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Thread: Question about military life and weapons

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    Question about military life and weapons

    I am writing a military science fiction story and I was wondering if any soldiers don't require firearms? I know that pretty much everyone that goes through boot camp handles many weapons, but once you get on the job, they might not be real important for day to day activities. Where do the firearms go? Are there just some people who don't have guns issued to them at all? Does the military keep a stock pile of weapons on base in case they do have to hand them out to people who don't generally use them?

    I have a friend who was a crane operator in the Army Reserves. He learned to use a rifle and had to qualify with it, but never had one in the field because he was based in the US. It was impractical to put a rifle in the little control box of the crane, so he was "given" a pistol. Like the rifle, outside of training, he never saw it. He purchased one himself, but I don't think he ever carried except for some photographs. Is this common or is my friend telling me the neat and clean version of his job?

    In my story, the soldiers operate and service computer systems from their base at home. Would they have access to firearms on a day to day basis? Obviously a military base would be surrounded with security, but having an armed guy fixing computers doesn't seem to make sense to me.

    (I have referenced the United States in this post, but I am also interested in norms outside of the US.)
    Solfe

  2. #2
    I don't think soldiers have access to weapons all the time, I think they are place in a armory where someone keeps an eye on them. There are probably exceptions to that of course.

    I know one person career path started with getting a degree in astrophysics. Went to Denmark for a meteorology then saw maneuvers and decided to go into the military and served in Afghanistan and got into robots while using them to dispose bombs. Now he is Hawaii doing robots and helped a program trying to figure out how to live on Mars.
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    In my job in the airforce (helping with the day-to-day flying operations of a fighter squadron) I did not have a weapon, normally. Few people did, except the guard units and maybe the pilots, I don't remember. For my job I was in a bunker all day, having to keep a machine gun there would not be real practical, with limited space.

    I was trained to use an UZI, but I think we were only issued weapons during exercises and for the required yearly shooting practice. This was before the first Gulf war, maybe things have changed since, also with the increased terrorism risk. Not the US air force, my dealings with Americans were limited to the occasional exchange pilot, visiting pilots, and NATO evaluators during exercises.

    I suppose for your story, it's entirely up to the military organisation to decide whether to keep personal weapons locked away to prevent accidents, or to have them carried at all times because there might be an immediate need.
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    My own military experience was a long time ago (USAF, mid-'60s), but none of the people involved in my specialty (electronics repair) were ever issued or carried weapons except during explicit weapons training.
    Selden

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    Thanks! I have literal hundreds of source for the military at war, but pretty much nothing about the military at peace or at home. Apparently those books don't sell. The only references I have deal the with Navy and those people live on their weapon, which is far more interesting/complex/capable than a pistol or rifle. But that is not what I am writing about.

    I have some older friends and family who were veterans, but they were Korean War Era Veterans. I think most of them were drafted, so they were "in and out". I am writing about troops during a period of nearly total peace, so their experiences would be the opposite of what I am looking for.

    The characters are engaging in an operation that requires social skills, technology and problem solving. They are more likely to get pulled into a news interview than get in a fight.
    Solfe

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    When in the Army 45 years ago, I ONLY ever touched a weapon in Basic Training. Wait a minute, I take that back. I worked in a finance office in Korea and they were required to have a "Charge of Quarters" for that. There was an M-16 passed from the CQ going off to the one coming on.

    Otherwise, no. I was officially assigned a weapon that was stored in an armory somewhere on the post but never actually saw it.
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    At the installation where I served until retirement, we were prohibited from carrying weapons except with specific authorization as needed. As a special bandsman exempt from periodic qualifying requirements I was thus never so authorized. Of course the MPs and their contract helpers at the gates are armed at all times. Any other weapons are stored in the armory under appropriate security. What is goofy is a sign at the gate which says, "No weapons of any type are authorized on the installation", while an armed MP or hired guard is in plain sight clearly on the premises. This is some oddball language where they really mean "Unauthorized weapons of any type are prohibited on the installation."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornblower View Post
    At the installation where I served until retirement, we were prohibited from carrying weapons except with specific authorization as needed. As a special bandsman exempt from periodic qualifying requirements I was thus never so authorized. Of course the MPs and their contract helpers at the gates are armed at all times. Any other weapons are stored in the armory under appropriate security. What is goofy is a sign at the gate which says, "No weapons of any type are authorized on the installation", while an armed MP or hired guard is in plain sight clearly on the premises. This is some oddball language where they really mean "Unauthorized weapons of any type are prohibited on the installation."
    That might explain my friend's activities. He had a pistol that he bought and licensed on his own, but then had pictures in his uniform taken at the mall. He also purchased a military style helmet to use on his motorcycle. It wasn't even a standard US helmet, but some sort of knockoff or other military's version of a battle helmet. That made the biggest impression on me. It wasn't meant for motorcycles. As he rode, it slammed up and down on his head. I seem to recall days of complaining/whining about it.

    On a side note, as a crane operator he was issued sunglasses. He did look pretty striking in uniform.

