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  #31  
Old 01-01-2015, 08:32 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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How do you like the stories? There's more coming.
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  #32  
Old 01-01-2015, 09:19 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The next one, and it takes place near the end of the war:

Nearing the End: Burnout


Laredo AFB, Texas: 1 October, 1989, 0620 Hours Central War Time



Major Matt Wiser, the CO of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, was doing something that the 335th had hardly ever done since the war began: holding a mass briefing. There had been one on the first day, four years earlier, and one or two since. Mainly at the start of PRAIRIE FIRE and LONG RIFLE, but apart from that, he didn't recall any. No matter. The 335th had taken over some offices that prewar, had been used by an air charter company, the base having been closed a number of years prior to the war. The Soviets and Cubans had made use of the facilities since, both here and at Laredo International Airport, and now, the USAF, along with the Marines, had returned.

Crammed inside a meeting room was every crew in the 335th: he had eighteen flyable aircraft and thirty-two crews. Two aircraft were down for maintenance, and he was expecting four more to come, either from deep overhaul at McClellan AFB, or newly built from the Mitsubishi line in Japan. Well, when we go south into Mexico-and as far as Mexico City, we'll need those new birds and some new crews. But that was in the future-he hoped, but today's business-and those in the days ahead, came first.

“All right. You've probably noticed something. There's no preplanned targets for today. Everybody that can fly in MAG-11, along with the entire Tenth Air Force, is going south. Other than the Monterrey Air Defense Zone, anyplace in Northern Mexico from Amistad Reservoir down to Roma is fair game.”

His Exec, Captain Don Van Loan, asked, “So what are we doing, hitting opportunity targets?”

“That, and armed reconnaissance,” Major Wiser, call sign Guru, said.

Pilots and WSOs looked at each other. Then Capt. Valerie Blanchard, or Sweaty as she was known on the radio, said, “Southeast Asia all over again?”

“No. The reason Monterrey's a no-go area is because of the air defense threat. The only restriction, other than that, is no southbound traffic. Intel says the ComBloc are shipping POWs south in trucks headed deeper into Mexico, so no hitting southbound vehicles. Other than that, any military traffic on any road, whether the Mexican Federal roads, or the local ones, is a target,” Guru said.

“This all prep for the invasion?” Capt. Kara Thrace, or Starbuck, asked. She was the Operations Officer for the 335th, and had submitted a strike plan for Mexico City. One that Guru had reluctantly turned down.

“They wouldn't say, but even money says it is,” the CO replied. “At least, it forces the ComBloc to realize there's more than just Brownsville.”

Heads nodded. Anything that made the bad guys remember there was more than that pocket on this front was a good thing. “Opportunity targets?” Capt. Lisa Eichhorn asked. Goalie was her call sign, and she was Major Wiser's WSO.

“Anything military or military related. This includes bridges, power substations, airstrips, you name it. If it's defended, it's a target.” the CO told everyone.

Then Capt. Bryan Simmonds, Sweaty Blanchard's backseater, asked, “Ordnance loads?”

“Good question, Preacher.” Major Wiser said. “Right now, you're going out with either dumb bombs, CBUs, or a mix. But when you come back from the first hop, the ordnance guys will have whatever they've got ready. You might get napalm, or all dumb bombs, all CBUs, Mavericks, rocket pods, whatever. But you still get at least two AIM-7s, two wing tanks, and a full load of 20-mike-mike. And Sidewinders. Flight leads get an ECM pod as well.”

“And MiGs?” Hoser, or Capt. Nathan West, asked.

“OK, here's what the deal is. If the MiG or Sukhoi has a good driver, or if it's got a Red Star or Cuban insignia on it, go ahead. Kill it and claim the kill. If it's flown by some Mexican who's flying like he expects to be shot down, different story,” Guru said.

“What does that mean?” Sweaty asked.

“I haven't been claiming those kills. I've got five of those, and so does Kara. You've got four, Don has three, and several of you also have at least two. These have been too easy,” Major Wiser said.

“Like those Syrians in the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot back in '82, Boss.” Van Loan said. “Lot of those guys acted as if they knew they'd be shot down, but took off anyhow.”

“Yeah,” Guru responded. “Here's what I've been doing. When I've killed these guys, I say that I've fired an AIM-9 or AIM-7, depending on what I did use, but the missile missed, prematured, failed to guide, or whatever. And the target got away,” the CO said. He knew that several of those he'd mentioned had done the same. “If you want to claim the kill, go ahead. It's up to you.”

Heads nodded. And Major Wiser noticed one thing. The old hands in the squadron were those not likely to file these claims, even if it kept somebody from a better score. The new people-and the 335th had several new crews-were more likely to do otherwise. To them, killing some guy fresh out of flight training was no different than killing a high-time flier. He knew the saying, “A kill's a kill.” Normally, he'd agree. But with these greenhorns they'd been splashing, it was all too easy. He'd rather get into the transport stream from Mexico City to Brownsville instead and be like a shark in a school of fish.
“Any other questions?”

“What's the weather, Major?” asked one of the new guys.

“CAVU all day.” the Major said. That meant clear skies and visibility unlimited. A fighter-attack pilot's dream. “As for bailout areas south of the river: anyplace away from the roads. If you can, stay with the bird as long as you can and get your asses north. The closer to the Rio Grande, the easier time that the Jolly Greens have to get you. And if you can get across the river, best of all.”

Heads nodded again. Major Wiser looked around the room. “Anything else?”

Then one of the sergeants came into the room. “Major, this should've been handed out yesterday. It's from Major Ellis,” the sergeant said, handing the CO a letter.

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Major Wiser said. “Before we go, anyone want to hear from Mark?”

Multiple heads nodded. “Come on, Major,” Kara said, “Read it.” Sweaty Blanchard said the same thing, as did Goalie.

“OK, hold your horses,” Guru said as he opened the letter. “He's home-back in Ohio. 'I'm at Rickenbacker's base hospital,' he says. 'I'll be back in the cockpit, but the docs say it's at least a year. More likely eighteen months. That's what happens when you break one leg in two places, along with the other leg, and your shoulder, too. I saw you guys on CNN a couple of times, and it looks like you're all doing OK. Drop me a line, and if I don't see you guys before the war's over, I'll be there at the reunion. Check Six, and kick those bastards back to Mexico City.' There's more, but that's about it. Oh, he's getting married once he can walk down the aisle.”

Clapping and cheering followed. Mark Ellis had been a well respected pilot and Exec. He and Guru had run the 335th the best way they could, even if they had to fold, spindle, bend, or mutilate a few regs to get things done, so be it-as long as it got results. And having both MAG-11's commander and General Tanner at Tenth Air Force have the same attitude helped a lot. Then he'd been shot down during that Midland-Odessa offensive, what some had called Ivan's last roll of the dice, which had drawn parallels with the Battle of the Bulge, and had been rescued by the Jolly Greens. But his war was over. Major Wiser gave the letter to one of his ground officers. “Put that on the bulletin board, so everybody can read it.”

“Glad to, Major,” the man said.

“Okay. Anything else?” Major Wiser asked. There wasn't.

“Good. Let's hit it.” Wiser said, grabbing his flight helmet.

With that, the room emptied as those crews assigned to fly the first sorties of the day went to their aircraft. And soon after that, the runways were filled with aircraft as F-4s (both AF and Marine), Marine A-4s, A-6s, F/A-18s, and some A-7s from a shore-based Navy squadron, began taxiing for takeoff. It was going to be a very busy day.
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  #33  
Old 01-01-2015, 09:20 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Part II:

1430 Hours Central War Time: Over Northern Mexico.



Guru was on his fifth flight that day; he and Goalie had flown four before noon, and they'd finally had a break. Lunch, taking care of squadron paperwork, and then back in the saddle. He was in his usual mount, 512, and he had eleven Red Stars painted on the side. So what if the bad guys saw that in combat? At least they'd know they were up against a proven MiG-killer.

They were flying with their usual wingmates, 1st Lt. Kevin McAllen and his WSO, 1st Lt. Toni Grey. Since Kara had graduated to flight lead, a year earlier, these two had been their wingmates. And had made ace in the process. But kills had been few-other than these rookies, and neither Kevin or Toni (Cowboy and Nooner as they went in the squadron) had claimed any of those, either. Then they heard Sweaty call on the radio “Any Chiefs north of Sabinas Hidalgo?” Chiefs was their squadron's nickname.

“Sweaty, Guru,” Wiser called. “What's up?”

“Big convoy at the junction of Highway 85 and Route 22: somebody dropped the bridge north of that on 85, and they're all backed up,” Sweaty called.

“Copy. Cowboy, you hear that?”

“Roger, Lead,” Cowboy said.

“Sweaty, Guru. We're on our way.” Wiser said.

“Roger, Boss.” Sweaty called. “We're Winchester right now and are RTB.” That meant she was out of ordnance and had to return to base.

“Roger that. Any other Chiefs working 85, head to Sweaty's target location.” Guru said, not waiting for any acknowledgments. And he took his element to that location. Sure enough, there was military traffic backed up on the highway, and the bridge was down over the Rio Salado. His two Phantoms had six Mark-82 500-pound bombs and six CBU-58/B cluster bombs. These had one advantage over Rockeyes, his favorite CBUs: they had incendiary submunitions mixed in with the antivehicle and antipersonnel ones. And ripping up a truck convoy like this one was one thing CBUs could handle.

The two Phantoms came in on the target. “Anything on the threat receivers?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Not a peep. They must not have any radars down there.” Goalie responded.

“Two, this is Lead. First pass Mark-82s. Second pass CBUs. Then we RTB. Both runs south to north.” Guru called.

“Copy, Lead,” Cowboy responded.

With that, Guru rolled in on his first pass. He picked out some trucks and unloaded his six centerline Mark-82s from low level. The six bombs ripped into the convoy, blasting some trucks, and tossing others aside as if they were toys. Cowboy followed his leader, and his bombs, too, had the same effect. The two Phantoms then came around for another run.

As the two Phantoms came in, the crews noticed small-arms fire and even some 23-mm coming up. It looked like to the crews that somebody-Russians, Cubans, or Mexicans, had put 23-mm guns on either trucks or BTR-152s as improvised antiaircraft vehicles. No matter, they were coming in too fast. And both F-4s laid down their CBUs on the vehicles cramming the northbound lanes of Highway 85. Both crews were rewarded with multiple secondary explosions, as trucks, BTRs, and armored vehicles exploded. As they pulled up, two more elements from the 335th, Don Van Loan's and Hoser's, came in.

Guru called Van Loan. “Pouncer, Guru. Who's that with you?”

“Hoser, Boss.” Van Loan called back.

“Copy that, these guys are all yours. I'm Winchester, and RTB. Watch out for 23-mm and possible SA-7s.”

“Roger that, Boss. I'll be taking Rifle shots,” Pouncer said. Rifle meant Maverick missiles.

“Copy that, Pouncer. Go get 'em.” Guru called as he headed north. Just then, AWACS called.

“Mustang One-One, Crystal Palace. Bandits, Bandits. Threat bearing two-four-zero for fifty-five.”

Uh-oh, Guru thought. “Roger, Crystal Palace. Say Bogey Dope?”

“Mustang, Crystal Palace. No Joy,” the AWACS controller called.

Lovely, Guru thought out loud. And Goalie felt the same way. But it was showtime. “Cowboy, Guru. Bandits inbound. Drop tanks and fight's on.”

“Copy, Lead. Drop tanks and fight's on.” Cowboy responded.

Both F-4s dropped their wing tanks and turned into the incoming bandits. As they did so, the WSOs had their radars on, trying to pick up the bandits. And Crystal Palace kept giving range and bearing.
“Mustang One-One, Crystal Palace. Bandits on your nose, seventeen miles.”

Then Goalie called Guru on the intercom. “Two hits at twelve o'clock.”

“Got it. Crystal Palace, Mustang One-One. Judy.” That meant the F-4s were taking over the interception. “Say Bogey Dope?”

“Mustang, Crystal Palace. Bogeys are Fitters.” That meant anything from Su-7s from the mid '60s to the latest Su-22M4s. And those Fitters were very effective attack aircraft.

“Roger that,” Guru called. “Goalie, anything?”

“I've got a lock!”

“Copy that. Fox One!” he called out, signaling a Sparrow missile launch as he squeezed the trigger on the stick. Then he fired his second Sparrow. “Fox One again!”

Two AIM-7E Sparrow missiles streaked towards their target. Then the enemy aircraft became visible. These were swing-wing Fitters: Su-17s at least. As Guru's missiles streaked towards their target, Cowboy called, “Fox One!” as he ripple-fired two Sparrows.

Guru's two missiles missed. Cowboy's first one burned out short of the target, while his second flew right past the Fitter and exploded well behind the aircraft. As the Fitters broke, they jettisoned their external ordnance and fuel tanks, and tried to break away. And when they did that, their insignia became clear. Red stars on the tail. That meant Russians. “Two, Lead. I've got the leader.”

“Roger, Lead. I've got the other one.” Cowboy called.

Guru got in behind the Fitter. This one might have been an Su-22M version, but it was impossible to tell visually. And he could see the Fitter had two AA-8 Aphid missiles for self-defense. He grinned underneath his oxygen mask. No way, Ivan, he thought as he turned his missile selector to HEAT. His AIM-9L missiles were now armed. And the seeker was tracking. The growl went loud in his headset: missile lock. “Fox Two!”

Guru's first AIM-9 shot off the rail, corkscrewed right, then left, and then smashed into the Fitter's tail. The explosion blew the tail off the aircraft, and as it spun down to the left, the canopy came off, the ejection seat fired, and the pilot was in his chute. “Splash one Fitter!” Guru called.

Just as Guru made that call, Cowboy got in behind the wingman. He, too, got Sidewinder lock, and fired. Once again, an AIM-9 went off the rail, and flew up the Fitter's tailpipe. This time, when it exploded, the plane blew in half. The rear half fell away and broke apart, while the cockpit and wings tumbled end over end, before smashing into the desert floor. This one didn't have a chute. Cowboy gave the call, “Splash two!”

“Copy that, Two. Any chutes?” Guru asked.

“Negative, Lead.”

“Roger that. Crystal Palace, Mustang One-One.” Guru called to the AWACS.

“Mustang One-One, Crystal Palace. Go.”

“Splash two Fitters-Su-17s or -22s. One chute. We are RTB at this time.” Guru said.

“Roger that. Do you need a vector?” the AWACS controller asked.

In 512, Goalie shook her head. “Do those guys think we're lost?”

“You know the AWACS guys, they're like the backseat driver from hell-no offense intended.” Guru said.. “Crystal Palace, Mustang One-One. Negative.”

Goalie smiled underneath her oxygen mask. “None taken, my dear Major,” and she laughed.

Mustang Flight soon was short of the Rio Grande, and the crews looked down. Neuevo Laredo looked like Berlin in 1945, and inbound aircraft gave the place a wide berth: all the artillery fire being poured into the city meant that the sky over Neuevo Laredo was a dangerous place-and a 155 shell didn't care if you were friendly or not. Then Guru heard Starbuck on the radio. “Guru, Starbuck. Got something here.”

“Go, Starbuck,” Guru called back.

“We've got a MiG-21MF here, no gun pack, two Atolls, and he's got a centerline tank, but he's flying really weird. Straight and level at times, then he's all over the sky,” Starbuck called.

Guru frowned underneath his mask. “What's he got on the side?” He was asking about insignia.

“FARM,” was Starbuck's response. That meant the Revolutionary Air Force of Mexico.

“Starbuck, he trying to signal or anything?”

“He did wave,” Kara said. “This guy might be a defector.”

“ETA home base?”

“Fifteen mikes,” Kara said.

“Starbuck, fly alongside and see if you can get him to follow you. Have your wingie right behind him in the kill slot. He does anything funny, just roll out and away, and have Grumpy take the shot,” Guru ordered.

“Roger that.” Kara replied. “See you on the ground.”

“Copy.” Major Wiser then called Laredo operations and advised them of what was coming in. Then his flight came into the pattern, with each doing a victory roll, before landing. After taxiing in, his crew chief was waiting. “Major, what's up?”

“Sergeant, your guess is as good as mine,” the CO said. “Get the strike camera film unloaded, and what have you got for the next hop?”

“Shake'n bake, Major.” the crew chief replied. “Six Mark-82s centerline, and two napalm tanks each wing. And we'll get you two new wing tanks. Be ready in thirty minutes.”

Nodding, Guru and Goalie headed to squadron ops. They ran into Capt. Darren Licon, the squadron's intelligence officer. “Sir, Starbuck's inbound. ETA seven minutes.”

“Anything new?” Goalie asked.

“No, other than Starbuck said the guy looked like he could barely see out of the cockpit,” Licon said.

Major Wiser's flight looked at each other. This was strange. They went into ops, and quickly reviewed their flight. AWACS had confirmation of the Fitter kills, so those claims were valid. Then Major Wiser went into his office, grabbed a pair of binoculars, and went back outside. He turned to Licon. “Get a Humvee or a truck. When Kara lands, I want to be there.”

“Right, Major.” Licon said as he raced to grab a Humvee. When he came back, it wasn't just Major Wiser's flight, but a number of other aircrews, who were gathered there. Word was going around. Then Licon, who had his own set of binoculars, said, “There they are,” pointing to the southeast.

The three-ship made a pass over the base, then flew around for landing. Kara put her Phantom down first, and taxied away as fast as she could. Then the MiG-21 came in, and several pilots watched in shock as the pilot nearly ground-looped the MiG, but managed to get the plane down in one piece. Grumpy, Kara's wingmate, pulled up and did another flyaround, before coming in himself.

Then a dozen aircrew jumped into the Humvee, or so it seemed. Goalie drove, while Major Wiser and several others were wondering what kind of pilot they had on their hands. They drove past Kara's plane, which had taxied into its revetment, and the crew was quickly getting out. The MiG taxied to the edge of the ramp area, before it shut down. And armed Combat Security Police and Marines converged on the scene. Then the pilot got out. And it was Sweaty who spoke first. “My God! He looks like an Eighth-Grader in a flight suit!”

Goalie drove as close as she could. As the aircrews got out of the Humvee, Kara came running up. She hadn't bothered to get out of her G-Suit and harness, and she ran up to the MiG pilot and slammed him against the side of the aircraft. Guru and the others came rushing up, as Kara was yelling, “What in the hell were you doing?” She asked the Mexican, who looked quite terrified.

“Whoa, Kara!” Guru said, separating the pair. “Take it easy!” He turned to the Mexican pilot. He looked like he was way too young to be flying fighters. “Do you speak English?”

“Y. Y. Yes, I do Senor.” the Mexican said.

“How old are you?” Major Wiser asked.

The Mexican paused, as if he was choosing his words carefully. “In two months, I'll be Seventeen.”

Jaws dropped, as both Air Force and Marine aviators, digested what they'd just heard. Colonel Brady, the MAG-11 commander came up. “Major, did we hear right?” He asked.

Guru looked at the Mexican. “Did you say 'seventeen'?”

“Si.”

“Guru, I think I'm gonna be sick,” Goalie said.

Major Wiser knew it right then. He got the same sick feeling. “My God. That explains it.” The Major turned to his squadron mates. “We've been killing kids in those MiGs!”

Kara exploded. She cursed out anyone who would even consider such a thing, and those who actually trained these kids to fly. They barely belonged in Piper Cubs, and had no place being in a fighter. She stormed off, still yelling, and headed straight for the Officer's Club tent.

Colonel Brady came up to the Mexican. “How much flight time do you have, son?” He asked.

“Two days of taxi training. Then two days of takeoffs and landings, with three days of formation flying,” the boy said.

Not just Guru, but everyone else there from the 335th, as well as the Marines there, realized it then and there. They'd been killing kids who were being sent out with a week's training in MiGs, and who were expected to fight the Americans. Most of the fighter pilots-whether Air Force or Marine, had at least one of these in their kill sheet, even if the kills hadn't been claimed. Then Licon spoke up. “Like the Kamikazes: those guys were sent out with a week's training.”

Sweaty swore. “Yeah, but they weren't expected to fight. These kids, though...Major, what have we been doing?”

“I know. This isn't what we all signed up for.” Major Wiser said, looking at the Mexican, then Colonel Brady, who nodded. He knew what everyone was thinking. What kind of people would put teenage boys in fighter cockpits?

“What now?” Goalie asked.

Colonel Brady responded. “We get on with the job at hand. I know you're not in the mood, but we've still got a job to do.” He turned to a Marine sergeant. “Take this boy to Intel and have the intel shop have a long talk with him. And pass them this: ask the kid if he's got family in the States. If he does, get one of those 1140 forms for him.”

The Marine nodded. “Aye, Aye, Sir.” And several Marines took the Mexican away. A 335th line crew brought up a truck with a tow bar to pull the MiG out of the way. Brady turned to the aircrews. “We've got three hours or so of daylight left. If you're angry about this, make some Mexicans-or Soviets-or Cubans, feel that anger.”

The crowd broke up, as aircrews and ground personnel headed back to their jobs. Back at 335th Ops, Major Wiser found 1st Lt. Keith Crandall, the Deputy Ops Officer. He talked to Crandall, who was grounded with a cold. “Keith, pull Kara and Grumpy off today's schedule, and tomorrow's as well.”

“Right, Major.” Crandall nodded. “Going back out, sir?”

Guru looked at Goalie. And the rest of his flight. Though angry, they knew they still had a job to do. “Yeah. But this is our last one for the day. Tell Don when he lands: no more flying today. Those being turned around, and are ready, go. Anyone airborne doesn't go back out. Even if there's daylight left.”

“Yes, sir.”

Guru corralled his flight. “I know what you guys are thinking. We're going to make somebody-Russians, Cubans, Mexicans-pay. They'll burn, bleed, and blow up for sending that kid out in a MiG. Get back into Game Mode.”

Heads nodded. “Then what?” Goalie asked.

“Kara's probably getting sloppy drunk. And she's not going to be alone. Got that?”

And with that, Mustang flight went to their aircraft, mounted up, and went back out. And they did make someone pay-dearly-for what they'd seen earlier. When they got back, and checked in with ops, Don Van Loan was there.

“Major, what happened? I heard about a defector, but why's everybody so pissed off?”

“That defector was a sixteen-year-old. A kid. And they gave him a week's training before sending him into combat. Those MiGs we thought were flown by greenhorns? We've been killing kids.” Wiser told his Exec. And Van Loan turned pale.

“Major...what kind of people do that?” he asked.

“Your guess is as good as mine. I'm headed over to the O-Club and drown my anger in a couple of beers. And I bet everybody on this base who could is gonna be there.” Major Wiser said. “You did get what I told Keith?”

“Yeah. No more flying today. We've still got an hour of daylight left, though.” Van Loan reminded his CO.

“I know. But the Marine ramp is almost full: they saw the same thing-and they've got some of those MiG kills in their log books,” Wiser said. “Nobody's in a flying mood after hearing that.”
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Old USMC Adage
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  #34  
Old 01-01-2015, 09:21 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And the final part:


1815 Hours Central War Time: Officer's Club Tent, Laredo AFB

Major Wiser and Captain Eichhorn went into the Officer's Club. Normally, a juke box would be playing, some poker games might be going on, and generally, people would be trying to blow off steam. Not today. The mood was very subdued, as the grim realization of who had been in the cockpits of the Mexican MiGs they'd killed sat in. Major Wiser went up to the bar, and ordered two Foster's-one for Goalie, and one for himself. Then he asked the bartender. “Where's Captain Thrace?”

The bartender pointed to a corner. Four empty bottles were on a table, and Kara was working on a fifth. Nodding, Guru and Goalie went over to Kara's table. “Want to talk about it, Captain?” Guru asked as he and Goalie pulled up chairs.

“No, Major, but if you insist,” Kara said, taking a pull on her bottle.

“Look. This sure isn't what we all signed up for. We can't change the past, Captain, no matter what.”

“I know, Major. But you and I...Hell, most of the squadron's got these guys in our log books, even if we didn't officially claim the kills! We've been killing kids who should still be in high school, not in MiG cockpits!” Kara yelled.

“You're drunk, now sit down.” said Guru.

“Major, I had to get that out of my system.”

“You're not the only one,” Goalie said, pulling on her beer. “I'd like to find out who stuck those boys in those cockpits and make him pay.”

“Join the club,” a voice said. It was Colonel Brady. “Mind if I join you?”

Kara nodded. “Might as well, Colonel.”

“I've been looking for you guys. Intel's got some news.” Brady said.

“What is it?” Guru asked.

“For starters, that kid is in their equivalent of the Air Force Academy. About six months ago, the word went out for volunteers, he said, for what they called 'advanced fighter school.' He volunteered, and went through what should be, in our military, a year's worth of ground school in three months. Then he had some primary flight, then some backseat rides in a MiG-21U trainer, and they pronounced him qualified,” Brady said.

“What the hell?” Kara said.

“Yeah,” Brady said, pulling on his own beer. “Then he had his training in the MiG-21, and what tactical training they gave him was all models and chalk talks. They sent him to a unit at Monterrey IAP, and other than a couple of patrols, this was his first real combat flight.”
“Of all the....Even we wouldn't have been that desperate!” Goalie yelled.

“Be glad we never had the chance to find out,” Wiser said. “What else, Sir?”

“They've all been heavily indoctrinated. The Mexicans have convinced a lot of their people that if they don't stop us at the Rio Grande, we're going to keep on pushing south to Mexico City.” Brady said.

“So?” Kara asked. “That's what we should do. Make them pay for hosting the Russians and Cubans.”

“You get no argument from me on that, Captain.” Brady said. “But they've taken it to extreme.”

“Huh?” Goalie asked.

“They've told their people that when we do come south, we'll steal more of Mexico. A repeat of 1846-48, basically, and not only slice off more of Mexico, but turn it into a depopulated wasteland.”

“Oh, boy....” Guru said. “They're that convinced?”

“Correct, Major.” Brady said. “They're convinced that we'll do to them what the ComBloc did to us.”

“They've got their own Goebbels down in Mexico City, looks like,” Goalie observed.

“Yeah,” Kara said, motioning to the bartender for another beer. He looked at Guru and Colonel Brady, who nodded.

“This is your last one, Captain. You're not on the schedule tomorrow, so sleep it off,” Major Wiser said. “Look at the entrance. Doc Waters is there.” Waters was the 335th's flight surgeon. “He's got two CSPs with him, and when I signal him, they are going to take you to your quarters, and they'll watch you overnight. Tomorrow morning, sleep in as long as you want. When you do wake up, eat, take care of your squadron paperwork-believe me, we've all got some of that-and just blow off steam. Go to the Marines' shooting range-use that SiG-Sauer of yours, and your M-16, and burn off as much ammo as you can. Go to bed early, because I want you up and ready, 0600, day after tomorrow. Do I make myself clear, Captain?”

Kara glared at him. She knew he was very serious. Then she nodded. “Yes, Sir,” in a subdued voice.

“Good, because you are the best I've got. Finish that beer, Captain. That's an order, then Doc Waters will take it from there.” Major Wiser said. He then turned to Colonel Brady. “Sir, we need to talk. Privately.”

The two officers left the tent and went outside. It was a clear night, and though most flying had ceased, there were Marine Hornets going up on Combat Air Patrol. “What is it, Major?” Brady asked.

“Sir, this squadron's getting at the end of the rope. We've seen and done too much. Once this Brownsville business gets wrapped up, I'd like a stand-down.” Wiser said.

“Chances are, we'll all get a stand-down, Major,” Brady said.

“I realize that, sir. But we need two weeks. Just like before PRAIRIE FIRE, LONG RIFLE, and this one.” Wiser said.

Colonel Brady nodded. “Can't promise you that much, Major. But you'll get a few days off. Once Brownsville's finished up.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Wiser said. “And what about the kid?”

“He's got family here. Someplace in Northern California. Oroville, Yuba City, someplace near there. They'll contact his relatives-a cousin if I heard right-and if he's got an 1140, they'll take him in. He doesn't see the inside of an EPW Camp.” Brady said.

Guru nodded. “That's good to hear.”

“Yeah. Hell of a war, isn't it? Just when you've thought you've seen everything, something new bites you.” Brady commented.

“Ain't that the truth, Sir.”


3 October, 1989: 0545 Hours Central War Time, Laredo AFB.

The 335th's aircrews were all gathered in the briefing room, before the day's flying. Major Wiser looked at the assembled faces. They'd had a day to soak in what had happened two days before. The previous day, they'd gone out and made the ComBloc pay for that-and everything that had happened since the war began. And this time, though several of the Mexican MiGs had come up, the 335th, along with the Marines, had declined combat. Nobody wanted to add another cheap scalp to one's score, not after what had transpired.

As he looked around, he saw all the familiar faces he expected. He noticed Starbuck, and said, “Glad to have you back, Captain. Got everything out of your system?”

“That I did, Major. Refreshed, recharged, and ready to go back to work,” Kara said.

“Glad to hear it, Captain,” Major Wiser said. “Same drill the last couple of days: Armed Reconnaissance and Opportunity Targets. Weather is CAVU, and stay away from 9th Air Force's AO, and the Monterrey area. Other than that, it's a wide open hunting ground. And there's no bag limit.”

Heads nodded. Then Sweaty raised her hand. “Major, what about MiGs?”

“Good question. After what happened on the First, nobody wants to take a chance on killing a kid. Gain Visual ID before shooting. If it's Soviet, Cuban, East German-why they're still fighting I don't know-or any non-Mexican ComBloc, kill.” Major Wiser said.

“And if it's Mexican?” Starbuck asked, with grim seriousness.

“Avoid combat for the most part. If it's a honcho-somebody who knows what he's doing-and he's serious about it, is the fight still on. Other than that, we can outfly, outrun, and outmaneuver them. Nobody's killing anymore kids. This comes from Tenth Air Force, guys, so word's gotten around.”


Everybody understood this one. This was ROE that they could live with-and no one, not even the new guys in the squadron, wanted to kill anymore kids. “Major, what about the kid?” Goalie asked.

“Colonel Brady told me. He's got family in Northern California: a cousin in Yuba City or Oroville, someplace north of Sacramento. They'll take him in. He gets an 1140 form, and doesn't see an EPW Camp.” Wiser said.

“What about Mexico City?” Starbuck asked.

“I thought it over, Starbuck,” Major Wiser said. “I sent your strike proposal to Colonel Brady. He'll send it to Tenth Air Force with his endorsement. No guarantee when we'll fly it right now, but you can bet, when we do go south, that's one mission I'll look forward to flying.”

Starbuck grinned. And so did most everyone there. Even the CO was relishing the prospect of going to Mexico City-and putting some bombs on those who not only had enabled the invasion and everything that followed, but had put sixteen- and seventeen-year olds into fighter cockpits. Major Wiser looked around. Then he noticed a Marine MP. The Sergeant was beckoning him to come over. “Sergeant?”

“Sir, before he left, Ricardo wanted to see you all.” the MP said.

This was weird, but why not? “Okay, bring him in,” Major Wiser said.

The boy came into the briefing room. At first, there was silence. Then applause. This kid was getting a second chance, and in a few years, he'd be an American himself. He politely nodded. And Major Wiser offered his hand, and the boy shook it. “Calm down, people!”

“Thank you, Major,” Ricardo said, with tears in his eyes.

“Going to be with your relatives?”

“Yes, Senor. I can go to school, work in their restaurant, and maybe go to university.” Ricardo said.

“Just remember this: America's the land of opportunity. Even after all that's happened here, you've got a second chance. If I were you, I'd think of October 1 as my second birthday.” Major Wiser told the young man.

“I already do.”

Then something happened that surprised everyone. Kara came up, and not only shook the boy's hand, but hugged him. “Just stay out of airplanes for a while, Okay?” she said.

“Oh, not for a long time. I have all the flying I want for a while.” Ricardo said.

The Marine Sergeant came in, “Sir, it's time for him to go.”

“You take care of yourself. And here's a promise. When we have our squadron reunions, you're invited. Anybody have a problem with that?” Major Wiser asked.

There was a chorus of “NO, SIR!” from the aircrews.

“Thank you, Major.” Ricardo said, and as he turned to leave, he did one thing for the last time. He stood to attention, like he was on the parade ground, and snapped a perfect salute. And the Major returned it. And Ricardo waved goodbye as the Marine sergeant took him on the first leg of his new journey in life.

Major Wiser turned to the squadron. “All right. Brownsville's going to be done in a week. Maybe less, if we keep it up. Let's see if we can't do that.”

“You got it, Major!” Sweaty said, and heads nodded.

“Okay, let's hit it.” And the room emptied as the 335th went out and on with their jobs. And forty-eight hours later, it was over in Brownsville.
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  #35  
Old 01-03-2015, 10:51 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Another One, and getting a squadron the hard way:

Taking Command

Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, TX: 26 October 1987



It had been two months since Sheppard had been recaptured, and there had been a race to get there, with III Corps' 23rd Infantry Division beating out VI Corps' 7th Armored Division. Now, it was a busy place, as Marine Air Group 11, along with Air Force and Army helicopters, and AF transports, were going in and out, supporting the ongoing fight for the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Fort Worth had fallen, as had several of the cities in between Dallas and Fort Worth, but Dallas was still a slugfest. At Sheppard, AF “Red Horse” Engineers and Navy Seabees had cleaned up the worst of the damage to the base, cleared away both the bodies and the unexploded ordnance, and gotten the runways operational. Revetments had been built to handle fighters and helicopters, and both tents and trailers had been brought in to house personnel and for the various squadrons to conduct their ground business. Now, the base was seeing more air activity in a day than it had in its prewar guise as an Air Training Command base. Marine and Air Force aircraft, from fighters to transports, as well as Army helicopters, came in and out, not to mention the occasional tanker, and it all added up to organized bedlam.

Capt. Matt Wiser, call sign Guru, of the Air Force's 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron had just finished briefing his flight on a mission that was put together way too fast for his liking, but with too many missions and not enough assets, he took it like he should. The mission had come down from Marine Air Group 11, to which his squadron had been attached since the early days of the war, and called for a strike on the Seagoville Municipal Airport. Cuban helicopters and even some Su-25s were using the place, and the Army wanted it taken out. It would be a low-level ride past Fort Worth to the west, then a turn east, flying south of the metro area, before turning to strike. One pass from the flight, and forty-eight Mark-82 bombs from the four aircraft should be enough to put the airport out of commission for a while. And as for getting out, he wanted to bypass the mayhem that was Dallas, so he planned on a turn north, find Lake Ray Hubbard east of Mesquite, and fly up the lake. Only then would the flight climb back to altitude to return to Sheppard. Then, he thought, an hour or so to turn around, and back in the saddle again. Only this time, he knew, as did everyone in the unit, we're going to win.

He looked at his crews one more time. They were all sitting outside their squadron office. “Any more questions?” There were none, so he told them, “All right, wheels up in fifteen mikes. Saddle up and get ready to go.”

As they broke up to head to their aircraft, Lt. Col. Dean Rivers came over. He was the CO of the 335th, and wanted to talk with the Exec.

“Guru. Just a minute. We need to talk.”

What's up, Boss?” The Exec asked.

“I've got a bad feeling about today. I can't pin it down, but it's there,” Rivers said.

“You've had these before, and nothing happened, Boss,” Guru reminded his CO. “What's so special about today?”

“Don't know, Guru. But I can't shake it,” said Rivers. “Anyway, I left a letter on your desk. Sergeant Ross has orders not to let anyone into your office unless it's you or me,” Rivers told his Exec.

Master Sergeant Michael Ross was the squadron's senior NCO. In thirty years of service, he'd seen it all. Or thought he had until the war began. He was a father figure to the enlisted airmen, and he was old enough to be the father of nearly all the aircrew as well. There wasn't anyone more trusted in the squadron than Ross.

“Including Major Carson?” Guru asked.

“Especially him, Guru. I'd rather have you take over the squadron than him.” the CO said. Then the object of their conversation came towards them. “Speak of the Devil, Guru. Major,”

“Sir,” Major Carson said as he saluted. He looked at Guru, who didn't salute him. And Colonel Rivers didn't return the salute.

Carson ignored it: he knew full well that expecting these two officers to respect him was a waste of time. “Colonel, I have some write-ups of enlisted airmen for being out of uniform on the flight line, failing to salute, and...”

“Save it, Major. I'll take those.” Colonel Rivers responded, taking the write ups. “As for what I'll do with these....Watch, Major.” And then Colonel Rivers tore up the papers and threw them in a nearby garbage can.

Carson was appalled. “Sir!”

“Major, in case you haven't noticed, there's a war on. We've been fighting for our national survival, and we can't be so spit-and-polish we lose the war!” Rivers yelled at Carson.

“Sir, there's Air Force Rules, and Regulations! Not to mention rank!” Carson said, glaring at the Exec.

Guru quipped, “I can't help it, Phil, if I'm not as rank as you.”

Carson's face turned red. “Colonel!”

“Face it, Major. He's got more combat experience than you, not to mention overall stick time. And he's somebody that everyone in the squadron looks up to after that E&E. I'd rather have an Exec ready to take over who's combat-experienced and tries to bring everyone home alive. You're not, Major.” Rivers said, looking at Guru, who was trying to stifle a laugh.

“Sir, General Tanner will hear about this!” Carson fumed.

“So what? I've got news for you, Major. Tanner knows. And he's OK with it. Unlike you, the General knows what parts of the book to keep once the shooting started and what parts to throw away. This isn't the Academy, Major, and these men and women aren't brand-new Doolies,” Rivers shot back.

“This is unheard of!” Carson wailed.

“Peacetime rules don't apply two years into a war, Major. And in case you've got any ideas, I've already talked to the General. If anything happens to me, Guru takes command of the squadron. Whether you like it or not. And if you give him any trouble, he'll be on the phone to Tanner in a hot minute.” Rivers paused to look at Guru, who was still trying to stifle a laugh, but managed to nod, yes. “Got that?”

