PHD #237: Dressing Down Part II
Dressing Down Part II
Summary: The exciting conclusion: Madilyn and Vandenberg get on the same page.
Date: 21 Oct 2041 AE
Related Logs: Dressing Down Part I
Madilyn Vandenberg 
Marine Offices - Deck 6 - Battlestar Cerberus
This offices consists of desks for those under the CO, along with his desk toward the back of the room. The S1 and S2 have desks here and the place is neat as a pin, with everything in its place. At the front of the room, a Marine sits at a desk to meet people as they come in through the hatch.
Post-Holocaust Day: #237

The music player of Madilyn's is back in its place on the speaker setup at the back of her desk, but unlike a normal day, it's not on. Nope, not even quietly playing. Nothing at all. The only sounds to fill the office this morning are the scratching of pens, clicking of keys, and the burble-dripping of the coffee maker in the office. In preparation for a little chat, the office is light on staff, and even they're prepared to beat a hasty retreat when the time comes.

At zero-nine-thirty, the hatch opens and in sets one Lieutenant Vandenberg. She's in her browns which appear to have been pressed. Madilyn said she wanted to talk. It sounded official. Natalie took the time to look as professional as possible under the circumstances. She steps over in front of the desk and salutes. "Reporting as promised, sir." Clipped words. The lazy drawl that normally accompanies her voice is gone.

Upon her arrival, Madilyn stands and returns the salute to the woman. "Lieutenant Vandenberg. Please, have a seat, or a cup of coffee if you're so inclined. It's not as strong as you're used to drinking, I'm sure, but that's how I take mine and I made it this morning." First come, first served. The woman is given a moment to make her decision, but either way, Madilyn is sitting back down behind her desk. By this time, the rest of the officers have begun to close up their work and make for the hatch, knowing to relocate temporarily to the SecHub or even into the corridor a moment.

Vandenberg takes the 'offered' seat with a nod. "Thank you, sir, but I'm alright. I actually dump a lot of creme and sugar into my coffee, anyway." She crosses her legs easily, folding her hands into her lap. The woman looks quite calm and ready for anything. She can probably guess why she is here but the Lieutenant does not know anything for sure. So Natalie waits patiently to be told.

"Lieutenant, I want you to take me through your thought processes regarding the incident on Aerilon four days ago. Yes, I've read your official reports. I want to know what you were thinking though. Walk me through it, as the officer-in-command, the officer on the ground." Though not an MP by training, Madilyn's learned well enough to keep a steady supply of fresh pads in the top drawer of the desk. One of those is now produced, and she clicks a pen into writing mode.

"Aye, sir." Vandenberg clears her throat. Her eyes seem to focus on the desk between them while her brain calls up the memories. "After Captain Archer issued the orders, which were short on information, we put down on the surface. Knowing that we had a Marine in need of rescue who was using our frequencies? I trusted the mission." Her words come easily. If she's lying or holding back, it probably is not apparent. "After we approached the ville we spotted roughly a dozen heavily armed men standing around. They had Sables, M12's, Zasta 74's, and I believe I heard an SMI-80 at one point, sir. There were no smiles. No jokes. Their body language was tense. Best judgment, sir? I believe they were waiting for us. If that was the case, it would only be a matter of time before scouts found us. Rather than bleed seconds, I ordered Staff Sergeant Crowe to open fire." Her eyes lift back towards the Major.

"That, Lieutenant, is where the problems start…from where I sit at the very least." Madilyn's very aware of the fact that she hasn't actually been on the ground and in command of anything like that in quite some time. Maybe way too much time. "I've had command send several…less-than-enthusiastic messages regarding this mission. They're disheartened by the fact that not only did you elect to open fire without first making an effort to gather more information on the ground by making contact, but that your decision to open fire with grenades, of all things, was highly irresponsible." Madilyn pauses here, and looks the woman straight in the eys. "I'm inclined to believe them on this matter. I shouldn't have to remind you that at this point, every human life matters. And that's just the 'humanitarian' view above and beyond the fact that command has not authorized a policy of assuming unknown parties are hostile, beyond Cylons and known members of the Ess-Ess-El-Eff."

