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"We do not prop ourselves up on ceremony in the 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. 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.

Sometimes, this is justified by having the organization in question not be a real military, or a combined military/civilian organization. Most of the time, it appears to be the result of lack of experience on the part of the writers 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 anymore, 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 (that is, most of the time), it can quickly fall into the realm of Fridge Logic, or even turn the Mildly Military organization into a collective Mary Sue.

Examples of Mildly Military include:

Anime and Manga

  • The military of Super Dimension Fortress Macross 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 an romantic relationship with a superior officer throughout the series. Hikaru especially commits all sorts of insubordinations including deserting his post to watch a beauty contest. No one is ever reprimanded for this behavior.
  • Although it appears this way on the surface in Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, it's actually mostly subverted hard. Section Nine are True Companions, and will joke around sometimes, but there is a definite pecking order. The Major can and will pull rank whenever she feels her natural leadership abilities aren't enough, and the other members will always comply, though sometimes grudgingly. And nobody argues with Aramaki, not ever. On the rare occasion this trope is played straight, it's justified in that Section Nine is a small black ops team and gets a lot more leeway than the regular military.
    • As to Aramaki, he doesn't really appear to have any kind of military chain-of-command type control over Section 9, he himself has stated hes nothing more than a politician. That being said he is the one who had the idea to create Section 9 in the first place, is implied to have more political power than the Prime Minister (the supposed head of the Japanese government in Git S), is shown to be very capable in his own right in a messy situation, and has earned the fierce loyalty of the Section 9 members he has brought together by returning it in kind. And then add in the fact that everyone is pants-shittingly TERRIFIED of the man... there are reasons everyone calls him the "Old Ape."
      • In a Japan as corrupt as in Ghost in the Shell having more power than the prime minister isn't that impressive.
  • 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 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 his court-martial, along with his (likely) execution.
    • Similarly averted in Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, where Kou Uraki is court martialed for his theft of the GP-03 (no matter how much one thinks it might be justified, that's just the way it is) and is released because Captain Synapse committed suicide to take responsibility for it.
    • 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[1]. Apparently Bright Noa and Char Aznable don't see many problems with possible infant mortalities.
    • Gundam 00 features 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.
  • Justified 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.
    • There's also the fact that the section Tylor's captain of is delegated as the "dumping grounds" of the military, specifically for the guys that make the military. Tylor himself was sent there because his actions (averting a terrorist threat) demanded a promotion, but his unprofessionalism (waltzing casually into a threatened zone, hitting on the hostages, picking up a discarded gun and giving it back to one of the terrorists, etc.) pissed off the Brass.
  • On a similar note to the above Martian Successor Nadesico has a crew with...very peculiar character traits. Justified on two levels however. The first is that they are officially working for a heavy arms company, not the military (though they ally with military, who itself is pretty mild on the military scale). The second is that the company wanted to build the best crew possible for their ship, ignoring all character flaws.
  • The Time/Space Administrative Bureau in Magical Girl 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 StrikerS, where during a conversation Hayate had with 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.
    • Near the end of Episode 6 of Striker S, 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.
  • The Ninja organizations in Naruto, which amount to the setting's military forces. 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.
    • To be fair, the 12 year olds are normally expected to be relegated to D- and C- ranked missions; examples of each being trying to find a lost cat and guarding a grumpy old man from bandits respectively, neither of which are particularly dangerous to superhuman ninja in training, especially given that even when they are older and dealing with B- and A- ranked missions they are still usually led by a Jounin, a high level veteran [2] The few ninja that are given proper ninja tasks are the likes of Itachi and Kakashi, both prodigies and both promoted in wartime, and ninja from more brutal villages like the Bloody Mist.
    • And the uniform thing came to an end during the Fourth Shinobi World War, when all those 12 year olds who had previously worn whatever the hell they wanted are now 16 year olds who have to wear the uniform. But only during the actual war, apparently they can go back to whatever they want once it ends.
    • They're more akin to special forces units than actual militia at any rate, and it's rare that they'll group in much more than a dozen for any given mission. Current war excepted of course.
  • 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.
    • Considering that they control the near totality of their country's firepower, the military's insistence on ordering them around during a war might be forgiven.
  • The eponymous unit in Strike Witches has a base that's basically built into a castle, and when one character disobeys orders twice, allowing an enemy to escape and a comrade to be badly injured, she gets off with ten days confinement to quarters. This is somewhat justified since she is one of only a small number of people in the world who can operate a Striker Unit and the military really can't afford to lose her.
    • Virtually everything in Strike Witches is justified at one point or another and this trope is 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 and this is set in the 1940s. 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. Plus they're aces with a considerable amount of propaganda riding on them. Military law is carried too as Miyafuji was dishonorably discharged after her dereliction of duty, it's just that extreme circumstances had it revoked. Finally they use castles because are just 'there'. Air Wings and various military units during World War II would actually just set up base wherever tactically convenient. Notably other witches like the Ardor Witches and Storm Witches have more conventional bases relative to their location, the Ardor Witches are stationed in an actual military base with proper hangars while the Desert based Storm Witches live in tents by an Oasis.
  • 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, but then again, 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 (mostly the former), and is run and organized much like both. However, NERV personnel are allowed to grow long hair and beards and keep pets in on-base housing, and dating a co-worker isn't viewed a problem: and what real-world military would ever entrust its most important weapons to a fourteen year old?
    • Ones that are completely desperate given that Evas can only be piloted by a select few.
      • To be precise, the Evas can only be piloted by those born after the Second Impact. Seeing how that was only fifteen years ago and the Angels aren't going to wait around for those potential pilots to grow up...
    • Not to mention gross insubordination, and (in the manga version) punching Gendo, who is technically his commander. If NERV was any more military, Shinji would be locked up.
      • There are exactly three things standing between Humanity and a type 5 extinction event, you can't very well go about tossing the pilot of one of them in jail for anything short of aiding the enemy, especially considering that there is no one else who can pilot that specific device. Your superiors are replaceable, you aren't...
      • Then again, if NERV was any more military, Gendo wouldn't be allowed within thirty feet of command.
    • That can be excused ... NERV isn't a military organization - it's a hybrid of a scientific research project and a apocalyptic cult. Not to mention that the entire human race at this point his suffering from some pretty classic examples of PTSD. If any military organization is acting like a military organization at this point, they're Pod People.
  • 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.
    • It should be noted that those in a small, tight-knit group can and do act that way toward each other.
    • Also still subverted in that, while they do pull off stunts that piss off the military, they're operating as per their jobs. Major Connery doesn't like their actions because some of it risks exposing the military and the government's dirty secrets (he tries to use the excuse that they're interfering with the Intelligence Bureau's operations, but there really isn't any), and his hands are tied because their actions are technically legal. Also, he's Army Intelligence, Pumpkin Scissors is War Relief.
    • There was another instance where they did actively go against Section I, and in the next episode, we hear that they're already pushing the paperwork for permission to use lethal force against Pumpkin Scissors, especially Alice (though this is more because there are many with a grudge against her family).
  • Lieutenant Filicia Heideman of Sora no Woto runs her tank platoon as a family rather than as a military unit.
    • It helps that their post is in some isolated border town which isn't deemed valuable enough to properly staff, or even supply. Hell, they have to deal in bootleg liquor with The Mafia to get money for anything! Save for Hopkins' issues, the regular military fares better in avoiding this trope.
    • A peek at her Backstory does a pretty good job of explaining why she runs the platoon like this, establishing her as an Iron Woobie in the process. More specifically, when she was younger her entire platoon (who it seems was just as close as her current one) was killed in battle, leaving her with a pretty serious case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Surprisingly, the One Piece Marines tend to fall into this. Aokiji goes off on his own to track down Robin, with the Gorosei 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, 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 WWII, who run into a German U-boat (crewed mostly by women) and later a British destroyer (captained entirely by women). Romantic entanglements ensue.