    I never cared to point out that jointing the military for fashion is a terrible idea, no matter how many times it crossed my mind.
    Solfe

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    Are you specifically asking about 'soldiers', i.e., members of the army? Or are you asking about members of the navy, marines and air force as well?

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    Quote Originally Posted by geonuc View Post
    Are you specifically asking about 'soldiers', i.e., members of the army? Or are you asking about members of the navy, marines and air force as well?
    Military forces of any kind would be helpful.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    Military forces of any kind would be helpful.
    I thin the Army have a deal with the Airforce here in the UK. So long as the airmen don't touch any weapon not fitted to a plane then the Army won't feel obliged to assault the base and disarm them for the safety of themselves, civilians and passing wildlife.

    Meanwhile the Navy regard any weapon with a calibre of less than a couple of inches as a toy that should be left for the computer to play with.

    The Marines are free to do what they want because who's going to stop them?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    Military forces of any kind would be helpful.
    OK. As a few people have mentioned, many sailors and airmen don't carry or even handle personal weapons. As a submarine sailor, the only time I was required to handle a weapon was the annual 'qualification' on the .45 pistol. Other than that, I and my shipmates lived in a weapons delivery system (torpedoes and ballistic missiles).

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    Hey Geo, you aren't likely to encounter the same problem with your missiles as we had with ours during high tempo operations at dusk.

    A matt black missile fin, firmly attached to a missile, firmly attached to a 25 ton aircraft, doesn't move a millimeter when you run your head into it. Nine times out of ten the tip of the fin will glide along the top of your cranial until it gets to the cloth joint dividing the front from the back and then plunges into your skull. If you're unlucky enough to score a direct hit of the cloth joint you can actually stick to the missile, the tip penetrates that deeply. You have to bend your knees and let your weight pull you off.

    The Sparrow's right triangle shaped fins were bad, the Sidewinder Lima's knife blade forward fins were worse. Though it was no fun to be moving at a brisk pace, ducking under a parked bird to avoid some jet blast and running the tip of a belly mounted Sparrow fin down your back. Done that numerous times too.

    Ack, just made myself laugh by thinking if you had parts of *your* missile embedded in your skull, you're having worse problems than a high tempo of operations.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    Hey Geo, you aren't likely to encounter the same problem with your missiles as we had with ours during high tempo operations at dusk.

    A matt black missile fin, firmly attached to a missile, firmly attached to a 25 ton aircraft, doesn't move a millimeter when you run your head into it. Nine times out of ten the tip of the fin will glide along the top of your cranial until it gets to the cloth joint dividing the front from the back and then plunges into your skull. If you're unlucky enough to score a direct hit of the cloth joint you can actually stick to the missile, the tip penetrates that deeply. You have to bend your knees and let your weight pull you off.

    The Sparrow's right triangle shaped fins were bad, the Sidewinder Lima's knife blade forward fins were worse. Though it was no fun to be moving at a brisk pace, ducking under a parked bird to avoid some jet blast and running the tip of a belly mounted Sparrow fin down your back. Done that numerous times too.

    Ack, just made myself laugh by thinking if you had parts of *your* missile embedded in your skull, you're having worse problems than a high tempo of operations.
    Indeed. We kept our missiles safely tucked away in their tubes and made do with banging our heads into pipes and valve operators.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaula View Post
    The Marines are free to do what they want because who's going to stop them?
    The Release to Service. Has stopped many things, especially for Navy assets.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaula View Post
    I thin the Army have a deal with the Airforce here in the UK. So long as the airmen don't touch any weapon not fitted to a plane then the Army won't feel obliged to assault the base and disarm them for the safety of themselves, civilians and passing wildlife.

    Meanwhile the Navy regard any weapon with a calibre of less than a couple of inches as a toy that should be left for the computer to play with.

    The Marines are free to do what they want because who's going to stop them?
    That is an odd convention, the Army guarding air bases. I think it is also done in the U.S. It seems that both the RAF and USAF were both formed from a portion of each nation's Army. I didn't realize this was the case for the RAF and certainly wouldn't have guessed that it was founded so early, 30ish years before the USAF.
    Solfe

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    So, here is a silly question. I have heard that the armed forces need X number of support people to keep one soldier in the field. Do security people like MPs and guards could as "in the field" or the "support people"? The number I have heard is 15 to 1, but I have heard a lot of numbers thrown around.

    I would think that a forward base would count security people as in the field as guard detail might happen to be your job in the unit, but maybe it is different back home?
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    That is an odd convention, the Army guarding air bases. I think it is also done in the U.S. It seems that both the RAF and USAF were both formed from a portion of each nation's Army. I didn't realize this was the case for the RAF and certainly wouldn't have guessed that it was founded so early, 30ish years before the USAF.
    I believe Shaula was making a joke wrt Army & Air Force.

    In any case, no, the US Air Force has their own security forces. And, yes, the US Air Force was borne of the US Army Air Forces. The USAF became a separate independent service shortly after WWII.

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    Quote Originally Posted by geonuc View Post
    I believe Shaula was making a joke wrt Army & Air Force.