"Sir, am I to infer that I should have waited until they opened fire on my team and had a chance to disperse to cover and fire positions before I decided to open fire?" Vandenberg's voice, like the look in her eyes, reflect the immediate change in impression of the ship. "And if Command thinks that using grenades in that situation is irresponsible, I would like to speak with them personally about the best way to take out a cluster of men. I am open to suggestions but I would request that they show me this less irresponsible tactic in combat. From the front lines." The Lieutenant's voice seems to have deadpanned. "I know you all have been busting your asses, sir, and you may only consider the SSLF as hostile but things on the ground aren't easy. With the Cylons gone? The people with the guns have power. Those without?" Her eyebrows knit together, a touch of anger flickering there. "You want to think about what it means to be a slave to some slackjawed yokel with a doublebarrel gut to match his shotgun, Major?"

"The decision to open fire with grenades based on the intelligence you had received was deemed irresponsible. And while I can understand your inclination to open fire, rather than act gather more intelligence about the situation, I can't at all condone it. We have never been, nor shall we become, a company of marines who shoots first and asks questions later. Or never. You aren't stranded on Aerilon anymore. Back in the fold, you are bound by the laws and procedures of the Colonial Marine Corps. Most troubling to me is that you carried out this mission with little more intelligence than a radio transmission claiming to be from a marine, using a Colonial frequency. If there's one thing that shouldn't ever be trusted now, above all else, is the validity of Colonial frequencies. If we were able to dupe Cylons into thinking a freighter was one of theirs, I have no doubt that they could spoof our own transponder frequencies."

A hand moves to her temple to rub beside the eye socket some, the first indication of the headache that's sure to come after this passes. This wasn't exactly what Madilyn signed on for, when it comes down to it. "I shouldn't have to remind you that we are not an army, Lieutenant. We have neither the manpower nor the heavy equipment required to affect planet-changing military operations. We are a police force. The sad reality of ship-board operation. No matter how much we would like, we can't rescue everyone, Marine, pilot, or otherwise. While the end result of your mission is to be commended, I'm strongly disappointed in your decision to jump immediately to deadly force without first attempting some measure of non-lethal engagement. Flash-bang grenades, for instance. Less-than-lethal rounds aimed to incapacitate. I won't have my marines shooting whenever, wherever, however, whoever they please on the word of a stranger, even if it turns out to be the right thing in the end."

The Lieutenant does not say anything, instead just waiting for the Major to speak and finish her thoughts. The expression on her face has not changed since the initial mention of what the problem was. Nor has her tone of voice. "Which is why I opted to take a six-man team rather than a whole platoon, sir. Conservation of forces. But once there, we viewed ourselves as being outnumbered two to one. As it turns out, the actual numbers were three to one. If Command wants me to use flashbangs or try asking if they are the badguys first next time, then I'd like the opportunity meet this officer and physically explain the difference between smart and stupid. This might be a police force, sir, but we ain't makin godsdamned corn flakes. Unless I missed something we are the only trained and armed ground force left out of fifty billion people. It would appear to me that we don't have the luxury of just being military police with a side job of rifle. We do what's needed, when its needed. I'm not on a mission to rescue everyone or find some vengeance for what happened to us on Aerilon. But I will not risk the men and women under my command to changing tactics based on what makes knees wobble from CIC. I -will- follow orders if those are my orders, sir, but I -will- adopt them to fit my style."

"All I can ask you to do - the best I can ask you to do - is to trust your training and your intuition, Lieutenant. Lords know that there are marines on this boat now that have more experience on the ground than the rest of this company put together. That I'm not denying, nor am I trying to shortchange anyone. It's a fine line I'm walking here, Ell-Tee. Integrating marines that come from backgrounds doing dirty work on the ground, such as yourself," Madilyn motions forward. "In with marines that get to spend their days living in these tin cans and patrolling cushy clean hallways. I'm not even going to pretend to know half of what you might know about living and surviving on Aerilon, or about the political situation down there. I'm telling you that in complete confidence, since I'm not so proud - or stupid - to think that I'm some little admiral sitting in the universe's last battlestar."

