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The Desert Spear: A Prologue to the Liberation of Europa


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  • 2 months later...
  • 4 months later...

It has been a few months since the Parliament had officially declared that Gallambria was in a state of war with Great Anglia and her Allies, and they had started to hear murmurs from the international community about whether or not Gallambria was going to follow through with it.


While the Prime Minister had been aware of this comments, she shrugged them off as "Simplistic and Idiotic Ignorance..." - This war is to be her first foray into leading the country into a major conflict. A conflict which will be the nations first major conflict since the 2nd Argic War, and for some Gallambrians, a third major conflict that they would've experienced in their lifetime. Yesterday, in a closed session with her therapist, she disclosed her discomfort about sending the future of the nation to war, with many of them young, and many of them probably will not return. Dr Hoftstader, her therapist, reminded her, that while the sacrifice may be great, and many people will be grieving for their lost ones, their sacrifice will not be in vain, their sacrifice will be made in order to guarantee a future of peace in the region.

After a restless night, Nadia made her way to the Cabinet Offices, to meet with Cabinet and the Defence Chiefs before the war kicked off, to confirm final plans and objectives.


0900h 02JUL2023
JOINT CYBER OPERATIONS CENTRE
JDE MT JERUSALEM

In the briefing rooms at JCOC, a group of officers and senior enlisted members of the three services, sat around the conference table, where Brigadier Lachlan McDowell the commander of the Joint Cyber Force, was briefing them about the up coming operations against Anglian cyber and electronic assets.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we have just received word from the Cabinet Office, that the Initial Phase of Op Lear will be kicking off today at 1000hrs Local.

The Situation as it stands is that Great Anglian and their aligned forces, occupy much of the Suverin peninsula, and large areas of the Lysian mainland. Our objective today, is to provide, cyber and electro-magnetic activities in support of coordinated naval and air strikes against the Suverin cities of Hincesti, Frunzivka, and Chisinau, Air Defence Installations and, Military Bases and Encampments, throughout the Suverin Peninsula.

Today's CME activities, will be supported by elements of the Space Command's CME team, who will be exploiting Suverin and Anglian communication assets in LEO, and the Air Force's Information Warfare Directorate, who will be hijacking civilian and government broadcast services, and broadcasting material developed by our friends at the Psych Warfare team.

Team, It's paramount that we succeed today. Our efforts today, will have a flow on effect, and will determine whether or not, on-going actions will be successful.

Our planned activities have been delineated in each sections separate briefing package, Captain Geraldine Ettinghouse will be the immediate commander for this phase of the operation, as I will be held up at Strategic Command, so any issues, please consult with her in the first instance.

Questions? None? Good. Go and brief your teams...

The various teams break up and go to their separate briefings...

Moments later, a scouring of people started on the Ops Centre floor, keyboards started clacking, and people began talking amongst themselves.

For Gallambria, the War Has Begun.

This was the point in time, where bits, bytes and lines of code were the opening salvo, not bombs, bullets and missiles.

A few hours later, and the Ops Centre started to go quiet ... the racket of keyboard strokes, and chatter had started to wane, people were running around, doing their final checks.

Captain Ettinghouse walked over to her console and picks up her telephone. Can you patch me through to Strat Com? she asked the operator on the other end.

She talks for a bit with Brigadier McDowell, about their mission... From our end Sir, for all intents and purposes, it's been a success. Space Command are reporting they've managed to intercept TX from their satellites and IWD are reporting that the broadcasts have been successfully dispatched - however we are still waiting confirmation of that from MO-9 and HUMINT sources in the region.

She hangs up the phone and starts to address the teams. Ladies and Gentlemen - Mission Successful. Let's keep an eye on our various taskings, and ensure they're still active, with reports back to me every half hour.

 

 

 

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1152hrs UTC 03JUL2023
28°25' N 75°56' E - Somewhere in the Amnalos Sea
D26 HMGS Abbotsleigh

 


 

**Klaxon** - COMMAND BROADCAST MESSAGE ON THE WIDE SEA NET - **Klaxon**

Commander Louis Hamlin-Jones, Captain of the Abbotsleigh, had just laid his head down after completing the forenoon watch, when the PA sounded, and the comms printer in his wardroom started to printed a message.

He tears off the paper, and starts to read the message.

FRM HQSTRATCOMD
TO   HQ JTF-311, JTF-311.1

TOP SECRET

STRIKE ORDERS - IMMEDIATE

ALL SURFACE SHIPS OF JTF 311.1 TO EXECUTE STRIKE PACKAGES PER OPSORD 23/1/15120 AT 1200Z03JUN23

/END

Commander Hamlin-Jones, picks up the telephone and buzzes the Officer of the Watch.

Bridge, Captain. Sound General Alarm, Bring the Ship to 1 SQ, All Division Chiefs to my Wardroom in 5 minutes.

A few moments had past, and one by one the Division Chiefs start making their way to the Captains wardroom.

The Captain gets up from his desk and retrieves an envelope from his safe, he then opens it and reads it contents.

Gentlemen, oh and lady, As you've heard we just received a CBM. Here it is, have a read and pass it around.

The DC's read the CBM, and pass it to the next.

This envelope I have in my hand, is the strike package. My best guess is that this is a task force wide order, so other ships and subs will have different taskings to us.

Nav - I want you to take the coordinates and verify that they're executable.

Weapons - Bring up the WLAMs to 1 SQ and report status.

Comms & Ops - Ensure comms with JTF HQ and the Flag Ship are open, keep an ear out for civilian traffic.

AYE SIR! - they all respond.

A few moments have passed, and Lieutenant Harris, the Weapons DC, has returned back to divisions area, and he hands one of the console operators, the envelope.

Wilkins, punch these coordinates in and await for my command.

One by one, the various division chiefs, have reported back to the Captain of their divisions readiness, and await for their commands. Commander Hamlin-Jones, starts to watch the clock, 11:59:45.

He picks up the PA mic. Weapons, Captain. Ready, Fire on my Command.

11:59:50 ...

He continues to watch the clock, pushing the PTT switch on the handset, 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... FIRE!

The first salvo of cruise missiles, fly away from the launchers towards their designated targets.

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0015hrs (UTC+7) 14JUL2023 | L-2

Headquarters, No. 30 Wing

RGAF Tubruq


Sitting around their table in the Officers Lounge, one of the pilots look at their watch - "Shit, we're late..." - they all got up from their seats and started to run towards the briefing room.

Along the way, they are stopped by their OC - "You guys didn't get the email did you? The meeting's been moved to the theatre."

They turn around and started walking to the Theatre - "Why the fuck are they having a briefing in the theatre?" - Then they notice some crew, they'd never seen before, walk into the building. "Who are they?" one of the aircrew asks. One of the pilots squints to see if he could identify their patches - "Looks like a mix Pyro - Fuck me... I'm seeing 100, 467, 617, 262, 490..."

Flight Lieutenant Michael "Pyro" Topley - one of the pilots from 302 Squadron, who had recently transferred to 302 Squadron from 490 Squadron, a Jaguar squadron based at RGAF Williamtown - starts to walk over to the aircrew from 490 Squadron, when one of them notices Pyro.

"Pyro! Get the fuck over here!", one of them shouts - It was Flight Lieutenant William "Half-Stroke" Botha, an EWO from 490 Squadron - they were teamed together during their OPCON. Pyro heads over to Half-Stroke and they hug each other - "It's been a while you bastard!" - They continue their conversation for bit, when one of the senior officers, comes out of the theatre and directs everyone in.

Over the next few minutes, a few more groups of aircrew start walking in, a mix and-a-half of different squadrons and aircraft were all represented, Hurricanes, Thunders, Kestrals, Minervas ... The theatre had gone from empty to standing room only in the space of 10 minutes.

All of a sudden, an officer walks up to the lectern -

"Good Evening Ladies & Gentlemen, I know it's late - So I'll make this quick.

He plugs his laptop into the project and opens up a targeting plot for the upcoming mission.

"For those who don't know who I am, I'm Air Commodore Stephen Conway, Deputy Commander Near East Air Force. We're currently, hopefully, at L-Day minus 2. We're still waiting on the @Iverican's to get into place. However, we're going to be continuing on with the pre-landing strikes.

The Navy has seen as success rate of about 82-90 percent on the strikes they completed a few days ago. Strategic Command has asked us to go in a clear up some entrenched ground-based air surveillance installations and air-defence systems.

He pulls up a satellite image of the Suverin peninsula, showing the area surrounding Frunzivka, where a majority of the Gallambrian amphibious forces will land.

To continue on with the brief I'll hand over to Wing Commander William Trescothick, from Air Intelligence."

Wing Commander Trescothick walks up to the podium

"Thank you sir, As you can see through out the area surrounding Frunzivka, we can see, what we've determined to be First Generation Nullabor Air Defence Systems, which we can only assume are surplus systems that the Anglians purchased from us in 1997. As you can also see, they've paired the Brolga 75 with what looks like to be, again, the M3A3SPA Racket, another possible hand off from the Anglians."

Trescothick continues on with the intelligence portion of the brief, when Pyro leans forward and whispers in Half-Strokes ear.

"You boys get all the fun..."

Squadron Leader Tammy "SHOCK" Webster, Pyro's XO clips him across the back of his head, gesturing to him to pay attention.

Trescothick wraps up his portion of the brief, outlining priority targets, he then hands back over to Air Cdre Conway.

"Just a quick one from me, before we split the Squadron's up in to task groups for further briefings... Word down from MoD is that the ROE has become tighter. We have Cabinet & PM watching, as well as the general public...

For the record, all attack coordination has taken into consideration our obligation to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to the civilian population. Remember we're going in to remove the Anglians from Suverina. No ad hoc strikes will be tasked, unless adequate CDE has been carried out, and in the case that there's a TIC tasking, only JTAC directed strikes are to occur.

FAC's from 5 and 17 Squadron will be conducting aerial BDA's and CDR's. So just be wary that there'll be props about. Panther and Jag drivers, you'll have top-cover provided by the Hurricane's and Thunders. Kestral's will be stationed over the Amnalos Sea providing Brass Hat coverage, and Warden's will be providing ISTAR providing up-to-date targeting info.

So before I send the crews back to their sheds, CO's and XO's are to meet up with your relative ATG commander for specific briefings and taskings...

Godspeed Ladies and Gentlmen, Dismissed!"

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  • 3 months later...

