By the end of 2007 Gordon ‘Gerry’ Mannheim has proven he knows how to control and manage troops in barracks and in the field. He’s proven his combat tactical skills at various levels, and his courage. He’s excelled at the combat strategic theory, and shown he can handle the command administrative aspects. However, he still needs to prove his ability to deal with high level combat strategic and tactical matters in a changing combat situation like happens in real life. Short of going to war this means general command of troops in war games.
Normally the Royal Guards test their future generals by placing them in command of a brigade against another brigade in local war games. However, the King of Shukra has just finished rebuilding his army, and he wishes to give it a real performance test. He’s asked King Herbert to participate in a set of major war games between their two countries to be held in Shukra. The aim is to have the Berant Royal Guards invade Shukra, and see how well the new army can defend the country against the invaders.
King Ahdeed ascended the Shukra throne in 1990, and is a totally different proposition to his father. He’s a lot like his grandfather in he seeks an understanding and unity between the two countries. These war games will help to expand that as well as test the mettle of both forces.
Five sets of war games are planned. Each with a number of different scenarios and force sizes. The only agreed upon force limitations are:
1. All forces to use their existing general issue weaponry.
2. No air capability to be used for combat, troop transport, or intelligence.
3. No sea combat capability to be used except as troop transport.
The aim is to test the land force capabilities, and only the land force capabilities. For each set of war games targets are assigned, and the Berant forces have to capture or destroy the targets while the Shukra forces must intercept and stop them. The defenders aren’t told what the specific targets are, just the general area involved. They must defend all targets in that area, or wait and react to the attackers.
In each case the Royal Guards use limited forces while the Shukra army uses the forces normally available in the region. The various Shukra forces are rotated in and out of the areas for the war games, but the force size in each region stays at its normal assigned level for the duration of the whole set of war games.
In the first four sets the defenders win each one. They manage to stop the attackers from carrying out the majority of their objectives, but at horrendous costs. The umpires judge them as Pyrrhic victories for both sides. The attackers are stopped and forced to withdraw after taking heavy losses while they destroy just under half of their objectives. However, the defenders’ losses are several times that of the attackers. Very costly for both sides - if it was a real life battle.
For Gerry’s test he’s to choose a headquarters company and any two regiments he wishes. He’s to use any delivery service he wants that’s in keeping with the above rules. He’s to plan the campaign and manage it in the field, but not lead any specific attacks on targets. His force must destroy the five selected targets in the area, returning with himself and a minimum of 25% of his attack force. Capture of himself is a loss for his force. The area they’re to attack is the two districts of Shukra just north of the border at the main road crossing. This area includes a brigade of armoured units stationed in three bases, three infantry brigades in three bases, and three specialist border patrol regiments; a total defensive force of twenty-nine thousand nine hundred troops against his two thousand eight hundred and twelve troops. The defenders are over ten times the size of the attackers, but they have to cover a lot of territory.
His targets for destruction include four armoured regiments in two of the bases, one of the border patrol regiments, and two light industrial factory complexes. In each case inflicting more than 75% casualties counts as destruction. The targets are spread right over the designated area, so the defenders will have plenty of opportunities to inflict severe damage to his forces. He has four weeks to prepare and conduct his war campaign. This is the largest of the planned war games with the combat over the biggest area, and involves the most troops. The others were for a single regiment, or less, of attackers in one district or part of a district.
Planning to Win
In umpiring war games there are certain difficulties like supervision of the General conducting the campaign during the planning and execution, to ensure they keep to the rules. The supervisors may not give any advice, but are to point out when the General looks like violating the rules. To be fair in the post combat evaluation the umpires scoring the combat aren’t involved in the supervision during the planning and execution. Due to the scope of this exercise, and it being the largest one to be held, there’s a shortage of suitable officers to act as umpires and supervisors. The war games organisers are surprised when General ‘Granite’ Mannheim comes out of retirement to supervise the planning, and General ‘Demon’ Tandar volunteers to supervise the execution. They all understand Granite wishes to see how his son goes about planning a battle of this sort, but they don’t realise Jessica Tandar had a role to play in developing his combat skills too.
Jessica has had an interest in developing Gerry’s combat skills since he first started discussing tactics and strategy with her at The Landing’s Field restaurant when he was eight years of age. She’s very interested to see how he puts the precepts they’ve spoken about into practice as a general in the field. Funnily, of the three generals involved he’ll be the first of them to actually command more than a regiment in field exercises. Both his father and Jessica were promoted to general in the field just prior to their retirement. Despite that, they do know what’s required of them to do their supervisory duties in this task properly.
Once he’s given his objectives and operational details Gerry gathers his planning team together. Quite a few are surprised about his choice of operational planning staff, but his father isn’t. His cousin, a RIS military analyst makes sense. Even the retired Orca Captain, ‘Braces’ Harding, for naval information. But the two young civilian women and the medical major are a surprise for many of the interested watchers.
