01-04 Darmore Demon

by Ernest Bywater

Tags: Fiction, Vignettes, Violent, Workplace, Military, War,

Desc: Action/Adventure Story: November 1983, a young woman realises her life long ambition - to join the Royal Guards - we follow her joining and her first posting. Young and new to the military, but very different to what they usually get. Is she more than she seems? Yes and no. Read and find out

Prologue

Between the events depicted in The Dareed War and these events the following changes have occurred in the Royal Guards organisation. Naturally they've also had upgrades in equipment, weapons, training, and procedures during this time. Many as a result of the lessons learned at Marley's Landing. The 3rd Claymore are given the unit insignia of a rock, along with their name of The Rocks.

The Claymore has two more regiments. The 4th, the Falling Angels, a parachute insignia, air assault, helicopter and parachute troops. The 5th, the Urbans, a house insignia, urban combat troops.

The Peregrines, Royal Air Guards, three wings of one thousand three hundred soldiers. Each unit is structured to match the operational and support needs of their aircraft. The unit insignia is a Peregrine Falcon with wings wide in braking and claws out in strike mode, with the wing number on the falcon's chest. The 1st, Brown Bombers, jet fighter bombers with aircraft painted like giant brown Peregrine Falcons. The 2nd, Green Birds, helicopter gunships painted jungle green. The 3rd, Blackbirds, troop transports in jungle green (Blackhawk helicopters and short landing / take off aircraft), unit insignia has a sword grasped in the falcon's claws because they deliver Swords.

The Orcas, Royal Sea Guards, four fleets of one thousand three hundred soldiers. One platoon per boat. The unit insignia is a side view of an Orca with the fleet number on its side. The 1st, Blue Orcas, light patrol boats that are better at inshore work. The 2nd, Green Orcas, heavy patrol boats better for open sea work. The 3rd, Black Orcas, troop transports, their insignia includes a sword clutched in its mouth, because they're used for amphibious operations and deliver swords. The 4th, Red Orcas, ultra-fast patrol boats equipped as torpedo boats.

The intent is to expand all brigades to five regiments. All seagoing units are equipped with single hull patrol boats; the size, power, equipment, and armament varies according to the unit needs. Also, two new army units are added, one of helicopter gun-ships and one of air transport; similar to the 2nd and 3rd Peregrines.

Prelude

Darmore is a small town of seven hundred souls in north-western Berant and eight kilometres from the base of the Sharten Mountains, the northern border of Berant. It provides essential services and a transport terminal for the farms in the area of about fifty kilometres around it. The main products are citrus fruits and grains. The area has several small passes in the mountains that allow foot traffic to cross, but no vehicles can pass through them. The only road through the Sharten Mountains is eighty kilometres further east. The road from Darmore joins that road, The Northern Road, just below a major river crossing, then The Northern Road runs straight to Berana, the capital of Berant. In recent years some tourist trade has come to Darmore. A few locals set up escorted tours of the mountain trails and weekend jungle camping trips for nature loving tourists. This small boost to the local economy is very beneficial to all in the area.

Throughout history groups of people crossed the mountains to raid the farms and towns on the other side, the tribesmen went both ways. The last such raid into Darmore was in 1932. Darmore was untouched during the civil war. The area has known nothing but peace for nearly forty years, since the end of World War Two.

Jessica Tandar

Jessica Tandar is the second child born to a poor farming family. Born in late 1964, four weeks early while her mother is visiting her parents in Amarant. The family lives with her father's clan while working on a farm at Marley's Landing on the Kotar Plain. Her father dies in an accident on the farm when she's four years old. The family stays at the farm and her mother continues working on the clan farm. Family cares for family in Berant, even in-laws. When Jessica is eight years old and her brother Brian is eleven years old their mother marries another man who's a cousin to their father. The four of them move to Carmel, because he has a new job there at a hotel; she's nine years old when this happens.

