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Veteran Instructor

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"If he is such a great sweeper, why is he here, teaching us?"

A decorated war vet who teaches novice officers instead of advancing up the Common Ranks ladder. Probably a military legend and always gets his chance to shine in the Old Master or Retired Badass way sooner or later. There can be various reasons for him getting stuck in that position:

  1. He has a reputation of a Military Maverick who wouldn't make a very good commander (at least, in his superiors' eyes).
  2. He considers teaching the next generation more important than fighting itself, so he deliberately refuses promotion.
  3. He has actually already retired but was reactivated because the military needed skilled personnel badly.
  4. He is assigned this duty as his military's standard policy of assigning notable combat veterans as instructors since they are considered more useful teaching new recruits the skills they learned in the field. He usually hates being taken out of the action, but gradually realizes that the policy is right as he gets scores of new recruits ready for battle.

In a way, a commissioned counterpart to Drill Sergeant Nasty, in that he can put his students through a Training from Hell just as easily. On the other hand, he is usually much more gentlemanly about it. Notably, they will be the first to tell the fresh-faced recruits something like, "First thing, War Is Hell, and if you want the best chance to survive it, you will listen to those who know."


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Nanoha Takamachi in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS is the second type. Notable in that she is already a veteran at the age of 19 due to having been on the job from the age of 9.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, the Earth Alliance tried to do this to Mu La Flaga at Alaska by reassigning him as a training instructor in California. He was about to get on the boat leaving Alaska until he remembered he'd forgotten something and ran back to the base to get it. The result is that he's still on-base when ZAFT attacks and the boat leaves without him, so he stays with the Archangel.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: Jack teaches the Moriarty brothers—and Fred and Moran, to boot—how to fight after William picks up that he's a decorated, infamous war veteran, and he puts them through some Training from Hell.
  • One Piece: Marine Vice Admiral Monkey D. Garp becomes this during the Time Skip. After retiring from active Marine duties, he retains his rank and stays on as a Marine instructor in order to bring up new and young Marines. Even before the time skip, he manages to turn two wimps, Coby and Helmeppo, into hardened Marine officers.
  • In the manga version of Sailor Moon, Sailor Venus takes this role early on, using the Sailor V Game to pass on her experience to the other Sailor Senshi until she has to enter the battle openly. It's implied she continues off-page even after that.

    Comic Books 
  • In Judge Dredd, Street Judges who have been injured/wounded in ways that leave them no longer useful to serve on active duty are often given teaching posts at the Academy of Law to train young cadets to be future Judges.
  • Sgt. Rock has pulled training duty stateside but is so committed to Easy Company that he insists on rejoining them on his furloughs.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story has the protagonist team trained by legendary (wheelchair-bound) dodgeball player Patches O'Houlihan. Parodied to hell and gone as Patches is ''extremely'' eccentric and puts the protagonists through Training from Hell (including dodging wrenches, in a scene massively spoiled by the trailer), and ultimately dies before the Big Game.
  • Gunny Highway in Heartbreak Ridge. He is sent back to school to train a Recon squad, even though he is a highly decorated Marine. Yeah, he tends to get into bar fights and tell off his superior officers.
  • Both LTC Moore and CSM Plumley in We Were Soldiers.
  • SFC Clell Hazard in Gardens of Stone.
  • Top Gun:
    • Top Gun:
      • The flight instructors at the eponymous school are all experienced veteran pilots. At the end of the movie, Maverick suggests that he might want to become an instructor himself. In the novel, he does.
      • Based on the actual school, which had ace pilots as instructors. However, the storyline misses one important point of the actual school: Graduates of the Top Gun training course are intended to return to their original squadrons to teach the techniques they just learned to their comrades.
    • In Top Gun: Maverick, Mav gets called in to train a bunch of new aviators for an Airstrike Impossible straight out of Star Wars.
  • The Guardian (2006): Senior Chief Randall was a veteran Coast Guard rescue swimmer who took a teaching assignment at the training center. The movie was based on a true story.
  • In The Tuskegee Airmen, the trainees — the first African-Americans ever trained as pilots by the US military — are surprised that one of their lead instructors is also African-American... and that the other instructors often defer to him. He turns out to be the only instructor with combat experience (having previously served in the Royal Canadian Air Force).
  • In The Martian, this is Mark's new job after he was rescued from Mars, as the foremost expert in long-term survival techniques for astronaut candidates.
  • Played for Laughs in Major Payne where Payne is released from the military after failing to advance to Lieutenant-Colonel. After utterly failing to integrate into civilian life, his old CO pulls some strings and does the best he can: putting Payne in charge of a Junior R.O.T.C. program at a boarding school. Payne treats the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits every bit as harshly as he did the actual soldiers he taught in the past, much to the chagrin of Emily Walburn who desperately wants him to become the "loving male role-model [sic] the kids actually need". In the end he actually becomes both: the efficacy of his Drill Sergeant Nasty Training from Hell routine is undeniable because the kids go from placing last to winning the Junior Military Games, something even Ms. Walburn reluctantly admits, but the only reason the kids are willing to devote to his training regiment is because Payne proves he cares about them by defending Stone from his abusive drunken stepdad.