0315hrs (UTC+7) 19JUL23 | L+3

Somewhere over Southern Suverina


Mayhem Flight, a flight of four RGAF Hurricane F.5's from 78 (Fighter) Squadron were on station over the Anmalos Sea just off the coast of Frunzivka, when their flight lead, Flight Lieutenant Callum "Two-Dads" Holbrook-Mellings, had noticed something on his datalink:

MAYHEM38 ("Two-Dads"): "DOGTAIL-FIVE-SIX, MAYHEM-THREE-SIX, REQUEST BOGEY DOPE"
DOGTAIL36: "MAYHEM-THREE-EIGHT, DOGTAIL-FIVE-SIX, RADAR CONTACT, 12 BOGEYS, BRA TWO-THREE-ZERO, FOR FIFTY, ANGELS 20, HOT."
MAYHEM38 ("Two-Dads"): "Copy, BRA TWO-THREE-ZERO, FOR FIFTY, ANGELS 20, HOT"

The flight starts to turn for the contact, when over the radio, another callsign chimes -

HELLCAT29: "DOGTAIL-THREE-SIX, HELLCAT-TWO-NINER, FOUR SHIP, JOINING THE FIGHT."
DOGTAIL36: "HELLCAT-TWO-NINER, COPY."

When the crews of Hellcat Flight joined the Mayhem Flight air chatter frequency, they started to discuss amongst themselves what the plan was on how they would deal with the aircraft, when Two-Dads is called again over the air ops frequency.

DOGTAIL36: "MAYHEM-THREE-EIGHT, DOGTAIL-THREE-SIX, TRACK UPDATE."
MAYHEM38 ("Two-Dads"): "COPY, GO AHEAD."
DOGTAIL36: "MAYHEM-THREE-EIGHT, CONTACT REMAINS, CONTACTS ARE TYPE CLASSIC PANTHERS. SPEED ZERO-POINT-NINE, THEY'RE HEADING FOR YOU."

After about 2 minutes, Mayhem and Hellcat flight, had closed their distance with the enemy contact.

Soon, the frequency was alive with calls from both flights.

MAYHEM42: "MAYHEM-FOUR-TWO, SPIKE, 2 O'CLOCK"...
HELLCAT23: "HELLCAT-TWO-THREE, SPIKE, 10 O'CLOCK"...
HELLCAT25: "HELLCAT-TWO-FIVE, SPIKE, 12 O'CLOCK"...
MAYHEM39: "MAYHEM-THREE-NINE, SPIKE, 1 O'CLOCK"...

It continues for few seconds when Two-Dads makes the call:

MAYHEM38 ("Two-Dads"): "ALL CALLSIGNS, MAYHEM-THREE-EIGHT, WEAPONS FREE."

Moments later, contrails from missiles could be seen as the different callsigns started to fire at their targets. One after the other, a few of the callsigns were calling "Splash" on their targets. For a few of the callsigns, the dogfight continued for a bit when a call came over the radio:

MAYHEM52: "MAYHEM-THREE-EIGHT, FIVE-TWO, NEED YOUR HELP HERE MATE, BOGEY ON MY SIX, CAN'T SHAKE HIM."
MAYHEM38 ("Two-Dads"): "FIVE-TWO, THREE-EIGHT, COPY, ON MY WAY"

Two-Dads pushes the throttle to Afterburner, and starts to punch it towards MAYHEM52's position. When he himself, had started to become tracked by an Anglian Panther.

MAYHEM38 ("Two-Dads"): "FIVE-TWO, THREE-EIGHT, SEEMS AS THO I'VE GOT MYSELF A DANCE PARTNER AS WELL."
MAYHEM52: "COPY THAT, SHALL WE'LL TEACH THESE TWO HOW TO TANGO?"
MAYHEM38 ("Two-Dads"): "ROG, SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN."

When the two dogfights start to merge, Two-Dads and Pilot Officer Charlie "Surfer" Lee (MAYHEM52), put the pressure on the two bogeys, when they notice the other remaining Anglian aircraft start to disengage and breakoff from the fight.

MAYHEM38 ("Two-Dads"): "FOUR-TWO, THREE-EIGHT, YOU RECEIVE?"
MAYHEM42: "THREE-EIGHT, FOUR-TWO, RECEIVING, NEED SOME HELP OVER THERE?"
MAYHEM38: "FOUR-TWO, THREE-EIGHT, THAT'D BE GRAND, I'M NEARLY AT JOKER - NOT SURE ABOUT FIVE-TWO."
MAYHEM52: "YEAH, I'M JOKER AS WELL."
MAYHEM42: "COPY, I'LL BRING THREE-NINER WITH ME"

"Two-Dads" finds himself in a downward defensive spiral with his Anglian counterpart, close behind him. Passing through 13,000ft he realises that he may have enough wiggle room to put himself in a position to fire off a missile. He cuts power, and opens the air brakes. His airspeed drops, and he notices the Anglian pilot continue past him, putting him in position, in a last ditch attempt, to fire off a missile.

MAYHEM38 ("Two-Dads"): "THREE-EIGHT, FOX-TWO."

As the missile missile starts to track the enemy aircraft, Two-Dads starts to pull away from the engagement, when he notices his missile impact the enemy aircraft.

MAYHEM38 ("Two-Dads"): "DOGTAIL-THREE-SIX, MAYHEM-THREE-EIGHT, SPLASH ONE BOGEY, JOKER FUEL, RETURNING TO HOME PLATE, REQUEST PIGEONS FOR HOMEPLATE."
DOGTAIL-THREE-SIX: "MAYHEM-THREE-EIGHT, DOGTAIL-THREE-SIX, PIGEONS HOMEPLATE, BEARING ONE-TWO-FIVE, RANGE ONE-ONE-SIX MILES. DO YOU REQUIRE BARREL?"
MAYHEM38 ("Two-Dads"): "ROG, PIGEONS, ONE-TWO-FIVE, ONE-ONE-SIX MILES. NEGATIVE ON BARREL, I SHOULD HAVE ENOUGH TO GET BACK HOME."

Both Flights start to reform as the start to head back to Home Plate. About half an hour later they land at RGAF Aqir, the ground crews start to move in with fuel and ammo trucks, as the crews start to hop out of their aircraft and start doing post battle damage checks. "Surfer" gets through most of his damage check when he gets to his starboard canard, and notices some cracking through the skin. Shit, he says under his breath, the CO's not gonna like this.

After the crews had wrapped up and signed their aircraft back in, they head back to the sheds for a debrief and sleep - Most of them wondering what the next day will bring.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Desert Spear | Iverican Forces
Preparations: Operation Adlas

 

Between September of 2022 and June of 2023
Several military facilities in Iverica, Pharos Island in Corinium, Ferrefaaierhafen in Variota
Estaria City in Ceris, Diego Gracias Armada Base in the GAOT, Aroer & Mahanaim in Bashan

 

 

201,600,000

 

Two-hundred and one million, six-hundred thousand personnel hours, plus change. Operation Adlas.

That is what it took the Joint Armed Service Lift and Organisational Corps to execute the mere preparatory operation making one constituent force ready for what was to be the single largest full-scale multinational operation since the Argic Wars.

To ferry over one-hundred and twenty-thousand men, several million tonnes of equipment, over forty-thousand FedCom volunteers, and another score million tonnes of food, construction material, medical supplies, clothing, and everything needed to supply what was effectively, a small civilisation on the move and at war.

Carrying the host of men and material was done over the Adlantic backs of six specially designed "Strategic Lift & Landing Support" vessels modified from hulls of an aircraft carrier class previously modified from an ocean liner hull and rapidly converted for military use. Carrying six thousand troops, two battalions worth of armoured vehicles, 6 landing craft, and an uncountable mass of supply tonnage per trip, the SLLS "Adlantic-classes" were cousins of the Federation-class carriers. They were the largest military supply ships by dimension and tonnage to ever go underway on Eurth's oceans. Despite their efficiency, they could not handle the sheer volume of men and material on their own.

They were assisted by 51 ships of the Armada Sea Lift Command bolstered by the 38 reactivated ships of the Civil Mariner Irregular Fleet. Flotillas of transfer docks, mobile bases, flo-flo, dry goods cargo, fluid cargo, aircraft transport, ocean tugs, oilers, and underway replenishment ships made the trip halfway around the wurld on tight timetables. From September 2022 to April 2022, an additional four hundred thousand man-hours were spent maintaining the ships on Armada Overseas bases in Estaria, Diego Gracias, and Pharos Island.

It was not uncommon for Sustainment and Strategic Lift personnel to work 48-hour shifts during the operation. The sanity of these men and women and their continued efficient service was owed largely to the completion of the activated reserve's influx of personnel leaving their private sector jobs temporarily to lend labour to the effort. Further assisted by the RAS's point-to-point logistic structure and datalink-centred logistic trackers, the operation proceeded with minimal incidences and minimal loss of life from acts of God or other untoward incidences caused by human fatigue - the casualties of Adlas.

Though exhausted, the office pencil-pushers, the forklift-certified grunts, the cargo pilots, the crews, the data-entry flunkies, the accountants, actuaries, maintainers, train crew, truck drivers, loadmasters, logistics managers- and anyone else normally derided as a silly fat POG (exception of pilots and crews) pushed together.

They were highly motivated after the Anglian Raid on Manille, which had claimed civilian, sailor, and pilot lives alike. It was not combat but it was their fight, their war. They fought one of the greatest logistics wars in history... and won.

 

At the end of the war, many would inquire, mockingly:

 

"Where were you, when we breached the coastal wall at the Cape of  The Scisinou Peninsula? How many friends did you lose during the Anglian counter-attack in Operation Othello?  When we crossed the pass at Pèirtapla, that narrow gate called the flooded altars, what were you doing? Or when we charged with thunder, the run to Taren, where were you in the column?"

 

In response, a man, anonymous and unknown, is said to have smiled and returned words that would go down in history as the retort of the men and women of Operation Adlas:

 

"With what munitions, was that wall breached with? Composition C, Lot ZS 31B-9054? I carried that five-thousand miles in a single flight, another inventoried that and a thousand just like it on the 43rd hour of a week without sleep and then inventoried the interceptor that shot down the missile that would have sunk the Carrier Deiargon on Othello. When you crossed Pèirtapla, what did you eat? Vacuum-sealed Menu 24? Or was it fresh beef and potatoes? I knew the crew on the ship that brought it to the Theatre Supply Distribution Centre, they were down 2 diesels during the voyage and short 20 crew - they used daisy-chained gensets to keep the freezers running, then lost a man to an unsecured mooring line when they made port. On the Thunder Run to Taren were you running on fumes? Or was it Level 6 Diesel with 1 part-per-million impurity level in your tank? The 147th lost a dozen men to a pipeline rupture getting that there. That's where I was and those are the people I served my war with so you could survive yours. Fuck off, cunt."