Jessica loves living in Carmel, a seaside holiday resort town. The Carmel school has much better resources than her previous school and her studies improve a lot. The warm sea is a delight to swim in. There's also a major Royal Guards base nearby with lots of off duty Guards wandering around town. To her they all look handsome and strong, both the men and women. She's infatuated with them, often seeking them out in her free time to talk with them. Mostly about life in the Guards and what she should study to gain entry. They're used to some children doing this, and speak freely with them. They know most ask because they're thinking of joining the Guards when they're older, and most end up joining; this is what they did when they were young. On her twelfth birthday she tells her mother she intends to join the Guards as soon as she can pass the entry exams. Her mother thinks this is a passing phase, despite it going on for some years already.

In Carmel Jessica joins the Martial Arts Team for school sport, and soon becomes a top competitor in the school and regional matches. She's also fast to progress through the ranks of devotees of the Way of the Hand, the local form of martial arts. At thirteen she joins the local junior shooting club to participate in rifle and pistol competitions on weekends. By her fifteenth birthday she rates as marksman with both. Just before her sixteenth birthday in October 1980 she passes the Year 10 exams. Three weeks later she receives her official results notification. At dinner she hands it to her mother with an application to join the Royal Guards. This is for her mother to sign to approve her enlistment, because she's under eighteen years of age. Her mother looks at the form and at Jessica. Sighing softly, she signs the form. She now realises her daughter will never go to university, and she's already given up on trying to teach her how to cook properly.

Her application to join the Guards is accompanied by the written recommendations of two teachers and the shooting club instructor, all retired Guards. All speak well of her, especially her concentration and level of commitment.

Sixteen year old Jessica is 160 cm tall, slim athletic build, light brown hair, striking steel blue eyes with well above average intelligence and very fit.

In the Guards

The next day Jessica visits the Guards recruiting office to lodge her application. They note her scholastic record transcript and high marks. She returns two days later for her medical and physical tests, passing both. The following day is her interview with Peter Landers, a retired warrant officer with a psychology degree. He's to evaluate her attitude and suitability. In response to the key question of: "Why do you want to join the Royal Guards?" She says her wish is to help others and defend her country. She explains how she's admired the Guards ever since she saw them, as a small child, when they fought her country's enemies. She likes their unity and spirit of purpose. She wishes to be part of it.

Later, when discussing her application with his supervisor, Monica Stephens, Peter says, "I was concerned Jessica may be too idealistic, but she came across as being very well grounded and realistic. I think she's perfect and will go far. If she's not solid enough they'll find out in basic." He sits there for a moment, and Monica raises her eyebrow in question. "There's something else that troubles me about the girl. Oh, it's nothing to wash her out. But in the tests she never got flustered once. I've never seen that before, everyone gets flustered at some point. The tests are designed to make them get flustered. She never did. Also, I felt very comfortable sitting and talking with her, almost as comfortable as being down the pub drinking with my mates." Monica raises both her eyebrows at this. She makes a note on Jessica's file about her stoic attitude, and a personal note to handle her final interview herself, because she wants to see what this candidate is like.

All Guards applicants are given two weeks from the date of their application and testing to the date of their final enlistment. This is to allow them time to review what they've done and retire gracefully if they have any second thoughts. At the end of those two weeks Jessica attends a final interview with Monica, the senior recruiting officer, a retired major with a psychology degree. This interview is deliberately designed to really rattle the applicants and encourage those not fully committed to withdraw. The Guards requires a total commitment by the new recruits. Monica is also surprised by Jessica's level of stability and calmness during the interview. Nothing rattles her. She approves Jessica's application and gives her travel papers with orders to report for training at the next recruit induction in January. Later, while talking to Peter over an after work drink, she mentions her interview with Jessica and how she felt like Jessica was an old mate, even when she knew this was the first time they'd met. It's not like she's an old squad mate or something. Looking up, Peter says, "That's it, she's the feel of a combat veteran and it sets me at ease." Absent-mindedly Monica nods. Suddenly she looks up, and they both stare at each other, while they wonder how that can possibly be? How can a sixteen year old girl feel like a combat veteran? They stare at each other while they ponder hard on this paradox. Neither says anything about it to anyone else.

