Marksmen Sections of the Chainbreaker War Military Formation in The 12 Worlds | World Anvil
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Marksmen Sections of the Chainbreaker War

Straight Shooters


The 'marksmen' of the modern Army draw their roots from the Light Infantry of the old "Armies of the Coalition", in the days of black powder and thick ranks and before the creation of the single, unified Army of the Commonwealth. While these soldiers were still chosen for an exceptional skill in sharpshooting, their deployment as skirmishers at the leading edge of a line of battle distinguishes them from the breed unto their own that were the Marksmen of the UCA.   The term and what it meant would change with the ages, but the trade of sharpshooting would come into its own in the various peacekeeping crises and operations that were the bread and butter of the Army throughout the 60's A.S., a mere twenty years after its formation as a unified service. These conflicts would see a fundamental shift in the way the Army fought and organised itself, and the need for change was brought to the forefront after the disastrous fate of one expedition conducted on Commonwealth soil, in the Battezid Empire.   Among the many changes instituted throughout the era was the formal codification of Marksmen as their own discrete, distinct trade within the overall structure of a battalion of infantry, and their removal from the traditional linear structure of infantry battalions in the field of combat. Instead, the newly created field manuals dictated the creation of specialised sections of Marksmen independent of the 'bulk' of a battalion's bayonet strength, and specifically trained to conduct highly independent, flexible activities in support of their parent battalions.      

The Issue At Hand

The catalyst for these reforms was the Fremont Report, the product of a deep-cutting inquiry conducted in the wake of the fiasco that was the Siege of Pazotin. In the analysis of that battle and the broader peacekeeping campaign leading to it, one key deficiency diagnosed in the eyes of the board of inquiry was the shoddy state of the Army's intelligence, reconnaissance, and observation functions at the battalion level and below. Groups of irregulars numbering over a hundred each and making use of their knowledge of the complex local terrain had caught entire outposts off-guard, enabling the groups to overpower the outnumbered and surprised defenders without a hope for reinforcement. The lack of timely, useful intelligence had made itself acutely known well before the siege. Over the course of the UC's peacekeeping duties both within Battezid and on foreign shores, the conventional doctrines surrounding scouts and cavalry had proven entirely ineffective at rooting out criminals, separatists, and other irregular forces, however useful they may have once been at keeping track of an enemy army in the field.   A number of factors went into explaining these failures. One criticism levied against those existing scouting forces was their total lack of discretion. Enemy settlements and concentrations usually had hours of advance notice of Commonwealth advanced guards and scouts before they flooded into an area, as the troops of cavalry or columns of marching patrols did little to conceal their movements and their sheer size made them easy to keep tabs on. Furthermore, as much as the Army could claim and tell itself that it had control over wide areas of territory, few troops were allowed to stray beyond the walls of their scattered forts and outposts, making constant surveillance, especially at night, more myth than fact anywhere out of sight of a base’s watch towers. Lastly, the patrol routes and paths taken by UC patrols or convoys were well known to any who bothered to keep track, and shortly after the necessary materials had been provided by Fuhrati smugglers many would be well mined or otherwise prepared for ambushes.      

In The Field

One recommendation made to remedy this deplorable state of affairs was inspired by the comparatively successful experiences of another battalion. The 1st Stretport Guards Rifles was one of the earliest battalions to arrive in Battezid, and had spent an unusually extended period of time on deployment to the region. Fortunate itself to never have encountered as daunting a crisis as that which had faced the 2nd Tomikawa at Pazotin, it had still suffered the same creeping attrition and infuriating lack of success which marred the experiences of nearly every battalion in the southeastern provinces. However, its soldiers and commanders were apparently a more creative cohort than their peers, and operating with the usual sort of independence afforded to experienced battalions had crafted a solution to their issue.   At the behest of its commander, Lieutenant Colonel - and future divisional commander in the Chainbreaker War - Malcolm Wyett, every platoon in the battalion’s ranks was to submit its six best shooters to his headquarters for a special assessment. There, they underwent a specialised training course in the field of observation and an early version of camouflage supposedly inspired by Wyett’s favourite pastime of  hunting, and issued field binoculars and primitive optical scopes for their rifles. After this abbreviated course, each group would be sent back to their platoons, with a handful of the top performers kept at battalion headquarters under the direct supervision of Colonel Wyett.   Once returned, these soldiers were not reintroduced into the ‘Lines’, which made up the bayonet strength of the platoon. Instead, they remained an independent ‘Section’ under the direct control of the Platoon Commander, though they were just as often assigned to the Company’s headquarters where needed. These Sections were given considerable independence, and the Sergeants who commanded them were encouraged to spend as much time as possible beyond their camps. They would spend days, even weeks on end in the field, positioning themselves on terrain features that granted them good views across their platoon’s or company’s sectors, and simply keep tabs on the comings and goings of everyone in sight. While their skilled shooting was a point they were selected for, those on such missions were specifically instructed to hold fire, simply noting down contact reports and submitting them to their commanders at the end of the day.      

