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MariaL
10-13-2011, 04:02 PM
My first post for help - hope it's in the right forum!

A US military (qualified) beta reader has kindly fedback (via contacts, i.e. not directly) on my sci-fi novel where the protagonist, a main character and 3-4 supporting characters are USAF with significant Earth action set in the US Air Force world. I asked for feedback on how close or far off I was military wise (given I'm from the UK with no military experience except from TV shows and books and research).

Fortunately, not far off with just a few easily corrected issues.

However, I'm stumped by this one: "The military personnel are a bit generic ó no particular attitudes, skills, tribal practices, etc. that mark them as USAF."

So I've trawled more military slang sites, had a USAF general quote the motto for Special Tactics to president to explain motivating force for the protagonist, elaborated scenes to highlight protatgonist's skills such as parachuting, freefalling, medical training, mentioned "PJ training" (pararescue jumper) - already had diving, flying, rapelling, sniper, tracking, covert operation, type stuff in novel, mentioned his aversion to flying a desk, etc.

I'm thinking it's maybe the supporting characters I need to tweak. These characters are more AirForce - agency liaison roles, desk flyers, pentagon based. Any suggestions how I can make these characters stand out as AF?

Any reading suggestions for USAF novels, articles etc?

Any tribal practises in the USAF you know of? This I'm finding difficult as I've lifted my protagonist out of his Special Tactics world at the start of novel, and the first scene doesn't allow for chit chat during an operation. His new world is a brand new mainly civilian agency although under AF supervision.

Any general advice?

With thanks!

Snowstorm
10-13-2011, 06:01 PM
You could mention: Flightline (although that's not AF-specific), the ranks that include "Airman", Air Force-specific aircraft like the Nighthawk F-117. You could read "Air Force Times" or "Sergeants" magazine (Air Force Sergeants Association magazine) for more ideas. A "tribal practice" of the Dining In (although the Army uses this term too) may help narrow the field of services.

Since the services have become more alike since the 80s, perhaps you should consider being more obvious about which branch of service they're in and not relying on subtle clues that a reader who's unfamiliar with the military will miss.

Good luck with your novel!

MJM
10-13-2011, 06:38 PM
Fortunately, not far off with just a few easily corrected issues.

However, I'm stumped by this one: "The military personnel are a bit generic — no particular attitudes, skills, tribal practices, etc. that mark them as USAF."

Any general advice?

With thanks!

I've been out of service for a long time, but one thing I would say will never likely change much is a basic difference in attitude -- particularly in reference to flightline protocols between aircrews and maintenance personnel. I was a crew chief '88-'91 , and AF pilots have, from the earliest days of the AF, held their crew chiefs and other maintenance specialists in high regard. Not to say other services don't, but AF pilots generally SHOW it ... to crew chiefs in particular. I worked with Navy pilots being trained by the AF, and their attitude toward mechanics was very much of the "officer-enlisted" norm: clear distinctions between the two, often to the point of coldness, if not actual rudeness.

An AF flightline is a unique place. If your supporting characters are elsewhere or serving in other roles/specialties, then distinctions will be harder to draw in terms of characterization, and you may need to rely on uniform specs, AF-specific awards/citations, etc. If you can tie one or more of your supporting characters into backgrounds that include flightline time, you can build on that. If these characters interact with each other, then you can build from one to the others based on AF service camaraderie.

One other distinction is that Security Specialists and Security Police are (or where, anyway) trained by the US Army, which means/meant they had a different attitude; this tended to result in low-grade personality conflicts between crew chiefs and flightline cops -- keep in mind, SS & SP on most AF bases are often the only dudes/dudettes with guns. Changes their basic outlook on things: do what I say, 'cause I've got guns & you don't." A lot of chiefs and specialists, recognizing their key roles, will tend to blow off cops if they overstep or do something stupid. I could give specific examples if your interested.

MariaL
10-13-2011, 09:26 PM
You could mention: Flightline (although that's not AF-specific), A "tribal practice" of the Dining In (although the Army uses this term too) may help narrow the field of services.

Since the services have become more alike since the 80s, perhaps you should consider being more obvious about which branch of service they're in and not relying on subtle clues that a reader who's unfamiliar with the military will miss.


Had to look up Flightline and Dining In but got them now. Good idea to be more obvious with the clues though. Will look up reading suggestions.
Thank you!

MariaL
10-13-2011, 09:31 PM
AF pilots have, from the earliest days of the AF, held their crew chiefs and other maintenance specialists in high regard.

If your supporting characters are elsewhere or serving in other roles/specialties, then distinctions will be harder to draw in terms of characterization, and you may need to rely on uniform specs, AF-specific awards/citations, etc. If you can tie one or more of your supporting characters into backgrounds that include flightline time, you can build on that. If these characters interact with each other, then you can build from one to the others based on AF service camaraderie.

A lot of chiefs and specialists, recognizing their key roles, will tend to blow off cops if they overstep or do something stupid. I could give specific examples if your interested.

The characters are out of the flightline, but I might be able to tie some background in. The protagonist is quite respectful anyway to airman etc. I do have a lot of Special Forces involved providing round the clock security, but as it's preventative they are quite polite and I've called them airman. If you have specific examples I could get my head round that would be very helpful.

Thanks for the advice!

Amadan
10-13-2011, 09:45 PM
Wait, the USAF is part of the military?

(<= Former Army :evil)

Seriously, part of the difference is the difference in attitudes between services. The Air Force tends to pride itself on having higher standards and smarter enlistees, in general, and it devotes more of its budget toward quarters, recreation facilities, etc. Thus, AF personnel generally live a bit better than personnel in other services. Also, it's rare for any AF personnel outside of combat pilots and their crew (air and ground) to actually be exposed to combat. (Yes, the AF has its own Special Forces equivalent as well, but it's very small.) Thus, my joke aside, they tend to be perceived by other services as the most "civilian" branch of the US military.