  • Terry Pratchett has Sergeant Jackrum of the Borogravian army in Monstrous Regiment, who's been in the army so long that retirement papers have been in hot pursuit for years now, but has never advanced any further in rank. It's implied Jackrum's responsible for recruiting and training most of the high-ranking officers in the army.
  • Commissar Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM) becomes a Commissariat instructor in a Schola Progenium once he's reached his "retirement". The God-Emperor having a sick sense of humor, being retired does not make him any less likely to be eaten, shot, or otherwise attacked than when he was still active.
  • After the war ends in Animorphs, Jake works training a squadron of morphers for the US military. He remarks on how bizarre it is that he's instructing soldiers five to ten years older than he is, but it's justified since Jake and his friends are probably the most experienced morphers in existence (the Andalites, who invented the tech, tended to use it very sparingly).
  • Alastor Moody from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is brought from retirement by Dumbledore to teach Hogwards' students the ways of wizards' warfare for the inevitable impending struggle against Voldemort. He makes a stunning impression on the youths with his rough demeanor, vindictive punishment of evil deeds, epic Training from Hell and demonstrations of what wizards' ways of causing harm are like. It turns out that he's actually an imposter...but everything seen of the real Alastor Moody indicates that he would've taught the students in largely the same way.
  • Honor Harrington spends a couple years as commandant of the Advanced Tactical Course at Saganami Island while grounded undergoing medical treatment.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers has a Retired Badass - a famous war hero In-Universe - commanding the Mobile Infantry's Officer Candidate School, even taking a (temporary) demotion from General to do so.
    Rico: Yes, that Nielsen...
    • Pretty much all instructors at the Mobile Infantry Officer Candidate School are this. They are not as famous In-Universe, but they are all war heroes and Retired Badasses who received invalidating wounds and refused to be discharged, and so were posted there to teach officer candidates how to do their job. The most notable of them are the History and Philosophy teacher, a blind man with a sharp brain, and a paraplegic combat instructor who can still kick the asses of the candidate officers.
    • Even basic training instructors are veterans, as indicated by them having the rank to do so (being career soldiers with at least one combat drop being a prerequisite to rising above corporal in the MI), the differences with their Officer Candidate School counterparts being they're all in active service, are for the most part noncoms, and, in the case of the few officers, are relatively lower-ranked. They're still good at their job, to the point that when Zim is deployed for active combat he had to be referred by his rank until after the action or the reader would have known everything would go well.
  • Aral Vorkosigan in the Vorkosigan Saga regularly takes time out from his duties to give the seminar at the Imperial Academy about how to know when an order is criminal and what to do then.
  • For the first book of the X-Wing Series, Tycho Celchu serves this role in Rogue Squadron, helping train the next generation of pilots while serving as Wedge Antilles' executive officer. He would be flying combat missions, there's just the matter of him being a suspected Manchurian Agent that has New Republic Intelligence adamantly against the idea.
  • Invoked in Ender's Game. Mazer Rackham, Earth's most successful commander against the Buggers, is forced to travel for fifty years at relativistic speeds so that he'll be able to transmit his knowledge to Ender, who was literally born and bred for the role.
  • In The Hunt for Red October, Captain Marko Ramius uses this to his advantage when he decides to defect to America and take the Soviet Navy's newest missile submarine with him. Ramius had been the Soviet Navy's best captain and instructor for years, having personally trained most of their submarine captains at one time or another. As such, he's able to both handpick his own crew for Red October, thereby ensuring the senior staff is made up of officers who also want to defect and are more loyal to him than Mother Russia, and outsmart the Soviet submarines pursuing him since he knows exactly how their captains will think.

