WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic
"If he is such a great sweeper, why is he here, teaching us?"
"In a completely rational society the best of us would aspire to be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and highest responsibility anyone could have"
Lee Iacocca

A decorated war vet who teaches novice officers instead of advancing up the Common Ranks ladder. Probably a military legend and always gets his chance to shine in the Old Master or Retired Badass way sooner or later. There can be various reasons for him getting stuck in that position:

  1. He has a reputation of a Military Maverick who wouldn't make a very good commander (at least, in his superiors' eyes).
  2. He considers teaching the next generation more important than fighting itself, so he deliberately refuses promotion.
  3. He has actually already retired but was reactivated because the military needed skilled personnel badly.
  4. He is assigned this duty as his military's standard policy of assigning notable combat veterans as instructors since they are considered more useful teaching new recruits the skills they learned in the field. He usually hates being taken out of the action, but gradually realizes that the policy is right as he gets scores of new recruits ready for battle.

In a way, a commissioned counterpart to Drill Sergeant Nasty, in that he can put his students through a Training From Hell just as easily. On the other hand, he is usually much more gentlemanly about it.

Examples of Veteran Instructor include:

Anime & Manga

Comic Books

  • In Judge Dredd Street Judges who have been injured/wounded in ways that leave them no longer useful to serve on active duty are often given teaching posts at the Academy of Law to train young cadets to be future Judges.
  • Sgt Rock has pulled training duty stateside, but is so committed to Easy Company that he insists on rejoining them on his furloughs.


  • Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story has the protagonist team trained by legendary (wheelchair bound) dodgeball player Patches O'Houlihan.
  • Gunny Highway (Clint Eastwood's character) in Heartbreak Ridge. He is sent back to school to train a Recon squad, even though he is a highly decorated Marine. Yeah, he tends to get into bar fights and tell off his superior officers.
  • Both LTC Moore and CSM Plumley in We Were Soldiers.
  • MSG Clell Hazard in Gardens of Stone.
  • In Top Gun, the flight instructors at the eponymous school are all experienced veteran pilots. At the end of the movie, Maverick suggests that he might want to become an instructor himself.
  • Senior Chief Randall in The Guardian was a veteran Coast Guard rescue swimmer who took a teaching assignment at the training center. The movie was based on a true story.
  • In The Tuskegee Airmen, the trainees - the first African Americans ever trained as pilots by the US military - are surprised that one of their lead instructors is also African American... and that the other instructors often defer to him. He turns out to be the only instructor with combat experience (having previously served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.)


  • Terry Pratchett has Sergeant Jackrum of the Borogravian army in Monstrous Regiment. He or indeed, she has been in the army so long that retirement papers have been chasing him for a number of years, but has never advanced any further. It's implied he's responsible for recruiting and training most of the female high ranking officers in the army.
  • Ciaphas Cain in Cain's Last Stand has retired and teaches young Commissars at the Schola Progenium.
  • After the war ends in Animorphs, Jake works training a squadron of morphers for the US military.
  • Honor Harrington spends a couple years as commandant of the Advanced Tactical Course at Saganami Island while grounded undergoing medical treatment.
  • Robert Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers has a Retired Badass - a famous war hero In-Universe - commanding the Mobile Infantry's Officer Candidate School, even taking a (temporary) demotion from General to do so.

  Rico: "Yes, that Nielsen..."

  • Aral Vorkosigan in Vorkosigan Saga regularly takes time out from his duties to give the seminar at the Imperial Academy about how to know when an order is criminal and what to do then.

Live Action TV

  • At the end of one season of Bones Booth (a former Army Ranger sharpshooter) was reactivated and went to Afganistan to train snipers.
  • John Basilone in The Pacific goes from receiving the Medal of Honor to being put in charge of training Marines at Camp Pendleton.
  • At the conclusion of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine O'Brien heads back to Earth to become one of these at the Academy. He'd been doing a fair bit of the Veteran Instructor schtick as part of his regular duties during the last two seasons anyway.

Tabletop Games

  • In Warhammer 40000, the Space Marines codex mentions the Ultramarines scout sergeant Tellion, who stayed a sergeant to teach new recruits.
    • This seems a common occurrence among scout sergeants, see below.
  • In BattleTech, Clan sibko instructors subvert this; rather than being decorated veterans sent to educate the next generation they have been removed from active duty thanks to age, poor performance or political disgrace. The majority of them are very bitter about this and are more than willing to take out their anger on the teenaged cadets they train; which is probably one of the the reasons (along with all training being done with live weapons) why Clan training programs have a 90% attrition rate.

Video Games

  • Jack Bartlett from Ace Combat 5 The Unsung War is Type 1: because of his actions during the Belkan War, his superiors mistrust him without any proof, so he is stuck teaching "nuggets" on Sand Island. Gets to shine late in the game when he escapes a squadron of fighters with precious cargo on board a transport plane (though, to be fair, you assist him) and then pulls off an Airstrike Impossible like your own team on his own.
    • Also, an inversion in Ace Combat Zero: legendary ace Dietrich Kellermann, who became an instructor after retirement, is sent back to the frontlines during the Belkan War to boost the Belkans' morale.
  • Master Miller of Metal Gear Solid has served with Big Boss back when he was running the MSF, then trained SEALs and other mercenary outfits.
  • Sergeant Cyrus from Dawn of War 2 is a veteran Blood Raven who prefers to teach the chapter's initiates as Scout Marines and is implied to have trained the player character and the rest of the main squad. He takes a more active role for the Tyranid invasion, Chaos incursion, and chapter civil war. Bear in mind that during the first two, he was still accompanied by initiates. It's part of their training.

Web Original

Western Animation

 Jimbo: And now, to clarify how the reenactment should unfold, let's bring up our master historian, Grandpa Marvin Marsh, the only man old enough to have actually seen the Civil War… reenactment of 1924.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television. During WWII, the Allies would pull their best aces out of combat and send them back to train new pilots. This served two purposes: it kept famous aces from being killed in combat, thus avoiding the blow to morale that it would cause, and it allowed new trainees to benefit from the aces' vastly greater experience, making them better pilots. It must have been a great incentive for pilots to excel, aka "Make Ace, get excused from combat sooner." Notably, Japan did not bring their aces out of combat (the idea being that they should stay where they could do the most damage against the enemy), and they were almost all killed eventually -- and the quality of Japanese pilots took a sharp downturn near the end of the war. This is also why the best known Axis aces had higher kill counts than their Allied counterparts.
  • This is fairly standard procedure for many armies around the world. Training is much more effective if the trainer actually has some practical experience in what he teaches, as opposed to purely theoretical knowledge. In a pinch, where there is no time or resources to train replacements, veteran instructors can also be re-fielded as opposed to instructors with no combat experience which are near useless in an emergency by comparison.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.