AF basic training is less physically demanding than Army, Navy, or Marine basic. Most AF personnel fire a rifle once, during basic training, and may not ever handle one again in their career. But they do have higher academic and proficiency standards; traditionally, anyone who can sign their name is allowed to enlist in the Army, while the AF has usually required at least a high school diploma, and higher ASVAB scores to get any of the highly desired jobs.

The tradeoff for AF personnel is that (at least for enlistees) they are notoriously slow to be promoted. An Army or Navy person will often be a rank or two higher than someone in the Air Force with a similar record and equal time in service.

So when Army and AF guys sit around complaining, the Army guys gripe about how much their barracks and their food sucks and the AF guys gripe about how it takes forever to make E-5.

One of the biggest mistakes I usually see in people writing about military personnel who have no military experience is confusing enlisted personnel and officers, or having them mingle freely. It's not like M*A*S*H; officers and enlisted personnel, in most situations, practically live in different worlds.

MJM
10-13-2011, 10:09 PM
If you have specific examples I could get my head round that would be very helpful.

Thanks for the advice!

Couple stories from my own experience -- but I'll post them separately. (first one needs a little back-story):

During an Alert exercise, we often had 'full movers' -- klaxon would blow and all planes on alert would do a mock-launch: full crew on board, taxi to runway, throttle up ready for takeoff, then taxi back to the Alert pad. Since crew chiefs on alert went with the planes, guys working on the flightline would ave to go to the Alert pad to marshal the planes, do all the initial ground recovery work.

The Security Police had a habit of turning pressure-response perimeter systems ON for spots where NO PLANE was parked ... and they'd 'jack up' mechanics who drove over the PRPs on EMPTY spots.

My expediter was an old war-horse from the Viet Nam era, and one day when I was on the 'line we had to go recover the Alert birds. He parked the maintenance truck right on the edge of an empty spot, setting off the PRPs alarm. Cops surrounded us, and a young airman toting his M16 strutted over to our truck. "Everybody out of the vehicle!"

My boss was in the middle of telling some war story while we waited for the planes to taxi back. He looked out his open window, stared at the kid, and said, "No."

The SP kinda blinks, pauses for a couple seconds then yells, "I said, everybody out. Now!"

My expediter turns back to him. "And I said, No." Then he rolls up his window and locks his door.

I was in the back of the truck where I could see the SP, and it was hilarious. This poor kid is at a total loss. he kinda looks down t the ground, then back at the Bronco his Sergeant is sitting in, then he steps up to our truck and timidly knocks on the driver's window. The Expediter rolls it down a couple inches and, in a very perturbed tone, says, "What_now?"

The SP raises his finger, kin of wags it at my boss and says, "Don't go anywhere! I'll be right back!" He walks back to his vehicle and his Sergeant is just sitting there, shaking his head.

MariaL
10-13-2011, 10:11 PM
Thus, AF personnel generally live a bit better than personnel in other services.
This I think I've covered. He'd looked after well in that respect!!


AF basic training is less physically demanding than Army, Navy, or Marine basic. Most AF personnel fire a rifle once, during basic training, and may not ever handle one again in their career. But they do have higher academic and proficiency standards; traditionally, anyone who can sign their name is allowed to enlist in the Army, while the AF has usually required at least a high school diploma, and higher ASVAB scores to get any of the highly desired jobs.
I mention Airman Lead programme into Academy as part of protagonist background and another officer was sponsored by congressman now president. My protagonist is well trained and prefers being in field, but his superiors are mainly desk bound


One of the biggest mistakes I usually see in people writing about military personnel who have no military experience is confusing enlisted personnel and officers, or having them mingle freely. It's not like M*A*S*H; officers and enlisted personnel, in most situations, practically live in different worlds.
I think I'm ok with this as mainly officers. Protagonist is a Major. However, he seeks help from former Master Sergeant (medically discharged) and they are friendly and loyal.
Would it be more likely that the medically discharged was a lieutenant or Captain (who knows how to get fake passports etc.) Maybe from another service, or even CIA, but who would have worked covertly in special ops in the past with USAF Special Tactics officer??

Thank you for the insights. Will reread and see how I can build in.

MJM
10-13-2011, 10:15 PM
Wait, the USAF is part of the military?

(<= Former Army :evil)



It just never ends, does it? ;)

MJM
10-13-2011, 10:21 PM
Wait, the USAF is part of the military?

(<= Former Army :evil)

Seriously, part of the difference is the difference in attitudes between services. The Air Force tends to pride itself on having higher standards and smarter enlistees, in general, and it devotes more of its budget toward quarters, recreation facilities, etc. Thus, AF personnel generally live a bit better than personnel in other services. Also, it's rare for any AF personnel outside of combat pilots and their crew (air and ground) to actually be exposed to combat. (Yes, the AF has its own Special Forces equivalent as well, but it's very small.) Thus, my joke aside, they tend to be perceived by other services as the most "civilian" branch of the US military.

AF basic training is less physically demanding than Army, Navy, or Marine basic. Most AF personnel fire a rifle once, during basic training, and may not ever handle one again in their career. But they do have higher academic and proficiency standards; traditionally, anyone who can sign their name is allowed to enlist in the Army, while the AF has usually required at least a high school diploma, and higher ASVAB scores to get any of the highly desired jobs.

The tradeoff for AF personnel is that (at least for enlistees) they are notoriously slow to be promoted. An Army or Navy person will often be a rank or two higher than someone in the Air Force with a similar record and equal time in service.

So when Army and AF guys sit around complaining, the Army guys gripe about how much their barracks and their food sucks and the AF guys gripe about how it takes forever to make E-5.

One of the biggest mistakes I usually see in people writing about military personnel who have no military experience is confusing enlisted personnel and officers, or having them mingle freely. It's not like M*A*S*H; officers and enlisted personnel, in most situations, practically live in different worlds.

