So, you have a character who signed up for the Marsilion Armed Forces. How do you play them, on and off duty?
An enlisted man goes through a four-week Basic Combat Training course, or "boot camp". Boot camp is where all Army personnel are taught the skills to function as soldiers, even those who are normally non-combat personnel. They are taught how to fire rifles and brought up into good physical shape.
In Marsilion Army training, recruits are taught to expect nothing and be ready for anything. Since the nature of Infinitas means that any enemy soldier might be capable of great feats, or that unknown paranormal phenomena may be anywhere, soldiers have to be capable of reacting and thinking carefully under all sorts of conditions.
To this end, boot camp results in them being bombarded with unfamiliar sensory stimulus. They'll be introduced to telepathic attacks and taught how to recognize when one is occurring (though training on mind blocking is weak, due to limited time), be dosed with chemicals and expected to continue working, and occasionally instructors will set a tree on fire during an exercise.
Despite this rigorous regimen of expect-the-unexpected, boot camp is a psychological teaching tool, rather than a death camp. It is psychologically challenging and demanding, but almost everyone makes it through eventually. Any instructor who harms a soldier will be pinkslipped rather quickly. Cases of abuse pop up occasionally but are handled quickly and efficiently with the dismissal of those responsible.
After this, the soldier goes on to "Advanced Individual Training", where they learn the skills involved in the field they have been assigned to or chosen. An Infantryman goes to Infantry School, for example, where he learns the finer points of small unit tactics and how to practice them. Then it's off to an assignment!
The military's personnel structure is composed, generally, of four distinct groups:
- Enlisted, the folks who bring personal skills to the table and follow orders from up the chain. Enlisted generally have to work together, and may only find themselves in the command chair out of dire necessity. Enlisted folks make up the bulk of the army, and though they may not command, their own skills and specialties are still very important. Enlisted ranks are "Private" "Private First Class" and "Specialist", in ascending order.
- Technical officers, who are very skilled in the repair, maintenance or operation of one or more pieces of equipment, and are given rank to reflect this. They generally outrank equivalent NCOs, but only when it comes to their own piece of equipment. A helicopter pilot could tell a sergeant inside his helicopter what to do, and he would have to follow. Outside the helicopter, the reverse is true! "Warrant Officer 1", "Warrant Officer 2" and "Warrant Officer Chief" are all technical ranks, in ascending order.
- Non-commissioned officers or NCOs are experienced enlisted men, or those that have the "Right Stuff" to lead - those who have been immersed in the business of tactics and/or management long enough to know what they're doing, and are given authority to match that knowledge. These are the men in the WW2 movies that are called "sarge" and always seem to know what to do, probably because they've been at this much longer than anyone else. "Corporal", "Sergeant", "Sergeant First Class" and "Master Sergeant" are all NCO ranks, in ascending order.
- Officers are intelligent, educated people who have gone to an "Officer Candidate School" to take formal military lessons in command, control, communications, how to operate specialty units in the field, and how to sip tea the right way. Having a formal education in the art of war makes these people suited to command large groups of men, although any officer with a brain in his head will listen to their far more practically experienced NCO while doing so. Officer ranks are "Second Lieutenant", "First Lieutenant", "Captain", "Major", "Colonel" and "General" are all officer ranks, in ascending order. (The Army has no colonels as of yet, though the rank is on file, and only one general, due to small size.)
These are the four general groups of rank. The Marsilion Armed Forces bases itself loosely off NATO standard command structures, from our Earth, which means the ranking ladder is almost exactly the same. This is done mostly for simplicity reasons.
So, what's all this mean? Ranks have importance in the military's command structure, of course. Officers command NCOs to command enlisted, or such is how it's supposed to go. Who is capable of giving orders is obvious, but less obvious is how this affects the relationships between these different groups. Such is covered by...
Note that the vast majority of this section applies to strictly formal procedures done while on duty. While off duty, almost none of these apply - unless, perhaps, there is a reason to give respect to another serviceman above and beyond what a citizen might offer.
