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Sometimes veterans never really leave the battlefield

Posted on Monday May 13, 2019 @ 2:15pm by Sergeant Major Patrick Harper
Edited on on Wednesday May 15, 2019 @ 7:09am

Mission: LINK
Location: Training Range Bravo
Timeline: MD02 - 0700

Being the Command Sergeant Major of a Marine Expeditionary Unit was akin to being the mother of a very large family. As the principle enlisted advisor of the MEU, his job was to advise the CO – Colonel Sharpe in this case – on matters pertaining to administrative, technical and tactical requirements of the organisation. Within this came the health, training, and wellbeing of the enlisted personnel under his charge. The Command Sergeant Major, or CSM, worked as part of the MEU Command Triad, with the Commanding and Executive Officers, providing a crucial level of support.

Each of the companies under the MEU had its own First Sergeant, who would handle things at the organic company level, so most issues didn’t bounce up to the Sergeant Major. Each First Sergeant would report to the Command Sergeant Major any significant issues that required further attention, otherwise would summarise events in a weekly report. Then there would be the platoon Gunnery Sergeants or ‘Gunnys’ of the support units, who’d also report to Harper any significant or weekly issues. Although the unit commanders are nominally responsible for their people – enlisted affairs are generally governed by the enlisted personnel, freeing up their commissioned overlords to handle more important affairs.

Handling personnel wellbeing was a critical part of Patrick Harper’s job, from the lowest fire team member to his senior staff NCO’s. Everyone had issues of some sort, from personal problems to family issues, to medical concerns. When these issues spiralled to impact on operational effectiveness and unit cohesion that was when the 1SGTs would act. If the issue required it, it would be escalated to the CSM.

One such issue would be called to him today;

[[Sanders to Harper]]

Patrick, sitting in his new office that was once Major Spencer’s, stopped looking at the training review he’d been reading and tapped his comm badge, to answer one of the First Sergeant’s hails. “Go ahead.”

[[Could you please come to training range bravo? We have a situation.]]

“What kind of situation?” Harper asked.

[[Best if you see for yourself, Sergeant Major]]

Patrick frowned. It must be important for Sanders to summon him like this, even more-so for him to address him formally like that. Sergeants were never called ‘sir’, a term used for officers only, but were instead addressed by their rank. In the Marines, unlike the naval service, it was exceptionally rigid, and the full rank title was used by all underlings when addressing a Sergeant. To refer to a Staff Sergeant simply as a ‘Sergeant’ was offensive, and could earn you the ire of that Staff Sergeant. But when you got to the high levels, it tended to be a bit more relaxed when talking to one another, and Harper held a fairly informal court with his subordinate sergeants, allowing them to call him Patrick rather than address him as Sergeant Major all the time. It didn’t hurt the discipline at that level, and added to a team feeling.

“I’m on my way.” He said, and moved from around his desk and walked out of his office towards the training range. There were six ranges and ten holodecks, the ranges being permanently constructed training facilities – usually for things like weapons training and Physical Training (PT). Issues here tended to be handled locally, so what could be so important as to summon him?

Well, he got his explanation when he arrived at the range, and a troop of four MP’s were standing by the doorway, and everyone else was standing outside the range. As soon as he approached the doorway, one of the MPs moved to bar his entry, until he recognised the Sergeant Major, and stood aside. This roused his concern as he entered the large room, and found First Sergeant Sanders standing to one side, with some medics treating a rather nasty phaser burn on his arm.

“Report First Sergeant.” Harper instructed, going immediately into work mode.

“Sergeant Major.” He said, trying to come away from the medics, but Harper held a hand up to stop him.

“I just need the report, keep being treated.” Harper said.

“Aye.” He said, relaxing back to allow the medic to continue the treatment. “Its Staff Sergeant Wells. He’s been struggling with some PTS issues for a while now, but nothing this severe before. He was leading his section in a series of pre-planned manoeuvres, you know, fire and advance stuff, when he suddenly stopped, became wide-eyed, and started firing at everyone. He got three of his own people before one of the Squad Leaders got them out of there. I went over to try to calm him down, and he shot me point blank, hence the burn.”

Harper had read Sanders report on Wells’ psychological review, and he’d been cleared for duty as only having mild PTS, but required constant evaluation. He’d been doing really well in his reviews, and had only recently been cleared for a field position – previously limited to administration work until a week ago.

