The purpose of this guide is to serve as a supplementary manual to the CM SS13 wiki page on fireteam leaders. Here, I will present information that TL players - both new and returning - can benefit from. I’m not the deadliest marine in combat or the best fireteam leader, and I’m certainly not the one with the most playtime as one, but I feel like I know enough to help my fellow team leaders.
As a Corporal, you are expected to lead a fireteam: a smaller, more granular element of a squad that can carry out actions and maneuvers by itself. As a non-commissioned officer leading a team of marines into battle, you are expected to have an above-average knowledge of the AO. When your squad is conducting a movement to contact, your fireteam will typically be either on point, guarding the flanks, or watching the rear. You are responsible for knowing what tactical decisions to make, such as a retreat, securing a flank, encircling the enemy, launching a counter-attack, the list goes on. These decisions should be based on not only the ammo and medical status of marines around you, but also on an acronym called DRAW-D. This acronym is used to describe the enemy’s capability to Defend, Reinforce, Attack, Withdraw, and Delay. In other words, pick up your laser designator and look: is there only a few xenomorphs waiting for marines to enter a chokepoint before they emerge and ambush? That means the force you’re dealing with can defend, delay, and easily be forced to withdraw, but can’t go on the offensive or relocate to reinforce another group of xenomorphs. This is valuable intel, and you should disseminate this information ASAP.
You should take the initiative and do what has to be done to accomplish the mission within the boundaries set by your chain of command. This may mean that you have to take up the position of acting squad leader if something happens and the Sergeant is out of action. You might have to make a split-second decision and order the marines around you to follow you and charge head-on in a counter offensive in order to recover the demolitions specialist’s body. You might spot unguarded barricades melting just east of the frontline and have to take your fireteam there to secure the marine ground force’s main body. You are entrusted to make decisions of such nature if they’re along the commander’s intent, and you should wrangle the blob of headless chickens into an agile and formidable fighting force. Remember that only a fraction of the marines on the frontline are able to engage the enemy without risk of friendly fire, so put those marines in the back to good use.
You are not a private fighting for every square inch of some colony, you need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Continuously report to your chain of command what you see through your laser designator over the radio. Provide CIC with a stream of reliable intel on the enemy and the situation among marines, and you just might be the victor. If a push has been met with considerable resistance and a flank or a feigned retreat isn’t possible, punch through with the strongest weapons at your disposal: the mortar, the orbital bombardment cannon, and the close air support dropship. These weapons can be used offensively, but they truly shine in the defense, when the main body of xenomorphs would have to walk over the epicenter of the targeted area in order to get in cover.
This specific role is usually reserved for fireteam leaders in Bravo squad. Here, you are not leading a handful of marines, but instead you are providing indirect fire for other people requesting fire missions from you. Because of the fluid nature of the frontline, fire mission requests are only effective for a small window of time, after which they become a waste of valuable 80mm shells. Therefore, you must be close to the mortar for as long as the frontline isn’t underground.
Inform your spotters that you have X amount of shells left, and remind them that you are ready for fire missions every few minutes. The job may sometimes be boring, but it is a job that must be done. There is nothing like being in urgent need of fire support and having nobody respond to your fire mission requests.
Unsung Combat Technician
This is not a unique, separate role per se, but rather something that you can do while also being a fireteam leader or mortar operator. You have the same construction and engineering skills as a combat technician, and you can take a full set of tools (to include a power cell and a cable coil) for yourself. If you’re on the frontlines and you see an airlock that the enemy might use to attack, weld it shut. If you need to clear a path through a colony, just plant a brick of C4, hack an airlock, or deconstruct a wall. Do you see a combat technician trying to provide some solid cover for the medics to do their triage in a safe casualty collection point? Ask him to split his metal supply with you so you can assist. Are you a mortar operator and the FOB is still being built but you aren’t needed for a fire mission yet? Go help out and make sure the LZ is secure in all directions. Hell, you can even restore communications and power to the colony! Point is, you have the training, so use it!
This is a pretty simple and straightforward task: keep providing the SL and CIC with accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on the situation. Report anything noteworthy up the chain of command so that the commander can make an informed decision. Use your radio (or the radio telephone pack) to contact your squad’s overwatch officer. Make sure the marines around you are aware of everything reported on the radio, even if it sometimes feels like you’re parroting what a lieutenant is saying. If there’s marines nearby that need ammo or supplies, talk to requisitions personnel and arrange for a frontline resupply drop. Do not underestimate the advantage your radio provides, use it properly! Try to keep your radio transmissions short, clear, and concise. Make sure you mention who exactly you’re talking to at the beginning of your sentence so that there is no confusion. Lastly, keep your cool and stay professional over the radio.
Requesting a Mortar Fire Mission
The 80mm mortar is only as good as the person calling in the coordinates, and that would be you. It’s a well-rounded artillery system that can be used both offensively and defensively, but is the most effective when protecting retreating marines by shelling an attacking xenomorph force, and when creating a hole in xenomorph defenses and resin structures. Requisitions will supply the mortar with HE, incendiary, and flare-camera shells. The high explosive and incendiary shells have a radius of 7 tiles. Keep in mind that there is an inversely proportional relationship between the mortar’s precision and the distance to the target; in other words, you will have less precision if you fire the mortar at something that’s far away. If you want a mortar fire mission, you must first examine the tile you want to be shelled; if it’s underground, you won’t be able to shell it. Then, ask over the JTAC net if the mortar is available. Once you get the confirmation and the mortar is standing by, get your coordinates and request the fire mission. Your request should be something like this:
Mortar, requesting 1x HE on 307, 186.