Carson stared at the both of them. Clearly, neither one of them understood his reasons or motives, and the fact that Guru came out of OTS galled him. If he'd been an Academy grad, Guru might deserve the squadron. But Rivers, who had graduated from the Academy, had come down on Guru's side. And was way, way, too chummy with these...ROTC or OTS people. Even so far as to not wear his class ring. He was obviously “one of the boys.”

“Well, Major?” Rivers asked.

“Yes, Sir.” Carson responded, his tone betraying how he really felt, and realizing there wasn't much right now he could do about it. He stalked off in a fit of the sulks.

“That is not a happy person, Boss.” Guru observed.

“I've been looking for a reason to transfer him, and his last Officer Efficiency Report might be a good reason. If he gives you any trouble, look it up. Then call Tanner and explain the transfer. He'll back you up,” Rivers said.

“Only if you don't come back, Boss,” Guru said. “Time for me to go. See you in a while.”

“Take care, Guru. And bring everyone back safe,” Rivers said.

“I'll do that.” With that, Guru walked over to his F-4E, tail number 512, where he found the other members of his flight gathered. His WSO, Capt. Lisa Eichhorn, call sign Goalie, asked, “What was that all about?”

“Rivers has a bad feeling about today, and he wrote a letter for me, just in case he doesn't come back,” Guru told her.

“What was our Frank Burns wannabe doing there?” Capt. Kara Thrace, or Starbuck as she was known on the radio, asked.

“The usual BS. And he's pissed that Rivers told him that if anything happens to Rivers, I get the squadron and he doesn't.” Guru replied.

1st Lt. Valerie Blanchard, call sign Sweaty, said, “We'd be glad to call you Boss, instead of that SOB, Guru.”

“Let's just get through what's on our plate right now. And cross that bridge if it comes to it. Anything else?” Guru told the flight. Everyone nodded no. “Then let's go.”


45 minutes later, over North-Central Texas


Camaro Flight was heading east, just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. They had flown south to Mineral Wells, and then headed east. No radars, no SAMs, no MiGs. They were too low, and too fast. Normally, they'd have a pair of Wild Weasel SAM-killing Phantoms, or a pair of Marine F/A-18s with HARM or Shrike antiradar missiles, and a Marine EA-6B Prowler to jam enemy radars, but this mission had been laid on too fast, and those assets were busy elsewhere. Speed and surprise were what counted on this occasion, and coming in at 450 feet and 500-plus knots certainly helped.

In the rear seat of 512, Goalie looked at a chart and checked her watch. “Two minutes to IP, Guru.”

“Copy,” he replied. Guru got on the radio. “Camaro Flight, this is Lead. Two minutes.”

With that call, the four Phantoms popped up from 450 feet to 2,000 feet. They would have just enough time to identify the target and line up for bomb release. But it would put them in danger from antiaircraft guns and any missiles the Cubans had.

“Thirty Seconds, Guru.” Goalie called.

“Got it. Target in sight. Camaro Flight, Lead. Target in sight. Lead in hot.” With that, Guru rolled in onto the target, and he picked out the edge of the runway and the parking apron as his aiming point. He pressed the pickle button, and twelve Mark-82 500-pound bombs came off his plane. He walked his bombs across the runway and the apron, not only putting holes in the runway, but blasting a couple of Mi-8 Hip helicopters in the process. “Lead's off target,” he called.

The first sign that the Cuban defenders had that they were under attack was Guru's first bomb exploding short of the runway. And the rest of his bombs exploding in turn. Antiaircraft gunners ran for their ZU-23 AA guns, while Cuban soldiers grabbed SA-7 shoulder-fired missiles. But it was already too late, as Starbuck came in.

“Two's in hot!” She called as she laid down her dozen Mark-82s onto several Su-25s, blasting four of the Frogfoots apart. An added bonus for her was that two of her bombs wrecked a hangar, and another blasted the small control tower. Starbuck called in, “Two off target.”

“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called. She led her element in perpendicular to the first, coming in from due south. She laid down her bombs directly on the runway, adding to the bombs that Guru and Starbuck had dropped. And with that, Seagoville Municipal was out of business for a while. There was some flak coming up, and even an SA-7 or two, but Sweaty called in, “Three off target.”

“Four in hot!” 1st Lt. Nathan West, or Hoser as he went on the radio, called. He brought his F-4 right behind Sweaty, but he didn't aim for the runway. Hoser picked out the Cubans' fuel dump, and planted his bombs right on that, and several that missed the dump fell in the Cuban motor pool. As he banked away, he could see oily black smoke and balls of fire rising into the sky. “Four off target.”

“OK, let's get out of here. Camaro Flight, form on me.” Guru called, and the four Phantoms joined up and headed back down on the deck. “And Music on,” he ordered. That meant their ALQ-101 jammer pods, carried in the left forward Sparrow missile well, came on. The four Phantoms then found Lake Ray Hubbard, and came in over the lake, throwing up spray behind them. It took another two minutes before they reached the north shore of the lake, before they could climb up and turn west. And hope the Army air-defense pukes down below didn't decide they were enemy and take a shot at them.

Nothing of the sort happened, and the flight came into Sheppard's traffic pattern and requested landing instructions. After they landed and got themselves parked, the aircrews were still pumped. Apart from the flak at the target, they'd had a free ride. It wasn't that often that happened. They were still pumped when Guru opened the door to the squadron office, a former office for a flying training squadron, and found a very different scene.

Everyone was somber, going about their jobs, but they were in a daze. People were still being briefed, and were going out, but one could tell that something bad had happened. Guru led his people into the main briefing room, and noticed the other crews, and they looked like they were in shock. Then he noticed Capt. Mark Ellis, the Operations Officer. He waved Guru over.

“What happened, Mark? You'd think the President just died.” Guru told him.

“Not that. Colonel Rivers got shot down near Corsicana. He didn't get out,” Ellis said. “The squadron's yours now, Guru.”

Wiser looked at Ellis like he'd just grown two heads. Then he felt like he'd just taken a punch to the gut. Oh, man. Not like this, he thought.

“I'd better get to my office. Is Ross there?” Guru asked.

“Ever since we found out. And no, Carson hasn't been in there,” Ellis replied.

“Good. Make sure he stays out.” Guru then went to the front of the room and addressed the aircrews. “I know this isn't much, but Colonel Rivers would want us to buckle up, hold it back, and get on with our jobs. I'll get the chaplain so we can have a memorial service later, but right now, the best thing we can do is to keep doing what we're doing: namely, pushing those ComBloc bastards back where they came from. He'd want it that way. Any questions?”

The room was silent, then Ellis stood up. “Okay, people, we all know what to do. Let's get on with winning the war.” With that, people started going back into “game mode.” There was a job to do, and they had to keep going.

Guru then turned to Ellis. “Mark, give me a few minutes in my office. We'll clean out Rivers' stuff later. I'm not ready for that just yet. You're Exec now.”

“I'm not ready for that, Guru.” Ellis said.

“I wasn't ready to be Ops when I got it, and I wasn't ready to be Exec when Rivers handed it to me. And for sure, I'm not ready to be CO, but there's nothing I can do about it. We do the best we can, and that's it,” Guru replied, seeing Ellis nod.

“And who becomes Ops?” Asked Ellis.

“Don Van Loan. Rivers had his eye on him, and we talked it over. He's got enough experience, and he's done good as your backup. Goalie moves to senior WSO, and Kara becomes Don's deputy.” Wiser said.

Overhearing that, Starbuck replied, “Thanks a heap, Boss.”

“We all have to start sometime, Starbuck. Goalie, you comfortable being senior WSO?” Guru asked.


Goalie looked at her pilot and CO. “If I say no, does that change anything?”

“No.”

“Okay, then. I'm comfortable,” she responded.

“Good. I'll be in my office. Mark, get the department heads-supply, maintenance, ordnance, the flight surgeon, you, and Goalie. Have 'em in there in ten minutes,” he told Ellis.

“Right,” Ellis said as he went to notify those requested. Guru left to head to his office. He passed the CO's and he knew it was his now by right, but he just didn't feel like going in just yet. Then he came to his office, where Master Sergeant Ross and two armed CSPs were waiting. “Sergeant.”

“Sir. It's a shame about Colonel Rivers,” Ross said.

“I know. Has Major Carson been by?” Guru asked.

“No, sir. Not yet.”

“Good. See that he stays out. Let the enlisted folks know I'll be around, talking to them, and letting them know what's up. Nothing changes, and unless it's really bad, anyone Carson writes up gets that stuff sent where Colonel Rivers sent it: namely, the trash.” Guru told Ross.

“Yes, Sir!” Ross said, beaming with pride.

“Good. The senior officers will be here in a few minutes. I want you in as well: you're the senior NCO.”

“Yes, sir.”

“All right, Sergeant, that's all. I need a few alone.” Guru said as he went in.

“Sir.” Ross said, closing the door behind his new CO.

Guru went to his desk and found the envelope. After he opened it, he found the letter very short:

Guru, if you're reading this, then I'm either dead, MIA, or eating Kasha behind barbed wire. I just want to tell you that the squadron's yours now. I've cleared it with General Tanner, and FYI you wouldn't be the first in those shoes, bypassing someone senior to get a squadron. You're the one I trust to run things, and not Carson.

Keep doing things the way we've been doing, and remind everyone to take care of the enlisted guys. They keep us in the air, and remind them the enlisted aren't brand-new Doolies, or pieces of machinery. Take care of them, just as they take care of our birds.

As for the Major, don't worry. Like I said, Tanner's OK with you running things, and if Carson gives you any heat, call Tanner. Here's his contact info. And if you decide to kick him out of the squadron, check Carson's OER: I didn't want to kick him out just yet, but if you decide to, everything's there.

Don't worry about Linda and the kids: I've included a letter for you to send them. They're in Minnesota, and for them, the war is rationing and what they see on the evening news. Her dad was an Air Force Colonel, so she knows what can happen.

Just remember what I said, and I'll be watching over you guys. Check six, and finish the job we started.

Dean.


And we will, Boss, Guru thought to himself. There was a knock on the door. It was Ross. “Sir, the senior officers are here.”

Guru took a deep breath. “OK. Send them in, come on in yourself, and close the door behind us. And Carson stays out.”

Ross nodded, and the officers Guru wanted to talk to came in. Sergeant Ross closed the door behind him, and the two CSPs took their position outside.......


Fifteen Minutes later.....

The meeting broke up, and Goalie, Mark Ellis, Starbuck, and Don Van Loan were still there with Guru. General Tanner had called, and informed Guru that he'd be there in two days, and strongly hinted that something else in addition to squadron command was on the agenda. “With responsibilities come rank, Captain,” Tanner had said. That was a sign that good news was coming.

“What do Tanner and Colonel Rivers have in common, Guru?” Starbuck asked.

“Rivers was Tanner's aide, when he was a one-star. Even back then, Tanner never let rank go to his head,” Guru replied, remembering a conversation he and Rivers had had.

“Unlike a certain Major, right?” Goalie observed.

“Right you are, Goalie,” Guru said.

There was a knock at the door. One of the CSPs came in. “Sir, Major Carson's here. He's demanding to be allowed in.”

Everyone inside looked at each other. Then Guru said, “OK, let him in.”

Carson came into the room, a foul look on his face. “So you're CO now, Captain?” He sneered.

“Right you are, Major,” Guru replied. “And General Tanner's OK with that. I just got off the phone with him. I get the squadron, as Rivers asked. Not you.”

“This isn't right. General Tanner will see reason. He has to. And I am your superior officer,” Carson wailed.

“No, Phil. You aren't. Just a higher-ranking one. That's all,” Guru replied.

There was another knock on the door. One of the operations sergeants came in, with a fax in his hand. “Captain, a fax came for you from Tenth Air Force.”

Carson reached for it, but the Sergeant said, “Sir, this is for Captain Wiser.” And he handed it to Guru.

Guru read it. Then he handed it to Ellis. “Read it, Mark.”

Ellis read the fax aloud. “By order of Commanding General, Tenth Air Force, Captain Matt Wiser, USAF, is hereby confirmed in command of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron effective 1300 Hours this date. The Commanding General will be arriving at Sheppard AFB on 28 October to visit the squadron and other units based there. No formal unit inspection is intended, and the visit will not interfere with ongoing combat operations. Signed, Tanner, CG, Tenth Air Force.”

The smug look on Carson's face disappeared. He sulked out of the office, a solitary figure. After he left, Kara observed, “Never thought I'd say this, but he's worse than Tigh.”

“He's got a sense of entitlement, Starbuck,” Goalie observed. “He thinks he's entitled to the squadron by right. And finding out General Tanner denied him sure deflated his balloon.”

“That it did, Goalie. That it did,” Guru said. “In the meantime, I need some help this evening. If you like, I'd appreciate it if we all helped clean out Colonel Rivers' office. It'd deal with some of the pain.”
He looked at the group, and saw nods in the affirmative. “In the meantime, I believe we've got missions scheduled, Mark?”

“That we all do, Boss.” Ellis replied. “Your flight's up in an hour.”

“All right. Get something to eat, and let's go back to work. And if you're angry, let some Russians or Cubans feel that anger,” Guru said.

“YES, SIR!” They all shouted.

And with that, the 335th went on with the war.
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  #36  
Old 01-05-2015, 09:14 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The sequel to Taking Command:

Trials of Command


Sheppard AFB, TX, 5 December, 1987, 1250 Central War Time:



Major Matt Wiser, the commanding officer of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, was actually pleased with things this day. His unit had flown a number of strikes into the Dallas-Fort Worth area, supporting the Army in the meat grinder that was Dallas, and several crews had added MiGs or helicopters to their kill sheets. He had taken his flight to the Waxahachie area, where supply convoys headed to and from Dallas went up Interstate 35E, and his F-4s had laid waste to one such convoy. His flight had come out of the strike without a scratch, and having debriefed the mission, had some time to kill before their next strike, in two hours' time. And so the squadron commander decided that a nap on his office couch was in order. He'd laid down and closed his eyes, only to suddenly hear a voice in his ear. “Major?”

Major Wiser opened his eyes, to see his exec, Capt. Mark Ellis, standing over him. “What is it, Mark? Can't you see your CO needs his beauty rest? And I was about to have a dream: me, Goalie, and at least two Sports Illustrated swimsuit models-all about to do things that would likely get all of us arrested in half a dozen states.”

“Sorry, Major, but this is important. It's about Major Carson.”

“What has that sumbitch done now?” Wiser asked as he got up.

Major Frank Carson was perhaps the most hated officer in the squadron: a sentiment shared by both officers and enlisted airmen. Whether it was writing up airmen for being out of uniform-when the temperature on the flight line at Cannon or Amarillo had reached 118 degrees-the man thought male airmen stripped to the waist as they worked-or females in sports bras was “out of uniform”, or wailing about how the other officers failed to show him some respect-which everyone else felt he had done little to earn, or complaining about being passed over for squadron command, he'd gotten on just about everyone's bad side. Even the previous CO, before he was KIA, had little use for the man. And Lt. Col. Dean Rivers had put then-Capt. Wiser, call sign Guru, into the Executive Officer slot, and then upon Rivers' death five weeks earlier, as CO. And the “Frank Burns wannabe” as some called him, was appalled. But his protests to higher authority fell on deaf ears.

“Well, Major, he's involved in a suspected friendly-fire incident with the Army,” Ellis said.

“Where is he now?”

“I imagine he's writing up his backseater, his wingman, and his WSO-for insubordination, failure to maintain flight integrity, and so on,” Ellis said. “They're all waiting outside.”

Nodding, Major Wiser went over to his office coffee maker and poured himself a cup. He had a feeling he'd need the caffeine jolt. “Okay, send them in. Do you know what they've said?”

“Yeah, boss,” Ellis said. “It's not pretty.”

“All right. Find out from the Army-or the ALO in question, what happened from their side. Who'd he attack?”

“They were in First Cav's AO. Who, exactly, no idea as yet.”

Major Wiser nodded. “Great. First Cav....next thing we know, their division CO will be outside the main gate, with some MPs, wanting someone's head. Now, get Master Sergeant Ross and two CSPs. I want them on the office door. No matter what, Carson doesn't come in. Until I say so.”

“You got it, Major.”

“Does Van Loan know?” Wiser asked. Capt. Don Van Loan was the squadron's operations officer.

“He was the first to find out.” Ellis replied.

“All right, send 'em in.”


Ellis opened the office door and the three crewers in question came in. First Lt. Brian Slater, who was Carson's WSO, and Capt. Sean Hennnings and 1st Lt. Melissa Brewster came in and saluted. The Major sketched a salute, and said, “Let's hear it. Brian, you first.”

“Yes, Sir. We were coming back from our strike down by Cleburne,”

“Supply dump, right?” Asked the CO.

“Yes, Sir,” Slater replied. “Anyway, we were south of Mineral Wells when the Major saw a convoy headed south on one of the local roads, and he rolled in.”

“Did he ask an ALO or FAC if he was in a no-strike area?”

“No, Sir. He just saw the convoy, and rolled in. A FAC, Nail Five-Seven, called and told him to pull out and abort. He called twice, but the Major went in anyway. He burned all of his 20-mm on the pass.”

Major Wiser nodded. He turned to Hennings and Brewster. “Did he order you to follow him on the run?”

Both nodded, and Hennings said, “Yes, Sir. But with the FAC calling him to abort, I didn't. The FAC must've known something we didn't. And Major Carson was livid that we didn't follow him.”

“How livid?”

“Sir” Brewster said, “He was saying the words 'court-martial', 'violating flight intregity,' things like that.”

“He was just as angry with me, Major,” Slater chimed in. “I told him about seeing IFF panels on the trucks, and he said 'What panels?' Sir, with all due respect-those panels were there. He saw only what he wanted to see.”

“Typical Carson,” Major Wiser said. He picked up his phone and dialed Capt. Don Van Loan, the Ops Officer.

“Boss?”

“Don, come to my office. Now.”

“On the way.”

While waiting for Van Loan to arrive, the Major was considering his options. He'd been looking for a very good reason to transfer Carson, and it now appeared he had one. Then there was a knock on the door.

“In!”

Van Loan came in. “You wanted to see me, Boss?”

“Yeah, and this time, I wish I didn't. Take these three, put them in separate rooms, and have them write out their statements. Once that's done, have them typed up, signed, and sealed. While they're doing that, get the strike camera film and the cockpit audio from both aircraft. I don't care if the film hasn't been developed yet-and chances are, it hasn't. I want that boxed up, because JAG is going to handle this.” Major Wiser said.

“Gotcha, Major.” Van Loan said.

“Yeah. Where's Mark?”

“He was on the phone with somebody, last I saw.” Van Loan replied.

“Get him back here.” Major Wiser ordered.

“Will do.” Van Loan nodded, then motioned to the three. “You guys all come with me.”

As Van Loan left, Ellis came back in. “Boss, I just got off the phone with the senior ALO with First Cav.”

“What'd he have to say?” Asked Major Wiser. And the CO was dreading what Ellis would have to say.

“You're not going to like it. First, the CO of First Cav is hopping mad, and wants someone's head on a platter, his ass in a sling, and the rest of him in Leavenworth. Second, he did relay a casualty report. Twenty-seven casualties in all: twelve KIA, fifteen WIA. Seven of the KIAs are civilians, five are Army Civil Affairs people. All fifteen WIA are civilians, and four of the WIAs are under fourteen.” Ellis reported.

Major Wiser put his palm to his face. “Lovely. That's just great.....” He looked at the XO. “Let me guess: the Army was escorting refugees home?”

“You got it, Major.”

“Okay. I'm calling JAG.” Major Wiser said. He picked up the phone and dialed the base JAG office.

“JAG, Captain Carroll speaking,” the voice on the other line said.

“Captain, this is Major Wiser at the 335th TFS, I have a friendly-fire incident involving one of my pilots, and I was hoping you'd be able to take this off my hands.”

“Sir, I don't think we'll be able to help you, with all due respect,” Carroll replied.

“What do you mean by that, Captain...?”

“Sir, I'm only a year out of OTS, and it's been fourteen months since I passed the bar.”

Major Wiser looked at his Exec. “All right, and your other officers?”

“Sir, one's fresh out of knife-and-fork, she only passed the bar five months ago. My other officer is six months out of OTS, and he passed the bar eight months ago. None of them have any trial experience.”

“Lovely.”

“Sir, we're busy with casework-the usual with divorces, wills, and more than a few investigations. May I suggest talking to OSI? They may be able to assist you,” Caroll said.

“Thanks, you've been a big help.” Major Wiser said. Then he slammed down the phone. “Twerp.”

“Let me guess: too many cases, not enough people, and who they do have, are all inexperienced,” Ellis commented.

The CO nodded. “You got it.” He picked up the phone and dialed the base OSI office.

“OSI, Agent Martinez.”

“Agent Martinez, this is Major Wiser at the 335th TFS. I have a friendly-fire incident involving one of my pilots, and I was wondering if you could get the ball rolling on an investigation.”

“Sir, we'd be glad to help, but we're kind of busy here. We've got several major ongoing investigations at the moment; counterespionage, collaboration, and some things we really can't talk about,” the agent replied.

“Of all the...” Major Wiser said.

“Sir, may I suggest calling JAG? They may be able to help.”

“They told me to call you!” The CO shot back.

“Sorry, Sir. I wish we could help you.”

“Thanks. You've been a big help,” the Major said. He waited until Martinez hung up, then slammed the phone down again. “No sense pissing off OSI.”

“They're busy?” Ellis asked.

“Right again, Mark,” replied the CO. Major Wiser opened a drawer on his desk, and pulled out a piece of paper. He found what he was looking for, then dialed a number.”

“Who are you calling now, Boss?”

“General Tanner's office. All squadron and Wing commanders have a direct line to his office. It bypasses the ADC, staff flunkies, and so on.” Major Wiser said as he waited for the other line to pick up.

“General Tanner's office,” the feminine voice on the other end said. “How may I help you?”

“This is Major Wiser with the 335th TFS. I need to speak to the General right away. It's very urgent.”

“One moment please, Major.” She put him on hold for what seemed like an eternity, but it was only a few seconds. “He'll be with you in a moment.”

Tanner's voice then came on the line. “Major! How's things with the Chiefs?” “Chiefs” was the nickname for the 335th.

“Sir, it's going great, but we've got a serious problem. It concerns a certain Major that you, me, and my predecessor all have had problems with.” Major Wiser reported.

“What has that idiot Carson done now?” Tanner asked.

“Sir, he's involved in a friendly-fire incident, involving elements from the First Cav. There are fatalities, and not just soldiers. Civilians as well,” the Major said.

“Of all the.....” Tanner said. “You're absolutely sure about this, Major?”

“General, I am. The three witnesses in his flight are all giving statements right now, and we have the strike camera film and cockpit audio recordings,” Wiser said. “Sir, I imagine First Cav's CO wants someone's head on a platter, his ass in a sling, and the rest in Leavenworth.”

“Don't worry about First Cav. I'll talk to General Franks at III Corps, then First Cav's CO. You let me worry about that. Just concentrate on your job at hand, and getting on with the war.” Tanner said.

“Yes, Sir,” Major Wiser said. “And Major Carson?”

“Just a minute, Major. I need to put you on hold,” and Tanner did so. After a a couple of minutes, he came back. “Major, there's a C-130 that just left Amarillo. I've ordered them to divert to Sheppard, and they'll fly Carson-and any escort, right to Davis-Monthan. Get him-and any evidence you have, on that plane.”

“Yes, Sir!”

“And Major? Don't worry about First Cav or III Corps. You let me handle that, and you handle the Russians,” said Tanner.

“Yes, Sir.”

“All right. Tenth Air Force will handle everything from here on. Once he's on that 130, he's no longer your problem. Clear?”

“Perfectly, Sir.” Major Wiser said.

“Good. You wish they'd taught you to handle something like this in OTS?” Tanner asked.

“Now that you mention it? Yes, Sir.” Wiser replied.

“And the Academy, and ROTC,” Tanner said. “You're doing fine, Major. And I've got every confidence in you. Just get him on that plane.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Like I said: I'll handle this. You have a good day.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

With that, Tanner hung up. Major Wiser turned to Ellis. “Mark, you're going to escort Carson to Davis-Monthan. Along with Ross and the CSPs. Plan on being there overnight.”

“Right, boss.”

There was a tap on the door. It was Van Loan. “Major, Got all the statements, film, and the cockpit audio. All boxed and ready.”

“Good,” the Major said. Then there was a knock on the door. “Yeah?”

It was 1st Lt. Lisa Eichhorn, call sign Goalie. She was Major Wiser's WSO. “Guru, we've got a brief in thirty minutes. You going to be there?”

Oh, joy, Major Wiser thought. He'd forgotten about the upcoming mission. “Got something more important.” He turned to Van Loan. “Push my flight's mission back by at least an hour-no, make that two. I have a feeling this'll take a while.”

“Will do, Boss,” Van Loan said, heading out the door past Goalie.

“What's up?” Goalie asked. “Word's going around that Carson may be out.”

“Not may, will. He won't be around for much longer.” Wiser said. He saw the puzzled look on his WSO's face. “I'll explain at the Club tonight.”

“Fine by me,” she replied, going out and closing the door. After doing so, the Major and Ellis saw her pump her arms and and shout “YES!”

“Word's gonna get around, Major,” Ellis said. “And not just in the 335th. Colonel Brady's probably going to call you and ask 'Why did it take you this long to fire this asshole?'”

Colonel Allen Brady was the CO of Marine Air Group 11, to which the 335th was assigned “for the duration.” And the eager Major had not only angered members of the 335th, but also Marines as well. For which there had been a number of complaints sent to the squadron. Now, those complaints would cease.

“I know. I was willing to see if he was going to shape up,” Wiser said, shaking his head. “Maybe it was wishful thinking, or what.” He looked at his Exec. “Well, even if they don't court-martial him, he'll be shoveling snow in Newfoundland or Labrador, and he'll be someone else's problem.”

“There is that, Boss.” Ellis agreed.

There was another tap on the door. It was one of the CSPs. “Sir, Major Carson's here. Do we let him in or not?”

The CO and XO looked at each other. “Mark, stay here. Not just for backup, but you might be in this position one day. If not in the 335th, heaven forbid, but they might decide there's a squadron somewhere with your name on it. Think of this as a learning experience.”

“No problem, Major.” Ellis replied.

Major Wiser nodded, then said to the CSP. “Let him in.”


Major Frank Carson came strutting into the CO's office, as if he thought he owned the place-which wasn't far from what everyone else in the unit thought was his feeling. Carson never hid his belief that the 335th was his to command by right, and that Colonel Rivers had made a mistake in putting then-Capt. Wiser in over him to be Exec, and then having Wiser take over upon Rivers' death. Carson felt that an Academy man, and only an Academy man, should command the squadron, and he was appalled that not only had an OTS graduate gone over him, but that a fellow Academy graduate-Colonel Rivers-had put a ….peasant from some rural California town in line to command the squadron. His protests to higher authority had fallen on deaf ears, and was easily the most hated man in the squadron. Still, he felt no one recognized his efforts to maintain discipline, and doing things by the book. Carson came to attention and snapped a perfect salute. “Major.”

“Frank,” the CO said, sketching a salute. “What is it now?”

“Sir, I wish to file charges against Slater, Brewster, and Hennings. Failure to maintain flight integrity, refusal to obey an order, and insubordination.” He handed the the papers to Major Wiser.

“Pretty serious, Mark.” The CO said, and saw the Exec nod. “Here's what I think of your charges.” And Major Wiser tore the papers into several pieces, and threw the pieces into his trash bucket.

“Sir!” Carson wailed. “You're turning a blind eye to serious issues in the cockpit!”

Major Wiser glared at Carson. “Right now, any fault of theirs is the least of your worries. That convoy you strafed? The one that Hennings and Brewster didn't roll in on and Slater urged you not to fire? That was one of ours!”

Carson stared at Major Wiser. Was this....OTS peasant being serious? “Sir..”

“You just saw a bunch of Soviet-built trucks. But you didn't see the IFF panels on top, and ignored the FAC repeatedly telling you to pull off and abort. So you had to make a gun run. Well, Major, hope it was worth it, because those were friendlies.”

Carson was stunned. “Friendlies? Sir, those were Soviet trucks, and Ivan's used American markings before...”

“When a FAC tells you to abort, you abort!” Major Wiser shot back. “You didn't, and shot up three vehicles, and one of those blew up.” He turned to his Exec. “How many casualties, Mark?”

“Twenty-seven, Major. Twelve fatalities. Seven civilians and five soldiers killed. Fifteen civilians wounded. Four of those are under fourteen, the Army says.” Ellis said.

“Civilians...” Carson said. “What?”

Major Wiser exploded. “They were our people! The Army was escorting refugees home, and you rolled in on them! People that survived the Soviet occupation of their homes, and you put seven in the morgue, and fifteen in a MASH! Hope you think trying to impress General Tanner-or someone higher than him-was worth it.”

“Sir, I made a decision in the cockpit,” Carson said. “And I resent your implying that I acted recklessly.”

“I'm not implying it,” Wiser said. “I'm saying it flat out. This is a SNAFU of the highest order.” He went to his desk and opened a drawer. The CO pulled out a form-mostly filled out. “Right now, it's in the hands of JAG at Tenth Air Force. They'll handle the investigation and decide on a court-martial. Regardless of that, you're out of the squadron. As of NOW.”

“Sir...”

“You never made the transition from peace to war, Frank. And before you say it, I'm not as rank as you are.” Major Wiser said. “I only had one bad encounter with you-and before you say it, I've loathed you ever since the day you tried to have me and Goalie written up on a fraternization reg-something that General Tanner told JAG and OSI to ignore-as we've got worse things to worry about-like winning the war!”

Carson glared at his CO. “This isn't the Air Force I joined when I graduated from the Academy.”

“You know what? It's not the same one I joined when I graduated OTS. Things change, Major. Wartime does that-or haven't you noticed? The Air Force has changed. You haven't-and still can't get used to things-like a girl from 'the wrong side of the tracks'...”

“You mean that bitch Thrace?” Carson sneered.

“I'd be careful using that phrase if I were you,” Major Wiser said. “And that woman you mention can fly an F-4 better than you can. Which is something you can't handle. Or the fact that the number of Academy hands in this unit can be counted on two hands. That ring on your finger means nothing when the flak comes up. Rivers knew it-he never wore his class ring, and my WSO doesn't either.”

“Sir, you don't understand,” Carson said. “I have been trying to bring more order and discipline to this unit, and my efforts have been misunderstood, and even belittled.”

“No, Frank,” said Major Wiser, “Your efforts have been despised. You don't realize just how much you're hated. The officers under you aren't in Doolie Summer at the Academy, and the NCOs and Airmen aren't pieces of equipment to be used and abused. I don't care what happens next in the investigation, but like I just said: you're out.” The CO took the Transfer Form, and filled in the box marked “Reason for Transfer.” He put in, “Failure to adjust to wartime circumstances; inability to get along with fellow officers; and, possible involvement in friendly-fire incident.” Major Wiser then signed and dated the form. He then gave one copy to Ellis. “That's for the squadron personnel file. Another copy for his personnel jacket, and the other is for personnel at Tenth Air Force.”

“Yes, Sir,” Ellis replied.

“You can't be serious,” Carson said.

“I am. And if I were you, when I get to Davis-Monthan, I'd wrangle a long-distance call to that rich Daddy of yours in Boston.” The CO got right into Carson's face. “Tell him 'Dad, I need a lawyer.' Because guess what: chances are, you'll need one.” Major Wiser said. Then he yelled, “Sergeant Ross!”

Master Sergeant Ross came into the office. “Sir?”

“Sergeant, you will escort Major Carson to his desk. Watch as he cleans it out. You will then escort him to his quarters, and watch him pack. Then, you will escort him to Base Operations. Take the two CSPs with you, and you will accompany him on a C-130 headed to Davis-Monthan. Captain Ellis will be with you, and you will hand the Major over to General Tanner's representative-probably JAG. You will not let him out of your sight until relieved by said representative. Is that clear?” Major Wiser asked.

“Perfectly, Sir.”

“Good. You may have to RON there, though, so have a friend pack a few things for you.” Wiser said. He turned to Ellis. “That evidence box doesn't leave your sight until Davis-Monthan, and it's handed over to that representative.”

“Understood, Major,” Ellis said, trying to conceal a smile.

“You haven't heard the last of this,” Carson sneered.

“Maybe, maybe not,” Major Wiser shot back. “If there's a court-martial, I'll be there for the prosecution. If they don't, well, if you're shoveling snow at Goose Bay or Gander, or watching for Polar Bears at some Radar Station above the Arctic Circle, I won't care. The only bad thing is that you'll be someone else's problem.” The CO then turned to Ross. “Get him out of my sight!”

Ross let out a grin. “Yes, Sir!” And he escorted Carson out of the office and to his desk. When it was obvious that Carson was packing up to leave, there were smiles all around. And when Ross escorted him out of the office for the last time, there was cheering.

“About time!” Capt. Kara Thrace said to the CO when Carson left.

“No kidding!” 1st Lt. Valerie Blanchard said, nodding to the CO. “Major, you just made everyone's day.”

“Thanks, Sweaty,” Major Wiser said. He looked around the squadron office and saw smiles on everyone's face-both officers and enlisted. Then he saw Doc Waters, the Flight Surgeon, who was trying to hide a stethoscope. “Doc...were you giving the office wall a physical?”

“I plead the Fifth on that, Boss,” the surgeon replied.

“Now I know how word traveled so fast,” observed the CO. “All right, people! Get back into game mode, because we still got a job to do. If you want to let rip, do it at the club tonight.” He went back into his office, and found Goalie, Kara, Sweaty, Van Loan, and several others there, waiting for him, and all had smiles on their faces. And they applauded as he came in.

“Way to go, Major!” Goalie said.

“I know, this just reduces the enemy to the ComBloc,” Wiser said. “And you guys were probably wondering what took so long to get him out?”

Kara nodded, “The thought had occurred to some of us.” And other heads nodded.

“Well, there was an outside chance-a small one-but a chance that he'd shape up. Rivers advised me in his letter to wait and see before kicking Carson out. Second, I was hoping that he'd fall on his own sword, and it would be so obvious to anyone on the outside that he had to go.” Major Wiser said.

“That he did, Major,” Van Loan observed.

“Yeah,” the CO replied. “Too bad it happened this way, but now, he'll be someone else's problem.”

“And I pity whoever that is,” Goalie said.

“You, me, and probably everyone else here,” Kara said. “Said this before, but he's worse than Tigh.”

“Yeah, and if they don't decide to court-martial him, pray they don't send him to be Tigh's Exec.” Sweaty said.

“Even Tigh has scruples,” Kara pointed out. “He'd be looking for a way to kick Carson's ass as far away from Kingsley Field as he can.”

“And he would, too,” the CO said. “All right, guys, I hate to break this up, but we still got a job to do. My flight, mission brief at 1500.”

The others filed out, still grinning at each other, but Goalie stayed. She shut the door. “Guru, I can tell when something's bothering you.”

“Yeah. You're an Academy grad. I know, not everyone from Colorado Springs is like that, and I also know not to judge a whole group by the acts of a few idiots, but did you have classmates like that?” Guru asked his WSO.

“I did, sorry to say. There's a half-dozen people I knew who'd be carbon copies of that bastard,” Goalie said. “Makes me kind of ashamed I know those people. I'm just glad he wasn't one of my classmates.”

“Rivers never was like that: he took off his class ring and never put it on. He was 'one of the boys',” Major Wiser said. “And you do the same.”

“Well, I learned early on-and not just from him. He did reinforce it, though.”

“Something our Major didn't realize. And I bet Rivers is looking down on us and smiling. Though he's probably asking, 'what took you so long?'” Guru said.

“I imagine so,” Goalie nodded.

Major Wiser looked at the office clock: 1420. “Man, how time flies. We've got a mission brief in forty minutes. I need a nap: wake me up just before 1500: Mark woke me up from a too-brief nap with the news.”

“Will do,” Goalie said, heading to the door.

The CO checked his desk. Something he'd overlooked in the day's excitement had caught his attention. “Wait.” He scanned a list. “The December list of Captains is out.” Guru looked at his WSO and grinned. “You're on it. Congratulations, Captain.”

Goalie stopped. Then she came over and gave her CO a hug. “Thanks!”

“Don't thank me, thank Rivers. He forwarded the paperwork.”

“Still...”

“I know: I'll pin the Captain's bars on you. And you have to pay for the promotion party.” The CO reminded his backseater. “Two reasons to celebrate at the club tonight. And when we have time for a more...private celebration....”

“There is that,” Goalie agreed.

“All right: go and sew on some Captain's insignia on your flight suit. I'll see you at 1500. And today, this is your first combat flight as a Captain.”

“I never thought I'd do this for you, but..” Goalie said. She came to parade-ground form, just as if she was back at Colorado Springs, snapped to attention, and gave a perfect salute.

The CO returned it, and said, “As you were before, Captain. I'd rather have the Goalie I know.”

“Don't you worry about that,” she replied.

He laughed, knowing she meant it. “I'll see you at 1500. And I hope to see Captain's bars on you.”
Goalie let out one of her grins. “You will, Boss.” And he also knew that when she grinned like that, fun times were ahead. Tonight at the club, she'd let rip-for an hour or so before the twelve-hour rule kicked in.

“Good. Now, your CO and pilot needs that nap. I'll see you at 1500. Oh, one more thing,” he said, taking the list off his desk and giving it to her. “Put this on the bulletin board. There's several other people in the squadron on it. Spread the joy around.”

“Will do.”

The CO went over to the couch. “See you in thirty,”

“I'll be here.” Goalie replied, leaving the office and closing the door behind her. He could hear “YES!” as she went to tell the others on the list.

“Thanks, Colonel,” Major Wiser said, looking up at the ceiling. “She deserves it.” He then closed his eyes, hoping to have that dream he'd been hoping for-when Mark had awakened him.
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  #37  
Old 01-12-2015, 05:09 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Here's one involving a Red-on-Red friendly-fire incident...

