Sci Fi Military: Something new, or a retread of modern military?

This seems to be a controversy, which is this:

Sci fi military, is it going to be evolved and different or a retread of what we have now?

Certain things will always make sense, like that you must have hierarchy in military commands, and only one person ultimately in charge. I don’t think that can change, at least for humans. When people buck this particular nugget of wisdom, you end up with military disasters. Command by committee = Vietnam.

As for the actual composition, you would be hard pressed to find something alternate to an officer/nco/enlisted ranking structure. That’s been around for 1000s of years.

Romans | Modern
miles        private
optio         sergeant
centurio    lieutenant
legate       colonel

Without organization, you have a cluster of people who fight as individuals, and that’s not a military. Or, not an organized one.

The proposed changes stem from an idea that mankind will evolve. [Haven’t any evidence of this, so it’s unlikely.]

Absent some sort of coercive behavior, most people aren’t strongly motivated to fight. Thus, hierarchy.

Military Officer Function for Science Fiction

Tactics and strategy inform or should inform everything a soldier does.

Your soldiers in military sci-fi must have a doctrine of some kind which tells them what to do and how to do it.

In the modern US Army, the nuts and bolts of things soldiers are trained to do are called Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP for short).  The larger picture is strategy, and there are some pretty basic things that are to be accomplished with strategy.

With strategy, you must ask the question: Why are your military units doing what they’re doing?

If it does not have an applicable purpose, then your officers look incompetent, stupid, untrained, or insane. If the character is portrayed as competent, then his inability to understand strategy will be seen as a function of the author’s inability to understand strategy and the reader will stop reading the book. Do not misunderstand this to mean that officers aren’t sometimes wooden, textbook responders, or unable to remain focused on the objective. It means that if you portray a competent officer, he will respond to stimuli in a competent manner, based on the information they receive.

A competent officer has training to teach him to gain information about the objective, evaluate the enemy forces and intent, and either respond or initiate a response.

The things we will see in your novel will reflect whether your POV character is a grunt or a officer.  Sometimes there’s officers who are ground-pounders– that is, company level and lower– but the higher ups formulate strategy based on the size of the units they command.  A general may command an army (or divisions), and lower ranking officers command smaller sized units all the way down to the company commanders who are in the field supervising their platoons.

One important aspect of strategy (and indeed, tactics) is sustainability. That’s the dull world of logistics. Did I say dull? It’s not dull if you’re on the pointy end of the spear and you are getting no supplies, or worse, the wrong supplies. Horror stories abound from how landing ships were configured for the US Army landings in Morocco and Algeria. The doctrine of loading a ship with stuff wasn’t advanced at all, and I believe the stevedores were often left in charge of determining what would be loaded where.  This led to situations where the guys first on the beach need tanks, or jeeps, or ammunition, or medical supplies, and instead they’ve got bales of blankets or rations or underwear. It sounds absurd, but the military will grind to a halt if they don’t have petrol and bullets. And water. And boots. And artillery.

Therefore, if you want to invade a planet, a space station, or another ship, you will need logistics: Transport, gas, food, drink, armor, weapons, communications, shelters, clothes, ammunition, and batteries. It’s not enough to go in with just the stuff on your back. You will need resupply if you’re not living off the land.  One way to cut off an army is to interdict its supply lines, and those supply lines in space are ships dragging supplies around and factories on the ground factoring. Cut off the ships, you cut off the ability of the attacker to support an attack and you conceivably will win the engagement. We see this doctrine in seige warfare, starting over 3000 years ago (the Greeks), and continuing to the present day (Cuba).

So your logistics arm is going to acquire, store, and move stuff. It finds replacement personnel and stores them. It acquires, stores, and moves weapons systems.  It provides medical, legal, and psychiatric care for personnel. If any of these things does not happen, it will affect the effectiveness of the personnel by lowering their morale and inhibiting their ability to fight.

