Meeting the Team

It had been a long day. After the shooting, most of the day had been spent doing paperwork. Evans, Zwev, and Cain were all sitting on their beds, waiting for their Corporals to come in to introduce them to their rifle teams. Cain and Zwev were talking while Evans was writing a letter, dodging Zwev’s legs as she kicked back and forth.

Cain gestured at Evans, “Who are you writing to?”

Zwev swung herself around and poked her head down at him, “Yeah, who are you writing to Evans?”

Dropping the pencil, Evans replied, “My friend Jack from back home. He’s deployed up at Dry Forest.”

Zwev laughed a little, “Writing about our exciting day writing our names and serial numbers on form after form. I feel like I will remember Two Nine One Five One Five Six for the rest of my life.”

“I’m writing about all the exciting new people I’ve met, like that… very interesting Lance Corporal.”

Turning back around, Zwev slid off the bed and dropped down next to Evans, “Did you write anything about me?”

Evans folded the paper and pulled it away from Zwev, “That’s for me, Jack, and the censors to know.”

Zwev laughed and got up. She walked to the far corner of the room and started stretching her arms. Evans leaned back, “So you were pretty handy with the rifle.”

“Practice. My dziadziu took me hunting a lot when I was a little girl.”

A Corporal entered the room and tapped on the wall to get everyones attention, “Hi friends, I’m Corporal Hardin. I need Cain, Evans, and Head… I’m guessing Head or Evans isn’t here yet.”

Evans nodded, “Yeah Private Head isn’t, he’s with the other Lance Corporal. Chilcott I think. I’m Evans.”

Cain stood up, “I’m Private Cain.”

“I’m Private Zakrzewska!” Zwev turned around, “You probably didn’t need to know that, but I felt left out of the introductions.”

An excited look appeared on Corporal Hardin’s face. He smiled and pointed at Zwev, “Kurwa masz!”

The smile on Zwev’s face turned to a look of disgust. She took a step forward and slapped him in the face.

Corporal Hardin’s smile turned to a look of horror, “Oh shit, that didn’t mean ‘You’re pretty’ in Silesian did it?”

“No, it meant ‘You whore’ which is a very rude thing to say to someone you just met.”

“Sorry, Twardowski told me it meant ‘You’re pretty,’ and since you are Silesian I thought…” Corporal Hardin shook his head, “Just come with me Cain and Evans. And I’m really sorry Miss Zakrzewska.” Corporal Hardin turned around and started to leave the room. Evans put his letter and pencil into his bag and left with Cain.

“I’m taking you two to Sergeant Campbell’s office, it’s cramped, but it is where we have Team meetings, and it is right here,” Corporal Hardin knocked on the door and opened it, “Hey guys, this is Privates Evans and Cain, two of the new kids, Chilly still has Head apparently.”

Evans and Cain walked in the room. Four soldiers were seated around the room, the Sergeant sitting at the desk with his feet up, “I’m Sergeant Campbell. Team leader.”

A Lance Corporal stood up and extended his hand to Cain, “I’m Lance Corporal Morgan, I’ll be your fireteam leader.” Cain shook his hand and nodded.

The Private next to Morgan stood up and waved at Cain, “I’m Dan Newey, the other Private on the fireteam.”

The last Lance Corporal stood up, she shook Evans’ hand, “I’m Lance Corporal Stanhope. I’ll be the fireteam lead for you and Head when he gets here.”

After a few silent moments, there was a knock on the side of the open door, “Hi! I’m Eddy Head, is this Rifle Team 1?”

Sergeant Campbell nodded, and everyone introduced themselves again. Campbell then leaned back to reach at one of his desk drawers and pulled out three paper backed field manuals, “This has all the information you should know if you expect to be promoted to Lance Corporal. It’s also useful information for general living and fighting in the trenches. Corporal Hardin will go over the rest of the information you three need, and Morgan, Stanhope, and Newey, you three can leave, I don’t need you anymore.”

The three nodded and filed out. Hardin took a seat on Sergeant Campbell’s desk and passed the field manuals to Evans, Cain, and Head, “OK, I have three main things to go over with you. One, the chain of command. Two, mail. And Three, what the fuck you’ll actually be doing day to day.

“Chain of command for our unit is easy. First your Lance Corporal. Then Me. Then Sergeant Campbell here. Then Lieutenant Simmons. A note about the LT, you should usually just talk to Green. She’s his runner. She’ll set up an appointment with the LT. You usually shouldn’t interact with anyone above the LT, but you never know, so next you have Captain Jackson. Battalion XO is Major Parker. Battalion CO is Lieutenant Colonel Wood. Regimental is Colonel Darling. Division is General Richardson… That’s about that…

“Next mail, you can drop it off in the box outside the Lieutenant’s office. For each duty station we will have a specified mail area. Mail will usually be collected daily, except for on the front, where it will be collected as often as the Vledscans permit. If it’s quiet, every two days two lucky soldiers will get to run the mail back to the Company collection point, then the Battalion collection, and finally to the Regimental point behind the lines. Censoring will be done by the Lieutenant. He does not censor all letters, but is able to read any letter you are sending, so don’t insult the LT, and don’t seal your envelopes.

