Some of the books touch on the 597's Third Company, which, while trained for infantry fighting, are mostly specialists such as medical staff, quartermasters, and the regimental colors band. They do see action from time to time, such as during The Traitor's Hand when a Chaos dropship lands in headquarters, and acquit themselves well, all things considered. Jenit Sulla, a quartermaster, ended up becoming the first Lady General, the highest military rank in the Guard.
  • In a later book Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series, the heroes are trying to disable an army. Some of the gang are disabling from within; after Basic Training, they face deployment. At first they're offered, literally, a shit assignment. They mention they know the commander-in-chief... a few comments later their interlocutor learns they know a Retired Badass... And they're offered their choice of sweet, sweet candy.
    • In a minor subversion, they choose warehouse duty, but not for its safety: it's because of how important supplies are to an army, and how much damage they can do by mishandling requisitions. They end up failing at this. Turns out, the military is so inefficient that their attempts at sabotage wind up improving efficiency.
  • Catch-22:
    • Former PFC Wintergreen always manages to avoid being sent into combat by manipulating the discipline system. Many of the other characters would do the same if they thought they could pull it off.
    • Milo Minderbinder also avoids combat. His superiors literally grant him the medals from other men's actions while Milo stays safely in the rear.
    • Doc Daneeka wants no part of the war, and even falsifies his records to get out of the training ridealong flights. This bites him back when one of those flights crashes and he's declared dead.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front has Corporal Himmelstoss - until he's sent to the front as punishment, after he overdid his usual training method on an especially unlucky bunch of recruits, one of whom turned out to be son of an important government official.
  • Richard Marcinko, author and former SEAL, has several of these in his Rogue Warrior series. Some are inspired by service members and even SEALs he knew.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: In the Night's Watch, the Rangers are the ones who venture beyond the Wall to fight wildlings, while the Stewards and Builders stay behind and get much less prestige. When Jon is assigned to the Stewards rather than the Rangers, he's extremely disappointed. He complains that rather than face wildlings in battle, he'll be changing the Lord Commander's chamber pot. It takes Sam to make him realize that the Lord Commander is grooming him for command.
    • Sam himself was eager to become a Steward; he barely made it through basic training with Jon protecting him, and his rare skill of literacy made him invaluable to assisting their now blind Maester with the messenger ravens. Unfortunately for him, there was soon cause for a massive scouting force to venture north, and they needed the ravens to coordinate with Castle Black, so he ended up in harm's way anyway.
  • John Clark from Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan books hates REMFs, especially when one is in charge of an operation and fails to run it properly, putting the front-line grunts at risk. In Clear and Present Danger, when he finds out that National Security Advisor James Cutter is behind the deaths of some Army soldiers, he personally talks to the man and convinces him to commit suicide rather than face the inevitable Congressional inquiry. And he does it with a smile.
  • In War Story by Derek Robinson, the newly arrived gung-ho pilot, Paxton, is surprised to see the squadron clerk, a mere lance-corporal, is a on old boy from his prestigious public school.note  He asks why his old schoolfriend is in the ranks, when surely a chap like you has family, has connections, knows people? You should be at least a captain by now? To which the public-school corporal replies that he'd successfully dodged recruitment until enlistment became compulsory. Then he took a typing course, as men who can type are so rare in the Army that they are never ever sent into the front-line trenches. Then he enlisted as a private soldier, and with any luck will actually survive the bloody war.
    And they say life expectancy for a new pilot is, ooh, sixteen hours, sir?
  • In The Honorary Chinese Paratrooper, Soldier of Fortune Magazine writer Jim Morris shows how this trope can go from bad to worse. During the 1960's he was in the US Army Special Forces. While his friends went to Vietnam, he went to Taiwan.
  • Victor Henry goes through most of World War II like this in Hermann Wouk's Winds Of War / War and Remembrance duology. He does get a fighting command in the Solomons and at Leyte though. He also takes opportunities to go on observation missions up forward.