Red on Red


335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Williams AFB, AZ; 2 May, 1987, 1230 Hours Mountain War Time
.


Captain Matt “Guru” Wiser, the Executive Officer of the 335th TFS, was in his office, going over some squadron paperwork in between missions. One thing about wartime, he had found out, was that many of the bureaucrats who infested the Air Force in peacetime had either slithered away or, he hoped, had found more useful work supporting, instead of hindering, the war effort. He had just finished some enlisted airmen's evaluations when his WSO, First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, knocked on the door. “Show yourself and come on in.”

She came into the office bearing two lunch bags. “Here. Fresh from the Marines' mess tent.”

“What'd you get?”

“Fried chicken with cole slaw, and two bottles of water. “

He smiled. “Paperwork can wait. Lunch can't.” And both of them attacked the food. They were just about finished when there was another knock on the door. “Come on in!”

First Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard, his wingmate, came in. “We've got a mission, CO says.” Lt. Col. Dean Rivers was the CO of the 335th. “Brief in ten.”

Guru nodded. “All right. Get Preacher and we'll be there.” 2nd Lieutenant Bryan “Preacher” Simmonds was Sweaty's WSO.

Sweaty nodded. “Will do.”

“Let's go,” Guru said to Goalie.

A few minutes later, the four crewers were in a former classroom used by the base's former occupants, an Air Training Command T-37 wing. When they arrived, they found 1st Lieutenant Darren Licon, the Squadron's intelligence officer, waiting. “Darren,” Guru said.

“Guru,” Licon replied, nodding. “And everyone.” He got to the point. “We've got a truck park and maintenance site outside Newkirk, on old Route 66, just north of I-40. Intel says the truck convoys pull off the Interstate before dark, remain overnight, and leave again in the morning. But they've got some intel that says the truck park's still occupied.”

“And let me guess: someone wants something dreadful to happen to the truck park?” Preacher asked. Prewar, he had been studying for the priesthood, and when the war began, he'd joined the Air Force and volunteered for WSO training. When his classmates found out he'd been studying to become a priest, they gave him the call sign.

“You got it,” Licon said. “It's still occupied. They want it hit before it's empty.”

“Defenses?” Guru asked.

“There's a 57-mm battery to the east, and a ZPU battery around the park itself. There's also the Tucumcari SA-2 site further east. No other heavy SAMs reported,” Licon reported.

“MiGs?” Sweaty wanted to know.

“Nearest field is Cannon, and they do have both MiG-23s and MiG-25s,” the SIO said. “You may expect a defensive reaction from those guys.”

“We getting any support on this one?” Goalie asked.

“No. All assets are committed elsewhere. You'll have to rely on speed, surprise, and your ECM pods.”

Guru nodded. “Weather?”

“CAVU,” Licon said. “CO says how you fly the mission is up to you.”

“Okay,” Guru said. “Thanks, Darren.”

The SIO said, “Good luck,” then he nodded and left the room, leaving the crews to peruse their TPC chart, and look at the photos Licon had left for them.

“Well?” Sweaty asked.

“Low and fast,” Guru said. “Go in low, pop-up and strike, then get down low and head southwest. Stay away from the Interstate, and any other east-west roads for that matter.”

“Got you,” she replied. “Ordnance load?”

“Says here, I get twelve Mark-82s with Daisy Cutter fuze extenders. You get twelve CBU-59/Bs. The ones with the incendiary submunitions. We both get four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Es, an ALQ-101 pod, and full 20-mm.”

“They want those trucks to burn.”

“Not arguing that,” Guru replied.

“Usual bailout areas?”Sweaty asked.

“Yep. Anyplace away from the roads. The further away you are, the better chance of SF, the Jolly Greens, or the locals finding you instead of the bad guys,” Guru said. “Been skydiving once, and not willing to do it again.”

“Don't blame you,” Preacher said. What Guru had seen and done on his E&E was common knowledge in the squadron, and in the Marine Air Group that the 335th was attached to.

“Once we're across the fence, we go by call sign, not mission code, unless we need to talk to AWACS or somebody else,” Guru told his flight. The “Fence” was the Rio Grande, and the front line. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “All right: get your gear, and let's hit it.”


Over Occupied Eastern New Mexico, 1320 Hours Mountain War Time:


Camaro Flight was headed east, well south of I-40, and going in low. They had a pre-ingress refueling at the tanker track to top up their tanks, then they had gone in low. With few good terrain features, other than the occasional body of water, like the Pecos River, navigation was by dead reckoning and their inertial navigation systems. In the front cockpit of his bird, 512, Guru was swiveling his head, keeping an eye out for threats, something that had been drummed into his head in his F-4 training prewar. “How far to turn?”

“Three minutes,” Goalie replied. “Just past U.S. 84.”

“Copy,” Guru replied. So far, so good.

Both F-4s continued east, and it wasn't long before they reached their turn point. “And turn,” Goalie called.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. He banked the F-4 over some nameless dirt road, and leveled out, still at 450 feet AGL. “Time to pop-up?”

“One minute,” Goalie said.

“Okay, switches on. Set 'em up. Everything in one pass.”

“You got it,”

“Sweaty, Guru. Switches on, music on, and stand by to pull.”

“Roger,” his wingmate called.

“Switches set. Stand by....” Goalie called. “And pull!”

Both F-4Es pulled up, and as they did so, pilots and WSOs began scanning visually for the target. Sure enough, the twin ribbons of I-40 appeared, then the small town of Newkirk. And then the truck park appeared, north of the old Route 66. “Got it, Lead,” Sweaty said.

“I see it,” Guru said. “Lead's in hot.” He rolled his F-4 in on the target, and lined up the truck park. “Steady, steady,” he murmured. Then he hit the pickle button. “HACK!” And a dozen Mark-82 five-hundred pound bombs came off the aircraft.

Down below, at the truck park, a Soviet truck convoy had stopped the previous night, but had to remain there due to several trucks having maintenance issues. The truckers hadn't been complaining, since there was hardly any bandit activity, and there had been no American air attacks. And their MVD escorts were feeling the same way. Then someone pointed to the southeast, as Guru's F-4 rolled in.

“Lead's off target!” Guru called as he pulled up.

A dozen five-hundred pound bombs exploded in and around the truck park, ripping up vehicles, and killing and wounding many of the truckers, as well as the truck park's personnel. The survivors had barely picked themselves up, when a second F-4 came in.

“Two's in hot!” Sweaty called as she rolled in. She lined up the smoke of Guru's bombs exploding in her pipper, and then she pressed the pickle button. “HACK!” Was the call, as a dozen CBU-58/Bs came off her airplane, scattering a mix of high-explosive and incendiary subunitions on the truck park, exploding a number of vehicles that had survived Guru's bombs, and starting a number of fires. One of which exploded the truck park's fuel dump....

“Two's off safe,” Sweaty called. “Look at that!”

Guru and Goalie saw the oily fireball erupt as the fuel tanks exploded. “Good work, Sweaty. Let's get outta here.” Guru set his course southwest, and Sweaty joined up with him. As they headed southwest, they had just cleared U.S. 84 when AWACS called.

“Camaro Two-One, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing Two-nine-zero for forty-five, medium, closing.”

“Copy, Crystal Palace,” Guru replied. “Say Bogey Dope?”

“Camaro Two-One, Crystal Palace,” the controller replied. “Bandits are Fitters.”

“Copy, Crystal Palace,” Guru responded. “Sweaty, Guru, let's go get 'em.”

“Roger that,” Sweaty replied.

The two F-4s turned for the bandits, climbing slightly, and turning on their radars.

Then the AWACS called again. “Camaro, Crystal Palace. Second threat, bearing One-seven-zero for thirty. Medium, closing fast. Bandits are Foxbats. Repeat, bandits are Foxbats.”

“Shit!” Guru called. “Sweaty, Guru. Break!”

“Roger that!” Sweaty replied, and both F-4s broke into the Foxbats, honoring the more immediate threat.


MIG-25PD number 067, 2nd Squadron, 787th IAP-PVO, Over New Mexico:

Major Valery Kornnikov and his wingman, Captain Arkady Belov, were in their MiG-25PDs, responding to a report of American aircraft and they were being directed by their ground controllers.

“Zero-Six-Seven, Jaybird.” The GCI called. “Hostiles bearing directly ahead. Low level. Descend to one thousand meters.”

“Understood, Jaybird. Executing.” Kronnikov replied. In the PVO, a GCI controller's word was law.

“Zero-six-seven,” Belov called. “I have targets dead ahead, medium level.”

“Jaybrid, Zero-Six-Seven. We have targets directly ahead. Request permission to engage.”

“Stand by,” the GCI controller said. He turned to a senior officer. “Comrade Major, any friendly flights in this area? I have four targets.”

The Major looked at his flight schedule. “Libyan Su-22s!” He turned to another controller. “Contact those Libyans. Tell them to get clear of the area.”

That controller nodded, and called the Libyans. “No response.”

Shaking his head, the Major turned to the first controller. “Tell the MiG-25s to engage. Verify via IFF that the targets are hostile.”

Nodding, the controller called the MiGs. “Zero-six-seven, Jaybird. You are cleared to engage. Verify targets are hostile.”

“Understood,” Kornnikov replied.


Ahead of them, the two Libyan Su-22s were flying on. Neither of the Libyans had a good knowledge of Russian, having learned to fly in their homeland, via Syrian and North Korean instructors. They were flying without their IFF transponders on. It would turn out to be a big mistake.

“Target locked,” Kronnikov said. “Zero-six-nine, engage.”

Both MiG-25s locked up their targets for their R-40 (NATO AA-6 Acrid) missiles. And they fired.


“Sweaty,” Guru called. “Break!”

Both F-4Es broke to the right, and they saw the missile trails going above them. The crews hadn't yet seen the MiG-25s, and as they turned, they saw the missile trails end in fireballs.

The Libyan flight leader suddenly picked up his radar warning receiver. Then he saw the missiles coming for him. “Allah Akba-”

The lead Su-22 exploded in a fireball, and then the Libyan wingman exploded a few seconds later. Both Su-22s crashed to earth and exploded again on impact.

“What the...” Goalie called. “Those chumps blew away the two Fitters.”

“Not arguing with that, if the Reds want to kill each other,” Guru replied. “Where's the MiGs?”

“Going away.”


“Jaybird, Zero-six-seven,” Kornnikov called his GCI. “Both targets destroyed. Fuel running low. Request permission to return to base.”

“Zero-six-seven, Jaybird,” the controller replied. “Permission granted.”

The two MiG-25s turned and headed back towards Cannon AFB, leaving the two F-4s behind.

“Let's get out of here,” Guru called Sweaty. “Get back down, and head for the river.”

“Right with you, Lead.”

The two F-4s formed up and headed back to the Rio Grande. As soon as they cleared the river, Guru called. “Crystal Palace, Camaro Two-one is across the fence. Request a vector to the tankers.”

“Copy,” the AWACS controller replied. “Vector is two-six-five.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. The two F-4s then made the tanker rendezvous, drank some fuel, then headed back to Williams.

After the two F-4s taxied to their dispersal, the crews shut down and got out. “What the hell was that?”
Goalie asked.

“Red-on-Red,” Guru said. “Too bad that doesn't happen more often.”

“Guru,” Sweaty said as she came over. “Reds blowing each other away? What the fuck?”

“Couldn't happen to nicer people,” Preacher said.

“Come on,” Guru nodded. “Let's get debriefed, give Darren the good news, and get something to eat. We've got time for one more.”


Cannon Air Force Base, Occupied New Mexico:


Major Kornnikov taxied his MiG-25 to his dispersal area and shut down. He looked to his right and saw Belov doing the same. His ground crew put up the crew ladder, and as he got out, he saw his Squadron Commander, the Regimental Commander, and another officer he didn't recognize come over. “Comrade Colonel?” He addressed his Regimental Commander.

“Comrade Major Kornnikov and Comrade Captain Belov,” the Regimental Commander said. “You are restricted to quarters until further notice, and the conclusion of an investigation by the Military Prosecutor's Office.”

“What is this about?” Kornnikov asked. He and Belov were stunned.

The other officer, who identified himself as the local Military Prosecutor, said, “The two aircraft you shot down were Su-22s flown by our Libyan allies. You are confined to quarters until the investigation is concluded.”

“What?” Kornnikov said.

The Prosecutor nodded to four men of the Commandant's Service (Soviet Military Police). “Escort these two officers to their quarters. They will remain there under guard until further notice.”


335th TFS, Williams AFB, AZ: 1405 Hours Mountain War Time:

“What?” Lieutenant Darren Licon said. “Run that by me again, please, Captain.”

“I'll say it again, Darren. Those two MiGs blew away two of their own aircraft,” Guru said.

“We saw it too,” Sweaty nodded. “We had the MiGs on radar, closing, then missiles in the air, and they flew right over us. Then to our north, there's two fireballs all of a sudden, and those Fitters went down.”

Licon shook his head. “I'll send this to Tenth Air Force Intelligence. We've heard about the Reds having Friendly-fire incidents before, but this is the first time it's been air-to-air that I know of.”

“SAM operators are the same wherever they are,” Goalie said. “If it flies, it dies, and we sort it out on the ground.”

“Yeah,” Preacher agreed.

“All right, Sir,” Licon said. “I'll check your strike camera footage, and see what BDA we get from recon, but it looks like, based on your description, that the truck park's out of business for a while.”

“Thanks, Darren,” Guru said.

Then Captain Mark Ellis, the Ops Officer, came in. “Red-on-red? YGTBSM!”

“No, Mark, and we saw it,” Guru replied. “Whatcha got for us?”

“New mission,” Ellis said. “Rivers is out, and he left it to me. You guys are going to Fort Sumner. There's a local radio station that the Quislings are using as their local 'Liberation Radio' affiliate. You guys get to put the transmitter out of commission.”

“Fine with us,” Sweaty said.


Cannon AFB, Occupied New Mexico, 4 May, 1987; 1400 Hours local time:

Major Kornnikov and Captain Belov were in a military courtroom, attending a State Commission of Inquiry into the incident two days earlier. They had given their testimony, had listened to the GCI controllers giving theirs, and had also heard from the Libyans' squadron commander. The members of the Commission had adjourned, and the two pilots were waiting on the verdict, along with their Squadron Commander and the Military Prosecutor. Then the Commission members returned.

“It is the conclusion of this Commission that the responsibility for the shooting down of the two Libyan aircraft on 2 May, 1987, over Liberated New Mexico, lies solely with the two Libyan pilots. Testimony has proven that their failure to follow established radio procedures, their failure to turn on their identification transponders, and their refusal to acknowledge the warnings from ground control, led to the unfortunate incident.

“The Commission therefore rules that the two Soviet Pilots, Major Kornnikov, V. and Captain Belov, A., are cleared of any wrongdoing, and are authorized to return to combat duties.”

The chair of the commission, a SAF Major General, banged his gavel, bringing the proceedings to a close. As the members filed out, Kornnikov shook hands with Belov, then his Squadron Commander and Regimental Commander. “Reporting back for combat duty, Comrade Colonel,”

“I expected you would,” the Regimental CO replied. “Those Black-Assed Libyans got themselves killed, but somebody raised a stink-probably the Libyans, and you two had to go through the motions.”

“One thing I'm curious about, though,” Kornnikov replied.

“And that is?”

“Who were those F-4 pilots? And what did they think of what happened?”

The political officer came over. “After our victory, you can ask them.”



Wing Commander's Residence, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, 4 February, 2010, 1500 Hours Mountain Standard Time:


Colonel Matt Wiser was sitting in his living room, waiting until it was time to go to Wing HQ and pick up his wife from work. Colonel Lisa Eichhorn-Wiser was now the wing commander of the 366th TFW at Mountain Home, and he was commanding the 419th TFW in the AF Reserves at Hill AFB down in Utah. Their units had just returned from the Baja War, or the Second Mexican War as some people were calling it, and their units were taking a well-deserved break before getting back into peacetime routine.

Colonel Wiser was reading an Osprey book, one that he'd just gotten that day via Amazon and UPS, USAF F-4E Units of World War III, and to his surprise, there was a whole chapter on the 335th, while one of the color plates in the book, along with a photo, showed his old bird, 512. Then a paragraph caught his eye. It was a first-person account from then First Lieutenant, now Lieutenant Colonel, Sweaty Blanchard. It detailed the encounter with the MiG-25s and the Su-22s.

The book had been in print for a year, but only after the Baja War, had he gotten around to ordering it. Well, now, some familiar stories from the 335th, me, Goalie, Kara, and the others. Not to mention the rest of the 4th TFW, the guys who came back from Germany, even the guys who stayed in the Philippines and kept Ivan from making too much mischef out of Cam Ranh Bay. He finished the book, got his laptop, then logged into his e-mail, and after that, he went to the F-4 Phantom Association's web site, where there was a message board. One of the topics was the book, and he gave a brief review. Then he saw something else. “What the...” He clicked on the topic, and it was from somebody in the Russian Republic, The originator of the topic identified himself as a former Voyska PVO MiG-25 pilot, who had been flying over New Mexico that day, and he gave the Soviet side of the story. “I'll be damned,” Guru said to himself. He typed in a reply, saying that he'd been flight lead of the two F-4s that day, and then he logged out. Almost time to pick up Lisa, he knew.

The next day, he had a surprise in his e-mail. It came from a Russian Republic e-mail address, and at first, he was going to delete it-more spam, he thought. Then his curiosity got the better of him, and he opened it. It was from Col. Valery Kornnikov, Soviet Air Force (retired). Guru read the e-mail, forwarded it to his wife, then called her. “What do you think?”

“I'll call the DAO at the Embassy there, See if he's interested in coming over,” Lisa replied.

It took a while, but in August, 2010, after the fall of the Rump USSR and the wild night that had come about, Guru and Goalie were waiting in the arrivals area at Salt Lake International Airport, for a United flight from Chicago. As the passengers came down the jetway, they saw a USAF officer and a older man in a business suit. “Colonel Wiser? Colonel Eichhorn?” The two nodded. “I'm Major Mike McClure, AFHC. They sent me to be Colonel Kornnikov's escort. Not only that, but I'm a fluent Russian speaker. Just in case.”

They shook hands, then Colonel Kornnikov introduced himself. “So you two were in one of the Phantoms that day?”

“We were,” Guru said. “But you splashed those two Libyans instead.”

“Wrong place, wrong time,” added Goalie. They shook hands. As they went to Baggage Claim, she asked, “Surprised, Colonel?”

“That you were flying in an F-4? No. The Political Officers said it was because you were desperate.”

Guru laughed. “Not that desperate, but if they let Kara fly combat, then maybe we were.”

“Is this the same Kara Thrace I keep hearing about?” Major McClure asked.

“It is, Major,” Goalie said. “She runs the 390th TFS in my wing.”

“Oh, no,” McClure said. “Colonel, you'll be meeting the wildest pilot to come out of World War III, and she's the terror of the Air Force still.”

They got Kornnikov's bags, then he asked. “And why is that?”

“Because, Colonel, she flew hard, and partied harder during the war. She's mellowed a lot since, but...”
Guru said.

“But the old habits die slowly,” Kornnikov finished. “Not unknown in fighter pilots.”

“You're right.” Goalie said. “She's the best I have in the 366th.”

“You command the wing?”

“That's right. I'm the Wing Commander, but I'm not a pilot. I'm one of two navigators who are currently wing commanders in TAC,” nodded Goalie.

“And you, Colonel Wiser? What do you command?”

“I run the 419th TFW at Hill. We're the only Reserve F-15E wing at the moment. We've got a healthy rivalry with the 366th, but we share a feud with the 388th TFW at Hill as well: they're active Air Force, and they fly F-16s,” said Guru.

“Ah. The rivalry between fighter pilots and those who fly strike aircraft...” Kornnikov understood. In Russia, the rivalry between MiG-29 and Su-27 pilots on one hand, and those flying Su-24s was also heated at times.

“It is that,” McClure said. “Now, Colonel, we've got you at Mountain Home, and then Hill.”

“Good. You do have veterans still flying?”

“We do,” Guru said. “In both F-15E wings. You can meet the WW III vets, those who went down to Baja, and everyone was here for the fall of the USSR. That was a wild night.”

“It was, I'll grant you,” Kornnikov agreed. “I'd like to meet this Kara for myself.”

“Be careful of what you wish for,” Goalie said. “She's mellowed a lot since the war, but put her in an airplane, and she flies it like she stole it. Like I said, she's the best I have.”

“Then there's one thing we all can agree on: we've had our wars, and we've all had enough.”

“True that,” Guru said, and his wife nodded.

“Indeed.”

“There's one other thing,” Guru said.

“Colonel?” Kornnikov asked.

“Finding out the war from your perspective is going to be interesting. We'll be swapping a lot of stories over the coming week.”

“And I look forward to doing so.”
__________________
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Old 01-13-2015, 10:13 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The 335th's strangest mission of the war:

Part I:


Target: Madeline


Williams AFB, AZ; 1300 Hours Mountain War Time, 12 May, 1987:



It had been a busy morning for the crews of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, as well as Marine Air Group 11, to which the squadron had been attached to since the beginning of the war. The usual Close-Air-Support and Battlefield Air Interdiction missions had been going on all morning, and when crews returned and finished their debriefs, the talk was of the Battle of Wichita. Pundits on the news were comparing it to Kursk in 1943, and to many, it looked like the first signs of light at the end of the tunnel.

For Captain Matt “Guru” Wiser, the Executive Officer of the 335th, it had been a busy morning for him and his flight. They had flown three missions that morning, and finally, they were able to take a break, get something to eat, and just breathe easy. With the occasional glance at the news, since during Wichita and after, the networks had been covering the battle non-stop. He'd been watching in the Exec's office with the members of his flight, and having lunch at the same time. “About damned time we stop these bastards before they get too far.”

His WSO, 1st Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, nodded. “Schwartzkopf laid a trap for 'em, and they fell for it.” She looked at her pilot and squadron exec. “Wish we were there?”

“No way,” Guru said. “The surface-to-air threat would be murder.”

“Even with the Army helping out?” Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, Guru's wingmate, asked.

“Even with that,” Guru replied. “From MANPADS to SA-11, it would've been there.”

“Not arguing with that,” First Lieutenant Valerie Blanchard, call sign Sweaty, said. “Now we push those SOBs back south.”

“Yeah,” several voices said at once.

Then Guru looked at Sweaty's wingman, First Lieutenant Nathan “Hoser” West and his backseater, Second Lieutenant Kathy “KT” Thornton. “You two fitting in?” Both were recent replacements to the 335th, and when Sweaty graduated to flight lead, they had become her wingmates.

“They told us there'd be days like this,” Hoser replied. “How many today?”

“Don't know,” Guru said. “Normally it's two before lunch, then two after. Something's going on, that's for sure.” He looked at KT. “And you?”

“It could be worse,” KT said. “Not like the early days, I'm told.”

“Be glad none of you were here,” Guru said. “Five, sometimes six missions a day, and we were losing people. Two weeks in, we lost the CO. A month later, the XO bought it, and then another month later, the new CO went in. Then Colonel Rivers came and took over.”

“Not long after that, you went camping with the Resistance,” Goalie said. “Not fun, you said.”

Guru nodded. “No fun at all. Running, hiding, and fighting. Spent about as much time hunting for deer or elk as we did killing Russians or Cubans. And the stories about atrocities behind the lines? They're true. Saw enough of that, and Lori Sheppard, our guerrilla leader, lost her family, home, everything. Some bastard talked, told the KGB that her family was sheltering downed pilots, so some KGB and ALA came to her family's ranch. Made her mom and dad watch as they raped her sister, killed her brother, then they did her mom, then shot her dad. Took all the livestock, and burned the place down.”

“Those bastards need to pay-KGB and ALA both,” Kara said.

“Yeah,” Guru nodded. “Half of those with that guerrilla group has a similar story: family killed, home destroyed, so they went into the hills. Then there's a good number of people who ran to the hills when it started, and a few who were on camping or hiking trips in the back country on Invasion Day.”

“They get out?” Sweaty asked. “You said when the pilots hiked out, the Army was going to evac the noncombatants.”

“That's what Lori said, and they were going to get some SF going in with them.” He raised a bottle of water. “Here's to the guerrillas. May they entertain Ivan and Fidel as long as they can.”

“Hear, hear,” Kara said.

Then talk turned to what they were having for lunch: sandwiches and nachos from the Marines' mess tent. “May the Lord have mercy on whatever it is in these sandwiches,” Second Lieutenant Bryan Simmonds, Sweaty's WSO, said. He'd been studying for the priesthood when the war began, and he'd dropped that and joined the Air Force. His classmates in navigator training found that out, and they gave him the call sign “Preacher.”

“Whatever this is, it's been dead for a while, and can only improve with age,” Kara nodded. “It said Pork Tri-Tip, but it's more like something brown that just sits there.”

“At least the turkey tastes like turkey,” Guru said, and there were some laughs. A knock on the office door followed, and Guru said, “Show yourself and come on in.”

Capt. Mark Ellis, the Squadron's Operations Officer, came in. “Guys.”

“What's up, Mark?”

“Colonel Rivers wants you guys, all of you, in the main briefing room. Fifteen minutes.”

“What?” Main briefing room?” Kara said. “You did say that, right?”

“I did,” Ellis replied.

“What's going on, Mark?” Guru asked. “That's pretty unusual.”

“Colonel Rivers was asked to get the four best crews in the squadron for a mission. Half the squadron's out right now, so he picked you guys,” the ops officer said. “Be there in fifteen. Oh, he says, 'that's an order.'”

Heads turned at that. “We'll be there,” Guru said.

“Oh, one other thing. There's some brass here, and before you ask, no, it's not General Tanner. Something's going on, and it's related to this. I don't know, Rivers doesn't, and neither does Colonel Brady.” Marine Colonel Allen Brady was the CO of MAG-11, which the 335th was operating under.

Goalie quipped, “Let me guess: the mission orders say 'Burn before reading?””

Ellis looked at her. “You're not that far off. See you at the brief.”


A few minutes later, the four crews came into the Main Briefing Room, which was normally used for all-officer meetings in the squadron. Ellis was there, along with Second Lieutenant Darren Licon, the Squadron's Intelligence Officer, and one of Ellis' NCOs. . They nodded as the crews came in and sat down. Then the NCO shouted. “General on the deck!”

Everyone in the room sprang to attention as a one-star AF general came into the room, followed by Colonels Brady and Rivers, and behind them came several civilians. They weren't ordinary civilians, for they wore suits and Ray-Bans, and that told everyone right away who these people were.

“Be seated,” the one-star said. “Everyone, I'm Brigadier General Donnelly, General Tanner's Intelligence Officer.” He looked the crews over. “Colonel Rivers says you four are the best in the 335th. Now you get to prove it.” General Donnelly nodded at one of the civilians, who was obviously an “OGA” type. The lights dimmed, and a projector showed an aerial photo. “This is your target.”

“Looks like a ranch house,” Guru said.

“It is, Captain,” General Donnelly replied. “It's called the Madeline Ranch. All you need to know is that it's being used by the KGB.”

Kara asked, “Where's the target?”

General Donnelly nodded, and a detailed map of part of Eastern New Mexico was the next slide. “Here, about five miles southeast of the small community of Elida, on U.S. 70. All you need to know is that this target has to be taken out, and your aircraft are being prepared with the appropriate ordnance loads. Lights.”

The lights came back on, and the crews were looking at each other, and they noticed the OGA types were still in the room. “Sir, what about defenses?” Guru asked.

“Coming to that now, Captain,” Donnelly noted. “You're at the outer edge of the Portales SA-2 site, and the same goes for the Roswell North SA-2 site. You'll be getting Weasels and a Spark Vark to make things easier for you, in case Ivan has any additional surprises in the area.”

Guru looked at his flight, and heads were shaking. He knew what they were thinking, and that this would be a good way to get someone killed. “How many?”

“Four, Captain,” Donnelly replied. And an RF-4C will follow you in, to get BDA imagery of the target. I need to know, though: how many of you are Pave Tack qualified?”

Guru and Kara's hands rose, along with those of their back-seaters.

“Very well, then. Captains, you two will actually hit the target. You will both have a Pave Tack pod, and two GBU-10s to destroy the target. No one comes back with unused ordnance. All four bombs go on the target. Do I make myself clear, Captains?”

Guru and Starbuck looked at each other again. “You do, Sir,” they said almost at once.

“Good. Lieutenant Blanchard? You and your wingman will be the TARCAP. You'll be loaded air-to-air. There will be four F-15Cs coming with you, and an EF-111 will perform some standoff jamming for your ingress and egress. The briefing packet will have the necessary call signs, and your rendezvous will be at the southern tanker track. AWACS will vector you in, and once you're across the fence, it's in your hands.”

“They'll get the job done, General,” Colonel Rivers said.

“Good. Now, Captain Wiser? You're in command once in the air. This package is yours. How you fly it is up to you.”

“Yes, Sir,” Guru said.

“General, isn't this an A-6 or F-111 mission? At night?” Colonel Brady wanted to know.

“All I can say, Colonel, is that this has to be flown now,” Donnelly replied. “Now, your briefing packet will have call signs and other information. However, when you are finished, you all have to sign a nondisclosure form. You are not to discuss this flight with anyone. Is that understood?”

Heads nodded. “Yes, Sir,” several voices said.

“Your aircraft will be ready by 1400. Be ready to launch after that,” Donelly nodded. “Good luck.”
He then left the room, .and all but one of the OGA types followed him. Colonels Brady and Rivers stayed, though.

Guru went to both Colonels. “Sirs, what's this all about? We're the ones flying this mission, and we don't know diddly squat.”

“Believe me, Guru,” Rivers said. “We tried. Even General Tanner doesn't know all the details. None of us have a 'need to know.' I don't like it any more than you do.”

“Yes, Sir,” grumbled the Exec. It was clear from his voice that Guru wasn't too happy.

“Get your planning done, sign that form, and get ready to fly,” Rivers said.

Guru nodded and went back. “All right, suggestions?”

“Low and fast as usual?” Sweaty offered.

“Sounds good to me,” Guru said. “Kara?”

“I'll go along with that. We'll both have the pods, so we can self-designate,” she pointed out.

“Okay,” Guru nodded agreement. “Sweaty, I want you and Hoser about a mile from the target. When we do the pop up, you two orbit. The F-15s will be further away, so anyone getting past them is yours.”

“Gotcha, “ Sweaty replied.

“Now, Weasels. I'll have them go in a minute ahead of us, and they'll take out the Portales SA-2 and the Roswell North SA-2.,” Guru added. He looked at his flight. “Then they'll stay with us until we hit the target. Just in case.”

Kara nodded. “Good to hear.” She looked around. “Where's this recon driver who's supposed to be coming along?”

“Right behind you,” a female voice called. Heads turned, and Capt. Sharon Valerri-Park and her GIB, 1st. Lieutenant Karl “Helo” Agathon, came into the room. “Nice to see you guys again.”

“You too, Athena.” Guru said. He introduced Kara and Hoser to the photo crew. “So you're behind us?”

“You got it,” Athena said. “All we know is you're hitting this house, and they want photos of the aftermath. And that's all we know.”

“Which is what all we know,” Goalie replied. “Those guys probably have something to do with it,” she pointed to the OGA fellow still in the room.

Heads nodded. “Okay,” Guru said, “Two more things.” He looked at his crews. “First, usual bailout areas. Anyplace away from the roads. Second, unless we're talking with an AWACS or another flight-like the Weasels or the F-15s, we go by call sign, not mission code.” He looked again. “Anything else before we gear up?”

The OGA fellow came over. “Just one thing, Captain.” He opened a Manilla folder. “I need your autographs on these,” he said as he produced the NDA forms.

The crews grumbled, but they signed the forms, then both Colonels Brady and Rivers did so. “Thank you.”

“All right,” Rivers said. “You people gear up, and I'll see you on the ramp.”


The crews got into their G-suits and survival gear, then they walked out to the ramp. When they got to their aircraft shelters, the crews noticed a lot of activity around the aircraft, not to mention armed Combat Security Police guarding the four F-4Es and single RF-4C. And the aircraft were not being tended to by their Air Force ground crews, but by civilian “tech-reps.” Surprised, Guru went over to where his crew chief, Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley, was standing. “Sergeant.”

“Captain,” Crowley said. “They got tech-reps going over the birds. Why, I have no idea.”

Guru and the crews noticed the coveralls worn by the technicians. McDonnell-Douglas, Raytheon, Loral-who made the ECM pods, General Electric-who made the J-79 engines, Ford Aerospace-who made the Pave Tack pods, and so on. Everything was being given the proverbial once-over. Not just once, but twice. After what seemed like forever, but was only about fifteen minutes, the tech-reps pronounced the aircraft ready to go, and the crews gathered around for Guru's final instructions.

“Remember, this is a featureless part of New Mexico. The IP is the town, so keep that in mind. No second passes, Kara. If you have hung ordnance, don't come around and do it again. I know, nobody's supposed to come back with unexpended ordnance, but if it hangs up...”

Kara nodded.

“Sweaty, you and Hoser have four Sidewinders and two Sparrows, and full 20-mm. I'll be happy if you guys have nothing to do.”

“So will we, for once,” Sweaty replied.

“Anything else?” Guru asked.

“How soon can we talk about this?” Preacher asked.

Guru smiled. “Probably when we're bouncing our grandkids on our knees. How's that?”

“Yeah, and I bet the mission report is classified as 'Burn before reading,' or words to that effect,” joked Hoser.

Colonel Rivers looked at him, then smiled. “No doubt, Lieutenant.” He checked his watch, and was about to say something when one of the OGA types came up to him and said something. He nodded, and told the crews, “Takeoff delayed by at least thirty minutes.”

“What? Boss, YGTBSM!” Guru said.

“Sorry, but they put a hold on us.”

Word spread, and the tech-reps went back to the aircraft. Even with the delay, the AF ground crew were still not allowed to work on the aircraft. Colonel Brady arrived a few minutes later, and he brought a cooler with cold drinks for the aircrews, because it was hot on the ramp.

“Boss,” Guru said to Rivers. “Tell us at least we can keep the Pave Tack pods when this is over.”

“I'll see about that. I know, we haven't done that much with laser bombs, with only two Pave Spike pods,” Rivers nodded. And he knew what his exec was thinking. Even though the 335th's crews were very good in terms of accuracy with dumb bombs, having additional pods so that they could use the “intellectual ordnance” would make their job a lot easier.

Time dragged on, and several aircrews checked their watches. Thirty minutes became an hour, then the OGA fellow came back to Rivers. He whispered in Rivers' ear, then the Colonel nodded. “The mission's a go, people! Get your birds preflighted and airborne.”
Hearing that, Guru shook hands with the CO and with Colonel Brady. “Back in a while, Boss,” he said to Colonel Rivers.

“Bring everyone back, Guru,” Rivers said.

“Will do, Boss,” Guru replied. “All right, people. Time to hit it.”

The crews went to their aircraft as the tech-reps left, and went through their walk-arounds. At their respective aircraft-512 and 520, Guru and Starbuck found a Pave Tack pod on the centerline, two AIM-7s in the rear fuselage wells, an ALQ-119 ECM pod in the left front well, instead of the usual ALQ-101 pod they had been carrying. Inboard wing stations each had a single GBU-10 Paveway laser-guided bomb, while the outer wing pylons had fuel tanks, as usual. Sweaty and Hoser each had four AIM-9P Sidewinders and two AIM-7E Sparrows, an ALQ-119, and full 20-mm ammunition, along with the fuel tanks. Athena's bird had the fuel tanks, a single ECM pod, and other than that, only had speed as a defense. After the walk-arounds, the crews boarded their aircraft and went through the preflight cockpit checks. Then it was time for engine start. Once the J-79 engines were warmed up, the Phantoms taxied to the end of the runway, where the armorers removed the final weapon safeties. When that was done, the planes taxied onto the runway, one element at a time, and the tower flashed a single green light, signaling clear to takeoff. Then each element rumbled down the runway and into the air. It was 1515.
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Old 01-13-2015, 10:14 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Part II:


1530 Hours Mountain War Time: Over Western New Mexico:


The five-ship of Phantoms made the tanker rendezvous over the Continental Divide, and met up with their F-15 and Weasel escorts. Four F-15s made up Cowboy Flight, and one pair would set up a BARCAP to take care of anyone coming out of Cannon, while another pair would do the same for anyone out of Roswell (the old Walker AFB/Roswell AAF). Guru talked with the Weasels, who were using beer names for their call signs, and Coors 31 would lead the Weasels. He asked them to send one pair in to deal with the Portales SA-2, and the other pair to take care of the Roswell North SA-2, then come back and cover the target. After the inflight brief, everyone drank the fuel they needed from the tankers, and headed east. As they did, Guru noticed an EF-111 orbiting west of the Rio Grande. That would be their escort jammer, and the Spark Vark came into the formation. Then it was time to go down low and get into enemy territory.

The trip east went by like a blur. As the package went in, enemy radar activity was nil at best. Maybe the jamming's working, Guru thought. “Time to U.S. 285?” That was their next nav checkpoint.

“One minute,” Goalie replied.

Up ahead, the F-15s were like blockers in a football game, ready to jump on any MiGs that showed up, while the F-4Gs were on their flanks. Behind the strike birds was Athena's RF-4C, and above her was the EF-111, spoofing enemy radars as they headed on in.

“And now..285,” Goalie called.

The ribbon of Highway 285 flew by below them, a they headed for the next nav point. La Espia Peak, where the EF-111 would break off, climb, and then orbit to perform its standoff jamming role. “Two minutes to the peak,” Guru said, remembering the pre-mission planning.

“You got it,” Goalie said. Both crewers were swiveling their heads, keeping an eye out for threats, something that the RTU instructors had drilled into their heads.

It wasn't long, then the peak appeared at their Eleven O’clock. “Sundance Four-One. Time for us to go to work.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. “Blind 'em, fella.”