 

By June, camps and warehouses in Bashan were stacked. A hundred thousand spreadsheets were clean and itemised. Primary supply and lift objectives were complete while secondary and tertiary priorities were within acceptable completion margins.

To some, the war was cordite and kevlar. To others, it was spreadsheets and supplies. The former could never even have started without the latter. It was Operation Adlas and decades from when the flags of the free wurld were planted on Godstone's Imperial Palace, the men and women who helped make it happen would wear their distinct decoration proudly on V-Day parades, a single gold service medal upon which is minted the figure of Adlas, lifting the wurld.

 

Operation Adlas Medal.png

 

The Operation Adlas Service Medal

 

image.png

Operation Adlas Ribbon Bar

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  • 2 weeks later...

• • • † • • •

Tuesday, 20 December 2022 | 14:30 hrs [UTC-3]
Konfederacija Poja, Rugi, Central District | Predsjednički Dvori

President Andrej Petrović drummed his fingers on his desk as he cradled the phone's handset in his right ear.  He'd been on hold for the better part of the last two minutes until finally he heard some background noise, "Patching you through right now sir."

          "Thank you," Petrović said as the operator clicked off and a dial tone echoed in his ear.  After two rings, the line was picked up and Petrović wait until he was sure the connection had been established.  "Jelena, I hope I'm not disturbing you.  I know that the government is 'on vacation' already."  What he meant was that it was the end of the year.  The Pojački government basically went into vacation mode for the last two weeks of the year with only the most critical and essential parts functioning until after New Year's.  As Chancellor, Jelena Jurić had little to do with the legislature not in session and the government closed thus, in effect, she too was on vacation, at least on paper.

          "I should expect the same of your office too Andrej, shouldn't I?"  She responded, leaning back in the plush chair in her home office.

          "It's a ghost town here, in fact no, I think they might even be on vacation."  She chuckled at the joke, "Listen, I need to discuss something very important with you.  Much better in person.  Would you be against a morning meeting?"

          "Depends what it concerns."

          "Did you see King Albert's proclamation?"

          Jelena was searching her memory.  It had been in one of her daily packets but the news itself had largely come and gone for her.  "I did but I didn't think it significant.  That's a matter of state is it not?"

          "Right you are, but if the state should need the approval of the legislature?"

          "Andrej you're not thinking…"

          He cut her off, "You and I agreed that we would act in unison together, did we not?"  She answered.  "I believe there would be benefit.  Let's discuss tomorrow.  Nine?"

          "Ten."

          "Ten it is.  See you tomorrow Jelena."

          "Oh I'm sure Andrej, good bye."  She hung up the phone and Petrović looked across his desk at his chief aide, Ratimir Pešić.  "Ten o'clock meeting."

          "Yes, I heard," Pešić answered, "skeptical?"

          "She didn't sound enthused."

          "Let's see what tomorrow brings."

• • • • ‡ • • • •

Chancellor Jelena Jurić stood up when the doors to Petrović's office opened and she entered at the instance of Pešić, shaking his hand as she walked by, her shoes clicking on the floor as she walked.  With the doors shut behind her, she eyed Petrović in what could only be described as business casual attire, a stark contrast to her own that had been dressier since she was visiting the President and had to keep up appearances.  The two had a healthy and very friendly relationship and so she quickly shook her head, "I was looking forward to sweatpants today Andrej."

          "I bet but I appreciate you coming on short notice, even on your 'off time.'  You know us here.  No rest for the wicked I believe they say," he shook her hand and showed her to a chair in the sitting area of his office.  Pešić, in a suit and tie, sat next to her and Petrović across from them.  Hot coffee was waiting for everyone and Pešić poured three cups to everyone's desire.  "So, you saw King Albert's proclamation?"

          "Yes, I took the time to read up on it.  This situation with Anglia is going to get out of control fast, don't you think?"  He nodded, "And Gallambria isn't the only one preparing for what seems like inevitable war with Anglia."

          "Very astute, that is correct, the Ivericans have been building up for the past several months as well."

          "So how does it concern us?  Are you looking to host peace talks, diffuse the tensions, what?"

          "Jelena, I want to support Gallambria and Iverica against Anglia."

          "Are you mad?  That has nothing to do with us.  Poja is under no threat whatsoever from this war.  It's been going almost two years now and not a single threat has been made against our nation.  Why do you feel that we, a nation completely untouched by what is amounting to become a wurld war, wishing to get us involved.  Is our military capable of defending itself against Anglia, or the Dolch?  Lest you forget, the state of our navy is not the greatest.  I do recall several meetings already on Project 2026 over the past year, specifically how far behind schedule it is.  If the Dolch attack us, they'll do so with their navy."

          "The matter goes really beyond just helping Iverica and Gallambria.  They're more than capable of dealing with the matter themselves," Pešić offered.  "It's about our future."

          "Yes, the grand strategist, what do you have to say?"  Jelena was not at all pleased with this conversation.  She might have been in the same party as Petrović but none of her political beliefs - or the party's really - called for getting involved in a war that wasn't theirs.  United Poja might have been about opening Poja up to a more glubal presence but getting involved in a massive conflict was hardly the way to go.  

          "It's about TRIDENT.  We're in the final stages of working on our draft submission for Partnership for Peace.  The idea behind our desire to support Iverica and Gallambria is to garner goodwill ahead of that submission.  We need to show TRIDENT that the Pojački military is capable and not a simple backwater military.  After all, the last time we engaged in any major, military action was Chernarus five decades ago.  Our military might be professional, they might be disciplined, they might be well trained but they lack combat experience.  Combat today is not what it was fifty years ago."

          "Oh bullshit," she put her cup of coffee down, "what's different today about men killing each other on a battlefield?  Warfare hasn't changed in thousands of years.  Two armies come together and kill one another.  The only thing that's changed is weapons, tactics but it's all the same, put the enemy in your sights and kill him."

          Petrović laughed, "Simplistic but yes tactics and weapons have changed.  What they are today is not what they were then."

          "Train harder.  You certainly have enough of a budget for it."

          "Jelena look, TRIDENT is Poja's future and we're not going to accelerate through it without some manner of commitment."

          "Do we have enemies knocking at the door?"  Both men nodded.  "Then why invite them?  Listen, we might be a unified front but in no way, shape, or form am I going to come onboard with sending men to this theater to die in a war that doesn't even concern us and no cajoling or convincing is going to make me change my mind.  We told the people we would bring Poja out in the wurld, that we would end the isolationist tendencies and take a prominent role on that stage.  We didn't say we'd bring home their kids in coffins."

          "Final answer?"  Petrović asked, somewhat disappointed.

          "Final answer.  I will not support it."  Petrović shook his head, "No," she raised her hand and finger, "you don't get to have that reaction.  Have you become a warmonger?"

          "I have not."  It was an unusual working relationship that these two had.  Technically speaking, the head of state was above the head of government but they had agree, from the first day of their terms that they would treat one another as equals and they truly had.  They would not undermine one another in public nor would they appear anything short of a unified front in public but in private, they had plenty of arguments and differences, today being no different from many times past.

          "Then don't lead us into war Andrej.  I presume that was it?"

          "Yes," he stood up, "I'll let you get back to your vacation time."

          "Thank you Andrej," she offered a hand, "Merry Christmas to you."  They shook hands and she shook Pešić's hand right after, him escorting her out to the door.

          When she was gone, he returned to his seat and the two men looked at one another, "She's not going to change her mind," Petrović offered, "so without the support of the legislature, this isn't going to happen."

          "We'll take the next two weeks.  We'll think of something.  We need to show TRIDENT that we're willing to commit, that we won't join the alliance simply to sit back and say 'not our problem.'  This nation has spent its entire existence looking at wurld conflicts and ignoring them.  The First Argic War, the Second Argic War and we had no involvement.  Now, mind you, Poja was hardly in any position in 1949 to get involved in the first war and we were occupied in Chernarus during the second but we did not act.  The First Argic War surrounded us and we stayed neutral, fortified our borders, and said, 'Do not bother us.'  That is our history when TRIDENT looks up Poja's application."  Pešić finished his coffee and put the cup back down on the small coffee table.

          "Jelena certainly doesn't see it that way."

          "So, we take the vacation, we regroup and rethink.  We have to get involved but we also need a situation amenable to the Chancellor."  He stood up, "I'll take some time with this."  Petrović stood as well and they shook hands.  "I'll see myself out," Petrović nodded and wandered back to his desk where he had a number of intelligence briefs on the status of the Grand War to date.  It wasn't looking good for the wurld but for Poja, it was hardly going to be a blip on the radar.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •


Friday, 17 February 2023 | 15:38 hrs [UTC-3]
Konfederacija Poja, Rugi, Central District | House of Magnates

Petrović entered Jelena's office, the door being shut behind him.  She had been busy with work after a particularly punishing and grueling legislative session the past week and, out of deference to her schedule, Petrović agreed to meet her in her office to discuss a topic he'd already talked to her a few times before since the new year, each time receiving the same, resounding "No" as from their first conversation.  He took a seat in a chair opposite her desk, a concession to her that this was her office and that in here, it was not matters of state but rather it was matters of government.  "I don't know why you're here about this again," she said, growing tired of the discussions.

          "You win Jelena," he said, crossing his legs, "but I have a compromise for you that I want you to consider."

          "Compromise?  Win?  Contradicting yourself aren't you?"

          He smiled, "I remain adamant that Poja needs to signal to TRIDENT that we are worthy of membership within their alliance.  You agree that TRIDENT is our future?"

          "I agree, I've always agreed.  You know this.  Is this some trick to get me to say 'Yes' because I've said it so many times in a row?"

          "We're hardly in a cartoon here," he laughed, "my compromise is this.  A humanitarian detachment consisting of a combat support hospital with its associated aviation assets for medevac flights.  And I must be up front and honest, this type of unit would need to deploy with a defensive detachment of infantry, typically a company-sized deployment.  A company of troops isn't enough to do combat operations but they can ensure the safety of the combat support hospital.  We would rely on the Ivericans and the Gallambrians for theater-level protection but these would be a last line of defense."

          "Is this all?  How many men?  Thousands?"

          "That is all and it's between nine hundred and a thousand men total.  This is a small deployment but a significant one that would otherwise signal our seriousness to support our future allies.  We're sending men to a war zone not to take lives Jelena but to save them.  I can't spin it any other way than how it sounds."

          "But still combat troops?"

          "Last line of defense.  To not send them our be a PR catastrophe if something happened but we would put very strict ROE onto them.  Rules of engagement."