  • In the Nero Wolfe stories set during the war, Major Archie Goodwin is effectively stuck doing his civilian job at half the pay — his boss, Nero Wolfe, is a genius vital to the war effort, and Archie's the only one who can manage him. Unlike most examples, the people he works with are (mostly) shown as honorable people doing a worthwhile job, despite never getting shot at.
  • Subverted with Lawrence Waterhouse in Cryptonomicon. Initially he finds himself assigned to a marching band, but that doesn't stop him from being present on one of the ships sunk in the Pearl Harbor attack. After reasignment it's discovered that he is a cryptography prodigy and therefore one of the most valuable assets in the whole second world war, and the military spares no effort to keep him as far from danger as possible. And yet, at one point he still ends up on a dangerous enigma machine recovery mission, because the remote listening station where he is stationed at that point holds the only unit close enough to an enemy submarine in trouble.
  • Commissar Blenner from Gaunt's Ghosts aspires to be such an officer, and he spends decades of his career in rear-echelon garrison positions (not entirely without merit — while he's something of a Non-Action Guy, his skill with morale and managing the common soldiery is very real). Naturally this gets a lot tougher when he signs on with the Ghosts. In Salvation's Reach, he unofficially places himself in charge of a detachment of the regiments' less combat-worthy elements, including their brand-new colors band, which nobody, himself included, wants to see in combat. They end up driving and escorting supply trucks up to the Ghosts' lines, which he explicitly points out is a way to make them feel useful without getting the lot of them killed.
  • In If I Die in a Combat Zone (Box Me Up and Ship Me Home) Tim O'Brien summarises the feelings and attitude of The Vietnam War era conscripts thus:
    If foot soldiers in Vietnam have a single obsession, it's the gnawing, tantalizing hope of being assigned to a job in the rear. Anything to yank a man out of the field — loading helicopters or burning trash or washing the colonel's laundry. [...] Except for one or two of them, the men in Alpha Company were quietly, flippantly desperate for a rear job. The desperation was there all the time. Walking along under the sun, pulling watch at night, waiting for resupply, writing love letters — we thought and talked about all the rear jobs waiting back there. We were not all cowards. But we were not committed, not resigned, to having to win a war.
  • The Honor Harrington series explores various implications with the Solarian League Navy. The League Navy is divided into two internal organizations: Battle Fleet and Frontier Fleet. Battle Fleet is theoretically the primary combat component of the League, receiving the overwhelming majority of the funding and equipment of the League Navy, but since the Solarian League is so much bigger than every other nation in the universe they have not had an actual war in several centuries. Frontier Fleet, which is dedicated towards policing, disaster relief, exploration and other peace-keeping roles, is the component which has actual service experience. As such, Battle Fleet is generally slovenly and lax even in routine procedures since they have no combat history, much to the disgust of Frontier Fleet and the other space navies that are encountered throughout the series. As members of the Royal Manticoran Navy point out, accidents can happen even in peace-time, so there is no excuse for being so inattentive to proper procedures and protocol.
  • The Saga of Tanya the Evil: Tanya's stated goal is to become one of these after she's drafted. Unfortunately for her, she's still thinking like a Japanese salaryman, so her "plan" is to be so ruthless and hyper-competent at her job (fighting) that she'll get promoted out of it. Instead, this has the opposite effect, with her superior officers congratulating her as being a super soldier and keep sending her to ever-more dangerous front lines. Her plan was doomed from the start due to the country she's fighting for being on the losing end of a war and facing enemies on every side of them.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Andor: Pretty much all the Imperial military divisions other than the army and naval forces — such as the Imperial Officer Corps and COMPNOR — act like the worst extremes of this trope, often overlapping with Armchair Military, with their members tending to be completely useless in actual fights despite their totally unearned egos and clearly doing their best to avoid ever being near the frontlines so they can roleplay as being soldiers and get prestige without really risking anything like the troopers on the ground and crewmen in ships do. The one time we see two officers from such divisions in battle during the season finale, one immediately scrambles behind the stormtroopers doing the actual work and contributes nothing but shrieking incoherent orders from far behind cover, while the other immediately has a panic attack and waves her blaster around wildly in fear before getting mobbed and nearly lynched by the enemy, forcing another imperial to wade into the chaos to save her. This happens in a fight against a small mob of unarmed civilians that the Imperials outnumber and outgun greatly.
