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  #241  
Old 10-13-2015, 06:20 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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In lieu of an update, here's some more art: a captured Mi-24 Hind-D in USMC markings:
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  #242  
Old 11-03-2015, 05:41 PM
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Guys, I should have some new material up soon; but RL is seriously in the way. Not only am I busy with renewing my insurance license, but I lost my stepdad ten days ago, and I'm just now getting back in the groove.
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Old 11-04-2015, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Matt Wiser View Post
Guys, I should have some new material up soon; but RL is seriously in the way. Not only am I busy with renewing my insurance license, but I lost my stepdad ten days ago, and I'm just now getting back in the groove.
My condolence to your loss Matt, take your time to get back into the groove.
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  #244  
Old 11-18-2015, 10:26 PM
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Fellows, I'm getting ready to resume writing. Before I post the next story, would you guys like to see some fact files on equipment used during the war? I've done some on both U.S. and Soviet aircraft and armor.
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  #245  
Old 11-19-2015, 04:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Matt Wiser View Post
Fellows, I'm getting ready to resume writing. Before I post the next story, would you guys like to see some fact files on equipment used during the war? I've done some on both U.S. and Soviet aircraft and armor.
Or make that A-Firm
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  #246  
Old 11-19-2015, 09:59 PM
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Okay, here's the first one: the M-1 Abrams family's service during and after the war:



The M-1 Abrams family in World War III

First produced in 1979, after a lengthy gestation period dating from the failed MBT-70 program, the M-1 Abrams withstood journalistic and Congressional skepticism to emerge from the Third World War as one of the two top main battle tanks in the world (the Challenger being the other). Seeing service in all theaters, and with extensive postwar service, the M-1 family still serves the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, and also serves with several foreign customers. This work will cover the M-1 family that saw service in the war, and in postwar conflicts.

M-1: Initial production version produced 1979-83. Armed with a 105-mm L7 gun with 55 rounds, Thermal sight, laser rangefinder, Chobham Armor.

IPM1: Upgraded M1 with M-1A1 turret, thicker armor, turret bustle. Retained 105-mm gun.

M1A1: Produced beginning 1985, with Rheinmetall L44 120-mm gun produced under license at Waterlivet Arsenal, New York. Pressurized NBC system, improved armor. Combat debut limited in 1986 with its major debut at Wichita in 1987.

M1A1HA: Improved Chobham armor (including Depleted Uranium inserts),

M1A1HC: 2nd Generation Depleted Uranium inserts, digital engine controls. Primary USMC version.

M1A1AIM: Older units reconditioned to near zero-hour condition; digital engine controls, Blue Force Tracker, tank-infantry phone, improved thermal sight. Standard Abrams variant in National Guard and Reserve service.

M1A2: First “Digital battlefield” version with commander's independent thermal sight, Blue Force tracker added, 2nd generation DU armor inserts.

M1A2SEP: System Enhancement Package: Third Generation DU inserts added to armor, upgraded thermal sight and Blue Force Tracker. Standard U.S. Army version.

M1A3: Prototypes under development, initial trials FY 16. Lighter 120-mm gun, added road wheels, lighter track, current wiring replaced with fiber optics, improved armor.

M1AGDS: Air Defense Gun System with radar, Thermal Sights and laser rangefinder. Twin 35-mm cannon and 12 ADATS missiles for either anti-armor or antiaircraft use. Primary U.S. Army battlefield air defense system.

M1 Grizzly CEV: Combat Engineering Vehicle with multirole arm, dozer blade/mine plow, In U.S. Army service.

M104 Wolverine Heavy Assault Bridge: AVLB on M1 chassis.

M1 Assault Breacher Vehicle: Version with mine plow/blade, and MCLIC line charges for dealing with minefields. In U.S. Army and Marine service; exported to Australia

M1 ARV: Armored Recovery vehicle: planned replacement for M-88 ARV. In prototype status, with service trials set for FY 16.

Users:

U.S. Army: Combat in Texas and Arizona from the beginning of the war (M-1 and IPM1). M1A1 in wide use beginning Battle of Wichita 1987. M1A2 series primary U.S. Army MBT, M1A1 series still in ARNG and Reserve service, alongside remaining M-60A4-120 tanks.

U.S. Marine Corps: M1A1 saw limited use in USMC: first combat in the Kola raid. Replaced M-60 series after the war, though USMC M1A1s saw combat in liberation of Guam. M1A1HC primary USMC version.

Australia: Australian Army adopted the M1A1 in 1994.

Egypt: M1A1 supplied to Egyptian Army in 1990s. Production continues in Egypt today.

Kuwait: Kuwaiti Army supplied with M1A2 in 1997, after competition with Challenger and Leopard II.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Army supplied with M1A2 in 1995, after competition between Leopard II and LeClerc.

Taiwan: ROC Army was the only wartime allied user: with M1 series tanks supplied to the ROC 1st Mechanized Division in the Southwest. ROC upgraded to M1A1 for duty on mainland in anti-warlord operations.
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  #247  
Old 11-25-2015, 06:46 PM
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And another fact file: the T-80 in the Red Dawn:



The T-80 tank in World War III


First produced in 1976, and seen by the West in 1980, the T-80 was the most advanced Soviet tank to see combat service in the war. Intended as the T-64's successor, the T-80 was just entering service in GSFG and the Northern Group of Forces (Poland) when some of those units deployed to North America, while several independent tank regiments from the USSR itself also deployed. The T-80 saw service mostly in the Southern Theater, though at least two Regiments and one tank division were also equipped with the T-80. The tank also saw service in the Second Russian Civil War, and in the fall of the Rump USSR. The T-80 is still produced in both the Russian Republic and at the Malyshev Tank Factory at Kharkov in the Ukraine today, and is the standard MBT of both the Russian and Ukrainian Armies. This work covers the T-80's wartime service and some of the postwar use.


T-80: Initial production variant from 1976; 1,000 hp gas turbine engine (the first used in a Soviet tank), 125-mm gun, laser rangefinder and no ATGM capability. Most upgraded to B standard.

T-80B Improved model from 1980. AT-8 Songster ATGM fired through main gun, new turret with composite armor, improved fire-control, 1100 hp engine.

T-80BK: Command version of T-80B; two radios, land navigation system, no ATGM capability.

T-80BV: T-80B with Reactive Armor; very few in North America were equipped due to supply shortages.

T-80BVK: Command version of BV.

T-80A: Improved version from 1982. New turret and improved armor. AT-11 Sniper ATGM in place of AT-8. 1100 hp gas turbine engine, main gun ammo capacity increased from 38 rounds to 45.

T-80AK: Command version; no ATGM capability.

T-80U: First produced 1986. New turret, improved armor protection based on wartime experience from both Afghanistan and North America, with emphasis on mine protection and protection from HEAT rounds. AT-11 ATGM capability, new 1100 Hp multi-fuel gas turbine engine. Few arrived in North America. First seen with an independent tank regiment at the Battle of Wichita, 1987.

T-80UK: Command version of U. Two radios, land navigation system, no AT-11.

T-80UD: Produced 1985: Diesel engine in place of gas turbine. Main production at Kharkov in the Ukraine. Standard MBT of Ukrainian Army today, upgraded to UDM standard with French made fire-control system and thermal sight.


Users:

Soviet Army: Mainly used by several Cat A tank divisions from both Poland and East Germany, as well as independent tank regiments at Army and Front level. First deployed to North America 1987. Last encountered during the war at Brownsville Pocket (20th Tank Division).

Postwar Users:

Russian Republic: Still produced at LKZ plant in St. Petersburg. Standard Russian Republic MBT for tank divisions. Combat in both the Second Russian Civil War and Fall of Rump USSR.

Rump Soviet State: Several divisions and independent tank brigades equipped after the Civil War. All destroyed or captured during fall of Rump USSR, 2010.

Ukraine: Produced at Malyshev Tank Factory in Kharkov. T-80UD still primary MBT of Ukrainian Army. Combat in both Second Russian Civil War and in 2010.

Mexico: A number of T-80s of varying types were left behind in Mexico by Soviet forces after the Armistice. Main user was the Presidential Guard Division in Mexico City. No combat as far as is known during the Baja War in 2010.

Captured Vehicles:

Several specimens were found at Wichita either slightly damaged, or abandoned by crews. Others fell into Allied hands when the Northern Theater ended in October, 1989. Captured specimens were sent to both Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD as well as Fort Knox, KY. All passed to museums in the U.S., Camada, and Britain.
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  #248  
Old 12-01-2015, 06:36 PM
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Another fact file; this one's for the M-551 Sheridan:



The M-551 Sheridan in World War III


The M-551 Sheridan armored reconnaissance and airborne assault vehicle, a light tank for all intents and purposes, was one of the lesser-known armored vehicles to serve in the Third World War. Replaced by 1985 in armored cavalry units by tanks and either the M-113 ACAV or the M-3 version of the Bradley fighting vehicle, the Sheridan was still in active service in the 3-73 Armor (Airborne) of the 82nd Airborne Division, and only for its air-droppable capability, while other examples were serving as OPFOR (Opposing Forces) vehicles at the National Traning Center at Fort Irwin, CA. Most other vehicles were in storage when the war began, and were rapidly issued to both newly forming units and Army National Guard formations. The Sheridan was not popular among its crews, and earned the nickname “Purple Heart Boxes” for their tendency to explode and burn after being hit by enemy fire. With their magnesium armor, they burned brightly, as their crews found out to their horror. Armed with a 152-mm gun/missile launcher, which could also fire the MGM-51 Shillelagh missile, the Sheridan was not able to tackle the latest Soviet armor, such as the T-64, T-72, or T-80, but was able to deal with Soviet APCs and the earlier T-54/55 series of tanks, as well as the T-62.

Several attempts to update the vehicle were made, with either 76-mm, 90-mm, and even 105-mm guns, but none were proceeded with, and it was finally replaced in U.S. Army service during the war by the Cadillac-Gage Stingray, and after the war by the M-8 Buford Armored Gun System.


Versions:

M-551: Initial production version used in Vietnam, upgraded with ACAV gun shields for the commander's .50 Caliber machine gun and underside armor.

“Two box” M-551: Version with missile guidance equipment removed, and missiles removed to make room for additional main gun rounds, and extra 7.62-mm and .50 Caliber ammunition.

M-551A1: Upgraded M-551 with laser rangefinder.

M-551TTS: M-551 with Tank Thermal Sight.


Users:

The United States Army was the only user of the Sheridan. The vehicle saw service in both Northern and Southern Theaters, and saw its last combat in the Brownsville Pocket in 1989 with the 82nd Airborne Division. The 82nd was the last user of the Sheridan, though it saw limited service with the 11th Airborne Division in the Southwest.
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  #249  
Old 12-04-2015, 06:03 PM
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Any thoughts on the fact files so far, gents?
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  #250  
Old 12-04-2015, 06:48 PM
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Waiting for the F4 entry
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  #251  
Old 12-04-2015, 07:43 PM
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Ask, and ye shall receive:


F-4 Phantom Variants of the Third World War
:

The McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom, though largely superseded in USAF service by the F-15 Eagle in the air superiority role, proved to be an able and worthy fighter in the Third World War, in the fighter, reconnaissance, and “Wild Weasel” variants. Though out of production at the beginning of the war, Mitsubishi in Japan reopened the production line, and subcontractors in the U.S were able to produce spare parts for the aircraft, as were foreign suppliers such as IAI in Israel.

A list of Phantom variants and users follows:

F-4B: Out of USN/MC service at the beginning of the war. Survivors converted to F-4N versions. USMC Reserve squadrons still operated the aircraft at war's outbreak. Remained in USMC service throughout the war, until replacement by the F/A-18A Hornet.

F-4C: Original USAF version. Out of front-line USAF service, but in ANG service in the fighter and fighter-interceptor roles. Heavy wartime attrition resulted in losses replaced by either new-build E models from Japan, or by the Northrop F-20A Tigershark.

F-4D: Improved C version. Still in active USAF service, as well as ANG and AFRES. Wartime attrition replaced by E models from Japan, or by F-20, though some did convert to F-15C postwar. Also used by ROK AF (replaced by F-15K)

F-4E: Ultimate USAF fighter version, with internal M-61A1 Vulcan cannon. Regular AF and ANG service, with attrition replacement via the Japanese production line. USAF versions from Japan often delivered without bombing computer or air-to-ground weapons capability, to satisfy Japanese export law, but such features installed at USAF Depot at McClellan AFB prior to delivery to USAF squadrons.
A number of E models also saw RAF service in North America during the war. JMSDF operated F-4EJ for air defense of Japan. ROK AF operated Es for Air Defense during the war, and during the fall of North Korea in 2010. Turkish AF also operated Es for air defense during “armed neutrality” period, as did the Greek AF.

F-4F: Luftwaffe version of E, originally delivered without Sparrow missile capability. Saw combat during GDR campaign in 1989.

F-4G: “Wild Weasel” SEAD variant. Fitted for and carried Shrike, Standard-ARM, and HARM missiles. Active USAF only during the war, ANG service (Idaho ANG and Nevada ANG) postwar. Attrition replaced via Japan, with SEAD equipment installed at Hill Aerospace Depot at Hill AFB, UT, prior to delivery.

F-4J: USN version from 1968 onward. Upgraded to F-4S configuration. F-4J (UK) in RAF service during the war.

F-4N: Upgraded F-4B. In service with four USN squadrons (VF-21, VF-154, VF-151, VF-161) at war's outbreak; remainder in storage. Served throughout the war, from both carriers and land bases. Replaced by F-14 in all four squadrons postwar.

F-4S: Upgraded F-4J. In USN Reserve, USMC active, and USMC Reserve service at outbreak of war. Replaced during and after the war by F/A-18 in USN and USMC.

Phantom FGR.2: Main RAF variant, used in UK Air Defense, until replaced by Tornado F.3.

RF-4B: USMC Reconnaissance version, used in VMFP-3 throughout the war. Replaced in USMC service by RF-18D.

RF-4C: USAF Reconnaissance version; in USAF and ANG service at beginning of the war. Attrition replacement via Mitsubishi in Japan. Replaced postwar by RF-16C. Export version RF-4E.

WW III Operators:

USAF

USN

USMC

RAF

Luftwaffe (1989 only)

JASDF

ROKAF

Greek AF

Turkish AF .


Three major users of the F-4 did not officially take part in wartime combat operations: Both Israel and Egypt were “non-belligerents”, that is, neutrals favoring the U.S. Both IAF and EAF Phantoms flew air sovereignty missions to guard their airspace. Iranian Phantoms continued to fly combat missions against Iraq until the Iran-Iraq War petered out in 1986.
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  #252  
Old 12-21-2015, 08:04 PM
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And one more before the next story begins: The T-72's service in the war....


The T-72 tank in World War III


The Soviet T-72 was one of the most widely used tanks in the Third World War, being built not only in the Soviet Union, but under license in both Poland and Czechoslovakia. Intended to replace the T-54/55 series as the workhorse of the Soviet armor force, as the “low” in the High-Low mix, with the T-64 and then the T-80 as the “High” end, the T-72 saw action in all theaters, and on both sides, with U.S., British, and Canadian forces making use of captured specimens. The tank naturally saw extensive service during the Second Russian Civil War, in conflicts in the Caucasus and Central Asia, and in the fall of the Rump USSR. This work will cover those versions of the T-72 that saw service during the war.


T-72 “Ural” Initial production version first seen in 1973. 125-mm D-81TM gun, coincidence rangefinder.

T-72K: Command version of T-72. Versions produced for company, battalion, and regimental commanders. Radio fit depended on specific commander's version.

T-72 Export: Export version sold to Iraq and Syria, also license-built in Poland.

T-72 Ural-M: Modernized version of T-72. New 2A46 125-mm gun, coincidence rangefinder removed and replaced with laser rangefinder, and smoke grenade launchers. .

T-72A: Further modernization of “Ural.” 2A46 gun, laser rangefinder, provision for reactive armor as available (though many in North America never had it installed), additional composite armor added to turret top and front-given the nickname of “Dolly Parton” by U.S. Army tankers.

