APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 7 August, 2000


Political Officer

Coaching the Troops

Janne Kemppi

Every CEF formation had a political officer. They were instrumental in keeping troopers and soldiers of CEF in top fighting shape.

Political officer system was born in the turbulent early days of New Eurasian Commonwealth. Enemies surrounded young alliance from every direction. Its existence was constant struggle to survive. NEC was originally a trade union but never ending wars forced its members to co-operate ever more closely to combine their military strength. As time went by the haphazard joint ventures and ad hoc command structures were finally reformed into a single unified command structure of NECAF (New Eurasian Commonwealth Armed Forces).

The unified command structure was soon followed with the birth of a professional, regular force. This force, originally named Regular Army, existed under direct leadership of NEC and as a separate force from its member state armies. Soon Regular army was rushed into service in every corner of the earth and beyond. Its size and skills increased and so did its role evolve from the defensive reserve to highly aggressive, offensively oriented force. Similarly its units and equipment evolved into a well-balanced combined arms fighting group.

However, this progress did not happen over night. Neither did it happen without considerable growth pains, problems and mistakes. NECAF soon found out that its real weaknesses were same as with every army before it. It had decent hardware, solid tactics and rough but workable training. Its weakness however, was the men serving in it. These soft, invisible factors have always been one of the most difficult aspects of warfare. Armies are not just a sum of equipment and doctrine but also a sum of collective willingness of its soldiers to face the enemy.

Soldier's best known part of the work is killing enemies. It is, however, not the only thing. Soldier's real mission is to carry out their orders quickly and effectively. Army is really a complicated machine where every soldier is a miniature cog. Not every cog is necessary for the machine to function, but if number of cogs start to malfunction, the machine slowly but surely grinds to halt. Therefore armies, (and NECAF was no exception) have to take serious consideration into these issues, all with their own approaches and solutions. NECAF was no exception.

The multinational character of NECAF brought further complications. NECAF was a fire brigade rushed to every crisis to defend member states of NEC or spearhead its attacks. Therefor NECAF units could expect to move all over the Earth (and beyond). This kind of work has a high tempo. The soldiers burn out easily, especially if they do not understand -why- they are fighting for. Furthermore the underlying political, social and economic factors that caused the crisis in the first place were often beyond grasp of the commanders leading NEC's forces there. This increases friction with local NEC's member states and further hinders the fighting power needed to carry on mission and to overcome the enemy. It was a matter of knowledge.

Information is as valuable as ammunition to field commander. Throughout knowledge of events and background is even more vital to strategic leadership. Every military has intelligence formations that can (and do) supply information. Strategic war aims, -why they fight- should have been expressed at least to field commanders by NEC's political leadership. This leadership was in practice the ruling coalition known simply as 'Party'.

The problem lied in distribution of the information and balancing between openness and secrecy. NECAF decided to create posts for liaison officers that would express these questions. These 'Political-Social-Economic Liaison Officers' were tasked to work as a buffer between member state militaries and NECAF units. These officers would handle relations to local civilians and soldiers, discuss strategic aims and report such activities to field commanders. Originally these officers were ordinary officers tasked to work but appropriate special training soon followed. These PSELOs or 'Political officers' as they were unofficially known where chosen from prospective officer candidates like other future officers.

Political officer was made permanent after good results were gained from using specially trained officers. The troop morale rose when they got idea of what they were doing and leaders were equally happy to learn what was really going behind the scenes. At the same time the local people and their troops could be brought together. Unwieldy Political-Social-Economical Liaison Officer was thus renamed Political Officer. Liaison Officer term was reserved to officers sent inside NECAF structure to other units.

NECAF units did not, however, spend all their time in missions, even during the WW3. Most of time was spent on garrison. Units are re-equipped, trained and generally looked after while waiting for next mission. Political officers did this as well, studying languages, learning more of designated areas and such. Their role continued to evolve as well. Long garrison periods usually dull the fighting abilities of soldiers. Inactivity causes boredom, which leads to trouble. Commanders are responsible for their soldiers staying in top fighting shape, both mentally and physically. In practice, however, training, administration and planning takes considerable amount of their time. Thus NECAF tasked political officers to improve troopers morale in garrison. Next step was to ensure this happened also in field and ultimately in battle. Logically they were next responsible for gauging troops morale and countering enemy attempts to undermine it.