First Parade

5th of January 1981 Jessica stands on the parade ground at the Royal Guards basic training base as she reports for her first day of duty. She's successfully passed the entrance exams. Did so well she surprised the testers by how well such a young woman can do them. The Guards accept anyone who's a legal adult or is sixteen years old with parental approval. Most people don't join until after they're eighteen years old.

The next eleven months are a long whirl of studies and organised mayhem while the instructors push all the trainees as hard as they can to learn what they're capable of and where their skills and aptitudes lie. During the first ten weeks every recruit is given an opportunity to be their squad corporal for two weeks. She's one of the few to spend the next nine months on higher pay as an acting junior corporal.

The instructors are amazed at her constant calm manner, because basic training is specifically designed to rattle everyone, but not Jessica. In everything they do she stays cool, collected, and a calming influence on her squad. When acting squad leader she's in total control at all times and gets the best out of them.

After basic graduation she's sent for three months medic training, followed by three months sniper training, three months heavy weapons training, and three months urban warfare training. During this time she completes the theory training for corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain; passing all the exams with 95% marks or better. On the day she graduates from the Urban Warfare Training Course she's notified of her promotion to full corporal, the youngest ever, and appointed to 2nd platoon, A Company, 5th Claymore. With orders to take four weeks leave before reporting for duty. She'd turned eighteen years old six weeks earlier.

First Leave

When she arrives home on her leave her mother is surprised she's wearing the uniform of a full corporal in the Claymore. Letters home never mentioned what she was actually doing; just that she was doing another training course. She'd expected, and hoped, Jessica would join the Royal Rescue Service. Regardless of this she's proud to walk down the street with her daughter in her uniform. During Jessica's leave they often go shopping with Jessica in her uniform, at her mother's request.

One evening they're out in a club with her stepfather, Jessica in uniform, at her mother's request again, when a noisy argument starts in the corner. A group of several roughs are giving some trouble to two Guards privates on leave. The two privates look like they're about to respond to the roughs when Jessica excuses herself and walks over to their table. She doesn't see the MP sergeant and squad enter by the side door behind her. The club owner had called them a few minutes earlier when he realised the roughs were baiting the young privates.

While she approaches the scene one of the private takes an attack stance. She says, in a commanding tone, "Attention!" Both privates spin around and snap to attention. Walking closer she sees they're wearing 5th Claymore patches and are 'very merry, ' but not yet drunk. Pointing at her table, she says, "Pick up your gear and go over to that table."

In unison, they say, "Yes, Corporal." They pick up their gear and start to walk away.

Thinking he has a free shot at them one of the roughs draws a knife and lunges at the back of the privates. Jessica snaps up her foot, kicks out, and breaks his arm before he gets close to the privates. He drops to the floor with a scream. The rest of the roughs start to move forward. She calmly draws her pistol and points it at them, saying, "Who wants to die first?" They just stand there looking very embarrassed. They can't believe this pretty young woman will kill them, but they're too scared to try her. There's something about her that intimidates them, especially the cold steadfast look in her eyes and her calm demeanour. She adds, "Right, you lot pick up your gear, pay your bill, go home, and sleep it off. The barman will get an ambulance for your friend." She calmly watches them pack up their gear and leave the bar.

The barman approaches the table. She holsters her pistol, and tells him, "Look after this fool and get him an ambulance, please." Turning around, she walks back to her table. Smiling, the MP sergeant turns and leaves, taking his squad with him.

On returning to her table, she address the privates, "OK, boys, who are you?" Both are a few years older than her, but immediately answer. Giving their names and the fact they're just out of basic on leave prior to reporting to B Company, 5th Claymore. She dresses them down and tells them they shouldn't get drunk in public. They're to take a cab to where they're staying. They nod, and leave; glad to get off so lightly.

