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Engage and Boldly Go

Posted on Tue Jan 4th, 2022 @ 4:50pm by 2nd Lieutenant Christian Rogers

Mission: Pre-Launch + Pre-Mission 1 Stories
Location: MACO Office
Timeline: Immediately following Blow Ye Redshirts

Sergeant Anthony Brownell sat in the chair indicated by a still visibly irate Lieutenant Rogers, aSecChief and MACO commander. The room was tense and Brownie was sure he was about to be removed from his recent promotion to unit sergeant as well as disciplined. The others were already but on quarter’s restrictions but the lieutenant hadn’t yet said what punishment he would receive for the incident in the messhall.

“I must have made a mistake putting you in as unit sergeant,” Rogers said, without preamble and echoing exactly what Brownie thought he would say and do. Brownie dropped his gaze to his hands. As proud as he was on gaining the promotion it made it sting that much harder that he lasted for only a day. He only looked up when he realized the office remained quiet for several long moments. Roger’s dark eyes were staring at him, his jaw set. He wondered if Rogers was waiting for him to agree? He didn’t know what to say to that.

“Sir,” Brownie started, not sure what he would say. “It’s the first time I’ve let you down.”

“As unit sergeant,” Rogers said, placing a spoonful of tea leaves into a strainer. “Why didn’t you order them to stop?”

Brownie took several moments to think. The answer came right away but he didn’t want to say it. He already let his CO down and lost his position, he didn’t want Rogers to know just how badly he failed. But Rogers was also Betazoid so he’d know when Brownie wasn’t being honest and could probably already read the thoughts in his head. “I didn’t think I’d need to.”

He glanced up only to find Rogers still staring at him, still quiet. “I told them it wasn’t a good idea, that they shouldn’t do it. I’m their sergeant, I shouldn’t have to give orders for them to listen. Newton hardly ever gave us orders and we knew to do what he said.”

Rogers nodded. “Why was that?” He remembered his own time as an NCO and so understood that there was a mystique as well as understanding between enlisted and NCOs. In some ways NCOs had more respect and command presence than officers.

Brownie shrugged. “He was the sergeant. We didn’t listen then we got in trouble. He’d kick our ass up one way and then down the other.” Brownie gave a wry smile. He’d had his share of ‘counseling’ with Newton but never too bad on his part.

“The only reason you listened to Newton was because he was the unit sergeant?” Rogers asked.

“No!” Brownie said. Then sat up a bit straighter as he realized he sort of yelled at his CO. “Sorry-”

“Can it, Sergeant,” Rogers said. “The way it works is that the unit sergeant has to feel free to speak his mind to me. Without that he can’t do the job he’s expected to do. In this office, or in any matter that concerns your duties, you’re to speak freely at all times. Understood?”

Brownie nodded. He still had to answer the question asked previously though. “But sir, Newton didn’t have our respect only because he was sergeant. That’s what I meant, he didn’t have to order us not to do something that might get us in trouble. He just had to tell us it wasn’t a good idea, or give a look. We’d know what he meant and what would happen if we didn’t listen.”

Rogers poured boiling water over the strainer full of tea leaves and set the cup aside to steep. “Do you think Newton just got that as soon as he made sergeant?” Rogers asked, understanding a bit what Brownell was thinking. His own relationship with Newton started off somewhat adversarial.

Brownie shrugged. “He was already the unit sergeant when I came in.”

“Yes, he was. He was made sergeant of this unit because I recognized the qualities in him that I wanted in a unit sergeant. He understood there was a time and place to act up and let loose. There were also times and places not to do so. He also knew how to lean on those beneath him to get them to understand the same.”

“You’re saying I should have-”

“Put a stop to it before it happened, yes. Or moved it to the security offices or barracks where it wasn’t witnessed by those we’re charged with keeping in line. How do you think it looks when you roll up on a disturbance with other personnel and they know about this incident?”

Brownie grimaced. “Probably not good. Probably like we think we can do things we won’t let others do.”

“Exactly,” Rogers said. “It makes it look like you guys think you’re above regs and rules. Like you can flout them whenever you want.” Rogers took a moment to take several deep breaths, realizing he was getting worked up over the issue once more. “We’re going to have to be that way on occasions where the safety of this ship and personnel are involved. We’re going to have to be heavy-handed with some of these people who think they’re above what mere grunts tell them. That resentment is going to flow over and you add that to displays like that…we’re going to have problems with people on this ship. Not just that, we’re going to have problems with Cronin. You remember what he said at our initial meeting, right?”

Brownie grimaced again, starting to understand that this was deeper than just a bit of harmless fun.

“Newton only got your respect because of his rank?” Rogers asked again.

“Honestly sir, that didn’t matter. We knew he cared about us. Like an older brother or an uncle. Sir, he’d let us do some pretty crazy things.”

Rogers nodded, “Yes, I know. But again, it was the right time and place. You think he would have let that bullshit in there go on like that?”

“No, Lieutenant. That’s why I was trying to stop it.” Brownie answered.

“And do you think he started out just gaining that gravitas,” Rogers paused as Brownie looked at him, “you think he just got to be ‘Sergeant’,” he put the quotes around the word with his fingers as he said it, “just because he was the sergeant?”

“Probably not, sir,” Brownie answered.

