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Casting "REMF"s as the villains

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Casting "REMF"s as the villains
Post by imperatorzor   » Mon Nov 26, 2018 6:38 am

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Is it just me or is this whole meme of "Front line Soldiers are Heroes and always right, Military Bureaucrats/Rear Echelon Motherfuckers are incompetent meddlers at best" is a played out and rather silly in the end.

I mean yes, I get that there's a difference in experience between the private on the front lines shooting the Neo-Confederate revolutionaries and the guy manning a desk ensuring the flow of MREs to the deployed men and women and both meat and vegetarian supplies to field kitchens remains steady, but that does not make the latter unimportant. An army requires said individuals to function to keep the troops fed, clothed, armed, armored, tended to when they are wounded and all of that. Similarly when the "Bean Counters" as they're often derided voice a concern that Quebec Squad crashed a 5 million dollar tank through a warehouse full of Humvee spare parts, a prefab barracks and a mobile field kitchen, she's not just being a no fun wet blanket. She's raising justifiable concerns. The fact is that there is only going to be so many tanks about and wasting them is not conducive to victory. And while the voters do support stopping those Neo-Confederate reactionary assholes, they also would rather not have their tax dollars squandered.

These are legitimate points being made, to brush them all off as being the scum of the earth with no justifiable. The perspective of a soldier on the Front Line is valid, but also biased. They are ultimately part of the military machine doing an essential but not terribly romantic job.

Zor
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Re: Casting "REMF"s as the villains
Post by Daryl   » Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:47 pm

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The ultimate all teeth and no behind fighting force would be the Scottish Highlanders with their wrap around kilts to sleep in, foraging for food, and a claymore for fighting. Didn't end well for them.
I was a REMF with the responsibility of providing support for our forces in several foreign adventures. Now retired, my family can attest to my always having to answer the official phone during meals and gatherings, regardless of time or date. My best one was a call from the powers that be, asking if I could get a squadron of helicopters overseas within a week for a couple of month's duration. It was 6pm on New Year's Eve and I'd already started to relax with friends, but we got it done.
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Re: Casting "REMF"s as the villains
Post by Imaginos1892   » Thu Nov 29, 2018 9:53 pm

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Well, there are REMFs, and then there are REMFs. Military fiction tends to portray the ones that have demonstrated incompetence at pretty much everything. The ones they call 'Active-Stupid' because they're not content to just fuck up the jobs they're given, they go out of their way to fuck up everything in sight. All the while believing they're the ones getting it right while everybody else fucks up.

I'm sure there's a lot of frustration being blown off there. The folks on the front lines have a rather particular hierarchy of priorities, where their concern about the enemy that's trying to kill them exceeds their concern about how many bullets, bombs and missiles it takes to stop them from doing that.

Most ex-military writers have probably had to deal with a couple of those assholes, and take advantage of their chance to stick it back to 'em.
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Firepower is not a thousand bullets that miss; firepower is one bullet that hits.
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Re: Casting "REMF"s as the villains
Post by Weird Harold   » Thu Nov 29, 2018 9:56 pm

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Daryl wrote:I was a REMF ...


No, you were Support Personnel. A REMF would find a dozen regulations detailing why it would take at least a month to move that squadron.
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Answers! I got lots of answers!

(Now if I could just find the right questions.)
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Re: Casting "REMF"s as the villains
Post by Fireflair   » Fri Nov 30, 2018 6:27 am

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Essentially what the last two posters said. Having been out on the pointy end I appreciate when military writers stereotype REMF's. They definitely exist, and are far more concerned with their rules than the survivability of the people at the other end of the critter.

Broken down it goes thus: My job is to do bad things to other people before they do unto me. Support personnel's job is to make sure I have what I need to survive and do bad things to others. REMF's are those people who don't provide me with what I need while all the while thinking they're doing the right thing and I should just make do with less or file the right paperwork.

The same people are often considered arm-chair quarterback types who think they know best without actually having to stand in the middle of things and take action. From the safety of their cubicle they can decide how many spare parts I need, how much ammunition and if it's alright for me to have permission to call in air support for my brother down the line somewhere. All based on their own view from the tail end of things.
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Re: Casting "REMF"s as the villains
Post by dscott8   » Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:06 am

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imperatorzor wrote:Is it just me or is this whole meme of "Front line Soldiers are Heroes and always right, Military Bureaucrats/Rear Echelon Motherfuckers are incompetent meddlers at best" is a played out and rather silly in the end.

I mean yes, I get that there's a difference in experience between the private on the front lines shooting the Neo-Confederate revolutionaries and the guy manning a desk ensuring the flow of MREs to the deployed men and women and both meat and vegetarian supplies to field kitchens remains steady, but that does not make the latter unimportant. An army requires said individuals to function to keep the troops fed, clothed, armed, armored, tended to when they are wounded and all of that. Similarly when the "Bean Counters" as they're often derided voice a concern that Quebec Squad crashed a 5 million dollar tank through a warehouse full of Humvee spare parts, a prefab barracks and a mobile field kitchen, she's not just being a no fun wet blanket. She's raising justifiable concerns. The fact is that there is only going to be so many tanks about and wasting them is not conducive to victory. And while the voters do support stopping those Neo-Confederate reactionary assholes, they also would rather not have their tax dollars squandered.

These are legitimate points being made, to brush them all off as being the scum of the earth with no justifiable. The perspective of a soldier on the Front Line is valid, but also biased. They are ultimately part of the military machine doing an essential but not terribly romantic job.

