Here's the next segment, and dealing with an underage airman-which, in T2K, units might not be concerned about such things from 1998 onward:
335th TFS Offices: 1500 Hours Central War Time:
Major Matt Wiser was in his office. After debriefing their mission, he had gone into his office to see if any additional paperwork had made its presence known, and he was pleased to see nothing new. The CO then propped his feet on his desk and closed his eyes. A short nap often made him feel refreshed, and he had just closed his eyes, or thought he did, when a voice sounded in his ear.
“Boss, wake up.”
He opened his eyes and found Kara standing over him. “Kara....don't you know your CO needs his beauty rest? I was having a nice dream: Me, Goalie, and a few Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, all about to do things nasty enough to get us arrested in a dozen states.”
“Sorry to interrupt the dreamland debauchery, but Mark is still out, and so is Don Van Loan. Got a couple things for you,” his wingmate replied. With the other two officers out on missions, that left Kara, who was the senior deputy Ops Officer, next in command.
The CO sighed. One thing about being a CO was that you never stopped being one. “Okay.....what have you got?”
“First, Doc made it official: Digger is grounded for ten days with that ankle injury. Light duty until then,” Kara said, putting a piece of paper in front of the Major.
“All right, then. That makes Digger the new day-shift NDO until Doc clears him. And Jang keeps flying with Flossy.”
Kara nodded. “Speaking of which, our newsies are talking with both of them right now.”
Guru's eyes really opened. “They get ambushed or what?”
“Nope,” replied Kara. “Ms. Wendt just walked up to 'em, without the crew, and asked if they wanted to talk. They said yes, and, well....” She was referring to Jana Wendt of 9 News Australia and her crew.
“Say no more,” the CO said. “Kodak with 'em?” Marine Captain Keith “Kodak” Crandall was a grounded F-4 back-seater who was doing some PAO duty until he was healed up enough to get back in the cockpit. The news crew was staying with the 335th, and lacking a PAO in the squadron, he had been assigned to fill that job from Marine Air Group 11, the Marine unit the 335th was OPCON to.
“Good. What else?”
“Yeager's people are all billeted,” Kara reported. “They're getting settled in.”
The CO nodded. “Okay, just don't fleece them tonight. Let them get settled in, see how the animals in the zoo behave, and then tomorrow night? Weapons-free.”
“Got you,” she said, though none too happily To her, new arrivals were ducks on the pond for the pool table and the poker games.
Major Wiser looked at her. “Just remember: they're TDY here. Just be nice this first night.”
Kara nodded understanding. “Okay. Oh, I ran into two of his guys. Clancy and Pruitt. They've got 'the look'. Not just from the kill scores on their birds. You can tell.” She lowered her voice. “Just between you and me? They really do look like eighth-graders in flight suits.”
“Some people hold their age, “ the CO pointed out. “I've had people tell me when I was home on leave that if they didn't know how old I was, they'd think I had just graduated high school.”
“I know, but still...”
“None of our business,” Major Wiser reminded her. “Anything else?”
“Not now, but we should have a new mission in thirty minutes.”
“Let me know. And Kara?” the CO said as she got ready to leave. “You do good when Mark and Don are out. Wouldn't surprise me if you got a squadron of your own one day.”
“Yeah, twenty years from now. If we all live that long,” Kara replied. “You know me and paperwork.”
Major Wiser knew what she meant. And the peacetime Air Force, when that came around? How would those who flew in wartime fit in. “I do. Let me know when you've got that mission for us.”
“On my way.”
As she left, Goalie came into the office. “Just got word from Doc.”
“Kara told me,” Guru said. “Digger's grounded for ten days.”
“That, and Kicker definitely has the flu. He'll be in Medical for at least three days.”
“At least,” the CO sighed. “Fridge gets some more flight time.”
Goalie nodded. “He's been waiting.”
“All good things come to those who wait. Trouble is, just like Jang, he has to wait for a permanent crew until we lose some people. And that, I don't want. Not now.”
His GIB and lover understood what he meant. “No letters,” Goalie observed.
Guru nodded. “Uh-huh.”
Meanwhile, in the squadron office, Master Sergeant Ross was at his desk when Captain Jeb Pruitt came by. “Captain,” Ross said respectfully. “What can I do for you?”
“They told me you're the go-to guy for some horsetrading,” Pruitt replied.
“Maybe, sir,” Ross said. “What can I do for you?”
“The grapevine's buzzing about your Sparrow trouble. Something about a fight with eight Sparrows fired for zero hits. Maybe we can help you guys do something about that.”
Ross kept a poker face. “How many you talking about, sir?” Even though they were talking about horsetrading, Ross still showed some respect for Pruitt's status as an officer.
“Right now? Eight,” replied Pruitt. “Then another two dozen when our next shipment comes in. AIM-7Ms, and this would be enough to give you two flights a full Sparrow load. We can take sixteen of your oldest Sparrows off your hands right now, and another sixteen when our next load comes in-and we've got some priority for that. Plus some things for the 474th, and the recipe for the pork tri-tip sandwich the Marines make.” He handed Ross a list of things his squadron wanted.
Ross scanned the list. “Some of these could be tough. As for the Sparrows? Normally, I'd go for 'em, but the CO has orders from above to hold off on those.”
“I understand,” Pruitt nodded. “But I know people in officer detailing, supply, and in MAC. I can plug into your network, and you can plug into mine.”
Ross smiled. A new trading partner with some new contacts....and he still hadn't found a new PAO for the 335th. The CO had told him “Don't make promises you can't keep.” And he was still looking. “Sounds good to me, sir. Maybe we can deal.”
“I like the sound of that, Chief.”
After Pruitt had left, Ross had gone back to his own (legitimate) paperwork, when the one officer everyone in the 335th-officer and enlisted-loathed, came to his desk. “Major Carson? What can I do for you, sir?” Ross asked, silently wishing he could give the snobby Major a kick in the ass. He had a couple of write-ups in hand.
“Master Sergeant,” Major Frank Carson said in that Boston blue-blood accent of his. “What do you know about Airman First Class Kellogg?”
“He enlisted right out of a refugee camp. Joined the squadron four months ago, sir. He's pretty good in the maintenance shop, his coworkers like him, and no complaints from any of the NCOs or the maintenance officers. Why do you ask, sir?”
Carson had a grim look on his face. “Kellogg got upset after that CBS report on that mass grave. Seems he's from around here. He got out, but some family, including his parents, didn't. Chances are, they're in that mass grave, but he hasn't been notified yet.”
Ross put a palm to his head. “I'll keep an eye on him, sir.”
“Not just that. He's underage. Two months shy of seventeen.” Carson looked at Ross. “He should be trying to score a girl at a homecoming dance, not working on F-4s. Not now, anyway. I know about the directive from the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff, and what the Marines did.”
“Sir, with all due respect, the Marines did a major fuckup with how they handled that,” Ross said. “Have you seen the op-eds?”
“I have, Chief,” Carson said. “Still, I think we should send him to Nellis. General Tanner would do the right thing. I tried taking this to the base JAG office, and they're swamped. Anything I send them is not high priority.”
Ross nodded. For once, Carson was handling something right, which was a rare event. About as rare as Richard Pryor doing a PG-rated standup comedy routine. But with all the frivolous crap he'd done..... and he also knew what the CO had told him. Anything Carson sent to JAG, OSI, or the IG's office was now automatically trashed. “I'll take this to the CO. Anything else, sir?”
“Chief, personally, I might have disobeyed what General Gray pulled, if I was a Marine. I know his intent was good, but the way they went about it.....”
Ross was surprised at Carson's sentiments. “They fucked it up, sir.” He noticed the other write-ups. “Something else, sir?”
“Captain Pruitt. He's been trying to 'acquire' our expired Sparrows. Those are munitions we're talking about Chief. There's likely going to be some kind of JAG, OSI, or IG investigation into how we got those bad missiles, and I do not want that compromised. Whoever gave us bad missiles needs to be hauled in front of a General Court-Martial. Is that clear, Sergeant?” Carson asked, sounding once again like the Frank Burns wannabe everyone was familiar with.
“Yes, sir,” Ross replied. He knew the CO would shred those in a heartbeat. “I can assure you no investigation will be compromised.”
“Thank you, Chief.”
After Carson left, Ross got up. He had to talk to the CO.
In his office, Guru looked at his senior NCO. “How many Sparrows?”
“Eight right away, sir,” Ross replied. “And two dozen more on the next shipment. Captain Pruitt doesn't know we only carry two Sparrows per bird.”
“What else does he want?” the CO asked. When Ross told him, the Major was incredulous. “Awful nice of him, but is he crazy? That suggestion of pork tri-tip is not even edible by anyone's definition.”
Goalie looked at both her CO and the Chief. “He must have a cast-iron stomach.”
“You'd have to ask him, Ma'am,” Ross replied.
“Hold off on the Sparrows until General Olds cuts us loose. He's still trying to work though General Tanner. And Tanner has to cut through the Air Force bureaucracy,” the Major said. “Still, get plugged into his network, and plug him into yours. Maybe we can do some horsetrading.”
Ross nodded. “Yes, sir. There's something else. It's about Airman Kellogg.” Ross then explained what Carson had told him. “Sir? How are you going to handle this?”
'He's what? Over sixteen and a half?” Major Wiser asked. Seeing Ross nod, he took out the directive from the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff. “Then I can handle this under CO's discretion.”
“Glad I don't have to make this call,” Goalie said. Then she glanced outside the office window. “Oh, shit. Frank's coming.”
Guru looked out, and sure enough, the 335's most loathed figure was coming to the office. He turned to Ross. “Chief? Stay here. You too, Goalie.”
“In case you need witnesses?” Goalie asked.
“You got it.”
Major Carson went to the CO's office and knocked on the door.
“Come on in, Frank,” the CO said. When Carson came in, he found the CO leaning backwards against the front of his desk. “What do you want this time?”
“Sir,” Carson said, snapping a perfect Academy salute, and seeing the CO sketch a return one. “I see you've been talking with Chief Ross. It's about Airman Kellogg. He's underage.”
“Chief Ross told me,” Major Wiser said. “And so?”
“Sir, I know you all think I'm too by-the-book-”
“You are,” the CO said. “So out with it.”
“Sir, I think sending him to Nellis might be the best option. I know, we're not Marines, and what Gray did was probably illegal as well.”
Guru nodded. “For once, we're on the same page. As in thinking Gray's actions being illegal. But Nellis? Frank, he's past the sixteen and a half mark. That makes it CO's discretion.”
“Sir, the ALMAR, and the directive from the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force?” Carson pointed out. “If you send him to Nellis, General Tanner would do the right thing.”
“I may still send him to Nellis,” Major Wiser said. “Then again, maybe not. I want to hear his side of the story first.” He went to his phone and called up the Aircraft Maintenance Officer, Capt. Kevin O'Donnell. “Kev? Yeah, it's me. Listen. I need you and Airman Kellogg over in my office. When? Right now. Good.” He hung up the phone, and said. “Kev's bringing him over. Frank? You actually did something good today.”
“Thank you, sir. It's not all. Captain Pruitt from the F-20 team. He's offering us some Sparrows from the F-20's stash. Along with some other things. Completely violating supply procedures,” said Carson.
“So?” Goalie asked. “A Sparrow's a Sparrow.”
“Not these. They're AIM-7Ms. And our planes aren't wired for them.”
“How'd you know they're Ms?” Asked the CO.
“Saw them on the pylons,” Carson replied. “All of those F-20s have M models loaded.”
Chief Ross shook his head. “Why didn't I think of that when I was talking to Captain Pruitt?”
“Easy, Chief,” Major Wiser said. “You saw a deal and jumped at it. We can still work this out, and General Olds hasn't cut us loose.” He turned to Carson. “Frank? Thanks for bringing both of these to my attention.”
“You're welcome, sir.” Carson replied politely. And everyone noticed the tone of voice. “And Airman Kellogg?”
“I'll handle this. My discretion, remember?”
I doubt you do, the CO thought to himself. “You still got a long way to go to shape up, so keep that in mind.That'll be all.” He pointed to the office door.
“Sir.” Carson said. He knew not to press his luck. Carson saluted and left the office, and nearly ran into Mark Ellis, who was coming in.
“Boss?” The XO asked. “Frank leaving your office and you didn't throw him out? What's the deal?”
The CO explained, and Ellis was shaking his head. “Frank actually doing a couple of good things?”
“Lightning struck-twice,” Guru said. “But he's got an angle, and I think I know. He knows he's not getting the 335th. But....how about a brand new F-20 squadron? They're forming new squadrons and wings, so.....”
“So, he thinks he can get a squadron of his own that way,” Ellis finished. “Might just work.”
“I doubt it,” Goalie said. “Remember what's in Frank's 201 File. Not to mention his flight record.”
“And when General Yeager sees what's in those, I know what he'll say to Frank in that West Virginia drawl of his. 'Request denied.'” Guru said. “And who knows what Frank's going to do then?”
“Not good,” Ellis nodded.
Then there was a knock on the door. It was O'Donnell with Airman Kellogg. “Come on in,” the CO said. Both saluted, and and said, “Reporting as ordered, sir.”
“As you were, both of you,” Major Wiser said. He was rarely this formal, but this occasion.....”Kev, I want you here to witness this. Kellogg? Major Carson told us. You're underage, right?”
Airman Brian Kellogg looked at his CO. “Sir?”
“Major Carson told us,” Major Wiser said. “Told Chief Ross first.”
The young man looked at his squadron commander. “He must've overheard me talking to a couple of friends, sir. About that mass grave. I have a gut feeling my parents are there.”
“Any idea how they got there?” Goalie asked. “Were they involved in politics?”
“Dad was a member of the local GOP,” Kellogg said. “But he also owned a tractor dealership with forty or so employees, Ma'am.”
Heads nodded at that. They all knew that the KGB and their lackeys-whether Stasi, DGI, or PSD, considered anyone with more than twelve employees to be a “Class Enemy” and thus deserving of either “Re-education” or just plain being shot. “Your Mom?” The CO asked.
“She was in the Republican Women's Club, sir.”
“There you go,” Ellis observed. “You been home yet?”
“No, sir,” Kellogg replied. “I helped Dad bury our stuff-valuables, money, stuff from the safe deposit box, in the backyard. Then he gave my brother-Brandon-and I, a thousand dollars, a company truck, and told us to get out, as far away from the Russians as we could. Made it to Laramie, Wyoming, and a FEMA Refugee Camp. Brandon joined the Navy right out of the camp, and I waited until last year. Got tired of waiting, sir.”
“Okay....” Major Wiser said. “Your brother still in the Navy?”
“As far as I know, sir. Got a couple of letters from him. One after he finished boot, another before I joined up. Said he was going into something, and it was censored. He might have gone into SEALS, sir. They'd censor that, wouldn't they?”
The CO nodded. “They might. You have a sister, right?”
“Don't know, sir,” said Kellogg. “She was a sophomore at UT Austin, and she called home the day of the invasion. Dad told her to get as far away as she could. I heard him say 'Little Rock' then 'Memphis or St. Louis.' Sir, that's all I know about Jenna.”
Guru nodded again. He thought for a minute. “All right. Kellogg, you're staying. First things first.” The CO handed him a blank piece of paper and a pen. “Write down your info on your siblings: DOB, social security number, and so on. Give that to Chief Ross.”
“Chief?” Major Wiser asked. “Tomorrow, take him into town, and see if he still has a home to go back to when this is all over. You may have squatter trouble, so see if Captain Blanchard will loan you a couple of CSPs. If they're busy? Find a few Marines who can help.”
“I know a few who've had similar issues in Amarillo and Lubbock, sir,” Ross said. “Rounding up a few who can help won't be a problem.”
The CO nodded. “Good. Mark?” He asked the XO. “Check with the military government people. See what their attitude towards squatters is-especially if the squatters are living in a servicemember's house.”
'Will do, Major.” Ellis replied.
“Chief, take Kellogg's info and run down his siblings, if you can. Use whatever contacts in the Air Force, Marines, Navy, Army that you've developed via your horse-trading.”
“Sir,” Ross nodded. “No guarantees, though.”
“As for you, Kellogg?” The CO nodded at the Airman. “For the next ten weeks, until you turn seventeen? You work in vehicle maintenance. You're still working with tools, getting grease and oil on you, but it's in a garage, not on the ramp or in a hangar. It's also closer to a bomb shelter if you need to use it. Understood?”
“Yes, sir!” Kellogg's face brightened.
“Good. You'll be back on the ramp in no time. Any questions?”
The CO looked at him. He was a good kid, Major Wiser thought. Another life shattered by the war and looking for a way to build a new one. “All right: you need anything-especially if you get definite word about your parents? Let Chief Ross, Captain O'Donnell, the Exec, or me know. We'll do what we can.”
“Thank you,sir. I will do that,” Kellogg said.
“Good. Now, why don't you wait outside? I need to talk to Captain O'Donnell.”
“Sir.” Kellogg replied, saluting.
Guru returned it, and after Kellogg left and closed the door behind him, he turned to his Maintenance Officer and Senior NCO. “Keep an eye on him. Both of you.”
“Will do, Boss.” O'Donnell said.
“Yes, sir.” Ross added.
“Good. That'll be all, both of you.” Major Wiser said. After they left, he turned to his Exec. “Well?”
Ellis nodded. “You handled that better than I could, Boss. Not sure I'd be so...calm.”
“Little weird,” she said. “First, Frank doing two good things?” His GIB and lover shook her head. “Then this? Not sure at all how I'd handle it.”
Guru looked at her, then his Exec. “Not something taught in OTS, I'll admit. And probably not at ROTC or the Academy.” He saw both nod. “Which is probably in the PME we're all missing out on because of the war.”
“School of hard knocks, then,” Ellis said. “Class of World War Three.”
Goalie nodded, then she noticed their wingmate coming towards the office, and Kara was practically running. “Kara's in a rush.”
There was a knock on the door, then it opened. Kara was there. “Boss, we've got a mission. The birds have been rearmed, and they want us in the air.”
“When?” Guru asked.
“Now. It's CAS, down in the East German sector. They got a little uppity again, and First Cav and 11th Airborne are hollering for some help.”
“Birds have been rearmed from what they were supposed to have. They want us in the air ASAP,” Kara said. “Not just us, but Dave and Flossy as well.”
The CO nodded. “Okay....pass the word to everybody. Gear up and meet at 512.”
“Got you,” Kara said. “I'm gone.” She headed out the door.
“Mark?” Guru turned to his Exec. “Get your people geared up and ready. Chances are, you'll be right behind us.”
Ellis nodded. “On my way.” He headed on out after Kara.
“Ready?” Guru turned to his GIB.
Goalie nodded. “Let's get going.”
“Then we have somewhere to be.” Both CO and GIB then headed on out of the office.
After gearing up, both Guru and Goalie headed out to the squadron dispersal, and found their flight, plus Dave and Flossy, waiting at 512's revetment. “What's up?” Sweaty asked.
“CAS, down in the East German sector. First Cav and 11th Airborne need some help, and for now? We're it. Usual procedures on the radio, and this is likely a divisional level threat, and you all know what that means.”
“SA-6, SA-9, ZSU-23-4,” Dave Golen observed. “And MANPADS.”
“Not to mention MiGs,” Flossy added.
“That, and their own people doing CAS. East Germans and Russians, likely,” Guru pointed out. “If you run into any of their own CAS people? Take the pressure off our guys and splash 'em.”
Kara grinned. “With pleasure.”
“Just watch out for ground fire-theirs and ours,” the CO reminded them. “Other than that? Best bailout area if you're hit is anywhere north of the battle line. Any other questions?” Heads shook no. “Then let's hit it.”
Crews headed to their aircraft, as Guru and Goalie went for their own, 512. They noticed that Mark-20 Rockeye CBUs had just been loaded, and that meant antiarmor. Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, was waiting. “Major, we're locked and cocked. Ordnance guys just finished, and she's ready to go.”
“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. He and Goalie did a quick walk-around, then mounted the aircraft. After getting strapped in, a quick cockpit check followed, then Guru gave a thumbs-up to Crowley. He got the “Start Engines” signal in reply, and in rapid succession, one, then two, J-79 engines were up and running. As they warmed up, a final check was in order, then Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Lead with six, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”
“Corvette Lead, Tower,” replied the controller. “Clear to taxi to Runway Three-three Lima. You are number one in line, and hold prior to the active.”
“Roger that, Tower,” Guru said. He gave another thumbs-up, and the ground crew removed the crew ladder and pulled away the wheel chocks. Then Crowley gave the signal to taxi, and Guru taxied the F-4 out of the revetment. When he cleared the revetment, the Crew Chief snapped a salute. Both pilot and GIB returned it, Then Guru taxied to the runway, and held short of it so that the armorers could remove the weapon safeties. Then he contacted the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”
“Corvette Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are calm.”
“Roger, Tower.” Guru replied. He taxied onto the runway, and after he did, Kara taxied 520 in right alongside his bird. As usual, Kara and Brainiac gave a thumbs-up, and both Guru and Goalie returned it. Then, a quick check revealed all set. Ready to go. “Tower, Corvette Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”
The Tower flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff.
“All set?” Guru asked Goalie.
“Ready,” she replied.
“Canopy coming down.” Guru pulled his canopy down and locked it, and Goalie did the same. A quick glance at 520 to his right showed 520's crew having done the same thing. “Let's go.” He applied full throttle, released the brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air. At the same time, Kara did the same in 520, and went alongside the CO. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, and after that, Dave and Flossy. The six-ship formed up, then set course south for the tankers.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
The next segment:
Over Central Texas, 1555 Hours Central War Time:
Corvette Flight was orbiting just north of the I-20, in a holding pattern at 10,000 feet. They were waiting for either AWACS or the EC-130 Airborne Command Post to clear them onto a FAC, or plain direct them to a target. If there was one thing everyone agreed on, it was this, the waiting.
“They tell us to bust ass getting down here, then they tell us to wait?” Goalie asked from 512's back seat.
Guru grinned. That low, they didn't need their oxygen masks until it was time to go to work. “Same old-same-old: hurry up and wait. You know that.”
“Yeah,” she replied. Out of GIB good habits, she took a look around. Everyone was tucked in, waiting for the go-ahead.
“Boss, Starbuck,” Kara called. “Anything?”
“No joy so far,” Guru replied. He glanced to the west, and saw the sun getting lower. Wouldn't be long, he knew, until it got too dark for them to strike visually. Of course, night flying for them wasn't a problem, but night combat was something rare. The squadron needed Pave Tack pods for that, and having a grand total of three meant nearly all of their tasking was in the daytime. Then he heard an EC-130 controller calling.
“Corvette Lead, Tampa,” the controller said. “Contact Nail Six-nine for tasking.”
“Roger, Tampa,” Guru replied. He then called the FAC. “Nail Six-nine, Corvette Lead.”
“Copy, Corvette,” the FAC replied. “Say aircraft and ordnance, please.”
“Roger, Nail. Corvette Flight is six Foxtrot Four-Echoes, with twelve Mark-20 Rockeyes each bird, and full air-to-air.”
“Roger, Corvette. Got some armor for you. Moving northwest from Star Hollow Lake towards Lipan.” The FAC said.
“Copy that, Nail,” replied Guru. “Say threat?”
“Corvette, threat is regimental and divisional level air defense. Be advised that both helos and fast-movers are in the area as well.”
Bad guys doing CAS, Guru knew. “Roger that. Can give you one run only. South to North.”
“Your call, Corvette. Be advised there are friendly helos in the area.”
“Copy. Can you mark the target, Nail?”
“Roger that, Corvette,” the FAC told him.
Guru watched as an A-7K rolled in and fired several rockets, and WP exploded on the ground below. “That's your target, Corvette.”
“Roger that, Nail. We're rolling in,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. Masks on, switches on, and music on. Time to go to work, people!”
As the flight acknowledged, Goalie told him, “Switches set. We're hot.” That meant the armament controls had been set. “Everything in one pass.” That was a squadron rule: one pass in a target area unless there was zero surface-to-air threat.
“Good girl,” Guru replied. He put the F-4 in a shallow dive from 10,000 feet, and flew past the armor before rolling in. As they did, several SAMs-what kind, they didn't know, came up and flew past, but their ECM pods were working. “Looks like a regiment down there.” He said, noticing the armor moving to the northwest.
Goalie was scanning with a pair of mini binoculars. “Looks like it.”
“Time to go. Flight, Lead. Target's in sight. Watch for friendly choppers, people!” With that, Guru rolled in on his bomb run.
Down below, the East German 20th Motor Rifle Division was pushing forward-again. They had been roughly handled on the 4th, and the divisional commander knew it. But Army had ordered a series of spoiling attacks, and the Generalmajor had no choice but to get on with it. His panzer regiment was near full strength, with 95 T-55AM2Bs, which were could give the M-60 a good fight, and deal with the Ami paratroopers who were to the north, but if the First Cavalry Division and Third Armored Cavalry Regiment were about, they had M-1s, and that meant trouble. His lead motor-rifle regiment had pushed into what appeared to be undefended terrain, and so he committed his panzer regiment, as per doctrine.
With that, the 20th Panzer Regiment moved forward. The regimental commander, a Colonel, was pleased. His regiment had passed through the motor-rifle boys, and though there was little sign of the enemy, he knew the Amis were out there. The fate of a reserve motor-rifle regiment on the 4th, and the mauling that the 33rd MRR had received as well, reminded him that the Amis could be waiting. With luck, he'd get the regiment to Lipan, and get there before the Amis could react. Then the 31st MRR with their BMP-2s would arrive to relieve them, and this would force the enemy's III Corps to commit to a major action to push them out, preventing them from an attack to get around the Fort Worth-Dallas area, or so what the Divisional Commander had been told, and then told the regimental commanders. No matter. His regiment was moving forward, out of some hills and into open country. The Colonel was riding in his T-55AM2K command tank when his loader, who was manning the DshK 12.7-mm machine gun, tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to the south. The Colonel's heart stopped a beat as he saw what was coming. Smoke trails, which meant only one thing. Ami aircraft. “AIR ATTACK WARNING-SOUTH!” He shouted into his mike.
“Lead's in!” Guru called as he rolled in. A full regiment of armor in the open meant plenty of targets, and the bad guys were still in column. Big mistake, Franz.....He centered the center battalion in his pipper. Some flak started to come up, but it was too little, too late. No way, not now......”Steady, Steady...” Guru muttered. “And HACK!” He hit the pickle button and released his Rockeyes. Then he pulled 512 up and away. “Lead's off target.”
“Verdammt!” The Colonel shouted as the F-4 flew over his command tank and released its bombs. He saw the CBUs fly open and released their bomblets over the tanks of his Second battalion. T-55s took hits to their thin top armor and engine decks and several exploded, while several others were disabled and caught fire. The regimental commander turned into a rage, shouting for his regimental air defense battalion, with their Strela-1 missile vehicles (SA-9) and ZSU-23-4s, to move forward, while the motor-rifle battalion had their men with Strela-2 (SA-7) missiles riding on top of their BMP-2s and fire. Then the Colonel glanced to the south and saw another Fascist F-4 coming in.
“SHACK!” Goalie shouted. “GOOD HITS!”
“Secondaries?” Guru asked. He banked to the right and headed due north, not noticing an SA-9 that flew past his bird.
“Got some.” That meant tanks or APCs had gone up.
“Service with a smile,” the CO grinned beneath his mask as he headed north.
“Two in hot!” Kara called as she rolled in. She picked out the regimental supply columns following behind the regiment, and without those fuel and ammo trucks, that regiment wouldn't be going anywhere. Kara noticed the flak coming, and it was mostly small-arms or heavy machine guns, but there was some ZU-23 fire coming up as well. Not today.....”Steady....and....NOW!” Kara hit her pickle button and a dozen Rockeyes fell onto the regimental supply column. Ignoring the 23-mm and SAMs-both SA-9 and SA-7, she overflew the regiment and headed north, following in the CO's wake. “Two's off safe.”
Kara's F-4 flew by, and the Colonel grimaced as it did, but then the explosions behind him caught his attention. “DAMMT!” He shouted into his mike-for all his commanders to hear-as explosions erupted behind him, and they were both fuel and ammunition fed. That told him his regiment's supply column had been hit, and hit hard. Shaking his head, he ordered all his units to disperse, but then he saw another Ami Phantom coming in.....
“GOOD HITS!” Brainiac shouted in 520's rear seat. “We got secondaries!”
“Big ones?” Kara wanted to know.
“Good ones,” her GIB replied.
“Fine by me,” Kara said as she headed north, an eye out for either MiGs or Hinds. To her disappointment, none were visible.
“Three in hot!” Sweaty called as she rolled in. She picked out what looked like artillery pieces deploying. Those were always good targets, Sweaty knew, and as she lined them up in her pipper, she also noticed what looked like ammo trucks following the guns. Oh, well...maybe some of the CBU bomblets might take out some of the trucks. Franz, you're having a bad day, she said to herself. “Steady...steady....and...NOW!” Sweaty hit the pickle button, releasing her CBUs, then she pulled up and away, ignoring the 23-mm and SAMs coming up. “Three off safe,” she called.
The Colonel groaned as Sweaty's F-4 flew by, then he saw the explosions in its wake. His regimental artillery commander had been on the radio to him, then his transmission was suddenly-and permanently-silenced as not only had several of the 2S1 122-mm SP howitzers exploded, but the battalion commander's own command vehicle had gone up as well. He shook his head, then ordered his regimental command element to disperse as well. As his command tank moved into a creek, he didn't see a fourth F-4 coming in.
“SHACK!” Preacher yelled to Sweaty as she pulled away.
“Good hits?” Sweaty asked as an SA-9 flew past. Those things, for some reason, had a hard time guiding. Not that she-or anyone else she knew-was complaining.
“Righteous ones!” Exclaimed the ex-Seminary student.
“Good enough for the man upstairs, good enough for me,” Sweaty said as she headed north, scanning for enemy aircraft or choppers as she did so.
“Four's in hot!” Hoser called as he came in behind his element lead. He saw where Sweaty had laid her CBUs and noticed the trucks that had largely escaped her attention. Well, if she couldn't get them, he would. He centered the trucks in his pipper, ignoring the flak-and even a couple of SA-7s-that came up. “And...and...and...NOW!” Hoser hit his pickle button and released his Rockeyes, and a dozen CBUs came down on the East German artillerymen. He pulled wings level and away, calling out, “Four's off target.”
“DAMMT!” Shouted the Colonel as Hoser's F-4 flew by, leaving more explosions in its wake. This time, he knew, the artillery battalion's supply trucks had been hit, for there were several large sympathetic detonations that no one could miss. What had been an easy ride to the objective was now becoming his worst nightmare, and it had been inflicted from the air. Where were the Amis on the ground? The Colonel was checking his map when another F-4 came in....
“SHACK!” KT called. “GREAT HITS!”
“Secondaries?” Hoser asked as he headed north, picking up Sweaty visually as he did so.
Hoser grinned beneath his oxygen mask. “Good enough.” He scanned for enemy aircraft or choppers and was disappointed not to find any.
“Five in hot!” Dave Golen called. He rolled in, and noticed several vehicles clustered together. That might be the regimental command group, he thought, and decided to take them out. Like the others, he ignored the flak coming up, and saw a tank in the middle. He centered the tank in his pipper. “Steady....and steady....and....NOW!” He hit the pickle button, sending a dozen more CBUs down on the East Germans. He, too, pulled up and away, and called, “Five's off target.”
In his tank, the East German Colonel ducked as Golen's F-4 flew by. He heard the CBUs going off, then nothing as several Rockeye bomblets struck his T-55, hitting the engine deck and the thin top armor of the turret. The Rockeye bomblets burned through the armor-and him, then set off the stored ammunition in the ready rack......no one in the tank had time to scream, much less try and escape the tank, as it fireballed.
“GOOD HITS!” Golen's GIB shouted.
“How good?” Dave asked as he headed north,
“Got a few secondaries.”
“I'll take those,” Dave said as he picked up the others.