  • The Rebel Alliance and later the Resistance in the Star Wars films. While they do have ranks and make frequent usage of military terminology, they act like a motley crew of random people who've banded together more often than not. Then again, as the Sequel Trilogy points out, this could be exactly the point.
  • James Cameron has admitted that the Space Marines in Aliens came off as a lot less disciplined than actual Marines; rather, they were more a reflection of Vietnam-era regular Army conscripts. This is averted in his later film Avatar, in which the Space Marines are intended to be more of a reflection of Blackwater mercenaries currently serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • In Top Gun, Maverick commits cashier-worthy violations over and over and ends up getting sent to the eponymous school for it. And not just things that are strictly military rules, but rules that are there for the safety of everyone, such as not buzzing the tower. These actions would get him grounded and transferred somewhere that's not as nice as an elite school.
  • 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 (the film is not set in the future and not in an alternate universe).
  • 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 the military personnel in War Games. 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.
  • Apocalypse Now. The only-somewhat-mildly military feel of the film probably comes from the fact that most of the characters are high for a good percent of the film. This in turn probably comes from the chaotic behavior of the actors during their time on set, which included massive amounts of drug consumption.
    • Actually a Truth in Television. By the end of the war the US forces had fallen apart and some units were almost unrecognizable as professional military. And truly staggering numbers were indeed regularly on drugs (we're talking double-figure percentages for regular marijuana and heroin use, according to some figures). Veterans have remarked on how accurately (compared to even Platoon or Full Metal Jacket) it captures the atmosphere of 'Nam!
  • The A-Team (the movie) has a lot of examples:
    • After the opening scene, there's a caption that says "eight years later." Even though eight years have passed, no one on the team has been promoted. Face was a lieutenant, which is a rank that has a near-automatic promotion after two years. For some reason, he's still a lieutenant eight years later, despite numerous successful missions.
      • He might have gone from a 2nd lieutenant (O-1) to a 1st lieutenant (O-2), but a person can usually make 1st lieutenant by fogging glass for 18 months so that leaves at least 6.5 years without advancement.
    • In Baghdad, Captain Sosa (Jessica Biel) says she'll court-martial Face. Neither she nor Face seem to realize she can't do that. She could recommend him for court-martial, but she has no way of actually doing it herself and should know that she would have little possibility of pushing a court-martial up his chain of command.
    • Reality Is Unrealistic, as this is a common threat in the military, no matter the likelihood of the threat being carried out (or even the ability of the threatener to carry it out).
    • The soldiers who work with Captain Sosa all wear their collars up and fastened on their ACUs, which isn't how you would wear it on a regular basis.
    • Hannibal also seems to be able to hand-pick the members of his team, adding anyone he wants, including BA who wasn't even in the Army when he met him.
  • 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.
  • Sy Fy Channel original movies that have military characters often fall into this trope.


