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Old 04-25-2019, 07:50 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auberry, CA
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And the first mission of the new day:



Over Central Texas: 0740 Hours Central War Time:


Mustang Flight was headed south, about a quarter-mile east of the Brazos. Low enough to pick up the river and use it for visual navigation, but not high enough to be picked up by a ground radar. True to form, the Nicaraguans on this side of the river were not shooting, but when they got to the U.S. 377 Bridge at Granbury, the East Germans on the west side would.

Their pre-strike refueling had been routine, with the 335th F-4s taking on fuel from KC-10s, while the two RAF birds had found their Tristar busy with some Marine A-4s, so they tanked up from drogue equipped KC-135s. Then it had been time to get down low and cross the I-20, which meant enemy territory.

They were a couple miles short of Granbury and the U.S. 377 Bridge when the EW displays in the F-4s lit up. A single strobe at One O'clock, and the SEARCH indicator light came on. “No need to ask who he is,” Guru spat. “That'll be the Mainstay.”

In the back seat, Goalie shook her head. “Not arguing that,” she replied. “Why hasn't anyone taken them out?”

“Navy tried yesterday, and they should keep trying,” Guru said. “Granbury in when?”

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie called. “Flak at one,” she added. The first puffs of 57-mm fire from the East Germans on the west side were already visible.

“Ground observers, I'd bet,” Guru said, wondering if the East Germans had spotters calling out approaching aircraft.

“No bet,” Goalie said. “Granbury Bridge....now!” She called as the bridge appeared, then disappeared as they flew past. “No convoy or other traffic on the bridge.”

“This time,” said the CO. He was keeping his head on a swivel, keeping an eye out for threats, whether flak, SAMs, or low-flying aircraft. “Glen Rose in one minute?” They had flown this route so many times that the crews knew it like the backs of their hands.

“Close,” Goalie said. “One minute ten,” she replied. “Dam in ten seconds.” Goalie was referring to the Lake Granbury Dam.

“And flak at the dam,” Guru noted. “Right on time,” he added as the flak gunners on the west side of the river (due to the twists and turns, it was more like the south, but no matter), opened fire. The flight blew past the dam, then cut across the river for a moment, then picked up the east side again. “How long to Glen Rose?” That was U.S. 67.

“Forty-five,” Goalie replied.

“Roger that. Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say threats?” Guru said as he called the AWACS.

A controller came back to him right away. “Mustang Lead, Crystal Palace. First threat bearing One-six-five for fifty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-seven-eight for sixty. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-one-zero for seventy. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Crystal Palace. Say Bogey Dope?”

“Mustang, First threats are Fishbeds. Second and third threats are Floggers.”

“Copy,” replied Guru as Glen Rose appeared. “Flak at One.”

“That's Glen Rose,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds to Brazospoint,” she added.

The strike flight flew past the bridge, and on the Nicaraguan side of the bridge, a convoy was parked at the checkpoint for southbound traffic. “Got a convoy,” Guru noted.

“They get to live for now,” Goalie said. “Brazospoint next.”

“And the Libyans.”


At the bridge, an East German convoy was waiting for its turn to cross. Though the Nicaraguans provided the guards for the checkpoint, Soviet Army traffic regulators, along with some KGB troops, actually checked the convoys, and the KGB were the ones watching the watchers. While waiting for his convoy's papers to be approved, an East German Army Major was very anxiously watching the sky. Several convoys had been hit by air attack the previous day, and much to his surprise, he had been told that American aircraft roamed the Nicaraguan sector almost at will. When the convoy drove through the Nicaraguan II Corps rear area, the casual attitude, and what seemed to be a 'to hell with the war' feeling among the Nicaraguan soldiers reminded him of what his father had said about the Italians in the Last War. Shaking his head at that, and what might happen if the Americans to the north decided to go through the Nicaraguans and take the Kampfgruppe Rosa Luxembourg from the rear, the Major simply wanted out of the Nicaraguan sector and back among real soldiers.

