One common problem when taking a group of Rookies into combat is that some will die, whereupon the remainder will panic and go berserk with annoying frequency, even if they have maximum initial bravery. This is where having a Rear Commander can make all the difference.
This is because high rank soldiers give a Morale bonus to all lower rank soldiers. Unfortunately, this works both ways: if the high rank soldier is killed, morale will drop sharply. The higher the rank, the greater the bonus (or penalty). Maintaining a high morale thus becomes a problem of ensuring the officer's survival. A tried-and-proved approach is for the officer to act as a rear commander who remains in the safety of the transport craft, providing moral support and encouragement via radio to the rookies (he's a strategic officer, not a field officer).
This is a very useful tactic for training Rookies, particularly when training a second recovery/assault team, experienced base defenders, or just creating a decent selection of replacement soldiers.
Rear Commander Selection
Generally, you should send the highest officer at your disposal. Even a Sergeant helps, but isn't quite effective enough. The officer's combat skills do not matter in the slightest. This is an excellent position for that "why did X-COM promote that guy again?" officer! Finally, a use for the formerly useless officers!
Note that if you deliberately only take one officer, you're pretty much safe from morale issues. If you have a Colonel, a couple Captains, four Sergeants, and 7 Rookies, the Rookies will start to panic when you lose any of the numerous officers (though they might bear the loss of two Seargeants). But if you have only one officer, and the officer is alive, you can lose 7-8 Rookies before they start to panic.
The officer provides several benefits:
- By staying in the dropship, the officer can abort the mission if there is a CF/SNAFU/FUBAR situation (choose your acronym).
- By staying in the dropship, the officer is unlikely to be killed thus the rookies retain their morale benefit throughout the mission.
- Excess weapons, grenades, and such can be left in the dropship. Rookies may not have the strength to carry everything. The officer (with a decent level of strength) can throw equipment out of the ranger to rookies in the field.
- The rookies will gain much more experience, as they will make all the shots and all the kills. This keeps your officer from stealing all the experience with their superior skills.
- If you give the Rear Commander a Mind Probe, Blaster Launcher, or (assuming sufficient Psionic Skill) a Psi-Amp, a Rear Commander can still participate in the battle from the safety of the dropship. Read the safety instructions before using the Blaster Launcher in confined places, though.
Note that you can use this tactic well into the game. 25 Squaddies and 1 Commander who stays on the ship works very, very effectively. The Squaddies in the line of fire won't suffer huge morale losses when their buddies die. In addition, Squaddies in X-COM can (and often do) have better stats than the officers (unless you fire or kill low-stat officers). Basically, the idea is to minimize morale penalties (which occur when soldiers die, so you want low rank soldiers in the line of fire). And, you want to maximize morale bonuses (which occur when officers stay alive, so you want officers to be safe throughout the battle).
Adapted from a post by [Zeno] in xcom.co.uk, reposted by JellyfishGreen 15:34, 25 Apr 2005 (BST)