With that, the EF-111 pulled up and started sending electrons out onto the radar frequencies used by the SAM sites, air-defense radars, and especially the GCI stations.

After that, the F-4Gs peeled off for their antiradar strikes, and then the F-15s climbed to assume their BARCAP mission.

“Elida dead ahead. That's the IP,” Goalie called.

“Sweaty, you and Hoser do your thing,” Guru said.

“Copy,” Sweaty replied. “Good luck.” Both TARCAP F-4s climbed to orbit the small town, as Guru and Starbuck climbed to search for the target, and WSOs began searching with the Pave Tack pods' cameras.

“Got it!” Capt. Judd Brewster, or Braniac as he was known. He was Kara's WSO.

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Got it?” He asked his GIB.

“Target locked,” Goalie said. “Ready to lase. Stand by to release on my hack.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied, setting up the ordnance himself.

“Steady, steady, laser on, and.....HACK!”

Guru hit the pickle button, and both GBU-10s came off the aircraft. He then banked away, but not in a steep turn so that the laser could stay on target and the two bombs could follow the laser all the way in.

As Guru pulled away, Starbuck rolled in. She dropped her bombs a few seconds after Guru did, and she, too, pulled off target, but careful enough to keep the laser on the target.


Down below, in the Ranch House, several KGB and PSD officers were discussing their joint interrogation of a 'bandit' leader. They suspected he knew about plans for a major guerrilla operation timed to coincide with any counteroffensive the Americans launched, but so far, the bandit had resisted all of their efforts. Drugs, torture, even offers of sex, had been for naught. Then the rumble of aircraft engines could be heard, then everything blew apart as four laser-guided bombs blew the house-and all of its occupants-into tiny pieces.

“SHACK!” Goalie called from the back seat. “Four good hits!”

“Anything left?” Guru asked as he pointed the F-4 due west.

“Nothing but matchsticks, blood, and brains,” she replied. “Laser off. And I say it's time to go.”

“You are so right,” Guru said as he took 512 down low again. “Starbuck, you concur?”

“Roger that, Lead. Four bombs, four hits. Let's get the hell out of here,” Kara said.

“Sweaty, Hoser, on me,” Guru called. “Here comes Athena.” Her RF-4C was starting its run-in.” Cowboy, Coors, time to egress.”

“Copy,”

“Roger,”

The package reformed near the EF-111 orbit point, and the trip west was anticlimactic. No MiGs came to challenge them, no SAMs lit up. And crossing the Rio Grande didn't even get a response from the Patriot and HAWK crews. After hitting the tankers, Guru gave the “Mission Success” call, then all of the birds broke for their home bases; Luke for the F-15s, Phoenix/Sky Harbor for the F-4Gs, Davis-Monthan for the EF-111, and Williams for the F-4Es and the photo bird.

When the F-4s came into Williams, there was a crowd gathered, with both Colonel Brady and Colonel Rivers heading it up. The birds were taxied into their dispersal shelters, and their regular ground crews came in, as usual. When the crew ladders were in place, the crews were able to climb down. At 512, Staff Sergeant Crowley was waiting. “How'd it go, Captain?”

“Can't say much,” Guru said. But he gave a thumbs-up. Then he saw Goalie come out from the Pave Tack pod, and she had a videotape in her hand.

Then Kara came over with Braniac, and he also had a videotape in hand.

“All right, people!” Brady said. “How'd it go?”

“Four drops, four hits,” Guru said. “No SAMs or MiGs. And no flak either.”

The two Colonels looked at each other. “Good job, Captain,” Rivers said. “Main Briefing Room, ten minutes. Get out of your flight gear and get your asses over there.”

Ten minutes later, the crews-including Athena and Helo, who had come in a minute behind the strike birds, were in the Main Briefing Room. General Donnelly was there, and to no one's surprise, the OGA people were there as well. “All right, Captain, let's have it. How'd it go out there?”

Guru and Starbuck exchanged glances. Then he looked at the General straight in the eye. “General, four drops, four hits. All that's left of that house is matchsticks and bloody and/or burned scraps of meat.”

“You concur, Captain Thrace?”

“Yes, Sir, I do,” she replied. “Even if somebody had been right outside, getting some fresh air? If the shrapnel didn't kill him, the concussion did.”

Donnelly nodded. “Let's check the tapes.”

First Goalie, then Brainac, played their Pave Tack tapes. The crews all noticed the OGA people were paying very close attention. “Four bombs on target. CEP is zero,” one of them said. “Nuthin' left of that place.”

“Wait for the RF-4C imagery, “ one of his friends said.

“Captain Park?” Donelly asked. “Your assessment?”

“I'll go along with what Captains Wiser and Thrace said. That place is history,” Athena replied, and Helo nodded.

“Very well,” Donelly said. He paused for a moment, thinking. Then he said. “All right, then. I remind you that you are still bound by your NDA forms, and are not to discuss this mission with anyone, even amongst yourselves. In your log books, you will say that you flew a strike-or a post-strike recon, against a target in Eastern New Mexico. Nothing more than that.” He looked at the aircrews. “Is that understood?”

The crews all looked at each other, then they said, “Yes, SIR!”

“Good,” said Donelly. As he got to leave, with the OGA men in two, he turned to the crews. “I wish I could tell you more. But I can't. Other than this.”

“Sir?” Colonel Rivers asked.

“All of you on the mission have done a valuable service for your country today. Maybe in twenty or thirty years, when you're bouncing your grandkids on your knee, you'll read about it. Then you can say whatever you want. Maybe.” Then the General and the OGA men left the room, leaving ten still confused aircrew and two senior officers still confused by the whole thing.

Rivers came over. “Guru, you're one of the old hands in the squadron. Ever flown anything like this?”

“No, Sir,” Guru replied. “Give me a shot at the Denver siege perimeter, ripping up a supply dump along I-40, or paying Cannon or Roswell a morning wake-up call, but this?”

“I know what you mean,” Rivers said. “There were probably strikes like this flown in WW II, Korea, and Vietnam. They don't tell you anything other than 'hit this target.'” He looked at the crews. “Let's get over to the Club. Twelve-hour rule kicks in at 1900 for you guys, so you've got an hour and a half to get loaded.”

“Boss, that's an order I'll be glad to obey,” Kara said.

“You guys may not get a medal for this mission, or any other recognition, but I'll be able to do something at least,” Rivers nodded.

“And I'll buy the first round,” Brady said.

“Then, sir,” Sweaty said. “Lead the way.”

As they left, Guru turned to Rivers. “Boss, they did leave us those Pave Tack pods?”

“They did,” Rivers confirmed. “You and Ellis, in between flights tomorrow, check and see who else in the squadron's Pave Tack qualified.”

“Got it, Sir.”

“Oh, and Guru?” Rivers asked. “I'll see about getting some time on the range for some refresher Pave Tack training.”

Guru nodded. Then he asked. “Time on the Goldwater Range, Boss? Or time on the range in Eastern New Mexico?”

A smile came to the CO's face. “Way things are going, it may be a little of both.”


Two days later, it was the first day of PRAIRIE FIRE, and this one mission was quickly forgotten. Until.....
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Old 01-13-2015, 10:15 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Part III:

21 May, 2012; Wing Commander's Residence, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. 1325 Hours Mountain Daylight Time:


Colonel Matt Wiser, USAF Reserve, was sitting in his den, reading the latest issue of Air and Space Magazine. This issue had a couple of articles on how the New Air and Space Museum was taking shape on the National Mall, and how exhibits had been recovered, decontaminated, and sent to the “temporary” museum at Quantico, and the same had been done for the aircraft in storage at the Gerber Restoration facility in Maryland. Now, the Air and Space Museum was going home, though the Quantico Museum would stay as a satellite museum, and would house exhibits too big for the main museum on the Mall. As he perused the magazine, he wondered how the Smithsonian would treat World War III. He'd given an oral history interview, and wondered what aircraft would fit in the new museum's World War III gallery, when another article caught his eye. “What?” He reread the piece. It was from a former reporter for Air Force Times, who was now a respected aviation historian. The article gave details of the mission that he and his flight had flown, two days prior to PRAIRIE FIRE kicking off, and had been told not to talk about with anyone. Guru then went to his laptop, and went online. He found the magazine's web site, and found the article. Then he picked up his phone and called his wife, who should be in her office.

“Yeah?” The voice on the other end asked. “What's up?”

“Goalie, get online, and go to Air and Space magazine's web site. Click on the current issue, and open the third article down from the top. Then call back and tell me what you've read.”

“What?” Colonel Lisa Eichhorn-Wiser asked. She was the CO of the 366th TFW at Mountain Home.

“Just do it,” Guru said. The CO of the 419th TFW (AFRES) was firm in that.

“Okay, but if this is some kind of joke, buster....You'll get it. No romping in the hay for you...”

“As one wing CO to another, this is on the level,” Guru said.

“Okay,” his wife said, then she hung up. Five minutes later, she called. “I read it, but don't believe it. Is this the one where....”

“This is the one,” Guru acknowledged. “The guy must've FOIA'd the mission reports, because everything's there. Is Kara in her office?”

“I'll get her,” Goalie said. A couple minutes later, Kara came in. Then she got on the line.

“What the hell, Guru? This guy on the level?”

“Looks like it,” he said. “Put Goalie back on.”

“Guru?” His wife asked.

“You might want to make some phone calls. JAG, OSI, HQ TAC, and who know what else? You might want to tell those folks that this mission's now in the public domain, and we might get contacted by other media, or other researchers. Bottom line: are we still bound by the NDAs?” Guru wanted to know.

“I'm wondering that myself,” Goalie said. “I'll make some calls, then call you back.”

While he was waiting for his wife to call back, Colonel Wiser turned on CNN. At the top of the hour, Wolf Blitzer was on, and after covering the '12 Presidential Campaign, turned to the next story. And it was the subject of the magazine article. He watched Blitzer interview the author of the story, and ask if these men and women knew they had saved the guerrilla portion of PRAIRIE FIRE, and who knew how many lives in the process?” The answer was blunt.

“To be honest, Wolf, I don't think so. These men and women are still bound by a nondisclosure agreement, which is why I never contacted them for the piece. They still wouldn't have been able to say anything about this mission.”

How right you are, Guru thought. No way would we have told anyone about this. Then his phone rang again. He checked the Caller ID, and knew who it was. “Yeah?”

“Guru, I just got off the phone with JAG and HQ TAC. We're still under the NDAs for now,” Goalie said.

“Lisa, did you tell them it's public domain now?”

“I did, Matt, and they said we're still covered. But they did bump it up to the Chief of Staff. It's his call, and he should have it by now.”

“If Sundown Cunningham was still Chief of Staff, he'd be volcanic right now.”

Goalie let out a laugh. “He would be,” she said. “And he would probably tear up those NDAs and say 'Boys and Girls, you can talk about this to whoever you want.'” Then there was an audible knock on the line, and Goalie said, “Yeah?”

Guru was able to overhear. “Ma'am, Chief of Staff's Office for you. On line two.”

“Guru did you-”

“I heard,” he replied. “Let me know how it turns out.”

“Will do.” Then she hung up.

A few minutes later, the phone rang again. It was Goalie. “Well?”

“He'll formally release us. As of 0900 Eastern tomorrow, we're free to talk about the mission,” said Goalie.

“Don't know if we'll get calls from reporters, but there's three people we can talk to,” Guru told his wife. “Eric, Sandy, and Melanie.”

In her office, Colonel Eichhorn smiled. “Well, well....when the kids get back for summer break, this is one war story they'll be glad to hear.”

“And Kacey, too,” Colonel Wiser reminded his wife.

“Not to mention the gang down at the 419th, especially Kelly Ray.”

“Okay, tell Kara, and I'll spread the word to Sweaty, Preacher, Hoser, and KT. Too bad Brainac's no longer with us,” Guru said.

“Yeah. I'll tell Kara, and I'll see you around 7:30 or so. Got a evening hop on the schedule,” Goalie said, the wing commander's voice coming back.

“And you know me: when you're out late, it's 'Hello, Pizza Hut?'”

She laughed. “Okay, get me a combination, and you that pepperoni and sausage you like.”

“It'll be here. Take care, and have a good flight. Who's it with?”

“Me and Kara are taking some newbies up. Teach them a thing or two.”

“Ah, memories,” Guru said. “See you later,”

“Will do. Love you.”

“You too. Bye.”

After hanging up, Guru e-mailed KT, Hoser, Preacher, but he called Sweaty. She was flying F-15Es down at Eglin, doing weapons tests, before hopefully getting her own squadron command. She was surprised, but relieved. Now she could tell her boyfriend about the mission.

After talking with Sweaty, Guru sat back and checked the F-4 Phantom Association's web site, and the message board. Sure enough, there was a link to the article, and there were posters already talking about the mission. Then his phone rang. “Wiser.”

“Colonel Wiser?”

“That's right, and you are?”

“Phil Shafter, Salt Lake Tribune. I'm calling about the article in Air and Space..”

“Mr. Shafter, I can't talk about that mission until I've been released from a nondisclosure agreement.” Colonel Wiser said. “That should tell you enough.”

“I understand, Colonel. When do you expect to be released?”

“In a few days, but listen to this, Mr. Shafter. IF you want to talk to me about this, go through the PAO at Hill Air Force Base,” Guru told the reporter, and his tone of voice said that the reporter had better do so.

“Of course, Colonel. Sorry to bother you.” Then the reporter hung up.

“I doubt it,” Guru said to himself. Then he called his wife again. “Lisa? Listen, I just had a reporter call me at home about that mission.”

“You're kidding.”

“No shit, Sherlock. I think you'd better have your PAO say something. Say three of the aircrew who flew that mission are on base, but are not talking to reporters until we're released from the NDA,”

In her office, Colonel Eichhorn looked at her Duty Officer. She whispered. “Get the PAO in here. NOW.” And the man slipped out the door. “Will do, Matt. Anything else?”

“We and Kara need to talk, and decide how much we're going to say about this. Tomorrow night, over leftover pizza.”

“Good idea.”

Guru nodded. “Okay, then. See you later. Love you.”

“You too,” his wife replied. “Bye!”

After hanging up, Guru thought. This is going to be a long evening. Too bad Raid doesn't deal with these kinds of pests....
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Old 01-16-2015, 10:55 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Guys, how do you like things so far? More feedback, please!
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Old 01-17-2015, 11:54 AM
Adm.Lee Adm.Lee is offline
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I am still reading.

Maybe that the jerk major (name now forgotten) seemed a little too stereotypical? He really didn't make any shift to wartime mode at all? Even if several of his commanders and their commanders told him that things had changed?

From my first reading, I thought he was a non-flying officer, dunno how I gathered that-- did he have a callsign early on? Anyway, it seemed abrupt that he was on a mission in the first place, I didn't notice that he was flying at all. Also, it felt a little too neat that he would screw up by the numbers, committing the one sin that would get him grounded and shipped out and investigated and potentially prosecuted.
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Old 01-19-2015, 09:36 AM
dragoon500ly dragoon500ly is offline
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Matt, I'm loving these stories! By all means keep up this great work!!!
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Old 01-19-2015, 08:08 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Here's one for a change of pace: A USN carrier vs. Badger Bombers...

Part I:

Kennedy vs. Badger



12 May, 1987: 1100 Hours Local Time: Cuban Air Force Operations Center, Havana, Cuba



Colonel Eduardo Toledo came into the operations center. A longtime MiG-21 and MiG-23 pilot, he was now deputy chief of operations for the entire Cuban Air Force, and right now, he was not a happy man. He had just come from a briefing at the Defense Ministry, and the news from the front in America was not looking good. The joint Soviet-Cuban offensive in Kansas, aimed at cutting off an American bulge in the lines near Wichita, was stalled, and was on the verge of failure. The Americans had been waiting for the Soviets and Cubans to attack, and had laid an appropriate welcome-and some were comparing the battle to Kursk, only this time, the Soviets were the ones doing the attacking, and the Americans had been the ones who'd had time to plan and prepare-and the Soviet and Cuban forces had suffered appallingly as a result. That didn't concern the Colonel, but what the Soviet military mission had proposed, and President Castro had agreed, did. A joint attack on the Port of Miami was being planned, and while the Soviets would handle the actual attack on the port with Su-24 Fencers, Cuba's only heavy strike regiment, the 38th Bomber Regiment, with Soviet-supplied Tu-16K Badger bombers, was also set to participate, using their KSR-2 (AS-5 Kelt) stand-off missiles to suppress the American defenses.

The rationale for the mission was obvious: the Port of Miami was where many of the weapons and equipment the Americans were getting from their overseas lackeys, such as Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa, was unloaded. Knocking out the port for a while would greatly assist the land campaign in North America, and send a strong signal to those who were supporting the Americans that there would be consequences for doing so, both now and in the future, after the inevitable triumph of the Socialist forces.

However, Toledo knew full well that things had changed: the Florida Peninsula was now heavily defended, with Key West, the Homestead-Miami area, Tampa Bay, Orlando, and the Cape Canaveral area were now guarded by HAWK and Patriot SAM batteries, many having been formerly deployed in West Germany, and that American fighters were a constant presence in Florida skies. Now, strikes into Florida required careful planning to avoid heavy losses, and even so, despite such planning, losses could-and often did-get high.

Now, he went to the situation board, and so far, all was quiet. Just the routine Cuban and Soviet fighter patrols over the island, and the Americans doing the same thing over the Florida Keys and South Florida. Occasionally, one side or the other would try a fighter sweep, hoping to draw their opponents' fighters into a free-for-all in the sky. Sometimes it worked, sometimes the would-be victim realized a sweep was on and would not give battle. More than once, American fighters had seemed to run from Soviet or Cuban fighters, only to draw the pursuers into SAM traps at either Key West or Homestead-Miami, and the Soviets and Cubans had fallen for it. And when the Cubans and Soviets tried the same trick, it rarely worked. And so far, there'd been few American strikes flown into Cuba: maybe the DMI and the GRU were right after all, and the Americans had pulled their strike-dedicated tactical fighters out of Florida and sent them to the front. What strikes had been flown, though, were apparently from carriers, and there wasn't much that could be done about that at the moment, for the carriers had one simple advantage: they could make runs into strike range of Cuba, launch their aircraft, wait for the strike to return, and after recovering their aircraft, head out into the Atlantic or the Caribbean. And so far, the Soviets and Cubans had been unsuccessful in countering the carriers, as strikes had been sent out to find the carriers, only to find empty ocean. Or the pathfinders-either Soviet Tu-95Rs or Cuban Tu-16Rs had either encountered American fighters, or had simply disappeared without getting a message out.

“Toledo, come into my office,” Major General Francsisco Estrada said from the open door of his office. Estrada was Air Force Operations Chief.

Toledo came into General Estrada's office. “Comrade General?”

Estrada was standing behind his desk. And he was clearly not in a good mood. “I've just gotten word from General Lorenzo.” General Antonio Lorenzo was the commanding general of the entire Cuban Air Force. “He's been ordered by the President to find an American carrier in the Atlantic or Caribbean and attack it.”

Toledo was stunned. “What? Excuse me, Comrade General, but did I hear correctly?”

“You did, Comrade Colonel.” Estrada spat. “Our President has decided to divert attention from what's happened in Kansas-and in case you haven't heard the latest, it's a bloody shambles. Both our forces and the Soviets tried to do to the Americans what the Germans tried in the Summer of 1943 at Kursk, and they failed. Now Wichita's the greatest tank battle ever, and the Americans have won. Now, the signs are there that the Americans have a major counteroffensive in the works.”

“Comrade General, if I may,” Toledo said. “That means an attack against Miami is all the more important. It requires the Americans to divert fighters and air-defense assets away from the front to reinforce Florida.”

“General Lorenzo said almost those exact words. And President Castro was very blunt: either carry out my orders to sink the carrier, or he would find someone who would.” Estrada said. “For now, the Miami strike is off. Order the 38th to start sending their Tu-16Rs into the Caribbean and into the Atlantic northeast of the Bahamas. Have their Tu-16Ks on alert, ready to go once a target is found.”

Toldeo sighed. “Comrade General, if I may?”

“By all means, Colonel.” Estrada said. “I've always valued your thoughts.”

“Thank you, Comrade General.” Toledo said. “Either this will be a wild-goose-chase, or it will be a tragedy.”

“I realize that, Colonel.” Estrada said. “But since the Soviets have pulled this off twice: America and Coral Sea, the President feels it should be our turn now.” He was referring to two American carriers that had been sunk by Soviet Backfire bomber strikes, and also to Castro's jealousy in that Cuba had not taken part.

“Understood, Comrade General,” Toledo said. “And if the strike aircraft cannot find a target?”

“There's always a target in Puerto Rico, if they have the fuel. Other than that, they're to come on home. Get the orders off at once.”

“Immediately, Comrade General.” replied Toledo.

38th Bomber Regiment, Holguin Air Base, Cuba: 1120 Hours, 12 May 1987:


The phone rang in Colonel Ricardo Duarte's office. He was the commanding officer of Cuba's only medium bomber regiment, and had been hand-picked for the job by General Lorenzo himself. A year in Russia, learning, along with his men, the Tu-16, before coming back to Cuba. The delivery flight had certainly been an unusual one: from the Soviet Far East to “liberated” Alaska, then to Calgary in occupied Canada, then a flight over the Great Plains under heavy fighter escort to a base in Oklahoma, then another trip to Houston, Texas, before the final run to Havana. There, they'd been greeted by President Castro himself, before they had gone into combat. His regiment had flown strikes with their KSR-2 missiles (AS-5a) against targets as far north as Charleston, South Carolina, up the Gulf Coast to New Orleans and Mobile, and throughout Florida as well, from Key West to Jacksonville and up to Pensacola. Not to mention going east to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on more then one occasion. However, the regiment had suffered losses, for the unit had once been forty strike aircraft strong, and was now down to 30, though they had received some replacements.. The regiment's reconnaissance squadron had once numbered ten Tu-16RM (Badger-D) aircraft, and was now down to four.

Now, his men were planning their part in a proposed mission to the Port of Miami, to hopefully shut down the port for a while, and reassert some form of control over the Straits of Florida. His bombers were to shoot their KSR-2 missiles at known American SAM sites in the Homestead-Miami area, as well as at Homestead AFB, while Soviet Su-24s actually attacked the port facilities and any ships at anchor. And given the American defenses that had been in place for over a year, he didn't envy the Soviets one bit: HAWK and Patriot missile batteries, many formerly deployed in West Germany, now protected not just the Homestead-Miami area, but many key installations in Florida proper: his men had found that out the hard way, when six of his aircraft had tried to attack Kennedy Space Center the previous fall, only to find out that not only had American fighters been stationed at nearby Patrick AFB, but a HAWK battery was also in place. None of the KSR-2s had found a target, and four of the six bombers were lost with their crews.

The phone kept ringing, and Colonel Duarte picked it up. “Duarte here.”

“Colonel? This is Colonel Toledo at Air Force Operations. I'll be blunt as well as brief. Your mission to Miami is on hold. There's a new mission coming down, and you'll receive teletype orders in a few minutes.”

“What's the new mission?” Duarte asked.

“Anti-carrier.” Toledo said. “Send two of your Tu-16RMs to the northeast, past the Bahamas, and direct the other two south of Jamaica, then send them east as far as fuel permits.”

“WHAT?” Duarte yelled. “No definite targeting information, so we just send my aircraft out in the general direction of a carrier-and we don't know if any are on station right now?”

“I'm afraid so, Colonel. This comes from the top echelon of command.” Toledo said. And Duarte knew full well who Toledo meant by that.

“I understand, Colonel. But the chances of finding a carrier are slim, at best, this way. And you know that.” Duarte shot back.

“Hold on,” Toledo said. “What's the saying, 'preaching to the converted'?” He went on, though. “But we've got no choice. If you can't find a carrier, come on home.”

“At least I can thank you for that,” Duarte said. He then hung up the phone and went into the operations office, where his senior staff and senior pilots were planning the Miami mission. “Put all of that on hold. We have a new mission.” And he outlined what Toledo had told him.

“Of all the....” his operations officer said. “This sounds like a good way to get a lot of us killed. If we run into American fighters, we're easy prey, no matter what.”

“I know, Luis.” Duarte said. “If it's any consolation, I will be in the lead strike aircraft.” He turned to the map. “Send Captains Infante and Torres to the northeast sector, and have Captain Delgado and Lieutenant Moreno take the southern flight.”

“And when do we know which way to go?” his Executive officer asked.

“We'll know in the air. The aircraft are already armed, correct?”

The Exec nodded. “Yes, Comrade Colonel.”

“Good. Get the aircraft fueled immediately. We'll brief the crews while that's going on, and chances are, we'll get word of a target in the air,” Duarte said. “Now get to it!”

His staff broke up to get things going, while Colonel Duarte went back into his office. He took out a pen and paper, and then wrote a brief note to his wife. He knew full well that if F-14s, F/A-18s, or even F-8s from a carrier found his bombers, it would be a massacre.


U.S.S. John F. Kennedy (CV-67), south of the Mona Passage, 1155 Hours local time.


The supercarrier John F. Kennedy and her battle group was south of the Mona Passage, between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, heading to a launch point south of Cuba. The station was well known to the carrier's crew, who called it “Buccaneer Station,” for the area had been an old haunt of the famous buccaneers back in the day of men like Sir Henry Morgan, or Sir Christopher Myngs, and the name had stuck. From that station, her embarked aircraft from CVW-3 could strike targets all over southeastern Cuba, and had done so often since the war began.

Rear Admiral James Mattingly, USN, commanded what was now Carrier Task Force 44. Once the carrier passed Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico, she was “chopped” to the Fourth Fleet, which had been established shortly after the outbreak of war, to direct naval operations in the Caribbean. Sometimes, there were two carriers, sometimes just one, on this station, but there had been always a carrier in the area. Strikes had been coordinated with the carriers on “Devil Station” east of the Bahamas, for that was in the area of the legendary “Devil's Triangle”, and for the most part, had gone off without incident, whether natural, Soviet- or Cuban-inspired, or supernatural. Though Admiral Mattingly had a good laugh once when he checked the chart showing the carrier's course from Norfolk to Puerto Rico, and someone had carefully drawn a triangle connecting Bermuda, Miami, and San Juan.

His orders were to strike targets in Eastern Cuba, as far up as Holguin, and to do so as long as fuel and ordnance permitted, but without incurring unnecessary losses to his aircraft. And CVW-3's squadrons had gotten very familiar with Cuba over the course of the war, and many of the aviators knew the landscape like the backs of their hands as a result.

Now, he sat in his chair on the flag bridge, watching the carrier conduct flight operations. A CAP of two to four F-14s was always in the air, along with S-3 Vikings for ASW, and SH-3H helicopters for close-in ASW protection. Not only that, but SH-2 and SH-60 helicopters from the other ships in the battle group provided additional ASW protection, along with P-3C Orions based at NAS Roosevelt Roads.

Besides the carrier, Task Force 44 consisted of the AEGIS cruiser Valley Forge, completed after the war began, and having already acquitted herself well during combat in the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Straits. TF-44 also had the services of the nuclear-powered cruiser South Carolina, along with the destroyers Semmes and Dewey for additional anti-air warfare (AAW) and the Spruance-class destroyer Briscoe as the lead ASW escort. Two Perry-class frigates, Boone and Halyburton, added to the ASW screen, and there was at least one SSN in direct support. Given the Soviet sub base at Cienfeugos, the Admiral felt that one could never have too much ASW.

And there was also ample land-based support available. E-2B+ Hawkeyes from Roosevelt Roads handled AWACS responsibilities for Puerto Rico, and VAW-77's operators had done a magnificent job in detecting aircraft inbound, and vectoring fighters onto the bandits. The Air Force had sent the PR ANG's 156th TFG to the mainland, and had been searching for a replacement to handle the island's air defense, when the loss of the carrier America had enabled the Navy to fill the role. VF-33 had survived the loss of its home carrier, and after a period of reconstitution at NAS Oceana, had deployed to NAS Roosevelt Roads to handle the air defense of Puerto Rico. And the Starfighters had been joined by their sister squadron, VF-102, once they had been reformed, deploying to the former Ramey AFB near Borinquen, which had become a Coast Guard base after the departure of the Air Force, and was now designated as NAS Borinquen. In addition, a VQ-2 detachment with both EA-3B Skywarriors and EP-3 Orions for SIGINT and other electronic intelligence activities now based there often provided raid warning by listening in on Soviet and Cuban radio traffic.

The only two neutrals in the area, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, lacked any real air power, and both sides routinely violated neutral airspace, sometimes en route to a target, or in hot pursuit. The Jamaicans, being Commonwealth members, and having had to deal with a pro-Cuban uprising in the war's early days, also lacked an air force, but Jamaican air-traffic control radars often tracked outbound Cuban or Soviet aircraft, and broadcast raid warnings-in the clear-over the two main international emergency channels.

“Admiral?” A staff officer said, interrupting his thoughts.

“Yes?”

“Surface radar contact, bearing three-five-eight relative, range two hundred. And closing,”

“Notify CAG, and have him get a couple of A-7s out to ID. There's no friendlies ahead of us, so it's either neutral or enemy.” Mattingly said.

“Right away, Admiral.” the staffer said.

Five minutes later, two A-7s from VA-46 launched and headed out after the contact. They were armed, of course, with two Sidewinders and six five-hundred-pound bombs apiece, typical for a Surface Combat Air Patrol.

After he watched the launch, he turned to his Chief of Staff. “Anything on sub activity?”

“No, Admiral, none at all since the last update.”

“What have we got?” Mattingly wanted to know.

The chief of staff went to a map showing the Caribbean. “Right now, there's at least one Echo-II in the Windward Passage, along with a Victor-II; and in the Mona Passage there's at least one Foxtrot, maybe two. Satellite imagery of Cienfeugos shows two cruise-missile boats, one a Charlie-II, and an Oscar, both tied up at pierside.”

“Awful nice of them. If they're still in port when we get there, we can take them out easily enough. Better to kill them at pierside than hunting them at sea.” Mattingly said.

“Yes, Sir.” the chief replied.

The phone buzzed, and the chief picked it up. “Flag Mission.” He listened for a minute, then relayed the message to the Admiral. “Admiral, this just in from the Ravens:” Ravens was the usual code for the ELINT aircraft. “They're reporting four Badgers outbound from Holguin. Two headed northeast, two headed south.”

Mattingly turned to his intelligence officer. “Thoughts?”

The intelligence officer looked at the map, then she replied. “Four Badgers sounds like a reconnaissance flight. Two headed northeast to look at Devil Station, and two coming this way. They'll strike whoever they locate first. Either Bon Homme Richard, or us.”

Admiral Mattingly looked at his chief of staff, who nodded in agreement. “Very well.” He picked up the phone to the bridge. “Bridge, this is Flag. Notify the battle group. Go to Battle Stations.”

As the General Quarters alarm sounded, he turned to his staff. “Let's get to CIC.”


Cuban Foxtrot-class submarine 914, south of Mona Passage, 1220 Hours:


Captain Joaquin Torres looked over his chart. So far, no viable targets had been found, and though his wretched Feniks sonar was puny compared to what was installed on Soviet boats like the 641B (Tango) or the new 877 (Kilo) subs, his crew was one of the best in the Navy. He'd sunk several ships in the Florida Straits in the early days of the war, and had gone as far north as Jacksonville and laid some mines, which may have accounted for a few more ships. Now, though, the ASW environment off the American East Coast was now very hazardous to an old boat like his, and with the Americans now mounting carrier strikes against Cuba on a routine basis, Naval Operations had sent his boat-and Cuba's one other 641 (Foxtrot) class boat-into the Caribbean, where the threat level was decreased, though the opportunities for other targets were lacking. The Americans and their lackeys were running convoys from the Panama Canal up past Puerto Rico, and avoiding the Windward Passage altogether. And those convoys were well guarded by destroyers, frigates, and land-based patrol aircraft from either Panama or Puerto Rico.

Now, he decided to come to periscope depth. A routine sweep, perhaps get his ESM mast up to listen for any radar signals, and maybe, just maybe, find a target. He turned to his First Officer. “Periscope depth.”

“Periscope depth, aye,” the first officer responded, and the boat came slowly to twenty meters. “At periscope depth, Comrade Captain.”

Torres nodded. “Up scope.”

As the periscope came up, he began his sweep. “Nothing here...”


Up above, an SH-3H Sea King from HS-7 was on ASW patrol, out looking for hostile submarines. The pilot was brand-new to the left seat, having been in SH-3s for a year now. And she had never stopped wondering how something could be exciting yet boring at the same time. Once, when she'd asked that out loud to her copilot, he'd replied that ASW guys had been asking the same thing since World War I. She'd never dropped on a contact, but had seen the aftermath of sub attacks more than once, going out on search-and-rescue for survivors of ships that had fallen prey to Soviet subs. Seeing that had only made her determined to find a contact-and kill it.

She was searching visually, while her copilot was actually flying the helo. The two sonar operators were listening to several sonobuoys that had been laid earlier, and so far, nothing had been found. Then she saw it at her eleven o'clock.. “Holy gawd! That's a freakin' periscope!”

The copilot noticed it too. “Got it. You want an active buoy?”

“Hell, no! Arm a fish, left search pattern.”

The copilot set it up. “Ready.”

When the pilot pushed her pickle button, a Mark-46 torpedo fell from the helo, a parachute streamed to slow the torpedo down, then after it entered the water, began searching for its prey. It soon found it.

The Mark-46 tore into the submarine amidships, just below the conning tower. And right into the central command post. Captain Torres and his crew died without knowing they were even under attack.

“A hit!” the pilot yelled. A gout of water spouted up, and soon, there was oil, wreckage, and even a body coming to the surface.

The copilot nodded, while one of the systems operators tuned things in. They heard the breakup noises, then the CRUNCH as the boat plunged below crush depth. “Well, Joanie, looks like you got yourself a sub.”

She looked at the copilot, then back in the cabin, where the two operators were looking back, grinning. “No. We all got him.”


Kennedy CIC, 1225 Hours.


“Admiral, Dipper 613 reports dropping on a periscope nine-zero miles ahead of us. No friendlies in the area.” the group's ASW officer reported from Briscoe.

“Where's that position?” Mattingly wanted to know.

“Just south of the passage itself. And if the helo hadn't dropped on it, we would've met it in three hours or so.” the TAO said.

“ID on the boat?” Mattingly asked.

“No, sir. Just wreckage and oil, plus a body.” the ASW officer responded.

The Admiral turned to his chief of staff. “Was this one of the boats in the ASW Sitrep?”

“Possible, sir. The known boat in Mona Passage was last reported at the northern end of the passage. They did have a report on a second, but it was unconfirmed,” the chief replied.

Admiral Mattingly nodded. “Get another helo out there ASAP. Find out who it was; get some wreckage, and recover that body if at all possible.”

“Aye, aye, Sir.” the chief replied.
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Old 01-19-2015, 08:12 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Part II:

1245 Hours: 38th Bomber Regiment, Holguin Air Base, Cuba:


Colonel Duarte strapped himself into the pilot's seat of his Tu-16 and began the preflight checklist with his copilot. So far, there'd been no word from the reconnaissance flights, but Duarte had ordered his crews to their planes, and the regiment would get word as to a target location while in the air. Each Tu-16K carried two KSR-2 missiles, plus a full load of 23-mm for the defensive guns. Lot of good that did, Duarte thought. None of his bombers-that he knew of-had been able to make use of their defensive guns, since the Americans often stayed out of range and used either Sidewinders or Sparrows to kill the lumbering bombers. Today, though, he expected to face F-14s in force, and he'd be going up against AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, and from what the Soviets had passed along, those didn't miss much against bomber-sized targets. Even if the carrier was one of the old Essex-class ships that had been reactivated and only had F-8s, they still carried Sidewinders, and they were still deadly. Colonel Duarte put those thoughts aside as he prepared for taxi and takeoff. He called the tower, and received permission to taxi and prepare for takeoff. And the whole regiment-other than one aircraft down for serious maintenance-would be right behind him.

“Tower, this is Broadsword Leader, requesting clearance for takeoff.”

“Broadsword Leader, Tower. You are cleared for takeoff. Winds are zero-eight-five for ten.”

“Roger, Tower. Broadsword Leader rolling.”

The big Tu-16 began its takeoff roll, and was soon in the air, its two engines leaving a pair of smoky trails in its wake. One by one, the other bombers rumbled down the runway and into the air, forming up into squadron formations, then they headed southeast, towards the Windward Passage.


1300 Hours: Camp 32, near Holguin, Cuba.


First Lieutenant Kelly Franklin, United States Air Force, watched the bombers take off from her compound with some interest. She had been an F-16 pilot with the 307th Tactical Fighter Squadron, before being shot down the previous January, in a raid on the port of Matanzas, and after a spell of brutal interrogation in Havana, had been sent to Camp 32. In this particular compound in the camp, were female officers-mostly air crews, but some were from the destroyer tender Prairie, sunk at Guantanamo, others were actual base personnel from Gitmo, and some had even been captured on the mainland and shipped to Cuba. Another compound held male officers, and still another housed enlisted prisoners used by the Cubans on forced labor details. Most of the officer prisoners were not used on the outside work details, but those that the Cubans wanted to work were put into such things as sweeping cell blocks or courtyards, working in the camp gardens-or the dishwashing detail.

Lieutenant Franklin was sweeping the courtyard for her cell block-most of the officer prisoners spent most of the day in their cells, with only ten or fifteen minutes outside for exercise. The routine was harsh, guards were a constant presence to prevent prisoner communications, and punishment was often severe, as she had found out firsthand. But, as she swept the courtyard, she did so in code, passing messages along, and giving encouragement to the other prisoners, especially those in solitary.