The mindset the US Army has is that, “(1) In combat, Infantrymen who are moving are attacking. (2) Infantrymen who are not attacking are preparing to attack.” (FM 3-21.8 The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad, published by the United States Army.)

Overall, the strategies used in sci-fi are going to mirror those used in modern combat. Asymetrical warfare, using small unit and terror tactics, must be responded to by the larger force with a unified strategic doctrine that places forces in places to quickly react to provocation or to search for and prevent attacks before they happen.

What is the larger strategy? Follow the money. No matter how you posture your future, ultimately there are never enough resources for everyone, and that is the crux of most decisions made by the polity. It’s not for the good of the people, it’s for the good of commerce. Ultimately, no matter how deep a political system may lay in socialism, it will collapse without the application of capitalism. Therein lays the logistics argument: To get all this stuff, you must mine it, grow it, or manufacture it.  The strategy is to protect the stuff, or to take the stuff.

I see some authors who promote a character from a shivering private up to general grade levels. Being a grunt does not mean you are trained to think like an officer. It means you’re trained to think like a grunt. When you have Private Schlomo promoted way above his pay grade, he’s going to be way out of his comfort zone because he isn’t trained to understand the fight at company, brigade, or division level. A fireteam leader or squad leader has 3-8 people under them, and the decision tree may not be that complex. A platoon leader, which is the lowest level of officer supervision, is the point where the thought process must be done on a give-orders-to-subordinates basis.

You must use a staff, because you are not capable of getting the information necessary to do your job on your own. At company level, you have an executive officer who seconds the commanding officer’s lead. At higher levels than company, you see more staff to assist with functions such as analysis and prediction of enemy action, communications, IT, operations to assist in personnel (promotions, moving around, exiting the service, pay, awards, and so on), and training (both finding locations and creating the criteria for what is being taught, writing manuals, creating videos for training).

Crumbling Empire Novel [Chapter 1]

Crumbling Empire Concept Cover
Crumbling Empire Concept Cover

1970 2670 words, first installment, 10 11 pages. Goal: To have a good opener. Establish protagonist. Establish conflict. Throw dangerous situations at protag. Meet the fireteam.  Make up novel name (not permanent). Set up the middle.

Edit: I have rebranded this as the complete chapter 1. It replaces the original and edited chapter 1 (or installment 1).

Edit: New edits as of 3/31/15.
Added more he/she said tags, to make all dialogue speakers clear. Added more internal dialogue for protag. Added description of shuttles and HCA. Added additional description of environs when possible. +1000 words from previous draft.

Edit: New edits as of 4/21/15.
Eradicated passive voice. Removed all semblances of was. Fixed science in initial scene to reflect how space ships really move. Removed extra alarm notice from marines waking up scene. 2768 words.

Edit: New edits as of 4/22/15.
Really removed all the wases this time. For sure. Really. Reworked first through third paragraphs. They’re tighter. I miss the weak passive voice.

Edit: New edits as of 5/01/15.
Found some errors in a paragraph. How did I miss them? I really need an editor.


Chapter 1

chapter flourish

A critical situation called the Grace Bedell’s unshaved captain to his position on the bridge, because the executive officer had insisted that he couldn’t make the call. The XO should have been able to handle all routine operations of a destroyer. He’d been with the captain for years and never interrupted the captain’s sleep before. Is it serious, then? The captain’s curiosity obscured his foul mood. What event would cause the XO to throw this decision on me? Space contained many surprises, though not on routine patrol.

The captain considered the information on the display. “They’re not IDed as security boats, and they’re not Empire. No one else has four destroyers and two cruisers in this sector because we own it. Hell, there aren’t any other official governments. Who are they?”

No one answered.

“Sir, prep for meeting engagement?” The XO inquired.

“Do it. Battle stations, sound battle stations, helm, calculate a slashing attack course and take us in, keep us slow so we can use Reville’s gravity to slingshot around and possibly attain orbit should they prove friendly or neutral, tactical give me a weapons solution asap, and XO, I need an update on damage control and weapons teams in place for possible combat. Sensors, start pulling data on what those ships are armed with.” The captain straightened up and looked at the holo of the ships again.