          "I know what ROE stands for Andrej.  What are they?"

          "Defensive only.  They will be limited only to combat in direct defense of the combat support hospital and only as a last measure to protect the hospital and its patients, wounded, refugees, whomever, from hostile action.  Pojački doctors and nurses are first rate and if there is one thing we can install and impart upon this conflict, perhaps it is a little humanity then?  While every nation is concerned with killing one another, Poja can be concerned with saving lives."

          She leaned back in her chair and for the first time in the conversation, put down the pen that was in her hand.  She was engaged now, engaged more than she'd been in any other conversation thus far.  On the one hand, she'd stuck to her guns but so too had Petrović who continued to insist that Poja do something.  On the other hand, this wasn't a combat deployment regardless of the nature of it and she knew it, hadn't considered this as a potential deployment when she first refused his request.  "I want to think this over," she hadn't said "No," the first time thus far.  "I see what you're offering and I don't believe you're intentionally trying to sneak in something but this is out of my league.  I need to think about this."

          "I would hazard to ask that you keep this on a limited basis.  We should not be signaling to anyone that we're considering this."

          "Oh I won't but I do have someone I want to consult."

          "May I ask who?"  

          She looked over the desk at him, "My uncle.  Is that an issue?"

          "It's definitely not an issue.  How is he doing?"

          Shaking her head, her voice dropped and filled with sadness, "Not so good.  Doctors won't say how long he's got but the treatments are only so effective.  He's seventy-eight, it's taking quite a toll on his body.  Sometimes I think the treatments are worse than the cancer.  It's hard to imagine."  Her uncle was the only surviving member of her immediate elders.  Her father and mother had passed, her aunts had passed, leaving just one uncle, the one she'd been closest too her entire life, the one who'd stepped in when her father died when she was just seven years old and who'd been there when her mother died four years later, one to a heart attack the other to a broken heart.  

          "Give him my best," Petrović stood up, "thank you for considering this."  She nodded and he showed himself out while she looked at the pile of papers on her desk, then at the clock on the wall.  The work seemed endless and the day was moving at a snail's pace.  She would see her uncle tonight and ask him about his opinion.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •


Friday, 17 February 2023 | 19:50 hrs [UTC-3]
Konfederacija Poja, Gorrevo | Residence of Stanimir Nešić

Jelena let herself into the front door, awkwardly pulling her key out of the lock as she tried not to stumble and drop the two heavy bags of groceries under her arms.  "No, stay there, I've got it," she said as her uncle moved to get out of his chair.  The man was skin and bones but that didn't stop him from trying to get out of his armchair to help her.  "I said stay there," she said as she shut the door and saw him still trying to get out of the chair.  "If you get up, I'm taking this ice cream right back."  He stopped in his tracks, smiled, and nodded.  Jelena draped her coat on a dining room chair and put away the groceries quickly before stepping out of her shoes, losing eight centimeters of height in the process.  She joined him in the living room in an armchair sitting next to his.  "I swear Uncle Stan, this house hasn't been decorated since the 1970s.  When are you going to let me."

          "You can do it after I die but until then I'll take you with me if you try."  The house had been untouched since his parents, Jelena's maternal grandparents, redecorated it in the mid-70s and to say it was dated was to be a major understatement.  It still had a wall of smoked mirrors that Jelena found especially disturbing and had for the most part of her thirty-nine-year-life.  

          "Listen, I have to ask you something important that has to stay in confidence.  You can't tell any of your vet buddies and definitely not your doctors."

          "What is it?"  He reached for the remote and muted the already barely audible television.  He mainly watched it to do something and occupy his time.  He wasn't hard of hearing but he kept the volume low and the subtitles on, fascinated by the subtitles more so than the program sometimes.

          "Andrej wants to send men to the war."

          "The 'war' war?"  She nodded.  Her uncle scoffed.  He'd served twelve years in the military, enlisting at the age of eighteen in 1963.  He'd gone to Chernarus and fought many long and hard battles.  He'd been decorated numerous times over, even received the country's second-highest decoration for combat and when the war was over, he'd become a prominent peace activist.  He'd performed a one-eighty, going from a hardened, highly decorated solider to someone who scoffed at the very idea of war.  "War changes a man," he'd always say, "never is he the same again.  I don't want that for my children or their children or their children."

          "I've stuck to my guns," she said, reassuring him that his message wasn't wasted on her.  "I've flatly denied any cooperation for sending troops into war."

          "Good," he smiled, "at least I taught you one thing."

          "He had a counterproposal today."

          "Uh oh," her uncle's face tightened, "let's hear it."

          "Hospital unit, medevac helicopters, and a single infantry company to protect it, nothing more."

          Her uncle blinked and his face changed.  He leaned back in his chair.  "That's different."

          "Andrej wants to send a message to TRIDENT that Poja will be a contributor to the alliance if it were to allow the nation to join.  He sees this as the opportunity."

          "He's not wrong," her uncle winced a little in pain as he shifted.  "Our history with international wars don't really make us a good candidate for TRIDENT.  Of course, I'd rather TRIDENT not exist."

          "Of course."

          "This war isn't going to end anytime soon," he shifted again, his body sore from the latest round of treatments.  Jelena learned to stop asking if he was okay; he wasn't and he'd just say it was "nothing."  

          "It's not and I don't want to bring it to our shores or our cities."

          "I have taught you well," he smiled again and then began to cough a little, which further hurt his frail body.  "A situation like this, sending a hospital unit is something entirely different.  Hospital units don't take lives, they save them.  In fact, if we abolished our military I'd ask that we keep them so that we can deploy to natural disasters and wars to save people, not to kill them.  It's the only unit in our military I'd want to see survive its gutting."

          "What about the company of troops?"

          He waved his hand, "It's SOP.  A company of infantry won't do much.  In fact, they'd barely hold the perimeter of the hospital if they came under serious resistance.  They'd need support from other nations if that were the case.  Best they could do is buy some time while the hospital packs up and runs away.  The hospital probably deploys with them all the time, even in the middle of an earthquake or cyclone, it's just SOP.  If you resist then what happens?"

          "I don't know."

          "Our government might supply arms to the warring parties.  More bombs to kill more people.  It's not sending troops anymore and so it bypasses your signaled reservations."

          "So, this is the best we can do?"

          "Do you know something about our hospital units?  Let me tell you something."  He shifted back to how he was sitting before and grabbed his plastic cup of water, a cup that was easily forty years old and colored bright yellow.  He took a long gulp and then put it back, coughing again.  "I swear those treatments make my throat so dry the moment I start talking."  He reached for it and drank more, having put it down prematurely.  "We deployed those hospitals in Chernarus but not until at least two years into the fight.  They halved deaths amongst wounded soldiers.  Halved.   If you got to it, you had better than ninety-five percent chance of survival.  That was unheard of before its implementation.  Casualties were high in the first two years and they plummeted from then on thanks to those hospitals.  They'd come in, set up in a day, maybe two, and they'd be taking wounded soldiers right away.  I went through them twice myself.  Not serious, not like some of the guys I saw there.   If this is what he's offering, I would rather see this than anything else.  No bombs, just doctors."

          "He wants to sell it to the people as 'humanitarian.'"  This sent her uncle into a little laughing fit that ended with more coughing.  "Not the worst thing I've heard."

          "Humanitarianism is a joke.  The people who say they are doing something for 'humanitarian reasons' just want the publicity.  There's nothing humanitarian about war, about sewing people up after their bodies are torn open by grenades and landmines.  Hell, I've seen what a mortar landing next to someone can do.  You'd look at them and go, 'Well at least he died fast' and then you'd realize he didn't, just the opposite, it had been slow and painful, he'd wailed and cried the whole time but you couldn't do anything because mortars kept coming and coming and coming."  She reached over the table between the two chairs and took his hand, squeezing it, keeping him from a flashback.

          "Don't go there uncle."

          "Right," his hands were ice cold and his skin wrinkled and shriveled.  He patted her hand.  "War is Hell my dear.  It's not anything I'd wish upon anyone in this lifetime or the next one.  I think I've seen enough of it for everyone."

          "I know, that's why I wanted to ask you."

          "What was your opinion before you came here?"

          "That it was a concession I was willing to accept."

          "And if I had said otherwise?"

          "Flip a coin," she laughed and he did too though he didn't see it as the same joke as she did.  "I don't know."

          "Put conditions that if you accept this, that if the legislature is behind this, then it's not bombs, there can be no bombs.  No bombs, just doctors.  That's the slogan you sell it as.  It's not perfect but that's the slogan.  'We're not sending bombs, we're sending doctors.'  Let the Pojački people decide on their own."  She nodded and let go.  "Shall we finish watching?"

          She looked at the clock on the wall and saw that it was starting to get late but she knew that time was precious.  "Yes."  She'd probably fall asleep in the chair, she often did.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •


Monday, 27 February 2023 | 11:15 hrs [UTC-3]
Konfederacija Poja, Rugi, Central District | Predsjednički Dvori

"Then the matter is settled," Petrović said into the phone as he looked at the document in front of him, the ink barely dry.  "Then the conditions are acceptable and I have your support."

          "Yes, you have my support," Jelena said on the other end of the line, "No bombs, just doctors."

          "Then that is what we will send.  I've finished drafting the communique to the Gallambrian and Iverican governments.  I'll ensure you receive a copy."  Just an hour earlier, legislature had held a vote of confidentiality on whether or not to deploy Pojački forces in support of operations being conducted by Iverica and Gallambria.  It was confidential because it wasn't public yet and though the House of Magnates operated with a great deal of transparency in this new, United Poja age, matters of state secrecy could still be treated as such.  The vote had been in favor of the deployment but only by six votes, the tally being twenty-three in favor and eleven against.  As Chancellor, Jelena didn't vote except in cases of ties, which didn't necessarily happen often.  She dreaded the idea of a tie vote on this matter and had been relieved to see the yeas exceed the minimum number by even one vote, let alone six.  

          Petrović rang off and put the handset back into its cradle.  The document in his hand would be the official notice to the Iverican and Gallambrian governments requesting that the Pojački military support their operations with the deployment of a single, combat support hospital and some of its associated support units, including two light aviation companies, one with helicopters and the other with the men who maintained them, and one, light infantry company for security.  It was a total of 940 men to be deployed, which itself presented something of a puzzle.  The Pojački military didn't have the sealift capability to move the helicopters or the vehicles required though they could contract through commercial shipping.  For moving the men, they would simply contract commercial aviation, it was their only option.  This would take some time and it was going to take a few months to prepare for the deployment.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •


The Office of the President
Rugi
27 FEBRUARY 2023

King Albert II, United Kingdom of @Gallambria
Prime Minister Nadia Burnnett, United Kingdom of Gallambria
Primo Franso Deitorr, L'República @Iverica
Prime Minister Abé-Juan Quenovi, L'República Iverica

Dear Honorable Statesmen of the United Kingdom of Gallambria & L'República Iverica:

 

          War is a plight upon humanity but we find ourselves continually held hostage by its continuance.  One day, when peace reigns upon this wurld, we shall truly enjoy a future where our young men and woman are not haunted by the scars of battle or the losses of their loved ones.  Yet until that day, it is imperative that nations take actions to defend themselves against the wicked that plight our wurld with violence.

