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Matt Wiser 12-12-2014 08:35 PM

Semi-OT: Red Dawn fan fic
Guys, if you're interested in something that one could use as background for PCs or NPCs, or want to use T2K rules for an alternate setting, there's a timeline for the Red Dawn (1984) universe, and I've done some fanfic. My character is a USAF officer and F-4E pilot (F-15Es postwar), and I've also done some from a POW's point of view as well. If you're interested, let me know.

schnickelfritz 12-12-2014 10:11 PM

Really? Let's have it...sounds cool!

Milano 12-13-2014 11:27 AM

That does sound pretty neat. I would love to see it.

stormlion1 12-13-2014 11:51 AM

Red Dawn has always been a favorite of mine. Enough to read through all 300 pages on Alt-History of the continuation of it. So lets have it!

Matt Wiser 12-13-2014 06:16 PM

Very well....I'll get some up later tonight.

Matt Wiser 12-13-2014 06:19 PM

Might as well start with the first one I did, and yes, there's a couple of shout-outs here....

Welcome to the 335th: Kara's First Day

Williams AFB, Arizona. 6 May

Captain Kara Thrace looked out the window of the C-130E that was bringing her to her new unit: the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, “The Chiefs”. Normally part of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, the squadron had been at Red Flag on Invasion Day, and ever since, had been OpCon to the Marines' MAG-11. The squadron, along with a couple of others under Marine command in other theaters, was known as “The Orphans of the Air Force”, and some had felt the unit had “Gone Jarhead”. She wondered if she'd fit in with a bunch of Marine-loving Blue-Suiters, but given her record, fitting in might be a problem. First in the class in pilot training and the RTU at Kingsley Field, and that bastard Tigh sends me off to be a ferry pilot, she thought. Though that duty had had its moments, like the time a nurse riding space-available in a KC-135 had flashed the Phantoms being refueled on the Hickam-March leg of a flight, or being at Kadena when North Korean commandos had infiltrated ashore from a submarine, and the call “Sappers in the wire!” had gone out. Now that had been a wild night.

As she looked out the window, she saw the metal revetments that Air Force Engineers, or Seabees, had built, similar to those used in Vietnam, when bases had been targets of VC rocket or mortar attack. Telling the 335th's birds apart from the others had been easy: they were still in the SEA camouflage scheme, where the Marine Phantoms were in that drab TPS gray color. Kara noticed not just Phantoms, but Skyhawks, Hornets, A-6 Intruders, and AF Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopters. It was obvious that Williams, a former Air Training Command base, was a busy place.

“Captain, you'd better buckle up,” the loadmaster said as he came by. “We're getting ready to land.”

She obeyed, and fastened her seat belt in the seats paratroopers normally used, while the cargo pallets took up the rest of the space. Other than an RAF officer, Flight Lt. Kendra Shaw, who was assigned to a Marine squadron as an exchange officer, she was the only passenger on the Herky-bird, and was eager to get to where she was going.

The C-130 touched down, and to her surprise, there weren't that many bumps. Williams had been hit by Su-24s a couple of times, and though the runway had been cratered, it had been repaired. Then the C-130 taxied over to the transient ramp, and shut down. She picked up her bag and went down the ramp, where she found an AF staff sergeant. “Where's the 335th?” she asked.

“Are you reporting there, Captain?” he replied.

“That's right.”

“No problem, Ma'am.” He pointed over to a building that had been the squadron office for a T-37 unit prewar. “They're in there, and you can't miss' em.”

“Thanks, Sergeant.” Kara walked over to the building, where it was obvious the building was under new management: the old flying training squadron's signs had been taken down and a new one put up above the main entrance: “335th TFS: The Air Force's Bastard Orphans.” Taking a breath, she opened the door and went inside.

The first thing she noticed was that everyone was either in a flight suit or BDUs, and the second thing was that everyone also had a sidearm. Then an officer in BDUs bumped into her.

“Sorry about that, Captain.”

“No problem, Lieutenant. Where's the CO? I need to report in.” Kara said.

“CO's at a conference. The Exec's running the show while he's gone. Follow me, I'll take you to him.”

“Thanks, Lieutenant..”

“O'Donnell, Kevin. I'm one of the maintenance officers.”

“Nice to meet you.” O'Donnell took her to the Exec's office, and knocked.

“Come on in, door's open.” a voice replied to the knock.

“He's in there, Ma'am.”

“Thanks.” With that, she took another deep breath and walked in. She found another captain like her, in his flight suit this time, and he was pouring over a TPC chart of New Mexico. “Reporting for duty, Captain. I'm Captain Thrace.”

“Nice to meet you. I'm Matt Wiser. Call sign Guru. Have a seat.”

Kara sat down and looked around the office. Photos of not only F-4s, but classic warbirds, lined the wall. A map showing the current battle lines in the Lower 48, and another showing the Canadian Theater, was also prominent.

“You're probably wondering why a Captain is XO of a fighter squadron?” he asked.

“The thought had occurred to me.” Kara replied.

“The previous CO felt that experience counts more than seniority, and that was that. It's what Robin Olds did in Vietnam when he ran the Wolfpack, and that got results. Same thing here. And so far, it's worked like a charm.”

“How'd you get the job, though?” Kara wondered.

“Long story short: I was squadron ops officer, and the previous Exec got himself killed. His WSO bailed out, and for all we know, he's behind barbed wire, eating kasha and borscht. The CO felt I'd do a better job in the slot than this eager-beaver Major we've got, who is Frank Burns in an AF uniform. He's done nothing but complain, but his complaints get thrown in the garbage, and everyone in the squadron wants to do the same with him. Be warned: watch out for this clown.” Guru looked at her, and he went on, “Got your orders and personnel jacket?”

“Right here.” She passed her personnel folder over. He opened it and started to read.

“Impressive. First in your class at Kingsley Field. So why did they send you to be a ferry pilot?”

“I rubbed a superior asshole the wrong way,” she responded.

“And that asshole pulled some strings, and voila, you're on the TransPac Ferry Run.”

“Something like that.”

“Well, if it's combat you want, you've come to the right place. For your information, we fly at least 75% of our tasking as air-to-ground, so if you're looking to run up a score, you'll have to take whatever gets past the MiGCAP or TARCAP. We don't go MiG hunting. That's the job of the Marines or the F-15s from Luke.” Guru told her.

“Air-to-mud...As long as it hurts the Commies, I don't mind.” Kara responded.

“Good. But we've got several aces in the squadron. And air-to-air does come from time to time, and if it does, make the most of it.”

“Are you one of the aces?” Kara asked.

“Yes. Six kills, with two-three probables. And some time camping with the Resistance. Five months in Southern Colorado; running, hiding, fighting, and trying to stay alive. In no particular order,” Guru said, trying to forget some very unpleasant memories of his escape-and-evasion.

“Sorry I asked.”

“No problem. Anyway, you're going to be my wingman. Judd Brewster, or Braniac, is your WSO. The guy you're replacing got killed two weeks ago-by SA-6, and the Jolly Greens got to Braniac before the bad guys. Listen to him, and you have a good chance of getting past ten missions. FYI two-thirds of our losses are people who don't make it to ten missions. Get past that, and your chances of survival increase. And we don't rotate people out of combat like in past wars. We're in for the duration, Kara. However long that is. They rotate the unit, not people.” Guru told her.

“So I've been told.” Kara said.

“Good. Now, when you're in the squadron, the dress code's pretty relaxed. Flight suits or BDUs, as you probably noticed. There's a time for spit-and-polish, and that's few and very far between. Always have your CW gear handy-we've never been attacked, but the base commander is fond of CW drills at least once a week. And get yourself a sidearm, not to mention a call sign, or do you have one?”

“They called me Starbuck, over at Kingsley Field. For some reason, they think I'm a female version of Dirk Benedict,” she told him.

He looked at her. With the cropped blond hair, she did look like the Battlestar: Galactica actor. “As for the sidearm, either get a .38 through Supply, or you can do what practically everyone else did. There's a couple of gun shops we've done business with; one in Scottsdale, and the other in Mesa. They can get you whatever you want, within reason,” Wiser pointed out.

“I'll take care of that ASAP,” she replied.

He nodded. “Care to meet your WSO, and mine?”

“Might as well.”

Guru got up and walked to the office door. He waved Capt. Mark Ellis, who was his replacement as Ops Officer, over. “Find Lisa and Braniac and get them to my office. And get 512 and 520 up and ready: two Sparrows, four Sidewinders, three tanks, and full 20 mike-mike for both planes.”

“Gotcha, boss. What's up?” Ellis asked.

“Breaking in a new wingman, Mark. Call MAG-11 and have them notify Tenth Air Force about the flight.” He looked at Ellis, who was staring at him. “Now, Mark.”

“On the way, Guru.” Ellis ran for his desk and picked up the phone. Guru went back into the office.

“Just out of curiosity, who'd you piss off at Kingsley Field?”

“Hear the name Colonel Saul Tigh?” Kara asked.

“I've heard about him: three tours in Vietnam, almost as much hair as a pool ball, divorced, and alternating on and off the wagon?”

“The same. I'd add stubborn: you either fly his way, or when you graduate, you don't go where you want,” she said.

“That's him...” A knock on the door interrupted his thought. “In!” He said.

A pair of WSOs, one male and one female, came in. The male WSO had short cropped hair, and looked like he was a linebacker for the San Diego Chargers. The female WSO was a blonde like Kara, only she wore her hair as long as regulations permitted, and even in a flight suit, she looked like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. “Captains Brewster and Eichhorn, meet Captain Kara Thrace, call sign Starbuck,” Guru told the pair.

After handshakes were exchanged, he went on. “Braniac, she's your new pilot. Keep her alive past ten missions, and you'll both get through this. Lisa, you up for a ride today?”

Capt. Lisa Eichhorn, call sign Goalie, said, “I thought were were on a stand-down? What's up?”

“We're giving Kara, or Starbuck as her call sign goes, her theater indoctrination ride. A nice scenic tour of Western New Mexico, from Las Cruces to Albuquerque. And if somebody out of Holloman or Roswell jumps us, we'll see how good she is at air-to-air. If not, we'll head over to the Plains of San Augustin and do some ACM.”

“Sounds good, Guru. When do we go?” Goalie replied.

He picked up his office phone and called Ops. He listened for a few minutes, then said, “Thanks,” before hanging up and looking at the trio. “Wheels up in thirty mikes. We'll brief on the tarmac.” They all nodded. “Goalie, take our new wingman over to the Life Support shop, get her a helmet, G-Suit, and harness. Meet us at 512's shelter. You'll be in 520, Starbuck. No trolling for MiGs, though. Only if they come across the Rio Grande. Any other questions?” There were none. “OK, see you at 512.”

45 minutes later, over Southwestern New Mexico.....

Both Phantoms were already in Combat Spread, heading east towards the Rio Grande and the front lines. There was some chatter on the radio, and the squadron used a discrete channel for such talk.

“Battle lines here have been stagnant since the early days. And we've got the ComBloc's Second String, or maybe Third String, out here. Don't be fooled, though: an SA-6 stamped “1974” on its data plate can kill you just as easily as a brand-new SA-11. The same goes for MiGs. An old MiG-21 or early -23 can still get you if you're not careful.” Guru radioed to Starbuck. “Got that, Two?”

“Copy, Lead. That it dead ahead?”

“That's the Rio Grande, Two. Anything past that is bad-guy land. Turn left, and follow me.” He put his F-4 into a turn, and she followed him. Looking down from 12,000 feet, she could see well into enemy-occupied territory. Then threat receivers in both planes began to chirp.

“Air-Search radar, bearing 090, Lead.”

“Got it, Two. Like I said, let them come to us.”

Then the AWACS came on the line. “Saber One-One, Crystal Palace. Two bandits, 087 for 40, closing.”

“Crystal Palace, Saber One-One. Copy that. Say Bogey Dope?” Guru responded.

“Saber One-One, Crystal Palace. Bandits are Floggers.” That meant MiG-23s.

“Goalie, watch our three. That's where they'll be at,” Guru called on the intercom.

“Roger that. Crystal Palace, Saber One-One. Bandits across the river?” Goalie called.

“Negative, Saber One-One. Wait one,” The AWACS controller called. “Saber One-One, Crystal Palace. They've crossed the river. Bandits now 040 for 25.”

That's it, Guru said to himself. Fight's on. “Two, this is Lead. Looks like we get to play for real after all. Drop tanks and fight's on!”

“Copy, Lead. Fight's on,” Kara replied.

In both back seats, the WSOs had their radars up, trying to pick up the bandits. Quickly, both backseaters had the MiGs on their radars. Then AWACS called again.

“Saber Flight, Crystal Palace. Bandits now on your nose, fifteen miles.”

“Roger that, Crystal Palace,” Guru called back. “Judy.”

With the Judy call, both Phantoms were now in control of the fight. Guru called Goalie and told her to go Boresight, which linked the radar to the gunsight. All he had to do was put the pipper on the target, and the system would lock. Or so he hoped. The AIM-7 was still notorious for unreliability, though the Eagle drivers were now swearing by them. Then he heard a tone in his headset. Missile lock. He pressed the button on the stick. “Fox One!” He waited a moment, then pressed the button again. “Fox One again!”

Two AIM-7s were now streaking toward their target. In the lead MiG-23, the Soviet flight leader was trying to pick up both F-4s on his radar, so he could send the pair of R-24 missiles he had under his wings to one of them. Then his threat receiver lit up, and he called the break.

“Missed, damn it! Time for a knife fight, Guru.” Goalie called over the intercom.

“Got it. Going Heat.” He turned the weapons select switch to HEAT, and his four AIM-9 Sidewinders. Then he called Kara. “Two, Lead, how's it going?”

“Goose-egg, boss. Time to go heat,” she called back. “They're breaking right.”

“Got it, two. I'll take the one on the left.”

The two F-4s then broke for their targets. The MiG-23 was at a disadvantage in a turning fight, and had horrible rear visibility, not to mention that its wing sweep had to be set manually by the pilot. Both F-4s took advantage of that, and ate up the distance. Inside of a mile, Guru put his pipper on the MiG-23, and got the growl of a Sidewinder looking for a heat source. Then the growl got shrill as the missile locked on target. “Fox Two!” He called, as he sent the first AIM-9 on its way.

The Sidewinder left its rail and tracked towards the MiG. In the cockpit, the MiG leader was turning his head, trying to see the Phantom that he knew was out there. Then he heard a bang, and as he grabbed for his ejection seat handle, heard another explosion. The last thing he heard as he was engulfed in the fireball was his screaming.

In 512, Guru and Goalie looked out as their missile flew up the MiG's tailpipe. There was a small explosion at first as the missile warhead detonated, then a larger one as the MiG's fuel tanks exploded. “Splash One!” they yelled over the radio.

Kara was in her own fight. As she heard Lead call Fox Two, she was trying to get lock on the second MiG. Her bandit was turning and twisting in the sky, trying to get the Phantom off his tail. And as he did so, he did two things: first, he was getting deeper into U.S. territory; and second, he was letting Kara close in.

Starbuck put the pipper on the MiG's tail, and as the growl came over the headset, said, “Come on. Come on, you.” Then she got the shrill growl in the headset that signaled lock. “Fox Two!”

Her AIM-9 streaked off the rail and tore the path of a rattlesnake across the sky as it sought out the MiG. In the MiG's cockpit, the Soviet pilot had heard his leader's death cry, and he was swinging his head left and right, looking for his attacker. He caught a glimpse of an F-4 to his left, and banked toward it. That was the last thing he did and saw, as Kara's missile flew up his tailpipe and detonated, turning the MiG-23 into a fireball.

Seeing the MiG explode, Kara yelled, “Two's a Splash!”

“Copy, Two. Any chutes?” Guru called.

“Negative chutes, Lead.”

“Roger that. Crystal Palace, Saber One-One,” Guru radioed.

“Saber One-One, Crystal Palace, go.”

“Splash two Floggers. No chutes.”

“Roger. Do you need a vector home?” The AWACS controller asked.

“Negative, thanks. We can find it,” Guru said.

“Copy.” With that, the fight was over. Both F-4s joined up in combat spread and headed west. In her Phantom, Kara thought about the fight just concluded. She had made her first kill, and in so doing, had been blooded. The fact that she-and her Lead-had each killed a man meant nothing. As far as she was concerned, the MiGs had come looking for a fight. And they had paid the price. She looked over at her lead's plane.

In 512, both WSO and pilot were talking. “Well, Guru. What do you think about our new squadron mate?” Goalie asked.

“I'm thinking, I'm thinking.” he replied. “I thought. Two, this is Lead.”

“Go, Lead. This is two.” Kara responded.

“Welcome to the 335th. You just found a home.” Guru said.

“Thanks, Lead. Now I've got a question for your backseater,” Kara said, her voice showing her pride.

“Go, Two, What's on your mind?” Goalie said.

“What the hell kind of call sign is Goalie?” Kara wanted to know.

Beneath her oxygen mask, Lisa broke out in laughter. And so did Guru and Braniac beneath theirs.

“What's so god-damned funny?” Kara asked.

“The RTU,” Goalie said. “Every instructor WSO there tried to score with me. And they all failed. When I graduated, they gave me the call sign,” Lisa said, still laughing. And after a moment, Kara joined the laughter. Like her Exec had said, she'd found a home.

White Sands, NM: in Occupied Territory:

Unknown to any of the Phantom crews, a joint Soviet/Cuban SIGINT station was listening in on the tail end of the conversation. The Soviet operator, a young man drafted out of Moscow State University and chosen for his English-Language skills, was furiously writing down everything he heard. From their conversation, he knew that these Imperialists had just destroyed two Soviet fighters, and they were now laughing about it. Just as the Political Officer said, they have no regard for life, he thought. Suddenly, he lost the conversation. He took off his earphones and got up to take his notes to the duty officer to turn them in.

“So, what do you have, Comrade?”

“Some American fighter pilots laughing about their recent kills, Comrade Major,” the Sergeant replied, handing over the notes.

The GRU Major scanned them. Perplexed, he looked at the operator. “What did this one mean, by 'score with me?'”

“Comrade Major, I have no idea. These Americans and their slang. It gets confusing at times,” the Sergeant said.

Matt Wiser 12-14-2014 12:40 AM

The Prequel....

Ace Mission

Williams AFB, AZ: 21 April 1987 1425 Hours Mountain War Time

For Captain Matt Wiser, Executive Officer of the 335th TFS and his WSO, Captain Lisa Eichhorn, it had already been a busy day. They had flown two combat missions already, the first one being a strike into the Denver area to hit some artillery positions that had been making the lives of those in the besieged city a nightmare, and taking out a battery of 180-mm guns certainly eased the pressure on the city's defenders. Then their second mission had been a close-air support run near Soccoro, New Mexico, giving a hand to the Taiwanese Division when they'd had some Cuban artillery firing across the Rio Grande. Now, they were getting ready for their third, and hopefully, final mission, of the day.

Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, the Squadron CO, gave Capt. Wiser, call sign Guru, the mission. A pair of supply dumps, one for fuel, the other for ammunition, had been identified near Vaughn, New Mexico, and someone wanted it taken out. Though this kind of deep strike mission was normally a job for F-111s, or Marine A-6s of MAG-11, those deep strike assets were busy. And so the 335th got the call. But with so many missions, and not enough assets, the strike didn't make Guru happy. First, their electronic warfare support would only be a Marine EA-6B Prowler, but doing standoff jamming, instead of going in to directly support the strike planes. And then, they wouldn't have any F-4G Wild Weasels going with them to kill any SAM or AAA radars, as on this day they would be going in with the F-111s and A-6s. Next, the Marine F/A-18s that often accompanied strike birds to fight off MiGs would hold at the Rio Grande: at least two other strikes were going in at the same time, so the Hornets would be on call to support whoever called for help. Finally, this would be a two-ship mission. Shaking his head, Captain Wiser went to the old classroom at what prewar had been a T-37 flying training squadron's HQ to brief his flight.

He came into the room and found his WSO talking with 2nd Lt. Bryan Simmonds, whose pilot was Wiser's wingmate, 1st Lt. Valerie Blanchard, call sign Sweaty. Blanchard saw her flight lead come in, and asked the Exec, “What's up now?”

“We've got another deep-strike run. It's a two-ship, and no, I don't like this one at all,” Wiser told his flight.

Captain Eichhorn, call sign Goalie, looked at her pilot. “What do you mean?”

“I'll tell you.” And Guru proceeded to tell his flight what the CO had told him.

“Ah, for Pete's sake, Guru,” Sweaty said, “This is asking for somebody to get themselves killed.”

“Tell me about it, Sweaty,” the Exec replied. “No Weasels, no strike escort jamming, and no TARCAP.”

Simmonds, whose call sign was Preacher, asked, “So how do we do it?”

“Simple, guys. I'll tell you,” Guru said as he pulled out a TPC Chart of Central New Mexico. “Here's the river. After topping off from the tankers, we go in low. There's a mountain pass here, east of the Rio Grande and south of U.S. 60, which is a main east-west MSR for Ivan and Fidel in this part of New Mexico. With me so far?”

Heads nodded in the affirmative. “We stay low about 600 feet AGL. Go in north of Gallinas Peak, which is 8600 feet or so, then find U.S. 54 north of Corona. Then we go east and pick up U.S. 285. Then we turn north and pick up U.S. 60. We stay low at all times, until we're one minute from the target. Standard pop-up, ID our targets, and one pass only, low and fast.”

“Targets?” Sweaty asked.

“Yep. Targets. I'm taking the ammo dump on the north side of U.S. 60, just west of town. You've got the fuel dump at the U.S. 54/60/285 junction. We each get a dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes to set 'em both off. Got that?”

Sweaty and Preacher nodded.

“After that, it's a straight run to the southwest and the river. Make sure your IFF is on before you cross the river. Get into the safe transit lane, verify IFF is on, and we should be OK, though nothing's certain with those Army pukes who handle air defense,” Guru reminded his flight. “Once we're clear of the river, climb up, hit the tanker track for post-strike refueling, and come on home.”

Goalie asked her pilot, “Ordnance load?”

“Besides the Mark-82s, you mean?” When Goalie nodded yes, he went on, “Two AIM-7Es in the rear wells, four AIM-9Js, an ALQ-101 pod in the left front Sparrow well, and a full load of 20-millimeter. And two wing tanks, as usual.

“Now, defenses,” Guru went on, and he saw that he had everyone's rapt attention. “Two batteries of 57-mm, one on the north side of town, the other just to the east. There's overlapping coverage,and yeah, I do wish we had a couple of Hornets for Flak Suppression, but nothing we can do about it. There's also some ZU-23s, and you can bet everyone down there has access to SA-7s or -14s. Not to mention this: somebody there thinks it's worth protecting, because there's an SA-2 site as well.”

“SA-2!?” Both Goalie and Sweaty said at the same time.

“That's right. Just as long as you stay 2000 feet AGL or below, you're below the SA-2's minimum altitude, and five miles is their minimum range, so we should be okay on that score.”

“Bailout areas?” Sweaty wanted to know.

“Best bailout areas are away from the roads, and the Cibola National Forest west of Corona. The Jolly Greens have done good in those areas, so that's your best bet,” Guru said.

“Any chance of MiGs?” Preacher asked.

“Nearest MiG fields are Holloman, Alamogordo Regional, White Sands Space Harbor-yeah, they're using the Shuttle strip there for MiG-23s, Roswell, Cannon, and Cannon City near Carlsbad. Not Kirtland: it's too exposed to friendly artillery fire. If we get company, it'll either be from Cannon or Roswell. Hopefully, we won't have to worry: we'll be too low and too fast. Even the MiG-29s have had trouble picking us up in the ground clutter, but don't take it for granted,” Guru reminded everyone.

“Sounds familiar,” Goalie said.

“I know, Goalie,” Guru said. “If we need 'em, the Hornets will be there, and even if they're busy, there's F-15 MIGCAPs west of the river. They've bailed us out before more than once, remember?”

Heads nodded again. The Exec looked at his flight. “Any other questions?” He asked. There were none. “Okay. Wheels up in fifteen mikes. Get your gear, and see you on the ramp.”

Forty-five minutes later: Over Central New Mexico:

Firebird flight was headed east, having penetrated into enemy territory without any problems. As they flew over the New Mexico prairie, the crews saw the numerous ranches that were seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. Several AF and Marine crews had bailed out over those ranches, and the ranchers and their families put themselves at considerable risk to hide the downed aircrew until arrangements could be made for the Jolly Greens to come in and pick them up. With luck, the war would continue to pass these people by, until the day when those ComBloc bastards got kicked back across the Rio Grande. The flight kept on going, 600 feet above ground level at nearly 500 knots, too low for any ground radar to pick them up, and with luck, any airborne radar would have trouble picking them up out of the ground clutter.

“Passing Highway 54, Guru,” Goalie called. She was handling the navigation, as usual.

“Roger that. Three minutes to 285,” Guru called back. He was keeping his head on a swivel, watching for any terrain, power lines, or enemy aircraft. One never got complacent in a fighter cockpit, something he'd had drummed into his head in the F-4 RTU before the war.

“Lead, Two,” Sweaty called. “All clear so far.”


The two Phantoms headed east, and then they picked up U.S. 285. The two-lane main highway was also a key supply route, and it was a favorite target for the A-6s and F-111s when they did interdiction work or armed reconnaissance, among other roads. As they passed over the highway, Goalie called “One minute to turn.”

“One minute,” Guru repeated.

“And turn,” Goalie called again.

Both F-4s made their turn northeast, and at that speed, it was only a minute until they found U.S. 60. Then they turned west, flying parallel to the road. Fortunately, there was no supply or other traffic on the road, but another problem came up. With the sun setting in their faces, helmet visors came down. Then it was time. “Thirty seconds, Guru.”

“Roger, thirty seconds,” Guru responded. Then he called Sweaty, “Two, Lead. Switches on, and let's go in.”

“Copy, Lead. Right behind you,” Sweaty called back.

The two Phantoms pulled up to about 1500 feet AGL. Vaughn was straight ahead. “Target in sight. Lead is in hot.” Guru said as he made his call.

Guru rolled in on the bomb run. He flew over the little town and picked up the camouflaged ammo dump north of the highway. He put his pipper on the middle of the dump and pickled off his twelve Mark-82s. “Lead off target.”

As it had happened so many times before, the first hint to the Soviet and Cuban defenders below was Guru's first bomb exploding. He expertly walked his twelve bombs across the ammo dump, and was rewarded with several huge secondary explosions as stored tank and artillery shells, along with other munitions, exploded, with each explosion setting off more.

Just after that, Sweaty rolled in. “Two in hot!” And just as her lead had done, she walked her bombs across her target, the fuel dump. The Soviets had placed fuel drums, rubber fuel bladders, and had even parked some tank trucks, inside the dump, and covered it with camo netting. But that didn't help, as Sweaty and Preacher's bombs went off in several orange and black fireballs, and again, sympathetic detonations followed as fires reached stored fuel and those drums or tanks went off. And not a single shot had been fired by the defenders. Just as Guru had hoped, they were too low, and were in and out fast, before the defenders could react.

“Two's off target,” Sweaty called.

“Roger, Two. Form on me, and Music on.” That meant their ALQ-101 ECM Pods were now on.

Both Phantoms formed up and headed to the southwest. As they approached the Gallinas Peak and passed it, heading over the Chupadera Mesa, AWACS called.

“Firebird One-One, Warlock. Bandits, Bandits. One-eight-zero for thirty-five.”

“Warlock, Firebird One-One. Copy. Can you get the Hornets on the bandits?” Guru called.

“Negative, Firebird. Hornets are engaged. Now One-seven-zero for twenty-five.” Warlock radioed back.

Fight's on, then. Guru thought. He called Sweaty, not by mission code, but call sign. “Sweaty, Guru. Drop tanks and fight's on!”

“Copy, Guru. Tanks gone and fight's on.” She replied.

Both Phantoms turned to face their attackers. The WSOs had their radars on, looking for their targets. Then AWACS called again.

“Firebird One-One, Warlock. Bandits on your nose, fourteen miles.”

“Roger that, Warlock,” Said Guru. “Judy.” And with the Judy-call, that meant the F-4s were taking over the intercept. Guru looked at his radar repeater. Two bandits were closing in. Then he picked up a hit on his EW warning gear. Someone was trying to lock them up.

“Can you get a lock?” Guru asked Goalie.

“No joy on that,” Goalie replied. “Looks like we'll merge.”

“Sweaty, you guys have a lock?” Guru asked his wingmate.

“We've got lock!” Sweaty called back.

“Take him.”

With that, Sweaty squeezed the trigger on her stick, not even bothering to give a Fox One call. First one, then two, AIM-7Es went off the Phantom and headed to their target. The first missile burned out and fell away, but the second flew straight and true. It looked like the bandit had turned at the last minute when he realized that he was under attack, but that didn't help him. The Sparrow flew straight through the cockpit and the enemy plane fireballed. And it was Sweaty who ID'd the bandit. “Splash one Fulcrum!”

MiG-29s, Guru thought. Our lucky day. “Other guy's turning, I've got him.” He called.

This MiG-29 was flown by the Soviet flight leader. He and his wingman had been trying to lock the Americans up for their R-27R radar-guided missiles, but the jamming and the fact that the radar on the MiG-29 still had problems in look-down/shoot-down mode meant he'd have to go into a turning fight. And that was spoiled as he saw his wingman, a young Lieutenant who was only a Pilot 3rd Class, explode as the Sparrow missile buried itself in the cockpit of the MiG and exploded. There was no parachute. As he banked away, he saw the second Phantom pull up.

Guru put the F-4 into a climb, then stomped his left rudder and pitched downwards, gaining energy as he dove. He saw the MiG-29 pull to the right, and he easily applied right rudder and maneuvered onto the MiG's Six. Too close for Sparrows, he switched the weapons-control panel to HEAT. His AIM-9Js were armed, and the seeker of one missile growled in his headset. The missile was tracking the MiG. Then it growled really loud. Missile lock. “Fox Two!”

His first AIM-9 left the rail and tracked the MiG. The Soviet pilot put out flares and chaff to decoy the missile, and the missile tracked a flare as Guru watched. He fired again. “Fox Two again!”

This time, the MiG turned to the left, but the AIM-9J kept tracking the MiG. The pilot put out more flares, but this time, it didn't help. The Sidewinder flew up the tailpipe of one of the MiG's two engines and detonated. And the explosion blew the port vertical stabilizer right off the aircraft.

The Soviet flight leader saw the second missile coming at almost the last moment, and as he put out more flares, he was reaching for his ejection seat handle, almost by instinct. He heard and felt the explosion, and lost control of his plane. And so he fired his K-36D ejection seat.

“Splash Two!” Goalie called as the MiG exploded. As Guru closed in, both pilot and WSO watched as the ejection seat fired, and the pilot was soon in his chute. His plane trailing fire, it plunged into the desert floor below and exploded on impact.

“Good kill, Lead!” Sweaty called as the MiG crashed.

“Copy that. Form on me and let's get the hell out of here,” Guru said. And both Phantoms formed up and headed back across the Rio Grande and friendly territory. And Guru called the AWACS.

“Warlock, Firebird One-One.”

“Firebird One-One, Warlock. Go.”

“Splash two Fulcrums. One chute.”

“Roger, Firebird. We copy. Do you need a vector to the tankers?”

“Affirmative, Warlock,” replied Guru.

Warlock vectored the F-4s to the tanker track near the Continental Divide. After getting enough fuel to head home, both Phantoms headed back to Williams. Before they landed, both F-4 drivers did Victory Rolls, signaling to those below that kills had been made by the pair. Then the two Phantoms formed up again, entered the traffic pattern, and landed.

As Guru taxied 512 to his revetment, he noticed a crowd gathering. He was curious as to what was so important about this time. It wasn't the first MiG he'd killed, he knew. Maybe because this one's a MiG-29, perhaps? After he taxied in, and parked, he shut down the engines. The ground crew brought the crew ladders up as the crew raised their canopies. Guru stood up in the cockpit, holding up one finger to signal a kill to those waiting for him. He noticed Colonel Rivers among those in the crowd. But Guru didn't notice several others waiting with buckets of ice water. But Goalie did. She kept her mouth shut as Guru went to speak to the CO. And then it happened.

Several of the other pilots in the squadron dumped the buckets of ice-cold water all over Guru! “What the hell?” he asked.

Colonel Rivers said, “Looks like our new ace lost track of how many kills he had before today. Nice of you folks to remind him.”

Guru said, “Thanks a bunch, guys. Guess I did lose track,”

Colonel Rivers then was all business. “What was it, Captain?” he wanted to know.

“Fulcrums, Boss. Sweaty got one with Sparrow, and I got the leader with Sidewinder. Her guy didn't get out, but the leader did,” Guru responded.

