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[IC] Terminal Corporal Vickers' Handbook on Not Being a Fuck-up (2nd Edition)

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Terminal Corporal Vickers’s Handbook on Not Being A Fuckup

2nd Edition



Most of everything in here is knowledge I’ve scalped, stolen, or begged for from more experienced NCOs. It’s the list of answers to every question I had as a newly promoted Lance Corporal, Corporal, and Sergeant.



2nd Edition

It’s been over a year since I wrote this. I call it ‘my shitty little handbook’, but in all honesty I’m still proud of what’s in here. After a year, there’s not much about it I wanted to change, but there’s plenty that needed adding in.


There are new sections in this handbook. Their titles are marked with italics. If you’ve read this guide before, those are the areas to skip to.


One of the key things I’m adding is directly below: a short guide for the enlisted. This is still primarily a guide for NCOs, but the job of a rifleman often isn’t an easy one, and there’s a criminal lack of guidance a lot of the time. I’ve tried to avoid the usual clichés which get thrown around, but if you’ve attended a BTC course, a lot of it will be familiar.


The last thing I want to do is add a list of the people who helped me make this guide, some of whom are sadly no longer with us:


Sgt. Dunbaal

Cpt. Dresdner

SSgt. (Now Cpt.) Dooley

Sgt. Vond

Col. Shaw

MSgt. Nasser


With sincere thanks and admiration.


General Fuckup Avoidance



A section of this handbook which applies to everyone who might face the battlefield. NCOs should not skip this section just because it’s not specifically aimed at them.


NCOs should make killer riflemen when they’re not in a leadership position. Farting around in the command squad and looking cool is a surefire way of not fulfilling your potential in the field, and losing the respect of others.



Know where your buddies are (and aren’t)

I’m choosing to avoid having sections on cohesiveness, sectors, and follow-the-leader. It can all be summed up by just knowing where other people are and what they’re doing.


Generally, you want to be in the same place as everyone else in the squad. Whether you want to be facing the same direction as them depends on the situation, but if you need a rearguard and everyone around you is looking ahead, don’t wait for someone to order you: cover the rear.


Keeping tabs on the squad medic, engineer, and weapon specialists is also key. If your medic is taking point for your ass, sort that out. Point and rearguard are the two riskiest positions, so don’t let the only medic soak that risk for you.


While you’re doing your ‘where is everyone?’ checks, you might notice someone is missing.


Say so.


Nine times out of ten, they’ll call you paranoid on the radio and explain they were taking a leak. The tenth time, you’ll save their life.



Listen for commands.

Have some sympathy for your poor fucking NCO, stringing together what they’re doing on the fly and trying to keep your ass alive. If they tell you to be somewhere, it’s very possible that not being there is not only going to fuck you, but the rest of your squad.


Be responsive. Keep an ear out. Tunnel-vision is a real problem. Try to avoid it as best you can.

Understand your cover.

Cover isn’t a magical shield. If it’s not solid, it’s not stopping anything. Concealment is important but nothing beats having a nice solid bit of concrete, rock, or metal to hide behind.


Make sure you’re aware of what parts of you are behind that cover. Snipers aren’t above shooting you in the foot that’s sticking out, and stray rounds aren’t picky.


In addition, when dealing with bugs, be aware that you should not be glued to your cover. Bugs can climb over cover, but it’s much, much better to make them do that, than to stand practically next to your barricade so you can be pulled out from behind it.


The same applies to choke points: they’re for the enemy to be in, not you.

Voicing ideas.

Not being some big-dick NCO doesn’t make you unqualified to give ideas, or information. You just need to keep in mind that those ideas should never sound like orders, or said big-dick NCO will be too busy being pissed off with you to listen.


Starting with ‘maybe we could’ or ‘suggest we’ or ‘could we…’ is a good way to avoid this bitching-out. Suggest to your squad’s leadership first, instead of going straight to the drop lead - unless it’s urgent.

Tenets of leadership

Respect your subordinates.

Throughout most of this handbook, the new sections come after the old ones. Out of everything, though, this is probably the core tenet of leadership.


Mobile Infantrymen are some of the hardest motherfuckers around. They’re a fraction of the size of an arachnid, generally non-psychic, and comparatively weaker than pretty much anything they’ll come across on the battlefield, and they still signed up to run around that battlefield being led by your ramshackle ass. If that isn’t brave, fuck knows what is.


That deserves a baseline level of respect that should always be there unless you have a genuinely concrete reason to dismiss it.


If you don’t treat your subordinates with respect, so much about your job will become so difficult that I’d need a whole handbook to write about it all. Just take my word for it.

Present an image of control at all times.

One of the most common fuck-ups for an NCO is to lose control, especially in the field. A leader who shouts and screams is either angry or panicked, and neither are good for clear communication. Orders must be concise to be understood, and cursing or screaming rarely contain crucial information for troops. At best, you’ll ramble. At worst, your troops will lose respect, or even pick up on your panic and lose faith in the situation. This is how a rout happens. If you maintain your calm and control at all times, your troopers will be more responsive, and you’ll be better able to make solid calls.

Never blame troopers for a fuck-up in the field.

Sometimes a genuine fuck-up trooper turns up who will not listen to orders and must be dragged around or shot. This is a rare situation. Almost all cases of troops not responding to orders happen because communication from their NCO has not been recognised. Either they are tunnel-visioned, or the order was too muddled for them. I’ll talk about clarity of orders later and how to achieve it, but the first step is to recognise that unresponsive troopers are your responsibility to manage. The same goes for misinterpreted orders, troopers going off-reservation, or dead HVTs. These issues almost always stem from unclear orders or a lack of focused briefing.

Always think ahead.

Probably the hardest one on this list. Keeping an eye on your troopers and on the bigger picture isn’t enough. If you focus on the here-and-now, you will eventually paint yourself into a corner. Always be thinking about what the next move will be. The most obvious part of this is thinking about landscape. When crossing a bridge, keep in mind where you’ll be heading next. You don’t want troopers sitting around waiting after a crossing. If fighting bugs, take the route which allows you to avoid forests and terrain that will break your forces up, but utilise features which will choke and break up the arachnid forces. Sometimes a short sprint through bad terrain allows for a better route in the long run. This applies to more than just terrain.

