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  #181  
Old 05-01-2015, 07:34 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Guys, the thread's not dead...am almost finished with a story that will finish a particular arc in the story of the 335th TFS. Patience, please.
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  #182  
Old 05-16-2015, 06:14 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Before I post the next story, here's "My" F-4. My thanks to John "Maverick" Lacey, who used to post on the old what'-if modelers page, and now on Facebook, for the art:
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Old 05-17-2015, 05:45 PM
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Schone23666 Schone23666 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Wiser View Post
Before I post the next story, here's "My" F-4. My thanks to John "Maverick" Lacey, who used to post on the old what'-if modelers page, and now on Facebook, for the art:
Wow, just looking at that brings back a few Cold War memories. Hell, my first aircraft model kit was an F-4 Phantom.
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  #184  
Old 05-17-2015, 05:50 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And here's the next one: two days after the story Taking Command.....


Settling In


Sheppard AFB, TX: 0530 Hours Central War Time, 28 October, 1987:



Captain Matt Wiser, the CO of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, came into his new office. He had been CO for barely a day, after the death of Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, the longtime CO of the 335th, and was still getting used to the job. One thing, though, that he didn't intend to change was the squadron's attitude to things getting in the way of results. If they had to fold, spindle, bend, mutilate, go over, around, on top, or underneath AF regulations in order to produce results? So be it. Colonel Rivers had felt that way, and that attitude had been confirmed by Maj. Gen Robert Tanner, the Commanding General of the Tenth Air Force, which ran the air war in the Southwest. “If it gets in the way of winning the war, winning the war comes first,” were his feelings on the matter. Though an overzealous officer, Major Frank Carson, had tried to blindly enforce every rule and reg in the book, much to the disgust of three previous CO s, and he loathed Captain Wiser for being promoted to Exec, then CO, over his head, despite what the previous CO, the late Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, had said, and General Tanner had confirmed the promotion to CO. Not to mention that Carson had a very negative attitude towards any officer who didn't have an Academy class ring, viewing all as brand-new Doolies, and treating enlisted airmen and NCOs as pieces of equipment. And Captain Wiser had a personal reason for his loathing of the Major, for Carson had tried to get him and his WSO, 1st. Lt. Lisa Eichhorn, written up on a fraternization violation for having an off-base relationship. Colonel Rivers had asked the pair if it was interfering with their jobs in the cockpit, and they had replied no, but if it started to, he would be the first to know. Then Colonel Rivers gave Carson a very loud tongue-lashing, reminding him that many peacetime regs didn't last when the shooting started, and not long after, a formal directive from Tenth Air Force followed, instructing base and unit commanders to ignore such incidents, as the country was fighting for its national survival, and that if such conduct was not interfering with one's duties, or was otherwise not impacting the unit (such as a senior officer using his rank to get subordinates into bed), it was to be ignored. Carson fumed, and persisted in trying to get things run as if it were still peacetime, and everyone despised him for it. So much that when the Executive Officer's slot opened up due to the death of the XO, Captain Wiser had been put into the slot instead of Carson, which meant that if anything happened to Colonel Rivers, he would get the squadron instead of the Major.

Now, Captain Wiser was starting his second full day in command of the 335th, after the death of Colonel Rivers. General Tanner had called him, and assured him that he had the General's full confidence, and that the General would be stopping by on a visit that day to see how things were going, not just in the 335th, but in Marine Air Group 11, which the 335th was attached to, but was under Tenth AF control. He looked around the desk, his desk now, he reminded himself, and saw that overnight paperwork was brief-another thing Colonel Rivers liked, and nothing yet that required his signature. Soon, the chow tent would be open, and then it would be time for their first sorties of the day. Then there was a knock on the door. “Come on in and show yourself.”

Capt. Mark Ellis came in, bearing a clipboard tucked under his arm, and two cups of coffee in his hands. “Guru, or do I call you Boss from here on out?” Guru was Capt. Wiser's call sign.

“Either one will do, Mark,” Guru replied. “What do you have for me?”

“Not much,” Ellis said. “Just the usual.” He handed the CO the clipboard. “And some coffee.”

Guru nodded, and took the cup. Then he reviewed the papers. “Aircraft status sheet, Morning Report for MAG-11,” he muttered, and signed where necessary. “Anything else?”

“Supply requisitions,” Ellis pointed out. “Still not getting the extra hydraulic fluid we need.”

“Tell Ross to have that put at the top of the scroungers' list. And find out what else we really need, and give them their hunting orders,” Guru said. “What else?”

“Two enlisted airmen asking for permission to get married.”

“Local girls?” The CO asked. The locals had been on the short end of things, especially food and medicine, during the occupation, and marrying a servicemember automatically entitled the spouse to the benefits entitled to service dependents.

“Nope,” Ellis said. “One's going back to Beaver, Pennsylvania, to marry his high school sweetheart. The other-he's off to Biloxi, Mississippi. Same thing. When the R&R rotation comes and they're on it.”

“Hope they know what they're marrying into,” Guru said. He was a bachelor, but knew one thing about the AF, it was tough on marriages, even in peacetime. With a war on, though...it was probably murder.
He signed the forms.

“I wouldn't know: I'm still a bachelor,” Ellis said. “One more thing: Airman Don Handley applied to Pararescue School at Hill. He wants an endorsement of his application.”

Guru looked at Ellis. “He knows what he's getting into? That's got a seventy percent attrition rate, I hear. If not worse. And it's a two-year course.”

“Eighteen months, now, with the war,” Ellis told his CO.

“If he washes out, he's back here?”

“They recycle those people, but chances are, yeah,” Ellis said.

“Okay, just so he knows,” Guru nodded as he signed the endorsement. “Where'd you get the coffee?”

“Overnight made a fresh pot. Theirs is a little stronger than usual.”

Guru shrugged. “Can you blame them?” He took a drink from the cup Ellis offered him. “Anything else?”

“No word on when General Tanner's due here. Sometime today is all we know.”

Guru nodded, then drained the cup. “As long as he shows. All he told me in that phone conversation was he'd be here, and 'with responsibility comes rank.'”

“He going to promote you?” Ellis asked. “That'd make Rivers smile. And give Frank a coronary.”

“To be wished for,” Guru said. “I think the General can issue field promotions, but that's something they never talked about in OTS.”

“Or ROTC,” Ellis nodded. 'Ohio State.”

“You're from there, right?”

“Yeah, Commercial Point, Ohio,” Ellis said. “Got a few classmates either KIA or MIA.”

“We all do, Mark,” Guru pointed out.

“One's in Cuba: Kelly Ray. You wouldn't know, being on the E&E, but she was one of the first female Phantom drivers. Shot down only a month after reporting to Homestead.”

“We've all lost someone,” Guru said. “Whether it's family or close friends.”

“Yeah...with her, if she's alive, and they did see her and her GIB on the ground alive, it's a Caribbean version of the Hanoi Hilton.”

“Not good..” Guru said. Then there was a knock on the door. “Show yourself and come on in.”

The office door opened, and 1st Lt. Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn came in. She was Captain Wiser's WSO. “Don't want my pilot and CO going to sleep on me in the cockpit.”

“Is everyone trying to bribe me with coffee this morning?” Guru asked deadpan.

“Just want you fully alert,” Goalie smiled. “Don't want to lose two squadron commanders back-to-back. And putting both of us behind barbed wire, eating Kasha and Borscht.”

“Or going with the Texas branch of the Resistance,” Guru finished. “The folks who go into combat shouting 'Remember the Alamo!'”

“Can't have that,” Ellis said.”Once was enough for you, I bet.”

“It was.” Guru said, referring to his five months with the Resistance in Colorado, a year and a half earlier. Eighteen months or eighteen lifetimes....He took the cup Goalie offered him, and nodded to Mark. “Ten minutes to the chow tent opening. Get another cup for yourself.”

Curious, Ellis left the office and came back with a refill. “Now what?”

Guru raised his cup, and the other two did so as well. “Colonel, if you're looking down on us, we're going to make you proud.”

“Hear, hear,” Goalie said.

They drained their cups, then Guru said, “Come on, let's get over to the chow tent. We got a busy day ahead. Four or five hops, at least.”

“This Dallas business ain't letting up,” Ellis observed.

“Yeah, and we may be at it the whole winter,” Guru said. “Come on. Time to eat, then the sky awaits.”

After breakfast, the CO's flight gathered in a briefing room. Before the war, Sheppard had been an Air Training Command base, and among those trained here were students from a number of NATO countries. After the base's recapture, MAG-11's squadrons had moved in from Amarillo International Airport, and they had taken over the facilities-after EOD Teams had checked them over for booby traps. One way to tell who had occupied a base prior to U.S. Forces returning was whether or not there were booby traps. The Soviets hardly planted any, while Cubans did so liberally. When Guru opened the door, with Goalie right behind him, the other members of his flight were waiting. “Good mornin' all.”

“Morning, Boss,” Capt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, replied. “How's it feel to be CO?”

“Ask me in a few days, when it all settles in,” Guru said. “Got a busy day ahead.” On his way in, he'd been handed a briefing packet by 1st Lt. Darren Licon, the squadron's Intelligence Officer, and the FRAGO from Capt. Don Van Loan, the Ops Officer. “Okay, here's the deal. I-30 is generally the battle line northeast of Dallas, though last night Rangers took the I-30 bridges over Lake Ray Hubbard.”

“CAS for them?” 1st Lt. Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard, his second element lead, asked.

“Nope,” Guru replied. “They got relieved, and our business is a little south of there.” He pointed to a TPC chart. “Right here, south of Forney, is an I-20 bypass that was under construction prewar. I have relatives there, and stopped there on the way to Seymour-Johnson from Fairchild....” Guru's voice trailed off at that, wondering if those relatives were still alive. “Anyway, Ivan used forced labor to build the bridges over the East Fork of the Trinity River, and they've been using the bypass along with the old I-20 as a supply route. The bridges got taken out, and they've been using pontoon bridges as replacements. We need to make those go away.”

1st Lt. Nathan “Hoser” West, Sweaty's wingman, nodded. “How?”

'Getting to that,” Guru replied. “First element, that's me and Starbuck,” and Guru saw that he had the close attention of not only Goalie, but Starbuck, and 1st Lt. Judd “Brainac” Brewster, Kara's WSO. “We get a dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes. We make the bridges go boom.”

“And us?” Sweaty asked.

“You and Hoser get a dozen CBU-58/Bs. You know, the ones with the incendiary submunitions. Hit any vehicles along the east side of the river. Anything headed west is priority.”

“Got you.”

“Threats?” 1st Lt. Byran “Preacher” Simmonds, who was Sweaty's WSO, wanted to know.

“Right at the bridges, there's triple-A. Two batteries of 57-mm, one on each side of the river. Two more to the north on the existing I-20 bridge. That's a full regiment, mind you. And that ain't all: this is Army rear area, so watch for SA-4.”

“We getting Weasels?” Kara asked. “If not, this is a good way to get some of us killed.”

“Way ahead of you,” Guru said. “We're getting two Weasels. Coors One-five and One-six will join us at the tanker track northwest of Fort Worth. Two HARMs and two Standard-ARMs each airplane. I'll send them on ahead to do their stuff. We've also got our jammer pods: ALQ-119s for the element leads, ALQ-101s for the wingmen. Air-to-air is four AIM-9Ps and two AIM-7Es, plus full load of 20 mike-mike.”

“Good to hear,” Hoser replied.

“It is. Now, have a look,” Guru said as he showed the flight path on a TPC chart. “ We go in low, west of Fort Worth, no more than 450 feet AGL, but climb as necessary to avoid power lines or other obstacles. Hit the Brazos River, then turn east. Past I-35W, I-35E, I-45, then we turn northeast. Hit U.S. 175, then turn north and pop up. The highway is the IP. Get to 900 feet AGL for your bomb runs, hit the target, then get your asses back down low. We go due north, past I-20 and then over Lake Ray Hubbard. Watch for the Army, though.”

“Those guys are likely keyed up after yesterday,” 1st Lt. Kathy “KT” Thornton, Hoser's GIB, said.

“Yeah, so stay low,' Guru told his flight. Stay low over Lavon Lake, and once we're clear of the lake, do we pull up to altitude. Turn on your IFF then, and if you need fuel, tanker track SHELL is over Durant, Oklahoma, just north of the Red River. If not, we turn west and come on home.”

“And get ready to do it again,” Sweaty nodded.

“That we do. Now, the air threat is MiGs and Sukhois of various types: They're flying MiG-23s out of Terrell Municipal, and we may get a call to do something about that, and Seagoville-Crandall Municipal, which we hit the other day, may be active again. Other MiG fields are at Corsicana, Hillsboro, Athens, and as far east as Tyler, and as far south as Waco.”

“Divert fields?” Kara asked.

“Good question: if you have battle damage or run low on fuel, there's two options. First is Perrin AFB west of Sherman. It was closed in the early '70s and became a civilian field. Ivan moved in after the invasion and flew Su-24s there. Now we're back, and the Hogs and Jolly Greens are there. Your second option is D/FW International, but don't go there unless you absolutely have to: One part of the field is turned over to Army Aviation, and the other half is MAC's. Everything from C-7s on up to C-5s and 747s are going in and out. They'll take you if needed, though.” Guru said.

“Bailout areas?”

“No good bailout areas, but the more rural the area, the better. The best is anyplace north of I-30, as that's friendly territory.”

Heads nodded.

“Okay, anything else?” Guru asked.

“Yeah,” Sweaty asked. “When's General Tanner coming?”

“Don't know. All I know is sometime today,” Guru said.

Kara shook her head. “And why haven't you kicked that asshole Carson out? I thought you'd do that first thing.”

“Believe me, I was tempted,” Guru replied. “I didn't for two reasons: first, he's qualified, and we still need warm bodies in cockpits. Second, if I transferred him out first thing, he'd have a good reason to go to JAG and claim that me sending him packing was retaliation. And I sure don't want to do that.”

“Lovely, Boss,” Kara said. “So we're stuck with this asshole.”

“Not for long,” Guru nodded. “He's on the clock, whether or not he knows it. If he hasn't shaped up by New Year's? He's out. Now that I'm CO, I can see his OER.” That meant Officer Efficiency Report. “There's five or six good reasons in there to send him to Goose Bay, And if he hasn't shaped up by New Years?”

“Yeah?” Goalie asked. She and Guru both had good reason to want Carson out of the squadron.

“He packs his woolen underwear. But if he royally screws up before then?”

“Then he's gone?”

The CO smiled. “In a heartbeat.”

“But business before pleasure,” Sweaty said.

“That's it. Anything else?” Heads shook now. “All right: gear up and meet at 512.”

The crews then left the briefing room and went to gear up. They met at the revetment where F-4 number 512 was parked, and that was the CO's airplane. As they did, the first faint light of dawn was breaking. Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley, the crew chief, was waiting, “Captain,” he said, saluting. “Everything's all set. You can preflight when ready.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said as he gathered the crews around for his final instructions. “Okay: three things. First: unless we're talking to AWACS, Weasels, or anyone else? We go by call sign or mission code.” He saw his flight nod. “Second, watch for obstacles like power lines, radio or TV towers and the like. Third? No repeat passes in the target area. One pass and that's it. If you have hung ordnance, try and get rid of it in one of the lakes. Anything else?”

“Yeah,” Hoser asked. “How many today?”

“The usual: four or five. Anything else?” Heads shook no. Guru nodded. “Okay, let's hit it.”

The crews nodded and headed to their aircraft. Guru and Goalie did their walk-arounds, and after Guru signed for the aircraft, the two mounted 512. After the cockpit checks, Sergeant Crowley gave the “start engines' sign, and first one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running. Then Guru called the tower. “Sheppard Tower, Firebird One-one with four, requesting permission to taxi and takeoff.”

“Firebird One-one, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway three-three left. Hold prior to the runway.”

“Roger tower. Firebird One-one rolling.” Guru taxied out of the revetment, and as he turned to taxi to the runway, Sergeant Crowley snapped a salute and he returned it. The four F-4s taxied to the runway and held there so that the armorers could remove the weapon safety pins. Once they were clear, Firebird Flight was cleared to taxi onto the runway.

“All set back there?” Guru asked his GIB.

“Ready back here,” Goalie replied. “Let's go.”

“Let's,” Guru said. He called the tower. “Tower, Firebird Flight ready for takeoff.”

The tower didn't acknowledge over the radio, but flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff. Guru and Goalie closed and locked their canopies. Then he throttled up to full power, released the brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air, with the other three F-4s following.
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  #185  
Old 05-17-2015, 05:52 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And the mission:


Over North-Central Texas, 0720 Hours:


Firebird Flight was headed east, south of the D/FW Metroplex, They had met up with their two F-4G Weasels at the tanker track, and had penetrated enemy territory. Now, they were headed east, towards the IP. “I-35W?” Guru called as twin ribbons of interstate highway passed beneath his F-4.

“Copy,” Goalie called. “Two minutes to 35E.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. He called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Firebird One-one. Say bogey dope?”

“Firebird, Crystal Palace. Negative bogeys,” the reply came.

“Copy,” replied Guru. The crews were flying with their visors down as they were heading into the rising sun. While the GIBs handled the navigation, the pilots were concentrating on flying the aircraft, as threats could come from anywhere, and their heads were constantly swiveling between the cockpit view and their controls. Which the RTU had drummed into their heads.

The time went by fast, and they were just south of Waxahachie when I-35E came into view. “Mark, 35E,” Goalie said.

“Copy,” Guru replied. “Next nav point?”

“I-45, north of Ennis. One minute forty-five seconds,” Goalie said.

Guru nodded, then checked his Three O'clock. Kara's F-4 was tucked in formation, as she should be. And the Weasels were just ahead and slightly above the strike birds. It didn't take long until I-45 appeared. “I-45 in sight.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said. Turn now, zero-four-five.”

“Copy, zero-,four-five,” Guru said, putting 512 into a left turn to head north towards U.S. 175 east of Seagoville.

“One minute thirty to IP,” Goalie said.

“Copy, set the ordnance up. Everything goes at once.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said. “Switches set.”

Then U.S. 175 appeared. That was the IP Time to go to work. “Firebirds, Lead. Switches on, music on, and pull.” That meant arm ordnance, turn on the ECM pods, and pull to attack altitude. “Weasels, go to work.”

“Copy, Firebird Lead,” Coors One-Five called. The two F-4Gs pulled up to 2000 feet AGL, daring the radars down below to come on. And they did. “SA-4 up. MAGNUM!” And a HARM missile left the rails. “Firecan up, MAGNUM!” That meant a 57-mm AAA radar. And this time, a Standard-ARM was shot off.

“Weasels going in,” Guru said as he pulled back on the stick. He leveled off at 900 feet AGL and saw the target just as one of the AAA radars ate a missile, and the site went off the air. Then the site on the west bank came up, and a HARM went after it. “Target in sight. Lead in hot.”

As Guru rolled in, the F-4Gs were doing thair job. Coors One-Five shot his two remaining missiles at the 57-mm batteries near the I-20 bridge, while One-Six killed a search radar. Then an SA-4 launched, and One-Six sent another HARM after that radar, killing it.

Down below, on the old Wiser farm, two of Guru's cousins, Ned and Linda, were outside. They had moved into the old family home after the matriarch of the family had passed on, and so far, they had been relatively untouched by the war. Ned' had been raising some livestock, such as pigs, chickens, and even a few cattle, and so far, he and his wife were able to eat relatively well, along with a number of other nearby families. Linda, though, had worked as a bank teller in Forney, and when the Russians came, they had interrogated everyone who worked at the bank. She had to convince the KGB and PSD that she was just a teller, who handled customers' deposits and withdrawals, cashed checks, and so on. They had let her and most of the other employees go, but as they left, they were made to watch as the bank manager, the assistant manager, and the head of the loan department were all taken out and shot. Linda had made a vow right then to never forget, and though there were those in the area who were involved in resistance activity, she was more a passive resister, putting up posters, that sort of thing. Now, they were out doing their morning chores as the attack came in. They watched as two fighters seemed to be circling, and occasionally fired a missile at some target. Both of them had seen the two antiaircraft batteries open up, and then stop shooting as they took missile hits. Then they saw the Russians pointing to the south. More planes coming in.

“Steady, steady,' Guru said as he lined up the westbound bridge in the pipper. He knew he was only a mile from the old farm, where his Grandfather's mother had lived. Try not to think about that now.....”and...HACK!” He pressed the pickle button, and a dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes came off the racks. He pulled level, and headed north.

Guru's bombs smashed into the bridges, ripping apart both the eastbound and westbound pontoon bridges, and smashing up what was left of the structure the Soviets had built as well. Goalie managed to get a brief rear view as the bombs exploded. “SHACK!”

“Good hits?”

“Good hits,” she confirmed. “No secondaries, though.”

“Not every time,” he called as he put 512 back down low, and buzzed the I-20 bridge, forcing the KGB troops guarding the bridge to scatter for cover. “Lead off target.”

“Two's in!” Kara called. She put her bird in, and lined up on the smoke left when Guru's bombs had exploded. So what if her bombs did nothing but make the scrap metal fly farther? Good riddance. “And HACK!” Her bombs came off the racks, and a dozen more Mark-82s landed among what was left of the pontoon bridges, ripping apart what Guru hadn't been able to destroy. “Two's off.” Kara then followed Guru north.

“Three's in,” Sweaty called. She came in just east of the bridge, and found a truck convoy lined up along the I-20 right of way. Not your morning, Ivan. “HACK!” She called as a dozen CBU-58/Bs came off the airplane, and the CBUs tore into the convoy, ripping apart a number of trucks and a couple of BTR-60P APCs. As Sweaty pulled away, she didn't notice the tracer fire coming up from a couple of BTRs, nor did she (or Preacher for that matter) see an SA-7 come up after their aircraft. She took the big Phantom back down low, and called, “Three's off target.”

“Four in hot!” Hoser called. He had seen the fire coming up at his element leader, and mentally changed his mission from “strike” to “Poststrike flak suppression.” He lined up the APCs and several intact trucks in his pipper, then hit the pickle button. Again, a dozen CBUs came off the aircraft, and ripped into the convoy. These BTR-60s were open-topped, and unfortunately for their crews, completely vulnerable to the CBU bomblets, and were easily set on fire. Hoser's strike killed several APCs and trucks, and as he pulled away to the north, he called. “Four off target.”

“Copy that,” Guru called. “Form on me and let's egress.”

As Firebird flight headed north, the two Weasel Phantoms finished their work, killing another search radar and also a solitary ZSU-23-4 that had come up from somewhere. Both Coors One-Five and One-Six went back low, and followed the Firebirds north.

Back near the bridge, Ned and Linda picked themselves up. They heard shouting from the Russians on the road, and from the bridge area. They knew from past experience that the Russians sometimes made nearby locals clean up after an air raid, so they simply went about their chores. This time, though, the Russians didn't bother anyone living near the strike area.

In his F-4, Guru smiled as he flew over Lake Ray Hubbard. Kara had tucked into his Four O’clock, and Sweaty and Hoser were right behind them. They overflew the I-30 bridges, and thankfully, the Army pukes down below held their fire. They flew on, clearing Lake Ray Hubbard and then over Lavon Lake, and only when they had cleared that lake did Guru call for the flight to get back to altitude.

“Firebird Lead, Coors One-Five. We need to hit the tankers. Nice doing business with you, fella.” The Weasel element leader called.

“Likewise,” Guru replied “Maybe we can do this again sometime.”

The two F-4Gs peeled off and headed for the Red River and the tanker track, while the F-4Es headed west towards Sheppard. After contacting the tower, they got into the traffic pattern, and waited for several outbound flghts-AF, Marine, and Navy, to take off before they were able to come in to land. After landing and taxiing back to their revetments, the crew chiefs were waiting.

Guru shut down, and popped his canopy, and Goalie did the same. Sergeant Crowley came up with the crew ladder. “How'd it go, sir?”

“Made some bridges go away, Sergeant,” Guru said as he got down.

'Great, sir,” Crowley said. “We'll have her turned around in a half-hour.” He indicated the ordnance guys waiting with a mix of napalm tanks and Mark-82s.

“Shake'n Bake,” Goalie observed.

“That means CAS,” Guru said. He turned to Crowley. “Pull the strike camera film and send it off. 512's working like a champ, Sergeant. No issues, and no battle damage.”

“Thanks, sir,” Crowley beamed. “Oh, sir, do you want her painted up as the CO's bird?”

“No, Sergeant. Colonel Rivers didn't with his bird, and I'll do the same,” Guru said. “Don't want anyone to see who was flying the bird if she goes down.”

“Understood, sir,” Crowley said.

“All right, Sergeant, get her turned around,” Guru ordered. He turned to Goalie. “Let's get debriefed.”

Goalie nodded as they walked to the edge of the revetment, and found the rest of the flight coming over. “How'd it go for you guys?”

“Weasels did their job,” Kara said. “No flak or SAMs.”

“Same here,” Goalie said. “Made some trucks and APCs go away.”

“You sure about no flak?” Hoser asked. “Some came up after Sweaty, but she didn't see it.”

“Come on,” Guru said. “Save it for the debrief, because we're going back out in an hour or so.”

They nodded, and headed back to the squadron's offices. When they went into their building, which had belonged to a prewar training squadron, they found people acting nervous. Then Capt. Don Van Loan, the new Operations Officer, came over. “Don, what's up?” The CO asked.

“Some lieutenant came in after you left, been around asking a bunch of questions, not just about us, but the rest of the units on this base,” Van Loan replied. “He's not from JAG or OSI, though.”

“Let me guess,” Goalie said. “Inspector General's Office.”

“That's a fair bet,” Guru said. “Okay, if he comes back before we go back out, have him see me. If he's got anything specific, I'll listen to him. Before I tell him to take his complaints to General Tanner. Who will tear him a new asshole.”

Van Loan nodded. “Speaking of which, Base Ops called. His C-130's inbound. ETA fifteen minutes.”

“Okay, we need to debrief,” Guru said. “If he comes here before we have to brief and launch, let me know when he arrives.”

“Will do. Mark's due back shortly, by the way.”

“Okay,” Guru said. He turned to his flight. “Let's debrief. Won't be long until we go back out.” He led them to the old classroom that his flight used, and found 1st Lt. Darren Licon, the Intelligence Officer for the 335th, waiting. “Darren.”

He stood up. “Boss, how'd it go?”

“Made those pontoon bridges go away,” Guru said.

Licon pulled out a TPC map, and asked them to indicate their flight paths. “Okay, what'd you get?”

“Put my bombs onto the westbound bridges,” Guru replied.

“Hits?”

“Got a few,” Goalie said. “Couldn't see much, though. He was getting us north as fast as he could.”

“Captain Thrace? You were right behind him. How'd he do?”

Kara smiled. “Bombs on target,” she said. “I put mine where the eastbound bridge would've been, but there was so much smoke I couldn't really see. No secondaries, though.”

“I'll go along with that,” Brainac said. “No secondaries means no traffic on the bridges.”

“Okay, Sweaty?” Licon asked.

“Hit a truck convoy east of the local road,” Sweaty said. “APCs and trucks.”

“Any resistance?”

“The flak guns were firing,” she replied. “But not radar-guided.”

“Weasels shut down those guys,” Kara added. “They had antiradar missiles in the air first thing.”

“Sweaty had some tracers come up after her,” Hoser said. “From the rest of the convoy.”

“What kind?” Licon wanted to know.

“Either machine-gun or 23-mm,” Hoser said. “Even an SA-7, but it didn't guide. I put my CBUs on those guys.”

“Get any secondaries?”

“Sweaty's bombs got some, And we did, too,” KT said.

“Any MiGs?”

Heads shook no. “Not a one,” Guru said.

“Okay,” Licon said to sum up. “I'll check the strike camera footage, and pass that up to Tenth Air Force Nice job, and from your description, that crossing's out of business for a few days. Thanks, guys.”

As Licon got up to leave, Guru nodded. “Darren, how are you holding up?”

“When I go to the CO's office? Half the time I think I'll see Colonel Rivers. Instead, it's you.”

“Well, when I open that door, I think I'll see him, and it's empty. Then I remember that's mine now. Takes some getting used to.”

“I guess so,” Licon said. He'd joined the 335th after Rivers took over the squadron, and hadn't been around when two previous squadron CO s had been KIA.

“Oh, Darren?” Guru asked the Intel as he got ready to leave. “You have a right to know. Rivers recommended you for Captain. He forwarded the paperwork..”

“Captain?” Licon asked, and his voice showed the surprise. “You're serious?”

“Yep,” Guru said. “Don't know when it'll go through, but you're not the only one.” He turned to Goalie. “Goalie, Sweaty, and a few others.”

“Thanks, Boss,” Licon said, while Goalie and Sweaty were beaming.

“Don't thank me, thank Colonel Rivers. And Darren?”

“Yeah, Boss?”

“If you want to talk, in fact, spread the word. That includes all of you,” Guru told his flight. “If anyone needs to talk, get things off their chest? If I'm not flying, my office door is open. Colonel Rivers did the same, and I'm following his example.”

“Will do, and thanks,” Licon replied.

“Anytime.”

After Licon left, Sweaty asked, “So what's next?”

“You saw the ordnance,” Kara replied. “Shake'n Bake. That means CAS for somebody.”

“Yeah,” Guru said. Then there was a knock on the door. “Come on in and show yourself.”

It was Capt. Don Van Loan, the Ops Officer. “Boss, we got a problem. Not just this squadron, but this entire base.”

“What do you mean?” Guru asked. “You can talk.”

“Somebody from the Inspector General's Office. Poking around, asking a bunch of questions. Wondering why not just the 335th, but MAG-11 and everyone else on this base is pretty loose militarily.”

Guru shook his head. “Where is this guy?”

“In your office.”

Guru scowled. “Okay, let me know when General Tanner arrives.” He went to his office and opened the door. He found a First Lieutenant in dress uniform sitting in a chair. The man came to attention. “Lieutenant, and you are?”

“Richard Ellison, sir,” the man replied. “I'm from the Inspector General's office. I was sent here to check out a complaint from an officer on this base. Not just the 335th, sir. But how every unit on this base is run.”

“Let me guess,” Guru said as he came in and leaned against the desk. “You're responding to a complaint from Major Frank Carson.”

“Sir, I....”

“Lieutenant, I've got two bars. You've got one. Tell me,” Guru said. “Now.”

“Yes, sir. From his standpoint, things are pretty loose around here from a military standpoint,” Lieutenant Ellison said. “I've seen officers calling each other by first name or call sign, for starters.”

Guru rolled his eyes. Clearly, this guy didn't get out much. “Did it ever occur to you that every unit in MAG-11 is a combat squadron, whether it's AF, Marines, or Navy? We're flying four, five, six times a day, if you haven't noticed. Fly, land, refuel and rearm, take care of whatever squadron business you have, then go back out. We don't have time for snappy salutes and other protocol. In case you haven't noticed, there's a war on.”

“Sir, I realize that. Another thing is how poorly dressed ground personnel are. Instead of undress whites, everyone's in BDUs and is packing weapons. And the mechanics are in the dirtiest uniforms I've ever seen.”

Guru got into the man's face. “Okay, you ever hear of Spetznatz?” He pointed at the AKMS rifle on his wall. “See that rifle? I carried it out with me after five months with the Resistance. It's loaded, always. If I hear the call “Sappers in the Wire,” that means Spetsnatz is here. And I'd rather face them with a weapon than without.” He glared at the junior officer. “As for the mechanics? It never occurred to you that they work with hydraulic fluid, oil, grease, and a lot of other crud? You should've been at Williams or Cannon back in Summer, or Amarillo. Hot and sometimes humid on the flight line. If they got things done wearing only gym shorts, or shorts and sports bras for the women? I wouldn't mind at all. If it keeps them comfortable while they're doing their jobs, I could care less how they're dressed.”

“Sir, there's such a thing as Air Force standards,” Ellison pointed out. “They're there for a reason.”

“And a lot of that goes out the window when the shooting starts,” Guru said. “Did that ever occur to you? It happens in every unit. What else?”

Ellison nodded. “Three more things, sir. First, there's a lot of scrounging. Some would call it rampant-”

Guru got into his face. “When supply's flat on its ass, and won't give us the things we need to keep these birds flying, I could care less how my supply people acquire those items. As long as there's no felony arrests, no one gets hurt or caught, it makes no difference to me.”

The lieutenant looked at the CO. Clearly, the respect for proper procedures and the necessary protocols had gone away. And this wasn't the first unit he'd seen where this was happening. “Then you have a tech sergeant in the CSPs using an unauthorized weapon.”

Guru rolled his eyes again. “I guess you don't get out much. Did it ever occur to you that a CSP would want a sniper's rifle with a little more range than a standard 7.62 NATO round? Tech Sergeant Danielle Tucker's dad didn't want his little girl to have to worry about Spetsnatz snipers. He sent her one of his own rifles, a Winchester 700 in .300 Winchester Magnum. I never argue with results: she's got twelve confirmed kills and seven unconfirmed with that weapon. If we have to go through other channels that the Air Force has set up-or did you even bother looking-to get the ammo she needs? So be it. What's the last thing?”

“Sir, there is an officer ranked above you, and yet you are in command of this squadron. Why is that?” Ellison asked.

“Because my predecessor made a judgment that the officer you're referring to wasn't fit to command anything higher than an element. We award positions in this unit based on experience, not rank. And I might as well tell you right now: I'm not as rank as he is.” Then there was a knock on the door. “What?”

Don Van Loan opened the door. “Guru, General Tanner's here.”

“He just landed?”

“No, he's here. Right outside.” Van Loan said. Then a voice shouted “Ten-shun!”

“As you were, people,” another voice said. “We're on a base at war, and we can do without the jumping up and down nonsense.”

“Hear that?” Guru said to the Lieutenant. “That should tell you a lot.”

Then Major General Robert Tanner came into the offices. Not in dress uniform, but in BDUs. To Captain Wiser, he looked like an older version of Harrison Ford, the actor. He shook hands with several of the officers and NCOs, then came to Guru's office. “Captain,”

“General,” Guru said, saluting. “Welcome to the 335th.”

“Glad to be here,” Tanner said, shaking Guru's hand. “I only wish the circumstances were less,well, unpleasant.”

Guru nodded. He knew that Colonel Rivers had been an aide to Tanner when the latter was a one-star. “Yes, sir. The memorial service for Colonel Rivers is tomorrow morning at 1000. Sir, there's no time for dress uniform as we'll be flying all day.”

Tanner nodded as well. “No sense getting dressed up for that when you'll have to get back into flying gear.” He looked at Guru. “I made plans to be here all day, and if necessary, tomorrow, in case there was a service.”

“Sir, I know he'd appreciate that,” Guru said. “He told us that he was your aide some time back.”

“He was,” Tanner said. “And he wasn't just an aide, he got to be a good friend. And who's this?” He regarded Lieutenant Ellison.

“Sir, this fellow's from the IG's office. Seems a certain Major that we've all gotten to know, loath, and despise made a complaint to the IG, and he got sent to check into those.”

“Is that true, Lieutenant?” Tanner asked. And by the tone of his voice, he wasn't too thrilled with what Guru had said.

“Yes, sir!” Ellison replied. “And I have found quite a bit to verify those complaints. If the General would like to hear what I have to say-”

Exasperated already, Tanner turned back to Guru. “Captain, have you explained how we do things in Tenth Air Force?”

“I started to, sir, but wasn't able to finish before your arrival,” Guru said.

Tanner nodded, then shot a withering glance at the Lieutenant, then turned back to Guru.. “I'll take care of that, Captain. And I'll make sure you won't have to worry about frivolous complaints to the Inspector General. All you need to worry about is getting on with the war. Is there someplace private I can discuss this?”

Guru smiled. “My office is available, sir,”

“Good. Close the door on your way out. After I'm finished with this chap, I'd like to talk to you and your squadron leadership team. I've got some good news.”

“Yes, sir,” Guru replied.

“And Captain? Do you have a mission coming up?”

“Yes, sir. Mission brief in thirty minutes,” Guru said.

“I'd like to sit in, if you don't mind,” Tanner said.

“Not at all, sir.”

“Good. I'll see you in a few.” Tanner said.

“Yes, sir.” As Guru turned to leave, he whispered in Ellison's ear. “Your ass is grass, and he's going to mow it.” Then he left the office, closing the door behind him. After he did, Guru and those outside could hear shouting from inside.

“Well?” Kara asked.

“If Frank or anyone else thinks they're getting the squadron today, they're sadly mistaken,” Guru said.

Mark Ellis snapped his fingers. “Oh, well. Back to the old advancement-by-assassination plan, then.”

“Guess so,” Kara grinned. “Now what's up?”

“Tanner's going to want to talk to us shortly, then sit in on the mission brief. He'll be here all day. Not just with us, mind, but the whole base. And he'll RON. He wants to be here for Rivers' memorial service.”

“That's at when? 1000 tomorrow?” Goalie asked.

“Yep,” Guru said. “You did arrange things, Don?” He asked his Ops Officer.

“I did,” Van Loan nodded. “Everyone should be back by 1000, and we've got an hour before the next set of sorties launches just after 1100.”

“Good,” Guru said. “Come as you are, and chances are, we'll have people fresh out of the cockpit showing up.”

Sweaty nodded. “That we will.”

“Come on, let's get something out of the break room, the General will see us in a few, and we've got a mission brief,” Guru told his flight. They went to the break room, and found Master Sergeant Michael Ross, the 335th's senior NCO, coming out. “Sergeant. What do the Jarheads have to offer us?”

'Sir, the usual: Chicken, Ham, Turkey, Roast Beef, Tuna, and something brown that just sits there,” Ross said. “And one of the brown sandwiches just moved.”

“Well, at least it's not a BLT where the tomato looks back at you,” Kara quipped.

“It is that, Ma'am,” Ross said.

“Okay, thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. “Oh, and Sergeant?”

“Sir?”

“Please let us know when the General wants to see us, if you would.”

“Yes, sir.”
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  #186  
Old 05-18-2015, 07:24 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Location: Auberry, CA
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The next set:


335th TFS Operations Building, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1045 Hours:

Captain Matt Wiser and the rest of his flight were in a former classroom, which their flight had taken over for a briefing room, and they were waiting until General Tanner was ready for them. And conversation was going to what the General might have in mind. “He said he had good news for everybody,” Guru said. “A stand-down and sending people off on the R&R rotation would be just fine.”

“And where would you and Goalie go,” Kara asked. “Las Vegas, where you can lose some money and your inhibitions?”

Guru looked at his WSO, 1st. Lt. Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, and saw her expression go coy. “Maybe. Or San Diego. Get some sun and surf.”

“Fine with me,” Goalie said. “Or Yosemite in winter? Wouldn't mind a nice Winter Wonderland.”

“Not enough in the Valley,” Guru said. “Plenty of snow in the high country, but not much down in the Valley.” A early-season storm had gone through California and the West a week earlier, and had kept their squadron grounded when it came through Texas.

“How about you, Kara?” Goalie asked “Vegas and hit the blackjack tables?”

“And take on some guys from Nellis,” Sweaty asked. “And I'm not talking at the casinos.”

Hearing that, Kara poked Sweaty in the arm. Everyone in the squadron knew that if there was such a thing, Kara would be a board-certified nymphomaniac. “Maybe.”

“And given how good you are at cards, they might ban you from the casinos,” Hoser West said.

“Can't have that,” KT Thornton, Hoser's GIB, quipped.

Then there was a knock on the door. “Yeah?” Guru asked.

It was Master Sergeant Ross. “Sir, the General's finished tearing up that puppy from the IG.'

Guru and the others got up. “Thanks, Sergeant,” the CO said. He led them back into the office, and saw his office door open.

“If I were you,” they heard the General's voice say. “I'd pack my bag and get on the next space-available C-130 out of here.”

Then the officer from the IG's office came out. “Yes, sir,” and he left the building, and General Tanner came out of the office.

“Good riddance,” Kara muttered.

“General,” Guru nodded politely. “Colonel Rivers told us once that you weren't comfortable with some of your powers.”

“You're right about that, Captain, but by God, there are times when it's mighty useful. And this was one of them,” Tanner said. “And don't worry about the IG's office. I'll call General Butler personally, and nip this in the bud. “ General Conrad Butler was the Inspector General of the whole Air Force.

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said.

“Okay, got a couple of other things to take care of. First, the 335th is up for a Navy award, since you're under MAG-11. They're getting the Navy Unit Commendation, and since you're attached to them, you are all eligible to wear the ribbon when the commendation is awarded.”

“Well, sir, that's unusual,” Guru commented, and heads were nodding.

“It is, but then again, so is this whole damn war,” Tanner replied. He turned to his ADC. “Major, you have that other material?”

Major Scott Reynolds smiled. “Yes, sir,” He took out a Manila folder and a small case from his bag.

“All right: Captain, if you'll come to attention?” Tanner said.

Guru gulped, but came to attention. The last time he'd been this tight? His OTS graduation.

“Read it, Major,” Tanner said.

Major Reynolds read a paper from the folder. “Attention to orders. The Secretary of the Air Force takes pleasure in the promotion of Captain Matt Wiser, United States Air Force Reserve, to the rank of Major, United States Air Force Reserve, with all the privileges and responsibilities of that rank. Said promotion to take effect as of 27 October, 1987. By direction of the Secretary of the Air Force.”

Guru's jaw dropped. Major?

Tanner smiled “Congratulations, Major,” he said. “Lieutenant Eichhorn?”

Goalie's jaw dropped herself. “Sir?”

“You're his GIB, I understand. Will you assist me with the honors?”

“Yes, sir.” She went over to Major Reynolds and took a small case from him. She handed it to the General. Inside was a pair of gold oak leaves. The General took one, and she took the other. After removing the captain's insignia, they pinned on the oak leaves.

“Congratulations, Major,” Tanner said.

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said, saluting.

Tanner smiled and returned the salute. “You deserve it.” Then he stood aside as Goalie came to face her pilot and CO. She came to attention and saluted Guru.

“Congratulations, Guru,” she said.

“Thanks,” Guru replied. Then he saluted his GIB.

Goalie smiled, then went back to the rest of the flight.

Then Master Sergeant Ross's voice rang out. “Room, Ten-shun!” And everyone stood to attention. “Salute!” And everyone in the room, officer and enlisted, saluted their CO.

Guru returned it, then nodded. “Carry on, people. Still got this war on, so get back into game mode. But thanks, guys. I know Colonel Rivers is looking down on us and smiling. Let's make him proud while we kick those Commie bastards back across the Rio Grande and back to Mexico City.”

“Hear, hear,” Mark Ellis said.

“Couple of other things: First, the promotion party'll have to wait until we get a stand-down, and chances are, there's going to be multiple promotions celebrated at the same time.”

There were smiles in the office as word had gone around that Colonel Rivers had recommended quite a few people for promotion before his death.

“Second? I'll buy a round at the club tonight to celebrate.”

There was quite a bit of applause when people heard that.

“Major? If you don't mind, I'll buy the first round,” General Tanner said. “Not just to celebrate the promotion, but to drink a toast in honor of Colonel Rivers. Who will be greatly missed.”

Guru shrugged “Well, sir, that is the General's prerogative.”

“Thank you, Major. You heard your CO. Let's get back in the game.” Tanner said, and people got on with their duties.

Guru went back to his flight, and there were handshakes and hugs. And quite a few other pilots and WSOs came to offer their own congratulations. Then the General came over. “Major, I see the 'Wild Thing' is in your flight?”

Hearing that, Kara came to attention. “Sir!”

“So this is the wild and crazy Captain Thrace.” Tanner turned to Guru. “Don't worry, Major. Word about her antics in the 335th has traveled. Along with some crazy things at Kadena or in Hawaii while she was on the TransPac ferry run.”

“Sir?” Guru asked.

“Something about a rented bungalow on the North Shore of Oahu, a dozen other officers of both genders, and a beach party gone wild is the story I heard.”

“Oh, boy,” Guru muttered. Did he want to know the details? Part of him was silently shouting “Hell, no!” But another part of him wanted to know.

“General, I can explain-” Kara said.

“Captain, as long as there were no felony arrests, and the place was returned to its owners somewhat intact? Who am I to criticize?”

“Sir,” Kara nodded.

“General, as far as her antics in the 335th are concerned,” Guru said. “Some of those, I can assure the General, are wildly exaggerated.”

“Not by much,” Goalie muttered to Sweaty, who nodded.

“And some, Major, have a good deal of truth?” The General wanted to know.

“Some, sir,” Guru replied.

“And some have a considerable deal of truth attached,” Tanner said. It wasn't a question.

Guru sighed. “Yes, sir.”

“Again, who am I to criticize? Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may not be separated from the rest of the aircraft, is something that's gone pretty far in the Air Force these days.”

Heads nodded, while Guru said, “Yes, sir.” He knew it himself, and so did Goalie. Intimately.

“Good. Now, I believe you have a mission brief in a few minutes?”

“Yes, sir,” Guru said. “Would you like to sit in?” He already knew, but the rest of the flight didn't.

“Thank you, Major. I'll try and stay in the background,” Tanner said.

“Yes,sir. If you'll excuse me, I need to get the FRAGO and the intel briefing sheet.”

The General nodded. “Do whatever you need to do, Major. I'll stay out of your way.”

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said. He saw Preacher talking with the other GIBs in the flight. “Preacher?”

Sweaty's GIB came over. “Major?”

“He's Lieutenant Blanchard's GIB, sir,” Guru explained. “Would you escort the General and his aide to the briefing room? I'll be there in a few.”

“Yes, sir,” Preacher said.

Tanner regarded him. “How'd you get that call sign, Lieutenant?”

“Sir, I was studying for the priesthood when the war began. I left the Seminary and went to the nearest Air Force recruiting office and joined up. I qualified for OTS, then Nav school, and they sent me to the F-4 RTU.”

“And when your classmates found out your background, they gave you the call sign,” Tanner finished.

“Yes, sir,” Preacher said. “If you and your aide will follow me?”

While Preacher escorted the General and his aide to the briefing room, Guru nodded to Kara. “Get everyone else there. I'll be there in a minute.”

She nodded back. “Gotcha.”

Guru then went to the Ops desk, and Don Van Loan was there. He was getting ready to go out himself.
“Don,”

“Boss,” Van Loan replied. “Congratulations, man.”

“Thanks. Going to take some getting used to, though,” Guru said. “What have you got for me?”

“On call CAS. Northeast sector, along I-30. And that's all there is,” Van Loan replied. He handed Guru the FRAGO.

“Lovely,” the CO replied. “Intel sheet?”

“Licon had this to give to the CAS packages,” Van Loan said. He gave the CO the sheet. “Basically, everything from regimental level on up.”

“Darren's full of good news this time,” Guru said. “And a secondary in case we don't get any CAS calls?”

“Not in the FRAGO, but I can give you one. Here, at the intersection of Route 276 and F.M. 548, east of Rockwall. Southeast corner has a truck park.”

Guru nodded. It would have to do. “Thanks, Don. Good luck, and be careful out there.”

“You too, Boss.” Van Loan said.

Guru nodded, then he headed to the briefing room. He took a deep breath, then opened the door. He found everyone milling around, then Kara said, “CO on the deck!”

“As you were,” Guru said. “Like the General said, we can do without the jumping up and down business.” He nodded at the General as everyone else gathered around.

“What have we got?” Sweaty asked.

“On-call CAS,” Guru said. “Northeast sector, along I-30 from Rockwall to Royce City,”

“That's it?” Kara wanted to know.

The CO nodded. “You guys know as much as I do, and no, I don't like it. But that's how it is with CAS.”

“Threat level?” Goalie asked.

Guru scowled as he read it “Expect air-defense assets to be from regimental level on up,” he said. “That means SA-9 or -13 and Shilkas all the way up to SA-6 or -8. No SA-11s or -15s reported, but just because they're not in the threat board doesn't mean they're not there.”

“Typical intel,” Preacher said. “We're betting your life.”

“Two years into this war, we should know by now,” quipped Kara.”Weasels on this one?”

“Not available,” Guru said. He looked at the General, who was nodding. “And no, I don't like that either. Now, divert fields are the same as this morning: either Perrin AFB or D/FW International. The tanker track is the same: Track SHELL is over Durant, Oklahoma, north of the Red River”

“Bailout areas?” Goalie asked.

“North of I-30 is your best bet, because that's friendly territory. South of I-30? The more rural, the better. And anyplace away from the roads.”

“Ordnance loads?” Hoser asked.

“Shake'n Bake,” Guru replied. “Six Mark-82 Snakeyes on the centerline, and four BLU-27 Napalm bombs on the wings. Four AIM-9Ps and two AIM-7Es, full load 20-mm, two wing tanks and the usual ECM pods.”

“Good to hear,” Kara said. “And if we don't get a CAS call?”

“Good question,” Guru said. “Van Loan ID'd a secondary target for us. There's a truck park at the intersection of Route 276 and F.M. 548, east of Rockwall. There's a truck park in the southeast corner. With the load we'll have, we can barbeque some trucks. And there's no change to the weather.”

Heads nodded. “How about MiGs?” Sweaty asked. “Same as this morning?”

“You got it. Terrell Municipal, or as far away as Athens, Tyler, or Waco. Maybe we'll do something about Terrell Muni or Seagoville-Crandall as well. Anything else?”

“Yeah,” KT asked. “What's after this one?”

“We'll find out when we get back,” Guru said. “That it? General? Anything to add?”

Tanner stood up. “Good brief, Major. Good luck, everyone. And Major?”

“Sir?”

“Bring everyone back, and one other thing: Do it to them before they do it to you.”

“Fair enough, Major. Good luck, and I'll see you when you get back.” Then Major Reynolds opened the door, and the General left the room, and he followed.

“Glad that's over,” Hoser said.

“Still got the mission,” Sweaty reminded her wingman.

“That we do,” Guru said. “Okay, gear up, and I'll see you at 512.”

They headed for their respective locker rooms and got their flight gear. Guru was the last to leave, and he went to 512's revetment, where the crews were waiting, along with Staff Sergeant Crowley, his Crew Chief. “Major!” Crowley said, saluting.

“Sergeant,” Guru said. “Word travels fast.”

“Sergeant Ross's been passing it around. Congratulations, sir.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. He gathered his flight around. “Okay, listen up. All I've got is this: Same drill as this morning: if we're talking to AWACS, Tankers, FACs, or Hillsboro-that's the EC-130 AB-triple-C command plane? We go by mission code. If it's amongst ourselves? Call signs. Got it?”

“Got it,” Kara said, and everyone else nodded.