“Six is in hot!” Flossy called. She rolled in, and picked out some more vehicles moving up. Those looked like BMPs, and they were a worthy target. She, too, ignored the flak and the missiles, and lined up the middle of the column. You're having a bad day, Franz.....”Steady....and...steady....NOW!” Flossy hit the pickle button, and released her twelve Rockyes, then she pulled up and away. “Six off target,” she called.
Below, the East German deputy regimental commander, a Major, scampered out of a BTR-60PB that had taken a single CBU hit to the top deck. Normally, that might not be a problem, but the bomblet had wrecked both engines, and the vehicle had caught fire, so everyone had gotten out of the vehicle. He saw the burning hulk of the regimental command tank, and no signs of survivors, and that meant he was now in command. As he called for a radioman, not only did he see Flossy's F-4 fly over, but nearly tripped over the body of the regimental political officer. No great loss, he noted, as the radioman came up. Time to get some order out of this mess, and find out where the Amis were, for a counterattack could be coming and he had to get the regiment ready. This air strike was probably just the beginning.
“GOOD HITS!” Jang called to Flossy. “We got some secondaries!”
“How good?” Flossy asked, knowing that Jang was still a relative newcomer to combat.
“Four or five fireballs.”
Flossy grinned underneath her mask. “Good for them.” She, too, headed north, and followed her element lead towards the I-20, keeping an eye out for enemy aircraft as she did so. Like the others, she was disappointed none were present. Oh, well....better luck next time.
In 512's rear cockpit, Goalie was beaming. “Six in, six out,” she said.
“Still got a game on,” Guru reminded her. “Not yet to the fence.” That meant the I-20 line. He glanced to his five, and saw Kara pulling in alongside, and his wingmate gave a thumbs-up. “Two, glad to see you. Sweaty, you and Hoser?”
“Right behind you,” Sweaty replied. “Got you two in sight.”
“Dave?” Guru asked.
“On your six,” Golen replied. “Flossy's with me.”
“Roger that. Nail, how'd we do?” Guru asked the FAC.
“Corvette, Nail,” the FAC replied. “Good work, fella. Maybe we can do this again sometime.”
Guru smiled. “Our pleasure, Nail.”
The flight crossed the I-20 line, and saw not just more aircraft above, but Army attack helicopters forming up to head south. And these weren't Cobras. AH-64s were in town, and they were going to make their presence known. All through the night, if necessary. The flight joined up on the tankers for their post-strike refueling, then headed back to Sheppard.
When Corvette Flight returned to Sheppard, they had to wait in the pattern, as several Marine and Navy flights were ahead of them. Then it was their turn. The six F-4s took their turns in the landing pattern, then as they taxied back to the squadron dispersal, they noticed the news crew filming them. “Need to ask her when the interview airs,” Guru said. Both he and Goalie had been interviewed by the crew's correspondent, Jana Wendt.
“Forgot about that,” Golie said. “Been a bit busy,” she deadpanned.
“That we have.”
The crews taxied to their revetments, and when Guru and Goalie got to 512's, they saw the ground crew waiting. This time, the ordnance crews were not there, and that meant that they weren't likely going back out. Good thing, both crew members thought. The sun was very low on the horizon, and unless someone strapped on a Pave Tack pod, they were through for the day. Guru taxied in, and after shutting down, both he and Goalie popped their canopies, then they did a post-flight check. “Glad that's done?” she asked.
“For now,” Guru replied. “We could be back at CAS tomorrow.”
“Maybe. Or the Army cleans up on those bastards.”
The ground crew brought the crew ladder, and both pilot and GIB stood up in the cockpit. Then they climbed down, where Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, was waiting. “How'd things go, Major?”
“Made some East German tankers reconsider their choice of vocation,” the CO deadpanned.
“Those who lived, that is,” Goalie added as she picked up a bottle of water.
The Crew Chief was beaming. “Shit hot, sir! And Ma'am.” He looked at his CO. “Anything I need to know, sir?”
“Five-twelve's working like a champ, Sergeant,” Guru said. “Get her ready, because menana, we might just be going back and teach those East Germans something about staying in their own country.”
As both pilot and GIB headed out of the revetment, Goalie asked him, “You still going to bump him up on the R&R Rotation or promote him?”
“I might just do both,” replied Guru.
“Boss,” Kara said as she and Brainiac came to the entrance to the revetment. “Looks like we did good.”
Guru nodded. “We did, and we might be going back there tomorrow.”
“Where were the MiGs?” Kara wanted to know.
“I'd like to know myself,” Sweaty said as her element arrived. “Where were they?”
Dave Golen and his people arrived just as she said that. “I, for one, would like to know that as well.”
“Maybe somebody hit their fields,” Flossy wondered.
“Maybe,” Guru said. “Or they hadn't been called yet.”
“Too bad,” Kara muttered.
“You're not the only one feeling that way,” Guru said. “Okay, people.” He checked his watch. “It's 1635. We're not going out again, so let's debrief. You need to check your desks, then we can hit the Club.”
“Wonder if we'll get some stories from General Yeager,” Sweaty thought. “Wouldn't mind hearing some of those.”
“Ace in a day....” Kara said. “Five Me-109s in one afternoon, I heard.”
“Not to mention his test flying,” Hoser added. “Going supersonic, then the X-1A and nearly getting killed.”
“Then the NF-104,” Flossy told them. “Remember the movie The Right Stuff?” Heads nodded, as most of them had seen the movie.
Guru nodded, “All of that, and one other thing. He's got one kill General Olds doesn't.”
“And that is?” Kara asked.
“Yeager got an Me-262,” Guru said. “Come on. Get the debrief done, clear your desks, then we can get a little crazy.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
And in the Club: anyone recognize the female F-20 pilot?
Sheppard AFB Officer's Club, 1510 Hours Central War Time:
Guru and Goalie went into the Officer's Club tent, and the place was already buzzing, as usual. There hadn't been much paperwork after the debrief, but both waited until they were off the clock before going to the Club. The last of the 335th's sorties had come in, and there were no losses, the CO was glad to see. And that was always a reason to celebrate.
Guru and Goalie went to the bar, and found Colonel Brady already there. “Colonel,” Guru said.
“Major,” Brady nodded. “And Lieutenant. Have a look at that table.” He pointed to a table where the F-20 jocks were arguing with a mix of aircrew-AF, Marine, and Navy. By the looks of the hand gestures and raised voices, no one was in the mood for polite disagreement. “Looks like the arguments are in full swing.”
“Nobody's going to be convinced of anything tonight,” Goalie observed. “Uh, sir.”
“No,” Brady agreed. “And you're absolutely right, Lieutenant. We won't see any minds changed, either way, until they start flying. And that starts tomorrow.”
Guru nodded, then scanned the crowd. “General Olds and General Yeager aren't here yet.”
“They'll be here,” Brady said, just as the bartender came over.
“Smitty?” Guru asked the bartender. “Bud for my GIB, and Sam Adams for me.”
“You got it, Major,” Smitty replied. He put the bottles on the bar, and Guru paid him.
“So, how'd things go on that last round?” Brady asked.
Guru took a drink from his beer, then said, “Not bad, Colonel. Just hope the Army cleans up those East Germans tonight, then we can get back to BAI. Don't mind CAS, but we'd rather leave it to the folks who live and breathe it, like the A-10 people.”
“Or Marines,” Brady grinned.
“Or Marines,” Guru admitted. Then Generals Olds and Yeager came in, and they were in an animated conversation, with much hand-waving. Clearly, combat of some sort was the object of discussion. “What's that about?”
The two generals bellied up to the bar, and after they got their drinks, continued the conversation. “Generals, if you don't mind my asking, what's this all about?” Colonel Brady asked.
“Well, Colonel,” Olds said. “Just having a friendly discussion over how Chuck here got an Me-262, and I didn't.”
“Wasn't your 262 a probable, sir?” Goalie asked. She had heard the story at the AF Academy.
“It was,” Olds admitted. “Wish I had been able to check the Luftwaffe records held in the National Archives, but.....”
Heads nodded at that. “Well, sir, maybe after this war's over, you can check,” Guru said. “Then AFHC can give you credit if it did crash.”
“Jet kills in two wars,” Olds said. “Only Israelis have that distinction,” he nodded in Dave Golen's direction. There, their IDF “Observer” was with Flossy and their GIBs, talking with one of the F-20 jocks.
“Dave's got kills in three wars now, General,” Guru reminded him. “He scored in '73, '82, and with us. He's good, General,” Guru added, nodding in General Yeager's direction. “Dave's shot MiGs off our ass at least twice, and he's saved the bacon of quite a few people in my squadron.”
Both generals nodded. “When his tour's up, Major,” Olds said. “You might want to recommend him for a decoration.”
“I'll do that, sir,” Guru said. “Oh, before I forget. I suggest, sir, that you may want to pay attention to one Major Frank Carson. He's up to something, and I think it's no good.”
“What do you mean, Major?” Olds asked.
“This that snotty Major that General Tanner warned us about?” Yeager added. “From what I was told, he's been a pain in your ass, and that of your predecessor, for some time.”
Guru nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said. “General, I think he's angling to try and get a squadron of his own. As in volunteering for the F-20, and hoping that a new squadron that's forming up comes his way.” Fat chance of that happening, Guru thought, but he wanted to hear what General Yeager felt. He already knew General Olds' view on the subject.
“Check his flight record, Chuck,” Olds said. “From what's in it? No way he'd make the cut.”
“I'll start taking requests tomorrow,” Yeager said. “And for certain, I do want to see what's in his file.”
“Sir, it's not just his flight record, but his 201 File as well,” said Guru. “A look at that only reinforces the loathing everyone in this squadron has for him.”
General Yeager nodded. “I usually have a look at both of those, Major. Just so I know who I'm getting.” He thought for a minute, then continued. “Tomorrow, Major. Find some time when we're both not busy, and I want to see what's in his 201 File, along with his flight record.”
“Yes, sir.” Guru nodded. Though he was slightly dreading Frank's reaction when and if any request for the F-20 was denied.
“All right: you two have a good evening. Tomorrow night? You'll hear some stories.”
“Combat and test flying, sir?”
“Six of one, half a dozen of the other,” Yeager grinned.
“Be worth the wait, sir.” Guru said.
Guru and Goalie then went and found the rest of their flight at a table, and Kara was curious. “Saw you guys with Olds and Yeager,” she said. “What was that all about?”
“They were having a disagreement at first,” Guru said. “About why Yeager got himself an Me-262 back in the day, and Olds didn't. Then the conversation shifted to Frank.”
“Frank's putting on his good face,” Guru explained. “He's got an angle, and I think I know what it is.”
Heads looked at their CO. “What do you mean, Boss?” Hoser asked.
“Simple: Frank knows he's never getting the 335th,” said Guru. “But...he applies for the F-20 program...”
“And that's his route to a squadron of his own,” Sweaty finished for the CO. “You know, it might work.”
“No,” Goalie said firmly. “Yeager told us: he reviews every applicant's 201 File and flight record. Just so he knows what he may be getting.”
Preacher knew what the next would be. “And General Yeager tells Frank 'Request Denied.' And Lord knows what's going to happen next.”
“Don't want to think about that,” Kara said. “Then again....what could he do?”
“Think about it: he'd probably try something, anything, to get someone to notice him. That attention gets him a transfer, on his terms and not mine,” said Guru. “But, if Sundown Cunningham swings by on a visit?”
“Then Frank goes, period,” KT nodded. “Be a good sight to see.”
“He goes, period, after New Year's, if he hasn't shaped up,” Guru reminded them.
A few minutes later, Cosmo and Revlon, along with Flossy and Jang, came in, along with Ms. Wendt and the news crew. They found a table and sat down, with Mr. Scott, the Cameraman, filming them, and Ms. Wendt talking. Clearly, an improvised interview was underway. “Guess who's going to be on the news in a few days,” Goalie noted.
“Two 'unmanned' F-4s in the same squadron?” Kara asked. “That's going to spread like wildfire.”
The CO nodded. “And watch as more reporters show up, wanting to talk to the four of 'em,” Guru said. “And that makes Kodak Griffith busier than a one-armed paperhanger.”
“Any word on an Air Force PAO?” Brainiac asked. “You've been looking.”
“And Chief Ross,” said Guru, none too happily. “Both of us have struck out so far. So, if you all know anyone who went down the PAO route after the Academy, OTS, or ROTC? I'd like someone with PAO experience, who's now a rated pilot or nav.”
“So that can be their ground job when not flying,” Sweaty observed.
Then the mess people came in with dinner. “Folks, we've got pork chops, or Salisbury Steaks, with all the fixings. Come and get it.”
After getting their food, people dug in, and conversation not only dealt with the day's missions, but also the new guests.
“Boss,” Kara said, how long these guys going to be here?”
“Three days, maybe four,” Guru said after taking a bite of steak, or was it really “Mystery Meat?” He looked at her. “And you want to fleece these folks as long as you can.”
She let out an evil-looking grin. “You read my mind.”
“Just remember,” Goalie added. “General Yeager's been doing this about as long as General Olds has. If you think he's an easy mark? Forget it.”
“And that hangout for test pilots near Edwards? Panchos?” Guru said. “Want to bet that he won his share of pool at that place.”
“That place real?” Preacher wanted to know. “Or was that something cooked up for the movie?”
“It was real,” nodded the CO. “I read the book The Right Stuff back in college.”
Goalie added,”And he got his steak dinner. That became a rule at Pancho's. Set a new record, get a steak dinner on the house.”
Then the CBS Evening News came on. Walter Cronkite was on the air again from L.A., but today? Not much happened in the war, though a new GI Bill had passed the Senate, and was awaiting action in the House. Then there was another On the Road segment, with Charles Kuralt, and this time, it was from Lake Placid, New York, the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. There, life was going on as it had been after the Olympics and before the war, though some enterprising locals had just up a sign outside the Olympic Ice Hockey arena, where the U.S. Hockey Team had beaten the Soviets in the “Miracle on Ice.” The sign read: “Squaw Valley 1960, Lake Placid 1980, Wichita, Pueblo, El Paso, 1987.” When Mr. Kuralt asked the Mayor about the sign, the response was, “Why not?” After Cronkite signed off, Smitty, the barkeep, switched the TV to ESPN, which was showing a rerun of a 1982 Raiders-Chiefs football game.
“Any newspapers today?” Mark Ellis wondered out loud.
“Probably tomorrow,” Sweaty said. “We didn't get much on the C-141 today.”
“No kidding,” Flossy said from her table.
“Tomorrow,” the CO said. “We may be getting two new birds from Japan. If not, the next day.”
“New crews?” Hoser asked.
“Don't know yet.”
After dinner, people headed for either the pool table or the poker games that always sprung up, and General Yeager noticed that what he had heard about Kara was quite true. For he saw several Marines and Navy challenge her at the pool table, and all had come out with their wallets lightened. When Guru went back to the bar to get another round for his flight, Yeager tapped him on the shoulder. “Major.”
“General?” Guru asked.
“I see some of what they told me about your Captain Thrace is dead on,” Yeager said in his West Virginia drawl. “She really that good?”
“She's that good, sir. Good enough that nobody in the squadron takes her on unless it's a friendly game,” said Guru. “Sir, I'd pass the word to your people to stay away from her unless they have the cash. She doesn't take checks, and doesn't do IOUs. And if you can't pay? Well, uh, she has an....alternative payment plan.”
“Which General Tanner told me about. Word's gotten around about her.....antics. I'll let my people know. Thanks for the warning, Major.”
“You're welcome, sir,” Guru nodded. He got the second round, then went back to the table. “I just warned General Yeager about Kara.”
“What'd he say?” Brainiac asked.
“He thanked me for the warning.”
Dave Golen came over, and asked, “Are we going to hear some of his stories?”
“Tomorrow night,” Guru noted. “He and his people want to get settled in. The General didn't say, but I'll bet any amount of money they do some flying tomorrow.” He glanced over at the table occupied by the F-20 pilots., which still had quite a few AF, Marine, and Navy pilots talking with them. “They're still arguing.”
Sweaty nodded. “Talked to them a few minutes ago,” she said. “They think the F-20's the greatest thing since the P-51.”
“I imagine folks who fly the F-15 or F-16 are going to have something to say about that,” Hoser nodded. “Then there's us, and everyone else who flies the Rhino.”
“No arguing that,” Guru said. “I asked General Yeager where in the cockpit was the slot for the quarter, and he laughed.”
Heads nodded at that, and Sweaty added, “Said the same thing to one of those young pups. Clancy, I think. He just shrugged and said, 'You get used to it.'”
“With us, it's the F-15E, when it gets here,” KT pointed out. “WSOs aren't going out of style anytime soon when those puppies show.”
“Here's to that,” Goalie said, raising her beer bottle.
“Hear, hear,” the others chimed in.
About twenty minutes until twelve-hour kicked in, Guru and the others noticed one of the F-20 drivers had left that conversation and found a table for herself. They also noticed she already had had two beers and was working on a third, and Guru recognized her as Quinn, the one he and General Yeager had talked about. Collaring Goalie, Sweaty, and Preacher, he went over to talk to her. “Captain,” he said. “You look kind of moody. Care to talk about it?”
She nodded, just as General Yeager came over. “Might as well,” she said. “Misery loves company. Especially today.”
“What's so special about today?” Sweaty asked.
Quinn took her wallet out of a flight suit pocket and showed the 335th crews and the General a photo of her and another woman. “My older sister, Daria,” she said. “She was in the Air Force already when this all started.”
“Nice looking girl,” Preacher said, and both General Yeager and Guru nodded.
“What happened?” Yeager asked.
“Sir, she was a T-37 IP at Vance AFB in Oklahoma when the war started. She and the rest of them got out, some east of the Mississippi, others west of the Rockies. She was one who went west. When combat was opened to women, she volunteered for F-111s.”
The General and the 335th people exchanged glances. That was nasty flying, going in on the deck in the deep-strike mission. “Where'd she go?” Goalie asked.
“After F-111 training? Florida. When one of the two wings in England came back, they sent a detachment down to Florida to fly strikes into Cuba. Quinn said. “She had four months of F-111 training at Mountain Home, then they sent her there.”
“She's MIA?” Yeager asked. “Or....”
“The former, sir,” Quinn said. “She and her navigator were shot down someplace near Havana. Place called Bejucal. They said it was a Soviet HQ complex.”
Guru nodded sympathetically. He'd flown his share of hairy missions. “The escape capsule fire?” He meant the F-111's escape capsule instead of ejection seats.
“It did,” Quinn nodded back, in between slugs of beer. She had nearly finished the bottle, and with ten minutes to twelve-hour, she wanted another, and waved to Smitty.
“That's enough, Captain,” Yeager said. In his voice, everyone recognized the firmness of command. “You're flying tomorrow, and you've had enough.”
“Yes, sir.” she replied. Though right now, Quinn felt she wasn't drunk enough.
Goalie looked at Quinn. “So that's it? Just the capsule firing?”
“The beeper, too,” replied Quinn. “But....that's all. No voice contact, nothing. They went in as a two-ship, and apart from a couple of F-105 Weasel Thuds, and an F-4 flight as MIGCAP, that's it.” She finished her beer, then went on. “They told Mom and Dad a few months later that a POW identified herself as Daria read a 'confession' over Havana Radio, and someone who said she was Jane did the same thing. Other than that? Nothing. They're not on the POW list.”
Sin Licon, the intel officer for the 335th, came over. “Sorry, but I couldn't help but overhear.” He introduced himself. “They don't just rely on radio broadcasts. Intel usually needs photos or video before they'll transfer somebody to the POW list.”
“Thanks, Captain,” Yeager said, just as Doc Waters announced that the Twelve-hour Rule was now in effect. “Quinn? When aircrew curfew sounds, go find your bunk, get a good night's shut-eye, and be ready to fly in the morning. We'll be giving some of these Phantom Phanatics a taste of what we can do.”
“Yes, sir!” Quinn's face brightened. Flying was the best therapy, it seemed.
With two more hours to kill before aircrew curfew, people tried their luck at the pool table or poker games, and Kara held court at the former this night. And to her surprise, General Olds came over. Both laid down their money, then people stopped what they were doing to watch. It didn't take long for experience to show its worth, for the General took Kara for $50.00. She came over to Guru's table in a rage. “Well?” The CO asked.
“I want my money back,” Kara grumbled. “And with twelve-hour, I can't get sloppy drunk.”
Guru nodded sympathetically. “Make up for it tomorrow, and make those F-20 guys pay. They're fair game, remember?”
She let out an evil-looking grin. “My pleasure. And I'll get my money back from General Olds while I'm at it.”
“Be careful,” Goalie said. “Remember, he's been doing this since your parents were kids.”
“Don't remind me.” Kara said.
Time flew by, then Doc Waters announced, “Aircrew Curfew now in effect!” It was 2100. Those on the flight schedule headed off to their billets, for soon, it would be 0430, and that meant another day on the firing line.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
The next part, and General Yeager talks with Guru:
10 November, 1987: 335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX. 1130 Hours Central War Time:
In his office, Guru was going over some papers. Nothing that was really important, but even for a CO, there were small things that required his attention. One thing, he knew, was that the PME that he was supposed to be getting would have prepared him for this, but now.... He shook his head, and noticed that these could really be handled by the XO. Since the Exec had gone out just after he did, that stuff just got put into his IN box. Oh, well....Guru got up, picked up the papers, and left his office. He found the XO's desk, and Capt. Mark Ellis, the Exec. “Mark.”
“Boss?” The XO replied. “What's this?”
“Just some stuff that the XO could handle. You and I were both out, when it came in. So, here you go.” Guru put the papers on the Exec's desk. “If you have to, just sign 'For the Commanding Officer', and go from there.”
Ellis nodded. “Thanks a heap, Boss.” He took the papers.
“Well, Mark, when you're a CO, you can torment your Exec the same way.”
“Something to look forward to,” said Ellis. Then Kara came over.
“What's up?” The CO asked his Assistant Ops Officer.
“Don's out, and they gave this to me,” she said. “We're on CAS until sunset. Those East Germans got reinforced, with some of their own, and some Russians. So it's shaping up to be a nice little brawl.”
“Lovely,” both CO and XO said almost at once. “What else?” Guru asked.
She handed Guru a sheet. “Updated weather. Cold front moving in through Colorado and Kansas, and we're going to feel some of it. No rain, but mid- and upper-level clouds. Highs in the fifties, beginning tomorrow, lows in the upper thirties to low forties.”
Two new F-4s from Japan left McClellan an hour ago. Should be here sometime this afternoon.”
“Good,” replied the CO. New birds were always welcome. “Anything about the crews?”
Kara shook her head. “We don't get to keep them, if that's what you want to know. They'll get here, then RON and have to leave tomorrow.”
Major Wiser considered that little bit of news. New birds, but no new crews. Well, he had enough unassigned pilots and WSOs to put together new crews, and get people out of temp assignments. And he could express his displeasure in another way..... “All right. If we can't keep them, then you can fleece them tonight. Send them back on tomorrow's C-141 with their wallets considerably lightened.”
Hearing that, Kara let out a grin. “With pleasure.”
“All right. Mark?” Guru turned to his Exec. “Let me know when those two birds get here.”
“Will do,” Ellis replied. “Oh, there's this: some of our people have gotten some F-20 time.”
The CO nodded. “Okay....What's the feedback?”
“Mostly it's, the, well....'Give it to the Aggressors or Guard and Reserve after the war.' No WSOs have taken a ride yet, either.”
Kara nodded. “Because if the Air Force keeps the F-20, they're out of a job.” She had already heard from Brainiac about that, and she actually agreed with him. Having a second pair of eyes in the cockpit had been a life-saver more than once, and enabled her to concentrate on flying the aircraft.
“Goalie said the same thing,” Guru noted. “F-15E, when it comes, is our future. Not this little....toy.”
Just then, Goalie came by. “Got our lunch, Boss.” She had a plastic bag with two food containers and a carrier for two paper cups.
“Okay. Be right there,” Guru said. “Mark? You and Kara get something to eat yourselves. Won't be that long before time to head back out.”
Both nodded. “Understood, Major,” the Exec said. And when anyone used rank, it meant the issue was taken very seriously.
Guru then turned to his WSO. “Let's eat.” They went into his office, and she took out the food. “Well?”
“Two cheeseburgers with fries and Cole slaw,” she said. “Lemonade to drink.”
“Bison burgers or beef?”
“They didn't say,” Goalie nodded. “The Marines didn't fix these. And those F-20 jocks seem to like those Tri-tip sandwiches.”
Guru shook his head. “Their death wish is their command,” he said. “Let's eat.”
They ate, and as they did, they talked about the morning's missions. “More East Germans and Russians this afternoon?” Goalie asked.
Guru nodded. “Yep. Same drill as this morning.”
“Where are the Hogs?” She wanted to know. Hogs meant A-10s. Whose pilots lived, breathed, and did everything CAS.
“Some are around, but the rest are busy further west.”
They had just finished eating when the CO's staff sergeant secretary knocked on his door. “Yeah?”
“Major, General Yeager's coming to see you,” She said.
“Guess I'd better be going,” Goalie said. “Is this about Frank?”
“Let's hope so.”
The door opened again, and General Yeager came into the CO's office. He saw the CO and his GIB stand up, and he said, “As you were.”
“General,” Major Wiser said. “What can we do for you?”
“I'd like to talk privately, Major,” Yeager said in his West Virginia drawl. “It's about a certain officer you mentioned last night.”
“Guess I'd be going, then,” Goalie said. “Sir?”
“Lieutenant,” Yeager said.
“One moment. Check on the rest of our flight-and that includes Dave Golen and Flossy. They've been with us all morning, and chances are, they're still going to be with us. If everyone's eaten, get them to the briefing room, and have Kara find out when we're going again.”
“Will do, Major,” Goalie said. “General?”
“Have a back seat ride in the D model, Lieutenant. I know you WSOs aren't that keen on the -20, for good reason. Think of it as a sneak preview of the F-15E,” Yeager told Goalie. “If you don't mind some advice.”
She smiled. “I'll pass it to the other WSOs, General,” Goalie said. Then she left the office, closing the door behind her.
“General,” Major Wiser said. “I take it you want to see Major Frank Carson's file?”
“You read my mind, Major,” Yeager replied. “Got a formal request to join the F-20 program right here.” The General threw a piece of paper on the CO's desk.
“Well, sir,” the CO nodded as he went to get Carson's 201 File and flight record. He opened the file cabinet and found what he was looking for. “You're not going to like it.”
Yeager looked at him, then sat down at the CO's desk. “Hope you don't mind my borrowing your desk, Major.” He took the files from the Major.
“Not at all, sir.”
General Yeager opened the 201 File and read it. And Major Wiser noticed a scowl on Yeager's face as he read the material. “Major? If this had been West Virginia, that Wing Commander at Elmendorf would have been justified in getting a shotgun and giving this guy an ass load of buckshot. Or marching him and his daughter down to the Chaplain for a twelve-gauge nuptial.”
“General, they still do that?” Major Wiser asked.
“Once in a while,” Yeager replied. “Now I know why this Flossy Jenkins has this stare at Carson in the Officer's Club.”
“Yes,sir. She's got the 'Don't fuck with me look'. Uh, sir...”
“And if that stare happened to be daggers, he'd be bleeding out,” Yeager observed. “Have you.....?”
Guru nodded. “Sir, he has taken his last airman to bed, and he's on notice. Shape up by New Year's Eve, or he's sent packing. My only problem with that is that I'd be inflicting him on a fellow officer who'd be wondering what he's done to deserve Carson arriving.”
Yeager nodded. “Unfortunately, that's the case with these things. Had my share of these clowns back in WW II. Either West Pointers or Ivy Leaguers who thought they knew everything. And they wouldn't listen when they were told about other ways of getting things done.”
“General, he's the same thing. General Tanner and Colonel Rivers both have put letters in his file expressing their....exasperation with the Major.”
“So I see,” Yeager said, shaking his head. “He does look good on paper, but his attitude, and peacetime mentality two years into a war. I'll ask know: why haven't you transferred him?”
Major Wiser shook his head. “Sir, two reasons. First, Colonel Rivers said in a note he left for me just in case I got the squadron, to give Carson a chance to turn over a new leaf and shape up. He may be doing that now, but I'll wait and see if it holds. Second? The two of us have a history, and if I did send him packing, he could go to JAG and claim retaliation.”
“Not surprised, Major,” said Yeager sympathetically. “Let's see his flight record.”
Major Wiser handed the General Carson's flight record. “You won't like it, sir.”
Yeager nodded as he read the file. “Flight lead, then he lost it?” The General asked as he read further. '”Six crews in his flight shot out from under him?”
Nodding, the CO said, “Yes, sir. After the sixth, Colonel Rivers busted him down to element lead and he's been there ever since. Three of those crews lost were his wingmen, by the way.”
General Yeager read through the rest of the file. “Well, he does look good on paper, which is probably why he was sent to this squadron.” He shook his head. “If it wasn't for the need for warm bodies in cockpits, he'd be behind a desk somewhere.”
“Sir, you're not the only one to say that,” Major Wiser said.
Yeager nodded, then closed the file. “Major, I'll let him know the night before we leave, and that's in three days. But I can tell you now: any orientation flight will be his first-and last-ride in one of my airplanes. He's not going into the program.”
“Yes, sir,” replied the Major. “Well, then. That's that.”
“It is,” Yeager agreed. “Now...” He was interrupted by a knock on the door. “Come on in!”
The office door opened and it was Kara. “Guru-oops, sorry, General,” she said. “Major, we've got a mission. They want us wheels up in fifteen minutes.”
“Back to work,” Major Wiser said. “General?” He saw Yeager nod. “Okay, Kara? Get everyone geared up. We going as a four-ship or six?”
“Six,” came the reply.
Guru nodded. “All right. Tell everybody to meet at 512. Get going.”
“I'm gone,” she said. “General,” Kara nodded, then she went to notify the rest of the flight.
Major Wiser turned to Yeager. “General, if you'll excuse me, I've got somewhere to be and business to take care of.”
“Get going, Major. We'll talk later. Just try and bring everyone back.” Yeager told him.
“Do my best, sir,” Major Wiser said. “No guarantees in this business.”
“As I'm well aware,” nodded the General. “Get going.”
Major Wiser snapped a salute, then went to gear up. When he came out of the Men's Locker Room, he found Goalie waiting outside, all set to go. “You ready?” He asked.
“We're back in the saddle,” his GIB replied. “Time to go to work.”
Both went out and headed to 512's revetment. They found the rest of the flight, not just the other three usual crews, but Dave Golen and Flossy's crews as well. “Guru,” Golen said. “Time to get back in the game?”
“It is,” Guru said. “Okay, same drill as this morning. We check in with AWACS, then they hand us off to Tampa.” Tampa was the EC-130 ABCCC command plane that controlled CAS missions. “After that, they give us a FAC.”
“And if we don't get a FAC?” Sweaty asked.
“There's a few targets we can go to instead,” Guru reminded them. “Weather's still the same, as are bailout areas. Assume the MiGs are still active. If they're running? Let them run. Mark's flight after their second run had a pair of MiG-23s try and lure them within range of an SA-8 battery. So be careful.”
“Got you, Boss,” Hoser replied. “Usual on the radio?”
The CO nodded. “Call signs between us, mission code to AWACS and other parties. Now, we'll be at this rest of the afternoon. Any other questions?”
Kara nodded, as did Flossy, who said, “This is shaping up to be a brawl.”
“She took my question,” Kara laughed. “But she's right.”
“It is,” Guru nodded. “Russians moved in a division to help the East Germans, and First Cav, 11th Airborne, and 3rd ACR are giving these chumps a good 'Welcome to Texas.' So that's what's up. Any other questions?” Heads shook no. “All right, time to go,” the CO said, clapping his hands. “Let's hit it.”
The crews headed for their aircraft, and Guru and Goalie found Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, waiting. He snapped a salute. “Major,” Crowley said. “And Lieutenant. Five-Twelve's ready for you.”
