Life as a Staff Officer

CDR Salamander posts this cartoon on life as a staff officer:

Cartoon on Military Staff Life

It’s about right, as is the old joke that colonels assigned to the Pentagon fetch coffee. It’s a truly bizarre feature of military life that a 2nd lieutenant right out of ROTC often has a whole lot more responsibility than a senior officer on a staff assignment.

That’s not to say that staff work is unimportant; it’s often much more so than a command, since it can affect an entire wartime theater or the entire military establishment. On the other hand, it’s often just cranking out PowerPoint slides.

via OTB roving correspondent Richard Gardner

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Humor, Military Affairs, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Burgess says:

    Same holds true on the civilian side!

    Whether it’s FBI coming in from the field or State, USAID, or even CIA officers being reassigned from overseas to Washington, you know you’re going to take a serious hit in job responsibility.

    Too many people–and too many of them political appointees, strong on ideas, weak on reality–are there to second-guess, micro-manage, and ‘avoid problems’. Foreign affairs agency people usually take a significant financial hit as well, because some of their support costs overseas now fall on their own wallets.

  2. DC Loser says:

    It’s pretty funny to see the shell shocked face of a former carrier battle group air wing commander (AKA, God) having to line up and fight for a seat on the pentagon shuttle bus, and then shuffle off to his 5×5 cubicle and line up for coffee at the Starbucks.

  3. Christopher says:

    But those staff officers are in line for high ranking promotion.

    And James, which is it? If it is important stuff-and it is-who cares that they have a cubicle? They are not “just” cranking out slides. They are doing the important wok of the military. Heady stuff.

  4. James Joyner says:


    It’s both.

    A lot of staff work is pure dog-and-pony. Doing briefs for incoming visits, briefing one another, and so forth. That’s especially true in DC and at the outlying agencies.

    It’s much less true, obviously, if you’re on the Joint Staff. There, they don’t have much need to “sell” the projects they’re doing or beg for funding, so they can concentrate on real operational missions on a day-to-day basis.