Speak only when you must.

I like to tell tales of people like Chris Dooley, who could lead a drop with less than a hundred words. He didn’t just do this to look cool. The more you speak, the more your voice becomes part of the background noise. You don’t want orders to become part of the background noise. During downtime, chatter is fine, but during combat, the only words you speak to your troopers should contain orders or information, as concisely as possible. This is more important the further up the chain of command you are, and it goes for double over the radio. Lance Corporals should be speaking often, telling specific troopers how to adjust. A Sergeant leading a drop should be speaking only to give squad leads their orders.

Brief first, order second.

Briefing is telling troopers what they’ll be doing, and sometimes why. Ordering is enforcing that plan. Doing both at the same time is confusing and muddles your orders. It’s not always possible to brief, then order, but if you can reach a situation where all you need to say is “Now.” you’ve cut out most of the risk of miscommunication and confusion. Brief when you have an idea of what will happen next, and you think you have a moment before it’ll need to happen.

The classic example is during a fire and movement exercise. If the other squad is running to their next position, you can brief your squad on where they’ll be going, and what they’ll be doing when they get there. That way, when the other squad is ready, and it’s your turn to move, the order can simply be “Now.”

If you’re feeling in-tune with the drop lead and you think you know what they’ll be ordering next, you can pre-emptively brief your squad, as long as you let them know it’s a prediction. Worst case scenario, you do something else.

Keep an eye on the bigger picture.

One trooper out of place rarely fucks up an operation. I’ve seen a great many fuck-ups (including my own) stem from NCOs trying to put that trooper in the right place, and not seeing the bigger shitstorm on the horizon. Leave it to the second in command, and don’t fly off the handle over it. Even as a second in command, you should be thinking about how what you’re doing helps the bigger picture. If it doesn’t, find something that does.


It’s worth mentioning that sometime small details are important to the bigger picture. If the one trooper out of place is the one on rearguard, the second either needs to get them to stick on it, or find someone who will. Rearguard is a boring role that very occasionally saves every trooper in the squad. Many routs I’ve seen would have been prevented with a stronger rearguard.

Focus on leadership.

Your focus as a leader should always be on leading. If you are an engineer, you aren’t when you’re in command. If you’re a medic, you aren’t when you’re in command. Don’t bring a mark two if you’re leading. It requires a thought process different to that of leadership. Grenade launchers are fine - they are problem solving tools that fit in well with the needs of a leader. If you bring something like a M55, brief your second so they can take command if you need to fuck off and use it. Don’t try to order your squad while you’re fumbling between HEDP and HEAT warheads.

Fix problems as you see them.

Regardless of your rank, command, or duties, it’s your job to fix a problem when you see it. If you see a sector that isn’t being covered, get someone on it. Consult with the squad leadership if there’s time, but don’t leave a gap in the line for the sake of not stepping on toes.

Know when to advance rearwards.

Sometimes situations are just fucked. Understanding not just when to run, but where, and how, is important. Sometimes you need to just break ranks and call for everyone to run the fuck away. When you do, give them a clear direction - ideally multiple times.


Sometimes you can run a fighting withdrawal. Sometimes you could even look really cool and have one squad moves while the other covers.


But sometimes running like a bitch is the only way to do it. Better your pride gets hurt than your troopers get eaten.

Be cordial.

This does not mean talking like a graduate pussy all the time (like I do). It just means not shouting at troopers without a reason. Someone walking into the wrong room isn’t doing it to piss you off. Someone who fucks up probably hasn’t done it with the intention of ruining your day. Don’t act like it.


If the first thing a trooper hears from you is ‘FUCK OFF’, what kind of response do you think you’ll get from someone who has been trained to respond to aggression with aggression? They’ll either respond in kind and force you to escalate, resent the fuck out of you, or be scared into submission, in which case the next thing they see that’s scarier than you (It will happen. You’re not all that.) will reduce your authority to jack shit.


In addition, if you have an issue with a trooper, sit them down and talk to them about it. If you don’t know why they’re acting out, you’re not equipped to deal with it.


The same flies for superiors. Don’t be a suckup, but don’t be rude. Politeness is how humanity have managed to get this far without killing each other. Being a rude fuck might make you feel cool but it will make your job a lot harder in the long run.

Don’t bitch pointlessly.

Complaining is a social thing. Understanding that sometimes people bitch is important to understanding discipline. However, never mistake it for a way to handle an issue. If you want to shoot the shit as a way to get to know people, fine, but if it’s within your means to fix a problem, then instead of complaining about it, fix it.

Don’t undermine.

This ties closely into the above but it comes up so often it’s worth its own mention. If there’s another NCO you don’t get along with, that’s okay*. If you bitch about them to subordinates, you are a rat fuck and need to sort your shit out. Belittling leaders to the people they command won’t make those leaders any better, it’ll just undermine subordinates’ impressions of leadership in general, and undermine your own image as a responsible leader.


You have to balance that with being honest. It’s tricky. This isn’t an easy job. That’s why there’s such a long boring guide about it, fuckstick.


*Not ideal if it’s because they’re an incompetent stain of a person, but we have a chain of command for that.

Initiative trumps rank.

Related to the above, don’t underestimate what someone can do if they take the initiative and have a little spine. Something is within your means to fix if you have the know-how or the initiative to get off your ass and do something about it.


The old idiom goes ‘A Sergeant on the move outranks a stationary Lieutenant’. It doesn’t just apply to NCOs.

The buck stops here.

The surest way to lose the respect of your peers and subordinates is to blame someone else for something you could have fixed. It doesn’t matter if the private you assigned as second in command was supposed to handle it - it’s your squad. Never, ever shift the blame. Not only will your subordinates resent you for it, but other NCOs will look at you like you just took a dump on the table.


If you’re in command, you’re responsible for everything that happens within that command. Even if you’re not culpable personally, and you didn’t cause the issue yourself, it’s your responsibility. If you can’t hack that, it’s not the job for you.

Types of order

‘Trooper, go do that.’