The XO activated battle stations and the alarms sounded throughout the ship, while a course of acknowledgments were heard from tactical, helm, and sensors. A moment later, the Grace Bedell accelerated toward the belligerents orbiting Reville.

text break

Alarm. That’s an alarm. Lance Corporal Anasia Yuen snapped alert. She lay for a moment to process. Marine quarters. Grace Bedell. No drill scheduled. What is this?

“Unbelievable,” Private Radawski complained. “Can’t we have drills in the day cycle? I haven’t done this since boot camp.” He stretched, sitting on the edge of his bunk, then passed gas loudly.

“What, a week ago, Radawski?” said another marine.

Lance Corporal Anasia Yuen sat up in her bunk, then slid out of the narrow space to stand up and dress in her under armor suit. The compartment smelled heavily of stale air and sleep. “Radawski, shut up and get dressed.” She noticed his furtive glances at her nude form, and glared at him. It’s an alert and he’s thinking sex. Staff Meyer is right. Boots are pretty dumb. No, inexperienced. But they look dumb. And they do dumb things. It’s the same as if they were really dumb.

The fireteam scrambled to get dressed in the cramped marine quarters. “Move it to the armory,” she said as she checked her personal data unit.

Radawski continued to dress. Get him up to speed in the future. I keep catching flak for his performance. “Radawski, catch up. This is not a drill,” she said over her shoulder.

Other marine fireteams funneled through the wide, brightly lit metal corridors toward their respective armor lockers. No paneling disguised the kilometers of conduit and tubes. Warship crews needed quick access to repairs in battle. The air from the corridor smelled of ozone, electrical.

“What’s the drill, Porn?” came the deep voice of PFC Tama Anaru. Because of Anaru’s extreme tallness and breadth, it had been a difficult process to get him heavy combat armor to fit.

“It’s not a drill, Stalk, this is a real deployment.” Yuen replied.

“What’s the non-drill, Porn?” His words were rapid fire as they walked.

She pursed her lips and tried to read. “Wait one…” She gave up on walking and reading and stopped abruptly. Private First Class Bendtsen ran into her with an oath.

“Six ships,” she read out loud, “unidentified possible hostiles, suit up and combat load on the shuttle, possible hostile action in a centiday.”

“This real?” Anaru asked.

Bendtsen added, “There isn’t a pirate fleet with six warships. Not one that would go toe-to-toe with the Empire.”

Because we are marines. And no one fights as well in space as we do. No pirate. No rag-bag citizen army.

Radawski ran up to them. “I’m here, corporal.”

“About time, Radawski.” Yuen replied. This pisses me off. Boots are supposed to be faster at everything, not slow.

The squad leader, Sgt. Ihejirika, spotted them clustered around Yuen in the corridor and bellowed at them. “Alpha Fire Team, move it! Suited in five milli, MOVE IT!”

Yuen darted forward down the corridor. This should be easy. The plan is to load up in shuttles. But what then? Just sit and wait? “Just move, it’s real, guys.” Yuen replied, “Not a drill. Get your suits, get on the shuttle.” The fire team trailed behind her.

They arrived at and undogged an enormous hatch to enter their armory locker. Four sets of matte black Chieftain Combat Systems Paladin v. 6.8 heavy combat armor lay in organized heaps beneath metal frames. Vertical racks contained rifles and rucks of ammo. The strong smell of gun oil permeated the compartment. They had just finished cleaning all the equipment after a drill a mere… was it only two centidays ago?

By design, the HCA suits enveloped the user in a rapid automatic sequence. Yuen had polished the dull black surface of hers so it shined in spite of the matte finish. The suits did not externally differentiate between male and female, so observers could not tell the gender of the wearer just by looking. On the chest and shoulder were her rank, in gold, and displayed on the front right of the chest, her last name.

