Briefings are part of the culture, you can't get away from them. Officers who withstood enemy fire would sometimes wilt under the gaze of a particularly sharp Commander who picked them apart detail by detail. The Operations Officer was dreading this morning's brief as it contained even worse news than yesterdays.
"General, Sir, your morning SITREP briefing has been updated to reflect the updated casualty list from the incident yesterday in Delta Sector" The full bird checked his notes while the light colonel flipped the PowerPoint slides. The secure briefing room held a large conference table filled with representatives from each staff section.
"Five dead, three more still in intensive care." The full bird droned on, "Next of kin notified, but none of the members of the team were active military."
"In sector Charlie a national guard resupply convoy was hit as it transitioned through an urban area from the port sector of the city. No casualties, but the initial report is a combat loss of three vehicles, including a full fuel trailer."
"In sector Foxtrot, three WIA, two of them critical, from a vehicle rollover accident. Next of kin have been notified and informed that they would not be paid death gratuity or insurance due to negligence on the part of the service members."
"All right Bill," The General said, interrupting the droning full bird. "Attacks are on the rise, why?"
The Deuce cleared his throat. "Our, 'active non-participation' strategy of supporting local law enforcement has been a success in terms of mission accomplishment, but it has squarely backfired in terms of propaganda. Every time an armored vehicle provides an outer cordon it puts a military face on a civilian operation, and no matter how much the press spins the words, the pictures are pretty damning in the eyes of much of the public."
"Ok, Jennifer, what is our next move?" The General shifted his gaze to the civil affairs officer.
"Well General, we don't want to double down on stupid, so instead of acting through local LEO agencies I suggest we empower subordinate commanders to engage the local communities, and explain the mission in terms of providing security, ensuring the food distribution happens fairly and regularly, and avoiding any of the more contentious issues like tax rates or unemployment." The Nine continued, "Really we want to talk about only what we are supposed to be doing in terms of not being a domestic occupation force."
"Fuck it Jenn, people aren't stupid, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck." The Three responded angrily. "You can't make people like taking a bite from a crap sandwich"
"No Sir, but they should know exactly how little of the crap sandwich the military will be forcing them to eat." The Nine replied, "Being honest wins friends, or at least respect as an honest party."
"Enough." The General said, quietly, but still the room went immediately silent. "This unpleasantness will be over eventually. My goal is not to stop it, but to survive it intact as an organization. Jenn, come up with some engagement themes and messages for subordinate commanders. Bill, figure out what we are doing that is pissing people off, bounce it off Jenn and Mike to see if we can't change the way we do business. I may get fired for what I'm about to say, but I don't give a flying fuck about keeping some jack booted thugs hide intact."
There were some murmurs and cross talk. "Does everyone get my intent?" The General spoke softly, "To make it perfectly clear, my number one priority is the continuation of this organization, not body counts, not 'areas pacified', not 'communities engaged' but coming out at the end of this with our honor intact. Remember that the Wehrmacht went into the beginning of WWII with the reputation as the finest Army on the planet, and came out at the end of it with the reputation they earned by their deeds, and the deeds they failed to stop."
"General" The Three said, "To be clear, are you saying to withhold military support from illegal activities?"
"Mike, you know me well enough that I won't sign off on an operation without a JAG review." The General winked. "Saying, 'I'll ask my attorney' isn't the same as saying 'No' now is it?"
"Gotcha perfectly." The Three smiled as he planned to inflicted the strictest ROE ever written, purposely designed to deny aid to any agencies who might wish to use the "big hammer" to their own ends and force them to do their own dirty work.
"All right, this afternoon I want initial products for my review for a WARNO ready for distribution upon approval." The General rose out of his chair, "so I suggest you all get to work."
Later that day the General reviewed his decision with other regional commanders in a conference call, and within a week he was found dead of a heart attack.