Direct orders are the ones we all know and love.  These are the orders that should be used in combat for clarity and speed.


“Trooper, could you go and do that?”


Requests from an NCO are orders, but they open the trooper ordered to give a reason for why they can’t comply, and they’re more respectful. These are ideal in an unstressed situation. In combat, they are more fiddly and take longer.


“Trooper, you might want to go and do that.”


Suggestions are technically orders, but rely on the initiative of the trooper to follow-through. Suggested orders are generally made when a leader is thinking in the trooper’s best interests, and wants to avoid the implication that the trooper will be acting in the interests of the NCO. These are ideal for things like maintaining hygiene, orderly uniform, and planetside shelter. They allow the NCO to give an instruction without the trooper feeling a weight of authority.


You might have noticed a gradient from urgency to politeness. It’s worth noting that NCOs who are polite to troopers are the ones the troopers listen to outside of combat, and your job as an NCO does not end when everyone is aboard the dropship. There’s no reason to be rude or urgent with troopers in a situation that doesn’t merit it.

Communicating orders


Phrasing of orders is often overlooked.


“Alright guys, remember to stay fast and low. Everyone get up and get moving, we’ll hit that building ahead of us. Blue squad, let’s go.”


“Blue, move up to the building ahead, fast and low.”


Two orders for the same action, but one is muddled and unclear, and the other is phrased to be quickly understood. First of all, you want to dump anything that isn’t an instruction or crucial information. Second, you want to get the order of your order correct. Let’s colour code.


Bluemove up to the building aheadfast and low.”


Identify who should be listening first. Unless you’re on separate channels, this is how you stop squads being confused about which orders to follow. It comes first so they’ll start listening before the order, and not after.


The order itself comes next, and should be as concise as possible.


Vital information follows directly. This can be a location, a target, or anything that is absolutely necessary for the order to be understood.


Ancillary information comes last. This is any modification to the order based on the situation. Whether you want your troopers to go fast, slow, carefully, or to fire as they move. Keep this short.

Now you’ve seen all the stuff you need to put into order, you should understand why it’s much more efficient for everyone to know everything about the order before you have to give it. It’s not always possible, but do it when you can.

Non-Combat Command Roles

Fuckups tend to think their main role is in combat. This is bullshit. People who think this way are fucked and generally in way over their heads. Most time is spent out of combat, and it’s notably difficult to prepare people for situations while those situations are chewing on their legs.


Here’s a section for the responsibilities at various levels of command.

Lance Corporal

Technically this isn’t even a level of command. Lances can’t legally order anyone unless given that power expressly by someone who can.


However, if they’re anywhere close to good, their word will have enough heft that people will listen anyway. If you’re a budding new Lance Corporal, avoid direct orders - you’ll sound like a twerp who thinks they have authority. If someone needs to do something, persuade them. That skill will serve you far better later in your career than any kind of ego-masturbating authority bullshit will.


The main duty of the Lance Corporal is to act as a first stop for enlisted with problems. This guy listens to those problems, solves them with pure rat cunning if he can, and if he can’t, passes it up to a Corporal.


The secondary duty is to be a good role model for the troopers. Lances don’t get secluded as much by duty and lodging arrangements, compared to NCOs, so they’ve got a lot more contact with troopers. By acting as a good example, they can make a real difference to the outlook of a unit.


Where the NCOs actually start. Corporals are supposed to be micromanagement experts and the friendly faces of the NCO team. If you’re a strict and authoritarian Corporal, you’re fucking it up. You should not be looking to NJP people, even if you can. You are the kindly uncle or auntie of the infantry, and you always have their back, even if you do have to adjust their behaviour.


Take the time to explain what you’re doing. Sit down with troopers, learn about them. Your duties are about morale as much as anything else. Be there for the troopers. Train them, teach them, help them through their issues.


In addition, keep an eye out for prospective leaders, and make sure the lances are on-course for becoming competent NCOs in their own right.


Corporals are often treated as the bitch-boys of the NCO cadre. This is unfair. A competent Corporal can often get far more done than a Staff Sergeant. Out of all these ranks, corporals tend to get mismanaged and squandered the most.


Some of you might be looking at the title of this booklet and calling me biased on the subject. You may be right, but if you’ve done this job before and you thought it was easy, I promise: you were fucking awful at it.


The real shit. Sergeants are the backbone of the infantry. Not only should they be running trainings, but they should be delegating training duties to those below them and organising the efforts of the Corporals.


These guys are the ultimate in role models, so they should also be shit-hot at just about every aspect of the Mobile. They should know how to do everyone’s job in a pinch, and be able to give advice to anyone in just about any situation. Reliability is the watchword of the Sergeant.


This is really the first step where management of the NCO team comes into play. If a Corporal is having issues, a Sergeant should be assisting with them.


In theory this is actually a less busy role than that of a Corporal, because most of what gets brought to a Sergeant can be delegated to someone lower down the chain. However, if you’re a control freak or a perfectionist, that rarely rings true, and you’ll always be finding something to do.


If you have a lot of free time, it should only be because you have some seriously cool Corporals and you’re organised as fuck when delegating to them. If you’re not doing that, and you’re not busy, you’re fucking up.

Staff Sergeant

You can save time by taking everything I said about Corporals, swapping ‘the enlisted’ with ‘the NCOs’, and putting it here. You are the Corporal of the NCO team. You manage problems, you organise their progression on a personal and professional level, and you bring the entire team together as a unit.


It’s often seen as a position of merit or admiration. That’s total bullshit. An NCO team lives or dies based on its senior NCOs. If they have their shit buttoned up, you’ll have a functional, communicative, and well trained team of NCOs. If they’re not all of those things, either the company lacks those qualities in general, or the SNCOs are fucking it up.


It’s very easy to tell when a Staff Sergeant isn’t doing their job by speaking to the Corporals and Sergeants. If they are professional, informed, and doing their jobs, they’re probably being well motivated and organised. If they are slacking off, acting like children, and abusing their positions, that ultimately comes at the feet of the Staff Sergeants.

