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DancingMaenid
10-18-2010, 08:46 AM
Well, it looks like I've decided to try to tackle NaNoWriMo after all, and the protagonist for the story I'm planning is ex-military. The story itself will take place after his service ends, but his military history is relevant to the story.

The story is science fiction and takes place in the future, but I'm using existing ranks and am using the U.S. military as a reference.

I'm not sure what rank I should give my character. I've looked up different ranks, but it's hard for me to get some perspective. My character is probably in his late thirties when the story begins, and would have joined as a young man. So he was in the military for maybe 15 years. He had a good career, served in wars, and led missions.

What would be a realistic rank for someone like this? I was thinking maybe a colonel, but I'm wondering if that's maybe too high up. Maybe a sergeant? Like I said, I kind of lack perspective on what these ranks mean.

Another thing, I'm not sure why he would have ended his career at this point. I'm thinking he was injured and given a discharge, but would he have been offered a position that didn't involve active duty, and if so, could he have opted for a discharge instead? Could someone just retire at this point if they wished?

Hopefully this makes sense. I really appreciate any input.

blacbird
10-18-2010, 08:50 AM
Enlisted man or officer? These are separate rank structures, in every branch of service.

DancingMaenid
10-18-2010, 08:58 AM
I'm leaning towards officer. That's what I've been focusing on mainly in my research, at least. This guy wanted a military career, and I'm thinking he attended a military academy.

Noah Body
10-18-2010, 04:34 PM
Major if in the Army/USMC/Air Force, or Lieutenant Commander if he was in the Navy. That's an O-4, and an officer who graduated from a military academy should be able to obtain that rank within 15 years. Lieutenant Colonel/Commander (O-5) might be achievable as well.

jclarkdawe
10-18-2010, 07:10 PM
Noah comes up with the same ranks I would, but fifteen years is a weird time to leave the military willingly. You'd be leaving at that point because of not being promoted and having used up your time in grade, or failure to pass physicals, or a career ending mistake. The result would be no retirement, even if the discharge is honorable. You wait for twenty years to retire.

He could leave for a disability, whether incurred in training or combat. Disabilities are measured as a percentage, and you'd have to talk with the Veterans Administration to find out what injuries result in what sort of percentages. Pay on disability is different than retirement pay.

Realize that psychologically there's a lot of difference between retirement and disability. And there's a lot of difference between officers and enlisted men as well.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

PeterL
10-18-2010, 07:27 PM
I agree with JCD. If you want him to be retiring after fifteen years, then leave him as a Captain and have him have a serious screw-up on his record.

If you want him to look good then have him retire after 20 years as a full Colonel.

mtrenteseau
10-18-2010, 09:33 PM
If he started right out of high school, he'd have his twenty years in at thirty-eight.

In many settings there isn't much difference in the level of responsibility between a Lt. Colonel and a "full-bird" colonel. (On M*A*S*H, for example, Henry Blake was a Colonel but Sherman Potter was a Lt. Colonel) So he might have retired because he knew he would get passed over for a promotion to full colonel.

Hallen
10-18-2010, 09:37 PM
Minimum age for a full 20-year retirement is going to be 43 or 44 if he went through one of the academies. Maybe a hair younger if he went on OCS route after graduating from a regular college early. But, making full-bird Colonel (O-6) after 20 years is going to be tough if he's not a ring knocker (academy graduate). There is still a thing as a WPPA (West Point Protection Association). ;-)

People do decide to get out at 15 years, I've seen it. If they are facing another long deployment on ship or a combat zone and are just plain worn out, or have family issues, or other problems, I've seen them bail. Also, if they have been passed over for promotion three times, they are gone, period (for officers). It really is move up or move out.

What is this character's specialty? What did he do in the military that is important to the story? That will determine, in many cases, what rank he should be and if he should be enlisted or officer.

Noah Body
10-18-2010, 09:52 PM
Yep, that's right. 15 years is an odd time to leave, but I took a powder after 10 years when I realized I had just no fun in Somalia, and that the powers-that-be basically handed Aideed's clan a victory they didn't deserve, making all the sacrifice worthless. There were other reasons as well, but I've seen folks hit it at the 15 year mark as well, though if memory serves, most were enlisted, not officers.

Also, I was remiss for not putting forth some other nominations with regards to rank: warrant officers. A Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3) or a fairly junior CW4 could hit the bricks after 15 years as well. (In the Army, anyway.)

blacbird
10-18-2010, 11:00 PM
If he started right out of high school, he'd have his twenty years in at thirty-eight.

