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Maybe at one point you’ve seen the following drama unfold:

An order from the higher ups of some type of space fleet or military body sends orders for a group of scientists, soldiers, or a mix of the two to board and excavate information from a supposedly abandoned space hulk or equally ominous construction. Keeping orders on a need to know basis, the insertion team isn’t informed about the excruciatingly high probability that there might still be alien life on board. Cut to the dumbest member of the team sitting, spilling, pushing on something that will somehow set off the main plot device that alerts the enemy life forms to their bumbling presence within their ship’s corridors and chambers. Rounds are fired, thermite grenades are thrown, alien beings are generally pissed off, and whatever members of the team alive after the initial encounter (read: everyone dies but two) must now spend the rest of the story trying to save their foul up asses from the oncoming horde of bad ass killing machines. The survivors escape, someone nukes the ship, and the director or author pats his/her back for a job well done.

I suppose people who write screenplays think that the normal entertainment community can easily accept human error and tactical deficiency for the sake of action, adventure, and drama. Well, that’s a whole lot of bullshit. It amazes me that the whole ‘underdog save your own ass’ device of plot writing still seems to successfully sell books and movie tickets.

Gosh.

Wouldn’t it be great if a squad got in, successfully completed all mission orders, and got out?

Team casualties: none.

Mission Success: 100%.

Nothing is more beautiful in the eyes of the hyper-caffeinated alpha-gamer than to complete a level with a perfect life bar, full ammo, and all mission specific orders carried out TO. THE. T. Play Doom as a kid? Quake? Rogue Spear maybe? Crazy ass rush when you beat the game with perfect stats, right? Why can’t they sell tickets to movies that emulate the same standards of execution, only with my favorite actors and actresses going through the motions of full, perfect military precision? Throw in some flashy sparkly special effects a la Digital Domain and I am one happy camper.

Listen. I loved Aliens. For two years of my life I wanted to be a colonial marine. Predator is a bright shiny reminder that massive killing and explosions can make up for horrible acting. I own The Rock on DVD. I'm not saying that movies falling into the idea of "everyone dies but Sean Connery, Sigourney Weaver, and Arnold Schwarzenegger," is incredibly terrible. But cliché is a horrible thing, especially when you start fucking up the overly macho guy movies I need so desperately in my horribly drab life. Please, I have so little. So very little. Rekindle my hope in military training effectiveness. Show me that orders can be followed with cohesion, precision, and guile on that big movie screen. Give me beautiful wide angle panning shots of snipers effectively covering the field of fire on his forward scout teams. Give me a zoom in on the team leader's face correctly ascertaining the fire lines of potential hidden artillery bunkers. Show me coolness under pressure. I want to see flanks covered, effective room clearing, and proper use of a goddamn pulse rifle within close proximity of enemy targets. I want to see hostages rescued, aliens gutted, and beers being toasted at the local nudie bar by a happy squad of killers on a job well done. I want.. I want..

{sniff}..I want to see the perfect guy movie.

Just once, God. I'll start going back to Church. I'll give up porn for a week. Whatever it takes.

With that said, let’s build an effective combat insertion team.

Rule 1: Choose an effective team leader.

The person in charge must be a woman. Male squad leaders really seem to enjoy giving away a team's position as early as possible. They opt to open doors with shotguns, plasma rifles screaming, or by using the maximum amount of plastique possible sans killing themselves. They never ever check to see if something's unlocked, or maybe for an open window, quietly hacking the locking mechanism, or what have you. Another bad male trait is the idea of 'send one in while the rest of us wait out here':

"Cooper! Front and center!"

"Sir!"

"Go inside that shadowy, dimly lit warhead factory. Check every room, sewage tunnel, and bathroom for any trouble. If you meet up with those horrific hordes of lurking aliens, radio in your coordinates. THE REST OF US WILL WAIT HERE AND MAKE NO ATTEMPT TO COVER YOU."

"Yes Sir!" Cooper will then run in and get eaten by or shot in the head by something waiting for him.

And that's the last we see of Cooper. Women have a lot more common sense when keeping overly aggressive boys healthy and alive. Ever see a soccer mom assert her authority over a van full of young boys? Oh YEAH. Another rule of thumb is that if there IS a woman on your team, SHE WILL PROBABLY LIVE A WHOLE LOT LONGER THAN ANY GUY ON THE TEAM. Why not just let her make the calls early for everyone?

Rule 2: Shoot the new guy in the foot before you teleport, dock, or otherwise leave the transport vessel.