Master Sergeant

The overall head of the NCO team. They help bridge the gap between the officers and the NCOs, and work through the Staff Sergeants to ensure everything is working. In an ideal world, all communication on policy should go through the Master Sergeant, and the Master Sergeant should set the internal atmosphere of the NCO team, whether it’s professional, relaxed, or whatever else.


The big dogs. These guys should be actively involved in decision making, fostering an NCO team, and raising morale. Part of that is leading drops, so they don’t become leaders in-name-only. Never underestimate what a quick chat with an officer can do for a trooper’s morale, and don’t stop short of advising officers about who could do with a pat on the back. They need that information as much as you need their active involvement in the day-to-day affairs of the company.

Combat Command Roles

These aren’t rank dependent, but typically officers and SNCOs should be in positions of drop leadership, and other NCOs should be in positions of squad leadership.


It’s also worth saying that the roles themselves have blurred boundaries. An inexperienced drop lead with some steady hands as squad leads might just give them general direction and let them work out everything else. A drop lead who’s trialing out new squad leads might take more direct control to minimise chances of a weapons grade fuckup. Sometimes people just work differently, too. These are guidelines, not solid rules.

Drop Lead

The man with the plan. If everyone else knows what they’re doing, the position of drop lead is 90% sitting with your thumb up your ass, and 10% frantically working out what the fuck to do.


The only problems which should really need a drop lead to seriously engage the thinking muscles are by definition tricky ones. Most of the rest of it is just deciding what roughly you want done, and roughly where the squads should go to make it happen.


There are different styles, but mostly the drop lead is a problem solver. They decide the approach to the problem and the squad leads work out the nitty gritty of it.


To give a real example: Say there’s an artillery position that needs taking out. The drop lead can instruct one squad to make an assault, and the other to cover them. The squad leads then decide exactly where to go to best suit that. Of course, usually the drop lead has a nice idea of where would be a good place to breach, and where the other squad could provide cover from. As stated, the roles have some flex in them.

One common problem is riflemen responding directly to the drop lead’s general direction rather than the squad lead’s commands. This can lead to cohesion problems, where half the squad react immediately and the other half wait for the squad lead. Generally you always want to wait for the squad lead, because they might have a specific way of tackling the drop lead’s orders. Sure, maybe they’ve been told to advance on the right, but maybe they want to do it fireteam by fireteam, or through some buildings, or along a gulley.


To avoid fuckups of that nature as drop lead, try to instruct the squad lead rather than the squad. If you absolutely positively need to tell squads what to do directly, that option remains open to you. It happens. Usually when you need to move positions rapidly. Danger close fire missions trump standard procedure.


Also in terms of who to address: Always give commands in a way which imbue direct responsibility. Naming people is the best way to do this. If you say ‘someone flank them’, that ‘someone’ becomes ‘someone else’ to most people listening. If you tell Squad Leader Sally to get it done, she’s directly responsible, and she knows it.

Drop Second

At the time of writing this, the position of overall second in command has gone seriously out of fashion. Despite that, it’s a potentially important role. Important enough to be put here in spite of my usual feelings about command squad bloating.


The drop lead’s second is a fixer, first and foremost. They keep an eye on the squads and make sure the lead’s plans are being adhered to. If a squad lead is taking just a little too much initiative and moving out of position, the second can fix that. If a squad is coming under more fire than expected, the second can notify the lead, or (depending on their working relationship), directly order the other squad lead to support.


That last example should highlight the reason this isn’t always part of our doctrine. It requires trust and coordination to work effectively. NCOs who truly work well together aren’t all that easy to find, and they take genuine work to build up.


The other, less official role of a drop second is to act as a trainer. Ideally, when teaching NCOs to lead drops, the best way to do it is to have a steady hand as second, advising them, fixing the little mistakes, and making sure their inexperience doesn’t cost lives. It also means that at the debrief, there’s someone who’s ideally tailored to run them through their errors and show them how to improve.


SNCOS and officers make ideal drop seconds not just for this reason, but because they’re usually experts at spotting problems before they really become problems. That’s what makes an effective fixer, and it’s a skillset that’s difficult to foster any way but direct combat experience.


As a final note, they’re also ideally suited as RTOs and can take command without fuss should the drop lead be incapacitated. Obvious but worth pointing out.

Squad Lead

The backbone of the whole operation. A drop can survive a bad overall commander. Without good squad leads, though, the whole thing is liable to go to shit.


The squad lead is entirely responsible for everything that happens within their squad. That means every little thing that every trooper does comes back to the squad lead. They don’t get the benefit of working through other NCOs all the time, like the drop lead. This is coalface leadership, and without the support of a good second, it’s an exhausting mix of micromanagement, tactical thought, and team-building.


Squad leads have to carefully balance adherence with the overall lead’s plan, with their own initiative. Sometimes the plan from up high is shit. It happens. It’s down to the drop lead to change it and beg forgiveness later, ask permission and try to explain why, or trust that the drop lead knows what they’re doing and stick it out. That’s not an easy decision to make. It’s not really easy as a theoretical question, but when you’ve got a casualty, your rearguard are drifting off to pick flowers somewhere, and Fleet just misheard ‘medevac’ as ‘orbital bombardment’, it’s a fucking nightmare.


While in theory squad leadership isn’t the most demanding role, it’s a role of incredible responsibility. No other role has the same mix of responsibility for the safety of the individual trooper, and responsibility for the mission as a whole.


Because of this, some people make bad squad leads but good drop leads, and vice versa. Working on an objective within someone else’s plan, to some people, is very tricky. To others it’s much easier than working out the general plan. This is why we get NCOs who never really need to be promoted beyond a certain point: they fit where they are. It’s also the reason this guide is called ‘Terminal Corporal’ etc etc etc. Squad leadership has always been my thing, and it’s typically a role headed by Corporals (though there’s an argument that it should be given to Sergeants. That’s a kettle of worms we can burn to when we come to it.) so regardless of my actual rank I’ve always considered my skill set to be that of a Corporal.


A bit of a ramble, but worth pointing out that advancement doesn’t always come in the form of climbing ladder-like up the ranks. There’s no shame in getting really good at something and sticking to it, as long as you don’t get complacent.

