CONFLUENCE COMMANDO, TANSTAAFL MILITIA
The Confluence Commando is a typical example of the Tanstaafl Regional Defense Paramilitary Militia’s elite rapid reaction forces. Named for the town of its origin, it is a hover-mobile infantry force well schooled in patrolling and other low-intensity conflict operations against Kafer remnants in the colony’s hinterland.
Dien Bien Phu Two crouched on high ground north of the Red River valley, with a commanding sweep of the multi-threaded river. South of the river, ‘Shroom forests carpeted low hills. The flat bottomland along the river – sparse clumps of lichenous ankle-break and gravelly sand – was a two-kilometer no mans land with eyes watching from both sides.
Note: Typical task organization by call signs is shown. Actual organization may vary with mission, etc.
Cheetah 1 (Ramrod 18)
1st Patrol Squad (Heavy)
2nd Patrol Squad (Heavy)
3rd Patrol Squad (Light)
4th Patrol Squad (Light)
Cheetah 2 (Ramrod 81)
5th Patrol Squad (Heavy)
6th Patrol Squad (Heavy)
7th Patrol Squad (Light)
8th Patrol Squad (Light)
The Confluence Commando was originally founded in 2270 as the 8th Regional Defense Company, in keeping with the then-current organization pattern of the TRDPM. Under that organization scheme, Regional Defense Companies were rarely of actual company strength and were intended only for emergency call-out for disaster relief or in the event of civil unrest. For the latter mission they were expected to employ personally owned weapons. Enrolled members qualified for a yearly deduction on taxes to compensate them for the need to provide their own weapons, but Militia members were only nominally paid for training assemblies, prompting a large discrepancy between enlistments and regular drill attendance. The 8th RDC was typical in both respects, mustering a strength on paper of between 40-50 personnel, but with only 35 members who attended drills with any regularity and only 29 of whom reported owning any sort of firearm.
The 8th RDC was renamed the 12th (Confluence) Regional Rifle Company in 2276 and then to the 18th (Confluence) Militia Company in 2279. Reorganization led to a structure where the unit was to have one platoon-sized “Category One” unit (equipped with SG-77 assault rifles and some light support weapons) and two additional “Category Two” platoons that would continue to turn out with whatever personally owned weapons they possessed in times of civil unrest or other emergencies.
Prior to the Kafer invasion, the only active service the unit saw was brief service to deal with labor unrest and rioting in the settlement of Steeltown in 2288. Service was limited to assisting the Tanstaafl Rural Police and other law enforcement agencies in maintaining a perimeter around the worst of the rioting, processing those arrested by the police, and some support of firefighting efforts after rioters set fire to the Juarez & Schmidt Industries smelting facility and other buildings.
As with other militia forces, the 18th (Confluence) Militia Company was activated for service in early March 2298, during the “War Scare” following the news of hostile encounters between human and Kafer space forces in the Arcturus system. Initial turnout was somewhat lackluster, with only 64 of the then 90 registered personnel reporting for duty (a dozen more trickled in from remote ranches and logging camps over the next several T-Days). Initial duties were equally lackluster, with some limited training (ammunition was in short supply) and several alerts to respond to disturbances in the capital and other large settlements that never resulted in any actual movement orders. Personnel strength increased following the 1st Battle of Tithonus, with the company mustering 115 armed personnel and an additional 34 unarmed volunteers offering their services as drivers, medics, and logistical personnel by 6 April 2298.
The unit was first ordered into action on 9 April 2298, with orders to evacuate the survivors of Kafer bombardment in Carver, Dudley, and Steeltown. The company (minus one platoon left in Confluence), moved to High Crossing sometime on the 9th or 10th of April (records and accounts from unit members are unclear). The 18th Militia Company was still located at High Crossing at the time the first Kafer assault shuttles were reported landing in the northeastern area of the colony.