T-72AK: Command versions of T-72A.

T-72M: Downgraded export version of T-72A. Produced under license in both Poland and Czechoslovakia. Main “monkey model” meant for wartime production in Soviet factories converted to manufacturing tanks.

T-72MK: Command version of T-72M.

T-72M1: Export version with thicker armor than T-72M.

T-72B: Most advanced T-72 version to see combat in North America. Much improved version over T-72A. 1A-40 fire control system, thicker armor with additional composite armor on turret front and top; codenamed “Super Dolly Parton” by U.S. Army; 2A46M main gun, AT-11 Sniper missile capability, and new engine.

BREM-1: Armored Recovery Vehicle based on T-72 chassis.

IMR-2: Combat Engineer Vehicle with telescoping crane, dozer blade, and mine-clearing system.

MTU-72: Bridgelayer based on T-72 Chassis.

Users:

Soviet Army: Standard tank used in Soviet Motor-Rifle Divisions and independent MR Brigades or Regiments. Also used in Cat 2 Tank Divisions.

Cuban Army: Main tank used by Cuban Motor-Rifle Divisions and by Independent Tank Brigades. Many of which had to revert to T-62s due to war losses.

East German Army: Standard MBT in first-line Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions. Encountered both in North America and in the campaign in East Germany in 1989.

Czech Army: Standard MBT of Czech Tank divisions and in tank regiment of MR divisons. Encountered in both North America and Eastern Europe.

Polish Army: Used in first-line Tank and MR Divisions. Also seen in North America and in Europe.

Libyan Army: Libyan T-72s encountered in Colorado during reduction of Pueblo Pocket, 1987, and by ROK Expeditionary Force in Texas, 1988.

Captured Vehicles:

Several captured T-72s of varying types were captured by both U.S and British forces, and sent to various centers for evaluation in both the U.S and Britain. A number were captured by guerillas in Arkansas and Oklahoma in 1986-7 and saw combat during the liberation of both states during Operation PRAIRIE FIRE. The 83rd Mechanized Infantry Division (the “Rag-Tag Circus” of WW II fame) captured enough T-72s to form at least one battalion entirely equipped with the vehicle, and tried to ensure that enemy supply and parts depots in their line of advance were not attacked by artillery or air strikes. Many of the division's T-72s were manned by female soldiers due to their small stature and being able to fit more comfortably inside the tank than many male soldiers. Canadian and British forces using captured T-72s followed suit. Due to the unpredictability of acquiring 125-mm ammunition during the war, samples of captured 125-mm rounds were provided to Egypt, where a production line for 125-mm HE-FRAG and HEAT rounds was set up.
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  #253  
Old 12-27-2015, 07:18 PM
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Guys, the UH-1 Huey family in the Red Dawn:



The Bell UH-1 Huey in World War III


The Bell UH-1 Huey was, at the time of the Third World War, the U.S. Military's primary helicopter in terms of numbers, with the Army being the largest user, though variants also served with the USAF, Navy, and Marine Corps. Other variants served with the Canadian Armed Forces during the war, and the helicopter saw service with the Australians, New Zealanders, South Koreans, and Taiwanese who fought in North America during the conflict. The helicopter was not only produced by Bell Helicopter, but also license-produced by Dornier in West Germany, ADIC in Taiwan, Augusta in Italy, and by Fuji in Japan. Though production was disrupted in North America, overseas production of the UH-1 continued, and some Bell Helicopter production, primarily of the UH-1N, continued during the war. Also included in military use were civilian versions of the helicopter, some of which served in Arkansas and Missouri in Guerrilla hands, while others were appropriated by U.S or Canadian military authorities.

This work examines those versions of the UH-1 family that saw service in the war and afterward.


Military Variants:

UH-1B: Oldest version of the Huey to see service in World War III. Lycoming T-53L-5 engine, seven passengers plus two crew. Mainly used for training and for Counter-SOF use by the U.S. Army. All sourced from AMARC at Davis-Monthan AFB. Civil version Bell 204B

UH-1C: Dedicated gunship version: 1100 Shaft Horsepower T-53L-9 or L-11 engine, New tailboom and tail rotor, increased fuel capacity, and dual hydraulic controls. Many refitted with T-53L-13 Power plant with 1400 SHP, and redesignated UH-1M. Armament usually consisted of forward-firing machine guns or miniguns, rocket pods, and a 40-mm grenade launcher in the nose, with two door machine guns for use by crew, though there were many variations. Surviving aircraft from Southeast Asia reclaimed from AMARC.

UH-1D: Dedicated troop transport version, able to carry 11 troops and four crew. T-53L-11 engine. Often used as a dedicated MEDEVAC aircraft (“Dustoff”). First version to be widely exported, and licensed produced in West Germany by Dornier. Later production model Ds given T-53L-13 engine and redesignated as UH-1H. Civil version Bell 205.

HH-1D: Base rescue version for U.S. Army with water and foam spray system (50 gallons) with extendible boom.

UH-1E: USMC version of UH-1B. All-aluminum construction for corrosion resistance, USMC standard avionics, rotor brake, and roof-mounted rescue hoist. Saw extensive Vietnam use, and surviving aircraft retired in mid-1970s and sent to AMARC. USMC reclaimed UH-1Es from AMARC and issued them in 1986-7 to reforming West Coast Helicopter Squadrons.

UH-1F: USAF version for ICBM site support and local SAR. GE T58 Turboshaft engine for compatibility with HH-3H with 1250 Shaft Horsepower. In process of being replaced by UH-1N at outbreak of war, and those retired were returned to service. TH-1F was AF training variant. Civil version produced by Augusta in Italy as AB 204B.

UH-1H: Most widely produced version of UH-1, with at least 4,800 for U.S. Army use alone, as well as license production in West Germany, Italy, Japan, and Taiwan. Lycoming T-53L-13 engine with 1400 SHP. Ten sold to Canada, and their rejection for tactical use led to developmennt of UH-1N Twin Huey. Canadian versions designated CUH-1H, then CH-118. Civil Version designated as Bell 205A and 205A-1.

HH-1H: USAF version for base rescue.

EH-1H: “Quick Fix” Communications jamming version for U.S. Army.

UH-1J: Japanese produced version of UH-1H by Fuji Heavy Industries. Production continued during the war for U.S. Military, as well as production of spare parts.

HH-1K: U.S. Navy Combat SAR and gunship version. UH-1E with different avionics and the T-53L-13 power plant. Used by HAL-3 in Vietnam and by USN Reserve Squadrons HAL-4 and -5 in World War III.

UH-1L: USN Utility and local SAR version. UH-1E body with T-53L-13 power plant. Training version also procured and designated TH-1L.

UH-1M: Upgraded UH-1C with T-53L-13 Power Plant. Provided more power to C when used as a gunship.

UH-1N: Twin Huey developed originally for Canadian military, later adopted by USAF, USN, and USMC. AF use for ICBM site support, Navy for utility and local SAR. Main USMC utility version, also used as light gunship. Some USAF examples served with 20th Special Operations Squadron in Southeast Asia 1970-73. Twin Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6 Turboshaft engines with 1800 SHP.
Canadian designation CUH-1N, then CH-135 Twin Huey. Main Canadian Utility and troop transport helicopter during the war. Civil version designated Bell 212 or AB-212 (license production from Augusta in Italy) British Army used the Bell 212 in Belize and in Brunei as the 212HP AH.1.

HH-1N: SAR version for USN; used for local SAR at Naval Air Stations. Movie fans will recall the HH-1N from NAS Lemoore in the movie The Towering Inferno.

VH-1N: VIP transport version used by USMC Squadron HMX-1.

UH-1P: Some UH-1Fs modified by USAF for duty in Southeast Asia. Only USAF helicopters to serve as gunships.

UH-1V: Dedicated MEDEVAC helicopter with DME, radar altimeter, ILS, and rescue hoist. Modified UH-1H.

UH-1Y: Upgraded UH-1N for USMC, developed postwar. Two GE T700-GE-401C Turboshaft engines with 1546 SHP. Often used as light gunship and used as such in Baja War and from USN Amphibious Ships on anti-piracy duties in Southeast Asia and Gulf of Aden.

AB-212: License production utility and transport version built by Augusta in Italy.

AB-212EW: Electronic Warfare version for Turkey.

AB-212ASW: Antisubmarine version for Italian Navy, Iranian Navy, Greek Navy, Peruvian Navy, Spanish Navy, Turkish Navy, and Venezuelan Navy. Radome above cockpit for APS-705 search radar, Bendix ASQ-18 dipping sonar, corrosion protection, shipboard tie-down attachments. Two Mark-44 or Mark-46 homing torpedoes or two Mark-11 depth charges as ASW armament. Two Marte Mark 2 antiship missiles for AsuW.


Other versions:

Bell 214: The Bell 214 was a private venture originally named “Huey Plus.” Adopted by the Imperial Iranian Army and Air Force in the 1970s, the 214 also found its way into the civilian market, as the 214 “Big Lifter,” with a number of commercial users of the helicopter in both Canada and the U.S prior to the outbreak of war. Several Canadian 214s were impressed into Canadian military service, while at least two civilian 214s in Texas flew to Arkansas, the pilots taking their families out of harm's way, and winding up in the Arkansas Ozarks. The helicopters were taken into Guerrilla service, given an olive-drab paint scheme similar to those used by the U.S. Army, and fitted with improvised door mounts for machine guns. The main difference between the UH-1H and the 214 was the fitting of a Lycoming LTC-4B-8 engine with 2930 SHP on the 214, intended for improved “hot and high” performance in Iran.

Bell 214ST: The ST version of the Bell 214 was originally intended for the Iranian Army, with the single Lycoming engine replsced by two GE CT7-2A turboshafts, with 1625 SHP each. Though intended to be produced in Iran, the Iranian Revolution ended the planned Iranian production, but Bell continued development for both civil and military use. Bell was producing the aircraft when the war began, and those airframes not yet delivered were taken over by the U.S. Army, designated UH-1R. In all, 24 214s were impressed by the Army, with several others in Louisiana used for oil rig support taken into U.S. Navy service and seeing duty with HAL-5 as the HH-1R.

Bell 412: A development of the Bell 212, with the main difference being a four-bladed composite rotor. Two Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6T-3BE Twin-Pac turboshafts with 900 SHP each. Civil versions and a number of undelivered foreign military examples awaiting delivery were impressed into U.S. Military service as the UH-1R+, primarily for USMC and USAF service, while a number of civilian-operated examples in Canada were impressed into Canadian service, designated CH-146 Griffon. RAF use as the Griffin HT.1 for training and HAR 2 for SAR. Improved civil and military versions developed postwar. License production in Italy by Augusta.

Other civilian models such as the Bell 204 and Bell 205 series were also impressed, several seeing service with both American and Canadian forces during the war. A number of captured examples were given to the ALAF (the American Liberation Air Force, the air arm of the Collaborationist Hall Government), but none survived the war. At least one captured Huey was found in the Brownsville Pocket, with Cuban markings. UH-1s sold to Central American countries in the 1970s and early 1980s remained in those countries during the war, but saw action in the anti-communist coups in the 1990s.


Allied Users:

United States Army

United States Air Force

United States Navy

United States Marine Corps

Canadian Forces

Royal Australian Air Force

Republic of China Army Aviation

Republic of Korea Army Aviation

Royal New Zealand Air Force

Philippine Air Force

Royal Air Force

British Army Air Corps



Neutralist (later reformed NATO) Users:

Greek Army

Greek Air Force

Italian Army

Italian Air Force

Royal Netherlands Air Force

Royal Norwegian Air Force

Luftwaffe (West Germany)

Spanish Army

Spanish Air Force

Turkish Air Force

Turkish Army


Other Users:

Brazilian Air Force

Israeli Air Force

Royal Thai Air Force

Royal Thai Army

Vietnam People's Air Force
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  #254  
Old 01-14-2016, 06:38 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Guys, here's the next story: and it's a work in progress at the moment, a sequel to Settling In. A reporter and camera crew are with the 335th, though no one's using the term "Embedded"....


The Fourth Estate's Visit


Prologue: Nellis AFB, NV: 31 October, 1987, 1100 Hours Pacific War Time:



Major General Robert Tanner nodded to the woman sitting across from him. The brown-haired woman sitting in one of his office chairs had asked the right questions for the most part, though he had to deflect a few. His brief on the reporter had indicated that she had never been in a war zone before, and some of her questions betrayed that. It had also brought his Vietnam Veteran's view of the media back, and he didn't like nosy reporters poking around his bases and his people. But, the directive from the Secretary of the Air Force was clear: make reasonable accommodations to the news media. Since about half of the non-Communist world was still neutral or neutralist, getting America's message out was important. The warfighter in him knew that, but still, he had the warrior's distrust of all media, whether American, Allied, or Neutral. “And that's it. We've knocked Ivan back, but this war's not over yet.”

The reporter smiled. “Thank you, General,” Jana Wendt said. She had been asking her assignment editor to send her to the war zone, and instead of going up to Canada to cover the ANZACs or the RAAF, she was headed to Texas. Her editor had told her that the Canadian Theater was a stalemate, and the action was mostly down south, in Texas and Louisiana. But instead of going to a U.S. Army or Marine unit, they had been attached to the Air Force. Oh, well, at least I'm in the war zone, she thought. This was her first time headed to an active war zone, and she was anxious to show the veteran correspondents who lived for combat reporting that she could do it just as good as they could. The fact that her network, 9 News Australia, shared material with CBS, and she herself had sent stories to not only her own network's version of 60 Minutes, but had sent some to the original show on CBS, no doubt made the American military more receptive to her. After an orientation for correspondents at Camp Roberts in California, she, her crew, and a satellite truck, had been flown to Nellis AFB to get an overview of the air war, then they were headed to Texas. “First for me.”

“First time in a war zone?” Tanner asked, standing up.

“That, and the first time interviewing a General.”

“Just remember, this isn't World War II,” Tanner reminded her. 'There's the threat of air strikes, missile attack, enemy special ops forces paying a visit. Just because you're behind the lines doesn't mean you are safe. Do what they tell you and keep your heads down,” Tanner told her and her camera crew.

“Of course,” Ms. Wendt replied with a reporter's smile, which made the General wonder if the advice he'd given had gone in one ear and out the other.

“Ivan doesn't care who he shoots in this war,” Tanner said. “On the few occasions where reporters have been captured? The Soviets don't consider them to be POWs. They're turned over to the KGB. And you know what that means.”

“So they told us at Camp Roberts,” Trevor Scott, the cameraman, said. “I was in Saigon in April '75, and the NVA were pretty nice to the foreign media. Until they kicked us out a couple months later.”

“The NVA didn't want you seeing them round up people for 're-education,'” Tanner said. One of his aides had been an ex-VNAF major, until 30 April 1975, and had fled Vietnam a couple years later, after doing time in a tropical version of the same camps the Soviets and their lackeys had set up in the Occupied Zone. The man still didn't talk about some of what he'd gone through, which was worse than what American POWs had experienced in Hanoi.

“You could say that, General,” Scott said. “They weren't as nasty as the Khmer Rouge, but...”

Tanner nodded. “Yeah. Well, then. Ms. Wendt? Your gear should be loaded on the aircraft with the other cargo headed for your destination,” he nodded to his PAO. “My PAO will escort you to the aircraft. Have a good flight, be safe, and when your tour ends? If you want another interview, I'll be happy to oblige.”

“Thank you, General,” Wendt said. Handshakes were exchanged, and as the crew left the office, Tanner turned to them one last time. “General?”

“One last thing: Good luck.”

After the crew left the office, Ms. Wendt turned to the PAO. “What'd he mean by that?”

“Where you're going?” The PAO, a lieutenant colonel, asked. “They've had SCUD missile attacks, air strikes, and so on. Hope Spetsnatz doesn't pay a visit.” The PAO then took the crew to a crew van. “I'll take you to the transit ramp, and the aircraft is ready to go. The sooner you're on board, the sooner you get to where you're going.”

