Linda Maye Adams

Soldier, Storyteller

Hollywood Military: Turning Down Promotions


Still picking on Star Trek here, though I’ve seen this example on shows like Criminal Minds where a really good promotion is offered to a character and they turn it down to stay with the ship/group/etc.

The Hollywood Version:

In one of the early episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation, Riker is offered command of a ship and turns it down so can stay on the Enterprise.  He is later offered command again and turns it down again, for the same reasons. After the second time, Starfleet warns him he might not have another opportunity.

In a way, it’s kind of a pointless episode because we all know the actor isn’t leaving, so Riker’s going to turn it down.  But they make it kind of noble, like he’s turning down opportunities because he’s doing good where he is.

The Military Version:

The Army—and probably the other services—want you to progress in your career.  So much so that they provide opportunities for going to college, such as a program on Fort Lewis where you could go to school on work time.

In fact, you’re expected to progress.

If you don’t, that’s a big problem.  The Army has a time in service/time in grade thing set up, so if you have too much time and haven’t progressed, they’ll kick you out.  There is no option other than to progress.  You can’t homestead where you are.

We had a first sergeant in charge of our company (first sergeant is like a high up personnel manager).  He liked working with the troops, and being a first sergeant gave him first hand experience with that.  A promotion opportunity opened itself up so that he could be a command sergeant major, which would have put him in a more administrative position.

He didn’t want it.  He wanted to stay where he was.

The battalion’s sergeant major told he had two choices: Take it or retire.

So my first sergeant retired.

Hollywood makes it sound like it’s a noble thing to turn down a promotion, but to the Army it’s more like “What’s wrong with you?”

2 Comments

  1. Peggy

    I’ll give Star Trek a pass on this one, if only because Roddenberry went on record as saying that some medieval aspects of the military had been abandoned (like saluting), so Starfleet is really a quasi-military organization. And because it really doesn’t make any sense at all to take someone who is brilliant at one thing and throw him into something else where he might suck royally, especially when lives are on the line. But that’s just me. GRIN

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    • I think the military doesn’t do it right anyway. If everyone is supposed to be advancing, not everyone is going to be quality leaders–but they may be the ones dealing with the soldiers lives. We nearly burned down the battalion at one point because a major’s orders.

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