Problem Solved: The E-4 Option

The E-4 Option: a better use for the E4 Mafia
| March 29, 2019
Categories: Assorted Ramblings

The E-4 Option (which distinct from the E4 Mafia or LCpl Underground): it’s a non-nuclear alternative, and it may be our only hope. We’ve needed something like this for decades, if not centuries (as you can see down below).

The E-4 Option

Not the E-4 Mafia or LCpl Underground

[Though we’d need their help.]

I have long spoken out (aka “bitched incessantly”) about certain things in the Army that drive me nuts. The biggest complaint I’ve had lately is about stupid decisions from higher up that make soldiers want to chew their fingers off in frustration. But I’ve always been told to offer solutions, not just whine about problems. So I’ve got a solution to offer.

My solution isn’t going to fix everything. And it’s not intended to prevent leaders from making mistakes. Every good leader has learned valuable lessons from screwing up, and no soldier should expect his leaders to be perfect. The wars we’ve fought since 2001 have been rife with unsolvable problems and gray areas which no leader, no matter how wise and brave, could perfectly handle. Good leaders are made better by their honest mistakes; we don’t need to “fix” those men and women. Instead, my solution is aimed at those who make decisions so egregiously stupid that anyone with even half the average IQ wonders, “What the hell could he possibly have been thinking?”

Here’s what I propose: we should assign every Colonel and above, plus certain Department of Defense civilians and every Sergeant Major, an E-4 to act as a sanity check.

The E4 option may well be the best possible use of the E4 Mafia.

The E-4 Option will require a special breed of soldier: the kind who is salty and utterly empty of fucks to give.

Mind you, I don’t mean we should use just any E-4s. To be effective they have to be salty, veterans of at least one deployment. They have to be smart, rather than just being smartasses. Preferably they’re on their second ride as an E-4. And they absolutely have to be short, close to discharge with zero desire to reenlist.

In other words, they’ve been around, they’ve fought a war, they’re sick of the Army’s bullshit (or the Corps’), and they have not even a single fuck to give.

Heller's novel Catch-22 wouldn't as funny if it wasn't so truthful

Heller’s novel Catch-22 wouldn’t be as funny if it wasn’t so truthful.

These E-4s will shadow their assigned leader. They’re not his aide-de-camp, they’re not there to polish his shoes or clean his office. Their only duty would be to assess any decision he’s about to make. They’d be something like the modern-day equivalent of slaves who stood on chariots behind Roman emperors returning from victory, whispering “All glory is fleeting” to keep the emperor’s head from swelling.

But our E-4’s whispers would keep our leaders from getting too stupid, not too proud.

As a reward for enduring the horrors of life among senior leaders, our heroic E-4s would receive a gift that generations of fighting men have desperately wished for.  Only Specialists and Corporals with maturity, self-control, and a thorough knowledge of the 4 Types of Military Orders could be trusted with this gift. And while the gift might seem like pure orgasmic joy to those who receive it, it also has a utilitarian purpose. My solution will not work without it.

The E4 option may well be the best possible use of the E4 Mafia.

No one is suggesting we eliminate any Mafias or Undergrounds (we couldn’t if we wanted to); just that we put certain highly skilled mafiosi to work for the betterment of all.

Our E-4s will receive a special dispensation, signed in blood by the President, allowing them to beat the crap out of any senior leader who desperately needs it.

Yes, this sounds harsh. But I don’t know of any other way to fix the problem. Appealing to reason obviously doesn’t help.

Good Idea Fairies

Be gone or be beaten.

Here’s how it would work.

Our E-4s would stay in the background, quietly watching their assigned senior leader for telltale signs that he’s been struck by the Good Idea Fairy: fingers rubbing his chin, eyes drifting upward and glazing over from deep concentration, sudden expressions of rapturous joy followed by mad dashes to a computer to build a 278-slide PowerPoint presentation, frantic phone calls to bark orders at frustrated subordinates.

When they see those signs, our E-4s need to leap from the shadows, peer over the leader’s shoulder at his computer screen or listen to his phone calls, and make a split-second evaluation of the order the leader is about to give. If the order is something like “All troops, combat or support, need to get more call for fire training!” the E-4 should back off. But if the order is something else, he needs to shift into attack mode. And he has to do it quickly before the leader can give the order and cause irreparable damage.

·Leader: “Soldiers should wear reflective belts, salute officers and carry their weapons at the combat-ready inside the FOB!”

>E-4: “Come here, dipshit!” Crack!

·Leader: “I think every soldier in the Army should wear black berets! That way they’ll all be just like Rangers!”

>E-4: “Moron!” Whack!

·Leader: “If we make every soldier put a green safety dot on their watch, they’ll think safety whenever they check the time!”

>E-4: “Stupid motherfucker!” Pow!

·Leader: “We’re going to create a special Drone Operator Medal, and make it higher than a Purple Heart or Bronze Star!”

>E-4: “Stop it, shithead!” Smack!

·Leader: “We don’t need to listen to soldiers actually fighting the war! The Universal Camouflage Pattern is obviously the best camouflage for Iraq and Afghanistan!”

>E-4: “What the. . . you son of a bitch!” Whack! Whack! Whack! (I should point out that our E-4s wouldn’t be allowed to carry weapons, because in this situation numerous terrified officers would be standing back screaming “Drop the knife, Corporal! Drop the knife!”)

And so on.

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I need everyone’s help with this. I’ve wracked my brain for years trying to find a solution, and this is the only thing that could possibly work.

• Find E-4s who are willing to intercept and destroy the stupid ideas that have been killing us for years.

• Write your Congressman to express support for my idea.

• Send the President the Special E-4 Leader-Beating Dispensation petition and ask him to sign it ASAP.

Help me put this plan into action.

The E-4 Option is our only hope.


We need more than the E4 Mafia and Lance Corporal Underground: we need the E-4 Option

The E-4 Mafia could help, as could the LCpl Underground, but ultimately this effort is going to take all of us if it’s going to succeed.


This article originally ran in November 2013. With recent discussions of Russians in Venezuela (“Cold War Comeback!”) and other possible new uses for the military, we thought it time to remind everyone of a wonderful project that never quite got off the ground.


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⚠️ Some hyperlinks in this article may contain affiliate links. If you use them to make a purchase, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. It’s just one way to Back the Bang. #backthebang 




  1. 2Knives

    I was in the Berlin Brigade for a tour. This idea of an E-4 attached to an officer is a brilliant idea. Yes, we were in a concentration camp behind the wall. Yes, we played toy soldiers due to political considerations. A common soldier would have brought reality to a group of butt kissing officers looking to move up the chain of command through blind allegiance. The line dogs (11-C) were never considered in training. I left the Army as a E-4P. I would have stayed IF there was any input from the enlisted men.

  2. El Dudarino

    I vote we make all officers show up to their units as E-1’s and work their way up to corporal before they are allowed to be commissioned and accept their billets. They graduate their school pipeline, but have to actually suffer through E1-4 to get their butterbar.

  3. Your Mom

    I don’t think you remember being an E6.

    • Chris Hernandez

      But I do remember being an E-8. Which made me appreciate the value of a smarts E-4.


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