“Thanks,Sergeant,” Major Wiser replied. He and Goalie did a quick walk-around, then mounted the aircraft. After getting strapped in, they did a quick preflight in the cockpit. “If I had my way, I'd leave this to the Hog drivers.”
“You're not the only one, thinking that way,” Goalie said as she went through the checklist. “They busy?”
“Some are around, but most of 'em are further west,” Guru said. “And that's all they told me.. Ejection seat armed top and bottom.”
“Same here. Preflight checklist complete.”
“Time for engine start,” Guru said. He gave a thumbs-up to his CC, and Sergeant Crowley gave the “Start engines” signal. One, then both, J-79 engines were soon up and running, Once the run-up was finished, it was time to taxi. “Tower, Corvette Flight with six, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”
“Corvette Lead, Tower,” the controller replied. “Clear to taxi to Runway Three-three Charlie. You are number two in line. Hold prior to the active.”
“Roger, Tower. Corvette Lead is rolling.” Guru said. He gave another thumbs-up to his Crew Chief, and Sergeant Crowley motioned to the ground crew, who pulled the chocks away from the wheels, then he gave the “Taxi” signal to the pilot.
Guru taxied 512 out of the revetment, then he taxied towards the runway. The flight was right behind a Marine F-4 flight, and after they taxied for takeoff, it was Corvette Flight's turn. The flight taxied into the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties, and after the Marines took off, it was their turn. “Tower, Corvette Flight requesting taxi for takeoff.”
“Corvette Flight, Tower. Clear to taxi for takeoff,” the tower controller said. “Winds are two-six-eight for five.”
“Roger, Tower.” Guru replied. He taxied 512 onto the runway, and Kara followed right behind in 520. He glanced over at their Five O'clock, and saw Kara's bird tucked in position. Both crews gave the thumbs-up, then it was time. “Canopy coming down.” He pulled his canopy down and locked, it. Goalie did the same, and so did Kara and Brainiac. “Tower, Corvette Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”
As usual, there was no reply from the Tower, other than a green light. Clear for takeoff.
Guru didn't reply to the tower, but he told Goalie. “Time to go.”
“Ready,” Goalie said.
“Let's go.” He ran his throttles to full power, released his brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air. Kara was right with him in 520, right in with her flight leader. Then it was Sweaty's and Hoser's turn, and right behind them were Dave Golen and Flossy. The six-ship formed up, then headed south for their tanker rendezvous.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
A new mission, and Ivan throws something new at the 335th: can anyone recognize it?
Over Central Texas, 1235 Hours Central War Time:
Corvette Flight had topped off from the tankers, and as they orbited, both at the tanker track and in the holding pattern after checking in with AWACS, the crews noticed the area was busy. Air Force, Marines, and Navy aircraft were stacked up, waiting their turn. Whatever this was, it was a major effort, and and everyone could see it.
They were now at 11,000 feet, with traffic stacked up in thousand-foot intervals all the way up to 25,000 feet, and when the flight had checked in with AWACS, they had been handed off to Tampa, the EC-130E Airborne Command Post, with the command, “Get in line at 25,000 and wait your turn.” So they had waited, descending in altitude as strike flights ahead of them were passed on to FACS or ETACs (Enlisted Tactical Air Controllers), to go in. “All this proves one thing,” Guru said to Goalie over the IC.
“What's that?” She replied.
“Simple: the Air Force is like everyone else in the military. Hurry up and wait.”
Goalie laughed. “And we're the ones who expect a five-star hotel when we go to war.”
“And we got one,” Guru reminded her, recalling the squadron's stay at the Mesa Sheraton while based at Williams. “For a while, anyway.”
“Guru, Starbuck,” Kara called. “Anything from Tampa? Those clowns know we can't orbit forever.”
“Nothing yet,” Guru said. “When they call us, we'll know it.”
“Guru, Sweaty,” another call came. “Just checked the strike frequency. Some of it's pretty hairy.”
“Define 'hairy'.” Hoser asked.
“A four-ship of A-10s went in. Two of 'em came out,” Sweaty came back. “That fit the definition?”
“I'd say it does,” Guru said.
Then one of the controllers on the EC-130 came on the line. “Corvette Lead, Tampa. We have tasking for you. Contact Nail Five-six.”
“Roger, Tampa. Contact Nail Five-six.” Guru replied. He got on the frequency to talk to the FAC. “Nail Five-six, Corvette Lead.”
“Corvette, Nail,” the FAC said. “Got some tasking for you. Say type of aircraft and ordnance.”
“Nail, Corvette Flight is six Foxtrot-Four Echoes. We have four birds with one-two Rockeyes each bird, two with one-two Mark-82 Snakeyes. All have full air-to-air and gun.”
“Roger, Corvette. Be advised the bad guys are Ivan, and that divisional level air defense is the threat. We have Zulu-Sierra-Uniform Three-Zero in the area, along with Gadflies.” That meant the new ZSU-30-2 SPAAG and the SA-11 Gadfly SAM. The 335th had never encountered the former, and the latter was considered to be very bad news.
Beneath his oxygen mask, Guru gulped. The gun they had been briefed on, but had never encountered. The SA-11 was familiar, and nasty. This was the first time they had run into both at once. “Uh, Roger that, Nail. Are there Weasels in the area?”
“Good question,” Goalie muttered over the IC.
The FAC came back. “That's affirmative, Corvette, and we have a Spark Vark and a Prowler doing standoff jamming.”
“Copy,” replied Guru. “Can you have friendlies take out any ground based air defense?”
“Can do, Corvette,” the FAC said. “Stand by one.” Down below, fireballs erupted as Army gunners found their targets. “That's your target area, Corvette.”
Guru took a deep breath. “Roger that, Nail. Flight, Lead. Switches on, music on, and let's go in.”
In the back seat, Goalie worked the armament switches. “Good to go here. Switches set.”
“Good girl. Ready?” He asked as he turned on his ECM pod
“Let's go,” Guru said as he rolled in on his attack run.
Down below, the commander of the 188th Guards Motor-Rifle Regiment, 144th Guards Motor-Rifle Division, was anxious, but confident. The division had arrived in Texas back in September, and after disembarking from the ships in Corpus Christi, had spent a month shaking down and training. They had been deployed around a town called Cuero, and though there had been no serious activity from the Counterrevolutionary bandits who called themselves the Resistance, the attitude of the local population had been such that had the terrain been favorable, there would have been. Even so, anti-Soviet grafitti, cut phone lines, slashed tires, and the surly attitude of the locals were enough to show the soldiers-most of whom were reservists from Estonia, that they were not welcome.
Now, the division had moved forward to the front, but a last-minute change in plans had come about. Instead of going to the Dallas area, the division had been alerted while transiting north that a situation had developed in the East German sector, and their baptism of fire would come sooner than expected.
When the division had arrived, the divisional commander had gone to the East German headquarters, then returned to brief the regimental commanders. The East Germans were pushing a spoiling attack north, and had been mauled a couple of times, but Front Headquarters had insisted on the attack, to prevent the Americans' III Corps from pushing south and cutting Interstate 35, one of the two major supply routes to the Dallas area. The objective was a town called Lipan, and though it showed on aerial reconnaissance photos as more a collection of ruins than a town, it controlled several local roads, and was thus important from that perspective.
Now, the regiment was moving on the division's right flank, moving past what the map said was Star Hollow Lake, and headed to the northwest. The briefing said that the Americans had the First Cavalry Division to the north and northwest, with the 11th Airborne Division to the northeast, with an Armored Cavalry Regiment, which one was unclear, nearby as well, exact location unknown. No matter, his regiment, and the rest of the division, would push north and take the objective, teaching these Americans a lesson, and showing these East German reservists how things ought to be done in the process. A pity none of those useless Libyans were around, for they could absorb enemy defensive fire, thus sparing the lives of some of his own men, and then his regiment would run them over.
The Colonel was in his command vehicle, a modified BTR-70, and he stuck his head out a hatch for a better look. Suddenly, tank fire came from the north, and two of his 2S6 antiaircraft vehicles exploded, along with a Strela-10 SAM (SA-13 Gopher) vehicle, then another. He glanced around, searching for the enemy, then he took a look to the south. Smoke trails in the air, and getting close. He knew what that meant, and shouted into his throat mike “AIR ATTACK WARNING-SOUTH!”
“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he went down on the Russians down below. Fireballs erupting as vehicles were hit and died showed the Army was taking care of the air-defense threat, or so he hoped. What looked like a full regiment was on the move, moving in battalion columns, and taking fire from their right flank. Just as long as there wasn't friendly artillery shooting, as it was bad news if a 155 shell and his F-4 shared the same airspace at the same time......and apart from tracers from heavy machine guns, there was no serious fire coming. Yet. No matter. Guru picked out a battalion as was deploying into formation and decided it was their turn. He lined up some APCs in his pipper and muttered, “Steady....steady......and HACK!” The CO hit his pickle button, and a dozen Rockeye CBUs came off the racks. He pulled wings level and went to full military power, calling out on the radio, “Lead's off target.”
The Colonel watched as Guru's F-4 came overhead. He was relieved to see that his regimental command group was not a target, but watched as the Phantom released its load, and it happened to be CBUs. Second Battalion was hit, and several APCs and tanks were hit by the bomblets and either began to burn or just plain exploded. He watched as a 2S6 fired on the F-4, but there was no fireball in the air, and the Colonel shouted into the throat mike, “DISPERSE!”
In 512, Goalie shouted, “SHACK! We got secondaries!”
“How many?” Guru asked as he jinked to avoid ground fire, and those 30-mm tracers looked like basketballs as they went by above the canopy.
“Got a few.”
“Copy that,” replied Guru as he turned north and headed for the I-20.
“Two's in!” Kara called as she followed the CO in. She saw the fireballs erupt as Guru made his run, and she picked out what looked like tanks, just behind the APCs. That would be the regimental tank battalion, she knew. Kara lined up what looked like the battalion's command vehicles in her pipper, and ignored the tracers coming her way. Even what looked like an SA-7 or -14 didn't faze her, as it flew harmlessly by. “Steady.....and....and....NOW!” Kara hit the pickle button, releasing her Rockeyes. She copied the CO, pulling wings level, jinking, and increasing her throttle. “Two's off safe,” she called.
“DAMN!” The Colonel shouted as 520 flew over, and released its bombs on the Regimental tank battalion. He watched as several APCs and support vehicles took hits and either burned or, in the case of fuel trucks, fireballed, then a T-72B tank fireballed as well. That meant the battalion commander was now dead. The Colonel tried to contact the battalion's chief of staff, but there was no reply. He turned around and radioed his own deputy to rally the battalion, and, if need be, take over the tank battalion. Before he got an acknowledgment, the Colonel saw another F-4 coming in.
“SHACK!” Brainiac called from the back seat.
“Secondaries?” Kara asked as she, too, avoided 30-mm fire. “Somebody needs to take that guy out.”
“Got a few, and I'm not arguing the last.”
Kara nodded in her cockpit as she picked up the CO's bird and followed him north.
Sweaty rolled in on her run. “Three's hot!” she called as she came down onto the target area. She noticed the battalion on the right flank, and decided they needed some attention. Ignoring tracer fire from machine guns, as well as MANPADS, Sweaty lined up several APCs in her pipper. Your turn, Ivan...she thought as she called, “HACK!” A dozen more Rockeyes came off racks when she hit the pickle button. She,, too, pulled wings level and added power as she headed to the north, jinking as she did so. “Three off target.”
“Of all the...” the Colonel said as Sweaty's F-4 flew by to his right. He watched as the bombs came off and the despised CBUs exploded on his Third Battalion. Several more APCs and tanks fireballed as a result, and the Colonel was now in a rage. He was on the radio, demanding to know where the air defenders were, as two Strela-3 shoulder-fired missiles (SA-14s) were fired at the departing aircraft. One of the regiment's surviving Strela-10 vehicles fired on the F-4, but, suddenly, it was engulfed in a fireball as it took fire from the regiment's right. Where.....
“GOOD HITS!” Preacher yelled.
“How good?” Sweaty wanted to know. She was jinking to avoid some 30-mm tracers coming up. Those things were glowing basketballs as they went by....
“Righteous!” The ex-seminary student turned GIB replied.
Sweaty grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “Good enough!” She, too, headed north for the I-20.
“Four in hot!” Hoser called as he went in. He picked up some unattacked vehicles on the left flank of the regiment and selected those as his target. Hoser ignored the flak coming his way, some of it from the regiment down below, while some came from a unit on the left. No matter, he thought, as a group of APCs and a few tanks grew larger and larger....”Steady, steady....and.....NOW!” He hit the pickle button, releasing his Rockeyes. Then he pulled wings level and accelerated away, dodging flak and even a couple of missiles, SA-19s, as it turned out later. “Four's off target.”
“NYET!” Shouted the Colonel as Hoser's F-4 flew past to his left. He watched helplessly as CBUs rained down on First Battalion, his best, and watched through binoculars as several BTR-70 APCs took hits from the bomblets and either caught fire or simply became fireballs. Groaning, the Colonel contacted the Major commanding First Battalion, and ordered him to continue forward. He did the same with the other two battalions. That was the only way out of this. Forward.
“We got secondaries!” KT shouted from the back seat of Hoser's bird.
“Good ones?” Hoser asked as a missile flew over the canopy, and some 30-mm tracers followed in its wake. He dodged the flak, and headed north as he did so.
KT glanced back. “Good ones!”
“I'll take that,” said Hoser as he picked up his element leader.
“Five in hot!” Dave Golen said as he rolled in. As he did, he noticed a cluster of vehicles behind the regimental-sized force, and that had to be regimental artillery. He came down on them, and sure enough, what looked like trucks and towed artillery pieces were in their field positions, ready to fire. Dave, too, ignored the flak that came up, both 30-mm from the 2S6s, but also 23-mm from the artillery battalion's position No matter. Ivan....”Ready, ready....and.....NOW!” He hit his pickle button, and released his CBUs. Dave pulled level and went full throttle as he headed out, not noticing the 23-mm and 30-mm flak flying past his aircraft, though his GIB did, and involuntarily ducked in the back seat. “Five off safe,” Dave called.
“DAMN!” The Colonel shouted as Dave's F-4 flew overhead. He looked back, and saw numerous explosions where his Regimental Artillery battalion had deployed. His guns were all towed D-30 122-mm pieces, and where one battery had been, there was just explosions as the guns and their ammunition trucks blew up. Not now.....
“SHACK!” Golen's GIB shouted. “We hit the ammo trucks!”
“You sure about that?” Golen asked as he saw a missile fly across their path.
The reply came back at once. “Really sure! Those secondaries were really big.”
“Righteous, as our friend Preacher would say.” Golen jinked again to avoid flak, then turned north for I-20.
“Six is in!” Flossy called She rolled in, and picked out some vehicles in the center of the Regiment. The command group, maybe? Well, Ivan, you're having a bad day, and it's going to be worse. Ignoring the flak, and a few IR missiles that weren't guiding, Flossy selected her target, and the APCs grew bigger as she lined them up. “Steady, Steady....and...HACK!” More Rockeye CBUs rained down on the Soviets. After she released her bombs, Flossy pulled out and away, following her element lead north. “Six off target.”
The Colonel had pulled up in his command BTR-60 and was talking over the radio with his remaining commanders. Though the tank battalion commander had been killed, along with the command element, the senior company commander had been swiftly apppointed to take over, while the other motor-rifle battalion commanders were still going. The Colonel ordered the regiment to keep moving forward, and as he was giving orders and checking his map, he never heard Flossy's F-4 come in. He only saw the plane as it flew overhead, and CBUs rained down. Several of the regimental command group's vehicles took hits and either caught fire or exploded, but he never saw the bomblets that hit his own vehicle. No one in the BTR-60 was able to scream as the APC became a fireball......
“GOOD HITS!” Jang called from 1569's back seat.
“How good?” Asked Flossy as she avoided some 30-mm fire. Those tracers were like basketballs....and she dreaded the thought of bailing out in the middle of some angry Russians. But she avoided the flak, and headed north, jinking as she did so.
“I'll take that,” Flossy replied as a missile, what kind she didn't know, flew over the canopy. She picked up Dave Golen's bird and followed him out. Just as she had a visual on Dave's bird, she heard a yell on the IC.
“BREAK RIGHT, NOW!” Jang yelled.
Without thinking, Flossy broke right and as she pulled hard to the right, two missile trails flew by 1569. She did a full 360, and as she got back on course, Flossy had a look around. “Where'd they come from?”
“Lead, Six, we're coming out, but somebody took a shot at us.”
“Roger that,” Guru replied. 'Nail, Corvette Lead. How'd we do?”
“Corvette, Nail. I give you a four-decimal-zero. Good bombs on target-” then there was a burst of static.
“Lead, Sweaty. Got a fireball in the air. Ten O'clock high, maybe two miles.” Sweaty called.
Guru took a look, as did Goalie. They saw what looked like an A-7 tumbling out of the sky in flames, and there were no chutes. “Got it. Crystal Palace, Corvette Lead. Nail Five-six is down. No chutes I can see.”
“Copy that, Corvette Lead,” the AWACS controller replied. “ Can you verify negative chutes?”
Goalie kept looking as the A-7 slammed into the ground and a large fireball came up. “Don't see any.”
“Crystal Palace, Corvette Lead. Confirmed. Negative chutes.”
“Roger, Corvette Lead.”
There was silence as Corvette Flight egressed to the I-20. Between Flossy and Jang's close call and seeing the FAC go down, these Russians were not only on the ball, but had something that the 335th had never faced before. Only when they hit the tankers for the post-strike refueling did the adrenalin stop flowing. After clearing the tankers and heading for Sheppard did the usual post-strike banter kick in, but it was still subdued.
Corvette Flight then got back to Sheppard, and found they were second in the pattern after a four-ship of Marine Hornets. When it was their turn, they came in and landed, and as they taxied back to their squadron's dispersal area, the crews noticed the F-20 guys watching them, while the TV crew filmed the planes as they taxied in. “Want to bet those guys were wishing they went down south?” Guru asked his GIB.
“No bet, and that's one Kara won't take,” Goalie replied. “Aren't they supposed to stay away from combat unless they have no choice?”
“That's my impression,” Guru said. “But given the chance, they'll bend that restriction if they think they can get away with it.”
“Including General Yeager?”
“Maybe.” Guru then taxied 512 into its revetment, and got the “Shut down” signal from his Crew Chief. While the ground crew went to work, and the crew popped their canopies, pilot and GIB did a post-flight check, then the ground crew brought the crew ladder. “Four and done for today.”
“How many more? Seven's the record during PRAIRIE FIRE, and we set that three days in a row.”
“Don't remind me,” the CO said as he stood up in the cockpit. Then he and Goalie got down from the aircraft. “Right now, what was shooting at us?”
“That's what I'd like to know,” Goalie said as she took a bottle of water offered her by a ground crew member, and promptly began downing half of it.
Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, came up. “How'd it go, Major?” he asked, giving the CO a bottle of water as he did so.
“Gave some Russians a Rockeye welcome to Texas,” Guru said. He and Goalie did a post-flight walk-around. “No damage, Sergeant, and Five-Twelve's still truckin'. Get her turned around, because we'll be back at it before too long.”
“You got it, Major!” Crowley said. He turned to the ground crew. '”You heard the Major. Let's get this bird ready for another one.”
Guru and Goalie went to the entrance to the revetment, and found Kara and Brainiac waiting. “How'd it go, Kara?”
“Who were those guys, and what were they shooting?” Kara asked. “Those tracers were big.”
“ZSU-30-2 is what the FAC said,” Guru replied as Sweaty, Hoser, and their GIBs arrived. “Don't think we've run into those before.”
“What are those?” KT asked.
“I'd like to know myself,” Dave Golen said as he and Flossy, with their GIBs, came up. “Those were some very large tracers.”
“Come on, let's debrief, get something to eat, and get ready to go,” Guru said. “Still got a ways to go.”
When they got to the squadron office, Capt. Darren “Sin” Licon, their intelligence officer, was waiting. “Major, glad to see you. Intel just sent word Ivan's using the ZSU-30-2 down there.”
“Just now?” Guru asked. “What are those things? We've never run into any before.”
“All they tell me is it's on a tank chassis, turret with two 30-mm guns, eight SA-19 SAMs, and a good radar. Captured a few at Wichita, and they're still being evaluated at either Aberdeen or China Lake.”
“Find out what you can from MAG-11's intel people,” Guru told the Intel. “Especially on the radar and the missiles. If we're going to be facing those in the future....”
“Hope not every day,” Flossy said.
“You never know,” Dave Golen reminded everyone.
“Major Golen's right, sir,” the Intel said.
Guru nodded. “Okay, let's talk inside. Get debriefed, something inside you, and get ready to go back out.” He turned to the Intel. “When we're done...”
“I'll be talking to MAG-11's Intel folks,” Licon said.
“Good man,” said Guru. “Let's get inside and take care of business.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Fellows, working on new segments...any questions or comments so far?
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Just started reading today, feels like MASH mixed with Top Gun in a good way, and you're much better at writing multiple characters into one dialogue than I have ever managed to lol. My characters end up sounding too similar and it gets difficult to keep track of who is saying what sometimes, but I never got that feeling reading this. I also like the level of detail in gear/procedure. It's just enough so people can get a clear picture but it's not so bogged down in details that it gets long-winded. A hard balance to achieve for sure!
Great stuff, can't wait to see more.
Matt, what can I say, enjoy your work, even got a couple of people in my office interested, our only complaint....we need more! LOL Keep up the great work!!!
The reason that the American Army does so well in wartime, is that war is chaos, and the American Army practices chaos on a daily basis.
Thanks, gents. Having Jane's USAF on my old desktop helps, as the F-4E is one of the aircraft flown in the game. I also have a PDF of the F-4E flight manual. Having a GF who flies the F-15C in the CA ANG and a cousin who's a USN Super Hornet driver has also been useful.
When I write the POW side of things, I try to get the balance between gritty and graphic, so that the reader knows bad things are happening or going to, without being overly detailed.
Btw, did anyone recognize the gun/missile vehicle thrown at the 335th in the last segment? Don't think there are V.1 stats for that system.....
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Whatever it is, if one was still functioning in Poland during one of my games I could think of how powerful whoever had it would be. I imagined a group of characters trying to escape Krakow in the Hind kept there in V1, only to come into one of those beasts gun range. The AA gun would radio the Hind and demand it land at a designated area or be shot down, with maybe a short burst of 30mm near the helo to "encourage" it.
I don't know much about heavy military equipment, what kind of range does a weapon system like that have? Could a single one dominate a large area in the post apocalypse?
Well, here's the next segment, and the system is described....
335th TFS Offices, 1335 Hours Central War Time:
Major Matt Wiser was in his office, having just come out of the mission debrief. The news that they were facing a new threat had sobered the crews, and hearing that not only had a FAC gone down, but also two A-10s, with a third Hog damaged, along with a Navy A-7 and a Marine A-4, all in the same area, was not good. He had told his Intelligence Officer to talk to MAG-11 Intelligence, and, if necessary, Tenth Air Force, to get any additional information and recommended counters. That done, he checked his IN box. Seeing nothing that required his attention, he went to the break room and found the rest of his flight, along with the Ops Officer's, getting something to eat. “What's available?”
“Boss,” the Ops Officer, Capt. Don Van Loan, replied. “Tuna, chicken, turkey, pastrami, and something brown that just sits there.”
“That'll be the pork tri-tip,” Kara quipped. “Or the suggestion thereof.”
“Avoid like the plague,” Hoser said.
“Tell that to the F-20 guys,” Van Loan's wingman, 1st Lt. Cory Tyler, said. “Those guys love these for some reason.”
Sweaty laughed. “Their death wish is their command,” she said, and the others joined in. “That Pruitt guy, for some reason, loves these.”
“His problem,” KT said. “Boss, any word on those guns?”
“Just that they're radar-guided, have SAMs along with the guns, and they're like the Gepard,” Guru said, picking up a tuna sandwich. He began to attack it. “He's got a query in to MAG-11 Intelligence and Tenth AF,” the CO said for the benefit of the Ops Officer and his flight.
Heads nodded at that. “Just hope he delivers,” Brainiac said.
“You, me, and everyone else in the squadron,” Van Loan nodded.
Everyone then heard the SDO's phone ring, then Hacksaw came in. “Boss? Colonel Brady on the phone for you. Says it's important.”
“Tell him I'll take it in my office,” Guru said. Then CO went into his office, still working on the sandwich. He swallowed, then picked up the phone. “Yes, sir?” He listened to Brady. “What? Those guns? Sir, is there anything from the intel folks? Not much. Yes, sir. I'll let my people know. Sir, it's too bad about Bill Poore. Yes, sir. Do our best, sir.” Guru hung up, then took a deep breath. Hoo-boy....he thought. Then he went back into the squadron's office and found the Ops Officer coming out of the break room. “Don?” He asked, and those who heard him heard the firmness of command in the CO's voice. “Who hasn't gone back out yet, besides your flight and mine?”
“Mark's people are gearing up now,” Van Loan replied. “What's up?”
“Get Mark's people as soon as they're geared up, along with yours and mine. Main Briefing Room, ASAP.”
“Got you,” Van Loan nodded. Whatever it was, he'd find out pretty soon, and he headed to round up the Exec's flight.
“Kara?” Guru asked his wingmate. “Find Darren.” Capt. Darren Licon was the Intel Officer. “Tell him to come to the briefing room with everything he has on those guns. Right now.”
She looked at him, then nodded. “On my way.” Kara went off to find the Intel.
“What's going on?” Sweaty asked.
“Dave,” Guru said to Dave Golen, their IDF “Observer.” You were in the Yom Kippur War. Wasn't fun going up against SA-6 and ZSU-23-4 for the first time, right?”
“It wasn't,” Golen replied. Then he saw the serious look on the CO's face. “Wait? Those guns?”
Guru nodded. “We may have the same thing here.”
For a minute, memories of 1973 came back to the Israeli. Facing the SA-6 and ZSU-23-4 in the first few days had cost the Israelis dear, and he had lost friends to those missiles and guns in the first few days. “I hope you're wrong, but it does look that way.”
“So do I, Dave,” the CO replied. “Let's get to the Briefing Room, people.”
When they got to the Briefing Room, not only was Mark's flight there, in full flight gear, but General Olds was there as well. “Major,” Olds said. “What's going on?” He had heard about the sudden brief.
“General,” Major Wiser said. “We may have a problem. Think Day One of the Yom Kippur War.”
Olds nodded. He knew full well what that meant. “I don't like the sound of that.”
“Neither do I, sir.”
Once everyone was in the room, the CO, with the Intel, went to address the crews. Prewar, this had been a lecture room when Sheppard had been an ATC base. Now, it was used for all-officer meetings, or mass briefs like this one. “People, you're probably wondering what this is all about. Before I turn it over to the Intel, you need to know this. I had a phone talk with Colonel Brady about ten minutes ago. In case you're wondering, it's about those guns we encountered earlier today. The Marines sent in a four-ship of F-4s from VMFA-134 about twenty minutes ago, to the same area we've been hitting. One-thirty-four's CO was leading the flight. Four went in. One came back.”
“What the...” Mark Ellis, the Exec, said. “How....?”
“Let me finish, people,” Guru said. “One crew bailed out south of I-20, and they're okay. One chute from the second aircraft, and no word yet. The flight lead went in with no chutes. Tail-end Charlie made it back only because he aborted after seeing Number Three go in.” He let that piece of news sink in.
Scorpion, from Ellis' flight, asked, “What are these guns?”
“Getting to that,” the CO nodded. “Intel?” He gestured to Sin Licon. “Your turn.”
“Folks, this system was first encountered at Wichita.” He turned on an overhead projector and laid on a transparency with a line drawing. “It's a twin mount 30-mm AA gun, with a radar that we and the Brits have code-named Hot Shot. It also has eight SAMs designated SA-19 by DOD.”
“How are the missiles guided?” Cosmo asked. She flew as Scorpion's wingmate.
“Good question,” General Olds said.
“They're not sure, but it appears to be radio command guidance,” Licon said. “Range is about five miles.”
Flossy and Jang looked at each other. Now they knew what had shot at, and nearly gotten, them. “Any idea of missile range?” Flossy wanted to know.
“About five miles,” Licon said. “Folks, this is all still tentative as several captured vehicles are still being evaluated at either Aberdeen or China Lake. That does include tests of the missiles.”
The crews all exchanged worried glances. “Any good news?” Sweaty asked.
“Your ECM pods do work. MAG-11's intel shop tells me that those who went down had no ECM pods. And it looks like the standoff jamming works as well. The problem with the Marines' losses? They had no pods.”
General Olds nodded. “As soon as this is done, I'm getting on the phone to General Tanner. I'll light a fire on getting you all some more ALQ-119 pods to replace your -101s, and see about the Sparrow missile situation.” He was referring to an ongoing problem with the 335th's stock of AIM-7 Sparrow AAMs.
“General, that's good to know, and thank you, sir,” Major Wiser said. “Sin?” He asked the Intel. “Any word on when the RWRs will get tweaked?”
The Intel nodded. “Best guess, Major? It's about a week. They're working on this as fast as they can.”
“Noted, Captain,” said General Olds. “Recommended counters?”
“General, everyone, best I can give is this,” Licon replied. “Go in low, go fast, and once you've delivered your ordnance, jink on your way out. That should throw off any fire-control solution if they're using visual backup if the radar is jammed.”
The crews nodded, but they also remembered the intel community's unofficial motto, “We're betting your life.” Then the CO added, “One other counter I can think of: Mark, Don? Have your FACs see if the Army can take out any air-defense assets. Don't be choosy about how they do it, just have them do it. If they take those guns out, it makes our job a lot easier.”
“Got it, Major,” Ellis replied, and Van Loan simply nodded.
“All right, then. One last thing: if you get ground fire that is too accurate, abort. Unless the friendlies we're supporting are about to be overrun, nothing down there is worth dying for,” Major Wiser said. He looked at General Olds, who nodded approval. “Get the Army to knock those guys out, hit the tanker, and come around for another one. Got it?”
“Loud and clear, Major,” Elils said. Whenever someone used the CO's rank, it was serious, and everyone knew it.
“General, anything to add?” the CO asked.
Olds shook his head. “Nothing can see. You're right on the abort advice, Major,”
“Thank you, sir,” Major Wiser said. “Mark? Don? Good luck. Bring everybody back, and remember what's been said. That goes for everybody here. Any other questions?”
“Major?” Cosmo asked. “How long are we on CAS?”
“At least until the end of the day,” the CO replied. “Hopefully, the Army gets on the ball and pushes these bastards back south, and we can get back to the ATO.” He paused, then added, “To be wished for, anyway.”
“You've got that right, Major,” Kara said.
“Yeah,” Major Wiser replied. “Mark? Don? And your flights? Good luck and be careful. Because I am in no mood to write any letters today. Got it?”
Both flight leads nodded. “Got it, Major.”
“Okay, then. Let's get back in the game, people!”
With that, the meeting broke up. Ellis' flight headed on out to mount their birds, while it was time for Van Loan's to gear up. “Major, good brief,” Olds said. “I imagine it was like this for our Israeli friends back in '73,” he nodded in Dave Golen's direction.
“It was, General,” Golen said. “Not on Day One, but Day two and thereafter. Until your resupply kicked in.”
“Darren?” The CO asked the Intel Officer. “Pass this stuff on to the guys coming back. And talk to Yeager's people. They may have encountered these guns at Wichita. Any advice they can give? We'll take it.”
Licon nodded. “On my way, Major.”
“Good,” Major Wiser said. “Kara?” He asked his wingmate and Assistant Ops Officer. “Call up MAG-11 Ops and ask, on my authority, if they've heard anything from Tenth AF whether or not we're getting an ATO or are on CAS for tomorrow. Hurry, because we gear up in fifteen minutes. We're still on CAS until sunset. Unless they release us.”
“I'm gone,” Kara said. She then went to the Ops Office.
