Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Wake ya ass up, Jimenez!” PO3 Janney caught the recruit from fourth squad sitting upright in his chair but asleep.
Many recruits in Echo Company 132nd Training Battalion had learned to sneakily sleep during classroom training. The instructors, with their god-like wisdom, knew all the signs of a sleeping recruit and implemented remedial training immediately for anyone they caught.
In this case, “remedial” meant the PO3 smacking the young man hard on the back of the head. Jimenez twitched hard, like a fish out of water, before face planting into the top of the polyplast desk he was supposed to be taking notes on.
“Son of a…” Blood squirted from the recruit’s nose and stained the clear surface of the desk, and the cracked surface of his PAD.
“Stop whining like a little bitch. If ya didn’t wanna get hit ya shouldn’t have fallen asleep.” The PO3 turned his evil attention on the rest of the sixty-seven member company. “That goes for all of ya.”
Echo Company had lost another recruit after the constant mental whiplash of VR squad training exercises they’d undergone over the last week. Thankfully, it hadn’t been second squad. They were still eight strong, which was doing a lot better than some of the other squads. Seventh squad, the poor bastards, were down to four people.
“If I catch anyone sleeping I’m going to kick your ass halfway to Mars. This shit is important so listen up.” Eve turned around and hissed at the squad.
Today they were discussing tactics on a larger level. As always, the week’s instruction began with the theoretical before engaging in more hands on training exercises. They did the same when reviewing squad level tactics.
The squad lectures had started with the basic movement formations: fire-team wedges, staggered columns, lines, and how they rated among movement characteristics like control, flexibility, fire capability/restriction, and march rate. It was boring as hell in a classroom to watch holographic images demonstrate the formations, but it turned out to be invaluable when the squad got into VR.
Having ten meter separation between soldiers in any of the formations was no joke. In the first exercise Mike and Harper had been too close and a grenade lobbed in had killed them both.
A person tended to learn from the mistakes they made in VR. The crash made sure of that.
<Damn right.> Coop thought, shivering at the memory of being shot to pieces and then waking up in the VR training room with his nerves and emotions going haywire.
Only slightly more interesting than formations were the classes on the types of movements. Coop hadn’t believed the infantry had to go through telling its soldiers such basic fundamentals like: using terrain for protection, avoiding possible kill zones, the value of dispersion, the need for observations, and the significance of moving during limited visibility. But then again, some people were stupid, and he saw squad members die in VR when they didn’t follow the basics.
<But if the enemy has high resolution sensors, which unless you’re in a third world system you do, then there is no such thing as limited visibility.> Coop had started to lose his patience at that point of the hour long briefing on basic shit.
Coop had only enjoyed the next lesson on countermeasures slightly more. Suppressive fire was a no-brainer. Shoot back to keep the enemies head down so you could move, or better yet kill the asshole. Going over the traditional smoke and more valuable EW countermeasures turned out to be very valuable since Coop had to use it during one of their STXs.
<The shit would have worked too if I hadn’t been facing off against half a squad that was fighting from a fortified position with a light machinegun.> Coop didn’t care that GYSGT Cunningham had praised his effort. <I still died.>
The best part about the countermeasures training was going over the camouflage portion. The polymorphic netting was so good you couldn’t tell it was hiding something until you were right on top of it. The GYSGT even briefed on specialized armor that could manipulate the surrounding light to make its wearer seem invisible.
“Regular grunts like you won’t get to play with the big boy toys though.” Her caveat at the end of training had kind of ruined it for Coop.
They’d also gone over the movement techniques: traveling, traveling overwatch, bounding overwatch, and the difference between alternating and successive bounding. All of that had been very useful once they started to get shot at in VR. After a few exercises, Coop had realized that just traveling toward their objective resulted in the enemy finding you faster and usually unprepared. If the squad started out in a traveling overwatch movement, or even bounding, it was more likely the enemy wouldn’t come out to find them.
Coop had mentioned the observation to Eve before one of their lanes, and she’d given him a genuine smile.
“You finally pulled your head out of your ass and have seen the light, Coop.”
It was the best insulting compliment she’d given him so far. <I’ll take it.> He’d smiled through an entire STX after that.
Training had kicked up a notch after going over what both seasoned instructors called the basics. Then they moved onto the battle drills: enter/clear a trench, enter/clear a room, knock out a bunker, reacting to an ambush, react to contact, and breaking contact. The GYSGT and PO3 said these were the basic squad level drills they needed to know. Everything else they’d learn would build on them.
Echo Company learned them from watching the holo. They rehearsed them pretending they had armor and weapons. They rehearsed them with armor and weapons. They got woken up in the middle of the night and rehearsed them half asleep. Only when the instructors were confident they knew the battle drills backwards and forwards were the squads allowed into VR to train in a semi-real environment.
<And it had all been worth it.> Coop sat up a little straighter and paid attention to today’s lesson.
“Clearly, I must be boring you.” GYSGT Cunningham scowled from the front of the classroom. “Since my voice seems to be putting people to sleep I think a check on learning is appropriate right about now.”