Two days later, the unit was officially assigned to Task Force Hernandez (renamed Militia Regimental Combat Team 4 on the 15th of April) rushed north toward positions along what was dubbed, briefly, as the Hernandez Line, a defensive line along the river line running Gridley-Valley Crossing-Carlyle. As events developed, this line was never manned by more than a delaying force of militia units, and was penetrated by Kafer armored forces before 18th Militia Company and most other elements of TF Hernandez were anywhere near their planned defensive positions.
The 18th Militia Company and a number of other units assigned to TF Hernandez were located in Copley when Kafer forces bypassed that settlement sometime on 16 or 17 April 2298 (again, surviving records and reports are inconsistent). The unit was part of the defense of Copley, cut off and subject to an intermittent and apparently uncoordinated siege by several Kafer units in the area for over a month. During the siege, the company suffered approximately 60% casualties killed or wounded, a large number of their losses suffered during a sustained Kafer aerial attack on the 20 May 2298.
When the Tanstaafl military went back on the offensive after the deployment of nuclear weapons, the siege was eventually lifted on 27 May 2298, with the 18th Militia Company having suffered over 70% casualties in the period of 17 April to 27 May. No longer a combat effective unit, even by Tanstaafl’s desperate standards at that time, the company was withdrawn back to Confluence to reconstitute.
As the war transitioned into a counter-insurgency operation, the 18th Militia Company was selected for conversion to one of the Militia’s planned “Mobile Strike Force” units. By the time the company was ready to resume active operations, the Mobile Strike Force term had evolved into the familiar Militia Commando. On 15 March 2299, the 18th Militia Company cased its colors and became the 18th (Confluence) Commando, more commonly just known as the Confluence Commando.
Since that time, the Commando has been heavily involved in operations, primarily in the Southern military region of the country. The unit has occasionally been pulled elsewhere for major operations in the 2301-2 timeframe, but the activity of Kafer forces in the broadtops south and west of Tanstaafl’s settled zone typically keeps the Command on station along the unofficial borders of Southern AOR.
The Confluence Commando, at full strength, is a sixty-nine man organization consisting of three officers and 66 enlisted personnel. In practice, the Commando usually is at something between 80-90% strength for active operations at any given time, excluding personnel detached for training, leave, wounds or illness, and general recruiting shortfalls. Fixed, doctrinal organization of the Commando is deliberately minimal; though for most missions the unit organizes two platoon sized Ramrod teams (mounted on a mix of armored and soft skin vehicles) and a headquarters/logistical echelon. The Commando uses the radio call sign “Cheetah” (a reference to Confluence High School’s various athletic teams), but when tasked with platoon-sized QRT missions, the Commando’s two maneuver units use the customary “Ramrod” call sign (Ramrod 18 and 81, specifically).
Typical of most Tanstaafl Militia Commandos, the Confluence unit is hover mobile, using (circa 2303) a mix of Kangaroo IV hover APCs and lightly armored Reynard III utility hovercraft plus ancillary vehicles. The Kangaroos, a recent acquisition from the Tanstaafl Free Legion, have significantly increased the firepower the Commando can bring to bear and have allowed somewhat more aggressive tactics.
Cheetah 6 is the overall call sign of the Commando’s headquarters and logistical element. It is a roughly platoon sized formation, consisting of a headquarters squad, a logistics squad, and the Commando’s mortar squad.
The commando’s headquarters element is large, consisting of eleven men (three officers and eight enlisted soldiers) mounted on three Reynard III hover utility vehicles. A captain is in overall command, with both a 1st and 2nd lieutenant assigned to the squad as well. Officially the 1st lieutenant is the Commando’s second in command and the 2nd lieutenant is the headquarters squad leader, but in practice both lieutenants lead Ramrod teams. Other ranks assigned to the squad include the Commando’s first sergeant, an Echelon 2 medic (see sidebar below), a corporal and two lance corporal signalers (who double as vehicle drivers), and three privates as gunners.
On paper, the squad breaks down into one vehicle carrying the unit commander and medic, another for the commando’s second in command, and the third for the headquarter’s squad leader and first sergeant (all vehicles also carrying a signaler/driver and gunner). In practice, with both lieutenants attached to Ramrod teams, the squad consists of the unit commander’s vehicle, the first sergeant’s vehicle, and a third Reynard serving as an ambulance and general liaison vehicle as needed.