          The war that rages today across our wurld is a glubal war and one that carries the potential to erupt into catastrophe for our present and for our future.

          Though this war is far from our shores, it does threaten our people and our way of life due to the vastness of it.  As such, it is imperative that the Konfederacija Poja take steps to ensuring that the vastness of this conflict remains as contained as possible.

          In response, the Konfederacija Poja is prepared to support your governments in this conflict with a humanitarian deployment from the Pojački National Army consisting of a combat support hospital and its associated support elements, including light helicopter aviation for medevac purposes.  Today, our legislature voted 23 to 11 in favor of such a deployment and I have the full authority of the Pojački government to make this request.

          Our deployment will be non-combat in nature but a show of good will and faith towards your efforts.  The Pojački people wish for peace upon this wurld and thus, I do not wish to send bombs but rather doctors who are there to save lives, not take them.  In wars, it is all too easy to take a life but it takes a real human being to risk his or her life and limb to save them.  The Konfederacija Poja believes in this mission.

          With your approval, we will begin the coordination of our efforts.

          The Pojački people, government, and I eagerly await your positive response.


Sincerely,
His Excellency, the President of the Konfederacija Poja, Andrej Petrović, on behalf of the people of the Konfederacija Poja

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Thursday, 23 March 2023 | 15:18 hrs [UTC-3]
Konfederacija Poja, Rugi, Obrenošanj District | Ministry of National Defense

Once per quarter, Minister of National Defense, Brajko Tanacković, the heads of the service branches, and several other high-ranking military officials met for what always turned into an all-day, marathon meeting where they reviewed, in detail, the readiness status of the entire Pojački National Military.  The reviews themselves were mostly a formality since little changed quarter-over-quarter but they were important from the point of view of accountability.  Should something be drastically wrong with a unit's readiness and it not brought up, it could seriously damage said unit's reputation as well as the reputation of everyone within that chain of command all the way to the top.  Instituted in the 1980s, when military reform was moving the Pojački National Military away from a Volsci-dominated force to something more home grown and diversified, the quarterly reviews had become just another piece of the bureaucratic necessity for the military.

         Maršal Bratislav Gavrilović, the head of the Pojački National Army, had largely moved quickly through his units but he became the center of attention again in the mid-afternoon.  They'd largely completed the formalities of the review and moved into future planning when Gavrilović was put in the hot seat.  A month prior, Gavrilović along with Tanacković and several others, drafted a proposal for a Pojački deployment in the escalating Anglian War.  Initially, they had wanted to send major formations for some coveted combat experience but the House of Magnates were not as gung-ho as the military leaders were.  What resulted was a draft to send a combat support hospital and Gavrilović and the Pojački National Army were tasked with coming up with the deployment plan.  They'd been toiling away from weeks now and today was the day that Tanacković expected a preliminary plan, one that would be refined as they got closer to the deployment date in May.  

         "We do have a preliminary plan," Gavrilović answered the question as to whether he was ready to present and then dug through a folder for the notes to this plan.  He had it mostly memorized but he'd need to consult the paper from time-to-time and thus he wanted it accessible.  "The primary deployment unit will be 2nd Battalion, 41st Medical Brigade with 547 men, the full hospital unit.  Supporting them will be two units.  For ground defense, we will have Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Airborne Brigade with 124 men.  For helicopter evacuation, we will have Bravo and Echo Company, 4th Battalion and, 41st Medical Brigade with 257 men.  That brings us up to 928 men.  We have an additional 22 men for liaison and headquarters support, it was originally 12 but we upsized to provide a larger liaison force, for a total of 950 men.

         "Now in order to transport these men and their matériel to Bashan, we need to requestion support from the private sector.  Our navy lacks any roll-on/roll-off capabilities and it would be inefficient to transport the men with the ships or in cargo planes.  We have been focused on commercial vehicle carriers as the most optimal source for moving the equipment.  We believe that we would only need one of these large vessels to transport all of the equipment, including the helicopters.  We've identified a number of roll-on/roll-off cargo ships that normally transport containers on deck.  Our helicopters could be transported on deck with the vehicles below.

         "We would send the men via chartered air service with MZL Pojački.  We would break them into three groups.  The primary group would arrive four weeks ahead of the scheduled arrival in order to coordinate and ensure all of the clearances are in order.  They will also identify the staging area and any deployment sites and begin coordination for movement.  A few days before the arrival of the cargo, a secondary group would arrive and brief with the locals on coordinating movement of all vehicles, including helicopters on flatbed trailers, from the port to the staging site.  The third and final group will be the bulk of the men who will travel the day prior to meet the entire force at the staging area and provide breakdown and inspection services."

         "It will take some time to requisition commercial assets so we'll need to get on this as soon as possible.  Negotiations tend to last a long time while the government haggles over costs and the commercial partners overcharge for the most basic of services."  Tanacković fished through some of his papers.  "So, the plan will be an initial consolidation and inspection in a staging area, planned for late May or early June with full deployment when the hostilities commence.  We're a little far from having a date set.  What is the readiness time once the unit reaches its intended deployment area."

         "It takes twenty-four hours to unpack.  In fact, if the entire hospital had to reposition you would be looking at only forty-eight hours, half to pack and half to unpack.  It is an entirely mobile unit."

         "What about supplies?  They'll need significant amounts of water, medicine, fuel?"

         "Yes certainly," Gavrilović slid a paper across the table to him.  "The entire unit deploys with just over 800 tonnes of equipment and requires an area 350 meters wide and long for its footprint.  It's combat but we're obviously talking a sizeable operating unit.  As you can see, we will require a minimum of six tonnes per day but it will be more likely eight to ten tons per day when we factor in attached units.    In terms of water alone, each day will require 100,000 liters per day.  You can see the rest, it's significant.  For the most basic of requirements, fuel and water, we will need to work with local contacts.  For larger but less frequent supply, we would be moving via sea large amounts of supplies that will require local support for transport."

         "Daily power requirements, 1 megawatt," Tanacković read.

         "We've increased it from 825 kilowatts in the previous defense papers."

         "How will this be provided?"

         "Ideally we'll be able to use local power assets but we have more than enough generator capacity to provide double."

         "Biomedical waste?"

         "On site incinerator."

         "We'll need to review local pollution laws."

         "Yes we will."  Gavrilović found it slightly amusing that pollution laws would need to be reviewed and considered.  Wars weren't exactly "environmentally friendly."  All manner of toxic materials would be burning and going into the atmosphere and the ground water, never mind all of the UXO that would be deposited across the battlefield throughout the course of the conflict.  Yet, those were the requirements and Gavrilović was a slave to the politics like anyone else.  Tanacković had a number of questions still as he read through the document that he'd been given but ultimately, he found it suitable for a preliminary plan and advised that he would present it at the next meeting of the Senior Council.


 
 

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Tuesday, 11 April 2023 | 11:00 hrs [UTC-3]
Konfederacija Poja, Rugi, Obrenošanj District | Ministry of Finance

In the past three weeks, the Ministry of National Defense (Ministarstvo Narodne Obrane; MNO) had moved at what could be called "breakneck speed," at least in terms of a government agency.  Through the Ministry of Commerce, which was responsible for the domestic economy of the country, they put out a bid to six of the country's ocean freight and transport companies for the exclusive lease of a roll-on/roll-off container cargo ship.  Bids came back quickly with rates per nautical mile traveled, detention times, as well as for the vessel itself.  The transportation rates were, by themselves, too close to one another to be much of a factor.  Even the accessorial rates weren't too different from one another, which was to be expected.  Even in over-the-road transportation, the fuel surcharges and accessorial rates were never too different from one another since these fees were largely standardized across the industry.  Where the contract was really won was on the individual leasing costs and the terms of the arrangement.  It was through this that the country's third largest ocean transport company, the Adjinua-based Kovačić Steamship Company, d.o.o. won the bid.

         From there, a series of NDAs were sent over that covered not only certain individuals within the company but also the company as a whole.  Given this bid was for the Ministry of National Defense, all discussions were wrapped up in the very black-and-white and very enforceable National Secrets Act of 1983, which levied significant penalties on those who divulged state secrets in an authorized manner.  Though rarely invoked, when it had been, the government had come down like a sledgehammer on a fly.  One company in 1990 had been entirely seized by the government and its leadership jailed and in 2008, an individual working for the Ministry of National Defense, who divulged secrets about the Pojački National Air Force found himself with a thirty-year prison sentence.  The Pojački government didn't take too kindly to those who commits any acts of espionage.

         With the NDAs signed, the MNO forwardhttps://store.nightride.fm/listing/nrfm-motorcycle?product=46ed over basic information on the cargo, how many tons and pallets of this or that material, hazardous declarations, and shipping specifications.  Each of the companies put, as a condition to their transportation, the ability to review cargo shipping protocols and adjust as needed to comply with safety regulations.  The overconfident MNO believed that this wouldn't be an issue since it deemed its protocols to be higher than industry standards, which was true when they were drafted, in the early 1980s.  Times and technology had changed and after a very quick review, KSC determined that eighty-five corrective actions would be required to transport the cargo, forty of them specific to the transportation of ammunition alone.  The MNO had been floored by the request but when they audited their own protocols against the current safety regulations, it was they who wore egg on their face.  Compliance would be essential and so Tanacković directed the MNO to not only update their protocols but take an exhaustive and thorough review of all safety protocols throughout the entire military.  His point of view was that if these were out of date, then who knew what else was.

         The bureaucrats were floored by the speed at which things evolved.  The bid had taken a week, the review a mere two days, the preliminary back-and-forth only another week, and then that was it.  This normally took months but the MNO didn't have months on their side, at least not anymore.  The decision to deploy Pojački forces in support of Gallambria and Iverica had taken considerable time and went through many iterations.  The plan, as it stood now, was the final plan but it crunched the timeline, especially for a military, that while mobile, wasn't mobile on an intercontinental level.  There was no military sealift force, no network of friendly airbases or tanker services to move aircraft, and no training exercises to do any of this, which meant that everything the Pojački National Military was doing now, it was doing it for the first time.  Mistakes were obviously being made, SOPs changed, and so on and so forth.  Most importantly, lessons were being learned on the fly.