Squad Second

If they’re doing their job right, this is likely to be the busiest person on the drop. A second makes sure their lead’s plan is rolling along smoothly, which means watching out for new threats, or changes to the situation, and making sure the squad are cohesive, and that troopers are all looking the right way, moving the right way, and not eating that fruit they just picked up off the floor.


If you know troopers, you’ll know those last few are difficult.


In short, the squad lead says what the squad is doing, and the second spends the next minute or so shouting at people to get them to actually do it.


I say shouting.

Probably the best way as a second to get people to totally fucking ignore you is to act like you’re in charge of them. That’s counter-intuitive, I know. People resent being treated like they’re pond scum (weird, right?) so if you can direct them without treating them like shit, that’ll work a lot better and they’re more likely to feel confident about being led by you in the future - which, as a second in command, you have to be thinking about a future of squad leadership.


That aside, your role is to take as much off the squad lead’s plate as possible. Remove as much simple maintenance as possible, while leaving the decision making. If you have an understanding with the squad lead it’s definitely possible to start handing out general direction and orders, but you need to have that understanding, otherwise you’ll be treading on toes and giving conflicting directions.


If you don’t have that understanding, and you notice something that the squad lead could do with changing, mind how you phrase yourself. Offering suggestions, information, and advice is well within your wheelhouse. Giving orders is not. Start what you say with, ‘Advise we…’ or ‘We could…’ etc. That way you’re also clarifying the chain of command to others who might not be quite so switched-on.


Not officially a command role, but worth talking about. Warrant Officers and NCOs without a leadership role often fit into the position of an advisor: someone who can’t (and shouldn’t) give direct orders, but has the experience to assist others with those orders.


If this is ringing a little familiar after reading the entry on drop seconds, that’s because it’s not a totally different role. The major separation is actual authority. People in an advisory role will often tell individual troopers to do something, in the same way people pick fluff off other people’s sweaters. It’s quiet neatening rather than getting in the way of someone else’s command.


Mostly, though, advisors exist to assist people in all other positions of leadership. Seconds often need the helping hand, but drop leads can often seriously benefit from the voice of experience (or imagination).


Anyone more qualified for the role they’re in should really be acting as an advisor. This counts double for NCOs acting as riflemen. One of the often ignored duties of a rifleman is to pick up and relay information, and give suggestions to those above them.


As always, the same general rule applies: Do the most you can be doing without fucking up someone else’s command.


Setting up your squad

Probably the most daunting moment for a fresh squad-lead comes in the dropship where you’re first faced with the troopers under your command. There’s a lot to do here, and how you do it is important, but it can all be broken down.

Picking troopers

First of all, don’t pick the most experienced troopers for your squad and leave the other lead with a sea of green. There are methods of splitting squads in this way that work, but they need some communication and understanding between the leads. Most of the time, share the load of nannying the new guys. Offering to let the other lead take their pick is often a faster way of getting things done, if they know what they’re doing.


Massively important is how you treat the troopers selected for your squad. Never, not even if they are all one armed sixteen year olds with IQs under 30, must you ever give the impression that they are anything other than the exact squad you want and need at that moment. They are your dream team, every time. Look for their strengths, accentuate them, and every single time you’ll end up with a better coordinated squad with higher morale than a more competent team browbeaten by their lead.

Organising the squad

Your point and rear troopers are the most important. Priority for a pointman is a good sense of direction, keen eyes, and some initiative. They are a soft-leader for your squad. If they stop, everyone else stops. If they run, the others run. You want someone who knows what they’re doing and isn’t afraid to make a judgement call without informing you. You must trust this trooper. Rearguard trooper should be someone with a steady head, who won’t start turning from their sector to get in on the action. These will often be the most experienced guys you have. Prioritise lightweight and multi-role weapons for both. Carbines, and grenade launcher variants work well. Your support gunners and nuke troopers should be kept free to move to positions ideal for them, not stuck on the front or rear all the time.


Make sure you have at least one medic, and at least one engineer. If there aren’t enough, ensure that there’s one on the command squad who can come if you need them. Ask who has first-responder training if there aren’t enough medics - this is vital information for a second to already have during combat, when the lead is busy giving squad level orders and no-one is feeling chatty about their training.


You may want to prepare fireteams. Fireteams are formally four troopers, but can be anything from two to whatever, depending on the situation. If you have a large squad, and you want to be flexible in the field, split them up, give each fireteam a leader - one should follow you, the other should follow your second. If you face a problem later that requires splitting up, the work is already done for you. If you’re going to do fireteams, do them properly. Have your second go person to person checking that they know their team individually, and once you’ve made your decision on who is with who, don’t shuffle too much, or everything will get confused.


The other micro-level of organisation is buddies. You can make sure everyone in your squad has a buddy, or you can assign the greenest troopers to ones who will keep them on the right track. Assign riflemen to weapon specialists, medics, and engineers, so they can cover them while they work.

Establishing authority

Don’t swagger in shouting and screaming and acting like the Sky Marshal-in-waiting. Your leadership style is your own, but not all styles are within reach of the fuckup-avoider. Don’t be bombastic and overly confident. Be professional if you want, friendly if you want, and quiet if you want, but the absolute surefire way to lose your natural authority and respect (which the military cannot regain for you) is to be arrogant. Have loud confidence in your squad, quiet confidence in yourself, and firm confidence in your leaders.

Formations and movement

Remember those long hours spent in a hot metal room staring at diagrams of dots on a board? ‘This is a line, this is a triangle, this is a square, this is a squiggly line?’ Let me explain why it was (nearly) pointless.


If you want to get from one position to the next, a column is usually the exact worst way to do it. If there are Seps, they’ll crucify you from ahead or behind. If there are bugs, as soon as they come, most of your troopers have their line of sight blocked by the guy ahead or behind. Ranks far below an organized tactical blob for just about everything.

Line (abreast)

The only formation worth ordering 90% of the time. The day you get a squad to form a solid line abreast and march into bugland is the day you make the Mobile Infantry proud. Every trooper has an angle to fire ahead, and the troopers on the ends can cover sides. Usually you’ll have another squad or team covering rear (if you don’t, fix that). The best way to get as many rifles facing the enemy as possible. It’s also simple enough to get most troopers to do it.