    In any case, no, the US Air Force has their own security forces.
    As does ours. And I have to admit that one of the running jokes/remarks/rivalry thingies at that time was that they were barely good enough for opening and closing gates. For us, more important persons of course.
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    Quote Originally Posted by geonuc View Post
    In any case, no, the US Air Force has their own security forces. And, yes, the US Air Force was borne of the US Army Air Forces. The USAF became a separate independent service shortly after WWII.
    Yep, the National Security Act of 1947 gave the USAF its birthday of September 18th.

    I had a brief stint working with security. When I was detailed as an NBC team supervisor, we were also tasked to augment the Air Base Ground Defense teams. This was during the Cold War so the only action I saw was training...lots of training. During training exercises, I did carry an M16 or M4 and sometimes, an M9 pistol. Later, when I was working in the medical admin field, readiness exercises involved setting up a field hospital and we were responsible for our own security.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    That is an odd convention, the Army guarding air bases. I think it is also done in the U.S. It seems that both the RAF and USAF were both formed from a portion of each nation's Army. I didn't realize this was the case for the RAF and certainly wouldn't have guessed that it was founded so early, 30ish years before the USAF.
    The RAF Regiment is there to guard RAF stations.

    It's quite possible that the First World War being a relatively minor overseas skirmish for the Americans compared to the experience of the other participants wasn't enough to make to make them rethink the organisation of their military. Only the Second World War did that. And by then it was too late to be creative and give their air force their own ranks so they retained the army ones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Glom View Post
    And by then it was too late to be creative and give their air force their own ranks so they retained the army ones.
    How do you figure?
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    USAF doesn't have "squadron leaders", "flight lieutenants", "wing commander", "air marshal" and the rest. USAF just says lieutenant, captain, major, etc. (in random order)
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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    (in random order)
    It seems that way to me, too.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    USAF doesn't have "squadron leaders", "flight lieutenants", "wing commander", "air marshal" and the rest. USAF just says lieutenant, captain, major, etc. (in random order)
    But them's just the ossifers. Enlisted ranks ARE different, or at least were when I was in the Army. A buck sergeant in the army is an E-5, in the airforce it's E-4. Other NCO ranks are probably different as well.

    USMC also uses the same officer ranks as the Army.
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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    USAF doesn't have "squadron leaders", "flight lieutenants", "wing commander", "air marshal" and the rest. USAF just says lieutenant, captain, major, etc. (in random order)
    We retain those terms (or something like them) as titles of position rather than rank. We do indeed have squadron, group, and wing commanders but their ranks can range (generally) from say, Major (O4) or higher at the squadron level to Lieutenant Colonel (O5) or Colonel (O6) for a group commander, and a Colonel or Brigadier General (O7) grade at the wing level. All depending on the specific organizational structure and billets authorized.

    Additionally, we have nine enlisted grades that are substantially distinguishable from the other services. There was an initial period of transition during which the substance and/or style of the US Army Air Force enlisted ranks were retained but that has not been the case for many, many decades.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Enlisted ranks ARE different, or at least were when I was in the Army. A buck sergeant in the army is an E-5, in the airforce it's E-4. Other NCO ranks are probably different as well.
    For many years, the E4 enlisted pay grade had two ranks: Senior Airman and Sergeant. It served as a transitional level between the junior enlisted ranks and the non-commissioned officer corps. After a period of time, training, and supervisor recommendation, a Senior Airman was appointed to NCO status and given the title of Sergeant...informally called Buck Sergeant. This increase in responsibility came with no increase in pay, by the way.

    The insignia were distinguish from each other by the color of the star in the middle of the chevron. At that time, the star in the middle of the chevron was the same color as the background in the junior enlisted grades. Upon appointment to NCO status, it was to be the same contrasting color as the stripes. The E4 Sergeant rank was discontinued in the early 90s and nowadays, at which time, E5 Staff Sergeant become the first NCO grade. All USAF enlisted folks have a contrasting star.
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    But you can't make the classic RAF joke about how a Group Captain commands a wing, a Wing Commander commands a squadron, a Squadron Leader commands a flight and a Flight Lieutenant gets the tea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Glom View Post
    But you can't make the classic RAF joke about how a Group Captain commands a wing, a Wing Commander commands a squadron, a Squadron Leader commands a flight and a Flight Lieutenant gets the tea.
    Once while in Pearl I had the misfortune of seeing my highly respected Squadron commander being the junior officer in the room and sent for coffee, (I was on other business), which he did without a second thought of course. You don't get his job without knowing the rules.

    But darn it galled me.
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    With us the Group Commander was called the CAG. (Acronym meaning Carrier, Air Group *and* Commander, Air Group)

    I was part of CAG Nine. But our CAG was this seriously intense A-6 pilot. I recall he was surprisingly short. It's just nobody told him. After a few minutes in his presence you forgot though.

    He was another person I knew of that went "Down Town" during the Viet Nam War. The officer who was third in command of our squadron was a former A-6 bombardier.

    (Clev, "Going down town" was the act of buzzing the main thoroughfare of down town Hanoi during an air raid. Huge amount of air defenses.)

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