“Good. Anything else?” Heads shook no. “All right: let's hit it.”

They broke up and the crews headed to their aircraft. Guru and Goalie did their walk-around, then mounted their bird. Sergeant Crowley helped get them strapped in, and as he did so, Guru said, “Sergeant, does Major Carson's ground crew know?”

“About you being promoted, sir?” Crowley asked. Seeing Guru nod, he said. “I think so, sir.”

“Good. Do me a favor. Tell them not to tell the Major about it. I want to see the look on his face when he comes into the squadron office and sees for himself. They can tell his GIB, or his wingmates, but not him. Got it?'

“Yes, sir!” Crowley said. “And good luck, sir.”

“Thanks,” Guru said as he and Goalie started the cockpit preflight. Crowley took the crew ladder away as they went through their checks. Then it was time for engine start. Sergeant Crowley gave the signal, and Guru started one, then the other, J-79 engine. Both were running normally, then it was time to taxi. “Tower, Firebird One-one with four, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

“Firebird One-one, Tower. Clear to taxi to runway Three-three left. Hold prior to the runway.”

“Roger, tower.” Guru replied. “Firebird One-one rolling.” He taxied out of the revetment, and Sergeant Crowley snapped a salute as he turned to taxi to the runway. Guru returned it, then led the flight to the runway, where the armorers removed the weapon safety pins. Then he was cleared to taxi onto the runway, and Kara followed him in left echelon. “Ready back there?” Guru called Goalie.

“Ready,” Goalie said. “Let's go and get it done.”

“Copy that,” Guru said. “Tower, Firebird Flight ready for takeoff.”

The tower acknowledged with a green light. Seeing that, Guru released the brakes, applied full power, and 512, with Kara's 520 in echelon, rolled down the runway and into the air, with Sweaty and Hoser right behind them.

As they lifted off, General Tanner was watching. “Good luck.”

“Wish you were with them, General?” Major Reynolds asked. He was counting the days until his ADC tour was up, and he got back into a cockpit,in his case, an F-16.

“I do, Major, and so do you,” Tanner said. “You'll get back in the saddle soon enough. But for me? Combat's a young man's-or woman's-game these days.”

“Ain't it the truth, sir.”
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Old USMC Adage
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Old 05-18-2015, 07:28 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Over North-Central Texas: 1200 Hours:


Firebird Flight was orbiting over Lavan Lake, southeast of McKinney. Guru had checked in with both the AWACS and Hillsboro, the EC-130 airborne command plane, and there had been no business for them, though the A-10s and A-4s were pretty busy. It had been a twenty-minute flight to the orbit point, and there were several other flights, either Marine F-4s and Hornets, or Navy A-7s, orbiting as well. “Hillsboro, Firebird One-one. Anything for us? Can't wait all day.”

“Stand by, Firebird,” the controller said.

“They said that when we got here,” Guru muttered.

“You'd think somebody would want some barbequed Russians or Cubans,” Goalie said.

“Lead, two,” Kara called. “Anything?”

“Negative, two,” Guru said.

In her cockpit, Kara shook her head. “Hurry up and wait, even up here.”

“Two, just enjoy the view,” Guru said. Looking down from 24,000 feet, one could forget there was a war on. It was a sunny day, with a few puffy clouds down below, and some thin cirrus as well. Only when one looked towards Dallas did smoke from the fighting appear. As the flight banked away from the direction of the front lines, McKinney Airport appeared. Though not a divert field, it was busy, as it was a designated Medevac field. C-130s and Army Dustoff helos were in and out, and the MASH set up near the airport was busy, so the grapevine said. Then a call came.

“Firebird One-one, Hillsboro.”

“Hillsboro, Firebird One-one, go.”

“Firebird, Hillsboro. Contact Nail Four-two for tasking.”

About time, Guru thought. “Copy, Hillsboro, Nail Four-two for tasking.” He then called the FAC. The airborne FACs always used the old Vietnam Nail call sign. “Nail Four-two, Firebird One-one.”


“Firebird, Nail,” the FAC replied. “Say aircraft and type of ordnance.”

“Firbirds have for Foxtrot-Four Echoes with Shake'n Bake loadout.” Guru said.

“Roger, Firebird Lead. Target is enemy artillery at the Route 205-F.M. 549 intersection. Towed one-five-two at least.”

“Copy that,” Guru said. “Say surface-to-air threat?”

“Firebird, expect divisional level air defense. Can mark the target.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. “We're coming in.”

“About time,” Goalie said.

“Yeah,” Guru replied. “Flight, lead. We've got a target. Follow me in. One pass only unless Nail requests a second go.”

“Two copies,” Kara said.

“Three,” Sweaty called.

“Four,” said Hoser.

“Nail, Firebird Lead.. How do you want it?”

“Your call, Firebird,” Nail said.

“Roger, Nail. One pass only.”

“Copy. Marking target,” Nail said. And Guru and the others watched as an A-7K rolled in, and fired two rockets. Both rockets exploded on impact, sending up clouds of WP smoke. “Target marked. Gun line is east of the smoke.”

As Guru began to roll in, he saw some 23-mm come up after the A-7, just as a strobe appeared on his EW repeater, and a GUN warning light came on. That meant a ZSU-23-4 Shilka was down there, and probably more than one. “Flight, Lead. Music on, and follow me in.Music on, and Snakeyes on this one.”

“Two,” Kara.

“Three,” Sweaty.

“Four.” Hoser.

“Roger that. One pass, and follow me. Lead's in hot!” Guru called.

“Your switches are set,” Goalie said. “Snakeyes only.”

“Gotcha,” Guru replied as he rolled in. Lead on target,” Guru called as he rolled in on the target.


Down below, the gunners of the Third Battalion, 53rd Guards Artillery Regiment, 25th Guards Motor-Rifle Division were serving their guns. They were divisional artillery, and they had the big 152-mm howitzers. Though due to combat losses, instead of the Self-propelled 2S3 152-mm guns, they had the old towed D-20 howitzers. Still, this division, which had been in America since 1986, was one of the better divisions in the 1st Guards Army from Chernigov in the Ukraine, but it was still a long way from their home station at Lubny, near Poltava.

The battalion commander was, however, in a fit. The blasted Americans had seized the bridges over Lake Ray Hubbard (whoever that was, he wondered), and had been reinforced, taking Rockwall earlier that morning and starting to probe south of Interstate 30. His battalion's fire missions had been trying to make the Americans who'd seized the bridges a little miserable, while also trying to interdict the highway traffic into Rockwall from the north. And he hadn't had time to displace, as the divisional artillery commander had explained, the 200th MRD to their right flank was taking up some of the space that his guns might have used. Shaking his head, he went back to the battalion's command bunker when his Zampolit pointed to the Northwest. First he saw the smoke, then he raised his binoculars. “AIRCRAFT!”

Guru came down the chute, and lined up some of the guns in his pipper. “HACK!” He shouted, and his six Mark-82s came off the centerline MER. He leveled out and began to pull away, and as he did, six explosions followed in his wake. “Whoo-hoo!”

“SHACK!” Goalie cried. “Good hits!”

“Secondaries?”

“We've got 'em,” she said.

“Copy that. Lead off target.”


Kara saw her CO roll in, then she followed him down. “Two's in hot.” She saw the WP smoke drifting, the explosions of the CO's bombs, and the secondaries that followed. And several guns still intact. Kara lined them up in her pipper, then hit the pickle button. “HACK!”

The Soviet battalion commander was shouting orders to his men to take cover. The more experienced men quickly ran to their shelters, while many of the battalion's support troops, who were mostly Uzbek or Turkmen, weren't doing much. Then he saw a second F-4 come in, and release its bombs. He shouted again at the men to take cover, but never saw the five-hundred pound bomb that went off a dozen feet from him.....

“SHACK!” Brainac called to Kara. “Good hits!”

“Secondaries?”

“Lots,” he said. “You must've hit the ammo trucks.”

Nodding, Kara pulled away. 'Two's off target.”

“Three's in!” Sweaty called. She could see some command vehicles parked in a circle. Sweaty lined them up, and then hit the pickle button. “HACK!” And her bombs landed among the battalion's command vehicles, tossing several of them like toys. “Three off target,”

“Copy three,” Guru said. Then he saw tracers coming up. “BREAK RIGHT!”

Sweaty didn't even respond. She broke instantly, and as she did, the tracers were visible. Then she leveled out and headed north.

As Sweaty got out of the area, Hoser rolled in. He saw the tracers, and decided, just like he had in the morning, to do something about that. He lined up on where the tracers had come from, and rolled in. “Four's in.” He went down the chute, and then he released his bombs. As he pulled out, KT called “Good hit!”

He rolled away and banked to get a better look. There was smoke rising from the area, and a secondary explosion. “Scratch one flak battery.”

Unknown to Hoser, his bombs had hit two ZSU-23-4s. They had been deployed to protect the guns, and they had shot down an A-7 and damaged another that morning. The section commander had fired at Sweaty's plane as it turned away, but hadn't had a good solution due to the jamming. Then Hoser's F-4 had come in, and due to the ZSU's radar being jammed, he had no warning. Then the bombs exploded around the vehicles.....


“Four's off target,” Hoser called.

“Copy, Four,” Guru said. “Nail, how'd we do?”

“Firebird,” Nail replied. “Good bombs on target, fella. Taking out whoever was shooting that flak was a bonus. Thanks a lot and have a nice day.”

“Thanks, Nail. Anyone you know need some barbeque?” That was code for napalm.

“Negative, Firebird. If you've got a secondary for that, be my guest.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Firebirds, on me. We're headed for the secondary.”

Firebird Flight reformed, and they headed for their secondary target, the truck park. However, before they got there, Kara spotted something. “Lead, Starbuck. Got something at Eleven O'clock low.”
“I've got it,” Sweaty confirmed. “Gawd, it's a SAM site. And they're not set up!”

“Got it,” Hoser said. “It's an SA-6 site.”

Guru smiled underneath his oxygen mask. “Let's get him.” He banked his F-4 around and he saw the target for himself. “One pass only, and get out. Meet up over Lavon Lake.” He called Goalie. “Switches set?”

“All set here,” Goalie said.

“Roger that,” Guru said. He rolled in onto the SAM site, and a grim satisfaction was taking hold. He'd been shot down by an SA-6 that January day in '86, which led to his time with the Resistance. Now....”Lead's in.” And now it's barbeque time, Ivan....


Below, a Soviet Army Captain was not having a good day. His unit, the Second Battery, 1175th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment from the 25th GMRD, had to relocate twice, and it wasn't even noon. Those blasted Americans were finding out his battery's location, and either targeting them with anti-radar missiles or long-range artillery fire. Now, he'd found a location that was perfect, though some buildings were nearby, along with a number of houses. Though civilians were nearby, that made no difference to him. Now, his men could get the battery set up and ready to fire, and give this sector of the division needed SAM cover, for American aircraft had been active all morning. He had just left his battery command vehicle, a BRDM-2U, and was shouting orders when he turned to the east. The smoke trails and the dots told him from experience that F-4 Phantoms were coming in. “AIR ALARM!” Then he jumped into a ditch as the lead aircraft came in.

“HACK!” Guru shouted, and four BLU-27 napalm bombs came off the inboard TERs. He had selected the Straight Flush radar track as his aimpoint, and as he banked away to the north, he saw the four napalm bombs explode around the radar track, engulfing it in flame. “Lead's off.”

“Two's in!” Kara said. She picked out two of the SA-6 missile tracks, and centered her pipper on one of them. “HACK!” She called, and the four canisters fell away.

The battery commander stood up in the ditch. Both his command vehicle and the 1S91 radar vehicle were engulfed in flames, and for a moment he didn't know what had happened. Then his training took over. Napalm. Then one of his sergeants pulled him down back into the trench as a second F-4 came in and released its bombs.

“Two's off target,” Kara said as she pulled away. Her BLU-27s fell onto two of the SAM tracks, and they were drenched in flame as the napalm went off. Take that, Ivan. “Two off target.”

“Three's in!” Sweaty called. She picked out the other two SAM tracks and rolled in. Lining them up in her pipper, Sweaty made the “HACK” call, and pulled away. Four more BLU-27s fell down on the SAM site, and two more SAM tracks were drenched in flames. “Three's off.”

“Four's in,” called Hoser. He couldn't pick out much, as missile tracks were on fire, and then missiles began cooking off in the heat of the napalm. Another missile shot off a few feet off the ground, headed for something to the west. Whatever it hit wasn't his problem. Then he spotted the missile reload trucks and the battery's support vehicles. He banked slightly, then released. As he pulled away, Hoser called. “Four off target.” His BLU-27s landed on the missile reload trucks, and they, too, were engulfed in flames. One of the bombs missed the trucks and its fiery cargo immolated a nearby ditch.

Hoser's last BLU-27 had landed next to the ditch where the Soviet battery commander had taken cover. His last sensation was the heat as he and the soldiers who'd taken cover with him became human torches.....

“Firebirds, form on me and let's get the hell out of here,” Guru called. He was heading for Lavon Lake as fast as he could.

“Two's behind you,” Kara said.

“Three's comin,” Sweaty called.

“Four copies,” said Hoser.

A couple minutes later, Firebird Flight reformed over the lake, and they reformed. Now that they were over friendly territory, they could turn their IFF on and their ECM pods off. The flight reformed and headed back to Sheppard, as they didn't need to get a drink from the tankers. When they got to Sheppard's traffic pattern, they had to wait as two F-4 flights from the 335th, and two more from the Marines, were outbound. Then they were cleared to land.

Guru landed, then taxied back to the dispersal area used by the 335th. After taxiing into his revetment, he popped the canopy and shut down. Sergeant Crowley was waiting with the crew ladder. As Crowley got the ladder into position, Guru said to Goalie, “Two today, and probably two more.”

“At least we get to eat,” Goalie said. “As long as it's not a roadkill sandwich from the Jarheads' mess tent.”

“I'll take some fried chicken,” Guru said. “Hell, I'll even have a slider cheeseburger.” The Marines, like the Navy, were notorious for serving greasy hamburgers.

“How'd it go, sir?” Sergeant Crowley after he put the ladder in place.

“Blasted some artillery pieces, and barbequed a SAM site.” Guru said. “Pull the strike camera and get it to the intel guys.”

“Yes, sir!” Crowley said. “You'll be ready in forty-five minutes.”

“Good, Sergeant,” Guru said. “No problems or issues, and 512's working like a champ. And we didn't take any fire.”

“That's good, sir,” Crowley said. “Hate to have any more holes in my airplane.”

“You and us both,” Goalie said.

Guru nodded as he saw the ordnance people coming over. This time, it was all Mark-82 Snakeyes. “All right, Sergeant. Get her ready to go.”

“Will do, sir,” Crowley said.

Guru and Goalie went to the taxiway, and found the rest of the flight waiting. There were high-fives all around as they went back to the squadron offices. On the way, they ran into Maj. Dave Golen, their IDF “Observer.” “Dave,” Guru said.

“Guru!” Dave replied. “I wasn't able to give my congratulations on your promotion. Well done, my friend.”

“Thanks, Dave,” Guru said, shaking Golen's hand. “Still getting used to it myself.”

“Yes...Colonel Rivers will be missed.”

Guru nodded. “Who's going with you?”

“Sandi Jenkins,” Golen said. 1st Lt. Sandi Jenkins had been Colonel Rivers' wingmate, and had been flying with him when he was shot down.

“Okay,” Guru said. “Van Loan set it up?”

“He did.”

“Good,” Guru said. “For now, she's your wingmate. And she's your younger sister from another mother. You bring her back. She's got the fire in her, and it's why I pulled her from the flight schedule yesterday. Remind her when you get to your birds that this isn't the time or place for grudges.”

“Understood,” Golen said. He'd seen it before, in the Yom Kippur War.

“One more thing: tell Sandi that if she wants to see me and talk, my office door is open. Always.”

“Will do.”

“Okay, Dave. Good luck, and remember: do it to them before they do it to you.”

“Got you,”

“All right, have a good one,” Guru said.

“Yes,” Golen said, shaking Guru's hand, then he headed to his aircraft.

“What was that about?” Kara asked. “What's with Sandi?”

“She was with Rivers when he was shot down, and she's got the fire in her,” Guru said. “Rivers treated her like she was his own daughter, and she's got something burning inside her. And no, I don't know what it is. He left me a packet with a bunch of stuff in it, in case he was shot down. Haven't had time to look at it.”

“Does it involve Carson?” Sweaty asked. “When they're in the Club, and if they exchange eye contact, her stares....if they were knives, Frank would be dying the death of a thousand cuts.”

“I noticed,” Guru said. “I'll have to look at her file, Frank's, and that packet Rivers left me. Haven't had time yet. If I have time this afternoon or evening, I will.”

“What could it be?” Goalie asked.

“No idea,” Guru admitted. “Come on, let's debrief and eat.”

They went into the squadron office, and noticed a new metal sign on the CO's office door. It read. “Maj. Matt Wiser. CO, 335th TFS. Guru nodded approval, then they went to the classroom his flight used. The SIO, 1st Lt. Darren Licon, was waiting. “Major, how'd it go?” Licon asked.

“Pretty good, Darren,” Guru said. “Made some artillery pieces go away.”

“And barbequed a SAM site,” Sweaty added.

“Where was the artillery?” Licon asked, pointing to some reconnaissance photos.

“Right about here,” Guru said, pointing to the Route 205/F.M. 549 intersection. “Big ones. 152-mm or larger.”

“Your strike camera footage may tell. Or the BDA from the RF-4s,” Licon said. “What'd you use?”

“Mark-82s all around,” replied the CO.

All three who hit the guns showed their flight paths,while Hoser showed where the AAA had come up after Sweaty, and he put his Mark-82s on the gun site. “Didn't get a radar hit, though.”

“They may not have had it,” Licon said. “Or they weren't using it. After that, what was your secondary?”

“Went towards a truck park at the Route 276/F.M. 548 intersection. But about a mile from there, we found an SA-6 site just setting up,” said Guru.'

“And you turned it into a barbeque pit,” Licon said.

“We did,” Kara nodded.

Licon nodded himself as he checked the recon photos. “Not on the imagery, so they must've arrived sometime this morning. I'll check your strike camera footage. Anything else I should know?”

“No MiGs,” Sweaty said, and everyone else nodded.

“Thanks, Major, Everyone,” Licon said. “I'll pass this up the line to MAG-11's intel shop, and then Tenth Air Force. Good luck on your next one.”

“Thanks, Darren,” Guru said. “Holding up OK?”

“Doing fine, Boss,” Licon said. “If I need to talk...”

“Let me know. My office door is always open,” Guru reminded him.”

“Thanks, Major,” Licon said, then he went to debrief the next flight.

“Now we eat,” Kara said. It wasn't a question.

“We eat,” Guru said. They went to the break room, where the Marine Mess people had brought lunch. The aircrews were usually too busy to head over to the chow tent, so Colonel Allen Brady, the CO of MAG-11, had the meals brought to the air and ground crews.

“What'll it be, sir,?” A Marine corporal asked. “Cheeseburgers and fries, Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches, or fried chicken with Cole slaw?”

“At least it's not your roadkill sandwiches,” Goalie said.

The crews had a laugh as they selected their lunches, then went back to the classroom to eat. While they ate, discussion went from the day's sorties to the topic of what would happen when Major Carson found out Guru had been promoted. “He'll have a coronary,” Kara said. “Couldn't happen to a nicer asshole.”

“Maybe,” Guru said. “That'd make Doc Waters happy: he hasn't had much to do other than flight physicals or the occasional sports injury.” Doc Waters was the Flight Surgeon for the 335th.

“He'll probably go through the ceiling,” Hoser said. “I've never seen anyone so arrogant.”

“I'll go with that,” Preacher agreed. “Coming from the Academy, and a rich Boston family breeds that, I imagine.”

“And throw in a big sense of entitlement,” Goalie said. “I have classmates who'd be just like him, given the chance.

“You're Academy, right?” KT asked.

“Yep. Class of '82.” Goalie said. “Third class with women. And there were some guys who couldn't take being in a class with women.”

“I'll bet,” Kara said. “Though the Academy's now at Beale, right? I bet they don't have that kind of attitude now.”

“No arguing that,” Goalie replied.

Heads nodded, then people looked at the CO. He was lost in thought. “What's up?” KT asked. “Or can you tell us?”

“It's Sandi and Frank,” Guru said. “Something just isn't right between those two, and it's not just Frank's attitude towards non-Academy grads. The way she looks at him in the club....”

“They've got a history,” Sweaty nodded. “The question is what?”

“All I know is that she was in the squadron when the war began, and she was one of the first to go into the Airman to Pilot program,” Guru said.

“The one where they let enlisted with two or more years of college to go to a thirty-day knife and fork, get their commissions, then flight or nav training?” Preacher asked. “They were starting that when I went to OTS.”

“The same. But when she came back to the unit, Rivers had a private talk with her, and even I don't know what they said. She became his wingmate, and he treated her like she was his own daughter. She was flying wing on him when he went down, and she was pretty much out of it when she got out of her plane,” Guru said. “I had to pull her from the flight schedule yesterday, and she was fine this morning. But she's Dave Golen's wingmate from now on.”

“So what's the deal with her and Frank?” Kara asked.

“That, I don't know,” Guru admitted. “Something's not right, and I can't put my finger on it. I'll look at her file, Frank's, and that packet Rivers left for me. This afternoon, I'll find some time and do it.” He looked at his flight mates. “Enough of that.” He opened the mission briefing packet. “Well....looks like we get to do something about Terrell Municipal after all.”

“We're busting up an airfield?” Goalie asked.

“We are,” Guru said. “They're basing MiG-23s and Su-25s there. All Soviet.”

Kara smiled. “Boss, looks like we may have some MiG action.”

“Yep, and Sweaty and Preacher are one kill away from becoming aces,” Guru said. “And Goalie's one kill away from making backseat ace.” He looked at his GIB, who had an evil-looking grin on her face.

“Ordnance?” Sweaty asked.

“Twelve Mark-82s each airplane,” Guru said. “Just like this morning, only we'll be about twelve miles to the east. Same approach route, though we make our northern turn over Kaufman, then go north. Make a Southeast to Northwest run, and angle your run so that your bombs cover both east and west ramp areas, as well as the runway. The same air-to-air load, and the usual ECM pods and both wing tanks.”

“Gotcha,” Hoser said. “And defenses?”

“We'll have two Weasels. Coors One-three and One-four will meet us over Mineral Wells. Because there's an SA-2 site, and since this is on I-20 and U.S. 80, there may be other air-defense assets around. Besides the SA-2, there's radar-guided 57-mm AAA. One battery to the west, another to the northeast. Possible optical 23-mm and heavy machine guns as well. Not to mention MANPADS like SA-7 or SA-14.

'Where's the SA-2 site?” Kara asked.

“Northwest of town.” Guru said. “The Weasels go in ahead of us and do their thing. When we're clear of the target, form up and head north. Don't climb to altitude until you're clear of I-30. Same drill on bailout areas: the more rural the better, and anyplace away from the roads. Best area is anywhere north of I-30. No new update on the weather.”

“Same drill on the radio?” Brainac wanted to know.

“You got it,” Guru nodded. “If it's between us, we go by call sign. If it's to AWACS, Weasels, or anyone else? Mission code. Anything else?”

“How many more after this one?” KT asked.

“One for sure,” Guru said. Maybe two.” He nodded. “That it?' Heads nodded. “Gear up and I'll see you at 512.”

They nodded, then the crews went to their locker rooms to gear up. When they came out, there was a familiar,though loathed, face there, staring at the door to the CO's office. It was Major Carson.

“Well, well,” Kara said. “He finally knows.”

“Hi, Frank,” Guru said. “Too bad you weren't here this morning.”

“Is this a joke?' Carson snarled.

“No joke. Tanner pinned on the oak leaves this morning,” Guru said. “While you were out. Oh, and he knows about the snot from the IG's office. Tore him a new hole, and he'd probably do the same to you, if you gave him the excuse.”

Carson just glared at Guru, then he shook his head. “This isn't right.”

“Want to tell a two-star General he made a mistake?” Guru said as he headed on out. “Too bad I'll be out, because I'd love to see him tear you a new hole.”

“What about seniority? You may have rank, but I have seniority over you.”

Guru got into his face. “When you can't command anything more than a flight, seniority means nothing. Nor does that Boston blue blood of yours.” He turned to his flight. “Let's go, guys. We got a MiG field to rip up.”

“I'm taking this to a higher authority,” Carson fumed.

“You going to write your Mom and Dad again?” Kara quipped.

Carson glared at all of them, then left the building in a fit of the sulks.

“That is not a happy camper,” Preacher said.

“His problem,” Guru said. “I'll tell him he's on the clock, either tonight or tomorrow.”

“Good,” Goalie said. “The sooner he gets away from here, the better.”

“Remember what I said this morning?” Guru reminded everyone. “But yeah, he gives me the slightest excuse, he's out of here. Let's go.”

The flight went to 512's revetment, where Sergeant Crowley was waiting, and 512 was bombed up and ready. “Sir, she's ready to go.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. “All right: a reminder. Call signs between us, mission code to everybody else. Anything else?” Heads shook no. “All right: let's mount up and hit it.”

The crews split up and headed for their aircraft. Guru and Goalie did their walk-around, then Guru signed for the aircraft. They mounted up and began their preflight checks. Once the preflight was done, it was time for engine start. After running up the engines, it was time for taxi. Guru called the tower and got permission to taxi, and the lead the flight to the runway. After holding so that the armorers could remove the weapon safeties, Guru got permission to taxi onto the runway. Kara taxied into the slot next to him, and they ran their engines up to full military power.

“Tower, Firebird One-one requesting clearance for takeoff.”

As usual, the tower acknowledged by flashing a green light. Guru released the brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air. Kara did the same with 520, and she was right behind the CO. Sweaty and Hoser followed, and Firebird Flight headed south to their rendezvous with the Weasels.
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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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  #188  
Old 05-18-2015, 10:17 PM
Ancestor Ancestor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Schone23666 View Post
Wow, just looking at that brings back a few Cold War memories. Hell, my first aircraft model kit was an F-4 Phantom.
As was mine, I was so freaking proud of it!
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  #189  
Old 05-18-2015, 10:20 PM
Ancestor Ancestor is offline
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Outstanding! Every time I read these posts I hear the Red Dawn closing music credits in my head! Well done!
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  #190  
Old 05-19-2015, 09:09 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Thanks very much! There's a cameo by a real-life Russian AF officer in this next segment, and can anyone guess what the guy did in our timeline?



South of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex: 1330 Hours:


Firebird Flight was at low-level once again, and headed east. They were south of Fort Worth, and had just crossed I-35W. The meetup with the Weasels had gone off, and Major Wiser had found that the lead Weasel, Coors One-three had two HARMs and two Shrikes, while Coors One-four had two HARMs and two Standard-ARMs. The Weasels were just ahead and above, while the F-4Es were tucked in tight, in two elements as they headed east.

“Two minutes to 35E,” Goalie called from 512's back seat.

“Copy,” Guru said. He was keeping his head on a swivel, watching the sky, watching his instruments, “Man, would you kill to have the displays in this bird that the F-15E's supposed to have?”

“I would,” Goalie replied. She, like the other GIBs, was handling the navigation. “Make my job a lot easier. One minute.”

“One minute,” Guru called. They were at 450 feet AGL, and doing 500 Knots. So far, there was no sign of SAM or MiG activity, but he knew from experience that could change in a heartbeat. Then another interstate appeared. It was I-35E. “Thirty-five E dead ahead.

“Roger. Your next turn point is I-45. One minute.”

“I-45 in one,” Guru acknowledged.

It didn't take long until the twin ribbons of I-45 appeared, and right then and there, Guru was wishing armed reconnaissance was their mission, for there was a supply convoy headed north. “And turning.”

“U.S. 175 in one minute forty-five,” Goalie said. “Right past Kaufman.”

“Copy.” Guru said. So far, no SAMs or MiGs. But soon, it'd be time to go to work. He looked around, and saw Kara's bird tucked in nice and tight, at his Four O'clock.

“Kaufman dead ahead,” Goalie called. That was the IP. Twelve miles to target, forty-five seconds.

“Roger that,” Guru said. Then he made the call. “Firebird flight, ready, ready...PULL! Switches on, music on, and time to go to work.”

“Two copies,” Kara.

“Three, roger,” Sweaty.

“Four,” Hoser.

“Firebird lead, Coors,” the Weasel leader called. “Time for us to go to work.”

“Copy that, Coors. Get some.” Guru said. He turned on his own ECM pod. “Switches set?” He asked Goalie.

“All set. Everything in one pass.”

“Good girl,” Guru said as he pulled up to 1200 feet AGL. That was bending it for the SA-2, but the Weasels should be able to kill the SA-2's Fan Song F radar.

Up ahead, Coors One-three fired his first HARM missile, and that HARM took out a nearby P-40 search radar that not only served the SA-2 site, but the AAA batteries near the airport. A second HARM forced the SA-2 to shut down, while he began to orbit. His wingmate, Coors One-four, fired a Standard-ARM at the SA-2, unknown to him, and unfortunately for the Soviet SAM operators, the AGM-78 went right to the Fan Song radar, and the AGM-78's big 214-lb warhead blew the radar apart.

Just then, the AAA batteries near the airport came up, and fortunately for the inbound raiders, only one had a Firecan fire-control radar, and as it came up, a HARM came down on it, killing the radar, and causing casualties among the AA gunners.

At Terrell Airport, the MiG-23MLAs of the 85th Guards Fighter Regiment (GIAP) were sitting on the ramp at the west side of the field. Their three squadrons had only just arrived in Texas, and it was proving to be everything they had been told about the place. And all of it bad. From locals who hated their guts, guerrillas who took pot shots at sentries at night, and could be counted on to mortar the field on a regular basis, and then there were the Americans in the air, whose F-14s, F-15s, and F-16s were every bit as dangerous as their intelligence briefings had told them. Some of the pilots were wishing they'd paid more attention to what the Su-25 pilots of the 452nd Independent Ground-Attack Regiment (OshAP) had told them about “this wonderful place called Texas.” Then the alert siren sounded, and the alert pilots ran for their aircraft. They were just getting strapped in when one of them looked to the south. The smoky trails and the chevron tail were obvious. F-4s were coming in.

“Lead's in!” Guru said. He'd pulled up to attack altitude, lined up the runway and ramp area in the pipper, and rolled in. “Steady, steady....”

“Flak coming up,” Goalie said. She'd noticed the 57-mm guns starting to shoot.

“Not this time, Ivan...” Guru muttered. “And...HACK!” He hit the pickle button, and walked his dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes across the field. He pulled away, and called, “Lead's off target.”

At the airport, the sirens were sounding and those personnel still out in the open were running for cover as Guru's F-4 came in. Two of the 2nd Squadron, 85th GIAP's MiG-23s were taxiing to takeoff when the F-4 walked its bombs across the field, and not only had several of his bombs hit either Su-25s or MiG-23s, but at least two had blasted holes in the runway. The leader taxied to the end of Runway Three-Five, but didn't notice the second F-4 coming in...

“SHACK!” Goalie said as Guru pulled off target. She could see several fireballs as parked aircraft exploded. “We got secondaries!”

“Save it for later,” Guru said. He turned north for I-30.

“Two's in hot!” Kara called. She rolled in, and as she did so, she saw two MiG-23s attempt a takeoff roll. Ignoring the flak, she released her bombs and pulled away to the north. “Two's off.

The two MiG-23s had started to roll down the runway as Kara's F-4 came in. The wingman saw the bombs exploding ahead of him and aborted his takeoff, but the leader didn't. As his MiG went down the runway, his MiG got into a bomb crater and crashed, going up in a fireball.

“Good hits!” Brainac called to Kara from 520's back seat. “And we got a couple of fireballs.”

“Good enough,” Kara said. She turned to follow Guru north. The sooner they were north of I-30, the better.

“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called. She came in, and put her bombs to the right of where Guru had. Not only was most of the Su-25 regiment exposed, but several warehouses next to the airport were as well. “HACK!” She called as her twelve Mark-82s came off the airplane. As Sweaty pulled away, she saw her bombs rip into two of the warehouses, while several Su-25s were blasted apart by a couple of Mark-82s landing among them, and at least one of her bombs landed right on the runway for good measure. “Three's off.” She, too, headed north.

“Good hits!” Preacher said. “And there's secondaries.”

“Four's in!” Hoser called. He saw where his element leader had made her run, and he laid down his bombs perpendicular to hers, namely, going right down the runway, and though he was taking a chance with the AAA coming up, he wanted that runway. “HACK!” Hoser called as he flew down the runway. His bombs came off his F-4 as he overflew the runway, and both he and KT saw a MiG-23 parked on the runway, while a fire burned in the middle of a bomb crater. Not your day, Ivan....

The MiG pilot saw what happened to his leader, and with the tower not answering his calls, he decided to get out of the plane. He'd seen Sweaty's F-4 make its run, and ran for a slit trench west of the taxiway. He had just jumped in when Hoser made his run, The bombs marched down the runway, and when one of the bombs found his MiG-23, the plane blew apart. He ducked into the trench as the F-4 pulled up and away.

“Four's off,” Hoser called.

“Got a secondary,” KT said. “Must've been that MiG.”

“He didn't have a good day,” Hoser said as he headed north.

“Firebirds,” Guru called. “Form on me and let's egress. Coors, how's it going?”

“Keepin' 'em busy, Firebird,” Coors One-three said. “You guys get clear.” Clearly, the Weasels were living up to their motto of “First in, last out.”

“Copy that,” Guru said. Just then, Kara pulled her bird close to him in combat spread. Then both of them heard a call from Sweaty.

“Lead, Sweaty, BREAK! Bandit in your six.”

Guru and Kara immediately broke. Guru pulled up and did a cross-turn to the right, while Kara stayed low and did a turn to the left. As they did, both could see an Su-25 that had been right behind them. “Sweaty, Guru. You have him?”

“Got him, Lead,” Sweaty said. She lined the Su-25 up in her pipper and selected HEAT. She got a loud growl in her headset as the AIM-9P3 was tracking. “FOX TWO!” Sweaty called as she squeezed the trigger.

In that Su-25, Lt. Col. Alexander Rutskoi was cursing his luck. He'd had several chances for air-to-air action in his combat time in America, and had actually shot down two CH-47s and two Hueys, along with taking a shot several times at A-10s. Now, he'd been getting ready to land when the tower waved him off. The base was under attack. Colonel Rutskoi seized his chanced and got in behind the first two F-4s as they formed up. He armed his R-60 AAMs and checked his cannon ammo status. Enough. He was trying to lock up one of the Phantoms when he saw them suddenly break. How'd they spot him? Then he saw a missile trail fly past his aircraft. Now he was the hunted.

“Damn it!” Sweaty cursed. The first Sidewinder had simply “gone stupid” and not tracked. She lined up the Su-25 again and got tone. “Fox two again!” This time, the missile flew straight and true into the left engine of the Frogfoot and exploded. To her surprise, the Russian was still flying, though trailing smoke.

Colonel Rutskoi let out some curses of his own as the Sidewinder exploded ahead of him. He was turning his head, looking for his attacker, when a loud bang exploded behind him. Then his left engine light went on, along with a couple other warning lights. But the Rook, as the Su-25 was known to its pilots, was built to take punishment, like its American counterpart.

“Tough mother,” Sweaty muttered. She got good tone on her third missile. “FOX TWO!” Again, an AIM-9P shot off the rail. This one went right, then left and tracked the Su-25. As it did, she did a high yo-yo to maintain position behind the Russian. This time, though, it wasn't necessary, for the third missile flew right into the Su-25's right engine and exploded. After the explosion, she saw the canopy come off, the seat fire, and the pilot was in his chute. Then the Frogfoot just flew into the ground, exploding on impact. “SPLASH!”

“Good kill, Sweaty!” Hoser called.

“Whoo-hoo, Lead!” Kara called. “Looks like we got another new ace.”

“Save it for later,” Guru reminded her. “Let's egress. Coors, we're out of here.”

“Copy that, Firebird. We're on the way out.”

Colonel Rutskoi had felt and heard the second strike on his Rook. He knew he'd be ejecting for the third time in America when the right engine exploded and every light on his control panel came on. He pulled the handle on his K-36D ejection seat, and he was soon hanging in his chute. Rutskoi watched as Sweaty's F-4 pulled up and rolled, apparently so the crew could verify the kill, then the F-4 rolled back and headed north, followed by a second F-4, obviously the wingman. Now, as he drifted to earth, he saw Soviet soldiers converging on his parachute. Shouting every cuss word in Russian that he knew, the Colonel saw the soldiers put their weapons down. These motor-rifle blockheads thought every parachute was a downed American.....He landed, and the pain that shot through his ankle meant he'd broken it. As he stood up, though in pain, a Kazakh private came up, shouting “Stoi.” He replied with several choice cuss words in Russian, along with his rank, and the private lowered his AK-74 and motioned for him to follow.

Sweaty and Hoser joined up on Guru and Starbuck, and the Weasels were right behind them. It wasn't long until I-30, and the Weasels, just like the morning strike, they broke off to head for the tanker track. Firebird Flight, though, didn't need to refuel, and they headed back to Sheppard. After waiting in the pattern for two Marine flights and another 335th flight to land, and two more Marine flights to take off, they came in and landed.

Guru taxied 512 to its revetment, and popped the canopy. “Good one.”

“It was,” Goalie said. “We need to get one more, then I'll be an ace.”

“In time,” Guru replied as Sergeant Crowley brought the crew ladder. “Get some buckets of water, Sergeant. Lieutenant Blanchard's now an ace.”

“Yes, sir!” Crowley said. After attaching the ladder, the crew chief ran to fill a couple of buckets, while Guru and Goalie climbed down from the aircraft. They did a quick postflight check, then picked up the buckets. “Here you go, sir.”

“Thanks, Sergeant.” Guru said. He and Goalie headed towards the revetment where Sweaty's aircraft was parked. Kara and Brainac were waiting when they got there, and they, too, had water-filled buckets. Hoser and KT showed up just afterward, and all six converged on Sweaty and Preacher, who were demonstrating the kill with hand signs to their crew chief. The Staff Sergeant saw those bearing buckets,and backed away. “Sweaty,” Guru said.

“Major?” She asked, then she turned, seeing the six close in on her and her GIB. “Oh, shit.”

“For which we are about to receive, we thank you, “ muttered Preacher.

“Congratulations, Sweaty and Preacher!” Guru yelled as Sweaty and Preacher were drenched by their flight mates.

“Welcome to the club,” Kara said. “Like the Major said a while back: 'you only make ace once.'”

“Thanks, guys,” Sweaty said. “Guess we'll be celebrating something else tonight.”

“We will,” a voice said from behind Major Wiser. It was General Tanner, who was there along with his aide, and Colonel Allen Brady, the CO of MAG-11. “Looks like we've got another ace team.”

Guru and the others turned, and saw the three. “Whups,” Guru said, sketching a salute. “General.”

“Another pair of aces?” Tanner asked.

“Yes, sir!” Guru replied. “Looks like someone's buying a round for these two.”

“I'll take care of that one,” Colonel Brady said. “By the way, congratulations, Major.”

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said. “Been pretty busy today, and haven't had much time to notice.”

Both General Tanner and Colonel Brady nodded. “Understandable, Major,” Tanner said. “Get debriefed, and you've got time for one more mission today. Get that done, and get back here by 1700. Two hours before twelve-hour ought to be enough.”

“Yes, sir!' Major Wiser said,

Everyone got back into game mode, and on their way back to the squadron's offices, Guru stopped by 512 and informed Sergeant Crowley of his aircraft's condition. The crew chief was pleased that no problems or issues had come up, and that there was no battle damage. Then they went into the classroom they used, and found the SIO there, waiting. “Major,” Lieutenant Licon said. “How'd it go?”

“Tore up the airfield,” Guru said. “And Sweaty got her fifth.”

Licon nodded, then asked everyone to show their strike paths on a recon photo, and on an FAA chart of the field. “So you guys hit both ramp areas?”

“We did,” Kara said. “Got bombs on both the MiGs and the Su-25s. Too bad they don't credit ground kills like they did in World War II.”

“I'll go along with that,” Goalie said.

“Same here,” Sweaty added.”

“Okay,” Licon asked. 'How about resistance?”

“Just triple-A,” Guru said, and the others nodded. “Didn't have any SAMs, so the Weasels did their thing.”

“Flak optical or radar?”

“Optical, .looked like,” Sweaty said. “There was smoke coming from the center of the west battery. They had the radar, and must've taken a HARM or Standard-ARM.”

Licon nodded. “And the kill?”

“Su-25,” Sweaty nodded. “He pulled in right behind the CO's element, and I called the break. They broke away, and took the first shot with AIM-9. It missed, so I gave him two more.”

“Both hits?” Licon asked, and Sweaty nodded. “See a chute?”

“Canopy went off, and the seat fired. Then he was in his chute,” Preacher said.

“Witnesses?” Asked the SIO, and six hands shot up. “Okay,” he smiled. “I'll write that one up as confirmed, and it's official: you're now an ace,” Licon said to Sweaty.

Sweaty smiled back. “Thanks, Darren.”

“You're welcome. I'll see you guys later,” he said, then went to debrief the next mission.

“Now what?” Kara asked.

“I'll check with Van Loan and see what Ops has for us,” the CO said “Get something to eat, get some rest, and check your squadron paperwork. Be back here in an hour.”

Heads nodded. “Where you headed?” Goalie asked.

“Taking my own advice on the last,” Guru said. “This CO thing takes getting used to.” He reminded the flight to be back in an hour, then went to his office. He was pleased to see that there wasn't much, and after taking care of what there was, he decided to see what was in the special packet Colonel Rivers had left for him. After Rivers' death, Sergeant Ross had come to Guru the following day, with a key to one of Colonel Rivers' desk drawers. In a letter in a packet Rivers had left for him, Guru had been told to get the key from Ross. Though he'd done so, he hadn't had time to see what was in the drawer. Now Guru did.

He went to the coffee maker and poured himself a cup, then unlocked the drawer. He got the packet, and opened it. There were a couple of Manila folders, and a note from Rivers. Guru, if you're reading this, get Carson's 201 File. Curious, Guru went to a file cabinet which had the officers' records and got Carson's file. He opened it, and went back and forth between the file and Rivers' material. “Son of a....this can't be right.” Guru went back and reread it. Then he read the other two folders. His jaw dropped. “Mother of God...” And the bile was forming in his stomach. “Of all the...” He'd had good reason to loathe Carson before, but now....And what to do?

Guru got up and thought for a moment. Nodding, he opened his office door and saw the Exec there. “Mark, I need to see you.”

“Getting ready to brief and then go,” Ellis replied. “What's up?”

“This can't wait, Mark.” The CO replied. “Push your mission back by an hour. Then come in here.”

Curious, Ellis nodded, and went to the Ops desk to postpone his mission. Then he came to the Major's office. “What is it?” Ellis asked, seeing the expression on Guru's face.

“Close the door,” Major Wiser said. “First, we never had this conversation, and you did not see this material. Understood?”

Ellis was curious. “Okay, what are we, uh, not talking about, and what am I not seeing?”

“Have a look,” Guru said, indicating the material on his desk.

Ellis gave a nod, then sat down and went over the material. It didn't take long for a look of revulsion to come across his face. “Now what?”
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  #191  
Old 05-19-2015, 09:11 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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You guys have seen Major Carson before....and here's several reasons why he's so despised.



335th TFS Commander's Office: Sheppard AFB, TX: 1430 Hours:


Major Matt Wiser stared at his Exec. “Mark, I have no idea. Most of what's in that file? Either the Statute of Limitations passed a while ago, or an Article 32 Hearing is going to see it as “He said, she said.”

Captain Mark Ellis looked at his CO, then at the material on the CO's desk. “Hate to say this, but you're right. Not much we can do, legally.”

The CO ndded. “Yeah. Still, get Ryan Blanchard here.” Capt. Ryan Blanchard was the Officer-in-Charge of the Combat Security Police detachment attached to the 335th. And before joining the Air Force, she had been a deputy sheriff in Michigan. “I want to run this by her, then get the Department Heads, Ross, and the senior female NCO.”

“Will do,” Ellis said as he got up. Five minutes later, Captain Blanchard, who was no relation to Sweaty Blanchard, came in.

“Ryan,” Major Wiser said. “I wish I didn't have to ask to see you. But this concerns a member of the 335th.

“Major,” Ryan said. “Well, Congratulations first of all. What's up?”

“First of all, we are not having this conversation. You didn't see this material.”

“Understood, sir,” Blanchard nodded. “So...”

“Have a look.”

Ryan nodded, then went over the material that the CO had shown the Exec. Both Major Wiser and Captain Ellis watched as her face turned red. To both of them, it looked like she was ready to pop.

“Major....I knew he is some kind of arrogant, self-righteous, know-it-all, and wannabe martinet who comes across as someone you'd like to punch out, but this?

“Yeah. And there's nothing legally we can do about it?” The CO asked.

The ex-Deputy Sheriff nodded. “Afraid so, Boss. The stuff at the Academy? The Statute of Limitations has expired, and even it it hadn't, says here the victim wouldn't testify. Elmendorf? That was consensual, even if the girl in question was the Wing Commander's daughter. She was over eighteen at the time.”

“Okay,” Ellis said. “And the last thing?”

“That is the he said/she said. No way would a civilian grand jury get an indictment. I know, you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, and even if they didn't and a DA went ahead, it'd get tossed at the Preliminary Hearing. Which is equal to an Article 32,” Ryan said. “I don't like it any more than you guys, but that's the way it reads to me.”

“Okay, Ryan. I read it the same way. Stay here, I want you here with the Department Heads. Mark, get them,” Major Wiser said.

Fortunately, it took just a minute to get the squadron's department heads, since Ellis had already contacted them. Not to mention Master Sergeant Michael Ross, the senior NCO in the 335th, and Tech Sergeant Natalie Sanchez, the senior female NCO. Kara was there, as she was the senior ranking female pilot, while Goalie was there as senior WSO, though there were WSOs with the rank of Captain in the squadron. Doc Waters, the squadron flight surgeon, Don Van Loan, the Ops Officer, Darren Licon, the SIO; Capt. Kevin O'Donnell, the Maintenance Officer, and the supply and ordnance officers. Everyone was wondering what the CO wanted them for. “Major,” Van Loan said. He could tell this was serious.

“Okay, last one in, close the door. And draw the blinds,” The CO said. “Now, we did not have this meeting, and the subject matter stays in this room. Do I make myself clear?”

Heads nodded, then Mark Ellis said, “You do, Major.”

“Sergeant Ross?”

“Loud and clear, sir,” Ross' voice thundered.

“Good,” Major Wiser said. “Now, we all know, love, and loathe one Major Frank Carson, even if you can't admit it,” the CO nodded.

“You can say that, Major,” Kara said. “Even if it's barely concealed.”

Major Wiser nodded. “Yeah. Okay, Carson's Academy as we all know. His contempt towards officers who aren't Academy grads, and treating NCOs and enlisted as serfs and he's the lord? That's just the start.”

“What are you getting at?” Van Loan asked.

“Okay. You and Goalie are Academy, right?”

“Yeah, I”m '81,” Van Loan said.

Goalie added, “82 for me.”

“Okay, Carson is '78. They have a SERE course at the Academy, and cadets are instructors, right?” the CO asked.

“That they do,” Goalie said.

“Carson was an instructor,” Major Wiser said. “He took advantage of a female cadet during an interrogation scenario.” And the CO saw jaws drop and feelings of disgust come across their faces.

Kara stared at the CO. “Why isn't this SOB in Leavenworth?”

“A week before the Article 32 hearing, she backed out and refused to testify. Then she left the Academy,” the Major said. “Rivers did some digging and found she had a visit at an off-campus cadet hangout from a couple of tough guys with Boston Irish accents saying if she testified, it would be a shame if something happened to her mother.”

“Witness intimidation,” Van Loan observed.

“Yeah. Rivers found out that she transferred to the University of Washington, and OSI arranged an ROTC scholarship for her. She's a C-130 driver at Yokota now,” Major Wiser said. “As for Carson? We've got a fellow who treated the Academy as a frat house in uniform.”

“Of all the...” Goalie said. “Not surprised. They told us a couple things about him. Wasn't sure if it was Upper Classmen scaring us Doolies, but now...”

Doc Waters nodded. “Okay, he graduates, gets flight, then what?”

“Got sent to Clark, and we all know how wild the towns are near that base,” Major Wiser said. “Even if we haven't been there, word gets around.”

Heads nodded at that. The towns near Clark AB in the Philippines were notorious for being dens of recreational activity whose legality was dubious at best. “Then what?” Kara asked.

“He got sent to Elmendorf in '82, he's a Captain now, and got sent back to the Lower 48 six months later.”

Several people looked at each other. “What for?” Mark Ellis asked. Though he already knew.

“Seems he got caught in the sack with the eighteen-year old daughter of the Wing Commander,” Major Wiser said.

Jaws dropped when the others heard that. “Oh, boy,” Sergeant Ross said. “Uh, sir.”

“So where'd they send him then?” Kevin O'Donnell asked.

“Moody, and the 347th,” the CO replied. “He impressed enough people that he went to Squadron Officer School, then got promoted to Major in October, '84. How he did any of that, I have no idea. Got married about that time, too.”

“And that didn't last long,” Van Loan commented. “It was final about the time he joined the squadron.”

“Yeah,” Major Wiser nodded. “Anyone want to bet that she found out about his past?”

“No takers,” Doc Waters said. “That's a given.”

“Makes sense,” Kara noted. “When was his divorce finalized?”

“November, '85,” the CO said. “Right after he joined the Squadron, and two weeks after Rivers did.”

Darren Licon nodded. “Okay, Major. How'd he get to the 335th?”

“He was on leave from Tinker when the war began. Couldn't get back to Tinker, as Ivan was slicing through West Texas and New Mexico like a knife through butter. So he reports to the nearest base, which is Nellis-”

“He was in Vegas?” Van Loan asked. “Hell, you and me were there for the Red Flag!”

“I know,” Major Wiser nodded. “But he was on leave. After a couple weeks at Nellis, they sent him to Kingsley Field and the first wartime F-4 RTU class. He passed-barely. And because of the losses we took those first few weeks, they sent him to us.”

“He does look good on paper,” Ellis admitted. “But he sure doesn't have a clue how things go in wartime.”