Amadan nailed it in terms of living standards and raw intelligence. I had initially commented on those details, but deleted them because I thought it might come off as rude. AF enlistees have more, and better, manners. :)

MariaL
10-13-2011, 10:24 PM
During an Alert exercise, we often had 'full movers' -- klaxon would blow and all planes on alert would do a mock-launch: full crew on board, taxi to runway, throttle up ready for takeoff, then taxi back to the Alert pad. Since crew chiefs on alert went with the planes, guys working on the flightline would ave to go to the Alert pad to marshal the planes, do all the initial ground recovery work.

The Security Police had a habit of turning pressure-response perimeter systems ON for spots where NO PLANE was parked ... and they'd 'jack up' mechanics who drove over the PRPs on EMPTY spots.

OMG. Not sure how I've got away with the military stuff in my novel! But I can imagine that airman's face! Off to look up pressure-response perimeter systems! And 'jack up'! Will check my posts. Thank you!

MJM
10-13-2011, 10:29 PM
OMG. Not sure how I've got away with the military stuff in my novel! But I can imagine that airman's face! Off to look up pressure-response perimeter systems! And 'jack up'! Will check my posts. Thank you!

One joke we used to tell (more than a little truth to it)

"Every other service puts up chain link and cocertina wire to keep people out. The Air Force paints a red line on the ground and says, cross it and you'll get shot."

A little over-simplified, but true: red lines painted on the ground, warning signs. Often times, that's it.

MJM
10-13-2011, 10:42 PM
One thing that will add a layer of authenticity and nuance to your book goes to what I mentioned earlier about AF pilots' attitudes. it pretty much applies to most who've been on flight crews -- pilots & copilots, navigators; for heavy bombers, also to weapons officers: if they've been an a career track, they often move to other jobs commanding squadrons, etc. It is important to note that the way an AF officer deals with/relates to enlisted personnel and other subordinates is VERY different if they have flight-crew experience. Those without it usually have a more 'traditional' officer-enlisted attitude. Officers with crew time are far more likely to joke around, hang out, chat (be HUMAN). This stems from the simple fact that in AF tradition, flight crews KNOW the mechanics have their lives in their hands -- an experienced and trusted crew chief can (politely) tell a full-bird colonel he's full of shit (the polite version), and get away with it ... IF he's right. And he better be.

MariaL
10-14-2011, 12:57 AM
One thing that will add a layer of authenticity and nuance to your book goes to what I mentioned earlier about AF pilots' attitudes. It is important to note that the way an AF officer deals with/relates to enlisted personnel and other subordinates is VERY different if they have flight-crew experience. Those without it usually have a more 'traditional' officer-enlisted attitude.

I'm going to demote a First Lieutenant to a Senior Airman. He's an Intelligence Operations Analyst and as a Senior Airman can do that role at E-4 grade I can show some of the above. Thanks!

Amadan
10-14-2011, 01:25 AM
I'm going to demote a First Lieutenant to a Senior Airman. He's an Intelligence Operations Analyst and as a Senior Airman can do that role at E-4 grade I can show some of the above. Thanks!


Uh... that doesn't really happen. If an officer gets stripped of his commission, he's probably going to Leavenworth for a felony.

MJM
10-14-2011, 01:35 AM
Uh... that doesn't really happen. If an officer gets stripped of his commission, he's probably going to Leavenworth for a felony.

And, if it were, somehow, to happen, the first thing to go would be any security clearance needed for intel, with little chance of getting it. Folks with good reason for a beef aren't going to be trusted with critical intel, aren't likely going to make the cut even for a basic "secret" clearance, which are a dime a dozen in the AF (can't speak to how it is in other branches).

MariaL
10-14-2011, 01:57 AM
And, if it were, somehow, to happen, the first thing to go would be any security clearance needed for intel, with little chance of getting it. Folks with good reason for a beef aren't going to be trusted with critical intel, aren't likely going to make the cut even for a basic "secret" clearance, which are a dime a dozen in the AF (can't speak to how it is in other branches).

Sorry, I was too flippant with my wording. What I meant was a character that I had as a lieutenant will now be introduced as a senior airman. (Not that I'd demote him as part of the story!) I was worried I had him at too high a rank anyway. It gets rid of one generic title and adds another specific to the Air Force, plus the protagonist treats him with respect throughout, but not too much. Hope that all sounds okay.

Also I have a lieutenant acting as part of the security detail watching my protagonist (in case he jumps worlds - it is sci-fi). Is that too high a rank for someone watching, and would he be Air Force special forces or some other part of the military? I haven't specified him as anything other than Lieutenant. I've deliberately had the security detail changing and later on have a Senior Airman providing security. Does that all sound realistic?

Amadan
10-14-2011, 02:46 AM
A Senior Airman is a fairly low-ranking enlisted man, not even an NCO. And lieutenant is a very junior officer. So it depends on the details. Is your character supposed to have any authority at all? A Senior Airman usually isn't in charge of much of anything except maybe a piece of equipment.

What do you mean by "watching"? A lieutenant wouldn't be in charge of an entire operation or facility, but he might be in charge of a squad. They wouldn't usually assign a Special Forces officer to a babysitting detail.

MJM
10-14-2011, 03:11 AM
A Senior Airman is a fairly low-ranking enlisted man, not even an NCO. And lieutenant is a very junior officer. So it depends on the details. Is your character supposed to have any authority at all? A Senior Airman usually isn't in charge of much of anything except maybe a piece of equipment.

What do you mean by "watching"? A lieutenant wouldn't be in charge of an entire operation or facility, but he might be in charge of a squad. They wouldn't usually assign a Special Forces officer to a babysitting detail.

That really depends a lot on specialty -- many SrAs are 'in charge of equipment' called 'airplanes' worth many millions of dollars ... mine was a cheap old plane valued around 50 million. Because SrA are one step below NCO -- same pay grade as a 'buck sergeant' -- the authority they are given largely depends upon how good they are at their job, how trustworthy they are. In a crunch, many SrAs are called on for jobs that might normally be filled by E-4 NCOs or higher. It takes three years (or it did when I was in) to make SrA, which in most fields means quite a lot of practical experience, as well as on-the-job and formal training.

