I’ve coma across a report that lists some of the reasons for this failure. First, the Impro Rig Mk I still had a few known issues but the impact of that was pretty minor. Second, there was only time for limited training before deployment. Several of the paratroopers later reported that they were not 100% confident in the usage of the rigs. Third, in order to maintain the tactical advantage of the rigs, the Impro technology was to be kept secret from the Chinese at all costs, so soldiers were not allowed to dump the rigs in the field. This meant they were fighting at a lowered capacity. The leadership even ordered that the rigs of injured or fallen soldiers be retrieved – the implication being that the injured men might be left behind. I find that last part to be really infuriating. During training we get told that it’s not always possible to rescue injured soldiers on the battle field. I get that it might pose too much of a risk, but to prioritize some piece of equipment over saving a comrade’s life is complete bullshit. Luckily that requirement was quickly scrapped when the officers in charge realized it would only cost more lives.

Fourth, it seems the brass had somehow failed to consider something that any half-decent soldier should know: on the battle field things don’t always go as planned. In a couple of cases the VTOLs were unable to come down for pick-up due enemy anti-aircraft capabilities, and in others the fighting on the ground simply went on for longer than expected. The overall result was that soldiers ran low on ammunition and other supplies; some even reported ditching their service rifles and picking up enemy AKs. The fifth, and most critical, thing that went wrong is that the brass overestimated the tactical advantage offered by the Impro Rigs. Initially the airborne troops where successful but the Chinese quickly learned to target the VTOLs and as the battle raged on in the streets of Taipei, both sides fighting fiercely for each block, it became apparent that fully equipped regular soldiers were simply more effective than the airborne men carrying their clunky Impro Rigs.

Drawing from the lessons learned in Taiwan, command revised the way Airborne Infantry works. Aside from better equipment and better training, the most obvious improvements were to let the men dump the rigs once they were on the ground – the strategists deemed that it was the chemical formula for the foam which was secret, not the rigs themselves – and to come up with a system to resupply the troops in the field. Each VTOL was initially designed to take a squad of ten soldiers including the squad leader. Our squad size has decreased to eight people, while the space for the ninth and tenth men is now taken up by a special drop safe capsule that gets loaded with eight fully packed infantry backpacks plus as much spare ammo as will fit. After dropping off the squad, the VTOL will retreat up to a safe height and wait there. On a given signal from the squad leader, the VTOL will then make a sweep down and drop the capsule. This allows the people on the ground to resupply and be ready to continue fighting within minutes.

The biggest change however, was adjusting the Airborne Infantry’s role within the military organization. The battle of Taipei showed that against well equipped and well organized enemies, ordinary mechanized infantry is better suited as frontline troops.  Analysts came to the conclusion that the biggest tactical advantage of the Impro technology would be against against the type of irregular forces the army would most likely face in asymmetric warfare. To put it more bluntly, when the enemy doesn’t have radar, a couple of VTOLs sweeping in and dropping a platoon of combat ready soldiers is incredibly effective. With this, the Airborne Infantry was transformed into a sub-branch of the Military Police, acting as a Counter Insurgency Strike Force. The name ‘Airborne Infantry’ is perhaps not very suitable for this role, but for whatever reason the brass never changed it.

Since the Airborne Infantry is part of the Military Police, recruits go through ordinary MP training – guard duty, patrols and all that stuff – before moving on to Drop School. Once we graduate from Drop School, Airborne Infantrymen get additional training to suit our counter insurgency role. This is mostly focused on Crowd Control and Anti-Riot Measures. It is completely different from the stuff they teach you in Drop School – it’s all about avoiding actual combat as long as possible and using less than lethal means whenever feasable. Counter intuitive for an infantry force perhaps, but knowing when to use force has its purpose, not the least if you’re coming in as backup in a tense situation. This is not so much for the sake of civilian lives – if the Army doesn’t care about its own soldiers, it sure as hell doesn’t care about the people who aren’t serving. It’s just that the leadership knows that if a situation should turn violent, it will look bad for them. I guess you could say they care about civilians but only in a roundabout sort of way.

All frontline troops get to do what’s called Interrogation Training. The purpose is to prepare you for what it would be like to get captured and interrogated by the enemy. Any soldier who has gone through it can tell you horror stories. MPs are also taught how to interrogate someone. You learn several techniques designed to effectively extract information from a prisoner. What’s never said out loud of course, is that these techniques have been designed to be as brutal as possible without actually falling into the legal definition of torture. Some say that torture doesn’t work, the Military Police say interrogation techniques – that perhaps look like torture in the eyes of some uneducated civilians – do work.

The first year of training is almost exclusively focused on single subjects: basic training, drop training, marksmanship, guard duty, etc. The second year, recruits have to go through a lot of combination exercises that are supposed to simulate situations you are likely to encounter during active duty; things like dropping in to an occupied village and clearing houses of bad guys, or being attacked while on patrol. During this time training officers constantly evaluate you, not just your performance during exercises, but also as a person. Those deemed not fit will be quietly transferred to some other less demanding unit. About six months in to the second year, when the training officers are sure you are loyal to the Airborne Infantry, they hold a special training that wont be found in any official documents. This is training for a task that they call Riot Ending – note the words, not Riot Control but Riot Ending. The idea is to neutralize – through whatever means necessary – the leaders of a protest and thereby end it swiftly. The Airborne Infantry is extremely well suited for this task. Analysis of big protest movements in both Hong Kong and The US back in the 2010’s has shown that protestors quickly learn to adapt to classical anti-riot measures, bringing their own gas masks and riot shields and so on. So far however, would be protestors are not prepared for men dropping in from the sky.

What I omitted to mention earlier is that during the transfer into the Military Police, the Airborne Infantry’s arsenal was extended with some special purpose weapons. Rifles are not suitable when dealing with protesters, mainly because the bullets risk passing through a target and hitting an innocent bystander. A far better choice is a tactical shotgun, especially since they can be loaded with less than lethal ammunition. The Airborne Infantry is using a shortened model – similar to the old Mossberg Shockwave models – for extra maneuverability.

As I’m sure you’ve seen in the news lately, there are big protests in the streets of Brussels. People are protesting the new, EU wide crime prevention directive. The protestors are saying that the governments is trying to spy on innocent civilians. I say, if you have something to hide it means you’re not completely innocent. You might think this doesn’t concern us in the Airborne Infantry but that’s the thing about being part of the Military Police, it’s the only branch of the Army with legal jurisdiction to operate within our national borders during peace time. The brass has decided that this protest must end before it gets out of control and so they are sending us. I’m recording the last words of this document in the VTOL on the way over. Out of habit I double check my gear, the straps on the Impro Rig are secure and my shotgun is fully loaded with the safety on. “Less than lethal,” I say, giving the gun a little slap. The man across from me responds with a smirk and slaps his gun as well. All of us in this VTOL know that whole “less than lethal” thing is bullshit, a bean bag fired from a shotgun can still be deadly at close enough range – specifically the kind of ranges we’re likely to encounter when dealing with protestors. Not that we care, but using less than lethal ammo gives us plausible deniability. The floor is opening now, I can see the protestors beneath my feet as we’re sweeping over them. The Drop Master just signaled ready to drop, I grab the handles on the Impro Rig…time to go kick some leftist soy-boy ass.