Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
The first real lesson Coop learned from the military was that he knew nothing about the world he was entering. It wasn’t the “position of attention” or “left face” and “right face” that he was thinking about; it was something much more fundamental.
Coop thought he knew how to do a pushup, he thought everybody knew how to do one. He’d been in middle school and taken the Commonwealth Council’s Physical Fitness Test, and he had a holo. He’d watched hundreds of people do pushups on the holo.
None of that meant anything to Corporal Collins. He taught them how to do a push-up the military way.
“The four count push-up!” The corporal roared in the group’s face.
“The four count push-up!” They yelled back, not knowing what they were talking about. Coop did know that the military liked it when you were motivated.
“Ready, Begin; 1…2…3…1. 1…2…3…2…”
Coop didn’t know two things about the military’s version of the push-up. The first was that just going up and down didn’t equal one. You had to go up and down twice to do a single pushup. Second, it mattered how far down you went. Corporal Collins kept his eyes on everyone, and yelled at anyone who didn’t lower themselves until their nose was in the dirt. Anything short of that was labelled “weak ass shit.”
<Fuck me.> Was the only thought Coop had by the time the corporal told them to recover; which meant get on your feet and back into the position of attention in half a second or you’ll have to do more pushups.
They’d only done twenty-five pushups, but that really meant they’d done fifty. Coop had started to feel the burn around fifteen, it hurt around twenty, and he was barely able to complete the final twenty-fifth push-up. He wasn’t the only one; a lot of the other twenty-seven members of the shit-stain group couldn’t even finish.
“You are all sorry sacks of shit!” Corporal Collins wasn’t even winded. “You better shape up or you ain’t gonna graduate.” Coop wasn’t even thinking about graduation, he was more concerned about surviving this encounter with the corporal.
“Everybody line up.” Corproal Collins pointed next to him. “Give me one line facing the direction your company marched in.” They did as they were told. “On my command, you will all sprint your sorry little asses off to catch up with the company.”
That wasn’t enough information for Coop. “Where are they, Corporal?”
You would have thought Coop told Corporal Collins he was going to sodomize the large man’s mother. Coop didn’t even understand half the things that were yelled at him. All he knew was that the corporal got right up in his personal space, and jabbed his hand in Coop’s face.
“…DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME SHIT-STAIN!” Coop got the gist; “don’t speak unless spoken to.”
“The rest of you turds get ready to run,” the corporal returned to his spot on the line. “Get ready…execute.”
Coop had spent a lot of time running. A Rat learned to be quick when he had his BSA under his arm and was fleeing from some gangbangers who wanted an extra bite to eat. This was different. His runs in the PHA were short. The air was so bad that nobody ran more than a couple of blocks, even with a mask on.
As they passed the buildings one by one, Coop quickly began to feel his stamina failing. His long legs carried him to the front of the pack for the first dozen buildings, but then he began to fall behind. No one ever caught up to Corporal Collins; even Coop never got close to him. The corporal exploded off the line in a shower of dirt and easily outpaced the group by a sizable margin.
The run finished where Corporal Collins was standing next to a building without a bead of perspiration on his forehead, and yelling at them to hustle. Coop didn’t know how that was possible. After pushups and running a quarter kilometer he had a serious case of swamp ass going on under his smartcloth uniform. Corporal Collins just glared at all of them; they’d obviously failed in his eyes. “Get inside, don’t make a sound, and sit with your squads.”
That was the end of Coop’s first encounter with Corporal Collins, but it wouldn’t be his last.
The building was a large open hanger with a hundred seats inside of it. A large holo sat at the front of the room, and next to it was Gunnery Sergeant Wilson. He didn’t stop speaking as they entered; in fact, he didn’t acknowledge them at all.
Coop scurried forward to the second row of ten chairs, and found an open seat two spots in; right next to the smoking hot squad leader. He wanted to say something to her, but she beat him to it.
“You smell like ass.”
Coop didn’t know how to respond to that.
Thankfully, the Gunnery Sergeant came to the rescue. “Today’s orientation will focus on three subjects. You will have continued education through your time here, but today we want to get the basics out of the way. First, you will be instructed in the organizational structure of our military. Second, you will be introduced to the enlisted, officer, and specialist rank structures for the military’s branches. Lastly, you will be given a brief ethics lesson as required by the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. Understood?”