    Live Action TV 
  • At the end of one season of Bones, Booth (a former Army Ranger sharpshooter) was reactivated and went to Afghanistan to train snipers.
  • Major Narayanan and Major Vikram Rai serve as senior instructors at the Indian Army’s Commando School in Fauji. This is actually Truth in Television as the trainees at the Commando School are all Second Lieutenants and it was decided that only senior officers can instruct newly commissioned officers.
  • John Basilone in The Pacific goes from receiving the Medal of Honor to being put in charge of training Marines at Camp Pendleton.
  • Major Lewis and Lieutenant Colonel Kelly, both Vietnam era fighter pilots serve as the senior most flight instructors for a squadron of marine student pilots learning to fly F-18 Hornets in season 2 of Pensacola: Wings of Gold.
  • Star Trek:
    • At the conclusion of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, O'Brien heads back to Earth to become one of these at the Academy. He'd been doing a fair bit of the Veteran Instructor schtick as part of his regular duties during the last two seasons anyway. Especially to Cadet Nog, who was whose period of "field training" away from the academy ended up being much longer than usual because of the Dominion War.
    • In the finale of Star Trek: Voyager, Janeway volunteers as a guest lecturer on the Borg for Barclay's class, being one of the very few people who have extensive experience with them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000:
    • One Space Marines special character is Ultramarines scout sergeant Tellion, who stayed a sergeant to teach new recruits, and has even been loaned out to the Ultramarines' successor chapters to further distribute his skills. This seems to be a common occurrence among scout sergeants, see below.
    • The Gaiden Game Necromunda allows you to play as the Adeptus Arbites, an officially-backed riot squad rather than the usual street gangs. Given their access to better equipment, characters who reach a certain level are removed and considered to have become this for game balance reasons.
    • Tau Fire Caste warriors can either keep serving or go up the ranks until they're removed from active service to become this. If that sounds limiting, bear in mind the Fire Caste's sole purpose is to fight for Tau, and Tau parents are genetically screened to ensure the best offspring comes out. Not that they mind.
  • In BattleTech:
    • Can happen in the Inner Sphere whenever a lowborn mechwarrior reaches retirement in service to a Successor State by one means or another (noble or ennobled mechwarriors get officer training, take over their family's estate, or are attained by their own lords and given lands to rule instead). For those who started out as mercenaries or the lucky few who tested into mechwarrior training, this is pretty much a dream assignment; unfortunately the positions are few and far between (there being very few mechwarrior academies) and competition is fierce.
    • Clan sibko instructors subvert this; rather than being decorated veterans sent to educate the next generation, they often consist of the ones who have been removed from frontline combat (and thus denied the glory of combat) thanks to age, poor performance or political disgrace. The majority of them are very bitter about this and are more than willing to take out their anger on the teenage cadets they train, which is probably one of the reasons (along with all training being done with live weapons) why Clan training programs have a 80-95% dropout rate, and 30% death rate.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat:
    • Jack Bartlett from Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War is Type 1: because of his actions during the Belkan War, his superiors mistrust him without any proof, so he is stuck teaching "nuggets" on Sand Island. Gets to shine late in the game when he escapes a squadron of fighters with precious cargo on board a transport plane (though, to be fair, you assist him) and then pulls off an Airstrike Impossible like your own team on his own.
    • A subverted Type 3 in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War: The legendary ace Dietrich Kellermann, who became an instructor after retirement, is sent back to the frontlines during the Belkan War to boost the Belkans' morale.
  • Master Miller of Metal Gear has served with Big Boss back when he was running the MSF, then trained SEALs and other mercenary outfits.
  • Sergeant Cyrus from Dawn of War 2 is a veteran Blood Raven who prefers to teach the chapter's initiates as Scout Marines and is implied to have trained the player character and the rest of the main squad. This doesn't stop him from playing an active role during the Tyranid invasion, Chaos incursion, and chapter civil war, nor will it stop him from bringing along his Initiates - it's part of their training, after all.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel revolves around student life at the prestigious Thors Military Academy, and several of the faculty are military veterans, most notably Major Neithardt, Professor Beatrix (Retired Colonel), and Principal Vandyck (Retired General). In Cold Steel III, the protagonist Rean Schwarzer becomes this, as he is now an instructor at the Thors branch campus, and he has over a year of solid military service under his belt as the Ashen Chevalier fighting in the Erebonian Civil War, defeating multiple incursions by the Republic of Calvard at the Erebonian border, and participating in the invasion of North Ambria. The branch campus also boasts among its teaching staff Towa Herschel, who had commanded the airship that was Rean's mobile base of operations during the Civil War, Major Michael Irving from the Railway Military Police and former General Aurelia Le Guin as the principal.
  • Forte Stollen, one of the main heroines of the Galaxy Angel trilogy, becomes this by the time of Galaxy Angel II. She's younger than most examples (27 years old by the sequel trilogy), but technically qualifies as she personally trained not only the first four members of the Rune Angel Wing, but also the Seldar Military. She never formally leaves the military, and actually participates in active combat duty during the first and third games of the trilogy.