“Finally, the most important part. Duties. Yay. Behind the lines is mostly training and watch. Occasionally we’ll play some sport for exercise. In the trenches is the more exciting bit. Wake up is about 5:00 in the morning. We get ready for the stand to, clean weapons, and other shit. Then stand to starting about 30 minutes before dawn, ending about an hour later. We will also have a stand to an hour before dusk and lasting half an hour afterward. Daily duties are generally either shoring up the defenses or standing watch. Watch is two soldiers below the rank of corporal for three hours. On days when an attack is expected, watch will behave differently based on Regimental decision.

“And shoring up defenses mostly consists of fixing bits destroyed by artillery barrages. The really painful part is ‘Nighttime Fun’. Nighttime Fun is the general term for the shit done in No-Man’s Land at night. Occasionally, word may get passed down that a wiring, scouting, or raiding party is needed. These can last a variable amount of time, and you still have to attend stand to in the morning. So try and avoid being assigned to one if you can. For example, I used to volunteer for night-time watch, which exempts you from going on Nighttime Fun,” Corporal Hardin looked at Sergeant Campbell, “That’s it right?”

Sergeant Campbell nodded, “You can go back to your barracks room now. Wake up call is 6:45. Meet in here at 7:15, Corporal Hardin will then give you the plan of the day. Dismissed.”

Evans, Head, and Cain turned around and left the room, field manual’s in hand. Head turned to Evans, “We’re in the same fireteam Jim! Exciting isn’t it?”

Evans walked down the hall to the barracks room, trying to out pace Head, “Yeah, really exciting Head.” Evans opened the door, revealing two of the privates he had met earlier in the day who had gone with Lance Corporal Chilcott. He ignored them and sat down on his bed, trying to tune Head’s talking out. He took off his jacket and helmet and hung them on the bedpost. Sitting back down again and started rooting through his kit bag for his letter and pencil.

Zwev entered the room, Evans waved, and she got a funny look on her face. She quickly scaled the bedside and hid from Evans. Evans shrugged and opened up the letter. He immediately noticed that the section about Zwev had been crossed out and replaced with, “I met the pwettiest girl in all the world named Anna Zakrzewska. She is so pwetty and wonderful.”

His laughter got Zwev’s attention, who poked her head down to explain herself, “I couldn’t let my description be, ‘Next, Zwev, a nice Silesian girl.”

Evans sighed, “Just don’t mess up any of my other letters.”

“Does that mean you are going to keep it in?” Zwev slid down next from her bed next to Evans, “Does that mean you think it’s true? You’re so sweet Evans.” She patted him on the head, stood up, and put her jacket and helmet on the other bedpost, “Night!” Zwev climbed back up to her bed.

Shrugging, Evans went back to his letter. He added a note telling Jack to ignore Zwev’s addition. Evans heard a tapping on the wall near the door. He looked over to see Head, who was yelling over everyone, “Hey guys! Why don’t we introduce ourselves? I’m Eddy Head!”

Evans shrugged, “I’m Evans.”

A voice called down from above, “Anna Zakrzewska, you can call me Zwev!”

A lanky man cleaning his rifle in the corner replied, “Geary.”

“Rachel Hunt,” the blond woman sitting on the bed above Cain replied.

“And I’m Hannah Cain, now I’m tired, so can you shut the fuck up,” Cain pulled her sheets over her and tried to fall asleep.

Evans shrugged and finished up his letter. He finished just before Geary blew the lantern lighting the room out.

Arrival

The train pulled to a stop. The Major at the front looked at his chart, “2nd BATTALION, 202ND INFANTRY!”

Private Evans grabbed his kit bag and slung it over his left shoulder. On his right shoulder he slung his rifle. Edging past a few soldiers standing in the aisle, he exited the train. Leaping out onto the sandy ground, he looked around the camp. In front of him was a large carved Eagle. A Corporal sat underneath it reading a magazine. Evans approached the Corporal, “Excuse me, Corporal, I’m new here, I’ve been assigned to F Company. Where can I find it?”

The Corporal raised his eyebrow and pointed up, “This Eagle.” He pointed to the right, towards a green flag, with a red fox on it, “That Fox.”

“Thank you Corporal,” Private Evans jogged towards the green flag, where he saw two dozen other Privates with their kit bags. He approached them and waved.