“Yes, Gunnery Sergeant!” The echo in the room made the reply a thunderous roar. It sent chills up Coop’s spine.
“Good. Now look down at your left breast.” There were a couple of snickers and Corporal Collins materialized out of thin air.
“Are you a fuckin’ five year old, Recruit!” The unlucky target sank into his chair as the verbal chew out intensified; but it only lasted ten seconds.
Coop busied himself by looking down at his left breast. When he’d put on his smartcloth CMUs back at the Civil Administration building it read Recruit. Now, it read 132nd TRNG BN.
“As I explained before, the smallest formal unit of organization in our military is the Squad. It is a ten man fighting force without equal. The second unit, as previous explained, is a Company; a one hundred man fighting force. Does anyone see the pattern?”
“They are all in increments of ten, Gunnery Sergeant!” The squad leader sitting next to Coop yelled.
“Correct. Our modern system is built on simplicity ladies and gentlemen. Militaries of the past would have platoons of thirty to sixty soldiers, and regiments of three to five thousand soldiers. It was complex, and it led to more problems than solutions; so we simplified it.” The Gunnery Sergeant looked around to make sure everyone was following.
“A Squad is ten, a Company is one hundred; next is a Battalion at one thousand. This is followed by a Brigade at ten thousand, a Division at one hundred thousand, and lastly a Corps at one million soldiers. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out that the echelon above is made up of ten units of the echelon below. ”
<That is really simple,> Coop thought. <It would take a retard to screw up something like that.>
“Everyone, turn your attention back to your CMUs left breast.” There was no snickering this time. “You will see that you are part of the one hundred and thirty-second training battalion. Every soldier in the Infantry Corps has their numerical designation down to the Battalion level; while Fleet soldiers have their warship’s name. The numerical designation starts at the highest echelon and works its way down.” The training battalion’s number appeared on the holo.
“Training battalions are a slight exception to the rule because we only have a Divisional command,” the Gunnery Sergeant added the caveat. “In all other instances you will have a Corps number. So for anyone who cannot count, if you end up in the Infantry you will have a four number battalion designation.”
“Our example is the one hundred and thirty-second training battalion. This means we are in the first division, third brigade, second battalion…one three two…one hundred and thirty-second. Understand?”
“Yes, Gunnery Sergeant!” Coop did understand, the Gunnery Sergeant wasn’t kidding when he talked about simplicity.
“Company and Squad level designation are not on your CMUs, but are kept in the Battalion rollcall. “You are all members of Echo Company, Squads one through ten; and don’t ask why the Company designator is alphabetic instead of numeric. That is just the way it is. There is no such thing as a perfect system.”
“Gunnery Sergeant?” asked a recruit, sitting on the opposite side of the room. Coop caught Corporal Collins in motion, but the NCOIC waved him off and gestured for the recruit to continue. “You’re talking about the Infantry Corps, but what about the Army and Marines?”
“Excellent question,” the Gunnery Sergeant seemed genuinely pleased. “The answer is simple. They are the same.” This got a lot of surprised looks from the recruits, but Coop noticed his squad leader wasn’t one of them.
“Recruits,” the Gunnery Sergeant barked when side conversations started. “You will immediately remove the social media bullshit and holo entertainment that has rotted your brains for the last two decades of your lives.” The tone of the Gunnery Sergeant’s voice made it absolutely clear this was something that would be done. “The media will fill your heads with lies and half-truths if you allow it.” Coop already knew that, the news they got in the PHA was total horseshit.
“There is no Army and there are no Marines. There is only the Infantry.” The Gunnery Sergeant reiterated. “You will be tagged as a member of an Army or Marine battalion depending on how you are deployed. Army units are stationed planetside, and Marine units are stationed aboard warships; but they are all part of the Infantry Corps. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Gunnery Sergeant,” and again Coop understood.
<Maybe this won’t be so hard after all.>
“From now on, please hold all questions until the end of the briefing.”
Corporal Collins was still hovering, but he didn’t jump on the recruit who’d asked the question.
“We’ve got a lot of information to cover and not enough time,” the Gunnery Sergeant hit a button and the holo shifted. “So let’s continue.”