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Old 01-01-2015, 10:19 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The next one, and it takes place near the end of the war:

Nearing the End: Burnout


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What does that mean?” Sweaty asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Glad to, Major,” the man said.

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

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

With that, the room emptied as those crews assigned to fly the first sorties of the day went to their aircraft. And soon after that, the runways were filled with aircraft as F-4s (both AF and Marine), Marine A-4s, A-6s, F/A-18s, and some A-7s from a shore-based Navy squadron, began taxiing for takeoff. It was going to be a very busy day.
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