  • Band of Brothers mostly featured genuine grunts on the ground and in the shit. A few people qualified, though.
    • Many of the higher ranking officers might qualify, as they had no real understanding of the situation on the lines. Captain (later Major) Winters was exempt because he had combat experience and trouble distancing himself from his men following promotion.
    • Captain Nixon is an interesting subversion. He never had to fire his gun in combat. And as a rich, Harvard educated intelligence officer, he could easily have spent most of the war back at command. Instead, he mainly stayed close to the front with Winters, even sleeping in a foxhole in Bastogne and refusing what was basically a "get out of war free" card by passing up the opportunity to return to the states to promote enlistment. He ended up being the one of the very few members of 101st Airborne to get three Jump Stars.
    • Any soldier who was insufficiently eager to escape from an army hospital and rejoin the effort was viewed with suspicion. If you didn't buy a ticket home with genuine infirmity, then you belonged on the lines, dammit. note 
    • Henry Jones, a green lieutenant, fresh out of West Point, showed up late in the war, desperate for field experience. Everyone smirked at him and hoped he didn't get anyone killed. After one sortie across a river, he was promoted because he was slated to serve in the post-war officers corps and everyone shrugged it off.
    • Capt. Herbert Sobel, E Company's first CO, was Kicked Upstairs into this after a mass near-desertion revealed to regimental command that, by God, these men were NOT following such an incompetent man into combat. This wound up eating at Sobel for the rest of his life, and until the day he died, he harbored a deep resentment of the men of Easy Company. The fact his XO Richard Winters eventually wound up outranking him did NOT help matters. note 
  • Growing Pains: Jason's widowed mother's new boyfriend is a retired soldier who implies that he spent most of his service stateside.
    Ben: Did you kill anybody?
    Wally: Let me put it this way, Ben. They never found one single Vietcong in Cincinnati.
  • It Ain't Half Hot, Mum focusses on a military entertainment troupe in the waning days of World War II, safely well behind the lines in British India. Unusually, both the enlisted men and officers knew they'd landed a safe, cushy post and did everything possible to stay out of the action, it was only Sergeant-Major Williams who wanted to go to the front.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Major Charles Winchester was using family connections to keep his cushy Tokyo posting until he ticked off the wrong person at the wrong time and got sent to the 4077th, and spent most of the rest of the show trying to pull strings and get back to a nice safe clean Tokyo hospital.
    • Justified with Father Mulcahy. As an Army Chaplain, he is specifically forbidden by regulations to fight, so his proper role is usually behind the lines. Normally no one has a problem with this, but one front line soldier refused to talk to him because he had no combat experience. As a result, Mulcahy has an adventure in the front which includes doing an emergency tracheotomy under fire, which impresses the soldier.
    • Inverted in the episode, "Friends and Enemies," when Col. Potter found that an old friend, who was assigned to garrison duty in fuel logistics far behind the lines, took it upon himself to attend to a matter at the front when he could have easily sent a subordinate. Once there, the officer, obsessed with his Glory Days being in action, illegally took command of a combat unit out of his chain of command and ordered it to take a ridge it was previously ordered by the proper commanders to leave alone. As such, the unit suffered heavy casualties to satisfy the officer's battle lust and Potter is forced to report his friend to Command when he should have remained a REMF.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • An inversion: one episode dealt with Riker being offered his own command. He turned it down because the ships offered were in areas of space that were less likely to see action. He also noted that being the executive officer on the flagship Enterprise was superior in terms of prestige to being captain of any other ship.