All personnel in the Headquarters Squad are armed with Hotback Service Rifles (HSRs) and Traylor M-57 pistols, while the three Reynards are armed with DunArmCo Mini-12 HMGs. The commander’s vehicle is also equipped with the commando’s primary R-3 long-range microwave communications set.
Logistics Squad (Cheetah 6-2)
Providing a range of service support assets to the commando, the Logistics Squad operates from two Houston Motors HoverPrime 7.5 ton heavy hovercraft (referred to informally as “Motherships” and officially as “Logistics Support Vehicles” or LSVs). The squad has a total of six personnel, led by a full sergeant with a lance corporal assistant, and is intended to operate as two separate mobile support elements as needed. Each of the two LSVs has a driver/mechanic, an NCO and an Echelon 2 medic assigned, though the medics are usually pushed out to the Ramrod Teams. The trucks carry a variety of supplies, spare parts, fuel, etc., sufficient to sustain limited duration operations without external support. One truck also carries the Commando’s spare R-3 microwave commo set.
Each truck is equipped with a DunArmCo Mini-12 and a Ranger LMG for self-defense. All personnel in the squad are armed with HSRs and Traylor M-57 pistols for personal defense.
Mortar Squad (Cheetah 6-3)
Equipped with two 6cm light mortars, the commando’s mortar squad provides it with light indirect fire support. The squad has one Reynard III (each armed with a Ranger light machinegun for self-defense) and a total of four personnel, led by a corporal with three privates. Spare ammunition for the mortars is usually part of the cargo hauled by the Logistics Squad, but each mortar vehicle carries a basic load of 45 assorted rounds (mostly HE) for their tubes.
All personnel within the mortar squad are armed with Hotback Service Rifles and Traylor M-57 pistols for personal defense. The entire mortar squad, or a mortar team, are sometimes attached to Ramrod teams, depending on mission. In situations where the mortars have to move dismounted or where sustained bombardment is planned, typically an extra rifleman or two will be detailed to help carry ammunition or crew the weapon.
Heavy and Light Patrol Squads
Four of the Commando’s rifle squads are organized into Heavy Patrol Squads mounted on Kangaroo IV hover APCs, while the remaining four are organized into Light Patrol Squads equipped with Reynard III hover utility vehicles.
Organization is basically identical below that level, with a mounted element (a lance corporal as vehicle commander and a private as driver) and a four-man infantry team led by a corporal. Fire team organization is basically standardized, consisting of the team leader, a grenadier, an automatic rifleman, and a rifleman/Echelon 1 medic (in the Confluence Commando only four of the eight designated E1 medics have actually completed Echelon 1 medical training circa June 2303). Grenadiers are armed with AS-89 gauss rifles, while the automatic rifleman has a Ranger light machinegun and the rifleman/medic carries a Hotback Service Rifle. Squad leaders are mostly armed with AS-89 gauss rifles, though the leaders of 2nd and 5th Patrol Squads have Argentinean F-7 laser rifles instead. (Vehicle crewmen carry Hotback Service Rifles). All personnel carry Traylor M-57 pistols as back up weapons.
The Reynard IIIs are armed with DunArmCo Mini-12 HMG to provide tactical and operational mobility, as well as fire support, to dismounted elements. The Commando also has two 10cm Sigurd recoilless rifles and a single Blindicide-3 ATGM launcher available, as needed. Typically the 3rd and 7th Patrol Squads each carry one of the recoilless rifles but the Blindicide is usually not deployed due to the cost of missiles for the launcher and relatively limited Kafer AFV threat.
All members of the Confluence Commando are volunteers, primarily from the town of Confluence and its outlying areas. (Nominally Tanstaafl Militia policy requires members to serve in units near their homes, but in practice this is ignored at the discretion of unit commanders, as long as personnel are able to present themselves for duty in a timely manner when required.)