“But we haven't eaten lunch yet,” Wendt said.

“Ma'am, you'll all have to settle for one of MAC's box lunches,” the PAO said. “The sooner you're aboard, the sooner you get to where you're going, some people go where they need to go, and the other cargo aboard gets delivered to the people who need it. Then we need the aircraft for other business.”

Nodding, the members of the TV crew climbed into a crew van, and the airman at the wheel drove them to the transit ramp. There, a C-141B was sitting there, its cargo doors closing. “This is our plane?” Ms. Wendt asked.

“It sure is,” the PAO said. “Do what the flight crew tells you, then sit back, and enjoy the ride.”

Ms. Wendt and the other members of the crew nodded, shook hands with the PAO, and boarded the C-141. The engines of the big Starlifter turned, then the big transport taxied to the runway, and after waiting for the F-5Es from the 64th Aggressor Squadron who were handling local air defense for Southern Nevada to take off on a CAP, the C-141 rumbled down the runway and into the air.

In his office, General Tanner's phone rang. The PAO was on the other end, calling from Base Ops. After thanking the man, Tanner then called his aide. “Major, Get me Colonel Brady at MAG-11, please. Then I want to talk to the CO of the 335th. If he's flying, I'll talk to his Exec or Ops Officer.”

“Right away, sir,” the aide replied.




335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1315 Hours Central War Time:


The four F-4Es of Camaro Flight taxied into their squadron dispersal area, and once they entered their revetments, shut down. In the revetment for aircraft 512, the canopies opened and the crew went through their shutdown procedures. In the front cockpit, Major Matt “Guru” Wiser, the CO of the 335th, took off his helmet and exhaled. One more mission done. And at probably two more today. “Debrief, eat, brief, and then go out again,” he said to his WSO.

“Just like yesterday, 1st Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn replied. Aren't we getting more weather in a few days?” The squadron, along with the rest of MAG-11, and many other units in both Tenth and Ninth Air Forces, had stood down a couple days earlier due to a storm passing through, and now, with another one expected in a few days, they were trying to get in as many sorties as possible.

“You got it,” Major Wiser said as his crew chief put the crew ladder in place, he unbuckled his harness and stood up in the cockpit. “And want to bet Ivan and Fidel are doing the same thing? They know the weather just as much as we do.”

“No bet. That's a given,” Goalie said as she got up. “So, we're doing this again in an hour.”

Guru nodded as he climbed down from the aircraft and then Goalie followed. “Sergeant, get the strike camera film pulled, then get 512 turned around. She's working like a champ.”

Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley, his crew chief, nodded. “Yes, sir! We'll get her ready. “

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. Then he and Goalie went to the revetment's entrance, and found their wingmates waiting. “How'd it go with you, Kara?”

Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace nodded back. “Fine, Boss. Other than having an SA-6 fly right over us on the way out.”

“Don't want to do that again,” Captain Judd “Brainiac” Brewster, Kara's WSO, added. “But we probably will.”

“Don't say it,” Kara nudged her GIB. “Then it'll happen again on the next one.”

First Lieutenants Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard and Bryan “Preacher” Simmonds came over, with First Lieutenants Nathan “Hoser” West and Kathy “KT” Thornton behind them. They were the second element in the flight. “Well, Boss?”Sweaty asked.

“Debrief, eat, brief, then we do this again,” Guru said. “Come on. I'll settle for one of the Jarheads' roadkill sandwiches.”

There were some laughs at that, as everyone wondered what some of the mystery meat in the sandwiches the Marine cooks made came from. “It beats a BLT where the tomato looks back at you,” Hoser quipped.

“That it does,” KT said.

“Well, whatever the meat is,” Preacher said. “It's been dead for a while and can only improve with age.”

They laughed at that, as the crews went to the 335th's HQ building, which had been a flying training squadron's prewar. On their way in, they ran into Major Dave Golen, their IDF “Observer” and 1st Lt. Sandi Jenkins, Golen's wingmate, and their respective GIBs. “Dave, Sandi.” Guru said, remembering the IDF's habit of officers going by a first name basis.

“Guru,” Golen replied.

“Getting ready to go back out?”

“Yes,” Golen said.

“Okay, but be careful, you two. Dave, I know you're out for your fifth kill here, but you might run into some Russian or Cuban out looking for his fifth. And Sandi? No grudges,” Guru reminded them.

“Yes, sir,” Sandi replied. She had been flying with their previous CO, the late Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, when he was shot down. And not only had she had a 57-mm AA shell go through one of her elevators without exploding, but she had been very distraught on landing. Now, she had two kills, and was back in the groove.

“All right, you two. Just be careful, and remember: Do it to them, before they can do it to you.”

“Will do, Guru,” Golen replied.

“Have a good one,” Guru said as they shook hands. “And good luck.”

Nodding, both Golen, Sandi, and their GIBs headed out to their aircraft, while the Major and his people went into the HQ building. When Guru opened the door, not only did he find a busy office, but his Exec, Capt. Mark Ellis, and senior NCO, Master Sergeant Michael Ross, waiting. “Major,” Mark said. And Guru knew that when Ellis-or anyone else-used his rank instead of call sign first, it was important.

“What's up? We need to get out of our flight gear, debrief, then eat.” Guru said.

“I know, but we just had a phone call from General Tanner about ten minutes ago, and then this came off the fax,” Ellis said, handing his CO a paper.

Guru scanned it, then looked at his Exec, then his Master Sergeant. “Serious?”

“On the level, Boss.”

“Okay,” Guru nodded, then he turned to his flight. “Let's get out of our flight gear, then you guys head on over to the briefing room. I'll be there in fifteen.”

“Right, Boss,” Kara said

After getting out of their flight gear, the rest of the flight headed to their briefing room, while Guru went to his office. “Okay, Mark,” he asked his Exec. “Lay it on me.”

Ellis handed him the paper again. “That Aussie reporter we're supposed to get? Not only are we getting a reporter, but a full crew and a satellite truck.”

Guru looked at the paper. “That's just great,”

'That's not all, Boss,” Ellis said. “General Tanner said she's never been in a war zone before.”

“Of all the...” Guru muttered. “Tell me the rest of the crew know what they're getting into.”

“Mixed,” Ellis replied. “The cameraman and sound man? They've been in war zones before. The others? No.”

“Lovely,” Guru said. “And we don't have a PAO. Did you-”

“Already talked with Colonel Brady,” Ellis said. “We'll be getting one of his on loan. We haven't had one since Tom Lyon got killed, and....”

“I know,” Guru sighed. “Our PAO shop is two sergeants who write press releases for hometown newspapers, along with sending articles to Airman magazine, and an airman who's a photographer. Sergeant Ross?”

“Sir?” his Senior NCO asked.

Guru looked at him. “You know anyone in officer detailing?”

“I have a couple of friends who work there,” Ross said. “And sir, I think I know what you're thinking.”

“Call in a couple of markers if you have to, but find a pilot or GIB who's got some journalism experience, even if they never got a degree. Better yet, find a former PAO who's earned his or her wings and is now cooling heels in the replacement pool.”

“Yes, sir!” Ross nodded.

“Okay, Mark?” Guru turned to his Exec. “We have billets for these people?”

“We do, in both male and female officer country.” Ellis said.

“Okay. If I'm out when they get here, show them around. The usual facilities: showers, chow tent, O-Club, air raid shelter. And in no particular order. Tell them I'll talk with 'em as soon as I can. I've got my regular job: teaching the Russians and Cubans a lesson about staying in their home countries.”

“Will do,” Ellis said.

“All right,” Guru said. “Let me know when that PAO gets here, and when they get here. When's that C-141 due?”

“They have two stops: Kirtland and then Amarillo,” Ellis replied. “Anytime after 1500.”

“Okay, if I'm not here, you do the meet and greet. Or Van Loan if you're out, Mark. If I'm here when their C-141 arrives? Let me know.” He saw Ellis and Ross nod. “Anything else?”

“No, Boss,” Ellis said.

“Sergeant?”

“No, sir,' said Ross.

'Okay, that's it. Spread the word, and Sergeant? Find what I need.”

“Will try, sir. No guarantees, though.”

Guru nodded. “Fair enough. That''ll be all.”

“Yes, sir,” both Ellis and Ross said. Then they left the office.

After they left, Guru sat for a few moments. Then he looked upwards. 'Colonel, too bad you didn't leave any ideas on how to deal with the media in that packet of yours.” Shaking his head at the thought of some prissy reporter making his life, and his squadron's, miserable for a few weeks, he left the office, slamming the door on the way out. As he walked to the briefing room, the office staff were wondering, What's got the CO upset? Then he opened the door. There he found his flight, and the Squadron Intelligence Officer, Capt. Darren Licon, waiting. “Sorry keep you all waiting.”

“What's up, Boss?” Licon asked.

“That reporter we're supposed to get? She gets here today. Along with a camera crew and a satellite truck,” Guru said. “She's from some outfit called 9 News Australia, which I've never heard of, and here's the kicker.”

“What?” Goalie asked.

“She's never been in a war zone before.”

“Lovely,” Kara muttered. “And the rest of 'em?”

Guru nodded. 'The cameraman and soundman? They've been in war zones before, but the producer, and the techs with the satellite? No joy on that.”

“They'll get an education,” Sweaty observed. “I'd like to see their reaction to their first Scud attack.”

“We'll see,” Guru noted. “Okay, let's debrief, then eat, and then get briefed for the next one.”

After debriefing their previous mission, then having a late lunch, it was time for the CO to find out the next mission from Ops. When he got to the Ops desk, Capt. Don Van Loan, the Operations Officer for the 335th, was waiting. “Major,”

“Don,” Guru said. “What have you got for us?”

“How's a trip down to the Nicaraguan sector sound?” Van Loan handed his CO the mission outline, and a packet. “Town called Granbury, southwest of Fort Worth on U.S. 377. Their municipal airport is being used to support Helo ops and small transports like An-2s or An-26s. They need to be cured of that.”

“Given that the Nicaraguans are the closest thing we'll get to a milk run in these parts, we'll take it.”

“Not necessarily, Boss. They've got those quad ZPU-4 guns, along with 23-mm and 57-mm. And Soviet-manned SA-2 is in the area.”

“Thanks a lot, Don. We getting Weasels?” Guru asked.

“No, but two Marine Hornets for SAM- and flak-suppression. The pilots are on their way over,” Van Loan replied.

Guru nodded. “All right. You hear about the reporter coming?”

“Mark told me. And I've been passing it along.”

“Good. Her network down under shares with CBS, so watch Walter Cronkite on AFN from now on. See if we're famous.” Guru deadpanned.

“What about Kara?” Van Loan asked. “The last thing we need is her antics on the news.”

The CO looked at Van Loan, then nodded. “Thanks for reminding me. I'll tell her to keep the craziness to a minimum. No group debt collections, for one thing.”

Van Loan stared at his CO. “You dreaming, Boss? Expecting her, or that C-130 Nav who pops in from time to time-what's his mane?”

“Drunkin' Dunkin,” Guru nodded. “He may drink like a fish, but he's the best Nav in the Air Force, they say. Yeah, expecting them to change their ways is probably a waste of time, and hopefully, that reporter won't be in the Club that much.”

'To be wished for, Boss,” Van Loan said.

“Yeah,” Guru said. “Okay, thanks, and have a good one yourself.”

“You too, Boss.”

Guru nodded thanks, then headed back to the Briefing Room. He took a deep breath, then opened the door. “What do we have, Major?” Kara asked.

“Granbury Municipal Airport,” Guru said. “ Thirty miles southwest of Fort Worth on U.S. 377. It's in the Nicaraguan Sector, and they're using the airport for helo ops and light transports. We're going to shut it down for a while.”

'”Defenses?” Sweaty asked.

“Quad ZPU machine guns, plus 23-mm and 57-mm, and the latter may be radar-guided. Throw in MANPADS and Soviet-manned SA-2.”

“Great,” Goalie said. “We getting Weasels?”

“No, but two Marine Hornets are coming with us,” Guru said. “The pilots should be-” He was interrupted by a knock on the door.' “Yeah? Come on in and show yourself.”

The door opened and two Marine pilots in full flight gear came into the room. “Major?” Said the ranking one, a Captain as both saluted. “Captain Dale Hartman and First Lieutenant Joe Turner, sir. We're your Flak and SAM-suppressors.”

“Captain, Lieutenant, “ Guru nodded as he sketched a return salute. “You guys know the mission?”

“We do, sir, and we know the threat.” Captain Hartman said. “Our call signs are Knight 16 and 17.”

“Good enough,” Guru said. After introducing the rest of the flight, he said, “You guys go in thirty seconds ahead of us. Kill that SAM site and the 57-mm battery.”

“Will do, sir,”

“All right: the MiG threat is the same as before. Su-27s repoted at the old Connolly AFB in Waco, with MiG-29s at Gray AAF in Fort Hood. MiG-23s at Temple Airport and at Brownwood. MiG-21s are at
Waco as well,” Guru noted. “Now, ingress and egress.”

“In and out fast?” Kara asked.

“You got it. We top off from the tankers north of Mineral Wells, then head to Weatherford and drop down low. We follow Route 171 to Cresson, then we turn due south for the Lake Granbury Dam. Turn west to pick up Route 144, then turn north to the target. Our Marine brethren go in ahead of us and do their thing, then we go in. One pass only, people, and get your asses north.” Guru told the crews. “We meet at the tankers.”

“Ordnance loads?” Asked Hoser.

“Lead element; Kara, that's you and me, we get twelve Mark-82 Snakeyes. Second element?” Guru nodded at Sweaty and Hoser. “You two get twelve CBU-58Bs. The ones with the incendiary submunitions. Full load of 20-mike-mike, four AIM-9Ps, and two AIM-7s each airplane. Element leads get an ALQ-119 ECM pod, wingmates get an ALQ-101.”

“Bailout areas?” Sweaty wanted to know.

“Anyplace rural and away from main roads,” Guru said. “Hole up someplace, and Jolly will come for you. The Nicaraguans have not been as active at night as, say, the East Germans or Russians, but that's no guarantee. Hole up and wait for Jolly to get you. Most pickups here take place at night.”

“Weather, Boss?” Kara asked.

“Partly to mostly sunny,” said the CO. “But there's a storm coming into the West Coast in a few days, and we may feel some of it when it gets here.”

“How many more today?” Goalie asked. She was getting beat, and knew they all were. Even the CO.

“If we can squeeze it, two. More likely, one. Anything else?” Heads shook no. “Okay, gear up and meet at 512. Let's make it happen.” Guru clapped his hands once, and the crews got up to go to the locker rooms. “You two wait for us outside,” he told the Marines.”

“Yes, sir,” Hartman said. He and his wingman headed on out.

Guru nodded, then he and the AF crews went to gear up. They then went to 512's revetment.

“Any special instructions for us?” Hartman asked.

“Just meet us at ten grand overhead,” Guru said.

“Will do, Major,” the Marine said.

“Okay, see you up there,” Guru nodded, and the two Marines went off to man their own aircraft. “Now, between us?” he told his flight. “Call signs only. Mission code to anyone else.”

“Got it,” Kara said, and the others nodded.

“One last thing. Kara?”Guru looked at his wingmate. “While that reporter's on base? Try and keep the shenanigans to a minimum. No group debt collections, if you can.”

“Major!” Kara was indignant.

“I know, that may be too much to expect, but try and keep things to a minimum, if at all possible.”

“Okay, Major,” replied Kara. “I'll just tell any debtors to make an appointment. You know, 9:30, 10:00...”

The others laughed as the Major put his palm to his face and sighed. “Okay, but still, when she's on base? Try and keep the craziness to a minimum. When she's off base, different story. Just try and not act like animals in the zoo after hours, okay?”

Sweaty let out a grin. “You got it, Boss,” and the others nodded.

“All right. Anything else?” Guru asked. Heads shook no, and he added, “Okay. Mount up and let's hit it.”