Yuen stepped into her suit, grasped the metal frame for balance, and commenced the suiting up sequence. Her helmet snapped into place to complete the process. The suit always smelled of cleaner and mechanical lubricant, and no matter how hard she cleaned it, sweat. There’s nanites that’ll clean the organics out of a system, though you don’t want those on your face. Sure, nanites can solve everything, but they’re like fresh boots, really dumb and linear thinking. The O2 flowed cold and dry, and she took a few breaths and felt invigorated by it.

The heads up display on the visor displayed the boot sequence for the many onboard computer units. “Chieftain Combat Systems” displayed for a moment, then a lot of text Yuen ignored, stating who made the cooling subsystems, the fusion power unit, weapons, the medical care system, comm system, and everything else packed into the armor. Everyone read it the first time in boot camp. Unless you were an armorer or tech, it fell into the background of things you thought about. “Authorized user: Anasia Yuen, LCPL, ISM” displayed after the rest of the system finished booting. Good, my suit recognizes me. This time. You couldn’t count on that always being the case. It seemed like technical problems sidelined 40-50% of the teams’ armor at any given time. Lots of job security for the navy HCA mechanics, though they never seem to have replacement parts.

She considered it fantastic armor, if a little dated. Due to little or no competition in the Empire, replacements were counted as unnecessary. The Marines usually acted as policemen, or sometimes, mafia enforcers. It depended on which official obtained authorization to use the marines.

“Radawski! Are you retarded? Just get your suit on,” Bendtsen said, through the open visor of his HCA. “How did you manage to get through basic? Bribes? C’mon, gehen wir!”

Yuen glanced at the completely suited Anaru, who performed his startup diagnostics.

“Damn, Porn, this thing is a glitchy piece of crap.” Anaru complained.

“Same problem?” She asked. Her suit chimed green on all systems, full power plant, comms, medical, cooling, and movement normal. She grabbed her rifle and a ruck and turned her attention to Radawski.

“Tubesteak, stop haranguing him. Calling him retarded doesn’t help him.” Yuen said. Though it’s spot on.

“Same problem,” Anaru said. “Thought the navy mechs were going to get this all fixed, it’s been two thirty-days that I’ve had this problem.”

I know. I got written up for it. “Do your best. Improvise,” Yuen said.

“He is retarded.” Bendtsen said.

“Screw you, Tubesteak,” Radawski replied.

“Both of you shut up,” Yuen snapped, “Radawski, what’s the issue?”

“Did you hear me, Porn?” Anaru asked.

“Yeah, I heard—” she began.

Radawski interrupted. “This suit’s blotchy, and the Empire doesn’t fix it. Diags show loading fault and I can’t get it fixed. In boot, the DIs would give just scream at us for a while—”

“Radawski. Shut up.” Yuen cut him off. “We all know what they did in boot camp, but we just need to get it fixed.” So quit bitching and start fixing, boot.

“Porn, what do you want me to do?” Anaru asked.

Yuen leaned in to look at Radawski’s suit, crowding Radawski away from the armor with her own armor’s substantial bulk. “Try a reboot sequence?”

“For my suit, or his?” Anaru asked.

“That’ll take a few milli, and we’re outta time, Porn!” Bendtsen replied.

“I know!” she said. “It might not matter… Screw it, we gotta go. Radawski, get your flak wrap and take a pulse rifle and grenade load out, soft kit.” Radawski looked confused. “Soft kit! You know what soft kit is? Dammit, I don’t have time for this! Stalk, issue Radawski that equipment. Move!”

“I didn’t think we used soft kit for anything,” Radawski protested.

“Uh, Yuen, my suit is still throwing faults,” Anaru pointed out.

“Sort it out on the shuttle, Stalk. Just get Radawski his kit,” Yuen said. Do I have to hold everyone’s hand?

“Sure, I’ll probably end up frozen in the airlock with a suit lockup. Let’s go, Radawski, you have to be in the shuttle in a milliday,” Anaru replied, violently shoving Radawski.