It had been the rumble of jet engines that caught her attention, and though she was not diverted from her detail-hard to be diverted with a guard following her-she did notice the bombers climbing out and away from the air base, and she counted them as they left. Thirty bombers-most of a regiment, she knew. And they were headed southeast. With that direction-southeast, she knew they likely weren't headed for Puerto Rico, but Panama, perhaps? Maybe the Navy's got somebody nearby that can send you guys somewhere else-like into the Caribbean, and you can feed the fish, she thought as she went about her chores. The thought warmed her heart as the bombers disappeared to the southeast.


1310 Hours: Kennedy CIC:


Admiral Mattingly's chief of staff came up to him. “Admiral, we have a raid warning.”

“What have we got, Commander?”

“Two sources, Admiral. First, from Kingston. Jamaican air-traffic-control radar picked up a large formation of aircraft headed southeast from Cuba. Second, Ravens came through again. Right now, it's a regiment-sized force, headed southeast. They should be passing over the western tip of Haiti anytime now.” the chief replied.

“Too bad Baby Doc doesn't have a real air force, otherwise he'd have his people splash a few,” the Admiral observed.

The chief paused. “Uh, yes, sir.”

“All right.” Mattingly turned to his air wing commander. “CAG?”

“Admiral, with your permission, I'll shoot off the Alert Fives, put four more on Alert Five, and have everybody else at Alert Fifteen. In a half-hour, the Alert Fives go, and then the rest. Assuming Badgers, we have an hour at least.” CAG responded. By training he was an attack pilot, but knew full well that defending the battle group came first. “Except for the ASR alert birds, all the A-6s and A-7s have buddy stores and tanks. We can keep the Tomcats up all day if necessary.”

Mattingly nodded. “Do it.”

CAG picked up the phone and relayed the orders. Four F-14s from VF-32 shot off the catapults and into the air. Four more, these from VF-14, taxied into position, ready to launch. “Admiral, we have now eight Toms on CAP, and four more on the cats, ready to go. Everybody else is in the ready rooms.”

“Very well, CAG.” Mattingly responded. He knew that CAG would be mounting an Alert Fifteen Tomcat himself, leading his people into combat as a CAG should.


1315 Hours: Clansman 304, South of the Dominican Republic:


Lieutenant Commander Kevin “Popeye” Doyle brought his A-7E Corsair down towards the surface contact. He was the Operations Officer for VA-46, and he'd seen combat in the Caribbean before. He'd flown strikes in support of the Grenada operation back in '83, and in addition, that cruise had also seen the ill-fated Lebanon strike, and he'd also gotten some combat there-combat time in two locations on the same cruise? The last time that had happened was World War II! Then once the big war had gotten started, he'd been flying combat missions in the Med, Iceland, and now, back to the Caribbean. Some war, the thought.

His wingmate was Lieutenant (j.g.) Shannon “Buns” Weaver, a “nugget” on her first cruise. This was her first combat deployment since graduating from VA-174, the A-7 RAG, at NAS Cecil Field. Apart from walking around with NBC gear wherever she went, and making sure she knew where air raid shelters were on base, it had just been like peacetime, or some old hands in the RAG had said. She had been graduated early from Annapolis, and sent to Pensacola for flight training. Once she'd gotten her wings, the ban on women flying combat had been lifted, and she'd asked for either A-6s or A-7s. They'd sent her to Corsairs, and she fell in love with the SLUF. Once the war was over, the Corsairs were likely to be replaced by F/A-18s, but until then....

“Buns, Popeye,” Doyle called. “Contact at eleven o'clock. Low.”

“I see it, Popeye.”

“Buns, time for some OJT. I'll cover you. Fly down and make the ID.”

“Copy that.” And Buns rolled in and flew down to check out the contact. She could see it was a medium-sized freighter, headed east. And it looked like it was flying a Swedish flag. Buns rolled right and came around for another pass. Yes, there it was, a Swedish ensign from the stern, and another ran up from the superstructure. She pulled up and back to altitude.

“Popeye, Buns. It's a Swedish freighter. Headed east.”

“Copy. Form up on me, and I'll call it in. Starbase, this is Clansman 304. Surface contact is a neutral freighter flying Swedish flag.”

“Roger that, 304. You are to RTB. Repeat, RTB. Buster.”


Down below, the crew of the freighter Gotland watched the American plane fly around their ship, then pulled up and away. It was nothing new: they'd been buzzed by American, Cuban, and even Soviet aircraft every time the ship came into the war zone. But the Swedish government insisted on right of passage for neutral ships, even though there were hardly any neutrals that dared enter Caribbean waters-not unless they joined a convoy headed to or from the Panama Canal-because sometimes, Soviet subs had been known to attack neutral shipping. The Americans had gotten used to the neutrals tagging along, but when the ships arrived at the Canal, those ships were given a very through inspection-not by Panamanian authorities, but by the U.S. Navy-which still guarded the Canal. The rules were simple: either submit to the inspection, or turn back. Nobody fooled around with the safety of the Canal at risk, and the neutral captains were told by their home governments to go along. This trip, though, they hadn't had that problem. First, a stop in Bluefields, Nicaragua, to load coffee, and then a stop in Honduras to load Bananas. With luck, they'd be out of the war zone in two or three days, and headed across the Atlantic.



1325 Hours: South of Hispaniola:


The two Tu-16Rs flew to the southeast, about forty miles apart. Both were using their ELINT gear and, on occasion, their radars, to look for any ships. A single track would mean a freighter, and since most freighters-or tankers-in these waters belonged to the local neutrals, they were usually left alone. But several ships either meant a convoy, or an American battle group, and that meant combat. And a half-hour behind the pathfinders was the strike group, waiting on targeting information. So far, apart from a couple of surface contacts that were almost certainly freighters, there was nothing yet.

Unknown to the Cubans, their position and status reports-radioed back not only to the strike force, but to Eastern Air Command at Camaguey, were being picked up by the EA-3s and EP-3s orbiting over Mona Passage and south of Puerto Rico. That information was relayed to Kennedy CIC, and a rough plot of the Cuban reconnaissance aircraft was able to be worked out.

Captain Simon Delgado sat back in the pilot's seat of his Tu-16, letting the copilot fly the plane. So far, this mission had been boring, and there'd been no sign of the Americans. Maybe Colonel Duarte was right after all, and this would be a wasted effort. But still....maybe there was something out there. He asked his senior ELINT operator. “Anything?”

“No, Comrade Captain. Nothing at all.”

He turned to his copilot. “Jose, this might just be another wasted effort. Just like last week. Remember? Someone reported a carrier east of the Bahamas, and all we found was empty ocean.”

The copilot let out a laugh. “Maybe some fishermen saw a tanker and thought it was a carrier? Who knows?”

As the Badger flew on, an E-2C Hawkeye from VAW-126 picked up the incoming aircraft. First one, then two tracks came on the scope. The information was relayed to Kennedy CIC, where the entire battle group-other than the single Hawkeye- was still under full EMCON (Emissions Control: no radar or radio signals of any kind unless absolutely necessary).

“Admiral, looks like the Badger-Ds are coming in.” Mattingly's intelligence officer reported.

“What have we got?” asked the Admiral.

“Two tracks. One's about eighty miles south of Santo Domingo, with the other forty miles south of the first.”

“That's it. Flush the remaining Tomcats, get some A-6s and A-7s up with buddy stores. And kill the Badger-Ds.”


1327 Hours: Gypsy 202.


Lieutenant Phil Copely and his RIO, Lieutenant Commander Joe Parsons got the message from the Hawkeye: Kill the Badgers. “Gypsy 202 copies.”

As the Tomcat broke orbit, its wingmate turned to follow. Gypsy 207, with Lieutenants Mark Richard and Jeri Hansen, pulled in alongside 202. Both Tomcats scanned the sky with their TCS camera systems, while their AWG-9 radars remained off. Sure enough, about seventy miles away, the head-on outline of a Tu-16, with a huge amount of smoke behind it, appeared on the TCS in both aircraft. It was 207 that had acquired a target first, and thus they would take the lead. “Jeri, light 'em up, and lock 'em up,”

“Gotcha.” Hansen said. She powered up the powerful AWG-9 radar and had the Tu-16 squarely in her radar picture. “There's two of them.”

“We'll take one. Phil and Joe get the other one.” Richard said.

“Copy. We've got lock! Range sixty miles.”

“Fox Three!” Richard called on the radio as he fired, and a Phoenix missile dropped from the Tomcat's belly and ignited. Then he did it again, “Second Fox Three,” releasing a second missile.



In Delgado's Tu-16, an electronic-warfare operator was checking his screen. Then what he saw made him turn pale. “F-14 radar!”

“What?” Delgado asked.

“We have a fighter radar locked on us.” the operator responded, his voice now calm and cool. “Jamming pods are activated.”

“Get a warning out!”Delgado screamed at his radio operator.

There wasn't time. Flight time for the Phoenix missiles was a mere sixty-five seconds. The first missile blew the tail off the Badger, while the second exploded in the former bomb bay, and hot fragments from the missile sliced into the aircraft's fuel tanks, turning the Tu-16 into a ball of fire.


“Splash!” Hansen called. Not only had she seen it on radar, but she'd also seen it on the TCS camera.

“That's a kill,” Richard confirmed.

Just as he made that call, Gypsy 202 locked up the southernmost Badger and fired. This time, the missiles needed only fifty-six seconds to track the Tu-16 and explode it.

“Starbase, Gypsy 202. Splash two Badgers. Returning to station.”


1330 Hours: Kennedy CIC:


“That's the reconnaissance flight, Admiral.” the intelligence officer said.

“No arguing with that. Now, will the main strike abort, or keep going?” Mattingly asked.

“Depends, Admiral. If the Air Force is calling this one, they'll abort. If it's somebody higher up....”

“They'll press on,” Mattingly finished. He turned to his Chief of Staff, who nodded.

“I don't think they'll abort, Sir.. These are Castro's boys, and they'll keep coming in.”

“Agreed,” the intelligence officer said. “Admiral, we can expect the raid in a half-hour.”

Mattingly nodded. He looked at the plot, and saw the Tomcats taking their CAP positions. Twenty-four F-14s, along with a dozen A-6s and A-7s rigged as buddy tankers, were now airborne. And an EA-6B from VAQ-140 was also in the air, to jam missile-guidance radars. “Any word from Bon Homme Richard?”

“No, sir.” the chief replied.

That carrier group had also received the warning of the Badger reconnaissance flight, and had simply moved to the east, while leaving a couple of F-8s to deal with the Badgers, if they were encountered. As it turned out, one of the Tu-16s was found by the Crusaders, who shot him down. The second Badger, unaware of the fate meted out to their squadron mates, flew on, completed its planned search sweep, and turned for home.
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Old 01-19-2015, 08:15 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Part III:


1355 Hours: Broadsword Leader, south of Hispaniola:



Colonel Duarte led his regiment on its southeasterly track, and occasionally turning on their missile radars to search for any targets. So far, nothing yet, and no word from the pathfinders since their last check-in, when they cleared the Haitian shoreline. Where are they? Duarte asked himself. He began to wonder if this was another wasted effort, when his copilot said, “Time to climb, Comrade Colonel.”

He meant climbing to 10,000 meters. Or 33,000 feet. Duarte nodded, and began to climb. As the Badgers did so, they also switched on their radars to search for targets.


1400 Hours: Kennedy CIC:


“Starbase, Seahawk 601,” the Hawkeye controller called. “Multiple bandits, bearing Three-four-zero relative, angels thirty and climbing.”

Mattingly nodded at that. “Here they come.”

The group's AAW officer on Valley Forge called it. “Multiple contacts bearing Zero-Zero three relative. Bandit count is estimated at thirty-plus. Picking up Short Horn radars. Designate Raid-One.”

“Admiral?” the chief of staff asked.

“That's it. Light everybody up. And sic the Tomcats on the bombers.” Mattingly ordered.

The carrier and her escorts lit up all of their radars, and the Hawkeyes began to vector the Tomcats onto the approaching bombers. “All Camelot and Gypsy elements, this is Seahawk 601. Your vector is two-seven-zero to two-seven three, for ninety-five. Kill. Repeat: KILL.”

CAG acknowledged the call, “Gypsy 200 copies. Let's go get 'em.”

Tomcats acknowledged the calls, and began lighting up the Badgers with their AWG-9 radars. Some of the fighters closed into get visual ID with their TCS systems before shooting, while others simply let loose with their Phoenix missiles. And within a minute, Badgers began to explode and drop out of the sky.


Broadsword Leader:

“What the...” Duarte yelled as the first two Tu-16s exploded. The bombers lacked the RWR gear the pathfinders carried, and thus the first hint they were under attack was when the first two bombers exploded. He yelled into the radio, “Scatter!”

Then his weapons officer shouted. “Target to the east! Single ship, bearing zero-zero-two relative.”

“It must be a picket ship! Target him and fire!” Duarte yelled.

Before his weapons officer could do just that, a Phoenix missile tracked down Duarte's bomber and blew the cockpit off, and the headless bomber tumbled out of the sky, trailing fire.

More and more bombers took Phoenix hits and either fell out of the sky, or simply exploded. Three bombers, though, managed to find the single contact and launch their missiles, before turning away. Four others kept on coming, despite the sight of their comrades dropping out of the sky, and closed the carrier group. One of the four Badgers got a radar contact on one of the escorts and fired, and the other three followed suit, before Tomcats closed in with Sparrows and Sidewinders, killing all four Badgers.


Kennedy CIC:

“Vampire! Vampire! We have inbound missiles!” the AAW officer called.

“Here we go,” Mattingly said.

The Aegis cruiser began shooting SM-2 missiles at the inbounds, and thanks to data links, South Carolina began doing so as well. Very quickly, a dozen SM-2s smothered the eight incoming AS-5s, and soon there were no more inbounds. But there were six others targeted on the surface contact to the west, the ship ID'd as a neutral. Two late-launching Tomcats were vectored onto the missiles, and they launched four Phoenixes, killing three missiles. Three others closed the contact. And the various CIC crews watched as the missile symbols closed onto the ship, and two merged with it.


Not far from the Swedish freighter, the two A-7 pilots who'd ID'd the ship watched in horror as two Kelt missiles slammed into the Swede. . One missile landed in the ship's stern, while a second slammed into the freighter's midships section, just aft of the funnel. Both one-ton warheads simply ripped the hapless freighter apart, but she didn't sink. Not immediately, anyway.

Commander Doyle watched from above. “Buns, follow me in. Call out if you see anything in the water, like a boat or raft.” When the raid warning had gone out, they had been told to orbit and wait for the all-clear. Both pilots had a ringside seat to the freighter's demise, as well as seeing aircraft fall out of the sky to the west.

“Roger that.” And the two A-7s went down onto the burning, drifting freighter.

“Good lord....” Doyle said as he made his pass. The stern of the Swede had been blown off, and the midships section looked like somebody had taken a meat cleaver to it and simply gouged a huge portion out of it. And the whole ship from the bridge aft was afire.

“Starbase, Clansman 304. That Swedish ship took two hits. She's still afloat, but barely. No sign of any...wait. One raft in the water.” Doyle called in.

“Clansman 307 confirms. And there's a second raft now, and two survivors just went over the side.” Buns called.

“Starbase copies. Clansman 304, orbit and assume on-scene command. We'll get some help out there real quick.”

“Roger. Have fuel for nine-zero minutes.” Doyle replied.


“Admiral, we'd best get a couple of helos out there ASAP.” the chief of staff said.

“Do it. Notify sick bay to stand by to receive survivors.” Mattingly ordered.

The AAW officer then called in. “Three bombers off scope to the west. Tomcats unable to pursue. Vampires all accounted for. Raid-One is now history.”

“All right,” Mattingly said. “Have four Tomcats top off from tankers, and keep them airborne. Bring everybody else home and get them turned around ASAP.”

On deck, flight ops resumed, as two SH-3Hs lifted off on the search-and-rescue, while Tomcats and tankers whose jobs were now done, began to form up in the pattern for landing. Within minutes, those aircraft due for recovery had trapped, and the carrier resumed normal flight operations.

“Admiral, recommend securing from General Quarters.” the chief of staff said.

“Make it so,” Mattingly said.


1445 Hours, Clansman 304:

Commander Doyle watched as the two SH-3s came in for the rescue. Both helos hovered, and their rescue swimmers went into the water to recover survivors. The swimmers worked quickly but cautiously, not knowing if any of the survivors were injured, and indeed, one of the survivors had to be lifted into a helo with a rescue litter. Once the survivors were aboard, the helos turned for the carrier. And as the two Corsairs turned to follow, the freighter did a heave, a final gout of smoke and flame erupted, and she plunged into the deep, stern first.

“Starbase, Clansman 304. The freighter has gone down. Helos are inbound with survivors, and we are RTB at this time.”

“Copy that, 304. Come on home.”

The two A-7s peeled away and headed east, back to the ship. They beat the helos back to the carrier, and both Popeye and Buns watched from Vulture's Row as the two helos arrived with their human cargo. Sure enough, one was a definite stretcher case, two others needed assistance, but four were able to walk off the helos unassisted. Popeye turned to Buns and commented, “Wrong place, wrong time.”

“This war doesn't play favorites,” Buns noted.
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  #47  
Old 01-19-2015, 08:24 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Part IV:


1610 Hours: Camp 32, Holguin, Cuba.


The rumble of jet engines got Lieutenant Kelly Franklin's attention again. This time, she was in the cell she shared with Navy Lieutenant Tyler Brookes, who'd been an A-7 pilot from the carrier Oriskany, until she'd been shot down in November, during a raid on Santiago de Cuba. Both had spent the better part of the day in their cell, despite having had work details-for Franklin, it had been sweeping the courtyard, while Brookes had been on the dishwashing detail. Now, the rumble of engines got their attention, and Franklin went to the cell window and peered through the bars.

“Bombers. And they're coming back.”

“Any underwing cargo?” Brookes asked.

“Nope. But thirty went out. And here's three coming back.” Franklin said. “They must've run into a buzz saw.”

“Want to bet those were Tomcats?” Brookes wondered.

“No takers.” Franklin said. She got down from the window and went to the wall. “Clear me.”

Brookes nodded and went down to the floor and peered through the crack between the cell door and the floor. “Clear.”

And Franklin began to tap to the next cell, and then went to the other wall and repeated the tap. Soon, the word would go from their cell block to the next one, and eventually, even if it took a week, all over the camp. And finding out that the Cubans had gotten a bloody nose in the air was a definite boost to everyone's spirits.


1625 Hours: 38th Bomber Regiment Operations Room, Holguin AB, Cuba.


Captain Manuel Ochoa stormed into the operations room in a rage. He was the senior ranking pilot to survive the mission, and to say that he was highly displeased was an understatement. That anger was also tempered with the fact that he was now the senior ranking pilot in the 38th-or more correctly-what had been the 38th Bomber Regiment, now only five strike aircraft and one reconnaissance aircraft strong. The first man he saw was the regiment's intelligence officer. “WHAT DID YOU SEND US INTO?” he screamed.

“Comrade Captain,” the intelligence officer-a Major-replied, “What are you talking about?”

“It was a massacre! There's no other way to describe it. Aircraft falling right and left, missile trails all over the place, and all we have to show for it is an attack on a possible picket ship. Twenty-six aircraft and crews lost! And for what?” Ochoa yelled, not caring in the slightest if he was insubordinate.

“Mother of...” the major replied. He went to the phone and got on the line to Air Force Headquarters and relayed the mission results. The major nodded, and held the phone for Ochoa. “Havana wants a word with you, Captain.”

Ochoa took the phone and said, “This is Captain Ochoa. Who am I speaking to?”

“Comrade Captain, this is General Estrada at Air Force Operations.” the voice on the other end replied.

“Comrade General...” Ochoa said.

“I'll be blunt, Captain. What happened out there?” Estrada asked.

“Comrade General.....there is no more 38th. Thirty aircraft-all of our serviceable bombers-went out. And only four returned. The reconnaissance flight was also hard hit: only one has returned.” Ochoa said.

“I see.....” the voice on the other end trailed off. “And mission results?”

“Comrade General, we found a ship that may have been a picket ship, and several aircraft did launch missiles against it. Several did hit, and we're claiming a kill. Four more aircraft closed with the carrier group, and they did launch, but none of those aircraft have returned.” Ochoa concluded.

“So, one ship sunk, and unknown results in the actual strike on the carrier?” Estrada asked.

“That's correct, Comrade General.”

“All right, Captain. You're now acting commander of the 38th, despite your rank. I'll see about getting you the rank that goes with the job, and work on getting some replacement aircraft.” Estrada said. “Right now, just be glad you're alive.”

“Yes, Comrade General.”

With that, General Estrada hung up, leaving Ochoa holding the receiver. He then hung up and turned to the intelligence officer. “I don't think we'll ever go up against a carrier again. Not after today.”

“Comrade Captain, I believe you're right.”


1700 Hours: Sick Bay, U.S.S. John F. Kennedy.


Admiral Mattingly came into Sick Bay with Captain Darrel Cramer, the carrier's captain. They found the head of the Medical Department, Commander Neal Walton. “Commander, how are the survivors?” asked the Admiral.

“One is critical. Two others are still in surgery, and the rest are recovering,” Walton said. “The one critical case ....his chances are no better than 50-50.”

“Can we talk to any of them?” Captain Cramer wanted to know.

“One who's doing fine is more than willing to talk: he's the ship's Fourth Officer.” Commander Walton said. “He's been demanding to speak with a senior officer, as a matter of fact.”

Both the Admiral and the Captain nodded. Mattingly said, “Let's see him.”

Commander Walton escorted the two senior officers to the room, which had a Marine guard. The guard nodded and opened the door. Inside, sitting on a bunk, was Sven Kossborg, the Gotland's Fourth Officer. He turned and saw the three officers come in. “Mr. Kossberg,” Walton said, “This is Admiral Mattingly, the battle group commander, and Captain Cramer, the JFK's captain.”

“Admiral, Captain...” Kossberg said. “Thank you for rescuing us.”

“No thanks necessary, Mr. Kossberg. Even in wartime, the rule of the sea still applies.” Mattingly said. “Do you know what happened?”

“No,” Kossberg shook his head. “The aft lookout said he saw aircraft in the distance, and that one or two were falling in flames. Then he shouted that there were smoke trails closing in on us. The Captain ordered a message sent that we were under attack, but I have no idea if it went out. The next thing I know, two explosions, and I am in the water.”

“You're lucky,” Walton said. “First-degree burns, and a broken ankle.”

Kossberg looked at the cast on his ankle. Yes, it could be a lot worse. “How many?”

“Only seven,” Walton said. “And one is in very critical condition.”

“Who attacked us?” Kossberg asked.

“Cuban Tu-16 Badger bombers.” Mattingly said. “They probably thought your ship was a radar or ASW picket, and since they were under attack from our fighters, you were first in line.”

“Of all the....” Kossberg said. “How soon can we go ashore?”

“You'll have to stay aboard ship for the time being. None of your crew are in any shape to travel, I'm afraid.” Commander Walton said. He looked at the Admiral. “However...”

“However,” Admiral Mattingly said, “I'll notify my superiors, and they'll pass on your names to the Swedish Ambassador in Philadelphia. Your families, at least, will be notified.”

“Thank you, Admiral.” Kossberg said. “And all this for a mixed cargo of coffee and bananas.”

The door opened and a Navy Nurse-one of those newly assigned to the carrier, asked for Commander Walton. He listened to her, looked at Mr. Kossberg, then came back. “Mr. Kossberg, I've got some bad news. The one crewman in critical condition?”

Kossberg had an idea of what was coming. “Yes?”

“I'm afraid he's dead. There was only so much we could do for him. Even if we'd gotten him flown to a base in Puerto Rico, even they might not have saved him.” Walton said.


“I see...I am sure you did all that was possible. If it's possible, his body should be sent home to his family.” Kossberg said.

“Again, I'll inform my superiors, and those arrangements will be made,” Admiral Mattingly said.




The next day, the Kennedy/CVW-3 team moved into position and launched strikes into Southeastern Cuba, while the Bon Homme Richard/CVW-21 team did the same. A five-day series of strikes against targets deeper into Cuba went on, with Cienfeugos, Banes, and other targets being hit, before the carriers broke off to replenish. Each carrier air wing lost several aircraft, with Kennedy losing two A-6s and four A-7s, and Bon Homme Richard losing an F-8, an RF-8, and three A-7s.

Fallout from the failed strike reached into the corridors of power in Havana, when General Lorenzo reported the failed strike to Fidel Castro. That failure, plus the bad news coming from the front in North America, led to Lorenzo's dismissal. Furthermore, the Swedes were not pleased that one of their ships had been sunk by Cuban aircraft, with Fidel's refusal to apologize for the sinking led the Swedes to recall their ambassador “for consultations”, and was one of several factors leading to the fall of the Palme government in Stockholm. After Palme lost a no-confidence vote in the Swedish parliament, his successor apologized to the U.S. Ambassador for the downturn in U.S-Swedish relations that had occurred under the Palme government, and that if the U.S.-and by extension, its allies, wished to purchase NATO-standard small-arms, tank, and artillery ammunition from Swedish firms, the new government would have no objections to such purchases, and if additional systems, such as the RBS-70 SAM, were on the Allied shopping list, any objections in parliament to the new policy would be easily overcome.
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  #48  
Old 01-23-2015, 10:43 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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This one's set in the final week of the war in the Lower 48, and the 335th's crews find out that not all MiG drivers really belong in the cockpit....

Part I

Nearing the End: Burnout


Laredo AFB, Texas: 1 October, 1989, 0620 Hours Central War Time



Major Matt Wiser, the CO of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, was doing something that the 335th had hardly ever done since the war began: holding a mass briefing. There had been one on the first day, four years earlier, and one or two since. Mainly at the start of PRAIRIE FIRE and LONG RIFLE, but apart from that, he didn't recall any. No matter. The 335th had taken over some offices that prewar, had been used by an air charter company, the base having been closed a number of years prior to the war. The Soviets and Cubans had made use of the facilities since, both here and at Laredo International Airport, and now, the USAF, along with the Marines, had returned.

Crammed inside a meeting room was every crew in the 335th: he had eighteen flyable aircraft and thirty-two crews. Two aircraft were down for maintenance, and he was expecting four more to come, either from deep overhaul at McClellan AFB, or newly built from the Mitsubishi line in Japan. Well, when we go south into Mexico-and as far as Mexico City, we'll need those new birds and some new crews. But that was in the future-he hoped, but today's business-and those in the days ahead, came first.

“All right. You've probably noticed something. There's no preplanned targets for today. Everybody that can fly in MAG-11, along with the entire Tenth Air Force, is going south. Other than the Monterrey Air Defense Zone, anyplace in Northern Mexico from Amistad Reservoir down to Roma is fair game.”

His Exec, Captain Don Van Loan, asked, “So what are we doing, hitting opportunity targets?”

“That, and armed reconnaissance,” Major Wiser, call sign Guru, said.

Pilots and WSOs looked at each other. Then Capt. Valerie Blanchard, or Sweaty as she was known on the radio, said, “Southeast Asia all over again?”

“No. The reason Monterrey's a no-go area is because of the air defense threat. The only restriction, other than that, is no southbound traffic. Intel says the ComBloc are shipping POWs south in trucks headed deeper into Mexico, so no hitting southbound vehicles. Other than that, any military traffic on any road, whether the Mexican Federal roads, or the local ones, is a target,” Guru said.

“This all prep for the invasion?” Capt. Kara Thrace, or Starbuck, asked. She was the Operations Officer for the 335th, and had submitted a strike plan for Mexico City. One that Guru had reluctantly turned down.

“They wouldn't say, but even money says it is,” the CO replied. “At least, it forces the ComBloc to realize there's more than just Brownsville.”

Heads nodded. Anything that made the bad guys remember there was more than that pocket on this front was a good thing. “Opportunity targets?” Capt. Lisa Eichhorn asked. Goalie was her call sign, and she was Major Wiser's WSO.

“Anything military or military related. This includes bridges, power substations, airstrips, you name it. If it's defended, it's a target.” the CO told everyone.

Then Capt. Bryan Simmonds, Sweaty Blanchard's backseater, asked, “Ordnance loads?”

“Good question, Preacher.” Major Wiser said. “Right now, you're going out with either dumb bombs, CBUs, or a mix. But when you come back from the first hop, the ordnance guys will have whatever they've got ready. You might get napalm, or all dumb bombs, all CBUs, Mavericks, rocket pods, whatever. But you still get at least two AIM-7s, two wing tanks, and a full load of 20-mike-mike. And Sidewinders. Flight leads get an ECM pod as well.”

“And MiGs?” Hoser, or Capt. Nathan West, asked.

“OK, here's what the deal is. If the MiG or Sukhoi has a good driver, or if it's got a Red Star or Cuban insignia on it, go ahead. Kill it and claim the kill. If it's flown by some Mexican who's flying like he expects to be shot down, different story,” Guru said.

“What does that mean?” Sweaty asked.

“I haven't been claiming those kills. I've got five of those, and so does Kara. You've got four, Don has three, and several of you also have at least two. These have been too easy,” Major Wiser said.

“Like those Syrians in the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot back in '82, Boss.” Van Loan said. “Lot of those guys acted as if they knew they'd be shot down, but took off anyhow.”

“Yeah,” Guru responded. “Here's what I've been doing. When I've killed these guys, I say that I've fired an AIM-9 or AIM-7, depending on what I did use, but the missile missed, prematured, failed to guide, or whatever. And the target got away,” the CO said. He knew that several of those he'd mentioned had done the same. “If you want to claim the kill, go ahead. It's up to you.”

Heads nodded. And Major Wiser noticed one thing. The old hands in the squadron were those not likely to file these claims, even if it kept somebody from a better score. The new people-and the 335th had several new crews-were more likely to do otherwise. To them, killing some guy fresh out of flight training was no different than killing a high-time flier. He knew the saying, “A kill's a kill.” Normally, he'd agree. But with these greenhorns they'd been splashing, it was all too easy. He'd rather get into the transport stream from Mexico City to Brownsville instead and be like a shark in a school of fish.
“Any other questions?”

“What's the weather, Major?” asked one of the new guys.

“CAVU all day.” the Major said. That meant clear skies and visibility unlimited. A fighter-attack pilot's dream. “As for bailout areas south of the river: anyplace away from the roads. If you can, stay with the bird as long as you can and get your asses north. The closer to the Rio Grande, the easier time that the Jolly Greens have to get you. And if you can get across the river, best of all.”

Heads nodded again. Major Wiser looked around the room. “Anything else?”

Then one of the sergeants came into the room. “Major, this should've been handed out yesterday. It's from Major Ellis,” the sergeant said, handing the CO a letter.

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Major Wiser said. “Before we go, anyone want to hear from Mark?”

Multiple heads nodded. “Come on, Major,” Kara said, “Read it.” Sweaty Blanchard said the same thing, as did Goalie.

“OK, hold your horses,” Guru said as he opened the letter. “He's home-back in Ohio. 'I'm at Rickenbacker's base hospital,' he says. 'I'll be back in the cockpit, but the docs say it's at least a year. More likely eighteen months. That's what happens when you break one leg in two places, along with the other leg, and your shoulder, too. I saw you guys on CNN a couple of times, and it looks like you're all doing OK. Drop me a line, and if I don't see you guys before the war's over, I'll be there at the reunion. Check Six, and kick those bastards back to Mexico City.' There's more, but that's about it. Oh, he's getting married once he can walk down the aisle.”

Clapping and cheering followed. Mark Ellis had been a well respected pilot and Exec. He and Guru had run the 335th the best way they could, even if they had to fold, spindle, bend, or mutilate a few regs to get things done, so be it-as long as it got results. And having both MAG-11's commander and General Tanner at Tenth Air Force have the same attitude helped a lot. Then he'd been shot down during that Midland-Odessa offensive, what some had called Ivan's last roll of the dice, which had drawn parallels with the Battle of the Bulge, and had been rescued by the Jolly Greens. But his war was over. Major Wiser gave the letter to one of his ground officers. “Put that on the bulletin board, so everybody can read it.”

“Glad to, Major,” the man said.

“Okay. Anything else?” Major Wiser asked. There wasn't.

“Good. Let's hit it.” Wiser said, grabbing his flight helmet.

With that, the room emptied as those crews assigned to fly the first sorties of the day went to their aircraft. And soon after that, the runways were filled with aircraft as F-4s (both AF and Marine), Marine A-4s, A-6s, F/A-18s, and some A-7s from a shore-based Navy squadron, began taxiing for takeoff. It was going to be a very busy day.


1430 Hours Central War Time: Over Northern Mexico.


Guru was on his fifth flight that day; he and Goalie had flown four before noon, and they'd finally had a break. Lunch, taking care of squadron paperwork, and then back in the saddle. He was in his usual mount, 512, and he had eleven Red Stars painted on the side. So what if the bad guys saw that in combat? At least they'd know they were up against a proven MiG-killer.

They were flying with their usual wingmates, 1st Lt. Kevin McAllen and his WSO, 1st Lt. Toni Grey. Since Kara had graduated to flight lead, a year earlier, these two had been their wingmates. And had made ace in the process. But kills had been few-other than these rookies, and neither Kevin or Toni (Cowboy and Nooner as they went in the squadron) had claimed any of those, either. Then they heard Sweaty call on the radio “Any Chiefs north of Sabinas Hidalgo?” Chiefs was their squadron's nickname.

“Sweaty, Guru,” Wiser called. “What's up?”

“Big convoy at the junction of Highway 85 and Route 22: somebody dropped the bridge north of that on 85, and they're all backed up,” Sweaty called.

“Copy. Cowboy, you hear that?”

“Roger, Lead,” Cowboy said.

“Sweaty, Guru. We're on our way.” Wiser said.

“Roger, Boss.” Sweaty called. “We're Winchester right now and are RTB.” That meant she was out of ordnance and had to return to base.

“Roger that. Any other Chiefs working 85, head to Sweaty's target location.” Guru said, not waiting for any acknowledgments. And he took his element to that location. Sure enough, there was military traffic backed up on the highway, and the bridge was down over the Rio Salado. His two Phantoms had six Mark-82 500-pound bombs and six CBU-58/B cluster bombs. These had one advantage over Rockeyes, his favorite CBUs: they had incendiary submunitions mixed in with the antivehicle and antipersonnel ones. And ripping up a truck convoy like this one was one thing CBUs could handle.

The two Phantoms came in on the target. “Anything on the threat receivers?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Not a peep. They must not have any radars down there.” Goalie responded.

“Two, this is Lead. First pass Mark-82s. Second pass CBUs. Then we RTB. Both runs south to north.” Guru called.

“Copy, Lead,” Cowboy responded.

With that, Guru rolled in on his first pass. He picked out some trucks and unloaded his six centerline Mark-82s from low level. The six bombs ripped into the convoy, blasting some trucks, and tossing others aside as if they were toys. Cowboy followed his leader, and his bombs, too, had the same effect. The two Phantoms then came around for another run.

As the two Phantoms came in, the crews noticed small-arms fire and even some 23-mm coming up. It looked like to the crews that somebody-Russians, Cubans, or Mexicans, had put 23-mm guns on either trucks or BTR-152s as improvised antiaircraft vehicles. No matter, they were coming in too fast. And both F-4s laid down their CBUs on the vehicles cramming the northbound lanes of Highway 85. Both crews were rewarded with multiple secondary explosions, as trucks, BTRs, and armored vehicles exploded. As they pulled up, two more elements from the 335th, Don Van Loan's and Hoser's, came in.

Guru called Van Loan. “Pouncer, Guru. Who's that with you?”

“Hoser, Boss.” Van Loan called back.

“Copy that, these guys are all yours. I'm Winchester, and RTB. Watch out for 23-mm and possible SA-7s.”

“Roger that, Boss. I'll be taking Rifle shots,” Pouncer said. Rifle meant Maverick missiles.

“Copy that, Pouncer. Go get 'em.” Guru called as he headed north. Just then, AWACS called.

“Mustang One-One, Crystal Palace. Bandits, Bandits. Threat bearing two-four-zero for fifty-five.”

Uh-oh, Guru thought. “Roger, Crystal Palace. Say Bogey Dope?”

“Mustang, Crystal Palace. No Joy,” the AWACS controller called.

Lovely, Guru thought out loud. And Goalie felt the same way. But it was showtime. “Cowboy, Guru. Bandits inbound. Drop tanks and fight's on.”

“Copy, Lead. Drop tanks and fight's on.” Cowboy responded.

Both F-4s dropped their wing tanks and turned into the incoming bandits. As they did so, the WSOs had their radars on, trying to pick up the bandits. And Crystal Palace kept giving range and bearing.
“Mustang One-One, Crystal Palace. Bandits on your nose, seventeen miles.”

Then Goalie called Guru on the intercom. “Two hits at twelve o'clock.”

“Got it. Crystal Palace, Mustang One-One. Judy.” That meant the F-4s were taking over the interception. “Say Bogey Dope?”

“Mustang, Crystal Palace. Bogeys are Fitters.” That meant anything from Su-7s from the mid '60s to the latest Su-22M4s. And those Fitters were very effective attack aircraft.

“Roger that,” Guru called. “Goalie, anything?”

“I've got a lock!”

“Copy that. Fox One!” he called out, signaling a Sparrow missile launch as he squeezed the trigger on the stick. Then he fired his second Sparrow. “Fox One again!”

Two AIM-7E Sparrow missiles streaked towards their target. Then the enemy aircraft became visible. These were swing-wing Fitters: Su-17s at least. As Guru's missiles streaked towards their target, Cowboy called, “Fox One!” as he ripple-fired two Sparrows.

Guru's two missiles missed. Cowboy's first one burned out short of the target, while his second flew right past the Fitter and exploded well behind the aircraft. As the Fitters broke, they jettisoned their external ordnance and fuel tanks, and tried to break away. And when they did that, their insignia became clear. Red stars on the tail. That meant Russians. “Two, Lead. I've got the leader.”

“Roger, Lead. I've got the other one.” Cowboy called.