His thoughts were interrupted by shouting and then the sight and sound of six F-4 Phantoms, coming in low. The Major barely had time to shout a warning, then the Fascist aircraft were gone. Then a Soviet traffic regulator came to him and handed him his authorization to proceed. Glad to be getting out of here, the Major climbed aboard his BTR-60PB and waved his convoy forward. Now, were the Imperialist aircraft going to double back and catch the convoy on the bridge, or would a second group arrive and do just that. He was quite relieved to cross safely, and thanked the God the Political Officer denied existing for deliverance.....


Guru checked his instruments, then kept up his visual scanning. “Brazospoint coming up.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds.”

“On it,” Guru said. A quick glance at the EW display still showed the strobe. “Damn Mainstay's still there.”

“He really needs to go away,” Goalie said. “Fifteen seconds.”

“Bridge in sight.” Sure enough, the flak gunners on both sides opened up. The East Germans on their side with 57-mm, while the Libyans had only 23-mm. Neither was radar-guided but they were shooting. “Flak coming.”

The strike flight blew past the bridge, and actually cut across the East German side due to a bend in the river. Fortunately, the flak was not aimed properly, and a look in the rear-view mirror showed the East Germans had stopped shooting, but the Libyans were still at it. “One minute fifteen to the 174 Bridge and Lake Whitney,” called Goalie.

“Copy.”


As they headed south, on two occasions, the flight did cut across bends in the river, but there was no reaction from any of the East Germans on the west side-they couldn't be everywhere at once.

“How long to 174?” Guru asked. He was taking a look at his EW display. Still the Mainstay, but no other radars.

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie replied. Just then, flak puffs appeared on the east side, and also on the west side of the river. “Flak ahead.”

“Got it.” Guru put 512 down lower, from 550 feet AGL down to 450, and the rest of the flight copied him. The 23-mm tracers flew above the aircraft, while the 57-mm fire from both sides exploded harmlessly above and behind the flight. “And there's the lake.”

“Copy that,” said Goalie. “One minute thirty to the turn.”

“Roger that,” Guru called as the lake opened up ahead of them.


In the town of Lakeside Village, the East German 18th Independent Motor-rifle Regiment was still in the town, busy with rest and refitting. The regimental commander had established himself in the town hall, though the local garrison, Russians from a rear-area protection division, had resented the intrusion, as had the locals. The Russians-all of whom were reservists from Minsk, had families and children back home, and though the garrison was only about a company's worth of men and a platoon of ancient T-34/85s, they had a “Live and let live” relationship with the local population. With the arrival of the East Germans, though, that relationship was somewhat strained, due to a Stasi detachment engaged in what it described as “Rooting out Fascist and Counter-revolutionary Elements.”

In what had been a local restaurant prewar, the Soviet garrison commander, a Major pulled from a desk job at the Beylorussia MD in Minsk, considered his options. Though his regimental commander-and no doubt the Lieutenant Colonel was acting on orders from Division-had told him to get along with the East Germans, he was not pleased with their conduct, as there had been very little underground activity, other than the occasional graffiti sprayed on walls, and the odd shot fired at a patrol from time to time, but nothing major or serious. The Major was concerned that the Stasi, with their heavy-handedness, might generate the guerilla activity they were trying to stamp out. And with the front lines to the north, it was clear that any serious penetration by the Americans would bring the U.S. Army down on his unit, and the one thing that he and the locals shared was that if there was fighting, it was over quickly and with a minimum of damage-for his men-reservists in their forties and fifties, would either be swatted aside like flies, taking to their heels, or simply surrender.

Those thoughts were interrupted by the sound of aircraft. Looking out the window of what had been the business office of the establishment prewar, the Major saw six F-4 Phantoms flying by, and the cheers of some of the local civilians. Shaking his head, and hoping the East Germans would finish their refitting and move up to the front lines, the Major went back to his paperwork.