“Damn, lighten up, Stalk!” Radawski complained, rubbing his shoulder.

Radawski and Anaru moved to the equipment lockers, and Bendtsen stomped toward the shuttle debarkation port. Bendtsen has no finesse. Just brute your way through it.

“Coming, Porn?” he asked.

She followed him lightly down the corridor. If anyone could sneak up on someone with an HCA, it’s me. She’d learned how to move quietly and be light on her feet in a large, heavy set of combat armor. It did not rank as a very useful skill in a combat unit that placed more value in shock and awe. You can’t shock someone if they don’t know you’re there. But you can punch them with incredible force and that kills them.

“Yeah, let’s get loaded before Meyer and Ihejirika both fuse their brain pans,” she said.

Yuen and Bendtsen hurried through the open airlock to their designated planetary assault shuttle. The shuttle crew had painted the area next to the airlock door to the shuttle a rendition of a blue dragon belching fire with claws extended, with the caption “Hot Boarder.” Navy regulations technically forbade wall art, but navy personnel ignored it. If a shuttle crew cared enough to name their shuttle and paint a mascot on their airlock, they had good morale and took good care of their vessel. A dull, soul-sucking grey smothered the remainder of the bulkhead. Naval regulations required all military equipment to be uninteresting colors. Morale or something. Would it kill the navy to put in some crimson colored curtains or something?

The airlock door and shuttle door were temporarily wedded together, leaving a wide opening into the shuttle permitting easy navigation for Marines in HCA. It wouldn’t bother most of the personnel if there had been leaks, as they were required by regulation to have airtight suits. Airtight suits in boring colors. Everyone is suited up.

Attached to a concave area on the destroyer’s exterior hull, the Skua class combat shuttle lay within the destroyer’s shielding system. Four other combat shuttles were attached at evenly spaced positions on the hull, one for each squad. They were flat, black aircraft, with large swept back wings and hover nodules for short take-off and landing on planets with atmosphere. In micro gravity, the wings served no function, but increased the mass and thus the fuel loss when maneuvering, slowing down, and speeding up.

The two marines plunged into the matte black interior of the crowded shuttle. Four racks open. For my fireteam. Looks like Bravo fire team and squad leader are here already. “Last man in?” anxiously queried the suited up shuttle crew chief, Spaceman Second Class Nolan.

He can’t count? We’re down two, you moron. “Not for this fireteam, two more to go,” Yuen responded, sitting in her HCA rack. Bendtsen locked into the empty rack beside her.

“What, they putting on their makeup?! Crap!” Nolan said. “LT wants us sealed and ready to pop.” He looked at her shoulder insignia and name. “Yuen? Your fireteam is going to get us killed. We’re going to be plastered all over the side of Grace in a milli if your people can’t get here in time. Or we leave them behind.”

Even the normally mellow crew chief is bitching and he’s scared. “Yeah, well, Lieutenant Monroe is more than welcome to get us parts for our HCA when he’s not piloting this shuttle, which is, I don’t know, most of the time? That’ll speed things up,” Yuen said. Lieutenant Monroe is an egotistical, arrogant, self-worshipping jerk. He’s also very good at what he does. I’m pretty sure he has no idea at all what we peasants do once we leave his precious shuttle to go tread around in the mud. Bet he never has missing parts or systems down. Or gets mud on his shuttle.

“Porn, you’re down two… pinging them at thirty meters, sitrep?” Sgt. Ihejirika radioed from the HCA rack at the front of the crowded shuttle compartment. Vessels that needed to operate under atmospheric pressure and high gravity made mass and volume a premium commodity.

He wants to know why my fire team is taking their sweet time. He knows why. Radawski is why.

“Radawski’s suit is redlined and he’s going soft kit. Anaru is helping him.” I don’t blame him. When my fireteam isn’t greened up, Sergeant Ihejirika gets it from his boss, Staff Sergeant Meyer. It’s a shame, really, since Meyer always takes out time of the chain of command to specially counsel me anyway. He doesn’t have to do that. He shouldn’t do that. It’s a nice personal touch, a fireteam leader like me getting nuked by the platoon sergeant. Meyer’s an asshole.