      • Captain Picard himself is also an inversion: he's been offered promotion to Admiral rank many times, and is more than qualified to hold such a position, but continually declines as he prefers to be out among the stars rather than behind a desk. He's so good at his job that Starfleet never, in the series or the movies, moves to push him out of his captaincy. Maybe they learned their lesson from all the hijinx Kirk used to get up to every time they kicked him out of the captain's chair?
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • Captain Ben Sisko. After his wife was killed at Wolf 359, he transferred out of starship duty into working at the Fleet's shipyards. Of couse, while there he was part of the design team of the USS Defiant to fight the Borg (and later he used it against the Dominion). As the war progressed, Admiral Ross "promoted" Sisko to a desk job as his adjunct and Commander Dax took over as the Defiant's CO. As much as it grated for him to see his baby in someone else's hands, Sisko would later hatch a plan to retake Deep Space Nine and get his command back.
      • In the episode "The Maquis", Sisko complains that his superiors back on Earth will never understand the grievances of the Federation colonists because Earth is a paradise, see also Armchair Military.
      • Poor Nog. He joined Starfleet and was the Team Pet and a good engineer. Then he gets sent to AR558. He idolizes the Shell Shocked Veterans, until the Wham Episode goes in full effect....
  • Blackadder:
    • In Blackadder Goes Forth, Captain Darling is happy to be General Melchett's aide-de-camp because that way he doesn't have to be in the trenches. In the last episode he gets sent there anyway. He's also tried to get transferred to an even safer assignment.
      Darling: There's nothing cushy about life in the Women's Auxiliary Balloon Corps.
    • Blackadder himself spends the entire series trying to get out of the trenches and into a position where he's less likely to be killed. It never quite works out.
    • In the last episode it was mentioned that Blackadder first enlisted into the army during the Congo because it was a heavily armed military going against a bunch of guys hurling hard pieces of fruit.
  • The Phil Silvers Show centers around the motor pool soldiers on a backwater army base in Kansas. Nobody on the base has seen a battlefield since World War Two and we almost never see them doing any actual military work.
  • Dad's Army:
    • The series is about a group of mainly elderly men in the Home Guard who were meant to be Britain's last line of defence should the German army invade. Most of them are earnest about doing their bit. Some, like the ancient Cpl Jones, are actually dead keen to come face to face with the enemy. However, since Britain was not invaded, they are mostly given unimportant duties or sent on training exercises. The closest they get to the enemy is occasionally guarding some POWs. They're portrayed sympathetically - while they're not particularly competent, they're certainly not lacking in courage. In one episode where they think the Nazis have invaded, they all make a heroic stand to buy time, despite believing this will result in their own deaths.
    • Frazer, a former sailor, boasts that he was at the battle of Jutland, but he was actually below decks making the shepherds pie. He gets prickly when this is brought up.
    • Joe Walker will do almost anything to stay off the frontlines.
  • Downton Abbey's Thomas, a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, joins the army at the announcement of WWI anticipating a cushy assignment at a hospital, having wrangled something with the local physician. Instead he ends up in the trenches as a field medic, terrified for his life and hating every minute of the war. The only way for him to leave is if he gets killed or injured. So he encourages a German sniper to shoot him in the hand and gets reassigned to Downton as the sergeant in charge of the hospital staff.
  • Enlisted is a 2014 sitcom about such soldiers on a base in Florida.
  • Inverted on the 2013 Christmas Special of Call the Midwife: One patient's husband is a former "reemy"note  who had served as a conscripted mechanic in The Korean War and was perfectly content to fix engines and not see combat. However, the Chinese Army overran the UN/British lines (historically accurate), and he, along with the rest of his rear-end unit, were forced to defend the base, and there were so many Chinese soldiers that the Brits ran out of ammunition and had to fight with bayonets. He came back to England with severe PTSD and smelling blood constantly.