Zor


As a former US Army Quartermaster Officer, I can testify to the institutional bias in favor of "combat arms" personnel. One reason I left was the second-class-citizen status presumed for support role troops, even though many support roles required more talent, skill and training. Support roles just weren't as dramatic and heroic.

This is a different thing from the REMF phenomenon. Many, if not most, REMFs are combat arms personnel promoted beyond their level of competence. They don't see the big picture, and think tactically in strategic situations.
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Re: Casting "REMF"s as the villains
Post by Daryl   » Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:26 pm

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Our main warehouse had a poster next to the service counter showing a uniformed man pointing to a spare part on the bench behind the counter and crying. While the quartermaster on the computer is saying "I don't care if you can see it, the computer says it is out of stock, so you can't have it".
I was headhunted and specifically hired to fix an entrenched culture in our branch. The problem was that they were process and procedure oriented without any regard to service or actually supporting the "teeth". Took ten years, but I'll always be proud of what I left on retirement.
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Re: Casting "REMF"s as the villains
Post by Imaginos1892   » Fri Nov 30, 2018 8:24 pm

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Or, something like, 'Your unit has already received its full allocation of 40mm grenades for the quarter. You can't need more already!'
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Tracers work both ways. So do laser sights.
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Re: Casting "REMF"s as the villains
Post by Eyal   » Sun Dec 02, 2018 2:13 am

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Fireflair wrote:Essentially what the last two posters said. Having been out on the pointy end I appreciate when military writers stereotype REMF's. They definitely exist, and are far more concerned with their rules than the survivability of the people at the other end of the critter.

Broken down it goes thus: My job is to do bad things to other people before they do unto me. Support personnel's job is to make sure I have what I need to survive and do bad things to others. REMF's are those people who don't provide me with what I need while all the while thinking they're doing the right thing and I should just make do with less or file the right paperwork.

The same people are often considered arm-chair quarterback types who think they know best without actually having to stand in the middle of things and take action. From the safety of their cubicle they can decide how many spare parts I need, how much ammunition and if it's alright for me to have permission to call in air support for my brother down the line somewhere. All based on their own view from the tail end of things.


The flip side is that at the pointy end, you seen your own perspective. Everyone can make a case why they need more equipment. The supply guys need to figure out how to allocate limited supplies over an entire battalion/brigade/division/whatever level you want.

And as far as paperwork is concerned, yes it's annoying but it does have an actual function. Requiring excessive paperwork is a problem, but so is just waiving it off as something real soldiers shouldn't bother themselves with.

One of my jobs in the military was being in charge of a division's classified frequency list. We'd distribute these to our subordinate units, who would distribute down to their subunits. With several units, they decided not to do the managing paperwork probably and excused it with basically "well, they're combat soldiers, they have more important things to do". You would not believe the mess that ensued and that I had to try to straighten out later when they were showing large numbers of losses because they weren't bothering to do the paperwork to track them properly (again, these were classified publications).
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Re: Casting "REMF"s as the villains
Post by GloriousRuse   » Tue Jan 22, 2019 3:50 pm

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As a narrative device, it is quite incredibly hard to describe good REMF work. You can maybe talk about the extreme sacrifices of the red ball express driving for days to get the shells forward...but who wants to hear how proper HR procedures ensured accurate payroll and thereby reduced the amount of man hours forward leaders spent making sure their troops got paid? The drama is lacking. The REMF who seems to be making it hard to get paid however...easy target and dramatic tension.

It is, for those Americans with us, a position a bit like wing on the offensive line. It is a brutal, thankless drive that takes more skill and professionalism than you would think. But do your job perfectly all game, and maybe someone will say “got to hand it to them. The QB really gets to shine with this line”. Miss one block and John Madden is drawing circles around you on the big screen and pointing out how number 25 really screwed the pooch and let the sack through.

There is also some truth in television here: the military is quite hierarchal and runs on rules. The higher up the hierarchy you go, the more those rules can be bent or obeyed in spirit. But the average supply clerk or whoever is not Admiral Honor Harrington; they are a junior person who has been told “make sure these rules get followed, because that is how you do the job, and you will be in trouble if you don’t”. Then they meet another, usually quite junior, person who comes in saying they are special and the rules don’t apply to THEM. The problem is they would say that no matter what...because those rules are just “REMF bullshit”. So the practical answer of a comparatively powerless and inexperienced REMF will be to say “no. You need to follow the rules”. Cue frustration.

Unfortunately, there is also the simple truth that aggression and the joy of action is a limited resource. Aggressive problem solvers who are ok with moving fast and breaking things are more likely to be drawn to shooting jobs. Not all by any means, but proportionally more. They’re the ones who sign up for Mom and Apple Pie and a Chance to Fight. Rear areas tend to be more filled with people who wanted to pick up valuable civilian skills and so forth. The attitude towards suffering is different, as is the attitude towards “get this done at any cost”. In their defense, EVERYONE thinks that ThEIR problems is a crisis, and can’t understand why as the fifteenth crisis today doesn’t messecitate immeidately throwing out every procedure because to them “it just makes sense”.

Add on that most of those processes are the result of massive force wide systems meant to coordinate money, supplies, whatever all the way through the production line to reciept but there is no way for a shooter, or even junior to mid-level REMF to understand how it all works, and the messenger gets shot.
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