With the end of the WW3 the Colonial Expeditionary Force was created. CEF had its roots in bloody experiences of WW3 and in ultimately victorious NECAF organization. CEF studied political officer concept and found it a very good one. CEF soon installed such positions throughout forces. At the same time the role of political officer changed again.

Since CEF was fighting so far away from home its troops would have to go on for years without contact on Earth. This would naturally affect morale. GRELs could be counted on fighting without respite but humans were considered a weak link in chain. This was doubly more important because humans were holding critical positions throughout the organization. Therefor political officer's main task would be to keep human troopers content and their fighting morale high.

Secondly CEF guessed it would have to face tough opponents sooner than later. Consequently it would suffer serious casualties eventually. Therefor the officer corps and whole leadership chain had to be able to cope with leadership casualties. In its search for maximized fighting power CEF had created a training system that built tough, aggressive leaders. Its Achilles heel was that it was slow and could not cope it brutal casualties. More GRELs could be produced but humans were next to impossible to replace quickly.

CEF training was built on idea that every man started as a trooper. They would get special training and duties as they had first gathered experience and proved their leadership abilities. This concept gathered CEF a very hardened core of career soldiers as its leaders. It also made road to become officer a long and torturous one. With such a narrow pipeline these new political officers were additional drain of talented leadership that could be appointed to the top.

CEF gave absolute importance to troop leading experience in selection of future leaders. Second factor has always been -although never really admitted- a certain amount of ambition. CEF allows people who do not want to be leaders keep their position until they cannot do it or CEF finds someone better. In such a highly competitive environment, the people who talkative, competent and want to do more but do not have a burning desire to make it to the top, are somewhat sidetracked. These people are usually interested in becoming political officers.

CEF officer training was done in CEF University like all formal officers training. Future officers were educated in two primary and two secondary subjects depending on future posting. Education was always primary subject as well as arm of service, like for example artillery or reconnaissance. Secondary subjects varied widely but most officers chose technical studies as one of them. Specialized officers, such as political, technical, medical or legal, had similarly education and their own specialty as primaries to ensure throughout expertise in their field. At the same time one of the secondary subjects was always arm of service training. This way these special officers understood better military aspects of their work. Unsaid part of the equation was that it allowed these officers to take over units in case of extreme emergency.

Distribution of political officers had to be determined as well. Their sociopolitical education meant they were most useful to senior commanders. At the same time the duty of harnessing morale of soldiers suggested distribution as widely as possible. The determining factor was finally widespread introduction of GRELs. Since these super soldiers had unshakeable morale, morale boosting part was needed on their human leaders instead. Small number of humans meant these officers would be present in meaningful numbers only in large units.

Every army builds itself around some basic fighting unit, where soldiers feel belonging. For Terra Novan soldier home has always been the Regiment. Such unit has hundred or so combat vehicles and several hundred soldiers. CEF had roughly similar fighting organization called DemiBrigade. CEF unit was, however, completely self-contained. It had lavish issue of supporting arms and logistical support. Its independence meant its commander needed advice on local conditions. At the same time it had enough troopers to warrant full-time work to boost their morale.

Political Officers work depended on the situation. In garrison duties work had decidedly more academic side. Personal work consisted on studying targeted nations and their people. It ranged from following news intensively to studying in-depth economics, culture, history and social situation. This is usually married with language studies and political officer had often best language skills of all officers in combat unit. Learning things is, however, only one side of the equation. Informing others was as important and thus lecturing humans and GRELs alike of situation and developments was integral part of the work. The level of these briefings naturally varied on listeners. DBr Commander heard briefings on socioeconomic forces bubbling under. Troopers and soldiers were taught local customs, useful phrases and weather conditions. These briefings were made together with intelligence officer who provided information on hard issues like enemy equipment, weaponry, formations and possible intentions. At times political officer arranged invitations to outside experts as well.

Political officer was also a social worker. Since CEF was -like any organization- made of humans, there were always such problems. Since problems can disrupt smooth running of military or lead to dismissal or resignation of vital personnel, political officer's job concerned welfare as well. Thus political officer listened and tried to solve personal problems as well. Part of this work was running lectures and discussion aimed to prevent such problems happening in the first place. These issues demanded good personal skills and ability to speak, yet be silent when situation so warranted.

