Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Rank.” Gunnery Sergeant Wilson’s fingers flew across his PAD, “is a representation of authority. It shows anyone who looks at you what you are capable of, and what they can rely on you to accomplish.”
The holo projected four generic men above the seated recruits. One had stripes down the sides of their CMUs while the others had markings on their shoulders.
“There are four separate rank structures in our glorious military.” The gunnery sergeant’s eyes scanned the crowd. “They are: enlisted, specialists, noncommissioned officers, and officers. We’ll start with the enlisted personnel because that is what all of you are right now.”
The gunnery sergeant tapped his PAD and the generic holographic men disappeared. They were replaced by the upside down V’s and U’s that Coop had seen on all the sergeants he’d met in the last two days.
“The enlisted personnel represent the majority of our military’s fighting force. They are all junior soldiers, usually with less than five years of experience. The first rank, an E-1, is what all of you are; recruits. You have no rank insignia because you have no authority or responsibility. Your sole job is to follow orders and execute. Understood?”
“Yes, Gunnery Sergeant!”
Everyone was yelling like their life depended on it, but not Coop. <I’m not a fucking lemming; follow orders and execute, talk about bullshit that’s gonna get me fucking killed.> Coop would have continued his mental bitch-session, but the squad leader elbowed him hard in the ribs.
“Fucking pay attention, Cooper.” They glared at each other for a split second, but quickly focused back on the gunnery sergeant when they spotted Corporal Collins in their peripherals.
“After you prove yourself as a recruit you will be promoted to E-2, which is a private in the Infantry and a spacer apprentice in the Fleet.” The gunnery sergeant pointed to one of the upside down V’s. “This is called a chevron, and you will wear one of these on your shoulder as a private or SA. Following E-2 is E-3, a private first class or spacer.” He pointed at one of the U’s. “This is called a rocker. A PFC or spacer will wear one chevron and one rocker.” The two symbols combined on the holo to give everyone a good idea of what it would look like on an actual uniform. “The last enlisted rank is E-4, corporal. Everyone turn and look at Corporal Collins.” Everyone did and saw that he had two chevrons stacked on top of each other. “That is what a corporal looks like, and if you are good enough to make it there, you might be given some actual responsibility.”
<No thanks,> Coop shook his head. <I’m just gonna do my time and get the fuck out of here.>
“The next rank structure is the noncommissioned officers. NCOs are the backbone of the military, they always have been. These senior men and women will train you and lead you into battle on the frontlines. That is their job, and they excel at it. They will give you orders and you will follow them instantly. Understand?”
“Yes, Gunnery Sergeant!”
“NCOs contain the ranks of E-5 through E-9.” The gunnery sergeant hit more buttons and five generic men appeared above the holo. “They are as follows: E-5, sergeant or petty officer third class.” A holographic man stepped forward with three chevrons on his shoulder. “E-6, staff sergeant or petty officer second class.” Coop had already met a staff sergeant so he knew what to look for. “E-7, gunnery sergeant or petty officer first class.” The gunnery sergeant showed everyone his three chevrons and two rockers. “E-8, master sergeant or chief petty officer.” Another holographic man modeled three chevrons and three rockers. “And finally we have E-9, sergeant major or senior chief petty officer.” The last rank insignia looked just like and E-8’s, but it had a star in between the chevrons and rockers.
“Unlike the enlisted ranks, noncommissioned officers hold positions of responsibility. In the Infantry, a sergeant or staff sergeant might lead a squad of soldiers. A gunnery sergeant will be the NCOIC of a company. A master sergeant will be the NCOIC of the battalion. And a Sergeant Major will be the NCOIC of anything from a Brigade to an entire Corps. These NCOs will also hold important positions on a warship; all the way up to a ship’s senior chief, a skipper’s right hand man.” The gunnery sergeant’s eyes showed the seriousness of such levels of responsibility.
<You’re an E-7, a gunnery sergeant, and you’re the NCOIC of a battalion. You just said that’s a master sergeant’s job.> Coop’s hand was already creeping into the air when his squad leader grabbed it and forced it back down.
“Don’t say anything you moron, I’ll explain it to you later.” Coop didn’t know whether to be pissed at her, or excited that she was holding his hand; but he kept his mouth shut.
“The specialist ranks are a parallel career track to the noncommissioned officers. They hold the ranks of SP-1 through SP-5 and are as follows: specialist third class, specialist second class, specialist first class, chief specialist, and senior chief specialist.” The gunnery sergeant looked slightly less enthused about the specialist ranks than his own NCO ranks.
