General officers often have a large support staff, but there are six key positions that you won't find on any official diagram. These are the people who shoot down good-idea fairies, make drug deals, and disrupt the rumor mill.
All senior officers, but especially generals and admirals, have entourages that exist solely to ensure that the general is as effective and safe as possible. They do everything from managing the general's calendar to grabbing his dry cleaning. But in addition to their stated duties, the entourage can grease the wheels of command.
Here are 6 people generals should always have in their entourage, whether they want them or not:
1. Iron colonel
"A colonel lifting iron" is the closest thing I could find to an iron colonel, so here you go.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Erik Warren)
An "iron colonel" is a colonel with little hope or ambition to advance to a general officer. They're key to military innovation and all general officers should be connected at the hip to one.
There are two major things you'll need the iron colonel to do: First, they're there to intercept all sorts of traffic that's addressed to the general but not really worth their time. More importantly, they're needed to shoot down all sorts of "good ideas" originating from the general and the staff that would hamper brigade commanders and below.
See, iron colonels are no slouches. They may not be destined to wear stars, but they've nearly always commanded brigades in the past and they did well. They have decades of military experience, but they don't have much reason to fear pissing people off. So, if the general proposes something insane, like pushing machine guns to all the squads — even the human admin office, it's this colonel who calls the general on his crap.
2. E-4 Mafia/Lance Corporal Underground liaison
An Army specialist who is definitely practicing land nav and not just waiting for the photographer to leave so he can trade points data with his buddy.
Officers don't love the junior-enlisted networks for obvious reasons. They're often known for helping members dodge work and dodge official punishment.
But they can also be super useful for the general or admiral who inspires the junior service members. A member of the underground can explain any weirdness from headquarters directly to the other junior guys in billeting. They can also create shortcuts through the bureaucracy and, best of all, do drug deals on behalf of the staff.
3. Drug dealers
An Army specialist reaches for a training grenade in a competition. These aren't nearly as valuable as a rare ink cartridge.
(U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Alan Royalty)
Not literal drug dealers, of course. The personnel who conduct off-the-books exchanges in order to get needed resources while giving up the unit's surplus are known as "drug dealers." This can be the exchange of anything from ink cartridges to range time to borrowing another units' NCOs.
These types of troops can be amazingly useful for a headquarters. Rare resources, like the ink or replacement parts for plotters (the massive printers that produce maps), are hard to come by and harder to stockpile. So, if you suddenly need resources like that, you need a drug deal — and that means a drug dealer.
(Note: The Navy sometimes call this "comshaw." Same thing, older term.)
4. Gun decker
Filling out forms accurately and honestly is important, but sometimes you have to help someone out with a little Skillcraft assist.
"Gun decking" is a Navy term for filling out forms with made-up information, usually to fulfill a mandatory but arbitrary requirement. This is similar to the Army saying that someone "Skillcrafted" the test — that they used a standard-issue pen to make it look like something was done.
This is obviously dishonest — and, on some occasions, it's technically a crime — but it's sometimes essential in the bureaucracy. Need to get a soldier to school before deployment, but they haven't been able to get to the range in the last few weeks? Well, someone has to gun deck or Skillcraft the paperwork (assuming that you're sure they could actually succeed at the range given a chance; don't use this to get bad troops into good schools).
5. PNN Reporter/Scuttlebutt master
Soldiers share a meal and, likely, gossip. Having a couple of lower enlisted people advocating for you in the rumor mills can be essential.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)
One of the best soldiers a general officer can have working on their behalf is a credible Private News Network reporter. This reporter can be anybody known around the rumor mill for having accurate info. Like the E-4 Mafia or Lance Corporal Underground rep, this troop can relay what is happening in the headquarters accurately to people who usually only get the information a few degrees removed.
But, more importantly, they can intercept and counter incorrect rumors flowing through the scuttlebutt or PNN. Generals often have to deal with rumors about their decision making flying around their unit. Having someone in their entourage who rubs shoulders with the rest of the junior enlisted and accurately relays what's going on can keep everyone marching on the same foot.
(Editor's note: There's no evidence that this guy is a FNG. It's just an illustrative photo. But he was the FNG at one point, so screw 'im)
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)
Finally, every general officer should include a f*cking new guy somewhere in their entourage and check in with them from time to time. Obviously, this guy will typically be somewhere on the periphery instead of in a key position — maybe a comms guy who helps with the radio or a security guy.
But having someone who hasn't yet consumed too much of the unit's Kool-Aid allows the general or, more likely, the iron colonel to get an idea of how the headquarter's decision making seems to an outsider — a needed perspective in a headquarters that might otherwise trip into a cult of personality around a charismatic or talented general.
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