  • The Barrayan military floats in and out of this as the plot requires in Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga books. Justified in that the protagonist is a high-up member of the military caste in his culture, son of a famous military figure (and formerly planetary Regent and then Prime Minister), grandson of a possibly even MORE famous military figure, and foster brother to the Emperor, so yeah, he can pull strings all night long without running out of them (and the other "military" group he runs around with is a bunch of mercenaries, so no one EXPECTS them to have standards, although they have more than you'd think. Most of the time.) Then subverted in Memory where the protagonist pushes his luck with the military once too often (and way too far), and lands in a world of shit for it. Though even there, it is pointed out to him that without his family connections and track record, he'd probably be in military jail for the rest of his life, if not executed, for the stunt he pulled.
    • Also justified in that the protagonist's vastly powerful family connections still could not preserve his conventional military career, and that all the other Barrayaran military who lack such connections don't get away with much of anything.
    • The fact that the protagonist in question is a covert operations specialist working for Imperial Security with a three-step chain of command (The Emperor -> Head of Imperial Security -> him) further justifies this. Of his two other superiors since the Academy, one was dangerously insane enough to justify outright mutiny and the other had little interest in receiving reasoned briefings when concerned with the missing Emperor (which meant he had to be thrown in a brig while said Emperor was rescued).
    • There is also that most of the time, the protagonist's behavior could be justified by regulations being circumvented for the purpose of achieving a (significant) net gain for his side. What gets him cashiered in Memory is his unsuccessful attempt to cover up a gross act of negligence on his part that almost killed (and did temporarily maim) another officer, for no one's benefit save the protagonist's. At which point his commanding officer proceeded to drop thirteen years' worth of unpaid karma on the protagonist all at once, leading to his dismissal in disgrace.
      • Not even that. He was officially given a medical discharge and retained all his pension and veteran's benefits.
    • Shortly after meeting her, Aral Vorkosigan tells his future wife Captain Cordelia Naismith, of the Betan Astronomical Survey, that near as he can tell, ranks within the BAS doesn't seem to indicate much more than pay-grade.
    • Cordelia never saw a Betan Expeditionary Force uniform until after the war was over, and was amused to see everyone wearing them in the theatrical reenactment.
  • The way the Global Defense Initiative is represented in the terrible official Novelization of Command and 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.
  • The Possiltum military seen in the early Myth Adventures novels is underfunded and undertrained, so it's Justified Trope 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[3]
    • 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.
      • Indeed. The infiltrators Did Not Do the Research when they figured a 'safe' failure rate..that turned out to be a huge improvement over normal troops.
  • The crew of eponymous starship in Stanislaw Lem's "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 drowse him on brandy on one occasion.
    • And their idea (and established procedure) for most cautious behavior on a clearly environmentally hostile planet (that previously killed a starship of the same class) caused half of the crew to be incapacitated, and no less than a dozen dead.
  • The Rogues, and later the Wraiths, from the X Wing Series.
    • The Rogues were merely casual people. They did keep up military discipline on combat missions and during debriefs. The Wraiths... Well, them not so much, except when Wedge insisted. Then again, that was kind of the point of Wraith Squadron.
    • The Rogues were also specifically and repeatedly called out on their behavior by General Salm, who commands a much more disciplined and orderly bomber wing. Of course, on at least once occasion this happened after the Rogues utterly destroyed the three squadrons under his command in a training exercise.
      • Salm was specifically complaining about something the Rogues did - they'd illegally sent out a computer program that caused the Y-Wings that had been shot down to flash the Rogue Squadron crest on their primary monitors. He also complained that Wedge had arranged for the Rogues to use the recreation facilities exclusively, getting more gym time than anyone else, letting them put more recreational equipment in their briefing room than in the entire Officer's Lounge, and one among them, Lujayne Forge, spent more time as a social secretary than training. The morale of his own squadrons was suffering. Wedge answered that he's building a squadron that will be assigned to the most difficult missions, they need to trust each other, and if this means that they're cliquish, so be it.
        • And later in that same book, an overconfident general, Kre'fey, orders Salm's Y-Wings to head home before an operation ended. Salm didn't get along with that general and thought Kre'fey was trying to cheat him out of credit for the op, so he took the long way out of the system, flying too close to their capital ships to go into hyperspace immediately. This meant that when the whole thing turned out to be a trap, Salm's squadron was screened from enemy's sensors, and they then were able to dramatically save Rogue Squadron. Later, Salm told Wedge that this was exactly what Wedge would have done, and now he needs Wedge to report him for disobeying orders.

 Salm: It doesn't matter that it worked. I'm not you. My people are not your people. The only thing that keeps my people alive out there is rigid adherence to discipline, and this discipline is instilled through consciously constructed drills that build them into a unit. My people lack the native talent in your squadron, but we make up for it because we cover for one another and watch out for each other.

Wedge: As you watched out for my people.

Salm: Yes, I did that, but only by disobeying an order from a superior officer. And you have to write it up that way.