When advancing through bugland, inform troopers that if you make heavy contact, they are to stop and kneel. This allows the other squad(presumably) behind you to pour it on without doming anyone. Never fails.


You might think this is vulnerable to flanking fire, and in theory it is, but the reality is that on the move the line is never straight, so there are always gaps between the troopers.

Firing line

For when you want to get your colonial era warfare on. Same as a line abreast but designed for (mostly) static engagements. Everyone stands shoulder to shoulder. If there’s not enough room (and only if there’s not enough room), the front row kneels and a second row forms behind. Ideally you want one line because it lets everyone back off without tripping over troopers behind them.

If you’re setting up to hold a choke-point, set your firing line a good 5-10 meters behind that choke. Never, ever sit in the choke. The choke is a bad thing. It is for the enemy, not you.


If you have a defensive line behind barricades, make sure troopers know that if the bugs come right up to them, it’s better to step back and let them chew on sandbags than give them an arm to have. Most of the time once the wave clears they can push back up to their prior position.


If you must advance a firing line, do it slowly. Brief everyone before you go, and make sure people are ready. It’s very easy to fuck up, especially with a multi-row firing line… but it also looks and feels cool as hell.


The arrowhead. In theory, designed for assaults. In practice, we never use the spacings that would give it any real advantage over a line abreast, and it’ll turn into a mucky line whatever you do.



Double column

Like a column but slightly less shit. It’s alright for going down streets as it allows teams to cover each other’s angles. Advantage of having fireteams is you can quickly form a double column by ordering one to each side, instead of trusting the troopers to form up on their own. I’ll clue you in. There isn’t a ‘situational awareness’ component on the Mobile Infantry entrance exam.

Staggered column

Version of the double column. It’s begging your drop lead to recognise your potential as the future Sky Marshal. The only advantage of staggering is that it’s more likely to accidentally turn your formation into the tactically superior blob that troopers default to.

Tactical blob

The one no-one teaches, and everyone knows. If you leave troopers in a petri dish, entropy will eventually turn them into a tactical blob. It involves the brave guys at the front, the sensible guys in the middle, and the responsible ones at the sides and rear. Usually the sides and rear are under-staffed.

You’ll basically never catch any combat leader ordering for a blob. I’ve seen it done once, completely straight-faced, in front of an officer. Cold rolled steel testicles, right there. Despite the disregard many NCOs have for the blob, it’s actually a pretty sound way to move around. It’s not ideal for much, but it’s responsive. Troopers shift to where the action is, because they want to shoot stuff, so your squad ends up like some sort of morita handling amoeba. The main risk is that this natural action-hunger will leave your rearguard weak. Make sure someone is on it.


How you position and space depends on the threat. For bugs, keep everything tight as you possibly can. For Seps, spread people out and have them stick to cover. For combinations of the two, routine prayer is ideal.


How your squad moves is important, and it’s often overlooked. You don’t have to move slowly to be careful - in fact sometimes moving slowly is risky. In bug country, if you’re moving through a bad position (like a valley, or complete open ground), and there’s high ground up ahead, you want to have your squad island-hop from position to position, hopefully with the other squad covering. Remember fire and movement? Same principle.


When dealing with bugs, avoid fighting up an incline as much as humanly possible. Bodies fall down, and the closer you get the less warning you have about arachnids clambering over the top and coming down towards you. The most dangerous part is always the final stretch. It seems risky, but the best thing to do when you have a rideline to summit, is to have your squad stop and prepare at the bottom of the slope, and then rush the fucker during a quiet moment. If you breach the ridge together, you’ll have good line of sight on everything on the other side, instead of clambering up a hill while bugs ambush you from directly ahead.


With seps, encourage free thinking and initiative. Have troopers move from cover to cover. Use doorways, lampposts, low walls - anything. If you’re running a neat formation against a sep force you’re probably fucking something up. The goal with seps is to be as spread out and unpredictable as possible, and to use all good cover available. Make sure all sectors are covered, and leapfrog from position to position. If moving two teams/squads, give good space between them, without exposing anyone to flanking attacks that could split you up and cause a crossfire situation. Therein lies opportunity for a weapons grade clusterfuck.





Situation Checklists

One-size-fits-all stuff is bullshit, but having a way to organize your thought process is better than having no thought process.


Unless you’re in Intel.


Holding positions:

  1. Do I have a perimeter? If not, make one.

  2. Is this the best position to hold? If not, move.

  3. Is everyone spaced? If not, space them.

  4. Is my medic/engineer/fuckbuddy somewhere unwise? If so, move them.

  5. Do my squad know what they’re doing next? If not, inform them. If you’re not sure, walk them through the possibilities.


On the move:

  1. Do we know which direction to go in? If not, find the enemy or the objective.

  2. Are we going in the right direction? If not, change direction.

  3. Is everyone moving in the same direction? If not, clarify the direction for them.

  4. Do we have a rearguard? If not, organize one.

  5. Are there any obstacles/course changes ahead? If so, brief your squad.


Under fire

  1. Have we violated the rules of engagement? If so, whoops.

  2. Are we all in cover? If not, get people into cover.

  3. Do we know where the enemy are? If not, find them.

  4. Are we returning fire? If not, get the lead downrange.

  5. Is our fire effective? If not, apply explosives or pyrotechnics.

  6. Do we have an endgame? If not, make one. Don’t get stuck without a plan. If you’re stationary, the other guys are making a plan. Flank, set an ambush, withdraw, push out - whatever you do, do something.


Momentum, flow, or initiative. If you’re working through a plan, step by step, you’ve got it. If you’re making the enemy react to you, you’ve got it. If you’re stuck defending a position without an endgame, you’ve lost it.


Momentum isn’t just important tactically. It’s crucial for morale. Troopers who’ve been left waiting without knowing what they’re waiting for get bored. Troopers in the same situation in enemy territory get anxious, too. Anxious and bored troopers are very bad.