The crews headed to their aircraft, while Guru and Goalie went to 512. Sergeant Crowley was waiting. “Major, 512's ready to rock.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” the CO said as he and Goalie did their walk-around, then he signed for the aircraft. They then mounted the aircraft and got into the rhythm of cockpit checks.

“That was probably a wasted effort, telling Kara to take it easy, you know that?” Goalie said. ?Ejection seats?”

“Maybe, but I had to try anyway. Want to bet, though, this reporter's going to be spending time off base, having a look around at what Ivan did here?” Guru said. “Seat armed top and bottom. Check yours and time for engine start.”

“That's a given,” Goalie said. “Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

“Copy that.”

Sergeant Crowley gave the “Start Engines” signal, and first one, then both J-79 engines were up and running. Guru then asked for permission to taxi, and after getting it, he taxied 512 out. The rest of the flight followed, and they were joined by two Marine F/A-18As from VMFA-314, their two Flak Suppressors.

“Sheppard Tower, Rambler Flight requesting clearance for takeoff.” Guru called.

The tower operators acknowledged by flashing a green light. Guru applied power, released the brakes, and as Kara in 520 followed, rolled down the runway and into the air, with Sweaty's element and the Marines following.
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Old USMC Adage
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  #255  
Old 01-28-2016, 07:50 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The next parts: Part II of the update will follow. Btw, RAMBLER Flight was the third to engage during Operation BOLO over NVN on 2 Jan 1967-3 MiG-21s splashed.....



Over West-Central Texas: 1430 Hours Central War Time:


Rambler Flight broke away from the tankers and headed south. They cleared I-20, which marked the FLOT, and then they got down low. Navigation was by INS, along with the GIBs doing it the old-fashioned way: time and distance with a stopwatch. It wasn't New Mexico, with the occasional mountain to provide visual cues, though the Brazos River was a useful landmark.

In 512's cockpit, Guru was keeping his eyes open. Up ahead and slightly above the F-4s, the two Marine Hornets were in their position, while the rest of the flight was tucked in tight. “ETA to Cresson? He asked Goalie.

“Thirty seconds,” came the reply.

“Copy,”

“Rambler Flight, Crystal Palace,” the AWACS called. “Threat bearing zero-nine-five for ninety-five, medium, going away.”

“Roger that, Crystal Palace,” Guru said.

“Stand by.....Goalie called. “And turn.”

Guru turned 512 onto its new heading, and both the Hornets and the rest of the flight matched the turn.

Just outside the town of Cresson, the commander of the Nicaraguan 18th Motor-Rifle Regiment was having a bad day. Two days earlier, in a counterattack ordered by his divisional commander, they had gone up against the Americans' First Cavalry Division, and had been badly mauled. Now, they were garrisoned in the town, and the local garrison commander, a Cuban, had not been happy to see him and his battered regiment. Then there were the Russians, a mix of MVD troops who'd been run out of Fort Worth, the survivors of a now planeless fighter regiment who were awaiting transportation south to pick up new aircraft, and some KGB troops for traffic control. And, they were living up to their reputation for arrogance, heaping scorn on the Nicaraguans for having been beaten back “Brown-asses” was the term the Soviets used to refer to the Nicaraguans and Mexicans, and to the Nicaraguan Major, being lumped in with those useless Mexicans was a serious insult. He had even challenged the KGB Major to a duel to avenge the insult, and the Russian had backed down. Add to that the locals, who were happy that the fighting was getting closer, and that the insufferable attitude of these Texans was getting on his nerves.

Now, he was trying to get his unit refitted, when he heard cheering outside his command vehicle. The Major opened the hatch and watched as two American Hornet fighters, followed by four F-4s, flew past. Grateful that his regiment had not been hit, the Major saw the Russian MVD troops running around and looking for cover, while the townspeople were cheering. Not a bomb fell in the town, and as the American fighters kept going south, the Major shrugged and got back to work. Whoever they hit was someone else's problem.


“One minute to the dam,” Goalie said.

“Roger that,” Guru replied.

“Hey, does the dam have any defenses? That thought just occurred to me.”

“They didn't say in the briefing packet,” Guru replied. “Flight, Lead. Watch for possible flak at the Dam.”

“Two copies,” Kara.

“Three,” Sweaty.

“Four, Roger,” Hoser.

“Knights, you copy?” Guru asked the Hornets.

“Knights read you,” Knight 16 called.

“Dam in ten,” Goalie called.

“You called it,” Guru said. “Flak at Eleven O'clock! Flight, Lead, Turn NOW!”

The six aircraft made their turn to the west as 37-mm flak erupted behind the strike birds.

“Thirty seconds to Route 144,” Goalie said.

“Copy that. Stand by,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, music on, and stand by to pull.”

“And, and....MARK!” Goalie called.

“Flight, Lead, PULL!”

Four F-4s and two Hornets pulled up and turned north. As they did, their EW gear picked up the SA-2 site just to the north of Granbury, and the 57-mm radar near the airport. “Knights going in,” Hartman in Knight 16 called.

“Roger that, Guru said. 'Lead's in!” He rolled his F-4 in on his attack run.

“Switches set back here,” Goalie said.

Ahead of the strike flight, the two Marine Hornets were at it. Hartman in Knight 16 fired a HARM at the SA-2 site just as it fired on him, but the HARM was faster, and the antiradar missile killed the SA-2's Fan Song radar. The two SA-2s fired “went dumb,” and flew off to the south. Skirting the town and the two bridges over the Brazos River, Hartman found the SA-2 site and planted two Rockeye CBUs on the site, knocking it out of action.

At the same time, Turner, his wingman in Knight 17, caught the 57-mm site's Firecan radar going active, and he put his HARM onto the radar, blasting apart the radar van, and causing additional casualties among the gunners, who were still rushing to their posts. Turner then rolled in onto the battery proper, and placed his two Rockeyes onto the battery, wrecking the guns and inflicting casualties on the Nicaraguan gunners, before he, too, headed north, his job done.

In 512, Guru had climbed just enough to ID the target, then he rolled in, ignoring the 14.5-mm and 23-mm light flak that was coming up. Guru picked out the ramp area, such as it was, and found several Hips and Hinds on the ramp. Grinning underneath his oxygen mask, he lined them up in his pipper. “Steady, steady.....HACK!” He hit the pickle button, and a dozen Mark-82 Snakeye bombs came off the aircraft.

At the airport, the new commander of the Nicaraguan Air Force's 22nd Helicopter Regiment was also having a bad day. He'd sent several of his Mi-25 gunships to support a ground attack two days earlier, and only two of eight sent out had come back. And much to his disgust, higher command had not seen fit to dispatch replacement helicopters and crews to his unit. With the losses he'd taken over the past few days, how was he supposed to support II Corps in its operations? Then the previous Regimental Commander had gotten himself killed leading his own flight, all four of which had been shot down by those insidious Yanqui missiles called Stinger. All of a sudden, the antiaircraft batteries opened fire, then a missile hit one of them, and a Yanqui Hornet came in and dropped cluster bombs on a S-60 battery, before pulling away. One of his sergeants pulled him into a slit trench as an F-4 was spotted coming in.....

“SHACK!” Goalie yelled from 512's back seat. “We got secondaries!” She was watching as their bombs ripped into the runway and ramp, and blew apart two parked helicopters.

“How many?” Guru asked as he set course northwards towards I-20.

“Enough,” she replied as some tracer fire passed over their cockpit.

“Roger that!” He said as he headed north. “Lead's off safe.”

“Two's in!” Kara called as she rolled in. She picked out the southern ramp area and part of the runway, and lined up an An-26 transport in her pipper. You'll do, she thought as she hit the pickle button, and her twelve Mark-82s came off. She leveled out and headed north, calling, “Two's off target.”

The Nicaraguan Major looked up from the trench as first Guru's, then Kara's, F-4s flew past, with bombs falling in their wake. He ducked back into the trench as a nearby An-26 exploded, and another bomb exploded a fuel truck in a fireball.

“Good hits!” Brainiac called from 520's back seat.

“How good?” Kara asked as she followed the CO'

“Two big secondaries.”

“All right!” Kara then took 520 north.

“Three's in!” Sweaty called. She saw the tracers follow Kara's bird as it egressed the target, then some of the tracers began to come up after her. She and Hoser had the CBUs, and no assigned aimpoints, so it was pilot's choice. As she dove onto the target, Sweaty picked out two intact helicopters, and adjusted her run to get them in her pipper. She lined them up, and called “HACK!” Twelve CBU-58/B CBUs came off her aircraft, and as she pulled away, called, “Three off target.”

In the trench, the Nicaraguan major heard Sweaty's aircraft come over, and then the numerous small explosions as the CBU bomblets went off. And a pair of sympathetic detonations as those bomblets had found targets.

“Righteous! Preacher called from the back seat of Sweaty's bird. He was checking their six, and saw the CBUs go off, and two secondary explosions as the helicopters exploded.

“We get the helos?” Sweaty asked.

“We got 'em!” Preacher replied.

“Time to get the hell out of here,” Sweaty said as she headed for I-20, with some tracers coming close to her aircraft.

“Amen.”

Hoser then rolled in on the target. “Four's in hot! He rolled in and saw Sweaty pull away, and her CBUs go off. He decided then and there to put them to the south of hers, and saw a Hind helicopter at the south end of the ramp, still intact. No way.....Hoser thought as he lined up the Hind in his pipper. The call came as he hit the pickle button and a dozen more CBUs came off the F-4. “HACK!”

The Nicaraguan Major heard Hoser's aircraft fly over, then another rain of CBU bomblets came down. A secondary explosion nearby signaled the end of another one of his helicopters, as well as two smaller explosions marked the end of a truck or some other vehicle. Only when it was obvious there were no other Yanqui aircraft coming in did he get up out of the trench. He looked around, and saw that his field had been wrecked. Not only had the Yanquis holed the runway and taxiway, but several of his regiment's helicopters had been hit, and were burning wrecks, along with the just-arrived An-26. Shaking his head, and wondering what he was doing in this miserable land called Texas, he started shouting orders. Somebody had to get some order out of this mess.

“SHACK!” KT called from the back seat.

“Good hits?” Hoser asked as he headed for I-20.

“Got a couple of secondaries,” came the reply. 'Some flak chasing us.”

“Not enough,” Hoser said as the F-4 headed north. “Four off target.”


In 512, Goalie smiled underneath her oxygen mask. “Four in, four out,”

“Still got a game going,” Guru said. “How long until I-20?

“One minute,” Goalie said, getting back into business and checking their Six. “Still clear.”

“Lead, Two,” Kara called. “Coming up on your four,”

Guru turned in the cockpit to see 520 coming up alongside. “Roger that.”

“Rambler, Knight One-Six. Flak coming.” Hartman in the lead Hornet had spotted some tracers coming up.

“Copy that,” Guru said. They easily outran the 23-mm fire that came up, as the Nicaraguans were surprised to see American aircraft coming from their rear. Right after that, the twin ribbons of concrete that were I-20 appeared, and Rambler flight cleared the FLOT. It wasn't long until they met up at the tankers, After the post-strike refueling, they headed back to base. When they got there, they had to wait in the traffic pattern as several inbound and outbound strike flights, both Marine and Air Force, were ahead of them, and a C-141 was also ahead of them. “That had better not be the -141 with that reporter. She'll probably think I avoided the meet-and-greet deliberately.”

“She'll get an education,” Goalie said. “Long way from Australia, and apart from sub scares and maybe a sub-launched cruise missile attack or two, the war's passed them by.”

Guru nodded “Well, she'll get an eye-and earful.” He watched as the C-141 touched down, and after a Marine F-4 flight, it was their turn to land.

In the C-141, Jana Wendt looked outside one of the few windows on the transport. It was a far cry from the Qantas 747 she'd flown from Sydney to Honolulu and then Los Angeles, let alone the 727 from LAX to Nellis. She and her crew were sitting in the paratrooper seats, along with a number of military personnel who were headed to this base and others, while the cargo area was taken up with their satellite truck and gear, as well as military supplies. “So this is Sheppard Air Force Base.”

“Yes, Ma'am,” the loadmaster said. The Tech Sergeant smiled politely at the media, glad to see that they were finally getting off of his airplane. Given that this was their first experience with MAC, he wondered how bad it would show up on the news. “If it was just you and your crew, you would've flown a CRAF airliner.”

“So they told us, Scott, the cameraman, said.

The Starlifter came to a stop, the SEAT BELT sign came off, and the cargo doors began to open. When the doors were open, they revealed two U.S. Marine officers and an Air Force Officer. When Ms. Wendt and her crew came down the cargo ramp, and one of the Marine officers offered his hand “Ms. Wendt?”

“That's right,”

“Colonel Allen Brady, Marine Air Group 11. Welcome to Sheppard,”

“Thank you, Colonel,' Ms. Wendt smiled. “My cameraman, Trevor Scott,”

“Mr. Scott,” Brady shook hands. “You look like you've been in combat before.”

“Vietnam, 1971-73, then the Yom Kippur War, then Vietnam again for the last two months,” Scott replied. “Covered the fall of Saigon, then the NVA kicked us out a couple months later.”

Brady smiled. “We need to sit down and talk. Vietnam Vet to Vietnam Vet. While you were covering the war from '71 to '73, I was in Hanoi, sitting in a cell and wondering if I'd ever make it out of there.” He motioned to the AF Officer. “Ma'am, this is Captain Mark Ellis, the Executive Officer of the 335th TFS. The unit you're staying with.”

“Ma'am,” Ellis said. “Sorry the CO couldn't be here, but he's been busy this afternoon.”

Wendt looked at him and had a scowl. “What's he been doing?”

“Ma'am, see those four F-4s taxiing in?” Ellis pointed to 512 and the three F-4s behind it. “He and his flight have been busy this afternoon. Killing Russians.”

“Jana,” Scott said. “Look at the racks beneath the wings and fuselage. Saw enough of those at Da Nang and Bien Hoa back in the day. They're empty. Those guys and gals just got back from a bombing mission.”

“Can we see them?” Wendt asked.

“No problem,” Ellis said.

'One moment, please,” Colonel Brady said. He motioned to the other Marine officer. “This is Captain Keith Crandall. He's your PAO while you're here.”

“Our babysitter, you mean,” Wendt said. She'd been told at Camp Roberts that a PAO had to be with her when she was on base, or going off base to do a story.

“Sorry, Ma'am,” Crandall said. “This isn't Vietnam. The North Vietnamese couldn't pick things up watching TV. The Soviets can. We don't want anything sensitive or classified going out on the air.”

Wendt nodded. This wouldn't be like what the guys who'd covered Vietnam or the Middle East wars had said. But if having a PAO with her was the price of being here, so be it. “Okay, can we get the truck set up somewhere?”

“No problem, Ma'am,” Ellis said. He motioned to an AF sergeant who clearly had been in the service for a while.”This is Master Sergeant Ross, our senior NCO. He'll show you where you can set up your truck. Then we'll show you your billets, where the showers are, the officers' mess tent-you'll all eat there, and the Officer's Club. Almost all the aircrew eat dinner there, and it's also a chance to unwind and blow off steam. When you're flying several missions a day, you need a place to do that.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Wendt said.


In 512's revetment, Guru had just shut down the engines. “That's three,” he said after going through the post-flight checklist.

“And one more today,” Goalie said. And by the tone of her voice, it wasn't a question.

“Yep,” Guru said as he stood up in the cockpit and climbed down. After Goalie had done the same, they did a quick post-flight inspection of 512. “Sergeant,” he said to Sergeant Crowley, his Crew Chief, “Pull the strike camera footage. She's still truckin', and get her turned around.”

“You got it, Major,” Crowley said.

Then Kara and Brainiac came into the revetment. “Boss, I think that C-141 is the one with the gentlepersons of the press aboard.”

“How do you know?” Guru said, taking a swig from a bottle of water.

Brainiac pointed to the C-141. “They're unloading a satellite truck.”

“Okay,” Guru nodded as Sweaty, Preacher, Hoser, and KT came in. “Sergeant, get her turned around ASAP.”