Noticing the shocked expression on her mother's face, Jessica says, "Well, Mum, what did you expect? I've been away for two years getting intensive training on how to deal with matters like that." Her mother nods because she realises her little girl isn't her little girl any more, but a grown woman. A real soldier, not a toy soldier like she'd been thinking. She's surprised to find herself comforted by the thought.

Soon after that they leave the club. On the way home they detour by the police station and lodge an official report of the incident. The rest of the leave is a fun time with her family and at the beach.

The 5th Claymore

Arrival

At 7:00 p.m. on 4 January 1983, the night before she's due to report, Jessica walks up to the guardhouse of her new barracks. She reports in and seeks directions to the barracks hut for 2nd platoon, A Company. The Duty Officer checks her ID, hands her a map with the hut marked, and dismisses her. After studying the map for a moment she heads off to find her bed. She finds the hut; it's empty because she's the first Sword to arrive. Picking a cot near the door she starts putting her gear away. Ten minutes later she's finishing her unpacking when a Warrant Officer, the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), walks into the otherwise empty barracks.

Nodding at her he sits down on a chair, saying, "Corporal Tandar, I presume!" This is clearly a statement and not a question.

Sitting down on her bed, she says, "Yes, guilty as charged, Sir."

Smiling, he says, "I hear you had some fun while on leave. Anything I should know about it?"

Calmly, she replies, "Not really, Sir. Just some drunk roughs and two privates fresh out of basic. No big deal. The privates now know not to drink too much in public. No worries all round."

Nodding, he stands, "Good, I dislike having to deal with minor matters. I know you're not officially here until ten hundred hours in the morning, but the Colonel would like a word with you after breakfast, if you can fit it into your busy schedule." He stands up, ready to leave.

Smiling, she stands with him, "I think I can manage to squeeze in a few minutes for him, Sir." When the RSM leaves she grabs a towel and heads for a shower.

Ten minutes later RSM Jelling enters Lieutenant Colonel Newman's office. He nods at the Colonel and Captain Rhundah while he sits down, "She may be young, but she's as smart and as tough as they said. I know she hasn't been in combat, but she has the feel of a vet. I'd give her the job. I've asked her to report after breakfast." They both nod.

First Day

Waking to reveille in an empty barracks is an odd feeling because it's the first time it's happened to her, for the last few years she's always shared the barracks with about twenty others. Jessica rises, showers, dresses, and heads to breakfast. After breakfast in the mess hall she returns her mess kit to her locker and heads to headquarters. Arriving there she gives the duty officer her name.

A few minutes later she's shown into the Colonel's office, and he indicates for her to sit down. When she sits down, he says, "Well, Corporal Tandar, I gather from Warrant Officer Jelling you aren't going to tell us anything more about your leave exercise."

She calmly replies, "No, Sir, I'm not. All that needs to be done has been done. It won't happen again. The people concerned know they'll have to answer to me if it does, and they don't relish that idea."

Nodding, he smiles, and says, "You're very self-assured for someone as young as you are, or as new in rank as you are."

Smiling, she says, "Maybe, Sir, I don't know too many people in my situation. I've been a corporal since the third month of basic. That gives me twenty-one months in rank as a corporal. Although all of it was in training units of some sort, I was in charge of a squad for the entire period and I can handle my squad. Four different squads, so far."

He looks intently at her, "Are you nicely settled in at the barracks?"

She grins, "Yes, Sir, I am. I gather I'm about to move."

He laughs, "The RSM did say you're smart and quick. Yes, you're moving. I've had some news and I'm using you to fix a problem. As of this moment you're Junior Sergeant Tandar, Commander, First Platoon, C Company. I want you settled into your new barracks with your stripes on by ten hundred hours."

She says, "Yes, Sir. If there's nothing else, Sir, I'd best get moving." He nods dismissal and she leaves the office.

Picking up his phone Colonel Newman calls Captain Rhundah, and says, "I've done it, you've a brand new junior sergeant. I agree with Jelly, she'll do very well." He hangs up.

Moving at a brisk, but unhurried, pace Jessica returns to her old quarters to pack her gear and check the barracks are clean. Taking her kit she heads to the Quartermaster's Store.

