Fobbit. According to the Urban Dictionary, a “fobbit” is “a term used to describe soldiers in Iraq [and Afghanistan] that rarely if ever leave the relative safety of the Forward Operating Base (FOB).”
It’s sort of a joke among combat troops to describe those troops in support roles that aren’t involved in the actual, day to day combat seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. These Soldiers are typically mechanics, administration, and other combat support and combat service support troops. Sometimes, Soldiers are given these duties by virtue of their MOS and positions and sometimes Soldiers seek out these positions of safety. I would argue that the latter is very rare.
I’m writing this to sort of help my readers understand why the “fobbit” perjoritive shouldn’t be applied so liberally. I’ve already mentioned that my role in Afghanistan could be easily placed within that label. I wear it proudly and I’ll tell you why.
Combat does not consist of troops just shooting at the enemy. But, that is the “end result.” However, to get there it takes an army of “fobbits” to ensure that those troops even have the ability to shoot at the enemy. Someone has to issue the ammunition, track consumption, and order accordingly. That person is a “fobbit.” Without this fobbit, the Joe on the pointy end of the stick isn’t shooting at anyone.
While Joe is out there shooting at the enemy, his family back home needs to keep paying his bills. There are certain benefits and entitlements that come with combat duty. Joe can’t pay himself. He can’t set up his combat pay, ensure his tax exclusion status, or set up allotments and family separation pay without the finance clerk. The finance clerk ensures that the Soldiers shooting the enemy doesn’t have to worry about his finances AND the enemy. The finance clerk is a “fobbit.” Without this fobbit, the Joe on the pointy end of the stick comes home to liens and late payments fees. Without this “fobbit,” the Joe on emergency leave doesn’t get pay advances.
When Joe is back on the FOB or out on a mission, he needs to be in top physical health. That includes having the energy that comes from a good meal (“good” being a subjective term). For most people in combat these days, those meals are provided by contractors, but in some locations there are still Army cooks out there keeping the troops fed. The “cook” is a fobbit and without him, the Soldier could go hungry.
Before Joe goes out on a mission, he is given information that is collected from various sources. This information is analyzed, interpreted, and disseminated to the troops. This information provides the troops with enemy strengths, weaknesses, locations, historical data, biographical data, and anything else Joe needs to ensure he understands the nature of the threat. The people that collect this information are professional MI Soldiers, many who rarely leave the FOB. His Soldiers are “fobbits.” And without these fobbits, Joe would almost literally be going out to engage the enemy blind. While the information may not always be accurate, Joe would have something that may be close to reality than nothing at all.
Then, there are fobbits like me – Soldiers responsible for all the other stuff that is required to prosecute the enemy. Someone needs to get these Soldiers in and out of theater. Someone needs to coordinate their mandatory theater training, provide temporary lodging, and link them up with their units. Someone needs to help them get to and from home on R&R leave. Joe can’t do that by himself. Someone has to assist in the unfortunate event that a Soldier is injured or killed. It is the FOBBIT that provided the Dignified Transfers of remains and bodies of these troops.
And let’s not forget the “fobbits” sitting on the radio in the TOC receiving the calls from the troops in contact and coordinating CAS and medical support when needed. Most Battle Captains and Battle NCOs never leave the FOB either. Yet, these are the fobbits that are responsible for sending additional units when the stuff hits the fan. These are the guys responding to RFIs when needed. When you need artillery support, a “fobbit” takes the call and get the appropriate clearances.
There is a lot more to a fobbit than meets the eye. And while we all enjoy poking fun at the fobbits – even the fobbits themselves have fun with it – remember to do it with respect! Your life may depend on these troops.