“Never said this before,” Guru said as they flew over Lake Whitney. “But this might be a nice place to come a few years after this is all over. You know, rent a boat, do some fishing, find a boat-in campground and just forget what all happened here.”

“Watch it, boy,” Goalie chuckled. “Now you're giving me ideas.” She checked her map and the INS. “One minute to turn.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. He called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say threats?”

“Mustang Lead, Crystal Palace,” the controller replied. “First threat bearing One-six-five for forty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-eight-zero for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-one-zero for sixty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Mustang Lead copies,” replied Guru. “Say bogey dope.”

The controller came back immediately. “Mustang Lead, first threats are Fishbeds. Second and third are Floggers.”

“Mustang Lead, roger.”

“Thirty seconds to turn,” Goalie called.

“Call it,” said Guru.

“Turn in fifteen...ten...five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru put the F-4 into a right turn, then steadied on a heading of Two-six-five. “We're on a two-six-five heading.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said. “Next turn is Olin. Three minutes.”

“Got it,” Guru said. A quick glance at the EW display still showed that strobe. “And the damned Mainstay's still there.”

“Hope he hasn't picked us up.”

“Here's hoping. We're getting into the grass,” Guru said. He dropped down to 400 feet AGL, and the rest of the flight followed. A ridge came up, and the flight neatly crossed the ridge, then dropped back down. Guru glanced again at the EW display, and much to his disgust, the strobe that was the Mainstay's radar was still there. “Damn it.”

“He's still there,” said Goalie after she checked her own display. “Two minutes thirty to turn.”

“Copy both.”

The strike flight kept on course, as the rolling hills and prairie flew by below. The pilots kept up their visual scanning and checking their instruments, while the GIBs did the navigation. At 450 Feet AGL and 500 KIAS, the terrain went by fast. Even if the Mainstay had them, the MiGs that might be directed their way didn't have Look-down/Shoot-down radar, except for the MiG-29s, and even then, the Fulcrums had trouble picking up targets amidst the ground clutter.

“How far to Olin?” Guru asked.

“One minute,” Goalie said.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. He saw the strobe grow brighter on his EW display, which meant the Mainstay's radar signal was getting stronger. “Flight, Lead. Music on,” he called. That meant to turn on their ECM pods, and as he reached to turn on his ECM pod, another strobe appeared at Twelve O'clock. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say threat at Twelve.”

“Mustang Lead, Crystal Palace,' the controller came back. “Threats bearing Two-seven-zero for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Bandits are Fulcrums.”

MiG-29s? Had those guys yesterday, Guru thought. “Copy.”

“Turn on the radar?” Goalie asked. Hassling with MiGs wasn't priority one, but if necessary....

“Negative,” Guru said firmly. “Maybe we can slip by them.”

AWACS then called, “Mustang, Crystal Palace. Threat now bearing Two-six-five for sixty. Medium, now going away.”

“Whew,” Guru said. “Time to turn?”

“Twenty seconds,” Goalie said. “Now fifteen...ten...five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned right as U.S. 281 appeared at the town of Olin-or, a spot on the map with a mini-mart and a church. “Eleven miles, right?”

“Right on that,” Goalie said. “Forty-five seconds.”

“Copy. Let's set 'em up,” said Guru. That meant the armament controls.

“On it,” Goalie said. She worked her controls in the back seat, even though Guru had his own up front. With the pilot often busy, the GIBs often had to set things up for the bomb run. “All set. Everything in one.”

“Got it,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, and stand by to pull.”

“Roger, Lead,” Kara replied, and the others followed.

“Purves dead ahead,” Goalie called. “Ten seconds.”

“Flight, Lead....PULL!” Guru called, pulling back on the stick. He put 512 into a forty-five degree climb, then banked two degrees right. Lining up on his attack course, it took twenty seconds to close in, then he picked out the target. And a couple of radars lit up. “Target in sight.”

“All set back here,” Goalie said.

“Time to go,” said Guru as he rolled in on his bomb run.