      • Wedge has a moment in Wraith Squadron when he ponders this very thought. Falynn Starskimmer has been reprimanded multiple times for insubordination, but Wedge thinks that her attitude would have been fine during the days of the Rebel Alliance. The implication seems to be that when they were the Rebel Alliance, everything was distinctly unmilitary, as most of the time they were fighting a guerrilla war, or were civilians drafted in (like Messrs Skywalker, Solo and Calrissian until they accepted ranks and discipline). When they become the New Republic, everyone wants to start adapting a more formal military style. This is explicitly the reason Wedge forms Wraith Squadron, so that the Republic keeps coming up with new tactics instead of stagnating like the Empire.
    • Though even the Wraiths do have some military discipline. When Tyria attacks another Wraith, Wedge formally reprimands her and doesn't let her fly. Public displays of affection are only allowed in off hours or during light duty. One of his new pilots, when asking to see him, slouches and Wedge reflects that he'd take that from someone who'd flown with him for a while but not from a newbie. And there are other incidents. But he can and will bend regulations when he sees the need. At one point, to allow Tyria to save face, he decides to lie about an incident, though he won't commit perjury. But he thinks it won't get that far.
  • 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.[4] 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.
  • The Night's Watch in A Song of Ice and Fire, once you get to know them. Their numbers are, barely, kept adequate only through prisoners being sent their as a punishment in exchange for avoiding death, so this isn't a great surprise that many that even the volunteers and disciplined things are looser in certain areas.
  • Britain's Aerial Corps in the Temeraire series. Almost all of it is justified by the nature of the series' dragons. Dragon riders are too rare and valuable to be court-martialed for anything short of treason. Dueling is prohibited for the same reason. 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. Dragons generally refuse to serve with any human but a companion who was present at their hatching but some can be convinced to work with children of their original companion, so officers, even female officers, are encouraged to have children. The constantly rumpled, disheveled appearance of the aviators, though, is just because dragon riders tend to pack in a hurry.
    • England's Royal Aerial Corps in the Temeraire series toes the line rather hard, but is ultimately a poor example. The main character is originally a naval captain, and is used to serving with the Navy's rigorous discipline and strong sense of duty. He finds the Aerial Corps and their dragon-riding crews to be lax in comparison, having relaxed standards of uniform and a less than total adherence to order. As more time passes, it becomes apparent that the Corps' informal nature is a function of building a military branch around dragons and their Captains, and its reputation for uncouth behavior is undeserved.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Live-Action TV