“Yes, sir!” Crowley said, then he got the ground crew to work.

The rest of the flight were gathered at the revetment's entrance, talking about the mission when Colonel Brady came over. “Major,”

“Colonel,” Guru said, sketching a salute.

“This is the reporter you were warned about. Ms. Jana Wendt, 9 News Australia, meet Major Matt Wiser, USAF. He's the CO of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron.”

'Ms. Wendt,” Guru said, offering his hand.

“Major,” Ms. Wendt said, shaking it. “You're young to be a Major, aren't you?”

Guru nodded. “Well, Ma'am, I was a First Lieutenant when this war started. Now I'm a Major. That should tell you something.”

Ms. Wendt looked at him. “You mean-”

“Ma'am, there's about twenty or so pilots and navigators who were in this unit on Day One. I just happened to be the highest-ranking one. We've lost three squadron commanders in this war, and I've been shot down once myself.” He motioned to the rest of the flight. “Everyone in this flight's a combat veteran, and so is almost every other crew in this squadron.”

“Women?”

“Since June of “86,” Goalie said. “I was the first female WSO to join the squadron. There were other units back east that got women in May, but I was the first in the 335. I've been Guru's backseater ever since.”

“Come on,” Guru said. “Want to see the price of war in this unit? Follow us.”

Curious, Ms. Wendt and the crew followed Guru and his flight to another revetment, where mechanics were getting ready to work on aircraft 1569. “What's with this plane?” Ms. Wendt asked.

“Have a look at the left elevator,” Kara said.

Curious, Wendt and the camera crew walked over to the tail area and saw a jagged hole in the left elevator. “What happened?” She asked.

“That's a 57-mm AAA hole. Passed through without exploding,” Guru said. “If it had, it would've wrecked the elevator, sent shrapnel into the tail and rudder, and made the plane uncontrollable. The crew would've had to bail out. Over enemy territory, I might emphasize.”

“And she was pretty distraught afterward,” Hoser said. “The antiaircraft barrage that did this? It killed our CO. She was his wingmate.”

“That she was,” Goalie added.

Ms. Wendt looked at the damaged F-4 again. Someone who had a close brush with death was worth having an interview with, as the STORY light clicked on in her head. “Can I talk with her?

Guru looked at her. “If you want to talk with Lieutenant Sandi Jenkins, be my guest. If she wants to, that is. It's her choice.”

Wendt nodded. Seeing an airplane in which two people nearly died, right off, was a little too much at the moment. “Major, I think we'd better get settled in.”

“Good idea, Jana,” Rachel Fraser, her producer, said.

“I was wondering when you'd say that,” Guru said. “Mark, you have time before your next mission?”

“Got a few minutes, Major,” Ellis replied.

“Okay, show Ms. Wendt and her people to their billets. Then the showers, Officer's Mess Tent, Officer's Club, and the nearest air-raid shelters. Then get back and ready to fly.”

Ellis nodded. “You got it, Major,”

Colonel Brady nodded as well. “Major, this is Captain Crandall, the PAO I'm loaning you until the Air Force sends you somebody.”

“Captain,” Guru said as he shook hands. He also noticed the gold NFO wings on the Captain's uniform. “How long do you have this duty?”

“Two months, sir, maybe three. Broke my leg bailing out of an F-4 over New Mexico back in January, and the docs say it'll be that long before I'm cleared to get back in the saddle. So...” Crandall said.

“Okay, then. Why don't you go with Captain Ellis, and when he goes to fly? Bring the media folks back and.... Sergeant Ross?”

“Sir?” The NCO asked.

“When Captain Crandall returns with the media folks, show him around, especially the PAO shop. Such as it is,” Guru said.

“Yes, sir.”

Ellis nodded to the media people. “This way, please.” And both he and Crandall escorted Ms. Wendt and her crew to Officer Country.

After they were out of earshot, Colonel Brady turned to Guru. “Major, I doubt they covered media relations in OCS?”

“They didn’t, sir,” Guru replied. “I know, sir. Cooperate and accommodate their requests, within reason. Sir, just hope none of them piss off a crew chief enough that said crew chief does something drastic.”

“Like what?”

“Throw one of them down the intake of an F-4. Not only is that a lot of paperwork, but it wrecks a perfectly good J-79 engine.”

Hearing that, Brady laughed. And so did several members of Guru's flight. “Major, you're not the only one to think that way. Let me know if you need any help or advice. Either call me or talk to me in the Club. I'll see you later. ”

“Yes, sir.” Guru said. Salutes were exchanged, and Brady headed back to MAG-11 HQ, while Guru and his flight still had a couple things to discuss.

“Now what?” Goalie asked.

“Carry on as if they're not here,” Guru replied. “We need to debrief, get something to eat. Then we all need to check squadron paperwork. We've got daylight left for one more mission, so we brief in forty-five minutes.”

Sweaty looked at her CO. “How long are they going to be here?”

“That, they didn't tell me,” Guru said. “With luck, she'll find out that this isn't what she expected, and her network will recall her and send someone more experienced.”

Preacher glanced skyward. “To be wished for.”

“Hopefully. Or the opposite will happen and she finds out she's an adrenalin junkie.” Guru deadpanned.

“Hope you're wrong, Major,” Kara said.

“We'll find out soon enough,” Guru said. “Come on. Let's get back in the game.”
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  #256  
Old 01-28-2016, 07:52 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Part II of the update, and sorry for the delay: I've been getting over a nasty stomach bug.


335th TFS Operations, Sheppard AFB, TX, 1540 Hours Central War Time:

Major Wiser sat at his desk, going over some squadron paperwork. At least Mark Ellis had been here, and filtered out the chaff, leaving him only what was really important. And it was too bad that the elves never did the work like they were supposed to, for when he came back from a mission, or arrived first thing in the morning, the paperwork was still there. He was going over what AF Public Affairs had sent all combat units on how to deal with the media when there was a knock on the door. “Come on in, it's open,” he said.

A USMC Captain in BDUs, but with gold NFO wings came in. “Captain Keith Crandall, reporting, sir.”
He snapped a perfect Quantico salute.

“Captain,” Guru said, sketching a return salute. “Have a seat, and we go by call signs or first names in this squadron. What's yours?”

“Kodak, sir, Got it at MCAS Yuma training on the F-4.And sir, it involved a trip to Vegas, a camera, and a member of the opposite sex,” said Crandall as he sat down.

Guru nodded. “Say no more. Kodak it is. Okay, I take it Sergeant Ross has shown you the PAO office, such as it is?”

“Yes, sir, Not much, and only two sergeants and your enlisted photographer,” Crandall said.

“Well, you won't be there much,” Guru told him. “You'll be babysitting Ms. Wendt and he crew. And your first impressions?”

“The cameraman and soundman? They've been in war zones before and know the drill. The producer? Seems okay for someone who's a combat virgin. Ditto for the techs with the truck.”

“And Ms. Wendt?” Guru asked.

“She seemed a little spooked, seeing that damaged F-4. Though I wonder if anything we said went in one ear and out the other.” Kodak said.

“We'll find out how good she is, won't we?” Guru replied. “There's been reporters who started out lousy, but turned out great. Jan Fields, for one.”

“Yes, sir. Seen her on CNN a lot. She was a local reporter in someplace like Austin or Waco. Joined up with 2nd Armored as they fought their rearguard into Oklahoma and Kansas. CNN noticed her and that was that. She's always at the front, it seems like.”

'You're not the only one seeing her on CNN. Okay, any requests right now from Ms. Wendt?”

“They'd like to do some filming as people go out to fly and come back,” Kodak replied.

“Fair enough,” Guru said. “Though I'll tell her that there's no chance of her flying a combat mission. AF policy.”

“Same in the Marines or Navy, sir.”

“Okay.....wait. Tell her that if she wants to talk with us on camera when we get back from this mission? I'm OK with that.” Guru nodded.

“Yes, sir,” Kodak said.

“I've got a mission brief in a few, so that'll be all.”

“Sir,” Crandall said, saluting and then leaving the office.

Guru sighed, then got up and left the office. He went over to the Ops desk, where Don Van Loan was waiting. “Don.”

“Boss,” Van Loan replied. “I see the guests from the Fourth Estate have arrived.”

“I'd be happy if the reporter had been in a war zone prior to coming here, but....oh, well. What have you got for me?”

Van Loan handed the CO a packet. “Going down to the East German Sector. Supply dump, about five miles south of Stephenville.”

“Airport still active? You know we hit it a few days ago,” the CO said.

“F-111s hit it last night. So they should still be on the ground,' Van Loan replied. “Those still in one piece, that is.”

“Weasel support? We had two last time.” Guru reminded his Ops Officer.

Van Loan nodded. “You're getting two. Coors Flight will meet you at the tankers.”

“Fair enough.” Guru nodded as he went over the target folder. “Anything else?

Van Loan shook his head. “Nuthin' Boss. You have a good one.”

“You too. And watch for our guests; they'll be filming us going out and coming back. So we might be on AFN tomorrow night.”

“Guess we'll have to watch Walter Cronkite, then,” Van Loan grinned.

“You could say that.” Guru said. He then went to the briefing room and opened the door. His flight members were there, waiting. “All right, people. Here's our last one for today.”

“What've we got?” Sweaty asked.

“Back to Stephenville,” Guru told his flight.”No, not the airport. F-111s hit it last night. About five miles south of Stephenville on U.S. 281, northeast of the junction with F.M. 233. There's a supply dump there. We need to make it blow up.”

“This is the East German sector, right?” Kara asked. “And last time, there was army-level air defense.”

“Right you are, and we'll be getting the same thing. Expect SA-4s, plus AAA and the Soviet-manned SA-2 site. Throw in MANPADS and small-arms fire, and it's going to be a wild one. And we are getting Weasels. They'll meet us at the tankers.”

“MiGs? Goalie asked.

“MiG threat is still the same as the last one. Su-27s as well, so remember your anti-Flanker tactics,” Guru reminded everyone.

“Get down low, holler for help from AWACS, do a Doppler Break, and pray a 'teenage' fighter's around,” Preacher said. Just as he said that, there was a knock on the door.

“Yeah?” Guru asked.

Mark Ellis came in. 'Boss, this just came in. Su-27s have been active this afternoon. You guys are getting a pair of F/A-18s to ride shotgun. Call signs are Knight zero-seven and zero-eight.”

“Okay, where are they now?” the CO asked.

“In their cockpits. They did a hot turnaround.”

“Loadout?'

Elis nodded. “Two AIM-7s and four AIM-9Ls, each airplane.”

Guru looked at his flight, and nodded approval. “Have 'em meet us at ten grand overhead.”

“Gotcha,” Ellis said. He then went off to notify the Marines.

“That takes care of that,” Guru said. “Okay, ordnance load. The Mark-82/M-117 mix. The 82s on the wing pylons, 117s on the centerline MER. Usual air-to-air: two AIM-7Es, four AIM-9Ps, full load of 20-mm, and the ECM pod in the right forward Sparrow well.”

“Bailout, SAR still the same as the last one?” Kara asked.

“They are, so keep that in mind,' the CO reminded them. “One other thing: our guests may be filming us going out to the aircraft, and on return. So smile, be polite, and you might just be on the CBS Evening News tomorrow night.”

“Gee, and I forgot my makeup,” KT quipped.

“We don't need any stinking makeup,” Sweaty joked. There was some laughter at that from everyone.

Guru smiled. “On that note...anything else?' There wasn't any. He clapped his hand just once. “Okay, gear up and meet at 512.”

The crews went to the locker rooms and geared up. On the way out, Dave Golen, Sandi Jenkins, and their GIBs were coming in. “Guru,” Golen nodded.

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

“No air-to-air action, I regret to say, but fuel dumps do burn very well.”

“Sandi? How you doing?”

“Fine, Major,” Sandi replied. She was getting better and better with each passing day.

“Okay, we've got one more, but see you in the Club,” Guru said.

“Good luck,” Golen said.

“Thanks, Dave,” Guru replied as they headed to 512. Sure enough, Ms. Wendt and her crew were filming as they went to 512. When they got there, the CO gave his final instructions. “Okay, call signs between us, as usual. Mission code to escorts, Weasels, AWACS, and other interested parties. Got it?”

“Got it, Boss,” Sweaty said, and the others nodded.

“One last thing: Complacency gets people killed. This may be the last one today, but treat it like it's the first. Got it?”

“Loud and clear, Major,” Kara said. When she called him by rank, Guru knew that she was taking it seriously. And everyone else nodded.

“Anything else?” Guru asked. Heads shook no. “Then let's hit it.”

Guru and Goalie went to 512, and found Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, waiting with the ground crew. “Major, she's ready to go.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. He and Goalie did the preflight walk-around, all the while noticing the camera crew filming them. After he signed for the aircraft, both pilot and GIB mounted the F-4 and got strapped in. Then they went through their preflight checks.

“She have it for us?” Goalie asked, seeing the reporter and crew.”Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom, and check yours,” Guru replied. “Hope not. They're probably concentrating on us because I'm the CO. All set?”

“You're probably right. All set back here. Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

Sergeant Crowley gave the signal, then one, and then two, J-79 engines were up and running. After the warm-up, Guru asked for permission to taxi, and after it was granted, taxied out of the revetment, snapping a salute to his crew chief on the way out, and hoping the camera crew caught that. He taxied 512 to the end of the taxiway, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties. Then he received permission to taxi for takeoff. After taxiing onto the runway, he saw Kara in 520 taxi into his Four O'clock for takeoff. Then Guru called the tower. “Tower, Rambler Flight requesting clearance for takeoff.”

The tower flashed a green light. Guru and Goalie pulled down their canopies down, then Guru ran up the engines to full power, released the brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the Texas sky, with 520 right beside them, and Sweaty's element right behind the lead.


Over Central Texas: 1635 Hours:


Rambler Flight, with the two Weasel F-4Gs and the two escorting Marine F/A-18s, was headed south, roughly parallel to the boundary between the Nicaraguans and the East Germans. So far, nothing had happened since the mission package had crossed into enemy territory, but that could easily change,

In 512's cockpit, Guru kept his head on a swivel, watching not only his instruments, but also keeping an eye out for threats. Something that his instructors in the RTU down at Homestead AFB had drilled into him each and every time. “Nav point?” He asked his backseater.

“U.S. 377 in one minute,” Goalie said. She was handling the navigation, the old-fashioned way: with a stopwatch, map, and plain old-dead reckoning to backup the INS.

“One minute,” Guru said. He looked ahead, and saw the two Weasel F-4s just ahead of them, and right above the Weasels, were the two Marine F/A-18s.

“And....377,” Goalie said as the highway passed beneath them. “One minute fifteen to U.S. 67.”

“And then we turn,” said Guru. He glanced at his EW repeater. “EW still clear.”

“Hope it stays that way.”

“You're not the only one.”



To the south, as Rambler Flight headed to their turn point, a Soviet A-50 Mainstay AEW aircraft was loitering between Temple and Austin. These aircraft were normally operated by the Voyska PVO for national air defense, but the depredations of American low-level attack aircraft had necessitated the deployment of several A-50s to Texas, while several others had been sent to Alaska and Canada to do the same. While Voyska PVO operated the V-75, S-125, and S-200 sites in the occupied territories, nearly all the fighters deployed were from the VVS, the Air Force, though some PVO regiments were in Alaska and parts of Canada.

In the mission compartment, a PVO Colonel was watching his screen. He knew that there were too many American strike aircraft coming in over the front for the fighters to handle, but they had to try.

“Comrade Colonel?” A controller called.

“Yes, Comrade?” the Colonel went over to his console.

“Comrade Colonel, I have several intermittent contacts at low-level Bearing three-four-zero relative, two hundred kilometers,” the controller said.

Nodding, the PVO Colonel turned to his senior fighter controller. “Closest interceptors?”

“Two Su-27s, Comrade Colonel.”

“Vector them onto the contacts.”


“Thirty seconds to turn,” Goalie said.

