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23 August 2004 @ 11:01 am
FMA military musings  


For the uninitiated, in every military service in every country there exist two worlds. That of the commissioned officers, and that of the enlisted men. And ne'er the twain shall meet. Commissioned officers start at the rank of second lieutenant and as long as they keep their nose clean they automatically get promoted to first lieutenant in 6 months. And in a year (2 years?) they are then automatically promoted to Captain. (After that promotion gets a bit harder and more complicated. Since there is a fixed number slots for each rank every so whenever the Promotions Board convenes to evaluate what slots are open and who's eligible to get promoted. The competition/apple-polishing hence gets pretty fierce, but *largely* promotion is still based on a time clock.)

But in FMA Havoc has been a 2nd lieutenent for over five years. And Hawkeye, who is clearly a most exemplary officer, has been a first lieutenant for four years. And these are the easy promotions. They're automatic.

Okay, fine. Willing suspension of disbelief and all that.

But then there's RadarSergeant Major Fury.

Fury hurts my brain. Don't get me wrong, I love RadarFury. He's short and cute and wears glasses and likes animals. I like RadarFury just fine. It's just those two little words that come before his name that give me a headache.

Fury is an enlisted man. So what a member of the enlisted is doing as part of Mustang's staff when everyone else is a commissioned officer puzzles me. Because, for one thing, while everyone else in the unit is at the beginning of their careers Fury is at the end of his. He's reached the highest rank an enlisted man can. That's it. (Well, technically a sergeant major CAN be awarded a commission but it's really out of the ordinary) But that's fine, that's not so bad. Fury is shown in one scene fixing a telephone, maybe he's their telecommunications guy or something.

But Fury is a SERGEANT MAJOR. Highest rank for an enlisted man! And, unlike commissioned officers, promotion in the enlisted ranks is NOT timebased. Or, well, they are, but only in the sense that (for example) to be promoted to corporal you must have served for at least 12 months, although your commander has the authority to waive that requirement with sufficient cause. But just because you've been in the service for a year doesn't get you promoted to corporal. No. Your direct superiors have to really feel that you show considerable leadership qualities.

And here's the part that really hurts my brain. To get reach the rank of sergeant major Fury had to have been promoted SEVEN TIMES. And you know that guy, that really charismatic apple-polishing guy who's on the army fast track? That Colonel Mustang guy? He's been promoted TWICE. (I say twice instead of five times because it's my opinion that Mustang grabbed his Nat'l Alchemist license immediately after he got his commission and hence leapfrogged over the first three commissioned ranks and went straight to major)

And on top of that, there's the fact that Fury is portrayed as being the youngest member of Mustang's staff. There's no way to prove that of course, but I think his appearence and characterization points to him being in his early twenties. And you know how I mentioned that there's a time-in-service requirement of 1 year to be promoted to corporal? The time-in-service requirement to make sergeant major is *nine years.* And that's just the requirement! Sergeant majors have a vital role in the military, they need a lot of experience behind them. The average time-in-service of someone promoted to sergeant major is about 21 years.

You have no idea how much Fury hurts my brain.

So I have fanwanked an explanation for Fury's inexplicable existence, as well as his presence in Mustang's unit.

Now, I mentioned above that time requirements for enlisted promotions can be waived at a commander's discretion. This often happens in times of war, battle field promotions. My father came home from Vietnam a Master Sergeant (that's one rank below Sergeant Major) at the age of 19. So it IS possible, but only in a battlefield environment.

So Fury must have been in Ishbar. He enlists near the very end of the seven year war, gets promoted to private first class, maybe corporal. Then his unit gets into a huge firefight and he's the only one who makes it out alive. So therefore the military (as is its way) pins a medal on his chest and promotes him up to Master Sergeant. Then in the some five or six years after the end of Ishbar, Fury achieves the last promotion to Sergeant Major on the weight of his exemplary service record. By coincidence or design, Fury's path now crosses with Colonel Mustang's. And Mustang remembers Fury from the war, either personally or by rumor. (Mess tent talk, you know. "Hey, you hear about Bravo Company?" "Yeah, some stuffed shirt made a bad call and they all bought it." "Nah, one guy made it out. Fury something. I hear they're promoting him.") So, naturally, Mustang snaps him up for his unit.

That's my pet theory anyway.

