Over the span of my military career--which was USAF--I learned how different some things were between the aviation/non-aviation communities, and even the nuke/non-nuke units. Everyone handled themselves--and viewed challenges or problems--based on their background, how they had "grown up," if you will, in the service. Pilots are completely different than navigators, navs different than Missileers, Missileers different than space geeks, space geeks different than maintainers, etc. Everyone wears the same uniform, but how a person views the world, and how they approach things, can differ quite a bit depending on what career field they're from.
I've also had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in Joint jobs working with guys from the other services (and I still do); US Navy fast attack and boomer submariners ("bubble heads"), Navy surface warfare ("shoes," ship drivers), Army air defenders, armor, and nuke experts, Army and Navy helicopter pilots, Naval fixed-wing aviators, etc. What I've learned is the same kind of career field quirks in the USAF also exist in the other services.
So what's my point? Well, I think that when writing any sort of military-themed story, it's important to recognize that not every person is the same--a ship driver won't react the same as a fighter pilot, a submariner won't react the same as a maintainer, etc. Everyone acts differently based on their specific training and experience within their service community.
What I'm working on right now--and plan to release prior to the publication of Fleet Opposed--is a series of three short stories, each looking at a specific group of warriors--three service communities--within the Republic military structure. The Aviators, The Spacers, and The Infantry.
Each story will give you a quick glimpse into each of the service communities in the world I've built for The Han Wars series. Each story is set in a time frame immediately preceding the opening scene in the first book, Fleet Opposed. You'll get to see a little of what makes each community tick, and maybe even get to know a few characters that will pop up in Fleet Opposed or other books in The Han Wars series.
The Aviators is up first...and here's a little taste:
RSS Bulwark, CVA-23
Operating in the Third Fleet AOR
Alert Ready Room
Strike Fighter Squadron ELEVEN (VFA-11)
The klaxon always sounded at the worst goddam time.
LT Blake “Scratch” Adler was seven hours into a twelve-hour alert watch and had decided to try and get a few minutes shut-eye—against regulations, but twelve hours is a long time to sit in full flight gear with nothing to do but wait, and of course listen to your suit process your bodily waste. He flew out of his chair and grabbed his helmet, promptly stumbled across the deck, tripped on his own feet, and fell flat on his ass.
The klaxon fell silent as the voice of the duty air boss came from the overheads. “Scramble alert, scramble alert, tubes one through six. Seven through twelve assume ready standby.”
He wasn’t sure how long he’d been asleep—it seemed like he’d just closed his eyes for a few seconds—but the blare of the klaxon woke him like an electric shock. That’s what you get for falling asleep, dumbass. He scrambled to his feet and felt the deck shift beneath him. The dampeners canceled out most of the inertia changes, but he could still feel it. Bulwark was maneuvering. Hard.
His squadron, The Red Rippers, was sharing the alert load this week with The Death Rattlers of VFA-323. Twelve birds in the tubes—six per squadron—with hot reactors and full weapons loads ready to launch at a moment’s notice.
Tubes one through six were his squadron. They would launch, while the six pilots from VFA-323 would sit in their birds, spun-up and ready to launch on a moment’s notice.
On this rotation, Blake Adler was Ripper Three.
“Have a nice nap, Scratch?”
Adler gave his squadron mate, LT Thad “Rooster” Cochran, a quick glare then slammed his helmet on, hearing the hiss of the suit’s environmental suite as it came to life. His heart was pounding from being startled awake, and from the out of the blue launch order. The admiral was famous for dropping unexpected combat drills—Vice Admiral Kumar was old school, preaching the constant dangers of operating so near the slip points between Republic and Han space—and even though odds were this was just another exercise, there was always a chance it was for real. God knows she’d drilled it into everyone’s heads enough times for some of it to stick.
The overheads barked to life again. “This is the XO. Set Condition 1 throughout the ship. Man battle stations, I say again, man battle stations.”
“I’m good Rooster, you?” Adler said as soon as his buddy Cochran locked his own helmet into place.
