... He stopped by the man in front of me, pressed the button on his belt that gave readings on his physicals. "Fall out!" "But, Sarge, it's just a cold. The Surgeon said -- " Jelly interrupted. " `But Sarge!' " he snapped. "The Surgeon ain't making no drop -- and neither are you, with a degree and a half of fever. (Starship Troopers, Chapter 1, p.2)

How does that square with the whole point - made right there, a couple of paragraphs down in Chapter 1 - of:

In any case, in the Mobile Infantry, everybody drops and everybody fights - chaplain and cook and the Old Man's writer. Once we went down the tube there wouldn't be a Roughneck left aboard -- except Jenkins, of course, and that not his fault.

2 Answers 2


I took it to mean that the Surgeon wasn't a Roughneck. As in, he was attached to the Starship crew, rather than to the Roughneck platoon. They don't mention the fact that the Pilot stays behind, but that's obviously so; the Roughnecks are merely hitching a ride along on a Navy transport, so the Navy crew is distinct from the Army platoon. This is reinforced in a few passages in the book (which I don't have handy to quote, sorry) that discuss the pilot, but a ship of this size likely has multiple crew-members. The surgeon appears to be one of these.

  • 15
    Further, this is in keeping with the practice of the US marines--with which Heinlein would have been familiar. The Marines don't have their own medical personnel (because "every man's a rifleman") and deploy with navy medics called corpsmen. Feb 26, 2013 at 4:01
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    @dmckee "navy medics called corpsmen." Is that supposed to be some horrible pun, or do people actually manage to call them that without giggling uncontrollably?
    – Jonathon
    Sep 30, 2015 at 21:15
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    @JonathonWisnoski Well, the "p" is elided so the pronunciation is core-men. And I believe it is widely considered distasteful or even disrespectful to actually make the pun. Sep 30, 2015 at 21:18
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    No Marine would ever make such a joke; Marines love their corpsemen. Who else is gonna put a Jarhead back together after he gets himself shot up? Though, to be fair... corpsmen do deploy with Marine units. The ship's surgeon is part of the ship's company, not part of the embarked Marine unit.
    – T.J.L.
    Jan 14, 2016 at 15:20
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    The corps in corpsman does indeed have the same root as corpse. But it also has the same root as corps, as in esprit de corps, or Marine Corps, and is pronounced the same as the latter two. Feb 9, 2016 at 4:45

"The Surgeon" is referring to the ship's Navy doc. No one in the Navy "drops" with the MI. They pilot boats for retrieval and sometimes non-drop landings.

  • 1
    Do you have any quotes or anything to confirm this? Sounds sort of like it's just a hunch. If you can prove it, this would be a good answer.
    – CHEESE
    Feb 8, 2016 at 23:10

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