Oh boy, do I hate the new guy. There is always that one grinning, devilishly cute rookie who thinks that he's going to save all the hostages or kill all the aliens or something equally macho. Instead, what happens is that when the shit starts to hit the fan, he would be the one in the group with the big "I'm a horribly obvious liability to the rest of the squad," sign suddenly flashing over his head. Save yourself the trouble of that and just blast him in the foot before you begin the mission. He can't kill anyone with his lousy shenanigans if he's left wounded on the floor of the transport you arrived in.

Rule 3: Have someone Cisco certified or Wedge on your team.

In my life, every Cisco certified person I've ever met was some kind of complete genius with networks, computer systems, and overall tech stuff. There will ALWAYS come a point where you will have to access the ship's records. Don't screw it up and give that kind of responsibility to some damn script kiddie. No alien, terrorist militia, or evil hive mind is more terrifying than the final test for Cisco certification. It's all about gumption under pressure, baby.

If you're pressed for time (you know, the space transport pilot is giving you dirty looks from the monitor screen) and can't get a Cisco certified person, take Wedge along instead. Wedge, if don't recall (shame on you, by the way) was the Corellian-born starfighter pilot serving as X-Wing squad commander for Rogue Squadron. Wedge can do anything. Wedge is dark magic raining gloriously down upon all who do evil in the world. Wedge is as proficient as any Cisco technician could ever be. We love you Wedge.

Rule 4: Group hug and calm down the paranoid guy on your team before anything horrible happens.

We all know that at some point everything will go wrong with the mission. A surprise attack, alien babies hatching and falling from the ceiling, automated room defenses springing out of walls and floor fixtures to annihilate your squad, whatever. It will be the paranoid guy who has all this in his head before it actually happens. His constant mumblings of:

"We shouldn't go down this hall, it looks like a trap," or,

"We're gonna die like useless, defenseless maggots," or possibly,

"I'd rather activate my self destruction option on my space suit before any of those damn aliens get me," will cause unneeded tension among the rest of the squad. Group morale will be greatly impaired, a loss of precision cohesion will be obvious, and people will die because of it. So before ANYTHING horrible happens, just take a minute and calm him down. Lay down the pulse rifle or light saber and just, well..

..give him a hug. Tell him that everything will be fine. Smile and give him one of those tough guy shoulder punches on his arm. If you can soothe his high strung senses early, there's a greater chance no one will later fall to the ground screaming with half his face blown off or something.

Rule 5: Give the medic, scientist, or any otherwise non-military squad member a gun. And make sure it's a serious-ass gun with lots of buttons and blinking things on it, too.

I won't even start about how many times team casualties could have been averted if every member was outfitted with serious stopping power. It just hurts my brain to consider the following scene play out: Medic is attending to a wounded teammate while two or three other soldiers provide cover fire in the general direction of trouble. Cut to something bad ass dropping from behind and negotiating the rear flank of the squad with terrifying speed. The medic is the only one to see the oncoming trouble and can do nothing. Why? Because last time I checked, cotton swabs and bandages were rather ineffective when thrown at the sleek, murderous shell of a pissed off enemy life form moving in for a kill. Make it an order that everyone has an effective form of ranged weapon at their side at all times. Bitch slap any pretentious scientist-type who argues his moral stance against weapons. Show him polaroids of what happens to unarmed squad members when shit starts to fly. Nuff said.

These five rules will at least give the squad a better than average chance of not completely screwing shit up. Did I miss any?
  1. Kill the Company's PR guy. He's affable, well-liked, and is just trying to put the best face on Company policy he doesn't 100% agree with.

    He's also easily the most skilled team member with a heavy plasma rifle, a trained killer, a clone of the Director of R&D (or a robot that looks just like her), and totally committed to killing every single team member (except maybe for hosts).

  2. Equipment. Decentralise everything. You don't want your laser beam-powered single point of failure M16A1 autoloader failing at the crucial moment just because the PR guy took time off from fighting to explode the commsat.
  3. Can your weapons actually harm the bad guys? There's nothing worse than getting to an airless world and discovering that your needle guns fire a knockout drug that doesn't work, and that the only weapon you've got that can harm the bastards is a flamethrower, which unfortunately doesn't work too well without an atmosphere.
  4. Can you use your weapons at the drop zone? Your mission is to flush out the bad guys holed up in an oil refinery. Are high explosives or incendiary grenades really your best choice of weapon?
  5. Intelligence. Prof. Wunderkind might be female, frail and not a fighter, but not only have her radical ideas about alien metabolism never occurred to anybody else, they also just might be correct. So please remember to pack the mixed aspirin and talcum powder and a blowdart she recommended -- the worst that can happen is that you go back without having used them.
Well, I'm not sure if this would be something proper to say... but, I'd like to see a couple good ol' boys in the combat group. After all, nothin' says lovin' like a guy who screams "Yeehaw!" whenever a major fight has been successful. As I've watched a few Star Wars movies, I know as a fact that the guys who scream "Waaaaaaaa-" always, and without fail die horribly as they crash into something. The guys who scream "Yeehaw!" always live to scream "Yeehaw!"

