Gunnery Sergeant Gwen Cunningham
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Gwen sat in the command booth of the company VR training center. She watched the screen with interest as Echo Company 132nd Training Battalion engaged in their last VR exercise of their basic training.
<Soon you’ll have to do it for real.>
One of her biggest personal missions, and a mission of the military in general, was to not send someone into combat who wasn’t ready. That’s why they weeded out anyone with potential substance abuse issues on day one. That’s why they put them in isolation for a week to see if they could cope with that type of environment. That’s why they evaluated the recruits’ aggressiveness during fight week. If they didn’t look like they could do what needed to be done then they got held back to develop that warrior mentality, or they got shown the door and were given a swift kick in the ass.
They also made sure the recruits had the mental chops to get the job done. They needed to know how to fix basic things, read a map, and survive in the wilderness without any tech to help them. Being able to do those things would help them get back in the fight. Obviously, they made sure the recruits could shoot straight and knew squad and company level tactics; but the other things were just as important.
After watching, teaching, and evaluating Echo Company through the last few months Gwen could honestly say that they were the best company she’d ever trained.
<And a lot of that has to do with her.>
Gwen watched as Eve Berg, who was serving as the Company Commander for this company level exercise, motivated her soldiers, led from the front, and provided sound tactical leadership under extreme pressure. Seeing the young woman succeeding brought a smile to Gwen’s face. She tried not to play favorites but she was only human.
The scenario the company was immersed in was a tough one. It was a full battle simulation, involving two brigade level units slugging it out on a sparsely populated ice world. The Commonwealth was the defenders in this situation so they had the shields of a Planetary Defense Center to fall back on, but the Blockies had a couple of battlecruisers in orbit to even the odds.
Echo Company was just one company holding the line along a mile-long front, and the scenario was designed to deal with that limited level of command and control. That could always be changed though.
Gwen toyed with the idea for a moment, but discarded it. <That would just be mean.> Killing off the virtual battalion commander and elevating Berg to that level of command probably wouldn’t end well. <Maybe later.> If she kept doing everything right Gwen would have to challenge her more.
The door behind her hissed open and Petty Officer Janney walked in with two coffees. “Just what the doctor ordered.” He placed the steaming cup in front of Gwen.
“Thanks, Chase.” She sipped tentatively at the brown water. It didn’t totally taste like shit.
“How they doin’?” He plopped into the chair next to her and pulled up a dashboard. “Only lost ten percent of the company so far, and they’re ten hours in. That has to be some sort of record.”
The first few hours of the simulation had been about hastily preparing fighting positions, and allocating resources based on orders from higher, but the last four hours had been an unending assault by the enemy.
“It might be.” Gwen pulled up a menu, selected a few options, and then initiated some changes. “Let’s see if this is luck or skill.”
Five minutes later Echo Company’s section of the line was hit by a Blockie charge. Megawatt portable repeater lasers pounded the shield until it nearly failed. Three full squads of light infantry charged the line, while grenades were lobbed to suppress Echo Company until the enemy was almost on top of them.
One of those grenades headed straight for Eve Berg.
<This could be it.> The grenades came out of its arc, got past the swatters and almost detonated right in the young leader’s face. Instead, another soldier tackled her out of the way and took the brunt of the grenades blast on the back of his armor.
Berg survived, rallied her company, and fought back the attempt to break through the Commonwealth lines. Gwen couldn’t help but be impressed.
“Fucking Cooper.” Chase laughed as he pointed to the bio-data of the soldier who’d shielded Berg.
He’d gone from green to yellow with his sacrifice, but he’d still helped fight back the Blockies and got another two confirmed kills. Not bad for a guy whose spleen had been punched full of shrapnel.
“I swear to god that boy would give his left nut if Berg agreed to suck on the right one.”
Gwen laughed at the crude humor; partially because it was funny and partially because she thought it was true. She had a feeling that the day basic was over Cooper and Berg would be fucking like bunnies until they went off to their secondary training.
<Which…> Her PAD pinged with an incoming email.
“That them?” Chase asked, trying to glance over and see what it was.
“Yep, service assignments are in.” Gwen opened up the email and scanned down the list.
“We doing it tonight or tomorrow?”
All the recruits knew the assignments were coming down any day now, and as a rule it wasn’t a good idea to keep them waiting. People tended to get ideas in their heads, and neither instructor wanted any of the recruits to do anything stupid. Every boy and girl in that VR simulation had proven they could be a soldier and had significant resources invested in them. Having them stick their heads in their asses at the last minute was going to be a loss for everyone.
<We’ve already had one fuck up this cycle.> She still had pleasant dreams of Davenport’s chewed up corpse. <We can’t afford another.>
Chase Janney was up for Petty Officer Second Class soon and he didn’t need anything else blemishing his record until then.
“We’ll do it tonight. Another two hours on the simulation, then have them shower, shit, shave and assemble on the first floor.”
“Roger that, Gunney.” Chase smiled.
It was always fun to find out who would be joining their respective branches of service, and the little traditions they’d have to pass on to the new soldiers before they reported to their new units as the Fucking New Guy (FNG).
Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
<Why am I nervous?> Coop wondered as he stood shaking slightly.
The whole company had assembled downstairs in their bay. There was sixty-seven packed into a space designed to sleep fifty, but that still left a lot of open room.
<Maybe it’s because we aren’t in formation.>
PO3 Janney had ordered them to huddle up after they’d finished their personal hygiene. Coop had almost opened up his PAD to see if there was a formal definition for “huddle up”. The PO3 and GYSGT liked to test them like that.