In Dublin, the East German garrison had been reinforced, though that was a relative term. For a regiment that had been battered in Colorado and was the only organized National People's Army unit to escape the Pueblo Kessel-as the soldiers called it-had finally been sent somewhere where they could rest and refit. The 17th “Fritz Weineck” Motor-rifle Regiment had been part of the 11th MRD from Halle, and had been in Colorado, serving as a Front reserve when the American offensive had been launched. Once the confusion had been sorted out, the division had been sent to a town called La Junta, and told to hold as long as possible. However, the Americans had gotten there ahead of them, the 14th Armored Division, and the 11th MRD was cut to ribbons. The remnants of the division made their way south, but had been caught again near Dumas in the Texas Panhandle. All that remained after running afoul of the Americal Division was the 17th MRR and some stragglers from the rest of the division.

Now, after the long retreat and being shuffled back and forth, the Regiment had finally been able to settle down in the 9th Panzer Division's rear, and was co-located with the Divisional HQ and support services. Though they were not under the command of the 9th Panzer, the Major-who had commanded the tank battalion in the 17th MRR-would put the Regiment at the disposal of the 9th PD if the situation called. The Major, though, was glad to finally be able to reorganize and refit. His regiment barely had enough BTR-70 APCs for the infantry, a single battery of 2S1 122-mm SP guns, no MRLs or air defense weapons other than shoulder-fired missiles, and there were shortages of almost everything else. As for tanks? He had a single platoon of T-72s-originally from the divisional tank regiment-and a weak company from his own battalion, which had T-55AMPs. Though the Kampfgruppe command had told the Major that he could expect replacements of both personnel and equipment to bring his regiment up to something resembling full strength in the near future, it was hoped by the Defense Ministry back in Berlin to reform the division in theater and recommit them to combat. The Major was realistic, and knew that getting the regiment up to strength was about the most he could expect.

The Major stepped out of his command tent. His regiment had been assigned a laager just west of the town, and much to his chagrin, right next to the town's sewer ponds. The Major wondered who had suggested that, and noticed that nearby, there were some civilian houses. At least I don't have an eager political officer, he mused. His own battalion's political officer had been killed up in Colorado, and the one he had now had been a company-level one until now, and had actually commanded that company in the long retreat south, and the man was more concerned with the welfare of the men than in getting the local civilians angry. The 9th had the same policy, though the Stasi and PSD were active, and then there were the Soviet rear-area protection troops-who had the greatest disinterest in patrolling the roads and in conducting any kind of anti-guerilla actions. Then some shouting attacted his attention, and he saw the aircraft in the distance, and the smoke trails. F-4 Phantoms, he knew. He'd been attacked from the air enough times to know. “AIR ALARM!”


“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he took 512 in on the bomb run. As he did, he saw the two RAF birds go and assume their TARCAP. Some flak started to come up, and small smoke trails that meant SA-7s or -14s. No matter, he thought as he spotted the fuel dump and lined up the western side of the dump in his pipper. As he did, more tracers and puffs appeared, and he ignored it, concentrating on the bomb run. “Steady...” Guru called. “Steady.....And....HACK!” He hit his pickle button, and six Mark-82 Snakeyes and six M-117Rs came off the racks. Guru then pulled wings level, and as he did, he applied full power, jinking as he did so. Guru went out generally on a northwest heading, and as 512 cleared Dublin, Guru was waggling his wings to the civilians below. Once the city was clear, he called, “Lead's off safe.”

“What the...” The Major muttered as he watched Guru's F-4 make its run. He was using binoculars to get a closer look at the action, and saw the bombs release. Wondering what kind of target the Fascists were going after, several large explosions-followed by fireballs that were clearly fuel fed, answered that question. The 9th Panzers' main fuel dump, he saw at once. Glancing to the south, he saw two F-4s orbiting above, and another coming in.

“SHACK!” Goalie called as 512 cleared the target area. “We've got secondaries!”