(It's important to note that my references are all to the US Army's standard way of doing things and it's entirely possible that the military makeup and system of promotion of FMA is completely different. However, I strongly doubt it. The exact time requirements may vary from country to country, but this is the way it's done pretty much everywhere.)
 
 
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Saya Aensland: Me like. (by yukihime9)saya_aensland on August 23rd, 2004 08:45 am (UTC)
A) Arakawa didn't do her homework.
B) Arakawa bent the rules and hoped her audience wouldn't include military geeks.
C) Your theory or something similar to it.
i am a jedi, like my father before me: fyetatooine on August 23rd, 2004 08:57 am (UTC)
I say A.

Well, or be: that or the military in the FMA world just doesn't work the same way as the American military. adoramouse, did the Japanese system have those promotions at those exact times when they had a military? If being promoted at six months isn't something that's done in every single military worldwide, it's entirely feasable that Arakawa just pulled the whole hierarchy out of thin air. She lives in a country without a military, after all. She can probably get away with it.
リミックス・サクラremix_sakura on August 23rd, 2004 09:19 am (UTC)
"She lives in a country without a military, after all. She can probably get away with it."

I'm tending to agree with that. I'm currently slacking off at work, otherwise I would go do some research on the JSDF (spelling?). It's hard to tell exacty what she's basing it off of. The country apparently has a western/German cultural base, so it could even be a military system from somewhere in history that doesn't exist anymore, like pre-1871 Germany. Arakawa has been so well-researched in other areas, I doubt she simply pulled this bit out the air.
Nikkisarashina_nikki on August 23rd, 2004 06:08 pm (UTC)
The thing is, while the time clock system of promotion is obviously relatively recent the dichotomy between enlisted men and commissioned officers has existed... basically always. Back in feudal times (this includes feudal Japan as well as Europe) the wealthy landowners would command the peasant footsoldiers. No matter how young or inexperienced you were, if you belonged to a specific social class you were an officer never a footsoldier. An visa versa. And while the system is no longed confined to social hierarchy it still has the trappings of it. If you enlist you start at private and, if you're an outstanding soldier, end at sergeant major. If you get a commission you start at lieutenant and work your way up through the ranks. That's just... how it is.
Nikkisarashina_nikki on August 23rd, 2004 05:56 pm (UTC)
Well, the exact numbers I was referencing are specific to the US Army simply because that's the service I'm most familiar with, but the system itself is neither unique to the US nor invented by the US. It's used all over the world, although I do admit that I don't know how similar the Japanese system itself was. However I am reasonably sure that they had the same commissioned/enlisted dichotomy. I don't think there's any country in the world in the past three or four hundred years that operated without the commissioned/enlisted split. (Obviously, if anyone can contradict this I'd be happy hear to it) No matter how different FMA is, and I do believe it has far more similarities to Western Europe than differences, I simply can't fathom a military that doesn't have a commissioned/enlisted dichotomy. It hurts my brain.

Anyway, if I put my mind to it I can ignore the fact that Havoc's been at the absolute lowest rank for an officer for over five years. I understand that maybe having Havoc and Hawkeye at the ranks they're at is better for the story's narrative than if they were getting promoted in a realistic manner. And if one absolutely HAS to choose between factuality and narrative flow, I say go with the flow. ::laughs:: As I said, I can let the small stuff go. It's just the existance of Sergeant Major Fury that forces me to fanwank an explanation or else have my brain implode.
finaltributefinaltribute on August 23rd, 2004 09:08 am (UTC)
Good theory *IF* FMA is based on the US Military Rank system ;)

My dad retired after 26 years and passed over for E9 (Sergeant Major) 3 times... their excuse was basically he was too old by then... what kinda shit is that? :p
Nikkisarashina_nikki on August 23rd, 2004 05:34 pm (UTC)
Well, I don't actually think that FMA was based on the US Military Rank system. Maybe I should have been more specific. The exact numbers I was referencing are specific to the US Army because that's the service I'm most familiar with, but the system itself is neither unique to the US nor invented by the US.

I mean, my knowledge of military hierarchy and system of promotion comes largely from conversations I've had with my grandfather about his experience in the military. And he was a pilot in the British Royal Air Force. While the numbers and specifics vary from country to country, this is a system used all over the world.
Tayles: Roy - laaaaazy -- dulcinea_ljtayles on August 23rd, 2004 10:03 am (UTC)
O_O You have really thought this through, hm?

