I can definitely see Fireblades having a real command rank, but from a tactical standpoint I think there might be some issues. The Fireblade is probably really preoccupied by directing the infantry gunline- I feel like it'd be difficult for a Fireblade to work so closely with infantry while also being the cadre commander.
A battlesuit-equipped Commander, on the other hand, would have access to communications grids, analytic AI, drone information networks, and so on from their battlesuit's cockpit, allowing them to focus on the command of the cadre itself. I'm sure an AI software suite could control the weapons, while the majority of the Commander's concentration was on formations and tactics.
I agree with your conclusion about fireblades, the scope of their command is the infantry and coordinating multiple squads to work together.
The problem we run into with the way our units work is that the commander has a similar scope of leadership as the fire blade and cordinative role, that distracts from adressing the cordination of multiple branches.
So here's my take on it: Battlesuits have a parallel structure to that of infantry. While in the infantry, the chain would go from individual -> squad lead -> fire blade, in a battle suit section this would go individual suit (shas'ui) - Squad lead (shas'vre) -> commander (shas'el or nel). In this way they occupy similar spheres of direct leadership and responsibility.
TauMan wrote:This is the 41st millennium and the Tau Empire has the most advanced integrated battlefield systems. Everything the shas'o, the shas'nel has too. It has to be, otherwise the fire caste would be the Astra Milawhatnow. The shas'o is the person with the authority of command, but the responsibility for command lies with the shas'nel. The tactical command of battlefield operations is with the shas'nel; which frees up the shas'nel or shas'o to focus on strategic or larger meta aspects of the battlespace.
I think what you're getting at is the problem of scope. Because the 'Commander' (Shas'el) is in a direct leadership position, the shas'nel is the person charged with supporting the two parallel elements of fireblades and commanders.
So what do shas'nel do? they coordinate firepower in support of both the fireblades and shas'el. If the fireblade hits a problem and needs fire support who does he talk to, the Shas'o (maybe), the shas'el who is busy directing his own forces? The broadside team directly lead by a 'vre who's authority is only within the individual squad? He talked to the shas'nel who has authority over all of the support elements and directs the best available resource to the task.
I did a quick sketch of how I think this works out:
Basically, I think the shas'nel are the missing branch of the tau tree. Commanders don't deal with directing external fire support. Fireblades, don't ask battlesuit commanders for support directly (they ask through the shas'o, or they ask the shas'nel). Fireblades, Shas'nel, and Shas el are the head multi-squad coordinators of their respective branches.
All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; Unto the place whither the rivers go, Thither they go again.