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Old 02-01-2015, 07:43 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Here's the next one:

An Interesting Divert



2 May, 1987: Williams AFB, AZ: 1245 Hours Mountain War Time


In what had been a classroom used prewar by a T-37 squadron, Captain Matt “Guru” Wiser, the Executive Officer of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron was having lunch, along with his WSO, his wingman, and her WSO. First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn was Guru's WSO, and she handed him a chicken sandwich. “Want another one?”

“No. I've had enough roadkill sandwiches from the Jarheads' mess people for one day.” Guru replied. The Marine air group to which the 335th had been attached since the war's early days had a reputation for good chow at breakfast and dinner. Lunch, though....a different story.

“Too bad they can't steal the chef from the Sheraton and at least give those guys some lessons,” Second Lieutenant Bryan “Preacher” Simmonds, said. He was WSO for Guru's wingman, First Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard.

Sweaty grinned at her WSO, who'd been studying for the priesthood when the war began. “Ready to violate one of the Ten Commandments?”

“In this case, I think the Good Lord would forgive,” Preacher said. He'd been having doubts about going on with his studies after the war, if he lived, and was thinking about making the Air Force a career-as a WSO, not as a Chaplain.

Then Captain Mark Ellis, the Operations Officer for the 335th, came in. “Guru, got a mission brief for you guys.”

“When, Mark?” Guru asked, taking a swig of lemonade.

“Ten minutes, so finish up,” Ellis said. Then he went to talk to the next flight.

The crews finished lunch, then First Lieutenant Darren Licon, the Squadron Intelligence Officer, came in. “Captain, here's your mission.”

“What's up for us?” Guru asked.

“Denver Siege Perimeter,” Licon said. “They need some more air today, and you guys are it. It's essentially on-call CAS. When you get there, talk to ABCCC will get you in touch with a FAC.” The ABCCC was an EC-130E airborne command post, and one of them was controlling the air activity in support of the defenders of Denver, which had been under siege since September, 1985. Though the noose around the city had been loosened considerably, the southern and eastern siege lines were still in place.

“So this could be anything,” Goalie said. “Troops, artillery, supply dumps.”

“That's about it,” Licon replied. “The air threat is mixed. Mostly it's MiG-21s and some -23s for air-to-air, but there's Su-17s or -22s, and Su-25s. And they're mixed: Soviet, Cuban, Nicaraguan, Libyan, Czechs, Poles, even some Angolans, of all people. Ground threats vary: there are SA-2s, SA-3s, plus the usual stuff at unit level-regiment to Army.”

“Okay, Darren,” Guru said. “Weather?”

“Partly Sunny, in the upper 60s, and winds variable.”

“Okay,” Sweaty nodded. “Bailout areas?”

“Anyplace in the Front Range, and anywhere away from the roads,” Licon said. “If you get into the mountains, that's Resistance territory, and they'll help you out.”

“I know from experience, Darren,” Guru replied. He remembered his five months with the Resistance down in Southern Colorado.

“Yes, sir,” Licon said. Guru had briefed the squadron on his experience, and everyone knew that was something he didn't want to repeat. “Other than that, Jolly Greens are active at night, and they'll come for you. As long as you're away from major enemy concentrations.”

“Divert fields?” Guru asked.

“Stay away from Stapleton International and Lowry AFB,” Licon replied. “Both are airlift-only at the moment.” The airlift in support of the besieged city had lightened up since the Army had partially lifted the siege the previous fall, but the three main airports in the Denver area were still dedicated to the airlift, which brought in food and medicine, and flew people out. “And Buckley ANG Base is still too exposed to enemy artillery fire.”

“So where do we divert if we have to?”

“Cheyenne Municipal, if you can. Otherwise, the only two fields that can take an F-4 that are open to you are either Aspen-Pitkin County or Walker Field in Grand Junction,” Licon said. “Eagle County Airport is open only to Army Aviation, Special Ops, or C-130s.”

“Okay, Darren. Ordnance loads?” Sweaty asked.

“Captain Wiser gets dumb bombs: six M-117s and six Mark-82s.” Licon said, glancing at the Frag order. That meant six 750-pound bombs and six five-hundred pound bombs.

“And what do I get?”

“Twelve Rockeye CBUs. Four AIM-9s and two AIM-7s, each airplane, with an ALQ-101 pod and full 20-mm.”

Guru and Sweaty looked at each other. “Looks good, Darren,” Guru said, and Sweaty nodded. “When do we launch?”

“Whenever you're ready, sir,” Licon said. “Your birds should be armed and fueled by now.”

“Fair enough,” Guru said. “Let's gear up, people. Meet me at 512.”

After the crews geared up, they met at the XO's plane for his final instructions. As promised, both aircraft were armed and ready to go. “Anything else, XO?” Preacher asked.

“Just that we go by call sign, not mission code, unless we're talking to AWACS or anyone else,” Guru said. “Anything else?” Heads shook no He grabbed his helmet, “Okay, let's hit it.”

The crews did their walk-arounds, then mounted their aircraft. After the preflights in the cockpit, the pilots started their engines, and after warm-up, were cleared to taxi. After taxiing to the end of the runway, they held short of the runway so that the armorers could remove the weapon safety pins. After that, they were cleared to taxi for takeoff.

“Williams Tower, Camaro One-one with two, request clearance for takeoff.” Guru called.

“Camaro One-one, Tower. Cleared for takeoff. Winds are two-six-five at five.”

“Copy, Tower,” Guru replied. He released his brakes and applied throttle, and Sweaty did the same. Both F-4s rolled down the runway, then lifted into the air.


Over West Central Colorado, 1330 Hours Mountain War Time:

Camaro Flight was orbiting over Leadville, Colorado, one of the big Old West mining towns, and had topped up from a KC-10 further to the west, and were now waiting for AWACS in this area to tell them their services were needed. It didn't take long.

“Camaro One-one, Bandsaw,” the AWACS controller called.

“Bandsaw, Camaro One-one. Go,” Guru replied.

“Camaro One-one, contact Hillsboro Seven-one for tasking.”

“Copy that, Bandsaw, Hillsboro Seven-one, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro One-one, Hillsboro, We have tasking for you. Vector is Zero-six-zero. Contact Nail Six-two for further instructions.”

