PHD #051: Operations and Obligations
Operations and Obligations
Summary: Kulko's AAR and a surprise.
Date: 18 Apr 2041 AE
Related Logs: Down But Not Out
Kulko Tillman 
PriGuns / CIC
Located immediately overhead of the CIC, this room is usually darkened but for the soft glow of blue overhead lights. Lining the bulkheads are floor-to-ceiling control panels that give read outs on gun status and ammunition levels. Control centers for the separate gun systems are clearly labeled in white over top of each designated station. In the center of the room is a small digital astral plot and a DRADIS readout that feeds directly from CIC. A handheld phone links directly to the main hub below and the whole room is manned twenty-four hours a day.
Post-Holocaust Day: #51

The make-shift CIC is still packed with people as usual. Tillman is standing at the main table, reading over a set of reports with his ever-present mug of coffee. The lights are low as usual but everyone seems to be in fairly high spirits, if a bit anxious to hear how things went on the recent strike. All anyone knows is that the Praetorian returned without an announcement of casualties.

Casualties? No. But there was a fair share of stress - and one can probably tell from Kulko's entrance. Straight from the Raptor, Kulko is unbuttoning his duty blues to let the jacket hang. He makes for Tillman's table, looking in his pocket for his cigarettes and coming up with only an empty pack. It gets crushed and replaced in his pocket. "Bum a smoke, sir?"

The XO looks up to Kulko as he approaches the table and smirks. "Glad to see you back in one piece, Ensign." He reaches into his pocket and tosses the pack of smokes onto the table. "You want some coffee or water before you get in with a report on the operation?" he offers.

"Hells yeah, sir," Kulko accepts eagerly, prioritizing - a cigarette is placed between his lips, and another behind one ear, the former lit now and the latter for later. He makes for the coffee machine, squirreled away in some corner that was never intended to serve as a commissary, and takes it black. Lit cigarette, black coffee, he's ready for business. "So, uh. Mission accomplished, sir."

The Major smirks, waiting for the Ensign to get everything he needs. He lifts his own mug, taking a long sip and settling it back on the table as the young man reports on the result. "Outstanding. So, let's hear details. I'm guessing we didn't take any personnel losses, right? Give me a summary."

Kulko takes a long draught from the mug and sets it down, focusing on the tobacco. "Well, the godsdamned turrets were more trouble than we thought they'd be. Toasters upgraded two of them with missiles - one of the Knights bought it before they ever got into gun range. The furball was messy… only one ship came back spaceworthy. But Major Hahn's SAR teams worked wonders, so yeah. No casualties." He takes a drag off the cigarette, pulling the cherry into a fine point. "Scout team jumped in halfway through the op, then back out. Came back in force - two basestars, but we were just wrapping up and heading home. Scratched the paint on Praetorian; I ain't exactly the Commander's favorite person right 'bout now."

"Mm." The XO listens with nary more than that, which comes at the end. He takes a long breath and leans against the table. "So we lost five Vipers, but no people. Made enemy contact. Well the call to end the operation at any point belonged to Major Hahn. I'll talk to her about the losses." Tillman crosses his arms, regarding the Ensign. "So, lessons learned from this operation?"

"Well, I just assumed the Vipers'd be able to take out two turrets right quick," Kulko notes somewhat ruefully. "Weren't so easy. Then there were some troubles with the landings… crammin' all them Vipers into Praetorian's hangar bay might have been wishful thinkin'."

"Fair enough. So apply the lessons. What would you do different next time considering what surprised you and how the operation came off?" The Major barely even bats an eye. "Your operation, Ensign. If you plan more in the future, need to know that you are applying what you are learning."

Kulko blinks a few times before he responds, almost shocked. "T'be honest, sir, I thought I'd be grounded after all this. I mean, we took over eighty percent losses." He considers the question, tapping ash into a hopefully nearby ashtray. "I'd bring the frakkin' battlestar, sir, and do it proper."

Tillman takes a long breath. "Look. I have a few options, Ensign." He takes his time getting a sip from his coffee. "First, I can shoulder the burden of planning every strike and overseeing the operation myself while I leave you to just simply be my eyes and ears around the fleet. Maybe help out with tasking around the ship. I can punish you for not doing everything my way and insist that your failures constitute an inability to do your job. Second, I can do nothing and peter along with business as usual and hope one day you figure things out - which does neither of us any good. Or third? I can teach you practical applications of what the fleet taught you by allowing you to plan strikes and be involved in the operational art. Unfortunately, the last option means that with your learning comes a cost - sometimes to equipment. Sometimes to lives. But in -learning- from what you've done, you can effectively plan operations in the future and save lives that would otherwise be lost should I choose one of the first two options." Probably lessons to be learned here, as well. "See what I'm getting at? Its about accepting responsibility for what you do and self-improvement. So, having said that Mister Kulko, what -will- you do differently next time?"