Major Wiser nodded. “Don and I picked that up pretty fast, though we were only First Lieutenants at the time. Colonel Rivers did, too, along with everyone else. But hold onto your hats. Frank was a flight leader three times, and he lost it three times.”

“What happened?” Licon asked.

“He had six wingmen shot out from under him,” the CO said firmly. “The last time it happened, I was Ops Officer and the guys in the second element came to me and said they wouldn't fly with him anymore. Took them to see Rivers, and then he called Frank in. Pulled him as a flight lead then and there.”

Kara nodded. “That sums up his flying ability.”

“It does, and the only thing keeping him in the cockpit is the fact that we need warm bodies in cockpits. If I could, I'd ground him and keep him pushing paper.” Major Wiser said. “Which brings us to this last matter. You all know Sandi Jenkins, right?”

Heads nodded. “Yes,sir,” Ross said. “When she was an Airman First Class, she was real popular, friendly, and I thought that if she ever finished college and went to ROTC or OTS, she'd go far.”

“Okay,” the CO said. “A month or two into the war, the Air Force announced an Airman to Pilot program. Enlisted airmen with two or more years of college, pass a flight physical, and pass the Officer Qualifying Test could go. A thirty-day version of knife and fork, they get their commissions, then off to flight or nav training.”

Van Loan nodded. “That's right: the knife-and-fork at Vandenberg, along with basic flight. The intermediate and advanced flight at Edwards.”

“Right you are,” Major Wiser said. “Okay, Sandi was the first enlisted airman from this squadron to go to that. How does Carson get into the picture? He was her immediate superior, and before Rivers saw her application, he had to endorse it.”

Darren Licon looked at the CO. “Don't like the way this is going, Major.”

“Neither do I,” Doc Waters said.

“Fast-forward to September, when we're still at Cannon. We get our first replacement crews since PRAIRIE FIRE kicked off. Sandi was one of them, though she didn't want to come back to the 335th. But we needed replacements, and she was in the pool. When she reported in, Rivers had a long talk with her. And as Exec, I wasn't allowed in. Just between the two of them. Then Don, he had you put her in as his wingmate.” said Major Wiser.

“That I remember. He treated her like she was his own daughter,” Van Loan recalled.

“That he did,” the CO noted. “She's a natural as a stick, and if she finishes those two years of college? She'll go far. And have you noticed that when she and Frank are in the Club at the same time? She stares at him with this look that says “Don't fuck with me.'”

“You bet,” Kara said. “If those eyes were daggers, Frank would be dying the death of a thousand cuts.”

“I've done the same thing,” Goalie added. “After the BS that he tried with me and Guru,” she nodded at the CO.

“Guilty,” Major Wiser admitted. “Now, Sandi was with the Colonel when he went down, and she was pretty distraught when she came back.”

“That she was,” Van Loan said. “Can you blame her? Not to mention having a 57-mm shell go through her left elevator without exploding?”

“No,” Kara said. “But what's with her and Frank?”

“Bottom line? He gave her a quid pro quo. I'll endorse your application. You give me one night in bed,” the CO said, and he hardly concealed his disgust at the thought.

Jaws dropped, and several people were muttering curses. “Of all the....bastard!” Kara yelled. And Goalie turned red, looking like she was ready to blow her cork.

Kevin O'Donnell looked at the CO. “Can't we put cuffs on him?”

“Wish we could,” Major Wiser said. “Ryan, you tell them what you told me.”

Ryan Blanchard stood up and spoke for two minutes. When she was finished, the same looks of disgust were still on everyone's faces.

“We can't change the past, people,' the CO reminded them. “We can, though, affect the future. And here's what we'll do.”

“And that is?” Kara asked.

“First, Carson's on the clock, even though he doesn't know it. He's got until 11:59 PM on New Year's Eve to shape up. If not, there's half a dozen good reasons in his OER to send him packing. I haven't kicked him out yet because he'd have good cause to go to JAG and say it was retaliation. So....Kara, you're the senior female officer in the squadron. You and Goalie?” Major Wiser nodded at his GIB. “Pass the word to the other female officers. Any unusual behavior on the part of Major Carson gets reported. Either to me, Captain Ellis, Captain van Loan, or Captain Blanchard. Got it?”

Kara and Goalie nodded. “Got it, Major,” Kara said. When he heard that, the CO smiled. That was the first time Kara had addressed him by his new rank.

“Mark? You and Don, in fact, all of you, spread the word to the other officers. Same thing.”

“Will do, Major.” Mark Ellis replied.

Okay, Sergeant Ross?”

“Sir?” Ross asked.

“Spread the word to the NCOs and enlisted airmen. Same thing. Anything unusual about Major Carson, I want reported. Sergeant Sanchez?”

“Yes, sir?' The Cuban-American female NCO asked.

“Tell the enlisted women. Same drill,” the CO said. “But, all of you? I'll need proof. No rumor or innuendo. It has to be verifiable. Good enough that I can kick Carson out, at least. And at most? Our friend Ryan here can put cuffs on him.”

Heads nodded, while Ryan grinned, arms folded across her chest. “It'll be a pleasure to do just that, Major.”

“To be wished for,” Major Wiser said. “All right: if he screws up big time? He's out. If he comes to me anytime between now an New Year's and asks for a transfer? I'll happily get rid of him that way. But, if he doesn't shape up? He's gone, period. Only thing is, he'd be someone else's problem.”

“Collateral damage,” Van Loan said.

“Unfortunately,” the CO nodded. “Okay, remember: we did not have this conversation, and this subject matter stays in this room. All we did was have a meeting of department heads and the CO. I'll talk to the General tonight along with Colonel Brady.” Marine Colonel Allen Brady was the CO of MAG-11, to which the squadron was attached. “I'll also talk with Sandi ASAP, and the soonest I can, I'll lay down the law to Carson. Is that clear, everyone?”

Heads nodded, and Ross' voice boomed. “Loud and clear, sir.”

“Good,” the Major said. “Okay, we've still got a war to win, people, so get back in the game. We've got missions to fly and two and a half hours of daylight left.”

Mark clapped his hands. “You heard the boss, people! Let's get back in the groove.”

People got up to leave, and as they did so, the CO told Kara, “Get our flight together. As soon as Van Loan has a mission for us, we're going.”

“Got you,” she replied.

He turned to Goalie. “Wish those rumors you heard at the Springs were just that?”

Goalie nodded. “Yeah, I do. Heard some nasty ones. Part of me wishes they weren't true.”

“I know,” the Major nodded. 'But then, you do know now there's some basis to those.”

“Nothing we can do about that, like you said. But I've got classmates who have that same kind of behavior. Hating non-Academy grads, thinking that class ring entitles them to whatever they want in the Air Force, and being general, all around assholes.”

Major Wiser looked at his GIB. “Which is why I probably won't go to my ten-year high school reunion, if the war's over by then.”

“Why's that? Goalie asked.

“The jocks are still jocks and the jerks are still jerks.”

“Remind me not to go to mine, if the war's over by this time next year. Or my fifteenth. For just that reason.” Goalie laughed.

The CO smiled. “Back in the groove. That's the Goalie I know” He saw his GIB have a nasty-looking grin..” Come on, we've got business with the other enemy. Van Loan should have a mission for us by now. We'll brief, then let's get it done.”

“Too bad some poor Russians have to pay for Carson's sins,” Goalie quipped.

“Convenience,” Major Wiser said. “Come on. We've got two hours of daylight left. Let's see what Don's got, then we make some poor Russians or Cubans burn, bleed, and blow up.”
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  #192  
Old 05-21-2015, 06:30 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The next set:

335th TFS Squadron Offices, 1500 Hours:


Major Matt Wiser and Lieutenant Lisa Eichhorn left the CO's office and headed to the Ops Desk. They found Capt. Don Van Loan, the Ops Officer, All were anxious to put the disclosures of the past hour behind them, and get on with business. Deadly business. “Don,” the CO asked. “What have you got for me?”

“Two targets, both next to each other,” Van Loan replied. He handed Major Wiser the briefing packet. 'Supply dump and a truck park. Supply dump northeast side of the U.S. 175/F.M. 2578 junction. The truck park is on the northwest side.”

“That's an Army-level rear area,” Lieutenant Eichhorn, call sign Goalie, pointed out.

The Ops Officer nodded. “It is. You'll be getting two Weasels. Coors One-one and One-two. They'll meet you at the tanker track over Mineral Wells.”

“And our way out is over some of the folks we hit this morning or afternoon,” the Major, call sign Guru, said. “Swell.”

“Sorry, Boss, but this is the first one that came down,” Van Loan said. “Intel sheet says SA-4 in the area, along with AAA near the target. And that's not counting MANPADS, or any mobile AAA systems with any convoys.”

“MiG fields?” Guru asked.

“Nearest operational ones after you took out Terrell Municipal are Athens, Tyler, and Corsicana. There's been some activity out of the old Connelly AFB near Waco, but no word on who they are. Might be the Su-27s who got run out of Dyess.”

“Might,” Guru said. “Okay. Thanks, Don. Don't tell me where you're going, but have a good one, and bring everybody back.”

Van Loan nodded, then shook the CO's hand. “Will do, and will try, Boss.”

“Wouldn't it be nice if we did lose someone in particular?” Goalie wondered aloud.

“Down, girl,” the CO said. “The downside of that is we lose a perfectly good and honest GIB.” He nodded to his GIB. “Let's go brief, then we get going.”

Goalie nodded, then the two of them headed to the classroom the CO's flight used as a briefing room. Guru led her in, and Kara was waiting, with the rest of the flight. “CO on the deck!” Kara said.

“That'll be enough of that,” the CO said. Then he saw General Tanner in the background. “General,”

“Major,” the General nodded. “Wanted to see you for your last one today.”

“Yes, sir,” Guru said. “Hope you don't mind a quick brief, sir.”

“Keep it short and sweet, Major,” Tanner said.

'Yes, sir,” Guru said. “Okay, listen up. We've got two targets. Both across a road from each other.”

“Let me guess,” 1st Lt. Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard said. “The usual supply dump/truck park combo.”

“Four-oh, Sweaty,” Guru replied. “Here's the target area,” He passed around the recon photos included in the briefing packet, pointing out the supply dump and the truck park. “Lead and two have the Rockeyes, so I'll take Kara and hit the truck park,” Guru nodded at Capt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, his wingmate, then continued. “Sweaty, you and Hoser have Mark-82 Snakeyes again. Take the supply dump. Other than that, we have the usual: four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7s, wing tanks, full 20-mm, and the ECM pods.”

“Threats?” 1st Lt. Nathan “Hoser” West, Sweaty's wingmate, asked.

“SA-4 in the area, and yes, we'll have a couple of Weasels with us. Coors One-one and One-two join us over Mineral Wells. Then there's at least one battery of 57-mm AAA, which may or may not be radar guided, possible 23-mm ZU-23, not to mention any mobile AAA with any convoys, or MANPADS the staff at either facility have access to.”

“And out egress out is close to where we've been going all day,” Kara observed.

“No getting around that,” Guru said. “Which is why the Weasels are with us. They'll have four ARMs each bird, so we should be good on that score.”

“MiGs?” Sweaty's backseater, 1st Lt. Byran “Preacher” Simmonds, asked.

“Good question,” Guru replied. “Nearest fields are at Athens, Tyler, and Corsicana. Possible from the old Connelly AFB in Waco, which is where the Su-27s that were at Dyess went to, but Intel says that's unconfirmed.”

First Lieutenant Kathy “KT” Thornton, Hoser's GIB, asked, “Bailout areas still the same?”

“They are,” the CO nodded. “Anyplace rural and away from roads is good. Anywhere north of I-30 is best. The Army's pushed a mile or two south of I-30 east of Lake Ray Hubbard, but it's still fluid. North of the Interstate is your best bet.”

Sweaty nodded. “Tanker tracks still the same?”

“They are,” said the CO. “Tanker Track SHELL is still over Durant, Oklahoma. And the same divert fields as previously briefed. Stay away from McKinney Municipal, though: it's a dedicated Medical Evac field, and the MASH there is pretty busy. So stay away unless you have no choice.”

Heads nodded.

“Boss, what's after this one?” 1st Lt. Judd “Brainac” Brewster, Kara's WSO, asked.

“Hopefully, that's it,” the CO said. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “All right; gear up and meet me at 512.”

As people headed to their locker rooms to gear up, the General came to see Guru. “Major, good briefing.”

“Thank you, sir.” Guru said. “General, when we get back, I need to talk to you. Privately.”

Tanner nodded. He had a very good idea of what the new Major needed to discuss. “I'll be here, Major. You have a good mission, and bring everyone home.”

“Thank you, sir, and will do.” Guru said. He left the room and went to gear up. When he came out, Goalie was waiting. “Well?”

“Let me guess: what did the General want to know?” Seeing his GIB nod, Guru continued. “Just a good brief, bring everyone back, and I asked to talk to him after we get back.”

“About a certain Major?” Goalie asked.

“Yep,” Guru said. “And maybe see what screwups can earn that.....person a General Court-Martial.”

“To be wished for,” Goalie said as they left the squadron's building, which had belonged to a T-37 squadron prewar. Then they ran into Maj. Dave Golen, 1st Lt. Sandi Jenkins, and their respective GIBs.

“Dave,” Guru said. 'And Sandi,” he nodded. “How'd it go?”

“Hit a convoy on I-45,” Golen said. He was an IDF “Observer” attached to the 335th. And on many occasions, he'd done more than observe.

“Any MiGs?”

“No, but Sandi got a Hip helicopter,” Golen said with pride. “Hopefully, she'll get a proper kill one of these days.”

“Good girl,” Goalie said.

“That she is,” Guru nodded. “Dave, could you guys go on ahead? Goalie, I'll see you at 512. I need to talk with Sandi for a minute.”

“Of course, Guru,” Golen said, while Goalie nodded and headed out to the dispersal area.

“Major?” Sandi asked.

“Sandi....how are you holding up?” the CO asked.

The lieutenant, who had her brown hair done up in a bun, nodded. “Sir, is it always like this when you lose a wingmate?”

“That pit in your stomach?” Guru asked. Seeing her nod, he said “It is. I was with a previous CO two weeks into the war when he was shot down. One minute he's there, the next? He's a fireball. And I had two wingmen shot out from under me in the early days. When I was with the Resistance? Saw and did some things I still won't talk about. You just get used to it, that's all.”

“That's what Major Golen said, sir. He said he lost friends in the Yom Kippur War.” Sandi replied.

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Feeling better, though? I imagine just flying was therapeutic. And getting that Hip was icing on the cake.”

Sandi's eyes brightened. “Yes, sir! And I felt that the Colonel was there. I can't explain it but I felt like...his voice telling me, 'Good kill', when I shot the Hip.”

“I know what you mean,” Guru said. “I know what Carson did with you. It makes me sick that a fellow officer used and abused his position to get what he wanted. You're not the first he's done this to, but, if I have anything to say about it, you will be the last.”

“Sir, how did you know?” Sandi asked.

“Colonel Rivers left a packet for me. Among other things, what happened to you was in it,” the CO said. “You have a right to know: he did this to someone at the Academy.” Guru explained for a moment, then finished. “We can't change the past. But we can affect the future, and he doesn't know it yet, but Carson's days in this squadron are numbered. If he doesn't shape up by New Year's Eve? He's out. If he fucks up just once before then? It's bye-bye for him. If he wants a transfer? I'll gladly sign the form, then shove him on the next C-130 out of here. Only regret is that he's then someone else's problem. But seeing him shoveling snow at Goose Bay or K.I. Sawyer would be good.”

Sandi smiled. “Sir, it would be worth paying money to see.”

“It would,” the CO agreed. “Listen, Sandi. If you need to see me for any reason? My office door is always open. If I'm not flying, and you need to talk, just knock. Spread the word about that. Colonel Rivers did the same thing, and I'm just carrying on where he left off.”

“Thank you, sir,”

“ Feeling better?”

“Yes, sir!” Sandi said, and Guru could tell from her voice that she was feeling better.

“Good, Lieutenant. Now go and debrief with Major Golen, and we'll see you at the Club tonight. You have a kill to celebrate.”

“Yes, sir!” She said, and snapped a perfect salute.

Guru returned it, and nodded. “All right, carry on.”

Sandi smiled, then headed into the squadron building. Then Guru went over to dispersal, and found his flight waiting at 512. “What was that about?” Kara asked.

“Had a little talk with Sandi Jenkins,” Guru said. “Wanted to see how she was holding up, and let her know that we know about her and Carson.”

“How's she doing?” Goalie asked.

“She's doing fine,” Guru said. “Dave's like the older brother from another mother to her, and she got a Hip today.”

Kara and Sweaty both smiled. “Well, do we have another ace in the making?” Sweaty asked.

“We'll know when she starts splashing MiGs,” Kara grinned.

“That we will,” Guru said. “Let's get into game mode, people. This ought to be our last one of the day. So....when we're on the radio? Just remember, call signs when we talk to each other, mission code to anyone else. Got it?”

“Got it,” Sweaty said, and heads nodded.

“Anything else?' Guru asked, and heads shook no. “Okay, then. Let's hit it.”

Guru and Goalie went to their aircraft, and the others did the same. Sergeant Crowley, the crew chief, was waiting, “Sir,” he saluted. “512's ready to go.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. He and Goalie did their walk-arounds, then mounted the aircraft. After going through their cockpit preflight, Guru got the “Start Engines” signal from Sergeant Crowley. First, one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running, Guru then contacted the tower, and got permission to taxi. After the wheel chocks were pulled away, Guru taxied 512 out, and the other three F-4s in the flight were right behind him. After holding at the runway to allow the armorers to remove the weapon safeties, the tower gave permission to taxi for takeoff. Guru taxied 512 onto the runway, and Kara taxied 520 right in close to him.

“Tower, Firebird One-one requesting clearance for takeoff,” Guru called.

The tower acknowledged by flashing a green light. Guru released the brakes, and 512, followed by 520, then Sweaty's element, rolled down the runway and then into the air.
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  #193  
Old 05-21-2015, 06:32 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And the next:


South of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, 1550 Hours:


Firebird Flight was at low-level, headed east. They had met up with the two F-4Gs of Coors Flight, and it turned out that Coors One-one was the CO of the 562nd TFS. But Major Wiser was the strike leader, and the light colonel gladly tucked his two Weasels in with the F-4Es. Inside the Phantoms, pilots and GIBs watched their instruments, or in the case of the pilots, kept up their visual scanning. Wartime experience had taught them that radar, whether onboard or from AWACS, didn't always pick up every airborne threat, while other threats, such as SAMs or AAA, not to mention power lines or radio/TV towers, were called out using the Mark I eyeball.

“Passing I-35W,” Goalie called as twin ribbons of interstate highway passed beneath them. “Two minutes to I-35E.”

“Roger that,” Guru said from the front seat. His eyes were at a swivel, going from his instruments to outside, then to the radar repeater, then the EW display. Oh, for the TEWS that the F-15Es are getting, he thought, though there was talk of McAir contracting to Mitsubishi for a “glass cockpit” F-4 if the war kept going, and there was no reason to think it would be over anytime soon.

“Firebird Lead, Crystal Palace,” the AWACS called. “Threat bearing one-niner-five, for sixty-five, medium, going away.”

“Those Flankers?” Goalie asked.

“As long as they're going away, they could be old MiG-17s for all I care,” Guru said. “Copy that, Crystal Palace.”

“If they were, we'd make Robin Olds nostalgic,” she replied. “One minute.”

“One minute,” Guru said. Then I-35E appeared, and as they flew over, there was scattered vehicle traffic. A small convoy headed south, and an equally smaller one going north.. “Turn point.”

“And turn,” Goalie called. Next up would be I-45, then the IP over the Trinity River.

Guru made the turn, and the others were tucked in, nice and tight. So far, no threats, either ground or airborne, had materialized, but that could change in a heartbeat. It was a minute to I-45, then another thirty seconds to the river. “IP dead ahead,” Guru said. “Coors, Firebird Lead. IP ahead.”

“Roger that, Firebird Lead,” Coors One-one called. “Time for us to go to work,” and the two F-4Gs pulled up and gained altitude, daring the SAM and AAA radars to come up. And they did, for an SA-4 and a gun radar came up, and two “Magnum” calls came over the radio.

“Firebirds,” Guru called. “Switches on, music on, and PULL!” That meant arm weapons, turn on the ECM pods, and pull up to attack altitude.”

“Roger Lead,” Kara called.

“Copy,” Sweaty.

“Four, roger,” Hoser.


Guru pulled up just as one of the F-4Gs fired a HARM at an SA-4 radar, Just then, two SA-4 missiles launched, but the HARM was faster, and the AGM-88 killed the SA-4 radar vehicle, and the two missiles went ballistic. An AAA radar came up, and Coors One-two fired a Standard-ARM at the Firecan radar, and the missile's 214-lb warhead found its target, blasting the radar vehicle and sending shrapnel all over the battery. Then it was the strike birds' turn.

“Switches set?' Guru asked Goalie.

“All set back here.”

“Gotcha,” Guru said. He leveled out at 900 feet, then rolled in. “Target in sight. Lead's in hot!” Guru then lined up the truck park in his pipper, ignoring the 23-mm flak coming up. “Steady, steady.....HACK!” He pushed the pickle button, and twelve Rockeye CBUs came off the fuselage and wing racks. “Lead's off target.”

In the truck park, the truck drivers from the 28th Army's material support regiment were cursing the powers that be. They had arrived from Houston before dawn, and had hoped to unload their cargo and get on the way back to Houston, but had been told to wait. Most of the truck drivers were mobilized from their civilian collective owners, while others had served in transportation units during their Army service. Most were standing around, chatting or waiting on something to eat, when someone shouted “AIRCRAFT!,” and pointed to Guru's F-4 rolling in. The truckers scattered for cover, while MVD troops, who escorted truck convoys, opened fire with their AKMs or ZU-23s mounted on trucks or BTR-152 APCs.

As Guru pulled away, he banked to see where his bombs had landed,and he noticed the tracers coming up. Then the CBU bomblets showered the trucks, exploding a number of them in fireballs. “SHACK!”

“Good hits!” Goalie said.

“Good enough,” said Guru. He then pointed his F-4 north.

“Two's in!” Kara called. She picked out the truck partk, and saw the CO peel away, and his CBUs explode. She grinned, then centered her pipper on some tracers that were trying to follow the CO's bird. No way, Ivan. Not today....”HACK!” And another dozen CBUs fell onto the truck park.

In one of the BTR-152s, an MVD Lieutenant was shouting at his Uzbek gunners. He was trying to get them to lead their target, but the F-4 was too fast. His gunners turned their gun back south, only to see a blur pass overhead, and a rain of CBU bomblets come down. Several of the bomblets landed in the BTR and it exploded around the occupants.....

“Good hits!” Brainac, Kara's GIB, called. “We got secondaries!”

“Save it,” Kara replied. She, too, headed north. “Two's off target.”

“Three's in!” Sweaty called. She picked out the supply dump, and rolled in. Sweaty was able to line up several fuel tanks in the pipper, and hit the pickle button. “HACK!” And a dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes came off the racks, and she walked her bombs across the dump. “Three's off.”

Several of Sweaty's bombs landed in the fuel storage area, and set off several large explosions as fuel drums, storage tanks, and even several fuel trucks, exploded in orange-red fireballs.

In his F-4, Hoser saw the explosions. “Four's in!” He called, and rolled in. Spotting several trucks that looked to be like they were loading, he lined them up in his pipper, then hit the pickle button. “HACK!” Twelve Mark-82s came off his airplane. Hoser then rolled away to the northeast, then headed north. “Four's off.”

In the supply dump, the Soviets manning the dump watched as first Sweaty's F-4, then Hoser's came in. Another rain of bombs followed from Hoser's aircraft, Several supply trucks, filled with supplies for the 28th Army's divisions, exploded. And a five-hundred pound bomb had landed next to the slit trench where the Army's supply officer had jumped in when the first bombs had hit the truck park....

“Good hits!” KT Thornton, Hoser's GIB, called.

“Secondaries? He replied.

“Several.”

“Good enough,” Hoser said, turning his F-4 to follow his element leader.


In his F-4, Guru had a smile underneath his oxygen mask. “Firebirds, form up on me, and let's get the hell out of here.”

“Copy, Guru,” Sweaty called.

Guru acknowledged, then turned to his four. Kara was bringing her F-4 right in, tucked in nice and neat. She gave him a thumbs-up, and he returned it as they headed north for I-30. Sweaty and Hoser were right behind them. “Coors Lead, Firebird Lead. We're outta here.”

“Copy Firebird,” Coors Lead said, “We'...” then there was a burst of static on the radio.

“Firebird, Coors One-two. Coors Lead is down.” his wingmate replied. And Guru could hear the concern in the woman's voice.

“Any chutes?” Guru called back.

“Negative. Gadfly came up all of a sudden.” Coors One-two responded. That meant SA-11.

Oh, man....somebody just inherited a squadron and didn't know it. “Coors One-two, nothing you can do,” Guru said. “Follow us and egress now.”

“On my way,” One-two said. And as Firebird Flight crossed I-30 and headed for Lavon Lake, Coors One-two joined them. And the strike crews noticed all four wing pylons were empty. Two HARMs and two Standard-ARM missiles had been expended.

“Across the fence,” Goalie said. That meant the battle line.

“Coors One-two,” Guru called. “You okay?”

“Affirmative,” One-two replied. The female Captain in One-two's front seat was a six-month Weasel vet, and had seen it happen before. Though not to the CO.....”We can make the tanker, then home plate.”

“Been there, done that, One-two. Good luck.” Guru said.

“Copy that. Maybe we can do this again, though without losing anybody.”

“Amen to that,” Guru said. He didn't envy that squadron's exec. Then the F-4G broke off and headed for the tanker track.

Though the loss wasn't from their squadron, the mood in Firebird Flight's cockpits was subdued as they headed back to Sheppard. They had lost Weasels or flak suppressors before, but it had been a while. They orbited in the pattern as the first A-6s began to launch, and four other flights of either Marine or 335th F-4s were ahead of them. Then they came in and landed. The flight taxied into their revetments, and the crew chiefs were waiting.

In 512, Guru and Goalie popped their canopies as they taxied in, and when Guru parked the F-4, both let out a sigh of relief. “That's done.” He checked his watch. It was 1615. “You do know that if we did a hot refuel and rearm, we could go out again.”

“IF,” Goalie said. “That in the cards?” After four missions, she was beat.

“No,” Guru replied. He took his helmet off, then wiped his brow with a handkerchief.

Sergeant Crowley, the crew chief, came up with a crew ladder. “How'd it go, sir?”

“Went good for us, Sergeant,” Guru said. “One of the Weasels went down, though.” He stood up and climbed down from the cockpit. “First in, last out, for them.”

“Sometimes it's first in, never out,” Goalie added as she climbed down from the plane.

“Yes, ma'am,” Crowley said. “Sir, any problems with 512?”

“No, Sergeant, she's still truckin'. Pull the strike camera film, and get her ready for morning.”

“Yes, sir!”

“One thing, Sergeant. Has Sergeant Ross told you about Major Carson?” Guru asked with due seriousness.

“Yes, sir. He came by and gave us the run-down. No rumor or innuendo, and if we do see anything, report it.” Crowley replied.

“Good man, Sergeant,” Guru said. “All right. Let's get 512 ready for the morning.”

“You got it, Major.” Crowley said, then he and the ground crew got to work as Guru and Goalie left the revetment. They met Kara and the other members of the flight at the entrance.

“Ordinarily, Boss,” Kara said, “I'd be saying 'good one.' Not today.”

“Haven't had a flak suppressor or a Weasel go down on us in a while,” Sweaty said.

“Yeah, but they were taking it bad in the early days,” Guru reminded them. “They took fifty percent losses back then. Just like the early Weasel days in Vietnam.”

Kara winced, as did Sweaty. “Ouch,” Kara nodded.

“Believe it,” Guru said. “And they're still flying G model F-105s on strikes into Cuba, they say.”

“Thuds?” Hoser asked, surprised at hearing that. “Those things are old.”

“But they get the job done,” Goalie said. She'd read some accounts from the Georgia Guardsmen who flew the old F-105Gs into Cuba.

“That they do,” Guru said. “Let's debrief, then check any paperwork. Then hit the Club. We've got a few things to celebrate tonight.”

Kara and the others grinned at Sweaty. “That we do, Major.”

Hoser looked at his CO. “Three pilot aces and two backseat aces in this flight. This a first?”

“Probably some Navy guys in F-14s,” Guru noted. “But in the AF? Maybe. But we've got three backseat aces. Brainac had two before he was Kara's GIB. He's got more kills than his pilot.”

Kara grinned at her GIB. “That he does.”

“Come on. Let's get debriefed.” Major Wiser said.

They went into the squadron building and got out of their flight gear, then went to the classroom they sued for briefings. When Guru opened the door, he found not only the SIO, 1st Lt. Darren Licon there, but General Tanner and his aide also. “Major,” Tanner said.

“General,” Major Wiser said, snapping a salute.

“What happened out there?” Tanner asked.

“Good for us, not so good for the Weasels, and bad for the Russians,” Guru replied. “Sir.”

“All right,” the General nodded. “Lieutenant?”

“Major,” Licon asked. “How'd it go?”

“Put my bombs on the truck park,” Guru said. “Got some secondaries as we pulled away.”

“Captain Thrace?”

“I'll confirm that,” Kara said. “Saw some secondaries as we were rolling in,” and Brainiac nodded.
“We got some as we pulled away.”

“Lieutenant Blanchard?” Licon asked Sweaty.

Sweaty pointed to the supply dump on a recon photo. “Put the Snakeyes on the fuel part of the dump, and we had quite a few secondaries go off.”

Hoser added, “She did, and we added to that.” He pointed to the western part of the dump on the photo. “Then we got out of there.”

“When did the Weasel go down?” General Tanner asked.

The flight all looked at each other. “Just after Hoser called off target,” Guru said. “Told him we were headed out, he started to reply, then there was a burst of static.”

“His wingmate came up and said the lead Weasel was down,” Sweaty added. “She formed up on us and we all headed out.”

Licon nodded.”What happened?”

“She said Gadfly.” Guru said. “SA-11 strikes again.”

“Damn it,” Tanner said, speaking in the debrief for the first time. “Any radar warning?”

“No,sir,” Guru said, and the others nodded. “Had to have been optical.” That meant optical guidance, for which several Soviet radar-guided SAMs had optical backups.

“Any other resistance?” Licon asked.

“Triple-A,” Sweaty nodded. “But no radar, and it was poorly aimed.”

“Concur,” Kara said, and Hoser simply nodded confirmation.

The SIO nodded. “Thanks, everyone. Major, I'll pull the strike camera footage and send it up the line.”

“Okay,” Guru said. He looked around, and caught General Tanner's attention, and the General nodded. “People, could you leave us? I need a word with the General.”

Kara nodded, as she was senior, then everyone, including Tanner's aide, left the room, and Licon closed the door behind him.

“General, permission to speak freely?' Major Wiser asked.

“Certainly, Major. It's your squadron.” Tanner replied.

“Thank you, sir. Sir, is there any way we can haul a certain officer before a General Court-Martial?”

“I know full well who you're talking about,” the General said. “Unfortunately, I had my legal officer have a look. Either the Statute of Limitations has expired, or an Article 32 hearing would rule insufficient evidence to proceed.”

“General, Colonel Rivers left me some information that said the same thing. And I had my senior CSP officer, who is a former Deputy Sheriff, have a look. She said pretty much the same a couple of hours ago.”

The General nodded sympathetically. “Believe me, Major. That officer is on a short list of people I would happily kick out of the Air Force in a hot minute. Unfortunately, we still need warm bodies in cockpits, despite their other faults.”

“Understood, sir,” Major Wiser said. “Sir, he doesn't know it yet, but he will as soon as I can, but he is on the clock.”

“Major?”

“Sir, he's got until 11:59 PM on New Year's Eve to shape up, drop that 'Academy man knows everything' attitude towards fellow officers who don't have an Academy ring, starts listening to the NCOs, and treats the enlisted airmen with some respect instead of as pieces of equipment,” Major Wiser said. He saw he had Tanner's full attention. “If he doesn't by then? He's gone.”

“And before then, Major?” Asked the General.

“Sir, if he screws up big time? He's done. And if he asks for a transfer anytime before then? I'll happily sign on the dotted line, and put him on the space-available C-130 myself. The only regret is that I'd be inflicting him on a fellow officer who doesn't deserve him.”

Tanner nodded. If he was a squadron CO who suddenly got Major Carson, he'd be wondering what he'd done to deserve someone like him. “Major, I think you're handling things in this matter as well as can be expected. I've had a look around, and things are going well in the squadron. Colonel Rivers laid down a fine foundation. If I were you, I wouldn't change a thing.”

Major Wiser smiled. “Yes, sir. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I'm not changing a thing. And when that officer we've discussed leaves, this unit can only get better.”

“That it will,” Tanner said. “Colonel Rivers had every confidence in you when he made you Exec, and you ran the squadron well when duty required him away. I knew from his reports that the 335 was in good hands if anything happened to him. And I have every confidence in you.”

“Thank you, sir,” Major Wiser said.

“Don't worry about missing out on Squadron Officer School or any other PME. World War II proved that guys who went through the School of Hard Knocks wound up doing well as squadron commanders. You and several others are carrying on the tradition.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now, the memorial service for Colonel Rivers is at 1000 tomorrow?” Tanner asked.

“It is, sir.”

“I'll be there.” The General checked his watch. “It's now 1640. You've got some squadron business, I imagine. Take care of it, Major, then I'll see you at the Officer's Club. We've got a few things to celebrate.”

Major Wiser smiled. “Yes, sir.”

Tanner shook his hand, then left. Then the Major left for his office, and as he got to the squadron's office space, he saw the members of his flight, along with a number of other pilots and GIBs, waiting. Including Major Dave Golen and Lt. Sandi Jenkins. The Major smiled, then gave a thumbs-up. And everyone applauded.

“How'd it go with the General?” Kara asked.

“Pretty good,” the Major said. “He said Colonel Rivers laid down a good foundation with this squadron, and we can only improve on it. I'm not changing a damned thing.”

“That's good to hear,” Capt. Mark Ellis, the Exec, said.

“It is, the CO nodded. He went to Maj. Dave Golen, their IDF “observer.” “Dave.”

“Guru,” Golen said, going by the IDF's habit of first names or call signs. “Again, my congratulations.”

“Thanks, Dave.” Major Wiser turned to 1st Lt. Sandi Jenkins. “Sandi? Feeling better?”

“Much better, sir,” she replied. “I've had a talk with Major Golen, and he's told me some things from '73 and in this war.”

“When he-or any of us-talk, it's from experience. This is his third war, so listen to him.”

“I do, sir.” Sandi replied, and the CO saw Golen nod.

“Good,” Major Wiser said. “Now, I'll see you in the Club. You've got a kill to celebrate.”

Her face brightened. “Yes, sir!”

The CO smiled, then nodded, and went to his office, where his flight mates were waiting. “Guys, if anyone thinks they're getting the 335th anytime soon? Forget it.”

“That's good to hear,” Goalie said.

“It sure is,” Sweaty added. “One more thing to celebrate tonight.”

“It is,' the CO said. “Now, Kara?” He turned to his wingmate. “The last time we celebrated a new ace, you wound up stark naked in the front seat of Carson's aircraft. Now, I don't mind if you get overexcited, but please, no shenanigans like that while the General's here, if you would.”

Kara looked at her CO, but saw that he was serious. “Got you, Major. I'll try and keep things under control.”

“You do that,” Major Wiser replied. Then Mark Ellis knocked on the door. “Mark?”

“Got a few things for you, before you knock off.” the Exec said.

“Guys, I need to take care of this, then I'll see you guys at the Club. The General may be buying the First Round, but I'll buy one in lieu of a promotion party tonight.”

There were smiles, then Goalie said. “Well, when these promotions go through, we'll have to have a squadron promotion party.”

“We will,” the CO promised. As everyone else left, he nodded to Goalie. “And we'll have a more....private celebration as soon as we can.”

Her expression went coy. “I'll be waiting.” Then she nodded and left the office.

“Don't need to ask about that,” Ellis said.

The CO nodded. “Wartime romance. And we're not the only ones in this squadron. Van Loan and Sweaty are seeing each other.”

“I noticed. They share a table at the Club every so often. A table in the chow tent, and on occasion, a sleeping bag or camp bed.”

“Along with two or three other couples, and don't forget Kara's antics,” the CO said. “What have you got for me?”

“Aircraft status update,” Ellis said. “We'll have eighteen for the morning.”

The CO looked at the sheet. “Two down for maintenance?”

“Yep. One's down due to a radar gone tango uniform, and Sandi's bird from the other day still needs a new elevator. The parts for both are on order.”

“Tell Ross to turn the scroungers loose,” the CO ordered. “See if they can't get the radar parts before Supply does. And see if they can't find a new elevator for Sandi's mount.”

Ellis looked at his CO. “That's a factory-level part,” the Exec pointed out.

“So?” Major Wiser replied. “There's bound to be F-4 elevators in some warehouse somewhere. Find one.”

The Exec nodded. “I'll tell Ross.”

“What else?”

“Ryan Blanchard wants an Apache Tracker Team assigned. The Marines, OSI, the new FBI office in town, and the Texas Rangers all think someone's taking an interest in this base.”

“Okay,” the CO said. “Tell her to put it in writing, and I'll approve it. Anything else?”

“That's it,” Ellis said.

“Good,” Major Wiser said. He checked the clock on the wall. 1650. “Good. Ten minutes and we can hit the Club.” Then there was a knock on the door. “Yeah?”

It was one of the Sergeants in the Admin side. “Sir, Major Carson's here.”

“He wants to see me?” Major Wiser asked.

“No, sir. He just got back.”

“Boss, have you-” Ellis asked.

“No. Not yet, but might as well get it over with,' the CO said. “Stay here, though. I want a witness.”

“You got it.”

“Sergeant? Tell the Major the CO wants to see him. Now,” Major Wiser ordered.

“Yes, sir.” the Staff Sergeant said. A minute later, the office door opened, and an officer who was universally despised in the 335th, as well as MAG-11, stepped inside. He was a dead ringer for the Malcolm McDowell played character from the movie Blue Thunder.

“You wanted to see me, sir?” Major Frank Carson asked., snapping a salute. And both the CO and XO could tell from the tone of voice that there was a bit of contempt in it.

“I did,” the CO said. He was leaning against the front of his desk, and sketched a return salute. “Close the door.”

Carson did so, and then asked, “What's this about, sir?” And Major Wiser could tell that the “sir” was an afterthought.

“I've been waiting to tell you this since I took over the squadron....”
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Old 05-22-2015, 07:43 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The next:


335th TFS Squadron Commander's Office, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1652 Hours:


Major Matt Wiser glared at the officer in front of him. He'd loathed the man for over a year and a half, and even when he was still a First Lieutenant, he'd been put off by Major Frank Carson's overbearing, Academy “know-it-all” attitude, his Boston Blue Blood arrogance, and that was the beginning. After coming back from his E&E with the Resistance, and getting 1st Lt. Lisa Eichhorn as his GIB, the two had developed a more...private relationship to go along with their professional one. Carson had found out, and tried to have them written up for fraternization. Major Wiser's predecessor as CO, Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, had asked them if the....private was getting in the way of the professional. They had replied no, and said that if it ever did, he'd be the first to know. Then Colonel Rivers had shoved a memo from General Tanner, the Commanding General of Tenth Air Force, advising unit commanders, JAG, and OSI to ignore any fraternization cases unless it was a senior forcing himself on a subordinate,. He had also outlined several other regulations that were getting in the way of job number one, which was winning the war. And the General felt that anything that got in the way of winning the war was to be ignored. Then, after dismissing the two officers, Colonel Rivers had given Carson a severe dressing-down, and Carson's complaints to General Tanner had been ignored, and now that the Inspector General's representative had been kicked off base by Tanner himself.....it was obvious to everyone that no one cared for Major Carson's attitude, complaints, or the man in general. Except Carson and a few fellow Academy grads from other services who had the same attitude, everyone in Marine Air Group 11 felt the same way.

“Major, have a seat,” Major Wiser said.

“I'd rather stand, sir,” Carson replied. And both the CO and XO could tell the contempt in the man's voice.

The CO nodded. 'Suit yourself, Frank. Now that I've had a couple days to settle in, it's time you and me had a chat. And you'd better pay attention. First of all, what's with you? Your Academy 'know-it-all' attitude, Boston Blue-blood arrogance, strutting around as if you're the Lord and everyone else is the peasants?”

“I have been trying since I arrived in this squadron to enforce Air Force Standards, and all rules and regulations-”

Major Wiser slammed his fist on the desk. “And a lot of that means nothing here. In case you haven't noticed, we are at war. And we've been fighting for our national survival for two bloody years. There's no time for your kind of attitude.” He glared at Carson. “That Academy ring on your finger means nothing. SAMs, triple-A, and MiGs don't discriminate, and ninety percent of the officers in this squadron, hell, the entire Air Force, came out of AFROTC or OTS. They are not brand-new Doolies, despite what you may think. And when NCOs give you advice, you listen! And the enlisted airmen who keep this unit flying and fighting are not pieces of equipment to be used, abused, and disposed of as you see fit. Those men and women work fourteen to sixteen hour days so that we can fly and fight. All that matters is ordnance delivered on the enemy and MiGs shot out of the sky. I could care less if officers go by first name or call sign, or if the NCOs and airmen who work on the flight line or in the hangars are either wearing the grimiest, dirtiest uniforms they have, or wear gym shorts at most, or shorts and either T-shirts or sports bras in the women's case because it's so hot on the flight line. We don't have time for snappy salutes, spit-shined boots, polished brass, or pressed uniforms! We're flying four, five, six times a day, if not more, and we don't have time for that kind of nonsense!”

Carson glared at the CO. It was bad enough that he'd been passed over for command of the squadron, but this...this peasant from some tiny California town, who'd gone to a 'hick' school and then OTS, now not only had the squadron, but rank to go with it. “Sir, there are still Air Force rules, and regulations-”

“And half of that means nothing once the balloon goes up!” The CO shot back. “Remember what the General said? If it gets in the way of winning the war, winning the war comes first! If we have to fold, spindle, bend, or mutilate a few regs in order to get results? So be it. What matters is results first. And when in doubt, win the war! Or has that ever occurred to you?”

“What about rank?' Carson sneered. “I have seniority in rank over you.”

Major Wiser got in Carson's face. “I'm not as rank as you. And I don't let it go to my head. And when a two-star general thinks I'm doing a good enough job running this squadron, that goes pretty far in anyone's book.”

“Just because the General thinks it's okay doesn't make it right,” said Carson.

“Oh? Care to tell him he made a mistake? He'll give you more of an ass-chewing than I ever will,' Major Wiser said. “And before we go any further, I've loathed you ever since you tried to have me and my WSO written up on a fraternization violation. In case you forgot, General Tanner, then the Air Force Chief of Staff himself told JAG and OSI to ignore any such complaints, because winning the war comes first! If you're wondering why I haven't transferred you out already, it's because you could go to JAG and claim retaliation. And I'm not giving you that pleasure.”

“That's another thing,” Carson said. “You and Lieutenant Eichhorn-”

“Ever hear the phrase 'wartime romance'? “ the CO shot back. “We're not the only ones. There's several such romances going on among the officers, and a few among the enlisted as well. As long as we keep our private lives private, it's no one's business but our own. And before you open your mouth, I'll say this: you are a bloody hypocrite.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Mark, you have his 201 File?”

“Right here, Boss,” Ells said, handing the CO the file.

“We know what you pulled at the Academy,” the CO said. “Treating the Academy as if it was a Frat House in uniform. Hell, your GPA would've made you eighth in your class. But your disciplinary record puts you in the 49th percentile. Then there's your taking advantage of a female cadet in a SERE exercise.”

“That never went to trial, let alone the Article 32,” Carson reminded the CO.

“Because some tough guys from Boston-did your daddy arrange that-intimidated the victim into dropping the charges. I'll tell you this: she left the Academy, and went to the University of Washington on an AFROTC scholarship thanks to OSI. She's now a C-130 driver at Yokota in Japan, and she's done more for the war effort than you ever will.” Major Wiser said. “Then there's your time at Clark after graduation and getting your wings, and then Elmendorf.”

“That was consensual,” retorted Carson.

“It may have been, but as far as the Wing Commander was concerned, if anyone he doesn't like touches his little girl, it sure isn't. Be glad he didn't take a shotgun to you and give you an ass load of buckshot or just march the two of you to the Chaplain's office for a double-barrel ceremony,” the CO reminded Carson. “Then Moody, and Squadron Officer School, and promotion to O-4 below the zone. How'd you manage that? The Academy's old-boy network help you?”

“I had an understanding commanding officer, unlike here,” Carson snorted.

“And you got married,” Major Wiser said. “But it didn't last long, because you were in the middle of divorce proceedings when the war began. Caught you on leave in Vegas, I see. Celebrating your impending divorce?”

“Wouldn't you?'

“Maybe, but I'm a bachelor,” the CO said. “And last, but not least, the Sandi Jenkins business. There's no excuse for that kind of behavior, and it galls me that a fellow officer would pull that kind of BS. One more reason for anyone to despise you.”

“What...” Carson stammered. How did that get out? It was so simple. One night in bed in exchange for his signature.

“She told Colonel Rivers when she came back as a First Lieutenant and with pilot's wings. He treated her like she was his own daughter, and made her his wingmate,” nodded the CO. “And she was with him when he went down. And before I forget, If I ever hear you badmouthing Colonel Rivers, I'll be tempted to slug you then and there. And everyone else in the squadron would be feeling the same way, so don't bother.”

“Are you threatening me?”

The CO got in Carson's face. “No. Just reminding you that you are the most hated man in this unit and on this base. And I'm giving you notice, Major.” Major Wiser thumbed at a calendar. “New Year's Eve, Major. 11:59 PM. If you haven't done a complete and total 180, you're done. And if you fuck up just once? You are out of my squadron.”

“What?” Carson asked. “You can't be serious.”

“Oh, but I am,” Major Wiser said. “And if you want to leave this squadron on your own terms? Just come to me and I'll sign the transfer orders. Then I'll shove you on the next space-available C-130 out of here. My only regret? I'd be making you someone else's problem, and that officer would be wondering what he did to have you arrive.” Then the CO got eye to eye. “Too bad I won't see it, but seeing you shoveling snow at Goose Bay or K.I. Sawyer, or being in some Air Liaison Team on the Montana-Alberta border when it's minus thirty outside in January would be something I'd love to see.”

Major Carson glared at the CO. And to the CO and XO, it was a look of total contempt. “Anything else, sir?” And that 'sir' was an obvious afterthought.

“Just reminding you that I gave you your first, last, and only warning. Do you understand me?”

“Yes,....sir.” Carson muttered.

“I doubt it, but one can hope,” Major Wiser said. “Now get out of my sight!”

Carson didn't say a word, but snapped a salute, did an about-face, then stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him.

“That, Boss, is not a happy person.” Ellis observed. “Never seen him that mad.”

Major Wiser nodded. “Neither have I, Mark.” He glanced at the wall clock. Ir read 1705. “Why do I get the feeling that the last ten minutes have been a complete waste of time?”

“Had to be done, Boss.” said the XO. “Sooner or later. At least you got it out of the way.”

“Yeah, but why do I also have the feeling that every word I said went in one ear and out the other?”

“At least you gave him fair warning,” Ellis said.

“There is that,” Major Wiser nodded. He looked at the clock. “Come on, the Club's open, and we got a few things to celebrate before twelve-hour kicks in.”

That we do,” grinned Ellis. “And you got a round to buy.”

“Don't remind me,” the CO said.

“Boss, it's my job to remind you.”

Major Wiser laughed. “That it is,” he said. “Come on.” And the two officers left the CO's office, and headed over to the Officer's Club tent.


Officer's Club Tent, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1710 Hours:


Major Matt Wiser and Captain Mark Ellis walked into the tent that held the Officer's Club. The prewar Officer's Club had been a candidate for reactivation, but it was a burned-out shell. It turned out that the Soviets had simply taken it over, until a Resistance operation managed to get a bomb into the building and blew the place apart, killing 44 Soviets and injuring 200 more. In reprisal, the Soviets took 440 prisoners from a forced labor camp and 560 ordinary people rounded up from Wichita Falls and nearby towns, and shot them all. War-crimes investigators were going through the mass grave, even as the fall rains were coming, to recover bodies and try to identify them. When MAG-11 heard the story after moving in, they had donated excess clothing and other supplies to the families looking for their loved ones' remains. And it had given the aircrews and the soldiers from III Corps yet another score to settle.


When the two AF officers entered the tent, they found it full of Air Force, Marine, Navy, and even some Army Aviation officers from III Corps. And it didn't take them long to be noticed by General Tanner and Colonel Allen Brady, the CO of MAG-11. “Ah, I see our last guest of honor has arrived,” the General said.

“Sorry to be late, sir,” Major Wiser said. “But we had squadron business with a certain officer. And I had to give him fair warning.”

Both the General and Colonel Brady nodded. They knew full well who the Major was referring to. “And how did it go?” General Tanner asked.

“About what I expected, sir,” Major Wiser nodded. “Though I can't help but think that everything I said went in one ear and out the other.”

Both Tanner and Colonel Brady nodded as well. They knew that it was more than likely the case, but the talk had to be done. “Time will tell, Major. Either he'll do a complete 180, or he's on his way out.”

“Yes, sir.”

Colonel Brady came and shook the Major's hand. “Haven't had time today, Major. But congratulations. Glad to see you make O-4, but too bad the man who thought you should get it isn't here to see it.”

“Thank you, sir,” the Major replied. “I know he's looking down on us and smiling. He knows.”

“That he does,” Colonel Brady said. “Now, get your drinks, because we've got some business to take care of before 1900 and twelve-hour kicks in.”

Major Wiser nodded. “Yes, sir.” He and Mark went to the bar and the barkeep came over. “What have you got tonight, beer wise?”

“Foster's, Sapporo, some Bud,” the barkeep replied.

“Any Sam Adams?”

“Expecting some later in the week. Sorry, Major.”

“Oh, well. Bud for me,” Major Wiser said.

“Same here,” Ellis added.

The barkeep nodded, popped two bottles, and plopped them down in front of the two officers. Major Wiser paid him, then they walked over to where most of the squadron's officers were gathered. “You know, Bud's a good way of sticking it to the Russians.”

“What do you mean by that?” Capt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, the Major's wingmate, asked.