MariaL
10-14-2011, 03:30 AM
What do you mean by "watching"? A lieutenant wouldn't be in charge of an entire operation or facility, but he might be in charge of a squad. They wouldn't usually assign a Special Forces officer to a babysitting detail.

Sci-fi: My protagonist hasn't done anything wrong (yet) but has developed abilities that are alarming and is under orders not to use them without presidential authorization. In effect he's a potential security risk, but powerful people are pulling strings. So rather than sedate and lock him up, he's been assigned a security detail 24/7, basically to make sure he doesn't use his abilities. If he looked like he was going to, they'd probably shoot him and he knows it. My question is what sort of rank would be his security detail? Hope that helps explain the situation a little better!

MariaL
10-14-2011, 03:37 AM
That really depends a lot on specialty -- many SrAs are 'in charge of equipment' called 'airplanes' worth many millions of dollars ... mine was a cheap old plane valued around 50 million. Because SrA are one step below NCO -- same pay grade as a 'buck sergeant' -- the authority they are given largely depends upon how good they are at their job, how trustworthy they are. In a crunch, many SrAs are called on for jobs that might normally be filled by E-4 NCOs or higher. It takes three years (or it did when I was in) to make SrA, which in most fields means quite a lot of practical experience, as well as on-the-job and formal training.

http://usmilitary.about.com/od/airforceenlistedjobs/a/afjob1n0x1.htm

sums up the job and ranks at skill level 5 would include someone on E-4 grade,
http://usmilitary.about.com/od/airforcebase/l/blafassign1n0x1.htm

hence I'm thinking a lieutenant would be overqualified? But a SrA would fit the bill and allow me to show AF respect for enlisted.

MJM
10-14-2011, 03:45 AM
http://usmilitary.about.com/od/airforceenlistedjobs/a/afjob1n0x1.htm

sums up the job and ranks at skill level 5 would include someone on E-4 grade,
http://usmilitary.about.com/od/airforcebase/l/blafassign1n0x1.htm

hence I'm thinking a lieutenant would be overqualified? But a SrA would fit the bill and allow me to show AF respect for enlisted.

Sorry -- tried to add this at the end of the former post, but it got lost somewhere:

As to the Lt watching someone, Amadan has it pretty much right -- Lts in the cop squadrons would likely be in charge of several details along with his NCOs, each detail having its own squad leader, typically another Staff Sergeant or lower, sometimes even a SrA.

Amadan
10-14-2011, 03:48 AM
Sci-fi: My protagonist hasn't done anything wrong (yet) but has developed abilities that are alarming and is under orders not to use them without presidential authorization. In effect he's a potential security risk, but powerful people are pulling strings. So rather than sedate and lock him up, he's been assigned a security detail 24/7, basically to make sure he doesn't use his abilities. If he looked like he was going to, they'd probably shoot him and he knows it. My question is what sort of rank would be his security detail? Hope that helps explain the situation a little better!

Most of his security detail would be enlisted led by a senior NCO, but they might have a lieutenant tagging along pretending to be in charge. (Small NCO joke there. ;)) Seriously, though, if this is something that has the attention of the President, then there would be a higher-ranking officer keeping a close eye on things. He probably wouldn't be part of the security detail following this guy around ('cause that's boring and therefore what enlisted personnel are for), but undoubtedly whoever is in charge would have orders to call him immediately if any kind of a situation develops.

MariaL
10-14-2011, 01:10 PM
Thank you Snowstorm, MJM and Amadan. I've good ideas now for improving it - including adjusting ranks, introducing characters as Air Force more clearly, and I've raided AF magazine and found a current story which ties in well with plot. Also hunting down a AF citation/award to hang on a general's wall. I appreciate your time!

Noah Body
10-14-2011, 08:43 PM
The characters are out of the flightline, but I might be able to tie some background in. The protagonist is quite respectful anyway to airman etc. I do have a lot of Special Forces involved providing round the clock security, but as it's preventative they are quite polite and I've called them airman. If you have specific examples I could get my head round that would be very helpful.

Thanks for the advice!

Special Forces are Army, also known as the Green Berets. They're overseen by USASOC, which is the Army's Special Operations Command.

The zoomies have AFSOC--Air Force Special Operations Command, based out of Hurlburt, if I recall correctly. You're probably talking about AF Security Response Team guys (who also have a counterpart by the same name in the Army) who guard installations, airbases, etc. They're not normally part of AFSOC as far as I recall, but they're actually quite good at what they do. As an aside, AFSOC has a Tier 1 (i.e., "extremely special") special operations group, the 24th STS. They're held in the same regard as the US ARmy's SFOD-D (now known as the Combat Applications Group) and the former SEAL Team 6, more recently known as DEVGRU, now redesignated as something else. They are all collected under Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which in turn is overseen by U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), the command element for all U.S. special operations forces.

I'm not AF, I wore a green suit, but did work quite a bit with AF Special Operations Wings during joint operations. The biggest difference between the AF and Army guys in the special operations regime is that the AF focused more on technology--they had lots of pizza racks in the back of their helicopters for navigation, automated aircraft survivability equipment, etc., etc.--whereas the Army guys had maps, clocks, airspeed indicators, and compasses. And the Army guys had the reputation of being on time and on target within 30 seconds, while the AF guys were still updating their electronics. ;)

(That's not really a joke.)

Enlisted promotions in the AF do seem to be much slower than in the Army. On average, AF enlisteds get much more specialized training more regularly than the guys in the Army, but the Army NCOs tend to develop leadership skills earlier. I think that's a direct result of being closer to the doo on a more constant basis.

I don't know if this helps you or not, but it's been a while since I've expounded on this stuff, and I just had to get it out of my system. :D

AFSOC Homepage (http://www.afsoc.af.mil/) for your convenience, should you find it helpful.

How USAF Combat Control bubbas get made. (http://www2.afsoc.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-081104-079.pdf) 24STS is full of these guys. They're called Air Commandos.