Guru nodded. “Copy that, Hillsboro.” He led Sweaty on the new course, and as they crossed the Front Range, a sense of deja vu came over him. It happened every time he and Goalie flew a strike into Colorado, and it brought back memories of his shootdown, and the time he and Tony Carpenter spent with the Resistance. And there were things he saw that, though he'd told the debriefer after a trek over the Rockies, he didn't talk about to anyone else. Not even Goalie.

The two F-4Es came down from the mountains and as they got into the Colorado prairie, their EW gear lit up. “Guru, Sweaty. Picking up search radars,” Sweaty called.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. It was time to call Nail Six-two. “Nail Six-two, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Nail Six-two. Say aircraft and ordnance please.”

“Nail, Camaro has two Foxtrot Four Echoes. One with Snakeye iron bombs and one with Rockeyes. Full load twenty-mike-mike,” Guru radioed back.

“Copy that and wait one,” the FAC told him.

“Don't have the gas to wait all day, fella,” Guru muttered over the intercom.

“You want to get out of here fast,” Goalie observed from the back seat. “Too many memories?”

“You could say that,” Guru said.

“Camaro, Nail. You have the Aurora Reservoir on your maps?” Nail called.

“That's affirm, Nail.” Guru replied.

“Copy. There's long-range artillery one mile north of the reservoir, firing on Buckley. Will mark target area with Willie Pete,” Nail said.

Guru and Sweaty looked up in their respective cockpits and saw an A-7 loitering overhead. With all the radars working, why hadn't he been shot at or splashed? Then they recalled previous strikes: this area was held by Category III Soviet and Soviet-allied forces, and their antiaircraft defenses near the front lines weren't as nasty as Cat I or II. But they could still be deadly under the right circumstances. “Roger that,” Guru replied.

The A-7K orbiting overhead dove, then fired two WP rockets to mark the target area. “That's your target area, Camaro.”

“Roger. Can give you one pass only,” Guru replied. “North to South.”

“Your call, Camaro,” Nail replied.

Guru led Sweaty around, then oriented them on the target. “Switches set?' He asked Goalie.

“Switches set. All in one pass,” she replied. “All set back here.”

“Copy,” Guru said. “Sweaty, on me. Camaro One-one in hot.” Guru then rolled in onto the target, which looked like dug-in artillery pieces. Your bad day, Ivan or Fidel, or whoever.


Down below, the gunners of the Libyan Army's 1457th Artillery Battalion were serving their M-46 130-mm guns, firing another series of concentrations against the Americans. This portion of the siege perimeter was in the hands of the Cuban, Mexican, Libyan, Angolan, and Czech forces, and some were more enthusiastic about their role in the war than others. Their battalion was supporting not only Libyans, but also Mexicans, and even if their shells didn't land on the intended target, they were making the lives of those in the American perimeter miserable. And to them, that counted as a victory.

The Libyan Captain in command of the battalion had a look around as his men served their guns. While they had stacked sandbags around the guns and set up camouflage netting, there were hardly any slit trenches nor personnel shelters. The defenders didn't have the guns to go around, and those they did have weren't used on counter-battery fire. Not that they could reach their position, anyway. Though there was a risk of air attack, his unit hadn't been attacked from the air, so why bother? Besides, he'd been told by his superiors that the Soviets and Cubans had air superiority in the area. Just as his deputy, a lieutenant, came in, there was a shout. “Aircraft alarm!”

As he rolled in, Guru spotted the guns. “Steady, steady....HACK!” he called as six Mark-82s and six M-117Rs came off the racks. He pulled up and called. “Lead's off safe.”

The Libyan Captain watched in horror as an F-4 came in from the north and released its bombs as it came overhead. While some of his men tried to take whatever cover they could, he just stood there. “Allah Akbar-” Then a five-hundred pound bomb exploded barely twenty feet from him....

“Good hits!” Goalie shouted. Though they'd have to look at the strike camera footage, it looked like their bombs had ripped apart several guns, and had also it some kind of command area. And a couple of ammo trucks had been blown apart for good measure.

“Two's in hot!” Sweaty called. She rolled in, and decided the ammo trucks were a good enough target. She laid her Rockeyes on the trucks, and as she pulled away, the CBU bomblets covered most of the battalion's ammo trucks and prime movers. And there were quite a few secondaries. “Two's off safe.”

“Copy, Two,” Guru said. “Nail, Camaro. We are Winchester.”

“Roger that, Camaro. I give you one hundred percent bombs on target. Thanks a lot, guys and gals, and have a nice day.'

“Will do, Nail,” Guru replied. He took his F-4 back down low and headed southwest, and Sweaty was right in trail behind him.

About a minute had passed when Sweaty called, “Guru, Break left!”

Guru responded instantly, and broke to the left, and rolled away. As he did, Goalie was looking around. “What?”

Sweaty lined it up in the pipper. “FOX TWO!” She called. And an AIM-9P came off one of the port missile rails, and tracked towards a helicopter. The Sidewinder flew straight and true, and smashed into a Libyan Air Force Mi-8 Hip. The Sidewinder's warhead tore off several rotor blades, and shrapnel flew into the two saddle fuel tanks, exploding the helo. Sweaty pulled up slightly and rolled to avoid the fireball and debris, and shouted“Splash!”

“Good kill, Sweaty,” Guru called.

“Better be,” she replied. “That's number three.”

Just as she rolled back, and came in to rejoin Guru, both F-4s were, unknown to them, approaching a sector manned by Mexicans. And the first hint of that was several vehicles on State Route 83, south of Parker. And they were BTR-152s escorting a supply convoy, and those BTRs had ZU-23s mounted on top. The crews saw the F-4s, and promptly opened fire, spraying 23-mm fire at the two aircraft.

“Flak coming up,” Goalie saw from the back seat.

“I see it,” Guru said. “Break!” And both F-4s broke away, Guru to the left, and Sweaty to the right. They avoided most of the tracer fire, but not all, for both Guru and Goalie felt two small thumps.
“Sweaty, we've been hit.”

“How bad, Lead?” Sweaty responded. “Coming back in.” She rolled her F-4 back in. “Can't see any smoke.”

“Everything seems okay,” Guru replied. “No warning lights, no nothing.”

“Hey,” Goalie called from the back seat. “Look at the TIESO mount.” The TIESO mount on the left side of the aircraft was a EO sensor used in conjunction with the Maverick missile. Now, a jagged hole was in the mount. “If that's all that was hit....”

