In April, 2004 Junior Sergeant Mannheim is assigned the task of training a special reconnaissance platoon. The regimental commander chose the members of the platoon for toughness and independence. Gerry has only himself to blame, because he’d suggested the idea to Guard Command, so he gets to create it. HQ selects the test unit, and he’s to pick the four corporals. It’s no accident he has the seventeen most troublesome privates in the unit, because the regimental commander wants to see if the young Sergeant he’s been saddled with can really handle troops. At that rank he should be able to.
About half of 1st Platoon, A Company, 2nd Claymore, The Foresters, retires as a group, so the rest are redeployed, and 1st Platoon is to be the new recon platoon, once it’s trained. The new Swords take over the barracks, and most aren’t happy with the change of unit, especially after being told they’ll get extra training now.
On parade for the first time none of the privates are impressed by seeing a kid in sergeant’s uniform in front of them. This is Gerry’s first deployment with the 2nd Claymore. There’s much mumbling in the ranks. A voice yells out, “Hey, who’s got the sugar titties?” Many Swords laugh. Recently transferred in Senior Corporal Finley smiles in appreciation of what’s about to happen. The regimental commander, Colonel Stedding, is passing behind the parade when he hears the comment. He stops to watch how the Sergeant handles this.
Walking up to the centre of the parade Sergeant Mannheim looks them over, and says, “All those who think that was a funny remark are to raise their left arm.” No one moves. “The person who thinks he’s a comedian is to come forward to the front of the parade.”
Private Maxwell, all two metres of him, marches out to the centre of the formation. He snaps to attention, and says, “I spoke, Sergeant.”
Going up to the Private Gerry reaches up with his left hand to grab the centre of Maxwell’s shirt near the collar. Not only is Maxwell tall, he’s solid. Gerry raises himself off the ground until his arm is straight and his eyes are on the same level as Maxwell’s. It’s clear he’s very strong and Maxwell is also strong to remain at attention while Gerry is hanging there with his feet half a metre off the ground.
Reaching into his pocket with his right hand Gerry says, “At least you’ve the courage to admit your actions. Open your mouth.” Pulling a sugar tittie out of a box in his pocket he places it in Maxwell’s open mouth, “Since you find my age a problem maybe this sugar tittie will take that sour taste out of your mouth.” Maxwell’s mouth starts to screw up, because the treat is extremely sweet. Gerry lowers himself to the ground. He steps back, and to the side from Maxwell, “My name’s Sergeant Gordon Mannheim. My father was in the Guards, they called him Granite. Mother says I’m tougher than father. I’d think about that, if I were you. I’m here to whip you lot into shape as a Reconnaissance Platoon. That’s going to take some work, but make no mistakes, you’ll measure up, or I’ll see to it you have a nice funeral. I already know how to do what you’re about to learn, so I know you can do it. You just have to learn you can do it.” None of the Swords are smiling or laughing now. A few are gulping as they begin to wonder what they’ve got as a platoon commander. So is Colonel Stedding. His being Granite’s son is a pleasant surprise.
Gerry turns to Maxwell, and says, “Private Maxwell, I think you need a bit of exercise to work off all of that sugar. The perimeter of this parade ground is three kilometres, five circuits should help you burn it off. That’s a nice fifteen kilometre run. Corporal Finley, take over the parade for exercises while I supervise Private Maxwell’s run. Private Maxwell, quick march off the parade ground, then run around it five times.” Private Maxwell and Gerry march off the parade ground.
When the two start to run around the outside of the parade ground Corporal Finley starts the platoon doing exercises. Colonel Stedding continues on his way to the regimental headquarters.
Approaching the last turn before finishing their fourth circuit Gerry and Maxwell come abreast of the regimental headquarters just as the regimental clerk calls to Sergeant Mannheim. Sending Maxwell on Gerry stops to talk to the clerk. He reads some papers, signs one, and hands them back.