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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Charmion BS: Question about military rank (44) RE: BS: Question about military rank 20 Nov 19

PFR, people who pretend to military rank and status, especially decorations, they have not earned are equal parts pitied and reviled; the recently coined American phrase “stolen valor” pretty well covers it. The Army Rumour Service, a British website that reads like a NAAFI break on steroids, has a verb for it: “walting”. As in Walter Mitty.

To answer your earlier question, the senior non-commissioned member of any group of soldiers is not the Alpha, but is usually the resident bad-ass. In a well-run platoon, company, squadron, battalion or regiment, the Officer Commanding should be the Alpha of the entire unit or sub-unit, and definitely top of the commissioned pecking order. His or her non-commissioned equivalent — platoon sergeant, company sergeant-major, etc., — holds the top spot of the non-commissioned pecking order (which is much larger), but always defers (or should) to the most junior officer. The senior NCO is often older, more experienced and tougher than the equivalent officer. Balancing the formal deference required by discipline against the real challenge of keeping the whole machine running, and making it look sincere, is part of the genuine bad-assery these people display on a routine basis.

When I was a recruit, the School Sergeant-Major of the Canadian Forces Recruit School was a tall, lean, saturnine Chief Warrant Officer from the Royal Canadian Regiment. Known to us as Mr Boyle, he was always immaculately turned out, even in combat clothing in the mud of the 300-metre range in a Nova Scotia sleet storm. His voice on parade (Thursday afternoons at two o’clock) literally shook the roof of the drill shed. He scared me silly.

I came down with bronchitis in the fourth week of training and in a week was half-dead with pneumonia. I fell flat on my face in the road while trotting back to the barrack with the platoon mail, and came to in the base hospital in an oxygen tent. That evening, Mr Boyle visited to the hospital, as was his wont and, indeed, part of his traditional duty. When he got to me, he peered out from under the glittering brim of his cap. “Well, don’t you look like a little pile of ... crap,” he growled as he gently patted my blanket-wrapped feet.

Not exactly motherly, but comforting in his stern fashion.

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