Guru nodded, then checked his control panel. Everything looked normal, then he saw it. “Engine temp on Number one's a little too high. Not bad enough, but enough to worry.”

“Divert?” Goalie asked.

“Yeah. Bandsaw, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Bandsaw, go,” the controller replied.

“Bandsaw, we need to divert. Can you give us a vector to the nearest divert field?” Guru said. “And make it fast, fella.”

“Copy. Stand by.”

Guru frowned underneath his oxygen mask. “Can't wait all day.”

“Camaro,” the controller called after what seemed like forever, but was only about thirty seconds. “Your vector across the mountains is two-six-five. Nearest open divert field is Grand Junction.”

“Bandsaw, what about Aspen?” Guru replied.

“Camaro, they're cleaning up after an air strike. Grand Junction is your best bet.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Sweaty, on me.”

“Right on you, Lead.” his wingman said. And the two F-4s crossed the Rockies.

In his cockpit, Guru was checking the engine dials every few seconds, it seemed. The engine temp on the port engine had climbed some, but it wasn't high enough to shut down. Yet. After clearing the mountains, the two F-4s climbed to altitude and Guru had Sweaty come in beneath him to have a look.
“Anything?'

“No fluid, no nothing coming out,” Sweaty replied. “But there's a hole right beneath the port engine.”

In 512's back seat, Goalie grumbled. “Somebody got dammed lucky back there.”

“No skydiving into bad-guy land, this time,” Guru replied. “If we have to bail...”

“Beats the alternative,” Goalie said.

The two F-4s kept on heading west, and soon it was time to talk to Grand Junction. “Bandsaw, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Bandsaw, go.”

“Bandsaw, can you notify Grand Junction they have an F-4 coming in with battle damage?”

“Camaro, that's affirm. Do you need the equipment?” The controller asked. The “equipment” meant fire and rescue services.

“Negative, Bandsaw.”

“Copy that, and good luck, buddy.”

“Thanks, Bandsaw,” Guru replied. Then he called the Grand Junction tower. “Grand Junction Tower, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Grand Junction. We've been notified. Do you need the fire trucks?” Asked a tower operator.

“Negative, unless I declare an emergency,” Guru said. “Clear the field, fella. I'm coming in.”

“Roger, Camaro. Winds are two-seven three at five. Clear for landing on Runway two-nine. Field elevation four-nine-five-eight.”

Both Guru and Goalie got ready to put down, while Sweaty flew alongside. Guru put the gear down, and things looked okay. “Sweaty?”

“Both gears down,” she called. “Still no smoke.”

“Copy.” Guru said as he lined up on final. As he came in, he saw the fire trucks waiting, on the north end of Runway 22. Somebody thought “better safe than sorry,” he said to himself as he put the F-4 down. As he did, he hit the brakes and popped the drag chute. Sweaty saw him land, then she gunned her engines and pulled up. But instead of heading for a tanker and then back to Williams, she got into the traffic pattern.

The F-4 taxied off the runway, the fire trucks following, then Guru was met by a “Follow Me” truck, and he followed the truck until he got to an open area of the ramp, then he stopped and shut down. After popping the canopy, he and Goalie stood up as the fire crews arrived. He gave them a thumbs-up, but they still approached the aircraft with caution. Only when they saw no signs of fire did they begin to relax. As they did, Sweaty brought her plane in. After the firemen brought a crew ladder, Guru and Goalie got out and had a look at the aircraft.

“You guys okay?” One of the firemen asked.

“We're fine,” Goalie replied. “Need to see how the plane is, though.”

Guru got down and crawled underneath the aircraft. Sure enough, there was a small hole beneath the port J-79 engine. “One lucky shot.”

“Enough to hurt the engine?” Goalie asked.

“Enough to make me want to divert,” Guru said. “But I'm not flying back to Williams on that engine.”

Just then, Sweaty and Preacher forced their way through the firemen. “Comin' through,” she yelled.

Goalie had crept down to have a look for herself. “One round did that?”

“If it's still in the engine, yeah,” Guru said, getting back out from underneath the Phantom, and he found Sweaty and Preacher there. “You were right. One nice hole.”

“What now?” Sweaty asked. “Or let me guess: we need a Combat Repair Team.”

“And a new engine. I'm not flying back on that one,” Guru said.

Then a deuce-and-a-half pulled up, and an AF officer in a flight suit came over. “Who's the pilot?”

“Right here,” Guru said.

“Lee Kirby,” the officer said. He was a Captain, like Guru. “What happened?”

“Flak,” Guru replied. “One shot wrecked our TISEO, and the other? Put the hurt on my port J-79 engine. Can I make a phone call? I need to notify my base, and get a Combat Repair Team up here. With a new engine.”

“No problem, Captain Kirby said. “Get in.”

The four F-4 crewers got into the truck, and Kirby took them over to Base Operations. On the ride over, they noticed the place was busy, with Counter-SOF ops flying A-37s, OV-10s, even a couple of ex-warbird Skyraiders. That reminded them of a guy who'd flown a Warbird A-1E to Williams the second week of the war, to offer his services. Someway, somehow, they found some 20-mm guns that used to be on Skyraiders, got the weapons control to work again, and put on a desert camouflage paint job. The pilot, who'd flown A-1s in Vietnam before flying for the airlines, was reactivated as a Major, and was now flying his warbird in the Counter-SOF role. In addition to those folks, C-130s and even C-123s were on the ramp, along with a couple of HH-3 rescue choppers. Just another field supporting the war.

The deuce-and-a-half pulled up to base operations. “Captain, just go in there, and I'll be right outside,” Kirby said.

Guru nodded, and the four F-4 crewers went in. After he asked a sergeant, Guru led them to the main ops office, and asked another Captain for a phone. “Need to call Williams AFB.”

“No problem, Captain,” the officer, Captain Toby Wright, said. He made the call, and asked, “Which unit?”

“The 335th TFS,” Guru replied.

After telling the operator, Wright handed the receiver to Guru. “Here you go.”

After two rings, there was a pickup. “Captain Ellis, 335th TFS.”

“Mark, it's Guru. Put Colonel Rivers on,” Guru told the 335's Ops Officer.

“What? And where are you, man?”

“Grand Junction, Colorado, with an F-4 with a sick engine. And it happens to be mine. Sweaty's here with me as well. Before you ask, her bird's okay. But she put down anyway. Get Colonel Rivers.”

“Got you,” Ellis said.