“Anheiser-Busch was one of those, like McAir, that wasn't hit in the firebombing of St. Louis,” the Major said. “They're still going, and every bottle they put out is one more to shove up Ivan's ass.”

“That's how many beer bottles shoved up that bastard Chebrikov's rear end?” First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, the Major's WSO, asked.

“A lot,” Ellis replied.

The bell at the bar rang, and General Tanner got up. “People,” he said as he surveyed the crowd. “Two days ago, you lost your CO. Lieutenant Colonel Dean Rivers. A fellow Vietnam vet, a trusted aide, and a good friend to me. To you, he was a father figure, someone the more junior members of the squadron looked up to. And to others, he was not just a beloved commanding officer, but he was a good friend. And he'll be dearly missed.” The General paused for a moment. “I know losing a CO is hard, and trust me, in my F-105 days, I lost a couple. But, he's looking down on you and smiling, and he'll be with you in spirit as we finish the job he helped start, and we kick those Commie bastards back to where they came from,” General Tanner surveyed the crowd again. “So, here's to Colonel Rivers.” He raised his beer bottle.

“To Colonel Rivers,” the crowd repeated. And the toast was drunk.

“Now, then, to more positive business,” the General said. “Major Wiser, front and center!”

The Major heard several of his friends mutter “Uh-oh,” as he stepped forward. “General,” he nodded.

“Colonel Rivers set things in motion when he decided his Exec should have the rank that went with the job. Unfortunately, he went down before it could be finalized. It's a pity he's not here to see this, but he's watching you from above and he's no doubt very pleased. So, here's to the new CO of the 335th, Major Matt Wiser, and here's to the best damn Air Force F-4 unit in Tenth Air Force!”

“Hear, hear,” the crowd said, and then the 335th people started to shout “Speech! Speech!”

The Major got up and addressed the crowd. 'Well, people, let me say this: It's an honor and privilege to be your commanding officer. Colonel Rivers had a rule in the squadron: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Well, the 335th ain't broke, and nobody's going to fix it! Despite what some people-” he shot an icy glance to one corner of the bar where Major Frank Carson was sitting-”may think.” He surveyed the 335th officers. “I know I've got to buy a round tonight. But, there's several of you who are up for promotion in the coming weeks. When you guys get your promotions, we're going to have one hell of a promotion party! How's that, people!” There was a lot of applause, then he finished. “And like the General said, Colonel Rivers is going to be watching over us, and be with us in spirit, as we get the job done and send those Commie bastards back to where they came from! Drink up, people!” Then he turned to General Tanner. “General,”

“Major, I believe you have some squadron business to take care of now?”

“Yes, sir,” Major Wiser said. “Lieutenant Valerie Blanchard and Lieutenant Bryan Simmonds, front and center!”

When Sweaty and Preacher heard their names called, there was applause, as everyone knew that they had made ace that day. “Major,” Sweaty nodded.

“Now., Sweaty and Preacher's first kill was a MiG-21R that some Cuban was using to get the guys in Western New Mexico on Candid Camera,” the Major joked. “I got the escort, but she got the photo plane. Their second kill was a MiG-29, and he, like his flight lead, didn't think that an F-4 could kill a Fulcrum, Well, we taught them wrong, and that MiG flight leader walked home from that one. Kill number three was a Hip on the Denver Siege Perimeter, while number four was a MiG-23 that she got when our dear friend Kara Thrace made ace-” the Major waved at Kara, and she waved back-”while their fifth? Some Su-25 jockey thought a Frogfoot could handle an F-4. He thought wrong, and Sweaty and Preacher made sure he walked home from that one. Though I bet as he was walking back to his field, he was probably wondering, 'Where did that damned F-4 come from?'” There was quite a bit of laughter at that. “Now, Sweaty, Preacher, you guys are now fighter aces. You two are a pair of certified, card-carrying aerial assassins, and no one can take that away from you. Welcome to the club!” Major Wiser, an eight-kill ace, said, and there was a thunder of applause.

“Thanks, Major,” Sweaty said, while Preacher echoed it.

“You've got an hour and a half to party hearty, so get with it,” the CO said. He turned to the General, who nodded. 'All right, we got one last bit of business. Lieutenant Sandi Jenkins and Lieutenant Ken Dahlberg, front and center!”

When they heard that, Sandi and Ken gulped, then went to where Sweaty and Preacher had stood.

“Now, you two don't have call signs, and that's something we need to work on, isn't that right people?”
The Major said, and there was a bit of chatter about that, then he waved his hand and everyone quieted down. “Now, Ken, you were so good at the RTU they kept you on as an instructor, but you finally get to do what you signed up for, and you're doing a hell of a job. Sandi?

“Major?” Sandi asked.

“Sandi, you were in the 335th from Day One, not as a pilot, obviously, but as an airman. Then Airman to Pilot opened up, and you were the first to go from this squadron. It was a tough road, but you're back, and you've earned the respect of your squadron mates for coming back. Colonel Rivers took you under his wing, and made you his wingmate, and he treated you as if you were his own daughter. He made you forget that past, and get on with the job at hand. And you were with him when he went down, and speaking as someone who saw two squadron commanders go down, well, 'been there, done that.'” Major Wiser paused, then continued. “I know what it's like. That pit in your stomach. Well, all you can do is suck it up and get on with the job at hand. Now, you've got the older brother from another mother as your element lead-and Major Golen, stand up if you will?” Major Dave Golen, their IDF “observer” stood up. “And the two of you are going to do just fine. Now, she got back in the saddle today, got it out of her system, and, most important, Sandi got her first kill today. How's that for back in the groove?”

Once again, there was quite a bit of applause.

“Now, it may have only been a Hip, but what the hell, a kill's a kill, right?” The Major asked. “And when she gets her fifth? We're going to have a hell of a party, and not only are we going to be proud of her, but I know Colonel Rivers will be, watching from above. Isn't that right?”

The crowd shouted approval, “Hell, yes!”

“Okay, Sandi? Ken? You two did great today, and keep at it.” The two nodded, then Major Wiser finished. “Okay, I'll buy the next round, then it's sixty-five minutes to twelve-hour, so drink up, people!” The Major bought the round, then took his second beer over to Goalie's table. She had been sitting with Kara and Brainiac, Kara's WSO. “Well?”

“Was it this raucous when Colonel Rivers took over?” Goalie asked.

“More subdued,” The CO said. “We just had two CO s and an XO shot out from under us, the news was still bad, even though the front lines were stalled, and we were wondering how long he'd last.”

“I can imagine,” Kara said. “Heard plenty about how bad it was at Kingsley.” Kingsley Field in Oregon was the West Coast F-4 RTU.

“Bad enough,” the CO said, recalling those first months of the war. He changed the subject. “Now, Kara, you going to hustle anyone at the pool table or at a poker game tonight?”

“Maybe, Boss,” Kara said. “What are you getting at?” And both Goalie and Brainiac were listening intently.

“Well, the last thing anyone wants is a repeat of your antics after you made ace,” the Major noted. “Tonight, if someone loses to you and can't pay? Take a check for once.”

“Okay, Boss,” Kara said as she got up and headed over to the pool table.

“Well?” Goalie asked. “When are we having our little private celebration?”

“Not while the General's here,” Major Wiser said. It was an open secret in the 335th that the two were seeing each other on a more.....intimate basis.

“Fair enough,” Goalie said.

The Marine mess people brought dinners into the Club, and the CO got a fried chicken dinner for himself and another one for Goalie. “This is fine. A cold beer, fried chicken, corn on the cob, cole slaw, and good company.”

“That it is,” Goalie smiled.

Major Wiser nodded, then glanced over at the pool table. “Oh, no.”

“What?” Goalie asked, turning to look.

The CO put his palm to his face. “Please tell me that isn't Kara and the General at the Pool Table, and someone has challenged the other to a game.”

“Okay, I won't,” Goalie said.

“That's good.”

“But Brainiac will,” Goalie said, nodding at Kara's WSO.

“Well?” Major Wiser asked.

Brainiac smiled. “Exactly as described, Major.”

“I was afraid of that.”


The CO, and everyone else, watched, either from a distance or close up, as General Tanner and Kara went through the game. It didn't take long for Kara to realize that she was up against someone who'd done this before, and often. And it didn't take long for experience to take hold, for there was shock in the Club as General Tanner did something that few had managed to do. Beat Kara. She smiled, shook hands, paid the $50.00, then came over to the CO's table in a fury.

“How'd he manage that?” Kara fumed as she finished her beer.

Goalie looked at her. “How much did he take you for?”

“Fifty,” spat Kara. “He's done this before.

“I'll find out,” Major Wiser said, standing up. “And Kara?”

“What?”

“Can't win them all.”


Major Wiser went over to the General, who was shaking hands with Colonel Brady. “General, I see you've managed to do what very few have managed to do. Beat the Wild Thing at one of her games.”

Tanner nodded. “Major, I'm not new at this. Won quite a few at Takhili in my second F-105 tour.”

“I'll take your word for it, sir.”

“Well, I've got some of my own paperwork to catch up on,” Tanner said. “I'll see you at the memorial service. 1000, correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

Tanner took his leave, then Major Wiser went back to the table. Kara was still there, fuming. “What'd the General say?”

“Takhili, 1967,” the CO said. “Did this quite a few times, he said..”

“Figures.” Kara spat. “Well, the poker table awaits.”

One of the Navy Flight Surgons with MAG-11 rang the bell at the bar just after that. “Okay, people! Twelve-hour now in effect!”

Major Wiser checked his watch. “Nineteen hundred on the dot,” he said. “Okay, Kara? You stick to club soda or Seven-up. Comprende?”

“Gotcha,” Kara said as she got up.

“And Kara?”

“Yeah, Major?”

“No shenanigans like you did when you made ace, okay? The last thing I want to is find out you're in Carson's front office, stark naked and drunk as a skunk. Especially while the General's here,” Major Wiser said with all due seriousness.

“Major, you know me,” Kara said, giving the innocent act.

“I do,” the Major replied. “There's a right time for getting crazy, but tonight's not one of them. Not while the General's on base.”

Kara looked at her CO and saw that he meant it. “Understood.”

“And one more thing: tonight, make an exception. If someone can't pay what they owe you? Take a check this one night.”

“Will do, Major,” Kara said, then she went and got in on a poker game.

“Well?” Goalie asked.

“This is a first,” Major Wiser said. “Kara actually taking it cool for a night.'

“With the General here? Even she wouldn't get that crazy.” Goalie said.

“You never know, but she will,” the CO replied. “I'll get us a plate of nachos, something nonalcoholic to drink, and be back We've got a couple of hours to kill before aircrew curfew.”

The card games and the pool table were busy, and those not interested were glued to a rerun of the 1979 World Series on ABC when Colonel Brady rang the bell. “Okay, people! Aircrew curfew for those on the flight schedule is now in effect!”

Those on the flight schedule, no matter what service they belonged to, got up and headed for their respective tents. Even with the memorial service scheduled for 1000, it would still be a typical day, with three or four sorties per crew the norm.
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  #195  
Old 05-22-2015, 07:45 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And more:



335th TFS Offices, Sheppard AFB, TX: 29 October, 1987, 0530 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser entered the squadron offices, and found the night duty staff still at it. They didn't get off duty until 0600, then the day shift took over. Another bunch of unsung airmen who keep us in the fight, he knew, though their numbers compared to the day shift were small. He nodded at Capt. Kerry Collins, the NDO. Collins was serving as Night Duty Officer while he got over a cold, and Doc Waters, the Flight Surgeon, was serious about anything that affected the health of the aircrews. As the CO came in, Collins jumped up and Major Wiser nodded. “Kerry, we're in a war zone, and that jumping up and down nonsense has to stop.”

“Sorry, sir. Old habits are hard to break.”

“Academy, right?” the Major asked.

“Class of '82, sir,” Collins nodded. He'd just been promoted to Captain only a month earlier.

“That explains it,” Major Wiser said. “You've heard about Major Carson?”

“Yes, sir,” Collins said. “Sir, if those stories are true-”

“They are, Captain,” the CO said. “You can take it to the bank.”

“Then, sir,” Collins said with due seriousness, “Find something and nail his ass to the wall, then nail him. Uh, sir.”

“Hopefully, we'll do just that,” Major Wiser said. “How's the cold?”

“Another four or five days, Major,” Collins spat. He gestured to some pills he had been prescribed. “Be glad to get off the pills.”

“Well, at least at night you can steal a nap. Unless there's a Scud alert, and we haven't had much of those recently.” The CO gestured to his office. “The Exec in?”

“Yes, sir. He's in your office.”

“Thanks, Kerry,” Major Wiser said. He went to his office and opened the door. “Morning, Mark.”

Captain Mark Ellis, the XO of the 335th, stood up from a chair in front of the desk.”Boss,” he nodded, then handed his CO a cup of coffee.

“Okay, what do you have for me?” Asked the CO.

The XO handed him a paper. “Aircraft status sheet. Still two birds down.”

“Ross' scroungers find anything to help in that regard?' Major Wiser asked, looking at his Exec.

“A couple of the radar parts, but not everything,” Ellis admitted. “They're still looking. But they did get us some extra hydraulic fluid and brake fluid. And an unattended Pave Spike pod.”

“A WHAT?”

“A for real Pave Spike pod, unattended with no tags identifying which unit it belonged to. So they, uh, appropriated it.” The XO said.

The CO stared at his Exec, then nodded. “All right. Anything on the other parts or the elevator for Sandi's bird?”

“They're running down leads, and as for the elevator, Ross says that he knows someone who knows someone who might have an idea where we can find one.”

Major Wiser nodded. “Okay. Just as long as there's no felony arrests, and no one gets caught or hurt,” he reminded his Exec. Then he signed the sheet. “Any word on replacement aircraft?”

The Exec handed him a message form. “Two birds due in from Japan, and we should have them by Monday.”

“Monday,” the Major made a note. “That's 2 November. From McClellan?”

“You got it. They have to install the bombing computer and the stuff like Pave Tack and Pave Spike interface, and the AGM-65 controls. The stuff that Japanese law doesn't let them install at the factory.”

Major Wiser nodded. “And anything about crews?”

“Two crews fresh from Kingsley Field.”

'Okay, that'll get us to twenty-two aircraft and thirty-two crews,” the CO commented. “Most we can expect for a while.”

“Yeah,” the Exec agreed.

“Anything personnel wise?”

'One applicant for Airman to Pilot,” the Exec handed a form to the CO. “Airman First Class Holly Lockhart. Five semesters at USC before she dropped out to join the Air Force.”

“Any problems?” Major Wiser asked.

“Yeah, She works for one Major Frank Carson,” Ellis said, and he could tell that the CO's face was turning red upon hearing that.

“Of all the...and we know Frank's price for signing the application.”

“We do, sad to say,” Ellis replied.

The CO nodded. The thought of Carson using his power to get another female airman into his bed for a night made him furious. Not to mention queasy. “Okay, I've got an idea to bypass Frank. You're the Exec, and can sign things for me if I'm not available, right?'

“That's right, Boss.”

An evil-looking grin came over the CO's face. “Here's how we'll do it. You sign for him, as he's 'unavailable.' Then bring the application to me, I'll sign it, then we pass it along and Lockhart packs her bags. You like?”

“Major, has anyone told you that you can be a sneaky bastard?” Ellis said.

“Got to be one when I was Exec,” the CO replied. “What else?”

“Morning report for MAG-11,” Ellis said, handing him the document.

The Major nodded and signed it. After he handed it back to Ellis, there was a knock on the door. “Yeah?”

A female officer in a flight suit with wavy blonde hair came in. First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn was the Major's WSO, and also his girlfriend, though since he'd become CO, they'd been more discrete, especially with General Tanner, the Tenth Air Force Commanding General, on base. She had two cups of coffee in her hands. “Morning, Major,”

“Lieutenant,” the CO nodded pleasantly, though it was an open secret in the squadron that the two were on an intimate basis with each other. “Still trying to bribe me with coffee?”

“Just trying to make sure my pilot is awake and alert, as usual,” Goalie smiled.

“Fair enough,” Major Wiser said. “Mark, everything set for Colonel Rivers' memorial service?'

“All set, Major. Everyone's supposed to be back by 1000, and the only ones who can't attend are the ordnance guys and Combat Security Police. They have to work, because-”

“I know: as soon as the service is over, people are going right to their cockpits,” the CO said. “And chances are, my flight will be among them. Who's the Chaplain?”

“Navy one from MAG-11,” Ellis said.

“Rivers was Lutheran,” the CO reminded the Exec. “Is he?”

“Couldn't get one,” Ellis said. “Episcopalian.”

The Major nodded. “That's me, but I haven't been in church in years. Okay, squadron color guard?'

“Ross is handling that.” Master Sergeant Michael Ross was the senior NCO for the 335th.

“The salute?”

“Colonel Brady offered some Marines to do that,” the XO replied. Colonel Allen Brady commanded Marine Air Group 11, to which the 335th was attached. “He said it's the least he could do.”

Major Wiser nodded. “All right. Ten hundred?”

“Starts on the dot,” Ellis said.

The CO nodded, then looked at the wall clock. “0545. Chow tent opens in fifteen minutes. Let's go eat, then we brief, then we fly.” Then he looked at his GIB. “Kara keep her promise?”

“She did. Saw her in the shower, and she was ready to go.” Goalie said.

“Fair enough,” said the Major. “Let's go.” He drained his coffee, then nodded at his WSO. “Ready?”

“Hungry enough to eat a horse, and ready to fly.”

The CO nodded. “Let's go. Oh, Mark? Next time?'

“Yeah?' the Exec replied.

“Cocoa.” Major Wiser said, then he headed on out.

“Where am I going to find cocoa on this base?” Ellis wondered aloud.

“Ask Ross,” Lieutenant Eichhorn said, then she followed the CO.

Ellis nodded, smiled, and said to himself. “Gotta keep the CO happy.” Then he made a note for Ross and the scroungers, then followed the CO to the Mess Tent.


When they got to the Officer's Mess Tent, they found most of the 335th's aircrew, along with their Marine and Navy counterparts. And the first officer Major Wiser found was Colonel Brady. “Colonel,” he said, saluting.

“Major,” Brady said, returning the salute. “Just wanted to let you know: I'll be at the service. And your Exec asked about a rifle salute? Not to worry. I'll provide seven Marines for one.”

“Thank you, sir,” Major Wiser said.

“And Major? If you need any advice? Just ask. Stepping into a dead man's shoes is something that is not taught in any service academy or officer's candidate school, regardless of branch,” Brady said.

“I will, sir,” the Major said. “And where's General Tanner?”

“He's eating with the enlisted troops this morning,”

And that was why the General was so popular. He took care of his subordinates, something that a certain officer in the 335th seemed not to understand. “We're his 'kids' you know, sir,”

“That we are, Major,” replied Brady.

Then Major Wiser saw the members of his flight gathered near the entrance. “Sir, I need to talk with my flight.”

“No problem, Major,” Brady said. “In case I don't see you before, good luck, and I'll see you at the service.”

Major Wiser nodded. “Thank you, sir, and will do.” He, Ellis, and Goalie went over to where Kara, Sweaty, Hoser, and their respective WSOs were waiting. “Kara,”

“Major,” Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace replied. “Had a quiet night.”

“She did,” First Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard said. “Got home with us, and woke up at zero-dark-thirty, ready to get with it.”

“Any antics?” Major Wiser asked.

“Nope,' Kara replied.

The CO nodded. “I don't mind people out getting crazy, but not while the General's here.”

“Will do, Major,” Kara said, and the others nodded.

Just then, the Mess Officer came out and changed the sign from CLOSED to Open. “All ready, folks,” he said.

“All right: let's eat. Then I'll get the frag order, we'll brief, then we fly.” Major Wiser said.

After breakfast, his flight headed for the old classroom they used as a briefing room, while the CO went and got the FRAGO from Capt. Don Van Loan, the Ops Officer for the 335th. He then went to the briefing room, and found his flight members waiting. “People,” he said.

“What have we got, Guru?” Sweaty asked. Guru was the CO's call sign.

Guru opened the packet and a scowl went over his face. “Great. On-call CAS. Northeast sector, along I-30.”

“We could be in a holding pattern for a while,” Kara pointed out.

First Lieutenant Nathan “Hoser” West, Sweaty's wingmate, nodded. 'That we can, Boss.

“I know,” Guru said. “Let's see...antiarmor loadout, with twelve Rockeye CBUs each airplane. Full load 20-mm, four AIM-9s and two AIM-7s, two wing tanks and ECM pod to go along with that.”

“What if they don't give us a target? First Lieutenant Bryan “Preacher” Simmonds, Sweaty's GIB, asked.

“I'll ask Van Loan for any good secondary targets,” Guru replied. “If he can't give us any? We'll find some opportunity targets. Because we don't get paid for bringing ordnance home.”

First Lieutenant Kathy “KT” Thornton, who was Hoser's GIB, asked, “Bailout areas still the same as yesterday? “

“They are, and before you ask, no change in the weather, and no change for two days. There's a storm coming into California tomorrow, and we'll feel it in two days. So we make the most of good weather.”

Kara nodded, then asked, “Threats?”

“Anything from Regimental level on up,” the CO replied. “And the same MiG fields as yesterday as well.” He regarded his flight members. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “Okay, gear up, and I'll see you at 512.”

The flight members nodded, then everyone headed to the locker rooms to gear up. On the way out, Guru stopped by the Ops office and found Don Van Loan. “Major?” Van Loan asked.

“Don, we drew on-call CAS, and we need secondary targets in case we don't get tasking.” Guru said.

“Got that truck park east of Rockwall on Route 276,” Van Loan said. “The one you could've hit, but found that SA-6 site instead.”

“Anything else?”

“Suspected divisional HQ north of the junction of F.M. 548 and F.M. 233, north of Forney,” Van Loan pointed to the suspected target on the map. “And there's a vehicle maintenance and repair area at Roue 205 and F.M 548, near Chisolm.”

“And if we find something else, it's fair game.”

“You got it, Boss.”

“Okay,” Guru said. “Have a good one, and I'll see you when we get back, or at the service, whichever's first.”

“You too,” Van Loan said, shaking the CO's hand.

Major Wiser went out of the office and as he did, Major Frank Carson, the nemesis to him and everyone else in the squadron and MAG-11, came in. “Frank,”

“Major....” Carson said, and the CO could tell it was a sneer.

“I'll say this once: you say one bad thing about Rivers, and you'd better pray I'm the only one who heard it. Because if the General does...”

“Is that all?” Carson sneered.

“No. Airman Holly Lockhart is going to Airman to Pilot. Whether you like it or not,” Guru said, then he headed over to his plane's dispersal, leaving a confused Major Carson in his wake. When he got to 512, his flight was waiting. “Guys,

“What'd Carson want to know?” Sweaty asked.

“He won't be forcing an airman into bed who wants to go to Airman to Pilot, let's put it that way,” Gurus said. “Okay, Van Loan found us some secondary targets. If we don't get a tasking by 0900, we're going for one. If we can't ID a secondary? Free strike. There's enough in that AO to hit.”

“There should be,” Goalie said. “That's 1st Guards Army, according to the intel sheet.”

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Same drill as before: Call signs between us on the radio, mission code to anyone else. Got it?”

“Got it,” Sweaty said, and heads nodded.

“Okay, anything else?” There wasn't . “Let's hit it.” Guru said.

The crews went to man their aircraft, and both Guru and Goalie went to 512, and Staff Sergeant Michael Crowley, the crew chief, was waiting. “Major,” he said, saluting.

“Sergeant,” Guru said. “512 ready?”

“She's ready to rock, sir,” Crowley said.

Nodding, both Guru and Goalie went through their walk-around, then they mounted the aircraft. After strapping in, they wen through the preflight, then Sergeant Crowley gave the “start engines” signal. First, one, then two, J-79 engines were up and running, then Guru called the tower for taxi and takeoff. He was cleared to taxi, and as he did, Kara, Sweaty, and Hoser taxied behind him. They held at the end of the runway so the armorers could pull the weapon safeties, then Guru's element was cleared to taxi for takeoff. Guru taxied onto the runway, and Kara was tucked in echelon right. Then he called the tower. “Tower, Corvette One-one requesting takeoff clearance.”

The tower flashed a green light in response. Then both pilots released their brakes, and both F-4s rolled down the runway and into the air, with Sweaty and Hoser right behind them.
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  #196  
Old 05-23-2015, 01:26 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Just wondering, guys; did anyone pick out who the Su-25 driver was that Sweaty splashed?
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  #197  
Old 05-23-2015, 11:00 AM
Adm.Lee Adm.Lee is offline
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Yes, without even checking wikipedia: Afghan war hero, later politician, amirite?
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  #198  
Old 05-23-2015, 06:28 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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You are correct. And the story goes on, while the 335th says goodbye to a dearly loved CO:


North of Dallas, Texas: 0845 Hours:


Corvette Flight was orbiting at 26,000 feet over North Texas, and the aircrews could see other aircraft orbiting, then being cleared to strike. However, none had anti-armor loads, while their flight and a Marine F-4 flight just above them did. And in all four Corvette Flight aircraft, tempers were running short.

Major Matt Wiser, the flight lead and the CO of the 335th TFS, glanced at his watch. “0845. We need to strike somebody and get back,” he said to his WSO.

“Don't get paid for bringing ordnance home,” First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn said. “How long have we been here?”

“Since 7:30,” Major Wiser, call sign Guru, said. “Can't stay here all day. I”ll call Hillsboro.” Hillsboro was the call sign for an EC-130E Airborne Command Post that directed the FACs and ground-based Air Liaison Teams with ground forces. “Hillsboro, Corvette One-one.”

“Corvette One-one, Hillsboro, go.” the controller replied.

“Any tasking for us? If not, we have prebriefed secondary targets and can go after those,” Guru said.

“Stand by, Corvette.”

“You said it ten minutes ago, fella,” Guru muttered.

“Hey, Lead?” Capt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, called. “Anything?”

“Nada, Two,” Guru replied. “Yeah, I know, we got targets to service and then a place to be.”

“Roger that, Lead,” Kara replied.

“Corvette One-one, Hillboro,” the ABCC controller replied. “Contact Nail Six-One for tasking.”

“Roger, Hillsboro,” Guru replied. “Contact Nail Six-One.”

“Hey, Hillsboro, this is Shamrock Zero-eight,” the Marine flight elader called. “Can we get in on Corvette's action?”

While the Marines were talking with Hillsboro, Guru called the FAC. “Nail Six-One, Corvette One-one. How copy?”

“Read you, Corvette,” Nail replied. “Say aircraft and type of ordnance please.”

“Corvette Flight has four Foxtrot-Four Echoes, with twelve Rockeyes and full twenty-mike-mike each airplane.”

“Copy that, Corvette,” Nail said. “We have an armored column moving north on F.M. 548 headed for Route 276. They're yours.”

“Roger that, Nail,” Guru replied. “Corvette, on me,” Guru said, and he took his F-4 down. The others followed. As they went in, Guru saw an A-7K orbiting overhead. That would be the FAC.

“Corvette, Nail, expect regimental level air defense,” Nail said. That meant ZSU-23-4s and SA-9 or SA-13 SAMs, plus shoulder-fired missiles.

“Copy,” Guru replied. “Corvettes, music on, switches on, and time to go to work,”

“Two,” Kara.

“Three,” Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard.

“Four,” Lieutenant Nathan “Hoser” West.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Nail, can you mark the target?”

“That's affirmative, Corvette,” Nail replied. 'Can you give me two passes?”

“Nail, Corvette, that's a negative,” replied Guru. “One pass only.”

“Roger Corvette,” Nail said. 'Marking the target.”

Corvette Flight watched as the A-7K rolled in, and fired two white phosphorous rockets to mark the lead elements of the armored column. As the A-7 pulled up, tracer fire and a SAM came up after the FAC, but missed. “All right, people!” Guru said. “One pass, south to north.” He turned to get lined up for his attack run.

“Switches set,” Goalie said. “All set back here.”

“Good girl,” Guru said, “Corvette Lead in hot!” He rolled in on his run, picking out the leading vehicles. God, a whole armored regiment on the move....This won't be your morning, Ivan. Guru picked out the regimental advanced guard and lined up some tanks in his pipper. “HACK!” Twelve Rockeye CBUs came off the racks, then he pulled away. “Lead's off target.”

Below, A Soviet army captain was leading the advanced guard of the 292nd Guards Tank Regiment, 72nd Gaurds Motor-Rifle Division. The division had been shot up at Wichita in May, and had been in reserve with the rest of 1st Guards Army, but now, they were back at the front, and the division had been sent to shore up the 204th MRD, which was a mobilization-only unit, equipped with old T-54s and open-topped BTR-60s, and was getting shot to pieces. His men were mostly veterans, and were eager to get back into action, and show these Americans that the Soviet Army never gave up. The captain looked up from the commander's hatch on his T-64BK command tank and saw a dot approaching his unit at high speed, and three more behind it. He yelled into his throat microphone, “AIRCRAFT ALARM!” Then Guru's F-4 flew overhead and the CBUs came off the aircraft.

Guru pulled out and rolled left so that he could see how his bombs did. He and Goalie were looking as the CBUs exploded, and a number of vehicles exploded in fireballs. “SHACK!”

“Good hits, Corvette Lead,” Nail said.

“Thanks, Nail,” Guru said as he headed north.

“Two's in hot!” Kara said as she came in.

“Triple-A coming up,” First Lieutenant Judd “Brainiac” Brewster, Kara's GIB, said.

“No radar,” Kara said. She lined up the advanced guard's 122-mm SP guns. “HACK!”

The Soviet captain watched as several tanks fell out of line, burning, and just as one crew bailed out of a burning tank, it exploded, killing them, and sending shrapnel flying. He ducked, and as his tank drove forward, he stood up in his hatch and looked to his rear. Just then, Kara's bird came over and released its bombs, and he saw the CBU bomblets explode on and around his artillery battery.

“Good hits!” Brainiac said as Kara rolled away. “And secondaries!”

“All right!” Kara replied as she set course north. “Two off target,” she called, then asked, “Anything behind us?”

“Just Sweaty rolling in.”

“Three's in!” Sweaty called, and she rolled in on the target. She picked out the center of the column, where some tanks and APCs were mixed together. Sweaty ignored the tracer fire from several tank machine guns as she rolled in. Lining up a pair of tanks in the pipper, she muttered, “Not today...and HACK!” Twelve more Rockeyes landed on the Soviet column as her F-4 pulled away.

The Soviet captain ducked again as Sweaty's F-4 came over, and this time,a rain of bomblets landed behind his tank. He had been tucked in behind the lead tank company and a company of BMP-1Ms had been right behind his own tank, and just behind the motor-rifle troops was the second tank company.. It was that company was hit, and several APCs and tanks took hits in their thin roof armor and they went up in fireballs. Grimacing, the captain ordered his driver to keep moving. The sooner the advanced guard was out of this air strike, the better.

“Righteous!” First Lieutenant Bryan “Preacher” Simmonds, Sweaty's WSO, called.

“Good hits?” Sweaty asked as she banked away. “Three's off target.”

“Great hits, and we got a few secondaries,” Preacher called.

“Flak or SAMs?” Sweaty asked as she turned the F-4 north.

“Negative,”

“Four in hot!' Hoser called. He spotted what looked like an SA-9 launch vehicle and several APCs deploying, and to him, that was an inviting target. He lined them up in his pipper....

Just then, the SA-9 fired, head on at him, and his GIB, First Lieutenant Kathy “KT” Thornton, called, “SAM, Twelve O'clock!”

“Not enough,” Hoser said. The missile flew by their plane, and he hit the pickle button. “HACK!” Again, Rockeye CBUs came off, and this time, the CBUs tore into the SAM track and the APCs, exploding the SA-9 vehicle and killing a ZSU-23 for good measure, while also killing several tanks that had gotten off the road to disperse.

“Good hits!” KT called, and she involuntarily ducked as some tracers flew over the F-4.

“”Four's off,” Hoser called, taking the F-4 north.

“Copy that, Four,” Guru called. “Egress and meet up over Lavon Lake, then we're gone.”

Behind them, the advanced guard of the 292nd Guards Tank Regiment was halted, and many of its vehicles were either knocked out or were damaged. The captain grimaced, wondering how he'd inform the regimental commander, when his tank ran over an unexploded CBU bomblet. The blast tore off the left track, and the tank slid into a ditch. The Captain shook his head. It was turning out to be a miserable day, and it wasn't even midmorning. He called his regimental commander, who ordered him to halt in place and await reinforcements and assistance. Just then, from the south, came four more F-4s.....the flight from VMFA-333 was rolling in.....


Over Lavon Lake, Guru was orbiting, and waiting. First Kara, then Sweaty, then Hoser, all came up. Then Guru contacted Nail. “Nail Six-One, Corvette One-one. Got a BDA for us?”

“Corvette, Nail. I give you a four-decimal zero. All bombs on target. Thanks a bunch.”

“Copy that Nail, and you're welcome. We are outbound for home plate.” Guru then set course back to Sheppard.

“What time is it?” Sweaty asked. “We're cutting it close.”

Guru glanced at his watch. “0925,” he replied. “Twenty minutes there, then who knows how long in the pattern.”

“Yeah,” Goalie said. “Well, we'll be there. Even if everyone in this flight is in sweaty flight suits.”

“Remember what LeMay told a recon driver in the Cuban Missile Crisis? He said that he'd never question anyone's appearance if he'd just returned from a combat mission.”

“They told us that at the Academy,” Goalie said.

It was still twenty minutes until Corvette Flight was in the Sheppard traffic pattern. There were two other 335th flights ahead of them, and all had four aircraft, Guru was pleased to see. After several Marine flights of both Phantoms and Hornets left, then it was their turn to land. After touching down, the flight taxied away, and as they did so, the crews popped their canopies. Then they taxied into their dispersal area and then their revetments.

Guru shut down the engines, then took off his helmet. “0955,” he said.

“Shit, you're right!” Goalie said, glancing at her own watch. “We'd better get over there.” She indicated a hangar where the service was being held.

Sergeant Crowley, the crew chief, came up with the crew ladder. “Sir, you'd better get over there,”

“You are so right, Sergeant,” Guru said. He, then Goalie, climbed down from the aircraft. They had a quick look around 512, then Guru said, “She's working like a champ, Sergeant, Too bad you guys have to get her turned around...”

A Dodge Crew-Cab pickup pulled up to the revetment just as Kara, Sweaty, Hoser, and the GIBs arrived at 512's revetment. It was Master Sergeant Ross, the senior NCO. “Get in, sir! I'll get you all over there.”

“Let's go,” Guru said, and all four crews piled into the pickup, and Ross drove over to the hangar. There was already a crowd of AF and Marine personnel there, waiting, When Guru and the others got out of the truck, still with helmets and flight gear, he noticed General Tanner and Colonel Brady talking with Capt. Mark Ellis, the Executive Officer of the 335th. “General,” he said, saluting.

“Major,” Tanner returned the salute. “Well, if our friend Colonel Rivers is watching, and I have no reason to doubt it, he's no doubt smiling with approval. Half of those at his own memorial service show up in sweaty flight suits and haven't even gotten out of their flight gear.”

“Yes, sir,” Guru said.

“Still got a couple of minutes, Major,” Tanner said. “How'd it go out there?”

“Made the lead element of an armored regiment go away, sir,” Guru said. “Some flak, but not much.”

“I'll go along with that, sir,” Kara said. “Hardly anything came up at us.”

“General,” Ellis said, “Licon's been taking impromptu debriefs as people trickle in. But sir, that can wait. The Major's flight is the last in.”

“Let's go, Major,” Tanner said.

“Yes, sir,” Guru replied.

General Tanner led them into the hangar, where folding chairs had been set up for Colonel Rivers' memorial service. There was a lectern up front, with both American and Air Force flags flanking it. One of the chaplain's assistants directed them to their seats, with the General seated next to both Guru and Colonel Brady. Tanner looked around, and saw how everyone was dressed. “I think he'd be pleased.”

“Sir?” Guru asked.

“Enlisted mechanics and ordnance people in their grimy work uniforms, other enlisted and ground officers in BDUs, and the aircrew in flight suits. Hell, Major, you and two other flights didn't even have time to get out of your flight gear.”

“Yes, sir. But General, I think he'd like it that way. Since we're going back out not long after it's over.”

“That you are, Major,” Tanner said. He was in BDUs himself.

Guru nodded, then saw one officer in dress blues. “Sir, there's one who we all know and hate who 's dressed up.”

“Well, Major, expecting him to go with the flow might be a waste of time, but the effort has to be made,” the General replied, referring to Major Frank Carson.

Guru nodded, “Yes, sir,” then he noticed the Chaplain coming with the squadron honor guard. “Sir, it's starting.”

The Star Spangled Banner began to play, and everyone stood to attention and saluted. The Chaplain came in, followed by Master Sergeant Ross, then the squadron honor guard. The Chaplain went to the lectern, while the honor guard flanked the lectern. Then he spoke. “Welcome everyone.” Commander James Champion, USN, CC, said. “I see the 'come as you are' feeling isn't just limited to the Marines,” noticing the dress of the audience. “Please be seated.”

The audience took their seats, then a recording of Amazing Grace began to play. When it was finished, the Chaplain continued “Let us pray. Heavenly Father, we ask thee to admit the soul of Lieutenant Colonel Dean Rivers into your loving arms. Colonel Rivers gave his life in the service of his country, to free those suffering under the jackboot of an oppressive and uncaring occupier, and to protect those who are still free. Comfort his family, who need your blessing as they deal with the loss of a husband and father, Comfort also his fellow airmen, especially those in his squadron, as they deal with the loss of a beloved commanding officer and dear friend. And give your protection to those who are carrying on with the mission he began, as they go into harm's way. Amen.”

“Amen,” the audience repeated.

“Thank you for coming,” the Chaplain said. “Though I didn't know Colonel Rivers as well as most of you, we did have conversations. He was a devoted father, husband, and commanding officer, who is missed not only by his family, but by you. He wasn't just a commanding officer, but a father figure to you all. He is missed by everyone who knew him, and and when he reported to Saint Peter, he didn't need to say much, just 'One more airman reporting, sir. I've served my time in hell.'” The chaplain paused, then nodded. “Though when he got to the Pearly Gates, he no doubt found them guarded by United States Marines,” the Chaplain smiled at the Marine officers in attendance. “But with God's blessing, he will watch over you, as you carry on in his stead.” He nodded to General Tanner. “General, if you'll say a few words?”

General Tanner nodded, then went to the lectern. “Chaplain, everyone. What can you say when you lose someone who was not only a devoted aide, but an outstanding squadron commander? Not much. Dean Rivers was the best aide I've ever had the pleasure to have, and he was always ready, with a work ethic that would've pleased any corporate CEO or the Air Force Chief of Staff. Though when he came to the 335th, he realized that a lot of what he'd learned didn't apply in a war zone, so he became more like Robin Olds than Curtis LeMay,” and there was quite a bit of laughter at that from the audience.

“Dean did things his way, and when they got results, that was all that mattered. And now he's gone. We can take comfort in knowing that though the job's not done, we're on the way to getting it done,” Tanner said. He then looked up towards the hangar ceiling. “And don't worry about Linda and the kids. I'll make sure they're taken care of, and you can count on it.” The General nodded. “Chaplain,” He then went and sat back in his seat.

“Thank you, General,” the Chaplain said. “Major Wiser? Could you come up and say a few words?”

Guru gulped. Though he'd been to all too many of these, he never knew what to say. But he nodded, then went to the lectern. “Thank you, Chaplain. General, Colonel Brady, everybody. Colonel Rivers wasn't just a commanding officer, he was a father figure to everyone in the unit. Whether you were a veteran, or a brand new pilot, WSO, or airman new to the squadron, if you needed to talk about something bothering you? He made time to talk. All you had to do was knock on his office door, and if he wasn't busy? He'd find a few minutes to listen to you and give some friendly advice. He took care of his people, didn't let being an Academy product go to his head, was one of the boys after hours, and when it was his turn to buy a round? He did it like anyone else. And when the female pilots and GIBs came into the squadron? He didn't care. As long as they did their jobs, what did that matter to him? All he saw were pilots and WSOs who wanted to get on with the job of winning the war, and that's what mattered. He listened to the advice the NCOs gave, and found time to talk to the enlisted airmen who make sure those of us who fly and fight can do our jobs. He treated them the same way he would've have wanted if he was a subordinate. And he'll be missed.

“When I came back from my E&E, he asked me if anything was bothering me before getting back in the saddle. We sat down, and I told him that I'd seen and done things that no one should ever have to. Not having been in those circumstances, he could only say this: 'Who am I to judge? You did what you had to do in order to get out of it. Don't let it get to you, and get with the business at hand.' Well, I did just that, followed his advice, and well.....He knew when it was time to be a commanding officer, and when it was time to be one of the boys. He also enjoyed a good laugh, and when it was his time to pay for a round, he cheerfully paid for the beer. Though I imagine that he's having a hard time upstairs explaining to the likes of George Patton or Hap Arnold how he handled the wildest, craziest, and yet, one of the best fighter pilots he'd ever seen,” Guru said, nodding at Kara, and there was some laughter at that. “And I know you're with us as we finish the job you helped start. You were with Sandi Jenkins when she splashed that Hip, and thanks.” He looked up. “GBU, Colonel, and Godspeed.” Guru then went back to his seat.

“Good job, Major,” Tanner whispered.

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said. “I never know what to say at these things.”

“You're not the only one.”

The Chaplain went back to the lectern. “Let us pray,” he said, reciting the Lord's Prayer. Then a recording of Amazing Grace was played, then he nodded to a Marine Gunnery Sergeant. The Gunny went to the open hangar door, where a squad of seven Marines were waiting.

“Squad! Present Arms!'

The riflemen presented their M-16s.

“Ready, aim, fire!” The Gunny said. The first volley rang out. “Fire!” The second volley. “Fire!” then the final one. Then a Marine bugler played Taps. And everyone came to attention and saluted.

“This concludes the service. Thank you for coming.” the Chaplain said.

As the crowd broke up and headed back to their jobs, Guru talked to General Tanner. “General, the next person who says they get used to these things will be the first.”

“You're right on that, Major. Anyone who says they do is either uncaring or a liar,” Tanner said.

“Sir, one thing before we head back. The November list of officers?”

“Should be out today, tomorrow latest,” Tanner said. “Some of your people are likely on it.”

“Yes, sir,” Major Wiser said. “At least I'm hoping.”

“Okay, Major. Get your flight debriefed, get something to eat, and get back out.” Tanner ordered. “I'll see you when you get back.”

“Sir, are you...”

“I'll be on base rest of the day. I won't leave for Nellis until this evening,” Tanner replied.

“Yes, sir,” Guru said. He saluted, and Tanner returned it. He knew he'd been dismissed, and went over to his flight. “Well?”

“Not bad,” Goalie said. “I would've been, god, I don't know what I would've said.”

“Same here,” Kara said, and the others nodded.

“Okay,” Guru said. “Let's get back into game mode.” He saw 1st Lt. Darren Licon, the SIO, and waved him over. “Darren, how soon can we debrief?”

“Ten minutes, Major,” Licon said.

“Okay, meet us in the briefing room,” Guru said.

“On my way,” Licon said.

“Break's over, people!” Guru said to his squadron. “Time to get back into the game.”

Ellis nodded, while Sergeant Ross' voice boomed out. “You heard the man. Let's go, people!”
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  #199  
Old 05-23-2015, 06:30 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The next one:


335th TFS Operations, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1050 Hours:


Major Matt “Guru” Wiser and the rest of his flight were sitting in their briefing room-a former classroom used by a prewar T-37 squadron-and were waiting on the squadron's intelligence officer to come in and debrief their first mission. After the memorial service for their late and loved CO, Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, they had to debrief, then brief for their next one, then get ready to go back out. But they were still waiting for the intelligence officer to arrive. And so they were killing time with sandwiches and coffee or bottled water.

“What's taking Darren so long?' Capt. Kara Thrace, call sign Starbuck, asked. First Lieutenant Darren Licon was their squadron's intelligence officer.

“Somebody's debrief ran over would be my guess,” Major Wiser said. He was finishing off a tuna sandwich and a bottle of water. And he was trying not to be angry about it. He was the new CO, and still finding out this “CO thing.”

“What other sandwiches are there?” Second Lieutenant Kathy “KT” Thornton, one of the WSOs, asked.

“Ham, tuna, turkey, Pastrami, Club, chicken, and something brown that's just sitting there.” First Lieutenant Nathan “Hoser” West, her pilot, replied.

“Any BLTs?” First Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard, the second element lead, asked.

“No,” Major Wiser said. “Why? You want a sandwich that looks back at you?”

“Now that I think about it? No.” Sweaty replied.

Her WSO, First Lieutenant Byran “Preacher” Simmnods, nodded. “At least I wouldn't have to say a prayer over those.”

There was some laughter, then a knock at the door. “Yeah?” Major Wiser said.

Lieutenant Darren Licon came in. “Major,” he nodded. “Sorry I'm late, but Captain Van Loan's debrief ran a little over.”

“No problem,” Major Wiser said. “How you holding up?”

“Fine, Major. Like Colonel Rivers once said. 'Suck it up and go on.”' Licon said.

“That he did,” the CO said. “Let's get this over with.”

“Let's do, Major,” Licon said. He spread out a TPC map of the area. “What'd you hit.?”

“Tank regiment in road march, well, the lead element, anyway,” Major Wiser said. “At least that's what the FAC marked for us.”

First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn nodded. “I'll go along with that,” she said. She was the Major's WSO.

“Where, exactly?” Licon asked.

“F.M. 548, south of Route 276,” the CO said. Lead element marked with WP, then we rolled in.”

“What'd you hit, sir?”

“Tanks,” the CO said.

“We got some secondaries,” Goalie added.

“Okay, Captain Thrace?” Licon asked.

“Went in behind Guru, and saw some SP guns. Not sure what kind, but got several,” Kara said.

“Secondaries?”

“A few,” Lieutenant Judd “Brainiac” Brewster, who was Kara's WSO, said.

“Okay, Sweaty?” Licon asked. Since Sweaty was a First Lieutenant, he was more comfortable going by call sign with her.

“Mixed tanks and APCs,” Sweaty said, indicating on a recon photo where she had made her run.

“And we had a few secondaries,” Preacher added.

“Okay, and Hoser? Last but not least,” Licon asked.

“Picked out something like an SA-9 launcher,” Hoser said. “He shot a SAM at us, but it didn't track.”

“And you killed him?”

“Got a secondary or two,” KT replied.

“All right, any resistance?”

“Some tracer fire,” Kara said. “But nothing heavy.”

“I'll go along with that,” Sweaty added. “Something that looked like 23-mm, but no radar warning.”

Licon nodded. “If there was a ZSU down there, he may have been using optical backup. Any MiGs?”

Heads shook no.

“All right, Major, I'll write it up and pass this to MAG-11 and Tenth AF. Did anyone come in after you?”

“There were some Marines who had the same loadout we did,” Guru said. “Don't know if they went in after us, though.”

“Weren't they trying to get in on our action?” Kara asked.

“I think you're right,” Guru nodded. “But we got kinda busy there for a few minutes.”

“I'll check with MAG-11 and find out for sure,” Licon said. “Thanks, Major.”

“Anytime.”

Major Wiser nodded as Licon packed his material and headed to the next debrief. “Okay, finish whatever you're eating. I'll see Van Loan and get our next one.” Capt. Don Van Loan was the 335th's Operations Officer.

“We'll be here,” Kara said.

The CO nodded and headed into the squadron's offices. He went to the Operations section and found Don Van Loan getting ready for his own second mission. “Don,”

“Boss,” Van Loan said. “Got this for you.” He handed the CO a Manila folder. “Everything's there.”

Major Wiser looked thorough it. “You're kidding me. We were there yesterday!”

“Same area, different target,” Van Loan said. “And a different route.”

“At least we get Weasels,” the Major noted. “Though they may not like going to that area. Their CO got killed there yesterday.”

“Comes with the territory, Boss,” Van Loan reminded the CO. “You know that.”

“Yeah,” Major Wiser said. “Had to ask, though.”

“Don't blame you,” the Ops Officer said. “Feeling better?”

“With each passing minute,” the CO replied. “You?”

Van Loan nodded. “Just doing what an uncle said. You take the punch to the gut, bounce back, and move on.”

“Smart man,” Major Wiser noted. “Where'd he learn that?”

“Hanoi. Spent five years and ten months there,” Van Loan said. “May '67 to February of '73.”

“What's he doing now?”

“Commands the 525th TFS. He was at Ramstein when the West Germans kicked us out. They're at Little Rock last I heard.”

“Stay in touch?' the CO asked.

“Yep, as best we can.” Van Loan said. “He heard about us, and says that if Kara ever shows up there, she'll find her match.”

“Maybe,” the CO said. “Thanks, Don. You have a good one, and remember what the desk sergeant on Hill Street Blues says.”

“What?”

“Let's be careful out there,” the CO reminded his Ops Officer. “Don't want to write any letters for a while.”

“Sure thing, Boss,” Van Loan said. “You guys have a good one yourselves.”

“Thanks, Don,” Major Wiser said. He then headed back to the briefing room, and the rest of the flight was waiting. “Okay, guys. We got a new one.”

“Where we going?” Goalie asked.

The CO looked at everyone. “Same place we went to yesterday. Terrell.”

“What?” Sweaty yelled. “We were just there!”

“And that's where you got number five,” the CO reminded here. “But, we're not going back to the airport. Marines hit it again last night with A-6s. We're headed north of Terrell.” He spread out the TPC chart and some reconnaissance photos from the folder. “Here. One mile east of the F.M. 245/247 Junction. There's a helicopter dispersal area. Squadron to regimental size.”

“What kind of helos?” Kara asked.

“Hinds and Hips,” Guru said. That meant Mi-24 Hinds and Mi-8 Hips. In Soviet attack helicopter units, the Hinds were the gunships, while the Hips flew support missions to back up the gunships.

“Defenses?” Asked Sweaty.

“Good question. The latest intel has the Terrell SA-2 site still down, but we're not taking chances. Weasels are coming, in the form of Coors One-five and One-six. Expect some 23-mm optical AAA, and possible MANPADS. This is the rear area of 1st Guards Army, so expect some Army-level air defense. That means SA-4s, 57-mm AAA, and keep in mind that a Weasel got killed yesterday by SA-11, so some of those might still be around.”

“MiGs?” Preacher asked.