That said, Madilyn sets down her pen, sets aside the paper, and looks Vandenberg right in the eyes. "I need to know that we're on the same page, Lieutenant. I have to know that. You've seen how short we are on qualified officers, and I can ill-afford to see one of the ones we have sent to the brig. While I'm bound to be torn over your methods, by fleet directive and my own nature" Madilyn starts - blame it on her engineering background, or the fact that she's a snooty Caprican, whatever - "I need to know that what you did was, in your mind, the proper and most reasonable course of action and use of force given the situation at hand. Lieutenant, how strongly convinced are you that your course of action was the only reasonable course to take in order to ensure the lives of Cerberus personnel on the ground?"

Vandenberg shakes her head. "I have no interest in seeing who can urinate further, Major. That I can agree with you on. In all honesty? I am an MP by last station. But I'm not the best cop ever produced. I know it. I trust my men to do the jobs they are trained for. I ask for help when I need it. I believe we are of the same mind." She takes a looong breath, letting it out slowly and looking back to the desk with a nod to Madilyn's last question. "I see what you are saying, sir. But from where I lead? I will accept training and help if I am lacking. But if someone with limited ground experience wants to show me a tip or trick, they are welcome. But what I do not welcome is others meddling in the affairs of my men and women that puts them in danger. I'm not talking about you, obviously. But outside forces." She then lifts her eyes to meet Madilyn's. "To answer your question? Given the lack of choice about completing the mission? I'll put it this way: If someone tried to demote me or punish me for the actions I ordered, I would personally see that JAG assemble a Courts Martial to have my case heard." She would stake her entire career on it.

"Are you willing to, if pressed by the command staff of this vessel, including but not limited to the TACCO, XO, and CO, swear that in absence of any other intelligence, reconnaissance or information regarding the strength, disposition, and plans of these armed individuals beyond what you could physically witness and ascertain with your own eyes that these contacts were hostile?" Maybe a few months ago Madilyn would've pressed the matter by the book - officer opens fires on targets not ID'd by command as hostiles - but now, it's all just fluff. "If you are, if you're willing to stake the very fiber of your fleet service record to date on this matter, I'm willing to tell command that this issue has been dealt with to the degree which I'm comfortable."

"With absolute zero hesitation, I would have staked everything on it when I gave those orders. I know the people of Aerilon well enough, Major. I lived with them for a good number of months after the bombs fell. They're the best kind of people. Always willing to lend a hand or tell a joke. Its the same feeling a mother gets when some guy is standing around a playground and he isn't there with anyone or smiling. You -know- something is wrong. These people were predators. Post action recovery proved it. If command wants you to punish me for something that didn't happen or could have happened, I would forward the suggestion that you tell them to remove their heads from their asses." Vandenberg seems absolutely sure of every word. Even the last few. The Lieutenant's confidence seems as stout as ever.

"Very well, Lieutenant. I've said my piece. I'm inclined to agree with command that acting without the full spread of information is irresponsible in the sense that this marine company prides itself on being thorough, knowing as close to all of the facts as we can before acting. However, I'm also inclined to believe that, in your best opinion, any attempt to engage or open channels of communications with armed individuals - individuals with which you're far more familiar than me - would've eventually lead to a firefight putting our personnel as risk. For what it's worth, I'm noting command's cause for concern in your records, but I'm not recommending any brig time or loss of priveledges I can hardly afford to lose a senior HQ officer at this time."

Vandenberg nods. She's in no position to argue about someone else's opinions. "It certainly wouldn't be the first note of that kind, sir. Think I'm dead even with commendations at this point. Might have one more of those than disciplinary notations." The Lieutenant shrugs. Thirty-seven years old? If she'd had a stellar career she could have qualified to wear Madilyn's rank by now. "Will there be anything else, sir? Or would command like to speak with me as well?" Natalie seems perfectly willing to open up on (or with) anyone.

"No…no that's all for now. I just needed to clear the air, to sort out a few things." To work out in her own head how to deal with the complexities of full-on planet action going down like that outside of her control. It's a lot different than policing a battlestar. "If command needs to speak with you, I'm sure you'll find out. You're dismissed, Lieutenant." Madilyn gives the woman a salute after standing up from her chair. It feels like hours have passed.

"Understood, sir." Vandenberg seems to at least understand what is happening and why. Its not personal. Its just business. She rises from the chair and returns the salute crisply. "Good hunting, sir." The salute drops and she turns sharply on her feet to move for the hatch.

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