“Always,” Cochran replied.
All five Ripper pilots stood at the ingress portals, helmets locked, and as one pulled themselves up and into the open tubes, boots first. The tubes, angled down toward the launch deck below, were nicknamed trash chutes by all the non-aviator types. Over time, the name stuck with the aviators as well.
The slide to their waiting cockpits was quick, and in a couple of seconds Scratch Adler slid into his powered-up AF-206C Panther, the canopy slamming shut over him as the trash chute retracted into the tube’s ceiling and disappeared behind a sliding hatch.
The launch tubes were designed to handle any of the tactical ships assigned to the air wing, to include the larger A-107E Buccaneer bombers or the bulky C-65 Bison crap haulers, so the much smaller Cougar barely filled the space in the tube. The strike fighter was held to the launch rail by quick-release mag clamps.
As he began his quick sweep of the fighter’s displays, automatic connections clicked into place on his suit—communications, data, visual interfaces, life support—all the little tendrils that made him a part of his machine. Seconds ticked by as he made the final launch preps, moving as quickly as possible but careful not to miss a single step of a procedure he had memorized and then practiced so many times it was basically muscle memory. Life support GREEN, nav beacons and positioning lights ON, weapons SAFE and GREEN, radar STANDBY, reactor within launch limits CHECK, MPE pod ignition temps GREEN and GREEN, line and tank pressure within limits CHECK, data handshakes COMPLETE and VERIFIED, auto launch sequence ON and LOCKED, comm check…
“Flight, Ripper Three, comm check.”
“Five by, Ripper Three.”
Adler touched a pressure switch on the side of his helmet, polarizing his clear visor. Then his flight lead came over the comms.
“Ripper One is up, sound off.”
LCDR Tom “Dutch” Van Laren, Ripper One, was flight lead for this alert cycle. A decent dude, and a good stick to boot.
“Three,” Adler said, glad that he wasn’t last but still pissed that Cochran—Ripper Four—had beaten him to it.
“Roger,” Van Laren replied, then he set the automated launch timer. “Launch in fifteen seconds, mark. Standard departure, combat spread.” Then to the launch controllers he said, “Flight, Ripper is go. Standing by.”
“Roger Ripper,” the launch controller replied. “Contact combat when clear. Good hunting.”
They were making good time. Less than a minute from klaxon to the black wasn’t too shabby, and wouldn’t give the CAG anything to gripe about. Adler made a final sweep of his instruments—his eyes trained to look for certain out of tolerance system indications. His gloved hand hovered above the abort switch until he was satisfied his bird was ready to launch with all necessary systems in the green. The whole tube launch sequence was completely automated—he could stop it with an abort command if need be, but Adler was nothing more than a passenger along for the ride until they’d cleared the ship and reached a pre-set maneuvering distance.
This was the worst time for most pilots, the last few seconds before they were shot out into the black. It gave them all time to think.
It wasn’t very often that Kumar would launch fighters and put the entire ship’s crew through their paces when she felt the need to scratch her drill itch. Sure, she’d done it before—last week as a matter of fact—but doing it again so soon was out of character, even for her. Could this be real and not an exercise? Adler pushed the thought from his mind and focused—exercise or no, it didn’t matter. Every time had to be treated as a real combat situation, no matter how remote it might seem. Another one of VADM Kumar’s preaching points. It had stuck, too.
His Cougar lurched forward slightly as the mag rail pulled the fighter’s launch clamp into place. Before him, the tube was bathed in red light, which flashed to green as the outer armored hatch slid open and revealed the unblinking starfield beyond.
Everything was good to go. When the power hit the mag rail, his Cougar would be flung out of the launch tube and into the void. The MPE pods would fire after a predetermined distance, and he’d be fully in control of his steed. He pushed his helmet back against the padded seat rest and gritted his teeth. He felt the mag clamps release.
Any second now. He grunted, tensed his muscles against the oncoming sudden, but brief, crush of g.
When it came, he yelled like a little kid.
This shit never got old.
Stay tuned for more!