“How big and how many?” Guru asked as he jinked, and a missile, probably an SA-13, flew by a couple hundred feet above.

“Big ones and multiple,” replied Goalie. “That good enough?”

Guru smiled underneath his oxygen mask as he headed to the northwest. “Sure is.”


“Two in hot!” Kara called as she took 520 down on its bomb run. She saw the fireballs that erupted when the CO's bombs landed on the fuel dump, and as she came in, the tire tracks in the field, which ended in camoflage netting, betrayed the truck park. Ignoring the flak, and a shoulder-fired missile that, head-on, failed to guide, Kara lined up a group of trucks in her pipper. “Steady....Steady....And...
And....NOW!” She hit her pickle button, and sent her Mark-82s and M-117s down onto the truck park. Kara then pulled up and away, applying full power and jinking as she did so. She, took waggled her wings as she flew over part of the town, then called, “Two's off target.”


The East German Major had a scowl on his face. “Dammt!” he muttered. Not for the first time had he experienced an air attack on a nearby unit and been unable to do much about it. His chief of staff, a Captain who had a similar job in what had been the 16th MRR, came up to him. “Start thinking about where we can move the regiment. If those aircraft overhead note our position...”

“Immediately, Comrade Major,” the Captain replied. “Shouldn't you take cover?”

“We're not the target, Captain,” the Major replied as he saw another F-4 coming in on a bomb run. “This time.”


“GOOD HITS!” That was Brainiac's call from 520's back seat. “Multiple secondaries!”

“Good ones?” Kara asked as she flew clear of the target area, avoiding both 23-mm tracers and a shoulder-fired missile on the way out.

“There's a few good ones.”

“They'll do,” Kara said as she picked up the CO's smoke trail, then found his bird and moved right with him in Combat Spread.


“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called as she came in on her run. Not only did she see what Kara's bombs had done, with a number of smoke clouds rising, but several fuel fed fires were burning in the fuel dump where Guru had planted his bombs. Lining up on the east side of the dump, Sweaty ignored the flak coming her way as she concentrated on her bomb run. Even a wildly aimed shoulder-fired missile failed to distract her from the job at hand. Not your day, Franz, she said to herself as the dump grew closer. “And....And...Steady....And....HACK!” Sweaty hit her pickle button, releasing her Mark-82s and M-117s onto the fuel dump. She, too, pulled wings level and applied power, and as she flew over the town, she was not only jinking, but also waggled her wings, then resumed jinking until clear of the town proper. “Three's off safe,” Sweaty called.

The Major winced as another set of fireballs erupted in the wake of Sweaty's bomb run. “You do know that could be us, Captain,” he told his Chief of Staff.

“Easily, Comrade Major,” the Captain replied. “Shall I contact Division Headquarters and request a new position?” They were supposed to cooperate with 9th Panzer, he knew.

“Not yet, but have a couple of locations in mind. I'll talk to them,” said the Major as he saw another F-4 come in. “They're not finished yet.”


“GOOD HITS!” Preacher called from Sweaty's back seat. “Good secondaries!”

“What kind?” Sweaty replied as she jinked left and noticed a missile-probably an SA-13, fly wide of her aicraft to the right by at least two hundred feet.

“Righteous ones!” The ex-seminary student turned GIB called back.

“We'll take those,” Sweaty said as she cleared the town and spotted the CO's element.


“Four's in!” Hoser called as he came in on his run. As he came down for his attack, he saw the fireballs and smoke clouds from the fuel dump, and more secondaries going off as fuel tanks or drums exploded. Putting that out of mind, he concentrated on the truck park, and saw where Kara had put her bombs, and noticed tire tracks and camoflage netting untouched. Okay, Franz, your turn, Hoser thought as he centered them in his pipper. He, too, noticed-and ignored-the flak coming as he concentrated on the bomb run. “Steady..And...And.....HACK!” Hoser hit his pickle button, releasing his six Mark-82s and six M-117s onto the truck park. Once the bombs were gone, he pulled wings level and applied power, and also waggled his wings as he jinked to avoid flak or missiles. “Four's off target,” Hoser called as he cleared the target area.