Guru got in behind the Fitter. This one might have been an Su-22M version, but it was impossible to tell visually. And he could see the Fitter had two AA-8 Aphid missiles for self-defense. He grinned underneath his oxygen mask. No way, Ivan, he thought as he turned his missile selector to HEAT. His AIM-9L missiles were now armed. And the seeker was tracking. The growl went loud in his headset: missile lock. “Fox Two!”

Guru's first AIM-9 shot off the rail, corkscrewed right, then left, and then smashed into the Fitter's tail. The explosion blew the tail off the aircraft, and as it spun down to the left, the canopy came off, the ejection seat fired, and the pilot was in his chute. “Splash one Fitter!” Guru called.

Just as Guru made that call, Cowboy got in behind the wingman. He, too, got Sidewinder lock, and fired. Once again, an AIM-9 went off the rail, and flew up the Fitter's tailpipe. This time, when it exploded, the plane blew in half. The rear half fell away and broke apart, while the cockpit and wings tumbled end over end, before smashing into the desert floor. This one didn't have a chute. Cowboy gave the call, “Splash two!”

“Copy that, Two. Any chutes?” Guru asked.

“Negative, Lead.”

“Roger that. Crystal Palace, Mustang One-One.” Guru called to the AWACS.

“Mustang One-One, Crystal Palace. Go.”

“Splash two Fitters-Su-17s or -22s. One chute. We are RTB at this time.” Guru said.

“Roger that. Do you need a vector?” the AWACS controller asked.

In 512, Goalie shook her head. “Do those guys think we're lost?”

“You know the AWACS guys, they're like the backseat driver from hell-no offense intended.” Guru said.. “Crystal Palace, Mustang One-One. Negative.”

Goalie smiled underneath her oxygen mask. “None taken, my dear Major,” and she laughed.

Mustang Flight soon was short of the Rio Grande, and the crews looked down. Neuevo Laredo looked like Berlin in 1945, and inbound aircraft gave the place a wide berth: all the artillery fire being poured into the city meant that the sky over Neuevo Laredo was a dangerous place-and a 155 shell didn't care if you were friendly or not. Then Guru heard Starbuck on the radio. “Guru, Starbuck. Got something here.”

“Go, Starbuck,” Guru called back.

“We've got a MiG-21MF here, no gun pack, two Atolls, and he's got a centerline tank, but he's flying really weird. Straight and level at times, then he's all over the sky,” Starbuck called.

Guru frowned underneath his mask. “What's he got on the side?” He was asking about insignia.

“FARM,” was Starbuck's response. That meant the Revolutionary Air Force of Mexico.

“Starbuck, he trying to signal or anything?”

“He did wave,” Kara said. “This guy might be a defector.”

“ETA home base?”

“Fifteen mikes,” Kara said.

“Starbuck, fly alongside and see if you can get him to follow you. Have your wingie right behind him in the kill slot. He does anything funny, just roll out and away, and have Grumpy take the shot,” Guru ordered.

“Roger that.” Kara replied. “See you on the ground.”

“Copy.” Major Wiser then called Laredo operations and advised them of what was coming in. Then his flight came into the pattern, with each doing a victory roll, before landing. After taxiing in, his crew chief was waiting. “Major, what's up?”

“Sergeant, your guess is as good as mine,” the CO said. “Get the strike camera film unloaded, and what have you got for the next hop?”

“Shake'n bake, Major.” the crew chief replied. “Six Mark-82s centerline, and two napalm tanks each wing. And we'll get you two new wing tanks. Be ready in thirty minutes.”

Nodding, Guru and Goalie headed to squadron ops. They ran into Capt. Darren Licon, the squadron's intelligence officer. “Sir, Starbuck's inbound. ETA seven minutes.”

“Anything new?” Goalie asked.

“No, other than Starbuck said the guy looked like he could barely see out of the cockpit,” Licon said.

Major Wiser's flight looked at each other. This was strange. They went into ops, and quickly reviewed their flight. AWACS had confirmation of the Fitter kills, so those claims were valid. Then Major Wiser went into his office, grabbed a pair of binoculars, and went back outside. He turned to Licon. “Get a Humvee or a truck. When Kara lands, I want to be there.”

“Right, Major.” Licon said as he raced to grab a Humvee. When he came back, it wasn't just Major Wiser's flight, but a number of other aircrews, who were gathered there. Word was going around. Then Licon, who had his own set of binoculars, said, “There they are,” pointing to the southeast.

The three-ship made a pass over the base, then flew around for landing. Kara put her Phantom down first, and taxied away as fast as she could. Then the MiG-21 came in, and several pilots watched in shock as the pilot nearly ground-looped the MiG, but managed to get the plane down in one piece. Grumpy, Kara's wingmate, pulled up and did another flyaround, before coming in himself.

Then a dozen aircrew jumped into the Humvee, or so it seemed. Goalie drove, while Major Wiser and several others were wondering what kind of pilot they had on their hands. They drove past Kara's plane, which had taxied into its revetment, and the crew was quickly getting out. The MiG taxied to the edge of the ramp area, before it shut down. And armed Combat Security Police and Marines converged on the scene. Then the pilot got out. And it was Sweaty who spoke first. “My God! He looks like an Eighth-Grader in a flight suit!”

Goalie drove as close as she could. As the aircrews got out of the Humvee, Kara came running up. She hadn't bothered to get out of her G-Suit and harness, and she ran up to the MiG pilot and slammed him against the side of the aircraft. Guru and the others came rushing up, as Kara was yelling, “What in the hell were you doing?” She asked the Mexican, who looked quite terrified.

“Whoa, Kara!” Guru said, separating the pair. “Take it easy!” He turned to the Mexican pilot. He looked like he was way too young to be flying fighters. “Do you speak English?”

“Y. Y. Yes, I do Senor.” the Mexican said.

“How old are you?” Major Wiser asked.

The Mexican paused, as if he was choosing his words carefully. “In two months, I'll be Seventeen.”

Jaws dropped, as both Air Force and Marine aviators, digested what they'd just heard. Colonel Brady, the MAG-11 commander came up. “Major, did we hear right?” He asked.

Guru looked at the Mexican. “Did you say 'seventeen'?”

“Si.”

“Guru, I think I'm gonna be sick,” Goalie said.

Major Wiser knew it right then. He got the same sick feeling. “My God. That explains it.” The Major turned to his squadron mates. “We've been killing kids in those MiGs!”

Kara exploded. She cursed out anyone who would even consider such a thing, and those who actually trained these kids to fly. They barely belonged in Piper Cubs, and had no place being in a fighter. She stormed off, still yelling, and headed straight for the Officer's Club tent.

Colonel Brady came up to the Mexican. “How much flight time do you have, son?” He asked.

“Two days of taxi training. Then two days of takeoffs and landings, with three days of formation flying,” the boy said.

Not just Guru, but everyone else there from the 335th, as well as the Marines there, realized it then and there. They'd been killing kids who were being sent out with a week's training in MiGs, and who were expected to fight the Americans. Most of the fighter pilots-whether Air Force or Marine, had at least one of these in their kill sheet, even if the kills hadn't been claimed. Then Licon spoke up. “Like the Kamikazes: those guys were sent out with a week's training.”

Sweaty swore. “Yeah, but they weren't expected to fight. These kids, though...Major, what have we been doing?”

“I know. This isn't what we all signed up for.” Major Wiser said, looking at the Mexican, then Colonel Brady, who nodded. He knew what everyone was thinking. What kind of people would put teenage boys in fighter cockpits?

“What now?” Goalie asked.

Colonel Brady responded. “We get on with the job at hand. I know you're not in the mood, but we've still got a job to do.” He turned to a Marine sergeant. “Take this boy to Intel and have the intel shop have a long talk with him. And pass them this: ask the kid if he's got family in the States. If he does, get one of those 1140 forms for him.”

The Marine nodded. “Aye, Aye, Sir.” And several Marines took the Mexican away. A 335th line crew brought up a truck with a tow bar to pull the MiG out of the way. Brady turned to the aircrews. “We've got three hours or so of daylight left. If you're angry about this, make some Mexicans-or Soviets-or Cubans, feel that anger.”

The crowd broke up, as aircrews and ground personnel headed back to their jobs. Back at 335th Ops, Major Wiser found 1st Lt. Keith Crandall, the Deputy Ops Officer. He talked to Crandall, who was grounded with a cold. “Keith, pull Kara and Grumpy off today's schedule, and tomorrow's as well.”

“Right, Major.” Crandall nodded. “Going back out, sir?”

Guru looked at Goalie. And the rest of his flight. Though angry, they knew they still had a job to do. “Yeah. But this is our last one for the day. Tell Don when he lands: no more flying today. Those being turned around, and are ready, go. Anyone airborne doesn't go back out. Even if there's daylight left.”

“Yes, sir.”

Guru corralled his flight. “I know what you guys are thinking. We're going to make somebody-Russians, Cubans, Mexicans-pay. They'll burn, bleed, and blow up for sending that kid out in a MiG. Get back into Game Mode.”

Heads nodded. “Then what?” Goalie asked.

“Kara's probably getting sloppy drunk. And she's not going to be alone. Got that?”

And with that, Mustang flight went to their aircraft, mounted up, and went back out. And they did make someone pay-dearly-for what they'd seen earlier. When they got back, and checked in with ops, Don Van Loan was there.

“Major, what happened? I heard about a defector, but why's everybody so pissed off?”

“That defector was a sixteen-year-old. A kid. And they gave him a week's training before sending him into combat. Those MiGs we thought were flown by greenhorns? We've been killing kids.” Wiser told his Exec. And Van Loan turned pale.

“Major...what kind of people do that?” he asked.

“Your guess is as good as mine. I'm headed over to the O-Club and drown my anger in a couple of beers. And I bet everybody on this base who could is gonna be there.” Major Wiser said. “You did get what I told Keith?”

“Yeah. No more flying today. We've still got an hour of daylight left, though.” Van Loan reminded his CO.

“I know. But the Marine ramp is almost full: they saw the same thing-and they've got some of those MiG kills in their log books,” Wiser said. “Nobody's in a flying mood after hearing that.”
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Old 01-23-2015, 10:56 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Part II:


1815 Hours Central War Time: Officer's Club Tent, Laredo AFB

Major Wiser and Captain Eichhorn went into the Officer's Club. Normally, a juke box would be playing, some poker games might be going on, and generally, people would be trying to blow off steam. Not today. The mood was very subdued, as the grim realization of who had been in the cockpits of the Mexican MiGs they'd killed sat in. Major Wiser went up to the bar, and ordered two Foster's-one for Goalie, and one for himself. Then he asked the bartender. “Where's Captain Thrace?”

The bartender pointed to a corner. Four empty bottles were on a table, and Kara was working on a fifth. Nodding, Guru and Goalie went over to Kara's table. “Want to talk about it, Captain?” Guru asked as he and Goalie pulled up chairs.

“No, Major, but if you insist,” Kara said, taking a pull on her bottle.

“Look. This sure isn't what we all signed up for. We can't change the past, Captain, no matter what.”

“I know, Major. But you and I...Hell, most of the squadron's got these guys in our log books, even if we didn't officially claim the kills! We've been killing kids who should still be in high school, not in MiG cockpits!” Kara yelled.

“You're drunk, now sit down.” said Guru.

“Major, I had to get that out of my system.”

“You're not the only one,” Goalie said, pulling on her beer. “I'd like to find out who stuck those boys in those cockpits and make him pay.”

“Join the club,” a voice said. It was Colonel Brady. “Mind if I join you?”

Kara nodded. “Might as well, Colonel.”

“I've been looking for you guys. Intel's got some news.” Brady said.

“What is it?” Guru asked.

“For starters, that kid is in their equivalent of the Air Force Academy. About six months ago, the word went out for volunteers, he said, for what they called 'advanced fighter school.' He volunteered, and went through what should be, in our military, a year's worth of ground school in three months. Then he had some primary flight, then some backseat rides in a MiG-21U trainer, and they pronounced him qualified,” Brady said.

“What the hell?” Kara said.

“Yeah,” Brady said, pulling on his own beer. “Then he had his training in the MiG-21, and what tactical training they gave him was all models and chalk talks. They sent him to a unit at Monterrey IAP, and other than a couple of patrols, this was his first real combat flight.”
“Of all the....Even we wouldn't have been that desperate!” Goalie yelled.

“Be glad we never had the chance to find out,” Wiser said. “What else, Sir?”

“They've all been heavily indoctrinated. The Mexicans have convinced a lot of their people that if they don't stop us at the Rio Grande, we're going to keep on pushing south to Mexico City.” Brady said.

“So?” Kara asked. “That's what we should do. Make them pay for hosting the Russians and Cubans.”

“You get no argument from me on that, Captain.” Brady said. “But they've taken it to extreme.”

“Huh?” Goalie asked.

“They've told their people that when we do come south, we'll steal more of Mexico. A repeat of 1846-48, basically, and not only slice off more of Mexico, but turn it into a depopulated wasteland.”

“Oh, boy....” Guru said. “They're that convinced?”

“Correct, Major.” Brady said. “They're convinced that we'll do to them what the ComBloc did to us.”

“They've got their own Goebbels down in Mexico City, looks like,” Goalie observed.

“Yeah,” Kara said, motioning to the bartender for another beer. He looked at Guru and Colonel Brady, who nodded.

“This is your last one, Captain. You're not on the schedule tomorrow, so sleep it off,” Major Wiser said. “Look at the entrance. Doc Waters is there.” Waters was the 335th's flight surgeon. “He's got two CSPs with him, and when I signal him, they are going to take you to your quarters, and they'll watch you overnight. Tomorrow morning, sleep in as long as you want. When you do wake up, eat, take care of your squadron paperwork-believe me, we've all got some of that-and just blow off steam. Go to the Marines' shooting range-use that SiG-Sauer of yours, and your M-16, and burn off as much ammo as you can. Go to bed early, because I want you up and ready, 0600, day after tomorrow. Do I make myself clear, Captain?”

Kara glared at him. She knew he was very serious. Then she nodded. “Yes, Sir,” in a subdued voice.

“Good, because you are the best I've got. Finish that beer, Captain. That's an order, then Doc Waters will take it from there.” Major Wiser said. He then turned to Colonel Brady. “Sir, we need to talk. Privately.”

The two officers left the tent and went outside. It was a clear night, and though most flying had ceased, there were Marine Hornets going up on Combat Air Patrol. “What is it, Major?” Brady asked.

“Sir, this squadron's getting at the end of the rope. We've seen and done too much. Once this Brownsville business gets wrapped up, I'd like a stand-down.” Wiser said.

“Chances are, we'll all get a stand-down, Major,” Brady said.

“I realize that, sir. But we need two weeks. Just like before PRAIRIE FIRE, LONG RIFLE, and this one.” Wiser said.

Colonel Brady nodded. “Can't promise you that much, Major. But you'll get a few days off. Once Brownsville's finished up.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Wiser said. “And what about the kid?”

“He's got family here. Someplace in Northern California. Oroville, Yuba City, someplace near there. They'll contact his relatives-a cousin if I heard right-and if he's got an 1140, they'll take him in. He doesn't see the inside of an EPW Camp.” Brady said.

Guru nodded. “That's good to hear.”

“Yeah. Hell of a war, isn't it? Just when you've thought you've seen everything, something new bites you.” Brady commented.

“Ain't that the truth, Sir.”


3 October, 1989: 0545 Hours Central War Time, Laredo AFB.

The 335th's aircrews were all gathered in the briefing room, before the day's flying. Major Wiser looked at the assembled faces. They'd had a day to soak in what had happened two days before. The previous day, they'd gone out and made the ComBloc pay for that-and everything that had happened since the war began. And this time, though several of the Mexican MiGs had come up, the 335th, along with the Marines, had declined combat. Nobody wanted to add another cheap scalp to one's score, not after what had transpired.

As he looked around, he saw all the familiar faces he expected. He noticed Starbuck, and said, “Glad to have you back, Captain. Got everything out of your system?”

“That I did, Major. Refreshed, recharged, and ready to go back to work,” Kara said.

“Glad to hear it, Captain,” Major Wiser said. “Same drill the last couple of days: Armed Reconnaissance and Opportunity Targets. Weather is CAVU, and stay away from 9th Air Force's AO, and the Monterrey area. Other than that, it's a wide open hunting ground. And there's no bag limit.”

Heads nodded. Then Sweaty raised her hand. “Major, what about MiGs?”

“Good question. After what happened on the First, nobody wants to take a chance on killing a kid. Gain Visual ID before shooting. If it's Soviet, Cuban, East German-why they're still fighting I don't know-or any non-Mexican ComBloc, kill.” Major Wiser said.

“And if it's Mexican?” Starbuck asked, with grim seriousness.

“Avoid combat for the most part. If it's a honcho-somebody who knows what he's doing-and he's serious about it, is the fight still on. Other than that, we can outfly, outrun, and outmaneuver them. Nobody's killing anymore kids. This comes from Tenth Air Force, guys, so word's gotten around.”


Everybody understood this one. This was ROE that they could live with-and no one, not even the new guys in the squadron, wanted to kill anymore kids. “Major, what about the kid?” Goalie asked.

“Colonel Brady told me. He's got family in Northern California: a cousin in Yuba City or Oroville, someplace north of Sacramento. They'll take him in. He gets an 1140 form, and doesn't see an EPW Camp.” Wiser said.

“What about Mexico City?” Starbuck asked.

“I thought it over, Starbuck,” Major Wiser said. “I sent your strike proposal to Colonel Brady. He'll send it to Tenth Air Force with his endorsement. No guarantee when we'll fly it right now, but you can bet, when we do go south, that's one mission I'll look forward to flying.”

Starbuck grinned. And so did most everyone there. Even the CO was relishing the prospect of going to Mexico City-and putting some bombs on those who not only had enabled the invasion and everything that followed, but had put sixteen- and seventeen-year olds into fighter cockpits. Major Wiser looked around. Then he noticed a Marine MP. The Sergeant was beckoning him to come over. “Sergeant?”

“Sir, before he left, Ricardo wanted to see you all.” the MP said.

This was weird, but why not? “Okay, bring him in,” Major Wiser said.

The boy came into the briefing room. At first, there was silence. Then applause. This kid was getting a second chance, and in a few years, he'd be an American himself. He politely nodded. And Major Wiser offered his hand, and the boy shook it. “Calm down, people!”

“Thank you, Major,” Ricardo said, with tears in his eyes.

“Going to be with your relatives?”

“Yes, Senor. I can go to school, work in their restaurant, and maybe go to university.” Ricardo said.

“Just remember this: America's the land of opportunity. Even after all that's happened here, you've got a second chance. If I were you, I'd think of October 1 as my second birthday.” Major Wiser told the young man.

“I already do.”

Then something happened that surprised everyone. Kara came up, and not only shook the boy's hand, but hugged him. “Just stay out of airplanes for a while, Okay?” she said.

“Oh, not for a long time. I have all the flying I want for a while.” Ricardo said.

The Marine Sergeant came in, “Sir, it's time for him to go.”

“You take care of yourself. And here's a promise. When we have our squadron reunions, you're invited. Anybody have a problem with that?” Major Wiser asked.

There was a chorus of “NO, SIR!” from the aircrews.

“Thank you, Major.” Ricardo said, and as he turned to leave, he did one thing for the last time. He stood to attention, like he was on the parade ground, and snapped a perfect salute. And the Major returned it. And Ricardo waved goodbye as the Marine sergeant took him on the first leg of his new journey in life.

Major Wiser turned to the squadron. “All right. Brownsville's going to be done in a week. Maybe less, if we keep it up. Let's see if we can't do that.”

“You got it, Major!” Sweaty said, and heads nodded.

“Okay, let's hit it.” And the room emptied as the 335th went out and on with their jobs. And forty-eight hours later, it was over in Brownsville.
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  #50  
Old 01-25-2015, 03:52 PM
BillyS BillyS is offline
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This is a great storie, I spent my service time in the army, your storie gives me many ideas for my RPG. Thanks, keep up the great work.
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Old 01-28-2015, 05:40 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Thanks very much! The more feedback, the better. And there will be more to come.
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Old 02-01-2015, 06:43 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Here's the next one:

An Interesting Divert



2 May, 1987: Williams AFB, AZ: 1245 Hours Mountain War Time


In what had been a classroom used prewar by a T-37 squadron, Captain Matt “Guru” Wiser, the Executive Officer of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron was having lunch, along with his WSO, his wingman, and her WSO. First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn was Guru's WSO, and she handed him a chicken sandwich. “Want another one?”

“No. I've had enough roadkill sandwiches from the Jarheads' mess people for one day.” Guru replied. The Marine air group to which the 335th had been attached since the war's early days had a reputation for good chow at breakfast and dinner. Lunch, though....a different story.

“Too bad they can't steal the chef from the Sheraton and at least give those guys some lessons,” Second Lieutenant Bryan “Preacher” Simmonds, said. He was WSO for Guru's wingman, First Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard.

Sweaty grinned at her WSO, who'd been studying for the priesthood when the war began. “Ready to violate one of the Ten Commandments?”

“In this case, I think the Good Lord would forgive,” Preacher said. He'd been having doubts about going on with his studies after the war, if he lived, and was thinking about making the Air Force a career-as a WSO, not as a Chaplain.

Then Captain Mark Ellis, the Operations Officer for the 335th, came in. “Guru, got a mission brief for you guys.”

“When, Mark?” Guru asked, taking a swig of lemonade.

“Ten minutes, so finish up,” Ellis said. Then he went to talk to the next flight.

The crews finished lunch, then First Lieutenant Darren Licon, the Squadron Intelligence Officer, came in. “Captain, here's your mission.”

“What's up for us?” Guru asked.

“Denver Siege Perimeter,” Licon said. “They need some more air today, and you guys are it. It's essentially on-call CAS. When you get there, talk to ABCCC will get you in touch with a FAC.” The ABCCC was an EC-130E airborne command post, and one of them was controlling the air activity in support of the defenders of Denver, which had been under siege since September, 1985. Though the noose around the city had been loosened considerably, the southern and eastern siege lines were still in place.

“So this could be anything,” Goalie said. “Troops, artillery, supply dumps.”

“That's about it,” Licon replied. “The air threat is mixed. Mostly it's MiG-21s and some -23s for air-to-air, but there's Su-17s or -22s, and Su-25s. And they're mixed: Soviet, Cuban, Nicaraguan, Libyan, Czechs, Poles, even some Angolans, of all people. Ground threats vary: there are SA-2s, SA-3s, plus the usual stuff at unit level-regiment to Army.”

“Okay, Darren,” Guru said. “Weather?”

“Partly Sunny, in the upper 60s, and winds variable.”

“Okay,” Sweaty nodded. “Bailout areas?”

“Anyplace in the Front Range, and anywhere away from the roads,” Licon said. “If you get into the mountains, that's Resistance territory, and they'll help you out.”

“I know from experience, Darren,” Guru replied. He remembered his five months with the Resistance down in Southern Colorado.

“Yes, sir,” Licon said. Guru had briefed the squadron on his experience, and everyone knew that was something he didn't want to repeat. “Other than that, Jolly Greens are active at night, and they'll come for you. As long as you're away from major enemy concentrations.”

“Divert fields?” Guru asked.

“Stay away from Stapleton International and Lowry AFB,” Licon replied. “Both are airlift-only at the moment.” The airlift in support of the besieged city had lightened up since the Army had partially lifted the siege the previous fall, but the three main airports in the Denver area were still dedicated to the airlift, which brought in food and medicine, and flew people out. “And Buckley ANG Base is still too exposed to enemy artillery fire.”

“So where do we divert if we have to?”

“Cheyenne Municipal, if you can. Otherwise, the only two fields that can take an F-4 that are open to you are either Aspen-Pitkin County or Walker Field in Grand Junction,” Licon said. “Eagle County Airport is open only to Army Aviation, Special Ops, or C-130s.”

“Okay, Darren. Ordnance loads?” Sweaty asked.

“Captain Wiser gets dumb bombs: six M-117s and six Mark-82s.” Licon said, glancing at the Frag order. That meant six 750-pound bombs and six five-hundred pound bombs.

“And what do I get?”

“Twelve Rockeye CBUs. Four AIM-9s and two AIM-7s, each airplane, with an ALQ-101 pod and full 20-mm.”

Guru and Sweaty looked at each other. “Looks good, Darren,” Guru said, and Sweaty nodded. “When do we launch?”

“Whenever you're ready, sir,” Licon said. “Your birds should be armed and fueled by now.”

“Fair enough,” Guru said. “Let's gear up, people. Meet me at 512.”

After the crews geared up, they met at the XO's plane for his final instructions. As promised, both aircraft were armed and ready to go. “Anything else, XO?” Preacher asked.

“Just that we go by call sign, not mission code, unless we're talking to AWACS or anyone else,” Guru said. “Anything else?” Heads shook no He grabbed his helmet, “Okay, let's hit it.”

The crews did their walk-arounds, then mounted their aircraft. After the preflights in the cockpit, the pilots started their engines, and after warm-up, were cleared to taxi. After taxiing to the end of the runway, they held short of the runway so that the armorers could remove the weapon safety pins. After that, they were cleared to taxi for takeoff.

“Williams Tower, Camaro One-one with two, request clearance for takeoff.” Guru called.

“Camaro One-one, Tower. Cleared for takeoff. Winds are two-six-five at five.”

“Copy, Tower,” Guru replied. He released his brakes and applied throttle, and Sweaty did the same. Both F-4s rolled down the runway, then lifted into the air.


Over West Central Colorado, 1330 Hours Mountain War Time:

Camaro Flight was orbiting over Leadville, Colorado, one of the big Old West mining towns, and had topped up from a KC-10 further to the west, and were now waiting for AWACS in this area to tell them their services were needed. It didn't take long.

“Camaro One-one, Bandsaw,” the AWACS controller called.

“Bandsaw, Camaro One-one. Go,” Guru replied.

“Camaro One-one, contact Hillsboro Seven-one for tasking.”

“Copy that, Bandsaw, Hillsboro Seven-one, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro One-one, Hillsboro, We have tasking for you. Vector is Zero-six-zero. Contact Nail Six-two for further instructions.”

Guru nodded. “Copy that, Hillsboro.” He led Sweaty on the new course, and as they crossed the Front Range, a sense of deja vu came over him. It happened every time he and Goalie flew a strike into Colorado, and it brought back memories of his shootdown, and the time he and Tony Carpenter spent with the Resistance. And there were things he saw that, though he'd told the debriefer after a trek over the Rockies, he didn't talk about to anyone else. Not even Goalie.

The two F-4Es came down from the mountains and as they got into the Colorado prairie, their EW gear lit up. “Guru, Sweaty. Picking up search radars,” Sweaty called.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. It was time to call Nail Six-two. “Nail Six-two, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Nail Six-two. Say aircraft and ordnance please.”

“Nail, Camaro has two Foxtrot Four Echoes. One with Snakeye iron bombs and one with Rockeyes. Full load twenty-mike-mike,” Guru radioed back.

“Copy that and wait one,” the FAC told him.

“Don't have the gas to wait all day, fella,” Guru muttered over the intercom.

“You want to get out of here fast,” Goalie observed from the back seat. “Too many memories?”

“You could say that,” Guru said.

“Camaro, Nail. You have the Aurora Reservoir on your maps?” Nail called.

“That's affirm, Nail.” Guru replied.

“Copy. There's long-range artillery one mile north of the reservoir, firing on Buckley. Will mark target area with Willie Pete,” Nail said.

Guru and Sweaty looked up in their respective cockpits and saw an A-7 loitering overhead. With all the radars working, why hadn't he been shot at or splashed? Then they recalled previous strikes: this area was held by Category III Soviet and Soviet-allied forces, and their antiaircraft defenses near the front lines weren't as nasty as Cat I or II. But they could still be deadly under the right circumstances. “Roger that,” Guru replied.

The A-7K orbiting overhead dove, then fired two WP rockets to mark the target area. “That's your target area, Camaro.”

“Roger. Can give you one pass only,” Guru replied. “North to South.”

“Your call, Camaro,” Nail replied.

Guru led Sweaty around, then oriented them on the target. “Switches set?' He asked Goalie.

“Switches set. All in one pass,” she replied. “All set back here.”

“Copy,” Guru said. “Sweaty, on me. Camaro One-one in hot.” Guru then rolled in onto the target, which looked like dug-in artillery pieces. Your bad day, Ivan or Fidel, or whoever.


Down below, the gunners of the Libyan Army's 1457th Artillery Battalion were serving their M-46 130-mm guns, firing another series of concentrations against the Americans. This portion of the siege perimeter was in the hands of the Cuban, Mexican, Libyan, Angolan, and Czech forces, and some were more enthusiastic about their role in the war than others. Their battalion was supporting not only Libyans, but also Mexicans, and even if their shells didn't land on the intended target, they were making the lives of those in the American perimeter miserable. And to them, that counted as a victory.

The Libyan Captain in command of the battalion had a look around as his men served their guns. While they had stacked sandbags around the guns and set up camouflage netting, there were hardly any slit trenches nor personnel shelters. The defenders didn't have the guns to go around, and those they did have weren't used on counter-battery fire. Not that they could reach their position, anyway. Though there was a risk of air attack, his unit hadn't been attacked from the air, so why bother? Besides, he'd been told by his superiors that the Soviets and Cubans had air superiority in the area. Just as his deputy, a lieutenant, came in, there was a shout. “Aircraft alarm!”

As he rolled in, Guru spotted the guns. “Steady, steady....HACK!” he called as six Mark-82s and six M-117Rs came off the racks. He pulled up and called. “Lead's off safe.”

The Libyan Captain watched in horror as an F-4 came in from the north and released its bombs as it came overhead. While some of his men tried to take whatever cover they could, he just stood there. “Allah Akbar-” Then a five-hundred pound bomb exploded barely twenty feet from him....

“Good hits!” Goalie shouted. Though they'd have to look at the strike camera footage, it looked like their bombs had ripped apart several guns, and had also it some kind of command area. And a couple of ammo trucks had been blown apart for good measure.

“Two's in hot!” Sweaty called. She rolled in, and decided the ammo trucks were a good enough target. She laid her Rockeyes on the trucks, and as she pulled away, the CBU bomblets covered most of the battalion's ammo trucks and prime movers. And there were quite a few secondaries. “Two's off safe.”

“Copy, Two,” Guru said. “Nail, Camaro. We are Winchester.”

“Roger that, Camaro. I give you one hundred percent bombs on target. Thanks a lot, guys and gals, and have a nice day.'

“Will do, Nail,” Guru replied. He took his F-4 back down low and headed southwest, and Sweaty was right in trail behind him.

About a minute had passed when Sweaty called, “Guru, Break left!”

Guru responded instantly, and broke to the left, and rolled away. As he did, Goalie was looking around. “What?”

Sweaty lined it up in the pipper. “FOX TWO!” She called. And an AIM-9P came off one of the port missile rails, and tracked towards a helicopter. The Sidewinder flew straight and true, and smashed into a Libyan Air Force Mi-8 Hip. The Sidewinder's warhead tore off several rotor blades, and shrapnel flew into the two saddle fuel tanks, exploding the helo. Sweaty pulled up slightly and rolled to avoid the fireball and debris, and shouted“Splash!”

“Good kill, Sweaty,” Guru called.

“Better be,” she replied. “That's number three.”

Just as she rolled back, and came in to rejoin Guru, both F-4s were, unknown to them, approaching a sector manned by Mexicans. And the first hint of that was several vehicles on State Route 83, south of Parker. And they were BTR-152s escorting a supply convoy, and those BTRs had ZU-23s mounted on top. The crews saw the F-4s, and promptly opened fire, spraying 23-mm fire at the two aircraft.

“Flak coming up,” Goalie saw from the back seat.

“I see it,” Guru said. “Break!” And both F-4s broke away, Guru to the left, and Sweaty to the right. They avoided most of the tracer fire, but not all, for both Guru and Goalie felt two small thumps.
“Sweaty, we've been hit.”

“How bad, Lead?” Sweaty responded. “Coming back in.” She rolled her F-4 back in. “Can't see any smoke.”

“Everything seems okay,” Guru replied. “No warning lights, no nothing.”

“Hey,” Goalie called from the back seat. “Look at the TIESO mount.” The TIESO mount on the left side of the aircraft was a EO sensor used in conjunction with the Maverick missile. Now, a jagged hole was in the mount. “If that's all that was hit....”

Guru nodded, then checked his control panel. Everything looked normal, then he saw it. “Engine temp on Number one's a little too high. Not bad enough, but enough to worry.”

“Divert?” Goalie asked.

“Yeah. Bandsaw, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Bandsaw, go,” the controller replied.

“Bandsaw, we need to divert. Can you give us a vector to the nearest divert field?” Guru said. “And make it fast, fella.”

“Copy. Stand by.”

Guru frowned underneath his oxygen mask. “Can't wait all day.”

“Camaro,” the controller called after what seemed like forever, but was only about thirty seconds. “Your vector across the mountains is two-six-five. Nearest open divert field is Grand Junction.”

“Bandsaw, what about Aspen?” Guru replied.

“Camaro, they're cleaning up after an air strike. Grand Junction is your best bet.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Sweaty, on me.”

“Right on you, Lead.” his wingman said. And the two F-4s crossed the Rockies.

In his cockpit, Guru was checking the engine dials every few seconds, it seemed. The engine temp on the port engine had climbed some, but it wasn't high enough to shut down. Yet. After clearing the mountains, the two F-4s climbed to altitude and Guru had Sweaty come in beneath him to have a look.
“Anything?'

“No fluid, no nothing coming out,” Sweaty replied. “But there's a hole right beneath the port engine.”

In 512's back seat, Goalie grumbled. “Somebody got dammed lucky back there.”

“No skydiving into bad-guy land, this time,” Guru replied. “If we have to bail...”

“Beats the alternative,” Goalie said.

The two F-4s kept on heading west, and soon it was time to talk to Grand Junction. “Bandsaw, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Bandsaw, go.”

“Bandsaw, can you notify Grand Junction they have an F-4 coming in with battle damage?”

“Camaro, that's affirm. Do you need the equipment?” The controller asked. The “equipment” meant fire and rescue services.

“Negative, Bandsaw.”

“Copy that, and good luck, buddy.”

“Thanks, Bandsaw,” Guru replied. Then he called the Grand Junction tower. “Grand Junction Tower, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Grand Junction. We've been notified. Do you need the fire trucks?” Asked a tower operator.

“Negative, unless I declare an emergency,” Guru said. “Clear the field, fella. I'm coming in.”

“Roger, Camaro. Winds are two-seven three at five. Clear for landing on Runway two-nine. Field elevation four-nine-five-eight.”

Both Guru and Goalie got ready to put down, while Sweaty flew alongside. Guru put the gear down, and things looked okay. “Sweaty?”

“Both gears down,” she called. “Still no smoke.”

“Copy.” Guru said as he lined up on final. As he came in, he saw the fire trucks waiting, on the north end of Runway 22. Somebody thought “better safe than sorry,” he said to himself as he put the F-4 down. As he did, he hit the brakes and popped the drag chute. Sweaty saw him land, then she gunned her engines and pulled up. But instead of heading for a tanker and then back to Williams, she got into the traffic pattern.

The F-4 taxied off the runway, the fire trucks following, then Guru was met by a “Follow Me” truck, and he followed the truck until he got to an open area of the ramp, then he stopped and shut down. After popping the canopy, he and Goalie stood up as the fire crews arrived. He gave them a thumbs-up, but they still approached the aircraft with caution. Only when they saw no signs of fire did they begin to relax. As they did, Sweaty brought her plane in. After the firemen brought a crew ladder, Guru and Goalie got out and had a look at the aircraft.

“You guys okay?” One of the firemen asked.

“We're fine,” Goalie replied. “Need to see how the plane is, though.”

Guru got down and crawled underneath the aircraft. Sure enough, there was a small hole beneath the port J-79 engine. “One lucky shot.”

“Enough to hurt the engine?” Goalie asked.

“Enough to make me want to divert,” Guru said. “But I'm not flying back to Williams on that engine.”

Just then, Sweaty and Preacher forced their way through the firemen. “Comin' through,” she yelled.

Goalie had crept down to have a look for herself. “One round did that?”

“If it's still in the engine, yeah,” Guru said, getting back out from underneath the Phantom, and he found Sweaty and Preacher there. “You were right. One nice hole.”

“What now?” Sweaty asked. “Or let me guess: we need a Combat Repair Team.”

“And a new engine. I'm not flying back on that one,” Guru said.

Then a deuce-and-a-half pulled up, and an AF officer in a flight suit came over. “Who's the pilot?”

“Right here,” Guru said.

“Lee Kirby,” the officer said. He was a Captain, like Guru. “What happened?”

“Flak,” Guru replied. “One shot wrecked our TISEO, and the other? Put the hurt on my port J-79 engine. Can I make a phone call? I need to notify my base, and get a Combat Repair Team up here. With a new engine.”

“No problem, Captain Kirby said. “Get in.”

The four F-4 crewers got into the truck, and Kirby took them over to Base Operations. On the ride over, they noticed the place was busy, with Counter-SOF ops flying A-37s, OV-10s, even a couple of ex-warbird Skyraiders. That reminded them of a guy who'd flown a Warbird A-1E to Williams the second week of the war, to offer his services. Someway, somehow, they found some 20-mm guns that used to be on Skyraiders, got the weapons control to work again, and put on a desert camouflage paint job. The pilot, who'd flown A-1s in Vietnam before flying for the airlines, was reactivated as a Major, and was now flying his warbird in the Counter-SOF role. In addition to those folks, C-130s and even C-123s were on the ramp, along with a couple of HH-3 rescue choppers. Just another field supporting the war.

The deuce-and-a-half pulled up to base operations. “Captain, just go in there, and I'll be right outside,” Kirby said.

Guru nodded, and the four F-4 crewers went in. After he asked a sergeant, Guru led them to the main ops office, and asked another Captain for a phone. “Need to call Williams AFB.”