The CO surveyed the rest of his flight. “Rest of you? If you haven't gotten something to eat or drink? Do it. And take care of any latrine business, because we gear up in fifteen.”
Heads nodded, and people headed on out. “Major,” Olds said. “I need to use your office. I should let General Tanner know what's going on ASAP.”
“General, be my guest,” Major Wiser said.
“Thanks, and take your own advice when you go back out,” Olds told him.
“Will do, sir.”
“And one other thing: bring everybody back,” said the General.
“I'll do my best,sir,” Major Wiser replied. “No guarantees in this business.”
“As I know all too well,” Olds said. “Good luck, Major.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Major Wiser took his own advice and finished off his sandwich and a bottle of water. Then it was time to gear up. He went to the Men's Locker Room and got into his flight gear. When he came out, Goalie was waiting, all ready to go. “Ready?”
“Ready. Let's get it over with.”
“Nervous?” Guru asked his GIB and lover. “Day one happened so fast we didn't have time to be nervous.”
“Now that you mention it? I'm a little nervous,” she replied. “Anything special?”
“I want your head on a swivel when you're not looking at the radar or the armament panel. Keep your eyes peeled for those tracers.”
She looked back at him with a determined look. “Will do. Not ready to eat Kasha and Borscht just yet.”
“Neither am I.”
Both pilot and GIB went out of the office, and saw Van Loan's flight taking off. They went to their squadron's dispersal, and found the rest of the flight waiting at 512's revetment. “Boss,” Sweaty nodded.
“Everybody,” Guru said. He turned to Kara. “What'd you find out?”
“Two things. First,” she said. “The ATO is due in, MAG-11 said. We should be back on normal ops tomorrow.”
Preacher nodded. “Thank God.”
“And the second? Our two birds from Japan are due anytime,” Kara said.
“Good,” the CO said. “Now, usual procedures on the radio, and the same goes for bailout areas.”
Sweaty then asked, “And bad guys in the air?”
“Keep an eye out. If you can take a shot at a Hind or MiG on a ground-attack run? Do it.” Guru told them. “And remember what was said in the brief.”
Heads nodded. “Time enough for this one and one more?” Flossy asked.
“You got it.” Guru replied. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “All right. Let's hit it.” He clapped his hands.
The crews headed to their aircraft, and when Guru and Goalie got to 512, they found Mark-82 Snakeye bombs loaded, along with the usual air-to-air load of four Sidewinders and two Sparrows, with an ALQ-119 ECM pod in the left inboard Sparrow well. Both noted that of the bombs, those on the inboard wing stations had Daisy Cutter fuze extenders. No surprise, because on CAS, one took what was available. “Major,” Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief said. “Five-twelve's ready to go.”
“Good work, Sergeant,” the CO replied. He and Goalie did their usual walk-around, then mounted the aircraft. As they went through the preflight, Guru asked his GIB, “In the mood for Shakespeare?”
“I'll take the 'Cry Havoc' part this time,” she replied.
“One of the Henrys?” Guru asked as he wrapped up the checklist.
“Not sure,” Goalie said. “Ejection seats?”
“Armed top and bottom. Yours?”
“Ditto that. Preflight complete, and time to start engines.”
Guru nodded, then gave his CC a thumbs-up. Sergeant Crowley gave the signal to start engines, then first one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running. Once the run-up was finished, Guru called the Tower. “Sheppard Tower, Corvette Flight with six, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”
“Corvette Lead, Tower,” a tower controller replied. “Clear to taxi to Runway Three-three Charlie. Hold prior to the active, and you are number two in line.”
“Roger, Tower,” said Guru. “Corvette Lead is rolling.” He gave another thumbs-up to Crowley, who signaled the ground crew to pull the chocks away from the tires. Once they were clear, Guru saw the CC signal him to taxi.
Guru taxied 512 out of the revetment, and after clearing it, Crowley snapped a salute. Both he and Goalie returned it, then Guru taxied 512 to the holding area short of the runway. There, the armorers removed the weapon safeties, while the crew watched a Marine F/A-18 flight go ahead of them. Then it was their turn. “Tower, Corvette Flight requesting taxi for takeoff.”
“Corvette Lead, Tower,” the controller replied at once. “Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-seven-three for five.”
“Roger, Tower.” Guru taxied onto the runway, then held his brakes as Kara taxied 520 into his Five O'clock. Both crews exchanged thumbs-ups, then it was time. “Tower, Corvette Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”
As usual, the controller didn't reply, but flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff.
“Canopy coming down,” Goalie said. She closed and locked her canopy as Guru did the same. She glanced at 520 and saw theirs down and locked. “All set.”
“Then let's go,” Guru said. He pushed the throttles to full power, released the brakes, and, with 520 right with him, rolled 512 down the runway and into the air. Thirty seconds later, it was the turn of Sweaty's element, and thirty seconds after that, Dave Golen's. After meeting up at 10,000 feet, the flight set course south for the tanker track at Mineral Wells.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
This is the line drawing used in the briefing: the 2S6 or 2K22 Tunguska. Really bad news if you're coming in at low level and dropping iron. Two 30-mm cannon, eight SA-19 SAMs, and a radar designated Hot Shot by NATO.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Here you go: the F-20s have a time to shine:
Sheppard AFB, TX: 1400 Hours Central War Time:
Captain Darren “Sin” Licon was at a run. Major Wiser had told him to touch base with the F-20 people, to see if they had run into the ZSU-30-2s at Wichita and since. His gut told him that chances were, they had, but he had to know for sure. But then again, the battle area had been so big, the guns may have only been in one sector. He came into the tiny office space the F-20 people had, and found two of the drivers eating a late lunch. “Fellas,”
“What's up, Sin?” Captain Matt Clancy asked. Sin was the call sign the rest of the 335th had given Licon after his promotion, a rare thing for a nonflying officer.
“We have a problem. Ivan's using some kind of new ZSU type gun,” Licon replied. He gave a brief explanation, including the loss of VMFA-134's CO and two others nearly an hour earlier.
Clancy looked at his wingmate, Captain Jeb Pruitt, who nodded grimly. “We've run into those. Day three at Wichita cost us our Ops Officer, and got me into the job. Those things are fucking deadly.”
“Any ideas for counters?” Licon asked. '”My CO needs answers. And fast.”
Pruitt nodded. “Best way to kill 'em is to get the Army to do it on the ground. Those things don't stand up to tank fire or TOWs, for starters.”
“And the second?”
“Standoff with Maverick. You do outrange them, so just loiter out of 30-mm range and take your Maverick shots. Last but not least? It's the most dangerous. Go in low and fast, and use either unguided rockets or CBUs. But you're risking a Golden BB from every grunt Ivan with an AK or machine gun. Not to mention the guns you're going for.”
The Intel nodded. “Okay guys, thanks. “I'll get this to my people ASAP.” And Licon headed back to his own office. What he'd just been told had to be put to paper, and a briefing sheet prepared.
Both F-20 drivers looked at each other. “Those F-4 guys need some help. And I say we give them a hand,” Clancy told his wingman.
Pruitt nodded. “Gotcha. Let's touch base with General Yeager.”
Both drivers found General Yeager, who was talking with Captain Quinn “Prada” Morgendorffer. “What can I do for you guys?”
“The 335th needs a hand, we think,” Clancy said. He gave a quick explanation.
“Those guns that bad?” Yeager asked.
“General,” Prada said. “My old A-7 squadron lost nine birds of twenty between Wichita and PRAIRIE FIRE days one and two. Six of them were to those damned guns, and only one pilot came back. They're fucking deadly.”
“So,” Yeager nodded. “You guys think we should give our F-4 brethren a hand?”
“Yes, sir,” Clancy said, and Pruitt nodded agreement.
Yeager turned to his F-20D driver. “Prada?”
“I'm in, but General, the D needs a hundred-hour check, and there's one other thing,” she said.
The General nodded. “And that is?”
“The no-combat order,” Prada replied, and everyone heard the firmness in her voice. “These two pups may not remind you of it, but I will.”
General Yeager knew it, and this time, chose not to contest the matter. “All right, Prada? You take my bird. Clancy? You have the flight in the air. Touch base with the 335th's people and get our birds fueled and armed ASAP. I'll handle things with Colonel Brady. Wouldn't do to get any of our hosts in trouble-not today.”
“Yes, sir,” Clancy said.
'I'll touch base with Chief Ross,” Pruitt nodded. “Most of the 335th people have nothing to do but wait until their birds come back. Get them something to do. And I may have a lead on a PAO for them.”
“Good idea,” Yeager replied. He looked at the trio. “Make it happen. Fast.”
Captain Pruitt was talking with Chief Ross. “A new PAO?” Ross asked.
“She's not trained as a PAO, but has journalism in her background,” Pruitt said. “Was going to Fordham when the war began, and after getting away from the NYC blast zone, she joined the Air Force. Graduated third in her OTS class, fifth in her UPT class, and top ten in her F-4 class.”
“Okay, sir, who do I talk to so I can get her here?”
Pruitt gave him a slip of paper with a phone number and a name. “Here.”
Ross scanned it. “Okay, I know the guy, even if it's been a while. Haven't seen him since Hill from 75-77,” the Master Sergeant said. “I'll give him a call. Sir, you just made my CO's day.” Giving the Major this kind of news was always good. A new pilot and one who could handle PAO duty when not flying? Just what the CO had been asking for. “And you need some help getting your F-20s armed and fueled?”
Ross nodded, then picked up the phone. He called both senior NCOs in Ordnance and in Maintenance. “They'll be there in five.”
“Thanks, Chief,” said Pruitt. Both shook hands on the deal, then they headed out the door.
The 335th's dispersal area was a beehive of activity as the three F-20Cs were being armed and fueled. Chief Ross had talked with Capt. Kevin O'Donnell, the Maintenance Officer, and after O'Donnell had confirmed what Ross wanted with General Yeager himself, the maintenance crews and ordnance guys-the Ordnance Officer, Capt. Kerry Collins, was out on a mission with the Ops Officer's flight, had set to work with a will. All three F-20s had two AIM-9L Sidewinders and a full load of 20-mm already loaded, while the ordnance people began arming the aircraft with two AGM-65D Mavericks, a single AGM-45C Shrike, and an AIM-7M, plus a centerline fuel tank.
Airman First Class Kellogg was watching with Chief Ross. Though he'd been reassigned to vehicle maintenance, he had driven some of the guys over in a 5/4 ton truck-one of a few the squadron had, and he was curious. He noticed not just the regular ordnance people, but civilians in company coveralls-Northrop, Hughes, and Texas Instruments, working to arm the birds. A missile that looked like a small version of a Sparrow caught his eye. “Chief, what's that?”
A tech-rep from TI overheard him. “Those are Shrikes. AGM-45C. We were building seeker heads faster than HARM missiles, so we put some of the electronics from HARM into the Shrike. They work,” the TI fellow said. “Well, most of the time.”
“Close enough for government work,” Ross noted.
Nearby, General Yeager was talking with Colonel Brady. “We're cleared?”
“If you were flying, General, I'd be very reluctant,” Brady replied. “Since you're not, sir. You are.”
“I'll tell my people.”
A couple minutes later, the three Captains came over. “We're cleared? Clancy asked.
“You are,” Yeager said. “Mount up and get going.”
“On our way, sir,” replied Clancy. This wouldn't be the first time he'd led a combat flight.
“All of you? Good luck.”
“Thank you, General.”
The three F-20 drivers did a quick preflight, then mounted their aircraft. After engine start, Clancy called the tower. “Sheppard Tower, Showroom Flight with three, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”
“Showroom Lead, Tower,” the reply came. “Clear for taxi to Runway Three-Five-Charlie. Hold prior to the active, and you are number four in line.”
“Roger, Tower. Showroom Lead is rolling.”
The three F-20s taxied out, and they saw ahead of them a Marine flight of F/A-18s, then six F-4s in SEA camouflage, giving them away as 335th birds, then a flight of Marine F-4s. When they got to the holding area, the armorers removed the weapon safeties. After the Marine Phantoms launched, it was their turn.
“Tower, Showroom Flight requesting taxi for takeoff,” Clancy asked the controller.
“Showroom Lead, clear to taxi for takeoff,” the controller told him. “Winds are Two-seven-one for five.”
The first two F-20s taxied onto the Runway. Clancy did a final cockpit check, then glanced at his wingman. Pruitt gave a thumbs-up to his leader, then it was time.
“Tower, Showroom Flight requesting clear for takeoff.”
The tower flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff.
Clancy ran his engine up to full power, released his brakes, then rolled down the runway and into the air, with his wingman right with him. Thirty seconds later, it was Prada's turn, and after she lifted off, all three set course for the tanker track.
Over Central Texas: 1415 Hours Central War Time
Corvette Flight was orbiting in the holding pattern, as usual for CAS. There were aircraft stacked up ahead of, and behind, them, and as usual when Major Wiser checked in with Tampa, the EC-130E Airborne Command Post, the reply from the controller had been the same. “Get in line at 25,000 and wait your turn.”
Now, they were at 14,000 feet, and the crews could not only see aircraft holding below them, but off at a distance, the smoke from the battlefield. And, on their EW systems, the occasional spike as a missile or gun radar came up. One thing occurred to the CO as he orbited. “Where are the Weasels?” He asked Goalie.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” she replied as she scanned the sky. “Haven't heard any 'Magnum' calls.”
“Lead, Two,” Kara called. “Anything?”
“Negative,” Guru replied. “Still 'wait your turn.''
“Lead, Five,” Dave Golen came up. “Just saw a couple of fireballs in the air. Not sure whose they were.”
Sweaty asked, “Theirs or ours?”
“No way to tell at this distance.”
Let's find out what's going on, Guru said to himself. He called Tampa. “Tampa, Corvette Lead. Any business for us?”
“Your turn's coming,” replied the controller in a harassed tone of voice. It had already been a busy day, so why couldn't these fighter jocks understand what 'wait your turn' meant?”
“Copy. Say surface-to-air threat? Those guns still a factor?”
“Roger that and thank you,” Guru said. He got back to the flight. “More of the same.”
In her cockpit, Flossy shook her head. “Swell, Lead.”
Two minutes later, they were down to 10,000 feet and that meant they were getting close, as FACs usually took a flight at 7,000, when a call that surprised everyone came over the tac frequency. “Tampa, Showroom Flight with three, checking in.”
“What the...?” Goalie shouted.
“Lead....” Sweaty added.
“I heard it. Knock it off!” Guru said. “I want to listen.”
“Showroom, Tampa. Authenticate Alpha Seven Tango.” This could be some ALA scum playing radio games, the ABCCC controller knew.
In his F-20, Clancy scanned the authenticator card, then replied, “Victor Four Charlie.”
“Confirmed,” the controller replied. “Say aircraft and type of ordnance, please.”
“Tampa, Showroom is three Foxtrot-Twenty Charlies with full heat, one radar, one Magnum, two Rifle, and full guns each airplane,” Clancy replied.
Aboard the EC-130, the controller turned to the Senior Controller and the Tac Coordinator, who had had overheard everything. F-20s? With one anti-radar shot each and two Mavericks? With the Weasels gone to rearm.... “Clear them in. They go to the front of the line,” the TacCo said.
“Showroom, Tampa,” the controller called. “Clear to go in. Contact Nail Five-three.”
“Copy,” Clancy replied.
“Showroom, Corvette,” Guru called. “What are you all doing here?”
“Explain later,” Clancy told him. “Thought you guys needed a hand.”
“Rocket man with you?” That meant Yeager, and for Guru, visions of Loring or Goose Bay this time of year flashed through his eyes.
“Negative, Corvette. Time for us to go to work,” Clancy said. “See you at Home Plate.”
In 512, Guru took a deep breath. “Well, that answers one question.”
“Whether those Tigershark kids would get into combat,” Goalie replied. By her tone of voice, it wasn't a question. “At least Yeager's not with them.”
“For which we all should be thankful.”
Clancy called the FAC. “Nail Five-three, Showroom Flight checking in.”
“Roger that, Showroom,” the FAC replied. He was in an A-7K orbiting over the battlefield. Ivan and Franz had nearly taken the town of Lipan, but he could see First Cav just north of the town, waiting....then he could also see 3rd ACR to the east, waiting to pounce like a bobcat onto a mountain goat. “Say aircraft and ordnance, please.”
“Nail, Showroom is three Foxtrot-Twenty-Charlies with one antiradar and two Maverick shots per bird. Full heat, one radar, and full guns for air-to-air.”
“Roger, Showroom. Be advised the threat is both regimental and divisional level. We have Zulu-Sierra-Uniform-Two-threes and Three-zero in the area. Missile threat is MANPADS, Gaskin, Gopher, and Gadfly,” the FAC told him. That meant shoulder-fired missiles and the SA-9, -13, and-11 vehicle mounted SAMs, with SA-11 being the most deadly.
In his F-20, Clancy thought for a moment, then radioed his flight. “Time to go in. Take your Shrike shots, then pick out targets for Rifle.” That meant Mavericks. “Then we boogie out of here.”
“Copy,” Pruitt replied.
“Roger that,” Prada said.
“Copy Nail, Showroom Flight in hot,” Clancy said to the FAC.
“Well, you wanted to see how they'd go in combat,” Goalie reminded Guru as 512 orbited. They were now third in line.
“Yeah,” he replied. “Be careful of what you wish for.....”
The F-20s went in, and “Magnum” calls came over the radio. One of their Shrikes “went dumb” and never found a target, but two of them did. However, it was the same SA-11 vehicle, but the two Shrikes were enough to explode it. That alone was enough to force the SA-11 crews to shut down their radars, for they didn't know if there were more antiradar missile carriers around. They had been told about Shrike, HARM, and a new English missile called ALARM, but lectures and book learning had been one thing. Real combat, now.....something else.
“Missiles are down,” Pruitt called.
“Roger that, Two,” Clancy said. “Take your Rifle shots.” He picked out a ZSU-30-2 and fired, calling “Rifle!” over the radio as he did so. The Maverick tracked down the target and exploded it. He banked away, then turned in again and picked out another. “Rifle again.” Clancy fired his second Maverick, killing the second ZSU, then he turned north for I-20. “Lead off target.”
In his ZSU-30-2, Senior Sergeant Lupenko was exultant. A 2S6 commander, he had scored highly on the range back in Estonia as the 188th Guards Regiment's best AA gunner, and now, finally in combat, he was showing these Yankees what he could do. His vehicle had shot down an A-7 and an F-4 with gunfire, and had also damaged an A-10, while he had also killed an AH-1 helicopter with a missile. With his battery commander dead earlier in the day from what might have been Imperialist tank fire, he was now in command. He was scanning his radar screen when a shout came over the radio, from another gun in the battery. What the....Suddenly, he and his crew were engulfed in flames as they were hit. None of the crew had a chance to scream.
“Two's in!' Pruitt called. He came in, and picked out another ZSU-30, killing it, then he spotted an SA-13 vehicle. He targeted it, fired his second Maverick, then he pulled away, leaving flares in his wake as the SA-13 launcher fired. The Maverick exploded the launcher, and as he turned, Pruitt saw the SA-13 track down one of his flares. Not your day, Ivan....then he followed his flight lead for the I-20. “Two's off.”
“Three's in hot!” Prada radioed. She rolled in, and to her, it was just like at Wichita, with what looked like a whole Motor-rifle Division on the move and in the open. Unlike Kansas, there were rolling hills, but that made no difference. She scanned for air-defense vehicles, and spotted a couple. One was a ZSU-23-4, and she locked it up and fired. “Rifle!” Prada turned away, surprised she wasn't taking fire, but then again, they were out of range of the gun threats, and Weasel call signs were coming back on the radio, and those guys would keep the Gadflies away. She found another ZSU-30, and knew these were what they came for. This one looked like it had a recovery vehicle next to it. Stuck, maybe? No matter. Prada locked it up and fired, calling “Rifle!” After she took the shot, killing both with one, she, too, turned north for the I-20. “Three's off target,” Prada called as she egressed.
Three out and in, Clancy thought as he headed north. “Nail, Showroom, how'd we do?”
“Showroom, Nail,” the FAC replied. “I give you guys a Four-decimal-zero. Nice work, fella. Maybe we can see you guys again.”
“See what we can do,” Clancy said. “We are outbound at this time.”
“Looks like those guys are mighty useful,” Guru observed.
“I'll second that,” Goalie said. They were now waiting their turn to go in. A Marine Hornet flight and a four-ship of A-10s had gone in after the F-20s, and Corvette Flight was next.
“Guess we'll be buying for them tonight,” Kara added. “We're next up?”
“Looks that way,” Guru replied. Then Tampa came on the line.
“Corvette Lead, Tampa. Contact Nail Five-three for tasking.”
“Roger that, Tampa,” He contacted the FAC. “Nail Five-three, Corvette Lead.”
The FAC replied at once. Man, those F-20s were good, he thought as his pilot orbited. “Corvette, Nail. Say aircraft and ordnance loadout, please.”
“Nail, Corvette Flight is six Foxtrot-Four Echoes with full air-to-air. and twelve Mark-eight-two Snakeyes each airplane.”
“Roger, Corvette,” Nail came back. “Your target is mixed tanks and APCs, estimated regimental strength, near the intersection of F.M. 4 and F.M. 112.”
Guru checked his map, a JOG graphic much more detailed than a TPC chart. “Copy, Nail. Can you have friendlies take out any air defense assets down there?”
“That's affirmative, Corvette,” Nail replied. “Be advised those Tigersharks did good on that as well.”
“Not taking chances, Nail,” Guru told the FAC. “One run, south to north.”
“Your call, Corvette,” Nail said. “Marking the target area.” The A-7K rolled in and fired several rockets, which erupted in WP on impact. 'There's your target.”
Guru saw the WP smoke. 'Roger that. Flight, Lead. Music on, switches on, and time to go to work.”
He turned on his ECM pod, then asked Goalie “Switches set?”
“All set back here. We're good to go.” She picked up her visual scanning, searching for any SAMs, AAA, bandit fast-movers or helos.
“Keep your eyes peeled,” Guru told his GIB. He began his run-in.
Below, the 188th Guards Motor-rifle Regiment, 144th Guards Motor-rifle Division, had taken a beating. Not just from the Yankees on the ground, but from the air as well. The Regimental Commander had been killed an hour earlier by an F-4, and the rest of the Regimental command element was either dead or wounded as a result, for the attacking aircraft had showered the command vehicles with cluster bombs. Now, the former commander of the First Battalion was now in command, and after a quick conversation by radio with the divisional commander, he knew his mission. Get to the F.M. 112-F.M. 4 intersection, then dig in and hold it until further orders. Despite his regiment's losses, the Lieutenant Colonel was confident in his soldiers and the mission. Though he had heard about the dreadful events at Wichita and after, the man was confident that the effects of the new training program the division had prior to deploying would be felt here. Sitting in the commander's seat of his BTR-60 command vehicle, he picked up his canteen and had just sipped some water when his chief of staff called on the radio.
The Lieutenant Colonel stuck his head out of the hatch, and saw the man standing in his own APC, pointing south. Smoke trails approaching. How they had come in was no matter. He grabbed his radio mike. “AIR ATTACK! DISPERSE!”
Just to the east, the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, was watching the Soviets. They were waiting for the order to counterattack into Ivan's right flank, and had given the East Germans a drubbing a few days earlier. Major Monica Vansen stood up in her M-1 tank, took off her CVC helmet, and put on her Stetson. Her squadron had taught the East Germans a lesson, and was ready to do the same to this Soviet division-newly arrived if the Regimental S-2 shop was on the ball. She noticed an Air Force ground FAC coming over. “What's up, Captain?” She asked the man.
“Ma'am,” the FAC replied. “Nail asks that your people take out any ground based air defense you see. The fast-movers got hit pretty hard last couple of hours.”
Major Vansen nodded. She had seen that for herself. And every Ivan or Franz the tac air took out was one less her boys and girls would have to fight. “Will do, Captain. You tell your friends in the air we'll get 'em for you.” She then relayed the order to her troop commanders. Right away, M-1 tanks began searching out and engaging targets.
In 512, Guru called, “Lead's in hot!” as he rolled in. He went down from 5,000 feet, pulling up and wings level at 700 feet AGL, perfect for a Snakeye drop. Guru saw fireballs erupting on the ground, and he hoped the FAC had gotten through to the Army. It looked like it, for no gun or missile radars were up on his EW display. But there were tracers coming up, probably machine guns and small-arms fire, and the proverbial “Golden BB” was always a concern. Someone even shot what looked to be an SA-7 type missile at him, but it was head on, and the missile didn't guide. He picked out a cluster of APCs with a few tanks and selected them as his target. “Steady.....steady.....” More tracers came up as the defenders realized what was coming. Not today.....”And...HACK!” Guru hit his pickle button, releasing a dozen Mark-82 five-hundred pound bombs onto the Russians below. He then put his throttles to full military power, knowing that heat-seeking missiles loved afterburner plumes, and headed north. '”Lead's off safe.”
“DAMN!” Shouted the Lieutenant Colonel as Guru's F-4 flew past his improvised regimental command group, and released its bombs onto the Third Battalion. He saw a T-72B tank flipped onto its side, while BTR-70 APCs were tossed around like toys. Some of the bombs, it appeared, exploded a meter or so above ground, showering fragments in all directions, and one of those exploded in the midst of the battalion's mortar battery, blowing the mortarmen apart. The Colonel looked around, and saw a soldier from Second Battalion launch a shoulder-fired missile, but the Strela-3 (SA-14) missed its target. He glanced around to the south, looking for more aircraft, for American aircraft didn't come in alone. Sure enough, another smoke trail was coming in.
“SHACK!” Goalie called from 512's back seat.
“Secondaries?” Guru asked as he jinked to avoid any possible flak or missiles. He wasn't taking any chances with those guns-and he assumed there were some still around.
She had eyeballs to their rear, and grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “Got a couple.”
“That'll be enough,” replied Guru as he got clear of the FEBA and headed for I-20.
“Two's in!” Kara called out as she went down on her bomb run. She, too, noted the absence of threats on her EW display, and hoped either the F-20s, or the Army, had gotten rid of those guns. Kara saw where the CO had planted his bombs, and decided to lay hers down to the left. She spotted the crossroads, and noticed tanks and APCs there. Fair enough. As she approached bomb release, tracers from machine guns as well as small-arms fire increased, but she ignored it, concentrating on the bomb run. “Steady...And....And.....HACK!” Kara released her bombs and right away, began jinking to avoid any flak. She picked up her flight leader's smoke trail and followed it. “Two's off safe.”
In his APC, the Colonel scowled again as Kara's F-4 flew right overhead. He ducked back inside, expecting a rain of bombs to follow, but the bombs didn't land around his BTR. Instead, the explosions were to his front, and he saw through a periscope the bombs going off in the midst of Second Battalion's position, seeing a BTR-70 being tossed into the air, and bodies flying like rags in the wind. The Colonel poked his head out of the hatch to get a better view, and saw several APCs and tanks burning. He was about to order his driver to proceed to Second Battalion when another call came in over his earpiece. More enemy aircraft coming in. He ordered his driver to drive at random, hoping none of the American aircraft would choose his vehicle as a target.
“GOOD HITS!” Brainiac shouted from 520's back seat. “We've got secondaries!”
“How many?” Kara wanted to know. She was still jinking to avoid possible flak and missiles.
“I'll take 'em.” she said as she picked up a visual on the CO's bird and followed him out.
“Three's in hot!” That was Sweaty's call as she followed Kara in. As she came down, she noticed a clutch of trucks and what looked like towed guns. Were those regimental artillery? You'll do, she thought as she lined them up in her pipper. Sweaty took a quick look around, and saw none of the large tracers encountered earlier coming up, and hoped the ZSU threat had been taken care of, for those 30-mm guns were dammed deadly. Though none of those were coming up, there were plenty of machine gun tracers and small-arms fire coming up, and even a couple of shoulder-fired missiles, aimed head-on. The missiles flashed by, and Sweaty lined up the guns-a battery's worth, she thought-in her pipper. “And...And...And....NOW!” She hit the pickle button, releasing her bombs, and a dozen Snakeyes fell onto the artillery battery. Sweaty then went to full military and headed north, jinking as she did so to avoid any flak or missiles coming her way. As she cleared the area, she called, “Three off target.”
The Colonel heard Sweaty's plane fly over, and the sound of bombs going off to his rear. Just then, he heard his artillery commander go off the air, and knew right away what had happened. The Colonel managed to contact the sole surviving battery, finding out the artillery battalion commander had been with Second Battery, and it had been hit by an air strike. He ordered the battery commander to rally the survivors, and ordered all units to continue their missions. Then his air-defense commander came on the line. More aircraft coming in.....
“We got secondaries!” Shouted Preacher.
“Good ones?” Sweaty asked as she jinked to avoid possible flak. None of those big tracers were coming, she was glad to see. She jinked right, then banked left, and saw a shoulder-fired missile fly a hundred feet above her cockpit. Then she turned north for I-20.
“Big and righteous! I think you hit some ammo trucks.”
“Four in hot!” Hoser called as he saw Sweaty pulling away. He saw his element lead's bombs going off, and the secondaries, and decided those chumps had gotten their just desserts. Hoser came on in, and saw some trucks moving north on a local road, and those had to be a supply convoy coming in. Well, then....Hoser lined them up in his pipper and counted down, ignoring the machine-gun fire coming up and even a MANPADS. “Steady....And....HACK!” Hoser hit his pickle button, and a dozen Mark-82s came off the racks. He, too, went to full military, and headed north, jinking as he did so. “Four's off target.”
“What the...” the Colonel asked as he saw Hoser's F-4 fly by, and bombs going off in his wake. Who was there for an Imperialist aircraft to hit? Then he remembered. That local road was his regiment's main supply route, and to the east of that were some East Germans who had been shot up earlier, and tasked with flank security. Suddenly concerned with his fuel and ammunition supply, the Colonel contacted his rear command post, and ordered his Regiment's Rear-Services commander to sort that out and get back to him urgently. For he knew the Yankees would be reacting to his regiment's presence, and soon.
“SHACK!” KT yelled over the IC.
“Good hits?” Hoser asked as he jinked. Good thing, too, for he saw a shoulder-fired missile come up and fly beneath the aircraft. He and KT had been shot down once already, and landing in the middle of angry Russians would not be a good thing, he knew.
“Big ones! You got some fuel or ammo trucks!”
Hearing that, Hoser smiled beneath his oxygen mask. “Their lucky day.” He picked up his element lead and followed her out to the I-20.
Dave Golen was next. “Five's in!” He called as he went down on his bomb run. As he did, he noticed some more tanks and APCs west of the intersection. All right, Ivan....he thought as he came in. Just as the others did, he encountered machine gun and small-arms fire, but, thank God, none of those large tracers. Had those young pups in the F-20s gotten those guns? No matter. Dave lined up the APCs in his pipper and counted down. “Steady...and...NOW!” He hit his pickle button, sending a dozen more Mark-82s onto the Russians below. He, too, jinked after bomb release, avoiding any possible flak, and headed north. “Five off target.”
The Colonel had gotten out of his APC and was talking with his acting Chief of Staff, who had been the Deputy Chief of Staff until the Regiment's command group had been hit. While the Regiment had finally reached its objective, the American aircraft were still coming in. A shout from a junior officer alerted them to another aircraft coming in, and the two officers jumped into a small ditch. The F-4 flew by, and released its bombs to their front. The Colonel stuck his head above the ditch and saw the clouds of smoke and dust, and the smoke from burning vehicles. That had been First Battalion's position, his old command. He ran for his APC, intending to get in contact with First Battalion's acting commander when the Chief grabbed him and pulled him back into the ditch. A quick glance upwards and to the south told him why. Another Yankee F-4 was coming in.
“GOOD HITS” Golen's backseater shouted.
“How good?” Dave wanted to know. He was jinking still, the better to avoid any flak. No missiles came up, he was glad to see, but neither he or his backseater saw a SA-14 fly past their tail.
“Real good,” the backseater replied.
“They'll do.” Dave then headed north.