On brighter side Political Officer also ran and distributed unit newspaper, arranged computer network bulletins and representations. Depending on unit (and amount of gifted writers) these newspapers could have anything between heaven and earth. Lastly but not least political officer was also responsible for units entertainment. Some -particularly inventive- political officers could come out with all kinds of ideas for parties and excuses to have them on the first place. Recreational afternoons, days or even weekends could be spent doing anything from enjoying sun on unspoiled beach in Pacific Ocean to renting small amusement park for half a day in Rangstadt to skiing a weekend on unspoiled nature of northern coast of Baltic Lake. The most popular way of having fun was by far renting a hotel for a night in Chiba and arranging party with top musicians to play for entertainment.

Sports were extremely popular in CEF. Units arranged competitions and sent troopers to compete at all levels. Similarly all bases were well equipped with sports facilities. Political officers were responsible for guiding and arranging sports groups and events. Sports are not important to fighting per se but sports activity supports building up fighting power. Sports build up health and endurance necessary to battlefield while competitions give troops a healthy way to show off each other their prowess. Team sports were especially encouraged to build-up sense of belonging.

Political officer arranged adventuring sport events as well. Unit would gather a team to take part in more extreme or peculiar forms of sports. These could vary from trekking several weeks in Antarctic ice shelves to donning diving suit and experiencing undersea coral reefs. These sports events were most popular form of recreational events. Since many political officers were sports fanatics (at least to some degree) practically every trooper in CEF took part in few of such events in a year.

Political officer's real work was done on the battlefield where one was responsible for spiritual side of fighting power. First and foremost political officer followed morale of the troops. General mood was gauged and reported to unit commander regularly. Most important method was circulating among troops and discussing with both troopers and soldiers of their thoughts on general situation. Political officers did this constantly while doing other duties.

Keeping troops happy was closely linked to enemy activity. Thus political enemy follows and studies circulating rumors and enemy psychological warfare. These enemy methods could vary from simply spreading rumors to dropping leaflets to ruses. For example enemy could send false news showing CEF situation considerably worse than it was. More elaborated schemes included use of mood altering music to cause discontent. Next step was shielding troops from enemy propaganda with various methods. It could bean collecting enemy leaflets found from the ground to bombing enemy propaganda units.

CEF believed that best way to keep moral up was to fight different rumors. It was thought that best way to fight rumors was real information. Thus political officers usually arranged timely news service to inform troops of the real situation (or at least CEF side of things). It was also believed that troopers do not also listen to rumors if they are busy doing something else. Thus political officer was responsible to introduce entertainment and education to troops also in field if situation allowed it. Various books, novels, writing contests, videos, parties and tours were thus arranged at more quiet periods in war. However, there was always lack of troopers in colonial front lines. Long periods on fighting and mentally extremely demanding fast paced fighting style made education and entertainment usually secondary in importance. In Earth, where manpower was not so critical rest could be arranged between intensive fighting periods.

In Earth CEF could arrange meetings and tours with local patriotic and supporting organizations. This was impossible in colonies due long distances and communication problems. These gatherings were usually fairly rare and arranged with units training or resting in Australia but at times they could be arranged in field as well. Visits of high level dignitaries were used to show troops their leaders were interested in what they were doing. Actual effect could vary from huge morale boost to outright hostility depending on dignitary and circumstances. CEF had vested interest in these tours as to show off its capabilities and show high ranking politicians (especially in ruling coalition Party) that their resources and expense was well spent.

In the final assessment political officers were, like any other group of people, widely varying group of individuals. Since their work was working with people their real effect is difficult to assess. However, there is no doubt that work helped to make CEF troopers better motivated and thus ready fight even harder in battlefield. At the same time their loyalty towards CEF and ultimately to NEC and its Party was never an issue to be debated. CEF senior officers were absolutely loyal to Party and political officers doubly so. However, Party never issued or stated what CEF should say to its troopers. There was no political guidance from above. CEF was loyal to NEC and its rulers. With this loyalty CEF marched unquestioning to fight savage wars of peace in Earth and towards trials of strength in colonies. It was enough.

Welcome to the Future.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 7 August, 2000