By the way, SRTs are almost all enlisted, overseen by 0-1/0-2s in the field, though their master sergeants have the greatest direct authority.

MariaL
10-14-2011, 11:25 PM
You're probably talking about AF Security Response Team guys (who also have a counterpart by the same name in the Army) who guard installations, airbases, etc. .

How USAF Combat Control bubbas get made. (http://www2.afsoc.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-081104-079.pdf) 24STS is full of these guys. They're called Air Commandos.

By the way, SRTs are almost all enlisted, overseen by 0-1/0-2s in the field, though their master sergeants have the greatest direct authority.

Although I did research "Security" Forces I just found a rogue "Special" Forces in manuscript - now fixed - so thank you. Question: would you say "escorted by a couple of SFs" or "escorted by a couple of security forces" or "escorted by a couple of SF guards" or other.

Please could you clarify 0-1/0-2s in the field - can't figure that one out.

Thank you for the 24th STS info and fact sheet - very helpful!

Protagonist is a Major. I don't need him to be in the 24th STS. I do need him based at Hurlburt. I do need him combat control trained and qualified at covert search and rescue. The other STS teams can do this can't they???? Could he have been in 24th and then assigned to other STS teams e.g. to develop the other squadrons?

Question: Shouldn't I be creating a fictional STS squadron for a novel rather than saying he belonged to 24th STS or 320 STS?

Thank you for this additional info!

Snowstorm
10-14-2011, 11:46 PM
You're welcome MariaL! Actually, I've had a blast reading through this thread. Best belly laughs in a long time.

Amadan wrote: "Most of his security detail would be enlisted led by a senior NCO, but they might have a lieutenant tagging along pretending to be in charge." Oh yeah. What's so funny is this is actually true. In fact, when I was retiring, I bought an RV. Whenever I set the wheel chocks, I took to calling them "lieutenants".

Noah Body
10-15-2011, 01:06 AM
Although I did research "Security" Forces I just found a rogue "Special" Forces in manuscript - now fixed - so thank you. Question: would you say "escorted by a couple of SFs" or "escorted by a couple of security forces" or "escorted by a couple of SF guards" or other.

I would refer to it as a "security detail" and call it a day. If this is a VIP who has been allocated a specific security detail for personal protection, I think the proper designation is security escort, but my memory is hazy; I only encountered such a thing once in my time, when I hooked up with a couple of protection guys who were covering their principal, the then-Secretary of the Army. They were drawn from the Army, but were plainclothes guys.


Please could you clarify 0-1/0-2s in the field - can't figure that one out.

O-1: Second Lieutenant
O-2: First Lieutenant

Both could be found in command of a platoon, which would be the usual small unit element conducting Internal Security Response Team (ISRT) missions. I'm pretty sure a larger unit would be tasked for External Security Response Team (ESRT) activities, but don't quote me on that--maybe someone with more on-the-ground experience can give you the numbers, if it's important.


Thank you for the 24th STS info and fact sheet - very helpful!

Protagonist is a Major. I don't need him to be in the 24th STS. I do need him based at Hurlburt. I do need him combat control trained and qualified at covert search and rescue. The other STS teams can do this can't they???? Could he have been in 24th and then assigned to other STS teams e.g. to develop the other squadrons?

There are other units, for sure. There's 21, 22, and 23 STS, and they're the "vanilla" combat control groups that get assigned to missions with Army Special Forces Alpha Detachments, among other occupational highlights. I'm afraid I don't know how personnel are assessed into the 24th; it makes sense that they would be seasoned in one of the other units and then selected for duty with the 24, but I'm not sure if the club is that exclusive--the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment selects pilots who make the cut from across the entire Army, so it is possible a regular zoomie from an intel unit or some other specialty could apply for and be accepted into whatever training school might be applicable for the 24th.

And for sure, folks can leave the 24th and report to another STS--though the 24th is supposed to be the elite of the elite, so I'm not sure why an officer would choose to do so, unless AF regulations specify officers have to return to other duty stations. I don't believe Delta Force officers leave the community, and with the 160th, warrant officers can remain with the unit for their entire career. The skills they develop are not necessarily translatable to other units.


Question: Shouldn't I be creating a fictional STS squadron for a novel rather than saying he belonged to 24th STS or 320 STS?

I think if you stick with a known unit, you can add some verity to the book. Or you could create your own; either way works fine!

MariaL
10-15-2011, 02:09 AM
Thank you Noah! All useful information. More revisions...

MJM
10-15-2011, 03:10 AM
... wheel chocks ... "lieutenants".

ROFL!!

MariaL
02-28-2012, 02:38 AM
I have some more 'dense' questions about the USAF following a beta review of the start of my novel. I think I just need to make sure I phrase things correctly.These are really housekeeping questions - nothing exciting so I'm grateful if you even just read my list and answer one of them!

1) My protag is a USAF Major assigned a role in a new but small intelligence agency - although a USAF intelligence agency, its manned by civilian scientists and my protag is there to escort scientists out in the field, but also he will be the ranking AF officer reporting to a CO in the overseeing agency. His CO assigns him a Snr Airman - an operations intelligence specialist.

How should I describe the Snr Airman's role in relation to my protag: personal assistant? assistant? aide? subordinate? or any other description acceptable for the USAF?

2) I understand salutes inside buildings occur when junior reports to a senior officer. Is this a special reporting - like first time they meet, or an everyday reporting for duty?

3) My protag has a broken ankle in plaster. He reports to the Pentagon under his own steam. They then send him to Fort Belvoir. Does he get assigned a car, cardriver, or does he call himself a taxi? Who pays for the cost of his flight to Washington DC? Or would he cadge a lift on a flight up from Hurlburt if one happens to be going that direction? Once in DC, would he pay for his own taxi to get to Fort Belvoir? Does the USAF pay expenses?