Sweaty and Preacher came over. They had missed the fun, but laughed when they saw Guru soaking wet! They knew, as did Goalie. Rivers then turned to Sweaty and Preacher. “Two squadron MiG-29 killers in one day. Good work, all of you,” he said, shaking hands of all four crewers.

Then Marine Colonel Allan Brady came over. He commanded MAG-11, which the 335th was serving under. “A pilot ace, and a pair of MiG-29 killers, all on the same hop. Well done, people.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Guru said.

“That's not all, Captain. Making ace is something to be recognized. First Phantom MiG-29 kills in MAG-11, and they happen to be from the Air Force. There's a DFC with your name on it coming as fast as the paperwork can be processed, and all of your flight members get Silver Stars.

Goalie smiled, while Sweaty and Preacher were beaming. Guru just stood there, shaking hands with the other pilots, then he walked over to his crew chief and the ground crew to thank them. Then Colonel Rivers spoke. “All right, people. Get debriefed, and then head over to the O Club. Guru's an ace, while Sweaty and Preacher have their first MiG-29. Two reasons to celebrate.”

“And the first round's on me!” Colonel Brady joined in, to rousing cheers. “But remember, knock it off at 2200. Another full day coming up.”

After the debrief, the party did get going. And the flight surgeons, both Air Force and Navy (who handed medical needs for the Marines), enforced the twelve-hour rule. So that next morning, those flying would be ready to go out and do it again. And they did.

Matt Wiser 12-14-2014 12:42 AM

And the next....can't believe I was churning them out this fast when I got started.

Phantom v. Foxbat

4 May 1987, 1030 Hours Mountain War Time, Williams AFB, AZ

Captain Matt Wiser of the Air Force's 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron came into the Squadron Operations Room. He was the Squadron's Executive Officer, though that was nominally a Major's billet. However, the CO, Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, had adopted a philosophy that “Experience counts more than rank,” and had been supported in that by the CO of MAG-11, to which the 335th had been “chopped” since the early days of the war, and by General Tanner, who commanded Tenth Air Force in the Desert Southwest. And there had been plenty of good results to verify success, despite the naysayers, who even included a very disgusted major in the 335th, who gave everyone in the squadron fits. To everyone, the man was a jerk who'd never made the transition from peace to war, and thought his Academy ring made him an expert on everything. And finding out the CO-and the few other Academy grads in the 335th-didn't see the same way as he did appalled the eager major. Even Capt. Wiser and his WSO had crossed paths with the man, who'd tried to have them written up for violating a fraternization regulation that had been discarded for about a year. Shaking his head at the thought, the young Captain went in to see Capt. Mark Ellis, who was Squadron Ops Officer. “Mark, what have you got for me now?” he asked.

“I see you got back from that run to Pueblo okay, Guru,” Ellis said. Guru was Wiser's call sign.

“Yeah, that place still has some memories: I got shot down not too far south of there, and there's quite a few things I'd rather not talk about.” Guru said, remembering his time with the Resistance. “And it's still hairy: flak and SA-6s still.”

“I know. Anyway, here's a change of pace: escort. The 152nd is sending an RF-4C to Clovis in New Mexico on a photo run, and they need two Es for escort. You and Sweaty are available, so you're it.” Ellis said.

“Where's the photo driver?” Guru asked.

“Right here, Captain,” a voice came from the hall. Capt. Sharon Valerri-Park came over and put out her hand.

“Nice to meet you, Captain. How long with the High Rollers?” Guru asked.

“About six months. I used to be a T-38 IP at Columbus AFB in Mississippi, and when combat was opened to females, I asked for RF-4s. My dad flew Photo Phantoms in Southeast Asia, so I'm carrying on the legacy.” Park said.

“Good enough. My call sign's Guru. What's yours?”

“Athena,” Park said. “Yeah, I know, I don't look like the Battlestar: Galactica actress, but somebody thought I did, so it stuck.”

Guru nodded. “When do we go?” he asked Ellis.

“Forty minutes, Guru,” Ellis replied. “You'd best get Goalie, Sweaty, and Preacher in the briefing room.”

“Will do, Mark.” the XO replied. “We'll see you there, Athena.”

A few minutes later, they met in the briefing room. Guru brought in his WSO, Capt. Lisa Eichhorn, call sign Goalie, and his wingmate, 1st Lt. Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard, and her WSO, 2nd Lt. Bryan “Preacher” Simmonds. Athena was there, along with her navigator, 1st Lt. Karl “Helo” Agathon, and the SIO (Squadron Intelligence Officer), 1st Lt. Darren Licon. After introductions, they got down to business.

“OK, here's the deal,” Licon said, starting the brief, “They want detailed shots of Clovis Municipal, Clovis proper, and Cannon. That means a low-level run, and you know what that means.”

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Low and fast, pop up to do the photo shoot, and then drop back low again. And we're low enough to attract the attention of anybody and everybody with a gun.”

“That's about it,” Licon said. “Captain Park, show your planned route, please.”

Athena went to the wall, where a TPC chart of New Mexico had been posted, and she traced the route with a pointer. After refueling from the KC-135s over Western New Mexico, it was a low-level run at 600 feet AGL through Central New Mexico, and the crews of the 335th, having flown numerous missions into enemy territory there, knew the area like the backs of their hands. Only this time, the flight path took them just over the Texas state line, before turning back west for the photo run. They would pop up to 1200 feet AGL for the photo run, and at that speed and altitude, it would take only two minutes to cover the planned targets. Once clear of Cannon AFB's defenses, the Phantoms would drop back low, and stay low all the way back to the Rio Grande. Then they would climb up once in friendly territory, hook up with the tanker track at the Continental Divide, before returning to Williams.

“Sounds good to me,” Guru said. He turned to the members of his flight. “Questions?”

“MiG threat same as before? Sweaty asked, remembering a strike two weeks earlier when they had encountered two MiG-29s, and killed both. That had been her first kill, and had also made Guru an ace.

“That's right. MiGs are at Cannon-and they're believed to be a mix of Foxbats and Floggers,” Licon said. White Sands Space Harbor also has -29s, while Holloman has -23s, along with Alamogordo Regional, which also has some Sukhois-either -17s or -22s. Roswell and Cannon City have -23s and -21s.”

Nice, Guru thought out loud. “And ground defenses?”

“There's the usual flak threat: 23-mm, 57-mm, and 85-mm,” Licon reported. There's also at least one SA-2 site in the area, and an SA-3 as well near Cannon. An SA-4 has also been reported, but not confirmed. In addition, the city garrison is Cuban, and they're a full-strength MRD. Expect SA-8s as well.”

“You're full of good news today, Darren,” Sweaty quipped. “Weather?”

“Good enough. Partly cloudy, no chance of rain until late afternoon, and winds calm here.” Licon said.

“That's good,” Helo said. “Bailout areas?”

“I'll handle that,” Guru said. “Anyplace away from the roads. Both Ivan and Fidel are too road-bound in this part of the country, and there's plenty of room to hole up until nightfall, and Jolly comes in after you. The ranchers in this part of New Mexico have been pretty much left alone, and they have helped out in the past. Just be as polite as possible, and the SF guys and Jolly Greens have done the rest. They want to ride this thing out without getting burned-and in Colorado, I can say that literally happened-so don't blame them for being cautious in who they help.”

Both the RF-4 crew and Guru's wingmates nodded understanding.

“All right, Ordnance loads: For the photo bird, two wing tanks and one centerline, plus an ALQ-119 ECM pod,” Licon said. “And for escort, two wing and one centerline tanks, two AIM-7Es, four AIM-9Js, and in the left front Sparrow well, an ALQ-101 pod.”

“That it, Darren?” Guru said.

“That's it, XO. You guys can plan how you're going to do it,” the SIO said. “And good luck,” he added on his way out.

“So, the photo bird in the lead, with the two escort birds a mile to a mile and a half back?” Guru asked. “It's your call, Captain.”

Park looked at the map again. “I like it. And you're right behind us, just in case of a MiG scramble.”

Guru nodded. “Sweaty?”

“I'll go along with that,” she said. “Too bad we don't have a Weasel or two coming along. Those SAMs could give us trouble.”

“We'll be too low for most of them, and too fast for the others to react,” Park said, looking at Guru, who nodded. “By the time they get any SA-3, -4, or -8 warmed up and ready to shoot, we're already gone.”

“There's still Shilkas,” Preacher added. “Those things are bad news.”

“Again, we're low and fast, and we've got the ECM pods, for them and the SAMs. Also, by the time anyone pulls out an SA-7 or -14, we're already gone.” Guru pointed out.

“You've done this a lot?” Helo asked.

“Low-level strikes, yeah.” Guru said. “Not just here, but up in Colorado as well. Even a trip into West Texas a time or two. Not that many escorts, but we've brought everybody back.”

Both RF-4 crewers nodded. “That's it, then. Looks like we're in good hands,” Park said. “Guess it's time to go.”

With that, all three crews went to get suited up with G-Suits, helmets, and harnesses. While the RF-4 Crew went to their bird, the two escort crews met at the XO's plane, 512. “Any questions?” the XO asked.

“Combat spread the whole way?” Sweaty asked.

“Yep. And keep your radar off until we get to the pop-up point. That's Farwell, right on the Texas-New Mexico state line. Once we hit that, radar on, switches on, and we're set. And we go by call sign on the radio, not mission code.” Guru said, seeing everyone nod. “Anything else?”

“One thing: why this type of run? Isn't this deep an SR-71 thing?” Preacher asked.

“No way to know,” Guru replied. “Besides, what we don't know, we can't be forced to tell.”

Everyone understood that, knowing that the Soviets and their lackeys would-and often did-force information out of prisoners. And in a way that the prisoner often wished he or she was dead afterwards.

“That it?” asked the XO. Goalie, Sweaty, and Preacher shook their heads. “Good. Let's hit it,” he said, grabbing his helmet.

1145 Hours Mountain War Time: Over Central New Mexico:

The trio of Phantoms sped across New Mexico, at only 600 feet above ground level, and 650 knots. So far, so good, the crews felt. But everyone knew that could change in a heartbeat. And familiar landmarks such as Gallinas Peak went by in a blur as the three-ship streaked into enemy territory at low level. Inside the Phantoms, heads swiveled as pilots and WSOs scanned visually for threats, whether aircraft, flak or SAMs, or natural obstacles.

“Just like Vaughn, Guru,” Goalie said as she scanned the sky.

“Yeah, but this one's a lot farther. Time to pop-up?” Guru replied.

“Six minutes.”

“Copy. Next checkpoint is Highway 20,” Goalie said, referring to State Highway 20. They were south of Fort Sumner by this time.

“Got it,” Guru said as the formation flew past the highway. It, too, served as a supply route for the Soviets and Cubans in the area, and was often visited by A-6s or F-111s doing road recon at night.

The desert and prairie landscape blew by as the Phantoms approached their next checkpoint, U.S. Highway 70 south of Clovis. Off to their left, the crews could just see the town, while off to their right, Portales. One minute to the state line, as the Phantoms turned northeast to the pop-up point, Farwell, right on the State line. There, Athena and Helo would accelerate ahead for the photo run, while Guru's escort element dropped back to cover the Phantom. Goalie made the call, “Pop-up!”

In Athena's RF-4C, Helo made the same call. She pulled up to 1200 feet AGL, and made a hard left turn to get lined up for the photo run. “Music on,” she called.

Helo turned on the ECM pod. “It's going.”

Two miles in trail. Guru made his calls. “Sweaty, Guru. Radar on, Switches on. Drop tanks and let's go.”

“Roger that,” Sweaty called back as the two F-4Es assumed their trail position.

At that altitude and speed, it would take less than two minutes to get the photo coverage that was desired. As the RF-4 flew over Clovis, Helo noted several An-26 type transports, and several helicopters on the ramp at the Municipal Airport, and as they flew over Cannon AFB, numerous MiGs as well. Then, their photo run complete, Athena dropped in low, back to 600 feet.

Guru's escort element, as it made its run, saw some flak begin to come up. Athena's run had caught the defenders by surprise, and the trailing escorts now had some antiaircraft fire to deal with. Their threat receivers, however, were clear, though, so no SAMs-at least the radar-guided variety, were coming up. The ECM pods were working their magic, as usual. Then, as they approached Cannon, Goalie saw it first. “MiG-25 on the roll!”

A MiG-25 Foxbat-E interceptor was on its takeoff roll. The pilot had been scheduled for a patrol, but with the base having just been buzzed by an American reconnaissance aircraft, the pilot was directed to intercept and destroy the intruder. And with a top speed of Mach 2.5, the Foxbat pilot expected to do just that, as he released his brakes and rolled quickly down the runway and into the air.

“Got him,” Guru called. “Sweaty, cover me. I've got him.”

“Go get 'em,” was the reply.

As the two F-4s were coming in, the Soviet tower operators saw the two Phantoms coming in. Not only did they hit the air raid alarm, but they radioed a warning to the MiG-25 pilot. When the two Phantoms blew past the base, those in the tower involuntarily ducked as the two American fighters overflew the base.

As they did so, Guru saw that if he closed the distance with the MiG as he flew out, either he'd overshoot, or would have to take a gun shot. And with the MiG's tough steel hide, he didn't know if he had enough 20-mm to do the job. So he did the next best thing, and Guru put the F-4 into a right barrel roll. That enabled the MiG to continue straight ahead, while allowing Guru to open the distance for a Sidewinder shot.

As he rolled back in level, Guru selected HEAT on his control panel. The Sidewinder's infrared seeker growled in his headset, seeking out the MiG-25's two huge Tumansky engines in afterburner. Then he got a very loud growl. Missile lock. “Fox two!” was Guru's call.

Two AIM-9J missiles streaked off the missile rails. Both flew up the MiG's tailpipes and exploded. Both tails and horizontal stabilizers flew off the Foxbat, and trailing fire, the MiG-25 simply cartwheeled into the desert floor and exploded in a rolling, twisting ball of fire. “Splash one Foxbat!” Goalie yelled.

“Good kill, Guru!” Sweaty was hollering on the radio.

“Roger that. Pinball One-One, Firebird Two-One, you guys are clear.” Guru called.

“Copy that, Firebird.” Athena radioed back.

All three Phantoms then made for the Rio Grande and friendly lines. Again, they were too low and too fast, and gave the main road in the area, U.S. 60, a wide enough berth. Little did they know that three more MiG-25s had scrambled and were looking for them. But with no radar contact from the ground, the three MiG-25 drivers simply flew around randomly, hoping the Americans were still in range of their own radars. Only when their fuel ran low did the three MiGs return to Cannon.

After they cleared the Rio Grande and closed up, Guru called the AWACS. “Warlock, Firebird Two-One.”

“Firebird Two-One, Warlock, Go.”

“Pinball One-One is with us, we are RTB at this time, and splash one Foxbat. No chute.”

“Roger that, Firebird. Do you need a vector to the tankers?”

“Affirmative, Warlock.” Guru replied.

The AWACS controller vectored the Phantoms onto the tanker track, and picked up the fuel they needed from a KC-135. And the trip back to Williams was uneventful. As they entered the traffic pattern, they noticed a C-130 ahead of them making its approach to the base. Only after that C-130 was clear did Athena's bird come in, followed by the two escorts, but before he landed, Guru did a victory roll.. After touchdown, and while Guru taxied into his revetment, he held up a single finger, signaling a kill. And his crew chief and mechanics erupted after he shut down and popped his canopy. “What was it this time, Captain?” his crew chief asked.

“Foxbat. Got him on takeoff,” Guru replied as he looked over at the C-130. “What's the Herky-bird?”

“General Tanner's here. No-notice, they said.” the crew chief replied.

“Oh, boy,” Guru said as he got out. Goalie did at the same time, and they did the usual post-flight check. Sweaty and Preacher came over, and Sweaty was beaming. “Good kill on that MiG-25, Guru.”

“Thanks. I doubt he even saw us. Crappy rear view, and it handles like a pig,” he replied. “That's six now for me, and three for Goalie.”

When she heard that, Goalie was smiling. Three kills now. Two more and she'd be a backseat ace. Too bad it was just after noon, because splashing a Foxbat was worth a couple in the O-Club at least.

Athena and Helo came over, and both of them shook hands with the escort crews. Neither one had seen the MiG-25 coming up, and without Guru behind them, they would most likely be dead now. They were making some small talk as the ground crew unloaded the strike camera film-which when developed later, showed the MiG kill from start to finish. Not that they needed it for verification, with four witnesses, but it was icing on the cake. The crews were just about to go in for the debriefing when Guru's crew chief said, “Captain, brass coming.”

The crews watched as General Tanner, with both Colonel Brady, the MAG-11 commander, and Colonel Rivers came over. Everyone came to attention as the General came in, but he motioned them not to, saying, “This is a base at war, and we can do without this jumping up and down nonsense.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Athena said. It had been her flight, and she was technically the flight lead.

“Good run, Captain?” Tanner asked.

“Good run, sir,” she replied. “Now to see if the photo boys got what they wanted.”

“I was listening to things on the radio, Captains,” Tanner said, looking at Guru. “Did I hear someone say 'Splash one Foxbat?'”

“Yes, sir,” Guru responded. “My WSO made that call.”

“Good work, all of you,” Tanner said. “Get that debrief out of the way, get something to eat, and for you fighter guys, you'll be back in the saddle later today.”

The fighter crews all nodded. “Yes, Sir,”

“There's a good reason I'm here, besides checking up on my 'kids', Tanner said. “MAG-11 and all component units are on a one-week stand-down, effective tomorrow. All Wing, Squadron, and group commanders are to be at Nellis for a conference, so I'll be seeing both Colonel Brady and your own Colonel Rivers tomorrow. Along with every other Wing and Squadron CO in Tenth Air Force.”

Guru gulped. That meant he'd be in charge of the squadron while Rivers was gone. Acting CO? Great. Especially with that punk Major Carson around.

Tanner noticed the gulp. “Don't worry, Captain. I know about that Major Carson, and be assured that anything he sends me over Rivers' head gets tossed into the trash. Rivers feels you're the best one for the job of Exec, and from what I've seen, there's no reason to doubt that. If he trusts you to run the 335th in his absence, then I do as well. And he's told me that if anything happens to him, the 3-3-5 is in good hands with you, Captain.”

“General, if you don't mind me saying this, but that's good to hear.” Guru said.

“You're welcome, Captain,” Tanner said. “Now, get yourselves debriefed, some food in you, and get ready to go back out. The day's not over. But, when flight ops do end, I'm buying the first round at the O-Club. And the first one goes to a Foxbat killer!”

1900 Hours Mountain War Time, Williams AFB Officer's Club:

It was a party atmosphere in the Officer's Club as General Tanner made good on his promise to buy the first round. And as he had also promised, the first beers went to Guru and Goalie in recognition of their MiG-25 kill. After the toast, things settled down, and both crewmates found a booth. “Not that often we get to be pure fighter pilots,” Guru observed.

“What was it you told me when I became your WSO last year?” Goalie said. “'We take 'em however we get 'em?'”

“I seem to recall that,” Guru said, pulling on his Foster's. “Thank God for the Aussies. Who would've guessed that beer is considered 'essential wartime aid?'”

“That's them, I suppose. It beats the home-brew some folks were trying,” Goalie said. “Colonel Rivers coming,”

“Mind if I join you two?” Rivers asked.

“Not a problem, Colonel,” Guru said. “Have a seat.”

Rivers sat down next to Guru. “You do know we're short an element lead now, with Steve Turner being KIA?”

“Yeah, Colonel. Kinda puts a damper on today, though.” Guru observed. “That's another original pilot from Day One gone.” Captain Steve Turner had been in the 335th for a month longer than Guru had been when the war began. He'd been an element lead, and had been shot down once already. After recovering from a broken leg, he'd come back to the squadron, and had requalified as an element leader, with Guru and Mark Ellis ready to recommend to Rivers that he be bumped up to flight lead as soon as possible. Just after Guru had landed his flight, Turner had gone out on a CAS run across from Soccoro, only to fall victim to an SA-6. Neither he nor Tim Cain, his backseater, had gotten out.

“One thing about the 'happy few' is that you always seem to get fewer,” Rivers noted. “Who do you want to replace him as element lead?”

Guru had already made up his mind on that question. “Sweaty. She's got the total stick time, combat time, and she's ready. Not to mention having a MiG-29 scalp on her belt.”

“Done. When do you want to tell her?”

Guru thought about it for a minute. “Tomorrow. No flying, so...but that leaves me without a wingman.”

“I'll make a couple calls before I hit the sack,” Rivers said. “This time, I'll see about getting you an experienced hand in that slot. And whoever we get is Braniac's new pilot.”

“Sweaty turned out OK,” Goalie said, looking at her pilot and CO. “Fresh from the RTU, and now.....”

“Oh yeah, but I want somebody with extra stick time. Even if he or she's just been cleared from the hospital.” Guru said.

“I'll see what I can do,” Rivers said. “No promises, though. You may have to take what you get.”

“Fair enough, Colonel,” Guru said, raising his bottle of Fosters.

2200 Hours Pacific War Time, Transient Officers' Quarters, Travis AFB, California

Captain Kara Thrace was dead tired. She'd landed two hours earlier, leading an eight-ship of newly built F-4Es and RF-4Cs fresh from the Mitsubishi production line in Japan, and after signing over the aircraft, had a quick bite to eat in the Officer's Mess before closing, and was too tired to hit the Travis O-Club. Not to mention she had a pretty steep tab there to begin with, and wasn't in the mood to run it up any further. So she'd simply staggered into her room, took off her clothes, threw on a T-Shirt, and climbed into bed.

She'd hardly closed her eyes when the phone next to her bed rang. “Thrace,”

“Captain Thrace?” the voice on the other end asked.

“You found her,” she said. “Who is this?”

“Captain, I'm Major Anders with Tenth Air Force. You'll be getting formal notification tomorrow from Travis Personnel, but I'm giving you a heads-up. You're going to the 335th TFS. Report there the day after tomorrow.”

Kara took a big sigh of relief. About damned time they send me to a combat unit. No thanks to that bastard Tigh. “The 335th? Where are they?”

“Williams AFB, near Phoenix. They are OpCon to a Marine Air Group, but wear AF blue. Your orders are being cut, and you'll have movement authorization tomorrow.” Anders said.

Fair enough, Kara thought. At least it's a combat slot. “All right. Is that all?” she asked.

“That's it. Have a good night, Captain,” Anders said as he hung up.

Kara hung up and lay in bed awake for a few minutes. Then she said “YES!” Finally, I get to do what I signed up to do. And it beats the Trans-Pacific Ferry run any day of the week. An AF squadron under Marine OpCon? First she'd heard of that, but then again, the war had changed a lot of things-like letting women fly combat. She closed her eyes, smiled, then went to sleep.

Matt Wiser 12-15-2014 06:42 PM

Comments so far, please, gents. The next one's coming shortly.

dragoon500ly 12-16-2014 05:48 AM

Loving the stories! Keep'em coming!!

lombardoslegion 12-16-2014 03:09 PM

Great stuff!

Matt Wiser 12-16-2014 06:46 PM

Thanks, gents. How many caught the shout-outs?

Matt Wiser 12-16-2014 06:58 PM

And the next one, in two parts. It's more T2K-ish:

Out of the Mountains

1420 Hours Mountain Time: 8 May 1986; The San Isabel National Forest, Northwest of Walsenberg, Colorado:

It wasn't much to look at, but to the camp's occupants, it was home. Sort of, anyway. Several parachutes had been converted into tents, and others had made shelters out of pine boughs and branches, just like what the survival school instructors had taught. For the camp's military and guerrilla occupants, it had been enough, though higher up in altitude was a camp that was more secure. At that camp were wounded guerillas, families who had fled the Soviet-bloc invasion, and even some hikers who'd been up in the high country, and had been shocked to find that the worst had happened, and the Russians had come.

To the military personnel there, though they had helped the guerillas the best they could, all were anxious to get to the other side of the Rockies as soon as the weather and melting snow permitted. Of the camp's fourteen military personnel, a dozen were downed aircrew members from all four services, and the other two were escaped POWs. The rumor mill had said that there were Army troops somewhere to the northwest, along U.S. Highway 50, and all were hoping to get there, find friendly troops, and somehow, get back to their squadrons and back in the air.

For Air Force Lieutenants Matt Wiser and Tony Carpenter, five months with the Resistance was more than enough. They had been shot down in their F-4 near Walsenberg, to the southeast, back in January, and had been lucky enough to find a rural church, where the preacher was willing to hide them in a tornado shelter. Then they'd been passed along to the Sheppard Ranch, west of Walsenberg proper, where the family had sheltered them for a few days, until their eldest daughter Lori could take them into the mountains. They had been in the mountains all of two days when Lori came back, tears running down her face. After they'd left, the Soviets had come to the ranch. Someone, somewhere, had either been caught and broken, or the escape line had been betrayed. Lori had ridden down from the Mountains to find the ranch house and barn burned to the ground, the animals taken away, and in the driveway, the bodies of her parents, younger brother, and younger sister. All had been shot in the back of the head, and both her mother and sister had been.....used, so to speak, by the Russians before they had been killed. She had buried her family, and ridden back into the hills, and bringing with her a desire for revenge.

Over the past few months, the guerillas had made themselves known to the Russians and their Cuban and Nicaraguan lackeys, ambushing convoys, raiding outposts, cutting phone lines, and so on. Not only had they lived off the land, but also off of the enemy, taking whatever they could find, whether it was food, weapons, ammo, medical supplies, or whatever. But now, with the spring melt, Lori knew that she needed to do two things: first, get the downed pilots over the Rockies to friendly lines, and second, see if the rumors were true, and that there were Special Forces teams helping guerrilla bands with supplies, advisors, and so much else. For up in the high country there was a family camp, with refugees who'd fled into the hills, some family members of guerrillas, some escapees from labor or “re-education” camps, people who really needed to be on the other side.

Lori gathered the downed pilots around a campfire. All were dirty, grubby, and showed the effects of living in the wilderness. But all had taken part in raids against the invaders, even if the two Marines and the single Army aviator had any kind of infantry training. They had gotten to be good at it, the hard way. “OK, good news. Mike Jensen just rode down from the Family Camp. They say the snow melt's made a trip over the pass a lot easier. So we're leaving today.”

“About time, Lori,” Major Mark Adams said. He was one of the two Marines there: an A-6 driver who'd gone down the same time as the two F-4 crewers. He'd been in unofficial command, though he deferred to Lori, as she was the leader of the band. But he was the senior ranking military officer there.
He, like the other military evadees, had his flight suit, but worn over that was a Soviet airborne camo outfit, and then on top of that was a Soviet winter camo suit. And given how cold it got at night this high up, everyone was glad to have the multiple layers of clothing.

“I'll second that,” Capt. Bill Andrews quipped. A former member of the Thunderbirds, he had been shot down the previous December, and had escaped from the Cubans after a week in their custody. Given what he saw during his brief captivity, he had no qualms about killing Russians or Cubans, period.

“How far to friendlies?” Lieutenant Wiser asked.

“Good question,” Adams said. “Best guess it that it'll take a week or so. On foot the whole way.”

“Lovely,” Tony Carpenter said. “At least we'll get out of here and back to our units. If I wanted to be SF, I would've joined the Army.”

Adams nodded. He knew the feeling. Even though he'd been trained as an infantry officer before going to flight school, being a grunt was the last thing he expected. “Any other questions?” There weren't any. “That's it, then. Grab your weapons, get your gear, and we're gone.”

The two AF Lieutenants went to their tent. Though they had buried their chutes after bailout, they had found chutes belonging to downed pilots who hadn't survived: a parachute landing in the forest was a dicey proposition, and several airmen had died in their landings. The two gathered up their tent, and picked up their rifles. Both had AKMs, but Wiser also had an AK-74 that he'd picked up off a dead Soviet recon trooper, and wanted to keep it as a souvenir. Tony Carpenter also had a war trophy he wanted to keep: an SVD sniper rifle that he'd killed a Cuban to get. Like the others, they had made homemade packs from parachute harnesses, just like they'd been taught in SERE.

The party made their last-minute checks. For food, they had home-made deer or elk jerky, and some civilian canned goods that they had found when cleaning up a supply convoy they had ambushed. However much they had, it would have to last a week.

It wouldn't just be the evadees going out: Lori was coming with them. Not only as a guide, but she wanted to find out for herself if the rumors were true, and there were SF operating in the area. Not only did she want an SF Team to come into the area, with weapons, ammo, food, and above all, medical supplies, but to evacuate the family camp. That place had been an old logging camp in the 1920s, and though the civilians and others hiding there had food and shelter, they really needed to be evacuated. Not to mention that their doctor, who prewar had been a dermatologist from Denver, was really in over his head for the most part. He'd been on a hiking trip when the invasion happened, and the only medical supplies he had were what had been “acquired” after an ambush. If a helicopter pickup to get the civilians out could be arranged, she was all for it, and was eager to get going. She not only had an AKMS rifle, but she also had a Winchester Model 70, and that .270 slug could take down just about anything: and they had seen just how good a shot Lori was. Not only had she shot some deer or elk, but in raids, she used that rifle as a sniper rifle, and Lori had killed her fair share of Russians and Cubans with the weapon.

The evadees and a few guerrillas who'd be coming along were all set to go, and a few minutes later, Lori and Major Adams came up. “Everybody set?” Lori asked. Though Adams was the senior military officer, she ran the guerrillas, and was in charge. “OK, let's go.”

Somewhere in the Rockies: 10 May 1986: 0730 Mountain Time

The first day and night had passed quietly for the most part, though most of the evadees were too keyed up to sleep. The prospect of freedom, and being able to climb back into a cockpit, meant that hardly anyone got more than four hours' sleep. As for breakfast, some Elk jerky and a raw pop tart, along with a canteen of water, had to do.

“Another week of this,” Tony Carpenter grumbled. “And I'm an outdoors type.”

Lieutenant Wiser looked at his WSO. “Where?”

“Oregon. Some little town between Salem and the Cascades. Got an appointment to the Academy, which kept me from being a logger, and look where I am now.”

“Let me guess: a lot of hunting and fishing?” Wiser asked.

“Yep. Never thought all of that would come back.” Carpenter said.

“You must've breezed through the field portion of SERE.”

“I did. And the instructors didn't like that at all.”

Major Adams came up. “All right, people, fill your canteens from the spring, and let's get going. If anyone gets winded, call out. We're getting into higher elevation today.”

There was the usual grumbling, but everyone got ready, and moved out. Lori wanted to bypass the family camp, and Adams had agreed wholeheartedly. If anyone was following them, best to stay away.

Five hours later, there was a break. As they got higher up, there was still snow on the ground, though it was patchy. Some places still had several inches of snow on the ground, while others, more exposed to the sun, had spring plants in full bloom. But there was one thing everyone was noticing: the lack of forest sounds. It was quiet. Lori, for all her time in the woods prewar, had never experienced anything like this, and neither had Tony Carpenter, or the other guerrillas. “I don't like this, Major,” she said.

“Neither do I.” Adams agreed. He motioned to Army WO Kyle Lewis. “Drop back about a hundred yards, and bring up the rear. See if anyone's following us. Take one of the guerrillas with you.”

“Gotcha, Major,” the UH-1 pilot said. He'd been an enlisted solider for five years before going to Fort Rucker and getting his wings as a Warrant Officer. Not to mention that he was Ranger qualified, and that experience had come in very handy, not just in teaching ground tactics to the guerrillas and most of the airmen, but in combat.
Adams then turned to his B/N, First Lieutenant Neal Brandon. “Neil, take point.”

He nodded, and headed on out. After he'd gone about fifty yards, the rest of the group followed.

A couple hours later, Lori called a halt. Neal had found nothing up ahead, but he couldn't shake a feeling that they were being watched. Major Adams felt the same way, along with Lori, and for that matter, everyone else. Someone was watching them, but who? If it was Spetsnatz, they might be following them until they made camp, then attack. “Two hours of daylight left.” Adams said. “We'd better find a spot to make camp.”

After a half-hour of searching, the party found a nice campsite, only a hundred yards or so from a small lake. After getting a fire going, and boiling some drinking water, everyone sat down to eat. The canned goods that the ComBloc had looted came in handy, for canned beef stew, pork and beans, or raviolis had to make do. But as the party ate, everyone still had the sinking feeling that someone was watching them.

“Major, I think we'd better have a patrol-just to look around,” Lori said to Major Adams.

“I think you're right,” Adams agreed. “Guru, Neal, Tony.”

Wiser's head shot up. Guru was his call sign. “Major?”

“You three, have a look around. No further than a thousand yards. Check around the lake, and down the trail. If you find anyone, fire a few shots into the air, and try and hold 'em. We'll be there ASAP.”

