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Old 12-28-2014, 07:39 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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What happens when some Cubans crash R&R:

R&R


335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Williams AFB, AZ, 1100 Hours Mountain War Time, 18 November, 1986.



Captain Matt Wiser of the 335th was sitting at his desk in the squadron office. He was deputy Operations Officer for the squadron, and had just wrapped up some paperwork. War or no war, the Air Force bureaucracy had its own rules, and the “paper warriors” had their own ways of going about things. Though the CO, Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, felt that the less paper in the way, the better, and he had no qualms about folding, spindling, mutilating, bending, or just plain ignoring regulations if they got in the way of getting things done. The Exec, Major Troy McPherson, felt the same way, and let that filter down to the other officers, and having the CO of the Marine Air Group to which they were attached, and Major General Richard Tanner, who commanded the Tenth Air Force, agree with that was a big morale booster. They knew what parts of the book to keep and which ones to throw away. Everyone was happy with that, except for another Major, who was an Academy man first, last, and always, and was appalled at the way things were done in the squadron, and was despised by everyone, and not just the other officers, but the NCOs and enlisted airmen as well. The man was even called “Our Frank Burns,” by 1st Lt. Mark Ellis, and the name had stuck.

Now, his squadron paperwork all done, Capt. Wiser was wondering how to spend the rest of the stand-down. The squadron had been pulled off combat operations for two days already, and wouldn't be back flying for another five, and a lot of people were using that time to catch up on sleep, or just plain hang out. The squadron was billeted at the nearby Sheraton in Mesa, and just sitting by the pool and chasing waitresses-or other female officers did appeal to him, but since he had met his WSO, the latter was no longer an option, for he and that officer, 1st Lt. Lisa Eichhorn, had been seeing each other in a way that, prewar, would've gotten them an Article 15 at least, but with the country fighting for its national survival, fraternization regs were among the first things that went out the window, as far as many unit commanders were concerned. Though the eager-beaver Major, much to Rivers' (and both Capt. Wiser's and Lt. Eichhorn's) disgust, had tried to write them up for the rule violation. The CO was more concerned with how his officers did their jobs, and if a couple of officers of the opposite sex were attracted to each other, that was none of his-or anyone else's business, as long as they kept their private lives off base. “What you guys and gals do when you're off base and on your own time is nobody's business, but yours. Just check your private lives at the gate when you come on base,” he had told the squadron at a unit assembly back in July. And yet, the overzealous Major didn't get the word, or didn't care, for he tried to have Guru (Wiser's call sign) and Goalie (Eichhorn's), written up. After summoning the two to his office, Colonel Rivers asked if they were seeing each other on a more.....intimate basis, and they said yes. “Does it interfere with both of you in the cockpit?” “No, Sir,” was the reply. And Guru and Goalie watched with satisfaction as Rivers tore up the paper. The Frank Burns wannabe stormed out of the office in a fit of the sulks.

Guru was looking at his aircraft log book-which was different from his own personal logbook. There were a couple of issues he felt needed attention, with the altimeter giving some trouble, and the INS was starting to get a little balky, so he filled out the maintenance request and was ready to give it to 1st Lt. Kevin O'Donnell, one of the maintenance officers, when Goalie came by. “I just talked to Rivers. We've both got five days R&R if we want it.”

“Serious?”

“Yep. We've been hitting it pretty hard, and he agreed. Hell, half the squadron's going on R&R-as long as it's within the State of Arizona and nowhere near the Mexican border..”

Guru nodded. “Got any ideas? I've been to the Grand Canyon already.”

“So have I,” Goalie said. “And the ski areas near Flagstaff don't have enough snow yet, anyway.”

Then 1st Lt. Kyle Radner came by. He was Guru's wingmate. “What are you guys doing for R&R?”

“I was just asking our flight lead the same thing,” Lieutenant Eichhorn said. “Well?”

Guru thought for a minute. Skiing wasn't on the agenda, and just sitting by the pool didn't appeal to him-as long as Goalie was around. He'd seen her in a bathing suit often-and out of one several times. Then something occurred to him. “How about going off-roading?”