“Six is in hot!” Flossy called. She saw Dave Golen's bombs going off, and started scanning for someplace to deposit her bombs. Then she saw where the CO had laid his, and decided they would do. Several APCs and tanks were still moving around, and she thought, Who wants to die next?' Ignoring the machine gun and small-arms fire coming up, she picked out the APCs and lined them up in her pipper. “Steady...Steady....And....And... HACK!” Flossy hit the pickle button, releasing her bombs. She, too, began jinking to avoid flak and any MANPADS as she headed north. “Six off target,” Flossy called.
In the ditch, the Colonel saw Flossy's F-4 fly right overhead. Again, he expected a rain of bombs to follow, but to his surprise, there wasn't. But the F-4 put its bombs up forward, and after the last bomb went off, he got up out of the ditch to take a look. Third Battalion's position was covered in smoke and flame again, and he saw a BTR-70 on its side, while a T-72B tank had taken a near hit and was burning fiercely. Then the onboard ammunition exploded, sending the tank turret flying into the air. The Colonel told the Chief of Staff to get things sorted out here, while he went forward to the battalions. For he expected that after these air strikes were over, the Yankees would come on the ground, and he wanted his regiment ready to fight.
“SHACK!” Jang called. “You got secondaries!”
“How good?” Flossy asked. She was still jinking, and was glad to see none of those big tracers anywhere. She saw what looked like an SA-7 come up, only to detonate harmlessly behind their aircraft.
“Really good,” Jang replied.
“Their lucky day,” Flossy grinned as she headed north.
To the East, Major Vansen and her Squadron had watched the Air Force do its job. Now, they noticed the East German flank guard slacking off, trying to play catch-up. Those guys had been battered earlier, and now they were showing it. But now wasn't the time. Regiment was waiting on the Soviets to bring up their divisional reserve, which meant their BMP-equipped regiment and the divisional tank regiment, before taking them in the flank. And up north, past Lipan, a brigade from First Cav was coming down, and going to smash into the two BTR regiments. With luck, and Corps' AH-64s helping them out, these Russians would get a warm welcome to the USA, and wish they were someplace else. If, of course, they didn't feel that way already.....In the meantime, the squadron would continue to harass the enemy, and take opportunity shots as they presented themselves.
In 520, Guru called the FAC. “Nail, Corvette Lead. You have a Bomb Damage Assessment?”
“Corvette, Nail. I give you guys a four-decimal-zero. All ordnance on target. Nice work, fella.”
“Roger that, Nail, and thank you. Corvette Flight is outbound.”
“Six in and out,” Goalie said. “Everybody's off target.”
Guru nodded, then glanced to his right. Kara was right there in Combat Spread, with 520 in position. “Starbuck, how'd it go?”
“Good hits, Lead,” Kara replied. “And no sign of those guns.”
“Same here,” Sweaty called as she and Hoser came up.
Then Dave Golen chimed in. “Better than I expected, Lead.”
“I'll take that any day,” Guru said. “Let's get to the tankers.”
Corvette Flight joined up on the tankers, and after drinking enough fuel, headed back to Sheppard. When they got into the pattern, there were two flights ahead of them, one being the Ops Officer's, the other Marines. After they landed, the crews noticed activity around the F-20s. And what appeared to be both General Olds and General Yeager congratulating the pilots, with the TV crew also in attendance. “Well, at least General Yeager didn't fly this time,” Guru said. “Notice I said, this time.”
“Yeah,” Goalie replied. “Still think he's going to find a way around that 'No Combat' order?”
“Do I?” Guru shot back. “I'd bet money on it.”
“You and me both. Don't tell Kara, though. She'd probably start a pool.”
Guru taxied 512 into its revetment. After getting the “Shut down” signal from his Crew Chief, he shut down the engines and then he and Goalie went through the post-flight. They then popped their canopies and stood up in the cockpit. “Five and done,” Guru said, wiping his forehead.
“One more?” Goalie asked as the ground crew brought the crew ladder.
“You just answered your own question,” the CO said as he climbed down. He gestured to the front of the revetment, where ordnance people were waiting. They had bomb carts with TER and MER racks already preloaded with Rockeye CBUs.
After she got down, Goalie shrugged. “Had to ask.”
“Major, how's my bird?” Sergeant Crowley asked. He did a quick scan for any obvious damage.
“No damage, Sergeant, and she's still truckin'. Get Five-Twelve ready, because we've got time for one more,” Major Wiser said. “The sooner we get ready, the sooner we get it over with.”
“You got it, Major!” Crowley said. “All right, people! Let's get the CO's bird ready for one more.”
As the two crewmates headed to the front of the revetment, they not only found the ordnance people waiting, but Kara and Brainiac as well. “Looks like the next one's antiarmor,” Kara observed.
“Yeah,” Sweaty said as the rest of the crews came up. “More tank-busting.”
“That it is,” Dave Golen said. “Now, who sent those F-20s?”
Major Wiser nodded. “That, Dave, is a very good question.”
“Boss,” Flossy said. “One thing to keep in mind if you're in the mood to chew their asses.”
The CO turned to her. “And that is?” He asked politely, though privately, he was fuming at the F-20s showing up. The last thing he wanted was a nasty call from Sundown Cunningham, followed by packing cold-weather gear for Goose Bay or Loring.
“They probably saved our asses. Think about it, Major. F-20s plus Maverick equal no guns.”
“She's right,” Sweaty pointed out, and several others nodded.
Major Wiser nodded. “Well, I'm not arguing with success, but I don't want to explain to Sundown Cunningham or the Chief of Staff why the F-20s were on a combat mission when they're supposed to be on a demo tour. Not to mention what may happen if General Yeager goes into combat.”
“Which is in violation of a directive from the Chief of Staff,” Mark Ellis said as he came up. “I heard the F-20s on the radio, Boss. What got into their minds?”
“I was about to ask you the same question.” The CO looked at his Exec, and the Exec could tell that his squadron commander wasn't too pleased. “What happened?”
“I talked to Sin Licon as we were being debriefed. He went and had a talk with Clancy and Pruitt, as you told him. They gave him some ideas for counters, and he's off, typing them up. Next thing he knows is that the F-20s are being armed and fueled, and the crews are gearing up.”
Guru nodded. “Who authorized the mission?”
“Colonel Brady. And we're likely going to buy drinks for them tonight. They're claiming six of those gun vehicles and at least one SA-11 track destroyed,” the Exec said.
“Looks like we're buying for those guys tonight,” Kara observed. “Even if they look a little young.”
“Down, girl,” Guru said. “Okay, who told Yeager not to fly? Colonel Brady?”
Ellis shook his head. “No, it was Prada. Her F-20D is in for a hundred-hour check, and she reminded General Yeager of the no-combat order. He told her to borrow his bird, while he cleared the mission with Colonel Brady.”
There was a sigh of relief from the CO. “Okay, then. I'll talk with General Olds and the two of us will have to talk to General Cunningham and explain things if necessary. Now, you going back out?”
“In twenty. Don's going back in forty-five, and you in an hour.”
Guru nodded. “All right. Good luck, and I'll see you when I get back.”
The XO nodded back, then went to brief with his flight.
“Well, now,” Goalie asked. “Satisfied?”
Guru thought for a moment, then smiled. “For now, but I'm still dreading what may happen if he does go into combat.”
“Not much choice if he's up and MiGs come calling or they come across a recon flight,” Hoser pointed out.
Sweaty nodded. “He's right about that,” she reminded the CO.
“No arguing that,” Guru said. “Okay, the directive doesn't say anything about self-defense, so if they are jumped, they have no choice, and if the MiGs escorting a recon flight turn on them....they can't decline combat.”
“One way of putting it,” Dave Golen said. “Even if the escorts do not engage, they can say that there was no choice in going after the reconnaissance plane.”
“Just as we would do,” Flossy added.
“Just as we would,” Guru confirmed. “Okay, I'm not arguing with success, and that goes for the rest of us, right?” He saw his flight nod approval. “Let's just hope their appetite has been satisfied for one day, and they're not hungry for any more for a day or so.”
“Be careful,” Preacher said. “They may be hungry for more.”
“We'll cross that bridge when and if it comes,” Guru said. “All right, we're back up in an hour, so mission brief in forty-five. We need to debrief. Then you all check your desks and clear any paperwork, get something to eat and drink, because we're back at it.”
Kara nodded. “You heard him.”
With that, the flight went to the squadron office to get the debrief out of the way, and the CO definitely wanted to find out just who-and what-the F-20s had killed that afternoon.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
And another....and Goalie has a reunion with a former AF Academy Classmate who got away from Laughlin AFB (right near the Mexican Border) on Invasion Day:
335th TFS HQ, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1515 Hours Central War Time:
Major Matt Wiser went into the squadron office after getting out of his flight gear. He was looking for the the SIO, and found Capt. Darren “Sin” Licon coming out of his own office. “Sin,” the CO said. “I need to talk before the debrief.” He saw the expression on the Intel Officer's face. “And no, it's not to chew your ass. My office. Right now.”
“Yes, sir.” Licon said. He knew what was likely on the CO's mind. Namely, how had the F-20s shown up when they really weren't supposed to be in combat.
The CO nodded, then led him to his office. His Staff Sergeant Secretary nodded at the CO, and he said, “No calls, please.”
Major Wiser led his intel into the office and had him close the door. “All right, Darren. You talked to the F-20 guys? Mark tells me you did.”
“I did, Major, and asked them their advice. They have run into these guns before at Wichita and during PRAIRIE FIRE. They gave me three options.” Licon handed his CO a sheet. “Here's their advice on counters.”
Major Wiser took the sheet and scanned it. As he did, he let out a sigh. “Options one and two-letting the Army take them out, or do Maverick shots, those are good. But the third one-going in low with CBUs or unguided rockets? That sounds like a short road to suicide.”
“That was my thought, Boss,” Sin replied. “But they did suggest it.”
“Okay. Now....” the CO pointed a finger at his Intel. “Who suggested the mission?”
“Boss, I have no idea. I sure as hell didn't ask them to go. I left Clancy and Pruitt in that little office, and next thing I know, they're turning the F-20s over for combat.”
Major Wiser paused for a minute. “So....it was their idea, looks like.” It wasn't a question.
“It was, Boss. I talked to General Yeager after they left. General Olds, too. And it was Prada who reminded General Yeager of the no-combat order.” Licon told his CO.
“Colonel Brady authorized the mission?” Asked the Major. “That's what Mark said.”
“He did. And he was glad that General Yeager wasn't going.”
“Good. Because I do NOT want to hear from Sundown Cunningham, the Chief of Staff, General Dugan, or both, about me letting General Yeager fly an unauthorized mission.” Major Wiser said. And by the tone of voice, the Intel knew his CO was not a happy camper at that.
“Understood, Major. It's Frank we went packing for colder climes, not you.” Licon nodded.
“Smart boy,” Major Wiser nodded. “One other thing. It never occurred to anybody to go over to me-and I was preflighting Five-Twelve, mind-and let me know the F-20s were going out?”
“Sorry, sir. We, uh, were kind of excited, and well, with the chance General Yeager would go out..”
Major Wiser nodded again. “Say no more, and if I was a junior officer again, I'd probably be just as excited.” How long had it been since he'd been a brand-new First Lieutenant? Two years or two lifetimes, it seemed. “I'm not arguing with their success. Just don't like the fact I wasn't told before I left they were getting ready to go out.”
“Understood, sir.” Licon replied. He was glad that the CO was understanding, though he did know the CO had not been in a good mood a few minutes earlier.
“Good,” the Major said. “Have you debriefed the F-20 guys yet?”
“All right, then.” Major Wiser nodded. “You can talk to them, but after you get my flight out of the way.”
Licon smiled. “Yes, sir.”
“Then let's get it over with.”
In the classroom the CO's flight used as a briefing room, the rest of the flight was waiting, along with a guest: General Olds was there, talking with the crews, and he was getting an account of the day's happenings. When he called General Tanner, Olds fully intended to let him know about those guns, and see if the EW boys had an idea when the RWRs could be tweaked. Because right now, the only warning the F-4 crews had about those guns was the tracers coming up, and it might be too late.
The door opened, and the CO came in, followed by the Intel. “People,” Guru said. “Oops, sorry, General. Didn't expect to see you here.”
“Wanted to hear from you people firsthand,” Olds said. “I'll be talking to General Tanner, and he'll know about those guns. Supposedly, some are being tested at Nellis, but nothing's been passed down yet.”
“Well, sir,” Major Wiser said. “Hope you don't mind pulling up a chair. Before we get started, I'll say this, right now: Chances are pretty good probably half of us are alive because of those F-20 guys. Sin hasn't talked to them yet officially, but they're claiming six guns or SAM vehicles, and a pair of SA-11 tracks.” He paused, and saw the reaction of the crews. They were still surprised, even though the XO had told them after they landed. “So, we're buying for them tonight. Then Kara can fleece them,” and everyone laughed. “Let's get with it.”
They ran through the debrief, and Sin was taking notes. The fact that no one reported the basketball-sized tracers coming up was more proof that the F-20 guys had done what they said they did. “No missiles?”
“Other than shoulder-fired ones?” Sweaty asked. “No.” And heads nodded in the affirmative.
“Any fast-movers or choppers?”
“Didn't see any where we were,” Hoser said.
Dave Golen nodded. “I'll go along with that. Where are they?”
“Good question, Major,” General Olds said. “Intel?”
Sin shook his head. “Nothing definite, sir. They're out there, that we do know. Just be advised you can run into them anytime.”
Heads nodded at that. “Okay, Darren. Anything else?” Guru asked.
“Just be on the alert, sir, for those guns. Not much you can do until your EW systems get tweaked to pick up those radars. And I do have recommended counters.”
“And those are?” General Olds wanted to know.
“General, everyone,” Licon said. “First, get the FAC to have the Army go after them with tank or TOW fire. Their armor doesn't stand up to that kind of firepower. It may be on a tank chassis, but doesn't have tank armor.”
The CO nodded. “Noted, Darren. What's the next one?” He knew already, but for the flight's and the General's benefit, he asked again.
“The next suggestion is to do standoff shots with Maverick. The Maverick C and D-which we have, by the way, do outrange the 30-mm cannon, and probably the missiles, too, but that last bit of info is not definite. Still no word from China Lake on the missile tests, and I do have a query in to MAG-11's Intel people about that. After today, everybody's going to want more on those.”
“No kidding,” Kara replied. “Not every day we see a squadron CO go down, and two others in his flight with him.” She was referring to the loss of VMFA-134's CO and two other F-4s in his flight.
“I'll second that,” Sweaty said. “Any other advice?”
“Their third recommended counter is going in low, with either unguided rockets or CBUs, and taking them by surprise. The downside is, you guys are going in too low, and you're vulnerable to small-arms fire as well as machine guns and shoulder-fired missiles. And the guns you're going after,” Licon replied. “I may not be a pilot, but that's one piece of advice I wouldn't follow.”
Major Wiser looked at his intel, then shot a glance at General Olds. Both made eye contact, and nodded. “Then we'll ignore that one, as of now,” Guru said. “Anything else, Darren?”
“No, sir,” the Intel replied. “I'll talk to the F-20 guys.”
“Do that, and one more thing.”
“Boss,” the Intel asked.
“Let me know if they're going back out, or if they're planning to,” Guru told his Intel Officer. “Finding out they were in the air with us was a surprise.”
“General?” Major Wiser asked General Olds. “Anything to add?”
“No, Major, other than I agree with getting rid of the third option. That's a recipe for increasing your loss rate,” Olds replied.
“I agree, sir.” The CO looked at his flight. “All right, check your desks, get some food, because we're going back out in forty-five,” he told his crews.
After the debrief broke up, Major Wiser ran into his Ops Officer. “Don,” he nodded.
“Boss,” Van Loan said. “Got some good news. The two birds from Japan are in the pattern.”
That was good news, the CO knew. That would bring the squadron up to twenty-two aircraft. “Let's go see,” he told Van Loan. “Any change in us not keeping the crews?”
“No, and they would have told us,” the Ops Officer reminded him.
Guru sighed. Well, he had enough extra pilots and WSOs to form two new crews. “Then Kara gets to fleece them tonight.”
“They may be old friends,” Van Loan told his boss. “If they are, they know her tricks.”
A few minutes later, Guru, Goalie, Van Loan, and Sweaty were at the squadron's dispersal area, watching as the two new F-4s taxied in. One thing caught their eye at once: the paint job. “Euro One?” Guru asked. “When did that come down?”
“No idea,” Van Loan admitted. “Well have to ask.” One other thing occurred to the Ops Officer. “You going to see if any of 'em want to transfer?”
“It has occurred to me.”
When the CO and the others got to the two new aircraft, they found the crews talking with Capt. Kevin O'Donnell, the Squadron Maintenance Officer. “Kev,” Guru said. “These our new birds?”
“They are,” O'Donnell replied. “Here's the forms.” He added, handing the CO a clipboard with the forms that he would have to sign.
Guru scanned the forms, remembering a saying he'd learned as a History Major. “Be careful of what you sign. Just ask Neville Chamberlain.” He nodded, then signed for the aircraft. “Looks good to me. TIESO, AGM-65, ARN-101, updated EW systems?”
“That they have, sir,” the senior pilot, a captain, said. “Paul Brown, Major.”
“Captain,” Guru said. “You guys know why these two are in Euro One? Thought those birds went to the Pacific Northwest.”
“Major, two SEA birds went up there yesterday,” a female Captain with pilot's wings said. “They were ready before these two, and so...”
Guru nodded. “So they got sent up there, and we got birds originally meant for somebody else,” he said. He regarded the two pilots and their GIBs, who were male. “How long you all on the Ferry Run?”
“Got two months left,” the female pilot, whose nametag read Corinne Cassidy. “Then we go to the replacement pool.”
Goalie had been looking over one of the new birds when she heard that voice. It was familiar. “Corinne? Long time, no see!” She went over and hugged the newcomer. “Long time since Graduation Day.”
“Guess you two know each other,” Guru said. “Academy?”
Cassidy smiled. “Class of '82, Major. She went to Nav and C-130s, and I got flight and an IP slot at Laughlin.”
Goalie returned the smile. “Not just a classmate, but roomie,” Goalie said. “How'd you get out of Laughlin on Invasion Day?”
“That'd be worth hearing,” said Sweaty. “Another Day One perspective.”
“It would,” said Guru, ever the history major. “Okay, two things: first, you guys know you're going to have to RON?”
All four newcomers nodded. “We did pack, Major,” Brown said.
“And second, at the Club tonight? You'll see two Air Force legends, because both Robin Olds and Chuck Yeager are on base. And I take it since you are on the Ferry Run, you are familiar with one Kara Thrace? She's in my squadron, so be warned.”
All four nodded, then Captain Brown said, “We're well aware of her. Lost some money to her at one time or another.”
“And the beach party,” Cassidy added.
“You were there?” Goalie asked her old roommate.
“Fourteen-fifteen of us. All pissed off we weren't flying combat, so we had to blow off steam somehow.”
Guru winced. He had heard from Kara, slightly, mind, just how crazy that three-day weekend was. “How crazy was it, or do I want to know?”
“Major, do the words 'Multiple partner crazy' ring any bells?” Captain Cassidy asked.
“Say no more,” Guru said. “Don? Show our guests where they can flake out overnight, and then to the Club. You guys have one advantage over us in that regard.”
“What's that, Major?” Brown asked.
“Twelve-hour doesn't apply to you.”
As the CO and the other two went back to the squadron office, Goalie asked, “You want to recruit them for the squadron?”
“Might be a good idea,” Sweaty added. “We can use new talent.”
“I'll talk with Tenth Air Force,” Guru said. “And Chief Ross. He knows people in Officer Detailing.”
“Corinne's a good girl,” Goalie said. “I'd like to know how she got away from Laughlin on Day One.”
Guru nodded. “You're not the only one. Let's ask her tonight.”
When they got back to the office, General Olds was coming out. “Major, got some news for you, from General Tanner. Thought you'd like to hear it.”
“General, that may just make my day,” Major Wiser said. “What does he have for us?”
“Well, first of all, you people are definitely getting new Sparrows. First shipment of Fs arrives in a week. Earliest they can get here,” Olds said, and he could see grins on the faces of the Major and his people. “Best he can do.”
“Sir, that's great. Finally we'll have a BVR weapon that works,” Major Wiser smiled. “Well, most of the time.”
Goalie smiled as well. “Good to know, sir,”
“It is that,” Olds replied. “Second, you're getting some more -119 ECM pods. Enough to equip the rest of your squadron. Keep the old ones, though.”
“We'll do that, sir.” Major Wiser nodded. “Does General Tanner have any other news?”
“Just that your EW systems will be tweaked, and tech-reps will be coming to do that, but it's still two weeks away, minimum,” Olds said. He nodded at Goalie and Sweaty. “I need to talk to your CO for a moment.” Both nodded, sketched salutes, then went back into the building. “Major. I informed General Tanner of your mission proposal.”
Guru nodded. He and Goalie had been doing some planning for a mission that they hoped would give Ivan's Su-24 force a rude surprise. “Sir, what was General Tanner's response?”
General Olds grinned. “He'd like to hear from you and your GIB, Major,” Olds said. “Once those RAF guys get here and settled in, don't be surprised if you get a call to head to Nellis and brief him personally. Both of you.”
'Yes, sir,” Guru said. A trip to Nellis and a likely roomful of brass? If that's what it takes to get mission approval....
“All right,” Olds nodded. “You've got a mission coming, so you'd best get going. Good luck, and bring everyone back, Major.”
“Yes, sir, and thank you. Do my best on that last part.”
“All you can do, Major.”
Major Wiser went back into the office, and found both Goalie and Sweaty waiting. “Well?” Goalie asked.
“The two of us may be going to Nellis in a few weeks. Tanner wants a brief on that mission we've been planning,” Guru told his GIB.
“After the RAF comes and gets settled in.” Guru said. He then checked the wall clock. 1545. Then the Exec came by, and in full flight gear. “Mark, getting set to go?”
“Yeah, and in case you're wondering? The F-20 guys are as well. They're turning their birds around right now.”
Lovely, the CO thought. “Colonel Brady authorize the mission?”
“I did, Major,” a voice came from behind him. It was the MAG-11 Commander. “Don't worry, Major. General Yeager's not going this time. If he was, I wouldn't authorize the mission.”
“Colonel, if you don't mind my saying this, but thank you,” Guru said. “Last thing any of us need is General Yeager going into combat.”
Colonel Brady nodded. “You're not the only one thinking that. NAF Argentia in Newfoundland is not good this time of year. Anyway, I'm getting ready to go back out myself. Today's been an 'all-hands' effort.”
“It sure has, Colonel.”
Brady looked at him. “You be careful, Major. Already lost one CO today. Don't want to lose another.”
“Will do, sir,” Guru replied.
Brady left the building, and Ellis turned to his CO. “Got to get going myself.”
“Okay, Mark. What are the F-20 guys going out with?”
“Two Sidewinders, one Sparrow-M, and full guns air-to-air, then two Mavericks and one Shrike air-to-ground, plus a centerline bag,” Ellis replied. That meant a centerline fuel tank.
Guru nodded. “All right. Whatever they drink in the Club? We're buying tonight because they saved a bunch of our asses today.” He paused. “Mark? Good luck, and be careful. Don't want to break in Don as Exec.”
“You too, Boss. Not ready to be CO just yet.”
Both shook hands. “Remember those counters for those guns,” Guru reminded his Exec.
“Will do,” Ellis said. Then he headed out.
Guru and Goalie then headed to the Ops Office, and found Don Van Loan wrapping up his paperwork. “Boss,” Van Loan said. “Getting ready to go.”
“You're out when?”
“In fifteen,” the Ops Officer replied. “Your birds will be ready in twenty.”
“All right. You be careful out there. Darren tell you about the counters for those guns?” The CO asked.
“Okay,” Guru nodded. He looked around, and saw Kara wasn't in the office. “You be careful, now. Still don't want to break in Kara as Ops Officer. Yet.”
The Ops Officer laughed. “And I'm not ready to be Exec. Will do, Boss.”
“Have a good one, and good luck.”
“You too, Boss.” Van Loan shook hands with the CO, then wen to inform his flight it was time to get ready.
Guru turned to his GIB. “Find Kara and everyone else. Tell everybody to get whatever they want inside their stomach and something to drink.”
“When are we going?” Goalie asked.
Guru said, “When our birds are ready. As soon as they're finished eating? We gear up.”
“Got you.” She headed off to round everyone up.
“Sweaty?” Guru nodded at his second element lead. “Find Sin and see if MAG-11's intel people gave him anything new.”
Sweaty nodded. “On my way.”
A few minutes later, Guru went to the locker room to gear up. When he came out, he found Goalie there, waiting, ready to go. “All set?”
“Last one of the day, and maybe we can show those young pups a thing or two,” she replied.
“Now you're talking.”
Pilot and GIB went outside, and found Sweaty coming over from the F-20 people at a run. She was geared up and ready, but had gone to find the Intel Officer. “Anything?” The CO asked.
“Boss, found Sin. He was with the F-20 guys. Nothing new on the guns, he said.”
“Had to ask, though,” Guru nodded. “Nothing we can do about that.”
They went to the dispersal area, and 512's revetment. They found the rest of the flight there, all geared up and ready. “People, last one of the day.”
“Anything new on those guns?” Kara asked.
“Nada. So....either the Army takes them out, or...”
“Or what?” Hoser asked.
The CO looked at Hoser. “Or Yeager's people do. They're getting ready to go out again.”
“What?” KT spat. “Those guys again?”
“Yep, and remember,” the CO told his people. “They saved our asses out there today, so keep that in mind. And by the looks of it, they know what they're doing.”
“Can't argue with that,” Dave Golen said.
“No. Okay, usual procedures on the radio, and remember, this may be the last one today, but treat it like it's the first. DO NOT get sloppy, people! I do not want to write any letters today. VMFA-134's new CO is probably busy doing just that, and I don't want to give him company. Comprende?”
Heads nodded. “Loud and clear, Major,” Kara replied.
“Good. Anything else?” Guru asked. He saw heads shake no. “All right: let's go get 'em. Time to hit it.” He clapped his hands.
The crews headed to their aircraft, and Guru and Goalie went to 512. They found it loaded with Rockeye CBUs for another antiarmor run, as expected. “Sergeant,” Guru asked his Crew Chief. “She's ready?”
Sergeant Crowley nodded. “Five-twelve's ready for you, Major. She's locked and cocked,” the crew chief replied. “Sir, if you don't mind my saying? Go out there and kick some Commie ass.”
“Do our best, Sergeant,” the CO replied as he and Goalie did their walk-around, then they mounted the aircraft. As they went through the cockpit preflight, Guru asked his GIB. “We had some F-20 air-to-ground action today. May get some air-to-air.”
“Haven't seen any MiGs or helos all day,” Goalie reminded him. “They may not show. Ejection Seats?”
“You never know,” he replied as he finished up the preflight. “Ejection seat armed top and bottom. Yours?”
“Same here. And you're right about that,” Goalie said. “Preflight checklist complete. We're ready for engine start.”
Guru gave the thumbs-up to his CC, who gave the “Start Engines” signal. First one, then both, J-79 engines were spun up, and as they warmed up, he noticed the Ops Officer's flight taking off. “There goes Don's people.”
“Hope they have a free ride.”
“Same here,” replied the CO. “Tower, Corvette Flight with six, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”
“Corvette Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-three Lima. Hold prior to the active, and you are number two in line.”
“Roger, Tower,” Guru called. He gave the thumbs-up again to Sergeant Crowley, who signaled the ground crew to pull back the landing gear chocks. Then Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal, and Guru taxied 512 out of the revetment. After he cleared it, Crowley gave the CO salute, which both pilot and GIB returned.
Guru taxied to Runway 33W, and ahead of him were a Marine F-4 flight, from VMFA-333, then a flight of Marine Hornets, then it would be their turn. As they waited a C-130 came in to land on 33C, and a Navy A-7 flight went down 33R. Just another busy afternoon, though it was the last flight of the day, it sure didn't look it. Both flights ahead of him went, then it was their turn. He taxied to the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties. Then it was time. “Tower, Corvette Flight requesting taxi for takeoff.”
“Corvette Flight, Tower. Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-seven-zero for eight,” the Controller replied.
“Roger, Tower,” Guru replied. He taxied 512 into position, and Kara taxied 520 in right with him. He glanced over, and both Kara and Brainiac gave a thumbs-up. He and Goalie returned it, then ran through a final check. Time. “Ready?” Guru asked his GIB.
“Ready to rock,” Goalie said. “Canopy coming down.”
Both pilot and GIB pulled down and locked their canopies, and Guru saw that Kara and Brainiac had done the same in 520. “Tower, Corvette Flight requesting clear for takeoff.”
As usual, the Tower responded by flashing a green light. Clear for takeoff.
“Let's go,” Guru said. He ran the engines up to full power, released the brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air, with Kara's 520 right with him. Thirty seconds later, it was the turn of Sweaty and Hoser, and behind them, Dave Golen and Flossy. The flight met up at FL 100, then they headed for the Mineral Wells tanker track.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Any questions, comments, etc. before the next segment gets posted?
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Here's the next installment, and the F-20s go out again.....
Sheppard AFB, TX: 1540 Hours Central War Time:
Captain Darren “Sin” Licon went over from the 335th's offices to the dispersal area and found the F-20 pilots talking not only with the company tech-reps, but also General Yeager. “General,” he said, sketching a salute. “Just talked with the CO. Your guys probably saved his flight's asses this afternoon.”
“Well, now, Captain,” Yeager replied in his West Virginia drawl. “He glad my guys went out?”
“Sir, you could say that. I know what you guys claimed, but I need a debrief.”
“You want to debrief us?” Captain Matt Clancy asked.
“Might as well,” Licon said as General Olds came over. “General?”
“Major Wiser's people are getting ready to go,” Olds replied. He noticed the F-20s being turned around. “And so are your people, looks like.”
“If they're needed, my people will go,” Yeager said. “All right, Captain, what'd you all get?” He asked Clancy.
“We all took shots with Shrike,” Clancy said, and he saw the other two, Pruitt and Quinn, nod. “One went dumb, but the other two must've hit, because the SA-11s all dropped off the EW scope.”
Licon was taking notes. “Then what? You first, Captain,” he asked Clancy.
“Took two Maverick shots after the Shrike,” Clancy answered. “Both of 'em were ZSU-30s.”
“Got one, then took another shot.”
“That one hit,” Pruitt said. “Got one myself, then had a dance with a Gopher.”
“You claiming the Gopher?” Licon asked.
Prada nodded. “He better,” she said. “He got it, but it shot a missile at him. Took one of his flares.”
She nodded, sipped from a bottle of water, then added, “My first shot was a -23. Then found a -30 with a recovery vehicle next to it. Shot the ZSU, and when it blew? May have gotten the recovery vehicle in the fireball.”
Clancy nodded. “That was a hit. Nail gave us a four-decimal-zero, then we got out of there.”
“Okay,” Licon said, checking his notes. “You're claiming four ZSU-30s, a ZSU-23, and an SA-13 launcher, then?”
“That's about it.”
“I'll pass this on to my CO,” Licon said. “You guys saved a bunch of our asses today.” He got up to leave, then headed off to the intel shop.
After the intel left, Clancy nodded. “Only wish we'd gone out sooner.” He looked at Generals Olds and Yeager. “Maybe those Marine crews would still be alive.”
“Can't change that, son, and you know it,” Olds reminded him. He thought for a moment. “You guys going back out again?”
Yeager nodded. “I need to talk with Colonel Brady,” he said. “He's in charge of the flying here.”
He regarded Prada. “If he says yes, you're taking my bird again. Yours isn't finished with the hundred-hour check, and won't be ready until after sunset.” He looked over the F-20s. The Cs were being turned around, while the ground crew was busy with the -D.
“Yes, sir,” Quinn replied. “General Olds, when it's ready, would you like to have a ride in the -D?”
