I hope all the American-types reading have an enjoyable 4th of July. Here are some quick (okay, semi-quick) tidbits…

• Next week, Task Force 1 from the Shadowline imprint at Image Comics hits the comic shop shelves. It’s an exploration of the psyche of the American soldier a generation or so in the future when technology turns top spec ops soldiers into a deadly team with a mission… become the terrorists’ bogeyman. It has guns, explosions, comradery, and my love of really messing with characters’ heads to rip them down until we find out what they’re really made of. For the sake of the world, let’s hope the military was right about the psyche profiles for the members of this team.

• Related to Task Force 1… U.S. Elite Forces Face Shortfall. Here’s an interesting snippet from the article…

–The Navy. It has 2,352 SEALs but is authorized for 2,684, says the Naval Special Warfare Command. Another unit of special warfare combatants has 563 people; it is authorized to have 653.

–The Air Force. It has filled 504 of 616 jobs for combat controllers who direct airstrikes; rescuers of wounded troops behind enemy lines; and combat weather forecasters.

–The Army. It has acknowledged a shortage of troops but won’t give a precise number. The Army Special Operations Command said this year that it would take a few years to return “Army special forces units to full strength.” The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, reported in 2005 that the Army had filled only 2,922 of 3,834 spots for sergeants in four Special Forces categories: intelligence, communications, engineering and medical.

When I first entered the Air Force (way back in ’90), I was in the training pipeline for combat controller. At the time, I believe the washout rate was 85% for the course. 60+ airmen would enter and less that 10 would move on. It was rough, and even if you had the endurance and physical abilities to get through the training, one blown knee (or in the case of one of my best friends… stress fractures in your shins that make them resemble jigsaw puzzles) can ruin it for you.

After I decided to try out for combat control during basic training (go out and take the PAST), I told my mom about it (she was former Air Force). She stopped by the recruiter’s office back home and chatted with him about it. “Your son? The math and physics nerd?” She made a bet with him that I’d get in… conveniently forgetting to mention to him that the math and physics nerd also played on a Texas semi-state finalist football team, competed in regionals for track, and was a sectional runner-up for the swimming & diving team. And even with that background, I barely qualified to make it into combat control training. I think less than a dozen of us qualified that day out of nearly a hundred airmen trying out (getting them to try out wasn’t a problem… basic trainees will do anything to get away from the squadron for a “vacation”).

So, let’s see… maybe 5-10% of all the eligible airmen tried out that day. Approximately 10% qualified to go to the training, maybe 50-75% of those passed the flight physical and/or actually decided to give up another career field to pursue specops, and less than 15% of those will actually make it through the course to become a combat controller (or pararescueman… they both trained together at the time for a significant part of the pipeline). Really, really roughly, that gives you 1/20th of 1 percent of all new recruits. With a 24,000 new recruit cap for 2005, that would have been about 12 new combat controllers/pararescue for the year (18 back in 1990 when the Air Force had 36,000 new recruits). There’s a little play there from cross-trainees (and cross-service cross-trainees) and injured people washing back to the next class to attempt to go through again, but still… when your manpower’s 112 short to begin with, that’s not looking good for getting caught up. I know they changed the program (the changes were starting while I was in training) to make it easier to qualify and a little (stress on the “little”) bit easier to complete the course. Even if they double their throughput, it’ll still be tough to make up those numbers.

And back to my initial comment that this was related to Task Force 1… not only do you work on missions no one else can know about, take on jobs normal soldiers don’t qualify for, and have to constantly maintain proficiencies, but you also have to do all that in a career field that’s undermanned. Even in normal civilian day jobs, a person in an undermanned position is more likely to burn out and have a nervous breakdown without having to deal with bullets and IEDs. Something to think about… I know I do when I’m writing this book. ^_^

The Creative Adviser updates with a question about impersonal rejection…

Why did the rejection letter I got back from my submission to a major comic publisher feel so impersonal? I took the time to add personal touches to my submission… why can’t they do the same?

Jay G., Central City, NE

Dear Jay,

We’ve all run into this scenario at some time, but I just so happen to have a friend (distant friend, in fact) who actually received a personal response from an editor at Marvel Entertainment. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. You just have to strike the right chord with an editor and give them a reason to respond. Let’s take a look at his letter…

Click here to read the rest of the article.

The Top Cow Myspace blog is promoting a screening of the short film “Blame” at the Dances With Films Independent Film Festival. The film was put together by some names familiar to Top Cow (and also stars Renae Geerlings… Top Cow’s current Editor-in-Chief). If you’re in LA the week after San Diego Comicon, you should swing by Laemmle’s Fairfax Theater and give it a looksee.