“They're good,” the Major noted as Hoser's F-4 went on its run. He watched the bombs come off the aircraft, then the explosions in the F-4's wake as fireballs erupted. Then he shook his head. “Keep the men on alert, and be ready to move. At the very least, we'll find a location away from the verdamnt sewers,” the Major said to his Chief of Staff.

The wind shifted, and the smell was very clear. “Yes, Comrade Major,” the Captain replied. Anywhere away from the sewers would be a good thing. Then two more F-4s came over, but instead of attacking, they simply overflew the town and headed to the northwest.

“And get me 9th Division HQ on the telephone,” the Major said. “NOW!”


“GOOD HITS!” KT shouted from Hoser's back seat. “There's some secondaries.”

“How many?” Hoser asked as he jinked to avoid flak, and he, too, had a missile fly a couple hundred feet or so above his aircraft. But no large tracers, Thank God.

“Enough,” was KT's reply.

“Then we'll take 'em,” Hoser said as he spotted Sweaty's smoke trail, then picked up his element leader.


“Four in and out,” Goalie said in 512.

“And now the Brits,” Guru said. “One-five and One-six, get your asses down and away.”

“Roger, Leader,” Flight Lt. Paul Jackson replied, and he led Flight Lt. Susan Napier over the town and then clear of the target. “Have visual on you, and coming at your six.”

“Copy,” Guru replied. He glanced to the right, and found Kara's bird tucked with him in combat spread. “Sweaty?”

“Right with you, and I've got Hoser,” Sweaty called back.

“Roger that,” Guru said. Then he contacted the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Leader. Say threats?”

“Mustang, Crystal Palace. First threat bearing Two-four-five for forty. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing One-eight-zero for fifty. Medium, closing. First threats are Fulcrums, second are Floggers.” That meant MiG-29s and MiG-23s.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. “How far to the fence?” He asked Goalie, meaning I-20.

“One minute fifteen,” was Goalie's reply.

“Let's get down lower,” Guru said. He dropped even lower than they had come in at, leveling out at 400 Feet. A quick glance at the EW display showed just the Mainstay radar, then a brief strobe and an A-A warning light, then it dropped off.

“Leader, Six. Do you want us to go after them?' Jackson called.

“Negative,” Guru replied. “We'll be at the fence before they get in range of us.”

“Forty-five seconds,” Goalie called. “Thirty seconds to Lake Comfort.”

“Roger, Leader,” Jackson replied to Guru's call.

“Copy,” Guru said. Then he called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say closest threat?”

“Mustang, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing Two-two-zero for thirty. Medium, now going away,” said the controller.

“Roger, Crystal Palace,” Guru said as the EW display cleared up. The strobe signaling the Mainstay radar dropped off, and the SEARCH warning light turned off. “Mainstay's clear.”

“About time,” Goalie said. “Lake Comfort dead ahead,” she added as the lake appeared.

“Got it,” Guru said as they overflew the lake. “Fence in fifteen.” Then the twin ribbons of I-20 appeared, and this time, they didn't have to worry about an I-HAWK battery, for they were clear of the two batteries normally in their way. Only when I-20 was behind them did the flight climb to altitude, turn off their ECM pods and turn on their IFF transponders.

Once clear of the FLOT, Mustang Flight headed for the tankers, and this time, while the 335th birds hooked up to KC-135s, the two RAF aircraft were able to tank from the Tristar. Once the post-strike refueling was completed, the flight headed for Sheppard.

When the flight arrived, they were third in line, behind two Marine flights-one of F-4s and another with Hornets. Once it was their turn, Mustang Flight came in and landed, and to the disappointment of those watching down below, no one did a victory roll. Then they came in and landed, and as they taxied in, the news crew was filming. “Everyone came back this time,” Ms. Wendt said. “Always good to see.”