The specialists’ insignias also looked different. It looked like a reversed tear drop with an eagle holding a starship in its talons at the center. The insignia added a chevron for each increase in rank. However, the chevrons didn’t have the sharp upside down V angles that the NCOs did. They looked more like half-moon arches above the teardrop. So a senior chief specialist had the teardrop and four of the half-moon chevrons above it.
“The difference between NCOs and specialists is in their job description. NCOs are leaders of men, while specialists are subject matter experts in their field of study. They are necessary for the Infantry and the Fleet to do their jobs.” His eyes scanned the recruits again. “But do not think for one iota of a second that you will get out of combat if you become a specialist. Everybody fights and nobody quits in this glorious military. That goes for every E-1 to E-9, SP-1 to SP-5, and officers. You will all do your job in whatever environment you are ordered to. Understand?”
“Yes, Gunnery Sergeant.”
There was a long pause as he scrutinized them all.
“The last rank structure is the officers.” The holographic men were replaced by new men with a variety of stripes down their uniforms. “Officer ranks are O-1 through O-6. The first is a lieutenant, and you will know them because the stripes down their uniforms are platinum. All other officer rank stripes are gold. O-2 is lieutenant commander with a single gold stripe. O-3, commander, has two gold stripes. O-4, captain, has three gold stripes. An O-5, a rear admiral, has four gold stripes. And lastly, an O-6, an admiral, has five gold stripes.” There was as much gold as there was CMU grey on the last holographic man’s uniform.
“All you need to know about officers is that the buck stops with them. They are the ultimate authority of your units. If NCOs are the backbone of our glorious military, then officers are the brains. They have the ultimate responsibility for anything and everything that happens, and that is not something they take lightly.”
Personally, Coop thought the gold stripes down the uniforms looked stupid; but that was just his opinion.
“One other thing you need to know about officers’ rank insignia,” the gunnery sergeant hit more buttons on his PAD, and the insignias changed on the holo-men.
<Wow, that actually looks pretty badass.> Coop revised his opinion.
Instead of the simple platinum and multiple gold stripes, now blood red stripes were on the CMUs as well. “These are command stripes.” Gunnery Sergeant Wilson pointed at the spaces between the gold stripes that were now filled with red. “If you see an officer wearing these then they are a commander of some sort. Treat them with great respect and greet them, as you will all other officers, with the greeting of the day. Corporal Collins!” The sudden shout made them all jump in their seats. “What is the greeting of the day?”
“Training in excellence, Gunnery Sergeant!” The corporal roared back.
Coop kept his face composed, but deep down he was thinking that was about the stupidest thing he’d ever heard. But Coop wasn’t stupid enough to say that out loud. Unfortunately, another recruit in their squad was.
“That’s really gay.” It was said in a whisper, but the acoustics in the room were incredible.
Before Coop could shake his head at the other recruit’s stupidity, Corporal Collins bore down on the idiot like the wrath of God.
“You think this is fuckin’ funny, Recruit…you don’t want to be excellent…you don’t want to train…you’re in the wrong fuckin’ occupation shit-stain!” Coop only caught every other sentence of the chew out, and that was because he was listening. Everyone else was leaning as far away from the dumb recruit as they could without physically getting out of their seats.
What Coop paid special attention to was the last thing the corporal said. It was after he stopped yelling at the mouthy recruit for being downright stupid, and it was said in a whisper. “A word of advice, Recruit.” Corporal Collins leaned in close, nearly smacking his head against the seated recruit. “I’d stow that shit quickly and permanently before you meet Staff Sergeant Cunningham. You shoot your mouth off like an ignorant fucktard around her and she’s going to use your balls as a punching bag. Understand?”
Coop could see from the defiant look on the other recruit’s face that the guy didn’t understand. In fact, Coop couldn’t wait to see what happened to this guy’s balls when Staff Sergeant Cunningham showed up.
“Recruits!” The Gunnery Sergeant reacquired everyone’s attention with a short bark. “Those are the rank structures of our military. These lessons will be available once you receive your PADs from supply. Review them in your limited free time.”
Coop didn’t like the way the NCOIC said “limited”.
“Our last item on the agenda is our ethics training.” In that moment the gunnery sergeant’s voice changed. It went from seasoned military veteran to a classroom instructor in a heartbeat. “Please pay close attention to this briefing, because it is important to know why you are here, and why we fight.”
Coop knew why he was here, he didn’t want to get butt fucked by Big Bubba.
<But why is everyone else here?>