  • 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 is a conglomeration of the US Navy, the USMC, the FBI, the CIA, NASA and a few research universities; a captain may need to think like Colin Powell or like Jacques Cousteau--or all of these may apply at once. To an extent, this came about by the involvement of many hands. Gene Roddenberry seemed to be inspired by the civilian space program (partially operated by the military). Nicholas Meyer was proudly making military sci-fi. Other screenwriters were just writing cop shows In Space, or sci-fi morality tales in the The Twilight Zone mode, or whatever other genre they felt like that day.
    • Prior to Star Trek, Roddenberry had served on the Los Angeles Police Department (a real-life example of the not-quite-military, especially in the 1950's). No doubt this experience had an influence on Starfleet as Roddenberry imagined it.
    • The result of this complex and conflicted process was a variety of offenses against seeming common sense, or at least expectation: making a civilian teenager a bridge officer on the basis that he might be the next Mozart...but for warp engineering; blatant fraternization between ranks; allowing Starfleet officers to pursue random personal quests (including, in one case, allowing one to honor a Klingon 'blood oath' and participate in murder and espionage as a result); and much screentime spent on the crews' recreation, such as learning to tap dance while an espionage plot lay in the background, or two command crews taking time out from a war to play baseball against each other (and treating it like Serious Business, too). Some viewers found this particularly uncomfortable in the later seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when these same seemingly informally employed officers were subjected to the horrors of war (of course, by this point the writers were aware of public perception of Starfleet, and this was part of the point).
      • Actually, treating baseball as Serious Business is not new to military - in World War 2, US military viewed any form of rest as Serious Business, since it improved morale.
    • This was nothing, though, against the discomfort with having the family of several crew members also in the very vessels where they serve. In TNG, Roddenberry wanted to make the Enterprise more family friendly, emphasizing that these ships are huge, and they were originally planned to be away from civilization for years at a time. Not quite Generation Ships, but still more than a bit like Jamestown with rocket engines, autonomous on the frontier. In this original plan, before going into known danger, Picard would separate the saucer (which contained all the families, and civilian personnel like scientists and Ten Forward staff) from the Enterprise.
      • In the end, that hardly ever happened, possibly because the stardrive section looked unimpressive on its own, possibly because with the special effects available at the time this was a time-consuming and expensive process. Neither did the ship ever really feel like an isolated outpost; to the viewer, it never took more than 15 or 20 minutes to get from wherever you were to where the plot wanted you next, while it was a matter of only hours to weeks for the characters. The only real result, beside the presence of families and civilian staff, was that some crew members clearly considered the ship a permanent home.
    • Later producers admitted that the Galaxy-class starship, with its families of the crew on board, left a bad taste in their mouths when they considered things like Picard ordering his ship toward the Neutral Zone or other peril. They also admitted that it was an experiment that didn't pan out, and stated that the later examples of Galaxy-class ships didn't have the crews' families aboard. Still, in an episode of Deep Space Nine where Starfleet planned to raid the Dominion to rescue Sisko, the Admiral in command had to be reminded to leave the civilian passengers back on the station before going into a likely combat zone.
      • The final result, not just of absent-mindedness and writer disagreement, but also of deliberate influence from Horatio Hornblower and other sea stories, has been more like a gentlemanly version of the Age Of Sail than any military force of modern times. Yes, that includes provisional crew signed on with little regard to age or official credentials, officers' families on some ships, and duels ashore (although as far as I know no sailor in the days of Wooden Ships and Iron Men ever dueled a head of state). To an extent, it stands to reason--Starfleet is in much the same position as a navy in a widely-scattered empire, prior to the invention of airplanes. There is nothing faster than a ship, and they are often the only agents of their government, assuming any roles necessary while weakly supervised, results being far more important than the letter of regulation. With or without children on board, the general cultural attitude to risk is much more accepting than the current day's, or even that of the Sixties, again hearkening back to more adventurous times.
      • Speaking of heads of state and duels there is an apocryphal tale that Gustavus Adolphus after insulting an officer in anger, offered him a chance at a duel and the officer was so touched by the humility that he refused the chance and returned to Adolphus' service.
    • The specific level of discipline also seems to depend on the CO. Kirk was simply on the loose end of normal as long as things ran properly, but God help you if you crossed him; Picard trusted his senior officers implicitly to be honorable and know what they were doing, but if you disappointed him, you'd prefer the brig to meeting his eyes; Sisko was somewhere between the two (although he had a reputation as a hardass when the series began); and Janeway was a frank hardass in comparison to any of the above. Anyone more by-the-book was pretty much The Neidermeyer.
      • Speaking of Janeway as hardass, an interesting aversion occurs in Voyager, where Paris is actually stripped of his rank and thrown into the brig for several episodes for his conduct. He gets his rank back later (which must have really pissed off eternal Ensign Harry Kim) but it's one of the few situations where disobeying a superior officer actually had real repercussions in the Star Trek universe.
    • The broad role does cause confusion even in-story--some Starfleet officers frequently insist that their organization isn't a military at all, despite its use of military ranks and the fact that it fills every function of a military. In Deep Space Nine, the Cardassian tailor/spy Garak specifically calls Doctor Bashir out on this.
      • Civilians, though, may have a clearer perspective. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, David Marcus disdainfully referred to Starfleet as "the military" when he thought they were trying to steal Genesis (it was actually Khan, of course). This might be due to it being one of Nicholas Meyer's films.
        • It also has to do with that specific point in Federation history. Exactly how military Star Fleet is seems to depend a lot on what's going on in the galaxy at a given moment, i.e. things are quasi-military during TOS when the Federation is at peace but with active threats to its security flexing their muscles, it then becomes much more military during the first six movies as the cold war with the Klingons gets hotter, and then loses almost any resemblance to a regular military organization in TNG, during which time the Federation is at peace. With the emergence of the Borg and the Dominion, things start shifting back the other way.
        • You can almost view their uniforms to judge how things are going for The Federation, if they're wearing bright colors then they are at peace but the darker the uniforms get the greater chances they are at war with someone.
        • While were at it the Klingon Defense Force shows an indiscipline that makes it look more like a street gang then a military force. Somewhat unsurprising given that the Klingons aren't so much soldiers as they are warriors - neither the officers nor the crew would pay attention to stiff discipline anyway, so why bother?