When she walks in the Quartermaster Sergeant looks her over. He reaches under the counter and places a handful of Junior Sergeant's stripes on the counter. She picks them up, "Thanks, Quartermaster. May I borrow your office for a few minutes?" He nods at the office.

Entering the office she sits down, and pulls out her sewing kit and a shirt. Removing the corporal's stripes she sews on the Sergeant's stripes. She changes shirts and does the same for a jacket. She sits there and is quick to changes the rank stripes on all her uniforms. Finishing the last jacket she cleans up the loose threads to the rubbish bin. She picks up the corporal stripes, walks out, and hands them to the Quartermaster Sergeant.

Taking them, he asks, "Why'd you do that here?"

Smiling at him, she says, "I gather most of this mob are just out of basic, right." He nods. "Imagine you're just out of basic and reporting to your first command. You walk into the barracks to find a very young sergeant and she's sewing her stripes on. How'd you feel? Now they've no idea how long I've had the rank and will have more confidence in me than if they see me sewing the rank on. Got it?" Smiling, the Quarter Master nods, and she heads off to her new barracks.

After she leaves the Quartermaster goes into his office to call the RSM, and tells him the story. They agree she'll do very well. Definitely better than the sergeant they lost to the hospital.

C Company

Walking into her barracks she notices one of her corporals and some privates are unpacking. Nodding to them she enters the sergeant's office and unpacks her kit. Lucky for her the uniforms are nearly as new as the stripes, so no-one can tell how long they've been up. Leaving the office she introduces herself to the corporal and tells him he has free time until 10:00 hours (it's now 08:30) if he wishes to visit the PX or the QM store etc. He says he'll sit and read up for his sergeant's exam. Nodding to him and the privates present she leaves the barracks and heads for the Company Headquarters.

Arriving at C Company Headquarters she tells the duty corporal, "Junior Sergeant Tandar to report to the Company Commander. Last minute posting to First Platoon." This last point removes the corporal's frown and explains why Tandar doesn't show on his list of NCOs (Non Commissioned Officers).

On her being shown in Captain Rhundah invites her to sit down. Smiling, he says, "This is the first case I've heard of where a company commander, regimental commander, and RSM are glad one of their sergeants can't report for duty because he's in hospital, car accident." Seeing no change of expression on her face, he adds, "Better and better. Sergeant Budrow is a good sergeant, but has no imagination worth talking of. That means, in a situation like this, I'd have to handle a lot more of the 'new trooper breaking in' than I'd like. You, however, can clearly handle that. Also, you're sniper and heavy weapons trained, he wasn't. I now have the best trained combat sergeant in the regiment. Any idea why they sent you straight into so much specialist training instead of to a line unit?"

"I don't know, Sir. No one told me why. But my guess is they were concerned about my age and didn't want me to get near the hot end of the barrel until after I turned eighteen. So they kept shoving me back into training. I didn't mind, as I liked the courses. I expected to lose my acting corporal rate when I graduated basic. But the Training RSM explained if I'd been sent to a line unit I'd have probably kept it, so the Commander Training got it made permanent before I left the base. That upset me a bit since it meant he wasn't as bad as I'd been thinking, and I had to apologise, in my mind, for all the mental abuse I'd given him."

The captain laughs, "That's about what we figured. I'm glad you don't mind they kept you training, because by doing so they've actually increased your worth to me and the regiment. An NCO usually doesn't get as much specialist training as you have, not until they've been in several years. I don't think I'd have got you if Captain Carter had read your jacket before agreeing to let me steal you. I figure you're more than worth the extra six weeks duty as Officer of the Day getting you cost me." Her eyebrows go up at the cost for the transfer, because that's a lot of his personal time he gave up to get her. To do so he must think she's worth more than most sergeants.

She responds, "Well, Sir, I hope you still feel that way in six weeks" time when you"re missing your nights out. I hope you've some personnel jackets there for me."

