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Da Nang, Vietnam - A young Marine private waits on the beach during the Marine landing. - August 3, 1965.

"Fucking New Guy" (FNG) is a derogatory term, used within American Forces deployed to South East Asia during the Vietnam War.[1]

Contents

Overview

Usually, but not always, the term referred specifically to recruits fresh from the United States who joined pre-existing units in Vietnam. Every unit had an FNG, and the term was used across all unit types, from front line combat through to support and medical units. Neither was the term gender specific—female personnel could be FNGs as well.[2]

The FNG phenomenon grew out of the US Military's individual rotation policy during the Vietnam War, under which individual troops were rotated in and out in twelve-month tours with already deployed units in Vietnam. In other modern American wars before and since, military units have been maintained and have deployed as a whole. During this period, because of the Cold War, the United States faced the need of maintaining a large presence of combat troops not only in Southeast Asia, but in Korea and Western Europe as well. The Johnson administration lacked the political capital and will that would have been required to call up the National Guard and Reserves or to convince Congress to extend the tours of duty of draftees beyond twenty-four months. Lacking sufficient Army and Marine ground combat units to sustain a unit-based rotation strategy, the individual rotation policy was adopted.[3]

FNGs were an important part of the group dynamic of US units in Vietnam and their treatment had at its core an overall sense of "us" (those with experience of the war) and "them" (those who were back in the United States). As one soldier said, FNGs were "still shitting stateside chow".[4] It was in combat units that the FNG was truly ignored and hated by his fellow soldiers. An FNG in a combat unit was "treated as a non-person, a pariah to be shunned and scorned, almost vilified, until he passed that magic, unseen line to respectability".[5]

On the surface, such treatment of new members in the unit happened for simple survival reasons. New recruits had a higher attrition rate than experienced troops, and the small units of veteran jungle warfare troops simply saw them as a liability. "They talked too loud and made too much noise while moving around, didn't know what to take into the bush or even how to wear it properly, couldn't respond to basic combat commands, fired too much ammo, and tended to flake out on even the easiest 10-klick moves. An' Christ, they even got homesick."[5]

Beyond mere survival though, there were deeper reasons for veterans to hate the new comers. On one level, the FNG represented those men who were still in America and this fomented resentment. As one popular marching song of the era went: Ain't no use in lookin' back, Jody's got your Cadillac; Ain't no use in going home, Jody's got your girl and gone.[5] Until they set foot in Vietnam, every FNG was a "Jody", back in the US enjoying life.

Within a military unit, the FNG was seen as a grunt. A unit would attach an almost mystical quality to any members of the unit with prior combat experience; the FNG was expected to live up to the same standard and would not be accepted into the group until he, too, had made a name for himself.

The term does not appear to have seen widespread use outside of the US Military.

Studies

Several specific studies have been undertaken into the FNG phenomenon.

Dr. Douglas R. Bey published "Group dynamics and the "F.N.G." in Vietnam—a potential focus of stress" in 1972 and has been referenced extensively, including having been used in defence of initiation practices within modern US units.[6]

Dr. Charles Figley has also written on the effects of being an FNG as part of the development of post traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans.

Popular Culture

The term FNG and the group dynamics associated with it have been addressed on some level in several major motion pictures in the last couple of decades and is still used in the US military.

Oliver Stone's film Platoon traces the experiences of young recruit Private Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) during the Vietnam War.[7]

Stanley Kubrick's film Full Metal Jacket follows pragmatic Private Joker (Matthew Modine) and his fellow new recruits through basic training and deployment into the war's 1968 Tet Offensive.[8]

In Robert Zemeckis's film Forrest Gump, the titular character (Tom Hanks) and his best friend (Mykelti Williamson) are called FNGs by their commanding officer (Gary Sinise) when they first arrive in Vietnam.

The backpacker novel The Beach by Alex Garland, later made into a film of the same title and directed by Danny Boyle, introduced the term into popular culture amongst young tourists in South East Asia.[9][10]

Donald Bodey has written a fictional account of the FNG experience in his novel titled simply "FNG".[11]

The first level in multi-platform game Call of Duty 4 is called "F.N.G", and one of the SAS soldiers (Gaz) introduces the player ("Soap" MacTavish) to the commander of the squad (Captain Price) by saying "It's the FNG, sir," and asking him to "go easy on him, sir. It's his first day in Regiment."[12]

The protagonist in Doom 3 is referred to as "the ranking F.N.G." shortly after arriving at Mars City.

In first episode ("Get Some") of the HBO series Generation Kill Lance Cpl. Trombley's fellow marines refer to him as an FNG during the mess hall scene as he was improperly attired, wearing his boonie hat after dark.

In the movie Shooter, the people at FBI headquarters call Nick Memphis an F.N.G.

FNG is a half-hour lifestyle show on the Pentagon Channel featuring useful benefits aimed at young troops new to the military.

A video promoting Halo 3 ODST has the Sergeant of a squad refer to the playable character (known only as "the Rookie") as the F.N.G.

The term is used in the Battlestar Galactica second season episode "Scar", with the F standing for the fictional expletive "frakking".

In the movie District 9, the term is used by one of the mercenaries to describe Wikus.

In the newly released multi-platform game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, your beginning title in multiplayer is F.N.G., classifying you as a beginner. In this case it may be a tribute to Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, where the first mission in the campaign is entitled F.N.G.

References

  1. ^ Cornell, George (Summer), "G.I. Slang in Vietnam", The Journal of American Culture (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing) 4 (2): 195–200, doi:10.1111/j.1542-734X.1981.0402_195.x .
  2. ^ Sexton, Julia A. (May, 2002) (PDF). Warrior Women of the Crimea and Vietnam: A Comparison of Fact and Fiction. Final. Unpublished. http://www.illyria.com/documents/julia_chap5.pdf. Retrieved 2008-04-06. 
  3. ^ Mark DePu, Vietnam War: The Individual Rotation Policy, HistoryNet, http://www.historynet.com/vietnam-war-the-individual-rotation-policy.htm, retrieved 2008-11-19 
  4. ^ Mathers, Danny L., Rifleman, B Company, 1/61, New Guys, http://one-six-one.fifthinfantrydivision.com/161pg14a.htm, retrieved 2008-04-06 .
  5. ^ a b c consultant editors, Tim Page, John Pimlott; Tim Page, John Pimlott, co-editors (1988), NAM: The Vietnam Experience 1965-1975, Article: FNG's, Hamlyn, pp. 441–443, ISBN 0-600-563-111 
  6. ^ Bey, Douglas R. (January), "Group dynamics and the "F.N.G." in Vietnam--a potential focus of stress", International Journal of Group Psychotherapy (New York: Guilford Press) 22 (1): 22–50, ISSN 0343-6993, PMID 5057967, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowLibraryLinks&TermToSearch=5057967 
  7. ^ Stone, Oliver (Director). (1986). Platoon. [Theatrical Release]. USA: Kopelson, Arnold (Producer). .
  8. ^ Kubrick, Stanley (Director). (1987). Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. [Theatrical Release]. USA: Stone, Oliver (Producer). .
  9. ^ Garland, Alex (1996). The Beach. London: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-87014-5. 
  10. ^ Boyle, Danny (director). The Beach. [Theatrical Release]. United States: Macdonald, Andrew (Producer). 
  11. ^ Bodey, Donald (2008). F.N.G., Revised Edition. Ann Arbor, MI: Modern History Press. ISBN 978-1-932690-58-3. http://donbodey.com. 
  12. ^ F.N.G. - The Call of Duty Wiki
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