Then Guru's EW repeater lit up. “Got a radar here.”

“Rambler Lead, Coors Lead. Picking up an air-search radar, and it's a Red AWACS.'

“Flight, Lead. Music on,” Guru said. That meant to turn on their ECM pods.

“And...turn,” Goalie said.

“Copy that,” Guru said as U.S. 67 passed beneath them. He put 512 into a turn to the west, and the others followed.

“Thirty Seconds to IP,” Goalie said. That meant U.S. 281.

Then AWACS came on the line. “Rambler Lead, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing one-seven-zero for fifty-five, medium, closing.”

“Say bogey dope,” Guru called. “Goalie, switches set?”

“All set here,” his GIB called.

“Rambler, Crystal Palace. Bandits are Flankers. Repeat: Bandits are Flankers. Threat now bearing one-seven-two for forty-five, closing.”

“Knights, Rambler,” Guru called the Hornets. “Keep those suckers off of us.”

“Roger that!” Knight Zero-Seven called. The two Hornets broke and turned into the attacking Flankers, but still kept low.

“Flight, Lead. Stand by to Pull. Switches on, and time to go to work,” Guru called.

“Roger that!” Sweaty replied.

“Pull in five, four, three, two, one, MARK!” Goalie said.

Guru pulled 512 into a climb, and immediately, the SA-2, the East German SA-4s, and the AAA radars all came up. “Coors, Rambler, make those guys go away, and Lead has the target, rolling in hot.”

“Roger that, Rambler,” Coors Lead acknowledged. Then a pair of “Magnum!” calls came as HARM and Standard-ARM missiles left the rails on the F-4Gs. A Standard-ARM went for the SA-2, while a HARM went for the first SA-4 to come up and fire. Then another HARM went after a second SA-4, and all three SAM radars went off the air as the antiradar missiles found their mark. Then a Standard-ARM killed the Firecan radar guiding the AAA, and the rest of the radars went off the air and stayed off.

Guru had identified the target. Surrounded on three sides by trees that, from the air, looked like the outline of home plate on a baseball diamond, “Rolling in,” he said. “Got some light flak coming up. He spotted the 23-mm tracers coming up at them. He lined up the center of the dump in his pipper. “HACK!” he called as he hit the pickle button, and six Mark-82s and six M-117s came off the racks. He pulled out and headed north, his job done. Now, instead of flying for Uncle Sam, it was flying for himself and Goalie.

Down below, the East German supply troops had hardly heard the air-raid alarm when the SAMs started to fire, as did the flak guns. They saw the anti-radar missiles go in, and not only did a nearby 2K12 (SA-4) battery take a hit, but an AAA radar van took a missile as well and was blown apart. Then a sergeant pointed to the southwest. An F-4 Phantom was coming in. The American aircraft flew over and dropped its bombs as the supply troops took cover....

“SHACK!” Goalie yelled as 512 headed north. “Got a few secondaries.”

“Good enough!” Guru called as he headed north for I-20, and he ducked involuntarily as an SA-4, probably launched in optical mode, flew overhead about 200 feet above 512. “Lead's off target.”

“Two's in hot!” Kara called, rolling 520 in on its attack run. She, too, spotted the light flak coming up, Kara lined up the dump in her pipper, and saw the CO's bird pulling away, leaving several secondary explosions in its wake. To give is better to receive, she thought, lining up an undamaged portion of the dump....she then hit the pickle button. “HACK!” Another dozen 500-pound and 750-pound bombs came off the racks, as Kara then set course north. “Two's off safe.”

In the supply dump, the East German CO, a major, watched from a trench as first Guru's, and then Kara's, bombs landed in his depot. He and the men in the trench with him huddled as they felt the shock waves, and as he glanced out of the trench, a fireball erupted after Kara's F-4 flew past. He stuck his head out, only to see the antiaircraft guns track back to the south. More Imperialist aircraft were coming in, and he ducked back into the trench.

“Good hits!” Brainiac shouted, even as a line of 23-mm tracers chased 520, but fell short.

“Secondaries?' Kara asked as she flew past the repeatedly-bombed Municipal Airport, and headed to catch up with her CO.

“A few,”

“Okay, time to get the hell out of here,” Kara said as she followed 512 north.


“Three's in hot!” Called Sweaty as she headed in. She saw where Kara had planted her bombs, and picked out what looked like the truck park for the dump. More tracers came up, and she put that aside. Not today, Karl, as she lined up the truck park. “HACK!” Sweaty yelled as she hit the pickle button, and twelve more bombs fell onto the dump. She pulled away, ignoring the tracers, and even a pair of SA-7s launched that flew past her plane. “Three off target.”

The East German Major ducked again as Sweaty's F-4 came in, and this time, the bombs landed just far enough away for him to take a look. He groaned as the vehicle park was torn apart, the bombs either blowing trucks and other vehicles apart, or tossing them around like toys. The Major looked around, seeing destruction all around, but then his sergeant pulled him back into the trench. Another Imperialist F-4 was coming in.

“We got secondaries!” Preacher hollered, even as an SA-7 flew past the F-4's right wing.

“Good enough,” Sweaty replied as she headed north, ignoring the light flak that was still coming up.


Hoser was the last one on the target. “Four's in hot!” He called. As Hoser rolled in, he saw most of the dump had been trashed, but he and KT didn't get paid for bringing ordnance home. So Hoser picked out the entrance to the dump, where there had to be a HQ shack. As he lined up the target, sure enough, it was there. “HACK!” Hoser hit the pickle button, and twelve more bombs fell on the dump. He pulled out, ignoring the 23-mm tracer that followed him out. “Four's off target.”

In his trench, the East German Major heard Hoser's F-4 come in, and the sound of bombs get closer. Then a seven-hundred and fifty pound bomb landed next to his trench.....the occupants never had a chance to scream.

“Good hits!” KT called from the back seat.

“Secondaries?” Hoser asked as he followed Sweaty north.

“Can't tell,” came the reply. “Maybe one or two.”

A few miles to the south, the two Marine Hornets had mixed it up with the Su-27s. Both had fired their radar-guided missiles, AIM-7Fs for the Marines, and AA-10 Alamo (R-27R) for the Russians. The Soviets had fired first, but the Hornets did a Doppler break, and after evading the Russian salvo, turned back into the Flankers, and each fired two AIM-7s. Knight 07's two Sparrows found their target, and the Soviet wingman lost a wing and tumbled out of the sky. Then it was a 2v1 engagement, with the Flanker lead putting an AA-8 (R-60) into Knight 08's tailfeathers, but the Marine had released flares, and at the last moment, the missile, instead of tracking the F/A-18, hit a flare. The Hornet took damage to the tailfeatherrs, but managed to stay airborne. Knight 05 managed to get off a Sidewinder shot that damaged the Su-27, then he closed in and sprayed the Flanker with 20-mm fire. The Russian ejected, and both Hornets headed back north.

When Guru heard Hoser call off target, and the Hornets call “Splash Two”, he called the Weasels. “Coors, Rambler. We're all off target.”

“Copy that, Rambler,' the Weasel lead replied. “Comin' out.”

Just then, Kara in 520 formed up on Guru's bird in the Four O'clock, with Sweaty and Hoser right behind them. Then the Weasels came in, and both Marine Hornets were coming out as well. Only when the twin ribbons of I-20 flew past beneath them did anyone breathe easy. “Rambler, Lead. Form on me and let's head for home.”

“Two, on your right wing,” Kara called.

'Three and four coming up,” replied Sweaty.

“Knights, where are you?' Guru called the Marines.

“Behind you, in trail, and got a damaged bird here.” Knight 07 called. “We can make it to the tankers, then home. And splash two Flankers.”

“Roger that,” Guru said as they headed for the tankers.

“Well, guess the Marines are good for something. First flak suppressors, now killing Flankers?” Goalie asked.

'Careful, now,” Guru said. “Still need to be on good terms with those guys.”

“Hey, you never heard me say that,” his GIB shot back.

“Heard what?” Guru quipped, and they both laughed.


The post-strike refueling went off without a hitch, and after they did so, the Weasels broke off and headed for Altus AFB in Oklahoma, their new base. Rambler Flight and the Marines headed for Sheppard, and off to the west, the Sun was getting low on the horizon. Though trained for night ops, they rarely did so, not having enough of the Pave Tack pods for night work. Besides, that was mainly an F-111 and A-6 show, and Guru preferred leaving night strikes to the guys and gals who specialized in it. When the flight got to Sheppard, they were the last ones in. Guru let the Marines go in ahead of Rambler Flight, since they had a damaged bird, then it was their turn.

Outside the 335th's Ops Building, crews and ground officers were watching as the last flights came in. Don Van Loan and the members of his flight, along with Dave Golen, Sandi Jenkins, and their GIBs all had their debriefs out on the lawn as they waited for the CO to come back. Mark Ellis was there as well, along with the camera crew and their PAO escort. They watched the Hornets land, then it was the turn of the F-4s. Ellis had a pair of binoculars, as did several others, and they, like the ground crews, watched as the four planes of the CO's flight came into the pattern, did a flyby of the field, then came in and landed. “Four out, and four in. Everybody came back.”

“That's always a good thing, isn't it?” Ms. Wendt asked.

“Ma'am, it always is,” Ellis replied. “Even if somebody comes back with a hole or two in the plane, And the Major's done that a couple of times.”

“You always do this? Count them out and then back?”

“Our grandfathers did in England with the Eighth Air Force,” Ellis said. “Then our fathers did it in Southeast Asia. Now it's our turn.”


Rambler Flight taxied in, and as they did so, the crews noticed the reception committee waiting. “Last back,” Guru said. “And we face the Fourth Estate for real.” He popped his canopy and raised it, as did Goalie.

“Not in 'Welcome VIPs,' but 'Get that camera out of my way, scumbag,' mode,” Goalie quipped.

Guru nodded in the front seat as he taxied 512 into its revetment, then he shut down. He and Goalie went through the post-flight checklist, then Sergeant Crowley and the ground crew came with the crew ladder and put the chocks around the tires. “That's done,” Guru said as he took off his helmet.

“For today,” Goalie said as she stood up in her cockpit.

“That it is,” replied Guru. He stood up in the cockpit and got out of the plane, and then Goalie did. After a post-flight walk-around, he nodded to Sergeant Crowley. “No holes in 512, Sergeant.”

“Great, sir!” Crowley said as he handed his CO and GIB bottles of water. “How'd it go?”

“Made some East Germans' day a bad one,” Goalie said as she drank.

“That we did,” Guru said. 'She's working like a champ, and let's keep it that way, Sergeant. Get her ready for the morning.”

“Yes, sir!” Crowley said.

The rest of the crews came over to the revetment, and all of them were talking about the mission when Kara noticed they had company coming. “Here they come, Boss. Reporter with mike and camera crew at Twelve O'clock.”

Okay, showtime, Guru thought. “Smile and be polite, guys. Maybe we'll be on AFN tomorrow night.”

Ms. Wendt came up, this time in reporter mode. “Major, how did it go today?” She had her mike in front of him.

“Went okay. Brought everybody back, and made sure some East Germans had a bad afternoon.” Guru said.

“What was the resistance like?”

“Missiles, not so much,” Guru said calmly. “We've got some folks who specialize in making those go away, and they were with us this time. Flak, though? Different story.”

“You mean antiaircraft fire?” Ms. Wendt asked.

“That's right. And those East Germans down below did a lot of shooting,” Guru said.

'Lieutenant,” Wendt turned to Goalie. 'Now what?”

Goalie smiled. “Talk things over, then we eat, blow off steam, then get some shut-eye. Before you know it, it'll be 0430. And we get ready to do it all over again.”

“Thank you, Major, Lieutenant,” Wendt said.

As the crews headed back to Ops, the camera crew filmed them the whole way. When they got there, the other crews who had come back before were waiting. “Don,” Guru said. “How'd it go?”

“Did okay, and I got a Yak-28R recon bird.” Van Loan replied.

Hearing that, Kara and Sweaty slapped him on the back. As did Dave Golen. “That's what, your sixth?” Kara asked.

“Yep,” Van Loan said. “Got him on our way back. He was on his way out, and I called it to the AWACS, then I rolled in behind him, gave him two Sidewinders, and that was that.”

Guru shook his hand. “Good kill, Don. Was there a chute?”

“Yeah, from the pilot. The nav, though....they eject downward, and they were too low.”

“Okay, I'll ask Colonel Brady, and see if the Army picked up the pilot. Maybe they can find out what he and his friends were up to. Where was this?”

Van Loan said, “South of Sherman, Boss. Perrin AFB's not that far, and the Red River bridges on U.S. 75. He might have been looking at those.”

“Okay, talk to Licon, and get your debrief out of the way. You, too, Dave.” the CO nodded to Dave Golen.

“You got it, Boss,” Van Loan replied.

“Of course, Guru,” Golen nodded.

While the crews were milling around outside, the camera crew was filming them. “So what now?” Ms. Wendt asked Kodak Griffith.

“They all have to debrief their missions-and those are classified, by the way, check whatever paperwork they have, and then it's off to the Officer's Club to eat and unwind.”

“That big tent?”

“Yes, Ma'am. The prewar Club didn't survive the Russians. Seems the Resistance managed to get a bomb inside the place in Fall '86. When the bomb blew, it killed forty to fifty Russians, Cubans, and whoever. The Russians took a thousand people-half inmates from a labor camp, half people picked off the street at random, took them somewhere northwest of here, made them dig a pit, then they were all shot.” Kodak told the crew.

“My God....” Scott, the Cameraman, muttered, while Ms. Wendt's face was frozen in horror.

“Ms. Wendt?” Kodak asked. “You all right?”

“We've heard our share of atrocity stories, especially from the press up in Canada, and earlier on here, but so close?” Her voice was shaking.

“Ma'am, we've brought reporters to see what Ivan did, and you'd be no exception. A lot of Western European reporters came here, thinking the atrocity stories were overblown. Seeing a mass grave or a KGB interrogation center, maybe a liberated POW or labor camp sobers them up pretty quick.”

“It would anybody,” Scott said. “Like the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia: a lot of ivory tower types thought those stories were exaggerated. When the NVA went in and found what had happened, those people shut up pretty fast.”

Ms. Wendt nodded. It wasn't just this base that her network expected her to cover. Any story dealing with the war was fair game, her assignment editor had told her in Sydney. “In a few days, I'd like to see it. The grave, I mean.”

“I'll arrange it, Ma'am. Just let me know,” Kodak said. “Come on, I think you people need a stiff drink after what I just told you.”


In their briefing room, Guru and his flight were talking about the mission, while waiting for the SIO to
come in. “Don't want that again for a while. That SA-4 was close,” he said.

“Too close,” Goalie nodded. “Damned optical backups.”

“SA-7s for us,” Sweaty added. “Be glad those things are crap.”

“Even properly aimed crap can still kill you, Lieutenant,” Capt. Darren Licon said as he came into the room. “Sorry I'm late, Boss. You guys got caught in the backlog.”

“He's right,” the CO said.

“I know,” Sweaty said. “No need to remind me. Day five on PRAIRE FIRE. SA-7 blew out my left engine.”

And when that had happened, Guru remembered, the whole flight had escorted Sweaty back to Williams. Her bird had been out of action for two days while not just the engine had been changed, but some structural damage to the wing had been repaired. “It beats skydiving.”

“That it does,” Goalie said.

“Okay, Darren,” the CO said. “Before we debrief, did you confirm Van Loan's kill?”

The intel smiled. “Yes, sir, It's his sixth. And I have a query in to see if the Army's talked to him. They're supposed to turn all captured aircrew over to either Tenth Air Force or Ninth Air Force, and depends on who they sent him to. I'd like to know what that recon driver was doing up there.”

“Try and find out, and let's get this over with.”

“Yes, sir,” Licon said.

After the debriefing, the CO nodded. “Okay, check your desks before heading to the Club. I'll see you over there.” As the crews filed out, Guru nodded at Sweaty. “Sweaty? A word, please.”