“No problem, Captain,” the officer, Captain Toby Wright, said. He made the call, and asked, “Which unit?”

“The 335th TFS,” Guru replied.

After telling the operator, Wright handed the receiver to Guru. “Here you go.”

After two rings, there was a pickup. “Captain Ellis, 335th TFS.”

“Mark, it's Guru. Put Colonel Rivers on,” Guru told the 335's Ops Officer.

“What? And where are you, man?”

“Grand Junction, Colorado, with an F-4 with a sick engine. And it happens to be mine. Sweaty's here with me as well. Before you ask, her bird's okay. But she put down anyway. Get Colonel Rivers.”

“Got you,” Ellis said.

While Guru was waiting for Rivers to come on the line, he saw Preacher striking up a conversation with a female First Lieutenant, while a Sergeant got coffee for Goalie and Sweaty. The sergeant then offered him a cup, and he gratefully accepted. “Thanks, Sergeant.”

Then a familiar voice came over the line. It was Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, the CO of the 335th. “XO, what's going on, and where are you?”

“Boss, I'm in Grand Junction, Colorado, and my bird has a sick J-79 engine, thanks to some flak damage. I need a Combat Repair Team up here, and they need to bring a new engine.”

“Okay, XO. Just stay calm. I'll put you on hold, while I get things rolling on that.” And Guru was then on hold. And while he was waiting, Goalie tapped him on the shoulder. “What?”

She pointed to an officer who looked like an AF version of Lt. Fuzz from the Beetle Bailey comic strip. “That.”

“Who are these officers out of uniform?' A pipsqueak-looking First Lieutenant said.

“Who's asking?” Guru said, seeing the pipsqueak and tapping his Captain's bars. “I've got two bars. You've got one. Beat it.”

The lieutenant looked at him. “I'm getting the CO,” he said. Then he left the room.

Goalie came over. “A junior version of Carson?” Major Frank Carson, or “The 335th's Frank Burns” as he was called, was the most despised officer in the squadron, infamous for blindly going by the book, even when wartime circumstances meant dropping parts of the book.

“Sure hope not,” Guru said, while Sweaty shook her head.

Then Colonel Rivers got back on the line. “XO, found a CRT, a new engine, and a C-130. Wheels up in a half-hour, and they should be there in two and a half hours. Best we can do.”
“Thanks, Colonel,” Guru said.

“I'll find you thorough Base Ops up there,” Rivers said. “Let me know when you're getting ready to leave.”

“Will do, Boss,” Guru said just as a slightly grey-haired AF Lieutenant Colonel came into the room. As everyone came to attention, and someone shouted “Ten-hut!”, Guru said, “Boss, I gotta go. I'll let you know when we're coming back.”

“I heard,” Riverrs said. “Stay cool, XO.”

“Will do,” Guru replied. Then he handed the phone to one of the sergeants.

“Sir,” the pipsqueak-looking lieutenant said, coming out from behind the colonel. “This is what I've been trying to tell you. Transiting aircrew out of uniform!”

“I'll handle this.” the colonel said. “Captain,” he said to Guru. “That your sick F-4 out on the ramp?

“Yes, sir,” said Guru. “Took some flak south of Denver. Put a hole in one of my engines, and I didn't want to chance it getting back home.”

The colonel looked Guru and Goalie over. “You two crew?”

“Yes, sir,” Guru said. “Lieutenant Eichhorn's my GIB.”

“MiG kills?”

“Yes, sir. Five, including a MiG-29. But she was with me for only two.”

“Don't worry, Lieutenant. Your time will come,” the colonel said to Goalie.

“If you say so, sir,” she replied.

“And the other two are your wingmates? Asked the colonel.

“Yes, sir,” Guru nodded. “Lieutenant Blanchard is my wingie, and Lieutenant Simmonds is her GIB.”

“Any MiG kills?” The colonel wanted to know. He was looking Sweaty over.

“Sir, two. Including a MiG-29 with the Captain,” Sweaty said. “And a Hip just this afternoon.”

The Colonel nodded, then shot an icy look at the pipsqueak. “Lieutenant, I strongly suggest that you have a look at someone's rank insignia, or if they've got wings of any sort before you call them out-on anything! In my office, in five. Understood?”

The lieutenant wilted under the withering glare of his superior, said, “Yes, sir,” in a weak voice, then left the room.

“As you were, people,” the colonel said. He put out his hand to Guru. “Jim Osborne, Captain. F-100s out of Tuy Hoa in 1967-68, and F-4s for LINEBACKER I and II.”

“Captain Matt Wiser, sir. 335th TFS,” Guru said, shaking Osborne's hand. “Always a pleasure to meet a Vietnam vet.”

“The Air Force's Bastard Orphans, I see. Word's gotten around about you guys,” Osborne said. “I'd be back in the saddle myself, but a heart murmur....comes from dodging too many flying telephone poles in Pack Six.”

Guru nodded, while Sweaty said. “Sir, speaking from experience....”

Colonel Osborne nodded. “And you all have quite a bit of experience.” He looked the four F-4 crewers over. “I'd like to apologize for my subordinate's actions. He's been like this ever since he showed up here.”

Preacher nodded. “Sir, I was studying for the priesthood when the war began, and I can tell when someone's got something in their craw. What's with this fellow?”

Osborne looked at Preacher. “He washed out of basic flight, and he's been like this ever since.”

“Sir, that would do it to anyone,” Sweaty said.

“Colonel, if I may?” Guru asked.

“Captain?” Osborne asked.

“Sir, perhaps a transfer to a place where the climate might induce a change of attitude? Someplace like Loring, Goose Bay, or Gander?” Guru suggested.

“That's certainly possible,” Colonel Osborne noted. “Any other suggestions?”

“Sir,” Goalie spoke up. “We've got a few GIBs in the 335th who washed out of flight, but did pretty good at nav school. One's even the GIB for our CO. He may not have cut it as a pilot, but...”

Colonel Osborne looked at Goalie, then at Preacher, who nodded in the affirmative. “That's also a possibility....but his attitude when I see him back in my office will determine which one I take up.” Then Captain Kirby came in.”Captain, take these four officers over to the terminal. The cafe there is open, and the food's pretty good. If they need anything while they're here, give it to them, within reason. And Captain? If Kirby can't get what you need, call or ask to see me. I'll see what I can do.” Then Colonel Osborne left to return to his office.

“Just like our CO down at Williams,” Goalie said. “He's the kind of guy who takes care of his people, and you'd fly with him anywhere.”

Kirby smiled. “That he is, and word has it he wanted to retake a flight physical and get back in, but his wife said no.”

“And she who must be obeyed....” Preacher said.

“That's about it.” Kirby said. “Come on, I'll take you guys over to the terminal.”

As they left the ops office, they could hear shouting from Colonel Osborne's office. “Sounds like someone's getting torn a new hole,” Goalie said.

“He deserves it,” Kirby admitted. “He's been like this to everyone, base personnel, the counter-SOF guys, Special Ops aviation-AF or Army, transiting aircrew, C-130 guys flying into Denver, you name it.”

The F-4 crewers nodded, and as they got into the Deuce-and-a-half, Guru asked, “How's the food?”

“Not bad,” Kirby said. “Beef, not so much, but Deer, Elk, Chicken, Pork? They've got it.”

“Fair enough,” Guru said. “Let's go.”



Airways Cafe, Grand Junction Regional Airport, CO: 1540 Hours Mountain War Time:

The four F-4 crewers were sitting around a table, and at this time of the day, they were the only ones in the cafe. So they were just sitting there, having either coffee or lemonade, and yapping. Anything to pass the time.

“So, when does that CRT get here?” Goalie asked.

“About another hour and a half,” Guru said. “Then at least an hour for the engine change, then fifteen minutes for the check flight, then another hour and a half back home.”

Sweaty looked at her flight leader. “That means we eat here.”

“That's a given,” Guru said.

Preacher nodded. “Swell. Oh, well, there's probably worse places we could divert to.”

“You're probably right about that. Or worse, we could've gone skydiving.”

“Not your cup of tea,” Goalie said. “Stuff you still don't want to talk about?” She was referring to Guru's E&E and his time with the Resistance.

“Yeah. I told the debriefer when I got to 7th ID, and I told a SERE Psychologist when I was at Kingsley Field, getting ready to requalify, but other than that...” Guru nodded.

Sweaty looked at him. “They have SERE shrinks?”

“Yep. If you're on the ground behind the lines for more than twenty-four hours? You have to see one before they'll let you back in the cockpit,” Guru replied. “Why, I have no idea.”

Preacher nodded. “Lot different from Vietnam. They say if you got rescued after a day or two on the ground? It was 'Welcome back, take a day off, then you're back on the flight schedule.' Lot simpler then.”

The others nodded. “It was, but then again, you didn't have to worry about bailing out and finding out that the folks who helped you got tortured and killed, and their ranch burned down,” Guru said. “That happened to Lori's parents and siblings.”

“That explains why she's so brutal in a fight. No prisoners, as I remember you saying,” Goalie nodded.

“You're dead on,” Guru replied. “We never took prisoners unless it was for interrogation, and after that? They were killed. Period. Couldn't keep them and couldn't release them-for obvious reasons.”

“Don't blame them,” Preacher said. “After all I've seen and done? I'll tell you guys right now: when this war's over? I'm staying in the Air Force.”

Preacher's flight mates looked at him. “What made you do that?” Goalie asked.

“Where has God been when I've been killing people three or four times a day? Or where has he been when Guru there has seen things no one should ever see? Going back to the seminary? No thanks.”

“Don't blame you,” Guru said. “Plenty of people have asked the same thing, I'll bet.”

“And every one of those guerrillas you were with has a horror story?” Sweaty asked.

“Almost,” Guru nodded. “A few were caught in the back country when it all started, and some ran to the hills on Invasion Day, but most of 'em went after seeing bad things happen-either to relatives or friends, or just plain seeing one of Ivan's reprisals against people they didn't know. 'I'd better make myself scarce before that happens to me.' if you get the idea.”

Heads nodded at that. “I'd do the same,” Sweaty said.

“Think we all would,” Preacher added, while Goalie just nodded.

Then the waitress came over. “Care to order, or just refills?” She looked liked she'd been waiting on tables well before any of the fighter crews had been born.

“Nothing against eating dessert before dinner,” Guru noted. “I'll have a banana split. All chocolate ice cream, and all chocolate syrup.”

“Okay, and you?” She asked Goalie.

“Well...if my pilot's having one, then I will. All vanilla ice cream, though, and half chocolate syrup, half butterscotch, if you have it.”

“We'll find some,” the waitress said. “How about you?” She nodded at Sweaty.

“I'll have a slice of three-layer chocolate cake,” Sweaty decided. “With a side scoop of vanilla ice cream.”

Goalie muttered to her pilot, “That's the Sweaty we know.”

“Okay...and last but not least..” The waitress nodded at Preacher.

He looked at the menu. “I'll have the hot fudge cake sundae.” That was a three-layer slice of chocolate cake, with a large scoop of ice cream, and covered in hot fudge,

“All right, and refills on your drinks?” The crews nodded. “Okay, back with the refills, and we'll get this going.” The waitress then went off to fill the order.

The crews were eating when a pair of CSPs arrived, and behind them were two AF Intelligence Officers, bringing with them a real live Soviet pilot in a high-altitude pressure suit. One of the intel folks-a female Captain came over. “Mind if we sit close to you people?”

“What for?” Guru asked. “Not that we don't mind the company.”

“Major Belov there,” the Captain pointed to the Russian, “bailed out of a recon Foxbat from 65,000 feet....”

“Long way to skydive,” Goalie observed.

“It is that,” the intel officer said. “Anyway, a shore-based F-14 and a Phoenix missile did the deed. The Army found him, and turned him over to us. When Base Ops told us some fighter drivers were here for a while, we figured he'd talk more if he was near you guys.”

The F-4 crewers looked at each other. They nodded, while Guru shrugged. “Why not? Bring him on over.”

A minute later, the intel people brought the Russian over. The waitress was surprised, but still got coffee for them, the Russian included. Then Goalie broke the tension with the Russian. “He's lucky.”

“What do you mean?” Guru asked, playing along.

'You were with the Resistance, right?” She asked, and Guru nodded. “What would they do to a Russian or Cuban pilot?”

“Do you really want to know?” Guru asked, and the intel officers nodded politely. “Well, if they found him in his chute, snagged in a tree? Use him for target practice.”

“That bad?” The female intel Captain asked.

“Worse. If he was a chopper pilot, from a Hind or Hip? The group I was with lost a few people to gunships, so after they shot down a Hind with a captured SA-7? The pilot climbed out of the wreckage, only to get shot in the stomach. The guerrillas left him to bleed out,” Guru said, matter of fact.

“Ouch!” Sweaty said. They'd heard the story before, but best not to let the Russian know that.

Preacher nodded. “And the weapons officer?”

“He was trapped in the wreckage, and one of the guerrillas just went over and slit his throat,” Guru recalled.

“There you have it, Major,” the intel told the Russian. “Be glad you're with us.”

“Hey, you guys been in Arizona?” Goalie asked the intel folks.

“No, Lieutenant,” the female Captain asked. “Why do you ask?”

“If he'd gone down on, say, the San Carlos Apache Reservation? The Apaches would have gotten him. Then they would've scalped him, flayed him alive, and staked him out in the desert. No joke, it's happened several times.”

Hearing that, the Russian's eyes were as big as saucers. “The Wild Indians still do that?”

“They haven't changed,” Guru said.

“So, Major, want to have a nice talk?” The Intel Captain asked.

The Russian looked at the F-4 crewers. “So, you must be cargo plane crews.”

“What makes you say that?” Preacher asked.

“Women. You don't allow women to fly combat aircraft. Unless the Political Officer has been lying about it, as he does about many things.”

Goalie grinned. “Wrong, buster. One of those F-4s on the ramp? I fly back seat in it.”

“She's right,” Guru said. “I'm her pilot. We've got 225 combat missions together. I've got nearly 400 total.”

Major Belov looked at them, incredulous. “What? You mean you're really using women in combat?”

“Why not?” Sweaty asked. “You did it in WW II. Oh, I'm their wingmate. And it's 200 combat missions for me and my WSO, by the way.

“Interesting,” the intel Captain, who introduced herself as Jenny Brand, said. “How about MiGs?”

“Five for me,” Guru said. “Plus two or three probables. And my Girl in Back has two of them. One's a MiG-29.”

When Belov heard that, he was surprised. “An F-4 shooting down a MiG-29?

“Not just one F-4,” Sweaty said. “We got the other one.”

Belov just shook his head in disbelief.

“Well, Major?” Captain Brand asked. “You're in the presence of a fighter ace and a crew on their way to becoming aces. Ready to have a nice chat?”

“One more question, please,” Belov said, his voice shaking. “Did they assign you to Phantoms? Or did you...”

“Did we sleep around to get the slots?” Goalie asked. She was indignant at the suggestion. “If that's what you're suggesting, the answer is NO.”

“We volunteered,” Sweaty added. “Nobody made us.”

Belov shook his head again. “Now I have heard everything.” He turned to Captain Brand. “What is it you want to talk about?”

Captain Brand smiled as she took out a tape recorder and a notepad from a bag she had been carrying. “Let's go to another table. Then we'll talk.”


After the waitress brought their desserts, the F-4 crewers dug in. They noticed that the Intel people were listening intently to Major Belov's remarks, and not only did they have a tape recorder going, but they were taking copious notes. One other thing they noticed was that the Major's coffee cup was kept nearly full, though the Major was drinking cup after cup, savoring it like it was the finest brandy or vodka. They were still at it when the C-130 arrived from Williams, and Captain Kirby brought over the NCOIC of the Combat Repair Team, Tech Sergeant Phil Cutler. “Captain, here's the guy you've been waiting on.”

“Thanks,” Guru said. “Sergeant, have you looked over 512?”

“Yes, sir,” Cutler replied. “Just a straightforward engine change. Had a look at the hole, and it's no big deal. You'll be flying again in an hour and a half.” It was 1730.

“Let me guess,” Sweaty asked. “An hour for the engine change, and half an hour to patch the hole.”

Sergeant Cutler nodded. “Yes, Ma'am. But you can take that to the bank.”

Guru nodded, looked at Goalie, who smiled, then turned to Cutler. “Okay, Sergeant. Don't waste any more time talking to us. Let's get 512 back in the air.”

“Yes, sir,” the Sergeant replied, very eagerly, then headed out to get Guru's bird wheeled into a hangar so that they could do the work.

Kirby grinned. “You'll be out of here shortly. Anything you need..”

“We'll let you know,” Guru said. “Thanks, Captain.”

After Kirby left, Sweaty noted. “An hour and a half more here, then another hour and a half flying home. We better eat.”

“She's right,” Goalie said. “Eating here beats MREs when we get back.”

“It does, Guru admitted. He motioned to the waitress, and he asked, “Could you bring the menus back? We'll be here a while longer.”

“Sure thing, Captain,” she replied cheerfully, then she went and came back with them.

Scanning the menu, Guru said. “If have any more deer or elk, I'll start to grow antlers.”

Goalie laughed. “Can't have that in the cockpit,” and the others laughed as well.

“Had enough of that in the mountains?” Preacher asked.

“Too much,” Guru nodded. “Almost all the meat was what you shot. Deer and elk mostly. Unless you raided a supply convoy and got something out of that. Don't want to go through that again.”

“Don't blame you,” Sweaty said. “Let's see...fried chicken, roast chicken, turkey dinner.”

“That's mine,” Preacher said. “Where's the rule that says Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only times you can have that?”

“There isn't,” Goalie nodded. “Elk steak-and our dear friend Guru is staying away from that.”

“With a passion,” Guru added.

The waitress came over. “Ready?”

“Preacher, go. Junior member first this time,” Guru said.

“Thanks,” Preacher replied. “Turkey dinner for me.”

It was Sweaty's turn. “I'll have the grilled ham.”

The waitress nodded, then turned to Goalie. “Me? Fried chicken dinner for me”

“Same here,” Guru said.

The waitress smiled, and said, “Back with your salads.” Then she went off to fill the order.

After she brought the salads, Colonel Osborne came in. “Colonel?” Guru said.

“Just checking up on our visitors,” Osborne said. “I noticed your C-130 arrived.”

“Yes,sir,” Guru replied. “And the CRT got to work.”

Osborne looked at the four. “Don't worry. I'll make sure they get something to eat before they head back to Arizona.”

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said.

“Mind if I pull up a chair?”

Sweaty looked at Guru, who nodded. “As my flight lead said, always a pleasure to talk with a Vietnam vet.”

“Thank you,” Osborne said, sitting down. Like many a Vietnam vet, he was curious as to how this generation of fighter pilots was doing. Though he'd been initially skeptical of women in the cockpit, He'd been impressed with what he'd seen so far, and his mind was changing. “So...you all have had your share of combat, I gather.” It wasn't a question.

“Yes, sir,” Guru said. “I'm the only one here who was flying on Day One. Though Lieutenant Eichhorn, my GIB, was flying C-130s as a nav.”

“How bad was it that first day? Where were you?” Osborne asked as the waitress came over. “Decaf, and what's the junior member having?”

“Turkey dinner, sir,” Preacher said.

“No problem, Colonel,” the waitress said.

“Day one? We were at Nellis for a Red Flag. First thing we know is a couple explosions at the front gate, then small-arms fire, then the word we're at war. And tasking? Get to the Mexican border and kill anything painted green headed north.” Guru said, recalling that hectic first day.

“Losses?” Osborne asked.

“Two planes and crews. Three or four others came back with battle damage,” Guru said. “But we stopped the push up I-19, and with the Hogs and an Army Reserve Cobra unit, turned I-19 into a junkyard.”

“When did the women show up?” Osborne wanted to know.

“June, sir,” Goalie said. “Right after my pilot came back from an E&E with the Resistance.”

“July for me,” Sweaty said. “They put me as his wingmate,” She pointed to Guru, and we've been together ever since.”

“And you?” Osborne asked Preacher.

“Same time as Lieutenant Blanchard,” Preacher said. “We came out of the RTU together.”

Colonel Osborne thought for a minute. These people would've fit in with the old 31st back at Tuy Hoa, or in the 8th TFW out of Udorn in '72. “You did an E&E?” He asked Guru.

Guru nodded, just as the waitress brought their meals. “Yes, sir. Shot down in January, '86, ran with a Resistance group for five months, along with my then-GIB and several other downed aircrew from all services. Got over the mountains in May, and back with my squadron Then I found out Lieutenant Eichhorn was my new GIB, and we've been flying ever since.” Saw and did some things I'd rather not talk about.”

“You're not alone, Captain,” Osborne said. “I've run into other 'lost sheep' and they tell pretty much the same thing. You also mentioned MiGs?”

“Yes, sir,” Guru replied. “Five. Three before going down. Two more since. Last one was a MiG-29.”

“And you, Lieutenant?” Osborne gestured to Sweaty.

“Two, sir. Plus a Hip this afternoon,” Sweaty said.

“Well, we could've used you all in Pack Six back in the day. Ever hear of Steve Ritchie?” Osborne asked. Brig. Gen. Steve Ritchie was the AF's only pilot ace in Southeast Asia, with five MiG-21s to his credit.

The crewers smiled. “Yes, sir,” Goalie said. “He's come by a couple of times. And he's said the same thing about Pack Six. Even if most of our tasking is air-to-ground.”

Osborne nodded. These guys and girls were doing the job, just like he did back in Vietnam. They were younger than he'd been in his '72 tour, but all of them, women included, would've fit in with the Wolfpack. “Well, changing the subject. Lieutenant Eichhorn? I thought about your suggesting that eager-beaver get a second chance. We'll see if Mather can knock him into shape.” Mather AFB near Sacramento was home to not just a SAC B-52 wing, but the AF's navigator training unit in peacetime. Now, it was home to nav training for all services on the West Coast, while the Navy at Pensacola did the same on the East Coast.

“Good to hear, sir,” Preacher said. “Some people do deserve a second chance. But if he washes out...”

“He's shoveling snow,” Goalie finished.

“Chances are? Yes.” Osborne said.


They were still chatting when Captain Kirby came in. “Colonel, the CRT sent me over,” he said. “Captain, your bird's finished.”

“You're sure, Captain?” Osborne asked, while both Guru and Goalie were listening intently.

They ran up the new engine, and it's ready, they said. All it needs is the check flight.”

Everyone stood up, and Osborne nodded. “Captain, you and your GIB take care of business in the latrine,” he pointed to the restrooms. “Then get ready to fly. Lieutenant Blanhard? You and your GIB come with me to Base Ops. We'll watch the check flight from there while your bird's prepped. If everything checks out, you'll go up after him.”

Heads nodded. “Yes, sir!” Guru and Sweaty said at once.

“I'll take care of the bill. Get going!” Osborne said.

Guru and Goalie ran for the restrooms, did their business, then ran over to Base Ops. “Colonel, I need to make a phone call,” Guru said. “Need to tell my CO we're coming.”

“Not a problem, Captain,” Osborne said. He had the duty officer make the call, then the man handed the receiver to Guru.

“335th TFS, Captain Ellis,” the voice on the other end said.

“Mark? Guru. We're about to leave. Put the CO on.”

“Gotcha,” Ellis said. “There's quite a few people here, waiting. Hoping you're coming back and not having Carson as Exec.”

“Frank can shove it,” Guru replied.

Ellis laughed. “He can. Here's the boss,”

“XO?” Rivers asked. “You coming?”

“Check flight first, Boss. Then we're coming straight home. Not even landing back here,” Guru said.

“The CRT?”

“They're eating, then they're on the way.”

“Got you. We'll be waiting.”

“On the way, Boss.” Guru said. He handed the receiver to the NCO and turned to Goalie. “Let's go. Colonel? He said to Osborne. “Thanks for your hospitality.”

“Anytime, Captain. When you get back to Williams? Keep kicking some and taking some.”

“Will do, Colonel.”

They got ready to fly, then Captain Kirby drove them over to the hangar, where Sergeant Cutler was waiting. “Sir, Ma'am, the run-up went fine. She's ready to go.”

“Then let's go,” Guru said. He and Goalie did a very quick walk-around, then got into the cockpit. After an equally quick preflight, it was time to start engines. Guru watched as Sergeant Cutler gave the “Start Engines” signal, and ran up Number One. Everything was normal, then he started Two. Again, everything was normal. Then he contacted the Tower. “Grand Junction Tower, Camaro One-one requesting permission for taxi and takeoff.”

“Camaro One-one, Tower, clear to taxi to Runway Two-Niner. Hold short of the runway.”

“Roger that. Camaro One-one rolling.” Guru taxied the F-4 to the runway.

“Camaro One-one, watch for inbound traffic to your right,” the tower called.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. He and Goalie watched as a C-123, part of the Denver Airlift, came in to land. After the transport landed and taxied away, Guru called the Tower.”Camaro One-one requesting takeoff instructions.”

“Clear to taxi for takeoff.” Tower said.

Guru taxied the big Phantom onto the runway, held his brakes, and applied full power. “So far, so good,” he told Goalie on the intercom.

“Same here,” she called back. She was checking her own instruments. One thing about the F-4, it had a complete set of flight controls in the back seat, a holdover from the days when there were two rated pilots in the aircraft, before the AF put navigators in the back seats.

“Tower, Camaro One-one. Request clearance for takeoff.”

“Camaro One-one, clear for takeoff. Winds are calm,” the tower replied.

“Roger that.” Guru said. He released the brakes, went to full afterburner, and the big Phantom went down the runway. He pulled back on the stick, and the F-4 climbed into the air.

Sweaty and Preacher were watching from their plane, 519. They were already in the cockpit, waiting. “Fifteen minutes,” she said.

“Start engines when?”

“In ten.”

Colonel Osborne and Captain Kirby were next to 519, watching with binoculars. “Wish you were with them, sir?” Kirby asked.

“Just one more flight in a fighter, Captain. That's all I ask.” Osborne said wistfully.


Guru took 512 north of Grand Junction, and climbed to 30,000 feet. He then went down to 10,000, and put the tough warbird through its paces, and he wrung the plane out. All the time, he and Goalie were watching the port engine. And after ten minutes, he headed back to Grand Junction. “Grand Junction Tower, Camaro One-one.”

“Grand Junction Tower, Camaro, go.”

“Have Camaro One-two crank up. Tell 'em time to hit the sky and head home.”

“Will do, Camaro, and will notify AWACS. Safe trip home.”

“Thanks for your hospitality, Tower.”


Sweaty had started 519's engines at the ten-minute mark, and they were rolling to the runway when Guru called the Tower. There being no inbound traffic, she was cleared to taxi right for takeoff, and when she asked for clearance, it came. She firewalled the engines, and 519 rolled down the runway and into the air. They formed up at 24,000 feet.

“Let's go home,” Guru called. And he saw Sweaty blink her formation lights in response. And the Two-ship headed back to Williams.


Williams AFB, AZ, 2130 Hours Mountain War Time:

The two-ship got into the traffic pattern for Williams AFB, and there were Marine A-6s going in and out, so the two F-4s had to wait their turn. Then the tower cleared them to land, Guru and Sweaty brought their planes in, and after landing, they taxied to their revetments. It had been a long day, even with the divert, and they were tired.

“All that food we ate?” Goalie asked.

“Yeah, but it was worth it,” Guru said as he climbed down from the cockpit. Waiting for them was Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley, 512's Crew Chief. “Sergeant.”

“Welcome back, sir!” Crowley said. “They told me about the new engine and the battle damage repair. Don't worry, Captain. I'll make sure the patch is solid. Even if we have to do an all-nighter.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Then Sweaty and Preacher came over. “Long day.”

“Longer than usual, but it beats holing up somewhere, waiting for Jolly Green to come,” Sweaty nodded.

“Or having Kasha and Borscht,” Preacher added.

“It does,” Goalie said.

Then a pair of slitted headlights came over. They revealed a Dodge Crew-Cab pickup, and the squadron's senior NCO, Master Sergeant Michael Ross, was behind the wheel. “Captain, Lieutenants, Colonel Rivers sent me to pick you up.”

“We need to debrief, you know,” Goalie reminded her pilot.

Guru nodded. Right now, all he wanted to do was get back to the squadron's billets at the Sheraton and find his room, and get some sleep. “Forgot about that little detail. Let's get it over with.”

The four crewers climbed into the truck, and Ross drove them over to the squadron building. A few lights were burning, the night duty staff, they thought. When he pulled in front of the building and stopped, he said, “Here you go, sir.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said, and the others nodded. They were all tired, and frankly, wanted the debriefing over and done, so they could get some sleep. He opened the door, and as the four officers went in, they found most of the squadron's aircrew waiting for them. What the...

“Looks like our lost sheep are back,” Colonel Rivers said, “You had us worried for a while.”

“Boss?” Guru asked.

“There was a rumor going around that both of your planes were down. Carson was drooling at the thought of his becoming Exec if something happened to you,” Rivers said.

“What?” Goalie asked.

“You got it, Lieutenant. Until the XO called, people were dreading the thought of Carson as Exec. But when you called, XO,” Rivers said, turning back to Guru. “I tore him a new hole, told him he wasn't going to be Exec today, and gave him a kick in the ass.”

“Did he-” Guru asked.

“He never touched your office, XO,” Rivers said.

“But he was getting ready to move in,” Mark Ellis said.

Guru shook his head.

“Guess we need to debrief,” Sweaty said after a minute.

“That you do,” Rivers said, He waved the SIO, Lieutenant Licon over. “So, what happened before the divert?”

“Made some artillery go away, Boss,” Guru said. “Big ones, either 122 or 130, looked like.”

“Hit the guns?” Licon asked.

“That, and some ammo trucks,” Goalie said.

“How about Sweaty?” Rivers wanted to know.

“Same thing,” Sweaty replied. “Got some secondaries with the CBUs.”

Rivers and Licon nodded. “Anything else of note?” Asked the SIO.

“Gave the XO a break call, and as he did the break, I shot a Sidewinder into a Hip. Blew him apart.”

“Did you see it, Captain?” Licon asked, and Guru nodded, as did Goalie.

Licon nodded, then turned to the CO. “Sir, that's three now for Lieutenant Blanchard. Two more and she's an ace.” And there was applause from their friends when they heard that.

Rivers shook hands with Sweaty. “Congratulations,” he said.

“Thanks, Boss,” she replied.

“Now, how'd you get to Grand Junction?” Rivers asked.

Guru shook his head. “Don't know if it was a flak trap or what, but we're egressing the area, and there's some vehicles on one of the north-south roads. They sprayed us with light flak-maybe 23-mm, and we took two hits. One wrecked the TIESO, the other hit the port engine. Wasn't going to risk coming home with a bum engine.”

“Good call, XO,” Rivers said. “Now, Sweaty, why'd divert with him instead of coming back?”

“Sir,” Sweaty said. “The Exec never told me to return to base, and lacking such orders, I did what any wingman would. I remained with my leader.”

Rivers laughed. “Well, no one can argue with that, Lieutenant.” He looked at the quartet. “You guys are off the flight schedule tomorrow. Catch up on sleep, take care of your paperwork, and we'll properly celebrate Sweaty's Hip kill tomorrow night. But for now..” He motioned to Sergeant Ross, who brought some paper cups, and several bottles of Seven-up. “This'll have to do.”

Sergeant Ross carefully measured a cup for everyone, then passed out the cups.

After everyone had a cup, Rivers asked, “What'll we drink to?”

Mark Ellis spoke up. “How about our lost friends? Especially those looking down on us.”

“Hear, hear,” Capt. Don Van Loan, the assistant Ops Officer, said, and several echoed that.

“To our lost friends,” Colonel Rivers said as he raised his cup.
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Old 02-02-2015, 11:00 AM
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Matt I really like the stories. One question AS you are the star of the show which movie star who acted as a pilot in a war movie should we imagine you look like? Powers Boothe, Clint Eastwood, Val Kilmer, Tom Cruise?
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Old 02-02-2015, 05:05 PM
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Mark Wahlberg.
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Old 02-04-2015, 07:31 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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I've got a couple of stories from the Soviet POV-one's pretty big, being over 2.8 MB, and several stories dealing with a former POW's experiences in Cuba (she was shot down there); shootdown, a move from one POW camp to another, release, and confronting demons in a return to Cuba after the fall of the Castro Regime, and at a war crimes trial, so stay tuned.
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Old 02-04-2015, 08:18 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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One of the Soviet-centric stories: How Marshal Sergei Akhromayev became the Defense Minister of the USSR (a job he didn't want)....

Congratulations, Comrade Marshal


Defense Minister's Office, Defense Ministry, Moscow, USSR, 1400 Hours Moscow Time, 16 May, 1987:



Marshal Sergei Sokolov, the Defense Minister of the USSR, sat at his desk. A career soldier, he had taken the job of Defense Minister after the death of Marshal Nikolai Rostov, who had succeeded Dimitry Ustinov. Rostov had been in the job when the war with America and her allies began, and at first, the Soviets and their fraternal socialist partners had experienced success, as well as neutralizing the Chinese threat for the foreseeable future. But, when the Spring-Summer Offensive in 1986 had failed to finish the war in North America, Rostov had been forced out and then liquidated. The General Secretary, Viktor Chebrikov, had then appointed him to the position of Defense Minister, and was tasked with planning “the final victory of Socialism.” However, after the American counterattack that summer, and the disasterous Vancouver campaign, it was his opinion that the best the Soviets could hope for was to bleed the Americans white, and force them to accept a negotiated settlement on Soviet terms. But the Chief of the General Staff, General Pavel Grachev, had reminded him the last time a general promised to bleed his enemy white. That general was the Chief of the German General Staff, General Erich von Falkenheyn, at a place called Verdun. And the man wound up resigning after the German failure.

Now, the promised Spring offensive in America had gone off, and to his horror, the Americans had been waiting for the Soviet forces. The attempt to seal off and eliminate the American salient around Wichita in an operation similar to Operation Uranus in 1942 had failed. According to the GRU, the American media was hailing it as the greatest tank battle in history, surpassing Kursk. And the Americans had won. And all that could be done now was to wait for the inevitable American counterattack. So far, there had been an American attack, but TVD Amerika was hopeful that this attack could be halted, and the situation restored.

Then his speaker buzzed. “Yes?”

“Comrade Minister,” his secretary said. “It's General Maslov, the chief of Operations. He says it's urgent.”

“Put him through,” Sokolov ordered. He picked up the receiver. “Yes, Maslov?”

“Comrade Minister, would you please come down to the Operations Room? We have a situation here.”

“I'll be there right away,” Sokolov said. He got up and left his office. In the outer office, he told his secretary, “Galina? No calls.”

“Yes, Comrade Minister,” his secretary, a very attractive female signals Captain, said.

Sokolov nodded at his ADC. “Mikhail Petrovich, let's go to the Operations Room.”

“Comrade Minister,” Major Mikhail Bosak, an airborne officer who had won the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union in 1985 for seizing the bridges over the Red River along Interstate 35, nodded. The Major rose and followed his Marshal out.

The two went to the secure elevator and went down several stories below street level. There, in a bunker hardened to withstand the effects of a nuclear blast, though Sokolov doubted that it would, in the event of a direct hit, After passing thorough two security checkpoints, the Marshal and his aide entered the Operations Area. There, he found Col. Gen. Nikolai Baranov, the deputy Chief of the General Staff, waiting. The Chief of the General Staff, General Grachev, was on an inspection of the Beylorussian Military District, and was thus unavailable. “Yes, Baranov?

“Comrade Minister, General Maslov sent me to receive you. I think you had better come this way,” he said, gesturing to the Operations Room.

“This had better be important,” Sokolov growled.

“It is, Comrade Minister,” Baranov nodded. It appeared to Major Bosak that the General had a very grave expression on his face. He conducted the two officers into the Operations Room, which had several maps of various regions of the world. On the map of Europe, Soviet air and naval action against the British was shown, along with the assembling forces in Baltic ports for the planned assault on the East Coast of Britain, while Allied air and naval action against Soviet convoys bound for Cuba and Mexico was also noted. In the Mediterranean, Allied convoys with war materiel from Egypt and Israel, as well as Middle East oil, were passing through without much interference, and the same was said for the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The map for the Far East had the nuclear strikes on China still pinpointed, as well as those PLA units still active in Manchuria. That was still causing the Soviets trouble, though the occasional theater missile strike was needed to keep those bastards quiet. It also showed, much to the Marshal's displeasure, targets in the Soviet Far East that had been hit by American and British bombers flying from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Okinawa, as well as the Soviet convoys going to and from occupied Alaska.

The next map showed the Northern Theater, from Alaska down thorough Canada, and that theater, since the disaster in Vancouver, was a stalemate. Though the key towns and the roads in Alaska were under Soviet control, the large areas of the state marked “Guerrilla” showed just how tenuous the Soviets' control was, and that the prewar plan to incorporate Alaska into the USSR after victory was likely to be grossly overoptimistic. The same was said for Canada from the Yukon into British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies, where Soviet and North Korean control was also limited to the roads, and there were settlements that had never seen a Soviet or North Korean solider, and those areas were known to be under the control of the Canadian Western Partisan Command. The rest of the Canadian Front was, from east of Vancouver all the way to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, stalemate. The Soviets weren't getting enough supplies forward from Alaska to sustain offensive operations, while the Allies, mainly British and Canadian, with some Americans in British Columbia and Southern Alberta, were content to keep the Soviets entertained, with minor attacks, probes, and deep raids being the norm. But the main focus was on the Southern Theater, where the Soviets' main offensive had been launched.

“What is it? Sokolov growled as Gen. Andrei Maslov, the Chief of Operations, came into the room.

“Comrade Marshal, we're about to update the map. I suggest you have a careful look at what you see.”

Sokolov, Maslov, and the other staff officers now gathered watched as the map showing the American heartland, from Colorado and New Mexico in the West, to the Mississippi River in the East, showed the current battle lines. Though, given the time lag in updating the map was twelve hours, it was generally sufficient, given how things had gone since 1985. Now, though...