While Guru was waiting for Rivers to come on the line, he saw Preacher striking up a conversation with a female First Lieutenant, while a Sergeant got coffee for Goalie and Sweaty. The sergeant then offered him a cup, and he gratefully accepted. “Thanks, Sergeant.”

Then a familiar voice came over the line. It was Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, the CO of the 335th. “XO, what's going on, and where are you?”

“Boss, I'm in Grand Junction, Colorado, and my bird has a sick J-79 engine, thanks to some flak damage. I need a Combat Repair Team up here, and they need to bring a new engine.”

“Okay, XO. Just stay calm. I'll put you on hold, while I get things rolling on that.” And Guru was then on hold. And while he was waiting, Goalie tapped him on the shoulder. “What?”

She pointed to an officer who looked like an AF version of Lt. Fuzz from the Beetle Bailey comic strip. “That.”

“Who are these officers out of uniform?' A pipsqueak-looking First Lieutenant said.

“Who's asking?” Guru said, seeing the pipsqueak and tapping his Captain's bars. “I've got two bars. You've got one. Beat it.”

The lieutenant looked at him. “I'm getting the CO,” he said. Then he left the room.

Goalie came over. “A junior version of Carson?” Major Frank Carson, or “The 335th's Frank Burns” as he was called, was the most despised officer in the squadron, infamous for blindly going by the book, even when wartime circumstances meant dropping parts of the book.

“Sure hope not,” Guru said, while Sweaty shook her head.

Then Colonel Rivers got back on the line. “XO, found a CRT, a new engine, and a C-130. Wheels up in a half-hour, and they should be there in two and a half hours. Best we can do.”
“Thanks, Colonel,” Guru said.

“I'll find you thorough Base Ops up there,” Rivers said. “Let me know when you're getting ready to leave.”

“Will do, Boss,” Guru said just as a slightly grey-haired AF Lieutenant Colonel came into the room. As everyone came to attention, and someone shouted “Ten-hut!”, Guru said, “Boss, I gotta go. I'll let you know when we're coming back.”

“I heard,” Riverrs said. “Stay cool, XO.”

“Will do,” Guru replied. Then he handed the phone to one of the sergeants.

“Sir,” the pipsqueak-looking lieutenant said, coming out from behind the colonel. “This is what I've been trying to tell you. Transiting aircrew out of uniform!”

“I'll handle this.” the colonel said. “Captain,” he said to Guru. “That your sick F-4 out on the ramp?

“Yes, sir,” said Guru. “Took some flak south of Denver. Put a hole in one of my engines, and I didn't want to chance it getting back home.”

The colonel looked Guru and Goalie over. “You two crew?”

“Yes, sir,” Guru said. “Lieutenant Eichhorn's my GIB.”

“MiG kills?”

“Yes, sir. Five, including a MiG-29. But she was with me for only two.”

“Don't worry, Lieutenant. Your time will come,” the colonel said to Goalie.

“If you say so, sir,” she replied.

“And the other two are your wingmates? Asked the colonel.

“Yes, sir,” Guru nodded. “Lieutenant Blanchard is my wingie, and Lieutenant Simmonds is her GIB.”

“Any MiG kills?” The colonel wanted to know. He was looking Sweaty over.

“Sir, two. Including a MiG-29 with the Captain,” Sweaty said. “And a Hip just this afternoon.”

The Colonel nodded, then shot an icy look at the pipsqueak. “Lieutenant, I strongly suggest that you have a look at someone's rank insignia, or if they've got wings of any sort before you call them out-on anything! In my office, in five. Understood?”

The lieutenant wilted under the withering glare of his superior, said, “Yes, sir,” in a weak voice, then left the room.

“As you were, people,” the colonel said. He put out his hand to Guru. “Jim Osborne, Captain. F-100s out of Tuy Hoa in 1967-68, and F-4s for LINEBACKER I and II.”

“Captain Matt Wiser, sir. 335th TFS,” Guru said, shaking Osborne's hand. “Always a pleasure to meet a Vietnam vet.”

“The Air Force's Bastard Orphans, I see. Word's gotten around about you guys,” Osborne said. “I'd be back in the saddle myself, but a heart murmur....comes from dodging too many flying telephone poles in Pack Six.”

Guru nodded, while Sweaty said. “Sir, speaking from experience....”

Colonel Osborne nodded. “And you all have quite a bit of experience.” He looked the four F-4 crewers over. “I'd like to apologize for my subordinate's actions. He's been like this ever since he showed up here.”

Preacher nodded. “Sir, I was studying for the priesthood when the war began, and I can tell when someone's got something in their craw. What's with this fellow?”

Osborne looked at Preacher. “He washed out of basic flight, and he's been like this ever since.”

“Sir, that would do it to anyone,” Sweaty said.

“Colonel, if I may?” Guru asked.

“Captain?” Osborne asked.

“Sir, perhaps a transfer to a place where the climate might induce a change of attitude? Someplace like Loring, Goose Bay, or Gander?” Guru suggested.

“That's certainly possible,” Colonel Osborne noted. “Any other suggestions?”

“Sir,” Goalie spoke up. “We've got a few GIBs in the 335th who washed out of flight, but did pretty good at nav school. One's even the GIB for our CO. He may not have cut it as a pilot, but...”

Colonel Osborne looked at Goalie, then at Preacher, who nodded in the affirmative. “That's also a possibility....but his attitude when I see him back in my office will determine which one I take up.” Then Captain Kirby came in.”Captain, take these four officers over to the terminal. The cafe there is open, and the food's pretty good. If they need anything while they're here, give it to them, within reason. And Captain? If Kirby can't get what you need, call or ask to see me. I'll see what I can do.” Then Colonel Osborne left to return to his office.

“Just like our CO down at Williams,” Goalie said. “He's the kind of guy who takes care of his people, and you'd fly with him anywhere.”

Kirby smiled. “That he is, and word has it he wanted to retake a flight physical and get back in, but his wife said no.”

“And she who must be obeyed....” Preacher said.

“That's about it.” Kirby said. “Come on, I'll take you guys over to the terminal.”

As they left the ops office, they could hear shouting from Colonel Osborne's office. “Sounds like someone's getting torn a new hole,” Goalie said.

“He deserves it,” Kirby admitted. “He's been like this to everyone, base personnel, the counter-SOF guys, Special Ops aviation-AF or Army, transiting aircrew, C-130 guys flying into Denver, you name it.”