He smiles, "Yes, I do," and hands them over, "I know you're the most junior sergeant in the regiment, but we'll be expecting you to pass on your specialist training to the sergeants, lieutenants, and corporals. We need to get this regiment combat ready a.s.a.p. Times are very tense and we want the regiment ready if things go bad and shooting starts."

Picking up the files she smiles, and nods, "Well, Sir, I need to get back to the barracks and read these. Thank you, Sir." She leaves the office and stops at the duty corporal's desk for a clipboard with her platoon list before going back to her office. She sits at her desk and reads the files on her corporals and privates, regularly checking the time. At 09:55 hours she places the files in her desk drawer, locks it, and secures the key in a button up trouser pocket before heading outside to wait the last few minutes before the first regimental parade.

First Parade

Exiting the building with the clipboard in hand she looks around. She sees a lot of Swords hanging around the parade grounds and barracks talking, it's 09:57 hours. Walking out onto the parade ground she locates and stands beside the marker for 1st Platoon, C Company. Within a minute every platoon commander is on the parade ground and standing at their unit marker.

At 10:00 hours the RSM walks out on the parade ground and all the Swords scramble for their platoon markers. Jessica is quick to sort her platoon into two lines with the corporals in front of the platoon. She checks off the names, all are present. The parade ground is full of voices while the platoon commanders are checking their platoon is present.

Walking to the middle of the platoon's front rank she faces them, and snaps out, "First platoon, dress ranks." She watches while they check their spacing and dress ranks properly. She orders, "Stand at ease, stand easy." After waiting a moment for them to settle down she speaks loud enough for the platoon to hear, but not so loud to disturb the other platoons, "For the record, my name's Junior Sergeant Jessica Tandar, you'll call me Sergeant. You'll call me Sergeant at all times you talk to me or about me. I'm sure you understand that. If not, I'll think of some extra exercises that'll help drive it home to those who don't. In future, when a parade's called you will be on parade and formed up before the RSM enters the parade ground. Over the next few weeks I'll get an idea of each of your strengths and will sort you out into squads that suit me, not you or your friends, but me. You'll make new friends in your squads. For the next week you'll parade in your current order, so remember your places." She's obviously smaller and younger than everyone else in the platoon, but there's something in her manner and her eyes - no one's prepared to argue with her.

After taking a deep breath, she snaps out, "First Platoon, number." They number haphazardly from the soldier at the left front. She shakes her head, "When I was in primary school I'd a teacher who was a retired Guard. He had us form up and number whenever we went out on excursions. We were only nine years old, but we did much better than that the first time we did it. Now I know you can do better because you were taught to do it in basic. Let me hear it done right. First Platoon - number." The soldiers call the numbers out, loud and clear. She nods, "That's better. At this rate you should be as good as my old class by the end of the week. But that isn't good enough. First Platoon - number!" Loud, fast, crisp, and clear, they number like a well-oiled machine-gun. She smiles, "See, you do know how to do it right." Snapping to attention she spins around, and shouts out, "First Platoon, C Company, all present on parade, Sergeant Major." It's at this point she and the platoon realise the whole parade has been quietly waiting and watching them.

The RSM snaps to attention. He spins around, and calls out, "Fifth Regiment all present on parade, Sir."

Colonel Newman leads the company commanders onto the parade ground. He addresses them, "As of this moment the Fifth Claymore is officially formed and operational. Sadly, that's not the truth because you aren't fully operational - yet. But you will be. You only thought you'd been trained in basic camp, now begins the real work. Regimental Sergeant Major Jelling will see to the training while the Platoon and Company Commanders see you do it right. Carry on, Sergeant Major." He turns and leaves the parade ground.

RSM Jelling turns and faces the regiment. He says, "The first thing is to make sure you know who you are, who your commanders are, and check you know the basics. Sergeant Tandar, you clearly know what's required, take your platoon to the other end of the parade ground and carry on until lunch. The rest of you can show me you can form up and number properly in your platoons."