I know he's a soldier, I know he carries a gun, but I have real difficulty imagining Fury in a battlefield context such as Ishvar. He's just so... timid. Like a mouse ><;

Great, now I'm baffled. I like your theory, but I'm just gonna assume Arakawa was bluffing her way through on military terms ^^
Nikkisarashina_nikki on August 23rd, 2004 06:45 pm (UTC)
LOL I'm an analytical perfectionist. I think everything through. It's just my nature.

And yes, it is baffling. Very, very baffling. My problem is that even if Arakawa-sensei was just assigning ranks arbitrarily without knowing what they meant, *I* know what they mean. And I can't just unknow it. Fury is an enlisted man, not a commissioned officer. And I need to make that make sense to me or else my head will implode.

Personally, Fury's temperment is one of the reasons why I like my theory so much. Because it's not just the tough, hardy guys who get sent off to war. Guys like Fury go too and the idea that he acquitted himself to well to get promoted so far appeals to me.
breakin' through the door: Don't You Just Wanna Hug Him?miss_arel on August 23rd, 2004 10:50 am (UTC)
That is very interesting. I don't know as much about the military as you, but I had wondered why a non-com was hanging out with a bunch of commissioned officers. I'm inclined to support the idea that Arakwa didn't base her military on the US military system. (After all, she uses Japanese rank names, which I'm pretty sure predate the introduction of the US military to Japan anyway.) It would be interesting to look into.
Nikkisarashina_nikki on August 23rd, 2004 07:01 pm (UTC)
Heh, obvious I wasn't as clear as I thought I was. I don't actually think that FMA was based on the US military system. The exact numbers I was referencing are specific to the US Army simply because that's the service I'm most familiar with. The system itself is neither unique to the US nor invented by the US, it's used all over the world. I admit that I don't know how how similar the Japanese military itself was to this model, but I do think the world of FMA uses a comparable system.
Kalika Maxwellkalikamaxwell on August 23rd, 2004 11:05 am (UTC)
While I know little of how the army works, I do like the theory. I always wondered if there was a reason Fury was in Mustang's unit. He's cute and all, but what's so special with him? He looks less competent than Hawkeye and Havoc. I'd say he is a communication officer or something, because he's also seen playing radio officer in the manga(chapter 37).

Question, is that an idea you plan to use for a fic or can I borrow/steal it? I suddenly have plot bunnies of little radio man Fury thrown in a corner by an explosion when the communication tower is attacked and being found and saved by Roy.
Nikkisarashina_nikki on August 23rd, 2004 07:24 pm (UTC)
::laughs:: Well, I certainly have fic ideas, but no confidence in my ability to actually follow through. By all means! I would love to see my little pet theory in a story.
Kalika Maxwellkalikamaxwell on August 23rd, 2004 07:41 pm (UTC)
I'm hearing the bunnies trying to breed here. A little series about how Roy met and gathered each member of his crew sounds nice. But one thing at a time. I'll probably write it eventually, I'll let you know when I do. Thanks. <3
reversing the polarity of the neutron flow: *loads gun* Die Envy DIE!shinraisei on August 23rd, 2004 02:35 pm (UTC)
Fuery was a radio/SOS/receiver officer when he was with Mustang (and whole bunch of other people who worked with Mustang whose names we do not know) in East City HQ. He's like the tech-wizkid communcations kid of the series and can repair lots of things. So my bet is that yes he was in the war, but not on the battlefield but at the Communications building wherever it was.

The anime, iMo, hasn't portrayed him like he has been in the manga. He's too timid. The manga has him as a somewhat timid techie but not scared of anything much. In the recent chapter he and Black Hayate came in the nick of time to help Hawkeye. He even threw a gun to Hawkeye so that the two could tag-team-shoot at Gluttony. (You rarely see Fuery with a gun let alone firing it with such good aim.)

Side note: Fuery and Hayate share the same expressions when beside each other in the manga. Its so cute X3.

