The Marines of Decker's War

The Commonwealth Marine Corps is, to use a quip once uttered by an Admiral with a sense of humour, the bullet fired by the Navy at land, or in this case planet-based foes. It is one of the three services that make up the Commonwealth Forces, known colloquially as the Fleet. The other two are the Navy and the Colonial Army.

The Marine Corps is organised, for the most part, into all-arms Regiments roughly along the same lines as a 21st century brigade-group, reporting to divisional headquarters. Regiments are trained to be able to provide smaller all-arms units tailored to whatever missions Fleet HQ orders, such as battle groups centered around a single infantry battalion or even company groups centered around one or two rifle companies. The Regiments are stationed around the perimeter of the Commonwealth and some of the Outworlds, close to their potential areas of operations. Divisions tend to be administrative headquarters since combat deployments of more than one Regiment are rare.

The Corps also has a number of specialized units that variously report directly to divisional or higher headquarters, such as the independent aviation battalions or the Fleet Pathfinder Squadrons. The latter form the Fleet’s immediate strike force and spend most of their lives aboard patrol frigates. Where Special Forces are considered Tier 1 Special Mission Units, the Fleet Pathfinder Squadrons are considered Tier 2 and often operate well beyond the immediate support of conventional units, be they naval or ground forces. A typical squadron is about the size of a company group, with its own organic direct and indirect fire support resources as well as its own aviation support. Pathfinders are considered to be the elite of all reconnaissance troops in the Commonwealth, and the Fleet Squadrons are the elite of that elite. Each Squadron is affiliated with a ‘home’ Regiment which provides replacements from the ranks of the regimental pathfinder company. Zack Decker spent the better part of his career in a Fleet Pathfinder Squadron and has accumulated more combat experience than he would have in a regimental posting, since the squadrons tend to be used to clean out reiver nests, suppress nascent revolts on colonies and for other direct action operations that need to happen yesterday.

One of the particularities of the Commonwealth Marine Corps, shared by the Colonial Army, is the small number of officers compared to 21st century military units in most Earth nations. The desire to restrict the size of the officer corps has given rise to the concept of the Command-Sergeant, a senior non-com trained as a platoon leader (or troop leader in the Pathfinders). A typical company/battery/squadron will have only three officers: the commander, the deputy commander and one of the platoon/troop leaders, with the latter considered to be ‘in training’ until he or she has acquired enough experience to function at the same level as the Command-Sergeants; the remaining platoons/troops are commanded by experienced non-coms. Command-Sergeants are distinguished by a crossed-swords insignia superimposed on their rank stripes, and will carry an officer’s sword on ceremonial occasions. The origins of this practice is believed to stem from the Second Migration War, where savage fighting often wiped out the officer cadre of front-line units, leaving the senior non-coms to take charge and carry on, sometimes much more effectively. By Decker’s day, no one disputes that a Command-Sergeant makes a much more effective small unit leader than a second lieutenant or lieutenant. Some Command Sergeants are selected for direct commissioning to captain to take command of a company or similar sized unit, rather than continue progressing up the non-com chain to become Sergeants-Major, or take on a specialty as a Warrant Officer.

Thus, Zack Decker was one of the elite Fleet Pathfinder troop leaders before he ran afoul of his temporary squadron commander and let his temper ruin his career.