The F-4 crewers nodded, and as they got into the Deuce-and-a-half, Guru asked, “How's the food?”

“Not bad,” Kirby said. “Beef, not so much, but Deer, Elk, Chicken, Pork? They've got it.”

“Fair enough,” Guru said. “Let's go.”



Airways Cafe, Grand Junction Regional Airport, CO: 1540 Hours Mountain War Time:

The four F-4 crewers were sitting around a table, and at this time of the day, they were the only ones in the cafe. So they were just sitting there, having either coffee or lemonade, and yapping. Anything to pass the time.

“So, when does that CRT get here?” Goalie asked.

“About another hour and a half,” Guru said. “Then at least an hour for the engine change, then fifteen minutes for the check flight, then another hour and a half back home.”

Sweaty looked at her flight leader. “That means we eat here.”

“That's a given,” Guru said.

Preacher nodded. “Swell. Oh, well, there's probably worse places we could divert to.”

“You're probably right about that. Or worse, we could've gone skydiving.”

“Not your cup of tea,” Goalie said. “Stuff you still don't want to talk about?” She was referring to Guru's E&E and his time with the Resistance.

“Yeah. I told the debriefer when I got to 7th ID, and I told a SERE Psychologist when I was at Kingsley Field, getting ready to requalify, but other than that...” Guru nodded.

Sweaty looked at him. “They have SERE shrinks?”

“Yep. If you're on the ground behind the lines for more than twenty-four hours? You have to see one before they'll let you back in the cockpit,” Guru replied. “Why, I have no idea.”

Preacher nodded. “Lot different from Vietnam. They say if you got rescued after a day or two on the ground? It was 'Welcome back, take a day off, then you're back on the flight schedule.' Lot simpler then.”

The others nodded. “It was, but then again, you didn't have to worry about bailing out and finding out that the folks who helped you got tortured and killed, and their ranch burned down,” Guru said. “That happened to Lori's parents and siblings.”

“That explains why she's so brutal in a fight. No prisoners, as I remember you saying,” Goalie nodded.

“You're dead on,” Guru replied. “We never took prisoners unless it was for interrogation, and after that? They were killed. Period. Couldn't keep them and couldn't release them-for obvious reasons.”

“Don't blame them,” Preacher said. “After all I've seen and done? I'll tell you guys right now: when this war's over? I'm staying in the Air Force.”

Preacher's flight mates looked at him. “What made you do that?” Goalie asked.

“Where has God been when I've been killing people three or four times a day? Or where has he been when Guru there has seen things no one should ever see? Going back to the seminary? No thanks.”

“Don't blame you,” Guru said. “Plenty of people have asked the same thing, I'll bet.”

“And every one of those guerrillas you were with has a horror story?” Sweaty asked.

“Almost,” Guru nodded. “A few were caught in the back country when it all started, and some ran to the hills on Invasion Day, but most of 'em went after seeing bad things happen-either to relatives or friends, or just plain seeing one of Ivan's reprisals against people they didn't know. 'I'd better make myself scarce before that happens to me.' if you get the idea.”

Heads nodded at that. “I'd do the same,” Sweaty said.

“Think we all would,” Preacher added, while Goalie just nodded.

Then the waitress came over. “Care to order, or just refills?” She looked liked she'd been waiting on tables well before any of the fighter crews had been born.

“Nothing against eating dessert before dinner,” Guru noted. “I'll have a banana split. All chocolate ice cream, and all chocolate syrup.”

“Okay, and you?” She asked Goalie.

“Well...if my pilot's having one, then I will. All vanilla ice cream, though, and half chocolate syrup, half butterscotch, if you have it.”

“We'll find some,” the waitress said. “How about you?” She nodded at Sweaty.

“I'll have a slice of three-layer chocolate cake,” Sweaty decided. “With a side scoop of vanilla ice cream.”

Goalie muttered to her pilot, “That's the Sweaty we know.”

“Okay...and last but not least..” The waitress nodded at Preacher.

He looked at the menu. “I'll have the hot fudge cake sundae.” That was a three-layer slice of chocolate cake, with a large scoop of ice cream, and covered in hot fudge,

“All right, and refills on your drinks?” The crews nodded. “Okay, back with the refills, and we'll get this going.” The waitress then went off to fill the order.

The crews were eating when a pair of CSPs arrived, and behind them were two AF Intelligence Officers, bringing with them a real live Soviet pilot in a high-altitude pressure suit. One of the intel folks-a female Captain came over. “Mind if we sit close to you people?”

“What for?” Guru asked. “Not that we don't mind the company.”

“Major Belov there,” the Captain pointed to the Russian, “bailed out of a recon Foxbat from 65,000 feet....”

“Long way to skydive,” Goalie observed.

“It is that,” the intel officer said. “Anyway, a shore-based F-14 and a Phoenix missile did the deed. The Army found him, and turned him over to us. When Base Ops told us some fighter drivers were here for a while, we figured he'd talk more if he was near you guys.”

The F-4 crewers looked at each other. They nodded, while Guru shrugged. “Why not? Bring him on over.”

A minute later, the intel people brought the Russian over. The waitress was surprised, but still got coffee for them, the Russian included. Then Goalie broke the tension with the Russian. “He's lucky.”

“What do you mean?” Guru asked, playing along.

'You were with the Resistance, right?” She asked, and Guru nodded. “What would they do to a Russian or Cuban pilot?”

“Do you really want to know?” Guru asked, and the intel officers nodded politely. “Well, if they found him in his chute, snagged in a tree? Use him for target practice.”

“That bad?” The female intel Captain asked.

“Worse. If he was a chopper pilot, from a Hind or Hip? The group I was with lost a few people to gunships, so after they shot down a Hind with a captured SA-7? The pilot climbed out of the wreckage, only to get shot in the stomach. The guerrillas left him to bleed out,” Guru said, matter of fact.

“Ouch!” Sweaty said. They'd heard the story before, but best not to let the Russian know that.

Preacher nodded. “And the weapons officer?”

“He was trapped in the wreckage, and one of the guerrillas just went over and slit his throat,” Guru recalled.

“There you have it, Major,” the intel told the Russian. “Be glad you're with us.”

“Hey, you guys been in Arizona?” Goalie asked the intel folks.

“No, Lieutenant,” the female Captain asked. “Why do you ask?”