“Where?” Radner asked.

“Either northeast of here, in the Tonto National Forest, or to the west of Phoenix,in the desert,” Wiser said.

“What about the nuclear power plant?” Goalie asked. “That place has so much security you'd think it was Fort Knox.” She was referring to the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant west of Phoenix. The plant provided much of the power for the Phoenix-Tuscon area, including several defense plants in the Mesa and Tuscon areas, as well as military bases. Hence, the DOE guards had been reinforced by military police, and a five-mile “no-go” zone was being strictly enforced. There were checkpoints on I-10 and the local roads, and word had it that anyone straying off the roads could expect to be shot, and to make matters worse, there were minefields around the plant, or so rumor said.

“Not to worry: we get past the plant, get off of the Interstate, and then go off road,” Guru said. “There's some BLM land, and that should be enough. A couple of desert springs, maybe an old ghost town, things like that. Out in the middle of nowhere, so we can forget the war for a few days.”

And it's private, Goalie knew. Which appealed to her a great deal. “Sounds good.” She turned to Kyle “How about it?”

“Why not? I'll get Brad Garrison and our girlfriends,” Radner said. “What'll we be driving? Dune buggies?”

Guru laughed. “No. That Jeep dealer I bought my Grand Cherokee from? They also rent four-by-fours. And I do believe someone you know, Kyle, has a Jeep CJ-7.”

Wiser was referring to newly-promoted 1st Lt. Ryan Blanchard, who happened to be Radner's girlfriend.

“You're right about that.”

“Okay. Got anyone else you want to invite?” Guru asked.

“Not this time: the smaller the party, the better. And we're not an inviting target.”

Guru knew what Radner meant. There were reports of Soviet, Cuban, and even Mexican Special Operations Forces slipping across the border and raising whatever havoc they could create. “Yeah,” he nodded. “All right: go to the Armory and check out four M-16s and some ammo. Bring your sidearm.”

Goalie and Radner nodded. “Will do.”

“I'll call the dealer and rent a Jeep for Goalie and myself. I'm not taking my Grand Cherokee off-road just yet.”

“And I'll get the camping gear from the Base Recreation Office,” Goalie said.

Radner came back. He'd called his WSO, Capt. Brad Garrision. No joy on the trip, Brad said: he had an uncle who lived in Prescott, and the man had invited Brad up for some fishing.


1400 Hours Mountain War Time: I-10, West of Phoenix, AZ:


Guru was driving the Jeep that he'd rented only two hours before, and it was packed with gear. He and Goalie had packed enough to last four and a half days, and they planned to be back at Williams the afternoon of the 23rd. Even with wartime, traffic along I-10 in Phoenix was flowing normally: people still lived along the I-10 corridor, and they had to go to and from work, there were employees at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, and they had their commutes, truck traffic-both civilian and military, and so on. Except for the occasional HAWK missile site that was part of the Phoenix Air Defense, and the amount of military traffic, one might forget there was a war on.

When he'd rented the Jeep, the salesman-who he'd dealt with when Guru had bought his Grand Cherokee, pointed out a couple of dings. When Capt. Wiser asked what had made them, the salesman replied, matter of fact it seemed, that the previous renters had run afoul of some Cubans, and they had taken some fire. “Lovely,” had been Guru's reply.

After they cleared Phoenix itself, traffic thinned out, but then they came across a vivid reminder that the war was still on. Five miles before the offramp, there was a sign: “MILITARY AREA: CHECKPOINT AHEAD: MILITARY POLICE.” This was part of the security for the Palo Verde plant. “Get your ID out,” Guru said to Goalie.

When they got to the checkpoint, there were plenty of MPs around, along with some V-100 and V-150 armored cars, machine-gun emplacements, even a pair of jeeps with TOW missile launchers. Goalie looked at Guru. This was the first time either one had been in this part of Arizona. “They're not fooling around,” she noted.

“With that nuke plant?” Guru asked. “Would you?”

An MP Sergeant came up to the Jeep as Guru stopped. “ID, Sir.”