“Mind if I tag along on a mission?” Olds replied. A chance at sneaking a combat mission....even if he did it once, he wanted to see for himself how the new generation was handling combat.
“Her bird, her call,” Yeager said.
“Sir, do you have a no-combat order?” Prada asked General Olds.
“I do,” said Olds.
“Then, sir, no tagging along. But...if you want a check ride in the -D, be my guest.”
“Deal,” Olds said, shaking her hand. He regarded both Clancy and Pruitt. “You guys have done this before.” It wasn't a question.
“After Day three of Wichita and through PRAIRIE FIRE,” Clancy said. “We flew against Third Shock Army. CAS and strike aren't our best options, but in that fracas.....no choice. Did a lot of hunting of those guns and missile tracks.”
“Didn't get to do much else that but that, and just take the odd shot at a ComBloc fast mover or helo,” Pruitt added.
“There was the first day,” Clancy reminded his friend. Not to mention Altus.”
Pruitt nodded. “There was that. That F-16 guy coming over?”
“You mean Masters? No. He's staying with Vipers. Just like a lot of these guys,” Clancy said. “Almost every pilot's a Phantom Phanatic, and forget about the WSOs. Every last one of them's waiting for the F-15E.”
“So are most of the drivers,” General Olds said. “And you guys went where help was needed.” How many pilots had been sacrificed by rushing the 474th-and others like it-into combat when they weren't ready? He wondered about that. Definitely, he'd have a talk with General Tanner, and if necessary, General Dugan, the Chief of Staff, about that. Somebody felt they were combat-ready, and the 474th got fed into a meat grinder. For sure, his old subordinate Sundown Cunningham would probably crunch some balls over that.
“That we did, General,” Clancy said.
“Going back out?”
Just then, Colonel Brady came over, and noticed the F-20s being refueled and rearmed. “Getting ready to head back out?”
“If you'll okay the mission,” General Yeager said.
Brady nodded. “Just wish you'd come to me three hours ago. Maybe Bill Poore and two of his guys would still be alive.” He was referring to the VMFA-134 CO, who had been killed by ZSU-30 earlier that afternoon. “If you're not flying, General, I'll okay the mission.”
“I'll notify MAG-11 Ops and the Tower. Good luck,” Brady said. He then went to the 335th, then he'd mount his own aircraft.
“General?” One of the Northrop tech-reps said. “Birds are ready except for centerline. How do you want it?”
“Clancy?” Yeager asked. “Your call.”
“If I were you,” a voice said. “I'd take the tank.” Heads turned, and Major Frank Carson was there. “Hope you don't mind my overhearing.”
General Yeager looked at the snobby major. “Just get back?”
“Yes, sir,” Carson replied. “Saw an A-10 get shot up, and a Cobra got splashed as well. West of Lipan? It's still hairy.”
“Well?” Yeager asked Clancy.
The flight lead thought for a moment. “We'll take the tanks. Go.”
“Ready in ten,” the tech-rep said, then he went off to see to the centerline tanks being loaded.
“Well, Major?” Yeager asked.
“Looking forward to my ride,” Carson said.
Carson nodded. “Thank you, sir.” He then headed off to the 335th's office.
Prada looked at him as the Major left. “What a snotty asshole,” she remarked. “Glad we don't have anyone like him.”
“What's his deal?” Pruitt asked. He saw the centerline tanks being loaded.
“If you saw what's in his 201 File and Flight Record?” Yeager asked. “You'd know why everyone on this base-and not just the 335th, pretty much hates his guts.”
“Join the club,” Olds said. “General Tanner warned me about him before I got here. Ask around in the Club, and they'll tell you why. The CO and this guy have a history, and they pretty much loathe each other. That's just the start. He's made an ass of himself to just about everyone.”
The three junior officers nodded. “ROTC vs. Academy?” Prada asked. She was AFROTC, University of Maryland.
“Close. Carson's Academy. And the 335th's CO is an OTS grad from prewar days. And speaking of which, I need to sit in on his brief.” Olds said. He shook hands with the three, then said, “Good luck.” Then he headed to the 335th's office.
“When do we go, General?” Clancy asked Yeager.
“When the CO's flight leaves,” Yeager said. “Just like last time. Get something to eat and drink, hit the latrine, then get ready to fly.”
About fifteen minutes later, the F-20 people were ready to go, when they saw the 335th's people heading to their own aircraft. And they recognized the CO and several others. “General,” Pruitt said. “They're heading out to their birds.”
Yeager nodded. “Mount up. Clancy? Bring everybody back, and I do NOT want any holes in my birds. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” Clancy replied.
General Yeager shook hands with the trio, and said, “Good luck.” They then mounted their own aircraft.
Once the preflight was done, and engines started, Clancy called the tower. “Tower, Showroom Flight with three, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”
“Showroom Lead, clear to taxi to Runway Three-three Charlie. Hold prior to the active, and you are number three in line,” the controller replied.
“Roger, tower,” Clancy replied. The three F-20s taxied out, and saw six SEA-painted F-4Es turn, one pair at a time, to Runway 33L, then rumble down the runway and into the air. A Marine Hornet flight was immediately ahead of them, then they taxied to the holding area prior to 33C. There, armorers removed the weapon safeties.
“Tower, Showroom Flight requesting taxi for takeoff.” Clancy called.
The tower replied at once. “Showroom Lead, clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-six-six for five.”
“Roger, Tower.” The three F-20s taxied, with Clancy and Prada leading Pruitt, then the lead pair was on the runway. “Tower, Showroom Flight requesting clear for takeoff.”
As usual, the Tower flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff. The first pair rumbled down the runway and into the air, and thirty seconds later, Pruitt's bird followed, bringing up the rear. All three meet up at FL 100, then headed for the tanker track over Mineral Wells.
Over Central Texas: 1625 Hours Central War Time:
Corvette Flight was orbiting in the holding pattern at 12,000 feet, and, as usual, were waiting to be passed off to a FAC. They had been handed off to Tampa, the EC-130E, by AWACS, and, as they orbited, had a bird's-eye view of the battle below. As the crews orbited, they watched as fireballs erupted on the ground and, on occasion, in the air. And as was usual, there was no way to tell whose they were. Just that everyone hoped it was Ivan taking the brunt of the casualties, both in the air and on the ground.
Major Wiser glanced around, and saw FACs orbiting, and occasionally marking targets, while off to the west, Weasels were orbiting, waiting for SAMs to come up, and the occasional “Magnum” call signaling a anti-radar missile launch came over the radio. The CO glanced to the west, and saw the sun getting lower and lower. “They'd better hurry up,” he said over the IC.
“You sound just like Kara,” Goalie replied. Then she, too, glanced to the west. “And they'd better.” Though they were trained for night strikes, the 335th's crews could count the number of night missions they had flown on one hand.
“Lead, Three,” Sweaty called. “Anything?”
“Not yet,” Guru replied. “Stand by one.” He switched over and called Tampa. “Tampa, Corvette Lead. Any tasking for us?”
“Negative,” the controller replied. “Descend to Flight Level One-One-zero and continue to hold.”
“Roger, Tampa,” Guru called back. He got back on the squadron frequency. “Follow me down to Eleven Grand.” He led the flight down to FL 110, and they kept orbiting. “Can't stay here all day, fella,” he muttered.
“Hurry up and wait,” Goalie added.
Just then, the F-20s came in. “Tampa, Showroom Flight with three checking in,” Clancy called.
“Oh, shit,” Guru said. “I knew it.”
“Hear that, Lead?” Kara said.
“I heard, Two.”
Aboard the EC-130, the TacCo and the senior controller looked at each other. The F-20s again? They had been notified that the F-20s might be coming back. The TacCo nodded at the Controller. “Showroom, Tampa. You guys have Magnum loaded?”
“Showroom Lead, Tampa. That's affirmative,” Clancy replied. “One shot, and two Rifle shots each bird. One radar, two heat, and full guns each.”
“Roger, Showroom. You go to the front of the line, fella. Contact Nail Five-one for tasking.”
“Showroom, Corvette,” Guru called the F-20s. “Rocket Man with you?” He knew it wasn't likely, but he had to check anyway. Visions of Goose Bay or Loring suddenly came to mind.
“Corvette, Showroom,” Clancy replied. 'That's a negative. Time for us to go to work. See you back at Home Plate.”
“Still afraid Yeager's going to go into combat?” Goalie asked.
“I am,” said Guru.
Below, the 144th Guards Motor-rifle Division was in a fight. In his command post, the Divisional Commander, Major General Sergei Lopatin, knew it, and realized he was in for it. He turned to the senior officer next to him, who had come over from 4th Guards Tank Army to have a look. “Comrade General....”
“I don't like this,” Colonel General Pioytr Suryakin replied. “You're in for it,” the commanding general of 4th Guards Tank Army replied. “Be prepared to pull back on my order.”
“Comrade General, my orders put me under the East Germans' command,”Lopatin reminded the general.
“I'll clear it with Front Headquarters,” Suryakin told him, and he shot an icy glare at the East German liaison officer in the divisional command post, who seemed to wilt under that glare.
“Comrade Generals,” the division's air-defense commander said as he came over. “More aircraft coming in.”
“Nail Five-one, Showroom,” Clancy called the FAC.
“Showroom, Nail,” the FAC replied. He was orbiting in an A-7K, and had taken the place of one of his best friends, who had been killed by one of those ZSU-30s earlier that afternoon. “Say aircraft and type of ordnance, please.”
“Nail, Showroom Flight is three Foxtrot-Twenty Charlies. We have one Magnum and two Rifle shots each, and one radar, two heat, and full guns each airplane.”
If he could, the FAC would exchange glances with his pilot. F-20s? Those guys had shown up earlier and had probably kept who knew how many from buying a farm in the sky? Too bad they hadn't been around when those Marines flew into a buzz saw. “Copy Showroom. Your target is mixed tanks and APCs with air-defense assets. Threat is divisional level, and be advised fast-movers and helos are in the area. Both friendly and enemy.”
“Roget, Nail,” Clancy replied.
“You're cleared in, Showroom,” Nail called. He silently added, Get some.
“Flight, Lead,” Clancy called. “Let's go in. Take your Magnum shot, then Rifle. Then we bust ass out of here.” He called up his Shrike, and picked up not only SA-11, but also SA-4 signals. Those meant Army, and that would be East Germans. The SA-4s were out of range, but not the -11s. Clancy fired. “Magnum!” he called. Right after that, his two wingmates did the same. Once again, a Shrike went dumb-whose, they didn't know, because right after launching, the F-20s turned away. Only one found a target this time, an SA-11 track, but it was enough, for the others all shut down. Then they rolled in for their Maverick shots.
“Looks like they're doing good,” Goalie said from 512's back seat.
In the front seat, Guru nodded. He took a look at the EW repeater, and saw that all the missile and gun warnings had dropped off. “Remember, we're buying for them tonight.” Then Tampa called. Drop to 9,000. That meant two more were ahead of them before it would be Corvette Flight's turn.
“Showroom Lead in hot!” Clancy rolled in for his Maverick shots. He noticed a full motor-rifle regiment on the move, coming up towards Lipan. Clancy called up Maverick, then scanned the area with the seeker, looking for any air-defense assets. He found an SA-13 vehicle, then fired. “Rifle!” He called. Then he called up his second missile, and found one of the guns. “Rifle again!” He took the second shot, seeing the first missile find its mark, shortly followed by the second. “Lead off target,” Clancy radioed as he turned north.
“Two's in!” Prada called as she went in on her run. She, too, scanned for targets for her Mavericks, and found two of what they were looking for. “Rife!” She called, sending her first Maverick after a ZSU-30, then Prada repeated the call after locking up the second vehicle and launched. As she turned away, Prada followed both missile trails visually, and saw both targets fireball as the missiles scored. “Two is off target.”
“Three's in hot!” Pruitt called as he came down. He, too, was looking for any gun or missile launchers he could find. He, too, used his Maverick to scan for targets, and it wasn't long before he found what he was looking for. Pruitt locked up a ZSU-30 and launched. “Rifle!” he called, then he banked around and called up his second Maverick. This time, he didn't see a gun or SAM vehicle, but did pick out a BTR-type APC with some funny antennas. That might be a regimental command vehicle or a FAC's vehicle, he knew from past experience, and those were definitely worth killing. Pruitt locked it up and fired. “Rifle!” Then he turned away, and saw a pair of fireballs on the ground as the missiles scored. “Three's off target,” was his call as he turned for the I-20.
“Showroom, Nail,” the FAC called. “I give you a four-decimal-zero. Nice work, fella.”
“Thanks, Nail. Showroom Flight is outbound at this time.” Clancy said.
“Well, now..” Guru said as he led the flight down to 8,000 feet. One more flight was now ahead of Corvette, then it would be their turn.
“Those things have their uses,” Goalie added.
“They do,” the CO admitted.
“Corvette Lead, Tampa. Contact Nail Five-one for tasking,” the EC-130 controller called.
“Roger, Tampa,” replied Guru. “Nail Five-one, Corvette Lead.”
“Corvette, Nail Five-one. Say aircraft type and ordnance load, please,” the FAC asked him.
“Nail, Corvette Flight is six Foxtrot-Four Echoes with twelve Rockeyes each bird, plus two radar, four heat, and full gun each airplane,” Guru told the FAC.
“Copy that, Corvette,” Nail replied. “We have a regimental-sized force moving north, towards the F.M. 4-F.M. 112 junction. The Army wants you to help make some of 'em go away.”
“Roger, Nail. Can you have the ground-pounders take out any air defense assets they see?”
“Can do, Corvette. Will mark the target.” The A-7K rolled in, ignoring some flak coming up, and fired several WP rockets, then it pulled up. “That's your target.”
“Nail, Corvette Lead copies. Can give you one run, south to north,” Guru told the FAC.
“Your call, Corvette,” Nail replied.
Guru clipped on his oxygen mask, then he called the flight. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, music on, and time to go get 'em.”
“Roger, Lead,” Kara replied, and the rest of the flight followed suit.
“Ready?” Guru asked his GIB.
“Switches set,” Goalie said. “Everything in one go.”
The CO grinned beneath his oxygen mask. “Good girl.” Then he looked down below. The tanks and BMPs were there, and the occasional fireball meant they were taking fire from the Army. Good. Maybe the treadheads took out the ZSUs the F-20s missed. Then it was time. “Flight, Lead. Follow me in.”
Below, the commander of the 482nd Motor-Rifle Regiment was not a happy man. Instead of moving ahead to exploit, along with the 228th Tank Regiment, the divisional commander had ordered him to move in and assist the 188th MRR. No matter, his BMP-2s and T-72Bs would be superior to any M-113s and M-60s his men encountered, and if they met the American paratroopers reportedly in the area? His regiment would run over them. Though many of the rank and file were Estonians, reservists from Tallinn, most of his officers were not. The regiment's junior officers-nearly all the Platoon Commanders and many of the company commanders, were fresh from their officer training, but his battalion commanders had experience, though that was in Afghanistan, and certainly not in America. Still, his regiment had done well in its predeployment training, but he knew the big unknown was how his regiment would perform under fire. Now he was seeing the results of their training. So far, so good, but the Americans to the east were taking pot shots at his regiment, and they were accurate, for two of his 2S6 air-defense vehicles had been hit and knocked out, and two more disabled, along with several tanks and BMPs, but no matter. The 482nd would accomplish the mission it had been given. Suddenly, the regimental air-defense battalion commander came on over the command net. “Air attack warning-South!”
The Colonel opened the hatch of his command BTR and looked in that direction. Sure enough, smoke trails were coming down on his regiment. Where had the Yankee aircraft come from? And where was the Air Force? “AIR ATTACK! DISPERSE!” The Colonel shouted into his throat mike.
“Lead in hot!” Guru called as he rolled in. The gun and missile warnings were off on his EW display, but optically guided flak or heat-seeking missiles were still a threat. At least there were no basketball-sized tracers coming up, and that meant ZSU-30s.....Guru picked up a regimental-sized force heading north, and that was the target. Tanks and BMPs, and artillery right behind them. Dealer's choice, so he picked out some armor in the middle, and selected them. Ignoring the flak coming up, along with a couple of missiles-which looked like SA-7 type MANPADS, he lined them up in his pipper. “Steady....Steady...and....HACK!” Guru hit his pickle button, releasing his twelve CBUs down onto the armor below. He pulled wings level and pulled away, jinking as he did so. “Lead's off safe,” the CO called.
Below, the Colonel watched as Guru's F-4 flew over his regiment, and cursed-and cursed loudly-when the F-4 released its bombs, and CBU bomblets fell onto his First Battalion's BMPs. Several of the vehicles took CBU hits and exploded, while several others fell out of line and were damaged. The Colonel was on the radio to his air-defense commander demanding to know where the 2S6s and Strela-3 launchers were, when one of the former took fire-from where, he didn't know-and exploded. Someone was shooting at them, and he had no idea where. The Colonel ordered his regimental reconnaissance company to his flank, to find the enemy to the regiment's flank. He was still giving orders when a second F-4 came in.
“GOOD HITS!” Goalie shouted from 512's back seat. “We got secondaries!”
Guru nodded as he jinked to avoid flak. Off to his left, there were some of those basketball-sized tracers, but they were wide of the mark. “How many?”
“Some,” she replied.
“Good enough,” Guru replied as he maintained his jinking and headed for the I-20.
Kara rolled in on her run. “Two's in!” she called. She, too, had some flak coming up, but it, too, was unguided as her EW repeater was blank. Good, those F-20s are good for something, she thought. As she came in, she saw the CO's bird pulling away, and where his CBUs had gone off. Kara saw some APCs and tanks behind that, and decided they had to go away. As she came in, more tracers came up, and so did a missile-a small one-but she ignored it and concentrated on the run. “Steady....and...HACK!” Kara hit the pickle button, sending a dozen Mark-20 Rockeyes down on the Russians. She pulled up and away, jinking as she did so, called out, “Two's off safe.”
“Of all the...” the Colonel muttered as Kara's F-4 flew overhead. It, too, released its ordnance, and CBUs showered down on the trailing elements of First Battalion. Several BMPs and even a couple of T-72Bs took CBU hits and fireballed, Several soldiers from the battalion's air-defense platoon got out of their BMPs and fired their Strela-3 (SA-14) missiles, but they failed to score as the F-4 flew away. Cursing again, he got on the radio, demanding to know where the fire from the right was coming from, but suddenly his radio was filled with static, and he knew why. Jamming.
“SHACK!” Brainiac yelled in 520's rear seat.
“Secondaries?” Kara wanted to know. She, too, saw some large tracers, but easily avoided them on this occasion. Then a missile, what kind she didn't know, flew past the right side, and another flew past them beneath the aircraft.
“I'll take that,” she replied as she picked up the CO's smoke trail and headed north, jinking as she did so.
“Three's in hot!” Sweaty made the call as she came in on her bomb run. Once again, tracers came up, but she ignored them as she chose her targets. There were some tanks down there, alone, with no APCs, and those needed killing. Sweaty came down, lining some tanks up in her pipper, and as she did, more tracers came up. No matter. “Steady....and...and....NOW!” She hit her pickle button, and Rockeye CBUs rained down on the armor. Sweaty pulled wings level, and headed north. “Three's off target.”
“NYET!” Shouted the Colonel as Sweaty's Phantom flew past his position, and released its bombs. This time, the attackers had picked out his tank battalion, and though it was in full battle formation, enough CBUs rained down to catch a company's worth of tanks, and several of them took hits to their thin top armor, which exploded their fuel or their ammunition. Others were disabled, and fell out of formation. Where were the air-defense people?” He got onto the radio again and managed to find his air-defense commander. No response. What the....
“GOOD HITS!” Preacher shouted as Sweaty pulled away.
“How good?” She asked, jinking as she headed north, not noticing a missile that flew beneath the aircraft, but she did see the tracers coming up and falling short.
The ex-Seminary student grinned beneath his oxygen mask. “Righteous ones!”
“Good enough for me,” Sweaty replied. She was still jinking as she beat a path to the I-20.
“Four's in hot!” Hoser called as he rolled in. He saw where his element leader had unloaded, and as he came down, saw what looked like SP howitzers, the ones called SAU-122s. One battery looked like it was setting up to fire, and he decided to give them a Rockeye wake-up. Hoser, too, ignored the flak coming up, and even what looked like an SA-13 came at him, but it didn't track. More of those basketball-sized tracers came up as well, but they were falling short, as his EW repeater was dark. Nice try, Ivan....Hoser lined up the battery in his pipper. “Steady....Steady...and...and...NOW!” He hit the pickle button, and sent his dozen Rockeyes down on the artillerymen below. He pulled wings level and began jinking as he cleared the area. “Four off target,” Hoser called.
Explosions behind him caught the Colonel's attention, as did Hoser's F-4, as it flew by. He called his artillery battalion commander, and the news was obvious. Second Battery had been hit, damage unknown, but several guns and command vehicles knocked out. Two secondary explosions followed as it looked like ammunition trucks had also gone up-literally. The Colonel shook his head. He knew what the divisional commander and intelligence officer had told him about American air power, but the Colonel had faith not just in his own air-defense people, but also their Air Force comrades, who, he was sure, would control the skies. Where was the Air Force?. The Colonel was on the radio again, trying to get in touch with the Divisional Commander, not noticing more American aircraft coming in.
“Five in hot!” Dave Golen called out as he rolled in. He saw where those ahead of him had laid down their ordnance, and noticed some armor ahead and to the right. To him, it looked like a battalion that had not yet been attacked, and thus was worthy of attention. Golen, too, saw the flak coming up and ignored it, though the SA-13 that came his way and didn't track certainly caught his attention, for it flew by his left side by about fifty feet. He lined up the APCs in his pipper. “Steady....and....NOW!” Golen hit his pickle button, sending his Rockeyes down onto the armor. He pulled level and applied power, jinking as he headed north. “Five off target.”
“NYET!” The Colonel shouted as Dave's F-4 made its run. This time, the attacking aircraft hit the Third Battalion, and once again, CBU bomblets rained down on his men. Several BMP-2s took hits and immediately became fireballs, while several others were damaged. Again, several soldiers from the air-defense platoon did fire their Strela-3 shoulder-fired missiles, but their efforts were for naught, as none of the missiles tracked the target. He glanced around, and when he looked to the south, he saw another American aircraft coming in. Not again....
“SHACK!” Golen's backseater called. “We got some!”
“How many secondaries?” Golen asked as he jinked to avoid the unguided flak coming up.
'Got a few,” the backseater replied.
“I'll take that.” With that remark, Golen headed north, hoping to pick up the rest of the flight.
“Six is in hot!” Flossy called as she went down on her run. As she came down, Flossy ignored the flak coming her way. At least it wasn't guided, she thought, taking a quick look at her EW repeater. She picked out some more tanks and APCs, and as she got closer, decided they were hers. More tracers came up, even a few of the big ones, but she paid them no heed. Centering some APCs in the pipper, she lined them up. “And...Steady....And....And....HACK!” Flossy hit the pickle button, and sent her Rockeyes down onto the Russians. She pulled up and away, jinking as she did, and after a missile passed about fifty feet overhead, she called, “Six is off safe.”
“Sookin sin!” The Colonel yelled. Son of a bitch. Of all the....he saw Flossy's F-4 fly right overhead and lay its cluster bombs onto Second Battalion. More BMPs and tanks were caught in the hail of bomblets, and several of them died, going up in fireballs as CBU bomblets found their mark. What else could go wrong today? That thought was at the Colonel's mind as he came up to Second Battalion's position to rally the survivors. He sent his Zampolit over towards First Battalion to do the same, though they hadn't been hit as hard, and grimaced as the Party hack's BMP suddenly exploded, apparently after running over a CBU bomblet.....oh, well. No great loss. Then his reconnaissance company got on the line. M-1s and APCs to their right, and the tanks were engaging the reconnaissance vehicles, then his company commander's voice stopped in a burst of static....and the divisional commander was now on the line, his Chief of Staff said.....
“GOOD HITS!” Jang called from 1569's back seat. “Got some secondaries!”
“How good?” Flossy asked as she jinked to avoid the flak and any missiles. What looked like an SA-7 flew past her port wing, and another flew right overhead, only twenty feet above her canopy. Way too close for comfort....
“Several good fireballs,” Jang told her frontseater.
“I'll take those,” Flossy said as she headed for the I-20 and the FLOT.
“Nail, Corvette Lead. How'd we do?” Guru asked.
“Corvette Lead, Nail. Good job, fella. I give you a four-decimal-zero. All ordnance on target,” the FAC replied.
“Roger that and thanks.”
“Anytime, Corvette,” Nail called back.
In the back seat, Goalie grinned beneath her mask. “Six in and out.”
“Don't celebrate yet,” Guru reminded her. “Still got a game going.” Looking around, he saw Kara in 520 already with him in Combat Spread. “Two, good to see you.”
“Likewise,” Kara replied.
“Three, where are you?”
“Got you in sight, in your six,” said Sweaty. “Hoser's with me.”
“Roger that,” the CO said. “Five, you and Six there?”
Dave Golen's voice responded immediately. “We've got visual on you, and Six is with me.”
“Copy,” Guru said. He then called the EC-130. “Tampa, Corvette Lead. Six in and out. All ordnance expended, and we are out of here.”
The EC-130 controller replied, “Roger, Corvette. Good work, and maybe we can do this again.”
“Roger that, Tampa,” Guru said. Though hopefully not anytime soon, he said to himself. He'd had enough CAS for a while. And, no doubt, so had the rest of the squadron.
Corvette Flight joined up north of the I-20 and headed for the tankers. After they drank in their post-strike refueling, they headed back to Sheppard. This time, they had to wait as several Marine and Air Force flights were ahead of them, and as it turned out, Corvette Flight was the last one in. After landing, the flight taxied in towards its dispersal, and as usual, the news crew was filming them. “You'd think they've shot enough footage,” Goalie noted.
“Their job,” Guru reminded her. “Speaking of which, our interview should air in a few days.” He then popped his canopy and raised it.
His backseater did the same. “Thought it would be on by now,” Goalie said. “What's taking them so long?”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” the CO said as he taxied 512 into the squadron's dispersal area, then into its revetment. After getting the “Shut down” signal from Sergeant Crowley, he and Goalie did their usual post-flight check, then Guru stood up in the cockpit. “Over and done for the day.”
“Another day, another round of flight pay,” muttered Goalie.
“They pay us for this?” Guru deadpanned as he climbed down from the aircraft.
“Not enough,” Goalie said as she got down from 512 and began a walk-around with her pilot.
After the walk-around, Sergeant Crowley came over. “Major, Lieutenant? How's my bird?” The Crew Chief “owned” the plane, and the crew merely borrowed it, and crew chiefs never forgot to remind crews of that.
“Five-twelve's working like a champ,Sergeant,” Guru said. “No damage, and do what you need to so that she's ready for the morning.”
Crowley nodded. “No bad weather?”
“Sorry,” Guru replied as he took a swig from a bottle of water a ground crew member had handed him. “Nothing due for a few days.”
“Too bad, sir,” said Crowley. “Don't you worry, Major. She'll be ready in the morning.”
“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said.
“All right, people!” Crowley told the ground crew as the CO and GIB headed out of the revetment. “Let's get the Major's bird ready for the morning.”
As Guru and Goalie walked out, she turned to her pilot. “Still want to bump him up in the R&R rotation?”
“Thinking about it,” Guru admitted. “It's the least I can do to thank him. If I have to, I'll make it an order.”
“'Go on R&R, have fun, and oh, by the way, that's an order?'” Goalie asked. “That's new.”
Guru nodded. “Always a first time for everything.”
They got to the revetment's entrance, and found Kara and Brainiac waiting. “Glad that's over?” Kara asked.
“You're not the only one,” Goalie said. “Six runs today, and one thing to be said about Fall.”
“And that is?” Sweaty asked as the rest of the crews arrived.
“Not enough daylight for seven or more.”
Preacher nodded. “For which everyone should be thankful. Now what, Boss?”
“Debrief, check your desks, then head on over to the Club,” the CO said.
Heads nodded at that. Even though they were flying several times a day, everyone still had a secondary ground job. “Too bad the elves don't take care of that while we're out,” Flossy joked.
“You, me, and everybody else wish the same thing,” Guru said. “Kara? The Ferry Crews and the F-20 guys are fair game tonight. The ferry pilots know you, but the GIBs may not.”
Everybody saw the grin on Kara's face. “It'll be a pleasure.”
“Come on. Let's get debriefed.” Guru said. They headed to the squadron office, and all wanted to get the debriefing-and any paperwork-done so they could head over to the Officer's Club and eat. It had been a busy day.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
And the next one:
335th TFS CO's Office, Sheppard AFB, TX; 1700 Hours Central War Time:
Major Matt Wiser was at his desk, going over some paperwork that had accumulated while he'd been off on his last mission of the day. He quickly took care of it, placed it in his OUT box, then glanced at his office clock. 1701? Good. Time to get over to the Club. Then there was a knock on the door. “Yeah? Come on in and show yourself!”
Capt. Mark Ellis, his Exec, came in. “Boss, before you head over to the Club, got a few admin things to take care of.” He handed his CO a clipboard with several papers.
“What have you got?” Guru asked as he scanned the papers. “Aircraft status update?” The CO checked the sheet. “Only twenty? We've got twenty-two birds now.”
“Two are down for hundred-hour checks. Mine, and Frank's.” Ellis replied. “So we'll take the two new ones.”
“Enjoy Euro One,” Guru replied. “What else?”
The XO showed him another paper. “Supply update. The scroungers have a couple of requests for their horse-trading.”
Guru looked at the request. “More canned hams? That I can understand, Mark, but the fruit cocktail? What do they need thirty cases of that for?”
“Don't know, but Ross says the folks they deal with have that on their lists, and if we can give them some of what they want...”
“We have a better shot at getting what's on our list,” The CO finished. “Okay. Oh, tell Ross to hold off on any further deals involving Sparrow missiles. We're getting AIM-7Fs next week.”
“The deal he's got already?” Ellis wanted to know.
“Go ahead. We can use the Sparrows from the Marines in that three-way deal,” Guru said. “And before you ask, General Olds talked with General Tanner. The logjam's been broken, and we'll be ditching our Es for Fs. And we get new ALQ-119 jammer pods.”
“Hello,” Ellis smiled. “Guess somebody put the fear of God into certain people, especially with those ZSU-30s now in-theater.”
The CO nodded. “Guess so.” He scanned another paper. “We're released from CAS, I see. Back on the ATO tomorrow.”
“People'll be cheering when they hear that. CAS is the A-10s' trade.”
“Down, boy. We fill in for them when they're busy elsewhere, or it's an all-hands effort,” Guru reminded his Exec. He checked the next paper. “Weather....storm coming into Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas, we're on the southern fringe of it. No adverse effect on flying, just some high clouds.”
Ellis frowned. “That's a bummer. We could use another stand-down day.”
“We'll get another one sooner or later,” Guru said. He checked the last two papers. “Application for Pararescue School, and another for Airman to Pilot?”
“Yep. Airman Dale Morgan wants to go Pararescue.”
“He does know that if he washes out, he's coming back here?'
The XO nodded. “He does, Boss.”
“Fair enough. Hope he enjoys Hill,” the CO said as he signed his name on the “Approved,” line. Hill AFB in Utah was where the Pararescue School had been reconstituted after being overrun at Kirtland AFB during the early days of the war. “And the Airman to Pilot?”
“Airman First Class Janet Nelson,” Ellis said. “She's one of Don's people.”
Guru went over the application. “Four semesters at Nevada-Reno, still 'undecided' as for major, but she does have the Physics class the review board likes.” He went on. “She's asking nav?”
“She's got 20/30 vision in one eye, 20/20 in another.”
“That'll do it,” Guru said. “She does realize that once she finishes knife-and-fork, then nav, she's got an eight-year commitment to the Air Force?”
“She does, Don said.”
Guru nodded as he approved the application with his signature. “Here you go,” he said, handing the clipboard back to the exec. “Anything else?”