         All of this was culminating in a high-level, top-to-top meeting with the seniormost leadership of KSC and the Pojački government, the former including the brothers Dražen and brother Krešimir Šabić, who were the CEO and CFO respectively, and their COO, Marina Gorički while the latter included Miljan Blagojević of Commerce, Elma Begović of Finance, Tanacković, and the ever-unnerving Dragiša Zorić of State Security.  The meeting would be held in the Ministry of Finance building, which - though it was named for just the Ministry of Finance - held all of the economic-focused ministries of the government: Commerce, Finance, Tourism, and Trade.  Commerce was responsible for the domestic economy, Finance for the budget, Tourism for tourism obviously, and Trade on international economic agreements.  The meeting, set for 11:00, was held in the office of Blagojević who, with the guests waiting with his secretary, invited them all in with a hearty handshake and a welcome.  People were introduced around the table and Blagojević went about being a good host, offering everyone coffee and tea.  Light refreshments were on the table as well given that it was an 11:00 meeting.  If it stretched longer, lunch would be catered from the building's cafeteria.

         After the normal pleasantries were exchanged, something of a necessity for these kinds of meetings, not because of customs but rather because it just sort of always happened that way, Blagojević was eager to get into the business end, so too was everyone else.  The contract details were the easiest to square aware, which Blagojević, holding the contract, dove into, saying, "Overall, we don't find any issues with the contract as provided.  The terms are agreeable, the cost remains unchanged, and the service expectations clearly lined out to all parties.  We are currently working on compliance with safety protocols as requested."

         "To which we want to ensure a safety check prior to loading," Marina said, "we do not often transport dangerous goods of an explosive nature so we want to be extra thorough."

         "We can arrange an inspection two weeks prior to loading," Tanacković offered, "but we must limit the inspection party due to the secrecy of our exercise."  What he was referring to, in the word "exercise" was the cover story that the MNO was using.  The MNO wasn't advertising that it was sending a military unit to support Gallambria or Iverica, on the contrary, they were being very tight lipped.  The MNO had the perfect cover story.  On a month prior, the Pojački government formally applied to TRIDENT for Partner for Peace, and given that TRIDENT was an intercontinental organization, the MNO needed to determine its capabilities for moving men and matériel in support of TRIDENT operations.  Thus, this was a sealift exercise for matériel from Poja to an unnamed port, which was hinted as being in Gallambria.  The MNO made no attempts to correct the assumption either.  Gallambria was certainly closer than the ultimate destination in Bashan but on the budgetary side, the longer journey was already considered.

         "When can we expect the final destination?"  Marina asked, curious herself.

         "We're still working out the logistics on the political end," Tanacković answered with a non-answer, "so it will take some time.  We're still considering a late May or early June transit for this exercise."

         "What about the return trip?"  Krešimir asked, "The bid was one way."

         "The return trip is not yet formalized," Zorić said with his otherwise defusing tone of voice.  As the Minister of State Security, he carried a reputation that would make anyone terrified of him, especially since he'd survived the transitions of administration, having been in the post since 2016.  Yet, he didn't yell or intimidate, he spoke gently and softly, like a man who didn't need to overcompensate.  He knew what his position was and anyone he spoke to knew it as well and he didn't need to exert his authority in ways that came from insecurity.  Rather, he spoke from a man who was very secure, very confident, and intimidating without needing to be such.  It was perhaps why he'd lasted so long.  "But it will be shared when the time is right.  There are a lot of security implications and conditions relating to his exercise.  We've shared what, in my opinion, would be the necessary details to move forward."

         "Yes, we agree," Marina answered.  Formal signatures would be put to the contract shortly thereafter, solidifying KSC in its role as providing sealift transport for the MNO at a future date.  There wasn't too much else to discuss and the meeting ended an hour after it began, as was expected.  Marina would be the designated liaison between the MNO and KSC, which seemed to satisfy everyone present.

 

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Friday, 28 April 2023 | 13:00 hrs [UTC-3]
Konfederacija Poja, Dosnima, Govači | Fort Govači

Fort Govači, home of the 41st Medical Brigade, sat about forty kilometers from Gorlenje, the Dosniman capital and largest city.  Fort Govači had originally been established in the 1450s and it had maintained a military presence ever since.  When the Treaty of Rugi was signed, it was included in the military bases transferred in ownership from the Kingdom of Dosnima to the newly unified Konfederacija Poja.  It wasn't until the 1940s though that the Pojački military changed out any of the units there and from 1976 onward, it hosted the 41st Medical Brigade, which officially consolidated two mobile hospital units stood up during the Chernarussian Conflict.  As of now, the 41st Medical Brigade was a 2,700-man strong independent unit of the Pojački National Army that consisted of three hospital battalions, a light aviation battalion, and the associated headquarters company.  From the 41st Medical Brigade, 2nd Battalion had been pegged to support Gallambria and Iverica while two companies from the light aviation battalion, Bravo and Echo, were being tagged to support them.

         Overall command of the 41st Medical Brigade was held by General-brigadni Zasim Baradulin, who hailed from Zagovenske, being born in a small border town only five kilometers from the border with Kalnija.  He was the typical flag officer in the Pojački National Military.  He'd gone through his educational courses, knew the politics well, he had been entrusted with the confidence of the Ministry of National Defense, and like the generals who commanded infantry or armored units, he had the necessary specialties to command a medical brigade, in that he was a doctor.  Baradulin had joined the military at the age of twenty-three, looking for a way to expedite his selection into medical school and get the government to pick up some of the tab.  This meant a two-year delay on completion of medical school but he had been guaranteed a slot, which eliminated a considerable amount of competition for him from the initial get-go.  He'd performed well enough to graduate and he'd been a practicing doctor ever since though within the military units instead of civilian life, though he could easily transition to civilian life, which he intended to do when his command stint was over and he formally retired, by which point he'd have served thirty-two years in the military, more than enough to collect his full pension.

         Baradulin, along with a dozen or so members of the brigade's senior staff, were present on this afternoon at the base's main auditorium.  Outside of briefings, the two-level, 1,000-seat auditorium was also used as a theater or for other performances.  Speakers around the entire auditorium would be sure to ensure that everyone could hear the voice of Pukovnik Cyryl Kościński, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion and the man who's show it was this afternoon.  From the onset, the deployment of Pojački assets to Bashan had been kept especially tightlipped for obvious reasons.  Within the 41st Medical Brigade, those who were part of the discussions were limited and outside of the seniormost officers of 2nd Battalion, no one else knew about it until this afternoon.  Kościński had assembled his entire battalion of 547 men, himself included, and as the men shuffled in, stood on stage at a podium ready to speak when the last man was accounted for and seated.

         The medical units within the Pojački National Army were a strange amalgamation of civilian, reservist, and professional military personnel.  Owing to the overall small size of the Pojački National Military, relative to the size of the country, this was necessary in order to maintain three battalions' worth of hospitals.  Senior officers and enlisted men within the battalion were largely professional military soldiers whereas some of the junior officers and junior enlisted men were reservists on the active reserve rolls.  They kept current with their military training but largely led civilian lives.  Then there was a core contingent of officers on the inactive reserve rolls.  These were men who'd completed and were eligible to continue military training but they spent all but two weeks a year in civilian attire with those two weeks largely just consisting of some health checkups and basic military duties to ensure they weren't complete lost causes.  In the meantime, they were doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in the civilian wurld.  The only times they would need to be in uniform was deployment or their yearly, two-week check-in period.  Thus, these men and women, who were called to report for this afternoon's briefing, knew something was up from the moment of notice.

         At the podium, when everyone had finally found their seats, Kościński leaned forward to the microphone and began, welcoming everyone.  "I know for some of you, being called to this meeting is very atypical but I assure you all it is not without good reason.  The 2nd Battalion, 41st Medical Brigade, will be deploying in support of a joint operation with Gallambria and Iverica in late May or early June."  The cat was out of the bag and no longer would Poja's deployment be able to be kept a secret anymore.  Too many people were in the know.  Similar meetings were happening with the two companies of helicopter personnel and the light infantry company assigned to protect them.  Almost 1,000 people would know within the hour and even more thereafter as other units got the scuttlebutt.  "This is a thirty-day notice to all of you that this deployment will be happening and you should get your affairs in order.  

         "This will be a non-combat deployment consisting of a small piece of the PNA, including yourselves, the largest contingent for this deployment.  Our mission will be to provide medical support to Gallambrian and Iverican forces engaged in hostile combat operations.  You have no doubt seen the buildup of Iverican forces happening throughout the wurld and the Pojački application to TRIDENT is no longer a secret.  It shouldn't be too hard to piece together what is happening."  He let that sink in for a few moments.  "So, what does this mean for the next thirty or so days?

         "All active-duty personnel are hereby confined to base and all passes canceled for the foreseeable future.  For those who are reservists, you have next week to sort out your immediate affairs.  We will be providing each of you with a special packet upon leaving this afternoon.  Included will be a written and stamped copy of your call up to present to your employers and families, should it be necessary.  Also included will be phone numbers and contacts for assistance personnel who will be able to provide support in your immediate affairs, whether that is arranging for housing, familial care, et cetera.  These lines will be staffed twenty-four hours per day for the next two weeks starting tomorrow at 06:00.  This will take some time and I am sure, immediately, the system will become very overwhelmed so please have patience.  For those who are unable to get through by 08:00 on May 8, please advise such at your check-in.  

         "Yes, for all reservists, you will need to check into base no later than 08:00 on May 8.  From that point on, you will be under base confinement.  We will be conducting a crash course in military familiarization for all reservist personnel, which will include PT amongst other things.  

         "Now, for some of you in attendance, you are professional physicians and you may have surgeries or appointments scheduled.  I can advise you ahead of time that you will be best advised passing these patients onto non-serving colleagues.  Your patients and yourselves might not appreciate this but that is part of the terms of your service."  Kościński, by nature of being a doctor, had more compassion than probably your average soldier but, at the same time, he was the commanding officer and he knew very well how to command, which meant when to be fair and when to be a hard ass.  Now was a time for both but more than a fair share of the latter because he could already see the gripes and disappointment amongst the inactive reservist doctors and nurses who were less than willing to put everything on hold just so they could travel halfway around the wurld to a warzone.  "Most of you will have questions," he continued, "and I am but one man so we're going to ensure that all questions get answered but we're going to spread them out afterwards so please hold your questions for now.  If one of your questions is whether or not you can cancel your service, I am afraid to say that this is not possible.  Because this is an official deployment, this will not be considered AWOL but rather desertion.  The penalty for desertion is a court-martial that includes dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay going back one to three years, as well as confinement of up to five years.  The deployment of this unit will not exceed one year and for those deployed, you will all be considered active soldiers with pay commensurate with your rank.  Despite the fact that this is a non-combat deployment, combat pay has been authorized.  You shouldn't need much brainpower to do the math in your head on why desertion is a very bad idea."