“If he'd gone down on, say, the San Carlos Apache Reservation? The Apaches would have gotten him. Then they would've scalped him, flayed him alive, and staked him out in the desert. No joke, it's happened several times.”

Hearing that, the Russian's eyes were as big as saucers. “The Wild Indians still do that?”

“They haven't changed,” Guru said.

“So, Major, want to have a nice talk?” The Intel Captain asked.

The Russian looked at the F-4 crewers. “So, you must be cargo plane crews.”

“What makes you say that?” Preacher asked.

“Women. You don't allow women to fly combat aircraft. Unless the Political Officer has been lying about it, as he does about many things.”

Goalie grinned. “Wrong, buster. One of those F-4s on the ramp? I fly back seat in it.”

“She's right,” Guru said. “I'm her pilot. We've got 225 combat missions together. I've got nearly 400 total.”

Major Belov looked at them, incredulous. “What? You mean you're really using women in combat?”

“Why not?” Sweaty asked. “You did it in WW II. Oh, I'm their wingmate. And it's 200 combat missions for me and my WSO, by the way.

“Interesting,” the intel Captain, who introduced herself as Jenny Brand, said. “How about MiGs?”

“Five for me,” Guru said. “Plus two or three probables. And my Girl in Back has two of them. One's a MiG-29.”

When Belov heard that, he was surprised. “An F-4 shooting down a MiG-29?

“Not just one F-4,” Sweaty said. “We got the other one.”

Belov just shook his head in disbelief.

“Well, Major?” Captain Brand asked. “You're in the presence of a fighter ace and a crew on their way to becoming aces. Ready to have a nice chat?”

“One more question, please,” Belov said, his voice shaking. “Did they assign you to Phantoms? Or did you...”

“Did we sleep around to get the slots?” Goalie asked. She was indignant at the suggestion. “If that's what you're suggesting, the answer is NO.”

“We volunteered,” Sweaty added. “Nobody made us.”

Belov shook his head again. “Now I have heard everything.” He turned to Captain Brand. “What is it you want to talk about?”

Captain Brand smiled as she took out a tape recorder and a notepad from a bag she had been carrying. “Let's go to another table. Then we'll talk.”


After the waitress brought their desserts, the F-4 crewers dug in. They noticed that the Intel people were listening intently to Major Belov's remarks, and not only did they have a tape recorder going, but they were taking copious notes. One other thing they noticed was that the Major's coffee cup was kept nearly full, though the Major was drinking cup after cup, savoring it like it was the finest brandy or vodka. They were still at it when the C-130 arrived from Williams, and Captain Kirby brought over the NCOIC of the Combat Repair Team, Tech Sergeant Phil Cutler. “Captain, here's the guy you've been waiting on.”

“Thanks,” Guru said. “Sergeant, have you looked over 512?”

“Yes, sir,” Cutler replied. “Just a straightforward engine change. Had a look at the hole, and it's no big deal. You'll be flying again in an hour and a half.” It was 1730.

“Let me guess,” Sweaty asked. “An hour for the engine change, and half an hour to patch the hole.”

Sergeant Cutler nodded. “Yes, Ma'am. But you can take that to the bank.”

Guru nodded, looked at Goalie, who smiled, then turned to Cutler. “Okay, Sergeant. Don't waste any more time talking to us. Let's get 512 back in the air.”

“Yes, sir,” the Sergeant replied, very eagerly, then headed out to get Guru's bird wheeled into a hangar so that they could do the work.

Kirby grinned. “You'll be out of here shortly. Anything you need..”

“We'll let you know,” Guru said. “Thanks, Captain.”

After Kirby left, Sweaty noted. “An hour and a half more here, then another hour and a half flying home. We better eat.”

“She's right,” Goalie said. “Eating here beats MREs when we get back.”

“It does, Guru admitted. He motioned to the waitress, and he asked, “Could you bring the menus back? We'll be here a while longer.”

“Sure thing, Captain,” she replied cheerfully, then she went and came back with them.

Scanning the menu, Guru said. “If have any more deer or elk, I'll start to grow antlers.”

Goalie laughed. “Can't have that in the cockpit,” and the others laughed as well.

“Had enough of that in the mountains?” Preacher asked.

“Too much,” Guru nodded. “Almost all the meat was what you shot. Deer and elk mostly. Unless you raided a supply convoy and got something out of that. Don't want to go through that again.”

“Don't blame you,” Sweaty said. “Let's see...fried chicken, roast chicken, turkey dinner.”

“That's mine,” Preacher said. “Where's the rule that says Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only times you can have that?”

“There isn't,” Goalie nodded. “Elk steak-and our dear friend Guru is staying away from that.”

“With a passion,” Guru added.

The waitress came over. “Ready?”

“Preacher, go. Junior member first this time,” Guru said.

“Thanks,” Preacher replied. “Turkey dinner for me.”

It was Sweaty's turn. “I'll have the grilled ham.”

The waitress nodded, then turned to Goalie. “Me? Fried chicken dinner for me”

“Same here,” Guru said.

The waitress smiled, and said, “Back with your salads.” Then she went off to fill the order.

After she brought the salads, Colonel Osborne came in. “Colonel?” Guru said.

“Just checking up on our visitors,” Osborne said. “I noticed your C-130 arrived.”

“Yes,sir,” Guru replied. “And the CRT got to work.”

Osborne looked at the four. “Don't worry. I'll make sure they get something to eat before they head back to Arizona.”

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said.

“Mind if I pull up a chair?”

Sweaty looked at Guru, who nodded. “As my flight lead said, always a pleasure to talk with a Vietnam vet.”

“Thank you,” Osborne said, sitting down. Like many a Vietnam vet, he was curious as to how this generation of fighter pilots was doing. Though he'd been initially skeptical of women in the cockpit, He'd been impressed with what he'd seen so far, and his mind was changing. “So...you all have had your share of combat, I gather.” It wasn't a question.

“Yes, sir,” Guru said. “I'm the only one here who was flying on Day One. Though Lieutenant Eichhorn, my GIB, was flying C-130s as a nav.”

“How bad was it that first day? Where were you?” Osborne asked as the waitress came over. “Decaf, and what's the junior member having?”

“Turkey dinner, sir,” Preacher said.

“No problem, Colonel,” the waitress said.