Yes, I lived in Texas for a long, long time.

No, I do not scream "Yeehaw!"

Aside from all that, you do have to keep in mind that the average Texan household contains seven guns, and the only person I know who was a junior member of the NRA was from Texas. This kinda puts a little backup into the idea that those good ol' boys would be useful to have around.

More tips on saving the lives of a combat squad:

First, some serious ones, based on time in the Combined Cadet Force.

  • Assign a job to everyone, and make damn sure they know what it is. So, when the shit hits the fan in a big way, Simpson will know his job is to find cover and radio for help, whatever it takes.
  • Do basic combat drills. If you panic when the big gribbly monster pops up, you're dead. If you all instinctively drop to the ground, roll, and move into mutually supportive fireteams, you're sorted.
  • Always take more equipment than you think you need. Take long coils of rope anywhere you go. Take extra ammo. For Pete's sake take a pistol, as your main weapon will always fail when you really need it. Oh yeah, and take torches. Why does nobody take torches?
  • When moving along a dark, seemingly deserted corridor, do it properly. The point man (also known as Scout, Cannon Fodder) should look ahead. The team leader always goes number two in the order of march. Look forwards and to one side. Number three looks to the other side. The last man looks backwards. If you have more men than this, use at least one to check the ceiling.
  • If something needs investigating, send two people together. The rest get into an all-round defence, each covering a set arc of fire. The two scouts (frequently, but necessarily, the scout and the team leader) go to a point near the object of interest. One stops a good 10 meters back, and keeps a bloody gun pointed at it. The other approaches with a lot of caution. If more people can be spared to cover the searcher, good, but do not overdo numbers. There's no sense in taking thirty people to cover an apparently dead body.
  • Which brings me onto my next point: When searching a body, first remove their weapons, or anything that could be used as a weapon (eg fountain pen). Cover is needed for this as well. Then, when the body has been disarmed, one person lies on top of it. They roll it slowly towards them... the person covering looks underneath. If there is anything that looks even vaguely metallic underneath, yell 'Grenade!', and the other searcher will drop the body and roll away.

These are a few more gleaned from watching lots of bad films.

  • In addition to what Codic has said about choosing a leader above, machfive makes a good point: it's worth choosing the leader yourself, as otherwise the crack team of special operatives will either be assigned a battle-hardened veteran CO whom they resent, or a fresh-faced, inexperienced, cowardly CO whom they resent.
  • If you have a pair of lovers on your team, at least one of them is guaranteed to die. It's in the small print. This is not least because they won't keep their minds on the battle.
  • The black guy or the old guy will give his life valiantly, dying only as his ammo gives out. Give him vast amounts of ammo and increase his life expectancy accordingly.
  • The embittered veteran is useful, but only until the final battle, as his resentment will cause him to try to take on (the enemy platoon/alien queen/dragon) single handed. This is a Bad Idea. Capital B, capital I.

I will add more as I think of them. If anyone has any suggestions, /msg me, or add your own w/u, if you have a few.

As another former Cadet, here are mine:

  • Know when to fall back. If you aren't equipped to fight, aliens, arachnids or main battle tanks, the best thing you can do for your unit (not to mention your society or even your species) is to leave the battlefield as expediently as possible and report what you have seen to headquarters. It is their responsibility to re-arm you before sending you to deal with the situation personally, or to call in air support or an artillery time-on-target.
  • Don't take off your boots unless half your unit is ready to start shooting. The enemy always attacks when you take your boots off, it's just one of those things.
  • Assaulting downhill on a frozen Winter day trapping the opposing force between you and a lake sounds like a good idea, but it isn't. Trust me on this.
  • Before setting out, pick 3 locations at random, and make sure all the team leaders know where they are. Give directions as "310 degrees, 5 miles from point A". Don't give out coordinates on the Clansman radio, it's not encrypted.
  • Drink plenty of water and wear a hat. I once participated in an exercise in which 35 out of 42 people in my platoon suffered from dehydration, sunburn or something more serious. If you can't stand, run, think or wear webbing on your shoulders, you're no use to your unit.
  • Protect your machine gunner. The gunner is 70% of the firepower of a 12-person patrol. Don't give the job to a gung-ho Blaine-from-Predator-wannabe. And don't deploy your unit without looking at a contour map and thinking about where the gunner should be first.
More when I think of them...

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