“Will do, Major,” Guru said. Brandon was the Marine, so he led the little patrol. They checked out the lake, and went back down the trail. They found nothing, but still.....the hair stood up on the backs of all three. Something was in the forest, off the trail somewhere, and watching them. They saw nothing, and returned to camp just as twilight was coming.

“What'd you find?” Lori asked. Major Adams was with her.

“Nothing,” Neal Brandon said. “We checked around the lake, no tracks, other than animals. They were old, by the way.” He went on, “And we went down the trail a ways. Didn't see anything, but....”

“But what, Lieutenant?” Adams asked.

“But, Major,” Guru said. “Something's there, because we all felt like we were being watched. And my hair stood up on the back of my neck.” And the other two nodded affirmatively.

“Mountain Lion, maybe?” Adams wondered aloud.

“Could be, and the other animals know there's a predator around, so that's why they're quiet,” Lori commented. “Major,if there is a big cat nearby, we'd better have two or three on watch, instead of one.”

“Agreed. Two on watch at all times. I'll take the first, with Neal.”

That night, everyone went to sleep-or tried to, anyway. The possibility of a mountain lion or a bobcat coming into camp had everyone nervous. Spetsnatz or other Soviets, they could deal with. But a big cat coming in and trying to drag one of them off? That was something else entirely. Even if one was sleeping in a parachute tent or just spread the chute on the ground, no one went to sleep without weapons close at hand. There being a full moon didn't help one's nerves any, for a shadow in the moonlight could be an enemy-or a big cat looking for a meal.

Guru had taken the 10-to-12 watch, along with Tony, and they had turned things over to Capt. Mark Bailey, an AF F-16 pilot from the 388th at Hill, and Joel Wambach, one of the guerrillas. The two F-4 crewmen then went into their tent, and after checking for snakes, went to sleep.

It was just after 0300 when it happened. The two on watch, one of the ex-POWs and a guerrilla, were sitting by the fire, trying to stay warm in the cold night air, when one of them heard something. They were footsteps-big ones. The two decided not to wake anyone, and simply waited by the fire for the intruder-whoever or whatever it was, to go away.

In their tent, Guru and Tony were sleeping when Tony suddenly woke up. He shook his pilot awake. “Guru, wake up!” Carpenter hissed.

“Huh,? What?” Guru said, “Tony, what the...”

“Something's out there,” he said. “Smell that?”

“I don't...wait. Now I do. Rotten-egg smell?”


Then the two felt footsteps on the ground. Big ones. “What the hell...” Guru said. He poked his head out the tent, and saw the two on watch huddled around the fire, looking very afraid. Then they got up and slipped behind the tent Major Andrews and Neal Brandon shared. Then he-and Tony-saw it.

In the moonlight, and the firelight, a large shape came walking into the camp. In the moonlight, they couldn't see much, but the creature, whatever it was, was at least eight feet tall. It strode into camp, and started looking around. It found Lori's tent-a prewar dome-style camping tent, and seemed to be looking inside. Then a tent flap opened, and two of their fellow airmen looked out. And Guru heard safeties being clicked off. “Oh, shit!'” He whispered to Tony, reaching for his own AKM.

Before anyone could shoot, Lori woke up and saw the huge shadow looming over her tent. She didn't make a sound, but reached for the first weapon she could-her Winchester rifle, and took the safety off. Then all hell broke loose as Neal Brandon came out of his tent and saw the creature looming over Lori's tent. “The hell is that?” Then the shooting started.

Nobody remembered who started firing, but once someone started to fire, everyone did. The creature turned and ran off towards the lake, waving its arms as if to repel a swarm of bees, as shots flew all around it. Even after the creature was out of sight, there was still shooting. “CEASE FIRE! CEASE FIRE!” Adams yelled.

“What the hell was that?” Several people asked at once.

Tony Carpenter knew, or thought he did. “If we were in the Pacific Northwest, I'd say that was a Bigfoot.”

“Well, we aren't in the Pacific Northwest,” Lori Sheppard quipped. “And that sure as hell looked like a Bigfoot.”

Mike Jensen, one of the guerrillas, nodded. “They call it the Snowbeast. At least that's what I heard before the war. He's our Bigfoot. And he's a lot bigger and meaner than the one in the Northwest.”

“Snowbeast or Bigfoot, or whatever that...thing was,” Adams said, “Soon as we can after first light, we're getting the hell out of here. No telling who heard all that shooting.”

The party had passed a sleepless rest of the night. As dawn broke, two of them went to the lake with a couple of buckets to get water to boil to fill their canteens with, while everyone else was busy breaking camp. The two returned with the water, but were shaken. They had found tracks by the shoreline-big ones. Eighteen inches long, they thought, and very deep. “I'll take your word for it,” Andrews said. “Let's get that water boiled, and eat. Then we're getting out of here.”

14 May 1986: 1400 Mountain Time:

Three days had passed since the encounter with, whatever that beast had been, and everyone had settled down. They had to stop more often, as the party was getting higher and higher, then they had passed the treeline into open ground, which didn't make anyone comfortable. Anyone on high ground could be watching them, and there wasn't a thing they could do about it. But the pass was just ahead.

“Finally!” Guru said. He'd been on point with Neal Brandon.

“Oh, yeah,” Brandon agreed. “Cross that, and it's all downhill.”

“I'll stay here, Neal.” Guru said. “Go get the Major and Lori.”

Brandon nodded, and went back. A few minutes later, the party was with him. Adams was checking his map-an old U.S. Forest Service map that Lori had loaned him. “That the pass?”

“That's it, Major,” Lori said. “Another three or four days, then maybe we can find some civilization.”

“Not today: we've only three hours or so of daylight. Let's get back to the treeline, and make camp. We'll cross in the morning.”

The next morning, the party was fed, rested, and ready to go. As they approached the pass, everyone was keyed up. If there was going to be an ambush, this would be a good spot to spring one: the group out in the open, and whatever attackers would have high ground and concealment among the rocks.

The party approached the pass, and Navy Lt. Lyle Branson, an A-7 pilot, glanced to the right. “I'd swear there was something up there.”

“Still jumpy after that...thing, Lyle?” Neal Brandon kidded.

He shook his head. “No, but I thought I saw sunlight reflecting off of something.”

“If somebody was up there, they would've opened fire by now.” Lori said. “I would, if I were up there.”

“Don't worry about it, Lyle,” Adams said. “Let's get to the other side of the pass, then we're in the homestretch.”

As the party approached the pass, and crossed it, they were being watched. Unknown to them, a Spetsnatz team was watching the pass. They were under orders to observe and report, and one of the Soviets, the team's second-in-command, had a 35-mm camera with a telephoto lens. He was snapping pictures of the party as they moved to the pass. He was certain that he got faces, but would have to wait until the photos were developed to make sure. The team commander knew he could have set an ambush here, and wiped out the guerrillas, but those were not his orders. The Front intelligence directorate wanted to know who was using the mountain passes and how often, to determine guerrilla supply lines, as well as to identify particular individuals. He'd been told to stay hidden, observe, take photographs, and report. And to give a detailed report to the local commander upon extraction.

On the other side, it was level for a bit, then it was downhill, just as had been hoped. They camped for the night about three miles from the pass, and for the first time since setting out, everyone was relieved.

17 May 1986: 0930 Mountain Time:

It had been a relatively easy two days since crossing the pass, and Lori's map showed several hiking trails that led down the west side of the mountains. Though the trails were obvious, and if one wanted to set ambushes, there would be no better place to set some, it beat using game trails or just plain going through the woods. Not to mention the fact that after nearly a week on the trail, people were getting tired. Breaks were more frequent, much to Major Andrews' displeasure-and Lori's for that matter, but there was no getting around it.

The party had stopped for a break, having been on the trail for two hours, when the point element, Neal Brandon and Mike Jensen, went on ahead. They thought they'd seen something, and went to investigate. They came running back, breathless. “Major, Lori, you'd never guess what we just found.”

“What?” Lori asked.

“There's a Forest Service station. Nobody's there, but there's a garage, and what looks like an office.”

Lori checked her map, and Andrews did too. There was a dirt road nearby, and they had been hoping to get to that road and follow it. It would be a lot easier to just follow the road, even if it exposed them to ambush. But there had been no sign of enemy-or friendlies for that matter. “Major, if there's a garage, there might be a truck or two there. If it hasn't been looted, there's probably gas there, too.”

“And just drive on out of here?” Adams asked. “We'd be easy targets.”

“Got a better idea?” Lori shot back. “At this rate, we'll be out of food before we can walk out.”

The Major knew she was right, and simply nodded. The group headed on to the station. And both were surprised: the station wasn't on their map. Lori checked the date of issue on the map: 1974. “Great. How many other surprises are there?”

“Let's check this out first,” Adams said. “Guru, Neal, Tony: Check this place out. Give a wave if it's clear.”

“Right,” Guru said. He collected the other two, and the trio headed to the station. The station looked deserted, but the doors were locked, and the windows shut. “Guru, I don't like this.” Neal Brandon said.

“Think it's a trap?”

“Yeah, I do. But whose?” The Marine asked.

“Let's check it out. Go on ahead, Neal. Tony, cover the both of us. I'll be right behind Neal.”

Both nodded, then the Marine went in, and Guru, his AKM at the ready, was right behind him. Neal went around the building, checking for any booby traps or mines, and finding nothing obvious. Still suspicious, he decided the best way to get in was to break a window. “Guru, I think we can get in by a window.”

“Break a window?” Guru asked. “Still think there's a reception committee around?”

“Don't think so now, but if there's something rigged on the doors.....”

“Say no more.” Guru nodded. “Do it.”

Neal took his AKM and broke one of the rear windows, and Guru helped him in. Neal looked around, and found the place musty, damp, and abandoned. He tried flipping a light switch, but nothing came one. “No power.”

“This far back?” Guru asked. “They probably have a generator. Anything on the doors?”

Neal went to the back door, and checked it. Nothing. He opened it, and waved to Guru. “Clear back.”

Guru went on in, and headed straight for the front door. Nothing. He opened it, and waved to Tony. Then he went into the garage, while Neal checked the office. Inside the garage, he found two Ford King Cab pickups, and then went into one of the trucks. There was a two-way radio, and he looked around for the keys. Sure enough, tucked in the driver's side sun visor, the keys came out. Then he went to the other truck, and found the other set of keys. He went back into the office, and found Neal waiting for him. “What'd you find?”

“There's a break room, but the refrigerator's empty, and the vending machines look OK.” Brandon said.

“All right. This place is clear,” Guru said. He went and waved Tony over. “Tony, wave the others in.”


Carpenter walked into the road and waved the party in. Lori and the Major were surprised to see the two trucks. “These two have gas?” Adams asked.

“There's a gas tank in the back, but I haven't started the trucks,” Guru said, handing Major Andrews the keys. “We'll have to open the garage doors.”

Nodding, Adams told two of the other evadees to open the garage doors, which could be done without power. Then he started one of the trucks. It turned over easily, and the same went for the other.
“The tanks are full. Now I wouldn't mind riding out of here.”

Lori was inside the office, checking the desks. The calendar said September 5, 1985. The day after the invasion had begun. “Someone was here. They must've just closed up shop and left in some other vehicle,” she observed.

“Any supplies? Food, or whatever?” Adams asked.

“Nothing, Major.” Guru said. “They cleaned the place out before turning off the generator.”

Adams nodded. “See if there's any empty gas cans here. Check the big tank, see if it's got gas. If it does, fill those gas cans, then we're taking these trucks.”

Guru nodded, then collected a couple of the others, and sure enough, there was gas in the big tank behind the station. After filling the cans, he asked, “What about this place?”

“Leave it,” Lori said. “There might be someone else who can use this, even if it's just for shelter.”

“Check the desks,” Adams ordered. “See if there's a better map.”

A search of the three desks and their drawers found nothing useful. Though a search of a storage shed found several tarps, along with some tools: axes, shovels, Pondersosas (a combination of ax and scraper-used by woodland fire-fighting teams), and so on. Andrews ordered the gear brought along, just in case, then he had the gas tank behind the garage punctured. “No sense in leaving that gas for Ivan if he comes this way.”

After that had been taken care of, the group piled into the two trucks and pulled out of the station. In the lead truck, Neal Brandon was driving, with Lori beside him, two guerrillas in the back seats, and half of the party in the bed of the truck. “Follow the road, Neal. There's another forest road about five miles away, then we take that. Then that should lead us to a county road, then that takes us to State Highway 69.”

“Just hope Ivan doesn't have any Su-25s doing armed recon on the roads.”

After two hours of driving, and two roads later, they came to Colorado Highway 69. The sign at the intersection said “Westcliffe 20”, and Neal knew to take the right. Turning left only took them back towards enemy territory.

In the second truck, Guru was driving, with the Major beside him. Tony Carpenter and Mike Jensen were in the back seats, and the others were in the bed of the truck. “Ever think we'd be driving out of here, Major?” Guru asked.
“No, but right now, I'm not complaining. We just covered in three hours what would've taken a day on foot.”

Guru nodded. “Major, neither am I.”

Thirty minutes later, they rolled into Westcliffe. Or what had been Westcliffe. The town had been hit from the air, apparently, and there was nothing but burned-out buildings, wrecked cars and pickup trucks, and rubble. They stopped at the intersection of Highway 69 and State Route 96. A sign was still standing: it said, “Hillside 14; Texas Creek/Jct. U.S. 50 25”. The party got out to search the nearby buildings. Nothing was salvageable, and there were remains of bodies all over. The town still smelled of death, even though they had no idea of when the town had been attacked. “No sign of anything military around: no wrecked vehicles, nothing,” Tony Carpenter noted when he came back to the Major. “What'd they hit?”

“Want to bet there was a guerrilla band out of here, and Ivan decided to hit the town in reprisal?” Adams said.

“No takers,” Lori said. “This place is giving me the creeps.”

“You're not the only one,” Mike Jensen said. “I say we get the hell out of here.”

Adams nodded. “Okay, people! Mount up and let's go.”

Twenty minutes of driving, and they came to Hillside. That town, too, had been hit, and there was nothing standing. Lori and the Major talked over the truck radios, and decided not to stop, but keep going. A few miles down the road, they came to a local road. The sign there said, “Cotopaxi 6; TO Jct U.S. 50 West.”

They stopped, and everyone got out to stretch their legs. It had been so long since anyone had been in a car or truck, and they were unuused to being in a vehicle. Lori was checking her map. “That's a dirt road, and want to bet it hasn't seen a repair crew in ages?”

Most everyone nodded, but one of the guerrillas, Sean Weston, who'd been a Colorado Department of Transportation road engineer prewar, went over to the road. He could tell someone had been working on the road. “Somebody's been here. There's dozer tracks, and they're about a week old. And the road looks like it's been worked on.”

“Got to be friendlies,” Brandon said. “Has to be.”

“Yeah, but that road likely doesn't have bridges: there's a couple of creeks on the map, and that road crosses them,” Lori said, pointing at the map.

“If someone's been working on the road, they've probably taken care of that,” Adams said. “All right: let's take the short cut.”

Matt Wiser 12-16-2014 07:13 PM

And Part II: Again, comments and questions welcome!

17 May 1986: 1500 Mountain Time, Calumet, CO

Colonel Ernesto Bella was sitting in his office at the City Hall. He'd been the local military governor since the invasion, and though the first month had gone well, those infernal Wolverines had been a major problem. Not only had they repeatedly struck at the liberating forces, but had inspired others to begin their own guerrilla activities, and this sector of Colorado, which for a month had been considered pacified, was now a mess. Though the Wolverines had been dealt with after their final attack on the town, other bands had not ceased their depredations. It didn't help matters that his second-in-command, a Nicaraguan Captain, had been killed in the attack, along with a Soviet Spetsnatz Colonel, who'd been brought in to deal with the guerrilla problem once and for all. The only bright spot had been the death of his superior, General Vassily Bratchenko, in the attack, and though Bella had to sing the General's praises at the memorial service, privately, he, and a number of other officers, had been glad that....butcher had met his end.

Colonel Bella had submitted his resignation, but he'd heard nothing so far, and given the war “emergency”, his request was likely to be denied. So, he'd been gathering material, for he'd made a decision that he knew was the right one: when the opportunity came, he would defect. Then there was a knock on the office door. He had taken over the Mayor's office, and was actually glad that he no longer had to deal with that man. What was the American term? “Ass-kisser”, someone had said. Well, a month after the Wolverines' attack, there had been one more attack on the town, only this time, it had been swift and silent. A number of those who'd been cooperating with the liberating forces had met with violent ends, and among them had been the Mayor. Bella now dealt with the civilian population through the prewar City Manager, and the fellow, though he could tell was not too thrilled about cooperating with the Socialist Forces, did what was necessary to keep the population under control. There was a second knock. “Come in,”

“Comrade Colonel,” his new deputy, a Cuban Army Captain, said. “Major Volshov is here.”


“Spetsnatz, Comrade Colonel,” the Captain said.

“Ah, yes. Send him in, please, Ricardo.”

Nodding, the Captain ushered in the Soviet officer. He had been Colonel Strenlikov's deputy commander, until the man's death, and now ran the 779th Independent Spetsnatz Battalion. “Comrade Colonel.”

“What do you have, Volshov?” Bella asked. “Your men knew their orders, correct?”

“Absolutely, Comrade Colonel!” Volshov said. “They avoided contact with the enemy, and brought back some photographs. The patrol only saw one party going through the pass, headed west.” The Spetsnatz officer opened a manila folder and showed Bella the photos.

“Hmm....Good enough to identify people,” Bella was impressed. “Any idea who these....people are?”

“No, Comrade Colonel. My intelligence officer has access to records on known guerrillas, and none of them are familiar to him,” Volshov told his superior.

“What were the patrol leader's observations?”

“He noted that most of those observed seemed to have a military bearing. They may have been downed airmen, perhaps?”

Bella nodded. “Still, Major, once one becomes a guerrilla, they develop a military bearing very quickly. But, given the number of aircraft that have gone down in this area, you may be right.”

“Yes, Comrade Colonel,” Volshov said.

“You do have copies of these photographs?” Bella asked.

“Of course, Comrade Colonel,” nodded Volshov. “Your own military intelligence people may be able to make use of them. As would the DGI.”

“Thank you, Comrade Major,” Bella said. “They certainly will. That'll be all.”

The Spetsnatz officer saluted and left the office.

Bella took the photos and scanned them once more. Yes, some of them looked like they were downed pilots. What was the term? A “rat line?” Yes, this might be such a line, where the guerrillas conducted downed pilots and others who were escaping the Soviets over the Rocky Mountains and to American lines. It was more of an outpost war on the other side, his intelligence briefings said. Soviet-bloc outposts on the other side were few and far between, and often could not be held. Bella took the photos, and put them back in the folder, before putting them in his briefcase, where they joined a number of other documents that the Americans would clearly love to get their hands on.

He made his decision. Then and there. “Ricardo!”

Bella's deputy came in. “Comrade Colonel?”

“Get my driver and jeep. I'm going to one of the outposts.”

“Is that wise, Comrade Colonel?”

“Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Still, I need some fresh air. Being stuck in this office for a while makes one long for the outdoors.” Bella said.

“Comrade Colonel,” the man said.

A few minutes later, Bella's UAZ-469 jeep pulled up to City Hall. He took his briefcase-which his deputy was curious about, but said nothing. The ways of Field-grade officers were a mystery to him, just as they were to junior officers the world over. “When will you be back, Comrade Colonel?”

“A few hours, Ricardo. I may even have dinner with the men at the outpost. A gesture of solidarity with the men on the line, you might say,” said the Colonel. Bella got into the jeep. “Keep things going here until I return.”

The deputy clicked his heels and smartly saluted. “Comrade Colonel!”

17 May 1986, 1545 Mountain Time: County Road 85, near Cotopaxi, Colorado:

Guru was driving the second truck, keeping his eye on the first, and trying to avoid bumps and dips. “Major, whoever worked this road hasn't been here in a while.”

“No kidding!” Adams responded. “If it was the Army, they just did the bare essentials.”

Then the radio crackled to life. “Major, this is Lori.”

Andrews picked up the talker. “Go ahead.”

“Looks like a military camp up ahead. There's a flag flying, but I can't tell whose from this distance.” At the same time, her truck stopped.

Guru stopped behind Lori's truck and everyone got out. Several pairs of binoculars were soon in use. “Looks like ours,” Tony Carpenter said.

“I'll go along with that,” Guru said.

“Problem is, that collaborationist force, the ALA, has a flag similar to ours,” Lori said. “Someone's got to get close and see who they are.”

“I'll go,” WO Kyle Lewis said.

Adams nodded. Lewis was the best of the aviators, and was Ranger-qualified. “All right, we'll cover you.”

Lewis took off his Soviet gear, taking only two things: his AKM rifle, and his winter camo suit. If need be, he'd wave it at whoever it was to ID himself.

The party watched through binoculars as he approached the camp. “If they're hostiles?” Lori asked.

“If they are, we get in those trucks and hightail it out of here. Then we find some other way around that location,” Adams decided.

Lewis took his time in getting close. He could see that the brush had been cleared away to give the outpost's defenders a clear field of fire, except where they hadn't. And a trick he'd been taught at Ranger school came back. If grass wasn't being cleared, that was a sure sign there were mines around. He looked at the flagpole: it was the Stars and Stripes, but was it the good guys? Those ALA scum had a variation of it that you needed to get real close to see. He crept in closer, taking care to check for booby traps. If they're ours, there's Claymores around, and he didn't want to trip one if he could help it.

In the outpost, a very bored soldier was standing watch. He was wondering what his platoon was doing here, watching a road that no one had traveled on for months, apart from those engineers who took their heavy equipment there for a couple of weeks. Rumor had it some kind of push might be happening and the higher-ups wanted the road in at least passable shape. He shouldered his M-16 and took off his helmet. When are we getting those Kevlar helmets? The airborne mafia has theirs, so when do we get ours? Then he heard something. He raised his rifle, and called for his squad leader.

“Damn it!” Lewis whispered to himself. He'd found some wire, and attached to the wire were cans of varying types and sizes. An old Vietnam trick to alert bases that there were intruders in the wire. And that meant that this camp had friendlies. Then he heard a shout:

“HALT! Identify yourself!”

“You Americans?” Lewis yelled.

“Who are you?” The voice yelled back.

“Make sure you're Americans,” Lewis yelled. “Where did the Dodgers play baseball before going to L.A.?”

“Brooklyn,” the voice said. “Now, how many Oscars did John Wayne win?”

They were Americans, Lewis knew. Though he didn't know himself, he did have a ready answer. “Not enough!”

“Well, Sarge, do we shoot him or not?”

“He's right, though,” A soldier stood up. “Stand up and come on in.”

Lewis stood up and waved his camo suit. The soldiers waved him in, though he was careful to keep his hands visible, and nowhere near his rifle. Then he saw the flag. The genuine article. “WO Kyle Lewis, United States Army,”

“Staff Sergeant Clay Haswell, 2-17 Infantry, 7th ID,” the solider said. He pointed to a gap in the wire, and Lewis got into the camp. “Where did you come from, uh, Sir?”

“Been on the other side with the guerrillas,” Lewis said. He pointed to the specks in the distance where the party was. “There's a whole bunch of us: downed pilots and guerrillas. We've been looking for friendlies for over a week.”

“Well, Sir, you found 'em,” Sergeant Haswell replied. “Carter, Walsh! Go with Mr. Lewis, and escort the rest of his party in,”

Two soldiers nodded, while Lewis shook Haswell's hand. “Where's your platoon leader?

“Dead. Got himself killed on a patrol a week ago. And they haven't sent us a new shavetail yet.”

Nodding, Lewis told the two GIs to follow him back down the road.

“He's coming back,” Tony Carpenter observed. “And he's got two people with him.”

Everyone reached for their rifles, and took cover beside the road. “Don't fire unless I give the word,” Adams ordered.

People nodded, as they raised their weapons. Then Kyle yelled. “Major! We've got friendlies!” He motioned the two soldiers to go ahead of him.

Major Adams and Lori stood up. “What's your unit?”

One of the soldiers responded, “7th ID. 2-17 Infantry, 2nd Brigade.”

“Major Mark Adams, United States Marine Corps,” Major Adams said. “Lori, here, she's in charge of the guerrillas.”

The two soldiers saluted, then Carter, a Spec 4, said. “Sir, let's go.”

Nodding, Andrews ordered everyone into the trucks, and they drove to the outpost. And for the first time in months, the evadees saw an American flag flying, and by habit, they saluted. Then Sergeant Haswell came in. He saw Major Adams and saluted. “Major,”

“Sergeant,” Adams said, glad to return the salute. “Are we glad to see you.”

“Sir.” Haswell said. “I've called my company commander, and we should have vehicles coming to take you guys and gals”-he saw Lori Sheppard and two other female guerrillas-”to the rear.” He looked at the USFS trucks. “Guess you won't be needing those anymore, Sir.”

Both Adams and Lori tossed him the keys. “If you can use 'em, Sergeant, they're yours.”

“Yes, Sir,” Haswell said. “We'll find a use for 'em.”

A few minutes later, a pair of 6x6 GMC trucks arrived. An Army Captain climbed down from one of them. “Major Adams? I'm Captain Dale Logan. These trucks'll be taking your party back to Division.”

“Where's that?” Adams asked.

“Salida, Sir. If you and your party will get on the trucks, Sir.”

Nodding, Adams waved to the group. “Let's go, people!”

1610 Mountain Time. County Road 44, west of Calumet, CO

Colonel Bella's UAZ-469 jeep headed west, towards one of his forward outposts. A Soviet motor-rifle brigade, one that had been pulled from Afghanistan and sent here, had the outpost line in this area. He knew the brigade commander, and both knew that there wasn't much chance of a push over the mountains in force. Now, guerrillas sallying from the mountains to raise whatever hell they could, that was a totally different story, and the guerrillas knew full well not to attack the company-sized outposts. Shooting up patrols, or ambushing supply convoys, now, that was a different matter. But Bella knew, though his driver didn't, that they'd never get to the outpost. Knowing the dispositions of the Soviet and Cuban forces in the area, he knew where to cross into No-Man's Land and then get to American lines. The jeep pulled up to an intersection, complete with STOP signs.

“Almost there, Comrade Colonel,” the driver said.

“Yes,” Bella agreed. He took out his service pistol. “Now, Corporal, you will get out and walk, back the headquarters,” he said, pointing the Makarov in the driver's face. “Get out and start walking. NOW.”

Thoroughly frightened, the driver got out, and tried to take his weapon.

“Leave your weapon in the vehicle,” Bella said, and the driver left his AKM in the jeep. Bella then got out himself, still covering the driver, and pointing the pistol at the driver, ordered him to get going. And the man ran away. Smiling, Bella got back into the jeep, pulled out his own map, and started taking back roads. It would be a day, maybe two, before he found a road across the mountains, but, even if he had to take logging roads or what the Americans called “four-wheel drive trails”, he'd get to where he was going. And he knew of a couple of caches that he had put there: he'd found a couple of isolated, but abandoned, cabins that would be perfect for his purposes. Bella had placed the caches shortly after the Wolverines' final raid, stocking them with food, fuel, and ammunition. Even a couple of AK rifles in each. Now, he thought as he headed towards one of them, did the guerrillas find the caches first?

1750 Mountain Time: Salida, CO

The two GMC trucks bringing the evadees to Salida pulled into town. The canvas covers on the trucks hadn't been put on, and everyone had a view. As they got closer to Salida, the number of outposts increased, and a couple looked like Vietnam-era firebases, even. When they got into town, seeing armed troops on the streets, along with armed locals, was no surprise. The trucks pulled up to City Hall: it was Division HQ. Several officers, and a number of soldiers, were waiting. One of the officers came up to Major Adams.

“Major Adams?”

“That's right.”

“I'm Colonel Mitch Drummond, G-2, 7th ID. Welcome back to Free America.”

Adams saluted. “Sir, glad to be back.”

“Now, we'll have to verify the evadees' identity, just to make sure. The air liaisons have all of the aircrews' personal verification questions,” Drummond told the Major. The aircrews overheard that, and knew why. With the ALA, and Soviet intelligence probably inserting agents disguised as either refugees or evadees, verification was a necessary part of life.

“After that?”

“You all can get cleaned up, and something to eat,” Drummond said. “Then my intel people want to have a talk with all of you.”

“Colonel, with all due respect, after we eat, we need to sleep. We've been running on adrenalin for over a week, and, Sir, we need to crash someplace.”

The intelligence officer nodded understanding. “All right, Major.” He looked at the aircrew and the guerrillas, and all were clearly tired. “The debriefs can wait until morning.”

After the aircrews' identities had been verified, and they had vouched for the guerrillas, the party was taken to a reception center set up at the local High School. There, they were able to get out of their dirty clothes, and have a hot shower and decent shave for the first time in months. The chow hall was open, and the Army mess people told everyone that there was more variety there than at the cafes in town. Knowing mess people, the military evadees took that with a grain of salt, with more than one “Yeah, right,” being uttered. Since classes were still being held at the school, there were tents set up, and the party, in clean Army OD fatigues, but still keeping their weapons, fell down on the cots and went to sleep.

The next afternoon, Colonel Drummond came by the tents. He was wondering why no one from the group had shown up at Division HQ to talk with his people. The Officer-in-Charge of the reception center simply took the Colonel to the tents, and showed him why. All were still asleep, nearly twenty-four hours after their arrival. The Colonel nodded. “Anyone try to wake them, Captain?”

“No, Sir,” the officer replied. “They've all got their weapons with them, and if we try to shake one of them awake, they might shoot one or two of my people.”

Drummond laughed. “Well, we can't have that, can we, Captain?”

The captain smiled. “No, Sir. I'll just notify you when they wake up.”

19 May 1986, 1530 Mountain Time, 7th Infantry Division, Salida, CO:

Guru and Tony came out of the Division's G-2 shop. They had spent several hours with not only the Army intel people, but an Air Force Intelligence Officer had also debriefed them. Everything had been gone over, from shootdown, to those who had helped them, to their time in the mountains, and the trip out. It wasn't enough that they had told the same story to the Army pukes, but the AF wanted it firsthand from them as well. And that intel weenie was going to be busy, for there were six AF evadees in all, and he'd be busy into the night and the next day.

Glad to be out of the intel weenies, and dressed in new BDUs, Guru turned to Tony. “Want something to eat? There's a cafe not that far away.”

“Yeah, a late lunch sounds good,” Tony said. “Hey, there's Lori.”

Lori Sheppard came towards them. She waved them over. She was in new BDUs as well. She had spent the morning not with the Division's intelligence people, but with Special Forces. There was a Special Forces Base nearby, and she had been anxious to talk to the Green Berets. “Hey, guys!”

“Lori, how's the Army treating you?”

“Couldn't ask for anything more. They'll be sending some SF in, and my people as well, to the Family Camp. We'll evacuate those people by chopper, and they're going to be with us the rest of the way,” she said. “However long that is.”

“One thing my Squadron CO told me, Lori, on Day Two: 'It'll be a long war.'” Guru said.

Tony Carpenter nodded in the direction of the cafe. “Lunch?”

“Yeah,” Lori agreed. “I can use a late lunch.”

“Where's your .270?” Guru asked. He saw that she had her AKM instead.

“Oh, the SF guys are taking care of it. Their gunsmith was practically in heaven. He's drooling at the thought of customizing it for me, but I told him no. It's a family heirloom, and right now, it's my only family connection.”

Guru and Tony knew all too well what she meant. “Sorry...”

“Don't be,” Lori replied. “Not your fault. And if someone talked, I'll find whoever it is. And kill them myself.”

The two pilots understood, and they also knew that she meant what she said. Then they walked to the cafe. A sign at the entrance asked that all civilians check their long guns at the door, but military personnel could keep theirs. And they saw several of their fellow evadees sitting down at a table. “Guys, come on in,” Neal Brandon waved.

“Thanks,” Tony said. And the trio joined their friends. The waitress came over with menus for the new arrivals. “You guys just ordered?”

“Yeah,” Bill Andrews said. “Most of the beef, though, it's unavailable. Even if they do have it, you need a ration coupon to order.”

“Let me guess: chicken, pork, elk, deer?” Lori asked.

“You got it,” Neal Brandon said.

“I've had enough deer and elk that if I ate one more bite, I'll start growing antlers,” Guru quipped. “Pork chops and eggs is good enough for me.”

“Same here,” Lori said. “I can do without for a few more days. Remember, prewar, I hunted a lot.”

“Seconded,” Tony said.

After the new arrivals had ordered, Guru noticed something. He saw a very healthy looking busboy cleaning up a table. “Shoudn't he be in uniform?”