  • The Army Game is about a group of conscripts stationed at the Surplus Ordnance Depot at Nether Hopping. The are all very keen to see out their National Service while avoiding anything remotely military and making a little cash on the side.
  • Played with in the case of Gunnery Sergeant Victor Galindez in JAG. The Gunny was ex-infantry, who got out to join his hometown Sheriff’s department, suffered a friendly fire incident from a scared fellow trooper, re-enlisted in the Corps was an instructor at Marine OCS and was a short time away from retirement, with a cushy job lined up with a weapon system manufacturer. But he blew the whistle on the company’s defective anti-tank missile, so Mac, impressed with his integrity offers him a job at JAG HQ. The Gunny accepts it only because the job will allow him to do some background investigative work besides the usual administrative filing and paper pushing. Two years after joining JAG HQ, the towers fall and Galindez requests a transfer back to frontline combat duty again.

  • Creedence Clearwater Revival's song "Fortunate Son" from Willy and the Poor Boys is about an unnamed young mannote  from a wealthy, political, and military family. He was in the Navy during Vietnam. The band felt that his cushy assignments only came because of who his grandfather, father and father-in-law were.
  • Roy Zimmerman's "Chickenhawk" satirizes "celebrity" REMFs.
  • SSgt Barry Sadler's song "Garet Trooper" talks about one of these.
  • Pink Floyd's "Us and Them" from The Dark Side of the Moon.
    "Forward!" he cried from the rear
    And the front rank died

     Newspaper Comics 
  • Terry and the Pirates had a famous strip in which Terry, having just gotten his fighter wings, is given a speech by his instructor who makes it clear that he expects Terry to treat his support crew like the supply pilots and mechanics with respect.
  • Many of Bill Mauldin's cartoons are about soldiers who aren't allowed in the rear because they don't look soldierly enough. "It's either enemy or off-limits."
    • Mauldin also described a hybrid species between the REMF and the combat dogface: the garritrooper. "They're too far forward to shave and too far back to get shot at."
  • Beetle Bailey's entire unit appears to be composed of such; while they're frequently seen attempting field exercises, they never have been (and per Word of God, never will be) deployed to a combat zone.

  • In The Navy Lark C.P.O. Pertwee dreads the spectre of active service, mainly because he's making a very good living selling navy stores on the black market. Despite his best efforts HMS Troutbridge eventually does put to sea.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Battletech: Caradoc Travana is a subversion. He had a career that involve mostly sitting in depots away from the front lines of the Clan Invasion, leading to many people assuming that he was a coward or incompetent. In fact, he was a fairly good mechwarrior, but he was absolutely brilliant when it came to strategy and logistics so most of his superior officers had chosen to keep him out of combat where his skills could be put to better use. Indeed, when he did end up seeing combat due to Clan Jade Falcon launching a massive invasion of the planet Coventry, where he was stationed, his attention to details and support meant that the mechwarriors serving under him performed far better than other units during both the initial invasion and as resistance fighters in the subsequent occupation, and the strategies he came up with were instrumental in convincing the Falcons to leave when reinforcements arrived rather than sticking around for a prolonged battle that would have devastated both sides.
  • Twilight: 2000: Being a REMF is actually the best start one can have. Characters get a discount on skills depending on their service so far, and being in the Maintenance, Logistics and similar allows to increase vital skills for long-term survival for chump change, while being a grunt or even a spec ops makes you good at shooting and not much else.


  • G.I. Joe:
    • Averted when it comes to named Joes: even mechanics like Cover Girl, communications specialists like Dial-Tone, or medics like Doc or Lifeline, are fully capable of joining in action on the front lines. Part of this is justified by how the Joes are generally highly-driven and often have training in multiple fields (e.g. practically all Joes are qualified to act as drill instructors, several of them have paratrooper training, Joes associated with particular vehicles like Cross-Country and the HAVOC or Will Bill and the Dragonfly are mentioned as personally carrying out maintenance).