Sweaty came over, and she knew what the CO was going to say. “Major?”

“Just wanted to ask you one thing: Lesson learned?”

'Lesson learned, Major. I know what you're going to say. 'Don't get overconfident.'”

'You got it. That's gotten more than a few people killed or captured. Don't fall into that trap.” the CO reminded her.

“No sir,” Sweaty replied. And her tone of voice indicated to the CO that she was serious. She also knew that if those SA-7s had been properly aimed, she and Preacher would either be dead, captured, or holed up somewhere, waiting on Jolly Green to come and get them. “No excuse, sir.”

“Remember, if a weapon can kill you, it's not obsolete. Always keep that in mind, Lieutenant.” Major Wiser said. He rarely addressed his fellow aircrew by rank unless it was important. And this little talk was.

“Yes, sir,” Sweaty replied with due seriousness.

“Okay, I've fallen into that trap myself. I've had battle damage, and been shot down once. Don't have that happen to you or Preacher. Understood?”

She nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“Good. Remember, Colonel Rivers gave the both of us this same kind of talk on a couple of occasions, and we took his advice to heart, didn't we?” Guru said.

“That we did, Major,” Sweaty smiled.

“Okay, just keep that in mind. Got it?”

“Loud and clear, Boss.”

“Good, now, go and check your desk, then I'll see you in the Club,” the CO said.

Sweaty nodded. This was a very polite form of dismissal, and she understood. “Yes, sir.”

“Okay, and Sweaty?”

“Good job today.”

Sweaty grinned. “Thanks, Boss!”

“You're welcome. See you in a bit.”

After Sweaty left the office, Guru left, and found the rest of the flight waiting. “What was that all about?” Kara asked.

“Sweaty's remark about SA-7s touched a nerve. Remember what I said about complacency? And General Tanner a few days ago?” Guru said. He saw heads nod affirmatively. “I know, we've all done a few sloppy things in the air and have been lucky, right?”

“Guilty,” Kara said, while Sweaty and Hoser nodded, along with the GIBs.

“And remember this: if a weapon can still kill you, it's not obsolete. Always keep that in mind.”

“Never forget the Golden BB,” Goalie said. That had been drummed into her head at Kingsley Field.

“Right you are,” Guru said. “Okay, pass that on, and everybody? Good job today.”

“Thanks, Boss,” Kara grinned.

“Okay, see you in a few,” the CO said as he headed to his own office, and Goalie followed him. When they got there, they found Mark Ellis waiting. “Mark,”

“Boss,” Ellis said. “Got a few things before we wrap up.” He handed the CO a clipboard. “Aircraft status update for MAG-11. Sandi's bird should be ready by morning. It'll need a check flight before it's cleared.'

“Good, and the bird needing radar parts?”

“Ready by morning,” Kevin O'Donnell says. Capt. Kevin O'Donnell was the senior maintenance officer for the squadron.

“After tomorrow, we'll have twenty birds, assuming no losses or downs due to maintenance,” Ellis said.

“Okay,” the CO nodded. He signed the sheet. “What else?”

The Exec nodded back. “Ross has made a few phone calls. We may have a new PAO soon, but no guarantees.”

“At least he's trying,” the CO said. “What about those two new birds from Japan? They're due here in two days.”

“There's a backlog at McClellan,” Ellis said. “It might take a week to clear it up.”

“Why can't they do all that at Kadena?” Goalie wondered. It's our base,”

“Yeah, but the depot there is run by Mitsubishi under contract. It's still Japanese soil and has been since we gave Okinawa back in '72,” Guru pointed out. “I know, it'd be easier with them installing the air-to-ground stuff there instead of McClellan or the Weasel stuff at Hill, but that's the way it is.”

“That it is,” Ellis said. “We'll still get two new crews with the new birds.”

“Anything else?” The CO asked. It had been a busy day, and he wanted to get something to eat and unwind.

“Just this,” the Exec said. He handed Guru a paper.

“What's this?

“A complaint against five female officers, signed by one Major Frank Carson,” Ellis said.

“What's Frank pissed off about now?” Guru wondered aloud. Major Frank Carson was the most despised officer in the squadron. His Academy “know-it-all” arrogance and contempt for any officer not wearing an Academy class ring-even fellow Academy grads like Goalie or the late Colonel Rivers, along with his Boston Blue Blood arrogance, not listening to the NCOs and treating enlisted airmen like pieces of equipment, along with a few other things, had made him the most loathed officer on the base. Guru was hoping to transfer the man, or that he'd come to him, asking for a transfer, before he used a number of reasons in Carson's file to kick him out after New Year's.

“Read it.” the Exec said.

The CO nodded, then scanned the paper. “What?” He turned to his GIB. “You, Kara, Sweaty, KT, and
Ryan Blanchard? Flashing him when you came out of the shower, then mooning him?”

“Well, we were coming out and he said something about 'trailer trash' or something like that, and nobody liked that. We can't slug him, even though he deserves it, so we did the next best thing,” Goalie said. And the CO could tell that she was not apologetic in the slightest.

Major Wiser sighed and put his right palm to his face. Then he started to laugh.

“What's so funny, Major?” Mark asked.

“I know I probably shouldn't say this, but I would've loved to see that. The look on Frank's face...” said the CO.

“And the other...scenery?” Ellis asked, matter of factly.

“No comment,” Guru replied.

Hearing that, the Exec and Goalie broke out laughing. “He turned red, whether out of embarrassment or anger, then he stomped off,” Goalie said.

The CO sighed. “Okay, Mark. Anything else?”

“What about his complaint?” The Exec asked.

“What about it?” Guru said. He took the paper, and fed it into the office shredder. “Anything he sends me, except for a transfer request, gets sent there. Comprende?”

“Got it, Boss.”

“Okay, see you in a few,” Guru said.

Ellis nodded. “Will do,” and he headed out of the office.

Guru then turned to his GIB-and girlfriend. “Did you guys have to flash and moon him?”

“Can't slug him, so we did the next best thing,” Goalie said.

“Okay, but if he does it again? Just moon him. Don't show him any more of you than you have to. And tell the others that.”

Goalie laughed. “Will do.”

“One other thing,” Guru said with due seriousness. “Sweaty. Her remark about SA-7s touched a nerve. Remember, back in March? We both came back from a mission with unexploded SA-7s in our tailfeathers.”

“Yeah,” Goalie said. She well remembered that mission. “And the dressing-down Colonel Rivers gave all of us was richly deserved.”

“That it was,” the CO agreed. “We got lower than we should've, and both you and Preacher weren't checking six on egress. Lesson learned.”

“So you had to give Sweaty a reminder?”

'A polite but firm one,” Guru said. “And she's enough of a professional to know what I mean. Colonel Rivers didn't want to write any letters because people got sloppy or overconfident, and I don't either. It's different now that I'm the CO and the one doing the lecturing.”

“Part of the job,” Goalie nodded understanding.

“Part of the job,' the CO agreed. “And Sweaty knows it. Come on, let's go eat. And see how our guests are handling their first night in a war zone.”

“We'll find out.” Goalie said as they left the office. “And we might see how good they are at poker or pool.”

“That we will,' Guru nodded. “Let's go.” And both of them left the Ops building and headed for the Officer's Club tent.


Again, questions and comments, please!
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  #257  
Old 02-06-2016, 09:12 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The next updates:


Sheppard AFB Officer's Club: 1745 Hours Central War Time:


Guru and Goalie went into the Officer's Club Tent, and found the usual organized and unorganized bedlam as they entered. They went to the bar and found Colonel Brady there, talking with one of the Marines' squadron commanders. “Colonel,” Guru nodded politely.

“Major,” Brady nodded back. “And Lieutenant. How'd things go with our guests?”

“Not bad, sir,” Guru said as he got the barkeep's attention. “Any Sam Adams?”

“Sorry, Major,” the barkeep said. “Not until next week.”

“Okay, Bud for me, and the Lieutenant,” Guru said. The barkeep produced the two bottles, Guru paid him, then turned back to the Colonel. “I think seeing Sandi Jenkins' shot-up bird was an eye-opener for her. Though the cameraman and soundman have been around the block a few times.”

“They've got 'the look' in their faces that says they've seen this before, I'll grant you,' Brady said.

“Have you had a sit-down with her yet, sir?” Goalie asked.

“Not yet, but that's tomorrow afternoon. Before I fly my second mission. Too bad a MAG or Wing CO usually flies only twice a day. I'd rather be up there, leading my people in combat, than sitting at my desk,' Brady said disgustedly.

Guru knew what that meant. The battles with the “other enemy”, namely service and DOD bureaucrats. “Well, sir, we know what to tell her if she wants a backseat ride on a combat mission.”

Brady nodded. “That we do, Major, But still...the directive from the General: Get her and her cameraman qualified for a backseat ride. Like prewar incentive flights for ground folks.”

“Yes, sir. I'll have Doc Waters check them out,” Guru said. “They can fly a check ride.”

“Which is better than the alternative,” Goalie quipped. “Uh, sir.”

Brady nodded. “You're right on that, Lieutenant. Anything, within reason, to keep the press happy.

“Yes, sir,” Goalie said, while Guru simply nodded.


“And how's that PAO I sent you, Major?” Brady asked.

“Captain Griffith? He's doing all right, sir,” Guru replied. “He's not a trained PAO, though. I'm trying to get somebody through AF channels who either has a journalism degree or took a few classes, and is now a pilot or WSO. Better yet? A former PAO who's now earned wings, and he or she is now kicking their heels in the replacement pool.”

Brady nodded. “In your position, I'd do the same. Well, we'll see how all this goes. You have a good evening.”

“Yes, sir,” Guru nodded, then he and Goalie went to the table that their flight shared. They found everyone there, plus a couple of others, namely Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins.

“Boss,” Kara said. “What was that all about?

“Colonel Brady was asking about our....guests,” Guru said. “And our...temporary PAO.”

“Kodak?” Sweaty asked. “He's one of us, well....somebody with wings, not some ex-reporter who put on a uniform for the duration.”

Guru nodded. “He's good. And waiting to get back into the cockpit. Now, Kara? Don't fleece our guests the first night if they show up at the Poker or Pool tables. It's not being a polite host.”

Kara stared at her CO with mock indignation. “What? Me? Fleece our guests from Down Under the first night?” She broke out laughing.

“Yeah, you would,” Sweaty poked her flightmate, while everyone else laughed.

Kara nodded. “I would. In a minute,” she said. “Okay, they're no-go tonight. What about tomorrow?”

“They're fair game,” Guru told her. “They should be settled in, and if they try and get in on a game? Show them how it's done.”

“With pleasure.”

Then the Marine mess people arrived. Those in the Club had two options: either baked ham with scalloped potatoes and mixed vegetables, or roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and biscuits and gravy. After getting their food, the crews ate, but conversation at the CO's table turned back to the visiting reporters. Who, someone noticed were sitting down with Colonel Brady and Kodak Griffith.

“Wonder how they'll respond to a Scud attack,” Hoser wondered aloud.

“I'm wondering that myself,” Guru said. He thought for a minute. “Okay, I've got an idea. Start a pool, Kara. Five-dollar buy-in.” He pulled out his wallet.

Goalie looked at her pilot. “What do you mean by that?”

“Simple. Date and time of the first Scud attack since their arrival. We'll see how they handle it,” the CO said.

Kara grinned. “I'll handle it.” She took out a notepad from one of her flight suit pockets. “Okay, Boss, When do you want it?”

“I'll be conservative. Two days from now. 6:30 PM.”

She jotted it down and took the CO's money. “Goalie?”

“Same day, but...11:30 that night,” the CO's GIB replied.

“Hoser?”

'Three days from now....7:00 PM.” Hoser replied.

“8:30, same date,' KT added.

“Same date, 0200,” Sweaty chimed in.

After Kara got dates and time from everyone at the table, she looked at the CO. “Spread it around the squadron?”

“You got it,” Guru said. “When it happens, someone's going to get a big payout. And we'll see how these folks react when it's for real. So any drills don't count.”

“Got it,” Kara nodded.

After dinner, people went to either the pool tables, the poker games, played some darts, put down quarters in a couple of pinball machines or a couple of arcade games (for some reason, Missile Command and Battlezone had been delivered to MAG-11). Others simply sat back and watched an ABC replay of the 1979 World Series, or just chatted. Guru and Goalie were talking with Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins when Sweaty came back with a copy of Stars and Stripes. “Got yesterday's paper, guys.”

“Anything good?” Goalie asked.

“Not much happening,” Sweaty said. She took the front page apart. “Have a look inside. Biggest thing on the front page is the Navy sinking some Soviet battlecruiser out in the Pacific. Ship's name was Freunze, says here.”

“Some sub skipper probably got himself a Navy Cross,” Guru noted. “Anything closer to home?”

“That all-female Army chopper unit? The Cobra Girls, CNN calls them, I think,” Sweaty pointed to a story on page three.

“What about 'em?” Sandi Jenkins asked.

“Says here they got nominated for a Presidential Unit Citation.”

“What'd they do?” Goalie wanted to know.

“Doesn't say, other than 'for exceptional performance under fire at the Battle of Wichita'.”

“Dave,” Guru said. “Imagine a unit made up of people who, on a good day, are just like Kara.”

“And on a bad day?” Golen asked. “I don't want to think about that.”

“They're ten times worse. They fly hard, fight hard, and party harder,” Guru said. “At least, that's what's come down the grapevine.”

“A whole unit of Karas? Preacher asked as he came over. “Lord have mercy.”

“On who? Us, or the Russians?” Goalie asked.

“Maybe both,” he replied. “What if they spend their R&R with that Hell's Angels Regiment?”

Guru let out a grin. “Well, if there's a record for debauchery, they'd probably break it.”

“They probably have already,” Sweaty noted.

“Hey, look at this,” Goalie said. She pointed to a story on page three. “West German Chancellor exposed as Stasi asset.”

“What?” Several people said at once.

“Says here, the magazine Der Spiegel printed an expose in the issue that came out yesterday as revealing the West German Chancellor as a Stasi agent. It also says that half of the cabinet, the Greens, are either Stasi agents or paid assets.”

“That's a game-changer,” Guru said. “Want to bet that some West German generals and intel types are getting together right now?”

“You thinking coup?” Golen asked. “I would.”

“Like they do in Africa and in parts of South America still?” asked Sweaty.

“Yes. If I was the Bundeswehr Chief of Staff, I'd be calling in my corps and divisional commanders, the head of the Luftwaffe, and the Navy, and telling them, 'Gentlemen, this neutralist business has to stop.'”

“Protests first,” Goalie said. “That's how these things start, right? Then in a couple weeks or so, that's when you see tanks in the street.”

Guru nodded. “That's how I'd do it. After the protests, they get an ultimatum from the generals. 'Resign and leave the country, or we'll 'help' you out in that.”

“Here's to them. May they kick their Commie-lover government out, and then join the fight,” Sweaty said, raising her beer bottle.

“Hear, hear,” several voices said as they raised their beer bottles.

Guru then went to the bar to get another round for his table. When he got there, he found Ms. Wendt, talking with a couple of female Marine pilots. “Ms. Wendt,” Guru politely nodded.

“Major,” the reporter replied. “Is it always this calm? It's payday, isn't it?”

'It is, but we're on a leash, thanks to the flight surgeons. It's 1840, and that's twenty minutes to the Twelve-Hour Rule kicking in.” Guru said. “No alcohol twelve hours before flying. And the flight surgeons enforce that with a vengeance.”

“Then what?”

“Then it's anything nonalcoholic until 2100, then aircrew curfew hits. Anyone on the flight schedule in the morning has to turn in. Because before you know it, it'll be 0430,” said Guru. The barkeep produced the beers for Guru and his table. Guru paid him, then turned to the reporter. “You'll get used to it.”

“Thanks, Major,” Ms. Wendt replied.

Guru smiled, then went back to the table. When he got there, he saw Kara busy at the pool table. And show a couple of transiting C-130 guys the error of their ways in challenging her. “Hope Kara listened,” Guru said, setting the beers on a table.