“Day one? We were at Nellis for a Red Flag. First thing we know is a couple explosions at the front gate, then small-arms fire, then the word we're at war. And tasking? Get to the Mexican border and kill anything painted green headed north.” Guru said, recalling that hectic first day.

“Losses?” Osborne asked.

“Two planes and crews. Three or four others came back with battle damage,” Guru said. “But we stopped the push up I-19, and with the Hogs and an Army Reserve Cobra unit, turned I-19 into a junkyard.”

“When did the women show up?” Osborne wanted to know.

“June, sir,” Goalie said. “Right after my pilot came back from an E&E with the Resistance.”

“July for me,” Sweaty said. “They put me as his wingmate,” She pointed to Guru, and we've been together ever since.”

“And you?” Osborne asked Preacher.

“Same time as Lieutenant Blanchard,” Preacher said. “We came out of the RTU together.”

Colonel Osborne thought for a minute. These people would've fit in with the old 31st back at Tuy Hoa, or in the 8th TFW out of Udorn in '72. “You did an E&E?” He asked Guru.

Guru nodded, just as the waitress brought their meals. “Yes, sir. Shot down in January, '86, ran with a Resistance group for five months, along with my then-GIB and several other downed aircrew from all services. Got over the mountains in May, and back with my squadron Then I found out Lieutenant Eichhorn was my new GIB, and we've been flying ever since.” Saw and did some things I'd rather not talk about.”

“You're not alone, Captain,” Osborne said. “I've run into other 'lost sheep' and they tell pretty much the same thing. You also mentioned MiGs?”

“Yes, sir,” Guru replied. “Five. Three before going down. Two more since. Last one was a MiG-29.”

“And you, Lieutenant?” Osborne gestured to Sweaty.

“Two, sir. Plus a Hip this afternoon,” Sweaty said.

“Well, we could've used you all in Pack Six back in the day. Ever hear of Steve Ritchie?” Osborne asked. Brig. Gen. Steve Ritchie was the AF's only pilot ace in Southeast Asia, with five MiG-21s to his credit.

The crewers smiled. “Yes, sir,” Goalie said. “He's come by a couple of times. And he's said the same thing about Pack Six. Even if most of our tasking is air-to-ground.”

Osborne nodded. These guys and girls were doing the job, just like he did back in Vietnam. They were younger than he'd been in his '72 tour, but all of them, women included, would've fit in with the Wolfpack. “Well, changing the subject. Lieutenant Eichhorn? I thought about your suggesting that eager-beaver get a second chance. We'll see if Mather can knock him into shape.” Mather AFB near Sacramento was home to not just a SAC B-52 wing, but the AF's navigator training unit in peacetime. Now, it was home to nav training for all services on the West Coast, while the Navy at Pensacola did the same on the East Coast.

“Good to hear, sir,” Preacher said. “Some people do deserve a second chance. But if he washes out...”

“He's shoveling snow,” Goalie finished.

“Chances are? Yes.” Osborne said.


They were still chatting when Captain Kirby came in. “Colonel, the CRT sent me over,” he said. “Captain, your bird's finished.”

“You're sure, Captain?” Osborne asked, while both Guru and Goalie were listening intently.

They ran up the new engine, and it's ready, they said. All it needs is the check flight.”

Everyone stood up, and Osborne nodded. “Captain, you and your GIB take care of business in the latrine,” he pointed to the restrooms. “Then get ready to fly. Lieutenant Blanhard? You and your GIB come with me to Base Ops. We'll watch the check flight from there while your bird's prepped. If everything checks out, you'll go up after him.”

Heads nodded. “Yes, sir!” Guru and Sweaty said at once.

“I'll take care of the bill. Get going!” Osborne said.

Guru and Goalie ran for the restrooms, did their business, then ran over to Base Ops. “Colonel, I need to make a phone call,” Guru said. “Need to tell my CO we're coming.”

“Not a problem, Captain,” Osborne said. He had the duty officer make the call, then the man handed the receiver to Guru.

“335th TFS, Captain Ellis,” the voice on the other end said.

“Mark? Guru. We're about to leave. Put the CO on.”

“Gotcha,” Ellis said. “There's quite a few people here, waiting. Hoping you're coming back and not having Carson as Exec.”

“Frank can shove it,” Guru replied.

Ellis laughed. “He can. Here's the boss,”

“XO?” Rivers asked. “You coming?”

“Check flight first, Boss. Then we're coming straight home. Not even landing back here,” Guru said.

“The CRT?”

“They're eating, then they're on the way.”

“Got you. We'll be waiting.”

“On the way, Boss.” Guru said. He handed the receiver to the NCO and turned to Goalie. “Let's go. Colonel? He said to Osborne. “Thanks for your hospitality.”

“Anytime, Captain. When you get back to Williams? Keep kicking some and taking some.”

“Will do, Colonel.”

They got ready to fly, then Captain Kirby drove them over to the hangar, where Sergeant Cutler was waiting. “Sir, Ma'am, the run-up went fine. She's ready to go.”

“Then let's go,” Guru said. He and Goalie did a very quick walk-around, then got into the cockpit. After an equally quick preflight, it was time to start engines. Guru watched as Sergeant Cutler gave the “Start Engines” signal, and ran up Number One. Everything was normal, then he started Two. Again, everything was normal. Then he contacted the Tower. “Grand Junction Tower, Camaro One-one requesting permission for taxi and takeoff.”

“Camaro One-one, Tower, clear to taxi to Runway Two-Niner. Hold short of the runway.”

“Roger that. Camaro One-one rolling.” Guru taxied the F-4 to the runway.

“Camaro One-one, watch for inbound traffic to your right,” the tower called.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. He and Goalie watched as a C-123, part of the Denver Airlift, came in to land. After the transport landed and taxied away, Guru called the Tower.”Camaro One-one requesting takeoff instructions.”

“Clear to taxi for takeoff.” Tower said.

Guru taxied the big Phantom onto the runway, held his brakes, and applied full power. “So far, so good,” he told Goalie on the intercom.

“Same here,” she called back. She was checking her own instruments. One thing about the F-4, it had a complete set of flight controls in the back seat, a holdover from the days when there were two rated pilots in the aircraft, before the AF put navigators in the back seats.

“Tower, Camaro One-one. Request clearance for takeoff.”

“Camaro One-one, clear for takeoff. Winds are calm,” the tower replied.

“Roger that.” Guru said. He released the brakes, went to full afterburner, and the big Phantom went down the runway. He pulled back on the stick, and the F-4 climbed into the air.