“We asked the waitress that same question when we got here,” Bill Andrews said. “He can't join up.”


“He's diabetic, she said. Needs insulin every day, and the Army's the area's only supply.” Andrews said.

“Oh, boy.” Guru sighed. Then he noticed the boy was packing a Colt .357 Magnum in a shoulder holster. “Everybody's carrying.”

“Yep,” Brandon said. “And that kid does his part: they have a mounted posse, and he rides with 'em. He may be diabetic, but he still does his part for the war effort.”

“Sorry to change the subject, but did you guys hear about when we're leaving?” Bill Andrews asked.

“The AF liaison said we'd have something in a day or two. Family notifications have to go first,” Tony Carpenter said. “Then we get two weeks' leave, then refresher training, and back to our original units.”

Andrews smiled. He raised his glass of ice water. “Here's to that,”


The waitress brought the original party's order, and said to the new arrivals, “Your meals are coming. Be a few more minutes.” And Guru, Tony, and Lori watched with envy as their friends tore into their food. Lori was drooling, and looked at Neal Brandon as if possessed. Then she saw him jerk his head up with a start. “What's up?”

“The front door.”

“What are you..” Lori asked, turning to look. Guru and Tony turned as well, just as a Cuban Colonel, in full uniform, came into the cafe. And everyone at the table, not to mention several Army personnel at other tables, reached for their rifles. And as safeties were being clicked off, an Army officer came running in.

“Hey, don't shoot! He's a defector.”

“Prove it,” An SF trooper at a nearby table said, pointing a CAR-15 at the Cuban.

Everyone at Guru's table had their AKMs out, waiting. Then another officer came in-a light colonel, this one, and said, “People, he's a defector, it's OK.” And weapons began to be lowered. As the Cuban entered, it was obvious that he was what they said he was. Several SF officers were right behind him, and in plain BDUs, a couple of others, who looked to be “OGA” types, followed the officers. The party sat down at another table, and after ordering coffee, started to talk to the Cuban. He took one look at Guru's table and asked, in English, “Is this how you welcome guests?”

One of the officers laughed. “Colonel, with that group, it probably is. They just came out of the mountains a few days ago.”

“I see...” the Cuban said. Then he switched to a language that no one, other than the SF men, could understand.

Unable to follow the conversation, Guru's party ate. As they got up to leave, the Cuban was still at it. “Want to bet they'll be at it all night?” Neal Brandon asked.

“No takers,” Tony said. “Maybe they'll be so busy with him, they'll tell us, 'We're done with you guys.'”

After paying for his meal, Lori's, and Tony's, Guru went outside. There, he found an AF Sergeant, part of the liaison team, waiting. “Sergeant?”

He turned. “Lieutenant Wiser?” Then he saluted.

Guru returned it. “That's right.”

“Sir, I've got movement and travel orders for you and Lieutenant Carpenter.” He looked behind Guru. “Is Captain Andrews in there? I've got something for him as well.”

Tony came out, with Lori right behind him . “Who's asking?”

“He is,” Guru pointed to the Sergeant. “He's got one for you, Tony,” Guru said as he opened the envelope. “Two weeks' leave. Movement and travel to Castle AFB is authorized, civilian train transportation to Fresno....” Home for two weeks, Guru noticed. “Can't beat that.”

“Same here,” Tony said. “Two days on a train to Oregon, though,” he saw.

Lori shook their hands. “At least you guys have a home to go back to. When this is over, I have to start all over.” She looked at them “And so do a lot of others.”

“Yeah.” Guru knew full well what she meant. He held out his hand “Lori, when this is all over, you're welcome at our unit reunions. You've earned it.”

She shook his hand, then embraced Guru. “Thanks, Matt.” Then she did the same with Tony. “You guys take care, and do me, and all of us up in the hills a favor.”

“Just say it, Lori,” Guru said.

“Kill as many of those bastards you want. Shoot them down or blow 'em up on the ground, I don't care.” Lori told both of them with all seriousness.

“We'll do that.”

24 June 1985, 1400 Mountain War Time; Williams AFB, AZ.

Lieutenant Matt Wiser got off the C-130 that had flown him, via Beale AFB and Nellis, from Kingsley Field to Williams. Just as he'd hoped, he was rejoining the Chiefs, the 335th TFS, and getting back into the fight. He looked around, and saw the familiar: F-4s, painted in either SEA camouflage or Navy/Marine Corps grey, A-4s and A-6s, AF Jolly Green Giant rescue choppers, and a couple of other C-130s. Just another day.

He'd enjoyed the two weeks at his home in Auberry, in the Southern Sierra Nevada foothills. His family was doing OK, and rationing, though it had bitten, wasn't hitting rural folks as hard as it did in cities, for nearly everyone who could had a garden. Though trips to Fresno were still common, people knew to combine trips, and shop for a neighbor if that person only needed one or two things.

Word had gotten around that he was back, and he'd been asked to talk to school assemblies, the local VFW, the Shaver Lake Chamber of Commerce, and so on. Recounting his experiences, some of which he still didn't want to talk about, went easier than he thought, and he wished he had more time at home with his mom and grandparents, but the two weeks went by fast, and it was time to get to the Fresno Air Guard Base. There, he'd gotten his travel orders to go to Kingsley Field, and that meant space-available again on a C-130. When he got to Kingsley Field, to his surprise, he had very little to do with Colonel Saul Tigh, the CO of the RTU there, but things he'd heard about the man came back: he was stubborn, irascible, grumpy, and just an overall asshole. When Guru had said as much to one of his instructors, the man-who had flown with Tigh in Vietnam before going to the Reserves, simply said, “You only have him for two weeks. I put up with him in SEA for a year.”

His RTU time went by fast, and on his final check ride, he'd maxed the flight. His instructor was beaming on landing, and was ready to pronounce Guru requalified. Tigh was on the ramp, and when the instructor brought Tigh the form to sign, with Guru there, Tigh had simply signed it, made some kind of grunt, then went off. Guru turned to the instructor, a Captain, and said, “That's it? No 'Welcome back to the Air Force?' Or 'Glad to have you back in the fight?'”

“That's it, Lieutenant.”

The only down side: Tony Carpenter, once he requalified, was being kept on as an instructor. When they were in the O-Club that afternoon, Guru was celebrating, while Tony was drowning his sorrows. “Tony, it won't last forever. You'll be back in the fight.”

“Yeah, but for at least a year, I have to put up with this asshole.” Carpenter grumbled.

“Well....what else can I say?” Guru held out his hand. “I'm glad to have flown with you, and see you at the reunion.”

“Guru, I'm glad to have known you,” Tony said, shaking his hand. “I'll see you around. Take care, and check six.”

Now, as he got off the C-130, a wave of heat hit him. He was in his dress blues, as per regs, and it was hot on the ramp. Guru looked around, and saw the 335th was still in its old location. He went to check back in with his squadron, glad to be back. He opened the door to the old T-37 flying training squadron offices that the 335th had taken over, and he saw a few familiar faces. And one of them recognized him: Captain Tim Cain, one of the backseaters left from Day One. “Guru!”

“Tim,” Guru said. “Glad to be back.”

“We heard you were coming back, man. How bad was it with the Resistance?”

“Don't ask. It was bad enough,” Guru replied. “If you want to know, it should be in the SERE Bulletin.”

“Yeah,” Cain responded.

“Colonel Rivers still the CO?” Guru asked.

“He is. He'll want to see you.”

Guru nodded. “All right.”

He picked up his bag and went to the CO's office. Several of his friends had recognized him, but there were more than a few unfamiliar faces. And he knew why. People he'd flown with were KIA, MIA, POW, or were in the hospital. Or worse: they might be going through what he'd experienced. Shaking his head at the thought, he knocked on the CO's door. “Come in.”

Guru went into the office and saluted. “Colonel, one lost sheep back to the 335th.”

“Guru!” Lt. Col. Dean Rivers said, getting up and shaking his hand. “Glad to have you back.”

“Good to be back, Sir.” Guru replied.

“Before you have a seat, you're out of uniform,” Rivers told Guru.

Guru was confused. They'd reoutfitted him at Castle before he went home, and he found out the AF had sent his personal belongings home after he'd been reported MIA. “Sir?”

Rivers gave him a small case, like a jeweler would use. “Open it.”

Guru did. “Captain?” He stared at the CO with a dumb look on his face. “Sir, I don't have enough time in grade.”

“Things are different in wartime, Guru. Lot of things happened while you were doing the SERE course for real.”

“We heard. Some botched counterattack, then Ivan pushed north again, and they got stopped short of the Mississippi and I-90.” Guru replied. “We saw Stars and Stripes when we came out of the mountains.”

Rivers nodded. “Yeah. And we just started pushing them back. Chances are, we go right back to where they were in January.”

“Lovely,” Guru said.

“Anyway, sorry about Tony not coming back. I asked for both of you, but they wanted an Academy grad as an instructor there,” Rivers admitted. “But I've got you a new WSO. A week out of the RTU, but no combat yet.”

“Captain's bars and a new WSO in the same day,” Guru noted. “Be careful of what you ask for, because you might just get it.”

Rivers let out a laugh. “There is that. Ready to meet your new backseater?”

“Might as well,” Guru said. Not that he had much choice.

Rivers went to the office door and motioned for someone to come in. A female 1st Lieutenant came in, with wavy blonde hair as long as regs permitted, and even in a flight suit, she was a looker. “First Lieutenant Lisa Eichhorn reporting, Sir.” she said, saluting.

Rivers nodded and returned the salute. “Lieutenant,.” He turned to Guru. “Lieutenant Eichhorn, meet Captain Matt Wiser, your new pilot.”

Guru was surprised. This had to be a welcome-back joke. But what if it wasn't? When had they tossed the ban on women flying combat? “Sir?”

“Guru, they tossed the ban on women flying combat in November, but we were all too busy to notice,” Rivers reminded the new Captain. “She's in the first crop of female pilots and WSOs to come out of the RTU.”

Well, then, that answers that. “Just like Ivan did, forty years ago,” Guru observed. He put out his hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Eichhorn replied.

“How'd you do at Kingsley Field?”

“First in my WSO class,” Eichhorn said with pride.

Guru noticed her Academy ring. “Any problems flying with an OTS grad?”

“Not at all,” Eichhorn replied. “Right now, the only thing I care about is my pilot wearing Air Force Blue.”

Guru nodded, then turned to Rivers, who made a habit of not wearing his class ring. “Boss, I think we'll get along just fine.” He turned to Eichhorn. “What's your call sign?”

“Goalie,” she replied.

“A guru and a goalie,” Rivers observed. “You two will make a good team. Now, Guru, I'll want a check ride with you in the morning, then you two can fly a fam hop to the Goldwater range to shake down. Because in three days, we're back on the firing line.”

“Yes, Sir.” Guru said.

“All right, find Mark Ellis, Guru, and see about billeting. We're still in the Mesa Sheraton, but he'll find you a roomie.”

Guru nodded.

“Anything else?” Rivers asked. Both shook their heads. “Dismissed.”

Back in the squadron offices, several old hands welcomed Guru back. And they reminded him of the obligatory promotion party! “Tomorrow night, guys,” Guru said. He walked out of the building, with Goalie right behind him. He turned to her. “Let's say we go to the Club, and talk things over. I think we'll make a good team.”

She nodded. “Suits me just fine. As long as the new Captain is paying.”

Guru laughed. “You know what? We'll get along just fine. And I am.”

It was her turn to laugh. “Then let's go.”


14 October, 2011. Victory Day Air Show, Scott AFB, IL.

Colonels Matt Wiser and Lisa Eichhorn were sitting in the shade, which their F-15E Strike Eagles could provide. He had flown his Wing King bird from Hill AFB in Utah, where he commanded the 419th TFW of the AF Reserve, while Colonel Eichhorn flew her Wing King bird from Mountain Home AFB in Idaho, where she ran the 366th TFW “The Gunfighters.” They were the first married couple in the Air Force to be wing commanders at the same time, and flying the same aircraft, so there was naturally some publicity. They had been specifically requested by the Air Force to bring themselves and their aircraft to the show, and to have one other aircraft from their unit come, flown by veterans of World War III if at all possible, or the recent Baja War if not. Colonel Wiser had brought his WSO, who was too young to be in the Big War, but had flown with him in Mexico, and Colonel Eichhorn had done the same. But their wingmates had been in the big one: Colonel Wiser's was Lt. Col. Kelly Ann Ray, who had been a POW in Cuba during the war, while Colonel Eichhorn had brought along Lt. Col. Kara Thrace, who had been in the 335th during the war, and was now commanding the 390th TFS. All of their respective WSOs had flown in Mexico, when both units had deployed to Baja for that brief war.

This year's Victory Day Air Show was big, and for two reasons. First, it was the biggest show of the season, and all of the military's demonstration teams participated: the Thunderbirds from the Air Force, the Blue Angels from the Navy, the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, and the services' respective Heritage Flights. Second, it was the final Victory Day show to be held at Scott, because the following year, Andrews AFB would formally reopen, along with the rededicated and rebuilt Washington, D.C, and the show would move to Andrews on a permanent basis, much to the disappointment of the Greater St. Louis area, which looked forward to the show visitors pumping a lot of money into the local economy every year.

That was not a concern to the two colonels, who noted that a lot of vets were in attendance. Though this day was more of a practice day, with the teams having practice runs, it was also the day when VIPs could attend, without the extra security, and it was also the day that civic and veterans' organizations, as well as special needs visitors, could be there as well. The “Make-a-wish” kids often came on the practice days, and these days were less crowded.

Looking around, Guru saw the F-15Es from Seymour-Johnson, and he had a soft spot for his old wing, and the 335th, which was still part of the 4th TFW. Then there were the F-22s, and he knew full well that Kara and Kelly had a score to settle with the CO of the 357th TFW, who had “shot down” both of them in a Red Flag, and they had promised revenge, even if he was a one-star. The bombers were out, with B-52s and B-1s on the ramp, with the B-1C known as Cleopatra and its all-female crew being spotlighted, and a B-2 flyby from Whiteman was on the agenda. Just about every type of fighter, bomber, or transport was represented, and that was just the AF! All of the other services were well represented, with Navy, Marine, and Army aircraft and helicopters there, and the RCAF also came down as usual.

Guru and Goalie were talking with some cub scouts, signing autographs, and showing the kids around the F-15Es, while Kelly Ann Ray was signing books: her book Down in Cuba had become a best-seller, and had been made into a movie that had done well on Showtime, and was coming to DVD. Then Goalie looked around. “Where's Kara?

“She went to put some decals in the wheel well of that one-star's F-22,” Guru said. “Notice I said the wheel well. She knows full well not to put it on the outside.”

“Does she?” Goalie asked her husband. “I don't want my pay docked to pay for the paint job.”

Kara then came back. “Mission accomplished.”

“You did put them in the wheel well?” Goalie asked.

“Yes, Ma'am,” Kara said. “I may be crazy but I'm not stupid. Besides, I want that one-star's crew chief to have a coronary-along with said one-star.”

“That's our Kara,” Colonel Ray quipped. And everyone knew she wasn't kidding.

The cub scouts had just gone on, when a Cuban-accented voice spoke up. “Colonel Wiser, we meet at last.”

“Huh?” Guru turned and saw someone he hadn't seen personally since that long-ago day in that café in Colorado. But he'd seen the man on Larry King Live, being interviewed along with Erica Mason, one of the two surviving Wolverines, and now Governor of Colorado. “Well, now. Not every day you see a man you almost shot.”

“What?” Goalie asked. And the expressions on Kara's face and Kelly's were just as surprised.

“Ah,” Colonel Ernesto Bella, Cuban Army (ret.), said. “Yes, your Colonel here almost shot me in a café after my defection.” He explained the event to the Eagle crews.

“Ernesto, you didn't tell me about this?” a woman's voice said.

“Forgive me,” Colonel, meet my wife, Manuela, and my children, Jose, Pedro, and Sofia,” Bella said, introducing his wife, teenage son, and year-old twins.

“Pleased to meet you,” Guru said, and the other Eagle crews were just as pleasant.

“Now, what's this about nearly shooting him in a café?” Mrs. Bella asked.

Guru nodded. “Well, Ma'am, your husband came into the café still in his Cuban Army uniform, complete with beret, and everyone reacted out of reflex. It wasn't just us; almost everyone in there was carrying a weapon of one sort or another.”

Bella laughed. “Yes, and I remarked to one of the intelligence officers that 'Is this how you welcome guests?'”

“That I heard,” Guru said. “What brings you here, Colonel?”

“I have something for you,” Bella said. He motioned behind him, and a young woman came and handed him a folder, and getting by the bodyguards that always accompanied Bella. “My publicist. After my book's success, hiring one was mandatory.” He handed Guru the folder. “I suggest you have a look.”

Guru opened the folder. Several photos came out. They showed a party walking single-file, towards a mountain pass. All were dressed in Soviet winter suits, and had AK rifles at the ready, except for one, who had a hunting rifle. “I recognize the one with the rifle. Lori Sheppard: that's a .270 Winchester she's carrying.”

“Yes, I saw her at the café,” Bella said. “Now, look at the close-ups.”

Guru flipped through the photos. There were several 8x10 close-ups, all clearly enlargements. “OK, Neal Brandon, Lori Sheppard, and....” He looked at Bella. “This isn't possible.”

“It is, Colonel,” Bella replied.

“Let me see,” Goalie asked. She looked over Guru's shoulder. “What?! Guru, that's you!”

“Yeah,” Guru said. He looked at Bella. “Who took these?”

“A Spetsnatz team. They had orders to observe and report about whoever was using the pass. The Front intelligence directorate wanted to know about possible guerrilla supply lines, escape routes, that sort of thing. They had orders to observe and report only, and to avoid combat,” Bella said, matter of factly.

“How'd they know we were there?”

“They didn't,” responded Bella. “They had been up there for nine days, and were on the last day of their mission,”

“God...they're good enough to recognize everybody,” Guru noted. “Excuse me, Colonel, but I need to make a phone call.” He reached into one of his flight suit pockets and pulled out his cell phone.

“Who are you calling?” Goalie asked.

“Sheriff Lori Sheppard.” was the reply. Guru had her number, and he made the call.

“Sheriff Sheppard,” Lori said after picking up. “What's up, Colonel?”

“Lori,” Guru said. “I'm at the Victory Day Air Show, and there's a certain former Cuban colonel who's got some nice pictures. They're of us, going over the pass.”


“Colonel Bella says there was a Spetsnatz team keeping tabs on the pass. They got some nice pictures of everybody. Good enough to get ID on all of us.” Guru told the Sheriff.

“Who talked? Colonel, if someone was a rat, they'll wish they had never been born!” Lori was practically shouting into the phone.

“Nobody talked,” Guru said. “Bella said they were watching the pass, and we just came into range of their camera...”

“NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” Lori yelled. “I'll find the snitch, whoever it was, and watch as the Feds hang him or her! Colonel, I'll call you back. My chief of detectives is going to be busy for a while.” And with that, Lori hung up.

Guru went back to where Goalie was, with Colonel Bella. “Well?” Goalie asked.

“Great. Lori's gone ballistic. I told her about the Spetsnatz team and the photos, and she went ape. She's convinced someone was a traitor, and she's going after someone who doesn't exist. I do not want to be her chief of detectives right now.”

“Ah,” Bella said. “She has to satisfy herself that there wasn't a traitor, but will make life miserable for her subordinates in the meantime.”

“Exactly,” Guru said.

“Well, then.” Bella said. He turned to Colonel Ray. “Colonel Ray, I have read your book.”

She was surprised. “And how did you like it?”

“A very harrowing read, I must say.” Bella said. “Your treatment was most unforgivable, and totally reprehensible. I trust the guilty parties will pay?”

“A couple have, Colonel. The rest, well once the appeals are done, it's time to measure them for the correct drop,” replied Colonel Ray.

“Quite so,” Bella agreed. “Please accept my apologies as a Cuban. You and your fellow prisoners deserved much better treatment.” He put out her hand.

“You're not one of them, Colonel.” Ray said. “So you're okay in my book.” And the two of them shook hands.

“Ernesto, we should be going,” Mrs. Bella reminded her husband. “There's a lot more to see.”

“Yes, we should.” Bella turned to Guru. “You may keep the photographs, Colonel. Consider them a gift. And a reminder of a close shave.”

Guru nodded.

Bella then shook hands with the Eagle drivers, then he and his party-bodyguards included, moved on.

“Well....” Goalie said. “Not every day you meet someone like him.”

“Yeah,” Kara said. “He's still in shape, though: I read his book: the man's ex-Cuban SF. Experience in Nicaragua, Angola, Cambodia, El Salvador, and Mexico. He probably doesn't need the bodyguards.”

“There's enough ex-DGI types around who might still try to whack him,” Capt. Jody Tucker, Kelly Ray's WSO, commented. “He'll have them for a while longer.

Kelly nodded. “You know one thing?”

“What?” Guru asked.

“He's the first Cuban to actually apologize for what happened to me, personally,” Kelly replied. “He's okay in my book.”

Nodding, Goalie looked at the photos again. “Man, they were close.”

Her husband nodded. “Yeah. Now I have to do one more thing. But not until Monday.”

“What's that?” Kara asked.

“See if Lori's climbed down from the ceiling and calmed down,” Guru remarked dryly.

“Why Monday?” Goalie asked.

“It'll take her that long to settle down,” Guru said.

And with that, the show went on, for the rest of the day, and the whole weekend.

Matt Wiser 12-18-2014 07:24 PM

And the next one....the first day of the war, from the 335th's POV:

The First Day

Prologue: Nellis Air Force Base, NV: 30 August, 1985, 1430 Hours Pacific Daylight Time:

First Lieutenant Matt Wiser climbed down from his F-4E Phantom, having arrived at the sprawling Nellis AFB for his first Red Flag exercise. His unit, the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, had arrived that day from Seymour-Johnson AFB in North Carolina, and this was his first time at Red Flag, or any other major exercise for that matter. He'd been in the squadron all of six months, and was still relatively fresh out of F-4 training. One thing he was glad to have, was that his Squadron CO, Lt. Col. Mark Johnson, had taken him under his wing, and he was the CO's wingman. Colonel Johnson felt that it was his job not just to be CO, but to be a mentor to those just out of the RTU, and having Guru (Wiser's call sign) be his wingmate illustrated that.

Now, after climbing down from his F-4, tail number 515, he shook hands with his WSO, First Lieutenant Tony Carpenter. Tony, though, was an experienced WSO with a year in the cockpit, and as was usual in the AF, had been paired up with a pilot fresh from the RTU. So far, the pilot from California and the WSO from rural Oregon had hit it off, and were planning on enjoying the weekend in Vegas before the Red Flag got going. Then Sergeant Kyle Calhoun, 515's crew chief, came over. “Sir, anything I need to know?”

“She's going good, Sergeant,” Guru said. “515's working like a champ.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Then Colonel Johnson and his WSO, Maj. Bryan Calhoun, came over. “Guru, how do you like Nellis?”

“Hot, sir.” Guru said, and Tony echoed that.

“That it is,” Johnson said. “Come on in, get cooled off, and we'll get the lowdown.”

A few minutes later, the crews from the 335th were in the largest briefing room anyone in the squadron had been in, apart from the Academy grads. “This is kinda familiar,” Tony said to his pilot.

“What do you mean by that?” Guru replied.

“The Academy. A couple of the lecture halls are this big.”

Guru nodded as a one-star general came into the room. “TEN-HUT!”

Everyone snapped to attention as the general came into the room. Brig. Gen. Ken Shoemaker commanded the Fighter Weapons School, and supervised the Red Flag program. “Take your seats, gentlemen.”

Everyone found a place to sit as Shoemaker started to talk.

“Okay, first of all, welcome to Red Flag 9-85. For the next two weeks, beginning on Tuesday, you all will be put through the wringer when it comes to air combat. Air-to-air or air-to-ground, it doesn't matter. By the time your units are all through, you will have gained the experience needed to fly, fight, and survive if and when the balloon goes up.

“Statistically, most combat losses occur prior to the tenth combat mission. This exercise will give you the experience, without live ordnance, of those first ten missions. Keep in mind, that you will be flying against the best pilots in the Air Force, who are the Aggressors. They fly according to Soviet doctrine, and don't be surprised if they see you before you see them.

“Now, you'll have a flying day tomorrow, for orientation. Normally, in a combat zone, you wouldn't get that chance, but this is an exercise, and those rules apply. Before you all get billeted, one other thing: if you go off base, and chances are, all of you will, base security has been ramped up a notch. We're at Threatcon BRAVO for the time being. So expect some delays as you come and go from the base. Questions?”

'Sir,” Colonel Johnson raised his hand. “This have anything to do with China and the Far East?”

“Good question. This is just for this base only. Something's going on, and it's an ongoing investigation. It might be China, but then again, with everything that's going on south of the border....just keep in mind that this will likely blow over. That's what I've been told, anyway,” General Shoemaker said. “Anything else?” There were the usual questions about billeting, and the other usual things that went on with an exercise, then Shoemaker said, “All right, that's it. Good luck, and play safe.”

After going to the Las Vegas Hilton, where the squadron had been billeted, along with the 58th TFS from Eglin AFB, Guru and Tony went down to one of the hotel's restaurants for dinner. Most were out of the price range of a couple of Air Force First Lieutenants, but they a causal cafe to sit down and eat. After ordering their meals, Guru took out a copy of a Vegas newspaper he'd picked up in the hotel lobby, The Las Vegas Journal, and as he started to read, he whistled.

“What?” Tony asked.

“Chinese call for UN to discuss Soviet troop buildup in Far East.” Guru said, reading from the headline.

“Let me see...” Tony asked, and Guru handed him the front page. “Whoa...this looks serious. 'Chinese sources claim there are now eighty Soviet divisions in the Soviet Far East, and the Chinese Government has demanded an explanation from the Soviet Union. All requests have been denied.' Wouldn't surprise me, the two Communist giants going at each other.”

“Yeah, and North Korea is a friend of Ivan,” Guru pointed out. “If they go south when the Russians move....”

“We're at war,” Tony finished. “You up for a TransPac?”

“If you drive F-4s, it has to happen sometime,” Guru said, remembering one of his RTU instructors.

Then Colonel Johnson came in, and he was looking tired. “Wondered if I'd find some guys from the squadron here.”

“Well, Boss,” Guru said. “Most of the other eateries here are a bit above our pay grade.”

“Or dress code,” Tony added.

“There is that,” the CO said. “I'm waiting for the XO, we've got some things to talk about, and you guys will find out tomorrow, with everyone else.”

“As usual,” Guru deadpanned. “Big fish talk, little fish circle around and wait.”

Johnson smiled. “You're catching on fast, Lieutenant. Anyway, they had a briefing for all squadron commanders. Not just those here for the Flag, but the tenant units as well. Want to know why the base security got stepped up?”

“The thought had occurred to us,” Carpenter said, just as the waitress brought their dinner salads.

“Well, the story is that some guy whose parents were Russian emigres either tried to get into the Air Force and got turned down, or got kicked out of the Air Force, flipped out, made threats against the base, and well...nobody's taking any chances.”

“Great, some wacko with a grudge against the Air Force,” Guru said as he attacked his salad. “FBI out looking for this nut?”

“LVPD and FBI,” Johnson said. “So....now you know what's up. Just smile, grin and bear it, and hopefully soon, they'll catch this nut and they can stand down.”

“Everyone on base will be glad to hear that, Boss,” Tony said.

Guru nodded. “Even better still: they caught this bastard.”

Colonel Johnson nodded back. “That's the best of all.” Then he saw the XO appear at the entrance to the restaurant. “Looks like the XO's here. See you two tomorrow, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, 0800.”

“We'll be there,” Guru said.

Nellis AFB, NV, 0630 Hours Pacific Daylight Time, 4 September, 1985:

Lieutenants Matt Wiser and Tony Carpenter were in their rented Camaro, in a line of cars waiting to enter Nellis Air Force Base. They had risen early, eaten at the hotel, and knowing that there was a good chance security was still on alert, the both of them decided to go ahead and head to the base. Now, looking out the left window, Wiser saw a long line of cars on Craig Road waiting to enter the base. He and Tony had driven up Las Vegas Boulevard, avoiding I-15, and were in a long line as well. And both of them noticed Clark County Sheriff's Deputies and Nevada Highway Patrol officers assisting with traffic, since they were outside the city limits of Las Vegas. “How long have we been here?” Guru asked.

Tony looked at his watch. “Since 5:50.”

“God, with this much security, you'd think the President was coming.”

“Yeah,” Tony nodded. He went back to the morning's Las Vegas Review, which they'd picked up at the hotel along with the Los Angeles Times. “Says here they did find that wacko.”

“Oh?” Guru asked.

“Yeah. He crashed off of U.S. 93 near Henderson. They found him, dead, along with an AK-47 and 5,000 rounds of ammo.”

“Anything else, like, say, a note?” Guru asked. “Nuts like that always leave something to say 'The world sucks, It sucks to be me, so I'm lashing out.' Or something like that.”

Tony scanned the story. “Nope.”

“Great,” Guru cursed. “If this guy's dead, why all the security?”

“Maybe he's got friends?” Tony asked.

The line moved and as the Camaro got to the main gate, Guru and Tony noticed the AF Security Police waiting. They rolled down the windows and got ready to show their ID cards.

“Sirs, could you step out of the vehicle, please?” One of the airmen asked. Instead of the spit-and-polish of dress uniforms, they were in fatigues, and had M-16s slung over their shoulders.

Guru and Tony got out of the car and both were quickly padded down by SP s. After that, they were allowed to show their ID, and the car was given the mirror treatment, and a military working dog sniffed the vehicle. Everything was checked, and only after the dog was through did the SP airman hand the ID cards back to the two officers. “Here you go, sirs,”

“What's this about? Didn't they catch that loony last night?” Tony asked.

'Sir, all I know is what they told us: keep this up for another day or so. Not until the FBI and OSI give the all-clear.” OSI meant the Office of Special Investigations, the Air Force's criminal-investigation and counterintelligence arm.

The two F-4 crewers shrugged, got into their car, and headed into the base. After a few minutes, they found the building where their squadron was being housed for the duration of the exercise. After they parked, they found several of their squadron mates sitting around, waiting. “Look who the cat dragged in,” Capt. Morgan Donahue, who was one of the squadron's ordnance officers (every pilot and WSO had a secondary ground job besides flying) quipped.

'And good morning to you too,” Tony said. “Sir.”

“Let me guess? You guys still grumpy about being in that traffic jam?”

“You could say that,” Guru said as he got his bag out of the car. They then went inside and found the ops office. Both of them worked for Major Keith Pollard, the Operations Officer. He wasn't there, so they left their bags on their desks. As they got ready to go back outside, Colonel Johnson came in.

“Nice to see my wing crew in early,” Johnson said.

“Yes, sir,” Guru and Tony nodded.

“Major Pollard in?”

“No sir,” Guru replied. “Chances are, he's stuck in traffic.”

“Like almost everybody,” Colonel Johnson said. “You guys eat yet?”

“Yes, sir. We ate before coming here,” Tony said.

“Come on. It's going to be a busy day, and you'll be glad you had the extra food.”

Officer's Open Mess, Nellis AFB, NV: 0710 Hours Pacific Daylight Time:

“So, how was your weekend?” Colonel Johnson asked Guru and Tony.

“Celebrated my birthday Friday,” Lieutenant Wiser said. “One of the restaurants in the hotel is a steakhouse, and they had a steak and lobster tail dinner.”

“Steak and shrimp for me,” Tony said. “It was a little expensive, but since he paid, it was worth it.”

“Always good to have someone else pay for a dinner like that,” Maj. Brian Calhoun, Johnson's WSO, said.

“It is that,” Tony grinned. “Other than that, we wasted a little money in the slot machines.”

“Only a little, Boss,” Guru added.

Colonel Johnson nodded as he skimmed the Las Vegas Journal. This was a later edition than the one that had come out earlier in the morning. “See this? 'China Claims Soviets Plan Attack?'”

“We saw it, Colonel,” Guru said. “One thing I learned as a History Major....”

“And that is,” Johnson asked in between bites of his omelet.

“One of Eisenhower's prima donnas said this: 'There are only two rules of war, One, Never invade Russia. Two: Never invade China.'”

“Who said that?” Tony asked.

“Montgomery,” Guru said, then he took a swig of coffee.

Capt. Donahue spoke up. “Well, Colonel, if the two Communist giants go after each other, what do we do?”

“Sit back and watch, Captain,” Johnson nodded.

“That'd be great...” Guru nodded. Just after he said that, there was a large BOOM.

“What the hell was that?” Several people asked all at once.

“Construction blasting?” Colonel Johnson asked. “At this time of morning?”