         Kościński smiled from the podium and watched some egos deflate in front of him.  He let that sink in for a moment.  "Now, with that being said, I'd like to hand the microphone over to Potpukovnik Đorđije Marinković, our admin specialist, who will go over the finer details of the next week and what are the basic requirements.  I hope you all brought a pen and pad for this as instructed."  He stepped back, handing the microphone to Marinković, who towered over the otherwise short Kościński.  Marinković would have to tilt the microphone up and bend down slightly for his voice to be registered correctly, which was somewhat comical.

 

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Thursday, 4 May 2023 | 09:15 hrs [UTC-3]
Konfederacija Poja, Rugi, Central District | Predsjednički Dvori

News about the pending Pojački deployment was no longer a secret nor did anyone in the Pojački government expect it still to be one.  From the moment that the news broke, news agencies had been running nonstop stories on the matter, besieging the offices of the President and the Chancellor, as well as any other representative of the government who might be able to comment.  They'd gotten little out of anyone though.  Anyone in the know was instructed not to answer, and hadn't, and those not in the know weren't able to provide much of anything.  For a few days, speculation ran rampant until President Andrej Petrović announced that he would give a press conference on the matter.  Reporters had gathered at the Presidential Palace (Predsjednički Dvori) in Rugi where Petrović was flanked on stage by Chancellor Jurić, Minister Tanacković, and many others.  

         At precisely 09:15, Petrović began the conference, which would be broadcast over television and radio stations throughout the country as well as livestreaming on multiple websites, including the government's official website.  "Good morning to the people of the Konfederacija Poja, thank you for listening.  For the past few days, rumors and speculation have swirled about the deployment of Pojački forces Gallambrian and Iverican operations on Europa.  I come before you this morning to confirm that the Pojački National Military will be embarking upon a non-combat deployment in support of these operations.

         "The deployment will consist of roughly one thousand men from the 41st Medical Brigade and 36th Airborne Brigade.  The vast majority of forces will come from the 41st Medical Brigade, which shall deploy a mobile hospital along with the associated aviation units to support casualty evacuation operations.  A single, company-sized element from the 36th Airborne Brigade will provide immediate security for the mobile hospital but not engage in combat operations in support of or in assistance of Gallambrian or Iverican forces.  The purpose of the Pojački deployment will be to save lives, not to take them.

         "The Konfederacija Poja embarks upon this as a commitment to the Tricontinental Defence Treaty Organisation, TRIDENT for short.  Two months ago, the Konfederacija Poja applied for Partner for Peace status with TRIDENT, an application that is currently being considered by TRIDENT leadership and member-states.  As made clear in our formal application, the Konfederacija Poja is committed to peace, to stability, to prosperity, and to liberty.  The mission embarked upon by our partners is one that we believe in fully and one that we support fully.

         "I for one am proud to say, that if the situations were reversed, and if the Konfederacija Poja needed support and freedom from tyranny and oppression, that many nations of the wurld would rise up to support us and help us in our endeavor.  We are blessed that we do not need this level of support and so we must bestow upon the less fortunate our help and our assistance.  By providing a deployment solely of a medical nature, we can ensure that the fighting forces remain combat effective to help those in need.

         "I will not comment as to when our deployment will begin but the Konfederacija Poja is fully prepared to deploy as necessary in support of our partners."  Petrović stepped back only slightly from the microphone, something he seemingly and unknowingly did whenever he finished giving his remarks.  It was basically open season for reporters to ask questions and at once, almost every hand in the room shot up as reporters vied to be the first called.  Rules of decorum dictated that the asking of questions followed a very specific protocol.  Members of the press could raise their hands and when called upon, and only when called upon, were they permitted to speak.  They would rise to their feet, unless medically unable, state their name and their organization, and ask their question.  The President or whomever was giving the briefing or speech would then answer accordingly.  Follow up questions were not permitted as a matter of practice but could be granted at the will of the individual answering.  Once a question was answered, the reporter sat down and the next reporter was called upon and so on and so forth.  Custom dictated that those who just asked a question wait at least three to five rounds before raising their hand again but that was simply a guideline and not a hard or fast rule.  For something like this, no one would be satisfied with just a single question.

         The questions came hard and fast lasting the entire rest of the hour.  Petrović was forced to say, no less than three times, that Pojački forces were not there in a combat capacity and forced to explain twice that the purpose of the airborne forces was solely for base protection.  "What kind of base protection?"  One reporter, who fashioned himself to be a "defense journalist" asked, which was more than just a little asinine of a question.

         "What kind?  Simple, if something catastrophic were to happen and the base be attacked by hostile forces."  

         A follow up came quickly, "Wouldn't that constitute a combat deployment?"

         "Would you prefer they be left undefended?"  Petrović snarked back, well aware of the trap they were trying to set.  "A mobile hospital is a sizeable unit, as you can imagine, and it cannot simply be packed up and hauled away in thirty minutes.  It takes a full day.  During that day, we need to ensure protection for patients and personnel.  As I said, our mission is to save lives, not take them.  It would be remarkably short-sighted if we were to enable hostile forces with the ability to kill everyone there, wounded included."  None of the decorum rules ever said that the person answering the question couldn't give a sarcastic answer to a stupid question and Petrović had more than mastered it since he first took office in 2021.

         When the press conference was over, Petrović and those flanking him, left the stage and the room, leaving the reporters to pack up, chat amongst themselves, and head off to file their stories.  It would be a busy morning for the papers of Poja but also around the wurld as the Pojački government announced the first foreign deployment in its 123-year history.  Even at the height of the Baltic and Garindinan Civil Wars and the First and Second Argic Wars, the Pojački government declared neutrality and operated only within the confines of its own borders and international waters solely for national defense missions.  Fighter jets flew within the borders ensuring no one crossed into Pojački airspace, ships helped stem the refugee tide in the Mediargic Sea from coming to Pojački shores, and army personnel reinforced border crossings, just in case someone decided to bring the war onto Pojački soil.  Of course, nothing happened, whether because said nations weren't interested in doing so or because of the effectiveness of Pojački forces.  It remained to be seen which was the decided factor, perhaps a little from column A and a little from column B.  Academics and historians still debated over it, siding with one, the other, some mix of both, or some rather farfetched theories that no one seemed to endorse.


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Tuesday, 23 May 2023 | 13:40 hrs [UTC-3]
Konfederacija Poja, Rugi, Central District | Predsjednički Dvori

Petrović looked in the mirror and straightened his tie before he turned and stepped up to the door.  An attendant reached over and opened it for him and, from the moment that he entered, he was on air.  Reporters stood out of respect, the shuffle of three dozen men and women standing drowning out his own footsteps as he walked up to the podium.  He looked over the podium and gave a slight nod, perceptible enough to everyone present that they knew they could be seated.  "Good afternoon to the people of the Konfederacija Poja.  I come before you this Tuesday afternoon with an update on upcoming military deployed, which has been officially named as Operation BLACK RAVEN."  In Pojački, it was CRNI GAVRAN.  "As of 10:00 hours this morning, I gave the final authorization required to begin preparations for military personnel to deploy in support of Gallambrian and Iverican operations.  For several days now, Pojački military liaisons have been working closely with our partners on the logistics for this operation.

          "I want to offer my personal appreciation and thanks to the governments of both Gallambria and Iverica for their support.  In the next four weeks, Pojački forces will be setting foot onto the continent of Europa for the first time in history and it would not be possible without the commitment of the Pojački people."  The latest polls should strong support for the operation with the approval rating generally falling around 62% ±4%.  It was the culmination of decades of growing support for the Konfederacija Poja to take a more active role on the international stage and with Petrović's support, it had been achieved.

          Petrović himself spoke for another few minutes, reiterating the purpose of the operation as well as answering a dozen or so questions before the press conference ended.  His own polling ran anywhere from 60% to 73%, which was especially high in light of all that was happening in the country.


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Sunday, 28 May 2023 | 11:00 hrs [UTC-3]
Konfederacija Poja, Adjinua, Križetina | Port of Križetina

"Oh what the Hell is it now," an exasperated Major Života Vujić shouted as he heard his name being called.  He turned around to see someone in a bright yellow, high-vis vest waving at him to come over, to which Vujić had no choice but to comply.  Vujić was supervising the loading for the operation's equipment into the KSC Losos, a 215-meter ConRo ship that had been selected to transport everything to Bashan.  Normally, the loading of these vessels would be done by the highly trained and highly experienced port staff but, because these were military vehicles, it was illegal for anyone but military personnel to operate them, which meant that junior enlisted men were driving them into the Losos and following the directions of those trained and experienced port staff on how to position the vehicles.

          They'd started three hours ago and they were already behind, something which had left Vujić more than just a little frustrated and when he got frustrated, he got flustered.  They had thirty-six hours to load a few hundred vehicles into the ship as well as thousands of pallets of cargo.  Loading the helicopters would come last and be done via crane onto the open deck of the vessel.  That would be done by the highly trained and experienced port staff and so if anything, it would run smoothly compared to everything else.  Three hours in and Vujić wondered if they'd finish in time.  Vehicles were lined up all around the port, waiting on the green light to drive up the ramp and into the ship.  Normally, this would be a quick and smooth procession but because the military personnel were untrained and inexperienced with loading a ship, there had been nothing but issues, problems, and difficulties.  On top of this, tractor trailers, flatbeds, and cargo trucks were stretched out for kilometers outside of the port, waiting to be offloaded by forklift drivers and crane operators.  The initial 800 tonnes of equipment and supplies had ballooned to almost 3,000 tonnes of equipment and supplies as the military decided to procure a vast array of supplies to be prepositioned in Bashan for when the hospital needed them.

          That had been one of the complications, fitting it all into the Losos.  Loading plans had been made and then had to be scrapped and remade.  They should have begun loading the ship on 24 May, the day after Petrović announced the operation name.  He'd been careful not to say when the loading was set to begin so that, even though they were four days behind already, he could not receive any flak for it.  No one outside of the Ministry of National Defense and select members of Petrović's staff knew about this initial delay and certainly wouldn't know about the messiness unfolding in the Port of Križetina on this rainy, Sunday morning.