“Terrell Municipal is still out of commission, as I said,” the CO replied. “Nearest MiG fields are Athens, Tyler, Corsicana, and the old Connelly AFB in Waco. Su-27s are now confirmed there, so hope the F-15s keep those suckers at bay.”

'And pray if they can't.”

The CO nodded. “Remember your Flanker tactics: get down low in the ground clutter, do a Doppler Break, holler for help from AWACS, and pray a 'teenage' fighter is around.”

Heads nodded. “Ordnance, Boss?” KT asked.

“Twelve Mark-82 Snakeyes each airplane. Wing bombs have the Daisy Cutter fuze extensions,” Major Wiser said.

“Air-to-air?” Kara wanted to know. “The usual?”

“It is,” the CO said. “Two AIM-7Es and four AIM-9Ps each airplane, plus full load of 20-mm. Two wing tanks and the ECM pod in the right front Sparrow missile well.”

Hoser nodded. “Bailout areas still the same?”

“You got it,” Major Wiser said. “Okay, here's our route. We go in past I-30 at Royce City, and head for Union Valley, here,” the Major indicated on the map. Then we turn south, and head for the IP. “ He showed a reconnaissance photo showing an abandoned rock quarry and its pond. We pop up to 800 feet AGL from 450, and make a straight run in. Once you're clear, do a hard right turn, and head for Rockwall and I-30. We meet up over Lavon Lake.”

Heads nodded. “Tanker track still the same?” Sweaty asked.

“Track SHELL still over Durant, Oklahoma,” the CO said. “And divert fields are the same as yesterday.'

“Fair enough,” Kara said. “Let's go kill some Hinds.”

“Good girl,” Major Wiser nodded. He saw that everyone was still in their flight gear, which meant survival vests and G-Suits. “Let's get to 512.”

The flight members headed on out, and as they did, they ran into Maj. Dave Golen, their IDF “observer,” and his wingmate, First Lieutenant Sandi Jenkins and their WSOs. 'Major,” Golen nodded.

“Dave,” the CO said. “Headed on out?”

“Yes,” Golen said. “Maybe this time, I will show you how a gun kill is done in our book!”

“Always hoping for air-to-air?” Kara asked.

“Of course!” Golen said.

The CO looked at him. “Remember, no trolling for MiGs.”

“Understood,” Golen replied. He knew that the strike mission came first.

“And Sandi? How are you doing?”

“Better, sir.” Jenkins replied. “Feeling a lot better.” She had been Colonel Rivers' wingmate, and had been with him when he was shot down.

“Good. No unnecessary risks, both of you,” Major Wiser told them. “Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir,” Golen replied, while Jenkins nodded.

“Good. Have a good one, both of you.”

“Thank you, Guru,” Golen said, then they headed to their aircraft.

“Sandi's looking better,” Sweaty observed.

“She is,” the CO agreed. “She'll be a lot better when she gets her next kill.”

The flight went to 512's revetment, which was the Major's aircraft, and gathered for his final instructions. “Same drill on the radio?” Kara asked.

“You got it,” Major Wiser replied. “Mission code to AWACS and other parties. Call signs between us. Got it?”

Heads nodded, then Hoser asked a question. “Boss, how many more?”

“At least two today,” the CO said. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “Time to get it done, people. Let's hit it.”

The others headed for their aircraft, while the CO and Goalie went to 512. Staff Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief was there. “Major,” he saluted. “She's ready to rock.”

“Good work, Sergeant,” Guru said. “Too bad you guys couldn't be at the service.”

“Ross told us, sir,” Crowley said. Master Sergeant Michael Ross was the senior NCO in the 335th.

“Okay,” Guru nodded. He and Goalie did their walk-around, then climbed the crew ladder into the cockpit. They strapped themselves in, and did their cockpit checks. Guru then gave the “thumbs up” to signal ready for engine start. Sergeant Crowley gave the signal. First one, then the second, J-79 engines were run up, and after a quick final check, Guru called the tower. “Tower, Corvette Flight with four, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

“Corvette Lead,” the Tower replied. “Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Three Left. Hold prior to the runway.”

“Roger, Tower,” Guru replied. “Corvette Lead rolling.”

Sergeant Crowley gave the hand signals, and Guru taxied out of the revetment, and when Crowley saluted, both Guru and Goalie returned it. They taxied to the end of the taxiway, with the other three F-4s following. Then they held so that the armorers could remove the weapon safeties, and for an incoming flight of Marine F-4s to come in and land.

“Corvette Lead clear to taxi for takeoff,” the Tower called.

Guru acknowledged, then taxied 512 onto the runway, and after he did, Kara taxied in and formed up on his left. Then he called the Tower. “Corvette Lead requesting clearance for takeoff.”

As usual, the tower flashed a green light. Guru released the brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air. Kara was right behind him, and after thirty seconds, Sweaty and Hoser did the same.
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  #200  
Old 05-24-2015, 07:15 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The next, and the 335th has a visit from Frontal Aviation:


Over North-Central Texas: 1140 Hours:


Corvette Flight was over the northern part of Lake Ray Hubbard, already having gone down low, and had met up with their Weasels over the lake. While the WSOs handled the navigation, the pilots were watching for threats, keeping an eye on their instruments, and checking their own maps in their kneeboards.

In 512, Major Wiser was keeping his head on a swivel, with his eyes looking for threats. That had been drummed into his head at the RTU down at Homestead AFB, not that long ago. Three years or three lifetimes, it seemed. “Royce City dead ahead,” he called.

“Roger that,” Goalie said. She watched as the town, then I-30 passed underneath. “And turn.”

Guru turned 512 onto its new heading for the town of Union Valley, ten miles away. As he turned, he could see A-4s, A-7s, A-10s, and Army attack helicopters at work. The Soviet 1st Guards Army was pressing its counterattack, and VII Corps was busy parrying it. “Flight, Lead. Music on.” That was the call to turn on their ECM pods.

“Two, copy,” Kara.

“Three,” Sweaty.

“Four copies,” Hoser.

“Thirty seconds to turn,” Goalie said. “Steady, steady, and turn!”

Guru turned south, towards the old rock quarry that was their IP. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, and stand by to pull.”

“Steady...” Goalie called. “And pull!”

Guru pulled up, and just as he did, his Radar Warning Receiver picked up an SA-4 radar, a gun radar, and a search radar. “Coors, Corvette. Got some radars, fella.”

“We got 'em, Corvette. Going in,” Coors One-five called. The two F-4Gs climbed to 5,000 feet, and as they did, they shot off a couple of HARM missiles, and “Magnum” calls came over the radio.

“Guru, Starbuck,” Kara called. “Target at Eleven O'clock!”

“Copy that,” Guru replied. “Lead's in!” He rolled his F-4 in on the target. “Switches set?”

“All set,” Goalie said.

“Okay, here we go,” Guru said. He lined up the helicopter dispersal area in his pipper, and spotted two Mi-24s sitting on the ground, among several. You are mine, he thought as he lined them up. “HACK!” Guru called a s he hit the pickle button and a dozen Mark-82 Snakeye 500-lb bombs came off his F-4. Then he made a hard 6-G turn to the right to get away. “Lead's off,” he called.

In the dispersal area, the Soviet 55th Independent Helicopter Regiment was having a busy morning. They had deployed to America from their base in Bzhag, Poland, and had been in the thick of combat almost from the beginning. Now, the Regiment was fully engaged in supporting 1st Guards Army's attack against the Americans pushing down the east side of Lake Ray Hubbard, and trying to cut off Dallas from the east. The Regiment had sent two squadrons of Mi-24Vs into combat, leaving a third in reserve, while the Fourth Squadron's Mi-8MTs supported the dispersal operations.

In the Second Squadron's dispersal, a SAF Major was having a bad day. He was the commander of the squadron, and they'd already lost five of twelve Mi-24Vs to either American helicopters or Stinger missile teams, and it wasn't quite noon yet! He barked orders at the ground crewmen, who were busy refueling and rearming the squadron's helicopters for they had to get airborne and back into the fray as soon as possible. Then he saw two ground crew pointing to the north, and he saw an F-4 Phantom rolling in. He shouted, “Air Raid!” before taking cover in a slit .trench.

As Guru pulled the egress turn, both his and Goalie's G-suits inflated. But Goalie was able to keep watching as the bombs exploded. 'Good hits!”

“How good?” Guru asked as he came out of the turn and headed north.

“Good enough,” she replied as a secondary explosion came into view. She also spotted Kara's F-4 in its attack run.

“Two's in hot!” Kara called. She picked out two Mi-24s with a fuel truck between them, and decided they were going away. Kara lined them up in her pipper, and pressed the pickle button. “HACK!” she called, and her Mark-82s came off of 520. Then she put the plane into its own egress turn, and as she did, she called, “Two off target.”

The SAF Major poked his head out of the trench, and saw that two of his helicopters were blazing wrecks. To his dismay, there were no antiaircraft guns firing. He started to get up, then remembered that enemy aircraft rarely attacked alone. He saw Kara's F-4 come in, then he ducked back down into the trench. As he got to the bottom of the trench, he felt the concussion of bombs exploding, and heard the bombs going off.

“SHACK!” Brainiac called. “Got a secondary.”

“Fair enough,” Kara said. She knew that if the fuel truck had gone up, so would the two Hinds. Kara smiled underneath her oxygen mask, then headed north to link up with the Major.

“Three's in!” Sweaty called. She started her roll in, and picked out a cluster of tents and vehicles. That had to be a Squadron or Regimental command group, she knew. So much the better. Just then, she saw some 23-mm flak start to come up from the perimeter of the dispersal area. Too little, too late, Ivan. Sweaty lined the tents in her pipper and hit the release button. “HACK!” Her bombs came off her aircraft, then she went into the egress turn. “Three's off target.”

In his trench, the SAF Major heard the howl of Sweaty's plane as it came over, then the sound of more bombs exploding. After the last bomb went off, he took a quick peek. He saw some ZU-23s try and engage the F-4 that flew past, but their fire was ineffective, going behind the F-4 as it left the area. Then he looked at the Regimental command post, and saw that the tents and command vehicles had been torn apart. Tents had been blasted to ribbons, while the command vehicles had been either torn apart by bombs, or had been tossed aside by the concussion. He started to get up, then saw the ZU-23s turn back north and fire. Another aircraft, he knew, so he got back into the trench.

“Good hits!” Preacher told Sweaty from the back seat.

“Good enough?” She asked as she came out of the turn and headed for Lavon Lake and the rendezvous.

“I'd say so,' Preacher said.


“Four's in!” Hoser called. He rolled in, and picked out an Mi-8 Hip parked near several fuel bladders and a couple of fuel trucks. Ignoring the flak coming up, Hoser lined up the fuel trucks in his pipper, then hit the pickle button. “HACK!” Again, twelve Mark-82 bombs fell on the Soviet helicopter regiment as Hoser made the egress turn. “Four's off safe.”

Hoser's bombs landed among the fuel bladders, exploding them in a fireball, and also taking out the Hip and the fuel trucks.

Watching the bombs go off, KT Thornton, his GIB, called. “We got secondaries!”

“Good ones?” Hoser asked as he headed north.

“Big ones,” she replied.


“Corvettes, Lead,” Guru called. “Form on me and let's egress.”

“Copy Lead,” Kara replied. “On your right wing.”

Guru looked to his right, and found Kara's F-4 tucked in nice and neat. She gave him a thumbs-up, and he returned it. “Sweaty?”

“On our way, Lead,” Sweaty replied.

“Coors, Corvette,” Guru called the Weasels. “We're clear of the target.”

“Roger that,” Coors One-five called. “On our way.”

Guru had started to circle over Lavon Lake with Kara when Sweaty and Hoser joined up. “Coors, Corvette Lead. We're headed home.”

“Roger, Corvette,” Coors One-five replied. “Nice doing business with you guys.” The F-4Gs then turned for the tanker track, while the F-4Es headed back to Sheppard.

Corvette Flight had barely gotten to altitude when a call came on the radio Home Plate (Sheppard) was under attack. “WHAT?” Guru yelled over the radio.

“Stay clear, Corvette,” the tower replied.

“Roger, tower,” Guru replied. The flight began to orbit at 10,000 feet, and above them, they could see other flights, either 335th or Marine, orbiting as well. Two of the flights, whose they didn't know, broke off and headed for another tanker track, this one over Fort Sill, Oklahoma. One Marine Skyhawk flight decided not to head for the tankers, and headed for Altus AFB in Oklahoma instead.

“How long can we orbit?' Goalie asked.

“We're not Bingo yet,” Guru replied. “Two, how's your fuel?”

“Still green,” Kara replied.

“Sweaty,” Guru asked. “How's your state? And Hoser's?”

“Not bingo, if that's what you mean,” Sweaty said.

“Okay so far,' Hoser said. “Estimate two-zero minutes to Bingo.”

Guru nodded in his cockpit, and as he orbited, glanced north. Two, then three columns of smoke were now rising from the base, but he-and the rest of the flight, watched as a Marine I-HAWK SAM came up and exploded an aircraft, and the plane plummeted to earth in flames, exploding on impact. Two more SAMs went up, and one of them found a target, and that plane exploded in midair. Above them, they could see a dogfight in progress, and two aircraft, whose they couldn't tell, falling in flames. And a couple of parachutes.

As they orbited, the crews were scanning visually, while the WSOs had their radars on. And it was Sweaty who made the call. “Lead, Sweaty. Tallyho! Bandits at Eleven O'clock low!”

Guru glanced in that direction and saw them. Two Su-17s coming from the direction of Sheppard. “Sweaty, Guru. Press to engage. Two and I will cover.”

“Roger that!” Sweaty said, “Hoser, on me. Let's go!” She then rolled in behind the Su-17s.

As Sweaty and Hoser did, Guru and Starbuck assumed a cover position. Both armed their AIM-7s, and their GIBs were trying to lock the Fitters up. “Anything?' Guru asked Goalie.

“Negative,” she replied. “Too much ground clutter.”

Dave Golen's voice then came over the radio. “Corvette Leader, Mustang Leader. Break right!”

Without thinking, Guru broke right and low, while Kara broke left and high. As he did, Guru saw two missile trails, then the familiar sight of MiG-23s. “Copy Mustang. Get some.” Where the hell did the MiGs come from?

“Roger,” Golen said. He led Sandi Jenkins, his wingmate, into the fray.

Sweaty and Hoser, though, were closing in on the Su-17s. The two Fitters broke, and Sweaty went for the leader, while Hoser took the wingman. In her cockpit, Sweaty had armed her Sidewinders, and was trying to get good tone. The AIM-9's seeker growled in her headset, then it growled very loudly. Missile lock. “FOX TWO!” Sweaty called as she fired a Sidewinder.

In the lead Su-17, the commander of the Second Squadron, 274th Fighter-Bomber Regiment, was turning his head. He'd led eight of his aircraft in a strike on Sheppard AFB, and watched tched as American fighters, then SAMs, took a toll. Three of his aircraft didn't make it in, and though he and three other aircraft had gone in, hitting several buildings on the base and putting bombs on one of the runways, the other one dropped its bombs short of the runway and had turned away, only to eat a Stinger from the ground. Not sure of what damage he'd inflicted on the target, he turned for home, and had the other element split off. Then his wingman called. F-4s incoming. He turned left, then right, looking for an attacker, then his plane exploded around him. His last sensation was the heat....

:Sweaty and Preacher watched as their Sidewinder flew up the Su-17M's tailpipe and exploded. The big Sukhoi's tall caught fire, then the internal fuel tanks exploded, turning the Fitter into a fireball. There was no chute. “SPLASH!”

“Sweaty got a kill!” Goalie said from 512's rear cockpit.

“Save it for later. Still got a fight on,” Guru reminded her.

Above them, Dave Golen was lining up the lead MiG-23. He selected his M-61 Vulcan cannon, then drew lead. “Steady...” he muttered, then took the shot. A two-second burst was all that he needed, for 180 rounds of 20-mm cannon shells tore into the MiG, and the MiG-23 rolled inverted, trailing smoke and fire, then plunged into the ground. There was no ejection. “That's a kill.”

“Good kill, Lead,” Sandi Jenkins said, then lined up the MiG wingman. She armed her Sidewinders, and centered the pipper on the MiG's tail. The seeker head growled very loud in her headset, and she squeezed the trigger twice. “FOX TWO!”

The MiG wingman heard his leader die, and he was trying to look around, looking for a second F-4 that had to be out there. He lost sight of the two F-4s that he and his leader had been tracking, then he saw a Sidewinder missile fly past him. He turned right, which solved the problem for Sandi's second missile.

Sandi watched as her first missile missed, and the MiG turned right, and the second Sidewinder flew up his tailpipe and exploded. The MiG trailed fire, and rolled right and headed down. As she flew past, she watched the canopy come off and the seat fire. To her horror, she didn't see the pilot separate from the seat, and he fell to his death. Better you than me, she thought. “Splash one!”

“Good kill, Sandi!” Kara called.

“Where's the other Fitter?' Guru asked. “Goalie?”

“Can't pick him out. Too much clutter.”

Hoser, though, was chasing the second Fitter, with Sweaty covering him. Over Lake Arrowhead, fourteen miles south of Wichita Falls, he got lock and fired a Sidewinder. “FOX TWO!” He called, and the AIM-9 flew up the Fitter's tail and exploded, taking it off. The Su-17 spun down into the lake, and this time, there was a chute. Fortunately for the pilot, Lake Arrowhead State Park was being used by the U.S. Army for CH-47 Chinook ops, and the Soviet pilot was pulled from the lake and captured by the Army.

“Good kill, Hoser!” Sweaty called.

“Thanks, Sweaty,” Hoser replied. It was his first.

“Corvettes, Lead. Form up on me over the lake.” Guru said. The other three crews acknowledged, and Dave Golen and Sandi joined them. “Sheppard Tower, Corvette One-one.”

“Corvette One-one, Sheppard. “Runway Three-Three Lima and Three-Three Charlie are now open,” the tower replied. “Clear for landing on Three-Three-Lima. Winds are two-six zero at ten.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru said. Corvette Flight, thanks to the others leaving for the tankers or for Altus, was first in the pattern. They came in and landed, and as the crews taxied to their dispersal, they saw a 727 burning on the ramp, along with a Marine KC-130, with fire crews hosing them down with foam, while General Tanner's C-130B was untouched. To Guru's relief, the dispersal area hadn't been hit, and hopefully, none of his people had been hurt or killed. He taxied into his revetment and shut down, popping the canopy as he did. “That was interesting.”

“No kidding!” Goalie said. “When's the last time we got bombed? A month or so?”

“Something like that,” Guru said. “Scud attacks don't count.” He took his helmet off and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief as Sergeant Crowley came with the crew ladder. “Sergeant.”

“Shit hot, sir!” Crowley said. “You guys missed all the fun.”

“Had our own,” Goalie said as she stood up in her cockpit.

“That we did,” Guru nodded. 'Sweaty and Hoser got kills on those chumps.” He climbed down from the cockpit, and Goalie followed. The two did a quick postflight walk-around, then he turned to Crowley. “No damage, Sergeant. Pull the camera film and send it in. Then get her turned around ASAP.”

Crowley smiled. “You got it, Major!”

Guru and Goalie went to the entrance of the revetment, and found Kara and Preacher there. “Jealous?” Guru asked.

“Of whom? Sweaty, Dave, Hoser, or Sandi?” Kara asked.

“Either one or all of 'em,' the CO said. He looked at his wingmate. “Hey, you and I can't get them all.”

Kara reluctantly nodded. “Yeah, well.. I guess so.”

Sweaty and Preacher came up, with Hoser and KT following. “Geat job,” Major Wiser said. “That's six for you, Sweaty.”

“Thanks, Boss,” Sweaty grinned. “Nice to have kills on back-to-back days.”

“It is that,” Guru said. “Nice job, Hoser,” he nodded, shaking Hoser's hand. “Your first, right?”

Hoser smiled. “It is, Boss.”

Guru grinned. “Good work, and that might not be your last. If the Club's still standing, we can celebrate.”

“That we can,” Kara said.

'Let's go,” Guru said. “Need to debrief, and see if anyone got hurt.” They headed over to the Squadron's building, and when he opened the door, Guru found people picking up the pieces and getting on with things. He noticed Capt. Mark Ellis, his Exec, and waved him over. “Mark, what the hell happened?”

“Major, I have no idea,” Ellis replied. “I had just taxied in when the siren sounded, and the next things I see are Fitters over the base, strafing and dropping bombs.”

“They didn't hit the dispersal area,” Guru said. “So what'd they hit?”

“Runway 17/35 took a couple of bombs, and Red Horse is out now, filling in the craters,” Ellis said. AF Red Horse Engineers could build a new base on their own, or get a damaged base back operational. “Seabees are out as well.”

Guru nodded. “What else did they hit?”

“The old Officers' Club, the one that the Resistance hit,” Ellis said. And north of here? An old Atlas ICBM site.”

“What the hell was there?” Major Wiser wanted to know.

Ellis shook his head. “No idea, but nothing's there as far as I know.”

“Okay,” Guru nodded. “Any of our people hurt?”

“No. Ross has been out, and he's reporting no casualties,” Ellis said.

“That's always good to hear,” Major Wiser replied. Then Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins came in. “Dave,” Guru said. “Thanks for getting those MiGs off of us.”

“My pleasure,” Golen smiled. “And this engagement was a gun kill. Like it should be in our book!”

“You said you'd show us one,” Kara said, coming up and shaking Golen's hand.

“That I did,” Golen said, a grin coming across his face.

“Sandi?” Guru nodded to Sandi Jenkins. “Good job. That's your first fast-jet kill.”

“Thank you, sir,” Sandi replied. “And I know Colonel Rivers was there. I can't explain it, but he was there.”

“I'll take your word for it,' Guru said. “Okay, you two. Get debriefed, and get ready to do it again.”

Golen nodded, then he and Sandi went to see the Squadron's intelligence officer.

“How many today?” Goalie asked as she came up.

Guru looked at her, and his flight. “Expect two more today. With that storm coming in tonight...”

“Maximum effort?”

“Yep,” Guru said. “Let's debrief, eat, then get ready to do it again.”
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  #201  
Old 05-24-2015, 07:18 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Getting ready to return the favor:



335th TFS Operations, 1235 Hours:


Major Matt Wiser and the rest of Corvette Flight were in their old classroom, eating and waiting on the Squadron Intelligence Officer to come in and debrief them on their mission. “That was a wild one,” the Major said, in between bites of a hot turkey sandwich.

'You said it,” Kara said. “Been a while since we had a fight near our base.” She was attacking a Ham sandwich herself. “But MiGs in the sky and you don't turn me loose?”

“Patience,” Guru said. “Besides, Sweaty,” he nodded at his second element leader, “had the advantage and was closer.”

Sweaty grinned. “That I did,” she noted.

Then there was a knock on the door. “Show yourself and come on in!” Major Wiser said.

Major Dave Golen, their IDF “Observer” and 1st Lt. Sandi Jenkins came in, followed by 1st Lt. Darren Licon, the Intelligence Officer. “Guru,” Golen said.

“Dave,” Guru said, shaking his hand. “Thanks a bunch for those two MiG-23s.”

“Anytime,” Golen said. “Darren,” he indicated the intel officer, 'wants to debrief the fight together.”

“Go ahead,” Guru told Licon.

“Okay, Major,” Licon said, unfolding a TPC map and pulling out some reconnaissance photos. “How'd your strike go?”

Guru showed the ingress route on both the map and the photos. “When we got to the IP, we pulled, the Weasels went to work, and Kara called 'target in sight.' Then I had it, and went in hot.”

“What'd you hit?” The intel asked. As usual, he was taking notes.

The CO pointed to where a couple of Hind helicopters could be seen on one of the photos. “Had the pipper between the helos, and released. Then I made the egress turn and got out of there.”

“See the results?” Licon asked.

“Got a couple of secondaries,” Guru's WSO, 1st Lt. Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, said.

The intel nodded. “Captain Thrace?” He asked Kara.

Kara showed her route, “I put my bombs on a fuel truck parked between two Hinds,” she pointed to a spot on the photo.

“Results?” Licon asked.

“Got a big fireball,” 1st Lt. Judd “Brainiac” Brewster, Kara's WSO, said. “And a couple smaller ones.”

“Then we headed out,” Kara added.

“Thanks,” Licon said. “Sweaty?”

“Found a cluster of tents and command vehicles,” Sweaty said. She indicated the area on the photo. “Had to be a squadron command post at least.”

“Secondaries?” Licon asked.

Preacher Simmonds, Sweaty's GIB, said, “Couldn't tell, but there were explosions all around those guys.”

“All right,” Licon said. “Hoser? Last, but not least.”

“Put my bombs here,” Hoser West pointed to a spot on the photo. “There was a Hip, a couple of fuel trucks, and some fuel bladders.”

“He must've just delivered those,” Guru said. “His rotors turning?”

“Couldn't tell,” Hoser said. “Dropped my bombs and made the turn.”

“Secondaries?” Licon asked.

“A couple big ones,” KT Thornton, who was Hoser's WSO, said. “I've seen fuel go up, and they looked just like those.”

“Okay...” Licon said. “What happened with the air-to-air fight?”

Major Wiser showed the egress on the TPC chart. “Came up from the lake,” indicating Lavon Lake on the map, and climbed to altitude. Just then, Tower comes up and says they're under attack and stay away.”

“How long did you guys orbit, Major?” Licon asked.

“Maybe ten minutes,” Guru replied. “Saw two flights, I don't know who they were, head for a tanker, while a Marine Skyhawk flight headed to Altus.”

'A couple of SAMs came up, and two planes went down,” Kara added.

Sweaty nodded. “And while that's going on, There's a fight going on above us to the northwest, and saw a couple planes going down, and a couple of chutes”

“Then she saw the Su-17s,” Hoser said.

“What happened?” Licon asked.

“I saw the Fitters, then called them to lead, and he cleared me to press in.” Sweaty said.

“I did,” Guru added, “And both me and Kara went into a cover position, and tried to pick up the Fitters on radar.”

“No joy on that,” said Goalie. “Too much ground clutter.”

Brainiac nodded. “I'll go along with that. No way could we pick those things out.”

“Then it got interesting,” Kara added. “Then we hear Dave's voice on the radio, calling on us to break.”

Dave Golen then picked things up. 'I saw Guru and Kara break. He went high and right, while Kara went low and to the left.”

“We did,” Guru said. “As I broke, I saw two missile trails, then two more, fly by, and then two MiG-23s coming down.”

“I'd like to know where the AWACS was,” Kara said. “Those guys were definitely not on the ball today.”

“The fight you saw off in the distance?” Licon asked. “Ivan sent a whole regiment of MiG-23s after the AWACS. They didn't get him, but he had to shut down and head north while the F-15s and -16s took on the MiGs. He's back on station.”

“So the Floggers who jumped us might have been part of that?” Goalie asked.

“Probably,” Licon said. “Major Golen?”

“I went after the lead MiG, and drew lead on him. Three hundred meters, maybe three hundred and fifty yards, I shot him with the gun. He rolled inverted, then was on fire as he went down. No parachute.”

“Went after the wingman,” Sandi Jenkins added. “Got Sidewinder lock and fired two missiles. One missed to the left, and he turned to the right. Big mistake, because the second missile flew up his tailpipe and his tail blew up. Came in close, and saw the canopy come off, the seat fire, but...”

“But what?” Licon asked.

“He didn't get seat separation,” Sandi replied. “His chute never deployed, and he fell like a rock.”

When the other aircrews heard that, they winced. That could easily have been one of them whose seat failed to work, and as was the case, “The fall didn't kill you, it was the sudden stop at the end that did.”

“Ouch!” Kara said.

“Big ouch,” Guru commented.

“That it is, Major,” Licon said. “Sweaty?”

“Got in behind my Fitter,” she said. “Had good tone and fired a Sidewinder. It flew up his tailpipe and blew up. His whole rear from the wings aft is on fire, then he just blew up in midair.”

“Any chute?”

“No.” Sweaty replied. “Then I went to give Hoser some cover.”

“Thanks, Sweaty,” Licon said. “Hoser?”

“Went after the wingman,” Hoser said. “Caught up with him over Lake Arrowhead and fired a Sidewinder. Took his tail off, and he spun in.”

“He bail out?”

Hoser nodded. 'That he did, and he had a chute. The guy landed in the lake. Saw some CH-47s there, and the Army might have picked him up.”

“I'll check with the ALO office at III Corps and find out,” Licon said. “Okay...since there are witnesses to all these? Sweaty and Preacher? You two have six now.”

Hearing that, Sweaty and Preacher shook hands. “Six....”

“Yep,” Licon said. “Hoser and KT? That's your first. Congratulations.”

“I'll add to that,” Guru said. “You may not be aces yet, but you have to start sometime.”

“Thanks, guys,” Hoser said, while KT was smiling.

“Major Golen?” Licon asked. “That's four for you.”

Hearing that, Golen smiled. “Thank you,”

“Dave,” Guru said. “Not bad for being an 'observer'.”

“The Boss is right,” Kara added. “One more and you're a Phantom ace.”

Guru nodded. “He will be,” the CO said. “Still going to extend your tour?”

Golen nodded again. “Of course!”

“Okay, Dave, but be careful of what you wish for, because you might just get it,” Major Wiser reminded him.

“And Sandi?” Licon said. “That's two for you. And your first fast-mover.”

“Off to a fast start,” Sweaty said. “A Hip yesterday,and a MiG today.”

Kara grinned. “A few days like this and she will be an ace. How's that, Major?”

The CO smiled. “If that happens, it'll be well deserved.” He looked at Dave and Sandi and their respective WSOs. “You guys eat yet?”

“Not yet, Guru,” Golen replied.

“Okay, get something to eat and then talk with Ops. Everyone's got two more today.”

“Will do,” Golen said. Then he, Sandi, and their GIBs headed off to get their lunch.

“Why two more?” KT asked.

“This storm coming in tonight,” Guru reminded them. “We won't be flying for at least a day.”

Heads nodded at that. “Bad thing about that,” Kara said. “Our guys won't get the air support they need.”

“Nothing we can do about that,” Guru said. “But there's three good things.”

“What are those?” Hoser asked.

“Simple,” the CO nodded. “First, and most important. Their guys won't be getting their air support. Two, maintenance can get caught up. And three? We can get caught up on two things. In no particular order.”

“Yeah,” Goalie said. “Sleep and paperwork.”

“Speaking of which, I need to check my desk,” Guru said. “Then I'll check with Ops and see what they have for us.” He left the briefing room and went to his office. There was nothing there that required his attention, he was pleased to see, then the CO went to the Ops desk. There, he found Capt. Don Van Loan, the Ops Officer, going over some mission packets. “Don, what have you got?”

“Got one that just came down, Boss,” Van Loan said. “Stephenville Municipal Airport,” he nodded as he gave the CO a folder. “They think it's where the Fitters who raided us came from.”

Major Wiser looked at his Ops Officer. “They think?” He remembered the intel community's motto: “We're betting your life.”

“That's all we've got. Ivan's extended the runway at the airport, and it's certainly capable of supporting fast-mover operations,” Van Loan replied. “Here's the defenses.” He handed the CO an intel sheet.

Guru scanned it, then gave his Ops Officer a nasty look. “Army HQ in the town? Thanks a heap.”
From experience, the CO knew that there would be a considerable air defense threat.

“I know, but the recommended ingress route takes you along the boundary between the East Germans and the Nicaraguans Come back out the same way, or over the Nicaraguans, because they're not as well equipped for air defense as the Soviets, Cubans, or East Germans are. And you're getting Weasels.”

“Still one lucky guy can get lucky,” Guru reminded his Ops Officer. He scanned the material one more time. “Okay, thanks, Don.” Guru headed back to the briefing room.

“So, Boss, what have we got?” Kara asked as the CO came in.

“The chumps who bombed us?” Guru asked. “We're returning the favor. Stephenville Municipal is where we're headed.”

“Where's that?” Hoser asked. “Uh, Boss?”

“Sixty-five miles southwest of Fort Worth,” Guru said. “Or 132 miles south of us, take your pick. And hold onto your hats. It's right near the boundary of the East Germans and the Nicaraguans.”

Goalie looked at her pilot and CO. “That's just great. The Nicaraguans are likely asleep at the switch, while the East Germans are hyper-alert.”

The CO nodded. “You're likely right on that. Okay, we're going in along their boundary, which is roughly U.S. 281. We bypass the town of Stephenville, then turn around and make our run south to north. One pass as usual, people!”

“What's the ordnance load?” Sweaty asked.

“Lead element, that's me with Kara,” Guru said, seeing Starbuck raise her head. “Twelve Rockeyes. We go for the ramp area west of the runway. Sweaty, you and Hoser? Twelve Mark-82s. You, Sweaty, get the runway. Hoser? Take the fuel dump on the east side of the runway.”

“Got you,” Sweaty said, while Hoser nodded.

“Threats? Kara asked.

“Good question. “We're getting Weasels, Michelob Two-one and Two-two. Expect East German SA-4s, plus 57-mm and 23-mm AAA near the airport. There's also an SA-2 site,” said the CO.

“Intel's full of good news today,” Goalie said.

“Hold onto your hats. The reason for the SA-4s? Stephenville's the Army-level HQ for the East Germans. Throw in MANPADS, and probably plenty of small-arms fire,” Guru reminded them.

“Lovely,” KT said. “And getting out?”

“Over the Nicaraguans,” Guru said. “They're not as well equipped for air defense like the East Germans are, let alone the Russians. And we're coming out from the south, and seeing us might be the last thing they expect.”

Kara nodded. “Sounds good, Boss. MiG fields?”

“Nearest MiG fields are the old Connelly AFB near Waco, Cleburne Municipal, Brownwood Municipal, and Gray AAF at Fort Hood,” Major Wiser said. “Su-27s reported still at Connelly, but unconfirmed still. MiG-29s are at Gray AAF. Air to air ordnance for us is still the same: Four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Es, two wing tanks, full load of 20-mm, and an ECM pod.”

“By the time they react, we should be gone,” Sweaty pointed out.

“Should,” Guru reminded her. “Unless there's a CAP. Okay...bailout areas?” He saw he had his flight's rapt attention then. “Anyplace away from the roads. This is rural Texas, people, and the bad guys are reluctant to go most places away from a road. Just hole up and the Jolly Greens will come for you at night.”

Heads nodded at that. So far, no one in the flight had been shot down, but the knowledge that the Jolly Green rescue choppers with their Pararescuemen would come to get them was a big shot in the arm.

“Tankers?” Kara asked. Though this wasn't a long-range strike, unlike their missions from Arizona into New Mexico and Texas, one did burn a lot of fuel going in low and fast, and having a tanker handy was a good thing for any pilot.

“Same as before,” Guru said. “Tanker Track EXXON is over Mineral Wells.”

“Nice to know,” Hoser said.

“It is,” Guru replied. “Weather's fair to good, and that will change tonight. Which is why we're on this maximum effort last couple of days. Any other questions?”

Goalie asked, “One more after this one?”

“One more,” the CO nodded. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “Okay,” Guru clapped his hands. “Gear up and let's go.”

The crews went to the locker rooms and geared up. Which meant survival vests, sidearms, G-Suits and helmets. On the way out, they ran across a despised figure. “Hi, Frank,” Kara said. “So you got out of your Dress Blues.”

“Someone had to uphold some Air Force Standards,” Carson fumed.

“Well, Frank,” Guru said. “When a Two-star general shows up at that service in BDUs, and half of the aircrew there are fresh out of the cockpit, and in their flight gear, that should tell you enough. Though I doubt it penetrated that thick Blue Blood skull of yours. Come on, guys,” the CO said. “We got an airfield to tear up.”

They left the building, leaving Carson in their wake, and headed for the dispersal area. When they got to 512's revetment, Kara asked Guru, “He ever gonna change?”

“I doubt it,” Guru said. “But I have to give him time. Now, to business. When talking between ourselves? Call signs. Mission code to everybody else.”

Heads nodded. “Let's get it done,” Sweaty said.

“Let's do,” Guru said. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “Okay, time to hit it.”

The crews broke up and headed to their aircraft. Guru and Goalie went to 512, “their” F-4, and found the Crew Chief, Staff Sergeant Crowley, waiting. “Major,” Crowley said, saluting.

“Sergeant,” Guru said, and both he and Goalie returned the salute. “Got 512 ready?”

“She's ready to go, sir,” Crowley said.

Guru nodded as he and Goalie went about their preflight walk-around. They then mounted the aircraft and strapped in. After going through a quick cockpit check, Guru saw Sergeant Crowley give the “Start engines” signal. First one, then two J-79 engines started up, and they were soon up and running. Guru called the tower. “Sheppard Tower, Corvette One-one with four, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

“Corvette One-one, Tower,” the tower replied. “Clear to taxi to Runway Three-three Lima. Hold prior to the runway.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru replied. He gave Crowley the thumbs-up, and Crowley returned it. The other ground crew pulled the wheel chocks away, and Crowley signaled Guru to taxi. When the F-4 cleared the revetment, Crowley snapped a salute, and both Guru and Goalie returned it. Guru taxied 512 to the runway, and the other three aircraft were behind him. When they got to the runway, they held so that the armorers could remove the weapon safeties. After that, they received clearance to taxi onto the runway. After a quick final check in the cockpit, Guru called again. “Tower, Corvette One-one requesting clear for takeoff.”

The tower flashed a green light in response. Clear for takeoff.

Guru didn't reply. His canopy came down, as did Goalie's. Then he applied full power, released the brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air, with Kara's bird, 520, right behind him. Then, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, and once they were in the air, the flight set course south.
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  #202  
Old 05-25-2015, 08:15 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Payback time for the raid on Sheppard:



Over Central Texas: 1310 Hours:


Corvette Flight was over Central Texas, having not only topped up their tanks from the KC-135s over Mineral Wells, but had also met up with the Wild Weasel element tasked with the SEAD portion of the mission. They had gone in past I-20, and just a few miles south of the interstate was the front lines. And as had been planned, they were threading the boundary between the Nicaraguan II Corps and the East German “Kampfgruppe Rosa Luxemburg.” And so far, there was no reaction from the defenses on either side.

“Two minutes to Route 377,” Goalie said from 512's back seat.

“Copy,” Guru replied. “No threats so far.” He was keeping an eye out for any possible threat, whether SAMs, AAA, MiGs, or such things as power lines or Radio/TV transmitter towers. Though man-made obstacles were marked on their maps, there was no telling what Ivan had built since the invasion and occupation. Then he called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Corvette One-one. Say threat?”

“Corvette One-one, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing zero-nine-seven for eighty-five, high, going away. Second threat bearing one-niner five, high, steady.”

“Roger, Crystal Palace.”

“Lead, Two,” Kara called. “Search radar at Two O'clock.”

“Got it,” Goalie said.

“Flight, Lead. Music on.” Guru ordered. That meant to turn on their ECM pods.

“Copy, Lead,” Kara replied.

“Three copies,” Sweaty.

“Four, copy,” Hoser.

The terrain flew past, as the rolling hills of this part of Texas gave way to some more open terrain. Coming out of the terrain would make the defenses' job easier. One reason they were coming in at only 450 feet AGL.

“All it takes is one guy with a field phone and they wake up,” Guru said.

“Don't want to think about it,” Goalie replied. “Thirty seconds to nav point.”

“Got it,” Guru replied. “Highway 377 dead ahead.

As Corvette Flight overflew the highway, they passed over a Nicaraguan supply convoy. The truckers and their escorts heaved a sigh of relief that the Yanqui aircraft had passed them by, apparently having business elsewhere. And the convoy escort commander, unknown to Guru, stayed off the radio. If the Yanquis have business with those East German snobs, good. They deserve it.

“One minute to Highway 67,” Goalie said.

“One minute,” Guru replied. “Flight, Lead. Switches on.” That meant for everyone to arm their weapons.

“Copy,” Kara replied, and the others followed suit.

“Highway 67....mark!” Goalie called, and the two-lane highway flashed by below them.

“Turning,” Guru called. He made a right turn for U.S. 281, and when they reached that road, it was the IP.

“Twenty seconds,” Goalie said.

“Switches set?”

“All ready back here,” she replied.

“And IP....now!” Guru said .”Flight, Lead. PULL!”

Four F-4Es and two F-4Gs began to pull up. As they did, their threat receivers lit up. “Corvette, Michelob. Time for us to go to work, fella,” the Weasel leader called. Then “Magnum” calls began coming over the radio as Standard-ARM missiles went after the SA-2 site and at least one SA-4 battery.

“Copy that, Michelob. Get some,” Guru replied. He was pulling up, and as he did, Stephenville appeared at his Twelve O'clock, and so did the target. “Flight, Lead. Target in sight. Lead's in hot!”


At Stephenville Municipal Airport, the 274th IBAP (Fighter-Bomber Regiment) was getting ready for another mission. The Second Squadron's strike against Sheppard AFB had been a disaster, and yet, Air Army command wanted another mission against the base. This time, the Third squadron was tasked with the mission, and their Su-17M3s were in the process of being armed and fueled, while the First Squadron had just gone out on a series of Close-support missions. Then the air raid alarm began to sound, and both the 57-mm and 23-mm batteries guarding the airport began to fire.

“Flak coming up,” Goalie said.

“You noticed,” Guru replied. He lined up part of the ramp where a dozen Su-17s were parked. “Steady....and HACK!” He hit the pickle button, and a dozen Rockeye CBUs came off the aircraft. He firewalled the throttle and got back low. “Lead's off target.”

On the ramp, a SAF Major, the commander of Third Squadron, heard the air raid alarm and glanced skyward. He saw the dot approaching, and the smoke behind it. From experience, he knew what was coming. F-4 Phantom, and he knew they didn't come alone. “Take cover!” He shouted, and jumped into a slit trench. Then all hell broke loose around him as Rockeye CBU bomblets exploded.

Guru was jinking as he headed north, and even had an SA-7 missile pass above 512 as he headed north. As he made one of his jinks, Goalie was looking to their rear. “SHACK!”She called. “Good hits!”

“Secondaries?” Guru asked. He turned back north as he did so.

“Several,”

“Good enough!' Guru said. He beat a path right for I-20.


“Two's in hot!” Kara called. She lined up the southern part of the ramp area, and saw the smoke and flame from where Guru had laid his Rockeyes. Ignoring the flak coming up, she watches as an antiradar missile flew toward a flak site and exploded in the middle of it, and all of a sudden the GUN warning on her RWR went off. “Steady,,,,,and HACK!” Twelve Rockeye CBUs came off her aircraft,

The SAF Major looked up from his trench, and saw a second F-4 coming in. There was a lot of smoke and flame as aircraft, fuel and munitions trucks, and other vehicles exploded under the hail of CBU bomblets, Then he saw bombs coming off the F-4, and he knew what was coming. He ducked back down, pulling another pilot down with him.

Kara called, “Two off target,” and she, too, firewalled the engines and headed north. Some tracers flew above her mount, 520, and there was a missile trail that flew behind her, but Kara was able to get clear of the target, jinking as she did so.

“GOOD HITS!” Brainiac called from the rear seat.

“We got secondaries?” Kara asked.

“Got some.”

“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called. She had twelve Mark-82 Snakeye bombs, and she intended to lay them down the runway. Ignoring the 23-mm and 57-mm flak coming up, and even an SA-4 that was launched just before its fire-control radar vehicle took a HARM, she centered the runway in her pipper. “HACK!” She called, and a dozen five-hundred pound bombs came off her aircraft.

The SAF Major shook from concussion in his trench as he heard not only Sweaty's F-4 make its run, but the exploding bombs. He peeked up from the trench to see the last two bombs land just off the runway, and then he ducked back down. One more aircraft was coming in.

“SHACK!” Preacher called as Sweaty pulled away.

“Three's off,” she called, then Sweaty asked her backseater, “Good hits?”

“Right on the runway.”

She grinned underneath her oxygen mask and did some more jinking. An SA-4, probably launched in optical mode, came up, but it flew harmlessly over her, as she was below the missile's engagement envelope. Then she headed north for I-20.

“Four's in!” Hoser said. He easily picked out the fuel dump east of the runway, and he, too, ignored the flak coming up at him. Unlike the others, his EW warning showed no threats as he came in. Fuel bladders, storage tanks, and fuel trucks came into view as he lined up several fuel trucks in his pipper. “HACK!” Once more, Mark-82s came off, and he got back down low and headed north. “Four's off target.”

The SAF Major lifted his head again as he saw Hoser's F-4 come in. Not going for the runway, but he saw the bombs come off the plane, and his heart sank. The fuel dump. The F-4 walked its bombs across the fuel dump, and several large explosions followed. The Major dropped his head back into the trench as sympathetic detonations followed. And the antiaircraft guns kept firing.

“Good hits!” KT Thornton, Hoser's backseater, called.

“Secondaries?” Hoser called back. He jinked as an SA-7 flew past his aircraft. “That was close.”

“Big ones!”

Hoser smiled beneath his oxygen mask. Then he, too, headed for I-20.


In Stephenville proper, the East German commander was talking with the Mayor. He, along with the Army's chief Political Officer, was trying to explain to the Mayor that the presence of the East Germans actually meant that things would be calm in the area. 'You may rest assured, Mayor, that we in the National People's Army are not the animals in the Soviet MVD, or in their own Army's Rear-Area Protection Divisions.”

“And the airport?” The Mayor asked. He wasn't collaborating for opportunity's sake. No, he, unknown to the Soviets and now the East Germans, was reporting via several clandestine channels to the American military-who, exactly, he didn't know, but he was conspicuously alive while several prominent collaborators had turned up dead. Then the air raid alarm sounded.

“You may be also assured, Mayor,” the Political Officer said. “The Air Forces of the Socialist Bloc have complete air supremacy in this area. You do not need to worry about being bombed.”

The Mayor looked out the window and saw the F-4s going in on their bomb runs, and at least one missile trail from somewhere come in and explode some target on the ground. And the antiaircraft fire
came up and failed to hit anything. “You were saying?”

Curious, the East Germans went to the window and watched the last two F-4s make their bomb runs, followed by several large fireballs as fuel tanks at the airport exploded. The East German general shot a nasty glance at his Political Officer, then smiled at the Mayor. “My colleague here may have spoken prematurely.”

When he heard Hoser call off target, Guru pumped his fist. Then he called his flight. “Corvettes, form on me. Michelob, we're clear of the target.”

“Roger that, Corvette Lead,” the Weasel leader called. “We're on our way out.”

As they headed north, Goalie asked, “Are the Nicaraguans still asleep?”

“I'm not complaining,” Guru replied. “Are you?”

“Hell, no!” Goalie said. “Let them sleep.”

Thirty seconds later, Kara's F-4 came in next to Guru's in Combat Spread. Then Sweaty and Hoser formed up as well, and the four-ship headed north for I-20. Then the Weasels came in and the six-ship went over the Nicaraguans, and not a shot was fired at them as the Phantoms crossed the front line.

“Michelob, Corvette. Thanks, fella.” Guru said to the Weasel leader.

“Anytime,” Michelob Two-one replied. “Maybe we can do this again.” Then the two F-4Gs broke formation and headed for the tankers.

Guru and the rest of Corvette Flight headed for Sheppard. After waiting for two Marine flights to depart, and another 335th flight as well, the tower cleared them in to land. The F-4s came into the pattern and landed, and as Guru taxied 512 in, he and Goalie finally took off their oxygen masks. “Now I'm drained,” Guru said.

“You're not the only one,” Goalie said. “Toughest one we've had in a while.”

“No kidding,” Guru replied as he taxied 512 into its revetment, and both crew had popped their canopies and raised them. After taxiing in, Sergeant Crowley gave the “stop” signal, and Guru did, then he shut down the engines. “That one's done.”

“And one more today,” Goalie said as she took off her helmet.

“Yep,” Guru acknowledged as took off his helmet and stood up in the cockpit as Sergeant Crowley brought the crew ladder.

“How'd it go, Major?” Crowley asked.

“Good one, Sergeant,” Guru said as he climbed down. “Won't have to worry about those guys bombing us for a few days.”

“If you say so, sir,” Crowley said as Goalie climbed down. 'How's my bird?”

“512's working like a champ, Sergeant,” Guru said. “Get her ready for the next one. And this'll be the last one today.”

“Word is we're standing down due to weather?” Crowley asked.

“We are,” Guru replied. “And you guys can get caught up maintenance wise, and then just plain sleep.”

“Thanks, Major!”

“Don't thank me. Mother Nature's the one you should be thanking. Now get 512 ready,” the Major said.

“You got it, sir!” Crowley said. “You heard the man,” he told his ground crew. “Let's get her ready for one more.”

Nodding, Guru and Goalie headed to the entrance to the revetment, and found Kara and Brainiac waiting. “What'd you think?” Guru asked his wingmate.

“Of all the ones we've flown the last two or three days?” Kara asked. “That one had the most opposition.”

“I'll go along with that,” Sweaty said as she and Preacher came up. “They had flak, but it was wild.”

Guru nodded. “Makes you wonder who was on those guns,” Goalie said.

“Whoever they were,” Hoser said as he arrived. “They were lousy shots.”

“Maybe Russians and not East Germans, for all we know,” Kara pointed out.

“Save it for the debrief,” Guru said. “Come on, let's get that done, get something to eat, then we have one more.”

“Then we have that weather stand-down, right?” Sweaty asked.

“You got it.”

The members of Corvette Flight headed for Squadron Ops, and when they got there, they found Major Dave Golen and Lt. Sandi Jenkins and their GIBs talking. “Guru,” Golen said.

“How'd it go?” Guru asked.

“Went to someplace you went yesterday,” Golen said. “The Terrell Airport.”

“They've got it back operational?”

“It was,” Sandi said. “We put some bombs on the runway, and it's out of commission for another day.”

“Debrief yet?” Guru asked.

“Yes, but just enjoying what's left of this nice day before going out again,” Golen said.

“Enjoy it, because tomorrow? Wind and rain,” Guru said. “Good luck on the next one.”

“Thanks, Guru,” Dave Golen replied.

“Anytime,” Guru said. Then they went into the Ops building and found it busy as usual. Guru noticed the Exec, Capt. Mark Ellis, and waved him over. “Mark,”

“Boss,” Ellis nodded. “How'd it go?”

“Those Fitters won't be bothering anyone for a while.” Guru said. He glanced towards his office. “Anything?”

“Nothing you need to sign,” Ellis said. “Ross came through on the radar parts. They'll be here tomorrow afternoon, weather permitting.”

“Good,” the CO said. “Anything on the elevator for Sandi Jenkins' regular mount?”