Then there was another explosion, and what sounded like firecrackers off in the distance.

“Maybe that nut had friends,” someone said.

Then another Colonel, who'd been in Southeast Asia, yelled, “That's small arms fire! And this base is under attack!”

General Shoemaker came running in, half out of breath. “People, I'm only going to say this once: we are at war. The Soviets have attacked Alaska, there's Soviet and Cuban armor crossing the border from Tijuana all the way to the Gulf, and there's Soviet airborne in Colorado and New Mexico. Right now, your planes are being armed with what's available. Get to the border, and any armor headed north? Kill it. Man your aircraft!”

The mess emptied as aircrews and other officers headed to their posts or to get suited up. Colonel Johnson, Guru, and the others from the 335th ran like hell to their spaces, and frantically got suited up. “Ever think you'd go to war?” Tony asked.

“In Korea, or maybe Europe,” Guru said as he put on his G-suit and grabbed his helmet and oxygen mask.

On the way out, they literally ran into their squadron's supply officer, Maj. Paul Whitaker. He was a former WSO who'd been grounded due to a heart murmur, and he was wondering what was going on.
“What's going on?”

“Paul,” Colonel Johnson said as he went out the door. “Triple-order everything you can think of.”

“What the hell's happened?”

“Ivan and Fidel just crossed the border. So we're at war. Tell the supply sergeants to, uh, get whatever we need, by hook or crook.”

Whitaker understood; he'd been a F-4 WSO in 1972 during LINEBACKER I and II. “Gotcha, Colonel. Go get some.”

“Let's go, people!” Johnson yelled as the crews ran for their aircraft.

Guru and Tony ran for 515, “their” aircraft, while others intended to take the first armed and fueled aircraft they came to. As they ran, they saw two F-16s from the 474th TFW, the combat unit stationed at Nellis, take to the air. As they got to 515, they found their crew chief staring dumbfounded as ordnance people loaded a full drum of 20-mm ammunition for the F-4's Vulcan cannon, and loaded a pair of TER racks with three Mark-82 500-pound bombs apiece on the inner wing stations. “Sergeant,” Guru said as they reached the plane.

“Sir, what's going on?” Sergeant Calhoun asked in his Georgia drawl.

“Remember all those folks who said the Russians might come across the Rio Grande?” Tony said.

Calhoun nodded. “Yes, sir....”

“They were right,” Guru said. “Got the starter cart?”

“All set, sir. But.. what, we're at war?”

“We are. Get ready for engine start,” Guru said as he climbed the crew ladder and got into the pilot's seat.

Then Calhoun's training kicked in, and he helped both Guru and Tony get strapped into their seats. The two crewers ran through what both thought was their fastest preflight ever, then they got the “start engines” hand signal from their crew chief. Both J-79 engines came to life, one after the other. As the engines warmed up, Colonel Johnson's voice came over the radio. “Okay, people, go in flights of four. Get to the border, find armor headed north, and kill it. Watch for MiGs, watch for SAMs, and watch for power lines if you get down low. Remember your training, stick to your wingmen, and we'll get through this. Go by call signs on the radio. Let's go.”

With that, Johnson's plane began to taxi, and Guru was right behind him. As they taxied, the crews noticed several more F-16 two-ships, and a couple of F-15s-presumably from the visiting 58th TFS, take to the air. They held short of the runway so that the armorers could pull of the weapon safety pins, and as they waited, the crews saw a strange sight: the Catholic Chaplain, standing next to the armorers, and he was giving the departing crews the sign of the Cross, and a absolution as they taxied onto the runway. “You Catholic?” Tony asked as he saw Guru snap a salute to the Chaplain.

“No, technically Episcopalian, but devout Agnostic. But today? We may need all the help we can get,” Guru observed as he taxied onto the runway, in the wing position to Colonel Johnson.

As they taxied, they saw a couple of helicopters orbiting. One was a UH-1N from the base, and another looked to be a civilian news chopper. Then, all of a sudden, a white smoke trail came from just north of the base, and the news chopper's tail came off as it was struck.

It tumbled to the ground in flames and exploded on impact “Oh, God...” Guru said. “Boss-”

“I saw it,” the CO responded. “All Chiefs, this is Lead. Grail, Grail, Grail. Combat takeoffs, no matter what.”

Before anyone could respond, the tower flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff.

“Let's go!” Johnson shouted, and he released his brakes and rolled down the runway. Guru followed, and both Phantoms rumbled into the air. And as they pulled up and away, toward Lake Mead, they saw another missile trail reach out towards them, but it missed. Then the UH-1 hovered over the launch area, and sprayed it with machine-gun fire.

After takeoff, the two Phantoms were joined by another pair, plus two F-16s and two F-15s. Colonel Johnson called the element leaders, and found out he was senior. “All right, follow us to the border. Kill any MiGs that get too close to us.”

“Copy that,” the F-15 leader, a brand-new Captain who had just graduated to element lead, said.” Let's go.”

“What are we waiting for?” the F-16 lead called.

The eight-ship then turned and headed into Arizona.

Over Arizona, 0810 Hours:

As the eight-ship headed south, towards the Phoenix area, everyone was either scanning the sky, or in the WSOs' case, watching their radar scopes. So far, everything they had picked up was civilian, but no one was taking any chances, because either the F-15s or F-16s went to ID the contacts.

A few minutes later, they approached the Phoenix area, and gave the airspace around Luke AFB a wide berth. The crews could see F-15s taking off, and several civilian airliners coming in to the traffic pattern for Sky Harbor IAP. So far, there were no signs of any enemy aircraft, but that could easily change. “Tony, try using that AM receiver on your radio. See if you can pick up anything,” Guru said.

“Gotcha,” Tony replied. He fiddled with the tuner, while Guru stayed on the squadron's own channel.

As they skirted Phoenix, the crews saw several civilian airliners landing. Evidently the FAA had ordered all civilian aircraft to land at the nearest airport, and a nationwide ground stop. That had only happened twice, during exercises in the 1960s. Now, the fighter crews saw a number of airliners, from commuter types to a 747, orbiting and waiting to land. And there were some F-15s circling above them. They also noticed a departure: a Arizona ANG KC-135 was getting airborne.

“Either SAC scrambled them or those guys took off on their own,” Tony called on the intercom.

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Anything on the radio?”

“Uh, got a station from Phoenix. They're telling people to stay off the streets, leave them clear for police, emergency vehicles, and the National Guard.”

“What you'd expect,' Guru said as they headed past Sky Harbor Airport. “Anything else?”

“Yeah, nobody can get in touch with either New York or D.C.,”


“That's what the man said. And he was talking to a guy from their sister station in El Paso. That guy said there were Cuban tanks and troops in Downtown El Paso.”

Guru shook his head at the thought. “Lead, Guru.”

“Lead here, Go,” the CO replied.

“Boss, anything about that tanker?”

“Roger that. He came up on GUARD and offered to pass fuel to anybody who needed it.” Johnson said. “He also asked if we'd heard about Omaha.”

“What about it?”

“Flight, Lead. Omaha's gone. They took a nuke, a big one. Same thing for Kansas City.”

Mother of God....Tony thought. His old Academy roommate was from K.C., though the guy was now stationed in Hawaii, he did have family still there. “Boss, anything about D.C.? Or New York?”

“He didn't say,” the CO said. “Tuscon dead ahead. Watch for Hogs and SLUFs.” SLUFs meant A-7 Corsairs, and the Arizona ANG at Tuscon flew two squadrons. One a deployable squadron, the other handed RTU duty for the A-7 force, which was all ANG. The Hogs were the A-10s, and chances were, they'd be headed to wherever the armor threat was showing itself. And several A-10s were seen headed south, as well as a number of A-7s. “Follow I-19, people. That's where they're coming up. I'd bet money on it.”

The eight-ship headed south, and as they did so, activity began to pick up on their EW systems. “Lead, Surfer.” That was Capt. Sean “Surfer” Boyer, flying as Three. “Got a six coming up.” Surfer's call meant an SA-6 missile radar was up.

“Got it, Surfer,” the CO replied.

A call came in on GUARD: armor at Rio Rico, north of Nogales on I-19. “Boss, Guru. Looks like we've got a target.”

“Copy that. Eagles and Vipers, any MiGs come to the party, break 'em up. Rhinos, we got work to do.”

Both F-15 and F-16 leaders acknowledged, and the F-4s, who were called Rhinos on the radio, dropped down low. As they did, more SAM radars came up. “Got another six, and an eight,” Surfer called. Another SA-6 was up, and an SA-8 was there as well.

“And no Weasels,” Tony said to Guru. “Remember what they told you about the Israelis in '73?”

“Yeah. Same drill,” Guru said. That meant a low-altitude ingress, a quick pop-up to release the bombs, and get out low again. He looked ahead and saw A-7s and A-10s working Interstate 19, and Colonel Johnson led them past that strike area, and spotted some vehicles backed up on the freeway. Tanks and APCs by the look of them.

“Flight, Lead. One pass, south to north. Go in low, pop up, make your run, and get out. If you're hit, try Davis-Monthan or Tuscon International. Time to do what they pay us for.”

“Two copies,” Guru

“Three,” Surfer.

“Four, roger,” Capt. Keith “Yogi” Santelli.

“All right, let's go. Lead's in hot!” And Colonel Johnson led the 335th on its first attack mission of the war.

Down below, a Cuban motor-rifle battalion commander was having a fit. Though the initial push through Nogales had gone according to plan, the Mexicans had taken the lead, as they were exuberant about reclaiming what they felt had been stolen from them in the Mexican War back in 1846-48. But now, they were stopping every so often to loot, and hopes of a swift advance to Tuscon and seizing the Davis-Monthan air base complex were starting to fade, especially with the Americans' having reacted quickly, and the skies were now full of American aircraft. Suddenly, his political officer pointed to the southwest. “AIRCRAFT!”

Colonel Johnson made his pop-up, and rolled in on the target. He dropped his bombs, and got back low, calling, “Lead's off safe.”

Guru went in just as his leader made his pop-up. “Two's in!” He called, “Switches set?” Guru asked his backseater.

“All set,” Tony replied.

Guru grinned beneath his oxygen mask. He lined up several APCs in his pipper, then released his bombs. ”Two off target.” He pulled up after the bomb run, and headed north.

Unknown to him, the Cuban battalion commander was picking himself up after Colonel Johnson's run. A couple of BTR-70s had been ripped apart by bomb hits, and a few others had been flipped on their sides by near-misses. The Cuban Major was shouting orders to get trapped men out of their vehicles when Guru's plane flashed over. He never saw the Mark-82 that exploded near him......

Guru banked his F-4 around, trying to stay below 300 feet. “Well?”

“SHACK!” Tony called. “There's a few fireballs.”

“Three's in!” Surfer called. His F-4 was the first to draw fire, but he manged to drop his bombs into several T-55 tanks in the southbound lane, exploding a couple, and flipping another. “Three's off.”

“Four's in,” Yogi called. He put his bombs onto some more APCs, and he pulled away.

Guru was watching, as he turned his F-4 to the west to break an SA-6 trying to lock him up. Then he saw the missile track Yogi's F-4. The SA-6 blended with the Phantom and the plane fireballed. As it tumbled out of the sky, end over end and trailing fire, Guru and Tony saw the cockpit area had been blown off. “Oh, my God...” Guru said.

“Lead, Three,” Surfer called. “Yogi's down. No chutes.”

“I saw it, Three. Nothing we can do for them. Let's get the hell out of here,” Colonel Johnson called.

Oh, man, Guru thought. He'd had a RTU classmate die in a crash, but that was an accident in peacetime. Now, two friends, Yogi and Burner, his WSO, were gone. Just like that. Suck it up, Guru, he thought to himself. Won't be the last, he knew. “Right with you, Lead.”

“Copy, “ the CO replied. “Vipers, Eagles, on me. RTB, now.”

“Roger that,” the F-15 leader called. “We're all Winchester. Got several MiGs.”

“Sort it out later,” Johnson said as another F-4 flight came in. It was the Exec's. “Glad you guys could make the party. Free strike. Anything moving north that's painted green is a target.”

“Gotcha, Boss.”

“Watch for SAMs. We lost Yogi.”

“Will do.”

The lead flight formed up and headed north. The F-15s and F-16s joined on them, though when they got to where the KC-135 was, they found three tankers. And one was filling up an F-15, with his wingie waiting his turn. The two Vipers from Nellis broke off to get a drink for themselves, while the F-4s and F-15s headed back towards Nellis.

As they headed north, Tony kept fiddling with the radio. “Guru...radio says D.C.'s gone.”

“What?” Guru was incredulous when he heard that. “You sure?”

“Yeah. They're on the line with a station in Richmond, Virginia. They can see the mushroom cloud.”

“God almighty...”

“And New York....there's another fireball and cloud there.”

“Lead, Two...” Guru called.

“I heard, Two. Fight now, mourn later,” Colonel Johnson replied. “Everybody got that?”

“Two copies,” Guru replied.

“Roger, Lead,” Surfer said.

The crews were subdued as they headed back to Nellis. Losing Yogi was bad enough, but hearing that four of America's cities had been nuked? It was almost too much. But they had a job to do, and like the CO said. Fight now. Mourn the dead later.

When they got back to Nellis, they found that instead of chaos, there was organized chaos. They had to wait in the pattern while the runway was cleared; a FedEx DC-8 had put down there instead of McCarran International due to McCarran's pattern being full of aircraft trying to land, and the DC-8 was out of fuel. Then they were able to come in and land. As the F-4s taxied in, they noticed aircraft being loaded with weapons. And this time, they were going out fully loaded. F-4s, F-15s, F-16s, and F-111s from the 525th TFS from Cannon-they had come for the Flag, only now, they were going out to try and save their home base, as there was a tide of armor headed into New Mexico and West Texas, and all of it headed north. There were also some RF-4s there, from the Nebraska Guard at Lincoln, and they were no doubt in a foul mood. For once, Guru bet, they wished they had fighters instead of recon birds.

After they taxied to their area on the ramp, and shut down, the crews got ready to get out of their aircraft, but the crew chiefs told them no. “Hot refuel and rearm, sir,” Guru's crew chief told him. A fueling crew went right to work, and topped up the internal tanks and the two wing tanks. Then the ordnance crews came, with a dozen Mark-82s: six on a MER rack, and six on two TER racks. Plus two AIM-9s and two AIM-7s.

There was some more good news: this time they would have F-4Gs. Two Weasel Phantoms would meet them northwest of Phoenix, and give them the SAM-suppression stuff they needed. The same two F-15s would come with the Rhinos, and two more that had just landed would join them. Fully armed this time.

When the hot refuel and rearm was finished, Colonel Johnson came back up. “People, we've got mission codes. We're now Chevy flight. And we're going back to the border.”

“When?” Surfer called back.

“When they release us,” the CO replied.

They had been on the ground a half-hour when they got the call to start engines. The aircraft taxied to the end of the runway, and again, they saw the Chaplain giving departing aircraft the sign of the cross. “He's busy,” Guru observed.

“His job,” Tony noted. “Ready?”

“No, but let's get it over with,” Guru replied.

Then the tower gave them the green light, and the flight rumbled down the runway on their second mission, and it was only midmorning.

Matt Wiser 12-18-2014 07:27 PM

Part II:

Over Western Arizona, 0945 Hours:

Chevy Flight, with the four F-15s from Olds Flight, headed back towards the border. As they did, the crews saw several private planes or commuter airliners coming into the traffic patterns at Kingman and Prescott airports, looking for someplace, anyplace, to put down. “FAA's shut down the navaids.” Guru said.

“I noticed,” Tony replied. “No VOR or NDBs. Just TACAN for us.”

Then Guru noticed two smoky trails above and to the right. “Chevy Lead, Two.”

“Go, Two,” Colonel Johnson replied.

“Rhinos at One O’clock,” Guru said. “These our Weasels?”

“Stand by one,” the CO said. “This is Chevy Lead looking for Coors Lead. You guys the Rhinos at my One?”

“Chevy, Coors,” the F-4G flight lead called. “You found us. We can give you two Standard ARMs and two Shrikes, plus two Rifles.” Rifle meant AGM-65 Mavericks. They did have a good anti-radar missile, and an older one that was still effective-if used properly.

“Copy that,' Chevy Lead said. “Follow us to the border. We could've used you guys this morning.”

“Comin' in,' the Weasel leader said, and two more Phantoms joined the formation, now approaching the Phoenix area.

“Tony, anything on the radio?” Guru asked his WSO.

“Nothing good,” Tony said. “Ivan and Fidel blew through the border towns like it was nothing.”

“What else?” Guru asked.

“Uh...All the Guard and Reserve got Federalized, this station in Phoenix says.”

Nodding, Guru concentrated on flying the plane, and keeping his head on a swivel. That had been drummed into his head in the RTU, not that long ago. Then he saw several explosions in the air, and aircraft falling. “What the..”

“Flight, Lead,” Johnson called. “I see it. Stand by.”

Chevy Flight got closer, and they could see fighters slashing at what appeared to be transports. Then they recognized the fighters as F-15s, and the transports were An-12 Cubs and An-26 Curls. Several of each were now falling in flames, and several others had crashed, for there were columns of smoke rising from a number of crash sites.

“Looks like the good guys are winning this one,” Tony observed, as an An-12 fell off to their left. “What'd they think they'd do? Land at Luke or Sky Harbor and just take over?”

“Don't know,” Guru replied. “But some jumped. There's quite a few chutes.” And sure enough, there were numerous parachutes, and that meant some of the paratroopers had jumped.

“Flight, Lead. This ain't our fight. We got business near the border.” Johnson reminded the flight, and everyone acknowledged. And the Phantoms and their Eagle escorts headed south. They got close to Tucson, and everyone could see A-7s and A-10s taking off, and even Army AH-1s. An Army Reserve unit flew AH-1S Cobras out of Marana Airpark, and some of them were headed off to war. The crews could also see a couple columns of smoke rising from Tucson near both Davis-Monthan AFB and Tucson IAP, and something had happened.

“Wonder if they had gate-crashers like we did,” Guru wondered.

“No bet. That was a given,” Tony replied.

Then the RWR came up. “Picking up SA-6,” Guru said.

“Got it,” Tony said. “How do you want the bombs?”

“Everything in one go.”

“Coors Lead, Chevy Lead,” the Weasel leader called. “Time for us to go to work, fella.”

“Copy that,” Colonel Johnson replied. “Get those guys off the air.”

“Roger that,” Coors Lead said. “Got an eight coming up.” That meant an SA-8 launch vehicle, and the SA-8 was still a relative unknown. “And...Magnum!” Coors Lead called as an AGM-78 Standard-ARM missile came off his Weasel.

The big missile stampeded away from the F-4, and homed in on the threat.

To the south, a Cuban SA-6 battery was trying to lock up the incoming aircraft. In the Straight Flush radar vehicle, the crew's morale was high. They had already shot down an F-4 and two A-7s, and sent an A-10 back damaged, and the Cuban missilers were exuberant. Then they heard a WHOOSH, then all of a sudden, their radar track exploded around them......

“SA-6 down,” Guru said, checking his EW repeater.

“Magnum!” Coors Lead shouted. And another AGM-78 went off in search of a target. It found a nearby SA-8 vehicle and exploded it just as it fired at Coors Lead.

“Coors Lead is Winchester,” he called. That meant he was out of ordnance. “Coors Two, it's all yours.”

“Copy. Chevy Lead, want to go in? I'll cover you.”

“Roger,” Chevy Lead replied. “Buick Lead, Chevy Lead. Any MiGs?”

“That's affirm,” the F-15 leader called. “Got some Floggers inbound.” That meant MiG-23s.

“Get some, Buick,” Johnson said. “Chevy Flight, same drill. South to North.”

“Roger, Lead,” Guru replied.

“Three copies,” Surfer called.

Chevy Flight rolled in, with Coors Two right behind them. Then he called, “Coors Two, Magnum!” as a Shrike missile came off the rail, and tracked something down below. As it did, Coors Two said, “Rifle one, and two,” as he shot his two AGM-65s.

“Roger that,” Chevy Lead said. “Lead in hot.” And Colonel Johnson rolled in on some armor barely a mile south of where they had flown their first strike. He put his bombs right on some APCs, and several Cuban BTRs exploded. “Lead's off.”

Right after Johnson called off target, Guru rolled in. “Two's in,” he called. And he went down the chute, picking out some tanks near where the Colonel had planted his bombs. “And...HACK!” Guru hit the pickle button, and a dozen Mark-82s came off the plane. He rolled out level, and got back down low. “Two's off safe.”

Guru's bombs landed among several T-55 tanks, and two of the beasts took direct hits. Several others fireballed as near-misses sent hot shrapnel into their external fuel tanks, on the rear decks of the tanks, and those exploded. And one of his bombs even flipped over a T-55.

“Three's in,” Surfer called as he rolled in, with the second Weasel alongside him. The F-4G then shot off his last Shrike as a ZSU-23 AA vehicle came up, and the Shrike found the Shilka's Gun Dish radar and exploded both the radar and the vehicle. While that was going on, Surfer found some Cuban 122-mm SP guns for his bombs, and Mark-82s rained down on the battery, exploding a couple of the 2S1 SP guns, and also taking out several ammo trucks, which set off sympathetic detonations as their ammunition exploded. “Three's off, and got some secondaries.”

“Roger that, Three,” Johnson said. “Let's get north. Buick Lead, form on me and RTB, now.”

“Copy that, Chevy Lead. Splash six Floggers,” the F-15 leader called.

“Good kills, Buick,” Johnson replied. “Coors, thanks for the help.”

“Anytime, Chevy, We're going to RTB. See you guys later.” And the two F-4Gs headed to the northwest, back to George AFB to refuel and rearm.

Chevy Flight and its escorts had their egress to the northeast, and as they approached Interstate 10, they saw a Boeing 727 ahead, inbound to Tucson. The white with blue trim paint job meant Republic Airlines and it was clear this guy was trying to get his plane and passengers on the ground. Then Buick Lead yelled on the radio. “He's got MiGs on his tail!”

“Republic 727, this is an F-4 at your Ten O'clock. You have hostiles behind you,” Colonel Johnson called on GUARD (121.5). There was no answer. “Buick Lead, get some.”

“Copy that!” Buick Flight hit their burners and charged in.

“Chevy Flight, let's go. Back up the Eagles.” Lead called.

Guru armed his two AIM-9s and followed his CO in.

Just as the F-15s got in AIM-7 range, the 727 took two missile hits to the tail and port wing, and the plane rolled left, then plunged down to earth, his tail and left wing on fire. The 727 crashed north of I-10, and exploded in a huge fireball.

Enraged, the F-15s took shots with their remaining AIM-7s, as the MiGs were now identified as MiG-21s. Two of the MiGs took Sparrow hits and exploded, as the Eagles got into a turning fight with the MiGs. One of the MiG-21s took a Sidewinder hit and blew up, while the last MiG tried to run south. He didn't get far, as Buick Four lined up a gun shot and sprayed him with his 20-mm Vulcan gun. The MiG fell, trailing fire, and the pilot ejected.

“Break off, Break off,” Buick Lead yelled. The four F-15s orbited as the MiG driver's chute descended, and several cars and trucks on the Interstate stopped. Once the pilot was down, the F-15s rejoined the F-4s.

Down below, about fifty motorists on both sides of I-10 had pulled over as they saw the 727 crash and the dogfight that followed. Several truckers picked up tire irons and crowbars, and ran for the downed pilot. One of them was ex-Air Force, and recognized the last MiG-21 as the F-15 shot it down.

The MiG's pilot was quickly surrounded by the motorists, and he was set upon by the crowd. He was quickly dragged to a nearby pickup, tied to the bumper, and dragged behind the truck. After that, he was strung up from a tree next to the freeway.

As the F-15s rejoined the F-4s, Colonel Johnson got on the radio. “Who were the MiGs?”

“Chevy Lead, didn't see much. They weren't Russians, or Cubans. They had FAS on the side.”


“Maybe,” Buick Lead replied. “Couldn't tell for sure.”

The flight headed back north in silence, and an hour later, they were back in the Nellis traffic pattern. Departing aircraft had priority, as no one waiting had battle damage. Soon, they were cleared, and Chevy and Buick flights landed. They taxied to their area on the ramp, and after the F-4s shut down, the crew chiefs came out with crew ladders. “Lieutenant,” Sergeant Calhoun said. “You've got a half-hour, sir.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said as he took off his helmet. One thing he noticed about his crew chief, he was packing a sidearm. “Where'd you get that?”

“They're passing them out to all air and ground crew. Just in case those Spetsnatz try it again.”

“That's who it was?” Tony asked as he got out of the rear cockpit.

“Yes, sir. At least, that's what the word is.” Sergeant Calhoun said. He was packing a S&W .38 in a holster on his belt.

“All right, Sergeant, 515's still truckin'. No gripes. And no battle damage,” Guru said as he climbed out of the cockpit. And Colonel Johnson came over. “Boss.”

“Good work, both of you,” he said, putting out his hand.

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said, and Tony seconded it, shaking their CO's hand.

“Surfer, good work, you and Jasper.” Johnson said.

“Thanks, Colonel,” Surfer replied

Then a crew van came up, with Major Keith Pollard, the Ops Officer. “Colonel, got some sandwiches and drinks for you guys, and some other stuff.”

The crewers went over to the van, and picked out what they wanted, plus some bottled water. “What have you got for us, Major?” Johnson asked.

“Here's some maps of the border area, and a frag order,” Pollard said. “Free strike again, though head for Sierra Vista: the Army's holding the Cubans there, but they want some fast movers.”

“Will do,” the CO said. “What are we getting?”

“First, Java and Raven need a element: their wingie's radar went down, and the maintenance guys are working on that. They're yours if you want a four-ship again.”

“Tell 'em to come with us,” Johnson ordered. That meant Capt. Bob Lockwood and 1st Lt. Steve Matheny would be joining the flight for now. Ordnance?”

“Two birds get Rockeyes, two get Mark-82s,” Pollard said.

“All right, Major,” Johnson said. “Thanks.”

“Sir,” Pollard said, as he went looking for the XO's flight, which was the next on his list.

Then Lockwood and Matheny came over. “Boss.”


Guru whispered to Tony. “How'd he get his call sign?”

“He drank coffee like a fish in UPT. So guess what?”

“I get it.”

“Get something to eat, hit the latrine, and get ready to go back out,” Johnson said.

The crews dug into the sandwiches and bottled water Pollard had left for them, while the ordnance crews armed their aircraft. They noticed that the element leaders had the Mark-82s, while the wingmen had the CBUs. “Guess we'll be looking for some armor,” Java said to Guru.

“Looks like it,' Guru replied.

After they finished eating, the crews hit the latrines, then came back out. Colonel Johnson was waiting by his aircraft for them. “Okay, we're headed for Sierra Vista. The Army's holding off the Cubans there, and they need more fast-movers. One pass only, and get north as soon as you can.”

“Any F-15s or Weasels?” Surfer asked.

“Both. F-15s are Cobra Flight, and they go with us. We meet the Weasels near Phoenix again. Call sign is Michelob,” said the CO.

“Why do the Weasels always use beer for their call signs?” Guru asked.

“Ask them,” the CO said. “Any other questions?”

“How many more?” Tony asked.

“Don't know myself,” Johnson admitted. “Maybe after this one, we can have an hour or so to rest before going back out.”

“Maybe,” Guru deadpanned.

“To be wished for, Lieutenant,” the CO said. “Anything else?' No one said a word. “Okay, mount up and let's go.”

The crews went to their F-4s and mounted their aircraft. After a rushed preflight and engine start, they taxied to the runway, third in line behind a flight of F-111s and a flight of F-16s loaded for air-to-ground. When it was their turn, they found the Chaplain there again, and the crews saluted him as they taxied for takeoff. Again, the tower flashed a green light, and the F-4s rumbled down the runway and into the air.

Over North Central Arizona, 1155 Hours:

Chevy Flight, with their F-15 escorts, was flying south of Flagstaff, headed southeast at 6,000 feet AGL. As they flew, they could see some civilian aircraft trying to land at Flagstaff airport, obviously general aviation or commuter airliners. So far, their radar scopes were clear, and hopefully, they would stay that way until they got to the border.

“Tony, anything on the radio?” Guru asked his backseater.

“Got a Flagstaff station. They're repeating what's coming out of ABC News in L.A. Something's happened in Orange County, they said.”

“What kind of 'something'?”

“Riot of some kind,” Tony replied.

Great, Guru thought. “Scope clear?”

“So far,”

The flight kept heading southeast, then made a slight turn over Payson, East of Phoenix, the F-15 leader made a call.

“Chevy Lead, Olds Lead. Rhinos at nine O'clock.”

“Copy that,” Colonel Johnson called. “Rhinos at my nine, is that Michelob Flight?”

“You found us,” Michelob Lead replied. “Got two Standards and two Shrikes to play with.”

“Any HARMs?”

“Not us, but some of the guys went out with 'em.”

“Copy that, Michelob Lead. Join the party.”

The two F-4Gs formed up and followed behind Chevy Flight's four F-4Es, and the strike package headed on south, towards I-10. As they did, several more civilian aircraft appeared on their scopes, and the F-15s went ahead to check them out. As well as warning them about MiGs.

When the flight reached I-10, an Air Force ground FAC came up on the radio. “Chevy Flight, this is Covey Two-one. Authentication Alpha Six November.'

“Covey, Chevy Lead. Tango Four Bravo.” Colonel Johnson replied.

“Roger that, Chevy. Got a new tasking for you. Go to U.S. 191 north of Douglas. The Army's waiting on 191 for the bad guys. Kill anything painted green that's headed north.”

“Covey, what about Sierra Vista?”

“Army's taken care of that, Chevy. Hit anything on 191 from McNeal south to Douglas.” Covey replied.

“Copy that, Covey. Flight, Lead. Let's go.” Colonel Johnson radioed. And the flight headed for U.S. 191.

South of McNeal, Arizona, 1305 Hours:

Chevy Flight approached McNeal from the east, and then flew south, paralleling U.S. 191. As they did, they began picking up SAM radars. “Chevy, Michelob. Got a six and an eight.”

“Copy that, Michelob Lead,” Colonel Johnson said. “Get some.”

“Roger that,” came the reply, and the two F-4Gs broke formation and headed in. Then the Weasel leader called, “Magnum!” and an AGM-78 shot away from the lead F-4G. The call came again, this time from Michelob Two, and another Standard-ARM shot off towards a target.

Down below, a Cuban SA-6 battery was trying to lock up the inbound aircraft, and nearby was their mobile P-40 (Long Track) radar. Just as the Cubans were about to get lock, both ARMs came in, exploding the Straight Flush missile radar, and the Long Track vehicle.

“Six is down. And the air-search is off,” Michelob Lead radioed.

“Copy that. Chevy Flight, stand by. Two, with me. Three, you and Four find the rear of this column and hit that. See if we can't block the road,” radioed the CO.

“Copy, Lead,” Guru responded.

“Roger that,” Surfer replied.

Then another Magnum call came over the radio. One of the Weasels had picked up an SA-8 signal and sent another AGM-78 after it. The signal abruptly ceased.

“The other eights have dropped off,” Guru noted.

“Fine with me,” Tony replied. “Set it up?”

“Gotcha. Everything in one pass.”

“You got it, buddy.”

Chevy Lead and Chevy Two had the Rockeye CBUs, while Three and Four had Mark-82s. And Chevy Three found his target first. “Three's in hot!”

“Copy that, Three. Lead's in!” And Colonel Johnson rolled in and laid his Rockeyes on a number of supply trucks. As he pulled away, he was rewarded with several secondary explosions, as trucks carrying either fuel or ammunition exploded. “Lead's off target.” Then it was Guru's turn.

“Two's in hot!” Guru called. He rolled in, and lined up on some trucks just behind where Lead had dropped his load. “Steady, steady.....HACK!” And a dozen Rockeyes came off of 515. “Two's off.”

Below, a Cuban rear-services Major was having a professional fit. The mixed brigade of Cubans and Mexicans had halted near the town of McNeal, and word had it that the lead battalion, Mexicans, had stopped to loot once again. They'd done the same down in Douglas after crossing the border, and getting the Mexicans to get back in their vehicles and head north had taken half the morning. And a few executions, if the rumor mill was correct. Then one of his Sergeants shouted, and he looked to the rear, and saw two F-4 Phantoms making a bomb run on the rear of the column. Fireballs of exploding vehicles blended with bombs going off, and to his disgust, none of the Strela shoulder-fired missiles launched by the motor-rifle troops tracked the departing aircraft. Then another Phantom came over, and attacked the front of the column with cluster bombs, and not just vital fuel and ammunition carriers, but a couple of the BRDMs that were helping to protect the column went up as well. Then he heard another F-4, and he barely had time to see it depart when more CBUs rained down on his location. Several of the bomblets landed on his UAZ-469 jeep, exploding it-and everyone in it.....