Guru handed the MP both his and Goalie's, along with their passes. “Here you go, Sergeant.”

“Sir, Ma'am, would you step out of the vehicle? We need to check beneath.”

Both officers got out of the jeep, and stood aside as the MP checked underneath the jeep with mirrors. “Sir, do you have anything in the vehicle we should know about?”

“Besides our camping gear?” Guru asked, and the MP nodded. “Two M-16s and two pistols, for protection.”

“Thank you, Sir,” The MP nodded. Several of the MPs checked the jeep, and Goalie noticed Radner's jeep being given a similar going-over.

The inspection took a few minutes, and Guru noticed the heavy security off the freeway: there was a barbed-wire fence that was topped with razor wire, along with signs that warned the unwary that not only could trespassers expect to be shot, but there also signs warning of minefields. And there was a UH-1 helo flying over as well.

Then an MP nodded to his Sergeant. “All clear, Sarge.”

The MP handed their ID and passes back. “Thank you, Sir, Ma'am. Just stay on the freeway and you'll be fine. Don't get off the interstate for any reason until you pass the eastbound checkpoint.”

Nodding, Guru and Goalie got back in the jeep and got going. At the offramp, there was another checkpoint at the end, for those exiting the freeway, and there were more Military Police there. Another five miles, and then they came to the eastbound checkpoint, and a sign that said “END MILITARY AREA.” Only then did he open up and head west to the exit they planned to take, Exit 81. Then they headed up on the local road to the small town of Salome, where they stopped to ask where some good jeep driving might be found. A couple of locals pointed out some areas on their map that prewar, some off-road clubs from Phoenix had used, with a warning as well. “Some folks say they've seen Cubans around, but no telling if they're true or not.”

Guru took the jeep onto some of the trails, and both he and Radner gave their jeeps a good workout. That first night, they found a campsite that other off-roaders had used, mainly due to the fire ring present. In the light of the campfire, Ryan Blanchard remarked that one might even be able to forget there was a war on. The night sky was clear, and filled with stars, and that made her point. And when the four went into their tents, they discovered another, more....intimate way of forgetting they were at war.


22 November 1986, 1700 Mountain War Time. North of U.S. 60, La Paz County, AZ:


Three days had passed, and the quartet was getting ready to enjoy their final night in the desert. Radner had found an old mine, but no one was foolish enough to go inside, fearing a cave-in. Several old mining shacks and a few old ranch houses, though, had been worth exploring, and though most everything had been taken with the previous occupants, heavy items like a wood stove, or a metal frame bed, remained. Not to mention finding an old 1920s' era truck that had been stripped and abandoned. “Why's this thing still here?” Radner asked.

“Simple: it's so far off the main roads, and want to bet the scrap metal drives haven't come this way?” Goalie replied.

“Yeah, I suppose so,” he said. “Who'd want to try farming here?”

“Somebody who was either desperate, foolish, or both,” Ryan said. “No wonder they left.”

“Or they left when WW II broke out,” Guru said. “Either way, a job in a war plant or just plain enlisting beats staying out here.”

Nodding, Ryan went out back. “There's a well, and..uh-oh.”

“What?” Goalie asked.

“Boot prints, and they're not that old. Maybe a week.”

Guru and Radner came over, along with Goalie, to have a look. “Whose?” Guru asked.

“Good question,” Ryan said. “They're degraded, though. Wind and rain, I'd say.”

“Didn't it rain, when, Tuesday?” Goalie asked.

“Yep,” Guru said. “That'd degrade any prints. Remember SERE? 'Rain is your friend when it comes to water. Just as long as you don't leave your own prints in the mud.”

“Let me guess: that came back to help on that E&E?” Radner quipped.

“Yeah.”

Goalie looked at the tracks, “Well, somebody's been here. The question is, who?”

“That is a very good question,” Ryan said. Her instinct as a CSP was in high gear. “The well's not dry, so whoever it was probably stopped to get water.”

“Still, we'd better find a campsite soon,” Guru said. “And when we do, just as we've been doing, we keep our rifles close by.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said, and the others nodded.
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