“Get your crap together, Porn. Every time, it’s your fireteam.” Ihejirika replied.

Getting nuked by the squad leader is quite enough. Time to appease him. “I know, sergeant. I’m working to improve the troopers.” A lead ball seemed to form in Yuen’s gut. The dressing down sounded mild, but Sgt. Ihejirika didn’t yell. That’s him yelling.

“No more screw-ups. Fix it.”

Yes, mother. “Understood, sergeant.”As if I know what a mother is like. I do, sort of. Mother Superior. She’s like a mother. Mother Mary. I could never have kids. No training. The sergeant is wound pretty tight, right now. He didn’t say it, but I’m the one who should have stayed behind to supervise Radawski. The leader is always responsible for the actions of the people under her.

Anaru and Radawski arrived in the shuttle at that moment. The other marines of Alpha squad looked at Radawski in his sealed suit over unpowered light armor and carrying a heavy assault weapon. Anaru clicked into a rack next to Bendtsen, and Radawski found a jump seat next to the crew chief, yelling “Last man in!”

Yuen thumbed the fireteam channel. “Ski, you green?”

“Yeah, Porn. I’m… hermit crab without a shell. I could be killed by fly fart in this rig. I got comms and O2.”

A soft ping alerted Yuen that Radawski’s suit, back in the locker, signaled it had rebooted and recovered from a serious error.

text break

“There’s no reason for us to hold on to the marines. Jettison the shuttles—Send ‘em to Revile for this conflict, tell them to evade and land and coordinate with friendly ground forces,” the captain ordered. At least the shuttles might survive. The Grace has no chance in winning if they turn out to be hostile. They’re not talking so they’re not friendly.

“Aye sir, jettisoning shuttles now.”

“Comms, keep hailing them. We mean business, we own this space, and nobody screws with the Empire. We own thousands of ships.” Just none of them are here except this one.

“Aye sir.”


 

Military ranks – sci-fi

I’ve seen a fair few numbers of military sci-fi novels that do interesting things with ranks. The modern ranking system has some meat to it, in that we see certain positions going back centuries and millenia.  Others, not so much.

There’s two approaches I see: 1) Historical, based on a present day military ranking system of a particular country; 2) Non-historical, either because the author doesn’t understand military ranks or they are deliberately changing it.

Historical Ranks

The advantage of using a system based on historical systems is that there is a lot of knowledge out there available to interpret and understand the ranks. Some authors may draw from their own knowledge and experience in the military.  There are nuances for different countries, and even the different services may have ranking systems that are not strictly using the same rank names for the same ranks.

Witness, for instance, the navies of the future.  If you’re using the United States navy, you have some classifications that might not sound right applied to space navy: Seaman, for instance.

You also have rank names and titles based on hundreds of years of traditions that are in turn descended from word origins that may or may not make sense. Lieutenant, which is Leftenant in the UK, is from the French.  The position is a junior officer in the US Army and USMC, but it’s a mid-level position in the US Navy.

While I was reading the Honor Harrington series, I thought it was fascinating that David Weber carefully brought forward the ranks and roles from the current UK modern navy, and even utilized the terminology.  It was a sort of look of “what would the English navy look like in space”?

If you’re going to use historical ranks, try to understand them enough to know what they do. Which ranks typically lead which sized forces?

Don’t mix up the force compositions. If you’re talking about a fireteam, that is not the same as a squad (it’s usually a sub-element of squad), or platoon, or company, etc. Those are terms of art and they have meanings that resonate with military guys.  They may differ from nationality to nationality.

In the Warstrider series, the ranks and force composition names are Japanese, reflecting the culture of those worlds.  I’ve seen Chinese ranks used as well. The future of space isn’t always ‘MURICA!, though it feels like it most of the time in the books I read.