If he went to a military academy, he wouldn't be entering right out of high school. He'd be early 40s with twenty years active duty.

Haggis
10-18-2010, 11:14 PM
If he went to a military academy, he wouldn't be entering right out of high school. He'd be early 40s with twenty years active duty.
Academy time counts as active duty time for retirement purposes, does it not?

Hallen
10-19-2010, 02:40 AM
Academy time counts as active duty time for retirement purposes, does it not?

It definitely sets your initial entry date, but I don't think it counts towards your retirement date. I think you still have to do a minimum of 20 years active service. An academy grad or pay specialist would have to chime in here to confirm.

Hallen
10-19-2010, 02:41 AM
If he went to a military academy, he wouldn't be entering right out of high school. He'd be early 40s with twenty years active duty.

Which is exactly what I said above...

Linda Adams
10-19-2010, 05:58 AM
Noah comes up with the same ranks I would, but fifteen years is a weird time to leave the military willingly. You'd be leaving at that point because of not being promoted and having used up your time in grade, or failure to pass physicals, or a career ending mistake. The result would be no retirement, even if the discharge is honorable. You wait for twenty years to retire.

Though it does happen. I knew someone who left at 17 years. At the time, everyone wondered why didn't just stay the extra three years (the army gave him $70K for an early out). When I got out, I understand exactly why he did it--I had 12 years. I got to the point where I couldn't put up with it any more. Whether it's one year or eight, it's a long time if you can't stand it any more.

Medical might be another reason to get out--not necessarily a disability. When I was in, the army did not deal well with anything temporary but long-term that couldn't be fixed. It's not like when you sprain your ankle at home, and you can take a few days off work until it's better. You have to go to Sick Call and have a doctor give you temporary medical orders saying you can't do certain things like running. If the problem is still there when the order expires, you have to go back for another one. With long-term temporary injuries, you'll often get referred to various specialists for further tests and then get told what you already know. Meanwhile, the injury starts to improve, so they take you off the temporary medical orders and tell you to resume normal things again. So you do that, reinjure it, and go see the doctor again. He gives you more temporary orders, sends you to the same specialists, who tell you the same thing. This can go on for many, many years, to the point where the soldier just has to get out to get away from it.

DancingMaenid
10-19-2010, 01:35 PM
Thanks for all the input -- it's definitely helpful.

When it comes to when he entered the military/was in the academy, that's one area where the fact that it's science fiction gives me more leeway, I think. I'm still working on the finer points of the setting, but in the world I'm writing, he would have entered an academy as a teenager, as opposed to a university student.

I'm willing to adjust some details like that since it's a fictional society. But I want the structure to be fairly realistic and similar to real life as well, especially since I'm using existing ranks.

Good points about whether or not someone would retire after fifteen years. That was something that I'd been wondering about.

A big part of the plot is that he goes on the run to avoid trouble due to a government scandal involving the military. I was going to have him learn about this stuff after leaving, but it might make more sense if he decided to leave because of it.

Thanks for all the input on ranks. That's definitely helpful. I'm currently deciding between having him be in the air force or the army.

mtrenteseau
10-19-2010, 07:14 PM
If he went to a military academy, he wouldn't be entering right out of high school. He'd be early 40s with twenty years active duty.

I was thinking Military Academy like Valley Forge, not West Point. A high-school level military academy wouldn't count anything toward years of service or pension or seniority, and depending on the person it might not tell you much about their desire to join the military afterwards.

My thought on the branch of the armed services - someone will certainly provide more accurate information than I can, but wouldn't one assume that an officer in the air force is less of a "team player" than someone in the army?

Noah Body
10-19-2010, 08:11 PM
I'm currently deciding between having him be in the air force or the army.

Well, if he's going to be a manly-man, the Army is the only answer. If he's going to instantly know where the hair gels and body sprays are in every supermarket, make him a zoomie. ;)

Duncan J Macdonald
10-20-2010, 05:27 AM
Well, if he's going to be a manly-man, the Army is the only answer. If he's going to instantly know where the hair gels and body sprays are in every supermarket, make him a zoomie. ;)
I know a couple of jarheads who would disagree.

Still, being a ground-pounder 11B, out after 15, he could be a senior staff sergeant or junior sergeant first class. He just didn't re-enlist for --------------- (fill in the blank). Have him with Ranger Tabs and jump wings.

Oh, and Somalia surely sucked. This lowly Navy puke was the Naval Liaison Officer to General Johnston during Operation Restore Hope. That was before we'd made the choice between Ali Madi and Adeed.