The closest stepped forward, shifted his weight, and offered his hand, “Hi! I’m Eddy Head! You just got in off the train too?

“I’m Jim Evans, This is F Company?”

Private Head nodded, “Yep!”

Head looked like he was going to continue before he was interrupted by an olive skinned Lance Corporal, “Oi, belinoìn! Shut up.” The Lance Corporal pulled out a list from his breast pocket, “Privates Cain, Evans, Geary, Head, Hunt, and… Zak… Something? I can’t pronounce that mèrda. You six need to come with me.”

Evans readjusted his weight and followed the Lance Corporal, along with the five other privates. He looked to the private next to him, “Hi, I’m Jim Evans, you?”

“Anna Zakrzewska. Most people call me Zwev on account of the name,” She smiled at him and looked back ahead of her. The Lance Corporal was weaving between tents and various soldiers working outside.

A larger tent came into view, A small cloth sign read, ‘Second Platoon Headquarters’. The Lance Corporal walked in and saluted, “Lieutenant Simmons, these are the new bagarìlli.”

The Lieutenant, a stocky man, returned the salute, “Thank you Tiscornia. Take Cain, Evans, and Geary for training. I’ll have Chilcott train the rest.”

Lance Corporal Tiscornia raised an eyebrow, “Wouldn’t it make more sense if I trained Zak? I’m guessing she’s going to be in my fire team and I might as well get to know her now.”

Lieutenant Simmons nodded, “Leave Geary then. And grab Chilcott from the main building.”

Tiscornia nodded, “Cain, Evans, and whatever your name is with me.” Tiscornia walked out of the tent. Evans, Zwev, and a female Private who Evans assumed to be Private Cain followed.

The first stop was a building, that had a bustle of activity. Tiscornia pointed to a room with several bunked beds, “Pick a bed, take your hat and ribbons off, put your kit away, grab your helmet and rifle, and meet me out in 5 minutes.”

Evans nodded and went for the closest bed. He dropped off his kit on the bed and unslung his rifle. Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he turned to see Zwev, smiling a bit funny, “Hey, Evans, could you…” She gestured to her kit bag and pointed upwards, to the bed above his. Evans smirked and helped lift her kit bag onto the bed. She smiled at him then hoisted herself onto the bed.

Evans pulled the single ribbon off his jacket and dropped it onto the bed, along with his hat, he rooted through his bag and pulled out his helmet. Putting it on his head, he adjusted it and turned to the other Private, who was putting her things on the bed opposite to his, “Hi, I’m Evans, are you Cain?”

The Private smiled and dropped her hat on the bed, “I’m Hannah Cain.”

“I’m Zwev!” Zwev yelled down from her bed. She swung her legs around and sat up, with the helmet sitting cockeyed on her head, “You from the Medway area? My Uncle Stanislaw went there when he moved to Ethslin. I can tell from the accent.”

Working through her bag for her helmet, Cain replied, “Yes, and how long have you lived in Ethslin, you don’t have much of an accent?”

“Five years ago, but lived near the border growing up,” Zwev bent down to look at Evans, “Where are you from Evans?”

“Halton, it’s a small railway town in the middle of nowhere.”

Lance Corporal Tiscornia walked into the room “And I’m from Liguria, now do you three have you’re things ready? I need to get you down to the range.”

Evans grabbed his rifle as Zwev slid down next to him to grab her rifle leaned up against the wall. Cain put her helmet on flat and picked her rifle off her bed. The three followed the Lance Corporal out of the building. The Lance Corporal started talking to them as he walked them to the rifle range, “Alright, bagarìlli, this is Fox Company Second Platoon. Lieutenant Simmons is our Platoon Leader. Captain Jackson is our Company Commander. I’m Lance Corporal Tiscornia, and I have the distinction of being the most experienced soldier in the Platoon, so you should listen to what I say.”

Cain spoke up in confusion, “If you are the most experienced soldier in the Platoon, why are you only a Lance Corporal?”

“Because Miss Cain,” Lance Corporal Tiscornia turned around and started walking backwards, a suddenly serious face, “I really don’t want that much responsibility. Have you ever been in charge of 13 soldiers? I was, a week after picking up Lance. Bad barrage and ill timed attack left me in command of a company… Well, the thirteen privates still able to fight.. I got transfered to the 202nd because my battalion was wiped out. And there is no way in hell I’m going to command in combat again.” Tiscornia shook his head and turned around, “And Zak, how the fuck do you say your name?”

“Zakrzewska Lance Corporal. You can call me Zwev.”

Tiscornia nodded, “Yeah, I think I’ll go with Zwev.” He looked up ahead at the empty rifle range. Sergeant Major Laurie was sitting next to the ammunition crates. Tiscornia yelled out, “Sergeant Major, permission to bring three Privates in for initial?”