Tanstaafl Militia policy is that only experienced personnel are allowed to serve in the Commandos. Circa 2303, this requirement is generally interpreted to mean that a potential recruit must have twelve satisfactory months in another Tanstaafl Militia unit (or the Tanstaafl Free Legion, Rural Police, Metropolitan Police, or various settlement police agencies) before transferring into a Commando. There is some flexibility in this requirement, particularly with potential members who can verify military service in Core 2nd Tier militaries, paramilitary police organizations, and the like.
Personnel serving in Militia Commandos are required to contract for a minimum period of service of 100 T-Days (roughly eight months). As of 2303, privates in Commando units are paid the Militia standard wage of Lv25 per local day, plus a Hazardous/Special Duty bonus of Lv5-15 per day based on experience/time of service and specialist training completed. NCOs and officers earn roughly 10% above this rate for each rank above private.
CAPTAIN WILLIAM R. BEAULY
The commander of the Confluence Commando, William R Beauly is a first generation Texan immigrant who arrived in Tanstaafl in 2290 after a twenty-year career as an NCO in the Republic of Texas Army. Though he initially did not involve himself with the Militia, this changed rather abruptly with the Kafer invasion. He was quickly offered a commission in the force, and was further promoted to captain in 2299 and was posted as the first commander of the Confluence Commando. Since that time he has declined further promotion and repeatedly expressed a desire to stay in his present duties.
Beauly may be encountered anywhere the Confluence Commando is operating or in and around the town of Confluence when the unit is not actively tasked to QRT missions (formerly a rancher, he now resides inside the town of Confluence itself, about a block from the Commando’s pre-war drill hall). He is a vigorous, weathered figure in his mid-50s who walks with a slight limp despite the lower Auroran gravity.
FIRST SERGEANT TOMAS “CANO” RODRIGUEZ
Rather unusual for Tanstaafl, Confluence Commando’s 1st Sergeant, Tomas Rodriguez, is a Mexican expatriate, having come to Aurore in 2295 after working mining operations on a half dozen worlds in the French Arm. When the initial Kafer invasion occurred, Rodriguez was in a mining camp very much on the wrong side of the primary alien landing zones. He was among a group of 50 miners who attempted to escape back towards human controlled areas and, some months later, was one of four survivors who stumbled, half-dead, into Equator Flats. He enlisted in the Tanstaafl Free Legion shortly afterwards and served in that organization until 2300, when he joined another Militia Commando as a squad leader. In the last three years he has risen rapidly through the NCO ranks of the Militia, being promoted to First Sergeant rank at the beginning of 2303.
LANCE CORPORAL HERVE McKENDRY
The assistant squad leader of the Logistics Squad, LCpl. McKendry was a mechanic, specializing in the repair of tractors and other farm machinery, before the war. If unproven rumors are true, he also subsidized his income as a small time dealer in illegal narcotics, stolen automotive parts, and other minor criminal activity. In any case, he is the Confluence Commando’s logistical “fixer,” able to finesse the Security Forces logistical system and various other contacts to secure hard to find essentials.
Outside of being encountered with other members of the Confluence Commando, Lance Corporal McKendry can occasionally be found away from the Commando’s AOR (sometimes as far away as Tanstaafl City and Port Blackjack) pursuing some task or deal. He has an unusually good ability to locate obscure pieces of Kafer equipment, which he often trades for essentials the unit cannot obtain through conventional supply channels.
CORPORAL IGNACIO GARCIA
Obese, sloppy, and socially incompetent, Corporal Ignacio Garcia would be an unlikely figure to encounter in a 2nd Tier military organization, and, indeed, is an uncommon figure to encounter in the more professional corners of the Tanstaafl security forces like the Militia Commandos. He is also, however, a communications technician with a rare gift for sustaining effective communications in the electromagnetic soup present on Aurore, this being the sole reason he has reached NCO rank in the Tanstaafl Militia. He has been repeatedly reprimanded by higher headquarters for insubordinate (and usually extremely profane) statements made over radio networks when the Commando has been in contact, which is the primary reason he has not been offered more significant responsibilities in line with his abilities (and commensurate rank).