  • 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.
    • The main reason they got off light was that Garibaldi interceded on their behalf. Not the best excuse, but it's something.
      • Garibaldi interceded on their behalf because of a fight, caused due to another soldier interceding and stopping the harassment. The Drill Sergeant didn't know anything about the harassment of an ambassador part, and if he did the punishment likely would have been severe.
  • Averted with UNIT from Doctor Who; 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 Poison Sky.
  • Fully Inverted Trope in I Dream of Jeannie, where NASA, a civilian scientific and organization that just happens to take some of its astronauts from the military is treated like a strict military organization. The Astronaut characters are practically never seen out of uniform.
    • At the time of I Dream of Jeannie 's debut in 1965, most NASA astronauts (and Soviet Cosmonauts for that matter) were in either the Air Force, Navy, or Marines, and had been selected for their experience as fighter pilots or test pilots (both in most cases.) NASA picked its first civilian astronauts (Neil Armstrong and Elliot See in 1962 [both former naval aviators]). In 1965, certain astronauts were selected for their scientific prowess instead of flying prowess (and still 4/6 of those chosen had military experience). That said, NASA was and is not run like a military or paramilitary organization in real life, despite the depiction on the show.
  • The 4077th MASH. Giving civilian conscripts the rank of Army captain on arrival will do that (most Army MDs hold captain rank 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.
    • Lampshade Hanging during an episode when a general 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," Potter shot back "Maybe. But from a human standpoint, they're plenty tight."
  • Stargate Command and the Atlantis Expedition are relatively restrained versions of this trope. But make no mistake they are very Mildly Military. But since both shows are Genre Savvy, this is lampshaded and explained. A General Ripper comments on his discomfort with an alien and an archaeologist 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. Atlantis is actually a bunch of civilians with a military contingent.
    • In SG-1's case, it helps that the O'Neill a full colonel, which is an awful lot of officer for one 4-person team. He has enough legitimate authority to justify a lot.
    • There's also the further justification that SG-1 has saved the Earth a few dozen times over, so they earn more slack as the seasons go on. On top of that, O'Neill was pulled out of retirement to lead SG-1, while Hammond was heading towards it when he got the SGC dropped on him, so that can explain their willingness to play more loosely with regulations - they both were about to retire, and if the powers that be want them to stick around...
      • Not only is O'Neill a full colonel, but a colonel with enough connections that, upon being told he's invited to a dinner with the US President, can afford to reply "Do you know what they're having?" before accepting. Though he was probably just snarking, like always.
        • Richard Dean Anderson once asked Gen. John P. Jumper, who was Chief of Staff for the Air Force at the time, if he had any Colonels who were as bad as O'Neill. Jumper replied that he has subordinates who are worse.
    • Still further justified in that SG-1 wasn't supposed to be a front-line team at all but a "first contact" team. They were intended to have the authority to represent the US government, divine the purpose of whatever inscrutable technology they found, read whatever foreboding runes were on their hosts' buildings, and hopefully have enough experience to take cover before they get shot at if it comes to that. When actual combat forces are required, the SGC has a number of combat SG teams (mostly Marines), as well as one or two other first contact teams, a number of science teams, support teams, technical teams, and so on.
    • Completely justified in 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 went out the airlock.
      • At the very least, Telford is pretty fond of calling Young on his various mistakes/indiscretions, such as sleeping with a subordinate officer, to start. Young gets away with it because Telford was originally in command and the affair was never made public (more of an open secret since they broke it off). Now that he's on Destiny, he can get away with it because they literally cannot replace him. This becomes more pronounced as the series went on and the people on Destiny realize that Earth can't really help them. After an ill-conceived plan almost destroys the Destiny, Colonel Young essentially walks out on General O'Neill, demonstrating that he is only going to be paying lip service to any orders from Earth.
  • Largely averted in the new Battlestar Galactica, where you have lots of characters shouting about hierarchy and such. In fact, however, temporary insubordination or inappropriate behaviour are forgotten quickly because Status Quo Is God. This seems justified given the near total annihilation of humanity and their situation creating in them a sense of family more than anything else, not to mention having been forced to dip increasingly into the civilian population over time to replace losses. They simply cannot afford to be entirely strict on such matters as they used to be. Even on a bad day they are a lot more military than many on this page though.
    • 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 and military coups) 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!"
      • This realization, long before it was voiced by Lee, as well as the influx of civilians onto the ship and into the military likely explain why Galactica gets more and more mild as time goes by. In S3 they even open a bar on the ship. Which, with the destruction of Cloud Nine, might be the only bar left in existence.
      • The appearance of Pegasus with its tough-as-nails discipline also contrasts with the milding conditions of Galactica.
    • It's also worth noting that even before the Cylon attack, things were loose on Galactica, in some ways even looser than they would be during the first two seasons of the show. Galactica was in the process of being decommissioned, so a blind eye was turned to some things that wouldn't be tolerated at another post. Colonel Tigh explicitly states this when he calls out Boomer for fraternizing with an enlisted man.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Initiative from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The soldiers lacked military haircuts and proper uniforms, and were entirely willing to let a civilian look around their entire secret operation. They're a secret government organization that probably isn't technically part of the military, but still...
    • As to the haircuts and uniform, the agents were maintaining cover identities as Perfectly Ordinary College Students. The relative merits of that cover are up for debate, but having chosen it, being more than Mildly Military would be pretty tricky.
      • Unless the school had an ROTC program.
        • Although someone being under cover and pretending not to be in the military would likely be better off not affiliating with the ROTC, either.
    • And as to letting a civilian look around their operation, she was the Slayer, a potentially valuable ally, and they didn't let her into the higher-security areas or wander off on her own.
    • Also worth noting that they referred to one another as "agent" rather than by any rank.
      • Some truth in television here. In cases such as counter intelligence and CID, the agents tend to go by the title of "agent" rather than their rank to avoid problems with people of higher rank.
  • 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.
  • 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 sentenced for a crime they didn't commit.
  • Combat Hospital: Much like the MASH 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.
  • Averted in JAG. For a staff corps office they take military protocol very seriously.