Finally, in sheer desperation, the supreme commander of the Royal Guards, General Rochester, takes him aside to ask him. She’s not involved in the assessment in any way, but is very intrigued with his choices. She says, “OK, Gerry, you’ve got me! Please explain your planning staff choices, and why you don’t have anyone to give you technical specifications on any of our equipment. I’m asking out of interest on how your mind works.”
Looking at her with a wide grin he asks, “Is it Guard Prime who asks, or a very frustrated aunt?”
While laughing hard she replies, “Both, give!”
Also laughing he says, “OK, Captain Harding is included because he used to do anti-pirate patrols up that way. He knows the sea and the coast very well. He used to take many holidays in the region to visit relatives who live on that part of the Shukra coast. He’s my coastal area expert.” She nods, because this is understandable and data that isn’t on his Guards file. “Vicky and Isobelle are on-board because I’m updating the intelligence packages on the targets. I’m not allowed to use standard intelligence sources or methods. So I’m using the public ones. Those two are wizards at making the Internet disgorge everything it knows about anything, they’re checking what’s available about the objectives.” She’s very surprised by this, but it makes sense, and is in line with his way of going around a problem. “Angie is my sounding board who looks for basic errors or problems. She’s had basic strategy and tactical command training, but not the advanced training, so she’ll see any obvious stuff my wearied eyes miss.” Again a good choice, and she nods agreement. “As to why no technical experts, I don’t need them. All the boats we’ll be using came out of the Dream Boats yards and are my designs, so I know their capabilities better than anyone else.” Her eyes go wide at this, because she didn’t know he designed them. “The same with the rest of our specialist equipment, it all comes from my factories, and most are my design or one I’ve studied and approved.”
In shock she asks, “Gerry, how rich are you?”
Giggling he replies, “I don’t think I should tell you, as I’m not sure your heart can take it.” Her eyes go wider, “Let’s just leave it at my total tax bill is more than the parliamentary budget, since it’s spread out over all the tribal council areas as well.” Her eyes go very wide while they both have a good laugh. He’s surprised her with that bit of information, because she knew he had some businesses, but not how well they did.
Calming herself she says, “Well, the next time you offer to pay for lunch I won’t object. I think you can afford to buy me lunch after you win this. You’re so much out of my league you must be out of theirs.”
Vicky and Isobelle work non-stop for thirty-six hours gathering everything they can. They put it together in agreed packages, and go for well-earned rests. Harding has done the same for the entire stretch of coast. Gerry sits down and reads it all, giving them to Angie to read as well. For twenty-four hours he thinks about it all while he studies maps of the area. On the afternoon of the third day he starts making notes on pads while he draws lines all over the plastic overlays on the maps of the area. By midnight he’s finished. He hands the lot to Angie and Captain Harding to review, and goes to bed.
The next morning he has five pages of notes from them to go through. After studying the notes he makes a few changes, and writes up reasons for the rest. He starts putting all the information and plans into a very special computer program he had specially developed and installed on his laptop computer. He adds in the details of the units, and assigns them to various tasks as designated in the plan. He assigns plan access levels to each task and unit, finishing about 15:00 hours.
He finds Captain Harding and Angie. They review the amended plans as a group. A few more minor changes are made and entered into the computer. With all in readiness he has the computer create a file of movement orders, and copies it to a USB drive. This is handed to General Rochester for issue to the units concerned. He attaches the laptop computer to a special stand-alone printer capable of doing high quality maps in any size up to A1 size (23.4 x 33.1 inches). After making sure it has an adequate supply of toner and paper on hand he tells the computer to start printing. It prints the combat plans and maps in packages for each unit involved in the operation, five copies of the company package for each company, two for each regiment, and three of the whole operation. Vicky and Isobelle take turns baby-sitting the printer and placing the finished packages into envelopes for handing out. Each set has the unit’s name printed on the top of each page.
Telling the Troops
The planning started on a Sunday morning. Friday morning at 08:00 hours he’s briefing his regimental and company commanders. They move out at dusk. The Orca commanders are getting a separate briefing from Captain Harding.
At a podium set before the assembled commanders Gerry says, “Essentially, most of you will be operating in company strength groups for much of the mission. You each have your own set of operational plans with sufficient copies for the other officers within your unit. For movement through the target area I’ve given you what are the best paths at this moment in time, but feel free to adjust them in response to the circumstances on the ground. It’s important you maintain or exceed your schedules. I’ve allowed plenty of time for trouble, but please try to avoid it. You also have a schedule for routine reports to HQ, please make sure you meet it. Now take time to study your plans, and I’ll then go over the full operation.” There’s much rustling of paper while they all read the packages they’ve been given. Fifteen minutes later he goes through the basic operation plan.