“Definitely not. Sergeants need to get their own respect from those under them. They may have to rely on the rank to begin with, until they get to that point with their enlisted. The point where the enlisted know they’re going to get their asses kicked if the phrase “not a good idea” doesn’t work. Newton was at the point in his career where he earned that respect and, yes, fear from all of you. But you came into him and learned from those around you that if you didn’t listen to him, it wouldn’t go well for you. He got to a point where he didn’t have to say “that’s an order” because you knew when it was and when it was only a suggestion, right?”

“There was a difference?” Brownie asked, only half joking.

“Exactly,” Rogers answered. “But it took work on his part as well. It took his enlisted to understand that he knew his job. It wasn’t just to carry out the orders I gave him, but to make the kids under him know what they had to do before I gave order one. I should only have to give orders for the formality of it. That’s your job, now, Sergeant. That and to protect those kids out there from me and every other officer around. You’re to be their shield from our stupidity as well as their older brother - the one that protects them from their own stupidity.”

Brownie sighed, staring at his hands again, once more knowing he screwed up big time.

“How often did you screw up and Newton said he’d handle it between the two of you?” Rogers asked.

Brownie shrugged again. “Quite a few.”

“Like when you were AWOL for a day and a half when you missed a return shuttle because you lost track of time in a Dabo room?”

Brownie looked up suddenly at hearing that, his eyes wide. Rogers shook his head, holding up a hand to stop him from sputtering forth and explanation or justification. “Yes, I knew about that time, kind of hard to not notice you missing, Sergeant. But he handled the situation to satisfaction. You’ve never been AWOL since then, in fact you’ve become a pretty good Marine since then. The point is, he took care of the problem without making it seem like you were done in the unit, or even face any brig time.”
“Yeah,” Brownie said. He remembered the extra duties and other ‘incentives’ he had to complete to keep it ‘between them’. Now he was finding out Newton had told Rogers everything after all. “But…”

“Yes, he took care of it but told me. He also told me that he took care of it. Because of that, the incident isn’t even in your file. It didn’t affect your promotion or competency to serve in this unit.”

“I thought for sure if you knew about that,” Brownie said. “you knew all the time?”

Rogers nodded.

“And Newton wouldn’t have been court martialed if you found out afterward?” Brownie asked.

“There is a point where a good officer has to let his NCOs take care of the small problems. If we don’t do that, then we’re nothing but the jokes and crap you enlisted say we are. Nothing but egos with rank. A good officer realizes the sergeant really runs the unit. He has to come to know the difference between what he can handle on his level and what needs to come to the CO. There will be differences, just like there was with you that time.” Rogers sat back in the chair. “I’ll remind you what you said about Newton, that he didn’t ‘make suggestions’. If you’re going to be the unit sergeant, then you don’t make suggestions either. Understood, Sergeant?”

“I think so,” Brownie said. He gave a half smile. “Does that mean I get to use you as the hardass?”

“I am a hardass,” Rogers answered, without any semblance of humor.

“Understood, Lieutenant.” He looked at his hands again then looked up, daring to look Rogers in the eye as he asked the next question. “I’m not being removed from the position? I’m still unit sergeant?”

Rogers stared back at him, his dark eyes unreadable. “Sergeant,” he said, finally, “Who do you think guides the NCOs?”

Brownie shrugged. “For me, it’s been other sergeants. Especially Newton. But, the other unit sergeants are on other ships.”

“Me, Sergeant. I guide the unit sergeant and help him do his job. If I removed you for the first time you failed, would that be helping you to grow into your role?”

“I guess not,” Brownie said but not as if he were confident that was the right answer. “But probably not. I just didn’t think I could bring problems like that to you.”

“We’re going to be working closely together, Sergeant. Also, I expect to know what’s going on with my people - the good and the bad. And with the bad, I want to know if I have to get involved or if it’s been dealt with to satisfaction.”

“Yes, sir,” Brownie said.

“Get out of my office, Sergeant,” Rogers said, “and go take care of this situation.”

“Yes, sir,” Brownie said. He stood then sat again. “Since we’re talking about problems with the unit, I’m worried about Hannah. He’s taking it pretty hard about Newton. I mean, sir, we all are but Hannah especially.”

“I know, Sergeant, I spoke with him last night. It’ll probably take him a bit longer to deal with this, he feels much more responsible for what…” Rogers said, recalling the run-in he had the previous night with the young medic. He tried to focus on that rather than the details of why the medic was feeling the way he felt. “Keep an eye on him, as well as the others. Keep me updated.”

Brownie nodded again as he stood once more. He took just a moment before he turned to the door.

“Sergeant,” Rogers said as the door opened and the big man was about to step through. “Remember that you wouldn’t be where you are if I didn’t know you were capable. Don’t disappoint me.”

“Sir,” Brownie said as the only answer he could give at that moment. He waited outside the office door for a few moments before he took off. He had to find Chackton and Steinman to deal with what happened. He wasn’t sure yet how he’d do that but he’d draw on his memories of Newton for inspiration and guidance. But doing even that was bittersweet. He still grieved the loss of Newton but, maybe, if he learned from his previous sergeant maybe in a way it would help Newton rest peacefully now.


Sergeant Anthony 'Brownie" Brownell - MACO Unit Sergeant, PNPC

 

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