To be honest I could ignore all these logistics and just have him pop 'magically' from the Pentagon scene into the Fort Belvoir scene without worrying about transport and expenses but now I'm curious. I assumed someone injured on active duty would get 'looked after'.

4) My protag's (a Major) received a sudden change in orders. Not a medical transfer. (His ankle will mend fine.) Not a discipline transfer. But he doesn't have a choice. It involves moving. Is this unusual? How would such a change in orders be described? Can he refuse? What would be the consequences?

5) Protag and friend go through Air Force Academy. One always gets promoted a few months ahead of the other. My protag gets to see action. The friend goes to the Pentagon and a desk job. Friend is now a Lt Col. Protag hasn't been passed over and isn't beyond the point of promotion. Can they act like friends in private? Shake hands, banter and the like. I've assumed they can.

6) For getting a broken ankle on active duty - does he get the purple heart or anything? Who would typically present it? Immediately or eventually?


7) Someone enquires where he broke his ankle. (The mission's classified.) Can he provide a general truthful answer like on a tour of Africa or Middle East? Or would he just say he can't say?

8) I want my protag to have picked up a few tricks of the trade in special ops missions. He's medically trained. I need him to have impregnated chloroform/ether mix pad/cloth in a sealed pack with him on a mission. Not standard issue. Lollipops seem to be the field anaesthetic nowadays. But he's found it a useful item in previous missions for medical and stealth reasons. He just packs one in case. How unlikely is this? Could he get in trouble for it? Can I get away with it in fiction?

Thank you for any info you can throw my way!http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon7.gif

Duncan J Macdonald
02-28-2012, 06:46 AM
I can answer a few of these. See interspersed comments.


I have some more 'dense' questions about the USAF following a beta review of the start of my novel. I think I just need to make sure I phrase things correctly.These are really housekeeping questions - nothing exciting so I'm grateful if you even just read my list and answer one of them!

1) My protag is a USAF Major assigned a role in a new but small intelligence agency - although a USAF intelligence agency, its manned by civilian scientists and my protag is there to escort scientists out in the field, but also he will be the ranking AF officer reporting to a CO in the overseeing agency. His CO assigns him a Snr Airman - an operations intelligence specialist.

How should I describe the Snr Airman's role in relation to my protag: personal assistant? assistant? aide? subordinate? or any other description acceptable for the USAF?

The Senior Airman (SrA) is by definition a subordinate. He/She would be assigned to assist the Major. Does the major have OPINT experience?

2) I understand salutes inside buildings occur when junior reports to a senior officer. Is this a special reporting - like first time they meet, or an everyday reporting for duty?

Heh. I've been floating around the Pentagon (active duty and as a contractor) since 1995. The only salutes I've seen indoors are during official ceremonies, and then only if the personnel are 'covered' (wearing their headgear). Hell, I've seen a lot of non-salutes, even in places and times where salutes should have been rendered.

3) My protag has a broken ankle in plaster. He reports to the Pentagon under his own steam. They then send him to Fort Belvoir. Does he get assigned a car, cardriver, or does he call himself a taxi? Who pays for the cost of his flight to Washington DC? Or would he cadge a lift on a flight up from Hurlburt if one happens to be going that direction? Once in DC, would he pay for his own taxi to get to Fort Belvoir? Does the USAF pay expenses?

Why is he going to Fort Belvoir? That's around twelve miles away and there is a perfectly fine clinic in the Pentagon (DiLorenzo TRICARE Health Clinic (http://dilorenzo.narmc.amedd.army.mil/Pages/cliniclayout.aspx), located on the Second Deck, Corridor Eight, at the entrance from North Parking E-Ring.

Transport: The Major would find his own way unless it is a medical transfer, in which case and ambulance would be provided. As for flying into DC, if he'[s on orders, there would be an accounting code on his orders, and his detaching command would have arranged all the transport. Depending on where he came from, he'd arrive at any one of three local airports. (DCA, BWI, IAD) If BWI or IAD he could have a rental car on his orders. DCA is just three Mtero stops away from the Pentagon. If you want, you could have his super-secret Intel Command send SrA Becky Swanson with an Official car to meet him ("Since the Director heard you had a bum ankle, Major." At least her smile took some of the sting out of having to put up with such a young -- and good looking -- babysitter.)

To get to Ft. Belvoir, he'd either take his car, or take the REX bus (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/connector/pdf/REX_brochure0804.pdf).

To be honest I could ignore all these logistics and just have him pop 'magically' from the Pentagon scene into the Fort Belvoir scene without worrying about transport and expenses but now I'm curious. I assumed someone injured on active duty would get 'looked after'.

<snif> An Officer and Gentleman looks after himself. </snif>. Seriously, if he's ambulatory enough to be flying into DC and to meetings at the Pentagon, he's past the "looked after" stage and is mostly on his own. If his gaining command is nice enough (and has the budget) the SrA Swanson might be assigned to 'help him learn the lay of the land.'

4) My protag's (a Major) received a sudden change in orders. Not a medical transfer. (His ankle will mend fine.) Not a discipline transfer. But he doesn't have a choice. It involves moving. Is this unusual? How would such a change in orders be described? Can he refuse? What would be the consequences?

Order modifications for the good of the service are extremely usual. Generally, he wouldn't have a choice either. In the Navy it's called an ORDMOD, and I've had them happen myself. If he's senior enough, a consequence might be retirement, or it might be a quite discharge 'for the good of the service' and no benefits.

5) Protag and friend go through Air Force Academy. One always gets promoted a few months ahead of the other. My protag gets to see action. The friend goes to the Pentagon and a desk job. Friend is now a Lt Col. Protag hasn't been passed over and isn't beyond the point of promotion. Can they act like friends in private? Shake hands, banter and the like. I've assumed they can.

No problem with classmates glad-handing each other. They can act that way in a duty status as well. But no one gets assigned to the Pentagon and left there. Each service has things that they would much rather have their officers doing. Like flying planes, driving tanks, driving ships, assaulting beaches, etc. The normal tour at the Pentagon is two years (possibly three), but then they go have a tour with the troops. Also, you don't find many officers below the rank of Major at the Pentagon anyway, unless they are prior enlisted. You figure that the first 12 to 15 years of service is elsewhere.