    • In COBRA, played straight with the Tele-Vipers, the communications backbone of the COBRA forces. They are almost never seen on the frontlines since they're most useful keeping their forces in contact while also disrupting enemy communications.
  • Transformers: Implied in the bios of a number of characters from the original toyline.
    • Zigzagged with the Constructicons. As the premier construction unit of the Decepticons, one might think they'd be kept behind the front lines to focus on construction. However, they also combine into the astoundingly powerful Devastator and so depending on the story can be found on the front or behind it. The bio of Scrapper (an architect) notes that Megatron finds him more useful off the field than on it due to his skill in quickly designing and building fortifications using whatever material is on-hand, while in Long Haul's bio mention is made of how he actively dislikes his role as materials transportation (he transforms into a dump truck) and would much prefer to be a full-time frontline warrior... but wisely keeps this to himself because Megatron isn't known for his patience with soldiers who don't follow orders.
    • Similarly zigzagged with the Protectobots, who all transform into rescue vehicles. As the name suggests, their main role is protecting human life and so their job is to focus on search and rescue, despite the fact team leader Hot Spot is a Boisterous Bruiser and Blades (who transforms into a rescue helicopter) is a Blood Knight. However, since the Protectobots also combine into Defensor (who is equipped with a forcefield), they often find themselves on the front lines anyway.
    • Mainframe is an Autobot programmer who normally spends his time fending off Decepticon hacking attempts, debugging programs, or reinforcing Autobot security. He's paired with the sentient drone Push-Button, who is a Blood Knight and would much prefer to be out incinerating Decepticons in his photon rifle mode.
    • Inferno's role is search-and-rescue, unfortunate considering he's a Boisterous Bruiser eager to engage in combat. Due to his alternate mode as a fire engine, however, he often has to focus on evacuating human civilians whenever there's a firefight in populated areas, much to his frustration.
    • Metroplex, the gigantic Autobot who transforms into the core of Autobot City, is considered one of these. Due to his gargantuan size, he's Awesome, but Impractical personified, as few threats would warrant bringing him into the field and he's generally more useful in his alternate mode where his fellow Autobots can make use of his internal facilities like repair bays and heliports. Metroplex himself has mixed feelings about his role: he understands why he can't be called to action very often, but he still feels like he ought to be able to do more for the war effort.

     Video Games 
  • NCR Soldiers garrisoned at the Mojave Outpost in Fallout: New Vegas don't see any real fighting, and won't unless Caesar's Legion decide to push west. Pointdexter of the Misfits specifically joined the military with the goal of obtaining a military paycheck while performing as little as possible (though if properly trained/motivated he can become a competent soldier).
  • Cezary Regard in Valkyria Chronicles is only a Sniper because it keeps him away from the front lines. He's also one of the more unpleasant members of the army, being a Jerkass, a Know-Nothing Know-It-All, and a racist. He is also the only member of Squad 7 who will blame Welkin if killed in battle.
  • You potentially in Foxhole. A lot of the game is averting Easy Logistics, so a lot of players choose to work in logistics, resource gathering and base-building, away from the fights in the front.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Mwamba expresses a desire to put in a transfer to salvaging duties after completing a final active combat mission so that he can live out the final month of his life in a far less risky position and achieve the much sought after Homecoming. The other character's actually respect and support this decision, since they're all invested in the value of Homecoming as well and think that Mwamba has more than earned it with his life of watching their backs. He ends up being killed by D before getting the chance.
  • In Project Wingman: Frontline 59, K-9 Squadron is made up of reserve pilots with the bare minimum of training and only serve part time. However, as the Federation suffers massive casualties in their war against Cascadia, they are forced to mobilize K-9 Squadron out of sheer desperation to fill the ranks.