Also, Roy could only (or only took) 5 men with him to Central from East HQ. I think he chose Fuery because he knows him and thinks he can be of use to him and the rest of them. I don't know if there's a reason for him picking those 5 specifically but its a thought. I mean you've got Hawkeye whom he's known for a long time so it makes sense to have her (that and her mad shooting skills), there's Jean Havoc because he's got shooting skills with *almost* every handheld weapon of thier time. (Hawkeye we've seen with a pistol and a regular rifle. Havoc can match and beat that, we've seen him use a smaller rifle, a regular sized rifle and a pistol but that's just me...wait, Hawkeye used a sniper gun so the two are tied which makes them perfect for being his 1st and 2nd Lts. they're very skilled with handheld weapons.), there's Farman for his knowledge of just about everything, Fuery for his wizkid tech skillz and Breda just cause, yes. xD;

To make it short, he chose them all because they had qualities useful to him and the rest of the group and that they've known each other and have been friends for a long time. *nods*

I think Arakawa used a mix of many systems that's my guess because my dad was in the military in Ethiopia and he ended his military career with the rank of Captain and I asked him a question about military rankings one day and he said the almost exact same thing as the FMA system with some ranks from the US system I think. So either its was a pull-out-of-a-hat thing or she did do her research and looked into diff. systems and took parts of each system to create the one we see in FMA.
(Sorry for any confusion this may have cause you but answering phone calls that are eerielly coming in 4-5min intervals can distract you >_>;.)
Nikkisarashina_nikki on August 23rd, 2004 09:06 pm (UTC)
Field units always have one guy who carts around the radio on his back so that the commanding officer can communicate with the base and other units in the field. There's a more specific term than "that guy with the radio in his pack" but I don't remember it at the moment. ^^; Anyway, that's what I think Fury was. Because seriously. -_- You don't make sergeant major in your twenties without some significant display of valor in combat, which doesn't happen if you're a, well, an REMF. (Someone stationed behind the frontlines)
Kami: Hotter than thouwhite_paper on August 24th, 2004 12:08 pm (UTC)
Hm... That's interesting :). You managed to surprise me, as I'm by no means familiar with US military rank system. My only knowledge of /any/ military systems comes from polish II World War movies and stories told by my grandfather, who used to be a soldier. The ranks in FMA didn't strike me as unusual, as my father was an enlisted soldier (or rather, voluntary one ^^') and ended up being promoted to 1st Lieutenant.
In one in the movies I like the hero is recruited in 1943, but by the end of the war he is already a Captain (or was it 1st Lieutenant as well..? I haven't watched that film since I was a kid). And yeah, it was only a movie, but promotions like this weren't as rare as it would seem at the first glance. After all, the military needed commanding officers, but there were no time for people to actually finish an appropriate school/academy -_-'.
...Perhaps the military rank system in FMA is somewhat similar to our system during the II World War ;)...? In 45th episode Havoc said that since Bradley became the Fuhrer they have "constantly been at war"...

...Suddenly, I feel like researching Japanese rank structure... ^^'
Nikkisarashina_nikki on August 24th, 2004 12:28 pm (UTC)
::laughs:: It is interesting. At least, I think so. Although I am by no means an expert.

Your father started as a private and ended as a 1st Lieutenant? That's interesting. As I said, I know huge jumps in rank *do* happen in war, my own father made quite a leapfrog himself, but I thought it was pretty uncommon.
Kami: Colonel's HOT :)white_paper on August 24th, 2004 02:03 pm (UTC)
>>Your father started as a private and ended as a 1st Lieutenant?

Grandfather, and yes ;). It took him a few years, though. I don't really remember when exactly he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, I think it was in 1945 or 1946.

>>But then there's RadarSergeant Major Fury.

...It took me some tome to realize what the heck "Radar" was supposed to mean ^^' (I've watched M.A.S.H, but Radar's name was changed when it was aired in my country ^^')... :laughs: He does look quite like him :).
And speaking of Fury look-alikes... Our favorite Sergeant Major looks almost like a carbon copy of Hyuuga from Evangelion ;)...


Nikkisarashina_nikki on August 24th, 2004 03:50 pm (UTC)
LOL so he does. I always refer to Fury as Radar in my head. Since our first impression of Fury is of him being short and cute and holding a puppy I immediately went "It's Radar! HI RADAR!!"

I think he is Radar reincarnated because, honestly, they're basically the same person. ;) I wish I hadn't replaced my Radar icon... (Oh, the trials of being a freeloader)