  • 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 Bare Your Midriff 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 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.

Newspaper Comics

  • Beetle Bailey features extremely laid-back discipline and has not had a real combat situation in the entirety of its 70-year history. Then again, it is a parody.
  • 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.

Tabletop Games

  • Traveller : The IISS is famous through the Imperium for it's 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).

Video Games

  • The Badass Crew you gather in Super Robot Wars usually demonstrates this trope. In the second Original Generation game, the XO of the Hagane gains a rival who repeatedly points out this behavior...but he himself 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. (Actually, it just makes him a regular ass.)
  • 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.
  • Discipline is remarkably light in Valkyria Chronicles, although it is a drafted civilian militia. it does get a little extreme when Faldio shoots Alicia to awaken her Valkyria powers. Friendly fire and his punishment were only 10 days in the brig.
    • He was only being held until he could be properly tried; the militia was really lacking in leadership higher than Varrot and there was a lot of chaos going on. The REAL total lack of military protocol goes into Alicia once she does awaken to her powers. You'd think the army would actually bother to approach her about her newfound issues exactly like she's afraid of, but General Damon and whatever other commanders are running the show couldn't give a damn if you paid them for it in advance.
  • In 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 unauthorized 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).
  • The Systems Alliance in Mass Effect is fairly spit and polish, but the Normandy itself goes completely bunny ears after Shepard takes command. Obviously justified in that Shepard is a Spectre, and the crew is technically no longer answerable to the Admiral, but that doesn't explain how Shepard can get away with blowing off the Council.
    • It's a political thing. For the same reason that Shepard can get away with pissing off the Systems Alliance s/he can also get away with pissing off the Council. The Alliance needs a Spectre and the Council needs to make peace with the Alliance. So s/he sits between the two and can spit on both, reflected in leaning towards the Alliance in the Renegade choices and the Council in the Paragon ones, though this being 'complex' sometimes it flips. If there was more than one human Spectre you would have a lot more loyalty to the Council as it would no longer be a 'bridge between two worlds' situation.
    • Mass Effect is somewhat of a special case here anyway in that you can snap your subordinates into line at any time, although this tends to lock out dialogue options. It also tends to be a Renegade action and Shepard is rarely nice about it. The option is there, though.
    • Captain Anderson most likely gave Tali, Wrex and Garrus security clearance back when the Normandy was his ship, and he specifically asked for Ashley Williams' transfer. Once Spectre Shepard takes over s/he has commandeered the vessel and things are status quo. I doubt Shepard can officially grant or revoke clearance but no one except the Council can alter anything as long as s/he is in charge either. Liara might have been cleared by way of political pressure from the Asari Councilperson.
      • All this is further justified 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.'
      • "This is technically a civilian ship. I'm probably lucky you're still wearing pants."
    • At one point you meet an Admiral on the Citadel who calls you on it and writes an annoying report on the state of the Normandy (which has no in-game consequences), including aliens having free access to the ship and the lack of discipline. But well, he's a disgruntled old man who thinks the Normandy is a useless waste of Alliance money, so he'll Accentuate the Negative in just about everything.
      • Unless you smooth talk him, in which case he gives a grudgingly favorable report. Then again, you can also shut him down completely due to the fact that you're no longer under his jurisdiction.
  • 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 justifies 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 soldiers/mercenaries compared to the civilian heavy "armies" of most games.
  • Final Fantasy VIII: For an Military Academy that produces the toughest and most elite soldiers in the world, Balamb Garden is surprisingly cozy and cheerful. And that music that plays while you're in there...
    • During the first disc, the Garden is far more spit-and-polish; while there's still plenty of leeway for horsing around and playing card games while on duty, there are lines that should not be crossed. Zell gets his futuristic skateboard confiscated when he brings it into Garden, and when Seifer heroically disobeys orders on a mission because he was assigned to a makework position, he's imprisoned and effectively cashiered despite basically shredding the entire enemy force. Finally, your initial SeeD rank is partly determined by your willingness to stick to the regs on that mission (the Attitude score). Later on, your rank can drop if you spend too much time playing around and don't stick to the mission at hand.[5]
  • 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 they 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.
    • Justified with Raynor's Raiders, at least, since they're a rebel organization and wouldn't really have a well organized hierarchy anyway.
  • 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 advert this trope for the various mooks seen around. However the higher up the chain of command you go the less militaristic it becomes. Seems that the Admiral's are handpicked 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, despite having no background in any military or sailing organizations, and then later given admiralship and command of his own fleet.
  • Call of Duty isn't perfect either. In Modern Warfare, Soap's first day in the SAS consists of two minutes in the firing range, a quick CQB exercise, and then he's off on his first mission, as a Sergeant. In the real SAS, which you can only join after serving in another regiment, you immediately lose your rank and start at the bottom, and spend weeks going through Training From Hell.

Web Original

  • Red vs. Blue. Both teams are almost completely incompetent in every aspect. On the Red Team Grif sometimes outright refuses orders from Sarge. And the Blue Team has no commanding officer at all, they're all privates. Justified in that no-one cares about the war.
    • Properly justified in Reconstruction, where it's revealed that Neither side was ever in the military, or derivatives thereof. It's all just simulations held by command for various reasons.
    • The trope also gets averted whenever the main cast meet somebody from outside Blood Gulch. Apparently the other Red and Blue teams, as well as the Freelancers, all take their jobs rather seriously. This has lead to Caboose being tied up in a brig, and Simmons and Grif facing a firing squad.
    • Even the Freelancers are fairly lax about things, though--they're 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.
  • 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?"
  • 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.

Western Animation

  • Nigh-universal in Transformers series. The Autobots we see are always a military contingent... and always act like they're just guys on vacation. 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 received 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.
    • Justified in Transformers Animated. The main crew of Autobots aren't active military operatives. Prime is a Jaded Washout, Ratchet is retired, Prowl is a draft dodger and Bumblebee and Bulkhead are from society's lowest rungs. The military active personnel are a lot more professional.
    • The Autobots in Transformers Prime. They've stated more than once that they're True Companions rather than a unit of soldiers. Causes no small amount of friction when Ultra Magnus arrives on Earth as he is very much not Mildly Military. He even glared at the human children when they didn't address him as "sir."
    • Optimus Prime is very much this in War for Cybertron, much to the ire of the Autobots who view this as one of the reasons why they so completely lost the war.
  • Mind you, the Autobots get off rather lightly compared to their fellow Hasbro heroes in G.I. Joe. Next to nothing of how the Joes operate, in any continuity, would fly in the US military. Especially not those ridiculous uniforms.
  • And both look much better than the Royal Guard in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Even if the positions are more ceremonial than anything, the ranks, apart from those in the throne room, seem composed of more a collection of dudes than anything else.
  • Both the Rebellion and the Horde in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power are run in a very blasé, extremely loose fashion. After Scorpia defected, it was days before anyone noticed. Their lack of formality really shows when compared to the Galactic Horde in Season 5.