Part of the military doctrine is respect - respect both of those above and those below. In order for the Army to function, this is required - and as such, it's drilled into every recruit and officer candidate from the first day of training. There are many ways to show it, aside from speech and action, but some are customary, traditional rituals that because of their simplicity are common almost everywhere.
Showing respect verbally is most often employed by listening. Listening is the foremost, and most easy, way to show respect to another. When someone you respect - and you should respect everyone in your service - is speaking in anything even remotely formal a session, listening quietly without interruption is expected. Enlisted personnel are taught not to have their eyes wander, and to look attentive, sometimes without even direct instruction being needed.
Another way to show respect is with posture. There are formalized ways of doing so, such as the practice of "attention", which will be covered in a subsection below. Most commonly, though, this is as simple as looking at the person you're showing respect to.
Yelling, save as a disciplinary action from high to low rank, is almost entirely forbidden off the battlefield. An officer who flips his lid at the slightest provocation will be out of a job in short order.
Saluting and "Sirs"Edit
The salute is a gesture of respect that goes all the way back to Roman times on pretty much any Earth you can imagine. Saluting is expected when an officer enters the premises, although the individual officer may have personal opinions on what is appropriate when. Consequently, the title of "sir" is bestowed on officers for having graduated a formal military academy, much along the lines of "Doctor".
Saluting is pretty simple. The lower ranked individual salutes first, and holds the salute until the higher ranked individual returns it, at which point both drop. (Under stressful conditions, this rule is not always followed. Most officers appreciate the effort, even if it's brief. A "quick salute" is often done when urgency is implied by the meeting.) Saluting a superior is never done under combat conditions - it tells the enemy who to shoot. "Sir" is expected on and off the battlefield, though.
All of the above applies to officers. Non-commissioned officers and warrant officers are not called "Sir" but rather by their rank, or their name. Shorthand terms are often used, like "Gunnie", "Sarge" and "Q" (quartermaster). Generally if an NCO prefers to be referred to one way or another, he'll let you know.
Attention and other such posturesEdit
In formal military parlance, if an officer enters the room, the proper response is for the first person that notices him is to call "Attention", at which point everyone ceases what they are doing and stands with their back straight, facing towards the officer. The officer can proceed to address everybody in the room, or call either "at ease" or "as you were". The commands are slightly different - "at ease" implies that people can relax and mutter among themselves, but they should still pay attention. "As you were" implies that they should go back to what they were doing, as the officer has nothing important to say. This is mostly a formality used on-base and during formal events.
So, we've covered the sometimes stiff nature of personal relations in the military. What does this mean if a general and a private meet on the streets of Marsilion? Generally, if a uniform is not being worn, the person in question is a civilian, and should be treated like one. No salute, or "sir", is necessary - yet such may be appreciated by the person in question.
Among enlisted, things are often very casual both on the field and off, due to close relations with peers - your fellow privates are probably your drinking buddies. Higher ranked individuals may prefer to socialize with lower folks, relaxing their sometimes stiff facade while off duty.
Deployments and schedulesEdit
Being a part of the Army generally does not impact your play much, thanks to the Army being located mostly close to home. Usually, soldiers can get weekend passes to mingle among the civilian population, even while posted on assignment. If you decide your character has been deployed to Porton, Arcford, or an outpost somewhere in the hills, it may be best to make reference to the fact that when they reenter play they have been gone a while. For the most part, military life is boredom mixed with a very rare moment of sheer terror, rarer still during peace.
On top of this are "reserved" forces. These forces compose personnel that show up for training on a certain day each week, and carry on an army life in addition to their main, civilian, job. If war breaks out or a threat happens, they may be fully activated and deployed somewhere, just like their fulltime counterparts.
Stories to TellEdit
For the most part, a job in the Army is a background thing. In free form roleplaying, the actual scenes "on the job" are sometimes played out, but for the most part, a job in the army leaves someone with lots of stories to tell and is glad to be home enough to tell them. Roleplay it - come up with trials and tribulations, with difficulties upon the job, and with funny moments that happen when a bunch of young people try to make an organization so large and young work. Check the jobs page, and select an occupation, unit name and rank for your character.
Good luck, and thanks for reading. The author hopes you found this informative and helpful for the finer points of how to play a soldier.