By Nick Barringer MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS (EIEIO) The Tactical Strength...
Specialist: The Greatest Rank in the Army
Editor’s note: We stole Levi from his daily duties as the senior author and Director of Outreach at Veterans United Network so he could come over here and clown a bit.
By: RU Contributor Levi Newman
The Army has a simple rank structure: Enlisted, Warrant Officer and Officer. Within these ranks there are different pay grades, expectations and responsibilities, and nearly every soldier strives to climb the ladder of success. Yet, one rank in the Army still caters to the lazy person in all of us — the Specialist.
If you’ve served in the Army, you’ve most likely heard the terms “Sham Shield” or “E-4 Mafia.” You may have even been a ring leader at one point, I know I was. When I was deployed I would round up all the other Specialists and we would terrorize anyone who came near our living area. Any stray Private or NCO who didn’t have “back-up” would be gang tackled, duct taped to a cot and decorated with shaving cream.
A basic fire team is led by a Sergeant (E-5). Thus, a Specialist generally isn’t given soldiers to lead, but is given just the responsibility of looking after oneself. You have no soldiers to lead and no leaders to hound you, so there you remain in limbo.
Here’s where the real fun begins. There are more Specialists in the Army than any other pay grade. And seeing as how promotion to Specialist is more or less automatic and based on time in service (if you can hold your liquor), you’re bound to get those that
take advantage of the system know how to tactically maneuver within their job requirements.
Specialists are those who have done enough to move past the “detail” team, but not enough to show that they are competent leaders. This is ironic, considering Specialist shares a pay grade with Corporal. Rarely did I ever even see a Corporal in my 10 years of active duty service, but when I did I noticed two things. First, they were clearly “go-getters.” They worked hard, wanted to lead and loved telling Privates and Specialists what to do. Second, nobody liked them. While technically they’re an NCO, they aren’t getting paid more and nobody wants a double mosquito wing telling them what to do.
But I digress.
Specialist will always remain the best rank in the Army simply because it’s the one and only time you can use all of the skills you’ve perfected up to this point. You can still say, “I don’t know,” or “I haven’t been taught that yet.” You can take five extra minutes on your smoke break. You can decline to help, and if you are forced to, you can still delegate the work to a Private First Class. You’ve learned how to pretend to be busy better than anyone else. You’ve learned how to sleep standing up. You can blouse your boots like a Sergeant Major. You train to time, not to standard.
Above all, remember this. If you’re going to be a Specialist, you need to live the Creed: Always let others do the work for you, and when you become an NCO, forget everything I just said and keep those slacker E-4’s in check. They think you’re not paying attention.