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 are, for all practical purposes, Ninja, and don't operate in the massed ranks like other soldiers and around which most protocol is designed, so they have their own rules that are more relevant to their unique situation.
  • The United States Air Force, the Royal Air Force and probably many others are noted for this trope. It's true that they're often very laid back (especially when compared to other branches of the military), this is because in the Air Force it's actually officers who end up doing a lot of the actual fighting while the enlisted provide support rather than the other way around and operation on large aircraft and Air Force bases requires close cooperation between officers and enlisted men. They also often enjoy creature comforts other branches don't because air bases can often be far, far away from the actual fighting.
    • Additionally, the crew of an individual aircraft usually have a rather more streamlined chain of command than the disparity in rank would suggest; the aircraft captain's word is law, but beneath them everyone else has a specific task to perform and little occasion to give each other orders, so the formality of rank is unnecessary.

  When God created discipline on Earth, the Air Force was in the air. - unknown Soviet Air Force officer

  • 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 WW 1 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, including having only officers and no enlisted. Their purpose is currently to support NOAA's efforts.
    • 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 Affiliate Radio System, an all-volunteer group of amateur radio operators.
    • Skippy of Skippys 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.
  • The Israeli Defence Forces tend to act like uniformed civilians when off duty because... well... that's what they are. Discipline is much more strict while actively serving, at least for combat units. Its 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).
  • 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 crew of the USS Enterprise (no, not that one, this one).
    • Actually, this is an example of the real military. This may be an example of reality being unrealistic, though. This sort of thing happens all the time in the military. The Tailhook incident is another good example. I wouldn't call either incident "mildly military." If so, every service member who breaks the rules is also "mildly military." What this is is an example of bad judgment.
      • To be honest, what I consider most Mildly Military in the Enterprise incident (I am not aware of the other one you mentioned) are the reactions and conversations among the crew. They don't even seem to address their superior officer as "sir" — granted, from those videos it seems very likely that the XO himself enforced this laid back atmosphere, but it does resemble most examples of Mildly Military in fiction.
      • Not addressing the XO properly definitely qualifies.
    • Frankly, the Navy as a whole is often considered this by Marines and Army types. The Navy at sea is more of a blue-collar industrial work station than what one thinks of as strictly "military." While not as much as the aforementioned Air Force, the Navy is a bit more lax about spit and polish and proper salutations and such. Which is somewhat ironic, considering that the Navy (and navies in general) was once the most spit and polish branch, because there were so many things that could go wrong on a ship, and almost every single one needed to work right or the ship was in major trouble. Strict discipline also helped to reduce the risk of mutiny (virtually unthinkable today). Today, everything is multiply redundant and/or automated, not to mention the fact that the workings of warships are so complicated that you need an engineering degree to maintain them, on the rare occasion anything major does break.
      • This is especially true with Navy Corpsmen, who are most famous for providing direct medical support for Marine units. It's fairly common for "Docs" to casually shoot the shit and show only minimal bearing with Marine NC Os many ranks above them. While this does give them a reputation for being dirtbags, most Marines will let a corpsman that they are confident can do their job (i.e. save the lives of their Marines) get away with murder. Furthermore, even in our own BAS (battalion medical), the rank structure is very lax, with the most junior and senior sailors casually conversing, joking, and pulling pranks on each other - this attitude is partially due to being an island of sailors in a sea of Marines. Corpsmen do have their own version of military professionalism, however, as corpsmen who can't do their jobs and put their Marines at risk from their incompetence are almost universally reviled.
  • The Republican soldiers in the party and union militia's in the Spanish Civil War count. Heck they elected officers and could hand in their guns and leave at any point. Orders from the rear such as an advance were followed only after each unit voted. People would not follow an order they did not understand, even in battle. It seems that only idealism kept them in line at all. And then the Soviets showed up and took over, and then came the commissars and the field executions.
  • 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 US 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 U.S. Army by the end of the Vietnam War suffered from a bad case of this; as mentioned above, many films set during the War show military units that are barely wearing uniforms, with half of the soldiers high most of the time. While this often seems jarring to viewers, any soldier who was there will tell you that it was absolutely Truth in Television: the army was falling apart, 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.
  1. and they clearly had opportunities to have the children taken off
  2. The old man in question was actually being targeted by missing-nin, basically criminal ninja who in this case were working as professional assassins; however he hid that fact as he couldn't afford proper protection, and Kakashi notes that if they had known that it would have been at least a B-rank (sometime later he calls it an A-rank) the kids wouldn't have been allowed near it.
  3. Example: receiving a requisition for seasonal gear, he deliberately ships gear for the opposite season. But he didn't notice that the requisition was half a year old, so the gear was for the appropriate season when it arrived.
  4. He displayed initiative and captured an enemy leader, unfortunately he didn't know there was a truce on. So they promoted him and and put him in charge of their worst outfit.
  5. ...supposedly. Though the official guide may say otherwise, the amount of time you spend on side quests and Triple Triad has no bearing on your salary. Outside of scripted events and written exams, your rank is determined entirely by how many monsters you kill in between paydays. It's the same "kill monsters for money" formula seen in every RPG, just in a different package.