“Granted Dom. New kids or Transfers?”

“Bagarìlli. Sounds fancier that way.” Tiscornia paused for a bit, and then turned to Evans, Zwev, and Cain, “Alright, you three play with Sergeant Major Laurie. He’ll do your Rifle tests.”

The three privates nodded. Evans took the lead onto the Rifle range and presented his rifle to the Sergeant Major. The Sergeant Major grabbed and inspected it, “Alright kid, looks ready to go, take Lane One.” He paused and looked to Tiscornia, “Dom, give get thirty rounds, ten for each.”

Evans took his rifle back and walked to the lane labeled One and checked the sights on his rifle. He then pulled the bolt back and waited for the test to begin. He smiled and looked up at the blue sky. It was peaceful, a few birds lazily soaring overhead.

Tiscornia walked up and held out ten rifle rounds, “Here, load your rifle, lie down and get ready to fire. Wait until the Sergeant Major tells you to fire. Fire all ten rounds at the target.”

Evans took the rounds and nodded. He clicked them in one by one, until the internal magazine held all ten rounds. He slid the bolt forward and knelt down on the ground, aiming the rifle carefully downrange. He looked to his right at the other two lanes. Zwev was kneeling on the ground, still loading her rifle, and Cain was still receiving ammunition from Tiscornia. Sergeant Major Laurie was sitting down looking at a clipboard.

Grinning, Evans looked down his sight at the target, flicked his safety off, and waited for the command. Evans had been one of the best shots at his company in basic training. Now to just shoot a max, impress Tiscornia and Zwev, and he’ll be set.

“Alright kids! Aim your rifles downrange. On my mark, fire all ten rounds at the target, you will be judged for accuracy and time, so when you are done shooting, raise your right hand and I’ll note it. Only fire at your own target, and remain in place until everyone is finished,” Sergeant Major Laurie took a breath in and shouted, “FIRE!”

Evans opened fire. In what only seemed like a moment, Evans had fired all ten rounds downrange. He drew the bolt back one more time while flicking his safety on and threw up his hand. A few seconds after him, the last rifle fell silent, as Cain fired her last round.

The Sergeant Major yelled out again, “Tiscornia has placed ten more rounds near you, Load them and prepare for the standing fire test.” He turned to Tiscornia, “Dom, go run and switch the targets out. And score everyone when your done with that.”

Evans propped himself up and picked up the ten rounds, this time they came in two stripper clips. He clicked one in and pushed the five rounds into the magazine. Pocketing the first clip, he grabbed the second and loaded it in. He slid the bolt forward and stood up. He looked downrange at Tiscornia, who was fumbling with the targets. He looked over at Zwev, who had slung her rifle over her right shoulder, “How do you think you did?”

Her eyes looked up over his left shoulder and shrugged, “I dunno. OK I guess. You?”

“I think it did well.”

Sergeant Major Laurie shouted out at the three, “Ready your rifles!”

Evans turned to face the target, checked his bolt, and flicked the safety off.

“Aim!”

Evans aimed downrange.

“FIRE!”

Evans opened fire at the target. Twenty seconds later he had expended all his ammunition. He raised his left hand while he flicked the safety on with his right hand. After the last rifle fell silent he slung his rifle and turned to look at Sergeant Major Laurie

“Alright kids. Lance Corporal Tiscornia will collect your targets, I need to go over a few more things.” The Sergeant Major then turned to speak to Tiscornia, “And score them when you’re done Dom”

Evans walked over to Sergeant Major Laurie and knelt down next to Zwev and Cain.

“So, this is my range. And, if I understand correctly, your company will be here for the next week before you head to the front, and in a month when your rotation brings you back here, you’ll be at my range again. I am the range master and will be here from dawn until dusk on most days,” the Sergeant Major paused, looking for the right words, “You should probably practice at least two or three hours outside of your normal training, after all, you three are riflemen, so you should be good with rifles. Unless there is an official training going on, you can come here at any time it’s open. That’s about it for that.”

The Sergeant Major the looked over at Tiscornia, who was still collecting the targets, “You kids are lucky to have Lance Corporal Tiscornia in your company. We were in the same Battalion at the Battle of Tsiv River. He was one of the six soldiers to survive Charles Company unscathed. So listen to what he says.”

Tiscornia had finished grabbing the targets and jogged back to the four. He picked up the clipboard and tallied the scores. He looked up at the three, “Which one of you was lane two?” Zwev raised her hand. “Well really good job Zwev. Some of the best scores I’ve seen for someone just from basic. Lane One and Three, average scores overall, Lane One, you might want to adjust your sights, all your shots were a bit low. And if you are done with Sergeant Major Laurie, we have a few more things to do before you are assigned to your Rifle Teams.”