Sniper's Silver Bullet

By these methods the battalion had steadily chipped away at illicit activities within its area of operations, and more than halved its casualty rate on routine patrols. Now with a tool that allowed his troops to go into the field in a state other than blindness, Wyett resolved to take more aggressive action. Civilian authorities, whose work had been much eased by the diminished violence, had been a key source of intelligence for the Colonel before, and now informed him of a massing of separatist forces within his jurisdiction in preparation for an uprising at a scale to replicate the disaster at Pazotin. The call was put out to 11th Regiment HQ, 1st Stretport’s superior formation, for reinforcements, but Wyett had no intention of sitting still and waiting for what was to come.   Bringing together thirty of the most successful marksmen from across the battalion under his headquarters, the assembled force devoted itself to close observation of the gathering threat. Over the course of many days, the battalion’s intelligence picture grew, supplied through multiple avenues but with Wyett’s marksmen among the most prominent. When the time came to drop the hammer, these sharpshooters would put their skills to good use in putting down those they had identified as being particularly important leaders in the separatist camp. Instead of facing down a unified, well organised force with the element of surprise, the uprising would be nipped in the bud, reduced to a disorganised force scattered before the assembled battalion in a full strength raid against its camps and gathering places. When the dust settled and the last few bands were rounded up, Wyett’s soldiers had good reason to feel accomplished.   As successful as the 1st Stretport’s example proved to be, there had been countless times when lessons were learned, put to use, and just as soon forgotten with passing leadership and rotated units. This time, though, the need for change was too obvious and too dire in the eyes of a suddenly incensed top brass to ignore, and in what could very well have been a hasty decision the good work of the 1st Stretport would become the template for a revitalised peacekeeping force. The freshly appointed commander of the Battezid Military District, Lieutenant General Mazhar Ayberk, would play a key role in promoting these reforms across his command, with his staff and himself doing much to overcome the material deficits and institutional inertia that had long stymied the process of military change.      

The Trade

What made a marksman was a great deal more than their shooting skills. Above all, operating without the direct supervision of officers or with clear lines back to friendly forces, a high degree of autonomy and self sufficiency was demanded of those who wished to become marksmen. Small ‘sections’ developed closely knitted teams, and for the sake of success under constantly shifting circumstances required them. As the eyes and ears of their parent battalions or other formations, patience and good judgement generally overcame aggressiveness, for marksmen had to remember that their job was to enable the activities of the unit as a whole, not just their own.   To do their work marksmen were variously equipped, just as much determined by what was at hand as by what fit best. The recently standard issue "Pinpricker" Model 48 bolt action - forefather of the Model 62 that the UC Army would one day enter the Chainbreaker War with - did the sharpshooter's job well enough, and each in a team of two carried their own rifle. More important than the gun itself, however, were the scope mounted to it, and the field binoculares issued. These were what allowed the watchful observers to surveil their domain, and a lucky few units received a highly experimental lumi-crystal lense attachement that granted limited low-light vision with a clear enough night or soon enough after sun down.   Finally, as highly independent troops marksmen had to look after themselves, unable to rely on the static and reliable supply chains that kept their Line comrades sustained. When going into the field, the recommendation in Wyett's battalion was for each sharpshooter to carry enough food for a three day stint, field camping equipment for both of them, maps and other navigation gear, and a spare set of boots. These soldiers would be doing a great deal of walking, in between long sessions of sitting very still and pretending not to be there.      

Finishing School: Castle Almakand

The lesson carefully learned by the early marksmen of the 1st Stretport, and the first handful of battalions instructed to emulate their work, had been immensely valuable in their own right. Keen to capitalise on a successful venture, General Ayberk was given the latitude to create a common course and programme for the training of marksmen. The old imperial fort at Castle Almakand was selected to host the trainers, made up of the first grade of sharpshooters across Ayberk’s command, specifically to train cadres of marksmen from recently arrived battalions and to provide the insight into how things really were at the green troops new home. In a time when the professionalised, standardised systems of training and doctrinal development were in their infancy for a young Army, this particular policy would do much to make sure ‘new’ soldiers would learn the same lessons and gain the same insight of their veteran comrades without having to pay the same price in blood.

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