Jessica turns to her platoon, and orders, "First Platoon, attention." They snap to attention. "Platoon, four paces forward." They smartly step forward four paces. "Left turn." They turn left as one. "Forward, march." They start marching. She moves to her place at the back corner of the formation and marches them to the far end of the parade ground. Reaching the end of the parade ground she orders, "Platoon, halt. Right turn. Stand at ease, stand easy." Once they're settled she addresses them, "First thing you need to do is to recognise my voice and those of the platoon corporals. From now on I'll expect you to respond properly to the command 'Platoon' because we all know that we're First Platoon, C Company. I think there's no other platoon in this regiment, and my thoughts are your thoughts, aren't they! Now let's see how well you do your basic marching drills." She commences an extensive series of marching drills, stopping them at different times and having each of the corporals take over for a while. She splits them into two groups and has them march through each other. All are basic drills they were well taught in basic training, and drills they had to perfect before they could graduate. She confirms they remember them and they readily respond to commands as a unit.

At 11:30 hours the parade ground is full of platoons doing similar drills. They have been for some time. Captain Rhundah walks over to see how she's doing. He's already checked on all his other platoons. Smiling, he says, "You know I'm in big trouble now because of you! After your initial display Captain Carter decided to check your jacket, and he's now very pissed at me. Keeps calling me a con artist."

She says, "Well, Sir, he now knows to check every aspect of any deal before making it. Tell him it's a cheap education. If the Captain agrees, I'd like to send the platoon off to the showers now. I know it's early, but they've earned it. I want to reinforce the benefits of quick co-operation."

He smiles, "It's your platoon, Sergeant. Do as you see fit. Just make sure that you have a good tool for when I need it to save my butt."

"Saving your butt's easy, Sir. You look like a good runner, so I'll just buy you some good running shoes. These people are here to learn how to look after my butt." Laughing, Captain Rhundah nods, and walks away. She waits for the corporal to finish the current set of drills, then addresses them, "Good, you've done well so far. It's twenty minutes to lunch, that's plenty of time to get your breath, shower, get dressed in clean fatigues, and be at the mess for lunch at twelve hundred hours. Upon being dismissed you'll turn right and double off the parade ground. This is how you'll behave whenever you're dismissed. Platoon, dismissed." She smiles as they smartly turn and double off the parade ground. Leaving the parade ground they all slow and saunter off to the barracks. They smile once they realise they're the only unit dismissed.

Afternoon

At lunch she has the platoon sit as a group and get to know each other. At 13:00 hours, after lunch, the company has hand to hand combat training in the gym. The RSM walks out onto the mat, saying, "Most of you've had basic training in close quarters combat. The trouble with it is the speed is slowed down for you to learn it. This lesson will start with a demonstration on what it's like at full speed. Sergeant Tandar, you'll assist me with this. Two three minute bouts, usual competition rules. And please, try not to break any of my bones since I can't afford the time in hospital." They've now got the full attention of all within hearing.

Smiling, Jessica stands and walks onto the mat, saying, "You can't blame me for that incident, Sir. Warrant Officer Patrick broke his arm because he tried a fancy new roll and it didn't work out like he thought it would." They face each other, and bow. When they move, their arms and legs are green blurs. Suddenly the RSM is down, and then the sergeant. They continue taking turns hitting the mat and each other. Lieutenant Gregor calls time and they step apart. Smiling, she says, "That was a good light workout, Sir, it should settle lunch nicely."

He grins, "Yes, I'm glad we finally have another Sensei Cho in the regiment. I can finally get some decent workouts and keep fit. You can expect to be called upon to help with the advanced combat instruction." Sensei Cho is the highest level of Sensei or teacher in the art of the Way of the Hand, only Master and Great Master are higher.

Returning the smile, she says, "Glad to help out, Sir. I've a spare five minutes in my schedule every other Friday afternoon, I'll pencil that in for you." Lieutenant Gregor calls the start of the second bout, and they're back at it. Like before, they both spend time hitting the mats. When Lieutenant Gregor calls time to end the second bout both are sweating, but not breathing hard. Six minutes of hard exercise and both look like they'd just been standing there talking.