     Web Comics 
  • PVT Murphy's Law had a comic about "Fobbits"; in a visual pun, it's Bilbo in a flack vest and ACUs (and a bag of snacks from the FOB's PX).
  • Terminal Lance had a few comics about various types of "POGs", typically admin troops and "Water Dogs" (Marine plumbers. Someone needs to make sure there is fresh drinking water.) Representations of these troops varies from obnoxious to merely being definitely-not-grunts but otherwise inoffensive.
  • Schlock Mercenary: The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries warns about this.
    MAXIM 18: If the officers are leading from in front, watch for an attack from the rear.

     Web Original  
  • Red Panda Adventures: The Red Panda's millionaire playboy alter ego was officially given one of these jobs when he enlisted, to cover for the Red Panda's real mission: fighting Nazi agents on Canadian soil.
  • In The Salvation War, Keisha Stevenson started her military career as a supply clerk, and was reassigned to a tank crew when the previous commander killed himself.

     Western Animation 
  • In Hey Arnold!, Gerald's dad joined the army during the Vietnam War and was sent there with his company even though he was in the infirmary for most of basic training due to illness. During a rifle practice session, he accidentally shot his commanding officer and was assigned a desk job. While he didn't fight in the war, when transporting some documents he ran across an injured soldier and brought him to the nearest medic, saving his life.
  • In Futurama, Fry and Bender join the military purely for the benefits, intending to quit immediately after a trip to the store with their military discount. Unfortunately for them, within seconds of enlisting, war were declared and they are shipped to the front lines.
  • The Simpsons: In "Simpson Tide", Homer joined the US Naval Reserve expecting it to be like this. It doesn't quite go according to plan.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, both sides have a We Have Reserves mentality regarding their troops (clones for the Republic, droids for the Separatists).The people safe and sound away from the front lines are occasionally criticized for it. One general is criticized for his reckless plans that cost lives because, unlike Anakin, he's not willing to share the risk his troops will be facing. However, it turns out he's a Mole in Charge, a fallen Jedi who is trying to join the Sith by purposely causing as much damage to the current operation as possible to impress Count Dooku, so there's actually a sinister reason behind his behavior.
  • Archer:
    • Woodhouse was an assistant, or bat man, for the commander of a Flying Corps fighter squadron during World War One. As he was behind the front lines looking after the commanding officer, he is an example. He does see combat when said CO is shot down, running into No Man's Land to attempt a rescue, then, when a sniper kills the CO, goes into an Unstoppable Rage, killing fifty Germans. He's awarded the Victoria Cross and discharged.
    • In Archer's coma dream, he imagines himself as a decorated World War 2 veteran turned private detective in 1947 Los Angeles. When he and a night club band are arrested and must break out of jail, he insists he be squad leader, citing his combat experience. All of the band members reveal they served in the war (except Ray, who, being Camp Gay, was declared 4F ineligible), but being black and owing to segregation laws at the time, Cliff and Floyd were in non-combat support roles. Archer agrees it's bullshit for them to be denied the opportunity to serve in a frontline capacity, but states it doesn't make them any less heroic, though Archer still has the most experience (the third band member, Verl, reveals afterwards he was a tanker in the all-black 761st Tank Battalion, which saved Archer's company in the Battle of the Bulge).
  • The Transformers: Brought up in "Microbots" when Brawn disparages Perceptor for not being on the frontlines like most other Autobots (e.g. Brawn himself is a warrior, while Bumblebee, despite his small stature and low strength, acts as a spy and scout for the Autobots and puts himself at risk often). Even Optimus Prime eventually gets annoyed with his constant insinuating that Perceptor is a coward, though Brawn changes his tune when Perceptor proves to be instrumental to the resolution of the episode's conflict. It helps that Perceptor, due to his expertise being needed for that mission, is more than willing to get his hands dirty. It's just that most of the time, as Autobot chief scientist he's much, much more useful back at base than fighting alongside the others.