“Yeah, Ross took Airman Kellogg into town this morning. They found what's left of Kellogg's house.”
“Any issues with squatters?” The CO asked.
“Nobody's squatting there, Boss. All that's left is the fireplace and one wall. Along with a burned out BMP in the front yard,” said Ellis. “They did find what he and his dad buried in the backyard, though.”
“Good. What'd they do with the box?”
“Ryan Blanchard has it for safekeeping, until we can find out a way to secure it somewhere until the war's over and he can reclaim it.”
“All right. Anything else?” Guru asked.
“One last thing: Frank formally applied to the F-20 program,” Ellis told the CO. “And we all know where that's headed.”
“Dead-end alley,” Guru nodded. “And when Frank finds out? He'll whine again to Daddy back in Boston.”
“All he can do,” the Exec said.
“His problem,” Guru said. “All right, that's it?”
“All right, then,” Guru said as he got up from behind his desk. “Let's go to the Club.”
Sheppard AFB Officer's Club, 1715 Hours Central War Time:
Guru and his Exec walked into the Club, and found it already buzzing. It didn't take long for the two to find out that the F-20 pilots and their combat sorties that afternoon were the object of discussion. When they got to the bar, they found Goalie and Kara already there. “Ladies,” Guru said. “I see the F-20 jocks are strutting around.”
“They've got every right to,” Kara said. “One of 'em, Pruitt, I think, when he got his drink, said that a bunch of us are alive because of those guys.” She took a drink from a bottle of Budweiser.
“Hate to say this, but they're probably right,” Goalie nodded. She looked at Guru. “You said that earlier.”
“I did,” Guru replied. “And I'm not going to argue with success. The other thing I'm glad about is that General Yeager listened when reminded of the no-combat order.”
A familiar voice spoke up from behind them. “Major, You're not the only one to say that,” It was Colonel Brady. He came up to the bar. “If he'd wanted to fly, no way would I have authorized their going. Simple as that.”
“Glad to hear that, Colonel. You said that earlier, but I'm sure glad you didn't let him go,” Guru said. He motioned to the bartender. “Smitty? Sam Adams for me, and Bud for the XO.”
“Running low on the Sam Adams, Major,” Smitty replied in his Texas twang. He'd been a barkeep in Wichita Falls prewar, and had been one of the first civilians to get a job on base after liberation. “Might want to think on an alternative until we get some more.”
“In that case, Bud for me as well,” Guru said. Smitty put two bottles on the bar, and Guru paid him. Then he turned to Colonel Brady and Goalie, just as General Olds and General Yeager came in, and both were talking. “Wonder what that's about?”
“How they'll both get around the no-combat order?” Kara said, still nearby.
“Don't even say it, Captain,” replied Colonel Brady. The last thing he wanted was a sudden transfer to NAF Argentia in Newfoundland, heading up the Marine Detachment there.
Both generals went to the bar and ordered. After getting their drinks, they came by where the 335th people, and Colonel Brady, were. “Colonel, and Major,” General Olds said. “Enjoying the evening?”
“Looking forward to some of General Yeager's stories from Edwards, back in those days,” replied Brady, and the 335th people nodded agreement.
Yeager nodded. “You'll hear a few. And not just Edwards. Damn near got myself killed testing a MiG-15 a defecting North Korean flew to Kimpo in September, '53.”
“And the movie, General?” Goalie asked. “The Right Stuff?”
“That, and I did some of the flying for the John Wayne movie Jet Pilot,” Yeager said.
“Looking forward to it, sir,” Guru said.
“General,” Brady said. “Thanks for what your people did today. Quite a few of us are probably alive because of your guys in the F-20s.”
Yeager smiled. “Wasn't my idea, Colonel. Clancy and Pruitt-” he nodded in their direction, at a table where AF, Navy, and Marine pilots were waving hands-and still arguing the F-20 versus their respective mounts. “They sold me on it.”
“General,” Guru said. “Just glad that, (a) you weren't flying, and (b), they got some of those guns.”
“Thanks, Major,” Yeager said with a smile. He went off to be with his people, and got into some of the discussions (or arguments) going on.
General Olds watched the goings-on, and observed, “I don't think anyone's mind is going to be changed. Either you're committed to the F-20, or you're happy flying the bird you're in now. Whether it's the F-4, F/A-18, or for the Navy guys, the A-7, it makes no difference.”
“No,sir,” Guru nodded. “And for the record, we've only had one applicant to the F-20 from my squadron. And, sir, I think you know who it is.”
“That snobby major?”
Olds nodded back. 'Well, Major, look at it this way: when he finds out that he's not getting in, he may just have that case of the stupids you can use to kick his ass out of your squadron.”
“Wouldn't mind that at all, General,” Guru said. “Problem is, hope he doesn't get any of his element killed, or any friendlies, for that matter, and when I do kick him out? I'd be inflicting him on a fellow officer who'd be wondering what he's done to deserve the new arrival.”
“Collateral damage, Major,” Olds told the CO. “Can't be helped, especially in situations like this.”
“Yes, sir,” Guru nodded. “Unintended consequences.”
“My thoughts exactly, Major.”
Guru and Goalie then found most of their flight at a table. Then Sweaty came in, with some newspapers. “Got some new ones. USA Today, Stars and Stripes, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Diego Union.”
“Give me the L.A.,” Guru said. “Closest thing to a hometown paper for me.”
Sweaty tossed a paper to her CO, then passed out the rest. “Well, anything new?”
“Says here they're still investigating Proxmire,” Guru said as he handed the Sports section to Hoser. Even with the war, there was still some College sports going on. “FBI's checking on at least one more aide, maybe two.” He was referring to a Senator from Wisconsin who had made no secret of his anti-military views from the 1970s onward, and had also been a critic of NASA. One of his aides had been arrested for suspected ties to the Cuban Embassy in Paris, and the FBI was only beginning its investigation.
“Serves him right,” Cosmo said from a nearby table. “After all that anti-NASA and anti-Science stuff he pulled back in the '70s?”
“Take it easy, girl,” Goalie said. “He was against almost every weapons system we're using now to save the country. We've all got reasons to despise him.” She was checking the local news section, though for her, the Orange County Register was the home paper.
“Steady,” Guru reminded them both. “Whoa...this is hot.”
“What?” Kara asked as she skimmed USA Today.
Guru smiled. “The West German Defense Minister resigned. First of the rats there to go.”
Heads nodded at that. The Neutralist coalition that governed West Germany had kicked out U.S, British, and other Western forces, and had caused NATO's breakup. An event that many in the U.S., Canada, and Britain, felt had directly led to the war, and the attitude of some of the West German press, calling stories of Soviet atrocities in the war zone “Grossly exaggerated,” only fueled anger at the Neutralists. “Hope that starts the ball rolling, now that half of their government got exposed as Stasi or KGB assets.”
Jena Wendt, the Australian reporter attached to the 335th, came in. “I see you guys are seeing our competition. Here's something you may not know. Got the news from Sydney a few minutes ago. Seems the West German Vice-Chancellor got killed earlier today.”
“WHAT?” Several people said at once.
“Run that again, Ms. Wendt,” Guru said. “The Vice-Chancellor of West Germany is dead?”
“That's right, Major. His car was in a traffic collision with a large truck. The reports from Bonn say he didn't want any bodyguards, and all he had was his driver,” Ms. Wendt said.
“Mighty convenient for certain parties,” Kara noted. She'd had some International Relations while at Auburn. “Somebody arranged an 'accident, I'd say.”
Dave Golen nodded. “Okay, the Chancellor got exposed a few days ago as a Stasi asset, right?” He saw heads nod. “The Defense Minister resigned, and now this.”
'Why'd he resign?” General Olds asked. He'd been paying attention to the conversation.
Guru checked the article. “Doesn't say here.”
“What the news from Sydney said,” Ms. Wendt added, “It was a sex scandal.”
Then their RAF Liaison Officer, Flight Lt. Steve “Jack” Lord came in.”Fellows, I just finished listening to the BBC on shortwave. It's more than that. Seems some photos of the chap got sold to Der Speigel.”
“What's that?” KT asked.
“Think Time or Newsweek, now. Or Life back in the '50s and '60s, Lieutenant,” Olds said. “Go on, Flight Lieutenant.”
“Yes,sir,” Lord said. “Anyway, seems the chap in question got involved with underage girls. Several of them.”
Mark Ellis nodded. “And somebody had pictures, sold them, then sat back and watched the fireworks,” he observed.
“Better,” replied Lord. “Speaking of which, they had demonstrations in several West German cities. In Munich? 75,000. Same in Hamburg. Frankfurt and Stuttgart had 40,000. So did Mainz and Nuremberg. All had one demand: the Neutralist Coalition Government's resignation.”
Just then, the Marine mess people came in, with the Wichita Falls restauranteurs who helped run the mess operation as well. “People, we've got grilled ham steak, or Santa Fe Chicken. With all the sides.”
After people got what they wanted, conversation turned back to the news. “Well, that means those Commie-lovers in Bonn are getting what they deserve,” Sweaty noted.
“Not yet,” Dave Golen pointed out. “They can appoint replacements, but it's only a matter of time.”
Lord nodded as he ate. “One other thing, Major. Seems the Bundeswehr, the West German Army, canceled all leaves and was put on some kind of alert. Same thing for the Luftwaffe and the Navy.”
Sin Licon, the 335th's Intel Officer, was with some of his USMC counterparts from MAG-11. “That's another piece of the puzzle,” he said after he took a bite of ham. “If this was some third-world shithole in Africa or Asia, I'd be thinking one word right now.”
“What's that?” Don Van Loan asked.
People looked at each other, and there were smiles all around. Most Americans, along with their British and Canadian allies, blamed the Greens and their cohorts in West Germany for starting the whole chain of events that led to the war. “Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch,” Guru said. “About damned time those Commie-lickers got shown the door.”
“I'll drink to that,” Goalie said, raising her beer bottle.
“You sure, Captain?” Olds asked. “This is Europe, not some shithole in Asia or Africa.”
Colonel Brady nodded agreement. “They don't do coups in Europe, Captain.”
“Sirs, it fits. A week or so ago, their whole government got exposed as KGB or Stasi assets,” Licon said. “Then the protests started. Now they're growing. Then the Defense Minister walks to avoid a sex scandal. Today, the Vice-Chancellor got crunched in his car by a truck. Now the West German military's on some kind of alert. Only one thing to do next: tell the government to take a hike, or the next thing that happens is the Leopard 1s and 2s in the streets.”
There was silence for a minute as people digested that. Then it was Kara who said, “Well, let's hope the Bundeswehr does better than the Valkyrie plotters did in '44.”
“They will,” General Olds said. “They'll do their homework, seems like folks are on their side, and maybe the Neutralists see the handwriting on the wall, and beat feet to their masters in East Berlin.”
Sin Licon nodded. '”Don't think it'll be long. A week, at least. At most? A month.”
“Good riddance,” Flossy said.
As people were eating, The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite came on, and “The Most Trusted Man in America” spoke. “Good evening from Los Angeles. Today, U.S. Forces in Central Arkansas repelled a major Soviet and Cuban attack south of Pine Bluff. Our Bernie Goldberg has a report from the fighting.”
On the TV screen, images of M-1 tanks and M-113 APCs engaging targets, AH-1 Cobras as well as fixed-wing air going in, burning tanks and BTRs, and both Cuban and Soviet prisoners being escorted to the rear. “The Soviets and Cubans tried moving north up from Louisiana and along the Arkansas River,” Goldberg was saying, “But the Army was waiting for them. The unit I'm with, the 42nd “Rainbow” Division from New York, set a surprise for the enemy, and the Soviets and Cubans fell for it.” More images of combat followed, and when a powerfully built Black officer climbed down from an M-1 tank, several sets of eyes widened. But it was Hoser who spoke first.
“Sure do,” Scorpion said. “That's Bo Jackson. Drafted for baseball by the Royals, and football for the L.A. Raiders before the war.”
“How'd he ….?” Cosmo asked.
“I think he was still at Auburn,” Scorpion replied.
“He's probably counting his lucky stars,” Digger said. Bum ankle and all, he was in the Club with everyone else.
“No kidding,” Kara said.
“And, at the end of the day, the Rainbow Division moved forward, trapping a Soviet Motor-rifle Regiment against the Arkansas River and wiping it out,” Goldberg said, his voice over imagery of wrecked T-55 tanks and BTR-60s. “Bernard Goldberg, CBS News, with the Rainbow Division, Southern Arkansas.”
Other reports on the war followed, with one from the 3rd Marine Division in British Columbia, and another from the 40th Infantry Division in West Texas, then things shifted to Philadelphia. “Problems continue to mount for Senator William Proxmire, as another staff member has been taken into custody by the FBI, While Senator Proxmire continues to deny knowledge of staff contacts with the Cuban Embassy in Paris, Senate Minority Leader George Mitchell is very concerned, Senate sources indicate.”
“Bye, bye, Proxcreep,” Cosmo spat.
“Down, girl,” Guru said. “But I'm not arguing with you.”
“Overseas, the investigation into the death of West German Vice-Chancellor Hans Schroder continues, as the Green Party openly blames the CIA, BND, and British Intelligence for his death,” Cronkite said. “Denials have come swiftly from both Philadelphia and London, as more protests continue for a fifth day against the Neutralist Coalition government. Demonstrations have now occurred in a dozen cities in West Germany, this on the heels of the revelation that several members of the West German Cabinet, including the Chancellor himself, have links to the KGB and Stasi. Yesterday's resignation of the Defense Minister only adds to the pressure on the government. Informed sources in Philadelphia and London give the Bonn government's time as 'short' with 'weeks, if not days' as the Neutralist Coalition's hold on office is becoming frail with each day.”
Cheering followed, as people at several tables raised their bottles or glasses in toasts.
Then there was another Charles Kuralt On the Road report, and this one was from several coastal communities in Massachusetts. He started in Gloucester, where the fishing boats went out, as they always did, but as they returned, a Coast Guard patrol boat would hail them, asking if anything unusual had been spotted, or if they had seen any submarine periscopes. A far cry from when fishing boats would see U-Boats off the East Coast in 1942, but still, fishermen reported anything they saw to the Navy or the Coast Guard. Then Kuralt went down to Salem, where he stopped at the office of the city's official witch, who also had a picture of the cruiser U.S.S. Salem on her office wall. She had been at the recommissioning ceremony, and had not only cast a spell to protect the ship and crew, but “I also put a curse on the entire Soviet Navy”, she said. He then met members of a State Beach Patrol, who were checking the coastline for any signs of enemy activity. All were either too old for military service, as several were Vietnam or Korea vets, or were 4-F. One young man, who looked very fit, and carried an M-14 rifle, was almost ashamed to be there. “I tried joining up after Invasion Day, and failed the physical.”
Kuralt was curious, “Why'd you fail?”
“I'm diabetic. I don't need insulin, but have to take four different pills every day,” the young man said. “I can't go into the military, so this is the next best thing, I suppose. I wanted to go, but....”
“And so, this young man found a way to serve. Charles Kuralt, CBS News, On the Road again, Salem, Massachusetts.”
“And that's the way it is, November 10, 1987. For all of us at CBS News, Good Night.”
After that, Colonel Brady stood up. “People, I know you all want to hear from General Yeager tonight, but today is a special day. 10 November, 1775, is the day the Marine Corps was founded, at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. If this was peacetime, we'd be having a unit formal, dinner and dance, and so on. Now, it's wartime.” He waved some Marine mess people in, who brought in several large cakes. “I'd like to have the youngest Marine officer here come up, but first, the guest of honor. He may not be a Marine, but he was not only a World War II ace, but was the fastest man alive not just once, but several times. And he also represents the Air Force people who fly with us. General Yeager? Would you please come up and accept the first slice?”
Yeager stood up. “I'd be honored, Colonel,” he said in his West Virginia drawl. After taking the slice, Brady asked the youngest Marine officer to step forward. A bespectacled young woman with Second Lieutenant's bars came up. After Colonel Brady took a slice, he handed it to her.
“What's that all about?” Ms. Wendt asked. Her cameraman, Scott, was filming the whole thing.
“This is the Marine Corps' birthday,” Kodak Griffith said. “The first slice of that cake goes to the guest of honor. He's not a Marine, but nobody can deny what General Yeager's done.”
“And the second?”
“It goes to the oldest Marine present, in this case, Colonel Brady, then he gives it to the youngest one. It signifies the passage of the Corps' traditions from one generation to the next.”
“People,” Brady continued. “There's several cakes here, enough to give everyone present a slice; Marines, Air Force, Navy, and our guests. Now, I'll be going to the Enlisted Mess, to do the same with the NCOs and enlisted folks, but I'll be back before Twelve-Hour. Because, General,” he nodded at Yeager. “I want to hear some of your stories.”
Yeager grinned. “I'll be here, Colonel.”
“One last thing. Today, we lost Major Bill Poore and two other Marines from VMFA-134. It's just a reminder of the price we've paid so far, and we're going to have to pay, before this is all over.” Heads nodded at that. After a moment of silence, Brady said, “I'll be back. And you all have some fun. That's an order.”
After he left, people got their cake, then Kara went to the pool table. To no one's surprise, one of the F-20 pilots, Pruitt, went to challenge her. Both combatants laid down their money. It didn't take long for Kara's skill to show, for Pruitt found his wallet lightened by $50.00. “Who taught her to play pool?” He grumbled.
“She's been doing this longer than you have, son,” Yeager said. With that, he went over and challenged her to a game. Again, both combatants showed their money, but this time, it was General Yeager whose skills were superior. “All those nights at Pancho's.” He smiled.
Kara shook her head. “That's three generals who've done this. General Tanner did it to me twice, and I still want a rematch with General Olds,” she grumbled.
“I'll try,” Prada said.
“Your money,” Guru warned her.
This time, Kara was superior, and she grinned as Prada paid her after the game. “Good to see I haven't lost my touch.” She said as she worked on her second beer of the night. “Who's next?”
“Clancy?” Yeager said. “You want to have a go?”
The young Captain gulped, took a drink of Mountain Dew, then went over to the pool table. He put down his money, and it didn't take long for Kara to make him regret doing so. “I want my money back,” he muttered.
“Try again tomorrow night, Captain,” Guru said to the F-20 driver. “By the way, thanks for killing those guns today.”
“Just doing our jobs, Major,” Clancy replied.
“Maybe,” Guru nodded. He waved to the barkeep. “Smitty? Another soda for the young pup, and a Bud for his two wingmates.”
“Comin' up, Major,” the barkeep replied. After producing the drinks, Guru paid him.
“Major...” Clancy said.
“It's the least I can do. I don't have to write any letters because of you guys,” Guru said, and Clancy noted the serious tone to his voice. “I'll talk with Chief Ross tomorrow, and see if he can get a case of soda for you-Coke, Pepsi, whatever, and a case of beer each for your wingmates.”
“Major, we just did our jobs,” Clancy protested.
“Captain, I'm still here, and so is half my squadron. Nobody in the 335th is writing any letters to next-of-kin because you and your two pals killed those guns. Keep that in mind.”
“Good,” said Guru. “You have a good rest of the evening, Captain.”
It was 1830 when Colonel Brady returned, and after getting another beer, nodded to General Yeager. “General? If you're ready, the floor is yours.”
“Just a few minutes, Colonel,” Yeager said. He had been talking with one of the ferry pilots who'd brought the two new birds for the 335th. “First, we should hear from Captain Corrine Cassidy. She was at Laughlin AFB down in Texas when the war began, and she's one of a handful of people who escaped from there on Invasion Day.”
Brady nodded. “General, your call,” he said. “Captain?”
Goalie turned to her old friend and Academy roommate. “Showtime, girl.”
Cassidy stood up, brushed back her short brown hair, and said, “Been a long time since I've had to get up and talk like this.” There was some laughter, then she started. “Well, I was a flight instructor down at Laughlin with the 47th Flying Training Wing. Now, prewar, there were refugees crossing from Mexico, saying there were Soviets and Cubans near Piedras Negras, that's just south of the border from Del Rio, and nobody paid much attention. Until a friend of mine saw Hinds flying on their side of the Rio Grande, and not far from the base. That got people's attention. So did reports from the Border Patrol of tanks and APCs south of the border, and I mean within visual range of the Rio Grande.”
“Somebody was asleep,” General Olds noted.
“No arguing that, sir,” Cassidy said. “Anyway, on that day, I was told by my CO to take a T-38 up on a check flight as it had just come out of maintenance. I'm taxiing out, and I hear on the tower frequency they're trying to contact a bunch of choppers that have crossed the border. I'm thinking 'Somebody's made a big navigational error, and they'll head back once they hear the Tower. They clear me for takeoff, and the next thing I see are Su-25s coming in on attack runs.”
“Holy shit...” Brainiac said. “And you with nothing.”
“Yeah,” Cassidy replied as she took a drink from her beer bottle. “The Frogfoots make their runs, then the Hinds, and the next thing I see are the troop carriers. Hips and Hooks.” Hooks were the Mi-6 heavy lift helo. So I did what I could to break them up. Tried going through them like a hawk onto a flock of pigeons.”
Some of the fighter pilots recognized the tactic at once. “So you were trying to knock them down with your jetwash?” T-Bone asked.
“Sure was,” Cassidy nodded. “Might have caused a Hip to run into some power lines, but that's it. I thought about climbing, but knew that if there were Frogfoots around, there'd be MiGs as well. So I headed towards San Antonio, and there were several others following me. T-37s and T-38s. There were a dozen of us all told, and when we got there, there was smoke coming up from Kelly, Brooks, San Antonio International, Fort Sam Houston, and Randolph. We had to put down somewhere, and wound up at Randolph.”
“On fumes?” Kara asked. She remembered her escape from Reese a few days later. She also looked at Cassidy. Where have we seen each other?
Cassidy shook her head. “Not me, but a couple of the other -38s were, and the -37s as well. After we put down, there was mass confusion. Finally found somebody we could report to, a Bird Colonel, who told us to refuel and get north. Altus or Vance. So that's what we did. And when the bug-out from there came? Us T-38 drivers wound up at Salt Lake International.”
“We may have crossed paths there and not known it,” Kara said. “Made a bug-out from Reese when the line in West Texas blew.”
“Maybe. Anyway, wound up at Beale eventually, then Kingsley Field where they wanted me to be an F-4 IP to free up men for combat, then when the law was changed....”
“You got to do it for real,” Goalie said. “Corinne, how'd you wind up on the Ferry Run?”
“One of the instructors wanted a night in bed.” Cassidy replied. “I told him to fuck off, and when I graduated? Opened my orders and found out I was on the ferry run. Turned out the instructor was a friend of that SOB who runs the place, Tigh.”
Heads nodded at that. Nearly everyone there knew Kara's story of “Pissing off a superior asshole.” Flossy asked, “How's the ferry run?”
“Long and boring,” was the reply. “You do build up your formation flying, plenty of instrument time, especially at night or bad weather. And you're always with a tanker for navigation assistance. And right now? I've had enough. Two more months, then I finally get to do what I was trained to do with an F-4.”
“Maybe sooner than that, Captain,” Guru said. He looked at General Olds, who nodded approval. “Don't be surprised one of these days if you check your mail and find transfer orders. Might even be to us.”
“Major, I'll be waiting.” Cassidy grinned.
“General Yeager? Your turn.” Brady nodded in Yeager's direction.
“Well, started out as a private and aircraft mechanic,” Yeager said in his West Virginia drawl. “Pearl Harbor meant I could apply for flight training, I got accepted, and was winged in February of '43. Flew with the 357th Fighter Group, first in P-39s, then when we got to England, P-51s. Got my first German on March 4, then got shot down the next day. Spent some time with the French Resistance before they got me and another evader to Spain.” His eyes focused on Guru. “So I'm not the only one around who's 'been there and done that.'”
“General, you went there well before I did,” Major Wiser replied. “Didn't you have to appeal to Eisenhower to get back into combat?”
“Sure did, with another fella, and since it was after D-Day, he approved it. Got promoted to Lieutenant, then Captain, and while doing that, got ace in a day.”
“How's that?” Ms. Wendt asked. She had her microphone out, and her cameraman was getting this on tape.
“Got behind a Me-109, but before I could shoot, he panicked, and took out his wingman in a midair,” Yeager smiled. “The other three I got the old-fashioned way. By gunning them. Got an Me-262 later on.”
Flossy looked at the General. “How many kills?”
“Eleven and a half, and yeah, before you ask, they did give out half and even third and quarter credits,” replied Yeager.
General Olds smiled. “At least he had proof of his 262 kill. Didn't see mine crash, so....”
“And when my combat tour was over? Came home, got married, and asked to go to Wright Field in Ohio. That's how I got into test flying. Then all that was sent to Muroc, which became Edwards.”
Colonel Brady then stood up. “All right, people! How many here have either read the book The Right Stuff or seen the movie?” Many hands shot up. “General, how accurate was the movie?”
“Pretty close, though there never was an X-1 crash like they showed in the beginning. And yeah, I did do the first supersonic flight with two broken ribs. The X-1 flight? They got it right,” said Yeager.
“And you got a steak dinner at Pancho's,” Guru said. “She really did make that offer?”
“She did, and after my trip? She extended it for anyone who broke a speed record. Scott Crossfield got one for being the first to go Mach 2. Nearly got killed in the X-1A after going Mach 2.44. They got that part right as well. Even had a cameo.”
One of the Marines asked, “Where, General?”
“The guy tending bar at Pancho's?” Yeager grinned. “You're looking at him.”
Goalie turned to Guru. “You have that movie on tape, right?”
“I do. Guess we'll have to rewatch it and look for him,” said Guru.
“Didn't you fly in that John Wayne movie, Jet Pilot?” Asked Kara.
“Sure did,” Yeager replied. “A dog of a movie, but at least I got to meet John Wayne and Janet Leigh,” he grinned.
Don Van Loan then asked, “General, what about the MiG you flew?”
Yeager nodded. “Flew a MiG-15 that a defecting North Korean flew to Kimpo in September, '53. They took it to Okinawa, and I was part of the flight test program. It had some good points, and some bad, and I think you all know what those were.”
Heads nodded again. The F-86 vs. MiG-15 duels were taught in fighter training, still. “Any memorable moments, General?” Mark Ellis asked.
“Nearly got killed in a dive,” Yeager said. “You couldn't control a MiG-15 in a dive, and I only pulled out when it got into denser air. I went to Russia a couple years after I retired, and when I talked to several of their test pilots, I told them about the MiG. They were surprised I was still alive.”
Then Colonel Brady glanced at the clock. “Two minutes to Twelve-hour people! Finish your drinks if you're flying in the morning.”
“One last story before then. I took an NF-104 up to 104,000 feet and got into a flat spin. Bailed out at 11,000 and got burned by the ejection seat's rocket motor. Wasn't my fault,” said General Yeager. “The plane went into the spin from excessive angle of attack and the lack of aircraft response. There wasn't any input into the controls. The engine spooling from the J-79 shut down for the rocket-powered zoom climb phase caused it. Last time I tried setting that kind of record.”
The clock then struck 1900, and one of the Navy flight surgeons rang the bell. “Twelve-Hour now in effect!”
People who were flying in the morning turned in their drinks and switched to something nonalcoholic. Guru went and got a plate of nachos and some Seven-up for himself and Goalie, and when he returned, he was surprised to see General Yeager sitting down with Ms. Wendt and her camera crew. “That's new.”
“General Yeager with a camera crew?” Goalie asked.
“Yeah, he's got....issues with Brits, but Aussies? Don't think so.”
“They'll have to say he's on some kind of tour of the war zone,” Goalie noted. “No mention of the F-20.”
“That's a given.”
Their RAF liaison officer came over. “Major, excuse me, Guru.” Jack Lord nodded. “And Goalie.”
“Jack,” Guru said. “Pull up a chair.”
“Don't mind if I do.” Lord said. “I see the General's getting cozy with the media.”
“You didn't ask any questions,” said Goalie. “What's up with that?”
“They say General Yeager has had....issues with RAF personnel in the past,” Lord said.
“Yeah,” Guru said. “Too many Colonel Blimp or stiff upper lip types, or so the stories go. Don't worry, because by the time your guys get here? Yeager and his people will be gone.”
“Good to know, but in the meantime? That girl F-20 pilot? Prada? I'm going up with her in the morning.”
“Just remember this, Jack,” Guru said. “Ask where the slot in the cockpit is for the quarter.”
The RAF Flight Lieutenant smiled. “I'll have to remember that.”
After Lord went to go and talk with General Olds, Goalie asked, “Isn't Frank getting a ride?”
“Yeah, but General Yeager told me this: that ride he gets will be his first-and last-in an F-20,” Guru told his GIB and lover.
Goalie let out a grin. “Happy day. Or it will be.”
“It will be,” Guru agreed. “But there's this: when Frank gets that letter saying 'Your request to transfer to the F-20 program has been carefully reviewed. However.....' no telling how he'll react.”
Goalie nodded. “You're right. Holy....he'll get a case of the stupids, and who knows what'll happen?”
“Don't even want to think about it.”
Time marched on, and it was soon 2100. “Aircrew Curfew now in effect!” Doc Waters announced. With that, those who were on the morning's flight schedule headed off to their tents, and that included the F-20 people. For the 335th and their Marine and Navy colleagues, another day, another ATO. For the F-20 pilots, their first real day of demonstrations was on the agenda.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Here's another, and a tribute to the late Chuck Berry:
335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX; 11 November, 1987. 0530 Hours Central War Time:
Major Matt Wiser came into the squadron's office, and heard the familiar voice of Wolman Jack on the radio. When he came in, he noticed Hacksaw, the Night-Shift SDO, at his desk. “Hacksaw,” he nodded.
“Morning, Major,” the SDO said. He started to rise, but then remembered.
Guru regarded the SDO. “You do know we've got two new birds. Since we didn't get replacement crews....”
“Looking forward to that, Major,” Hacksaw grinned. With new birds, that meant getting a permanent slot as a pilot was highly likely.
“Good,” the CO said. “Anything happen overnight?”
“Not much,” Hacksaw said. He motioned to the CO's office. “Exec's waiting for you.”
Guru noticed Capt. Mark Ellis there, waiting. “Thanks. And what's been on the radio overnight?”
“Well, Boss, he was going back to 1976 for a while. Not quite Kasey Kasem, but he's been doing the 'Top Ten', say, July, for the past few nights.”
“So, what was number one in July?” The CO asked, “Just out of curiosity.”
“You remember Afternoon Delight?” Hacksaw replied. “If you were old enough, you knew what they were singing about.....”
“Do I,” Guru nodded. “Well, eleven years or eleven lifetimes ago. Things were different then.”
“Okay, well, happy listening.”
Guru then went and talked to some of the night-shift admin folks, then went to his office. “Mark,” he nodded as he came in. “What's up this fine morning?”
“Morning, Boss,” the XO replied, handing the CO a cup of hot chocolate. “Got a few things for you before breakfast.” Ellis had a clipboard in hand.
Guru nodded and took the cup. He had a sip, then said, “All right, what have you got?”
“Aircraft Status Report. Still twenty for the morning due to two having hundred-hour checks.”
“They're not finished?”
“Just got started, and that'll take most of the day,” Ellis reminded his CO.
“All right,” the CO said as he signed the form. “What's next?”
“Morning Report for both MAG-11 and Tenth Air Force.”
Major Wiser scanned the reports, then signed them. “Okay, that's done. What else?”
“General Yeager and his people went to the Early-Bird breakfast. They're getting their F-20s ready for their demo runs. And I do know who's going up first,” Ellis said.
“Let me guess: Frank,” Guru said. It wasn't a question.
“You got it,” the XO replied. “At least that's being taken care of first thing.”
“Good. Because that's all he'll get out of the F-20,” Guru reminded his Exec. “Who else is going up today?”
“Colonel Brady, for one. Just to get a feel for the -20, and maybe see if it'll be good as an Aggressor postwar, he said. “I'm going in the afternoon, and guess who else has a check ride?”
“General Olds,” Guru commented. “That's a no-brainer. Tell me, though: who is flying him on his check ride?”
