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[IC] Terminal Corporal Vickers' Handbook on Not Being a Fuck-up

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Terminal Corporal Vickers’s Handbook on Not Being A Fuckup

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.

Tenets of combat leadership

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.

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.

 

Blue, move up to the building ahead, fast 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.

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.

Column

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.

Wedge

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.

Box

Hah.

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.

Spacing

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.

Movement

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.

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.

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