“You've caught on,” Lieutenant Patti Brown said. She was the 335th's new PAO when she wasn't flying herself. She had just come back from a strike and having debriefed, was with the news crew.

“Having been around this squadron long enough?” Wendt asked. “Anyone would.”

Brown nodded. Though relatively new to the squadron herself, she had passed that ten-mission mark, and was now considered a veteran. “Well, Ma'am? Just wait until you fly. We'll see how you do then.”


Guru led the flight back to the squadron's dispersal area, then they taxied for their individual revetments. He taxied 512 into its, and got the “Shut down” signal from his Crew Chief. The ground crew put the chocks around the wheels and released the ladder, as the pilot and GIB went through their post-flight checks. “One and done,” Guru said. “Three more to go.”

“And they pay us for this,” Goalie quipped.

“Not much,” replied Guru as he popped his canopy, then unstrapped himself from the ejection seat and stood up in the cockpit to stretch.

“Or not enough,” said Goalie.

“Either one's correct,” the CO said as he took off his helmet and climbed down from 512. Sergeant Crowley was waiting, as usual, with bottles of water for the CO and his GIB. “Sarge.”

“Major, Lieutenant,” Crowley said as he handed both of them a bottle of water. “How'd my bird do?” Once again, he was reminding the CO that the Crew Chief really “owned” the aircraft, and the crew merely borrowed it.

“Helped make a fuel dump go away,” said the CO as he downed some water.

“As in sky-high,” Goalie added.

“All right!” Crowley was beaming. “Anything I need to know?”

“Just that Five-twelve's still truckin', Sarge,” Guru told his Crew Chief. “No problems or issues, and no battle damage. Get her turned for the next one.”

“Yes, sir!” Crowley said. “You heard the Major,” he told the ground crew, who set to work with a will.

Both Guru and Goalie left the ground crew to their jobs, as they walked to the revetment's entrance. “When that R&R comes for him, he'll deserve it,” Guru said, recalling upping his Crew Chief's turn in the R&R Rotation.

“That he does,” Goalie nodded. “Enjoy Christmas at home, and oh, by the way, that's an order. First time I'll hear that.”

“It'll be a pleasure to tell him,” Guru said as they got to the entrance, where Kara and Brainiac were waiting. Like 512's crew, they were wearing their SEA style bush hats. “Kara, how'd it go?”

“Tore up the truck park-or part of it, anyway,” Kara grinned. “And you blew that fuel dump.”

Brainiac added, “Part of it.”

“And Sweaty got the rest,” Guru nodded as Sweaty, Preacher, Hoser, and KT came. “How'd it go with you guys?”

“Took out what you missed,” Sweaty said. “No more fuel dump.”

“Same with the Truck Park,” Hoser said.

Then the four RAF aircrew arrived. “Guru,” Dave Gledhill said. “The MiGs didn't come this time.”

“Not every time,” Guru said. “Sometimes they come to us,” he added, recalling times they had broken up strikes aimed at Sheppard.

“Or we jump them,” Kara added. “Got a MiG-23 that had jumped an A-10 flight. Guru got a gun kill on that one, and Dave Golen was all over him and Goalie.”

Flight Lt. Susan Napier asked, “Why was that?”

“They value gun kills over anything else,” Sweaty explained.

“That they do,” Guru said. “Okay, folks. We need to get debriefed, get some food inside you, and make sure your IN Boxes are empty and your OUT ones are full.”

“And why do we have to make the armchair warriors happy?” KT spat.

“So we make sure they're doing something worthwhile,” Goalie quipped.

“And there's too many of those slime,” Guru said with distaste, with the warfighter's disdain for REMFs apparent.

“Unfortunately,” Kara spat.

“That's a fact, sad to say. Let's get this stuff done, because in an hour to an hour and a half, we do this again.”

“Busy day,” Napier observed.

“It can be,” Guru said. “Let's go.”
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