Ellis checked his notes. “Prada.”
“Good. Because we don't need General Olds and General Yeager in the same bird. Not to mention either of those two young pups taking General Olds on his ride. What we know of those two.....”
“They might give General Olds a trip down to the front lines, because they know he'd appreciate it,” Ellis finished for his CO.
“And I wouldn't,” Guru said. “Okay, Prada will stay away from the shooting, unlike those two. Next?”
“Weather report,” Ellis handed his CO the paper. “Getting a little cool and a little cloudy, but...”
“But nothing that'll keep us from flying,” said Guru. He sighed. “Anything else?”
“Supply requisitions,” the XO said. He handed the CO the papers. “You want the scroungers to go after this stuff as well?”
Guru scanned the list. “Brake fluid, hydraulic fluid, radar parts, spare main gear and nose gear tires.....” His eyes widened, then he stared at the Exec. “A couple of spare ejection seats?”
“You'd have to ask Kev O'Donnell about that.” Capt. Kevin O'Donnell was the squadron's Maintenance Officer.
“The way things are, a bad seat means a bird off the schedule until we get one,” Ellis reminded his CO. “Be nice to have one or two spares around, Kev says.”
Guru nodded. “If he says we need a couple? I'm not disagreeing with him. Tell the scroungers the usual: if Supply can't get what we need, they do.”
“Got you, Boss,” said Ellis “Chief Ross says we may have a new PAO.” He handed the CO a paper. “You want her?”
Major Wiser scanned the paper. “With this kind of flight record? Tell Ross to get her here. Now, Kodak Griffith's a good man, but he's a Marine, and sooner or later, he has to go back to the Jarheads. Having one of our own who can handle PAO duty as well as flying is something we need.”
“I'll talk to Ross. Oh, one last thing: I ran into Goalie's friend from last night, Cassidy. The ferry pilots were leaving Early-Bird and are waiting for the westbound C-141. Anyway, she told me she wants to transfer to this squadron when they get back to Travis.”
Guru nodded approval. “Talk to Ross again. Having another Day One vet in this squadron, even if she wasn't technically flying combat? The more, the better.” He looked at his Exec. “He does know people in Officer Detailing. Make it happen.”
“Will do, and that's it for now.”
There was a knock at the door, and the CO responded, “Yeah? Come in and show yourself!”
The office door opened, and Goalie came in, with a cup of coffee and one of cocoa in her hands. “Morning, guys,” she said. Between the three of them-and Don Van Loan as well, they were quite informal. She handed Guru the cocoa. “And hot cocoa for my pilot.”
“Thanks. I actually get a better zing from the chocolate anyway,” Guru said. “And what's up this morning?”
“The F-20 guys are what's up,” Goalie said. “They were awake before I was. Saw Prada coming back from Early-Bird when I was headed to the shower.”
“They're going up shortly. While the rest of us are eating, and guess who's first up?”
“No guess. Frank,” Goalie nodded. It wasn't a question.
Guru nodded. “Mark and I were talking about it. And guess who may be joining us before too long?”
Goalie's eyes widened. “Corrine?”
“Yep. Day one vet, even if she never fired a shot,” the CO said. “She's going to request a transfer to us when she gets back to Travis, but if that goes south, her tour's up in a couple months anyway.”
Goalie let out a grin. “And Ross knows people in Officer Detailing. The orders are cut and ready when her tour's up.”
“That's it,” the CO nodded as he drank his cocoa. “Anything from the Ops people?”
“Getting the packets together. Which means we're not on CAS today.”
This time, it was the XO's turn to smile. “Boss, we should all be grateful for that,” he noted.
“We are,” Guru said. He noticed the wall clock read 0550. “Got an idea to run by you before breakfast. Is there an Air Force reg that says we can't enlist our mascot in the service?” He was referring to the squadron's Golden Lab, Buddy. “Never came up in OTS.”
“Don't think it came up in ROTC,” Ellis replied. “Academy?”
Goalie shook her head. “To be honest, guys? I have no idea.”
Guru nodded. “Okay, then. Mark? This'd be a good thing for morale. Chief Ross and the NCOs take care of that dog, and somebody's going to be taking him home when this is over. Find out. And if there's nothing in the regs? We go ahead and do this. Backdate the enlistment to the day we got him, make him an E-3 or so, and that'll be that.”
“And this is something General Olds would like, and to him, it's another example of thumbing your nose at authority when they get in your way,” Ellis finished.
“I like it,” Goalie said.
“So do I,” Ellis agreed. “I'll check it out and get back to you.”
“Do that,” Guru said. “Let's go eat.”
As they left the CO's office, another familiar song was coming over the radio. “Well, now...we need to get him on a USO show,” said Goalie.
“Who?” Ellis asked.
“Chuck Berry,” Guru replied. He recognized the song at once. “That's Johnny B. Goode.”
“An oldie but a goodie,” Goalie smiled.
“It is. Come on and let's go,” the CO said.
When the three officers arrived at the Officer's Mess Tent, there were quite a few Marines, Navy, and 335th people waiting. Among them were General Olds and Colonel Brady, plus most of the 335th's flight crews, though Guru knew some early risers preferred the Early-Bird because it was less crowded. “General, Colonel,” Guru said, sketching a salute.
“Major,” General Olds replied. “Looks like we'll get the 'official' F-20 debut today.”
“Yes, sir,” Guru nodded. “Word's gotten around about who you're flying with, and for the record, General? I'm just glad you're going up with Prada instead of those two young pups. They might just indulge you on a trip to the front lines.”
Olds grinned. “You did figure that out, Major. And in case you're wondering, so did she. Prada insisted that I go with her.”
“For that, General, I'm glad,” Guru said. “General, there's something else.” He explained what he wanted for the squadron's mascot. “Sir, you've been around the Air Force longer than anybody here, General Yeager excepted. Anything you know of why we couldn't do this?”
“I don't think so, right off, Major,” General Olds replied. “It's a good idea to improve unit morale, and for sure, I'll raise this with General Tanner. Make sure there's some kind of directive to make things like this official. And other units probably want to do this, so you're not alone.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Then the Mess Officer came out of the tent and flipped the sign from CLOSED to OPEN. “Chow's ready, people!”
After Breakfast, the flight crews gathered in their respective briefing rooms. When Guru got to the room his flight used, he found his people there, waiting. “All right, people, ready to get with it?”
“Ready, Boss,” Kara said. “Just as long as it's not CAS.”
“Same here,” Hoser added, and the others nodded.
The CO grinned. “We're not on CAS, but...” He opened the briefing packet. “We're going to the same general area. Star Hollow Lake, just west of Granbury.”
Goalie looked at him. “What's there?”
A copy of a TPC chart and a JOG chart came out of the packet, along with some recon photos. “Says here it's a suspected divisional headquarters. Some command vehicles on the imagery, so we get to kill a general. Maybe more if somebody's paying a visit from higher up.”
“Well, now...” Sweaty nodded. “Not that often we get to kill some of Ivan's brass.”
“Easy girl,” Guru said. “They won't make it easy for us. There's some air-defense assets here. Looks like SA-9 and ZSU-23-4, and you can bet there's grunts with MANPADS.”
Heads nodded. “Any of those ZSU-30s around?” Kara asked.
The CO scanned the intel summary. “None indicated, but good question. Assume they are. If you see those big tracers coming up? Abort.”
“That's not all: SA-11s are in the area, along with Army-level SA-4s, thanks to the East Germans. We are also in the engagement zones for the Hillsboro and Waco North SA-2s,” Guru said. “Before you ask, yes, we are getting Weasels. Coors One-five and One-six will join us at the tankers.”
There was a sigh of relief from everyone, and that included the CO. “Good news to start the morning.” KT noted.
“It is,” Guru agreed. “Okay, Element leads have a dozen Snakeyes-six Mark-82s, six M-117Rs. Wingmates have a dozen Rockeyes. ALQ-119 pods for the leads, -101s for the wingmen. Two AIM-7s, four AIM-9Ps, full guns, and two wing tanks, each bird.”
“So how do we get there?” Brainiac asked.
“We follow the Brazos River, and stay on the east side. That's the Nicaraguans, as we know, and they don't shoot at us unless they're the ones being attacked. Turn west at Granbury, and follow U.S. 377 down to Tolar. Go NNW to the lake, which is the pop-up point. Hit the target, then get your asses north as fast as you can,” Guru told his crews. “Intel says there may be Ivan's own CAS birds and helos, so watch out. IF you can, take a shot, but otherwise, don't go out of your way. They may lure you into a flak trap.”
“Happy thought,” Sweaty said. “Not.”
“Not a good thing,” agreed the CO. “Now, MiGs are reported at James Connelly AFB near Waco, Gray AAF, Temple, and Bergstrom. Flankers are also at Bergstrom, so be careful.”
“Lovely,” said Kara.
“In case you're wondering,” Guru went on. “Dave and Flossy have their own mission, so that's why they're not coming with us. Any other questions?”
“First of four, right?” Preacher asked.
“To be hoped for,” Guru replied.
“Bailout areas?” Kara wanted to know.
“Usual,” the CO replied. “Any place away from the roads. Anything else?” Heads shook no. “All right. Let's gear up and I'll see you at 512.”
The crews left the briefing room and went to gear up. When Guru came out of the Men's Locker Room, Goalie was waiting for him, as usual. “Ready?”
“Time to earn our flight pay,” Goalie said. “They do pay us for this, you know.”
“Of which, forty-five cents of every dollar goes back to Uncle Sam,” said Guru. “Wars are expensive, my dear.”
“And not just in terms of blood,” Goalie finished.
“They are,” the CO and History Major agreed.
Guru and Goalie went out to the squadron dispersal area, and heard the F-20s warming up. They dismissed that from their thoughts as they went to 512, and found the rest of the flight waiting. “Usual procedure on the radio?” Kara asked.
“Mission code to AWACS and other parties,” Guru nodded. “We're Camaro Flight this time. Call signs between us.”
“Got it,” Sweaty said, and the others nodded.
“Good,” replied the CO. “Any other questions?” There weren't any. He clapped his hands. “Time to go. Let's hit it.”
The sun had cleared the eastern horizon as Guru and Goalie went to 512. “Major?” Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, asked. “She's all set. Five-twelve is ready to rock and kick some Commie ass.”
“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. He and Goalie did their usual walk-around, then after signing for the aircraft, they mounted their bird and got strapped in. They went through their preflight checks, and as they did, the F-20s taxied past. Guru saw them as they did, and Guru was glad to see no air-to-ground ordnance loaded.
“Glad they're not going where we are?” Goalie asked.
“Very,” Guru replied as he went through the checklist.
“Don't blame you,” she said. “Ejection seats?”
“Armed top and bottom. Check yours. Last thing we need is Sundown Cunningham or worse, the Chief of Staff showing up. Not now, anyway.”
Goalie knew it. “No way. Not right now,” she agreed. “Preflight checklist complete. Ready for engine start.”
“Ready,” Guru replied. He gave a thumbs-up to the Crew Chief, and Sergeant Crowley gave the “Start Engines” signal in reply. First one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running, As they warmed up, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Camaro Flight with four, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”
“Camaro Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Lima. Hold prior to the Active, and you are number two in line.”
“Number two?” Goalie asked, curious. “Who's Number One?”
“F-20s, I'd bet,” said Guru. “Roger, Tower. Camaro Flight rolling.” He gave another thumbs-up to the CC, who waved to the ground crew. They pulled the chocks away from the wheels, then Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal. Guru released the brakes, and he taxied out. Once he cleared the revetment, the CC snapped a salute, and both pilot and GIB returned it. The rest of the flight followed as Guru taxied towards the holding area, and sure enough, the F-20s were ahead of him. And right behind him were two Marine flights, one of Hornets, one of Phantoms.
After the F-20s taxied onto the runway, Guru taxied 512 into the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties. The F-20s then rolled down the runway and into the air. Then Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Camaro Flight requesting taxi for takeoff.”
“Camaro Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are Two-six-eight for five,” the call came back from the tower.
“Roger, Tower.” Guru called. He taxied 512 onto the runway, and Kara brought 520 in alongside in his Five O'clock. As usual, Kara and Brainiac gave their flight leader a thumbs-up, and Guru and Goalie both returned it. Then Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Camaro Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”
The tower flashed the green light. Clear for takeoff.
“Canopy coming down,” Guru told Goalie as he pulled down his canopy. She did the same, closing and locking it. A quick glance toward 520 saw Kara and Brainiac had done the same. All set. “Here we go.” Guru said. He ran the engines to full power and released the brakes, and Kara did the same. Both 512 and 520 rolled down the runway and into the air. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn to go. Once airborne, the flight formed up at 10,000 feet for the trip to the tanker track over Mineral Wells and the rendezvous with the Weasels.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
The first mission of a new day, and can anyone spot the Commanding General, 4th Guards Tank Army?
Over Central Texas, 0745 Hours Central War Time:
Camaro Flight was headed south, just east of the Brazos River, and in the Nicaraguan sector. As was usual by now, the Nicaraguans hardly shot at them, though as the flight headed south, the East Germans on the other side would shoot, but the strike flight and the Weasels flying with them, were out of effective range for the most part as they headed south. Though the occasional tracers did come close on occasion.
The two Weasels with them packed a mixed load. The leader had four HARMs and a centerline tank, while the wingman had two HARMs, a Standard-ARM, and a LAU-88 launcher with a “slant-two” Maverick load, along with the bag on centerline. With the ZSU-30 in the area, having a Maverick shooter was a good thing to have around, and when Coors One-six told what he was packing, there were sighs of relief in the strike birds' cockpits.
Now, as the strike flight and the Weasels followed the Brazos River, everything was quiet. Though the crews were taking nothing for granted, the pilots keeping an eye on their instruments and their heads on a swivel, watching for any threats, whether gun or missile, while the GIBs were handling the navigation. In 512, Guru was scanning his instruments, then scanning outside the cockpit, something that his RTU instructors had drilled into him down at Homestead prior to joining the 335th. “ETA to turn point?” He asked Goalie.
“Granbury in one minute,” she replied. Goalie also checked her own EW gear. “Nothing so far.”
“That'll change,” Guru noted. Once they got into the East German sector, they would be drawing fire.
“It will,” Goalie confirmed. “Thirty seconds.”
“Granbuy dead ahead,” Guru called. “No flak yet.”
“Steady...stand by. Turn in five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”
Guru put the F-4 into a right turn, going over the town at barely 350 feet AGL, and clearing the two bridges: the original U.S. 377 bridge, and the U.S. 377 bypass south of that. The Nicaraguan flak batteries stayed silent, while the East German gunners, caught by surprise, barely had time to react.
In the town, the Nicaraguan garrison commander was wondering what on Earth he'd gotten into. His orders from II Corps were clear, do not antagonize the locals any more, cooperate with the Soviets, and try and get along with the East Germans. Though the airport and half of the town was across the Brazos River and theoretically in the East Germans' sector, the garrison was Nicaraguan for the most part, though a Soviet Rear-Area Protection Division had a regiment on the west side, and frequently patrolled the area. However, they were most reluctant to go anywhere off the roads, and, the Nicaraguan Colonel admitted, his own men were the same way.
Now, in the City Hall, he was also dealing with the Mayor. The man had been a used-car salesman before the war, and was, to the Colonel, in a hard position. The prewar mayor had been taken away by the KGB after the occupation began and had been likely killed, and the next two men to occupy the office had also been killed-one by the KGB and PSD as a suspected “Enemy of the People”, while the other had been shot dead in the streets by the bandits and counterrevolutionary swine who called themselves the Resistance, and despite the usual reprisals, no one had been caught. Now, the Colonel suspected the new Mayor was trying to play both sides-trying to keep the KGB from liquidating him, and also trying to keep the Resistance from doing the same.
Then the F-4s flew past, and it wasn't a surprise to the Colonel to hear the air-raid sirens sounding after the Yanqui aircraft had flown past. He shook his head in disgust, wishing for a combat command, and went back to talking with the Mayor.
“That's that,” Guru said as they cleared the town. He glanced behind and saw the flak bursting behind the strike flight. “And they're still shooting.”
“They can shoot all they want,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds to Tolar and the next turn point.”
In Tolar, the Colonel commanding the Soviet 74th Independent Tank Regiment was wondering what was going on. His regiment had been brought forward on General Suraykin's orders the night before, and, much to his surprise, had not been hit from the air. His regiment, one of two independent tank regiments attached to the 4th Guards Tank Army, had finished its refitting, but with T-64BVs instead of the originally promised T-80s, but the motor-rifle boys still had their BMP-2s, and the artillery battalion was fully reequipped with 2S1 122-mm howitzers. Though the air-defense battalion was smarting at not getting the new 2S6 Tunguskas, they had their ZSU-23-4Ms and Strela-10s (SA-13 Gophers).
His unit's sudden movement, though, concerned him. General Suraykin had ordered the regiment to move up the previous afternoon, and wait in Tolar until further orders. The General had contacted him again only a few minutes ago, and told him that on order, he was to move up and act as a rearguard for the 144th GMRD, which had run into a buzz saw from the Americans' First Cavalry Division and 11th Airborne Division, and was having trouble pulling back. The Colonel briefed his staff and battalion commanders, and now, he was waiting. How long, though? Only the General knew that.
As for the garrison, there were Soviets, there, from a Rear-Area Protection Division from Riga, and the Colonel could plainly see that they were in no shape for front-line service. Not only was the company's average forty-five, but their equipment was wretched-a platoon of T-34/85s, a battery of ZIS-3 76-mm guns-both Great Patriotic War-era leftovers, and a handful of BTR-40 APCs. Good enough to control the town, but they were clearly not fit for serious action against the counterrevolutionary bandits who were believed to be in the area. That didn't surprise the Colonel at all, for many of them were Estonians, and rear-area protection was something they were likely not to be very good at.
The Colonel had just left the garrison HQ, when his Chief of Staff shouted, “AIRCRAFT ALARM!” He jumped into a slit trench just as the F-4s flew over, turning to the north. Where had they come from?
“Tolar dead ahead,” Guru said. “EW clear.”
“Roger that. Turn in five, four, three, two, one, MARK!” Goalie said.
Guru put the F-4 into a hard right turn to the northwest, and the rest of the flight followed. “Time to IP?”
“One minute to Star Hollow Lake,” Goalie said, checking the ARN-101 and her map.
“Copy,” replied Guru. He was still keeping his head on a swivel, looking out for threats. The terrain flew by below, and so far, no radars up on the EW repeater.
'Thirty Seconds,” Goalie called from the back seat. That was the cue for the Weasels to go in.
“Roger that,” Guru said. “Coors One-five, time for you guys to go to work.”
“Copy, Camaro Lead,” the Weasel leader replied. Both F-4Gs climbed, and as they did, several radars, both search and missile, lit up. “MAGNUM!” Coors One-five called as he began sending HARM missiles back at the radars. One-six fired two HARMs as well, but kept his AGM-78 and Mavericks to deal with any emerging threats.
“Stand by...” Goalie said.
“Flight, Lead,” Guru called. “Music on, switches on, and stand by to pull.”
The rest of the flight acknowledged as Star Hollow Lake appeared directly ahead. “Pull!” Goalie called.
Guru pulled up, and 512 climbed, and as he did, he searched for the target area. Sure enough, a number of command vehicles caught his attention. That had to be it. And not just the vehicles, for Ivan was fond of building dugouts as well to use for a CP if the unit planned to be there a while. Not your day, Ivan.....”Flight, Lead. Target in sight, and time to go to work.”
“Switches set back here,” Goalie told him. “All in one pass.”
“Good girl,” Guru replied as he rolled in. “Let's go.”
To the west of Star Hollow Lake, and two miles from the Command Post of the 144th GMRD, General Suraykin was livid. He had called up his personal Mi-8IV command helicopter at first light, along with several of his staff, and none of them liked what they saw. The East Germans had their 20th MRD ground down, and the 144th GMRD had fared no better. In fact, one regiment of the 144th had been caught between the First Cavalry Division and the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment and almost completely annihilated, with only a few tanks and APCs escaping the carnage. The other two Motor-rifle regiments had been roughly handled, and the tank regiment had fared no better. Now, the 144th was at fifty percent effective strength, and would have to be pulled back. But, Suraykin knew that he would either have to commit the 138th Tank Regiment, which was at about seventy percent strength-and in normal times, it was really a brigade in all but name, but now.....It was that, or send in the 74th, which had completed its reconstitution. Before General Suraykin could do anything, though, he was on the radio to the Front Commander, because the 144th GMRD and the 138th TR were technically under East German command for this operation.
“Comrade Front Commander, I would recommend that this attack be called off. Pull back to the start lines, regroup, and try again another day.”
There was a sigh on the other end. “Suraykin, are you sure about this?” The Front Commander for 1st Central Front said.
“Yes, Comrade Front Commander, I am. The 144th Guards is down to fifty percent effective strength, and one regiment has, for all intents and purposes, been destroyed,” Suraykin replied. “There's no other choice.”
In his own command post, the Front Commander looked at his situation map. It told the story, and he knew it. “All right, Suraykin. As of now, all Soviet forces previously under the East Germans now belong to the 4th Guards Tank Army. I'll notify General Metzler, and not only inform him of that, but suggest-strongly, that he pull back as well. We'll have to let the Americans have this one.”
“Thank you, Comrade Front Commander,” Suraykin said. Let the Americans have this one. Since Wichita, there had been all too many of that. Then his deputy Chief of Staff, who was filing that role while the Chief was running things at Army Headquarters in Waco, came into the helicopter. “What?”
“American aircraft, Comrade General,” the lieutenant colonel said.
“I'll call you back, Comrade Front Commander,” Suryakin told his superior. “If I'm still alive.” General Suraykin ran out of the helicopter, which had been draped in camouflage netting along with another, and raised his binoculars. F-4 Phantoms were coming in, but not coming at them. They were headed for the Main Command Post for the 144th GMRD. “They're not coming for us. This time,” he observed.
“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he rolled in on his bomb run. He was in a shallow dive, the best way to use his Snakeyes, and as he came in, Guru noticed the cluster of command vehicles that was the target. Not every day one got to kill some Soviet brass, he knew. As he came down, some light flak-probably 23-mm, he thought-came up, but it didn't seem to be radar-guided. Not today, Ivan....he put his pipper in the center of the group of vehicles. “Steady....Steady...And....NOW!” Guru hit the pickle button and a dozen bombs-six Mark-82SE and six M-117R, came off the racks. He slammed the throttles forward to give him and Goalie some more speed, banked hard to the right to avoid heading for the battle area near Lipan, and also avoiding some flak in the process. “Lead off safe,” he called.
In a hastily-dug bunker in the middle of the command vehicles, General Lopatin surveyed his maps and knew he was in for it. Unless General Suraykin was able to convince the Front Commander that pulling back was the best option, the Americans' First Cavalry Division and Third Armored Cavalry Regiment were going to chew up his division and spit out what was left. His staff was busy, attending to the details of a division in combat, and only when the ZU-23 AA guns began to fire did he realize that the Command Post was under air attack. He heard Guru's F-4 fly overhead, and then the first bombs going off, just before a five-hundred pound bomb smashed through the top cover of the bunker and exploded......
“SHACK!” Goalie called as Guru made his egress turn. “Good hits!”
“How good?” Guru asked as some baseball-sized tracers-which meant 23-mm, passed over the canopy.
Guru smiled beneath his oxygen mask. “I'll take your word for it.” He then headed for the Brazos River and then the I-20.
General Suraykin watched from his location as the Division's Command Post was covered in smoke and flame. He saw the attacking F-4 pull away, then he noticed another coming in.
“Comrade General,” as the major who was his ADC came to him. “Shouldn't you take cover?”
“They're not coming for us, Dimitri Mikhailovich. Even if they do, not much we can do, eh?” Suraykin said. He glanced out to the lake and saw another F-4 coming in. “Here comes another.”
“Two's in!” Kara called as she came in. She, too, noticed the flak, and this time, what looked like a SA-7 type missile, coming up, but ignored it as she bored in on her attack run. Her EW repeater was silent, and that meant the flak wasn't radar-guided. Kara picked out the target area, and though it was obscured by the smoke and flame the CO had left behind from his run, there were still some vehicles visible. Fair enough. Not a good day to be a general, she thought as she lined up some of the remaining vehicles in her pipper. “And....And....HACK!” Kara hit her pickle button, releasing her Rockeye CBUs, sending a dozen bombs Ivan's way. She then pulled up and away to the right, jinking as needed to avoid flak, and picked up the CO's exhaust trail as she cleared the target area. “Two's off target.”
From his vantage point, General Suraykin watched as Kara's F-4 went in on its run. He couldn't help but admire the determination of the pilots as they pressed home their attacks with the antiaircraft fire and missiles coming up, even though the Strela shoulder-fired missiles were not that effective fired head-on. “Air defense?” He asked his ADC just as the F-4 released its bombs, and the CBUs went off.
“Comrade General, the division's air defense commander doesn't answer,” the major replied.
Suraykin shook his head. Then he saw another F-4 coming in. “We're getting some more.”
“GOOD HITS!” Brainiac called from 520's back seat.
“How good?” Kara asked, jinking as she did so.
Her GIB was grinning beneath his oxygen mask. “Got some secondaries!”
“I'll take those,” said Kara. She picked up the CO's bird as they headed north.
“Three's in!” Sweaty called. She rolled in on her run, and as she came down, she saw the smoke and flame left by the CO's element. Not much left, but what the hell, they didn't get paid for bringing ordnance back. Sweaty picked up a couple of vehicles that looked intact, but since the intel brief mentioned dugouts and bunkers, she decided to lay her bombs where the CO had. Ignoring the flak coming up, she lined the center of what had been the CP area in her pipper. “Steady....And....And...HACK!” She hit her pickle button, sending a dozen Snakeyes down onto the target area. Sweaty pulled up and away, jinking as she did so, before picking up the escape course towards the Brazos River. “Three's off safe,” Sweaty called.
General Suraykin watched as Sweaty's F-4 came in and made its bomb run. He saw through his binoculars as BTR command vehicles and command post trucks-some of which were burning already, were tossed aside like toys as bombs exploded around them. Shaking his head, he looked to his right and saw another F-4 coming in over the lake. “One more, Comrades,” he called to his staff, who were also watching.
“SHACK!” Preacher yelled from Sweaty's back seat. “Great hits!”
Sweaty was turning to the right after avoiding some flak and a missile-what kind she didn't know, flew past the aircraft. “How great?”
“Righteously great!” Replied the ex-seminary student turned WSO.
“Good enough,” Sweaty said as she turned for the Brazos.
“Four in hot!” Hoser called. As he went in, he noticed where Sweaty had laid down her bombs, and chances were, there wasn't much left. But still, he had a dozen Rockeyes, and intended to use them. The flak was still coming up, and even a couple of missiles-probably SA-7s or -14s, he thought, but he ignored both. Hoser came in closer, and noticed a few vehicles just to the north of where Sweaty had put her bombs down. You're next, Hoser thought as he centered them in his pipper. “Steady....Steady....And....HACK!” He hit his pickle button, releasing his Rockeyes down on the target. He immediately pulled up and away to the right, slamming his throttles full, and jinking to avoid flak. “Four off safe,” he called.
“Damn it,” muttered General Suraykin. “They're good.” He turned to his ADC. “Anything from the 144th's Rear Command Post?”
“They've lost contact with the main, Comrade General,” the ADC replied. “The deputy commander is asking for orders.”
Suraykin went back into his helicopter and checked his map. The blue arrows coming down made sure his decision was a quick one. “Order the 144th Guards to pull back to their start lines. Send in the 138th Tanks as well to act as a rearguard. Inform their commanders that they are under my command as of now.”
“Yes, Comrade General.”
“SHACK!” KT called from Hoser's rear cockpit. “Got a couple of secondaries!”
“Big ones?” Hoser asked.
“Good ones,” she siad.
Hoser banked right and picked up his element lead. “Guess we'll take that,” he replied. Then he formed up on Sweaty.
“How's that for an E-Ticket ride?” Guru asked Goalie once he finished jinking.
“None of those basketball-sized tracers,” Goalie replied. “That's good.”
“It is,” Guru noted. “Coors, Camaro. We're outbound at this time.”
“Copy, Camaro,” Coors One-five replied. “We're now Winchester and coming out.” The Weasels were living up to their “First in, Last out,” motto.
“Brazos River coming up,” Goalie added.
“Got it,” said Guru. He glanced to the right and found Kara's bird with him in Combat Spread. “Sweaty, you with us?”
“Right behind you, Boss,” Sweaty replied.
Once they got to the river, the flight headed for the I-20. Though they were careful to clear the I-20 bridges over the Brazos, for the Army air-defense people tended to shoot first and identify afterwards. To them, anything flying was the enemy. Then they climbed and headed for the tankers. Once they had finished their refueling, the Weasels parted company.
“Camaro, Coors,” the Weasel leader called. “Nice job, and maybe we can do this again.”
“Thanks, Coors, and glad to have you around.” Guru replied.
Then the flight headed for Sheppard. When they arrived, they were third in the pattern, as not only the F-20s were coming in, but a pair of Marine flights were ahead of them as well. When it was their turn, the flight came in and landed. As they were taxiing back to their squadron's dispersal, the crews noticed the F-20 people already getting out of their birds, and Frank shaking hands with General Yeager. “Looks like Yeager's putting on the act,” Goalie said after they popped their canopies.
“Knowing what we know? He has to,” Guru replied. “Oh, to be a fly near that conversation.”
“Same here,” said Goalie. “Wonder what's going through General Yeager's mind now.”
“Wishing he could tell Frank, 'No way are you going up in one of my airplanes again.'”
Guru taxied into the dispersal area, and then found 512's revetment. He taxied in, and after getting the signal from Sergeant Crowley, shut down. Both pilot and GIB went through the post-flight check, then the ground crew brought the crew ladder, and they egressed from the plane. Then they did their usual post-flight walk-around.
Sergeant Crowley brought the Pilot and GIB bottles of water. “Major? How's my bird?”
“She's still truckin', Sergeant. Get Five-twelve ready for another one,” Guru said to his CC, then he downed half of the bottle then and there.
“How'd things go, sir?”
“Made a divisional HQ go away,” Guru said.
“Hopefully with a general there,” Goalie added. “Hopefully.”
Crowley nodded. He knew full well that sometimes, what looked obvious turned out the other way. “Well, Ma'am, if he wasn't there? Maybe he decided his unit had better be someplace else.”
“Maybe,” Guru said. “Okay, Sergeant. Pull the strike camera footage. And let's get her turned around.”
“You got it, Major!” Crowley said to the ground crew. “You heard the Major! Get this bird ready for another one.”
Guru and Goalie headed toward the revetment's entrance, and found Kara and Brainiac already there. “Well, Kara? How'd things go with you?”
“Got some secondaries,” Kara said. “And you guys tossed a few APCs or trucks around. CBUs took care of those.”
“Who'd we kill, though?” Goalie asked.
“Good question,” Sweaty said as she and Hoser, along with Preacher and KT, came up. “I'd like to know where the MiGs are.”
“Maybe somebody's done some runway-busting,” Kara ventured.
“That'd be good,” Hoser said.
Guru nodded, then checked his watch. “It's 0840, people. We've got an hour, hour and a half, max, before the next one. Let's debrief, and you all need to check your desks. The elves don't take care of the paperwork, you know.”
“Too bad,” Kara muttered. Her attitude towards paperwork was well known. And shared by many-the CO included. But they had to get it done, even with a war on.
Guru looked at her. “No arguing that.” He had a loathing for unnecessary paperwork, and the bureaucrats who pushed it his way. Something that he shared with both General Olds and the late Colonel Rivers. “Come on, let's go see Darren, then get ready for the next one.” He was referring to Capt. Darren Licon, their intelligence officer.
“And we do this again before noon.” Sweaty noted. “We do have to earn our flight pay.”
“That we do,” Guru nodded. “Let's go.”
They headed on to the squadron's offices to debrief, and get ready for the next mission.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
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