“Not yet, but Ross has it at the top of his priority list.”

Guru nodded, then had an idea. “Tell him to talk to either the 450th or the 301st,” he told Ellis. Those two wings were the other two F-4E units in Tenth Air Force. “If they've got a bird that's no longer flyable and they're using it for parts....”

“Gotcha, Boss,” the XO said. He made a note, for future reference.

“Otherwise, that's a factory-level part, and that comes from Japan.” Guru reminded his Exec.

Ellis nodded. “He'll find one, one way or another.”

“Good,” Guru said. Then he went back to his flight members. “Let's get out of our gear, and meet in the briefing room. Licon can debrief, then we get something to eat and drink, and get ready for the next one.”

“And what are you going to do on the stand-down?” Kara asked.

“Get caught up on one thing that's more important than paperwork,” Guru said.

“Let me guess: sleep?”

“You got it.”
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  #203  
Old 05-25-2015, 08:16 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And the next:



335th TFS Operations Building, 1500 Hours:

Major Matt Wiser and the rest of Corvette Flight were milling around their briefing room, waiting on the squadron's intelligence officer. While they waited, everyone was getting something to eat or drink, and just kidding around.

“Well, Kara,” the Major said. “You want a rematch with the General?”

“Boss, normally I'm a good loser. But....it was like losing to a ringer!” Kara shot back. “I want another go at him, and I want my money back.”

First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, the Major's GIB (and girlfriend) nodded. “Kara, he's been doing this since you were in diapers. Probably before.”

“I don't care,” Kara growled. “I want another shot at him, and I want my money back.”

First Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard asked, “What if you lose to him again?”

“Then I'll be a gracious loser. Once was a fluke. Twice, then...different story.”

Then the intelligence officer, First Lieutenant Darren Licon, came into the room. “Major,” Licon said. “Sorry to be late, but I've been hopping all day.”

“What do you think we've been doing?” Major Wiser said.

“Well,sir...you know what I mean.”

The CO nodded. He knew that nerves were getting ragged, and that they had had a busy couple of days, with losing their previous CO on top of it. Even if the stand-down was only for a day, two at the most, any time off would be welcome. “I know, Darren. Look, we're all a bit edgy. It's been a long day, so calm down, get the debrief over with, find out what's next, and get it over. We can let rip tonight, and rest up tomorrow.”

“You're right about that, Guru,” Goalie said. Guru was the Major's call sign. “Just been a rough couple of days.”

“Yeah,” Kara replied, and the others nodded.

“Thank you, Captain,” Licon said. He unfolded a TPC chart and took out some reconnaissance photos of the target. “Major, could you show the ingress route, please?”

Guru nodded, then traced the route on the map with a finger. Then he indicated where the IP was.”Then we got to the IP, did the pull, and that's when all hell broke loose.”

“What came up?” Licon asked.

“Everything they had there,” Kara said. “SA-2, SA-4, at least one gun radar.”

“That they did,” Sweaty added. “Then there was all the unguided flak.”

“Weasels go to work? Licon wanted to know.

“Right off the bat,” Guru said.

“Okay, Major, please show your attack run.” Licon indicated a photo of the target.

“Right here...” the CO traced it with his forefinger. “Northern ramp area.”

“There were aircraft there?”

“A dozen Fitters.”

“No way can you hide those swing wings,” Goalie added.

“Secondary explosions?” Licon asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Goalie said. “Several.”

“I'll go along with that,” Kara said. “I was rolling in, and there were secondaries all over that ramp area.”

“Resistance?” Asked the intel.

“Flak, lots of it,” Guru said. “And an SA-7 flew right over us.”

“Anybody manage to take off?”

“Not that we saw,” said Goalie.

“Okay, Captain Thrace?”

Kara nodded, then indicated her attack run. “Southern ramp area,” she pointed. “And there were a few aircraft there.”

“Fitters?” Licon asked.

“Three or four,” Kara replied. “And we got secondaries.” She looked at her GIB.

“That we did,” First Lieutenant Judd “Brainiac” Brewster said. “Two or three.”

“And the resistance?” The intel asked.

“Flak, and some SA-4s, but they were trying for the Weasels. Had a gun radar on me, but an antiradar missile flew into the gun site and killed the radar. And they weren't shooting as much after that,” Kara said.

Licon nodded. As usual, he was taking copious notes. “Sweaty?”

Sweaty came and traced her run. “Right down the runway.”

“How bad was the flak?”

“Not as bad as Guru or Kara had, but we had a friggin' SA-4 fly over us on the way out.”

First Lieutenant Bryan “Preacher” Simmonds, Sweaty's GIB, nodded. “Said a Hail Mary or two as that thing came over.”

“Didn't guide?” Licon asked.

“No. Either the ECM pod worked, or somebody shot a HARM at the radar and they shut down,” Sweaty replied.

“Secondaries?”

“No, but we did put most of our bombs on or near the runway,” Preacher said.

“All right, Hoser?” Licon asked First Lieutenant Nathan “Hoser” West, Sweaty's wingman.

“Went for the fuel dump east of the runway,” Hoser said, tracing his route.

“Get any secondaries?” Licon asked.

“Did we?” First Lieutenant Kathy “KT” Thornton, Hoser's GIB, asked. “We damned well did! Big ones, too.”

“The kind that come when fuel tanks go boom,” Hoser added.

“Okay.” Licon said. “The egress?”

“Right over the Nicaraguans,” Guru said. “They must've been still asleep from their siestas, because nobody shot at us.” And heads nodded at that.

“All right,” Licon nodded. “I'll write it up for MAG-11 and Tenth Air Force, but it looks like this field's out of business for a few days at least. Thanks, Major.”

“You're welcome,” Guru replied. “Darren?”

“Yes, Major?” Licon said as he gathered up his materials.

“The November list of promotions ought to be in tomorrow,” Guru said. “The General told me last night. Some people in this unit are likely to be on it.”

“Thanks, Major.”

“Be warned, though,” said the CO. “If not this list, the next one.”

“Okay, Major,” the intel said. “Thanks.”

“Anytime, Darren. See you later,” Guru said.

The intel gave a cheerful nod, then left the briefing room.

“So who's on the list?” Sweaty asked. She had good reason to want to know.

“No way to know for sure,” the CO admitted. “Though Rivers had recommended quite a few for promotion, both officers and enlisted.”

Goalie nodded. “So...wait until tomorrow.” She, too was hoping to pin on Captain's bars.

“Might be too early, though,” Preacher said. He was hoping for that kind of promotion as well, but he had only been a First Lieutenant for six months. Though this was wartime, after all....

“In time, people,” Guru said. “Okay, I'm headed to Ops and see what they have for us. We'll brief, then get ready to go. Last flight of the day.”

“Amen,” said Preacher.

“Back in a few,” the CO said, then he went to the Ops Office. He found Capt. Don Van Loan, the Ops Officer, and the CO saw that Van Loan was getting ready to go out for his last mission of the day himself. 'Don.”

“Major,” Van Loan said. “Got a good one for you.”

“That depends on your point of view,” the CO said. “Let's have it.”

The Ops Officer handed the CO the packet. “Back to the Forney-Lake Ray Hubbard area.”

“Damaged vehicle maintenance point?” the Major asked. “Where they put tanks and APCs back in condition to fight?”

“That's it,” Van Loan said. “Army wants that place to go away, or at least, out of commission for a while.”

'And Army-level air defense-again,” Major Wiser noted. “All right, thanks, Don.”

Van Loan nodded. “Good Luck,”

“You too,” the CO replied. He went over things in his head, then went back to the briefing room. He opened the door, and found General Tanner in the room, along with his aide. “General,”

“Major,” Tanner said. “Just wanted to sit in on this last one,” the General nodded. “Go ahead with the brief, Major.”

“Yes,sir,” Major Wiser said. “All right, people, we're going back to the Forney-Lake Ray Hubbard area.”

“Now what?” Kara asked.

“Target is a damaged vehicle maintenance and repair point,” Guru said, indicated a recon photo in the packet. It's right on the west side of the F.M. 740/F.M. 225 intersection. There's some power lines to the east, and they look like they're still up, so be careful there. There's quite a few vehicles there, mostly tanks and APCs,”

“What else?” Sweaty wanted to know.

“There's a ranch house, here, and a collection of tents on the north side of F.M. 740 at the intersection. The house is probably used as a CP, while the tents are for the personnel, it says here,” the CO pointed at the intel sheet.

“Defenses?” Goalie asked.

“Expect Army-level,” Guru said. “SA-4s, and both light and medium flak. There is a ZU-23 battery near the target, and a 57 battery near the I-20 bridges over the East Fork of the Trinity River.”

“Other SAMs?” Hoser asked.

“The Terrell SA-2 is down, and looks like for good,” Guru said. “This is also a divisional rear area, and they do have SA-6. We'll have Coors One-five and One-six. Ingress is via the west, as usual. The town of Forney is the IP. We pop up, hit the target, and get out over the lake. Don't forget to wave to the Rangers on those I-30 bridges.” There was some laughter at the last remark. “We form up over Lavon Lake and come on home.”

“Tanker tracks same as before?” Hoser asked.

Guru nodded. “Track EXXON over Mineral Wells, while SHELL is over Durant, Oklahoma. We meet the Weasels and do a prestrike refueling, then go in low, just as we did the last time we came this way.”

“Ordnance loads?” Asked Sweaty.

“You and I have Rockeyes,” Guru said. “Kara and Hoser have Mark-82 Snakeyes.”

Heads nodded. “Bailout areas?” Hoser asked.

“Same as last time: anyplace rural and away from roads. Your best bet is anyplace north of I-30.” The CO replied.

“Good to hear,” Kara said.

“All right, anything else?” Major Wiser asked. “Okay, a reminder: this may be our last mission of the day, but don't get sloppy or complacent. We've lost people because they did just that.” He looked at his flight. “General?”

“Just a reminder that the Major is correct. We have lost people due to complacency or sloppiness, so treat this mission as if it's your first.” Tanner told the crews.

“Thank you, sir. Anything else?” Guru asked. Heads shook no. “Let's do it. Gear up and I'll see you at 512.”

As the crews went to their locker rooms to gear up, General Tanner came to see the CO. “Good advice, Major. If you hadn't said that, I would've.”

“Thank you, sir,” Guru replied.

The General nodded. “Good luck, Major, and I'll see you when you get back.”

“Yes, sir.” Guru then went to gear up, and he led his people out of the Ops Building. As they left, they ran into Dave Golen, Sandi Jenkins, and their respective GIBs. “Dave, Sandi. You guys just get back?”

“Yes, and it was unbelievable, As soon as we pop up to attack, they start shooting,” Golen replied.

“Okay, Dave, where was this? East of Lake Ray Hubbard?” Guru didn't go into any more details than that.

“East, between Forney and Terrell,” Sandi said. “At least they shot down one of their own Hips...”

“That would've been good to see,” Guru said. “Okay, see you guys when we get back.”

“We might have a hairy one,” Preacher said.

“Then say an extra prayer,” KT quipped.

“I'll do that.”

The crews went to 512, where Guru gave his final instructions. “Okay, same drill. Mission code to AWACS, Weasels, and so on. Call signs between us. Got it?”

“Got it,” Several people replied at once.

Guru nodded, then put his hand out. “Last one.”

The others put their hands out, forming a circle, then they pumped. “Last one!”

“Remember what the General said,” Guru added. “All right, let's hit it!”

The crews went to their aircraft, and Guru and Goalie went to their mount, 512. “Major,” Sergeant Crowley, the crew chief, said. He snapped a salute. “She's ready to go.'

“Thanks, Sergeant.” Guru said. He and Goalie did their walk-around, then they mounted the aircraft and got strapped in. “Ready?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Ready,” Goalie said. “Let's get it done.'

Both Guru and Goalie went thorough their cockpit checks, then got the “Start engines” signal. Both J-79 engines were quickly up and running, then Guru called the tower for permission to taxi. It came, and he gave Crowley the “thumbs up.”

Crowley returned it, and the ground crew pulled the wheel chocks away, while Guru released the brakes. 512 taxied out, and as it cleared the revetment, Crowley saluted, and Guru and Goalie returned it. Guru taxied out, and the other three aircraft were following them. They held prior to the runway so that armorers could remove the weapon safeties. Then the tower gave them permission to taxi for takeoff. Both 512 and 520, Kara's mount, taxied onto Runway 33C, and held while they ran their engines up to full power. Then Guru contacted the tower.

“Tower, Corvette Flight requesting clearance for takeoff.”

The tower responded by flashing a green light. Guru and Goalie in 512, and Kara and Brainiac in 520, closed their canopies, then Guru released his brakes, then he rolled down the runway and into the air, with 520 right behind him. Then it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, and they too, went down the runway and into the air.
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  #204  
Old 05-26-2015, 08:10 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And the day goes on....



Over North-Central Texas, 1610 Hours:


Corvette Flight was just east of the Brazos River, headed east. They had met up with the tankers for a pre-strike refueling, and the Weasel element had joined up on them as well. Now, four F-4Es and two F-4Gs were at 450 feet AGL doing some 500 knots, and were well into enemy territory.

“One minute to I-35W,” Goalie called from the rear seat of 512.

“Copy,” Guru said. “One minute.”

The flight headed toward the interstate, which they-along with other strikes-used as a navigational checkpoint. And so far, the Soviets and their lackeys-Cubans in this part of Texas-hadn't yet caught on.

“And...mark! I-35W.” Goalie said as twin ribbons of interstate highway flew by below them.

“Copy. I-35E in two minutes.” Guru said. He was keeping his head on a swivel, watching out for any threats, while also keeping an eye on his instruments. Something that his RTU instructors had drummed into his head from the start.

“Anything out there?” Goalie asked.

“Negative,” Guru said. “But AWACS can tell us more. “Crystal Palace, Corvette One-one.”

“Corvette One-one, Crystal Palace, go,” a controller replied.

“Crystal Palace, say threat.”

“Stand by.....threat bearing one-nine-two for sixty-five. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing zero-nine-seven, for eighty-five. High, going away. Third threat bearing zero-eight-six for ninety. Medium, going away.”

“That's a relief,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds to 35E.”

“That it is,” Guru replied. “And...35E dead ahead.

“Mark, I-35E. And turn.”

“Roger that,” Guru said as he turned 512 towards the town of Ennis and I-45.

“One minute,” Goalie called.

“One minute,” Guru acknowledged. So far, so good.

“Coming up....and turn.”

Guru put 512 into a left turn and was now headed due north. He looked around, and saw Kara's bird, 520, right with him in Combat Spread, and he knew that Sweaty and Hoser would be right behind them. Then he saw the two Weasel Phantoms just ahead and above them. Two minutes to U.S. 175 and the town of Kaufman.

“Ready to go to work?” Goalie asked. “One minute to Kaufman.”

“Ready,” Guru said firmly. “One minute.”

The town of Kaufman appeared, and so did U.S. 175. “And turn,” Goalie said. “One minute thirty seconds to IP.”

“Copy, one minute thirty,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, music on, and stand by to pull.” That was the call to arm weapons and turn on their ECM pods.

“Roger that, Lead.” Kara called.

“Three, copies,” Sweaty replied.

“Four, Roger.” Hoser said.

The Texas countryside flew past, as they approached the town of Forney. Guru had relatives there, and he didn't want to think about that. Not now. Save it for later. Then the town came up, along with I-20. Time to go to work. “Flight, Lead, PULL!” Guru called, and Corvette Flight began pulling up. As they did, their threat receivers lit up.

“Corvette Lead, Coors One-five. Got some trade for us,” the Weasel leader called.

“Copy that,” replied Guru. “Get some.”

The two F-4Gs climbed higher, and as they did, “Magnum” calls came over the radio as HARM or Standard-ARM missiles came off their rails. An SA-4 radar, at least one gun radar, and a search radar had all come up, and antiradar missiles were going after them.

While the Weasels did their thing, Guru led Corvette Flight in. “Flight, Lead. Target in sight. Lead's in!” He rolled 512 to the left and began his attack run.

“Got some flak coming,” Goalie said.

“I see it,” Guru said as he lined up the collection of tanks and APCs that were in the maintenance collection point that was their target. Not today, Ivan... he thought as 23-mm and 57-mm fire came up at 512, and even a couple of SA-7 missiles that failed to track. Guru lined up the target in the pipper, and called, “Steady....Steady...and...HACK!” He hit the pickle button, and twelve Rockeye CBUs came off of 512's racks. Then he pulled out of the dive, went wings level, and headed out over Lake Ray Hubbard. “Lead's off target.”

At the maintenance point, the mechanics and other personnel from the 350th Independent Equipment Maintenance and Recovery Battalion, 25th Guards Motor-Rifle Division, were hard at work, repairing battle-damaged tanks and APCs. Though there was a ZU-23 battery deployed to protect the collection point, most of the mechanics were too busy to notice the aircraft alarm. They did notice the ZU-23s firing, and only then did they see an F-4 coming down on them. The mechanics and other personnel scattered as the F-4 came in and dropped its cluster bombs. The CBU bomblets scattered all over the collection point, and a number of vehicles exploded.

“Good hits!” Goalie called. She had her head turned to the rear, and watched the CBU bomblets go off, and several secondary explosions.

“How good?” Guru called as he watched an SA-6 missile launch and fly over 512.

Goalie yelled, “Good enough!” Then she involuntarily ducked in the cockpit as the missile flew over.

“Roger that!” Guru said, taking 512 north over the I-30 bridges over the lake.


“Two's in hot!” Kara called as she went in. She had a dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes and she watched the CO's run, followed by several secondary explosions as the CBUs found vehicles or equipment and exploded them. She ignored the 23-mm flak from the perimeter and the nearby 57-mm near the I-20 bridge over the East Fork of the Trinity River. Not this time....Kara lined up the site in the pipper and hit the pickle button “HACK!' She called as the Mark-82s came off of 520. She then followed the CO's path out, watching as an SA-6 fired, only to eat an antiradar missile from one of the Weasels. “Two's off safe.”

In the collection point, the Soviet technicians were trying to sort themselves out. Some were trying to help injured comrades, while others were grabbing fire extinguishers to try and put out some of the fires that had started when the CBU bomblets went off. Then Kara's F-4 came over, and her bombs exploded among the vehicles and the men, tossing some tanks and APCs around like toys, while bodies flew into the air like garbage in the wind.....

“SHACK!” Brainiac called from 520's rear seat.

“Good hits?” Kara asked as she headed out over Lake Ray Hubbard.

“Good ones,” he replied.

“Three's in hot!” Sweaty radioed. She, too, ignored the flak, and watched with satisfaction as an antiradar missile flew into the 57-mm battery east of the I-20 bridges, and the radar went off at once. She watched Kara's bombs go off, and she lined up an unhit group of vehicles, tanks, they looked like. Fine with me, she thought. “Steady...and HACK!” Sweaty hit the pickle button, and a dozen Rockeye CBUs came off her aircraft. She then leveled off and headed out over the lake. “Three off target.”

The Soviet technicians who hadn't been caught by Kara's bombs had jumped into slit trenches or foxholes when an officer pointed out a third F-4 coming in. Though the nearby ZU-23 battery kept firing, it had no effect as the F-4s were just too fast. Then a dozen CBUs came off of Sweaty's aircraft, and exploded among the vehicles, taking out several, and killing a number of personnel who hadn't gotten to shelter in time.

“Good hits!” Preacher Simmonds called.

“How good?” Sweaty replied as she took the F-4 over the lake.

“Pretty good!” was the reply, and Preacher watched as some 57-mm tracers flew above their aircraft. To him, they looked like oversized basketballs that glowed orange as they flew past. And he didn't want to think about what would happen if some of those tracers hit their aircraft. This low and fast, there wouldn't be time to eject. But Sweaty got them clear of the target area, and headed for Lavon Lake and the rendezvous.

“Four's in!” Hoser called. He saw that the other three aircraft had punished the maintenance area enough, and he went after the tent area and the ranch house. There was some 23-mm flak coming up, but he ignored it as he went in. “Steady, and...HACK!” He hit the pickle button and his twelve Mark-82s came off his aircraft. He rolled level and headed on out, and he, too, watched as 57-mm fire passed above his aircraft. “Four's off target.”

In the tent area, the tents were blasted to tiny pieces by the Mark-82s landing, and Hoser had also walked two or three bombs into the ranch house, which blew apart, killing several techs and officers who had taken shelter in the house. And for good measure, two of his bombs landed on F.M. 740, blasting craters in the road. After Hoser's F-4 was gone, the survivors picked themselves up, and the surviving officers wondered how they had been hit with no warning from their air defense people.

“SHACK!” KT Thornton called.

“Good hits?” Hoser asked. He, too, had some tracers and an SA-7 fly over the aircraft.

“Good ones.”

When he heard Hoser call off target, Guru smiled underneath his oxygen mask. “Coors One-five, Corvette. All off target.”

“Copy that,” Coors One-five called. “We're on our way out. “ The two F-4Gs fired their last antiradar missiles, then headed for I-30 and friendly lines.

“Flight, Lead,” Guru called. “Form on me, and verify IFF is on.”

“Roger, Lead,” Kara called.

Guru turned to look, and there she was, already in Combat Spread. And he knew that Sweaty and Hoser weren't far behind. Then he flew over Lavon Lake, and climbed to altitude. Kara matched him, and a minute later, Sweaty and Hoser joined up, as did the two F-4Gs. “Coors, Corvette. Thanks, buddy.”

“Anytime, Corvette,” Coors One-five called. “We're headed home.” The two F-4Gs then broke away and headed for the tankers. Since they went out with four antiradar missiles loaded and a centerline fuel tank, they needed more fuel than the strike birds.

After the Weasels left, the strike crews relaxed. “Glad that's over?” Guru asked his GIB.

“You're not the only one,” Goalie said. “Tomorrow, all I want to do is sleep.”

“Still got the paper warriors to take care of,” Guru said. The last thing he wanted to deal with was the AF bureaucracy. Though things had been streamlined as a result of the war, dealing with some nameless REMF still rankled him. As Exec, he'd had his share of such unpleasantness, and knew that as CO, he'd have more.

“Thought those slime slithered off into some hole,” Goalie wondered.

“Not all of 'em,” Guru said.

It wasn't long until they were near Sheppard, but before they could contact the tower, the crews noticed some additional air activity, as what appeared to be a scramble took place. Then a SAM launched from the ground-probably a Marine I-HAWK, and as they watched, the crews saw that missile track an aircraft and blow it to pieces. Then another aircraft took an AAM and exploded. Only then did Guru contact the tower. After asking that their IFF remain on, the Tower cleared them into the pattern. The crews noticed a couple of Marine F-4 flights, a couple of flights of A-4s, and two 335th flights in the pattern, and Corvette Flight had to wait its turn. Finally, they were cleared to land, and after landing and taxiing away, the crews popped their canopies. Then they taxied to the dispersal area, then to their revetments.

Guru taxied 512 into its revetment, and after he did, Sergeant Crowley, the crew chief, gave the “Shut down” signal. He shut down the two J-79 engines, and the ground crew put the wheel chocks in place. Then Crowley got the crew ladder.

“How'd it go, sir?” Crowley asked.

“Made a few people burn, bleed, and blow up,” Guru said as he stood up in the cockpit. He took off his helmet and then climbed down, and Goalie followed.

“Good for them, sir,” Crowley said. “How's my 512?”

“She's still truckin', Sergeant,”Guru said. He and Goalie then did their postflight walk-around, and as he did, he added, 'Get what you can done, Sergeant, then come back tomorrow. After you sleep in, that is.”

“Is that an order, sir,” Crowley asked. He, too, was looking forward to sleeping in.

“Why not?” Guru said. Then he and Goalie headed out of the revetment.

“Yes, sir!”

When Guru and Goalie got to the revetment entrance, they found Kara and Brainiac already there, waiting. “You guys as tired as we are?” Guru asked.

“All I want to do tomorrow is sleep, eat, then sleep some more,” said Kara.

“Same here,” Brainiac added.

Then Sweaty, Hoser, and their GIBs came over. “Done and done,” Sweaty said.

“They said there'd be days like this in the RTU,” Hoser added, and KT nodded.

“That they did,” Preacher said. “Just glad to be done.”

“Remember, people, we had more during PRAIRIE FIRE. Seven each those first three days, if you'll remember.”

“Trying not to,” Kara said. “The last one of the third day, they had to lift me out of the cockpit because I was so tired.”

“You, me, and almost everyone else in the flight,” the CO reminded Kara. “Okay, let's go and debrief. Get that done, then we can hit the Club. Then eat, drink, and be merry.”

“For tomorrow we sleep,” Sweaty said.

“Amen,” Preacher said.

“First, though, I want my money back,” Kara reminded them. She had lost to General Tanner at the pool table, and she wanted another crack at him. Though now a two-star general, Tanner was still a fighter pilot at heart, and the pool table reminded him of past times in Southeast Asia. Much to Kara's regret.

“Maybe,” Hoser said. “What if he beats you again?”

“Then I'll cheerfully pay up, smile, nod, and then get smashed.” Kara said.

“So Boss,” KT asked. “What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Stay in bed as long as I can,” Guru said.

“Good idea,” Goalie said.

Guru turned to his GIB. “And sleep.”

Her expression grew coy. “Wanna bet?”

“Come on, let's get the debrief done, then we'll be off the clock,' Guru said as they went into the 335th's Operations Building.
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  #205  
Old 05-26-2015, 08:17 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And after the day's flying:



335th TFS Operations, 1705 Hours:



The members of Corvette Flight were in their briefing room, talking with the Squadron's intelligence officer. All were tired, having flown four missions that day, and having had some close calls, either from SAMs or AAA, they were edgy as well. Everyone was looking forward to the weather stand-down, and getting some overdue rest. Even if it was only for a day, two at the most.

“Okay, let's get this over with,” Major Wiser said.

“Yes, sir,” First Lieutenant Darren Licon, the SIO, nodded. He not only had a TPC map, but several reconnaissance photos. “Major, could you show your attack route, please?”

“Sure,” the Major said. He showed his path from the pop-up at Forney to the target. “Did the pop-up, picked out the center of the target area, put the Rockeyes in, and then headed out over the lake.”

“Get any secondary explosions?” Licon wanted to know.

“We got several,” First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, the Major's WSO, said. “Wanna bet some of those were what happens when a CBU bomblet goes off on tanks for acetylene torches?

“And fuel,” Licon noted. “How about resistance?”

“Had some 23-mm at the target, and a 57-mm near the I-20 bridges,” Major Wiser said. “And a couple of SA-7s.”

“Don't forget the SA-6 that flew right over us,” Goalie added with a shudder. There had been no warning on the threat receiver.

“Didn't even see it,” the Major said. “Too busy concentrating on not going into the lake.”

“Thanks, Major,” Licon said. “Captain Thrace?”

Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace showed her route. “Put our Mark-82s near where Guru put his CBUs.” Guru was the Major's call sign.

“Good hits?”

“Good enough,” First Lieutenant Judd “Brainiac” Brewster, Kara's GIB, said. “And we had plenty of flak.”

“SAMs?” Licon asked.

“Not a one,” Kara said, and Brainiac nodded agreement.

Licon, as usual, was taking plenty of notes. “Thanks, Captain,” he said. “Sweaty?”

First Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard, the second element leader, showed her run on the photo. “Put my bombs on some unhit tanks.”

“Secondaries?”

“Got a few,” First Lieutenant Bryan “Preacher” Simmonds, Sweaty's GIB, said.

“And the triple-A?” Licon asked.

Both 23- and 57-mm,” Sweaty said. “And an antiradar missile went into the 57 battery.”

“Thanks, Sweaty,” Licon nodded. “Hoser?'

“Put my bombs onto the tent area and the ranch house,” First Lieutenant Nathan “Hoser” West said.

“How'd they do?”

“Didn't see much,” Second Lieutenant Kathy “KT” Thornton, replied. She was Hoser's WSO. “And we had some 23-mm and 57-mm come at us. And an SA-7 flew by.”

“All right,” Licon noted. “Thanks, Major. And everybody. I'll write it up and send it up the line.”

“Okay, Darren,” Major Wiser said. See you later.”

Licon nodded, gathered his materials, and left for the intelligence office.

The Major looked at the wall clock. 1715. “All right, people. Check your desks, and clear any squadron paperwork. Then it's chowtime at the Club, and I'll see you guys then.”

The crews got up to leave, and only Goalie remained. “Well?” Not only was she his GIB, but also his girlfriend and a confidante.

“I think we made Colonel Rivers proud. He's looking down on us and smiling.” the CO said.

Goalie looked at her pilot and CO. “I think you're right.”

“Yeah. Right now, need to check my desk-and so do you.” Major Wiser said. Goalie, though only a First Lieutenant, was in the senior WSO slot.

Goalie nodded. “And when do we have our...private celebration of your promotion?”

“When the General leaves,” Guru replied. “No shenanigans while he's on base.”

“And the same goes for Kara, too. This is the first time when somebody loses to her and can't pay, that she takes a check.”

“Wonders will never cease,” the CO nodded.

“There's a first time for everything,” Goalie said. “See you in a few.”

The CO nodded, then he, too went to his own office. He found his Exec, Capt. Mark Ellis, waiting for him. “Mark.”

The XO handed him a clipboard. “Got a few things for you.”

Major Wiser nodded. “Such as?”

“Aircraft status update. Still two birds down.”

The CO signed the sheet. “The radar parts?”

“Supply still on its ass,” Ellis said, and the scroungers are going to work.”

“Okay,” the CO nodded. 'And the elevator for Sandi's bird?”

“Ross has two leads. One with the ex-IIAF guys in the 405th, and another with the 301st,” Ellis said. Both were two of the wings in Tenth Air Force that flew F-4s, though the 405th also flew F-5Es as well.

“Tell him to keep at it,” the CO said. “What else?”

“MAG-11's PAO was here. Seems a reporter wants to be with us for a few days.” Ellis handed the CO a paper.

“This is for my information only, right?” Major Wiser asked, and Ellis nodded. “Okay, where's he from?”

“She,” Ellis said. “ABC from Australia.”

“Why us?” Major Wiser wanted to know. “Must be too many newsies with the ANZACs up in Canada.”

“You'll have to ask her, when she gets here. Be here day after tomorrow.”

“We have a PAO?”

“Tom Lyon had that job,” Ellis said. “Until-”

“Until he got himself killed the first week of PRAIRE FIRE,” the CO finished. “And we haven't filled the slot. Okay, find any officer in the squadron who's got a journalism degree, and there's probably somebody with that background, and they're the new PAO.”

“Got you.”

“Anything else?” the CO wanted to know.

“That's it for now,” Ellis said.

Major Wiser nodded, “Thanks, Mark.”

“You got it.”


Major Wiser then went to the Officer's Club tent, and found the Marine Mess people already set up. The menu was either country-fried pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy, along with corn, or ham with scalloped potatoes. He took the pork chops, and sat down with Goalie, Kara, and several others from his flight. “Had so much chicken last couple of days that if I ate any more, I'd be growing feathers.”

“Can't have that,” Goalie quipped.

“I know beef's not that hard to come by,” Sweaty said. “But where's it coming from?” With the Soviets and their lackeys still holding on to most of Texas, and though other states that hadn't seen enemy forces were turning out beef, it was still a precious commodity, with the military getting priority one.

“Australia,” Kara replied. “Saw that in Stars and Stripes.”

“Thank god for the Aussies, then,” Goalie said. “Essential wartime aid: Beef and Foster's.”

“Not just that,” Kara said. “Same piece had something about a guy in Wyoming. Raising Bison instead of Cattle, and he's not the only one.”

“Bison burger? Lovely,” the CO said.

They chatted for a few more minutes, then after they ate, Kara went to the pool table. “Okay,” Goalie said. “How long until General Tanner arrives, and does she really challenge him?”

“Not that long,” said Sweaty. “Here he comes.”

General Tanner came into the Club, and since everyone was off duty, hardly anyone noticed. Only when he went over to the pool table did people take notice. “Oh, shit,” Guru said.

“What?” Goalie asked.

“Kara did it. She just challenged the General to a rematch.”

Goalie looked in that direction. Both combatants showed their money, then began to play. “Okay, so it begins.”

Major Wiser put his face in his hands. “I don't want to even look.” But he did eventually, and watched as both antagonists were fairly even, but eventually, the General's skills got the best of Kara's. She was gracious in defeat, happily paid the $50.00, and only then did she leave the table in a fit of the sulks.
She went to the bar, got a beer, then came over to the CO's table, and those sitting there could see the fury in her eyes. “Well?”

“Who taught him to play pool? Minnesota Fats?” Kara raged.

“Just been doing it a lot longer than you have,” Goalie said. “At least you lost to one of the best.”

Kara looked at her, and the CO, then shook her head. “How?”

“Some things are like riding a bike, Captain,” the General said as he came over. “You never forget.”

“If you say so, sir,” Kara smiled politely, but trying to hid her....displeasure.

The General smiled back. He knew that she wanted revenge, but would have to wait. “Major, I'll be leaving in a couple of hours. Going on to Roswell and then Holloman on this trip.”

“Weather, sir?” Guru asked.

“Partially, but wanted to see how things are going there, and have a look at how the ROKAF and the ROCAF are settling in to Roswell and Holloman, respectively.” Both the ROKs and the Taiwanese had sent tac air squadrons as part of their expeditionary forces to North America, and their long experience of working alongside the USAF was paying off, though the General wanted to see for himself.

“The ROKs are pretty good, General,” Major Wiser said. “We've flown alongside them a few times.”

“I know, Major, but want to have a look-see for myself,” Tanner said. “You guys are doing really well, and keep it up.”

“Thank you, sir,” the CO replied.

“Remember to take care of your people, and if you ever need anything, you do have the contact info?”

“Yes, sir. Colonel Rivers left all that for me.”

“Good, Major. Let's hope you don't need to use it.”

“Sir, if I don't, I'll be happy. Chances are, though....especially if a certain officer fouls up.”

Tanner nodded. He knew full well what the Major meant, and who he was talking about. “Undertood, Major. You people keep it up, and have a good rest of the evening. Enjoy your stand-down, and when you get back flying?”

“Yes, sir?” Major Wiser asked.

“Keep up the good work. We're winning, and the sooner we're on the Rio Grande, the better.”

“Yes,sir!'

“And before I leave, I believe you've got some squadron business?” Tanner asked.

The CO nodded. “Yes, sir.” He got up. “Okay, people, listen up!” AF, Navy, and Marines stopped to listen to the Major. “Got a couple of things to take care of. Sweaty, Hoser? You and your GIBs stand up and be recognized. Sweaty and Preacher got their sixth kill today, while Hoser and KT got their first. So congratulations are in order,”

Don Van Loan stood up “Hear, hear, Boss.”

“And Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins?”

The two flight mates stood up. “Uh, Major?” Sandi asked.

“Major Golen got his fourth kill today flying with us,” Major Wiser said. “That makes it what? Fourteen for you, Dave? Four in the Yom Kippur War, three in the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot, or is it the other way around? And four now with the 335th. Not bad for an 'observer.' And Sandi? Congratulations on your first fast-mover kill. Good job on that MiG-23.”

“Thanks, Guru,” Golen said.

“Thanks, Major,” Sandi added.

“All right,” Guru said, hoisting a beer glass. “Here's to today's MiG killers.”

“Hear, hear,” Kara said. And everyone raised their glasses or bottles.

“Drink up, people! And enjoy your stand-down.” Guru said.

After that, the General took his leave. “Major, I'll see you next time. Just keeping up with my 'kids', you know.”

“Yes, sir. Safe trip back,” Major Wiser said. “And good night.”

“You too, Major. And Captain Thrace?” Tanner asked Kara

“Sir?” Kara replied.

“I expected a more sore loser, considering the stuff I've heard about you,” Tanner said. “At least you're more....gracious in defeat than I expected.”

“Thanks, General,” Kara said. “I'll just take it out on the next poor slob who challenges me, sir.”

“And you'll enjoy it, I imagine. All right, you people have a good night, and I'll see you around.”

“Thank you, General,” Major Wiser said.

Tanner then left, and Kara went for another beer. “Well? Am I off the leash or what?”

“Tonight? No,” Guru said firmly. “Tomorrow night, if you want to get crazy? Then you can.”

Kara had a grumpy look on her face, but nodded.

“Why not cut her loose?” Goalie asked.

“He's still on base, and until I hear that his C-130 has left, things need to be....calm,” Major Wiser said.

“Tomorrow night, then?”

“Yep, She's off the leash, and so are we,” Guru said. And Goalie knew full well what that meant.

Goalie had an evil-looking grin. “I'll be waiting.” It had been a while since she'd been...insatiable, and some private time was what the two of them needed.


Everyone in the club ate, drank, and was merry until 2300, when the bell for Last Call rang. The leading edge of the storm was coming in, and everyone made for their respective tents. And despite the rain, people got a good night's sleep, and then some.
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  #206  
Old 05-27-2015, 07:39 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The last chapter of Settling in: Comments welcome as always!


335th TFS Operations, 30 October, 1987, 0800 Hours Central War Time:

Major Matt Wiser went into the squadron operations building, coming in from out of the rain. He was both thankful for the rain, which gave them a well-deserved, if unplanned, day off, but he also hated the mud and dampness, especially since everyone on base was living in tents. Why couldn't they move into prewar base housing? Because they had all been wrecked during the fight to take the base, had been the reply. Oh, well. Overcome and adapt, as one of his OTS instructors had said once.

“Morning, Major,” Capt. Don Van Loan, the Operations Officer for the 335th, said as the CO got out of his rain gear. “And how does our commander like the rain?”

“The Commanding Officer is of two minds. I'm glad for the stand-down, because we can use one, but...in Texas, when it rains, it comes down by the gallon,” the CO spat. He looked at his office. “The Exec in?”

“He is,” Van Loan nodded.

“Okay, thanks. Oh, and Don?”

“Boss?”

The CO looked at his Ops Officer. “Right here, it's wet, rainy, and generally miserable. Up at Angels twenty, though....bright skies and CAVU. Have two birds loaded full air-to-air, that's four AIM-9s, four AIM-7s, full load of twenty-mike-mike, and two wing tanks. Just in case.”

“Got you,” Van Loan said. “Who sits alert?'”

Major Wiser thought for a moment. “If I know Kara's not in violation of Twelve-hour, we'd be sitting the first shift. Since I don't? Instead....put Mark and his wingie in first for 1000. I'll relieve him at 1200 with either Kara or Sweaty. If Sweaty doesn't need to take Kara's place? Have her and Hoser relieve me and Kara at 1400.”

“Gotcha, Boss,” Van Loan replied. “And who relieves Sweaty?”

“You and your wingie,” the Major said. “1400 to 1600. Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins take the last shift. And talk to Ross. Have him get a Crew-Cab pickup and park it facing the dispersal area. If the siren sounds and we have to flush the alert birds....”

“Will do.”

“Thanks, Don,” Major Wiser nodded, then went into his office. He found Capt. Mark Ellis, his Exec, waiting. “Mark,”

“Boss,” Ellis said, handing the CO a cup of coffee.

“So this is our morning ritual? The Exec with some paperwork and a cup of coffee for the CO.” Major Wiser saw the XO nod, then went on. “Okay, what have you got for me?”

“Morning report for MAG-11,” Ellis said.

Major Wiser nodded. He scanned the report, then signed it. “What else?”

“Airman Holly Lockhart's application for Airman to Pilot,” Ellis said, handing the CO the form. “I signed it on behalf of Frank.”

“Good,” the CO replied. He took the form and added his signature where the CO's endorsement was needed. “Send it off, and hopefully, she can start the first class in January, considering how long it takes these to go through.”

“There is that, Boss,” Ellis nodded. 'Aircraft status sheet. Still got two birds down for maintenance.”

“Anything on the radar parts for the first one?” Major Wiser asked.

“Ross' scroungers came through,” Ellis said. “Though we won't get the parts until sometime tomorrow.”

“Better than Supply,” the CO commented. “I was hoping they'd be here earlier. And the elevator for Sandi Jenkins' bird? “

“Ross has leads, and he's running them down,” Ellis replied. “He'll have something tomorrow.”

“What else?”

“This from Colonel Brady,” Ellis said, handing the CO a paper. Colonel Allen Brady was MAG-11's Commanding Officer. “Two birds in each F-4 or F/A-18 squadron on five-minute alert, for air defense.”

“Had a hunch something like that would come down.” Major Wiser said. He told the Exec what he'd told Van Loan. “You get the first shift.”

“Thanks a bunch, Major.”

“All you'll be doing is sitting in a briefing room, killing time until you're relieved. Unless the siren sounds, that is. If I knew Kara was available now, we'd be taking the first shift instead of you.”

Ellis knew that the CO would be taking that first one himself, if his wingmate was not in violation of Twelve-hour. “Gotcha.”

“Anything else?” Major Wiser asked.

“Weather forecast,” Ellis said. He handed his CO a paper.

Major Wiser scanned it. “Cloudy, chance of rain 100%, decreasing to 50% by afternoon. Clearing overnight. Winds variable. Cloud base 5,000, ceiling 17,000. Temperatures low-to-mid '50s. All in all, a miserable day. Unless you need the rest. That it?”

“It is for now,” Ellis replied.

Then there was a knock on the door, and the CO had a good idea as to who it was. “Yeah? Come on in and show yourself.”

A female lieutenant with wavy blonde hair as long as regulations permitted came in, holding two cups of coffee. First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, who was the Major's WSO, nodded. “And good morning, Guru,” Guru was the Major's call sign.

“Good morning,” Guru replied. “Just giving you fair warning. Gear up before 1200.”

“What for?” Goalie asked, surprised. “I thought this was a day to rest up.”

“Got to have two birds on alert in case somebody sneaks in behind the weather,” Guru said. “So we sit in the briefing room, shooting the breeze, from 12 Noon until 1400.”

“Oh, well,” Goalie replied. “Comes with being the CO's GIB.”

“You could say that,” Guru said. “Eaten yet?”

Goalie shook her head. “Not yet.”

“Let's go eat, then take care of whatever paperwork comes our way, and get ready for two hours of boredom,” the CO said.


When the CO, Exec, and Goalie go to the Officer's Mess Tent, they found his wingmate, Capt. Kara 'Starbuck” Thrace and her WSO, First Lieutenant Judd “Brainiac” Brewster, already in line. “Morning, Boss,” Kara said. “We off the leash today?”

“That we are,” Major Wiser said as they went through the chow line. Breakfast today was either Hotcakes and eggs with sausage, or French Toast with the eggs and sausage. The CO opted for the French Toast. When they got to a table, the CO asked Kara, “What time did you have your last beer?”

“Just at last call, 2300,” Kara replied. “Why do you ask?”

The Major looked at his wingmate. “Because we're sitting air defense alert from 1200 to 1400, in case somebody tries coming in over the weather.”

“In the cockpit?” Brainiac asked.

“No, in the briefing room,” replied the CO. “It's only for two hours. We relieve the Exec's flight, and at 1400, Sweaty and Hoser relieve us.”

Kara nodded. “And chances are, nothing happens, but you never know.”

“Right,' the Major said. “And one other thing: this weather will be gone sometime tonight. So we'll be back to the grind tomorrow morning.”

“So, enjoy what time we have off while we can,' Goalie said.

“That's about it.”



A couple hours later, Mark's element began the alert stint, while the CO and others were busy with getting rid of any paperwork that showed up. A couple of airmen came to formally apply for the Airman to Pilot program, while Goalie was busy talking with some of the other WSOs, including a couple who were senior to her in terms of rank (she being a First Lieutenant and they being Captains), though she was the senior WSO as far as the CO was concerned.. Unlike a certain Major, the ranking WSOs had no problems working with Goalie. As far as they were concerned, the CO wanted someone who he could trust in that slot, and if that happened to be his own WSO, so what?”

The CO had finished some paperwork, and he was looking out his office window at the rain, when there was a knock on the door. “Come on in and show yourself,” the Major said.

The door opened and in came Kara. “Boss,” she nodded. She also had a set of papers in her hand.

“What have you got?”

“Airman First Class Josh McClendon wants to go to Airman to Pilot,” Kara said, handing the CO the application.

“Van Loan sign it?” the CO asked. Though Kara worked for Van Loan as assistant Ops Officer, usually the department head had to endorse such applications.

“He did, but he's busy right now. MAG-11 was on the phone. Tomorrow's ATO, among other things,” Kara said.

The CO nodded. “Okay...he's got five semesters...UC Irvine, not bad. Physics Major?”

“Yep, and the Review Board is going to stream him into flight because of that,” Kara reminded the Major.

“Just because someone's a Physics or Engineering Major isn't an indicator of how good a stick they are,” the CO pointed out. “I took one Physics class, got a C, and the AF said that was good enough to get Flight Training. I had guys in my flight school class who had Physics or aeronautical engineering in their background, aced ground school, but couldn't handle basic flight.”

“Same here,” Kara replied. “Failed a couple like that when I was an IP. And so a History Major with a C in Physics is now a fighter pilot?”

“You were Poli-Sci, right?”

“Yep, and took one course in basic aeronautical engineering to satisfy the AFROTC people,” Kara nodded.

“Okay,” the CO said. He signed the form. “Put that on the XO's desk. He'll send them out.”

“Will do.” Kara said. She turned to leave, then saw the CO looking out his office window. “What's up?”

“Just thinking about my opposite numbers somewhere,” Major Wiser said. “I imagine there's a few Soviet or Cuban squadron commanders out there, wondering what they're doing here.”

Kara looked at her CO. “As long as they're keeping it to themselves. Otherwise....” she pointed to the back of her neck. “They get it right here.”

“That they do,” the CO replied. “Just thinking about one other thing: Got any friends who are either POW or MIA? And I'm talking old classmates, that sort of thing. Not fellow members of this unit, and we all know people who are in either category.”

Kara nodded. “Yeah. One guy I went to AFROTC with at Auburn. Went to F-16s prewar. Got shot down in Oklahoma a month into the war. They saw the chute, but nothing since. And an ex-instructor from Reese. She flew to Salt Lake with me and my student. Sent her to RF-4Cs and on to the 186th TRG, that's the Mississippi Guard who fly into Cuba..”

“What happened?” the CO asked.

“Her RF-4C swallowed an SA-3 just as they went feet wet,” Kara said. “She and the Nav punched out, but a Cuban patrol boat picked them up. Nothing since. You?”

“Got a friend I had in the RTU down at Homestead,” Major Wiser replied. “He stayed there and flew F-4Ds. He was shot down over Cuba two months after I got back from the E&E.”

“Where?”

“San Antonio de Los Banos, south of Havana,” the CO said. “That deep into Cuba? If you bail out, no one's coming for you. Unless it's in a rural area, and that place is in Havana's air defense zone. They had no chance to evade or anything. Their wingmate said that there was a crowd waiting for them as they came in on their chutes. And that was it.”

Kara nodded, then she got a cup of coffee for her and the Major. “Well, Boss, here's to our friends POW or MIA. May they all come back safe.”

Major Wiser nodded. “Here's to that.” They drank the coffee, then the Major said, “Let's round up Goalie and Brainiac, get some lunch, and bring it back. We can eat while sitting on alert.”

“Just as long as lunch isn't one of the Jarheads' roadkill sandwiches,” Kara quipped.

After rounding up their respective GIBs, the two pilots went to the Officer's Mess and brought back a cheeseburger, fries and cole slaw lunch for all four, then they went to relieve Mark Ellis and his element from the air defense alert.

“Glad to see you guys,” Ellis said as he and his people got up to leave. “What's for lunch?”

“Your choice,” Major Wiser said. “Either cheeseburgers with fries and cole slaw., or....”

“Or what?”

“Pork tri-tip sandwiches. Or more precisely, 'suggestion of pork tri-tip,'” Kara spat.

“Eat at your own risk,” Elilis said. It wasn't a question.

“Enjoy,” Major Wiser said.

“Thanks,” Ellis said as he and his people headed on out.

“So now what?” Goalie asked.

“Eat, take a nap, twiddle your thumbs, read, whatever,” Major Wiser said. “Got two hours to kill.”

Kara grinned and took out a pack of cards. “Solitaire.”

“Whatever,” Brainiac said. He was one of those who'd lost money to his pilot, and one of a few who had promised never to play cards with her ever again.

After they ate, the time passed slowly. Every few minutes, it seemed, someone would look at the wall clock or their watch, Sure enough, Kara was playing solitaire, while Brainiac took a nap. Goalie was writing a letter home, while the CO was reading a book his mother had sent him from home in California. “How can something be important and boring at the same time?” Goalie asked.

“I imagine the Navy guys who hunt subs say the same thing,” Kara quipped.

“Probably,” Goalie said. “Whatcha reading, Guru?” Guru was Major Wiser's call sign.

“Battleship Bismarck,” the Major said. “If the Air Force had said no to my OTS application? I was going Navy.”

“Saw the movie,” Kara said. “On late-night TV.”

“Or hear the Johnny Horton song?” Guru said. “Some rock-and-roll oldies stations still play it.”

“Once in a while,” Kara admitted.

“Well, the Navy's loss is the Air Force's gain,” said Goalie.

“My mom said the exact same thing,” Guru nodded.

Brainiac woke up. 'What time is it?”

“1320,” Guru said. “You still got forty minutes.”

“Leave me a wake-up call,” Brainiac said. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

“He can sleep anywhere,” Guru observed.

“So....General's gone and we can get back to normal tonight?” Kara asked.

'That's right,”

Both Guru and Goalie saw Kara let out an evil-looking grin. “Won't get my money back from the General, but some poor slobs in a poker game....”

“Back to being the Wild Thing,” Guru said. “Oh, well...”

“Mind if I ask you something, Kara,” Goalie asked.

“What?” Kara replied. “Ask away.”

“Have you thought about what you'll do if a girl loses to you and can't pay?”

Kara thought for a moment. “Hasn't come up yet,” she said. “Guess I'll have to think of something.” And her expression grew coy.

Goalie looked at Kara, then the CO, who simply muttered, “That's what I was afraid of.”


It wasn't long after that there was a knock on the door, and Sweaty, Hoser, and their GIBs came in. “Time to relieve you guys,” Sweaty said. Sweaty, Preacher, Hoser, and KT were all in their flight gear.

“And I stand relieved,” Guru said. He turned to Kara and indicated Brainiac, who was still leaning back in a chair, his feet propped up on a desk. “And wake him up.”

Kara nodded, and poked her GIB awake. “Wake up, sleepyhead.”

Brainiac woke up with a jolt. “Huh?”

“Get up. Our alert stint's over and done.”