Standing in front of a large scale map of the area he says, “Everyone will go in with maximum ammunition and minimal food. There are three major thrusts plus two diversionary thrusts. The first diversion will be by Force Hammer, Charlie and Delta Companies of the Foresters with Foxtrot Company of the Rocks, Major Imara of the Foresters in command. You’ll penetrate along the Northern Road. They’ll be sure you’re a diversion, so your job is to create so much mayhem over so wide a front you change their minds. Aim to create a high body count and a long list of destroyed equipment while keeping yours low. The second diversionary thrust will be by Force Anvil, Echo and Foxtrot Companies of the Foresters with Charlie Company of the Rocks, Senior Captain Benson of the Foresters in command. You’ll penetrate through the mountain passes between the Northern Road and the coast. Your aims are the same as Hammer, try to do some severe damage to the Border Patrol bases and regiment in your area. You’ve a free hand as to how you handle things. Make good use of the mixed skills. Once they realise you’re Foresters slip some attacks in using the Rocks climbing skills. If things get too hot give me a call, and I’ll see what I can do to lighten the load with the headquarters company. I won’t be too far away at any one time.” The designated officers nod acknowledgement of their orders.
He continues, “Major Jacobs, you’ll lead Force Sugar, Delta and Echo Companies of the Rocks, and you’ll enter by sea. Each company making its own way to targets Banana and Pear while avoiding all contact. Set your explosives and move to the staging area for target Walnut. There you’ll await support.”
He turns to the remaining commanders, “Colonel Fleming, you’ll lead Force Biscuit, Alpha and Bravo Companies of the Foresters. You’ll penetrate through the mountains west of the Northern Road to go down the Long Drop Cliffs with Force Candy. Initially you’ll act as a diversionary force hitting military bases along the western edge of the combat zone. After twenty-four hours you’ll break off and avoid contact while you head for Point Cover near the Northern Road, and wait for new orders. You may be needed to support Hammer or Anvil, and to act as our reserve. If all goes according to plan,” everyone laughs, “you’ll be needed to punch a hole in the enemy defences along the Northern Highway for us all to withdraw along. Colonel Saunders, you’ll lead Force Candy, which is Alpha and Bravo Companies of the Rocks. You’ll shepherd Force Biscuit down the Long Drop Cliffs and enter that way. At the bottom make your own way to target Almond, avoiding all contact on the way, and place your explosives. Then make your way, without contact it’s hoped, to the staging area for Walnut. Take combined control of Candy and Sugar for the assault on target Walnut. With any luck you can sneak in and plant explosives, otherwise you’re to take them out as best you can. Withdraw to Point Broker afterwards, I’ll join you with headquarters company, and we’ll all head out. When we meet up with Force Biscuit and are moving up the Northern Highway in force I’ll give the general recall, and everyone heads home.” Stopping, he takes a drink of water while he looks them over, “The key to success is for Forces Sugar and Candy to deal with targets Banana, Pear, and Almond by planting their explosives and getting out undetected. If things get too hot we can afford to abort on Walnut once those are done. But detection before leaving them can seriously jeopardise the rest of the missions. Any troubles, call into HQ, because we’ve got a lot of flexibility in the plan. Since we don’t know what it’s like on the ground I’ve left you all a lot of extra time and flexibility to respond on your own once the action starts. But, for heaven’s sake, tell me about any changes in the field. Any questions?”
A few have some questions which are soon dealt with. Everyone is happy with the plan, because it’s all feasible and the schedule isn’t tight, it has lots of flexibility in it. When they’re about to break up a major to the side, with no unit insignia on, asks, “Excuse me, General, am I right to assume Delta company has been borrowed to act as your headquarters company?”
A smiling Gerry replies, “Yes, Major Ebber, that’s right. I’ve been given approval to use any of the Royal Guards. Since the headquarters company is my combat reserve I opted for the best I can get.”
He smiles, “Thank you, Sir, we do try hard to please.” The other commanders wonder what unit he’s from, no unit patch, and the name isn’t familiar to them.
Seeing their wonder Gerry says, “Major Ebber commands Delta Company of the Shields, and they’ll be Force Broom.” They all smile, as this is a combat reserve of great use. They’re the only force cross trained in all the Guards’ specialities. The Shields have a much higher level of training and fitness than the rest of the Guards.
Taking up their paperwork the commanders move out, because they have to return to their waiting units and brief their platoon leaders. They have until dusk to do that and get to their departure points. Enough time, but none to spare at this stage. They shouldn’t need any, yet.
Down the hall Captain Harding is telling the commanders of the Black Orcas how they can safely hold their ships against sheer coastal cliffs while their passengers depart up the cliff. Their main concern is the hull of the boats being able to take the buffeting against the cliff face. He has the technical specifications to show them and tells about his experiences in Dream Girl; of what she’s gone through without any damage. Eventually he says, “You’ve got buffers, use them. Look, I happen to know the guy who designed the hull material and the boats. He’s also one of the officers who’ll be going up that cliff. Do any of you think he’d go if he thought it was a problem?” They all agree with him. Taking their package of orders they leave to prepare their boats.