Making up a new rank system

I believe that if you’re going to create a new ranking system, while it’s comfortable to use historical rank names, it’s going to look like you botched your research. When you say “this guy is an optio and he’s in charge of 100 men” that makes some readers’ heads hurt. We’re thinking, “no, you mean centurio, and it’s only 88 guys.”  Make up new ranks and rank structures with non-historical names, and you avoid this problem.  We readers have all this baggage about what we think it’s supposed to be, and it bothers us, a lot, when you do something that breaks the mold of what we think that means.  A sergeant is an non-commissioned officer (which is another funny term- if you don’t have commissioned officers, can you have a NCO? Or does it want another title?) so he shouldn’t be doing officery stuff, and vice versa.

Or make it clear that you’ve departed from the wonky historical ranks. You could have private 7th class as your lowest rank, and then after that, sergeants first through fifth class, and so on. Those people who don’t know what a first sergeant is or a staff sergeant or a master sergeant aren’t going to care, as long as they can get your system and understand the inherent rank status of each character.  Higher or lower?

Force Composition – Who leads what?

One thing you should consider is the makeup of the forces each person commands. The US has been experimenting with the ideal number of people under command of a person for over sixty years, and they think it’s four person teams, typically. This doesn’t mean you’re wedded to that fact, but you should consider force composition before blithely making up numbers. This is one of those areas where it won’t ring true if you say one guy is commanding, say, 48 people with no other NCOs or officers.  That’s a platoon, by the way, and there’s usually a ton of people to make everything happen.  For instance, you may have:
Platoon leader – 2nd or 1st Lt. (48 people under)
Platoon Sergeant – Sgt. or Staff Sgt. (directly trains the 4 SLs)
4 Squad leaders – Corporals or sergeants (12 or 8 people under)
3 or 2 fireteam leaders in a squad – specialists or lance corporals or corporals

And then there’s the idea of battle-buddies, which is that you have a guy to look after you and you look after him.  The Air Force calls that a wingman. We know from Top Gun that you never, ever leave your wingman.

Even in the four man fireteam, there is rank hierarchy due to position.  Thus, the fireteam leader is carrying a rifle with a grenade launcher, his battle buddy might be the least experienced guy who gets just a rifle, and then there’s a MG guy and his battle buddy humps ammo for him.  It’s VERY clear who is next in line for command of the element, because when the guy in command is killed or wounded, the next person has to take over.

The end result of that whole mass is that each person doesn’t command more than 4 people. Wait, Pontius, you say, the Lt. commands 48 people. No, he doesn’t. He tells their NCOs what he wants to have happen and they carry it out. So he’ll talk to the plsgt or the SLs and tell them that he wants them to move to a ridgeline using bounding overwatch and then provide fire suppression on position x.  The squad leader makes decisions and issues orders to the fireteams, and they execute the orders.  The Lt. does not give orders to individual soldiers at the end of the line; he goes through intermediaries and lets them use their training to carry out the orders using their best understanding of tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Higher Ranks

The higher ranks are more esoteric; at a certain point, maybe at battalion level or higher, the officers aren’t in combat, aren’t in the field, necessarily. They’re directing things, again with a low number of officers directly reporting to them so they can keep the information flow going.

Think of it like trying to play four games of Risk simultaneously.  The information flow is going to be rocky; you might be getting slammed on one board while you have a great position on another, but your attention is limited and you can only focus on one thing at a time.  The joy of computer systems is that it can sometimes prioritize things and organize things for better review, and your sci-fi universe can reflect that.

That’s it, in a nutshell.

Edit-  To help you out, current US Military ranks are found here: http://www.militaryfactory.com/ranks/index.asp


Go ahead, comment. It won’t kill you.  And, um, it’s not because I’m desperate. Because I’m not. I’m NOT! Just comment. If you comment, I’ll be your best friend!  C’mon. I’ll give you a cookie! Yeah, I love the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” books, too.

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