“Okay, people,” Guru said. “Get out of your gear, check your desks, and make sure there's no squadron paperwork. We still got three hours to kill.”

Goalie, Kara, and Brainiac nodded, then headed on out, while Guru stayed to talk with Sweaty.

“Boss?” Sweaty asked.

“Anything new?”

“Not much,” Sweaty replied. “Other than the weather forecast.” She handed the CO the sheet.

“Showers ending tonight. Partly cloudy tomorrow, temperatures in the mid to upper 50s. Lows in the upper 30s to low 40s,” Guru read aloud.

“That's it,” Sweaty said. “Anything happen?”

“Nada,” the CO said. “And hope the same goes with you.”

“Thanks, Boss,” Sweaty said.

Guru nodded, then went to the locker room to get out of his flight gear. Then he went to his office, and found Mark Ellis there. “Mark?”

“Got this, hot off the fax,” Ellis said, handing some papers to the Major.

“What is it?” the CO asked.

“November list of Captains is out,” the Exec said. “And you're not going to like it.”

“What do you mean?” Guru said as he scanned the list. He got to the “Bs.” “What? Brainiac made it, but not Sweaty?” The Major was incredulous.

“He's got more time in grade than she does,” Ellis said. “And you're not going to like what you see in the 'Es.'”

The Major scanned the list. “WHAT? No Goalie?”

“Afraid not, Boss.” Ellis said. “But in the 'Ls', you'll find a familiar name.”

“So, Darren made it,” the CO observed. First Lieutenant, now Captain, Darren Licon was the squadron intelligence officer.

“And Kevin O'Donnell,” said Ellis.

“What happened?” Guru asked.

“Chances are, the paperwork for the guys who made it got sent two, three months ago. The others? Last month or the beginning of this one, most likely.”

“All right,” Major Wiser nodded. “Put that on the bulletin board, so folks can see it.”

“Will do,” Ellis nodded. He then left the office.

The Major scowled. “Damn it,” he muttered to himself. Then he left the office and found Goalie. “Got some bad news.”

“What is it?” She asked.

“The list of Captains is out. You didn't make it,” the CO said. “I'm sorry.”

“Not your fault,” Goalie said. “There's next month,”

“There is that,” the Major said. “If it's any consolation, most of those on Rivers' wish list didn't make it either.”

Goalie nodded. “Well, we can drown our sorrows tonight.”

'Yeah, and well...celebrate something.”

“Too bad it won't be a double celebration.”

Guru nodded and went to find the others. He found Brainiac, who was jumping for joy, and so was Darren Licon when he got the news. Then he went to talk to Sweaty. He knocked on the door to the briefing room, then went in. “Sweaty?”

Sweaty looked up from the magazine she was reading. “What's up, Major?”

“Got some bad news. The new list of Captains is out. You didn't make it.”

“Damn it,” Sweaty growled. “Who else?”

“Goalie and a few others,” Major Wiser said. “If it's any consolation.”

“Oh, well...” she nodded. “Better luck next month.”

“Yeah. You can take your sorrows for a little swim tonight. Just don't go as deep as Kara does.”

Sweaty nodded. “I'll do that, Major.” And the Major could tell the disappointment in her voice.

“Major?” KT asked. “How about the Lieutenants' list?” She meant the list of those going from Second Lieutenant to First Lieutenant.

“We should be getting it...” A knock on the door interrupted the CO. “Yeah?”

Kara opened the door. “Mark Ellis sent me to find you. The Lieutenants' list is out.” She handed several papers to her CO. “Just off the Fax machine.”

“Thank you,” the Major said. He scanned it quickly. “KT?”

“Major?” KT asked. A lump formed in her throat. Was this good or bad news?

Then the CO grinned. “Congratulations. You made it to First Lieutenant.”

KT smiled as Hoser and Preacher slapped her back. “Thanks, Major.”

Major Wiser smiled back. “You're welcome, and thank Colonel Rivers, everyone. He forwarded the paperwork. And for those who didn't make it, my sympathies. There's always next month.”

Heads nodded. “When did he send them in?” Hoser asked. He was hoping to make Captain, just like Sweaty.

“Up until early this month,” the CO said. “That's all I know. Should've asked the General about it, but we were pretty busy last few days.”

“That we were,” Kara said. “Any idea on the enlisted and NCO promotions?”

“Should be tomorrow,” Major Wiser said. “Get that posted.”

Kara nodded. “You got it, Boss.” Then she headed back to the office.

Nodding, the Major saw her leave, then turned to Sweaty. “Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins will relieve you guys at 1600.”

“Okay, Boss,” Sweaty said.

The CO nodded, then went back to his office. He found Mark Ellis waiting. “Boss, good news.”

“What?”

“Ross found an elevator for Sandi's bird. It's at Amarillo. One of the ex-IIAF guys came through for us. They've got two shot-up aircraft that they're scavenging for parts, and Ross talked them into giving us a pair of elevators from one of 'em.”

“Okay, see if there's a C-130 or anyone headed to Amarillo tonight and get them up there. And they don't RON. Just get the part and get back.”

“What about other, uh, 'scrounging' activities?” Ellis asked.

“Tell them to wait until next time,” Major Wiser said. “We need those elevators most of all. I know, the scroungers would love to see what the 450th has to offer, but next time.”

“Gotcha,” the Exec said.

“Anything else?”

“Still have eighteen aircraft for the morning,” Ellis replied. “Tomorrow, we should have twenty.”

“Barring any losses, or damaged birds,” the CO reminded him. “That it?”

“Until morning, I think so,” Ellis said.

“Okay, it's now 1500. My desk is clear, so I'm headed over to the fitness tent. Get some time on a treadmill and get a workout in. Something we've been slipping on the last few days. Remind folks to keep up with that.”

“Will do.”

“All right: I'll see you at the Club.” Major Wiser said. Most of the officers, regardless of service, ate there.

After Ellis left, the Major went to his tent and got his workout clothes: a CSU Fresno T-Shirt and shorts, changed, and headed over to the fitness tent that all the aircrew, whether AF, Marine, Navy, or Army used. He got onto a treadmill, and did his usual four-mile run in twenty-six minutes. While he was running, both Kara and Goalie came in to get some running in, and he couldn't notice the looks both got from Marine and Navy crew when they were on the treadmill. Their sports bras didn't hide much when they got sweaty. Well, he'd seen Goalie in her birthday suit on numerous occasions, and he'd seen Kara when she had been found in Carson's front cockpit, naked as the day she was born, and having puked all over the instrument panel.

When the Major finished the rest of his workout, the CO went to take a shower, then went over to the Chow tent. The rain had stopped, he was pleased to see, and that meant they would be flying in the morning. When he went in, he found Colonel Allen Brady, USMC, the MAG-11 CO, at a table. “Colonel, mind if I have a seat?”

“Not at all, Major,” Brady said. “What's on your mind?”

“Sir, with the weather easing up, any chance one of your KC-130s can make a cargo run up to Amarillo AFB?” The old Amarillo AFB had closed in 1969, and after the invasion and then PRAIRIE FIRE, the Air Force had decided to formally reopen the base.

“What for?”

“Sir, the 450th TFW, those are some of the ex-IIAF guys, sir, have a pair of elevators for an F-4E that are on a bird that's too shot up to fly again. My guys can get those so that we can get a damaged bird flying,” Major Wiser said.

“Then you guys can get up to twenty aircraft, with that other bird coming back,” Brady commented. “And my guys can do some, well, 'moonlight requisitioning.' themselves.” Colonel Brady saw the Major's expression. “Relax, Major, I know the drill. Saw quite a bit of that at Chu Lai in 1967 and early '68.”

“Sir, I knew you flew in Southeast Asia,” Guru said.

“Yeah, but you didn't know this: got shot down January 23, 1968. Five miles north of the DMZ. My backseater and I never had a chance to call for Jollys or evade or anything. Hanging in the chutes, every Vietnamese for a mile or two saw us. Took us two weeks to get to the Hanoi Hilton. Seventeen months in solitary, out of five years and two months. And you know the drill on that.”

“Yes, sir,” Guru replied. “From SERE, and I've read a few books on the subject: Jerry Denton's, Robbie Risner's, and a few others.”

Brady nodded. “Well, let's hope there aren't any two-time POWs in this war. Had a guy in Hanoi who'd been a B-17 pilot in World War II. Shot down on his first mission and spent ten months in a Stalag. On his first combat mission in Vietnam? He's the first guy shot down by an SA-2. Spent seven and a half years in Hanoi.”

“Bad luck,” Major Wiser commented.

“Real bad. There were guys captured in World War II who were captured again in Korea. Let's hope there aren't any two-timers this go-around. As for your Sergeant Ross?” Brady asked.

“Sir?”

“Have him and his team at the cargo ramp at 2000,” Brady said. “I'll arrange the flight.”

“Yes, sir,”



A few minutes later, Goalie, Kara, Sweaty, and several other 335th aircrew came in, and Guru went to be with them. “You guys have a good workout?” The CO asked.

“That we did,” Kara said.

“She'll deck the next Marine who ogles her when she's running, though,” Goalie said.

“What?” Major Wiser asked. “Remember, we're on pretty good terms with the Jarheads.”

“We know,” Goalie replied. “But a couple of Marines were busy watching us instead of their own workout.”

“Kara,” Sweaty said. “It's not like there aren't guys on this base who haven't seen you naked.”

“Sweaty's right,” the CO said. And when he found her in Carson's cockpit, he had seen her in her birthday suit.

“I know, and someone seeing me naked on my terms? That's one thing. Ogling me in the gym while I'm working up a sweat? Something else entirely,” Kara told the CO.

“Fair enough,” Major Wiser said.

Goalie pulled the Major aside. “Speaking of seeing naked,” she said. “When are we having our, well, private celebration of your promotion?”

“Tonight,” the Major promised, and Goalie smiled.


Mark Ellis and Don Van Loan came in next, and the CO waved them over. “Boss?” Ellis asked.

“Find Ross. Tell him to get whoever he needs to bring those elevators back and have them at the Marine C-130 area by 2000. There's a KC-130 going to Amarillo and they had better be on it.”

Ellis knew what the CO meant. “Got you. I”m off.” Ellis then headed out to let Ross know.

“The elevator for Sandi's bird?” Van Loan asked.

“You got it.”

As more regulars arrived, the Marine Mess people came in with the dinner menu. Either fish and chips with cole slaw or chili with cornbread. As people ate, the conversation turned to the fact that they were flying again in the morning, and the lucky stiffs who were on the promotion lists.

After eating, Kara went to the pool table, and sure enough, took out her frustrations from the last couple of days on several Marines or Navy who thought that since General Tanner had beaten her twice, she had lost her touch.

“I see Kara's getting over losing.” Sweaty said.

“That wouldn't last long,” Brainiac nodded. “She's on a mission.”

“Yeah, proving that the General beating her wasn't a fluke,” Major Wiser said.

Kara won three games and lost none, then she went over and got in on a poker game. As she did, Colonel Brady came over to the table Major Wiser was at. “Major,”

“Colonel?”

“That KC-130's all arranged. Your guys?”

“Sir, they'll be there.” the Major said.

“Good, Major,” Brady said. “It's almost 1900 and Twelve-hour. If you've got any toasts...”'

The Major gulped. “Oh, shit, sir. Almost forgot.” He went to the bar, got his second beer of the night, and rang the bell. “Okay, people, listen up!” The crowd went quiet as he spoke. “Several people in the 335th got good news today. Either they're pinning on Captain's bars come 1 November, or they're going from butter bars to silver ones, If you got that kind of good news today, stand and be recognized.” Several people, including Brainiac, KT, Darren Licon, among others, stood up to applause. “And for others, well....there's next month's list to look forward to.” He looked at Goalie, Sweaty, Hoser, and several others who were taking their sorrows for a swim. “Congratulations to the lucky ones, and condolences to the unlucky. And when everyone, and I mean everyone, who Colonel Rivers recommended for promotion gets what they have coming, we'll have that squadron promotion party. How's that?”

There was a roar of applause. “Major, that's something to look forward to,” Sweaty said.

“That it is,” the CO said. “Drink up, people! Ten minutes to Twelve-hour kicking in.”

Major Wiser went back to his table, and nodded to Sweaty and Goalie. “Next time, that's all I can say.”

“I wonder why?” Goalie asked.

“Maybe a mass promotion might raise red flags,” Sweaty wondered aloud. “Especially with that skunk Carson still around.”

“You're probably right,” Guru said.

Just then, the bell at the bar rang, and it was Doc Waters, the Flight Surgeon for the 335th, who rang it. “Twelve-hour rule now in effect!”

People nodded, and those flying in the morning turned in their bottles or cans. Those not flying were envied, though. The Major went and got a plate of Nachos for his table, and they were talking about sports, letters from home, or anything, because the next morning meant back to flying, and the ever-present threat of MiGs, SAMs, and AAA. Then the bell rang again to signal aircrew curfew, and people began heading to their tents, for it wouldn't be long until 0430 and aircrew wake-up.

Both Guru and Goalie headed back to Officer Country, and found his tent. One thing about being CO was that the CO got his own tent. They went in, and Guru went and opened an ice chest. Doc Waters was able to get the ice for him and several others, and in the ice chest was a bottle of Seven-up. “Since we can't have champagne, this'll have to do.” He found a couple of plastic cups, filled them,and gave one to Goalie. “Here.”

“Thanks,” Goalie replied. “Congratulations,” she said. “I know,this isn't the way you wanted it.”

“Hell of a way to get a combat squadron,” Guru said. “I'm not the first, and I sure as hell won't be the last to get one, filling a dead man's shoes.”

Goalie nodded. “Something they don't teach you at the Academy, ROTC, or OTS. Comes with the job.”

“Well,” the CO mused. “I got mine, and next time, you'll get yours.”

Goalie smiled. “Here's to that,” she said, and they drained their cups. Then she stood up, and got out of her flight suit. And to Guru's surprise, she had nothing on underneath. “I came prepared.”

“Guess so,” he said. He got out of his clothes, they found the camp bed, and went after each other.


The next morning, Guru's alarm clock buzzed. He woke up, and saw the time. 0415. He sat up in bed, and saw Goalie next to him, still asleep. He gently nudged her awake. “Hey, sleepyhead.”

She woke up, and sat up in bed, and the covers fell off her chest. “Time?”

“Yeah,”

Goalie nodded, got up and quickly dressed. “See you in the chow line,”

“Yep. And we need to do this when you get your promotion.”

She grinned. “That we will.”

“See you in the chow line,” Guru said as he got up. God, he needed a shower, then food in his belly. He had a philosophy that if he was ever shot down again, he wanted to have a full stomach in case of another E&E.

“Will do,” Goalie smiled, then she went out of the tent and back to the one she shared with Kara, Sweaty, Ryan Blanchard, and a couple of others.

After she left, Guru looked at the clock. It wouldn't be long until 0700 and wheels up. “Back to work,” he said to himself as he got his things and headed to the shower. It promised to be a busy day. And as it had been the last several days, it was.
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  #207  
Old 05-31-2015, 07:37 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Another one: Guru gets his first gun kill.....


No Kill Like a Gun Kill


2 June, 1987, Cannon AFB, New Mexico: 1100 Hours Mountain War Time




Captain Matt “Guru” Wiser of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron came out of the Operations Building. And he was not a happy camper. The 335th, along with the other Marine and even Navy squadrons that formed Marine Air Group 11, had moved to Cannon from their previous base at Williams AFB in Arizona two weeks earlier, and had helped with close-air support missions during the Battle of Clovis that marked the end of Operation PRAIRIE FIRE I. Now, PRAIRIE FIRE II was going, and the Army was hoping to crack Ivan's defenses in not only West Texas, but all along the Red River line, and push as far into North Central Texas as possible. But what got the Captain so upset was the lack of intelligence on possible threats. The Soviets and their various lackeys, whether Cuban, East German, or whatever, were still confused from PRAIRIE FIRE ripping their front apart, that the intel people were still trying to figure out which enemy units had been destroyed and which were still active. Their order-of-battle estimates prior to PRAIRIE FIRE had been good, but now.....

Shaking his head, Captain Wiser, who was the Executive Officer of the squadron, went over to a tent near the flight line, where aircrews rested between missions. The Soviets had left the base in a hurry, but still had left quite a few booby traps, and not all the buildings were safe, despite AF and Navy EOD personnel working around the clock. In the tent, he found the members of his flight. “Okay, people, gather around. We got a new one.”

“Where we going?” Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace asked. “Lubbock?” She had good reason to want to, having been run out of Reese AFB in '85 with her wallet, her student, and her T-38, and very little else, and in no particular order.

“Nope,” the Exec replied. “Armed reconnaissance this time, and no, I don't like this one.”

“Why?” First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn asked. She was Guru's WSO, or Weapons Systems Officer. More commonly called the GIB. The Guy, or in her case, Girl, In Back.

“Simple,” Guru said. “That old order-of-battle they had prior to this push? It got tossed. They don't have an idea as to where all the threats are, and that means trouble.”

First Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard, his other element leader, looked at him with a scowl. “What?”

“The threats are so mixed, Licon told me,” Guru nodded. First Lieutenant Darren Licon was the 335th's Intelligence Officer. “We can run into anything. They're trying to build a new order-of-battle picture.”

Starbuck nodded. “But that takes time.”

“That it does,” the Exec nodded again. “So....we're going to do something we haven't done before. Scud-hunting.”

“What?” Several voices asked at once.

“Scud-hunts?” Sweaty asked. “Isn't that an A-10 job?”

“Yeah, it is, but the Hogs in this part of Texas are busy. So we got the job, along with the A-6s at night,” replied the XO. “Swell, ain't it?”

“Whose idea was this?” Goalie asked. “I mean-”

“I know what you mean, and it came down from Tenth Air Force,” Guru said. “There's been several Scuds shot at Amarillo, several into Oklahoma, and a few have come our way, in case you haven't noticed.”

Heads nodded at that. There had been several missile alerts in the past few days, and everyone had to run for shelters and get their MOPP gear on. So far, none of the missiles that had landed had CW warheads, but no one was willing to take the chance. “So, XO,” First Lieutenant Nathan “Hoser” West asked. “We're going to look for these guys? It's like a needle in the haystack.”

“Worse,” the XO said. “We have to find the right haystack.” He pulled out a TPC chart of the area. “Here, There's a box with Plainview, Childress, and then down to Paducah, then back to I-27.”

“Lot of area to search, XO,” First Lieutenant Kathy “KT” Thornton said. “We might come up empty-handed. What then?”

“We don't come back with full racks, let's put it that way,” Guru said. “Main tasking is Scuds, but if we can't find any, but find anything of military value, like a supply dump, chopper field, or a truck convoy? They're fair game.”

“Air threat?' Sweaty asked.

“Mixed. There are still MiGs at Reese AFB, as well as Lubbock International. Su-27s are reported at Dyess.”

“Flankers?' Goalie asked. “You know the brief on those.”

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Jettison your ordnance, get your asses down low, and scream for help from AWACS. Remember, they're still having trouble picking us up in the look-down/shoot-down mode, so get down low, and if you have to do a doppler break, do it. Ivan's own anti-F-15 trick can bite them, remember.”

Heads nodded.

“Okay, there's also several municipal airports that Ivan has used to support MiG-23 and Su-25 operations, as well as helos, and we might pay one of those a visit if we can't find anything else.”

“Weather?” Kara asked.

“Hot, dry, and clear,” Guru nodded. “And bailout areas? Anyplace away from the roads. Anything else?”

“What's on tap after this one?” Newly-promoted First Lieutenant Byran “Preacher” Simmonds asked. He had been studying for the priesthood when the war began, and had joined the Air Force. When his classmates in the F-4 RTU found out his prewar background, they gave him the call sign.

“No idea,” the XO replied. “We'll take whatever we get. And we''ll eat after we get back from this one. Anything else?”

Heads shook no.

“All right,” Guru said as he grabbed his flight helmet. “Let's hit it.”


1250 Hours Central War Time: Over Occupied Texas:


Corvette Flight was now over their assigned “Scud Box”, and the crews were busy. Since their F-4s didn't have either Pave Spike or Pave Tack pods loaded, their scanning all had to be done visually, with the Mark I eyeball. While the pilots maintained a lookout for air-to-air threats, the WSOs were scanning the ground below with binoculars, and keeping an eye out for any surface-to-air threats. So far, nothing, other than a couple of air-search radars on their EW displays. “Anything?” Guru asked his GIB.

“Nothing,” Goalie replied. “Nada.”

“Maybe they hid?” Guru wondered aloud. “They like to hide in daylight and shoot at night,” he said as he banked his F-4 around in a 180 to head back west. They were near Childress, and that was the northeastern end of the Scud Box. “Starbuck, anything?”

“Negative, Lead,” Kara replied. “This might be a wild-goose chase.” She followed her flight lead into the 180, while her GIB, Captain Judd “Braniac” Brewster, scanned the ground below.

Guru nodded, and beneath his oxygen mask, he scowled.

“They do shoot in daylight,” Goalie reminded her front-seater. “Two days ago, remember?”

Guru nodded again. They had just taken off on a strike when there had been two explosions just south of the runway. Only when they cleared the field did the Scud alert come over the radio. “Tell me about it. Sweaty, anything?”

“No joy, Lead,” his number three said. “Found a couple of truck convoys headed north on U.S. 83, though. If we don't find what we're looking for...”

“If we don't,” Guru replied, “we'll make them burn, bleed, and blow up. Form up on us, and head west.”

“Copy,” Sweaty called. She brought her F-4 around, and Hoser West followed suit.

“Crystal Palace, Corvette One-one,” Guru called the AWACS. “Say bogey dope?”

“Corvette One-one, Crystal Palace,” the AWACS controller called. “Negative bogeys.”

“Copy that,” replied Guru. He was maintaining his visual scanning. Experience taught him that AWACS didn't catch everyone.

As the F-4 flight turned west, they saw two more Phantoms flying around. Guru's radio crackled. “Rhinos down below, need some Weasels?”

“Corvette One-one, authenticate. Alpha Six November,” Guru replied. This could be some ALA scum playing radio games.

“This is Coors One-three. Delta Five Echo.” the call came back.

“That's authentic,” Goalie said from the rear cockpit.

“Coors One-three, Corvette One-one, you guys trolling for SAMs?” Guru called.

“Roger that, Corvette,” the Weasel element lead said. “You guys out trolling for whatever?”

“Whatever, want to tag along? We launched with no Weasels.”

:Fine with us, Corvette,” came the reply. “We'll be on station above ya.”

Now a six-ship, the Phantom flight continued west, then when they found State Route 207, Guru led the flight south. About fifteen miles south of Silverton, Kara called it out. “Lead, Two, Got something down here.”

“Careful, Two,” Guru replied as he saw Starbuck bank her F-4 and roll down on something.

“Corvette, Coors. Got a radar coming up,” the Weasel element lead called out. “MAGNUM!” And a AGM-78 Standard-ARM missile left his rails.

Hearing that, Kara pulled up, but not before she saw them. “Lead, Two. Got what we came for. Four launchers, plus support tracks.”

“Copy that, Two,” Guru replied. “Goalie, set them up. Everything in one pass.” His F-4, and Sweaty's,carried ten CBU-59 cluster munitions, with incendiary bomblets, while Kara and Hoser each packed a dozen Mark-82 bombs with the “Daisy Cutter” fuze extenders.

“Got you,” Goalie replied.

“SA-4 up!” Came the call, followed by “MAGNUM!” as another AGM-78 went flying.

“Search radar's down,” Sweaty reported.

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Sweaty, you and Hoser follow us in. Starbuck, on me, and let's do it. Time to go to work, people!”

“Got the launchers,” Goalie said from the back seat. “Eleven O'clock.”

“Copy. Switches set?”

“All set.”

“Okay, hang on and here we go!” Guru said as he rolled in on the Scud launchers.


Down below, the commander of the Third Battalion, 26th Missile Brigade, was not happy with his orders. Normally, they fired their R-17 missiles at night, but his Brigade commander had ordered a launch in daylight, so as to make the Americans in their rear areas sweat a little in daytime. His missiles were targeted with high-explosive and fragmentation warheads on an air base in Eastern New Mexico, near some town called Clovis. He had arrived at a suitable launch site, which had not been pre-surveyed, and his men had to do all the prelaunch surveys, then get the missiles ready to fire, before awaiting the launch command. At least there was a nearby Krug (SA-4) missile battery to provide some air defense, besides a handful of BTR-152s with ZU-23 23-mm guns mounted on top of them. Then his deputy commander came up to his command vehicle, shouting, “AIRCRAFT ALARM!”

Guru picked out one of the launchers. The big MAZ-543 vehicle was familiar to him from several strikes into Southern Colorado, where the Soviets and their lackeys had fired Scuds into Denver. He came in, and smiled beneath his oxygen mask. Not today, Ivan....He hit the pickle button, and his ten CBUs came off the aircraft.

The Soviet commander watched as an F-4 came in out of nowhere, and released its bombs. His deputy pulled him out of the command vehicle, but before they could get to a trench, the CBU bomblets went off. And he was caught in the explosion as not only the launcher and missile exploded, but the command vehicle as well. His last sensation was the heat.....

“SHACK!” Goalie called as Guru pulled 512 up from the bomb run. “Good hits, and we got a secondary.”

Guru pulled the F-4 around as Starbuck went in. “Corvette One-two in hot!” She called. Her bombs hit another launch vehicle, and there was another large secondary explosion in her wake. “Two's off target.

“One-three's in!” Sweaty called. She rolled in on another launcher, and her CBUs ripped into the launch vehicle, exploding it, a nearby command vehicle and a truck which had a balloon rising from nearby. “Three's off.”

“One-four rolling in,” Hoser said. He saw the last launcher, and pickled his bombs. The Mark-82s landed all around the launcher, and the big launch vehicle exploded, and the missile went with it. A bonus was a couple of his bombs taking out nearby reload missiles that were part of the missile battalion, and they went up as well.

Orbiting, Guru watched with satisfaction. This Scud unit wasn't launching anything for a while, and with luck, was out of business permanently. “Corvette, form on me and let's get the hell out of here.”

“Copy, Lead,” the calls came back, while Coors One-three shot another missile, this time a HARM, at a radar that had just come up.

“Corvette, Coors. Nice doing business with you. Maybe we can do this again, fella.”

“Likewise, Coors,” Guru radioed back. “Corvette, on me and let's go.”

The four F-4Es formed up and headed northwest, towards the ingress/egress lane they had used on their way in. Near Plainview, they saw four A-10s headed in, but it was what was behind them that caught Goalie's attention.

“Guru, Eleven O'clock low.” she called.

“Yeah, Hogs, I see 'em.” Guru replied.

“Look behind them,” Goalie said.

Guru took a look, and sure enough, two MiG-23s were behind the A-10s, who apparently didn't know the MiGs were there. “Oh, yeah. Tallyho! Floggers, Eleven O'clock low!”

“Got 'em lead!” Kara replied.

“Sweaty,” Guru called. “You and Hoser stay back and cover us. Starbuck, on me. Crystal Palace, Corvette One-one.”

“Corvette One-one, go,” the controller replied.

“Two Floggers, down low and behind four Hogs, Going in,” Guru said. Then he rolled the F-4 into a one-thirty-five degree turn and headed down.

“Copy, Corvette,” Crystal Palace replied. Then the AWACS called the A-10s, who started jinking wildly. Sure enough, they didn't even know the MiGs were there.

As Guru and Starbuck rolled in, Guru noticed something. He was in perfect range for a Sidewinder shot, but this close to the A-10s, the Sidewinder's heat seeker might home in on a friendly aircraft. Right then and there, he switched to his internal M-61 Vulcan cannon. “Going guns.”

“What?” Goalie said. They'd been on strafing runs before, but guns air-to-air? This was a first for her.

Guru nodded, then pulled the trigger for a one-second burst. They were still out of range, but the tracers would get the MiGs' attention, and they did, for the leader broke left, and the wingman broke right. “I'm on the lead. The wingie's yours, Starbuck.”

“Roger that!” She replied as she banked to follow the MiG-23.

Guru was now in gun range...he lined up the pipper ahead of the MiG to draw lead, and gave the MiG a three-second burst, some 180 rounds of 20-mm High-explosive Incendiary and Armor-Piercing Incendiary ammo. First smoke, then fire came out of the wing root of the MiG, as the whole after half of the Flogger caught fire.

“Hey, we got him!” Goalie shouted. “We did it!”

“Good kill, Lead!” Sweaty called.

Guru nodded as he brought the F-4 in alongside the MiG. He and Goalie looked at their opposite number, who was sitting in the cockpit as flames advanced forward. He was sitting there, arms folded. Guru gave him the signal to eject, but the pilot shook his head no. Just before the MiG went in, Guru and Goalie noticed the insignia on the aircraft. Cuban. Then the MiG-23MF went down and slammed into a small hill, and the pilot didn't get out. “That's a kill,” Guru said as he pulled away from his opponent's funeral pyre.

At the same time, the MiG wingman tried to pull away, with Kara on his six. In her cockpit, Kara put the pipper on the MiG's tail, and the AIM-9P missile seeker was growling loud. Missile lock. “FOX TWO!” she shouted as a Sidewinder left the rails and tracked towards the MiG-23.

The Cuban pilot was looking all around, trying to pick up his pursuer when a loud bang came from the rear of the airplane. He looked around, then there was a second, louder explosion, and he was suddenly surrounded by fire. The last thing he heard before the aircraft exploded was his scream.

Kara and Braniac watched as the Sidewinder flew up the MiG's tailpipe and exploded. There was a small trail of fire, then a larger explosion, then the MiG blew apart. “Splash!” Kara radioed.

“Roger that, Two. Let's get out of here,” Guru radioed.

Corvette flight formed up and headed out of the battle zone. “Corvette, Crystal Palace, those Hog drivers say 'Thank you.'”

“Tell them 'You're welcome and they owe us. Splash two Floggers.” Guru replied. “We are RTB.”

“Copy, Corvette,” the AWACS replied.

The Phantoms flew on to Cannon, where Guru and Starbuck each did a victory roll before turning into the pattern and landing. As they taxied in, the pilots held up a finger to signal a MiG kill. The flight taxied into their revetments and shut down.

As Guru and Goalie shut down, both were exuberant. “No kill like a gun kill, they say,” Guru said.

“First for you?” Goalie said as she got out.

“Yep,” Guru replied. “Never got one with Tony Carpenter, confirmed, anyway.”

“One of your probables?” She asked as they did a quick post-flight check of the plane.

“Su-24,” Guru replied. “Hit him with a few shots, and he trailed smoke from an engine, but never did see him crash. SA-6 came up and we were a little busy for a minute or two.”

“Did he...” Goalie asked as Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley, their Crew Chief came up.

“No idea,” Guru said. “He might have crashed, or he put down somewhere.”

Sergeant Crowley was ecstatic. “Great job, Sir!” He looked at 512. “Sir, how'd you get the kill? Both Sparrows and all four Sidewinders are there.”

“Gun,” Guru said. “When you turn her around, give her a full load of 20-mike-mike.”

Crowley grinned, “Yes, sir!” Then a Dodge Crew-Cab pickup came up. And out came Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, the CO of the 335th, the SIO, Lieutenant Licon, and Maj. Dave Golen, their IDF “observer. “CO coming, sir.”

Colonel Rivers came up, just as the other crews arrived at 512. “XO,” he said.

“Boss,” Guru replied, sketching a salute. “Made some Scuds go away.”

“How many?” Licon asked.

“Four,” Guru replied. “And they were in launch mode. Looked like they were erected and were getting ready to fire.”

“I'll go along with that, Colonel,” Sweaty said. “Mine was all up and ready. Looked like they were about to launch.”

“How do you know?” Licon asked.

“Mine had a weather balloon going up,” Hoser said. “Don't they need one prior to launch?”

Licon nodded. “They do. How about you, Captain?' He asked Kara.

“No balloon, but mine was in launch position,” she replied.

“That it?” Rivers asked.

“No, Boss. Got two MiG-23s off of four A-10s. Some Hog drivers owe us,” Guru said.

Rivers nodded, and looked over 512. All of the Sparrows and Sidewinders were in place. “How?”

Guru smiled, then pointed to the muzzle of 512's 20-mm gun. “Got it the old-fashioned way.”

Hearing that, Dave Golen walked over and slapped both Guru and Goalie on the back. “My friends! Back home you would be the heroes of this engagement! Now you have a kill like it's done in our book!”

“Thanks, Dave,” Guru said, shaking Golen's hand.

“Any witnesses?' Licon asked.

“We saw it,” Sweaty said, and Preacher nodded. So did Hoser and KT.

“I got a Sidewinder shot,” Kara said. “No ejection.”

“Witnesses?' Licon asked, and he saw Sweaty's flight nod. “Okay sir,” he said, turning to Rivers. “That's seven for the Exec, and four for Captain Thrace.”

“One more and you're an ace, Kara,” Guru said. “And then you'll probably be too drunk to remember the celebration.”

Kara grinned. “When it happens, bring it on.”

“What's next, Boss?” Guru asked the CO.

“Get the formal debrief done, then head over to the chow tent, and get yourselves something to eat. It's now 1400. Mission brief in one hour,” Rivers said.

They were interrupted by the whop-whop of a CH-47 Chinook coming in. As the big chopper touched down, ambulances raced to the helo, and medics began unloading stretcher cases.

“Supposed to be quiet,” Sweaty noted.

“It wasn't somewhere,” Rivers observed.

After the stretchers were unloaded, and the ambulances left, the big helo shut down. After the crew left, the 335th people noticed Military Police leading a dozen or so EPWs over to the chopper. All carried mops, pails, and brushes. “What's that?' Kara asked.

“They're Czechs,” Rivers said. “All EPWs from the nearby camp, and they want to do this. Their way of sticking it to the Russians, I heard. Whenever a medevac comes in and shuts down, these guys come in and clean the chopper out. When they're finished? It's spotless on the inside.”

“Isn't that kinda bending Geneva?” Goalie asked.

“It is,” Rivers admitted. “But they want to do it, and get back at the Russians somehow. They blame the Russians for sending them over here to a war they didn't want any part of. So...”

“So it'll last until somebody complains,” Guru observed. “And I know who might.”

“We all do, XO,” Rivers said. “Carson always finds something to complain about.”

The CO was referring to Major Frank Carson, who was the most hated and loathed officer in the squadron. Not only was he resentful about being passed over for Exec, but he was despised for trying to blindly enforce AF rules and regulations, even if they made no sense in wartime. Everyone was wishing that either he'd be transferred out, or that something dreadful would happen to him-and no one else.

“Well, sir,” Preacher said. “When the good Lord passed out paranoia, Major Carson got in line twice.”

“That he did,” Rivers said. “And someone might take notice. General Tanner at Tenth Air Force won't, but the Inspector General? He might.”

“Yes, sir,” Guru said. That was the last thing anyone wanted.

“Okay, back to business,” Rivers said. “Like I said, get debriefed, get something from the chow tent, and Mark Ellis will have a mission for you at 1500.” Captain Mark Ellis was the Operations Officer for the 335th.

“Will do, Boss,”

'And when we close down for the day? Celebrate in the O-Club tent. A gun kill's a reason to hoist a couple.”

“Yes, sir!”

Before he left with Rivers and Licon, Dave Golen came over again. “Now I must go out with the Colonel when he does. And I will show you how it's done!”

Guru's flight all looked at each other. They knew the IDF prized gun kills above all others. “If you say so, Dave,” Kara said.

“I do,” Golen said. “And I will buy you and Goalie a drink tonight,” he told Guru. “See you later.”

“They all like that?” Kara asked.

“The IDF guy we had before Dave?” Guru asked. Seeing Kara nod, he went on. “Yeah. He had fifty-seven missions and a pair of MiGs under his belt before his tour ended. But both were Sidewinder shots. He was pretty upset about that.”

“Maybe he'll get his gun kill,” KT wondered.

“Maybe,” Guru said. “Back to business: let's get over to the intel tent and debrief, get something to eat, because like the Boss said: back in the saddle at 1500.”

Heads nodded, and the eight crewers headed on over to the intel tent, while the ground crews went over their aircraft.


Officer's Club Tent, Cannon AFB, NM, 1750 Hours:

Captain Matt Wiser and the rest of Corvette Flight came into the Officer's Club tent, having come back from their final mission of the day. After a quick debriefing, they had headed on over to have a couple of drinks, because the twelve-hour rule kicked in at 1900. To no one's surprise, after she got her beer, Kara went over to a poker game. And the players suddenly realized to their sorrow that she was good.

“What does she do with her winnings?' Preacher Simmonds asked.

“Going to lecture her on the evils of gambling?” Goalie asked. “You know by now: 'Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow-”

“'They may not separate us from the rest of the aircraft,' I know,” Preacher said. “Still-”

“Her mom's in Michigan, or so she said,” KT noted. “She does send a check to her mom every so often.”

“At least her mom's safer there,” Guru noted as he bellied up to the bar. “What have you got?” He asked the barkeep.

“Not much, Captain,” the man replied. “Foster's, Sapporo, some Bud.”

“Foster's, then,” Guru said. “And one more for my GIB.”

The barkeep nodded and produced two bottles. “Here you go, Captain.”

“Thanks,” Guru said. He paid the man, then handed a bottle to Goalie. “Well?”

“How about a toast to no more Scud Hunts?” She replied.

“I'll drink to that,” Sweaty said.

After the toast, Guru and friends went over to the dart board, while Kara devoted her full attention to the poker game. And several of the AF officers there noticed the Army flight suits on some of the players. “Who are those guys?” Hoser asked.

“Dustoff,” Guru said. “Medevac guys who go in unarmed to pick up wounded.”

“They don't get paid enough,” Braniac said. “At least the CSAR guys have miniguns and can shoot back.”

“Notice the Dustoffs only have a small Red Cross insignia?” Guru asked. “Ivan shoots at 'em just like any other helo. Anything larger makes for more of a bulls-eye.”

“Yeah,” Hoser said. “Learned that the hard way back in '85.”

Guru nodded, and finished his beer. Just as he was going over to the bar, Colonel Rivers and Dave Golen came in. “Boss, Dave.”

“Guru,” Rivers said. “I'm buying for you, Goalie, Dave, and Oz.” Captain Brandon “Oz” Slater normally flew as Dave Golen's GIB when Golen flew.

“Why 'Oz'? KT asked Goalie.

“Born in Australia. American father, Aussie mom,” Goalie said. “RTU classmates.”

“Boss,” Guru said. “Did you guys score? And I don't mean air-to-ground.”

“We did, XO,” Rivers said. “Two MiG-21s.”

“It's nine for him,” Lieutenant Licon said from the bar. “And two so far here for Major Golen.”

“Gun kill?” Guru asked as the CO got the beers, and handed him and Goalie one.

“Yes!” Dave replied. “MiG-21, as the CO said, only....”

“Only what?” Goalie asked.

“Nicaraguan, and he acted like a Syrian,” said Golen. “He acted as if he knew he was going to be shot down and yet was in the air anyway.”

“They say the same thing about Libyans,” Hoser said.

“Last time we ran into Libyans, they got blown away by Ivan's own MiG-25s,” Guru observed. “Tough shit, Comrades.”

After a toast to the day's MiG killers, things quieted down, as several 335th people watched Kara clean up at the poker game. The Army helicopter pilots were shaking their heads as she took several of them to the cleaners. Then Doc Waters, the flight surgeon for the 335th, came in. And he wasn't happy as he ordered a stiff shot of Jack Daniel's. “What's wrong, Doc?” Rivers asked.

“I'd like to know who ratted on us using those Czechs and Poles to clean out Dustoff choppers. Red Cross said an hour ago we can't use them anymore,” Waters said, taking a slug of his drink.

“What?” Preacher said. “This on the level?”

“It is,” Doc replied. “Even though they want to, Red Cross said no. And people are pointing fingers at you-know-who.”

“Carson is a real-life Frank Burns,” Kara said. She had dealt herself out to get another beer. “I pity his kids.”

“Don't,” Guru said. “He's divorced. Remember six months ago, when he went on R&R?”

“Carson went on an R&R?” Kara asked, surprised. “So?”

“So, I had a look at his personnel file, when we moved forward,” Guru said. “I'm Exec, and can do that. Anyway, it says 'Divorced. Finalized November, '85.”

“Right after he joined the squadron,” Rivers said. “I asked him about his wife and family, and he said, 'Don't bother. They're okay, but I'd rather not talk about it. Then he showed me the divorce papers.”

“And ever since,” Guru said, “He's been like Frank Burns on steroids.”

“Yep,” Goalie said. “Remember when he tried to have the two of us on a fraternization rap?”

“Do I ever,” Rivers said. “When generals tell you to ignore things like that and get on with fighting the war, you listen. He sure doesn't.”

“I'm Academy, and I've got a few classmates who'd be just like him,” Goalie nodded. “But even those guys aren't as zealous as Carson is.”

“More like him?” Sweaty asked. “Perish the thought.”

Then Captain Don Van Loan, the assistant Operations Officer, came in. “Guys, guess what was on AFN just now?”

Heads turned towards him. “What?” Kara asked.

“Elton John. 'Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting.' And they played that just before this push got going.”

Heads nodded. “And we got a lot busy after that,” noted Rivers. “All right, finish up, people. The twelve-hour rule kicks in after that.”

“Be careful of what you wish for, Dave,” Goalie said as she finished her beer.

“What do you mean?” Golen asked.

“If you want to be an ace before your tour is up,” Guru said. “You might just get it. Three more to go.”

“At least you get to head home in a few months,” Kara added. “We're in for the duration.”

“But you're winning,” Golen reminded them. “Remember that.”

Then the barkeep rang the bell. 1900 on the dot. “Twelve-hour's in effect, people!” Doc Waters called. And from what everyone knew from experience, he enforced that rule with a vengeance.

“And people?” Rivers asked. “Curfew at 2100. Be in the chow tent, bright and early. Tomorrow's going to be a big one, in all likelihood.”

And as the crews went to whatever nonalcoholic drinks they chose, they knew one thing. When that particular song was played on AFN, something big was in the works. And it was.....
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Old 06-04-2015, 07:43 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The next one...the first successful U.S. counteroffensive gets underway, and the 335th has its part to play:


Light the (Prairie) Fire


Williams AFB, AZ, 14 May, 1987; 1725 Hours Mountain War Time:


Captain Matt “Guru” Wiser of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron taxied his F-4E Phantom into its dispersal area. He and his flight had flown four missions that day, including one up to the Denver Siege Perimeter. Though there would be light enough for another forty-five minutes or so, this was the last flight of the day. After shutting down, he and his WSO, Captain Lisa Eichhorn, climbed down from the aircraft, bone tired and ready to get something to eat, and maybe have a beer in the Officer's Club, before going to their billet at the Mesa Sheraton, getting some sleep, and then going out the next morning and doing it all over again. His crew chief, Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley, was waiting for him. “Sergeant.”

“Sir,” Crowley said. “Word from Colonel Rivers, all aircrew meeting in the main briefing room. Now, Sir.”

The members of his flight looked at each other. His wingmate, Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace and her back-seater, Captain Judd Brewster, just rolled their eyes. Then the second element came over; First Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard and her back-seater Second Lieutenant Bryan Simmonds, along with First Lieutenant Nathan West and his back-seater Second Lieutenant Kathryn Thompson. “What's going on?” Sweaty asked.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Guru said. “Let's go.”

The four crews headed on over to the squadron building, which had housed a T-37 training squadron prewar, and they went right to the main briefing room, not even bothering to get out of their G-Suits and harnesses. When they got there, they discovered the room was packed, and the CO, Lt. Col. Dean Rivers had a scowl on his face. Guru nodded to Maj. David Golen, who was an Israeli AF observer visiting the squadron. “Ever seen anything like this?”

“Once. The Yom Kippur War, on the first day, and then the day we crossed the Canal,” Golen said. He'd been a brand-new Second Lieutenant in 1973, and had nailed three MiGs during that war, and had a couple more in F-16s during the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot in 1982.

“Well, now that everyone's here,” Colonel Rivers said. “Especially the Exec,” nodding in Guru's direction. “Got some bad news for all of you: the twelve-hour rule is in effect, as of now. Curfew for you guys is at 2000. Wake-up is at 0300, and first wheels up tomorrow morning is at 0430.”

“What?” Starbuck said, and Guru echoed her. In fact, almost everyone was. The buzz in the room was palpable.

“Don't bother eating breakfast at billeting, because you'll eat here in the morning. The maintenance and ordnance folks will be up all night, getting your birds tweaked, and then armed,” Rivers continued. “I can't tell you guys any more than that, and this comes from Tenth Air Force. Any questions?”

“Colonel,” Guru's hand shot up. “What's this all about? Wasn't like this in the early days.”

“Can't tell you, XO,” Rivers said. Captain Wiser was the Executive Officer of the 335th. “Any other questions?” Rivers asked. He surveyed the room, then nodded. “All right. Get on over to the Sheraton, have a good dinner, get a good night's sleep, and see you in the morning. 0330.”

“Guru, what's going on?” Captain Eichhorn, call sign Goalie, asked. “Something's up.”

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Go on ahead and get the debrief going. I'm going to see what this is all about.”
He then went down to see Colonel Rivers. “Sir. Can we talk?”

“My office,” Rivers said. And the two officers went to the CO's office. “Close the door, XO.”

After Guru did so, he asked “Permission to speak freely, Sir?”

“Always, Guru,” Rivers said. “Say whatever's on your mind.”

“Sir, I'm your Exec. If something's going on, I need to know about it. Especially if something happens to you,” Guru told his CO.

“I know, Guru, I know,” replied the CO. “I don't like it any more than you do, but this came from the top. Tenth Air Force. And General Tanner didn't like this either.”

And when General Tanner didn't like something, Guru knew, it had to be important. “Sir, does this have anything to do with Wichita? Or that conference you went to last week?”

“Maybe. That's all I can tell you. If anything happens to me, I'm putting together a packet with everything you need. Ross will give it to you,” the CO said. Master Sergeant Michael Ross was the squadron's senior NCO. And no one was more highly respected in the squadron than he was. The man was old enough to be the father of nearly everybody in the unit, and the enlisted airmen looked up to him as a father figure.

Guru nodded. “Yes, Sir.”

“Anything else?” Rivers asked.

“No, Sir.”

“All right; get debriefed, get something to eat, and have a good night's sleep. It'll be a busy day tomorrow.”

“Yes, Sir,” Guru said.

“Dismissed,” Rivers nodded, and Guru saluted and headed out of the office. He then headed over to the locker room, got out of his harness and G-Suit, then went to the old classroom that his flight used for briefings and debriefings.

“Well?” Goalie asked as he entered.

“No joy,” Guru told his flight. “Whatever's going on, we won't know until after the first sortie.”

“What?” Kara and Sweaty asked at once.

“They're holding this close to the chest. This might have something to do with Wichita, but Rivers wouldn't tell me any more than that.”

Sweaty looked at her flight lead. “Guru, you're the XO. Shouldn't you know what's going on?”

“That's what I told him,” Guru replied. “He told me this comes from the top, and that's higher than General Tanner. Whatever this is, security's super-tight.”

Heads nodded at that. Something was up. And whatever it was, it was important. “So when do we know?” Kara asked.

“When we come back from the first sortie.” Guru said. “Let's get the debrief done, something to eat, then get back to the Sheraton. Won't be long until 0300.”


Sheraton Mesa Resort: 0300 Mountain War Time, 15 May 1987:

The phone rang in between the two beds. Each bed's occupant reached for the phone, but only one grabbed the handle. “Yeah?”

“This is your 3:00 AM wake-up call,” the voice on the other end said.

“Thank you,” Guru said as he hung up. He quickly got out of bed, and quickly got dressed. Captain Don Van Loan, his roommate, got up as well. “Won't be long until we know what this is all about.”

'Yeah,” Van Loan, the assistant Ops Officer, said.

Both quickly shaved and brushed their teeth, then headed on out, and the hall was filled with 335th and Marine aircrews who were all headed to the base. When they left the lobby of the hotel, the buses were there, waiting. The crews got onto the buses, then were bused to the base. When they got off, they noticed there was a large amount of activity, as promised, to get the first birds off by 0430. And everyone noticed the various squadron commanders there, waiting for their people. Guru noticed Colonel Rivers. “Boss.”

“Guru,” the CO said. “You guys all have fifteen minutes to eat. Then get dressed to fly, hit your briefs, then man your aircraft. First wheels up at 0430.”

“You heard him,” Guru told the 335th crews. Then they all filed into a Marine operated mess tent. He turned to Goalie. “When's the last time you ate in a chow line?”

“Been a while. The Academy, I think,” Goalie said.

Nodding, Guru picked up a tray and silverware. He looked at the young Marine cooks. “All right, what have you guys got here?”

“Here you go, Sir,” a Marine PFC replied, taking lids off of food trays.

“Lovely,” Guru said. “Steak and scrambled eggs.” He took a steak, some scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, toast, and coffee.

“The condemned got fed a hearty meal,” Goalie quipped as she got her meal, then sat down with her pilot.

“Clear the way! Dead people walking coming through,” Kara said, and the 335th people had a good laugh at that. But they couldn't linger, for they had to be in their briefing rooms shortly. The aircrew ate quickly, then all of them, Air Force and Marine, headed to their respective squadrons to be briefed.

When the 335th's officers arrived, they were told to get ready to fly, and report to their flight briefing rooms. And when Guru and the members of his flight arrived, they found two Marine officers, both aviators, waiting. “You guys flying with us?” Guru asked.

“That's right,” the senior one, Capt. Jerry Singleton, said, introducing his wingmate, First Lt. Cory Abbott. “We're your SAM and flak suppressors.”

After introductions, Guru opened the briefing packet. “Great.”

“What?” Kara asked.

“Moriarty, along I-40. Target is just south of the town. A mix of command vehicles and dugouts.”

“What about 'em?” Sweaty asked.

Guru looked at everyone. “HQ, Soviet 13th Army.”

The room was silent for a minute. “What the hell?” Kara asked. “Someone's gone nuts.”

“Tell me about it,” Guru said. “SA-2 and SA-3 nearby, plus at least one 57-mm battery, and watch for ZU-23s as well. They have a guard battalion around the HQ, so MANPADS will be there as well.”

“So how do we do this?” Goalie asked. “We don't have any Pave Tack pods, so what are we carrying?”

