Who’s Gonna Scoop Shit? Military Ranks in Fiction

So this is my first post from my brand new apartment down in Augusta, GA. In case this is the first time you’re reading my blog, I moved from central Illinois and it has been a bit stressful to say the least. Unfortunately, I spent all my money on moving, and now I don’t have enough money for good cream. This means our virtual coffee is a bit watered down, so if anyone wants a mug you might want to stop at the Starbucks around the corner. Anyways, I know you probably just stumbled in and are now desperately trying to escape, but since I’ve locked you in the dungeon of writing blogs, I might as well pretend like I have something to share.

All militaries operate under some sort of hierarchy. While ranks itself can be earned by merit, birth, or purchase, it is true that higher-ranking individuals command lower ranking ones. Here are a few examples:

Enlisted Ranks

  • Private: lowest rank, serves as the primary workers and the fighting force of a military. Often young and inexperienced.
  • Corporal: Lowest supervisory position, leads three to four subordinates.
  • Sergeant: The majority of the direct supervisors are Sergeants of some form. This is often the highest rank that those who start as Privates achieve. Lower positions they lead troops (5-50) in higher positions they advise officers (150+)

Officer Ranks

  • Lieutenant: A junior officer. Responsible for leading about 50 subordinates. Generally, inexperienced and has a Sergeant as a mentor/advisor. A Lieutenant that used to be enlisted is called a Mustang.
  • Captain: Officer in charge of about 150-200 troops. Responsible for making plans but not necessarily leading from the front to see that they are executed.
  • Major: A staff position at a high level. In charge of specific areas such as navigation, intelligence, logistics, etc. Also serves as 2nd in command for Battalions. (500-1000 troops)
  • Colonel: A high-level command officer. In charge of either Battalions or Brigades (1000-2000 troops). Extremely experienced and often requires political connection to be appointed.
  • General: Highest ranking military members. Almost exclusively held by those with connections to the ruling class of a society.

Many of the ranks have slight variations. A private first class is still a private though they might have more experience than their predecessor. A Sergeant Major is still a Sergeant, but they are operating in a much higher position than just a regular Sergeant. This is important to flush out the rank structure that you want to use.

It becomes easy to see how characters will react to each other when they have their hierarchy easily placed before you. Something that might motivate a Private, i.e. getting more sleep, will not affect an Officer the same way who likely does not have to wake up in the middle of night to pull a guard shift.

A military needs the enlisted ranks to survive, but the not necessarily the Officers. This means there should be a much higher percentage of Privates, Corporals, and Sergeants than there should be Lieutenants, Captains, and Colonels. Sergeants are often experienced enough to handle the management of their men better than some junior officers and this often causes tension. It is not uncommon for Lieutenants to become subordinate to a Sergeant even though they technically outrank them.

Officers usually do not start out as enlisted. They get their position by their birth, the ability to purchase a commission, or very rarely, by displaying incredible merit as an enlisted-man. Most officers attend their own form of training and once completed take command of a group of men who may have been in the military for ten years longer than that officer.

Privates will serve as guards, and officers will serve as the Warden. If you act like you are in charge, Privates will often obey, though Sergeants will be more likely to raise questions. If you’re going to sneak out of this dungeon, you can probably bluff your way past anyone with a single stripe on their sleeve. Otherwise, it might be best to run. I hope you enjoyed your stay, and I’m looking forward to the next time you are unwilling thrown into this cesspool of writing related topics.

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