RSM Jelling turns to the troops, "That's what it's like in real life when two well-trained combatants face each other under tournament rules. In combat a fight is usually over much quicker because there are no restrictions on killing or maiming blows. It's over quicker still when your opponents aren't as well-trained. I want five volunteers to try and take Sergeant Tandar down." He has no takers. "OK, will I get ten volunteers to try?"

Ten Swords of 3rd Platoon take the challenge. They form a group on the mat to surround and face Jessica. RSM Jelling calls, "Start." Twenty seconds later he and Jessica are helping them to stand up, while he says, "That's what it's like in real life." The company splits into groups for instruction by the qualified NCOs and officers.

At 15:15 hours the platoon is showered, changed, and on the range. Jessica moves along the line instructing the troops in how to fire with more accuracy. Her placing ten rounds in the same hole guarantees they listen. By 16:30 hours they've cleaned their weapons and are back on the parade ground for marching drill with weapons. At 17:30 hours she dismisses them to get ready for dinner at 18:00 hours.

Evening

Dinner is as a platoon in a different seating arrangement, and with the evening off to do their washing, private study, and other personal care tasks. At 19:30 hours there's a knock on her door and Senior Corporal Harrison, the platoon's second in command, asks for a word. At her nod he enters and closes the door before he sits down. She closes the folder she's reading, and looks at him.

With a serious expression, he says, "Sergeant, I know I was a more senior corporal than you and it rankled me you got the sergeant's spot. But seeing you in action today I realise you're much more suited to the spot than I am. I thought I should let you know the reason behind my surliness this morning, it won't happen again, sorry."

She smiles, "I'm glad we'll be working together better from now on. However, for your knowledge, if this ever happens to you again don't blame the person promoted, go talk to the unit CO. No one gets a promotion because they want it, they get it because someone higher up thinks they're the best on hand to do the job. OK?" He nods. "I think I know why you haven't been promoted as fast as you expect, are you prepared to listen and to consider my comments carefully?" He nods again, with a serious expression.

Reaching for another folder, she opens it, "This is your short jacket, only your platoon commander and the officers in your line of command are given access to this. It includes comments upon your performance by all your previous commanders. Universally they speak well of your troop handling skills, weapon skills, and combat skills. Too often is the comment you don't show enough initiative. Looking at this and your behaviour earlier today, I think you have a problem in trusting your own judgement when placed in the position of making a decision that's usually made by higher command. Thus you wait for command to act. This gives the impression of indecisiveness. You have to learn to know when you should be acting on your own judgement instead of waiting, and then act on your own. Sure you won't get it right all the time, but you need to take action. Indecision is often worse than the wrong decision or wrong action. I suggest you think about this and consider ways to change your approach to those situations." He has a pensive expression while he nods. He gets up to leave, and stops to view all the specialist course and exam certificates on the side wall, noting she's already passed the Captain's theory exam. Nodding slowly, he leaves.

Getting Organised

She spends the rest of the evening checking the privates' jackets and writing initial squad groupings. Over the next few days different squad groupings and squad leaders are tried out while they go through a wide range of activities.

Saturday is Platoon Commander's discretion to let the commander give focused training they feel is needed. Jessica has them do an hour's physical training in combat gear before they double time to the range and practice shooting for thirty minutes. A twenty minute break and do it again. Two sets in the morning and one after lunch. At 14:30 hours she dismisses them for the day. This activity is watched by the other platoon commanders. They also notice the improved shooting accuracy towards the end. She repeats this every Saturday for two months. By then time on the range is a problem because most of the other platoons are doing it too. One of the other platoon commanders had asked her why, and she'd explained that too often combat comes after a lot of physical exercise. So the troops have to be able to shoot well while physically tired, and that's what she's training them for.

After dismissing the troops on the second Saturday she sits down with the platoon corporals. They discuss and make the final squad lists. All are happy with the final mix of skills in their squads, and the way the platoon is shaping up as a whole.

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Story tagged with:
Fiction / Vignettes / Violent / Workplace / Military / War /