    Web Original 
  • Lampshaded in the trailer for Minesweeper The Movie, where a couple of sweeper trainees wonder why a famous veteran instructs newbies instead of sweeping mines himself. Towards the end of the trailer, it is implied that the instructor suffers from PTSD.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television. During WWII, the Allies would pull their best aces out of combat and send them back to train new pilots. This served two purposes: it kept famous aces from being killed in combat, thus avoiding the blow to morale that it would cause, and it allowed new trainees to benefit from the aces' vastly greater experience, making them better pilots. It must have been a great incentive for pilots to excel, aka "Make Ace, get excused from combat sooner." Notably, Japan did not bring their aces out of combat (the idea being that they should stay where they could do the most damage against the enemy), and they were almost all killed eventually (the lone survivor, Saburo Sakai, was only pulled from the lines and sent to train new pilots due to a stress-caused error causing him to get a bullet in the eye) — and the quality of Japanese pilots took a sharp downturn near the end of the war. This is also why the best-known Axis aces had higher kill counts than their Allied counterparts. By the last months of the war, the Germans were stuck with several living legends with no fuel or spare parts or back up, several hundred sheep to be butchered and everyone in-between dead or knocked out combat for good.
    • They did it with the snipers too. For example, the most famous Soviet sniper, Vasily Zaitsev, actually has relatively modest kill count, even compared to the other Soviet snipers, because he was pulled from the action quite early after he was made an example, as the brass realized that letting him be killed would be a blow to the morale. So he was transferred from the frontlines and got posted as an instructor in the sniper school.
  • This is fairly standard procedure for many armies around the world. Training is much more effective if the trainer actually has some practical experience in what he teaches, as opposed to purely theoretical knowledge. In a pinch, where there is no time or resources to train replacements, veteran instructors can also be re-fielded as opposed to instructors with no combat experience which are near useless in an emergency by comparison.
    • This is especially true of specialist, highly skill-based support vocations such as the medics, signallers, and combat engineers. The latter in particular can have a School reconstituted as an Engineer formation with very little effort.
    • Additionally, for many fields that use instructors who cannot be sent into combat, every single one of them formerly did it. A lot of the instructors for US Army Special Forces formerly served in Special Forces teams, but can no longer do so for reasons such as having left the military (often due to being a now-retired SNCO) or still being in the military but having received a disabling injury (at some point early in The New '10s, there was an instructor who was blind).
  • The Third Reich did quite the opposite by early 1944, by gathering most experienced Panzer instructors and veteran commanders into the elite Panzer Lehr Division and arming them lavishly with more and better machinery than either Heer or Waffen-SS Panzer Divisions. In practice it backfired, since they were expected to fight back the assault of Allied troops ten times their number, so the life expectancy in the Division was quite short. By the surrender in May 1945, the fighting men had been depleted and replaced a few times over.
  • In a lot of work situations, this is standard for new hires. Rather than just hand someone manuals and expect them to figure it all out on their own, they'll assign someone experienced to teach them and answer any questions.