“GOOD HITS!” Tony shouted. “We've got secondaries!”

Guru turned his head, and caught a quick glance of the convoy. Numerous vehicles were burning, and he saw several explode in oily fireballs. “Those fuel trucks?'

“Had to be,” Tony replied.

“Lead, Two. Where are you?”

“Chevy Flight, Lead. Meet up over Benson on I-10.” The CO replied.

“Roger that, Lead.”

“Three copies,” called Surfer.

“Four,” Java said.

“Olds Lead, Chevy. Copy my last?”

“Roger that. Sky's clear. No bandits.”

“Roger. Michelob?”

“Still got one Standard left. No radars up,” replied Michelob Lead.

“Form up and let's egress,” Chevy Lead called.

A few minutes later, the package reformed over Benson, east of Tucson on I-10. “Chevy Three, how'd it go?” Colonel Johnson asked.

“Good hits, Lead,” Surfer replied.

“Four had good hits,” Java added.

“Copy, all,” Lead said. “Olds, on us. Michelob, clear to RTB. Chevy, time to RTB.”

“Roger, Chevy. Be glad to work with you guys later,” Michelob Lead called, then the Weasels broke off and headed back to George.

Chevy Flight headed north, and as they went towards the tankers east of Phoenix, they saw several explosions on the ground near Davis-Monthan “What were those?” Java asked.

“No idea, Four,” Lead replied.

In 515, Tony turned his radio to a Tucson station. “Lead, Two. You won't believe this.”

“Two, what is it?”

“Those were Scuds!” Tony called.

“Oh, boy,” Guru said. “Who said?”

“Davis-Monthan,” Tony replied. “They had several this morning, all Scuds aimed at the base, but they keep missing.”

Guru swore. “Hope we don't have to go hunting for those.”

“Yeah. They'd be shootin' and scootin',” Tony said.

“If we get that call, we'll find a way,” replied the Colonel. “Let's head for the tankers.”

Chevy Flight joined up on the KC-135s, and now, there were four tankers up, and the F-4s formed up on one pair of tankers, while the F-15s took the other pair. They took on enough fuel to get back to Nellis, then headed northwest. Passing Phoenix, the crews could see where numerous aircraft had crashed, and at both Williams AFB and Sky Harbor IAP, there were airliners sitting on the tarmac at both fields.

“Anyplace in a storm,” Guru told his backseater.

“Yeah. Can you blame 'em?” Tony replied.

Guru frowned underneath his oxygen mask. “After what we saw on the last one?” He said, recalling the 727 shootdown. “No. Anything on the Phoenix radio?”

“They're saying there's Cuban paratroopers, and the National Guard and some Marine Reservists are engaging. Folks are to stay clear of several areas.”

“Cubans digging in?”

“You got it?”

The flight continued towards Lake Mead, and when they arrived over the lake, two F-5Es from one of the Aggressor squadrons came to check them out. It was strange, seeing the F-5s, with their Soviet-style markings and live AIM-9s on their wingtip missile rails. Nobody wanted to think of the reception they would've gotten if they had been Russians. After calling the tower, the flight was told to wait, as several outbound flights were about to depart, then Chevy Flight and two others were cleared to land in order. After taxiing to their ramp area and shutting down, the crews got out of their aircraft. And they found the XO waiting. “Colonel,' Major Scott Crenshaw said. “Want to take an hour or two? Because you guys look like you could use a couple hours' down time.”

“Anyone using the briefing room?” the CO asked.

“Other than to take a nap? No, sir.” Crenshaw replied. 'You guys ate before the last one?”

“We did.”

Colonel Johnson nodded. 'The next XO who's not acting like a mother hen-”

“Will be the first,” Crenshaw finished. “If you don't mind my saying, you guys look beat.”

“So do you, sir,” Guru said. “If you don't mind my saying.”

'I've only had two missions. You guys have had three. I'm going out in twenty, so....”

“I get it,” Guru nodded. Right now, he didn't care about whether the CO or XO wrote him up. Because he needed a nap.

“Guru's right, Major,” the Colonel said. “You look a little beat, but if you think you can handle it...”

Crenshaw looked past the four crews, where his own WSO was holding up a thermos. “All I need now is some coffee, Boss. I'll take a break after this one.”

“Okay, Major. Let's tell the intel folks what we saw and did, fellas, then let's flake out for an hour or two.” After going in, and debriefing all three missions with Capt. Danielle Lambert, the Squadron Intelligence Officer, the crews went into the briefing room, found chairs, and simply fell asleep.

Matt Wiser 12-18-2014 07:29 PM


Nellis AFB, NV: 1335 Hours:

“Guru. Guru! WAKE UP!”

Lieutenant Wiser opened his eyes. “Huh, what?” He saw Tony standing over him with a cup of coffee. “Time to get up. Wheels up in fifteen minutes.”

Guru nodded as he stood up. He saw the CO and his WSO, plus the others in the flight either getting up or already up. “How long?

“About an hour and a half,” Tony replied. “XO's still out.”

“Any news? And I imagine all of it's bad.”

“There's still a fight around El Paso, but the Russians and Cubans are probably going around. They're headed for San Antonio and Corpus Christi, and they're pouring across the Rio Grande like a tidal wave,” Tony said. “There were some more nukes in the Dakotas, though.”

“Missile silos?” Guru asked, draining the coffee cup.

“Launch control centers is what's going around.”

Nodding, Guru looked at his watch. “Great.”

“And George Bush is now President. Reagan didn't get out of Washington, apparently,” Tony said.

“Nothing we can do about that,” Guru said. “What's on our plate?”

Colonel Johnson answered that question. “Back to I-19 people. Free strike. Seems the Cubans and Mexicans-yeah, Mexicans, have stalled because of all the air coming down on them. They're sticking to the roads, and we're going to make them pay for that.”

“Ordnance, Boss?' Surfer asked.

“We'll find out when we get to the flight line. Hit the latrine if you need to, then let's go.” Johnson said.

The crews headed out to the flight line, and found that they had another anti-armor loadout. This time, everyone had the Rockeyes, plus two AIM-9s and two AIM-7s. “No ECM pod?” Java asked.

“They're still getting those out of storage and running tests,” Colonel Johnson said. “Maybe tomorrow.” He looked at the flight crews. “Okay....Buick Flight will be with us for MIGCAP, and Olympia Flight will be out of George. They'll meet us west of Phoenix. Questions?”

Guru raised his hand. “Yeah, Colonel. What's the deal with Phoenix?”

“Good question. Stay away from Luke's traffic pattern. And anywhere near Phoenix? Stay above 5,000 feet AGL. Not just the Cubans, mind, but our own people-lots of armed civilians taking shots at anything that flies. So stay safe, and avoid the area unless you have to divert to Luke or Williams.” Colonel Wiser looked at the crews. “That answer your question, Lieutenant?”

“Yes, sir.”

“All right, chances are, we'll have one more today. Then the maintenance folks need to get us ready for tomorrow. Because chances are, this is going to be a long war.” He looked around. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “All right, mount up and let's go.”

The crews went to their aircraft and did their preflight walkarounds, then they mounted their aircraft. As they went through the cockpit preflight, Guru told his backseater, “Want to bet the RTU instructors would be failing all of us today for rushing the preflight?”

“Failing a light colonel?” Tony quipped. “That, I'd love to see.”

Sergeant Calhoun, 515's crew chief, gave the “Start Engines” signal, and first, one, then both J-79 engines came to life. Then Guru followed his squadron CO, taxiing out, and just as in the morning, the Catholic Chaplain was waiting as the aircraft halted at the runway so that the armorers could remove the weapon safeties. Then, again, the tower gave clearance for takeoff with a green light, and Chevy Flight rumbled down the runway and into the air.

Over Western Arizona: 1425 Hours:

Chevy and Buick Flights headed south over Arizona, between Kingman and Wickenburg, and they fully intended to give the Phoenix area a wide berth. By now, the WSOs were watching their radar scopes, while the pilots maintained their visual scanning. “Anything?” Guru asked Tony.

“Everything shows friendly on IFF,” Tony said.

Then Java called, “Rhinos at Three O'clock.”

“Roger that,” the CO said. “Rhinos at my Three, you Olympia Flight?”

“Roger that. You must be Chevy,” Olympia Lead called. “Two Weasels comin' your way. Got two HARMs and two Standard-ARMs, each airplane.”

“Copy,” Chevy Lead radioed. “Come on and join the show.”

The two Weasel Phantoms joined the package, and as they headed south, the crews saw several F-15 flights from Luke orbiting west of Phoenix, and some smoke clouds still coming up.

“Anything on the radio, Tony?” Guru asked.

“Just a sec....okay. They're asking people to stay away from the Goodyear Airport, Glendale Municipal, and the towns of Maricopia and Mobile. That's pretty much where the Cubans are.”

“And the Army's coming?”

“You got it. I-8 and I-10 are open to military traffic only.”

Nodding, Guru concentrated on flying the airplane. It wasn't long until they were getting close to the Tuscon area, and what looked like a smoke cloud coming from a golf course. “Let me guess: a Scud landed on that golf course.”

“Man, that's a big divot,” Tony said.

“Hey, Lead,” Java called. “What's the penalty for a Scud on the course?”

Though he was of a mind to tell Java to knock the chatter off, Colonel Johnson knew that some humor was a good thing, after everything that had happened today. “Java, I think you just play around. Okay, people, time to get serious. I-19 ahead. And there's Hogs and SLUFs headed in.”

The package followed the A-10s and A-7s down the Interstate, and sure enough, the Weasels picked up radar emissions on their APR-47 “sniffer” gear. “Got some SAMs and an air-search radar, Chevy Lead. Want those to go away?”

“Get some, Olympia,”

The two Weasels headed in, and then, one, then two, “Magnum” calls came over the radio as HARM missiles went in search of SAM or air-search radars. And an SA-6 and an air-search radar went off the air. “Got a couple of eights coming.” That meant SA-8 Geckos, and unlike the SA-6, they had the missiles and the radar on the same vehicle. “Olympia Two, “Magnum!” And a HARM and a Standard-ARM went off in search of targets.

Near Tubac, a Cuban air-defense officer was wondering what was happening. His pre-invasion briefing had assured all senior commanders that their air force, and special-operations teams, would make sure the Yanquis' aircraft would stay on the ground. Seeing A-7s and A-10s all morning, with occasional F-4s and Cobra attack helicopters, showed what that promise had been made of.

Now, with two interstate bridges over a small riverbed blown, and the engineers stuck in a traffic jam that led all the way back to the border, this mixed force of Mexicans and Cubans was now stalled, and highly vulnerable to air attack. The imperialists had been over them all day, and losses to their aircraft had been horrendous. He was now sitting in a 9K33 (NATO SA-8) missile vehicle, and it was only transmitting intermittently due to those insidious anti-radar missiles the Americans always seemed to have. Then the senior operator turned on the radar again, only to see a target appear, then make a turn. Suddenly, there was a WHOOSH overhead, then an explosion. The vehicle, and its occupants, were shredded by the 214-pound warhead of an AGM-78 going off....

“Any guns down there?” Chevy Lead asked.

“Negative,” Olympia Lead replied. “Still got a HARM and a 78 left.”

“Copy that. Chevy Flight, on me. Time to go to work.” And Colonel Johnson rolled in on the armor stuck behind two blown bridges. “Lead's in hot!” The CO rolled down the chute, and laid his Rockeyes on several T-55 tanks, and as he pulled out and away, several of the tanks fireballed. “Lead off target.”

“Two's in!” Guru called. “Tony, set it up: everything at once.”

“You got it, buddy.” He worked the armament switches. “You're set.”

“Copy that and hang on.” Guru rolled in, and he saw where the CO had put his CBUs. He chose several tanks and APCs just south of that, and came in. “Steady, and HACK!” He called, pushing the pickle button, and a dozen Rockeye CBUs came off his F-4. “Two's off.”

“Three's in!” Surfer called.

Hearing that as he pulled away, Guru turned his head, and saw his CBU bomblets going off. “Look at that!”

“We got secondaries!” Tony shouted. “Good hits, my man!”

“Three''s off target,” Surfer radioed.

“MAGNUM!” Olympia Two called, sending a HARM after a radar signal that came up, and a ZSU-23-4 AA vehicle exploded as the HARM missile found its radar dish.

“Bandits inbound,” Buick Lead called. “We got Fishbeds.” That meant MiG-21s.

“Roger that, Buick. Break 'em up,” Chevy Lead called.

“That's a roger. FOX ONE!” Buick Lead said as he fired a Sparrow missile.

“Four's in.” Java called. “Three's got good hits.” Java rolled in, and put his bombs on some artillery tracks that looked as if they were set up to fire. The rain of CBUs exploded a couple, and also took out several of their ammo trucks.” Four's off safe.”

“Copy that, Chevy. Meet up over Kitt Peak.” That was the location of the Kitt Peak Observatory.

“Two,” Guru called.

“Three,” Surfer.

“Four, roger,” Java called.

“Olympia Flight is now Winchester,” Olympia Lead radioed. “We are RTB at this time.”

“Good work, Olympia,” Chevy Lead replied. “Thanks for the help.”

“Anytime, Chevy.” the Weasel leader said. And those two Phantoms headed back to California.

“Chevy, Buick. Splash two Floggers, the rest turned tail,” said Buick Lead.

“Roger, Buick. Form on us.” Colonel Johnson said.

'The F-15s headed to Kitt Peak, and found the F-4s orbiting. The package reformed, and this time, no one needed the tankers. And the package headed back to Nellis, passing two more F-4 flights and two F-111 flights on their way to the fight. Just like the previous mission, when they got to Lake Mead, a pair of Aggressor F-5s checked them out. And to the F-4 crews' surprise, one of the F-5s had an empty Sidewinder rail.

“What'd he shoot?” Tony asked.

“Find out later, I reckon.” Guru said.

This time, they were the first in the pattern, and both Chevy and Buick Flights came in and landed. After taxiing and shutting down, the crews noticed some excitement. “What's going on?” Colonel Johnson asked one of the ground crew.

“Had a couple MiGs come by,” the sergeant replied. “The F-5s got one, and an F-16 got the other. Had a little air show about a half-hour ago.”

“Well,” Guru observed. “The Aggressors got somebody today.”

“That they did, Lieutenant,” Colonel Johnson said. “Come on. Let's do a quick debrief, then see what's next.”

After a quick debriefing with Captain Lambert, Chevy Flight got its next mission. It would be an hour, but they would be going out on their fifth mission of the day, and likely their last, as the maintenance people needed to get as many aircraft ready for the next day. The crews got a bite to eat, and caught some news. A TV set in the briefing room was set to the Vegas NBC station, and they were showing scenes from the outskirts of Washington, D.C. Things in Virginia were under control, due to a heavy presence of the Virginia National Guard, but across the Potomac in Maryland, Prince George's County was a mess. And hospitals from Richmond to Baltimore were busy treating casualties from the nuclear blast, not to mention those from the civil disorder.

“Looks bad,” Tony commented. “Anything about Kansas City?”

Major Pollard, the Ops Officer, said. “Not much. Other than there were several detonations.”

“And nobody from Omaha?”

“No. Message traffic says it was a big one. Twenty megatons at least.”

There was silence after that.

A few minutes later, Guru found a pay phone. He wondered if the long-distance lines were still up, or if they'd been taken over by the military. He took a chance, and dialed his Mom's home phone. There was a pickup. “Hello?”

“Mom, it's Matt.”

“Thank God! Where are you? Still in Vegas?”

“Can't say officially, but for now, yeah. I can't talk long. Just wanted to tell you I'm okay so far, and if you don't hear from me for a few days, or don't get a letter, it's because I'm busy.”


“Mom-if something happens, the Air Force will tell you. So don't worry if I don't get in touch for a while. Let Grandma know and everyone else, and I'll stay in touch the best I can. Anything happen there?”

“In Auberry? No, but everyone in town is talking about forming some kind of posse. Lots of pickup trucks with guns, things like that.”

“And half the senior class at the high school wants to enlist.”

“They do.”

“Okay. Gotta go. Mom-I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“Bye.” Guru hung up, and found Tony standing next to him.

“Calling home?” Tony asked.

“Yeah. My family's okay, and you might want to call your folks. No telling how long the long-distance lines will be available.”

Tony nodded, then managed to get his call through.

While Tony was on the phone, Guru went back to the Ops desk. He and Tony had been so busy, they hadn't even touched their bags. Then the CO came over. 'Boss.”

“Guru. What'd you do? Call home?” Colonel Johnson asked.

“Yeah, I did. Figured I may not have a chance for a while.”

The CO nodded sympathetically. “Don't blame you. I'll pass the word for people to try and get in touch. You know anyone in the nuclear sites?”

“No, sir,” Guru replied.

“Okay, but pass it on: the Red Cross is taking names, addresses, etc. They're going to help with refugees, and tracing relatives. Or, they'll try at least.”

Guru nodded, and Tony came over. “Well, Dad says that things are okay. Nothing happened, and get this: he heard on the radio that a RV company in Coburg has already offered their facilities to make whatever the military needs from them.”

“What's an RV company going to do?” Guru asked.

“They can install radios and other gear in some of 'em,” Tony said. “Or they can make other stuff-what's that eight-wheeled vehicle the Marines use now?”

“LAV-25s,” the CO replied. “Well, well....awful nice of them.”

“Yes, sir,” Tony said.

Then Major Pollard, the Ops Officer, came over. “Colonel, got your Frag Order. You guys are going back to I-19.”

“Again?” Surfer asked.

“Again,” the Ops Officer said. “The Army's getting close to that location, and the bad guys haven't pushed north of Tubac. Supply problems or whatever. Anyway, kill anything on the Interstate between there and Nogales.”

“Free strike?' Java asked.

“That's it, Captain,” Pollard replied. “Your birds are being armed right now, and Olds Flight will be your escorts. And your old pals from this morning, Michelob, will be Weasel support. And we should be getting EF-111s from Mountain Home tonight.”

“Those'll be good to have.” The CO observed.

An Ops NCO came up and gave Major Pollard a message. “Boss, two planes from the XO's flight are down. Well, one's down, the other had to land at Davis-Monthan. No further info.”

“All right, Major. Let me know when you get anything else.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Okay, get your gear and mount up. Let's get this last one done,” the CO said.

After gearing up, the crews went to the flight line, and found they had the same load as the previous one: a dozen Rockeyes each airplane. After the preflight, they mounted their aircraft and started their J-79 engines. They taxied out, and the Chaplain was there again.

“He running on overdrive or what?” Tony asked as the armorers removed the weapon safeties.

“He'd probably say he's been recharged with power from above,” Guru noted.

Chevy Flight taxied onto the runway, and the tower flashed the green light. The F-4s rumbled down the runway and into the air, with their F-15s right behind them.

Over Western Arizona, 1620 Hours:

Chevy Flight had the meetup with the F-15s of Buick Flight, and was once again headed towards the border. Again, as they headed south, the WSOs were checking their radar scopes, while the pilots had their eyes peeled. If the Cubans could get MiGs as far north as Vegas, they could easily show up here.

“Anything?” Guru asked Tony.

“Negative on radar,” his GIB replied. “Radio's still going.”

“Phoenix again?”

“San Diego this time: they're saying the Mexicans got held up in National City, and the Navy's really laying it on them.”

“For once, the street gangs are on the good guys' side,” Guru noted.

“There's a first time for everything,” Tony quipped.

Guru nodded, then glanced right. “Lead, this is Two. Rhinos at our Three.”

“Copy that, Two. I see 'em,” Colonel Johnson said. “Michelob Lead, Chevy Lead. You guys comin' to the party?”

“Chevy Lead, that we are,' Michelob Lead replied. “Got two HARMs and two Standard-ARMs each airplane.”

“Michelob Lead, you have any pods?”

“That's affirm, Chevy Lead. Two 119 pods.” That meant the ALQ-119 ECM pod.

“Good. Until we get Spark Varks, that's all we'll get.” the CO said. “Form on us and let's go.”

The two Weasel Phantoms joined the formation, and preceded by a wall of Eagles from Buick Flight, the package headed south towards the border. Upon reaching I-8, the package turned southeast, and headed for I-19. As they got closer, the crews could see A-7s and A-10s orbiting, and Army AH-1s at work. Still, there were no FACs, and it was as it was briefed: Free strike.

This time, there were no radars yet up, and behind the two bridges, the crews saw multiple pillars of smoke, and that signified burning vehicles. Colonel Johnson called, “These guys have had it. Let's head south.” And the package continued following I-19, and it was a few miles south, between the towns of Carmen and Rio Rico, that they found targets. “Looks like a traffic jam down there.”

“Lead, that's as good a target as we'll find,” Surfer radioed. There were tanks, APCs, SP guns, and trucks, all backed up on the freeway or on nearby U.S. 89, which was paralleling the Interstate.

Then Guru called. “Picking up stuff on the EW.”

“Confirmed, Chevy Lead,” Michelob Lead said. “Got a six and a couple of eights.” That meant SA-6 and SA-8 SAMs.

“Roger that, Michelob. Get some,” Colonel Johnson called.

“Copy. And....Michelob Lead, MAGNUM!” First one, then another, HARM missile came off of Michelob Lead.

The two HARMs followed the Cuban radars to their targets, and one of them found an SA-6 Straight Flush radar track, exploding it just as a pair of SA-6s were fired from a launcher vehicle. The two missiles launched “went dumb”, and flew away harmlessly. The other HARM found an SA-8 track, and it, too, exploded as it launched a missile at an F-4.

“Picking up a Zoo.” Michelob Two called. “MAGNUM!” This time, a single AGM-78 stampeded away from the Weasel, and the Standard-ARM followed the Gun Dish radar signal to its source, and exploded the ZSU-23.

“Thanks, Michelob,” Chevy Lead radioed. “Chevys, one pass, south to north. Chevy Lead in hot!”
And Johnson's F-4 rolled in on the vehicles on the freeway. He made his run, and a dozen Rockeye CBUs came off his aircraft. “Lead's off target.”

His CBUs tore into a number of BTR-60 APCs, and several of them exploded from CBU hits to their fuel tanks.

“Good hits, Lead,” Guru called. “Chevy Two's in hot.” On the intercom, Guru called to Tony. “All set?”

“All set. Everything in one go.” Tony replied.

Guru rolled in, and picked out some supply vehicles that were stuck behind some tanks. He selected the supply tracks, and lined them up in his pipper. “Steady, steady.....and HACK!” He hit the pickle button, and a dozen CBUs came off the racks. “Two's off target.”

Below, the Cuban soldiers were cursing two things. First, the Mexicans, for they were blaming their Mexican comrades for the delay, since they appeared to be more interested in looting than in continuing the advance. Then, like soldiers everywhere, they were also cursing their superiors, who seemed to be doing nothing about the bridges down up ahead. Then, Colonel Johnson's F-4 made its run, and the Cubans ran for cover as several APCs fireballed. Some of them picked themselves up, only to see a second F-4 come in. By now, the Cubans were dreading the Rockeyes and they saw the CBUs come off Guru's plane, and they scattered. Over a dozen trucks and even a couple of T-55 tanks were hit by the Rockeyes, exploding fuel and ammunition.

As he pulled away, Guru looked back. “Look at that!”

“Good hits!” Tony shouted.

“Good job, Two,” Colonel Johnson said.

“Three's in,” Surfer called.

“Michelob One, MAGNUM!” And Michelob Lead fired an AGM-78 at a radar that had come up. The Standard-ARM went after another SA-8 vehicle, and the SAM track exploded when the missile's 214-lb warhead found the missile radar.

“Three's off,” Surfer called as he pulled up and away.

Guru smiled underneath his oxygen mask, then he saw it. “Three, Two. GRAIL! GRAIL! GRAIL!” That call meant SA-7 or similar shoulder-fired SAMs.

“Copy that,” Surfer replied, banking his F-4 into a tighter turn. And two Grail missiles flew past his aircraft.

“Four's in,” Java said as he rolled in. He saw where the missiles came from, and lined that area up. As he came in, he could see several trucks, and what looked like guns. No matter.....A dozen more Rockeyes came off his plane. “Four's off.” His CBUs tore apart a battery of ZU-23 towed AA guns that were frantically setting up, and ripped up a truck carrying an SA-7 team and their reload missiles.

“Chevy Flight, form on me at Kitt Peak. Buick, anything?”Colonel Johnson radioed.

“Negative, Chevy,” the F-15 leader replied. “Maybe we scared 'em off.”

“Roger that. Michelob?”

“Stand by, Chevy. MAGNUM!” Michelob Leader called. His last missile, an AGM-78, came off his aircraft, and found a ZSU-23-4 track, exploding it. “Michelob Lead is Winchester and near Bingo fuel.”

“Copy that. Thanks for the help.”

“Anytime, Chevy. Maybe we can do this again tomorrow.” And Michelob Flight peeled away and headed back to George AFB, while Chevy and Buick reformed over Kitt Peak.

Down below, at the Observatory, the staff and graduate students were watching the aircraft overhead. It seemed like every fifteen or twenty minutes, planes would use the peak as a rendezvous point. As this recent group of F-4s and F-15s headed off, an Army convoy arrived, with a mobile air-defense radar and a HAWK missile battery. They set up shop on a site that, only a day earlier, had been earmarked for a new radio telescope.

Chevy Flight then headed north, back to Nellis. As they approached Lake Mead, the radio chatter picked up. MiGs had been inbound, and an attack on McCarran International had been broken up.

“Where'd they come from?” Surfer asked.

“Baja would be my guess,” Guru said.

“Cut the chatter, people,” the CO ordered, and the crews knocked it off. They saw another fireball in the sky, and an aircraft crashing to earth. Then the Tower declared the pattern clear, and the two flights came in and landed.

After taxiing in and shutting down, Guru and Tony were animated, but also tired. “What were we supposed to be doing today?” Guru asked, and he felt drained as he did so.

“We were supposed to fly a couple of exercise hops,” Tony said. He, too, was drained. Five missions was enough today. But he knew they'd be back at it tomorrow.

Colonel Johnson came over. “How do you all feel?” For Surfer and Java and their crews had joined Guru and Tony.

“Drained, Boss,” Guru said. “Was it like this in Vietnam?”

“Nowhere close. Two a day, at most. Sometimes, just one,” Johnson said, recalling his 1972 tour in SEA.

Then Major Pollard came over with a somber expression on his face. “Colonel, bad news. The Exec's plane went down. He didn't get out.”

The news stunned the crews. “What?”

“Near McNeal. SA-13 they think. He went in with the plane, but Clapper got out. The Army manged to get him before the Cubans. He's okay, but Major Crenshaw....” First Lt. Cody”Clapper” Lyon was Crenshaw's WSO.

“He all right?' Tony asked. Clapper was one of his classmates in the RTU.

“Broken leg, and that's all I know about that,” Pollard said. “Peanut and Fender caught an SA-7 in their tailfeathers. They're down at Davis-Monthan. They need a Combat Repair Team to get 501 back in the air.”

“I'll see about getting a CRT, Major,” Johnson said. “That makes you Exec, by the way.”

Pollard's jaw dropped. “Sir-”

“You're Exec until you either get killed or I find somebody who can do it better. Who's now Ops?”

“Java, he's the senior assistant.”

“Captain, same drill. You're Ops Officer until either one happens. Clear?”

“As a bell, Colonel,” Java replied. But deep down, that was the last thing he wanted right now.

Then the maintenance officer came up. “Colonel, we should have sixteen at least for the morning. We've lost two, one's at D-M with battle damage-”

“I know, Major,” Colonel Johnson said.

“Yes, sir. And one here is still down with a radar that's Tango Uniform. And Supply is on its ass, as usual. They won't release the parts my people need.”

“I'll have a talk with the paper warriors.” Johnson said firmly.

“Colonel, with all due respect, you'll need fixed bayonets. They're still in peacetime mode.”

“Not after today, If I have anything to say. And the other two?”

“Minor battle damage. Looks like small-arms fire. They ought to be ready by morning. If not, Noon at most.”

Johnson nodded. “Okay. Let's debrief, and then I'll tear Supply a new hole. In person if necessary.”

After the debriefing, Colonel Johnson asked if people billeted off base were moving on base. Not yet, was the reply. So they were staying for the time being at the Hilton, which was now guarded by LVPD, Clark County SO, and some Nevada Guard who hadn't yet received deployment orders. After a reminder that the twelve-hour rule began at 1900, everyone was released for the day, and told to be back, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, at 0600. And that Las Vegas Boulevard for a mile in either direction from the base would be closed to all but military and military-authorized traffic, so that getting on base would be easier. Just show your ID at the roadblock, and then pass through the main gate.

This time, Tony drove, while Guru napped in the passenger seat. They got to the Hilton, passed through the LVPD roadblock, and went in to get something to eat.

Las Vegas Hilton, Rancher Steakhouse, 1800 Hours:

Lieutenants Wiser and Carpenter found a table and sat down. It had been a long day, and certainly not the day that anyone had expected. They had gone onto Nellis ready to face their first Red Flag, only to go to war for real. They had had their first taste of combat, and had lost friends and squadron mates. And both of them knew it would be the same tomorrow. But they had experienced something else: when they went into the restaurant along with several other members of the 335th and the 58th, the patrons and staff who saw them come in were clapping. And the manager came to tell them that now the Air Force was paying for their meals, something the AF personnel appreciated. They had just ordered when Capt. Morgan Donahue and 1st Lt. Scott Albright came in. “Guys,” Guru said.

“How'd things go with you guys?” Donahue asked.

“Could've been worse. Yogi and Pappy went down, and no chutes,” Guru said. “You?”

“We weren't in his flight, but we heard the XO go down. So the ops officer is now the exec?”

Tony nodded. “You got it. And Surfer's now Ops.”

“You guys work for him, now,” Albright said. It wasn't a question.

“That's it. You guys hungry?”

“Yeah, but we're waiting on my dad,” Donahue said. “He's an NTSB field rep at McCarran. He's had a busy day.”

“What?” Guru said as the waitress brought their dinner salads. “Another airliner shootdown?”

“No, but they're treating the MiG crash sites around here as accident sites. Nobody alive in D.C to tell them otherwise, and so...”

“And so, they're playing it by the book,” Guru finished. 'What's he think about this?”

“He thinks it's a bunch of crap,” Donahue admitted. “He's retired Air Force, and did accident investigation work before he retired.”

“And until somebody tells them otherwise...” Tony said.

“You got it.”

Albright took out a Vegas paper, the Las Vegas Review. “They've been putting out extras all day.”

“Let's see...” Guru said, and Albright handed him the paper. The headline screamed WAR! SOVIETS INVADE. “Nuclear attacks on Washington, New York, Omaha, and Kansas City. Soviets Invade Alaska, Cross Rio Grande. Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Mexicans Also Involved.” He went on. “Reagan Killed in White House, Bush Now President: Vows 'Fight to the Finish' Britain and Canada Attacked, China Struck by Nukes.”

“That's about it,” Tony said. “Caught glimpses of that on the news when we got back here.”

Then Donahue turned to the front of the restaurant, and saw a figure coming towards them. He waved. “That's Dad. See you guys tomorrow.”

“Will do.” Guru said.

The waitress came with their meals, and the two ate. When they were finished, there were still twenty minutes until the twelve-hour rule kicked in. “How about a beer?” Tony asked.

“Just what the doctor ordered,” Guru said. He waved the waitress over, and said, “Two beers.”

“What'll it be?”

“What do you have?”

“Bud, Bud Light, Michelob, Olympia, Coors, Sam Adams-”

“That's mine,” Guru said.

“Bud for me, Miss,” Tony said.

“Sure thing.” the young lady replied. She quickly came back with their order, and the two officers paid.

“So, Tony,” Guru said. “Besides being still alive, what'll we drink do?”

“How about absent friends? Because there's three empty chairs now in the briefing room.”

“Good idea.” And with that, the two friends and crewmates drank. When they were finished, the waitress came over.


Both officers shook their heads no. “No thanks. We're flying in the morning,” Tony said.

“Well, you guys take care, and kill as many of those Commie bastards you can.”

“Do our best, Miss,” Guru said, and the two went into the lobby. They went into the gift shop and bought a paper each. One to keep to show to their kids some day. If they lived long enough to have any. Then they went by the entrance to the casino. “Look at that.”

“What?” Tony asked.

“That.” Guru pointed to the casino, which was still packed as if nothing had happened. “World War Three just started today, and nobody's left?”

“Just like on the Titanic,” Tony said. “They say there were guys still playing poker up until the water got to the first-class lounge.”