So, if at any point you don’t have a plan, make one. Have your endgame ready, even if that endgame is ‘run the fuck away and regroup’. Let your people know what the endgame is. You having a plan doesn’t help morale if no-one else knows about it. If you’re waiting on resupply or medevac or TAC, say so.


You’ll know when you have momentum, though. It feels like progress. When you don’t have it, you’ll feel lost. In those moments where you feel lost, finding a direction and digging your heels in is the best way to go. Ask advice from your fellow NCOs if you need to. Someone might have a bright idea, and a leader who admits they need a hand is a lot better than one who pretends they’re omniscient and gets people killed over it.


I’ve listed a couple of areas you can know about to help you keep that momentum.

Advancing through bugs.

Holding a line against bugs is standard shit. We do it practically every day. Moving that line forward into the bugs is a little trickier, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary.


If you’re only coming into scout patrols, you can advance your line at a steady walk or even a run. If you’re meeting a nearby hole they’re pouring out of, you may need to slow that advance or even pause it at times.


If the advance is too heavy for you to move through, to keep momentum, you have to make a change. That might involve sending a M55 team to flank and collapse a bug hole. It might involve falling back to a more defensible position and calling in support or re-thinking from there. It might involve some kind of hail-mary. What you should never do is meet an onrush of bugs that’s completely stalling you, and allow yourself to be stalled. Eventually someone will get bit, and that’s one less rifle on the line - two if a medic assists them. Your balance will be lost and you’ll have to withdraw anyway.


Keep the momentum. Advance if you can. Rethink if you can’t.


If you’re fighting seps or similar, and they’re engaging you in a stalemate, chances are they’re already moving to flank you. Cover your flanks, and if you can, beat them to it. This comes up in the situations checklist, but it’s worth reinforcing.


Just like with bugs, if you’re being stalled, change the situation. Use a marauder. Use rockets, or grenades, or smoke. Do something to change the situation up or you’ll lose momentum, and eventually someone is going to get pegged.


The fuckup-avoider’s glossary

If you’ve ever been afraid of sounding stupid, and haven’t asked, this is for you.


ROE: Rules of engagement. Under what conditions you’re allowed to fuck shit up.


OPFOR: Opposing force. The guys you’re fucking up.


LZ: Landing zone. Where the fuckup begins and ends, also where you put the IR strobe/flare depending on your operator level.


IR strobe: Like a flare, but magical.


Squad: Eight guys, give or take. A force capable of fucking shit up individually. Usually one half of our strength in the field.


Fireteam: Four guys, give or take. A force capable of flanking, covering, or clearing rooms. Usually one half of a squad.


Drop lead: The guy in charge. The one who tells the squad leads what to do.


Squad lead: The guy in charge of a squad, dipshit.


Second/SiC/2ic: The sheepdog to the squad lead’s shepherd. Handles micromanagement and fixes problems so the lead doesn’t have to take their eye off the bigger picture.


Objective: Where you’re going/what you’re blowing up. Usually a bug hive or a separatist fortress or a pit of fucking acid. Blame brass.


Lance Corporal(fresh): A bright tailed, bushy eyed example of force management gone wrong. Often orders other enlisted during downtime, with hilarious results.


Lance Corporal(veteran): A fuckup who makes a good trooper but isn’t trusted to command a squad.


Corporal(fresh): An arrogant fuckstick who thinks their first command enables them to act like General Patton reincarnated.


Corporal(veteran): A genuine fuckup who somehow made NCO but hit the glass ceiling of their own retardedness and can’t comprehend tactics on a scale larger than their small corner of the AO.


Officers: The real enemy. Either you get hanged by one, or you become one. Both unthinkable.


AO: Area of operations. A bit of land/sea/space that brass has decided you will die in.


Wilco: Literally ‘will comply’. Does not mean ‘understood’, or ‘yes’.


Copy: Literally ‘understood’. Does not mean ‘will comply’ or ‘yes’.


Yes: Literally ‘yes’. Does not mean ‘understood’, or ‘will comply’. Yeah, laugh it up. You haven’t seen the shit I’ve seen.


HVT: High value target. The guy you’re not supposed to shoot, so the freshest guy in the company can splatter his brains and earn valuable experience getting shat on by an unending chain of Intel officers. Bring popcorn to the debrief if you hear this before or during an operation.


Capture: Nuke.


Collateral damage: The only good part of this job.


Non-combatant: Beats me.


HEDP: High explosive, dual purpose. Blows shit up, including light armour. Great for destroying larger bugs, emplacements, walls, and enemy morale.


HEAT: High explosive, anti tank. Doesn’t make as big a bang as HEDP, but it kills tanks and royals.


TON: Nuke.


Tube: M55 portable smart-warhead launcher. Shoulder mounted.


Tube-strike: The act of introducing the enemy to the M55’s array of warheads.


Warrior: The tall ones with the big jaws and the legs.


Hopper: The shifty ones that jump into your neat little formations. Hit them as they land. They spend a moment gaining their balance after a hop - easy money.


Spitter: You’ll never guess what they do. Target priority for your squad.


Royal: The really, really big ones. Back everyone away and get the nuke troopers to handle it. Either that or call for TAC. Rifle fire won’t do shit.


Tanker: Like a giant cockroach that breathes fire. Don’t try to hold a position against them. Commit to a fighting retreat if they get close. Again, TAC or tube-strike time.


Royal Jr: There’s about five different names for these. They look like royals but they’re smaller, and you can take them out with 40mm HEDP. A lot of fuckups originate from troopers mistaking these for royals and routing. If it’s not the size of a large building, it’s not a royal.


TAC: Air support. Ground attack craft with cannon and bombs. If you can get them, use them. Life savers.


DMR/DM: Designated marksman rifle/designated marksman. Exclusively available to troopers who are at least 50% gutless pussy. Usually useless. Very occasionally save everyone from death by sniper. They are not snipers. DMs are scouts and counter-snipers. Don’t let them ego-masturbate their way into wearing camo headbands and hanging around on rooftops. Prime crop for field execution.


Sector: The area of land/sea/space that a trooper is covering. Ideally, directly ahead of them. Usually, behind them as they turn to gawp at you as you tell them to cover their sector.


