Specialists in the Army are known as the E-4 Mafia. The rank insignia they wear — shaped like a shield — is known as the sham shield because members of the mafia are guaranteed to sham off of work at every opportunity. To see how they escape their duties in a strict environment like the Army, just study these seven strategies.
1. Make appointments. So many appointments.
Noncommissioned officers only make appointments for emergencies. Privates make an appointment when told to by a sergeant. Specialists make appointments for everything. They eat lots of sugar and excessively brush their teeth for maximum cavities. They get every twinge in their joints, real or imagined, checked out extensively at the medical center. They sign up for any college classes that take place during the duty day and enroll for help fighting addictions they don't have.
2. Get privates to do the work.
Specialists may be junior-enlisted, but they're the highest-ranking junior enlisted in the Army. When tasked with duty, the first thing a specialist will do is find a private too far from his or her NCO, so the specialist can pass duties off to the private. The specialist is still guaranteed to take credit though.
3. Do the visible parts of the job.
Every once in a while, the E-4 gets hit with a task when there are no privates available. The specialist will then pantomime doing the work, turning tools, pulling dipsticks, and rubbing baby wipes on something. But actually checking the oil? Properly cleaning the weapon? Correctly filing the papers? That's what privates are for.
4. Have the proper inventory.
Whether he's confiscated it from a private or procured it himself, a member or the E-4 mafia is never without tobacco, energy drinks, and contraband. Contraband can take the form of alcohol, adult entertainment, or unauthorized gear like reflective sunglasses. Usually all three.
5. Be a ghost.
Some of the Army's uniforms for extreme cold weather don't have velcro for unit patches or name tags; only a fabric loop to hold rank. This is the uniform of the shammer. Since NCOs primarily correct members of their own unit, specialists are sure to always appear like they belong to no unit. When truly caught by a superior and asked which unit they belong to, the specialists are guaranteed to lie, claiming another company and first sergeant. This way, nothing they do will make it back to their own chain of command.
6. Make deals.
The E-4 is always ready to strike a bargain. Want to get drunk this weekend but not wake up dehydrated? There's an E-4 medic with a bag of saline that fell off a truck. Items missing from a hand receipt? Spc. Snuffy can get that taken care of. Just be sure to have something to trade.
7. Become promotable, but never get promoted.
To get promoted above specialist, a soldier has to clear two hurdles. First, they get selected by their unit and gain promotable status. Then, they have to earn enough promotion points to clear a cutoff score that changes every month.
Promotable status allows the soldier a little extra rank and leeway in the unit without yet saddling them with extra responsibilities. Dons in the E-4 mafia manage to get promotable status and then stay permanently a few points below the cutoff score for promotion. If promotion points are rumored to drop soon, you can bet Spc. Godfather is about to bomb a rifle qualification or physical training test.