Wells had been part of a team of marines who’d been on a peacekeeping mission on a planet experiencing a civil war. As it was a Federation Protectorate, Starfleet were called in to maintain the peace. Part of that effort was a peacekeeping force on the ground. Wells’ team had been ambushed and had been pinned down for three days, as reinforcements tried to get to them. His team had been slowly picked off, one by one, as the rebel faction came at them time and time again. In the end, of the fifteen men who’d been in the ambush, only eight had come out alive. Wells’ had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress as a result, as he kept having nightmares and flashbacks, but he’d been doing well in the last ten months, recovering gradually – until this week.

“You’re thinking he’s having a hallucination?” Harper asked, concerned.

“I believe so.” Sanders replied. “He keeps calling out for the men who were in the ambush with him.”

Harper nodded. Something similar had affected Colonel Sharpe before, when he’d had a massive psychosomatic episode. The first time had led to him going on leave for rehab, and the second time had led to him being hospitalised. But he’d recovered, the important thing was to remember that Wells was in crisis, and he needed help.

The first thing that needed to be done was to subdue Wells from his current situation. That was easier said than done, as shooting at him was not a viable option. It could likely exacerbate the situation, especially if it didn’t work. Clearly Sanders had tried to talk him down, but that hadn’t gone very well, and there was no point him trying to do the same thing. However, there was some hope in all this. He was still a marine, and no matter what, a marine was a marine.

Striding towards the pseudo-woodland area that Wells had holed himself up in, he stopped just short of the range and looked inside, seeing that there were stunned marines on the ground. No one had been able to go get them for risk of being shot at. They’d need medical attention, but hopefully, none was life-threatening.

“Sergeant Wells!” Harper bellowed, in his best parade ground voice. “You are relieved!”

A phaser blast shot just short of his feet, but he didn’t flinch. Inside, he was very concerned, but he had to portray a degree of confidence.

“Sergeant Wells!” Harper snapped again. “I will not repeat myself! You are relieved! Front and Centre Marine!”

Instead of the expected phaser blast, a head peered out from behind a quite defensible position inside the simulated wood.

Harper took this as a good sign. “We’ve beaten them back Sergeant! Reinforcements are here! I need you front and centre to report, marine!”

Moving gingerly forward, Wells appeared to be reassured, as he moved with a bit more purpose, until he was stood before the Sergeant Major. At this point, he drew himself up to his full height, despite his eyes being wide and wild, he was able to handle himself. “Sergeant Wells reporting in. I regret to report seven casualties, however, they did not take the village. We held fast.”

“Good work Sergeant.” Harper replied. “Turn over your rifle son. You’ve done your duty.”

Wells brought his rifle up to his shoulder, then brought it forward into a present arms position, turned it 90 degrees so that it was sideways, and handed it to Harper in proper parade movement. The moment Harper had the rifle, the medics advanced, and applied a tranquiliser to Wells’ neck, catching him as he was rendered unconscious. Other medics swarmed to the downed marines, whilst Wells was taken away on a stretcher.

Sanders, his arm in a sling, walked over to Harper. “How did you know that’d work, Pat?”

“If I’m honest Nick, I didn’t.” Harper replied, relaxing and handing the rifle over to a nearby MP. “Sometimes veterans never really leave the battlefield.” He sighed, watching as Wells was carried away. “He needs help, Nick. But most importantly, he needs support. We’re all veterans of various things – he’s been through hell, and it seems he’s trapped in his.”

Sanders nodded. “He’ll be unlikely to get another front line command again, even when the dust settles.”

Patrick knew he was right. Even if he recovered, the shame of having fired on his own marines would cripple him even further than he already was. No matter the outcome, Harry Wells was done in the marines. Whether he was medically discharged or not, he’d never command marines again.

“I’ll catch up with Commander Steiger later, see what she can do for him.” Harper said, then turned to look at Sanders. “And you, go to sickbay and get your arm seen to. Your report can wait until you’ve been sorted out.”

“Alright Alright.” Sanders said, holding one arm up in surrender, then wandered off towards the exit, leaving Harper alone with his thoughts. That had been a very dangerous situation that had been resolved quietly and without bloodshed. But it only highlighted the very real issue of his people’s mental health. He’d have to talk to Richard about it, and perhaps find some way for the marines to gain regular access to counselling. He was seeing Steiger later, maybe he’d brooch the topic with her.


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