“Be glad you weren't here for the MGM Grand fire in '81,” a voice said. They turned, and it was the pit boss. “They found bodies still in front of the slot machines.”

The two AF officers shook their heads. “Crazy?”

“Maybe,” the man replied. 'You from Nellis?”

“Maybe,” Guru said. “We had our first combat today. And it won't be the last.”

“Do us all a favor,” the pit boss replied. “Get the sons-a-bitches. All of 'em you can.”

“We'll try,” Tony said.

Just then the WHOOSH of jets came over the hotel, and the rest of the Strip. “Those were fighters,” Guru said. “And they ain't landing at McCarran.” He ran for the front entrance, and Tony was right behind him. Just as they got outside, they saw a MiG-21 falling in flames, with an F-5 orbiting overhead. And a parachute coming down on Paradise Road in front of the Hilton.

“What the hell?” the pit boss asked.

“One of the Aggressors got a MiG,” said Guru. “Go find some LVPD or Guard. We want that pilot.” The pit boss nodded and went in search of the police. “Let's go see this chump.”

The MiG crashed on the west side of Paradise Road, in an empty lot where another hotel and casino was due to be built. And the pilot came down right in the middle of Paradise Road. Guru, Tony, and a couple of LVPD officers who'd seen the pilot come down were there to meet him. “Officer, what's your name?” Guru asked one Sergeant.

“Jim Brass.”

“Okay, Sergeant. This is a first for you as it is for us. We want him alive.”

“Will try,” Brass nodded. “But if he tries for a weapon...”

“Fair enough,” Tony said. The four converged on the pilot as he came down, and they rushed him as he tried to get out of his chute. The pilot tried to get up, but Tony tackled him. He'd been a defensive back at the AF Academy, and his old football skills came back. “You ain't going anywhere, Comrade.”

Guru, Brass, and Brass' partner came up, and both LVPD officers had their 9-mm pistols drawn. “He armed?” Brass asked.

Guru went over. “Got a pistol-looks like a Makarov,” he said, taking the weapon from the pilot's shoulder holster and throwing it aside. “And a survival knife,” he added. That he took and handed it to Brass' partner.

“Who is he?'

Tony turned the pilot on his right shoulder. “Cuban,” he said, indicating a Cuban flag patch.

“Get him up,' Guru said, and Tony and another LVPD officer, who just arrived, did so. “Boy, you picked the wrong place to come down.”

Then a jeep with some National Guardsmen arrived. They were Military Police, and they were part of the security around the Hilton, now that there were military personnel billeted there. “We'll take him off of you.” An MP sergeant said.

“Get him to Nellis,” Guru told the Guard Sergeant. See if the Security Police there will take him.”

The Sergeant saw the silver bar on Guru's shoulder. At least this AF officer wasn't an eager-beaver shavetail. “Yes, sir.”

Just then, Colonel Johnson arrived from the Hilton. He shook his head at his wing crew in the middle of the fracas. “You guys are off duty, and you're still involved.”

“War didn't end because we got off the clock, Colonel.” Tony said.

Colonel Johnson looked at him, then slowly nodded. “Well...I guess you're right about that. You two had better hit the sack shortly. We got a busy day coming at us tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.” Guru said. They watched the Guard take the Cuban away, then went back inside the Hilton. And to no one's surprise, hardly any of the gamblers had left the casino. “You could've had a dozen MiGs crash outside and nobody would've left.”

“Ain't that the truth,” the CO said. “Okay, you two, find your room. Be on base at 0600.”

“Yes, sir.”

Guru and Tony went to their room on the seventh floor, and they found that there were Nevada Guard inside as well. They showed their ID to the MP there, then the two went to their room, and then and there, just decided not to turn on the TV. They just decided to hit the sack, for Colonel Johnson was right. It would be a busy day ahead. But at least they got through the first day.

Matt Wiser 12-19-2014 06:40 PM

Comments so far, fellows?

Matt Wiser 12-22-2014 10:52 PM

First Kill

Nellis AFB, NV: 4 September, 1985, 0730 Hours PDT

It had been a chaotic first day of war. The war everyone had thought would happen in Europe, was now being fought on American soil, and to make matters worse, New York, Washington, D.C.; Omaha, and Kansas City, along with the Minuteman Launch Control Centers in the Dakotas, had been nuked. Soviet forces had landed in Alaska, while Soviet, Cuban, Nicaraguan, and other Soviet-Bloc forces had crossed into the U.S. all along the Mexican border. While the invasion in California and Arizona was being repulsed, the news was bad from New Mexico and Texas. Word was going around that they might lose all of Texas and nearby states if things kept going this bad. That was something those who were from those states, or had family there, didn't want to think about.

The various Air Force, Navy, and Marine squadrons who had arrived for Red Flag 9-85 had instead found themselves going to a real war on what should've been the first day of Red Flag. Instead, they had gone down to either Arizona or Southern California to blast invading Soviet, Cuban, and Mexican troops, or to shoot MiGs and transports out of the sky. Now, with the Air Force starting to get its act together, the Tenth Air Force-the Air Force Reserve command for the Western U.S., had been directed to take charge of the air war in the Southwest and West Coast, and Red Flag's planners were now busy drafting strike and combat air patrol operations over the entire Southwest, from the Pacific Ocean to the Rio Grande and up as far as Colorado.

For Lt. Col. Mark Johnson, it meant his squadron, the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, would not be rejoining its parent wing, the famous “4th but First” Tactical Fighter Wing, anytime soon. Once a forward base had been identified, he was told, his unit would fly there and was likely going to be under Marine Operational Control, something he didn't like, but there it was. And now, his squadron was sending out two- and four-ship flights to the border, either for ground attack or to fly cover for the A-7s from Tuscon and the A-10s from Davis-Monthan that were in the process of turning Interstate 19 into a junkyard of Cuban and Mexican armor. Then a frag order had come in, for a strike on the Nogales Airport, just across the border from Mexico. A four-ship of Phantoms, plus a pair of Weasel F-4Gs to kill any SAMs, would have to do the job. Shrugging his shoulders, he went off to brief his flight.

His wingman was six months in the squadron, and though he had come out of OTS instead of the AF Academy or AFROTC, the guy had done well on the first day, and though the man was a history major instead of someone with a math or engineering background, such things didn't mean much in combat. The fact that he was a history major led his squadron mates to give him the call sign “Guru” and it had stuck.

1st Lt. Matt Wiser and the rest of the flight were sitting in the briefing room that they would've used for their Red Flag hops, but now were planning real combat missions. In between the four missions he'd flown the previous day, he'd managed to call his family in Central California, and they were okay for now. Satisfied with that, he threw himself full bore into doing the job he'd signed up to do: fly fighters.
Guru noticed the CO coming in and he was the first to call “CO on the deck!” and everyone stood to attention.

Colonel Johnson waved everyone to sit. “As you were, guys. The shooting's started, so we can cut out a lot of this standing up and down business.” Then he motioned everyone to join him around a planning table. “Here's our frag order: Nogales Airport. We get four Weasels, a Navy Prowler, and two Vipers from the 474th for TARCAP. That's it.”

Everyone looked at each other. Then Capt. Dale Reese, who was #3, said, “I guess we're lucky to get that, Sir?”

“You've got that right: too many missions and not enough assets. Everyone who can is screaming for tac air, even if they can't get it right away. Before I came here, I heard somebody say that they were going to put MER bomb racks on some F-15s; they need anything and everything that can carry bombs.” Colonel Johnson told his men.

Guru spoke up; “Colonel, it's that bad?”

“Yeah, Lieutenant, it's that bad.” He went on, “Now, here's the target. Nogales Municipal Airport. The Cubans and Mexicans seem to be using it for a supply base, at least that's what an SR-71 pass showed yesterday afternoon. There might be MiGs there by now: anyone remember seeing the MiG-21s yesterday?”

Everyone nodded. No one had been able to get a shot off, but Johnson had seen two MiGs fall to F-16s, and one that had tried to shoot an A-10 had overshot, and been hosed by the Warthog's 30-mm cannon....not much left of Mr. MiG, he thought. “The frag order's simple: wreck the airport best we can, and kill any MiGs on the ground. Any questions?”

1st Lt. Bryan Shaw, who flew #4, asked, “Can we cross the border, Sir, or is that a no-go?”

“No limits, gentlemen. This is all-out: not like it was in Southeast Asia. If you have to cross the border to evade a SAM or MiG, you can. And for sure, the Weasels will shoot at any SAM site across the border,” Johnson said.

“Colonel, anything on defenses?” Guru asked. His WSO, 1st Lt. Tony Carpenter, had been about to ask the same question.

“Good question, Guru,” Johnson replied. “One SA-6 battery that we know of on the photos, and probably some ZU-23s. And you can bet anyone who can is probably going to shoot SA-7s. No idea if the MiGs are actually there, but assume that they are.”

Tony Carpenter raised his hand, “What's our ordnance load, Sir?”

“I was just coming to that. Two wing tanks, two TERs with a slant-two load of Mark-82s, a full MER on centerline with Mark-82s, two AIM-9Js, two AIM-7s, plus an ALQ-101 in the left front Sparrow well. And a full load of 20-mm,” Johnson said. “Good enough?”

Heads nodded all around. Then Bryan Shaw asked, “Colonel, what if we're hit?”

“Last item, guys: if you're hit, try and stay with the plane and get to either Davis-Monthan or Tuscon International. If you have to bail out, get as far east or west of I-19 as you can: the Cubans and Mexicans are sticking to the roads, and they're not going very far from them. That good enough?”

Heads nodded. “Okay, get your gear, and see you on the ramp. Wheels up in fifteen mikes, so let's get to it!”

One Hour later; near Nogales, AZ:

The four-ship was in combat spread, heading into the target. The two TARCAP F-16As were just above and behind the Phantoms, while the two Weasel Phantoms were running a minute ahead, with the Navy Prowler right behind them. Everything seemed to be running well. The weather was clear, and from 14,000 feet, one could make out I-19 down below, and the smoke coming up from vehicles that had been bombed on the freeway. Johnson's backseater, Major Joe Simmons, checked his map and watch. It was time. “One minute, Colonel.”

“Roger that. Chevy Flight, this is lead. One minute. Switches on, and time to go to work.”

“Two copies.” Guru.

“Three copies.” Reese.

“Four copies.” Shaw.

Then the Weasels broke in. They used college teams for call signs, and this flight had a Washington State connection: “Husky One, SA-6 up. Magnum!” That signaled a HARM or Shrike missile launch.

Then Colonel Johnson picked out the target. “Chevy Flight, target in sight. Lead in hot!” Then Johnson's F-4 rolled in on his bomb run from 14,000 feet, and he dropped at 9,000. His bombs rained down on Nogales Municipal, and cratered the runway. As he pulled up at 5,000 feet, he called, “Lead off target.”

Then it was Guru's turn. “Two in hot.” And with that, Guru rolled his Phantom on his bomb run. He picked out the ramp area, and it looked like there were a couple of MiGs there, but he wasn't entirely sure, but he dropped his bombs and plastered the ramp area. “Two off target.” And then it happened.

As Guru pulled up, he saw a camouflaged MiG-21PF with Cuban markings, come in from above. There had been no warning either from the AWACS, call sign Warlock, or the two TARCAP F-16s. Someone, he thought, was not on the ball. “Lead, this is two. MiG-21 at your five o'clock! BREAK RIGHT!”

Colonel Johnson heard the call and he cranked his head around. He couldn't see the MiG, so he rolled right and then broke. As he did so, he picked up the MiG-21. “Got it. He's yours, Two.”

Guru quickly switched from BOMB to MISSILE on his weapons-control panel. “Can you get him, Tony?”

“Can't lock him up for some reason. Go heat, buddy.” Carpenter replied.

“Copy. Going heat.” With that call, Guru switched from RADAR to HEAT on the control panel. His AIM-9J missiles were now armed. And the seeker began to growl in his headset. Then it growled very loud, signaling a lock! “Fox Two!”

That call meant a heat-seeking missile had been launched. Guru and Carpenter watched as the Sidewinder left the port rail, shot ahead, then went ninety degrees to the left, before coming back in and exploding just behind the MiG.

“What the...” Carpenter yelled.

“No way, Fidel.” Guru said, putting the pipper on the MiG's tail. Again, the Sidewinder growled loud in his headset, signaling good tone. “Fox Two!” He yelled as he launched the missile.

This time, the starboard Sidewinder left the rail, and it corkscrewed twice, before flying up the MiG-21's tailpipe.

In the MiG cockpit,the Cuban pilot was turning his head, looking for the F-4 that he had tried to engage. His two R-60 heat-seeking missiles should have been able to track the American, and he was too close for his R-3R radar missiles. Then he heard an explosion behind him, and as the Cuban grabbed his ejection handle, a second explosion blew his MiG apart around him before he could eject.

In 515, Guru and Tony watched as the Sidewinder went up the MiG's tailpipe and exploded. The tail blew off the MiG-21, then the rest of the plane was torn apart in a fireball as the fuel tanks-and presumably the aircraft's ordnance, exploded. “Splash!” They yelled.

“Good kill, Two. Break right, you guys. MiG on your four, coming in,” Colonel Johnson said.

Guru looked to his right. Sure enough, there was another MiG-21 coming in. He turned right, trying to turn into his attacker. As he did so, Colonel Johnson dropped in behind the MiG and fired a Sidewinder. Johnson's missile, like Guru's second, flew up the MiG's tailpipe and the explosion tore the MiG-21 apart. “Lead has a splash!”

While that was going on, Chevy Three and Four had made their bomb runs and pulled off target. As they did so, they saw why the two MiGs had gotten past the two TARCAP F-16s. Both F-16s were fighting MiGs of their own. They saw two MiG-21s fall in flames, then another, and the remaining MiGs headed south of the border. Then the mini-package formed up and headed back north.

After they landed, the Phantoms taxied to their parking spots on the ramp. When Lead and Two parked, the crews held up single fingers, signaling MiG kills, and the 335th's ground crews erupted. First squadron kills in the war.

A few minutes later, after the debrief, Guru sought out Colonel Johnson. “Thanks for getting that MiG off me, Colonel.”

“Anytime, Lieutenant. I ought to thank you. If I hadn't heard your call, the MiG you got would've had me,” The CO reminded his wingman.

“Sir, I know you got a MiG in September, '72. Is it always like this?” Guru asked.

“That queasy feeling in your stomach?”

“Yes, sir.”

“It is. Don't worry, Lieutenant. It's your first, and this is going to be a long war. I don't know how I know that, but I just do. Just put it out of your mind, know you got a MiG kill, and get ready to do it again. Because chances are, you will. Got that?” Said Johnson.

“Yes Sir. I do.” Guru replied.

“Good. Get something to eat. We'll be going out again before too long.”

With that, Guru followed his CO's advice. And sure enough, a couple of hours later, they were headed back out. And the Colonel was right: it would be a long war.

Epilogue: Hill AFB, Utah. 25 July 2009.

Colonel Matt Wiser sat in his office in the 419th Tactical Fighter Wing's HQ. He had flown a low-level navigation flight earlier that morning, and now, he could say that he had all of his Reserve flight time for the month logged. He had just finished the paperwork, and while he was waiting for one of his officers to see him, he thumbed through a copy of Wings of the Phantom. A movie company was about to start filming an adaptation of the book, and he, Kara, and several other vets from the 335th were going to be on Temporary Active Duty to support the filming, fly several F-4s that had been taken out of storage at AMARC so they could be flown in the movie, and act as technical advisors. He just reread the story of that first kill. Was it really that long ago, he wondered. How time flies. That MiG-21 had been the first of twelve kills confirmed during the war, and since the end, he'd had three others confirmed thanks to some detective work at AFHC, and a couple of trips to Colorado and New Mexico to find crash sites.

He thought about Colonel Johnson. Two weeks after that first kill, he had been killed in New Mexico by an SA-6. Neither he nor his backseater got out. Then, three months later had come his own shootdown, and then the E&E with the Resistance. And little did he know that two years after that first kill, he'd be in command of the 335th. So many friends gone, he remembered. Of thirty-six crews in the squadron on Day One, only twelve of the original crews, and ten other individual crew members, had survived the next four years of war. What's the saying? We Few, We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers. And Sisters, too, after Spring of '86, he reminded himself. And all for what? Because a few frightened old men in the Kremlin were afraid that if they didn't feed their own people, their own personal power and privilege were gone. Sure, the historians were saying it was more than that, but a saying an old professor had said came back: “Wars are begun by frightened old men.” Well, we did our jobs, and we won. He put the book down and checked over his paperwork. That's all done, he thought. Next time, it's flying for the movie. Then there was a knock at the door. “Come on in and show yourself,” he said.

Major Kelly Ann Ray, his Operations Officer and a former POW in Cuba during the war, came in.....

Matt Wiser 12-26-2014 09:33 PM

The next one: and a former POW has memories of captivity....

Memories of Captivity

25 July 2009: Hill AFB
, Utah

Major Kelly Ann Ray had spent a sleepless night in the Visiting Officers' Quarters at Hill. Her unit, the 419th Tactical Fighter Wing, was based there, and she was a pilot in the only Air Force Reserve F-15E Wing. She and four other pilots-including the Wing Commander, along with three WSOs, were veterans of the Third World War, but she was the only ex-POW flying, though another former POW, his flying days over, was a maintenance officer. Major Ray and her WSO, Capt. Jody Tucker, had just returned from Key West, Florida, where a number of Tier I and Tier II suspects, apprehended after the U.S. intervention in Cuba that ended the regime of Fidel Castro, had been brought. She, along with a number of former POWs held in Cuba during the war, had been asked to identify suspects, and though there had been some very bad memories coming to the surface, interrogators, torture guards, and camp commandants had been pointed out to the war-crimes investigators. Afterwards, she and several other ex-POWs, along with some of the investigators, had gone into Key West to blow off steam, and had wound up in a Wet T-Shirt Contest. Now, having flown back to Utah, she was anxious to get back into the rhythm of things, not just in the unit, but in her civilian job as a Sheriff's Deputy in Pocatello, Idaho. But she had some things that she wanted to talk about, and with the only other ex-POW in the 419th not on base, she asked to see her CO. So, after a shower, and noticing that the scars were still there on her back, buttocks, and arms, she shrugged, put on her flight suit and went to breakfast, and then she'd see the CO.

She pulled up in her Olds 442 convertible and parked in front of the 419's Wing HQ. Major Ray noticed her CO's green 1969 Mercury Cougar convertible in his space, so she knew he'd be there. Today wasn't a Reserve day, but she knew the CO hadn't gotten in his required flight time for the month, and he'd come down from Mountain Home AFB, where his wife was the CO of the 366th TFW, to get some flying in. Other than a few others who were also catching up on their flight time, the only ones in the office were the regular AF personnel who kept the wing running when the reservists were off at their civilian jobs. Major Ray went to the CO's office and knocked on the door. “Come on in and show yourself,” was the response.

Colonel Matt Wiser was at his desk, wrapping up his own battle-this one with the Air Force bureaucracy. He looked up as Major Ray came in. Colonel Wiser was a triple ace in F-4s during the war, even though his squadron had spent most of its time on air-to-ground tasking. He had just finished a morning low-level navigation flight, and that had taken care of the flight time for him and his WSO, so he had no more duties for the day. “Major.” he said. “How was Key West? You were a little...guarded when you got in last night.”

She sketched a salute and sat down. “It was, well, okay, Colonel.”

“I can tell when something is bothering you, Major. Want to talk about it?” He asked.

“Yeah. I'd like to talk about it. A lot of old memories came back those two days, Colonel,” Ray said. “I saw some friends I haven't seen in a while, but we all saw some people that, to be honest, we all wish were going to die-slowly.”

Colonel Wiser nodded. “Okay. And this isn't going to be CO to subordinate. Think of it as two fighter pilots having a talk. And if you don't want to talk about a particular event, say so. It's your talk, not mine.”

“Thanks, Colonel.” Major Ray replied.

Colonel Wiser got up and opened the office door. He noticed Capt. Troy McCord, who was one of the active-duty officers who kept the wing going. McCord saw his CO and came over. “What's up, Sir?”

“Unless the Wing's getting activated, or it's the base commander on the phone, Major Ray and I are not to be disturbed, Captain. Understood?”

McCord had signed out Major Ray two days previously. It was unusual for her to fly her F-15E on something like this, but her orders said “Fastest Available Transportation,” and Colonel Wiser had authorized taking her Strike Eagle-and her WSO. “Key West, Colonel?”

“Right you are. She needs to get something or a lot of somethings-off her chest. And fast, because those Hollywood types will be here starting tomorrow for their orientation rides. And I want her to do some of that,” Wiser said. “But for now, we're not to be disturbed.”

“Yes, sir.”

Colonel Wiser went back into the office. He looked at his bookshelf: tucked in amongst the various histories of the war, was Major Ray's POW: Four Years in Cuba. She had written the book a few years previously, before joining the 419th, and it had become a best-seller on the Los Angeles Times' nonfiction list. Now, a movie company was going to make a movie based on the book, and Major Ray was going to be on Temporary Active Duty to act as the Air Force Technical Advisor. He pulled the book off the shelf. “Something not in the book, Kelly? Did you leave something out, or is everything there?”

“It's almost all there, Colonel. I guess you can say the first somebody I saw at Key West was the Chief Interrogator at Havana's Ministry of Defense. That's where they had their main interrogation center.” Seeing her CO nod, she went on. “He was the same guy a number of POWs in Hanoi called 'Fidel.'”

“That sumbitch? Kelly, if you want to kill him yourself, you're going to have to get in line.” Colonel Wiser pointed out. “A lot of folks want him dead.”

“Colonel, I know.” She replied. “But he...it's in the book, but..I'm sitting in a chair, my hands and feet tied to the chair, and he comes in and brags about what he did in Hanoi, and that he's....enjoyed, several female POWs from Gitmo. Spent a week....in the ropes, hanging by my heels or tied arms, riding the horse, or being beaten. And that bastard....” Her voice trailed off, recalling the “special torture” that Fidel-and his counterparts at the POW prisons-enjoyed.

“I know. You say it in the book. He raped you.” Colonel Wiser said. “But that's not all. Your backseater was in another room. And he never made it out of there.”

“Yeah, Colonel. But damn it! I was the pilot, and responsible for my crewman!” Major Ray said, her voice filled with anger.

“Never had that happen, I'm afraid. Tony Carpenter and I both made it out when we went skydiving, and we both made it on the E&E. But you're not the first pilot to lose a crewmate, and you won't be the last.”

“Colonel, I know. But that doesn't change the way I feel.” She told her CO.

“Anyone else from there?” He asked.

“One other-they told us she was dead; Marines went to her home outside Havana, and she went down fighting. Some '60s activist who escaped to Cuba in the late '70s to flee a murder rap for killing a cop,” Replied the Major.

“Why her? She take part when things got.....physical, for want of a better word?” Asked Colonel Wiser.

“More than that, Colonel. I didn't put it in the book-that's the only thing I left out. Do the words 'lesbian rape' come to mind?”

Her CO's jaw dropped. This was something she hadn't told him, though a few times, she'd talked about her experience in Cuba to members of the Wing. “My God, Kelly..” his voice trailed off. “That alone is enough to put the rope around that bitch's neck. She's dead, you say?”

“Yeah. Some Marines went to her villa to pick her up, and she opened up on them with an AK-47. They returned fire, and two Marines shot her full of holes. So she paid, though not the way I'd prefer. I wanted to see her on the gallows, but I'm not complaining,” Major Ray told her CO, who was still surprised. He'd heard similar stories about members of the ALA's Political Security Department doing the same thing, but that was all second-hand. Hearing it from someone who he knew and worked with routinely, that was different.

He shrugged. “Well, those Marines saved the Feds a ton of work. And saved you having to testify.”

“There is that, Colonel,” Major Ray said. “Then it was several of the guards from Camp 5 at Mariel.”

“The one the two Open Water escapees made it out from?”

“The same. They didn't say in the book about that escape, but I was supposed to go with them.”

“How come? Weren't you still relatively OK, physically?” He asked.

“Yeah, but I sprained my ankle on a work detail-cutting sugarcane, and I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up once we got over the wall. So I covered for them,” Major Ray said.

“So they either picked you because you knew them, or what, and got another going-over. Not good, Major.” He said as he went over to his office fridge. “Something to drink? You might need it.”

“No thanks, I'm good, Colonel. But yeah, I went through the wringer. Again. Then they sent me to the Isle of Pines-a maximum-security lockup, where the hardcases were sent. Two years in solitary, hardly any news of the war, plenty of abuse, you name it, they did it.” She recalled with a shudder, remembering the days and nights spent in the interrogation rooms, as her tormentors pressured her for information on the escape, whether they had outside help, who else was involved, and so on. Only when she felt the information was out of date did she give anything.....and when her pain threshold had been reached.

Colonel Wiser nodded. He'd read the book. It was now required reading at the Air Force Academy, as well as seniors taking AFROTC. “Anyone from there you had to ID?” He asked.

“Four.” She replied. “And yes, Colonel, all four of them were animals. They enjoyed their jobs, and went out of their way to beat up on a prisoner if they were in the mood.” She replied. “And after what they did to me, taking turns, I want them all to die-slowly.”

Her CO nodded again. From the book, he knew what those four had done when she'd been caught communicating with another cell block. The thought of his wife, who knew a great deal-as did he-as a Wing Commander, going through such an ordeal made him shudder-as well as angry. But if his wife didn't want to kill those responsible, he would want to do so himself.

“And Holguin?” He asked. Major Ray had been sent there after her time on the Isle of Pines.

“Just a couple that I had....time with, that's all.” She responded. “The ones who 'punished' me for flashing hand signals from our room-I was in a cell with three others-a Navy officer from Gitmo, a female Marine-supply officer I remember-also from Gitmo-and a female Marine A-6 pilot, who was shot down a year after I was.”

“They hammered all four of you, right?” Colonel Wiser asked.

“You could say that, sir.” Major Ray said. “The hole...”

“Not like it is in someplace like Folsom or San Quentin, right?”

“Yeah. They dug a hole in the yard, lined it with concrete, put a metal roof on top, and after they tortured you, throw you in for a few days-or longer.” Said the Major, shuddering at the hot days and sticky nights-several of them-spent in that tiny hellhole, before being taken back to her cell-and finding out her cell mates had gone through the same experience.

“Sad to say, Major, I've seen something like that. D/FW Airport, after it was retaken. The KGB used the airport security office as an Interrogation and Execution Center, and they had a hole just like that.” Colonel Wiser recalled. “The only difference is, you survived. Anyone at that location didn't.”

“Colonel, those bastards aren't the ones I really want. It's Fidel and his brother Raoul. They gave the orders. Those two either ordered this, or they didn't, but condoned it anyway. The responsibility's theirs.” Major Ray reminded her CO.

“You get no argument from me on that, Major.” Said Colonel Wiser. “Fidel's probably at the bottom of the Caribbean, but we've got Raoul.”

“Yes, sir. That we do. They've already told me I'll be a witness at Raoul's trial-which is about a year away.”

Colonel Wiser shook his head. He'd heard about a captured document on CNN. It had Raoul's signature, and it stated that “Reprisals cannot be harsh enough.” That was enough right there to put a rope around Raoul's neck, the legal talking heads were saying. “And homecoming?”

Major Ray smiled. “That was anticlimactic, Colonel. We didn't know it was over, and thought there was some kind of bombing halt. What'd they do? Just loaded us on buses with the windows covered, took us to Holguin Air Base, and there was an unmarked Airbus. The Cubans still had the AKs, and they told us to get aboard.”

“You all thought you were being sent to Russia, right?”

“Oh yeah, that's what we thought. But when we got aboard, there's these Costa Rican diplomats, and some tough-looking guys in Colombian uniforms, with MP-5s. They told us the war was over, and we were going home.” Major Ray remembered.

“And you guys thought it was a setup, and you were on your way to Moscow.”

“Um-hmm. Only when we landed after two hours, and it's San Jose, Costa Rica, with a pair of C-141s sitting there, with the American flag on the tail. And guys in our uniforms waiting for us.” Major Ray recalled, with the emotion coming to her voice. “That's when we really knew it was over.”

“Did they tell you about your WSO?” Colonel Wiser asked.

“Yeah. But all they said was 'Died in captivity of illness.' My ass, 'illness.” She said, the anger coming back. “He was tortured to death.”

Colonel Wiser nodded. “His body was found in some warehouse after Havana was secured, right? At least that's what the news said about finding POW remains.”

“Yeah. The Air Force still hasn't made all the arrangements, and even though there's a tag on the coffin, they have to ID him to make it official. In a month, they said, that's when the funeral is in Butte.”

“If you want, Major, We'll provide the Missing Man. Not those Albino Eagles in the Montana Guard.” Colonel Wiser told her. “And Colonel Eichhorn will handle things on the ground. I'll make those arrangements, and I have some folks who owe me favors. I'll cash in on a couple.”

“Thanks, Colonel.” Major Ray said. “You know the rest: getting out of the Air Force after a few years because of the bad memories, moving to Idaho, then finding out I missed flying, so I came to the 419th.”

He nodded. “Anything else?”

“Yeah. What now?” She asked her CO.

“The best revenge is to live well. Kill those demons by being the best fighter pilot you can. And you've got a score to settle with that East Coast F-22 jockey-along with Kara. Both of you have something to prove to that guy, even if he is a one-star.”

Major Ray smiled. “Oh, you bet I want another crack at him. Those Raptor jocks think they're gods when it comes to flying. And they need to be cut down to size.”

“That's the Kelly Ann I know.” Colonel Wiser said, his voice showing his pride. “There's something else.”

“And that is?” Major Ray wanted to know.

“Those Hollywood types are coming, starting tomorrow, for their orientation rides. Meg Ryan's coming, as she's up for the role of you in the Showtime movie. They asked for you to fly her in your backseat.”

“I'll give her an A-Ticket ride, Colonel.” Major Ray said.

“Good, and there's going to be some more in a few days. I'm taking Mark Wahlberg up in a couple of days, and Kara-whose squadron didn't go to the exercise, is taking Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron out of Mountain Home. There's a few others, but not until next week.” Colonel Wiser said.

Major Ray nodded. “Guess I'll have that drink now, Colonel. What was it?”

“Iced tea.”

She laughed. But after all, they were on duty. Then there was a knock at the door. Colonel Wiser scowled. “I thought I gave orders not to be disturbed. This had better be good.” Then he yelled “Come in! And this had better be good!”

The door opened and in came Captain McCord with his laptop. “Sir, I know you didn't want to be bothered, but there's something you and the Major need to see.”

Both looked at each other. “What is it, Captain?” The Colonel asked.

“Sir, you know things in Key West can get wild on most nights...”

“Out with it, Captain!” Colonel Wiser said.

Captain McCord put his laptop on the Colonel's desk and showed him. It was Youtube. A video of a Wet T-Shirt contest at a Key West watering hole was playing. Colonel Wiser recognized some of those involved. The two Open Water escapees, a few other ex-POWs, and then he saw it. Major Ray. He turned to her. “What the hell? Major! Want to explain this?”

She got up and had a look for herself. “Sir, after ID'ing those bastards, a couple of the investigators gave us a Hummer and a piece of advice: 'Blow off some steam.' How'd I know there was somebody there with a camcorder?”

Colonel Wiser looked at the screen again. Major Ray and one of the other former POWs had an investigator sandwiched right between them. And all three were smiling. “Oh, boy.” Then the phone rang. It was one of the NCOs. “Wiser.”

“Sir, OSI's on the line.”

He looked at Major Ray and sighed. “Okay, put'em through.”

“This is Colonel Wiser.”

“Sir, this is Special Agent Paul Hutchinson with OSI at Key West. I take it you've seen the Youtube video that's going around like wildfire?”

He looked at Major Ray, who did not seem pleased in the slightest. “Yes, Agent Hutchinson, I have.”

“Colonel, OSI is not, repeat, not, opening an investigation into this matter. The war-crimes people have told us not to get involved. They said the ex-POWs needed to blow off steam, and they did so. Unless you insist on a probe, we consider the matter closed.” Agent Hutchinson said.

“Thank you, Agent Hutchinson. I'll handle the issue internally.” Colonel Wiser told the OSI agent.

“You do have that prerogative, Sir. If there's nothing else?”

“That's all. Have a good day.” With that, Colonel Wiser hung up the phone. “Well, Major?”

“Sir, like I said, I have no idea who had the camcorder.”

“Probably the bar owner or one of the bartenders.” Colonel Wiser said. “Did you uphold the honor of the Air Force?”

“Yes, sir. I did. I won the first two rounds I was in, but lost to another POW. But she, too, was Air Force.” Major Ray told her CO.

