The book starts off with intense action. John Rico and his platoon raid a planet full of aliens called "skinnies". They have a casualty when they return to orbit. Then there is a flashback to John graduating highschool with his friend carl. Carl tells John he is joining the military and John begins to consider joining as well. He decides to join the mobile infantry and is shipped to camp Arthur Currie and trains under Sergeant Zim. After John graduates and becomes an official member of the mobile infantry his mother was killed in an attack from the aliens. The military attacks the aliens homeworld but is forced to retreat. John gets reassigned to a new unit after his old unit is destroyed. After participating in many raids with the Roughnecks on the Roger Young, John is promoted to corporal. John enters the officer training school and leads a platoon in the battle "Operation Royalty" which, if successful, could turn the tide of the war.