Backblast: The shit that comes out of an M55. If someone is standing within the area the backblast will fill, they need to get out of that area when a nuke trooper is readying their weapon. This is your job. Also keep in mind that ‘backblast’ also comes out of the front of the launcher. Don’t stand ahead of a guy with a rocket launcher.


ACE/LACE report: Used by fuckups everywhere to try to increase their operator level. Functionally useless in most situations people use it in. In theory, the report goes ‘(Liquid), ammunition,


casualties, equipment’, with green for ‘all good boss’, yellow for ‘good for now but not for long’ and red for ‘shit’s all fucked boss’. In theory LACE report sounds like this:


Lead: “Blue team, LACE report.”

[Furious investigation from the second]

Second: “Lead, LACE report follows: Yellow, yellow, green, green.”


In practice, it sounds like this:

Fuckup Lead: “Get me that god-damn LACE report!”

[Artillery, bug assaults, changing orders]

Fuckup #1: “Red is green!”

Fuckup #2: “I’m outta ammo!”

Fuckup #4: “Fuckup #3 has a hole in his head!”

Fuckup Second: “Turqoise!”

Drop Lead: “Fuckup Lead, why is your squad checking their backpacks during an assault? Come see me after for your congratulatory field execution.”


What’s the takeaway? LACE/ACE reports should be done in downtime, by seconds doing the rounds, then passed up-chain for a general assessment on squad strength and capability. In practice, there’s fuck all reason you shouldn’t just tell the drop lead how many wounded you have and what your ammo situation is. This is one of those systems that’s used because people want to look operator, and usually they just get tangled up in it and lose track of the bigger picture.


Nine line: Black magic employed by radio ops. Summons an immediate medevac, as fleet are inexplicably drawn to the mesmerising power of the radio op that can tame the nine line.


Repeat: Word used over the radio before your third request for permission to tube-strike the enemy stronghold. Makes anything that follows entirely inaudible to anyone with command responsibility. The only passive aggression that doesn’t classify as insubordination in the military.

Used on the LRR, it means to repeat the last fire mission. Uttering the word ‘repeat’ near a radio op after occupying a recently shelled position is an extremely effective way of cutting term of service short. Hilarious for pranking looters.


Oscar-Bravo: Means 'introduce this position to fleet's fuck-off huge guns', or 'orbital bombardment'.


Coordinates: Numbers that go on the maps fleet don’t read.


Operator level: How cool you look when you blow yourself up. Probably the single most important thing about being in the Mobile Infantry.


Danger close: Means the fire mission you’re calling in will be within spitting distance of your position. Unless you inform brass of danger close, they won’t bother to check their instruments, and will just lob high explosives in the general direction of your request.


Since ‘danger close’ means within 600 meters, every single fire mission you call will be danger close. The Mobile Infantry’s doctrine on engaging enemies outside 600 meters is to march closer, then call in a danger close fire mission. Any other way is for wine sipping liberal cockslobberers.


Fire mission: Fleet and the rear echelons have their own guns, and they’re a lot bigger to compensate for rampant micropenis condition, and to allow the sort of range that lets trained military personnel operate equipment one handed without worrying about return fire.


A fire mission is what we call the Mobile Infantry’s polite request to turn on these guns, aim them at the enemy, and fire them. Drop leads usually don’t call for fire missions. If you ask, they’ll say they want to do the job themselves. Truth is they usually forget they can.


Warrant Officers: The geriatric ward of the Mobile Infantry. Warrant Officers are the empty husks of NCOs. Occasionally useful in the field as radio ops and advisors. Avert your gaze - looking a Warrant Officer in the eye is a dangerous glimpse into a world of untold misery, boredom, and apathy for the lives of mere mortals.


Pathfinder: Special forces cool-guys. They fit into two categories, mostly: Aggressively egotistical psychopaths, and incredibly down-to-earth operators. It’s kind of a mixed bag. Sometimes they’re helpful as fuck, and sometimes they just strut around like peacocks showing off all their cool gear.


My first CO was an ex-pathfinder. He was one of the good kind. He’d always be giving us ideas, helping us out with outside-the-box thinking, laying down smoke to cover us. Basically he made us feel like kids under the competent care of an adult.


If they start bragging, showing off, or belittling your guys, they’re not the good kind, and don’t rely on them in the field. That attitude translates directly to how they perform in combat.

RTO: Radio Telephone Operator. Sometimes the drop lead takes this, sometimes they designate someone else. The RTO’s duties include communicating with MOBCOMM about objectives, requesting support like TAC or medevac, and keeping MOBCOMM up to date with our progress.


If the RTO is solid you’ll probably never notice. If they’re bad, everything will be late and you’ll probably be going in the wrong direction.


MOBCOMM: Mobile Infantry Command. The people in charge of coordinating assets. If you call for TAC, MOBCOMM are the people asking TAC to come bail you out.


I call them ‘brass’ sometimes, but no-one else does.


Radio: Every trooper’s personal open mic night.


Geo-Nav: Fancy tech that lets missiles fly down bug holes. Up until yesterday I thought that there was more guidance involved, but nope - just some kind of proximity sensor system. You aim at a hole, it’ll fly down it and detonate inside the system.


DOTON: Detonator Operated Tactical Oxygen Nuke. Yeah, that’s why we call it a ‘DOTON’. The signal from the detonator to the nuke is more reliable than it seems. You can also set it on a timer. Engineering use these to collapse hives.


Sometimes these are called ‘TOADs’. Don’t ask me why.


Command Squad: The cool kid’s club. The only people in the command squad should be people floating between the real squads (medics or engineers if you’ve only got one of them), the RTO, and the drop leader(s).


If there’s some NCO hanging out in the command squad because they weren’t given a leadership position, usually they’re just being lazy. It feels a lot cooler to do nothing in the command squad than to actually act the part of a rifleman in one of the real squads. Most NCOs just hate the idea of having to act like a private.


Here’s the deal, though: A rifleman can get a lot of shit done. They can suggest ideas, point out information, and generally fuck shit up. NCOs should be able to show they’re good at that shit too, instead of just trailing after the drop lead acting important.




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