Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Shrewd King 4.2: Chernovsky gets a side-kick

Chernovsky’s challenge was that he had twenty-seven fighters of various degrees of excellence and nine observation posts to man. By his figuring, the very lightest staffing level was a five man squad per outpost and two squads comprising a total of ten more fighters in reserve. That left him thirty fighters short.

Recruiting was a hit-and-miss affair. In some cases he took some fighters who were younger and older than his original cutoffs. Manning an observation post is not quite garrison duty but it is far less aerobic than manning the blast shield that took the brunt of the first waves of outward migrations from Lansing and Delta Township.

He also had the population of what was quaintly being called “Chernovsky’s Annex” to draw from. Hungry populations make eager recruits, at least until the reality of duty became apparent.

Because he was spread too thin to run all of the new recruits through boot camp, he opted for on-the-job training. He ranked his veteran fighters from 1-through-27. Then he did the same for his recruits, even though he knew next to nothing about them. He paired his best fighter with the weakest recruit and continued thus until he had paired his weakest fighers with the strongest recruit.

The very strongest veterans were promoted to Team-leaders. Refusal was not an option. Due to the shortage of seasoned veterans, some of his Team Leaders were mentoring two recruits.

Chernovsky’s on-the-job training program was to rotate teams so newbies would work with the widest range of veterans possible.

Every two weeks a pair of vet-recruits, known as the A-crew, would transfer out of their current observation post to the next observation post in the counter-clockwise direction. On the odd week the other pair of vet-recruits, known as the B-crew, would transfer clockwise. The Team-leader transferred with the B-crew.

Chernovsky was still short of people so he deputized assorted “civilians” to fill the gap until he had filled out his roster. The civilians had other responsibilities so the logical place to put them was on the Quick Response Team where the civilians could go about their life until the siren went off. Wade Hawk and the other curfew enforcers were part of the Quick Response Team as well as Larry Tomanica and Tim.

Chernovsky has so many people step-up for quick-response that he split them into two teams. One team’s primary task was to back-fill the two, isolated outposts in the southwest corner of Kates Store. The other team’s primary task was to reinforce the two, widely separated outposts that guarded Columbia Highway and Bunker Highway bridges along the southern half of the eastern frontier.

It was Chernovsky’s professional opinion, tempered by observations of HIS men and their actions while under fire, that the close proximity of the five outposts along the northern frontier was such that the teams could be mutually reinforcing. That is, fighters could flow between the five observation posts to heal any breaches in the line.

One factor that solidified his belief was that the middle observation post, Smith Road, had seen almost no traffic even during the height of operation Blast Shield as he had come to think of it. They could flow east or flow west with equal ease when the need arose.

The only factor that kept Chernovsky up at night was that he did not have a good feel for the new recruits. His plan had been to give them standardized training, including shooting lessons with Larry Tomanica, while they rotated through the Quick Response team posting. Given manpower limitations, that would have to wait for another day.

As it was, he was the one-of-two individuals nominally assigned to that post. The other person assigned to QRT was ‘Gimp’ Sullivan, a disabled vet that Larry Tomanica knew from the VFW post they both attended. Larry whispered into Rick Salazar’s ear and much to Chernovsky’s dismay, Chernovsky found he had another executive assistant.

Rick made the case that Chernovsky’s organization was held together by force-of-personality. Loss of Chernovsky would throw the organization into disarray. From Rick’s perspective, Chernovsky was a critical resource that had to be protected.

Chernovsky’s original dislike of the idea was tempered as he worked with Gimp. Gimp had many of the bones in his left ankle fused together. That limited his mobility SOMETIMES. Gimp had a very high tolerance for pain, and when circumstances required that he move quickly, Gimp simply ignored the pain and could move like greased lightning.

The other thing was that bikes were the only logical means of checking his men every day. Gimp’s ankle did not bother him in the slightest when riding a bike.

The factor that sealed-the-deal, in Chernovsky’s mind, was the first time they rode the circuit together. Chernovsky thought Gimp was unable to keep up because he rode almost fifty yards behind Chernovsky.

There was one way to check that hypothesis. Chernovsky sped up.

Gimp sped up and maintained the fifty yard spacing.

Chernovsky sped up some more. Gimp maintained the spacing.

When they stopped, Chernovsky asked. “Sullivan, what is the matter? Do I smell bad or something?”

Gimp’s answer was short and to-the-point. “Ambushers. At fifty yards they can see me, so I am a deterrence while fifty yards is far enough away that they are unlikely to get us both at the same time.” Gimp was all business about those kinds of things and that suited Chernovsky fine.

Chernovsky and Gimp quickly fell into the habit of visiting every observation post every day.

Chernovsky’s forces had barely survived an attempt by hostile forces to destroy them. It was only Chernovsky’s paranoia that the hostile forces failed to crack Chernovsky’s communication codes. Since then, Chernovsky had become a great believer in becoming unpredictable.

To that end, every morning Chernovsky rolled a pair of dice to decide which observation post to visit first. The post they visited first might call ahead to the neighboring posts, though they rarely did. Chernovsky’s plan was to be as unpredictable as possible...thereby stymieing any ambushers and those troops who might be tempted to game the system. And if he sometimes had to ride his bike at the ass-crack of dawn to BF Nowhere two days-in-a-row, then that was simply the price of excellence.

At a superficial level, the time he spent with the troops was of little added value. How much can a commander learn listening to his fighters bitch about the bugs and the smell and the monotonous diet? At first Chernovsky thought their complaints about smell were just so much bullshit. And then one day he was visiting the northmost observation posts as a gentle southwest breeze blew the stink and blow-flies from hundreds of decomposing corpses into camp.

At the intangible level, though, Chernovsky and Sullivan’s visits were priceless. May God have mercy on the Team Leader and troops Chernovsky caught screwing-the-pooch.

When that happened, Chernovsky and Sullivan relieved the entire fire-team and sent them on a run around Chernovsky's Annex, Kates Store and Pray Church, an honest 25 mile run. They had to stop at each observation post and explain what Chernovsky or Sullivan had caught them doing and each fighter had to collect initials from the Team-Leaders to prove they had all run the circuit.

The discipline runs were equally motivating to the men running them and to the fighters in the observation posts. Any fighter who could not complete the circuit in less than four-and-a-half hours was dropped.



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