“E-4 Mafia for life!” ” Or something like that.
For those not in the know, E-4 is that magical rank where no one expects you to be in charge, but you are, and no one expects a lot from you except work, but now you can entrust it to lower ranks. As an E-4, you get glory when things go right, and very little backlash when things go to hell. You have authority over E-1 to E-3, but almost no oversight responsibility. You’ve entered the E-4 Mafia.
What is the E-4 Mafia and how do I become a member?
The best way to be E-4 Mafia is to sew E-4 with very little hope of sewing E-5. And always have tobacco, energy drinks and an excuse ready when needed.
Use those years as an E-4 to root yourself in the military machine as someone who gets things done, without asking a lot of crazy questions about safety or regulations or whether or not something is legal. This is probably not the case. But has anyone been hurt so badly that we need to tell anyone? No? So we’re fine.
E-4 Mafia Branches
All branches of the military have some form of the E-4 mafia. In the army and the air force, it is the E-4 mafia. Easy. In the Marine Corps, it is sometimes known as the Lance Corporal Underground. In the Navy, it is only E-4s who may or may not help each other. Pretty boring, really. They should have a cool name like the rest of us, but it’s the Navy.
Roles and Responsibilities of the E-4 Mafia
The first rule of E-4 Mafia is that we are not talking about E-4 Mafia. Since I already broke the first rule, I can tell you that one of the most important roles of the mafia is to break the “silly” rules to make sure things get done. I had to break the first rule to complete this article, so I am upholding core E-4 Mafia traditions by breaking the rules. Has anyone been hurt enough to have to tell someone else? Nope. So we’re fine.
In reality, the E-4 Mafia is simply a group of like-minded people helping each other. If I have been waiting for a week for the commander to sign a PCS (permanent change of post) request and I need it tomorrow, maybe the E-4 at the commander’s staff will help me. When I’m about to be late for my dental prep but know an E-4 that works there, maybe he can get me a last minute appointment. Has anyone hurt? Well, my gums are bleeding, but it’s because I don’t floss, so yeah, someone HAD hurt. Not enough to have to tell anyone, though. So we’re fine.
Origins of the E-4 Mafia
At first, the army had already understood this. Their E-4s are called “specialists,” and if the quest to step out of work and blame it all on the other isn’t special, I don’t know what it is. The Air Force has the “Senior Airman” which is a great way to say “You are the highest of the lowest! The Marines have “throwing corporals” which I can’t really think of anything funny to say, except that it comes from the Latin “corpus” which means body, and “lance” which is a glorified staff, so the Marines E-4 are stick body which is just awesome.
No one knows for sure when the first E-4 Mafia was founded or if it was actually founded. E-4s don’t keep records: they have E-2s doing it for them, and E-2s are garbage for record keeping, everyone knows that. What we do know is that the mafia exists. Its workforce is constantly evolving with promotions and separations. Demotions don’t really play a role in the E-4 Mafia. If you are sent back to E-3, you are eliminated. If you are kicked from E-5 to E-4, you are a spy and no one will help and / or rescue you. Of course you have the right number of chevrons on your sleeve / collar / chest / wherever they are on this uniform iteration. Sure, the superiors call you a specialist or a senior aviator or a stick corps, but the mafia knows that you are not really one of them anymore.
Once you leave the E-4 Mafia, there is no need to relocate or change your name or have reconstructive surgery. No one will wait at the smokehouse (the E-4 Mafia’s favorite haunt) to take you out or leave a horse’s head in your bed. There might be hydraulic fluid in your box, but that’s okay. Don’t expect to get that last minute dental appointment and your file will magically arrive on the commanding officer’s desk because you are no longer “family”. Now you are a schlub, a person. A guy who has more or less stripes than all your friends who will no longer be there to take over. Once you are ranked you have sold yourself to “the man” and now your career is more important than doing the minimum to get out of it. How good can you be an A hole?
“I don’t know” is probably the biggest tradition.
“Who hasn’t taken out the trash? ” “I do not know.” “
What happened to this room? ” “I do not know.”
“Why is there a goat in the commander’s office?” ” ” I do not know.” Stellar tradition, really.
The second is never screwing up another E-4 Mafia member, or at least not getting caught doing it. Passing the buck and throwing the others under the bus is fine, as long as you don’t get caught. When you get caught, you are now the blue hawk, and nobody wants that.
Denial is MUCH more than just a river in Egypt. Deny EVERYTHING, good or bad. “Do you know who fixed the Wing King (Wing Commander) jet so he could spend his hours there?” “No sir, no idea. “
The good things you do make others expect good things on a regular basis. Bad idea.
“Where the hell is the Wing King’s car?” “I haven’t seen him, sir”, although you know for a fact that he was lovingly taken apart and then reassembled in the conference room, by you and the Mafia E-4 while he was drunk last night .
“No sir, I don’t know why the anchor in front of Rota Naval Air Station Ops is suddenly pink,” although you know it. Do you know how hard it is to find pink paint in Jerez, Spain at 11 at night?
A third important tradition is never to volunteer for anything. Again: never volunteer for anything. Never show enthusiasm or curiosity about anything. As soon as you show initiative, you will always be at the mercy of the initiative. Nobody really wants that, at least not the E-4s. Again, never volunteer for anything.
Finally, to look important in order to be important. On the track, the guy with a radio and a clipboard is the guy you want to avoid. To really improve the game, pack a radio, a clipboard, and a red folder. Nobody wants to play with a guy with a red folder. Red files mean someone is in trouble and no one wants them. Keep your head up and focused to move forward and carry a red folder. This is the best way to make it look like you are working hard without all of that real work.
These E-5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 were all E-4s at one point. They know the Mafia and what it involves. Recognize that current members of the E-4 Mafia will likely be E-5 and up at some point. E-5s must always remember where they came from. E-4, of course. An E-5 who blows up E-4 Mafia operations (or lack thereof) will struggle to do a quality job and will almost certainly never get a food hall snack again. The E-5 that recognizes how the E-4 Mafia actually gets things done will likely get high praise from the Commander, or not be as chewed up anyway.
The E-4 that recognizes these E-5 and E-6 that support the Mafia will find things a little easier for itself. Need a recommendation from a supervisor to get out of the dorms? Ended. Crap details painting rocks? That other E-4 who needs a “chance to excel” will get it.
Take advantage of the E-4 mafia for as long as it lasts. “E-4 Mafia for life!” “
Or until you make a row …
Veterans and active duty military members get one year of Fox Nation free of charge. Do not be too long. Register today by clicking the button below!
Fox Nation free for one year
If you enjoyed this article, consider supporting our veteran editorial by becoming a SOFREP subscriber. Click here for get 3 months of full ad-free access for just $ 1