“At least it was an Air Force woman who won,” Capt. McCord said, and he drew two scowls from both of his superior officers. “What'd I say, Colonel?”

Colonel Wiser looked at Major Ray. “I believe Major Ray should have the final word.”

“Thank you, Colonel. Captain, I don't like to lose. Not in flying, nor in anything else.”

Matt Wiser 12-28-2014 01:51 AM

Guys, any questions, feedback, etc.?

dragoon500ly 12-28-2014 08:14 AM

Keep them coming! I'm enjoying your works!!!

Adm.Lee 12-28-2014 06:13 PM

I admit I am not reading all of them, but I am enjoying the fighter-jock atmosphere. I tried to bring that up in a not-T2k game I ran last year, but it didn't take off. So to speak. :D

Matt Wiser 12-28-2014 08:39 PM

What happens when some Cubans crash R&R:


335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Williams AFB, AZ, 1100 Hours Mountain War Time, 18 November, 1986.

Captain Matt Wiser of the 335th was sitting at his desk in the squadron office. He was deputy Operations Officer for the squadron, and had just wrapped up some paperwork. War or no war, the Air Force bureaucracy had its own rules, and the “paper warriors” had their own ways of going about things. Though the CO, Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, felt that the less paper in the way, the better, and he had no qualms about folding, spindling, mutilating, bending, or just plain ignoring regulations if they got in the way of getting things done. The Exec, Major Troy McPherson, felt the same way, and let that filter down to the other officers, and having the CO of the Marine Air Group to which they were attached, and Major General Richard Tanner, who commanded the Tenth Air Force, agree with that was a big morale booster. They knew what parts of the book to keep and which ones to throw away. Everyone was happy with that, except for another Major, who was an Academy man first, last, and always, and was appalled at the way things were done in the squadron, and was despised by everyone, and not just the other officers, but the NCOs and enlisted airmen as well. The man was even called “Our Frank Burns,” by 1st Lt. Mark Ellis, and the name had stuck.

Now, his squadron paperwork all done, Capt. Wiser was wondering how to spend the rest of the stand-down. The squadron had been pulled off combat operations for two days already, and wouldn't be back flying for another five, and a lot of people were using that time to catch up on sleep, or just plain hang out. The squadron was billeted at the nearby Sheraton in Mesa, and just sitting by the pool and chasing waitresses-or other female officers did appeal to him, but since he had met his WSO, the latter was no longer an option, for he and that officer, 1st Lt. Lisa Eichhorn, had been seeing each other in a way that, prewar, would've gotten them an Article 15 at least, but with the country fighting for its national survival, fraternization regs were among the first things that went out the window, as far as many unit commanders were concerned. Though the eager-beaver Major, much to Rivers' (and both Capt. Wiser's and Lt. Eichhorn's) disgust, had tried to write them up for the rule violation. The CO was more concerned with how his officers did their jobs, and if a couple of officers of the opposite sex were attracted to each other, that was none of his-or anyone else's business, as long as they kept their private lives off base. “What you guys and gals do when you're off base and on your own time is nobody's business, but yours. Just check your private lives at the gate when you come on base,” he had told the squadron at a unit assembly back in July. And yet, the overzealous Major didn't get the word, or didn't care, for he tried to have Guru (Wiser's call sign) and Goalie (Eichhorn's), written up. After summoning the two to his office, Colonel Rivers asked if they were seeing each other on a more.....intimate basis, and they said yes. “Does it interfere with both of you in the cockpit?” “No, Sir,” was the reply. And Guru and Goalie watched with satisfaction as Rivers tore up the paper. The Frank Burns wannabe stormed out of the office in a fit of the sulks.

Guru was looking at his aircraft log book-which was different from his own personal logbook. There were a couple of issues he felt needed attention, with the altimeter giving some trouble, and the INS was starting to get a little balky, so he filled out the maintenance request and was ready to give it to 1st Lt. Kevin O'Donnell, one of the maintenance officers, when Goalie came by. “I just talked to Rivers. We've both got five days R&R if we want it.”


“Yep. We've been hitting it pretty hard, and he agreed. Hell, half the squadron's going on R&R-as long as it's within the State of Arizona and nowhere near the Mexican border..”

Guru nodded. “Got any ideas? I've been to the Grand Canyon already.”

“So have I,” Goalie said. “And the ski areas near Flagstaff don't have enough snow yet, anyway.”

Then 1st Lt. Kyle Radner came by. He was Guru's wingmate. “What are you guys doing for R&R?”

“I was just asking our flight lead the same thing,” Lieutenant Eichhorn said. “Well?”

Guru thought for a minute. Skiing wasn't on the agenda, and just sitting by the pool didn't appeal to him-as long as Goalie was around. He'd seen her in a bathing suit often-and out of one several times. Then something occurred to him. “How about going off-roading?”

“Where?” Radner asked.

“Either northeast of here, in the Tonto National Forest, or to the west of Phoenix,in the desert,” Wiser said.

“What about the nuclear power plant?” Goalie asked. “That place has so much security you'd think it was Fort Knox.” She was referring to the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant west of Phoenix. The plant provided much of the power for the Phoenix-Tuscon area, including several defense plants in the Mesa and Tuscon areas, as well as military bases. Hence, the DOE guards had been reinforced by military police, and a five-mile “no-go” zone was being strictly enforced. There were checkpoints on I-10 and the local roads, and word had it that anyone straying off the roads could expect to be shot, and to make matters worse, there were minefields around the plant, or so rumor said.

“Not to worry: we get past the plant, get off of the Interstate, and then go off road,” Guru said. “There's some BLM land, and that should be enough. A couple of desert springs, maybe an old ghost town, things like that. Out in the middle of nowhere, so we can forget the war for a few days.”

And it's private, Goalie knew. Which appealed to her a great deal. “Sounds good.” She turned to Kyle “How about it?”

“Why not? I'll get Brad Garrison and our girlfriends,” Radner said. “What'll we be driving? Dune buggies?”

Guru laughed. “No. That Jeep dealer I bought my Grand Cherokee from? They also rent four-by-fours. And I do believe someone you know, Kyle, has a Jeep CJ-7.”

Wiser was referring to newly-promoted 1st Lt. Ryan Blanchard, who happened to be Radner's girlfriend.

“You're right about that.”

“Okay. Got anyone else you want to invite?” Guru asked.

“Not this time: the smaller the party, the better. And we're not an inviting target.”

Guru knew what Radner meant. There were reports of Soviet, Cuban, and even Mexican Special Operations Forces slipping across the border and raising whatever havoc they could create. “Yeah,” he nodded. “All right: go to the Armory and check out four M-16s and some ammo. Bring your sidearm.”

Goalie and Radner nodded. “Will do.”

“I'll call the dealer and rent a Jeep for Goalie and myself. I'm not taking my Grand Cherokee off-road just yet.”

“And I'll get the camping gear from the Base Recreation Office,” Goalie said.

Radner came back. He'd called his WSO, Capt. Brad Garrision. No joy on the trip, Brad said: he had an uncle who lived in Prescott, and the man had invited Brad up for some fishing.

1400 Hours Mountain War Time: I-10, West of Phoenix, AZ:

Guru was driving the Jeep that he'd rented only two hours before, and it was packed with gear. He and Goalie had packed enough to last four and a half days, and they planned to be back at Williams the afternoon of the 23rd. Even with wartime, traffic along I-10 in Phoenix was flowing normally: people still lived along the I-10 corridor, and they had to go to and from work, there were employees at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, and they had their commutes, truck traffic-both civilian and military, and so on. Except for the occasional HAWK missile site that was part of the Phoenix Air Defense, and the amount of military traffic, one might forget there was a war on.

When he'd rented the Jeep, the salesman-who he'd dealt with when Guru had bought his Grand Cherokee, pointed out a couple of dings. When Capt. Wiser asked what had made them, the salesman replied, matter of fact it seemed, that the previous renters had run afoul of some Cubans, and they had taken some fire. “Lovely,” had been Guru's reply.

After they cleared Phoenix itself, traffic thinned out, but then they came across a vivid reminder that the war was still on. Five miles before the offramp, there was a sign: “MILITARY AREA: CHECKPOINT AHEAD: MILITARY POLICE.” This was part of the security for the Palo Verde plant. “Get your ID out,” Guru said to Goalie.

When they got to the checkpoint, there were plenty of MPs around, along with some V-100 and V-150 armored cars, machine-gun emplacements, even a pair of jeeps with TOW missile launchers. Goalie looked at Guru. This was the first time either one had been in this part of Arizona. “They're not fooling around,” she noted.

“With that nuke plant?” Guru asked. “Would you?”

An MP Sergeant came up to the Jeep as Guru stopped. “ID, Sir.”

Guru handed the MP both his and Goalie's, along with their passes. “Here you go, Sergeant.”

“Sir, Ma'am, would you step out of the vehicle? We need to check beneath.”

Both officers got out of the jeep, and stood aside as the MP checked underneath the jeep with mirrors. “Sir, do you have anything in the vehicle we should know about?”

“Besides our camping gear?” Guru asked, and the MP nodded. “Two M-16s and two pistols, for protection.”

“Thank you, Sir,” The MP nodded. Several of the MPs checked the jeep, and Goalie noticed Radner's jeep being given a similar going-over.

The inspection took a few minutes, and Guru noticed the heavy security off the freeway: there was a barbed-wire fence that was topped with razor wire, along with signs that warned the unwary that not only could trespassers expect to be shot, but there also signs warning of minefields. And there was a UH-1 helo flying over as well.

Then an MP nodded to his Sergeant. “All clear, Sarge.”

The MP handed their ID and passes back. “Thank you, Sir, Ma'am. Just stay on the freeway and you'll be fine. Don't get off the interstate for any reason until you pass the eastbound checkpoint.”

Nodding, Guru and Goalie got back in the jeep and got going. At the offramp, there was another checkpoint at the end, for those exiting the freeway, and there were more Military Police there. Another five miles, and then they came to the eastbound checkpoint, and a sign that said “END MILITARY AREA.” Only then did he open up and head west to the exit they planned to take, Exit 81. Then they headed up on the local road to the small town of Salome, where they stopped to ask where some good jeep driving might be found. A couple of locals pointed out some areas on their map that prewar, some off-road clubs from Phoenix had used, with a warning as well. “Some folks say they've seen Cubans around, but no telling if they're true or not.”

Guru took the jeep onto some of the trails, and both he and Radner gave their jeeps a good workout. That first night, they found a campsite that other off-roaders had used, mainly due to the fire ring present. In the light of the campfire, Ryan Blanchard remarked that one might even be able to forget there was a war on. The night sky was clear, and filled with stars, and that made her point. And when the four went into their tents, they discovered another, more....intimate way of forgetting they were at war.

22 November 1986, 1700 Mountain War Time. North of U.S. 60, La Paz County, AZ:

Three days had passed, and the quartet was getting ready to enjoy their final night in the desert. Radner had found an old mine, but no one was foolish enough to go inside, fearing a cave-in. Several old mining shacks and a few old ranch houses, though, had been worth exploring, and though most everything had been taken with the previous occupants, heavy items like a wood stove, or a metal frame bed, remained. Not to mention finding an old 1920s' era truck that had been stripped and abandoned. “Why's this thing still here?” Radner asked.

“Simple: it's so far off the main roads, and want to bet the scrap metal drives haven't come this way?” Goalie replied.

“Yeah, I suppose so,” he said. “Who'd want to try farming here?”

“Somebody who was either desperate, foolish, or both,” Ryan said. “No wonder they left.”

“Or they left when WW II broke out,” Guru said. “Either way, a job in a war plant or just plain enlisting beats staying out here.”

Nodding, Ryan went out back. “There's a well, and..uh-oh.”

“What?” Goalie asked.

“Boot prints, and they're not that old. Maybe a week.”

Guru and Radner came over, along with Goalie, to have a look. “Whose?” Guru asked.

“Good question,” Ryan said. “They're degraded, though. Wind and rain, I'd say.”

“Didn't it rain, when, Tuesday?” Goalie asked.

“Yep,” Guru said. “That'd degrade any prints. Remember SERE? 'Rain is your friend when it comes to water. Just as long as you don't leave your own prints in the mud.”

“Let me guess: that came back to help on that E&E?” Radner quipped.


Goalie looked at the tracks, “Well, somebody's been here. The question is, who?”

“That is a very good question,” Ryan said. Her instinct as a CSP was in high gear. “The well's not dry, so whoever it was probably stopped to get water.”

“Still, we'd better find a campsite soon,” Guru said. “And when we do, just as we've been doing, we keep our rifles close by.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said, and the others nodded.

Matt Wiser 12-28-2014 08:42 PM

Part II:

23 November 1986: 0225 Mountain War Time, North of U.S. 60, La Paz County, AZ:

The party found a campsite near a pond that showed on their BLM maps. There was a rocky ledge about a hundred yards away, but after Guru led Ryan on a search-an old habit from his E&E days, he pronounced the area clear. After a meal of MREs and coffee, they settled down for the night. It would be their last night before heading back to Williams the next morning, and the day after that, for the F-4 crewers, it was back in the saddle, and taking it to the ComBloc. There was some stargazing, and a couple of meteors made sure that part of the night didn't go to waste, then Radner and Ryan went into their tent, and soon after, Guru and Goalie did the same. And things got much more....intimate after that.

Unknown to the party, a six-man patrol of Cuban Special Forces was up on the ledge, watching. They were on a recon, having been inserted by helicopter from Mexico a few days earlier, and they had been watching U.S. 60 and I-10, noting the traffic on both highways. Now, they were about to try and execute the second phase of their mission, and take a prisoner or two with them back to Mexico for interrogation. Civilian or military, it didn't matter. The Team Leader gave his orders, and his men headed down toward the campsite.

In the tent she shared with Radner, Ryan Blanchard woke up. Something just didn't seem right. Whether it was her instinct as a cop-and she had been one before the war, or what, she didn't know, but something was out there, she felt. The moonlight came through the tent, and she could see her bare skin-Kyle was as good in a sleeping bag as he was in bed, and she smiled at that. Still, something was up. So she put on her boots, when there was a sound outside.

Goalie heard that sound, too. “Matt, wake up!” She hissed.

Guru woke up to see Goalie leaning over him. The last time someone had woken him up in a tent, he'd seen that....thing. “What?” He whispered.

“Something's out there, and I don't think it's a coyote.” She paused. “We may have two-legged company.”

“Uh-oh...Get dressed,” Guru said. Goalie was in her birthday suit, and he only had his underwear on. He threw on a T-Shirt and his boots, and was reaching for his rifle, when a shot rang out.

“Oh, Shit!” Goalie said, throwing on a T-shirt of her own, and grabbing her own rifle, when gunfire came from the other tent.

Ryan watched as the intruders-three of them, she could see, approached the camp. She had only time to put on her combat boots and grab her M-16, and wake up Kyle at the same time, before she took matters into her own hands. Ryan poked her M-16 out the tent flap, took aim at the lead intruder, and opened fire, dropping him with a four-round burst. Then AK fire came in reply.

“Great!” Guru said as the bullets started flying. “We come out here to get away from the war, and it found us.” He spotted a target and fired, putting a bullet into the target's shoulder.

“Hey, you're used to this!” Goalie said as she grabbed her own rifle. “I'm not.”

Another burst of gunfire came from the other tent, and in the moonlight, Guru saw another intruder drop to the ground, apparently dead. Then he heard shouts in Spanish. “Cubans.....”

In their tent, Ryan looked at Kyle. He had his own M-16 at the ready. “Remember your small-arms training?”

“Yeah. At the Academy: my Doolie Summer,” he replied.

“Good enough. Cover me.” She said, grabbing her M-16 and running outside, with Radner firing as she did so. Only then did he realize that she only had her combat boots on.

Guru and Goalie saw it as well. “What the??” Goalie said, incredulous at the sight.

“Cover her,” Guru said. He sprayed the ridgeline with his own M-16, and advanced to his Jeep. He cautiously went around the back, and found a Cuban there, clutching his left shoulder. The man tried to go for his own AKM, but Guru put a burst into his chest, killing him. He then saw Ryan running up to the ridge. “Goalie!”


“Throw some gas on the fire when I tell you to.” He ordered.

Nodding, she came to the jeep and pulled out a gas can. “Ready.”

“Not yet,” he said, spraying more fire at the ridge, then he grabbed a fresh magazine in the jeep and slapped it into his rifle.

Up on the ridge, the Cuban Lieutenant was having a fit. What had seemed to be an easy mark was clearly not the case, and whoever they were down there, they were more than ready. He recognized the M-16 by its own sound, and he cursed this wretched country, where anyone and their mother could have such a rifle if they were civilians. Now, three of his men were down, and counting himself, there were only three left. And the gunfire from down below had them pinned down. Going to recover the bodies of their comrades, as per their orders, was clearly not an option. He turned to one of the two troopers left. “You two, get to the rendezvous point. I'll cover you. If I'm not there in an hour, proceed to the extraction site.”

“Si, Comrade Lieutenant,” one of the troopers-a corporal-said.


As the two troopers slipped away, the Lieutenant heard a sound It sounded like someone was coming around one of the rocks. He raised his AKM, only to see a flash, and then he felt his right leg come out from under him.

Ryan watched the two Cubans run down the other side of the ridge in the moonlight, but she saw a third. He turned to face her,and raised his rifle, but she didn't give him that chance. Ryan didn't have time to aim, so she sprayed a burst at his lower body, and watched as he went down, clutching his right leg. She walked over to him and kicked the AKM out of the way, then she safed it and after picking it up, she slung it over her shoulder, and taking his pistol as well.. “Nice try, Fidel.” The Cuban looked at her. “Now get up.”

Down below, Guru, Goalie, and Radner were scanning the ridgeline. There was no more fire coming, and they had heard Ryan's M-16. “We go up? Radner asked.

“No,” Guru said firmly. “We wait.” His time with the Resistance was showing, and this was the first time anyone in the squadron had been able to see it.

Goalie looked at him and nodded. He's been through this before, she realized. She turned back to look at the ridge, and saw someone limping, with another right behind with a rifle in hand and another over the shoulder. “I think that's her. Nobody's shooting.”

“Time to make sure. Ryan!”


“Who were the three hosts of That's Incredible!”

“John Davidson, Cathy Lee Crosby, and Fran Tarkenton! Guru, I loved that show!”

“That's her,” Goalie said. “And I liked that show, too.”

Nodding, Guru said. “Come on in!” He turned to Goalie. “Now you can get the gas on the fire.”

Goalie took a metal gas can and flung some gas on the campfire embers, and the fire blazed up. In the firelight, they could see Ryan, wearing only her combat boots, and with an M-16 in one hand, a Tokarev TT-33 pistol in another, and an AKM slung over her shoulder, pushing a Cuban soldier ahead of her. And everyone could see the Cuban was wounded. “Well, I'll be damned.”

“What?” Ryan asked.

“You're probably the first woman to capture an enemy wearing her birthday suit and combat boots.”

Hearing that, Guru and Radner laughed. And both could see Ryan breaking out with an evil-looking smile. “I wonder if Fidel here knows?” Guru commented.

“He's wounded,” Ryan said. “Someone get a first-aid kit.”

Radner went to their jeep and got the kit. He checked the wound in the blazing firelight. “Looks like a through-and-through.” He commented, putting some sulfa in the wound and applying a pressure bandage. Working quickly, he finished bandaging the Cuban, who nodded his thanks, then he started babbling in Spanish.

“What's he saying?” Guru asked. “Anybody speak Spanish?”

The others shook their heads no.

“All right,” Guru said. He stuck his head in the Cuban's face. “Speak any English?”

“Si,” the Cuban replied.

“What are you talking about?” Guru demanded.

“Senor, please, shoot me.”

“What?” Guru asked, shocked. “Why?”

The Cuban looked at Ryan. “Because, not only have I been captured by a woman, but by a naked woman. I will never live this down, and if I make it to one of your prison camps, I will be a laughingstock. Please, Senor, shoot me!”

The other three looked at Ryan. She had put the Cuban's rifle and pistol in the Jeep, but was still pointing her M-16 at the Cuban. And she was still wearing only her combat boots. She looked at Guru, who nodded, then said to the Cuban. “That's your problem.”


“Sorry, but you'll be handed over to the proper authorities who deal with prisoners of war. If you want to try to escape, you can take your chances with them.” Ryan said to the Cuban, who was not at all happy, and was on the verge of crying.

“I beg you! Please! You can say to your own people that I was trying to escape...please!”

“Sorry...” Ryan said as she went back into the tent.

“What'll we do with this loser?” Radner said.

“We do what Ryan said. We'll take Highway 60 back, and we can drop him off at Luke's main gate. Their intel shop will want to have a chat with this guy,” Guru decided. “But this is a first.”

“What?” Goalie asked.

“We never kept prisoners when I was with the Resistance. Lori Sheppard had a habit of shooting them. Either when their interrogations were finished, or she just plain shot them out of hand.”

Hearing that, the Cuban was hoping that this American, who had clearly been with the bandits and terrorists who called themselves the Resistance, might take his old comrade's habit to heart, and finish him. But that was not to be.

“All right,” Guru ordered. “Goalie, find some rope and tie this guy up. I'll take the first watch. You take over in an hour, then Radner, then Ryan.”

“Hopefully, she'll be dressed this time,” Radner observed.

“Maybe,” Guru smiled, then turned to the Cuban, who was practically in tears.

0630 Hours Mountain War Time, 23 November, 1986, La Paz County, AZ.

“Rise and Shine, sleepyheads!” Ryan shouted.

Guru and Goalie came out of their tent. After taking their turns guarding the prisoner, both had gone back to sleep-fully dressed this time, and Radner had done the same. Now, it was time to eat breakfast, break camp, and start heading back to civilization.

As they ate, they noticed their prisoner, who was hog-tied in the back of Guru and Goalie's jeep. “Give him something?” Radner asked.

“If Lori Sheppard was here, she'd be asking about his last meal,” Guru quipped.

“That bad?” Goalie asked. She knew full well what her pilot had experienced on that E&E, and they'd had a long talk about it. Just in case they went skydiving, and and met up with the guerillas.

“She'd be thinking about where to shoot him and how many times,” Guru said. “Lori had no problems about blowing out somebody's kneecaps, and maybe his elbows, too, before finishing him off. Given what they did to her family, I don't blame her at all.”

“From what you told me,” Goalie chipped in, “neither do I.”

As they ate, Ryan decided to give the Cuban a granola bar, which he took gratefully, even though he was hog-tied in the back of a jeep. And he was still begging her to shoot him. She shook her head, then went back to help break camp. “This chump's still asking us to shoot him.”

“He'll be disappointed. When we get to Luke, they'll have a chat with this dude, and send somebody out after his friends.” Guru said.

“Who?” Radner asked.

“Ever hear of the Apache trackers?”

“Oh...Them.” Radner said quietly.

Goalie nodded. “Yep, them. And a lot of their old ways came back with the war.” She turned to the Cuban, knowing that he was listening. “If they had caught this guy, he'd be smeared with honey, left out in the desert, and leave him for the ants.” And the expression on the Cuban's face was one of shock.

“I guess he knows,” Ryan quipped. “You guys remember that Blinder that went down on the reservation? You know, the one near San Carlos?”

“The one where the Army found all three crewmen scalped and left staked out in the desert, after they'd been flayed alive?” Guru said.

“That's the one. The Army and the AF had to remind the tribe that it was hard to interrogate corpses, and that taking a downed Russian or Cuban alive was a good thing.” Ryan said, glaring at the Cuban, who looked properly terrified.

“Well, the trackers will find this guy's friends, wherever they are,” Goalie said. “And they'd better hope the trackers are in the mood to bring 'em in alive. Otherwise....”

The Cuban lieutenant's expression was one of horror. Were these Americans going to turn him over to the Wild Indians? Their savagery was well-known to the Socialist Forces, and apart from a few progressive individuals, the tribes had disdained the efforts of the liberating forces, and had taken to the hills and formed their own groups of terrorists. If a company or a battalion went on a sweep, they found nothing. If a squad or platoon went on a patrol, they never came back, and often, the soldiers had been put to death in ways that their Soviet adviser said “Would make an Afghan puke.”

Guru finished his MRE coffee. “All right, let's break camp and get going.”

“What about the Cuban bodies?” Radner asked.

“What about 'em?” Guru replied. “Take their weapons and ammo, check them for any documents, maps, etc, and just plain leave 'em. The trackers will take care of the bodies.” Even if it's tossing them in that pond, Guru thought to himself. Good riddance.

0930 Hours Mountain War Time, U.S. 60, La Paz County, AZ.

It had taken an hour to break camp, and another hour and a half to get to a road, but finally, the party was on U.S. 60, headed east. They had passed through a couple of small towns, and except for locals, and a couple of delivery trucks making their rounds, there was hardly any traffic. It was a Sunday, after all. When they went through the towns, some folks waved. At a STOP sign, a local deputy sheriff was curious. “Got an extra passenger?”

“He crashed our party last night,” Guru said. “Taking him to Luke AFB.”

“Cuban or Mexican?” The deputy asked.


The deputy nodded. “Better you guys got him than the local posse. They've found a few Cubans and Mexicans out this way.”

“Turn 'em over to the Army?” Ryan asked.

“A few. Some tried to escape,” said the deputy. “And they got either shot, or if they were recaptured, the posse didn't bother with the Army. They got strung up from the chaparral.”

“Good way to deal with 'em,” Goalie said.

“You all have a good day,” the deputy said. “If he tries to escape...”

“Don't worry about that.”

A couple hours later, they were approaching the Phoenix area. Goalie was driving this time, and Guru had a map out. “Litchfield Road is the one we want. That takes us right to Luke.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said. “How's our passenger?”

Guru turned to check on the Cuban, pointing his M-16 in the prisoner's direction. He was still hog-tied in the back, half buried under the camping gear. “Still there.”

“Good,” she nodded. Then an intersection came after a few miles. The sign said, “Litchfield Rd. Luke AFB.” She glanced at Guru. “This it?”

He nodded.”Take the right.”

She took the right, and Ryan and Radner were right behind them. Traffic was light for a Sunday, and it didn't take long until they were at Luke's main gate. As one expected, there was a lot of security. “Now what? Just drop this chump off?”

Guru unbuckled his seat belt and stood up. There were quite a few CSPs there, checking vehicles entering the base. One of them seemed to glance in their direction. He waved, and the airman came to the jeep to see what was going on. Guru handed the airman his ID.

The airman looked at the ID, then said, “Sir, what can I do for you?”

“We were off-roading, and had this chump-” Guru motioned to the Cuban, then went on “crash our party last night. Can we turn him over to you?”

The airman-who'd been in the Air Force all of six months, nodded. “Let me get my sergeant, Sir.”

“You do that.”

The airman went back to the gate, and talked to a couple of other CSPs. They came back, and one of them was a Staff Sergeant. “Sir?”

“Got a Cuban for you guys,” Guru said.

“Sir, bring him up to the gate, and we'll take him off your hands.” the Sergeant said.

“We'll follow you,” Guru said, nodding to Goalie.

The airmen waited until the traffic ahead had gone onto the base, then waved the two jeeps on in. Since Guru was the ranking officer, he went to deal with the security people. The sergeant opened the door to the Security Office at the gate. A female CSP Lieutenant was there, “Captain,” She said. “You have a Cuban?”

“That's right, and I want to turn him over to you guys. He's wounded, and there were likely buddies with him.” Guru said.

She nodded, “Let's go see him.”

Guru took her to the jeep and showed the Cuban to her. She nodded to her CSPs, and they got the prisoner out of the jeep.. “No problem, Captain. We'll take it from here.”

One of the CSPs checked the Cuban over. “Sir,” he jokingly said to Guru, “you don't have tags for this one.”

“Open season, Charlie,” the sergeant replied. “And no bag limit.”

“Lieutenant,” Guru said, “You might want to sic the Apache Trackers after this guy's buddies. We killed three of 'em, and he had to have had more.” He took out the map and showed where the encounter had occurred.

“No problem, Sir,” the CSP officer said. “We've got some here, and they'll find the rest of 'em. Dead or alive.”

One of the airmen came up with a EPW form on a clipboard. “Sir, you need to fill this out.”

Guru nodded, then waved to Ryan “Come on up here. You caught him.”

Ryan came up, and both of them filled out the form. After signing it, Ryan said, “He's all yours.”

Guru handed the form to the CSP officer. “One other thing: this guy's been begging us to shoot him since we caught him.”

“Why?” Asked the CSP Lieutenant.

“Because, when Lieutenant Blanchard here caught him, she had on only her combat boots and an M-16.” Guru said. The CSP officer looked at Ryan, who simply nodded.

“We won't let him forget it,” the CSP Sergeant said, overhearing the conversation as two airmen untied the Cuban.


The Cuban tapped the CSP Sergeant on the shoulder, then pointed to Ryan, “Mean Woman!”

And everyone laughed.

1400 Hours Mountain War Time, 335th TFS, Williams AFB, AZ

After turning in the camping gear and weapons, and returning the rented jeep to the dealer, the party went back to the squadron to check in. Colonel Rivers was there, earlier than they expected. “Boss,” Guru said. “Enjoy your time off?”

“That I did. Never been to the Grand Canyon before, so that was a good one,” Colonel Rivers said. “How about you guys?”

They all looked at each other. “Well, Sir,” Goalie said. “We had some offroading, some stargazing, and...”

“Let me guess, each other's company?” Rivers asked.

The couples looked at each other and shrugged.

“Guess that's a 'yes,' I'd bet,” Rivers said.

“Yes, Sir,” Ryan said.

“Now, what's this about a Cuban?” Rivers wanted to know. “First thing I get when I come back is a call from Luke, thanking you guys for bringing in a Cuban prisoner.”

The four all looked at each other. “Well, uh,” Radner said.

“Out with it!” Rivers said.

“It went like this, Sir,” said Ryan. And she told the story. When she was finished, Rivers was incredulous.

“Was it really like that?” He wanted to know.

Guru and Goalie nodded. “Yes, Sir,” Guru said. “It's true. In every detail.”

“Incredible,” Rivers said. “All right, get settled back in, get plenty of sleep, because 0530 tomorrow, it's back in the saddle.”

“YES, SIR!” All four shouted.

“Dismissed,” Rivers said, still shaking his head.

As they left Squadron HQ, Radner asked, “Now what?”

“Follow the Boss' advice: have a good dinner, hit the sack early, and it's SA-6s, Shilkas, and MiGs all over again,” Guru said to his wingmate.

One week later, Radner and his back-seater were dead, victims of SA-6. A painful reminder of how in wartime, life could be short. It was Guru and Goalie who broke the news to Ryan. Ten years later, Major Ryan Blanchard would name her firstborn son Kyle, in honor of a friend who had helped make her first weeks at Williams as pleasant as could be in wartime.

Matt Wiser 01-01-2015 12:53 AM

Okay, if any of you were that Cuban SF trooper, would you be begging for a bullet? Because when you get to the EPW camp, and word gets around about how you were captured, the other prisoners won't let you forget it.

Adm.Lee 01-01-2015 12:06 PM

Dunno, I think he'd be in too much shock/confused to think of that just yet. Maybe it would sink in during the jeep ride, or once he realized the Yankees were all laughing at it.

Adm.Lee 01-01-2015 07:59 PM

Oddball coincidence today, after reading this last night, I was introduced to one of my father's model-railroad friends. He had been a USAF pilot, flying F-86, F-100, and in the 3rd class to transition to A-7, what in the 355th TFW at Davis-Monathan, I think he said. That /nearly/ prompted me to blurt out, "Oh, I think I just read something about that wing!" But, I held my tongue long enough to realize I'd seen that number here. And you're using the 335th number, anyway.

Instead, we got him to tell some stories about flying F-100s over the Ho Chi Minh Trail and South Vietnam. :)

He liked the A-7, but said when the A-10 came along, the AF wanted to buy some of each and Congress forced a fly-off. He read the conditions set, and it was clear what bird was going to win the "competition."

Sidebar: you've got me wanting to drag out some boardgames now. Have you played GDW's Air Strike/Air Superiority series, or GMT's Downtown?

Matt Wiser 01-01-2015 09:05 PM

As for the boardgames? No. Wanted to get them, but never did.

pmulcahy11b 01-01-2015 09:25 PM


Originally Posted by Adm.Lee (Post 62396)

Sidebar: you've got me wanting to drag out some boardgames now. Have you played GDW's Air Strike/Air Superiority series, or GMT's Downtown?

I have and have played Air Strike/Air Superiority and the supplement Eagles of the Gulf and some planes from the old Air Power magazine. But Downtown asking prices on the web are prohibitive.

I'm also still looking for Airwar and its second edition, and Raid! (I need the advanced rules/RPG settlement,) The best VIFF rules are still in Airwar's second edition

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