6) For getting a broken ankle on active duty - does he get the purple heart or anything? Who would typically present it? Immediately or eventually?

Purple Heart: Depends. Here's a listing (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_is_the_Purple_Heart_medal_awarded) of what qualifies for the award.

7) Someone enquires where he broke his ankle. (The mission's classified.) Can he provide a general truthful answer like on a tour of Africa or Middle East? Or would he just say he can't say?

How macho is he? "This? Tripped when I was pushing an Eagle for take-off in Afghanistan" or "If I told you, I'd have to kill you."

8) I want my protag to have picked up a few tricks of the trade in special ops missions. He's medically trained. I need him to have impregnated chloroform/ether mix pad/cloth in a sealed pack with him on a mission. Not standard issue. Lollipops seem to be the field anaesthetic nowadays. But he's found it a useful item in previous missions for medical and stealth reasons. He just packs one in case. How unlikely is this? Could he get in trouble for it? Can I get away with it in fiction?

What's his specialty (http://usmilitary.about.com/od/officerjobs/a/afoffjobs.htm) code? In your case, I'd make him AFSC 14N4, Staff (http://usmilitary.about.com/od/officerjobs/a/14nx2.htm)

Thank you for any info you can throw my way!http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon7.gif

You're welcome.

Richard White
02-28-2012, 07:43 AM
As a former Army NCO, I would like to point out that Amadan's one comment is a tad dated.

To gain admission into any service, it is required to have a minimum of a GED these days. See http://usmilitary.about.com/od/joiningthemilitary/a/enleducation.htm for more information there.

In one of my last offices, everyone had at least a bachelors, two had their masters and one guy had his JD (he was a SFC at 9 years of service and probably one of the fastest to CSM I've ever seen.)

(Air Force - the only paramilitary organization within the Department of Defense. ;) )

tiny
02-28-2012, 08:42 AM
Air Force sees plenty of combat by the way. My husband spent a year on the ground in Iraq and has his combat medic tab. Just saying.

MichaelZWilliamson
02-28-2012, 11:14 AM
Air Force sees plenty of combat by the way. My husband spent a year on the ground in Iraq and has his combat medic tab. Just saying.

Yeah, coming in late. I was issued a brand new GUU5P Carbine and body armor for my last tour. And USAF is filling in a lot of Army roles (As is Navy). Notably, engineers, mechanics, intelligence, convoy security and combat photographers.

With all due respect to the Army vets (since I served both Army and USAF, and my wife is serving Army), the whole "USAF isn't really military" gets really old, and isn't accurate. One of our 16 man mechanic sections replaced a 64 man Army mechanic section and raised the operational readiness of vehicles from 70% to 86% or so. The Army troops were moved elsewhere. Our flight line Fuel element ran convoys of jet fuel through unsecured territory without complaining. One of the Army SF units had a female Navy photographer along (since they also need females to interact with Afghan women).

A friend of mine is an Intel major, and he was on the ground with the Army.

Another is a retired USAF Chief who was an Army Battalion's CSM.

In engineer MOSes/AFSCs the jobs are pretty much indistinguishable. The Army holds more formations. The AF does more group huddles, and there are specific reasons for this. The bending of wrenches and digging of holes is about the same.

One major difference--an Army Forward Support Battalion might consider a 10 kw generator to be "big." A USAF engineer unit might consider 15 megawatts to be "emergency backup."

And the best military lodging, and military steak I ever had, were Army, not USAF, though generally USAF chow halls are fantastic.

There are good and bad in all branches, and it varies by timeframe, location, individuals, ROE and many other factors.

If I may offer a suggestion, if you aren't intimately familiar with the branch in question--served, employed by, family of--then step back a bit and take a more overall view. Getting into the nitty gritty takes familiarity. It's just as easy to have a good story from an outsider POV.

And of course, if you're already doing that (it's late and I skimmed a bit), carry on.

MariaL
02-28-2012, 02:01 PM
I can answer a few of these. See interspersed comments.




This is so useful, thank you! To answer your question and also to check if my background for my protag stands up to scrutiny: (My answers in blue)

1) My protag is a USAF Major assigned a role in a new but small intelligence agency - although a USAF intelligence agency, its manned by civilian scientists and my protag is there to escort scientists out in the field, but also he will be the ranking AF officer reporting to a CO in the overseeing agency. His CO assigns him a Snr Airman - an operations intelligence specialist.

How should I describe the Snr Airman's role in relation to my protag: personal assistant? assistant? aide? subordinate? or any other description acceptable for the USAF?

The Senior Airman (SrA) is by definition a subordinate. He/She would be assigned to assist the Major. Does the major have OPINT experience?

Potted background:

Appointed to the AF Academy through the LEAD program for airmen. Got his degree (unspecified) at the academy. In 20th Special Operations he trained on MH-53M Pave Low IV, earning the right to be called a Green Hornet. Several years in Special Tactics after the 20th Special Operations Squadron was deactivated, more recently leading joint SOC missions requiring the expertise of specialist units like EOD. Heís discussed a future in Group Command. (MacDill). Intelligence gathering/analysis isnít his area of expertise, heís usually on the receiving end of the intelligence.Hence he has an operations intelligence specialist assigned to him.

8) What's his specialty (http://usmilitary.about.com/od/officerjobs/a/afoffjobs.htm) code? In your case, I'd make him AFSC 14N4, Staff (http://usmilitary.about.com/od/officerjobs/a/14nx2.htm)

Does that work with the potted background above?

MariaL
02-28-2012, 02:08 PM
If I may offer a suggestion, if you aren't intimately familiar with the branch in question--served, employed by, family of--then step back a bit and take a more overall view. Getting into the nitty gritty takes familiarity. It's just as easy to have a good story from an outsider POV.