First, Sokolov watched as the last siege lines near Denver fell back, and several American formations pushed forward south from Interstate 70, the main east-west highway in this part of America, headed south and southeast, while another American force, this one pushing through Eastern New Mexico, was headed to meet them. It appeared to Sokolov that the U.S. Fourth and Sixth Armies were intent on creating a pocket similar to that the Soviets had created in Operation Uranus, back in 1942.

Then, to his horror, the forces that had launched the Wichita Offensive were being steadily pushed back, as the U.S. Fifth Army was now pushing not only into Western Kansas, but also down into Eastern Kansas and even the Northeastern tip of Oklahoma. And in Arkansas? Counters now showed the U.S. First Army pushing into Northern Arkansas, and across the Mississippi from Kentucky and Tennessee into the eastern part of the state. Several hundred kilometers of his front line, in fact, nearly all of it, had simply disintegrated.

And to the west...in New Mexico, the U.S. Sixth Army was carving through the state like a butcher carved meat. And it looked as if they wouldn't stop until they reached the border with Texas. About the only bright spot was Louisiana: the U.S. Third Army had limited itself to harassing attacks, but no full-scale offensive. Though that could change at any time. “My God...” Sokolov muttered. “Is this right?'

“Yes, Comrade Minister,” Maslov said. “The Americans have launched a general offensive, all along the front. And given that many of our tank reserves were sent to the Wichita offensive, we lack the armored strength to counter them.”

Sokolov looked at his Operations Chief as if the man had suddenly grown two heads. And yet, he knew that Maslov was right. Proud units like the First Guards Tank Army, the Seventh Guards Tank Army, and Third Shock Army, had been gutted, losing at least half their strength, and in one melee east of Wichita, the First Guards Tank Army had run into their old NATO adversaries, the Americans' V Corps, and had been shattered. The same had gone for Third Shock Army, encountering the U.S. VII Corps, which had last been known to have been in Southern Alberta and Northern Montana, and instead had run into a hornet's nest. Now, those tank armies, along with the rest of the Soviet and Fraternal Socialist forces, were pulling back as fast as they could. It was that, or stand fast and be destroyed. “Where is Marshal Kribov?”

“We do not know, Comrade Minister,” Maslov replied. “He went to a forward headquarters to observe, and if necessary, take control of the battle, but we have not heard from him in several hours.”

“Then find him. In the meantime, notify his deputy, General Alekseyev, and instruct him to take all necessary measures to restore the stability of the front.”

“Yes, Comrade Minister,” Maslov said. He nodded to his communications man, who went off to the communications center to send the message.

“In the meantime, we'll wait until this takes clearer shape. I'll be in my office. Thank you, Comrades.” Sokolov nodded, then he and his aide left the Operations Room, leaving Maslov and his deputy, Col. Gen. Piotyr Boldin, dumbfounded, along with General Branov, who was quite disgusted.

“What?” Boldin shouted. “We've just had a combination of Operation Uranus and Operation Kutuzov inflicted on us, and all he says is 'wait?'”
“I don't like it any more than you do,” Maslov replied calmly. The Operations Chief thought for a few moments, then nodded to his aide. “Where is General Grachev?”

“In Minsk,” the aide replied. “He's on an inspection trip to the Beylorussian Military District.”

Maslov looked at General Baranov. “We need him here.”

“I agree,” Baranov replied. He turned to his own aide. “Get to the communications center. Send a message to General Grachev in Minsk.” He thought for a moment, composing the message in his head. “Advise him that the situation at the front requires his presence in Moscow.” Baranov looked at the man. “Do it on my authority.”

“Yes, Comrade General,” The aide, a tank forces major with a burn scar on his neck, replied.

“Wait,” Maslov said. “Where is Marshal Akhromeyev?”

“In Omsk, inspecting the Ural Tank Works,” Baranov replied. “Why do you ask?” Then it occurred to him. When Chebrikov found out about the scale of the disaster now unfolding on the American prairie, Sokolov would be out. And then the deputy Defense Minister would take the job. “You want him back here?”

“We'd better,” Maslov said “Especially if the Minister is.....retired.”

Barnaov looked at General Boldin, who nodded. “I agree, Comrade General.”

“Well, Baranov?” Maslov asked. “Do you send that message, or do I?”

Baranov looked at the other two generals, then at the map. He then turned to his aide, who had waited patiently. “Send the same message to Marshal Akhromeyev.”

“Yes, Comrade General,” the aide replied, heading for the exit.

“And do it fast.”


Marshal Sokolov and his aide returned to the Minister's office. “That will be all for now, Bosak,” he said to his aide.

“Comrade Minister,” Major Bosak replied, heading for his desk.

“Any calls, Galina?”

“No calls, Comrade Minister,” his secretary replied.

“Thank you,” Sokolov nodded. He went into his office and sat at his desk. There, he thought for a few minutes. The General Secretary had insisted on this offensive, and Sokolov, knowing the consequences of not doing otherwise, had acceded. Now, not only had the Americans stopped the offensive in its tracks, but they had themselves gone over to the offensive. The map didn't lie. Most of his line in the American heartland was threatened with collapse, and there wasn't much anyone could do about it, except give Marshal Kribov, or Alekseyev, if Kribov had been killed, the freedom of action to stabilize the front. And the General Secretary would not be pleased when he was told of the disaster now unfolding, and that there would be an obvious target of his wrath. He took out a pen and paper, and composed a note for his wife. He then wrote another letter, meant for his successor, and a copy for General Grachev as well.

Marshal Sokolov then went to his liquor cabinet, poured himself a glass of vodka, and then sat back at his desk. He then took out his service pistol, put it to his temple, and fired.

His secretary and aide heard the shot. They came into the office to find the Marshal slumped over his desk, bleeding from a single bullet wound to the brain. “I'll get a doctor,” Galina, his secretary, said.

“Don't bother,” Major Bosak said. “Call Generals Maslov and Baranov. Ask them to please come to the Minister's office.”

“Yes, Comrade Major.”



Omsk-Sevrinny Air Base, Omsk, RSFSR: 1600 Hours Moscow Time:

Marshal Sergei Akhromayev left his staff car at the Base Headquarters, and went into the operations section. A phone call had come in on his staff car's telephone, saying that an urgent message had come in for him from Moscow. He was now wondering what the fuss was about. The Marshal found the base commander, a harried Voyska PVO Colonel, waiting for him. “Yes, Comrade Colonel?”

“Comrade Marshal,” the Colonel nodded. “This message is for you.”

“Thank you, Comrade,” Akhromayev replied. He read the message form, then turned to his ADC, a young airborne major who still had a slight limp. “Well, Arkady, the rest of the trip is off. Notify the advance party in Krasnyoarsk.”

Major Anatoly Sorokin, a holder of the Red Banner who had been wounded outside some town in Colorado on the first day, said, “Yes, Comrade Marshal. We are....?

“Returning to Moscow,” The Marshal replied. Have our aircraft readied for departure as soon as possible.”

“Right away, Comrade Marshal,” Major Sorokin replied. He first went to send the message to the advance party, then informed the commander of the Marshal's aircraft, an Il-62 fitted out as a command plane with the latest communications equipment the USSR could provide. A half-hour later, the aircraft was airborne, heading west.

“What's going on in Moscow?' Akhromayev asked his aide.

“Comrade Marshal, I haven't the faintest idea,” Sorokin replied. “It could be anything. Though news from the front would be my guess.”

“It would be mine as well,” the Marshal nodded. “It's a five-hour flight, Comrade Major. Wake me when we're getting ready to land.”

Sorokin nodded. “Comrade Marshal.” His Marshal nodded back, then closed his eyes and sat back in his seat. In minutes, he was fast asleep. The Major then went aft, to the aircraft's communications and staff area. “Anything new?” he asked the Communications Officer, an army signals Major.

“Nothing except the message asking him to return to Moscow,” the signals man replied.

Sorokin nodded. His brother was still serving in America, with the 76th Guards Air Assault Division, and he wondered how Arkady was doing. Hopefully, his unit hadn't seen service in this Wichita business, and from what they'd seen before leaving Moscow, that attack had been turned back, and the Americans were building up to something. Oh, there had been local counterattacks, but nothing major. Had that changed? Well, in five hours or so, he thought, they'd find out. Though the Major was outranked by several of the staff, his position as ADC to the Marshal meant he could give them orders. That was a unique feature of the Soviet system.....”Very well. Don't disturb the Marshal unless it's absolutely important. And I'll be the judge of that.”

The staffers looked at each other, then at Major Sorokin. “Understood, Comrade Major,” the signals man replied.

Five hours later, the Il-62 landed at Vunokuvo-2, the VIP only airport outside Moscow. The Marshal had awakened a half-hour before landing, and he actually felt refreshed. After the aircraft taxied to a stop outside the military terminal, and the mobile stairway put in place, the Marshal saw a pair of staff cars, and a familiar face; General Grachev, the Chief of the General Staff, waiting. Had he been recalled as well? Grachev was on an inspection tour of the Beylorussian Military District, and the two had left on the same day. Well, he'd soon find out.

Grachev was waiting for him at the foot of the stairs. “Comrade Marshal,” he said, saluting.

“General,” Akhromayev replied as he returned the salute. “What's this, bringing both of us back to Moscow?”

“They didn't tell you?” Grachev replied, puzzled.

“Tell me what?” The Marshal shot back.

“I just found out a half-hour ago. Defense Minister Sokolov took his own life in his office earlier today.”

“WHAT?” The Marshal shouted. “He killed himself?”

“That's all I know, Comrade Marshal,” Grachev replied. “Your presence is urgently needed in the Ministry.”

“Let's go, then,” Akhromayev replied. A staff car was waiting, and the Marshal, Grachev, and their respective aides got in. And the car then left the base and headed into Moscow.

The staff car raced through Moscow, in the special traffic lanes reserved for high party or military officials, and the Moscow Militia simply waved the car through. After a half-hour, the car pulled up to the Ministry, and pulled up to the entrance. General Maslov was waiting. “Comrade Marshal,” he saluted.

“Maslov,” replied the Marshal. “What happened?”

Maslov “Please, Comrade Marshal, inside.” He indicated the entrance. After Akhromayev and Grachev went in with Maslov, he turned to them. “The Minister went down to the Operations Room, where the map was updated. The picture isn't good, and he gave orders to relay to either Marshal Kribov or General Alekseyev to take whatever measures are needed to stabilize the front. He then went back to his office, and both his aide and secretary then heard a shot. They found him slumped on his desk, a bullet in his head, and his service pistol in his right hand.”

Akhromayev nodded.”All right, Maslov. Has the General Secretary and the rest of the Defense Council been informed?”

“They have, Comrade Minister-”

“Please, not that tile,” Akhromayev said sternly. “I know, I'm now Acting Defense Minster, but right now, it's the last thing I want right now.” He looked at the other officers. “I'd like to see the Operations Map.”

Maslov nodded. “Yes, Comrade Marshal.” He conducted Marshal Akhromayev and General Grachev to the elevator, and then down to the bunker. General Boldin was waiting for them when they arrived after passing through security.

“Boldin,” Akhromayev said. “Let's have a look at the map.”

Boldin looked at General Grachev, then General Maslov, who nodded gravely. “Yes, Comrade Marshal,” Boldin replied. “This way, please.” He conveyed his superior officers to the Operations map.
“This is what Minister Sokolov saw.”

Akhromayev and Grachev took a look for themselves. “Mother of God...” Grachev said. “Has this been updated since?”

“No, Comrade General, Maslov said. “When I saw it, I was wondering if it was like this in Hitler's Headquarters during the Kursk battle.”

Akhromayev nodded. “Worse. It's like it was during Operation Uranus and Little Saturn.” Not only did he see the blue arrows striking deep, but the blue pins sprouting up all over the Ozarks in Arkansas, the Quachita Mountains in Oklahoma and Western Arkansas, and the eastern Rocky Mountains in both Colorado and New Mexico. The American resistance had come out of their lairs, and would surely be a “force multiplier” as the Americans called it. “Are we in touch with Marshal Kribov?”

“Not exactly, but General Alekseyev reports that he has turned up at the airport in Ponca City, Oklahoma. He no longer has secured communications due to his forward headquarters being abandoned in the face of an American penetration,” Boldin said.

Akhromayev nodded. “All right: inform Kribov to pull back to the Red River line. Do it, and fast.”

General Grachev stared at the Marshal. “Comrade Marshal? If we do that...”

“I know, but right now, we need to stabilize the front. The Red River is the only real natural defense line available at the moment. Try and hold onto Northern Louisiana, and do what we can in West Texas, but that's all we can do. At least right now,” Akhromayev said. “If we can read a map, so can the Americans' Joint Chiefs. They will no doubt whip their commanders into more decisive action. And that, we can't allow. Do it, Grachev. Do it now.”

“Immediately, Comrade Marshal,” Grachev said. He nodded at his communications man, who went off to send the message.

“Comrade Marshal, a question. What about General Secretary Chebrikov?” Major Sorokin asked.

“I'll tell him these are Sokolov's orders. And that it's too late to countermand them.”

“Yes, Comrade Marshal.” Sorokin said. Though he wasn't too sure about that, it was likely that, when the rest of the Defense Council was informed, it would certainly be too late to countermand those orders.

“Now,” Akhromayev said. “That pocket that's forming in Colorado. I hate to tell Kribov what to do, but get those forces out of there. The Americans are about to form a pocket, and this is too much like the early days of the war with the Fascists in 1941. Remember Bialystok?”

Heads nodded at that. They remembered the first big German encirclement of the attack on the Soviet Union, where two Soviet Armies had been destroyed near that occupied Polish city. And the Commander of the Western Front, General D.G. Pavlov, his Chief of Staff, and several other officers were immediately summoned to Moscow on Stalin's orders-and shot. “Exactly so, Comrade Marshal,” Maslov nodded.

“So....A general breakout?” Grachev asked. That was the only solution that appeared to him as possible. While there were two Soviet Armies, the 14th and 22nd, there were East Germans,
Poles, Czechs, Nicaraguans, Libyans, an Angolan brigade, and Mexicans as well. Those forces had been deemed sufficient to maintain the Denver siege perimeter, and even though the siege had been partially lifted, the southern and eastern siege lines had been held. Not anymore, and some of the American spearheads had penetrated into undefended territory. No, those forces had to break out before it was too late.

“There's no choice,” Akhromayev said. “Issue the orders.”

Grachev nodded, a grave expression on his face. “Immediately, Comrade Marshal.”

Akromayev nodded, and kept looking at the map. “We've lost the initiative. And we're not likely to get it back.”

The Chief of the General Staff looked at the map. And as he turned to head to the Communications Center, he said, “Comrade Marshal, I'm afraid you're right. So what do we do now?”

“The best we can, General. Issue those orders.”

After Grachev left, General Vitaly Berkenev, the Director of the GRU, came in. “Comrade Marshal,”

“Berkenev,” Akhromayev nodded. “Have a look for yourself.” The Marshal indicated the operations map.

The GRU Director did so, and he wasn't surprised in the least. “What now, Comrade Marshal?”

“We do the best we can. It may not be enough, but we'll have to try anyway.”

“The Foreign Ministry has been trying to find a way out,” Berkenev said. “Their demands on the Americans and their Allies have been....unrealistic, to say the least.”

Akhromayev turned to his intelligence chief. “What went on at those meetings?”

“That, I do not know for certain, Comrade Marshal,” Berkenev nodded. “But I can find out.”

“Do it, and fast. Because any hope of a compromise peace is now gone,” replied the Marshal. “Right now, I recall the words of a Japanese Admiral, before they launched their own war with the Americans, also in 1941.”

“Yes, Admiral Yamamoto,” Berkenev said. “And his words?”

“I don't recall exactly what he said,” Akhromayev replied, waving at the map. “But, it went something like this: 'We have awakened a sleeping giant who will destroy us all.”
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Old 02-04-2015, 08:21 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Part II:


Vladimirsky Hall, the Kremlin, 19 May, 1987; 1500 Hours Moscow Time:


Marshal Sokolov had received a full State Funeral, with interment in the Kremlin Wall, and now the funeral party was gathered in one of the Kremlin's grand halls for a reception. After the funeral procession from the Defense Ministry to the Kremlin, Marshal Sokolov's remains were interred in the Kremlin Wall, next to one of his predecessors, Dimitry Ustinov, who had died in 1984. Though many of those in attendance no doubt felt that Sokolov would now be kicking Ustinov in the rear, because he, along with many other officers, blamed Ustinov for laying the military groundwork for the war, a war that the Soviet Union was now losing.

After the funeral, there was a reception in Vladimirsky Hall, and many generals, admirals, Central Committee Members, and a number of both candidate and full members of the Politburo had gathered. Not only to pay their respects to Mrs. Sokolov, but also to talk business. And the current situation at the front was a major topic of discussion.

“How bad is it?' General Mikhail Mosiyev, the Commander of the Moscow Military District, asked General Grachev. Both men glanced over at Marshal Akhromayev, who was paying his respects to Mrs. Sokolov and her two sons, both of whom were generals themselves. One was the commander of a training tank division in the Ukraine, while the other son was on leave from a combat post. Not in America, mind, but as Chief of Staff of the 40th Army in Afghanistan. “Bad as they say?”

“Worse,” Grachev replied. “I've been wondering: was it like this in the OKW Operations Room during Kursk?”

Then Marshal Akhromayev came over. “This is Operation Bagration, only this time, we are the Fascisti. I imagine that Marshal Kribov is feeling like Model right now. Trying to put out the inferno that men like Zhukov, Rokossovosky, Bagramyan, and such set alight.”

“And who is our fireman this time?” Mosiyev asked. “If it's as bad as General Grachev has said-”

“It is, General,” Akhromayev said. “We'll be lucky if we keep the Red River line in Texas and Louisiana, and hang onto West Texas as best we can.”

Moisyev shook his head. “And whose genius was it to start this war?”

Just then, the members of the Defense Council arrived, led by General Secretary Viktor Chebrikov. KGB Chairman Boris Kosov, Interior Minister Boris Pugo, Ivan Volkov, the head of GOSPLAN; Feydor Alexandrov, the Chief Ideologist of the Party; and Foreign Minister Dimitry Tumansky. There was the ritual applause given the General Secretary, who gave a polite nod, then went over to where the widow, dressed in mourning black, sat, with her two sons and the rest of the family. Chebrikov spoke to the widow, and to those watching, something must have made Mrs. Sokolev very upset, for she stood up in a towering anger, and slapped the General Secretary on the face. There was a hush in the hall, and many expected Chairman Kosov to order his protective detail to arrest the widow on the spot. Instead, Chebrikov spoke further to the widow, and told Kosov not to get involved. Then he went to a microphone.

“Comrades, I am glad that all of you could come. First, we honor the late Marshal Sokolov, a man who gave his all to the Rodina, and to the inevitable triumph of our cause. Though we have had some setbacks-”

“That, Comrade General Secretary, is an understatement,” General Grachev muttered.

“Our cause is just, and victory is certain,” Chebrikov continued. “Though one can certainly understand why a grieving widow would react as she did, having lost a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. Still, Marshal Sokolov gave everything he had to achieving the final victory, and we will continue to march on until we have done so. And now, I have an announcement to make.”

“Now what?” General Moisyev said. “We've had enough blather for one day.”

“The full Politburo has met, and has decided on an new Defense Minister.”

“Let me guess: Yazov,” General Berkenev said to Akhromayev. Marshal Dimitry Yazov was CINC-FAR EAST, and was engaged in not only supporting the resupply effort to Alaska, but also conducting operations along the Soviet-Manchurian border, keeping the remnants of the Chinese Army on their side of the border, as well as conducting air attacks against targets in South Korea and Japan. However, the consensus in the General Staff was that the success that Yazov had was largely due to his staff, and that Yazov wasn't fit to command anything higher than a division.

“Would you rather have Marshal Orgakov?” Akhromayev asked. Marshal Nikolai Orgakov had been the Chief of the General Staff prewar, before being sent to become CINC-WEST in East Germany. Though NATO had been dissolved, there were still forces in East Germany and in Czechoslovakia, just in case. Though a number of GSFG's premier units had been sent to North America, they had been replaced with divisions brought forward from the Soviet Union. However, Orgakov was loathed in Moscow, for he had helped with the initial planning for the war, and he had been blamed for the plan's initial failure. CINC-WEST wasn't the post it had been earlier, but was a decent way to put a general out to pasture.

“Not particularly,” Berkenev said. “You, though, are the only other choice. Unless they want to bring Marshal Kribov back from his command.”

“The man has enough troubles at the moment,” General Grachev said.

“After considering a number of possible candidates for the position, the Poliburo has decided to appoint Marshal Sergei Akhromayev to the position of Defense Minister of the USSR,” General Secretary Chebrikov announced. And there was at first a hush among the crowd, then there was the ritual round of applause.

Several generals turned to Akhromayev, who simply nodded. “Well, I have been tried and condemned, and must go forward to execution.” He went up to the General Secretary, shook hands, and embraced. “I accept the post, Comrade General Secretary.”

“I realize that this is a difficult time,” Chebrikov said. “However, in spite of the untimely death of your predecessor, and the situation at the front, I know you will take things in hand, and get a firm grip on the situation. And lead our forces to final victory. You have the support of the Politburo, the Central Committee, the Party, and the People.”

“I serve the Soviet Union!” Akhromayev said.

“Good, Comrade Minister. You are not only Defense Minister, but are also a full member of the Politburo and the Defense Council,”

“Thank you, Comrade General Secretary,” Akhromayev nodded. Though silently, he was wishing that Chebrikov would be the next one to drop dead.

“Congratulations, Comrade Minister,” Chebrikov said, and there was another round of applause. Then Akhromayev went back to the generals.

“Congratulations, Comrade Minister,” General Grachev said. “Though I imagine you would rather have a field command.”

Akhromayev nodded. “You imagine correctly, Grachev,” he replied. “First, when you get back to the Ministry?”

“Comrade Minister?”

“I want a list of candidates for the position of Deputy Defense Minister. And please, leave Orgakov and Yazov off the list.”

“As you wish, Comrade Minister,” Grachev said.

Then the service chiefs came over to offer their congratulations. Though one, Admiral Vladimir Chernavin, lingered for a few minutes. “Comrade Minister, I need a one-on-one talk with you. In your office, as soon as possible.”

“Of course, Comrade Admiral,” Akhromayev said. “What can I do for you?”

“You know the naval situation?”

“Yes, and your predecessor, the great Admiral Gorshkov, built the Soviet Navy into a world-class fighting force. However...”

“However, it is not the Navy we need. And we've taken serious losses in this conflict. I need more materials for cruiser, destroyer, and submarine construction. If I'm to escort our convoys to Alaska, Cuba, and Mexico, I need cruisers and destroyers. And submarines to interdict the enemy sea lines of communication,” Chernavin pressed.

Akhromayev knew exactly what was needed. He had been regularly briefed on the war at sea. “Come by my office, tomorrow morning. I'll press the Defense Council to allocate more resources to new construction and for battle-damage repair in the shipyards.”

“Thank you, Comrade Minister, but it's not just that. My Naval Aviation force needs more long-range bombers. And we need to finish our carrier construction as soon as possible. If our convoys had their own air cover....”

Akhromayev knew what the Admrial meant. “You know the saying, you go to war with what you have, not with what you wish you had. But...bring that up as well. I'll see what can be done.”

Chernavin was relieved. “Thank you, Comrade Minister.”

Then Major Sorokin brought over a young Tank Forces Major. “Comrade Minister, may I present Major Nikolai Sokolov, from the 734th Independent Tank Regiment? He is the grandson of Marshal Sokolov.”

“Comrade Major,” Akhromayev nodded politely. “Please accept my condolences on the loss of your grandfather. He will be deeply missed.”

“Thank you, Comrade Marshal,” Major Sokolov replied. “I was able to get emergency leave from Cuba. Our regiment was supposed to be in Kansas for the offensive, but never got there. We were in Cuba, awaiting our T-80s. They never arrived. Some American or British submarine commander got lucky, they say, and sank the ship carrying my battalion's tanks.”

“How much of your regiment's equipment made it to Cuba?' Akhromayev asked.

“Barely half,” Major Sokolov replied. “Right now, we're not fit to deploy any further.”

“Your unit was a veteran one, correct?”

“Yes, Comrade Marshal. We deployed with T-64s and BMP-1s. And we were very good. In February, we turned over our equipment to another unit, and went to Cuba to await the T-80s. Only one battalion's worth of tanks arrived, though.”

“I see...” Akhromayev said. “When do you fly back to Cuba?”

“Day after tomorrow, Comrade Marshal,” Sokolov replied.

“Not anymore,” Akhromayev said. “Report to my office at 1200 tomorrow. New orders will await you. I want veteran officers on my staff, and we'll be cleaning out the useless ones. And it will look good on your record, should a regiment or brigade become available.”

“Comrade Marshal,” Sokolov gave a slight bow. “Thank you.”

“And the rest of your family?'

“My uncle only has daughters. However, my brother Vitaly is a fighter pilot in Alaska. He's been busy defending against American air strikes from carriers and their long-range bombers. He is a fighter pilot, and is doing what fighter pilots want to do.”

“I understand, Comrade Major,” Akhromayev said. “However.....your family has paid dearly for its service to the Rodina. If he is injured severely enough, he will be evacuated home. I promise it.”

“Thank you, Comrade Marshal.”

While Akhromayev was making his rounds, General Maslov was doing so as well. He met several candidate members of the Politburo, and found that they had only found out the day before the extent of the disaster, and were shaken. Minister of Petroleum Mikhail Sergetov was visibly upset. “How bad is it, really? My son is a tank officer, and has seen his share of combat.”

“It's worse than you think. We'll be back halfway to Mexico if we're lucky,” Maslov said.

Mikhail Gorbachev, a former full member who'd been demoted to candidate status after Andropov's death, asked. “Now what?”

“Comrade Minster,” Maslov said. “We'd better start thinking of a way out.”

Boris Yeltsin, the Party Boss of Moscow and also a candidate member of the Politburo, nodded. “This war has gone on long enough. And have you heard the latest?”

“What?” Maslov asked. What could this civilian have heard to interest him?

“At the last meeting before Marshal Sokolov's death, Interior Minister Pugo suggested releasing Gulag inmates, those sentenced for criminal offenses and are between the ages of eighteen and thirty, and drafting them into the military.”

Maslov was appalled. “What? Robbers, rapists, and murderers? In the Army? That's the last thing we need. We have enough trouble with the ALA having done the same thing.”

“Comrade General, given the need for military manpower...” Yeltsin said. “If you have another solution, you people in the ministry had better come up with one.”

“I'll inform the Marshal. He won't like this any more than you do.”

While Maslov had been talking with some of the civilian opposition, Akhromayev had been talking with General Berkenev and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnkyh. The Deputy Minister had been talking with American and British negotiators in Geneva about a possible diplomatic solution to the war. And, like the generals, wanted a way out.

“I'll be returning to Geneva, but I doubt the Americans and British will even talk,” Bessmertnkyh was saying. “All of our offers, even the most recent one, have been turned down.”

“And what was that?” Akhromayev asked.

“We would give up our demand about annexing Alaska, and make it an independent state, along with British Columbia. As well as our intention to give California, Arizona, and New Mexico back to Mexico, and make Texas an independent Socialist state, under our tutelage and the Cubans,” the diplomat replied.

“And the Allies rejected those out of hand?” Berkenev asked.

“Totally,” Bessmertnkyh replied. “Our last offer eliminated all of that, except for Texas. An independent Texas would be a buffer between America and Mexico.”

“And after the failure of the Wichita offensive,” Akhromayev said. “They summarily dismissed that offer as well.”

“Totally,” the diplomat nodded. “They threw down a copy of Le Monde in front of me, With a headline about the American offensive. I was told, bluntly, that 'We'll see you on the Rio Grande.' Talk to us then.” And the American, British,and Canadian negotiators walked out.”

“They mean to settle this on the battlefield, “ Berkenev observed.

“Yes,” the Marshal confirmed. “They have the initiative now, and they won't let go.”

“I see...” the diplomat noted.

“What are the chances they'll return to the talks?” Akhromayev asked. “If we can hold them, and inflict a sharp reverse.”

“If you can do that, Comrade Marshal, it would give me some leverage. If they return, that is. Right now, I don't see that happening. I'll return to Geneva, but I'm not optimistic about my chances.”

“Better you stay there for a while,” Berkenev said. “It's more beneficial to your health.”

“I see no reason to argue with that, Comrade General.”


Minister's Office, Ministry of Defense, Moscow, RSFSR, 21 May, 1987, 0800 Hours Moscow Time:

Marshal Akhromayev sat behind his desk, and looked at his staff. After receiving the morning situation briefing, he had been appalled. The pocket in Colorado was being steadily ground down, and several attempts at a breakout, by Soviet, Cuban, and East German troops, had been a slaughter. Only a division's worth of Soviet troops had managed to get away, while the Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians had fought for a few hours, then allowed themselves to be overrun by the Americans. General Berkenev had even shown the staff a clip from American television, with a reporter talking to a Nicaraguan lieutenant. The reporter had asked the Nicaraguan why his battalion had surrendered without a shot being fired, and the man had replied with sound civilian logic. “We didn't fire back because that would have been a mistake.” Already, there were rumblings from Managua that the Nicaraguans' enthusiasm for the war was cooling significantly. The same was true in Warsaw and Prague.

“The American pincers will close in a few hours, Comrade Marshal, if they haven't already. Every attempt at a breakout has ended in a massacre,” Grachev reported. “Once the forces inside the pocket have exhausted their ammunition, and they will within four or five days, they will surrender.”

“And Kribov can't relieve them,” Akhromayev noted. “If he had another tank army, he could try. Or if General Kozlov, the commander of 2nd Central Front, hadn't committed 3rd Shock Army...” Third Shock Army, one of the most powerful formations in GSFG, had been in America since the start. They had run wild in Texas and Oklahoma, and now...they had been gutted at a place in Kansas called Newton, north of Wichita, and found the U.S. VII Corps waiting for them. It had gone as expected-if one was an American, and Third Shock had been sent back reeling. Its commander, Starukhuin, had reformed and tried again, but had run into a buzz saw of tanks and anti-tank guided weapons. Now, the entire Soviet front line was being steadily pushed back into Eastern New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas, and only a fierce delaying action was preventing things from getting worse.

“Yes, Comrade Marshal,” Grachev replied, and the other officers nodded agreement.

“All right. Now that Kribov's back in full command, we may have a chance on the Red River line. Keep pressing the Navy to get more supplies and equipment into Cuba and Mexico, and see what we can do about getting those units that have been shot up refitted. We'll need them all in the weeks and months to come.”

“Comrade Marshal,” Baranov nodded.

“I'll be taking with Admiral Chernavin later today, and see what we can do to help the Navy. Now, I'm not in favor of this idea to draft inmates out of the Gulag into the Army. We've got reservists called to the colors in 1985 who were in either the Strategic Rocket Forces or the Voyska PVO, correct?”

“Yes, Comrade Marshal,” his chief of personnel, a full general, replied.

“Good. Get me CINC-SRF and CINC-PVO here, as soon as possible. I want to cut those reservists loose and get them into the Army. We need the manpower. PVO men can go into army air defense units, while the SRF personnel are mainly guards, correct?”

“That is so, Comrade Marshal.”

“Good. We can use those guards in motor-rifle units, while PVO men can also go into artillery fire-direction teams. It's better than using Gulag inmates.” Akhromayev said, relaying what he'd been told about drafting Gulag inmates into the Army to help with the manpower shortage.

“Yes, Comrade Marshal.”

“All right: Berkenev: try and get some back-channel contacts of your own with the Americans. I don't care if it's in West Berlin, Bangkok, or Hong Kong. Find out what their minimum conditions are for ending the war. I know, this is the Foreign Ministry's job, but with Tumansky, he's as hard-line as they come.”

“I will see to it, Comrade Marshal,” Berkenev replied.

“Now, talk with the candidate members of the Politburo, and see what they're up to. They aren't happy about being left in the dark, and only briefed when the Defense Council feels like it. Do you have anyone in mind?”

“General Maslov does, I believe, Comrade Marshal,” Berkenev said, gesturing to the Deputy Chief of the General Staff.

“Good. Talk to him, and start sounding those people out. Before you go: I want you to remember this. As of today, we are not fighting for the final victory of socialism. Anyone who still thinks we are needs to see the footage the Americans are beaming all over the world. Footage of burning tanks, wrecked APCs, corpses of Soviet soldiers, and shocked prisoners being sent to the American rear. We've lost the initiative, and right now, we're losing the war.”

“Comrade Marshal?” General Georgy Novikov, the Chief of the Red Army Political Directorate, asked.

“Party dogma is a poor substitute for battlefield reality,” Akhromayev said. “Right now, we're fighting for an honorable peace. A peace that enables us to withdraw from the war with our dignity and honor somewhat intact. If, that is,” the Marshal added, nodding at Berkenev, “the Americans and their allies will let us.”

His staff looked at each other, then at the Marshal.

“Right now, if we get out of this with a return to the prewar status quo, we'll be damned lucky. That's what we're fighting for, Comrades. Thank you, and I will see you tomorrow morning.”

After the staff had left, only Major Sorkin had remained. He knew that the consequences for his brother might be serious, but Arkady was airborne through and through. The Major saw as Akhormayev filled his tea cup, then went to his office window, and looked out over Moscow. “Comrade Marshal?”

“There's only one thing I'm wondering,” the Marshal said. “How many good Russian boys are going to die in a losing war before all is said and done?”

“Too many, I'm afraid, Comrade Marshal,” Sorokin replied. “But we can only do our duty.”

“Exactly so, Comrade Major,” Akhromayev said, finishing his tea. Then his speaker phone buzzed. “Yes?”

“Comrade Marshal,” his secretary's voice came over the speaker. “Admiral Chernavin is here.”

“Send him in, please.” Before the Admiral came in, Akhromayev turned to Sorokin. “Major, before today is over, arrange a visit for me to the Airborne Officers' College in Ryazan, and the Kharkov Guards Tank Training College. I want to get into the field as much as possible, even in this job.”

Sorokin smiled. “Yes, Comrade Marshal.”

“Good, off with you, then,” Akromayev said as Admiral Chernavin entered the office. This would be an earful, he knew. “And close the door after the Admiral enters.”

“Comrade Marshal,” Sorokin replied.

“Good morning, Admiral,” the Marshal said as the doors closed. This would be a long talk, he knew.....
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Old 02-12-2015, 05:51 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Coming soon.....a POW's story in Cuba. Be warned, it goes into some detail about her experiences in Cuba, and is gritty as possible without being graphic. And you've already been introduced to her in a previous story.
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:37 PM
RN7 RN7 is offline
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Matt that was a great read. A few points

I may have missed something but do US nuclear forces not target Moscow in retaliation for Soviet nuclear strikes on the USA including Washington DC?

If the US Army is fielding huge numbers of tanks then much of America's industrial base must still be intact?

If US forces in the West coast are able to launch a major offensive on their own and also send forces across the Pacific, then the Mexicans must have been cleared out of California? Also there must be an established land link or a major air corridor with US forces east of the Mississippi? The reason I say this is because the US West Coast doesn't have the population and arms and heavy industry of the US eastern states, and unless the Soviet's largely bypassed the west coast it would need support from the east to both resist a major Soviet attack or launch a major offensive on its own.

If NATO has been dissolved then US Army forces in Europe were pulled back to CONUS or elsewhere? Also some USAF and air defence forces in Europe must have been transferred to Britain?

If Britain is directly involved in the war then the BAOR must have been withdrawn to the UK? If so then many British Army armoured and mechanised formations would be idle unless the UK has been invaded. So would some British Army divisions or brigades have been sent to North America to help out the US and Canada?

How badly was China damaged by Soviet nuclear strikes?

Is Australia, New Zealand and South Africa allied with the US?
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Old 02-13-2015, 01:10 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Moscow was not targeted, but the Strategic Rocket Forces HQ bunker and the DA (Long-Range Aviation) Command Bunkers were struck by ALCMs fired from B-52s.

Most of America's industrial base is intact, yes.

The Mexicans (with some Soviet and Cuban assistance) tried pushing into California and Arizona. They were pushed back within 72 hours, hot having reached further north than the Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley, and never even got to Downtown San Diego (National City is as far as they got-being more interested in looting than fighting). Arizona? I-19 and other roads north from the border were turned into junkyards of wrecked armor and dead and maimed men thanks to USAF and USMC tac air and some Army Reserve AH-1Fs...The Rio Grande is the western battle line from 1985-87.

The Soviets and their lackeys never cut I-90 or I-94 in Montana, Wyoming, or the Dakotas. And after Summer '86, I-80 was reopened with the recapture of Cheyenne. A bypass had to be built around what was left of Omaha, though.....

Most U.S. forces in Europe redeployed to CONUS. Those who didn't went to Britain. The Brits hang on, despite Colonel Tanner's prediction. One redeployed division plays a key role in the Southwest: 3rd Armored, based at Yuma Proving Ground, while 2nd ACR is based at Fort Huachucha (they mop up after the AF does its thing)

BAOR redeploys home, then most go to Canada.

China became an SS-20 and SS-18 live-fire range. Their nuclear forces, C3, and much of their industry were slagged. They fired a few MRBMs and IRBMs, though, tearing holes in Soviet air defenses, which SAC and the RAF exploit with B-52, B-1, and Vulcan strikes out of bases in the Far East. One Chinese IRBM landed on Tashkent (3 MT yield) and the Chinese received a second Soviet salvo....China falls apart as a country, pretty much. Warlord central.

The ANZACs are allies, and the U.S., Britain, and Canada made a deal with the devil, and dropped their anti-apartheid stances, in return for strategic minerals, NATO-standard tank, artillery, and small arms ammo, and keeping the SLOCs open around the Cape of Good Hope for supertankers from the Middle East.
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