Sweaty and Preacher were watching from their plane, 519. They were already in the cockpit, waiting. “Fifteen minutes,” she said.

“Start engines when?”

“In ten.”

Colonel Osborne and Captain Kirby were next to 519, watching with binoculars. “Wish you were with them, sir?” Kirby asked.

“Just one more flight in a fighter, Captain. That's all I ask.” Osborne said wistfully.


Guru took 512 north of Grand Junction, and climbed to 30,000 feet. He then went down to 10,000, and put the tough warbird through its paces, and he wrung the plane out. All the time, he and Goalie were watching the port engine. And after ten minutes, he headed back to Grand Junction. “Grand Junction Tower, Camaro One-one.”

“Grand Junction Tower, Camaro, go.”

“Have Camaro One-two crank up. Tell 'em time to hit the sky and head home.”

“Will do, Camaro, and will notify AWACS. Safe trip home.”

“Thanks for your hospitality, Tower.”


Sweaty had started 519's engines at the ten-minute mark, and they were rolling to the runway when Guru called the Tower. There being no inbound traffic, she was cleared to taxi right for takeoff, and when she asked for clearance, it came. She firewalled the engines, and 519 rolled down the runway and into the air. They formed up at 24,000 feet.

“Let's go home,” Guru called. And he saw Sweaty blink her formation lights in response. And the Two-ship headed back to Williams.


Williams AFB, AZ, 2130 Hours Mountain War Time:

The two-ship got into the traffic pattern for Williams AFB, and there were Marine A-6s going in and out, so the two F-4s had to wait their turn. Then the tower cleared them to land, Guru and Sweaty brought their planes in, and after landing, they taxied to their revetments. It had been a long day, even with the divert, and they were tired.

“All that food we ate?” Goalie asked.

“Yeah, but it was worth it,” Guru said as he climbed down from the cockpit. Waiting for them was Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley, 512's Crew Chief. “Sergeant.”

“Welcome back, sir!” Crowley said. “They told me about the new engine and the battle damage repair. Don't worry, Captain. I'll make sure the patch is solid. Even if we have to do an all-nighter.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Then Sweaty and Preacher came over. “Long day.”

“Longer than usual, but it beats holing up somewhere, waiting for Jolly Green to come,” Sweaty nodded.

“Or having Kasha and Borscht,” Preacher added.

“It does,” Goalie said.

Then a pair of slitted headlights came over. They revealed a Dodge Crew-Cab pickup, and the squadron's senior NCO, Master Sergeant Michael Ross, was behind the wheel. “Captain, Lieutenants, Colonel Rivers sent me to pick you up.”

“We need to debrief, you know,” Goalie reminded her pilot.

Guru nodded. Right now, all he wanted to do was get back to the squadron's billets at the Sheraton and find his room, and get some sleep. “Forgot about that little detail. Let's get it over with.”

The four crewers climbed into the truck, and Ross drove them over to the squadron building. A few lights were burning, the night duty staff, they thought. When he pulled in front of the building and stopped, he said, “Here you go, sir.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said, and the others nodded. They were all tired, and frankly, wanted the debriefing over and done, so they could get some sleep. He opened the door, and as the four officers went in, they found most of the squadron's aircrew waiting for them. What the...

“Looks like our lost sheep are back,” Colonel Rivers said, “You had us worried for a while.”

“Boss?” Guru asked.

“There was a rumor going around that both of your planes were down. Carson was drooling at the thought of his becoming Exec if something happened to you,” Rivers said.

“What?” Goalie asked.

“You got it, Lieutenant. Until the XO called, people were dreading the thought of Carson as Exec. But when you called, XO,” Rivers said, turning back to Guru. “I tore him a new hole, told him he wasn't going to be Exec today, and gave him a kick in the ass.”

“Did he-” Guru asked.

“He never touched your office, XO,” Rivers said.

“But he was getting ready to move in,” Mark Ellis said.

Guru shook his head.

“Guess we need to debrief,” Sweaty said after a minute.

“That you do,” Rivers said, He waved the SIO, Lieutenant Licon over. “So, what happened before the divert?”

“Made some artillery go away, Boss,” Guru said. “Big ones, either 122 or 130, looked like.”

“Hit the guns?” Licon asked.

“That, and some ammo trucks,” Goalie said.

“How about Sweaty?” Rivers wanted to know.

“Same thing,” Sweaty replied. “Got some secondaries with the CBUs.”

Rivers and Licon nodded. “Anything else of note?” Asked the SIO.

“Gave the XO a break call, and as he did the break, I shot a Sidewinder into a Hip. Blew him apart.”

“Did you see it, Captain?” Licon asked, and Guru nodded, as did Goalie.

Licon nodded, then turned to the CO. “Sir, that's three now for Lieutenant Blanchard. Two more and she's an ace.” And there was applause from their friends when they heard that.

Rivers shook hands with Sweaty. “Congratulations,” he said.

“Thanks, Boss,” she replied.

“Now, how'd you get to Grand Junction?” Rivers asked.

Guru shook his head. “Don't know if it was a flak trap or what, but we're egressing the area, and there's some vehicles on one of the north-south roads. They sprayed us with light flak-maybe 23-mm, and we took two hits. One wrecked the TIESO, the other hit the port engine. Wasn't going to risk coming home with a bum engine.”

“Good call, XO,” Rivers said. “Now, Sweaty, why'd divert with him instead of coming back?”

“Sir,” Sweaty said. “The Exec never told me to return to base, and lacking such orders, I did what any wingman would. I remained with my leader.”

Rivers laughed. “Well, no one can argue with that, Lieutenant.” He looked at the quartet. “You guys are off the flight schedule tomorrow. Catch up on sleep, take care of your paperwork, and we'll properly celebrate Sweaty's Hip kill tomorrow night. But for now..” He motioned to Sergeant Ross, who brought some paper cups, and several bottles of Seven-up. “This'll have to do.”

Sergeant Ross carefully measured a cup for everyone, then passed out the cups.

After everyone had a cup, Rivers asked, “What'll we drink to?”

Mark Ellis spoke up. “How about our lost friends? Especially those looking down on us.”

“Hear, hear,” Capt. Don Van Loan, the assistant Ops Officer, said, and several echoed that.

“To our lost friends,” Colonel Rivers said as he raised his cup.
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Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

Old USMC Adage
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