And of course, if you're already doing that (it's late and I skimmed a bit), carry on.

Thank you to everyone who responded!

I think I am taking a overall view but just trying to eliminate anything that makes the story less credible. Given its sci-fi/fantasy most of it is out there anyway, but I'm trying to get the military setting as close as possible.

Thank you again, all the comments make fun reading!

Duncan J Macdonald
02-28-2012, 07:22 PM
This is so useful, thank you! To answer your question and also to check if my background for my protag stands up to scrutiny: (My answers in blue)

1) My protag is a USAF Major assigned a role in a new but small intelligence agency - although a USAF intelligence agency, its manned by civilian scientists and my protag is there to escort scientists out in the field, but also he will be the ranking AF officer reporting to a CO in the overseeing agency. His CO assigns him a Snr Airman - an operations intelligence specialist.

How should I describe the Snr Airman's role in relation to my protag: personal assistant? assistant? aide? subordinate? or any other description acceptable for the USAF?

The Senior Airman (SrA) is by definition a subordinate. He/She would be assigned to assist the Major. Does the major have OPINT experience?

Potted background:

Appointed to the AF Academy through the LEAD program for airmen. Got his degree (unspecified) at the academy. In 20th Special Operations he trained on MH-53M Pave Low IV, earning the right to be called a Green Hornet. Several years in Special Tactics after the 20th Special Operations Squadron was deactivated, more recently leading joint SOC missions requiring the expertise of specialist units like EOD. Heís discussed a future in Group Command. (MacDill). Intelligence gathering/analysis isnít his area of expertise, heís usually on the receiving end of the intelligence.Hence he has an operations intelligence specialist assigned to him.

8) What's his specialty (http://usmilitary.about.com/od/officerjobs/a/afoffjobs.htm) code? In your case, I'd make him AFSC 14N4, Staff (http://usmilitary.about.com/od/officerjobs/a/14nx2.htm)

Does that work with the potted background above?

No, 14N4 doesn't work with that background. Your Major would have started along the AFSC 11S3A or AFSC 11S3V track. (Aircraft Commander MH-53 or Aircraft Commander, Special Operations Forces (SOF) Helicopter, General). His later playing with the snake-eaters might or might not be in the unclassified portion of his service jacket.

Unlikely that you'd need to go down that particular rabbit-hole. As has been mentioned, try to keep it general. Military specilization codes are somewhat like using firearms -- the more specific you get, the more those readers who are knowledgeable will pick nits.

MariaL
02-28-2012, 07:33 PM
No, 14N4 doesn't work with that background. Your Major would have started along the AFSC 11S3A or AFSC 11S3V track. (Aircraft Commander MH-53 or Aircraft Commander, Special Operations Forces (SOF) Helicopter, General). His later playing with the snake-eaters might or might not be in the unclassified portion of his service jacket.

Unlikely that you'd need to go down that particular rabbit-hole. As has been mentioned, try to keep it general. Military specilization codes are somewhat like using firearms -- the more specific you get, the more those readers who are knowledgeable will pick nits.

I won't get more specific than that - I promise! I have specified firearms though and helicopters. I'm looking for a US military beta in the beta forum if anyone reading this is interested!http://absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon7.gif

Snake-eaters?

Thank you once more for the reply.


While I'm here, I was using a Chinook to collect approx 10-12 men out of a SO night mission in Somalia. JCD who's looked at my opening suggested I use something smaller. Any suggestions?

Richard White
02-28-2012, 08:52 PM
At the risk of stirring up the old Army/Air Force conundrum with Michael (and I hope he realizes that there's a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek here), my experiences with the AF are based on my encounters with them at DLI, being stationed for 5 years as the only Army Battallion on an AF base and being stationed with the AF on King Fahd International in Saudi.

While things may have changed in the past 10 years, my experiences dating from 1984-99, do color my view - and again, it's mostly meant in good fun.

Maria, one thing about the Army/Air Force is there's also a bit of a big brother/little brother rivalry between the two since the U.S. Air Force was split off of the U.S. Army in 1947 (I believe). Before then, it was the U.S. Army Air Corps and I've been stationed at several U.S. Army Air Fields, which date back to that time.

So, if you're going to have Air Force personnel in your book, while I wouldn't make it a big deal, there is a friendly rivalry between the various services. The Army picks on the AF, the AF picks on the Army, the Navy picks on the Marines and the Army, the Army and Marines pick on each other when they're not both picking on the Navy and AF and so on.

It's not quite as bad as fraternities on campus, but you get the idea. But again, there's that Big Brother/Little Brother mentality in the phrase "No one gets to pick on my brother but me." It's OK for us to pick on each other. Someone on the outside starts something and you'll be amazed how quickly we form up shoulder to shoulder to deal with stuff.

Duncan J Macdonald
02-28-2012, 11:48 PM
I won't get more specific than that - I promise! I have specified firearms though and helicopters. I'm looking for a US military beta in the beta forum if anyone reading this is interested!http://absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon7.gif
I'll step back and wait for an Air Force Beta. I might take a peek for Pentagon and general area info (I go Commissary shopping at Ft Belvoir)


Snake-eaters?

Special Forces personnel. Live in jungles. Eat snakes. (part of the jungle survival course if I have my facts right. I never did Jungle SERE, but my brother did.)


Thank you once more for the reply.


While I'm here, I was using a Chinook to collect approx 10-12 men out of a SO night mission in Somalia. JCD who's looked at my opening suggested I use something smaller. Any suggestions?

A CH-60 Blackhawk can carry 11 combat loaded passengers and is a darned sight smaller than a Chinook.

Richard White
02-29-2012, 12:09 AM
I was thinking Blackhawk, but I was thinking the UH-60 only held 9. Been a while since I went through Air Assault school and figured one of you guys would know the answer quicker than it would take me to look up the seating capacity of the various Blackhawk configurations.

MariaL
02-29-2012, 01:56 AM
Thanks all! The Blackhawk looks good!