Ok, I've been involved in a few alliance fleet operations now, and I've come to appreciate some parts of them, and dislike other parts. Everyone who commands a fleet deserves the utmost respect, in my opinion, but we all know that some are better than others, and that's fine.
But instead of whinging about what others do that I don't like, I decided to just do it myself. Then, when it goes wrong, not only do I have no one to blame but myself, but I can learn very, very quickly about what not to do...
So on the weekend I organised a fleet operation, with me commanding.
Now, I've led small fleet operations before, but it was always in low-sec. It seemed a little safer there... Out here in null-sec, it feels quite different.
I didn't want the op to be too extreme, nor did I want it to be too official, so I asked a real-life friend and a friend of hers if they wanted to be in my fleet to help me learn. It just so happened they're both in Ushra'Khan, so that made it all the better. And then a corp mate (Autumnn) logged in and wanted to be involved too, so there were 4 of us.
I advised everyone that this was my first fleet op, so they should all expect to die, and to bring only ships that they were ok with losing. My friend (Zyeth) bought a Rifter, while her friend (Nukelear Storm) bought a Vagabond. Autumnn ended up choosing a Rupture, and I was scout in my Rapier (this was because no one else had a cloaked ship or interceptor...).
And so we set off on our roam. My objective was simply to fly along a circular route through a large loop of systems in the northern are of Catch, and see if we could find any targets to kill. While everyone knew we might (and probably would) die, I wanted to do my best to keep everyone alive.
So I was somewhat cautious. I wasn't using the Rifter as a scout as Zyeth was new to all this pvp/scouting business, and I believe this was her first real operational experience. I couldn't use the Rupture or the Vagabond as scouts either, so it was up to me in the cloaked Rapier. I also decided, for the same reasons, that I couldn't use any of them as rear scouts either, but now I think Autumnn in the Rupture might have been a suitable choice for that.
So we roamed and rambled our way around Catch. I managed to keep us safe from about 3 or 4 different red fleets, comprising over 10 ships each. Keeping an eye on the intel channels and scouting worked well, with my little fleet being able to keep one system ahead of the larger fleets before they broke off on a different path, or successfully hiding out in safe spots.
We did this for about an hour, but we were unable to find a solo target to pin down and attack. We had a go at a Destroyer once, but it was able to evade us and slip away.
Eventually it was time to return home and call it quits. Nukelear wanted to continue on into Providence by himself, so we parted ways. Just as he left the system, the gate the rest of us had just entered (and were sitting around) began firing and local began spiking with a number of reds. I know now that a rear scout would have been helpful here....
"Get away from the gate - now!" I said over comms, and immediately began the warp process to the next gate. However, an interdictor appeared on the overview and a bubble went up, and the warp drive disengaged before it could complete activation. Already having my cloak activated was helpful, and I turned the Rapier around to head back to the gate to jump through it. I did this because a number of other ships began appearing, releasing drones. I figured it would be safer to get back to the gate than to slowboat through the bubble.
I heard Zyeth over the comms, "Oh wow, a bubble... I think I'm dead." I tried to tell her to quickly make her way back to the gate, but then she said, "Ummm... everything's frozen on me..." Lag. I didn't bother telling her anything, as it wasn't going to matter.
As I jumped through the gate I heard her say, "Great, I'm in a new clone..."
I was in the next system, and I quickly checked local to see that Autumnn had made it through as well. I told him to get away from the gate and make some safe spots in this system.
While cloaked, I warped to a planet and made a safe spot to hide at, as local started spiking again with the reds coming back through the gate. A few seconds later I heard Autumnn on the comms say something like, "They got me." I asked him what happened, and he said that he warped to a planet but there was a red already there within range, and he was scrambled. Then another 5 or so reds arrived, and it was all over for Autumnn's rupture. So Autumnn took the fast ride back to a new clone too...
With a sigh, I sat there in my cloaked Rapier. I knew we had all expected to die anyway, but it was still disappointing that some of us did.
Over the next hour I made my way slowly back home, successfully dodging a number of other red fleets before finally docking. I spent that time thinking about my first fleet commander experience, trying to work out how I could have improved it, and getting some feedback from Zyeth and Nukelear.
With what I learned from the experience, and tips I've gotten from feedback and other sources out there on the internet, my next op will be quite different...