“Lead element has a dozen Mark-82s, each airplane,” Guru replied. “Second element has Mark-20 Rockeyes to rip them up afterwards. We go in, low and fast, make a turn and do our run from West to East. Pop-up at thirty seconds to target, drop our ordnance, and get gone. One pass and haul ass.”

“Sounds good to me,” Sweaty said. “Usual air-to-air load?”

“Yep,” Guru replied. “Four AIM-9s-and we get Ps now, by the way, and two AIM-7Es. Usual ALQ-101 in a forwards Sparrow well and a full load of 20-mm.” He looked around. “Okay, SAM-supporession,” he said, turning to the two Marines. “I want the SA-3 site hit with HARM, and the 57 site hit as well. Then CBU what's left.”

“Got it,” Captain Singleton replied.

“Bailout areas are anyplace where there isn't a road. Stay with a cripple as long as you can. If you can hit the river, best of all” Guru said, and everyone nodded. Then there was a knock on the door. “Come on in and show yourself!”

In came First Lieutenant Darren Licon, the Squadron Intelligence Officer. “Guru, got something from the Boss.”

“What is it?”

“Stay away from the Alberquerque area is what he's telling everyone.” Licon said. “And before you ask, he told me to tell you that you'll see why when sunrise comes.”

The aircrews looked at each other. “Lovely,” Nathan West said.

“Thanks, Darren,” Guru said. He turned to the aircrews. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “Let's hit it.”
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  #209  
Old 06-06-2015, 01:32 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The day begins....and the Russians and their lackeys find out that the war has taken a turn.



Over occupied New Mexico, 0525 Hours Mountain War Time, 15 May 1987:


The six-ship flight was headed due east, and as they did so, the crews could see the first rays of dawn beginning to break. They were going in a little higher than usual, since the F-4s normally didn't fly night strikes, and when they had left Williams it was still pitch dark. In the lead F-4, Guru was concentrating on flying the aircraft while Goalie handled the navigation. “Approaching Highway 285, Guru. Turn point in one minute.”

“Copy,” Guru said. “Crystal Palace, Corvette Two-One,” he said. “Any threats?”

“Corvette Two-One, Crystal Palace,” the AWACS controller called back. “Negative.”

“Roger,” Guru said.

“Turn point.... Now!” Goalie called.

Guru turned the F-4 due north. Their next turn point would be I-40. Ivan was using the Interstate as a Main Supply Route, and they'd flown strikes against supply dumps and truck parks along the freeway more than once. But they had been directed not to hit any bridges on the freeway. None at all. “How long to turn?”

“One minute,” Goalie replied.

“Copy.”

“And turn.”

Guru put the aircraft into a left turn, and in the predawn twilight, picked up the twin ribbons of interstate highway. So far, it looked like I-40 was quiet. Not for long, he thought. You guys are getting a big wake-up call this morning....”Pop up?”

“One minute.”

“Corvette Flight, Lead. Switches on, radars on. Time to go to work.”

“We're hot,” Goalie called. “Stand by... and now! Pop up!”

Guru pulled up to 1500 feet AGL and he saw the town. And just to the south, there it was. All the revetments built to shelter vehicles made the target stick out like a sore thumb. He then called the two Marines. “Rattlers, go to work.”

“Roger that!” Captain Singleton called.

Both Hornets climbed further, and picked out the SA-3 site. Singleton put his HARM missile on it, and the SA-3, which had just gone from search to fire-control mode, suddenly went off the air as the HARM exploded the radar. Then the Marine element lead rolled in, and put his two Rockeye CBUs onto the SAM site, putting it out of action.

Just as the Hornet lead went in, Lieutenant Abbott rolled in on the 57-mm site. Their radar was not up, so he simply dropped his CBUs on the flak battery, ripping it apart. Then it was time for the F-4s to go in.

“Lead's in hot!” Guru called. He picked up the center of the HQ area, where a number of command vehicles were all clustered together, and all of them had antennae very prominently displayed. He lined one of them in his pipper, then hit the pickle button. “HACK!” And a dozen Mark-82 five-hundred pound bombs came off his aircraft. “Lead off safe.”

His bombs landed in the middle of the target area, and several command vehicles exploded, or were tipped over by near-misses. A number of Soviet soldiers whose vehicles had not been hit tried to start their engines, but it was too late...

“Two in hot!” Kara called. She laid down her bombs just to the south of where Guru had put his, One of her bombs happened to hit the HQ's portable generator, while another bomb landed on top of a bunker where several of the Army's staff officers were sleeping. The bunkers were built to protect against insurgent rocket or mortar attacks. Not a five-hundred pound bomb landing right on top of it....”Two's off safe.”

“Three in hot!” Sweaty yelled. She and West had a dozen CBUs, and she decided to put hers right where Guru had laid his bombs. A dozen Rockeyes came off her bird, and each CBU had 247 bomblets, ideal for ripping up armored vehicles or anything else they touched. A number of vehicles that had survived Guru's bombs were hit by the bomblets, and they fireballed. “Three's off safe.”

“Four in hot!” West said. He laid down his CBUs on where Kara had laid her bombs, and as he dropped, he noticed some flak, probably 23-mm, coming up. It was too little, too late. And like his element lead, several vehicles were hit by his CBUs, and they fireballed as well, and also caught a number of personnel out in the open, killing and wounding many. He easily outran the flak, and called, “Four off safe.”

“Copy that. Form on me, music on, and let's get the hell out of here,” Guru called. That call told everyone to turn on their jamming pods, and the four F-4s did so. The two Hornets formed up on the Phantoms, and everyone headed to the southwest. The strike birds picked up their safe-passage lane, so that the Army pukes who handled the HAWK and Patriot SAM batteries wouldn't shoot them out of the sky.

As they headed out, they all noticed something as they approached the Rio Grande. Flashes all along and behind the river. Artillery fire. And to the north, at Alberquerque's southern outskirts, it looked like something from Apocalypse Now, as the sky was full of Huey and Chinook helicopters. “What the?” Kara called over the radio.

“Wouldn't want to be there right now,” Sweaty replied. “That sky's full of choppers. And above the choppers, it's full of shells.”

“Roger that!” Guru said. “Crossing the fence.” That meant the Rio Grande. And as they did, the crews saw Army vehicles crossing the river. “Go Army...”

“This is big, Guru!” Goalie said over the intercom. “Think this is it?”

He nodded. “Maybe.” Then it was time to call the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Corvette Flight across the fence.”

“Copy,” the controller replied. “Do you need a vector to the tankers?”

“Roger that,” Guru replied.

The AWACS controller vectored them to the tanker track over the Continental Divide, and to the fighter crews, it was crowded airspace. Lots of tankers orbiting, whether KC-135s, KC-10s, or Marine KC-130s. And it seemed that there were fighters or attack birds all over, either pulling away from the tankers and headed in, or, like they were, coming out. And as usual, battle-damaged aircraft went to the head of the line, but this morning, there were only a couple. The Hornets drank from a KC-130, while the F-4s went to a KC-10 to refuel. Then they headed back to Williams. They came into the pattern and then landed, and as they taxied to their respective dispersal areas, the crews noticed a second wave was getting ready to go. It was 0615.

Guru taxied to his revetment and shut down. After he popped his canopy, he asked Goalie. “Now we'll find out what's going on.”

“Yeah,” Goalie said as the ground crew put the crew ladders in place.

Guru and Goalie climbed down from 512, then did a quick postflight inspection. Then he turned to Sergeant Crowley. “Pull the strike camera film and send it off.” As he said that, he noticed the ordnance crews bringing CBUs to 512, and the other three birds in the flight. “What the?”

“Guru,” Goalie tapped him on the shoulder. “Colonel Rivers and Licon coming.”

The CO and the SIO came over. “How'd it go?” Rivers asked. “This debrief will be out here. Because as soon as you're all turned around, you're going back out.”

“What?” Kara asked. “Sir, if you don't mind my saying this, but what's going on?”

“Now that the first wave is back, I can finally tell you guys. This is it. Operation PRAIRIE FIRE. Ivan impaled himself at Wichita, thanks to Schwartzkopf, and now, we're going to push them back. You guys probably saw the Army crossing the Rio Grande.” When he saw them nod, Rivers continued. “And they're not stopping until the Texas line at least.”

“About time,” Guru said. “So, the mission?”

“How'd it go?” Licon asked.

“No SAMs.” Guru said.

“Flak?”

“Only as I was coming in,” Nathan said. “The Marines did their job. No heavy flak, and no SAMs.”

“BDA?” Licon wanted to know.

“We hit the target area, and there were a few secondaries,” Kara said. “I saw some from Guru's bombs.”

“And some from yours,” Sweaty added. “You'll probably need the strike footage.”

“I'll have it developed ASAP,” Rivers said. “That strike was a high-priority one.”

“Yes, Sir,” Guru agreed. “Now what?”

“Get yourselves something to drink, hit the latrine, because in twenty minutes, you're going back out.”

“Sir?” Guru asked. Nothing like this had happened much since the early days.

“You're on-call CAS. Check in with III Corps' ALO, and they'll direct you to a FAC. We'll be doing this all morning, and likely all day as well,” Rivers said. “Good luck.” He then headed off with Licon to debrief another arriving flight.

“Like the early days?” Kara asked. “I've heard horror stories about those.”

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Five missions a day for the first four days. Total confusion, just find armor headed north and strike.” He shook his head at the memory. And he'd seen photos of I-19 north of Nogales, where the 335th, along with the A-10s from Davis-Monthan, had turned the interstate into a junkyard of Mexican and Cuban armor, shattered soft-skinned vehicles, and dead and maimed men.

“Better do what the Boss said,” Sweaty nodded.

Heads nodded in agreement, and they all went to do their business and get something to drink. When they came back, the crews noticed the ordnance guys hard at work. And there were numerous AF and Marine aircraft coming in and taking off. Then, fifteen minutes later, Sergeant Crowley came over to Guru. “Sir, you're ready to rock.”

“Here we go,” Kara said, getting off a parked Hummer.

Guru nodded. One thing he had noticed: no one had gotten out of their G-Suits. “Okay, this'll be short. Go by call sign, not mission code on the radio, unless you're with a FAC or an AWACS.” He saw his flight nod. “Anything else?”

“How about applying for frequent-flier miles?” Sweaty joked. And the others laughed.

“I'll take it up with the CO,” Guru laughed. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. He grabbed his flight helmet. “Time to go. Let's hit it.”

Five minutes later, the flight was taxiing to the runway, and then they launched. And this was the second mission of the day, and it was only 0705.......



Over Western New Mexico, 0815 Hours:


The flight of four F-4s was orbiting about twenty miles west of Los Lunas, on the Rio Grande. They had checked in with the Air Force Air Liaison Officer with III Corps, and had been told to wait. Guru had told the man, “We ain't got the gas to stay up here all day, fella.” But they had been told to wait. Then a call came for them.

“Corvette Two-One, Bulldog Zero-One. Contact Nail 36 for tasking,” the ALO called.

“Copy that,” Guru replied. “Nail Three-Six, Corvette Two-One, how copy?”

“Corvette Two-One, Nail Three-Six. Come on in. Tasking near Edgewood on I-40.”

“Roger that,” Guru called. “Flight, Lead. Let's go to work.” And the four Phantoms headed northeast. To everyone's surprise, their RWRs were not showing any enemy SAM or fighter radars. Something was going right, though down below, the crews could see the ground forces-in this area it was the 5th Marine Division, pushing east. As the flight cleared the Sandias, Guru noticed an A-7 orbiting. Only this one was a two-seat A-7K, now being used as a FAC platform. “Nail Three-Six, Corvette Two-One. Coming in from southwest.”

“Roger, Corvette and I see you,” the FAC called. With those smoky J-79 engines, one could see an F-4 approaching before one actually had eyeballs on the airplane.

“Roger,” Guru replied. “What's the target?”

“Armor headed south on Route 344, north of the Interstate. Tanks and Bravo-Tango-Romeos. Time to make these go away, son.” the FAC replied.

“By the sound of his voice,” Goalie said from the rear cockpit. “He's a Vietnam vet.”

“Not to mention calling me 'son',” Guru quipped. “Copy, Nail. Want to make the run northeast to southwest.”

“Your call, Corvette.”

Guru nodded. “Flight, Lead. Follow me in. Northeast to Southwest. One pass only. If you have hung ordnance, don't go around for another try.”

“Copy, Lead,” Starbuck called.

“Roger.” Sweaty.

“Copy that,” “Hoser” West.

Guru led the F-4s on their maneuver, and he watched as Nail made a run and fired a couple of rockets. The WP that resulted from the rocket impact clearly showed the target.

“Anything north of the Willie Pete is yours, Corvette.” Nail replied.

“Copy. Say threat.”

“Corvette, negative radar SAMs, but Sierra Alpha-Nines, and Shilkas.” And to prove his point, the A-7 dodged a hail of 23-mm fire coming from below.

“Copy,” Guru replied. “Set it up. Everything in one pass.”

“Got it,” Goalie said. “You're hot.

“Flight, follow me in. Lead's in hot.” And with that, Guru rolled in on the armor, still in road march.


Down below, the Soviet battalion commander was shouting at his company commanders on the radio in his command BTR.” First, there had been this no-notice order to form up and join the rest of the regiment, which was somewhere south of what the locals called 'I-40'. Second, as the battalion moved south, there had been some sniping, and some RPGs shot at their vehicles, knocking out a couple of BTR-70s and blowing the tread off a T-72. And now, this solo aircraft, which had been lurking, out of SAM range, and even daring his antiaircraft vehicles to shoot at it. Then his political officer tapped him on the shoulder. “What is it, Comrade...”

“AIRCRAFT!” The Zampolit shouted, pointing to the northeast.

“Mother of...” the Soviet Major muttered, as the lead F-4 came in and cluster bombs came off the racks.

“Gotcha!” Guru yelled as he laid his Rockeyes just north of the WP smoke. “Lead off target.”

“Two's in hot!” Kara called, seeing Guru's CBUs find targets and explode several. She picked out the trailing vehicles and selected them. Again, Rockeyes came off an F-4, and she pulled out. “Two off target.”

“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called as Kara pulled off. She decided on the middle of the column, and saw several vehicles explode as Kara's CBUs went off, and there were burning vehicles where Guru had dropped his. Steady, steady, she told herself. “HACK!” A dozen Mark-20 Rockeyes came off her aircraft.

“Disperse! Get off the road!” The battalion commander was shouting. The road ahead was blocked with burning vehicles after the first two aircraft had made their runs, Then he heard another aircraft coming in, and he was cursing his driver. “Move it, you gutless...” Then his BTR took hits, exploding around him.

“Three's off target,” Sweaty called.

“Four's in hot,” Hoser said. He simply made his run in between where Guru and Sweaty had dropped theirs, Again, CBUs came off an F-4, and he pulled up after release. “Four's off target.”

“Nail, Corvette,” Guru called. “How'd we do?”

“Corvette, Nail Three-Six. I give you one-hundred percent bombs on target. Grade Point Average Four decimal Zero. Have a nice day.”

“Roger that and thank you,” Guru replied. “Flight, let's get out of here.”

“Copy, Lead,” Kara calmly replied. Then she shouted. “LEAD! BREAK RIGHT!”

Guru broke hard right, then he saw a MiG-23 overshoot him. Then he heard Kara shouting.

“FOX TWO!” And an AIM-9P came off her Phantom, streaking like a spear into the MiG's tailpipe. The missile exploded, then the MiG became a fireball. There was no chute. “Splash!”

“Good kill, Two!' Sweaty shouted.

Guru frowned underneath his oxygen mask. Where had that MiG come from? If Kara hadn't been on the ball...”Nice shootin', Starbuck,” He called. Then he called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Corvette Two-One.”

“Corvette Two-One, Crystal Palace, go.” the controller responded.

“Crystal Palace, we just had a Flogger jump us. Where the hell did he come from?”

“Corvette, We had him about ten seconds before someone called 'Splash.'”

“Thanks a lot, buddy. He almost splashed one of us.” Guru replied, not bothering to tell the AWACS knothead he'd been the one who'd almost become someone's scalp.

“Roger, Corvette. Do you need a vector to the tanker track?”

“Copy.”

The controller vectored the flight to the tankers, and just like the previous mission, the tanker circuit was busy. After refueling, they headed back to Williams. When they landed, the flight taxied back to their dispersal area, and just like the morning, someone was waiting for them. Only this time, it was just Licon. After Guru popped his canopy, he and Goalie shook hands, glad to be alive. If Kara hadn't been on the ball...

“How'd it go, Sir?” Licon asked as Guru and Goalie got out of the aircraft.

“Air to ground was fine,” Guru said. “Turned a battalion into a company on Highway 344.”

“FAC directed?” Licon asked as the other crews arrived.

“Yeah. Nail Three-Six was his call sign.” Guru said. “He gave us a four-point-zero.”

Nodding, Licon said, “Good, Sir. Anything else?”

“Yeah, Kara got a MiG-23 that nearly got me. Where did he come from?”

“He was hugging the mountains, saw you, and rolled in behind you,” Kara said. “He was too close, though, to try an Aphid shot,. Looked like he was trying to line you up for guns.”

“Good shooting, though,” Goalie said. “Otherwise, it was skydiving time.”

“That's two for Kara, now?” Guru asked.

“It is, Sir,” Licon said. “How many eyeballs on the kill?”

“Three pairs, not couting Kara and Brainaic,” Guru said.

Licon looked at Sweaty and Hoser, and all four crew members nodded. “And you, Sir?”

“I broke right, rolled out, and saw the missile fly up the MiG's tailpipe.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Licon said. “I'll write that up as a confirmed kill, and note the location. Maybe we can find a wreck later on.”

“Thanks, Darren,” Guru said. “Where's the CO?”

“He went out about a half-hour ago with a four-ship. Carson's with him.”

“Good. That asshole's not around, and where the boss can keep an eye on him,” Kara said.

“Seconded,” Sweaty chimed in.

Then the crews saw the ordnance people bringing five-hundred and seven hundred and fifty-pound bombs to their aircraft, along with Capt. Mark Ellis, the Ops Officer. “This one comes for the Marines. Mountainair Municipal Airport, just north of U.S. 60. The Cubans have helos based there, either Hips or Hinds.”

“Let me guess; they want them gone,” Goalie said.

“Right on that,” Ellis replied. “So we got the mission, because Marine air is busy with CAS for the jarheads.”


“Since we don't have a choice, we'll take it,” Guru said. “How long?”

“As soon as you're turned around,” Ellis said. “Sandwiches and drinks in the Hummer, hit the latrine, and get ready to go ASAP,” Ellis said. “Have a good run.” He then headed off to see the next returning flight.

Nodding, the crews went to the Hummer while the ground crew and the ordnance guys went to work. “What's the sandwiches?” Sweaty asked.

Hoser checked the box. “Chicken, Ham, Turkey, Club, and something brown that just sits there.”

Goalie checked the ice chest. “Sodas, bottled water, tea, and Gatorade.”

“Coffee in a gallon thermos,” Guru said. He helped himself to a cup. He was still full from breakfast, and didn't want to chance himself on what some called “Roadkill sandwiches” from the Marines' mess tent.

“I'd like to know,” Kara said, in between bites of a chicken sandwich, “Who wasn't on the ball with that MiG?”

“That's the sixty-four thousand-dollar question,” Goalie nodded. “He must've come up from down south.”

Sweaty nodded as well. “Want to bet his GCI got taken out, and he was just looking for a target?”

“Since he didn't bail out,” Brainac said, “we'll never know.”

Sergeant Crowley then came over. “Captain,” he said to Guru. “Your birds are ready to go.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. He went over to a portable latrine-of which a number had been placed on the ramp area, and did his business there. Then he gathered his flight around the Hummer, and checked the materials Ellis had left for them. “All right....we'll come in south of Manzano Peak, pick up Route 55, and come in on the target. One run only, people! North to South. Go past the town, pick up the Chupaedra Mesa again, then turn west for the Rio Grande and I-25.”

“Threat?” Kara asked.

“Says here the only defenses are guns. ZU-23s and the quad ZPUs,” Guru said. “But everybody there likely has access to SA-7s, so watch it. No flak or SAM suppressors on this one: we're it.” Guru told his flight. “Any other questions?”

“No questions,” a voice said. “Just wishing you good luck.”

Guru turned and there was Dave Golen, their IDF observer. “Dave, this all bringing back memories?”

“Yes,” Golen said. “First day of the Yom Kippur War. But with one difference.”

“What's that?” Sweaty asked as she grabbed her helmet.

“You're winning.” Golen said. He put out his hand, and everyone shook it. “I wish I could join you.”

“Talk to Rivers when he gets back,” Guru said. “We had an IDF exchange officer go home a couple months ago: he had fifty-seven missions and a couple of MiGs on his belt when he left.”

“I will,” Golen said. “Good luck.”

“Thanks, Dave,” Guru said. “Any other questions?” He asked his flight. Heads shook no. “All right, time to hit it.”

The crews went to their birds, and after a quick walkaround, they strapped themselves into their mounts. Their flight instructors would have been apoplectic at how rushed the preflight routine was, but on a day like today, no choice. They started engines, let them warm up, then they taxied to the runway, and after the tower showed them the green light, the four F-4s rolled down the runway and into the air.
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  #210  
Old 06-07-2015, 01:30 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Location: Auberry, CA
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And the day goes on...



Over New Mexico: 0950 Hours:


Corvette Flight headed into enemy territory, and as they crossed the Sandias south of Manzano Peak, their RWR receivers were clear. Either the EW effort was working, or so many radars had been knocked out, and gaps torn in the ComBloc air defense net. “How long to Route 55?” Guru called.

“One minute,” Goalie replied. “Stand by to turn.”

“Roger that.” Guru then called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Corvette Two-One. Say threat?”

“Corvette Two-One, Negative threat.”

“Copy.”

“Stand by....and turn!” Goalie called.

Guru put the F-4 into a turn, and the rest of the flight followed. “One minute thirty to pop-up?”

“Roger that,” Goalie said.

“Flight, Lead. Pick up your visual scanning. Don't want to be caught like last time,”

“Copy, Lead,” Sweaty called.

“Stand by...” Goalie said. “Now!”

Guru put the F-4 into a climb, and as he did, he could see the Mountainair Municipal Airport off to his right. “Target in sight. Lead is in hot.” He banked right, and began to roll in on the target.

“Switches set,” Goalie said. “We're hot.”


Down below, the Cuban Air Force's 261st Helicopter Squadron was trying to get their Mi-25 Hinds and Mi-8 Hips airborne. Several of each had already been shot down, and despite the skies being full of American aircraft, the ground forces needed their support. So far, the field hadn't been bombed yet, but the base commander knew his time would come. Apart from the armorers and maintenance personnel, the base commander had every available man digging slit trenches and foxholes, or improving already existing facilities, because sooner or later, the Americans would strike his field. He was distracted by a rumble off to the west. This time of day, he knew it wasn't desert thunder-he'd been exposed to enough of that the last year and a half. No, it was artillery fire. And it was coming closer.

“Steady, steady...” Guru called. He could see several helos and a couple An-2 transports on what passed for a parking area on this dirt field. Nice try, Fidel....and....”HACK!” He hit the pickle button, and six five-hundred pound and six seven-hundred and fifty pound bombs came off the aircraft. “Lead off target.”

There had been no warning. The first indication the Cubans had that their field was under attack was Guru's Phantom flying past, and then that Phantom laid a dozen bombs across the runway and the improvised parking area. Two Hips, a Hind, and one of the An-2s fireballed as bombs exploded on and around them.

“Madre Dios...,” the base commander said as one of his officers pulled him into a trench.

“Two's in hot!” Kara called. She rolled in on the western side of the field, and saw an An-2 trying to take off. She didn't have time to arm her 20-mm gun, but instead focused on the bomb run. “HACK!” She called, and walked her bombs across the runway, blasting holes in it, and also landing a bomb on a ZPU gun emplacement, whose gunners died not even knowing they were under attack. “Two off target.”

“Three's in hot,” Sweaty called. She selected the center of the runway, and saw two Hips siting next to it, still intact. She came in and smoothly walked her bombs across the center of the dirt runway, and exploded both Hips, as a five-hundred pound bomb landed between the two helos. “Three's off safe,” she called as Two-Three pulled away from the target, and right over the town of Mountainair.

“Four in hot,” Hoser called. He saw that the field had been smacked by the first three, but saw one area that hadn't been affected: a parking area south of the field for fuel trucks. Since there was no fuel storage here, even before the war, all fuel for the helicopters-and the occasional visiting An-2 or An-26, had to be delivered by fuel trucks. So Hoser made a turn before rolling in, coming in from due east, and walking his bombs along the south side of the runway. Several fuel trucks exploded, and a couple bombs landed in a tent area south of the runway. As he pulled out, he saw an An-2, to his surprise, take off and pull away to the east. You are one lucky SOB, he thought as he called. “Four off target.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Form on me, music on, and let's get the hell out of here.”

All four F-4s joined up and they headed right for the Rio Grande. As they headed west, all of the crews noticed Marine F-4s and A-4s overhead in abundance, providing CAS to the Marines on the ground. They even heard a Marine FAC simply stack aircraft up from 5,000 up to 25,000 feet, and telling newly arriving aircraft, “Get in line at 25,000 and wait your turn.”

“Guru, Sweaty. Glad that ain't us?” Sweaty called her flight leader.

“Roger that!” Guru replied. “Crossing the fence.”

“Corvette Two-One, Crystal Palace. We show you across the fence. Do you need a vector to the tankers?”

“Negative, Crystal Palace,” Guru replied. “Not this time.”

“Roger, Corvette. Maintain Two-Seven-Zero until state line.”

“Copy,” Guru replied.

Once they reached the Arizona-New Mexico state line, they were then able to head to Williams. After coming into the pattern, they had to wait as several flights of both AF and Marine aircraft took off, then the flight was able to land. After taxiing to their dispersal area, the crews got out, relieved that this one had gone off almost like a training mission. “Good one, Guru,” Goalie said.

“If they were all like that...” Guru said. “Take 'em while we can.”

“Hey, did anyone see an An-2 on the runway?” Kara asked as they walked back to the Hummer.

“Yeah,” Hoser said. “He took off just as I was pulling away. He's lucky.”

Sweaty nodded. “Those things can land anywhere. He probably found a strip someplace to the east.”

Guru nodded as Sergeant Crowely came up. “Sergeant.”

“Sir. Anything we need to know?” He was asking about maintenance issues.

“No, not yet. Pull the strike camera footage, and..” Guru stopped. He saw the ordnance crews coming with a mixed CBU and dumb bomb load. “Well....I know what we're carrying.”

“Yes, sir. Be ready in thirty minutes,” Crowley said.

“Okay, Sergeant,” Guru said. Then he noticed Colonel Rivers and the SIO waiting. “Sir.”

“How'd things go, XO?” Rivers asked.

“This one was as close to a milk run as we'll probably get. No Triple-A, no SAMs, no nothing.”

“BDA?”The SIO, Licon, asked.

“I'm claiming a couple of helos on the ground,” Guru said. “Put a few holes in the runway and the parking area. Calling that an airport is an overstatement, though.”

“Same here,” Sweaty added. “You'll have to check our strike camera footage, though.”

“Roger that,” said Kara. “Put mine on the runway, and maybe a bomb or two on a flak site.”

“Hoser?” Licon asked.

“Fuel dump,” West replied. “Made that go away.”

“Thanks, all of you,” Licon said. “BDA should be available later today. Recon's been active all morning, and don't be surprised if you see a high flier.”

“U-2s?” Goalie asked.

“Maybe,” Licon said. “Thanks again,” and then the SIO went off to receive another incoming flight.

“Let me guess,” said Sweaty. “SR-71s?”

“Maybe,” Rivers said. “Don't be surprised if they did show.”

Guru nodded. He noticed the maintenance folks and the ordnance people working. Many of the men were either wearing sleeveless T-Shirts or were going bare-chested, while the women in those crews were in the same sleeveless T-Shirts or were in sports bras. “If Carson saw those, he'd go ballistic.”

“No kidding,” Rivers said. “So far, nothing yet.”

“Give him time,” Kara nodded.

Guru nodded, then he saw the object of their discussion coming towards the group. “Uh-oh... Speak of the devil.”

Major Frank Carson came over. He was easily the most despised officer in the squadron, and that opinion was shared by everyone else in the unit, both officers and enlisted. An Academy grad, he was notorious for blindly enforcing every rule and regulation, even when those made no sense. Throw in his distaste for officers who were not Academy grads, or Academy grads who were “one of the boys” after hours, female aircrew, and just about how the 335th was run, and it added up to trouble. “Colonel,” he said, giving a perfect Academy salute. “Are you going to do anything about the airmen who are out of uniform on the ramp?”

“No,” Rivers said. “Other than telling the NCOs to have plenty of sunscreen handy. It's a hot day, in case you haven't noticed.”

“Sir!” Carson wailed.

“In case you haven't noticed, Major,” Rivers said. “We're at war. And right now, I don't give a damn how the ramp crews are dressed. If it keeps them comfortable while they're doing their jobs? I could care less.”

“Sir....You don't understand!”

“No, Major, you don't. Unlike you, I know what parts of the book to keep and what to throw away. Now get ready to go out again in fifteen. You're my number three again.”

“Yes, Sir....,” grumbled the Major.

“And Major? If you write anyone up for a uniform violation who's working on the ramp, I'll put it right where it belongs,” Rivers nodded.

“Very good, Sir!”

“In the office shredder,” Rivers said, seeing Carson's face deflate. “Now get ready to go out.”

“Yes, Sir.,” Carson saluted and headed to his own aircraft in a fit of the sulks.

“Now that's out of the way,” Rivers said. “Here's where you guys are headed.” He pulled out a TPC chart of Central New Mexico. “Right here...” Rivers pointed to a town called White Lakes, north of I-40 on U.S. 285.

“What's the target, Sir?” Guru asked.

“Supply dump and truck park. Right now their whole front in this part of New Mexico is coming apart, and III Corps is going forward a lot faster than they thought,” Rivers said. “Keep up the pressure, and don't give 'em time to regroup.”

“And if we don't find the dump? It could be empty by the time we get there.”

“Look for any military traffic on either 285 or State Highway 41. Stay away from I-40. The Army wants it intact,” Rivers said.

“Understood,” Guru said. “Sir, what's the threat?”

“Threat is mainly MANPADS and light flak-mainly ZU-23s. The SA-3 site at Clines Corners is down-the Weasels got there this morning,” The CO said.

“Good to hear, Boss,” Guru said. “Oh, Dave Golen's probably looking for you. I think he wants some stick time.”

“General Tanner sent something in case he wanted some,” Rivers said. “ID, dog tags, insignia, all of it. If he gets shot down, as far as everyone's concerned, he's one of us.”

'Yes, Sir.” Guru said.

“Okay, get something to eat, hit the latrine, because you're headed out as soon as you're turned around,” Rivers said.”And one other thing: good luck.”

“Thanks, Boss,” Guru said.

Colonel Rivers nodded as he headed off to get ready for his next flight.

Kara nodded as she got a Gatorade from the cooler. “Why hasn't he kicked Carson out?”

“Like it or not, he's qualified,” Guru said. “We still need warm bodies, even if he did barely qualify.”

“In the air, he could get somebody killed-or himself,” Sweaty pointed out. “Who qualified him?”

“Not sure,” Guru admitted. “I'll check his file.” As squadron Exec, he could do that. He went to the cooler and got a bottle of water. “What's the temperature?”

“Air or ramp?” Goalie asked. She had gotten out of the top half of her flight suit, as had Kara, Sweaty, and “KT” Thornton, and everyone else, for that matter. All had their T-Shirts and sports bras on, of course, but the sweat made sure that didn't help hide things. Much.

“Either one,” he said as he downed some water.

“How does 92 degrees sound? Or here on the ramp, it's probably 105.”

“Ugh,” Kara said as she picked at another sandwich. “Stay away from the brown stuff.”

“Why?” Sweaty's WSO, Preacher Simmonds, asked.

“One of those just moved.”

“Don't be surprised if somebody got a BLT from those jarheads and the tomato looked back at you.” Goalie said as she chomped down on a turkey sandwich, and the crews laughed.

Guru had just finished his water and a turkey sandwich when Sergeant Crowley came over. “Sir, all four birds are ready to go.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. He turned to his flight. “Take care of any business at the latrine, then we'll brief and launch.”

After everyone had come back from the latrine, and back into their flight suits and G-Suits, Guru gave his brief. “I'll keep this short. We're looking for a supply dump and truck park, north of I-40 on 285. The local SA-3 site is down, so we're good on that score. If the dump and park are empty, we look for military traffic on either 285 or Highway 41. Stay away from I-40, like the Boss said.”

“They want a Cannonball Run to the Texas State Line, and the freeway's the best way to do it,” Kara nodded.

“Right on that,” Guru said. “Any other questions?” There were none. “All right; let's go.” He picked up his helmet and went to his mount, 512, with Goalie right behind him. After a quick walkaround, they mounted their aircraft and ran through the preflight, and ran up their J-79 engines. After receiving permission to taxi, they taxied to the end of the runway, where the armorers pulled off the weapon safety pins. Once that was done, the F-4s taxied onto the runway, where the tower flashed a green light, and all four rumbled down the runway and into the air.


Over East-Central New Mexico; 1130 Hours:


Corvette Flight was once again over familiar territory, having flown numerous strikes into this part of New Mexico. Only this time, they were at 10,000 feet, and not having to worry about SAM activity, for both the EW and SEAD effort had paid off, and the ComBloc's air defense network in this area had been taken apart. Now the aircrews were looking for the truck park and supply dump that they had been tasked to hit. “Anything?” Guru asked Goalie, who was scanning the ground below with binoculars.

“Nothing yet. This might be a wild-goose chase,” she replied.

“Wouldn't surprise me if these guys just pulled up and left,” Guru said.

“Guru, Sweaty,” was the call over his radio. “We've got something.”

“Where?” Guru asked.

“Eleven O’clock low,” came the reply. “Look for the truck tracks.”

“Got it!” Goalie said.

“I see it,” replied Guru. “One pass: CBUs only. See if we can find the supply dump.”

“Copy,” Sweaty replied.

“Two, on me,” Guru called, and he saw Starbuck coming into formation in a right echelon. “One pass, east to west.”

“Roger that,” Kara replied.

“Copy, two,” said Guru. “Set us up: wing stations have the CBUs.”

“Got it,” Goalie replied, stowing the binoculars. She worked the armament switches. “You're set.”

“Time to go,” Guru said. “Lead's in hot!” He turned and rolled down the chute, lining up on the truck tracks below.


Below, the truck drivers and their MVD escorts were deciding what to do. Some of the truck drivers' destinations were now rumored to be in enemy hands, and the last thing the drivers-most of whom had been in the military twenty or twenty-five years earlier-wanted to do was keep going and run into the Americans. Others, including their MVD escorts, wanted to keep going, and at least find someone in authority to get further instructions from. They were still arguing with each other when an MVD lieutenant pointed skyward.

“Steady, steady,” Guru called, “HACK!” He hit the pickle button and six Rockeye CBUs came off the wing stations. He pulled up and leveled off, glad to have no return fire. “Lead off target.”

Six Rockeye CBUs have 1,482 bomblets. Guru's run effectively covered most of the truck park with the bomblets, and some of the trucks had fuel or ammunition as cargo....

“Two in hot!” Kara called. She saw the secondary explosions on the ground, as well as Guru's plane as it pulled up and away, rolling off to the right. “HACK!” She called, placing her CBUs to the right of her lead's, and careful to keep any of the bomblets away from the road. Even though they hadn't been told to avoid hitting 285, the chances were pretty good that friendlies might be coming down this road soon, and so....”Two's off target.”

“Three's in!” Sweaty called. She rolled in and laid her CBUs between Guru's and Kara's, and she noted that Kara's had also caused some secondary explosions. “Three's off target,” she said as she pulled up and away.

“Four in hot!” Hoser said. He wanted to lay his Rockeyes just to the south of where Guru had put his, and as he went in, he noticed some tracers coming up. Someone down there was shooting back. Mentally, he changed his mission from “attack” to “post-strike flak suppression.” Hoser centered his pipper on the tracers and released, calling, “Four off target.”

Down below, some of the MVD troops were firing back at the attacking aircraft. Though most of them had AKMs, they also had a BTR-152 and a DshK machine gun, and two of the MVD were manning the gun. Then Hoser's F-4 flew over them, and they saw the CBUs open, then hell came down on them as the bomblets detonated, killing and wounding many, and exploding the BTR as well (it being an open-topped vehicle, several bomblets landed inside the track....).


“Good work, Four,” Guru called. “You got secondaries.”

“Thanks, Lead,” Hoser replied.

“Guru, Starbuck. You want to go back and use the '82s?” Kara called her flight leader.

“Negative,” Guru replied. “Let's check out Highway 41. Maybe we can find something there.” He didn't want to go back to 285, because all they had found was the truck park, and no sign of the supply dump.

Back at the remains of the truck park, the survivors picked themselves up, and were deciding what to do. The highway known as “Interstate 40” was only a few kilometers away, and there was a traffic-control point there, one that many had passed through. Maybe they could get some help, or maybe a ride back to their units. Some were hesitant, but exploding trucks and delayed-action bomblets going off as well convinced them that staying around wasn't a good idea.


Up above, the four Phantoms regrouped and headed west. The crews knew the next major north-south road was State Route 41, and with this push on, that road was likely to be jammed with enemy traffic, either reinforcements headed to the front, or those trying to get away. Guru decided to call the AWACS and see if there was not only any threat in the area, but if a FAC or two were working nearby. “Crystal Palace, Corvette Two-One.”

“Corvette Two-One, Crystal Palace. Go ahead,” the controller replied.

“Crystal Palace, say bogey dope.”

“Corvette Two-One, Crystal Palace, negative bogeys.”

“Copy that. Any Nails working the area?” Guru asked. Nail was the usual FAC call sign.

“Stand by,” the controller said. After a few seconds, the controller returned. “Corvette, contact either Nail Three-One or Nail Three-Seven.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. “Say closest?”

“Corvette, Crystal Palace, Nail Three-Seven is closest your posit.”

“Copy,” Guru replied. “Nail Three-Seven, Corvette Two-One with four Foxtrot Fours, inbound from the east.”

“Roger, Corvette, say type of ordnance?” The FAC called.

“Nail, Corvette. Six Mark-eight-twos and full guns each airplane.”

“Copy that. Route Four-One is full. Anything moving there is a target. Free strike,” the FAC replied.

Guru looked ahead and saw an A-7 orbiting. “Roger, Nail. Say ground threat?”

“Corvette, triple-A is the only threat, apart from MANPADS. No heavy stuff.”

Hearing that, Goalie called her pilot on the intercom. “Somebody must've took out the SA-2 south of here.”

“Not complaining about that,” Guru said. “Roger, Nail.”

Corvette Flight came in, and they could see the road was full of traffic. What looked like rear-echelon types headed south, and some armor headed north, towards U.S. 285. “Lead, Sweaty. How do you want it?”

“One pass, northeast to southwest,” Guru said. “Follow me in.”

“Copy,” Sweaty replied.

“Starbuck, Lead. On me.”

“Right with you, Lead,” Kara replied.

“Flight, Lead, Let's go to work.” Guru called over the radio. Then he told Goalie, “Switches set.”

“Copy,” she said. “Centerline set. You're hot.”

“Roger,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead's in hot!” He then rolled in on the attack run.

Below, on Highway 41, it was a traffic jam. The Soviet traffic regulators were trying to sort out the rear-services vehicles, who had been ordered to head for Interstate 40 and proceed east from the reinforcements headed in both directions. Tanks and APCs from one division were headed north to block the Americans coming from that direction, while an independent Motor-Rifle Regiment was headed south, to try and shore up the Cubans, who were being torn apart by the U.S. Marines. No one seemed to be paying attention to the sky, and that would prove to be a big mistake.

“Steady, steady,” Guru said to himself as he lined the pipper up on a crossroads. It looked like a small county road was intersecting with the state highway. Oh, well...your bad day, Ivan. “HACK!” He pushed the pickle button, and six Mark-82s came off the centerline rack. “Lead off target.”

Guru's bombs landed right on a traffic control point, and the bombs tore apart several trucks and flipped a BTR-70 over, as well as killing and wounding a number of the truck drivers and traffic regulators. No one even heard the F-4 come in. Then a trucker pointed east. A second plane was coming in...

“Two's in!” Was the call from Starbuck. She put her bombs just to the south of Guru's, and as she pulled away and rolled, she and Brainac saw secondary explosions. Somebody had something that went boom....”Two off target.”

Kara's bombs had landed on several supply trucks belonging to the motor-rifle regiment, and in particular, the artillery battalion. Her Mark-82s set off 122-mm artillery ammo, and there were several large secondaries as a result.

Now it was Sweaty's turn. “Three rolling in hot!” She called as she rolled in. Sweaty saw the explosions down below, and she put her bombs to the north of that. Her bombs landed on some armor headed north, and flipped a T-62 and tore apart several BMPs. But this time, as she pulled out, she saw an SA-7 or -14 coming up. “Three off, with a SAM at Seven O'clock.”

Just north of where Sweaty had dropped her bombs, several BMPs had pulled off the highway, and their infantry had deployed. One of them had an Strela-3 (SA-14) launcher, and he locked up the F-4 and fired.

“Preacher, dump some flares,” Sweaty said as she pulled into a tight turn.

“Gotcha,” he replied, pumping out a number of flares, and trying to see the missile.

“Sweaty, Starbuck,” Kara called. “SAM just hit a flare.”

“Copy,” Sweaty said.

“Four's in hot!” Hoser called. He had seen where the SAM had been launched from, and decided that nobody shoots at his element leader and gets away with it. He rolled in, and saw the dissipating smoke trail, and lined it up in his pipper. “HACK!” He called as he dropped his bombs.

Hoser's bombs landed in the middle of the BMPs, tossing several like toys, and killing or wounding most of the infantrymen around the vehicles. Unlike his element leader, he drew no fire as he pulled out.

“Four's off target,” Hoser called.

“Roger that,” Guru called. “Form on me. One pass is all we get.”

“Still got guns,” Kara reminded her flight leader.

“Not with those Grails around,” Guru said. Grails meant MANPADS to any aircrew.

“Copy,” Kara replied.

“Nail, Corvette, we are Winchester and headed out,” Guru called the FAC.

“Copy, Corvette,” the FAC replied. “Good bombs on target.”

Corvette Flight reformed and headed west. As they cleared the Sandia Mountains north of Alberquerque, they saw the sky over the city full of helicopters, and to their north, I-25 was full of American armor. Both sights were deeply satisfying to the aircrews. As they crossed the Rio Grande, Guru called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Corvette Two-One crossing the fence.”

“Copy, Corvette,” the controller replied. “Do you need a vector to the tankers?”

“Roger, Crystal Palace.”

The controller gave the flight a vector to the tanker track over the Continental Divide. This time, they hooked up with a KC-135, and the tankers were just as busy as they had been in the early morning. After refueling, they headed back to Williams, and after waiting a few minutes for outbound traffic to leave, they came in and landed. As they taxied in, the crews saw several Marine A-6s preparing to go out, and they were loaded with laser-guided bombs. There was a term going around those who used LGBs, and that was “tank plinking.” “Looks like the Jarheads are going to plink some tanks,” Goalie commented.

“Wish we could do that more often,” Guru said. Their squadron only had two Pave Spike Pods, and two Pave Tack pods, though several crews were qualified to use both types of pods. Both Guru and Goalie could count on one hand the number of times they'd flown a laser bomb mission.

The flight taxied in to their dispersal area, and shut down. Guru popped his canopy, and let out a big sigh. He checked his watch. “Four missions and it's already 1230.”

“How many more?” Goalie asked as she popped her canopy.

“However many they tell us,” Guru said as the ground crew brought the crew ladders. “Thanks, guys.”

“How'd it go, Sir?” Sergeant Crowley asked as both Guru and Goalie climbed down.

“Ripped up a truck park, and ripped up some armor,” Guru replied. “What's up next?”

Crowley nodded at his pilot. “Ordnance guys will be here in fifteen minutes, Sir. They need a break.”

“They, you guys, and everybody else,” Goalie said.

“Yes, Ma'am,” Crowley said.

“Nothing wrong with the bird, Sergeant,” Guru said as they did a postflight walk around. “No holes that we can see.”

“Thanks, Sir,” Crowley said. “They brought some more stuff for the cooler and more coffee.”

“All right, Sergeant,” Guru said. He headed to the Hummer, and found Mark Ellis and Darren Licion waiting. “Guys.”

Ellis put out his hand. “How'd it go, Guru?”

“Not bad,” Guru replied as the rest of the flight came over. “Tore up the truck park, but there was no sign of the supply depot.”

“What?” Licon asked, clearly surprised. “It was on the photos, clear as day.”

“Probably a dummy,” Sweaty chimed in. “Not the first time somebody got fooled that way.”

“I'll go along with that,” Kara added. “But the truck park....lots of secondaries there.”

“I'll check the strike footage,” Licon said. “What else?”

“We hit traffic on Route 41,” Guru added. “Lots of armor and trucks. Tanks, APCs, supply vehicles, that sort of thing.”

“FAC directed?” Licon wanted to know.

“You got it. Nail Three-Seven was his call sign.”

“Okay, I'll find out from him, and look at the strike footage,” Licon said. “Any threats?”

“Sweaty had a SA-7 shot at her,” Hoser said. “I put my stuff down on those guys.”

“Close call?” Mark Ellis asked.

“No, it went after a flare,” Kara said. “I don't think Sweaty even saw it.”

“We didn't,” Sweaty confirmed. “But the flares did their job.”

“Okay, I'll check with the FAC, and go over your strike footage,” Licon said. “Thanks, guys.” He then went off to debrief another returning flight.

“What's next, Mark?” Guru asked.

“On-call CAS again, but not until 1400. You guys deserve a break,” Ellis said. “Rivers said so.”

“He here?” Guru asked, reaching for the cooler and a bottle of water.

“No, he went out ten minutes ago,” Ellis said. “And Dave Golen was flying with him.”

“Carson with the Boss?”

“Yep,” Ellis said. “With Golen as element lead. Carson's number two to Dave.”

“Let's hope Frank learns something from him,” Guru said. “Though I doubt it.”

“Right on that,” Ellis said. “Oh, don't go into the squadron's building. The power's out, and thus the A/C.”

“What happened?” Sweaty asked. “Sabotage?”

Ellis shook his head. “Still checking. Power company says a transformer blew, but the FBI and OSI are out, making sure.”

“With this push on,” Kara said, “some sleeper agent must've decided to go active.”

“Probably,” Ellis admitted. “They still don't know yet.”

“Okay, Mark,” Guru said. “If anyone needs to see me, send 'em over this way.”

“Gotcha,” said Ellis.

While they were waiting for their birds to be turned around, the crews helped themselves to some more cool drinks, and the Marine mess people came around with some hot meals for lunch. “Captain, want something hot?” A Marine Mess Sergeant asked. “Hot steak and cheese sandwiches, burgers and fries, or fried chicken?”

The crews had lunch while sitting under a tarp that someone had strung up from the Hummer to a tie-down position. And to Guru's relief, no one asked about squadron business, only what they'd seen and done. So a lot of swapping stories, and comparing notes went on, and while that was going on, the turnaround process began. So far, the 335th had not lost any aircraft or crews, but since they had half a day to go, that could easily change. About halfway through the break, Colonel Rivers' flight landed. After he debriefed, Rivers and Dave Golen came over. “Guru,” Rivers said.

“Boss,” Guru replied. “How's it going?”

“Well, First Cav is in Santa Fe, and they're headed for Highways 285, and 84 if they can. They want to get to I-40 and pocket what's left of Alberquerque's defenders.”

“Then who's in Alberquerque?” Kara asked.

“That's 23rd ID and the 11th Airborne. Fifth Marine Division to the south, and the rest of Sixth Army. The Rio Grande line just collapsed, and the ComBloc is headed east. And we're right behind 'em,” Rivers said.

“Good to hear, Sir,” Goalie said. “What's going on to the north?”

“Denver's relieved, and the whole ComBloc line in Colorado's starting to come apart. Not as fast as here, but...” Rivers said.

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Boss, we still got half a day to go.”

“Right on that,” Rivers nodded. He noticed the ordnance crews bringing ordnance to Guru's flight. “And you guys are going first.”

Guru and his flight noticed the ordnance. Napalm tanks and Mark-82s with fuze extenders. The old Vietnam “Shake and bake” load. “Barbeque time,” he observed.

“Yep,” Rivers said. He turned to Dave Golen. “Look familiar?”

“Like the Yom Kippur War, as I said to the Captain, but with a difference,” Golen remarked.

“What's that?”

“You're winning.”

“Can't argue with that,” Kara quipped.

Master Sergeant Michael Ross, the squadron's senior NCO, came over. “Colonel,” he said to Rivers. “The power's back on. Along with the A/C.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Rivers said. “Now to see if Carson left anything on my desk.”

“If he did, Boss, may I suggest making good on that promise?” Guru asked. He was barely concealing his loathing for the overzealous Major.

“You may, Guru,” Rivers said. “And I'll make good on it.” He shook Guru's hand. “Good luck on the next one.”

“Thanks, Boss.”

Rivers then shook hands with the rest of the flight, and headed back to the squadron offices with Ross. Golen stayed, since he had his one mission for the day, and watched as the ordnance crews finished. “Your people are starting to slow down,” he observed.

“They were working when we got here,” Goalie said. “No wonder.”

Sergeant Crowley came over. “Captain Wiser, the birds are locked and cocked. Ready to go.”

Guru nodded. “Thanks.” He finished a bottle of water, then turned to the flight. “Hit the latrines, then come back here.”

Everyone headed off, did their business at the portable latrines, then came back to the Hummer. “What's next?” Sweaty asked.

“On-call CAS,” Guru replied. “Call AWACS, and they tell us which FAC to go to.”

“Great,” Hoser said. “No way to know where?”

“Nope,” Guru replied. “North or south, wherever the controller sends us.”

“Lovely,” Kara spat.

“I'd rather go and bust up an airfield-like Cannon or Holloman, but not our call,” Guru reminded everyone. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. He picked up his helmet. “Let's hit it.”

The crews headed to their aircraft, and though the walkaround was normal, the preflight in the cockpit was one that their flight instructors would have had fits over. After engine start, the tower cleared them to taxi, then the flight taxied to the runway. There, the armorers removed the safety pins on the weapons. After taxiing onto the runway, the tower flashed a green light, and the F-4s rumbled down the runway and into the air.
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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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