CORPORAL STEVEN PENDLETON
The squad leader of the 7th Patrol Squad, Steven Pendleton was a young writer of some note on Earth after the publication of his first novel, Doldrums of Gravity, in his native Canada in 2295. For reasons not entirely clear, he abandoned an unfinished second novel and his life on Earth after the first news stories of the Kafer invasion of Aurore reached Earth. He turned up in Tanstaafl some months later and enlisted in the Tanstaafl Free Legion promptly, eventually transferring to the Militia Commandos. Pendleton is an unassuming and nondescript figure off duty; on operations in the field he is solidly professional and apparently unflappable even during the most confused and stressful situations. Captain Beauly and others have attempted to talk Pendleton into attending Officer Candidate School, but he has declined.
Tanstaafl Militia Commando units are full-time units, unlike lower readiness units that normally spend one month out of three (circa 2303) on active duty status.
Typically, Commando units work a schedule where they spend 300 hours at forward operating bases performing QRT missions, and then 300 hours back at their home station (normally half that time is used for continuing training, maintenance, etc., and the other half for leave). Though it is not always possible, the preference is for Commandos to operate in the same region, allowing good collective knowledge of local geography and the local population. It is also preferred that, when possible, the same two Commando units switch off QRT responsibilities. For the Confluence Commando, the usual counterpart unit is the Adam’s Ford Commando from the community of that name (roughly 50km east of Confluence).
In some cases (including the Confluence Commando) local conditions circa 2303 is sufficiently unsettled that the unit has to stagger training and leave times during its down time to maintain augment the garrison for its home community. When the Commando is deployed, local security is provided by a part of the 9th or 10th Militia Companies.
While the usual mission of the Commandos is to provide Ramrod teams, they also occasionally draw various other missions as the military situation demands. A common alternate tasking is augmenting the Tanstaafl Rural Police and motorized infantry companies in the Militia conducting convoy escort missions. Less common are taskings to augment the Tanstaafl Free Legion in major anti-Kafer sweeps, though these happen occasionally.
For normal QRT missions, Militia Commandos usually base out of set staging bases (though Ramrod teams or portions of them may patrol away from their staging bases). Staging bases are identified by various simple alphanumeric designators (Alpha-One, etc.), though they often acquire nicknames that are more widely known among Tanstaafl security forces and the population in general than the actual military designators.
The Confluence Commando normally operates from bases “Whiskey-Two” and “Whiskey- Three,” more commonly known as “Dien Bien Phu Two” and “the Cellar.” Whiskey-Two is located at the ruins of a formerly sprawling farm/lumber camp approximately thirty-five kilometers southeast of Confluence itself. This location allows the Ramrod team to support the remaining scattered small settlements and farms along the Red River and interdict any reported Kafer crossings of the river. The ranch site is not a formal firebase, but is continually occupied by either the Confluence or Adam’s Ford Commandos. The site usually also has a rifle squad or platoon from various Militia infantry units posted as a security element, though a concerted surprise attack by a Kafer raiding party is a constant concern. Whiskey-Three is the Militia firebase outside the town of Mushroom, providing similar coverage to those remaining settlers on the western side of the Sage River (and otherwise operating in more secure and comfortable circumstances).
Confluence Commando normally stages its headquarters element and one Ramrod Team at Whiskey-Two and the other Ramrod Team (plus a Logistics Support Vehicle) at Whiskey-Three. It is customary for the two Ramrod teams to swap out duties at the two staging bases.
The Tanstaafl Security Forces are poorly equipped by the standards of Core military organizations, with only the Tanstaafl Free Legion having anything approximating the light/obsolescent end of modern equipment scales. The Militia is a comparatively poor relation of the TFL (and what modern equipment it has is mostly donated gear from Core nations). The Militia Commandos are better provided for than most units, but they are still far below the standards of 2nd Tier military units.