His shaking hand reached for his PAD but stopped. <Fucking VR crash.>
The last exercise, which amounted to an epic battle, had gone on for twelve full hours. Coop had been injured multiple times, been shot up twice with medical nanites, and now his brain and body were having a bit of trouble getting back in synch. A warm shower had helped, and seeing Eve’s bouncing tits had helped even more, but he still wasn’t all the way there.
Instead of grabbing his PAD he grabbed his hand with his other hand to get it to stop. <At least we kicked ass.> They’d held out until reinforcements arrived and then led the charge to break through the Blockies’ lines. Eve had been the battalion commander at that point, and she’d put Coop in charge of the company.
He wasn’t sure why, but it might have had something to do with him saving her ass. <Pretty sure she would have kissed me if we hadn’t been wearing armor.> He’d convinced himself that was the case. <And the look she gave me in the shower was definitely not plutonic.> He congratulated himself for the use of the big word and turned his attention back to the front of their gaggle.
PO3 Janney was standing there being surprisingly cool with everyone. He was answering questions about his time in the fleet before getting assigned to the training camp.
“Best job I ever had was without a doubt the door gunner on a Spyder Assault Shuttle.” The PO3 smiled a facial expression that was usually followed by varying levels of pain on the part of the recruits. “Pilots think they’re hot shit sittin’ in their cockpit and launchin’ missiles by pressin’ buttons. But let me tell y’all there is no rush like standing behind a railgun and shootin’ the shit out of somethin’. It makes a SAW feel like a BB gun.”
Mike was taking it all in. As the SAW gunner for second squad, hearing that there was something bigger and badder he could be shooting had grabbed his attention.
“Quiet down everyone.” The GYSGT walked into the room and everyone snapped to parade rest. “At ease and relax, this is all informal tonight.”
“It has to be the branch of service assignments.” Eve appeared at Coop’s shoulder her hair still wet. “This is it.”
Coop was surprised to hear fear in her voice. <You just led hundreds of soldiers to victory. Sure it was a VR victory, but you still kicked ass. How could you not get what you want?>
At the end of fight week the GYSGT and PO3 had directed them to the selections page on their MILNET account. There they could request specific branches, specialties, and even fill out additional service obligations (ADSO) in exchange for getting what they wanted. The instructors had stressed that they were going to be assigned branches and specialties depending on their performance and needs of the service. An ADSO would only be applied if you got what you wanted, but they said to go for it if you really knew what you wanted to do.
Coop didn’t put in an ADSO and didn’t really know what he wanted to do. He expected the military to just put him somewhere, so in lieu of having a plan he did what he normally did: follow Eve’s lead. He peeked at her selections and then copied them. He might have been thinking with his dick a bit at the time, but after what he’d seen today he knew he wanted to go into combat with Eve. He trusted very few people to have his back.
“By now the rumor mill has confirmed I’ve got the service assignments. Some of you have been assigned specialties beyond that, but most of you did not. You’ll get follow on schooling based upon your individual unit’s needs and their budgets.”
“Which means you won’t be able to do shit unless you deploy or you’ve got a few chevrons.” Eve finished the statement.
The GYSGT must have heard because she gave them a hard stare. Eve snapped her mouth shut and her cheeks flushed.
“There’s no need to build the suspense, so let’s get started.” She cleared her throat. “Congratulations, Bart Aaron. It seems you’ve shown the Commonwealth that you’re ready for increased responsibility. Your application to Officer Candidate’s School has been accepted. You’re going to be an officer.”
First squad went crazy as their squad leader got one of the best outcomes a recruit could hope for. The Sergeant’s words back at the Civil Administration Building had echoed through Coop’s head when he’d seen the option to apply to OCS.
<Your leadership abilities suck. In multiple scenarios you wasted resources, mostly to defend or enhance yourself, and ended up fucking everything else up. So you’re not going to be going down the officer track…ever.>
Coop liked to think he’d improved a bit since then, but he still didn’t even consider going for stripes.
The rest of first squad’s assignments weren’t nearly as exciting. They were basic fleet and infantry assignments with one lucky recruit going into an engineering specialty.
Then the GYSGT moved on to second squad.
“Eve Berg,” she announced.
Coop felt Eve grasp his hand and hold on tight. He fought and failed to conceal his grin. <If a woman seeks physical contact with you in times of stress than she’ll seek physical contact with you in other ways too.> It was sound logic in his mind.
“Hmm.” The GYSGT’s forehead crinkled. “Recruit Berg. You are reporting to Ranger School after the completion of Basic Training. Congratulations. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recruit accepted to Ranger School before.”
“Did you ask for that?” Coop whispered as the GYSGT doubled checked the information.
“It wasn’t even an option.” Eve’s own forehead wrinkled in confusion. Then it slackened in realization. “It was my mother.”
“Mark Cooper.” The GYSGT moved on, and it was Coop’s turn to squeeze Eve’s hand. “Branch designation: Infantry. Specialization: Heavy Infantry. You’re joining my specialty, Cooper. Don’t fuck up.”
“Yes, Gunnery Sergeant!” Coop yelled reflexively.
“Congratulations, Coop.” Eve was smiling brightly, and the sight dazzled Coop.
“You too. Ranger School, that’s pretty kick ass,” he replied.
“Yeah. Remind me of that after I finish the first phase.”
They laughed and smiled at each other, and if they hadn’t been standing in the middle of a bunch of recruits, under the watchful eyes of GYSGT Cunningham and PO3 Janney, he would have kissed her. And he was pretty sure she would have returned the affection.
<Damn.> Coop felt the moment come and go. Then Harper got fleet with a medical specialty and Eve got dragged away by the practically crying girl.
<Well at least Mike got Heavy Infantry too.> Coop thought as the GYSGT rattled off the rest of second squad’s assignments.
<Life could be worse.>
Coop had no idea how terrible life could be until they entered Medical Week.