          "Yeah, what is it?"  Vujić asked, his tone matching his frustration perfectly.

          "Major, we've got to reposition these four vehicles," the port employee said, gesturing to four, light armored trucks.  "They were supposed to be loaded over there," he turned around and pointed to the opposite side of the bay."

          "So why the f*ck are they here?"

          "Not sure Major.  I wasn't here when they were loaded."

          "Well, someone was," Vujić waved his clipboard in the air, "so tell me who was here so I can drag them behind the trucks?"  The port employee felt a little threatened and embarrassed.  She'd never had to work with the military before and she was hardly accustomed to their mannerisms.  "Fine, I'll find someone to move them."  Just then a pair of vehicles entered the bay.  "Make sure they park where they're supposed to go and get those two clowns to do it."  She nodded and walked off, looking at her own clipboard for where these vehicles should go.  Each vehicle had a numerical identifier and she had the loading layout on her own clipboard.  What a f*cking shitshow, Vujić thought to himself as he watched her direct the two trucks to a bay.

          "Just park them here for now," she was telling the razvodnik in the first truck, "you have to go there but those trucks are in the way.  You two have to move them over there, Major's orders."  From the ground, she was looking up to the young razvodnik sitting in the driver's seat leaning out of the door.  

          "You got it ma'am," he said as he put the truck into park and turned off the engine.  "Let's go," he waved his arm at the desetar in the vehicle behind him, "got to move those," he pointed to the four trucks.  He dropped onto the steel deck and shut the door.  "Where again?"  

          "Spots fifty to fifty-three over there," she pointed.

          "On it," the razvodnik answered and walked off while Vujić, observing the whole exchange could only shake his head, wondering how many more minutes this would cost him.  He went back to looking at his clipboard and checked off the vehicle numbers of the two that had just driven in and then two more as a pair of light armored trucks drove in and immediately were redirected to another bay on the opposite side of the ship.  

          By hour twelve, the operation was running a full three hours behind schedule.  Vujić had, by then, handed supervision over to one of his subordinates.  He'd been asked for status updates twice already during the loading and each one, he'd advised that they were running behind schedule, not quantifying how many hours though, simply stating he didn't have the figures yet because it was too early to tell.  He'd given the same answer as he went "off duty" at the end of the day.  They would be continuing to load throughout the night and into the morning but they wouldn't pick up any of their lost time, in fact, the following morning, Vujić would come in to find that they'd lost a whole two more hours throughout the night when two very tired razvodniks wound up smashing their bumpers together in a rush to finish their shifts.  Vujić was reviewing the paperwork when he got his first call of the morning, this one from Minister Tanacković himself.  When asked now where they stood, he knew he couldn't bullshit anymore, "We're running five hours behind sir."

          "How?"

          "Small delays adding up over time sir, vehicles loaded incorrectly, one fender bender during the night, and other 'assorted difficulties.'"

          "Will we be able to make up the time today?"

          "I don't think so sir," Vujić answered as honestly as he could.

          "Slow is smooth and smooth is fast, is that right Major?"

          "Yes sir."  The loading was anything but "smooth."  

          "I'd like an update in six hours."

          "Yes sir."  Vujić put down the phone and sat down in the chair.  An office trailer had been made available to him and his subordinates to use as a coordination center.  It was a quiet place for him to take a phone call but it was also a little far removed from the loading area, which meant that he'd have to hop into a port taxi car and ride up out to the boat, a four-minute drive.  Lighting a cigarette, he leaned back and put his feet up on the desk while he picked up the incident report on the fender bender.  Both vehicles were fine but military protocols dictated that any collision warrant a thorough safety inspection.  "What a waste of time," he thought to himself.  He'd signed off on plenty himself because it was a common enough occurrence.  Yet, never in all his years did the safety inspections ever turn up anything that meant the vehicle couldn't be immediately returned to service.  In short, the Pojački military's peacetime rules were hindrances.

          Vujić smoked the cigarette in peace, pouring himself a cup of stale coffee in the process.  When he'd finished his cigarette, he took his coffee, his radio, his clipboard, and his phone and exited the office.  A few minutes later, he was out of the taxi and climbing into a vehicle as it drove up the ramp and into the confines of the ship.  There, he'd relieved the overnight man and gone back to watching and crossing off the vehicles as they entered the ship.  The tediousness of the work could not be understated.  All throughout the day, they continued to load vehicles until finally, when the last vehicle was loaded, Vujić could breathe a sigh of relief that finally, the inexperienced junior enlisted men would be removed from the equation.  They were six-and-a-half hours behind schedule, putting their completion time at 02:30 on Tuesday morning.  

          At least from here, loading would be done by the port personnel.  Tractor trailers, flat beds, and cargo ships loaded with supplies would be directed into the ship three and four at a time, routed to specific spots, and then unloaded with forklifts grabbing two and sometimes four pallets at a time.  They would be able to make up some time, perhaps, but not much.  The timetables were pretty strict, there was only so fast you could unload a truck and secure the pallets safely and the last thing they needed were more accidents.  They'd continue to work throughout the day and into the evening and then again throughout the night, loading the pallets of material into the ship.  After the pallets came the containerized loads and then finally, at the very end, the helicopters, hoisted up there by the giant cranes that hoisted loaded containers.  The helicopters, much lighter than any loaded container, were loaded relatively quickly, hoisted up onto the deck and then secured down.  There were only six helicopters to load, two medium-lift Ma-15ME Vrabac-Bs and four Ma-9ME Kasatka-Hs.  It was at that point, a little before 02:00, that the loading of the KSC Losos was finally completed.  

          To little fanfare, the vessel departed the Port of Križetina on Tuesday, May 30 at 12:18 local time.  It had a 7,600 nautical mile journey to make across the Adlantic Ocean to the Gallambrian Protectorate of Bashan where it would dock in the Port of Aroer.  The port itself had been extremely busy receiving shipments of Iverican matériel, serving as a staging area for the massive amount of war goods being brought into the country for eventually combat operations against Suverina.


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Saturday, 17 June 2023 | 21:20 hrs [UTC+6]
Bashan, Aroer | Port of Aroer

After around 7,600 nautical miles and 435 hours, the KSC Losos was finally at its destination, the Bashan port of Aroer, clear on the other side of the glube.  They'd taken a long route, avoiding the Dolch See because Dolchland wasn't fighting on the same side as Gallambria and Iverica.  On the contrary, they'd actively engaged in combat in support of Anglia and Suverina.  This was precisely why it had taken so much extra time to get to Bashan and it was all the doing of the Ministry of National Defense.  The Dolch See was safe because there was a constant naval presence in it neutralizing the capabilities of the Dolch but the Ministry of National Defense was not willing to take any chances.  Operation BLACK RAVEN could not end before it ever began.  The Dolch had entered the war the prior year and though it looked like their defeat was in sight, the Ministry of National Defense simply didn't want to risk it, lest the Dolch manage to pull off a major strike in support of their Europan allies.

          The KSC Losos had thus taken a southeasterly course through the Qingming Sea, giving a wide berth to the Sentist State as it passed south of Ceris.  They cut east and traveled north of the Gallambiran Adlantic Ocean Territories, south of Galahinda, and then all the way across to the Amnalos Sea where they were within strike range from Anglia and Suverina.  They'd turned off their tracking systems halfway across the Adlantic Ocean, fearing that the Anglians and the Suverinans would be able to track their arrival in the Amnalos Sea and sink the vessel.  

          For those tense hours while the vessel stayed as far south as possible, the crew of the KSC Losos were in full survival gear.  If they were attacked, they would do what they could to save the ship but the ship's master had already decreed that nothing onboard was worth the lives of his crew.  If it looked like they wouldn't be able to save the ship, he'd immediately order it to be abandoned, hoping that they'd be able to be located.  Luckily, this never happened and the vessel arrived in the harbor of Bashan, took on its pilot, and safely docked a few hours later.  Unloading would take the better part of the next two days as, once again, military personnel drove the vehicles off and into staging areas before embarking on small convoys towards their designated staging point outside of the port and the city.  The 950 men of the operation had already been flown into Bashan, arriving on chartered MZL Pojački aircraft in the days prior to the KSC Losos' arrival.


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Thursday, 20 July 2023 | 05:10 hrs [UTC+6]
Suverina, Chisinau Peninsula | Camp Luke

"You've got to be kidding me," Sokol shouted as he heard the klaxon go off, jolting him awake, "doesn't the enemy have any respect for sleeping hours?"  He said sarcastically as he threw his feet over the edge of his cot.  Radoš Klarić, whom everyone just called Sokol, was one of many doctors who'd deployed to Suverina to support the Gallambrians and Ivericans in the Anglian War and like many of the doctors there, the trauma of what he witnessed each and every day meant that a little piece of him was being destroyed each and every time a young patient sat on an operating table, seconds away from bleeding out from a wound.  Like many, he used sarcasm and humor to cope with what he saw.  As an experienced trauma surgeon back home, he'd seen it all, little kids mangled in car wrecks, victims of assault and battery, even his fair share of attempted murders.  When he arrived in Suverina, he expected to get something of a break from the nonstop chaos that rolled through his OR each and every day he was on call but instead, what he'd found was more of the same and with the same lack of reason and sense.

          Pulling his boots on, he slogged across camp towards the helipad as a helicopter was just coming into view.  It was still somewhat dark, the sun not having fully awoken yet, which was more of the reasons that Sokol wanted to be in bed.  "Two critical casualties," the radio operator standing next to the helipad said, "GSWs to the abdomen, one's in V-fib and the other has a perforated intestine, both lost a lot of blood." 

          "My favorite kind of breakfast," Sokol said to the doctor standing next to him who happened to be something of a "bore" to Sokol.  He was a man without a funny bone, as Sokol often said, a Chernarussian by birth by a Liari by heart, which contrasted to the Adjinuan upbringing and sense of pride that Sokol had.  

          "Would you stuff it, it's too damn early for this."

          "It's never too early, Karl," Sokol said with a facetious smile, "clearly because the enemy doesn't believe in," he began to shout towards the helicopter as it drown out his voice, "LETTING EVERYONE GET SOME GODDAMN SLEEP."  Moments later, the helicopter was down and the two stretchers were being offloaded into a transport vehicle for the short drive over to the OR tent with Sokol and Karl riding along, listening to the update from the two flight paramedics who'd kept both of the soldiers alive.  It would be rough for the two of them wen they got to the OR, which was already prepared for their arrival, a dozen nurses, doctors, and specialists standing around waiting to get to work.  That was how that day started…


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