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Old 01-23-2015, 11:56 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auberry, CA
Posts: 960

Part II:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kara nodded. “Might as well, Colonel.”

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

“What is it?” Guru asked.

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

“What the hell?” Kara said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh?” Goalie asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guru nodded. “That's good to hear.”

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

“Ain't that the truth, Sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about Mexico City?” Starbuck asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Going to be with your relatives?”

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

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

“I already do.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, let's hit it.” And the room emptied as the 335th went out and on with their jobs. And forty-eight hours later, it was over in Brownsville.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

Old USMC Adage
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