It should absolutely NOT be like this:
LONGITUDE : 307, LATITUDE : 186 FIRE NOW
The biggest reason why is because you absolutely do not want a staff officer to fire an orbital bombardment on coordinates meant for the mortar. Both you and the lieutenant would be at fault here: you didn’t follow proper radio etiquette and SOP, and the lieutenant fired on coordinates without being explicitly called in, resulting in a major friendly-fire incident.
Requesting an Orbital Bombardment
There are many similarities between requesting a mortar fire mission and requesting an orbital bombardment, but there are also a few key differences. HE and incendiary warheads have an 18-tile radius, and the cluster warhead has a radius of 12 tiles, where it will drop 6 cluster bomblets every second for half a minute. Because they have such a huge radius, orbital bombardments should only be used while marines are defending or preparing for a counter-attack after the warhead impacts. Any push attempted by any marine while the warhead is mid-air will most likely result in death or serious bodily harm. For optimal results, an OB should target a location that the queen will attack from. It should only be fired when the queen and her xenomorphs have pushed past the targeted location. This will result in xenomorphs retreating by walking right towards the center of the blast. First, get your coordinates and have CIC dial and hold fire. Then, when the queen has pushed around 8 tiles past it, tell CIC to fire on your coordinates. The radio chatter over the JTAC net should be something like this:
CIC, dial OB on medbay and hold fire, coordinates are 289, 103.
Russo, OB dialed on medbay. On your mark.
CIC, FIRE THE OB! SAME COORDINATES, 289, 103!
Calling In Close Air Support
A few basic principles present in artillery fire missions are also shared with close air support, but the sheer versatility of a CAS dropship allows for unrivaled domination of the battle’s tempo. Pack a flare gun on top of your laser designator and two packs of M89-S signal flares, you’ll need it. It allows you to deploy a signal flare further into enemy lines, and if you use Unique Action, you can fire the flare into the air. The signal flare won’t last as long as one deployed on the ground, but the xenomorphs won’t be able to melt down this one - perfect for covering a retreat.
Well before you deploy, ask over the JTAC net for today’s CAS loadouts. Familiarize yourself with all possible weapons by visiting the pilot officer’s wiki page and reading other forum guides. Use close air support against defended and well-fortified key terrain. Make sure the airstrike isn’t happening while marines are advancing. Try to get a large offset into enemy lines to cause more damage against fleeing xenomorphs. A large offset is also very great if you want to target a boiler or a place where xenomorphs are resting and healing. You can even use direct fire instead of a CAS fire mission to airstrike a target without giving the xenomorphs any warning that they’re about to get hit from above. Frequently laze random places along the frontline and ask for dry-runs (fire missions where no weapons are fired) to scare xenomorphs away and cause them to not retreat as much when you actually call in a real fire mission.
Your CAS request should sound something like this:
Normandy, take off, prepare for a fire mission
Normandy is ready to provide CAS
Normandy, requesting mini-rockets on Charlie-35 flare, offset 8 north.
It should absolutely not be like this:
Followed a few seconds later by:
That would be an example of a very poor CAS request. It could easily be lost in the sea of radio transmissions because “CAS” or “Normandy” weren’t mentioned. If the CAS pilot hears it, he might fire on the flare without offsetting, as there is a chance that the second message was not noticed.
The Reality of the Situation
If you are a fireteam leader, you should understand that the perfect scenario does not exist outside of fiction. Never wait for the perfect plan and the perfect scenario - instead, as soon as you have a good, flexible plan with a decent setting, you execute it swiftly and with extreme violence. You will not always have your entire fire team with you, as some will die, disobey orders, or even follow a blob because they didn’t bother listening to orders in the first place. You will never have a group of marines that are both 100% healthy and 100% supplied, someone will always be missing something. You will never have the perfect fire mission or the perfect airstrike, there will always be a “could be better” in your head.
No matter what you do, there will always be that one oblivious marine that will charge towards retreating xenomorphs alone while a mortar shell is seconds away from obliterating him in an instant. Don’t blame yourself for his death, and don’t you let anyone blame the mortar operator either. If a truly bad fire mission was requested, the blame usually lies squarely on the spotter.
Sometimes, you could do everything right and still lose. That’s okay. In these moments, many marines will blame command for this failure. Sometimes they are right. A lot of times they aren’t. Understand that every leader from you to the Colonel could make the right decisions and you’d still lose, that’s just the game. What’s important is how you maintain yourself during this time period. Don’t blame others in front of your subordinates, that’s absolutely not what a leader should be doing. Marines need to have trust and confidence in their chain of command, and you are the closest to the enlisted marines. You should inspire the men around you by being deadly, vicious, cunning, and unwavering. You should not be bitching, whining, complaining, or moaning. Even if an officer made a mistake, your job is to navigate through this obstacle and learn to live with it. Stoking the flames with a bunch of privates is not the way to go; there is a time and place for everything.
If you’ve read through all this, I want to thank you. Enjoy your time as a fireteam leader, have some fun. It’s a very under-appreciated role. If you’re comfortable doing everything in this guide and have a good knowledge of the map you’re about to play, you should probably play as a squad leader. It’s daunting at first, but your experience as a team leader will allow you to very quickly adapt and thrive. Please feel free to discuss any part of this guide with me, I’d love to hear the community’s feedback.