Kulko runs his free hand through his hair - the kid could use a shower. "Well… supposin' we didn't have to go /through/ the box. Coulda gone around it. Maybe takin' on those turrets toe to toe weren't the best idea. I definitely could have made it clear that the Vipers should have focused on two turrets, not spread their fire all 'round. And I definitely should have had a second Raptor with another EVA team - the primary bus almost bought it on the way in."

"Both are very good lessons to learn. But you also said that the two turrets with missiles surprised you." Tillman inclines his head. "You have to weigh the cost-benefit of reconning your targets versus a surprise attack. If you had known that there were missile-armed turrets there, I imagine that it would have changed your tactics, would it not? Already I can see things that I need to impress upon Major Hahn. Things such as ensuring that her pilots are focusing fire for effect, not for glory." Trying to get kills versus the job done. "Just remember that this was your first mission execution without any help. Remember it forever. The lessons this will teach you will effect your ability to do it in the future. You were lucky that this time nobody was killed. Sadly, that is a fact that will not follow you. Learning to deal with the casualties will be tough. If there are any wounded from the strike, it is your obligation as the operational planner to visit these men and women." He pauses to let that sink in. "Is there anything else you can take away from this mission, Ensign? Personal or professional concerns."

Kulko thinks long and hard on that one, helping the silence along with a drag or three off the cigarette. "There was a moment… Raptors had all jumped home, we'd recovered our fighters. I was just waiting for the station to blow. Raiders were comin' in hot, and we couldn't stick around long. And I thought to myself… well, godsdamn, Steve, what if it doesn't blow?" The ensign smiles wryly. "Just kept thinking, wait another few seconds. It'll be fine. But… if t'weren't, coulda gotten us in some trouble right quick, stickin' around like that."

Tillman chuckles. "Getting out of there sooner is always the better call. Especially with two basestars. You can always come back later to make sure the target was hit. Its why we do recon post-strike. Battle Damage Assessments. But it sounds like the thing went off. I take it the station is reduced to a few masses of twisted metal?"

"If that, sir. She may be a royal pain in the ass, but that new CMC recruit knows her demo." Kulko grins genuinely at that, folding his arms. "And the Swallows were up the entire time. Far as they know, a battlestar just took out their comm relay."

"Godsdamned. Well, despite the losses I would call it a good operation. I have some ideas for next time, though, that involve some of those tactical nukes." Tillman's smile borders on wolfish. "Anyhow.." The XO stands off the table and motions for the Ensign to rebutton his jacket. "Gotta look professional in CIC, Mister Kulko." A beat. "Stand tall." At attention. At least he's being quiet as he grows more serious.

Kulko lays the cigarette in the ashtray and quickly moves to re-fasten his jacket. Oberlin a bad influence, perhaps? A few moments later, he matches Tillman's stance, hand rising to a crisp salute. "Aye, sir."

Tillman holds the Ensign's gaze for a moment, eyes narrowing like he might yell. And he kinda does. Its loud enough to grab the attention of everyone in CIC. Probably a command voice left over from his time in the Marines. "Ensign Stephen Kulko!" Tillman stands at ease with his hands clasping behind his back. "In the past fifty-one days I have seen performance from, perhaps, our most junior officer that shames some of the senior in terms of performance, bravery, and dedication to a post." Yep, everyone in CIC is looking. Most have stopped what they are doing. "You've completed your first strike operation and come back with every single one of our crew members alive. You've maintained a stellar record and have never once let myself, or the Admiral down. Thus, on eighteen April, twenty-forty-one, I hereby promote you to the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade, with all the rights and privileges as such." Tillman produces a small box from his pocket and offers it in one hand and an open palm for the shaking in another. "Congratulations, Lieutenant Kulko."

Kulko holds the salute throughout Tillman's faux-tirade. In fact, for the first few moments, Stephen, whose guard had been down, stiffens as if about to get a lashing for stealing cookies and milk. Then the magnitude of what's going on washes over him and he drops the salute, momentarily, eyeing the box. Are they real? Knockoffs from a Tauran side street? Reaching gingerly to take the pips in his left hand, he takes Tillman's in his right and shakes it twice with a determined grip. "Sir, I, ah." He's got nothing. Spends another few moments eyeing the metal in the box, then meets the XO's eyes. "Thanks, boss," he says simply.

The Major cocks his head with the smile as members of the Tactical and CIC crew applaud. A few returned pumps to the shaken hand and he drops it. "Don't thank me, Stephen. You earned 'em. Its up to you to prove you deserve to keep 'em. The Admiral and I both have faith that you will keep doing so. Just, ah, make sure you put those things on before you go walkin' around the ship, aye? Can't have one of our officers walking around out of uniform like that." He chuckles. "Now go. Get some rack or relax. I'll see you back here tomorrow morning. We've got some additional training to get you ready for that goes along with those pips." He sells the new JG a salute to dismiss him, still smiling.

Kulko matches the salute, sharing the love around the CIC for a moment, then turns for the hatch on the bounce, already removing his ensign's pips. As soon as his back is turned the grin breaks through his features. Kid in a candy store, he is.

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