The Security Forces have struggled since the initial Kafer invasion to procure adequate military weaponry, partly due to lack of funds and partly due to the recurring interruptions of commercial traffic to Aurore due to Kafer military action. Even in 2303 many standard militia infantry units only have enough assault rifles for a third or fewer of their members, with the remainder of personnel armed with privately owned hunting rifles and shotguns (or privately purchased military weapons). Militia Commandos are better off than most militia units, but weapons like modern gauss rifles and laser rifles are recent acquisitions in 2303.
As outlined above, the bulk of the Confluence Commando is equipped with locally manufactured Hotback Service Rifle assault rifles and Ranger light machineguns, augmented by a decent number of AS-89 gauss rifle/grenade launchers (most donated by the Russian government) and a few laser rifles. Light mortars, DunArmCo Mini-12 heavy machineguns, and heavy recoilless rifles provide heavier fire support. This level of firepower is typical of Militia Commandos, though the particulars tend to vary from commando to commando (i.e. many units are equipped with SG-77 or M2 assault rifles rather than HSRs, likewise some units omit mortars but carry automatic grenade launchers instead, etc.). The HSRs tend to be popular with militia members primarily because they are new production (or at least remanufactured), whereas militia-issue SG-77s and M2s are sometimes older, heavily used surplus weapons that leave something to be desired in terms of accuracy and reliability in their current condition.
All personnel in the commando are issued a Traylor M-57 9mm pistol (though some opt to carry their own privately owned pistols). These weapons are part of a lot obtained by the Tanstaafl government on the surplus market, and were previously in service with the Portland, Oregon, Police Department in the US back on Earth. Most still carry “Portland PD” markings on the slides and frames, and are often referred to as “Portlands” by troops. Despite its single column, low capacity magazine, the M-57 is fairly popular with the Security Forces for the simple reason of its legendary reliability, which is valued more in a secondary weapon by many than large magazine capacity. Issue of pistols to all members is common practice in Militia Commandos, though precise make and model of pistols issued again varies.
In addition to handguns, various other privately owned small arms are allowed and relatively common in the commando. Most Patrol Squads will include some form of combat shotgun, submachinegun or scoped civilian hunting rifle (possibly more than one example of each) stowed in their vehicles as well as the weapons officially issued to troops.
Individual Uniform and Equipment
During the initial phases of the war, even basic uniforms were in scarce supply for members of the militia, including the Commandos. Currently (2303) the issue has been partially addressed with a mix of local production and imported uniforms. Members of the Confluence Commando are issued local copies of the Texas M-87 pattern combat uniform, with the camouflage pattern modified to better reflect the environmental colors found on Aurore (primarily the substitution of slate gray for the sage green color seen in the original). The copies of these uniforms are easily recognized by the scuff pads on the Tanstaafl copies; made of locally produced nylon in a pattern matching the rest of the uniform they have a tendency to fade to a uniform khaki-yellow color after repeated washings.
All members of the commando are issued standard (AV 1) helmets and non-rigid armor vests (AV 0.8), providing protection from fragmentation but not from Kafer small arms fire. Some personnel augment or substitute additional, personally purchased armor, for the issue vest. Helmets lack integral communications, audio filters and electro-optical enhancement seen on many current issue 2nd Tier helmets, and personnel often patrol wearing bush hats or ball caps as helmets are felt to impair hearing (and are uncomfortable as well). Vehicle crewmembers are also issued locally manufactured semi-rigid over-vests (AV 1.2 when worn with standard non-rigid vest), but the weight of this item (12 kilograms) makes it prohibitive for infantry troops.
Individual communications gear for commando members is scarce. Currently only squad leaders are provided with short-range personal communication sets, though the line of sight nature of this kit limits its usefulness in any case.
The commando is somewhat better equipped with night vision gear, though still deficient compared to Core forces. Personnel issued the AS-89 gauss rifle have that weapon’s standard day/night battle sight. In addition, each Patrol Squad has two sets of night vision goggles, one set usually reserved for the squad’s driver and the other issued as needed. All DunArmCo Mini-12s and the two recoilless rifles in the commando are equipped with Polish wz. 9082 thermal weapons sights (an economy model intended for the export market) that provide adequate night vision and target acquisition out to about 2000 meters.
Copyright James Boschma, 2010.