Coop stopped his groan halfway through so it sounded like a weird choking sound. Eve shot him a glare and mentally commanded him to focus on his PAD. At least that was what Coop took from the “you better stop fucking around, Coop” expression on her face.
Knowing what was good for him, Coop focused on his PAD and the ten question check on learning that popped onto it. These checks on learning were important, not only to show that you were paying attention, but to decide whether or not you got recycled to another company. The standard for passing the tests was seventy percent. The GYSGT and PO3 gave the company a little leeway with failures, but if you failed too many during a week of training then you were gone. You’d join up with Foxtrot Company when they started the iteration a week after Echo Company.
<What formation is used when the unit wants to maintain security or observation on one flank and enemy contact is unlikely?> Coop read the question and immediately knew the answer.
This class on larger unit tactics had gone into more detail on additional movement formations, and this was one of them.
<That’s B, the echelon.> It was the first formation they’d reviewed.
Coop could almost imagine seeing the holo image of a company echelon. He also knew the formation added security to the headquarters formation in the direction of the echelon, allowed for quick deployment, but was difficult to control in restrictive terrain.
<If your echelon isn’t in the right direction then you’re screwed.> Coop thought as he moved on.
The next eight questions were easy. They asked about V’s, coil and herringbone formations. They wanted to know the basic military table of organization and equipment information for a company; which was a squad times ten with the addition of one heavy infantry, a sniper if you were lucky, and the officers. It was all information that Coop remembered, and by the time he got to question number ten he was sure he’d passed.
That was a good thing, because number ten was a tough one.
<Describe in a short answer the basic tactical difference between squad, company, and battalion level tactics versus brigade, division, and corps level tactics?>
Coop thought long and hard about the answer before starting to write it down, and even then he wasn’t sure he got everything.
He did know that smaller unit tactics relied around maneuverability and proper application of resources. The standard infantryman wasn’t too different across the armies of the major starfaring nations. So small unit tactics boiled down to the four F’s: find, fix, flank, and finish. If a unit could do that then they’d win. Things got more complicated when you started to throw in heavy infantry and snipers. Snipers and their special munitions loads could be deadly, and heavy infantry was a walking tank-artillery hybrid. Speed and proper countermeasures were key when dealing with them, but the bottom line was if an infantry squad stumbled into the path of a single heavy infantryman he’d tear them to pieces.
<Shoot, move, and communicate.> That was a good way to think about it. <Don’t let them find out where you are or they’ll blow you the fuck up.>
Coop jotted all of that down without the expletives.
The brigade, division, and corps level engagements were another beast entirely. And it really wasn’t something a lowly recruit needed to think or know about outside of the theoretical realm. The basics was that when you started dealing with tens of thousands of troops you started to think more in terms of fixed positions and defensive lines because if a full brigade was together in one place it was usually protecting something.
Armaments and equipment were also a lot more complicated at these higher echelons. Heavy infantryman served as the heavy weaponry in smaller units, but actual self-propelled tanks and artillery were incorporated in higher unit MTOEs. These mechanical behemoths made pre-expansion tanks and artillery look like old-fashioned Hot Wheels. These things were only trotted out to fire on warships occupying the orbitals, to repel invasion forces, or to fight other enemy heavy weapons.
And that only covered offensive weaponry.
Defensively, you had hypervelocity SAMs; although similar missiles could also be used offensively. Air defense grids had megawatt lasers and anti-incursion railguns that would try and chew up anything unauthorized entering the atmosphere. Then there were the battlefield shields.
Shield technology was complex and the GYSGT had admitted to not knowing that much about it other than it was calibrated to protect people from projectiles fired over a certain rate of speed. Anything under that speed could penetrate the shield, which meant enemy troops and lobbed grenades were an issue. Countermeasures like fixed positions and swatters helped counter that, but you could never be truly safe when tens of thousands of heavily armed and armored soldiers were trying to kill each other.
The one thing that the GYSGT did know was that shield technology required an enormous amount of power, which required an enormous amount of space for the giant generators that powered them. Planetary Defense Centers (PDC) and cities had their own shield generators buried underneath them, and those were usually many square kilometers in size; but it allowed them to survive orbital bombardment. Portable generators that were in brigade, division, and corps MTOEs were smaller, and less powerful, but you could move them which gave a unit tactical options. The downside of the large city and PDC shields was they had to end a minimum of fifty meters off the ground or the power distributed through them could cause geological disturbances that were just as deadly as getting pounded by a battleship in orbit. The weaker portable shields didn’t have the same drawback.
But that’s where the infantry came in. They filled the gaps, built and manned the trenches, and stopped enemy soldiers from breaching into those cities and PDCs to rape and pillage Commonwealth planets.
Coop wrote all that down and hit “complete”.
100% the screen flashed back at him. Coop smiled, and then that smile faded.
<What are the VR simulations going to be like for this?> He gulped, not caring how well he’d done on the check on learning. <This is going to be a total clusterfuck of epic proportions.>
The look that Eve gave him when he looked up said they were thinking the same thing.