“About her calming down and taking a check?” Goalie asked. “If she does, that's only the second time she's done that.”

“She'll go along as long as that reporter and crew are on base,” Guru said. He checked his watch. “Uh-oh.”

“What?”

“Got a couple of announcements,” Guru said. He went to the bar and rang the bell. “Okay, listen up!” The tent fell silent as attention turned to the 335th Squadron CO. “Okay, got a couple things to say. First: to the guys in VMFA-314, thanks for letting us have a couple of Hornets. Those guys got a couple of Flankers today, and when you guys tell us who got the kills, I'll buy those guys a round, got it?”

“You got it, Major,” Colonel Brady said. “I'll make sure of it.”

“Thanks, Colonel. Now, Don van Loan, Mike Geoff?” Guru saw the two stand up. “Don and Mike spotted a Yak-28R on a photo run, trying to get our guys on Candid Camera. Well, those two thought otherwise, and if the film survived the crash? Our guys are developing the pictures. Good kill, and that's you guys' sixth. So, here's to the Marines who turned Flankers into scrap, and here's to the guys who did the same to a recon bird.” He raised his beer bottle.

“Hear, hear” numerous voices shouted.

“Okay, people! Drink up! Fifteen minutes to Twelve-Hour!” Guru said, then he went back to the table.

“Kind of forgot about that?” Goalie asked.

“I did,” Guru said. They drank up, then one of the Navy flight surgeons rang the bar bell. “It's 1900, people! Twelve-Hour is now in effect!”

With that, people flying the next morning switched to whatever nonalcoholic drinks were available, and before anyone knew it, Doc Waters, the Flight Surgeon for the 335th, rang the bell and announced, “All right, 2100! Aircrew curfew for those flying tomorrow morning!”

Crews got up and headed on out towards their tents. As Guru and Goalie got up, she nodded. “Time to hit the sack.

“Yep, because Manana, we do it all over again.” Guru nodded.

Those flying the next morning headed back towards officer country, and found their tents. As the CO often pointed out, “0430 comes fast.” And they were soon all asleep.


335th TFS Operations, 0530 Hours Central War Time: 1 November, 1987:

Major Wiser entered the squadron's building, and found the night crew still at work. He nodded to Capt. Kerry Collins, the Night Duty Officer, who started to come to attention, but caught himself doing so. “Kerry,” Guru said. “Stopped before I could catch you.”

“Yes, sir,. Old habits...” Collins said, then he sneezed. The NDO was fighting off a cold, and was grounded until Doc Waters, the 335th's flight surgeon, cleared him.

“They're good to have-in the Rear Area, but not here,” Guru reminded his NDO. “The Exec in?”

“Yes, sir,” Collins said, then he sneezed again. “Sorry, sir.”

“No reason to be sorry,” the CO said. “How much longer on the pills?”

“Four more days, then I see Doc again,” Collins said. “Can't wait to get back in the saddle.”

Major Wiser nodded sympathetically. He'd been grounded once, the previous January, due to a cold, and had been itching to get back flying. Those ten days on pills Doc had prescribed were no fun. “Listen to Doc, and do what he says. He outranks all of us in that. Even Colonel Rivers got grounded a couple of times Just take it easy, fight this thing off, and you'll be back in the cockpit soon enough.”

“Yes, sir.”

Nodding, the CO then went to talk with a couple of the NCOs, then went to his office. He opened the door and found his Exec waiting. “Good Morning, Mark,”

“Morning, Boss,” Capt. Mark Ellis, the Exec, nodded. “Got a few things for you.”

Guru nodded. “Okay, shoot.”

“Morning report for MAG-11, as usual,” the Exec said, handing Guru the papers. Guru nodded, then signed. “And the aircraft status update. We have nineteen available now, and will have twenty by noon.”

“Assuming no losses, that is,” Guru noted. “What's the twentieth?”

“Sandi Jenkins' bird. The elevator's been swapped out, but it needs a check flight before Kev O'Donnell will release the aircraft.” Captain Kevin O'Donnell was the 335th's senior Maintenance Officer.

“Okay, and Sandi's got two missions before noon already,” the CO said. He took a deep breath. “Find a crew not on the morning schedule, and have them do the check mission.”

“Will do, Boss,” Ellis said, handing the CO a large plastic cup.

“Over Oklahoma or the Panhandle,” Guru said sternly. “Sandi's going to be pissed, and I will be along with her, if somebody got her bird shot up on what was supposed to be a check flight.”

“Gotcha,” Ellis nodded.

Guru returned it, then took a drink from the cup. “Cocoa?”

“Ross and the scroungers came through,” the XO said. “A regular supply will be coming, even when we move, he says.”

“Good,” the CO replied. “What'd we have to give up in exchange?”

“Ross said a case of brake fluid. Considering we got more than we need, thanks to that C-141 yesterday....”

“Okay, that settles that. What else?”

Ellis handed him a sheet. “Weather forecast.”

“Hmm....Okay, looks like the worst of it will be to our north, but still, a fifty percent chance of showers. And IFR flying from 5,000 up to 17,000. Lovely. Starts late tomorrow night. So we got two flying days to go.”

“That we do,” Ellis said. “And this, from Frank.”

“What now from that sumbitch?” the CO asked.

“Here,” Ellis said, handing Guru a paper. “He refiled his complaint about yesterday.”

“I'll put it where it belongs,” Major Wiser said. He took the paper and fed it into his office shredder. “Next?”

“Only that we start flying at 0700.”

“Good.” Then there was a knock on the door. “Yeah! Come on in and show yourself.”

The door opened, and Goalie came in, with a cup of coffee in each hand. “Morning, Boss.”

“Still bribing your CO with coffee?” Guru joked. She had done the same when he was Exec.

She rose up with mock indignation. “What's wrong with wanting my pilot fully awake and alert at this time of morning?”

“Nothing,” the CO said. “Well, we'll find out one thing today.”

“What's that?” Goalie asked.

“Whether or not our guests are cut out for this,” Guru said. “Either she'll discover she's an adrenalin junkie, or she'll want to be on the first C-130 back to Nellis.”

“Only one way to find out,” said Ellis.

“Yeah,” the CO replied. He glanced at the wall clock. “0545. Let's go eat, then we brief, then we fly.”


When the CO's group got to the Officer's Mess Tent, they found most of the pilots and WSOs from their squadron, as well as the Marine and Navy squadrons assigned to MAG-11. And the CO found Colonel Brady and a couple other squadron commanders talking with Ms. Wendt. “Colonel,” Guru said, sketching a salute.

“Major,” Brady said. “Just saying 'Good Morning' to one of our guests. And I'll be saying a lot more later today.”

“Watch it, Ms. Wendt,” Guru said. “He's on his second war, so you can say he's seen quite a bit. But his Southeast Asia tour was a lot longer than he expected.”

Ms. Wendt looked at Guru, then Colonel Brady. “What do you mean by that?”

“I spent just over five years as a POW in Hanoi,” Brady said. “Had 78 combat missions before I was shot down, and then a suite at the Hanoi Hilton.”

“When was that?” Scott, the cameraman, asked.

“A week before Tet, '68,” Brady said matter of fact. “Spent seventeen months in solitary, out of five years and two months.”

“Well, Colonel,” Wendt said. “Maybe you can compare experiences? It'd be an interesting story.”

“Not a problem, Ms.Wendt,” Brady smiled. “Glad to oblige.”

“Thank you, Colonel,” Wendt nodded. “Major? Any chance I can talk with you today? Not an interview, mind, but I'd like talk about a couple of things.”

Major Wiser nodded. “Anytime I'm not flying or otherwise busy, just knock on my office door. I run an open door policy: anyone in my squadron who wants to see me can.”

“It's a little unusual, isn't it?”

“No, Ms. Wendt, it's not,” Colonel Brady said. “I do the same thing, and so do my other squadron commanders. I don't know what exposure you have to your own military, and no disrespect intended, but one thing we stress in the U.S. Military is taking care of our subordinates, and that includes having a willing ear if someone has problems or just needs a willing ear to listen.”

“I've never been around the military until now,” she admitted. “This is a new experience for me.”

“We've had other reporters say the same thing,” Kodak Griffith said. “Takes some getting used to.”

Then the Mess Officer came out and flipped the sign from CLOSED to OPEN. “Chow tent's open,”
he called.

“Ms. Wendt?” Brady gestured to her and her crew.

After the crew went into the tent, Guru said to Colonel Brady, “Playing the gracious host, sir?”

“That we are, Major. We'll know in a few days if she and her people are cut out for this, won't we?”

“Yes, sir.”

Several 335th people came up to their CO. “What was all that about?” Sweaty asked.

“Simple. She wants backseat time at the very least. If not combat. And that's a no-no.” Guru said.

Goalie looked at her pilot and CO. “That's AF policy, right?”

“That it is. Backseat time's one thing. But combat? No way,” the CO nodded. He looked for a particular officer in the crowd. “Darren?” He motioned to the SIO.

“Major?” Licon asked.

The CO looked at his Intelligence Officer. “We have any unclassified material on war crimes?”

“Some, Major, but not much.”

'Okay, can you get some from the Marines? Anything dealing on how Ivan treats captured reporters, a KGB interrogation center, and mass grave photos?”

“If I touch base with the Marines? Yes, sir. And I know what you've got in mind, if you don't mind my saying so. Anything to show her why we don't fly reporters on combat missions,” the Intel said.

“Smart man. Can you get some of that by 1000?” Asked the CO.

“No problem, Major.”

“Good. Do it,” Major Wiser said.

“Yes, sir.”

Nodding, the CO turned to his flight. “Let's go eat. We got a busy day ahead.”
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  #258  
Old 02-06-2016, 09:14 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And some more:


335th TFS Operations, 1140 Hours Central War Time:


Major Wiser was sitting at his desk, going over some paperwork. On some days, the bureaucrats hardly sent anything his way, but on others, like today......He and his flight had flown two back-to-back close air support missions, and weren't expected to fly again until after 12 Noon. But before he could eat, the armchair warriors in the AF bureaucracy had to be dealt with. Oh, there weren't as many as there were prewar, but there were enough paper-pushers around to make his life, and every other Squadron and Wing commander, miserable from time to time.

He had just finished what was pending when there was a knock on his office door. “Show yourself and come on in,” he said.

Ms. Wendt came in and saw the papers on his desk. “Major,” she nodded politely. “Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“Not at all,” the CO replied. “Just wrapped up dealing with the other enemy.”

“'Other enemy?'' Ms. Wendt asked, slightly confused.

“The Air Force bureaucracy,” the Major smiled grimly. “Not as much as there was prewar, but enough.”

“Ah,” the reporter nodded. “Major, can I ask you a question?”

“Shoot,” Major Wiser said. He had a very good idea of what she had in mind.

Ms. Wendt looked at him. “Is there any way my cameraman and I could get some flying in?”

“You mean backseat time?” He saw her nod. “Where's your cameraman?”

“He and my soundman are out with Captain Griffith, shooting for a segment. We're sending the first one to Sydney tonight via satellite.”

“And it'll be on CBS?”

“Tomorrow night,” she replied.

“Well, as for flight time? You'll have to see Doc Waters. He's our Squadron Flight Surgeon. The two of you will have to pass a modified flight physical, similar to what people who qualified for incentive rides prewar got,” Major Wiser told her.

“Incentive rides?”

“It's a way of thanking the folks who enable us to get our job done: mechanics, ordnance people, fuelers, weather, people in administrative jobs, and so on. Even in wartime, ninety percent of the people in the Air Force are not directly involved with flying,” the Major said. “We show them what we do, thanks to their work, and they understand that even if they aren't flying, their jobs are still important.”

“Okay,” Ms. Wendt nodded. “So what does this involve?”

“You'll get checked out, just to make sure you can handle pulling Gs. Heart, BP, and so on. You'll then have to go through some basic survival training: how to steer a parachute and land, how to fire an ejection seat, use your survival radio, that sort of thing,” the CO said. “Whole thing takes about a day. Then we'll see about getting the both of you that flight time.”

“And combat? Any chance of going on a combat mission?”

The Major sighed. How to explain this? Didn't they tell her this at Nellis? “That's out of the question. Don't blame me. AF policy. And it's the same with the Marines and Navy, too. No reporters on combat missions. It's for your own protection.”

“Major, I'm willing to take the risks involved,” Ms. Wendt pointed out.

“Did they tell you at Nellis what the Soviets do to captured reporters?”

She nodded. “They're turned over to the KGB, not treated as POWs, and so on.”

Major Wiser handed her a folder. “Have a look. It's unclassified, by the way. Mass grave found near what was a town called Thornberry, about ten miles east of here.”

Wendt looked through the folder. Photos of American military personnel exhuming a mass grave, taking out bodies for examination and identification, and civilians standing nearby, evidently hoping to find missing loved ones. Some of the bodies were relatively fresh, others had been there a while, judging by the decomposition. “I still-”

“Have a look at the fifth photo.”

She found the photo in question: a woman's body, with hardly any decomposition. And obvious signs of torture. Evidently she had been killed only just before the grave had been found. “Who was she?”

“Reporter for a local TV station, back in '85,” Major Wiser said. “They were covering a rearguard trying to stop the Russians from getting bridgeheads on the Red River. They were overrun. For some reason, the KGB kept her alive, though no doubt she was wishing she was dead. A few days before the area was liberated, she, and most of the remaining prisoners in this KGB facility, were shot. You'll notice in all the photos, not just of her, that the bodies have their hands tied behind them with telephone wire, and many still have blindfolds tied on.”

Ms. Wendt looked at the photos. The Major wasn't kidding. “What about her crew?”

“Somewhere in the bottom,” Major Wiser said. “All of these mass graves are seen as crime scenes, and the war-crimes people take their time when they're opened up.”

Ms. Wendt looked at the photos again. She had remembered some of the European media outlets calling such American and Canadian claims to be “wildly exaggerated,” for the most part, though a few had been more sympathetic to the Allied viewpoint. Though the press in Australia and New Zealand were pretty vocal in denouncing the Soviets and their lackeys. “I can see why you have this policy, Major,” she replied, her voice shaky. “I take it that it's the same elsewhere?”

“It is,” Major Wiser admitted. “Not just in the AF, but DOD-wide. Navy, Marines, Army attack aviation. Now, reporters do go along when the Army does a heliborne assault, but that's different.”

“So what kind of flying do we get?”

“Maintenance check rides, pretty much,” said the CO. “After an engine change, for example, or a rudder has been replaced. They put the plane through its paces, to make sure it's ready to go back into combat. The only thing is that you're armed. Two Sidewinders and a full load of 20-mm ammo. Because you never know if you'll encounter MiGs on a fighter sweep, a strike flight going to or from a target, or a recon bird out getting pictures that he shouldn't. Sometimes a check ride does involve combat.” Or theater indoctrination, as Kara found out, the CO said to himself.

“All right,” Ms. Wendt said, her voice coming back. “I'll talk with Trevor, then we'll see your Doc Waters. Who flies us?”

“Whoever happens to be on the schedule,” Major Wiser said. “It could be me, or Captain Ellis, Captain Thrace, Lieutenant Blanchard, or anyone in the squadron. And Ms. Wendt?”

“Yes?”

“If you want to do a story about that KGB facility and the mass grave? Talk to Captain Griffith, and he'll arrange a visit there.”

She looked again at the photos before returning them to the Major. “I will. Thank you, Major. And I do want that check ride.”

“And whoever's flying you will give you a good one.”

“Now I'm looking forward to it, and thanks again, Major.”


After the reporter left, Guru went over the material in the folder. He'd seen similar scenes firsthand during his E&E with the Resistance, and more recently, as the 335th had moved from Williams, first to Cannon, then Amarillo, and now Sheppard. And, he knew, there would be more like this before they go to the Rio Grande. Then there was a knock on the door. “Yeah? Come in and show yourself.”

Goalie came in. “Marine mess people will be here in a few. Almost lunchtime.”

“All right,” the CO nodded as he stood up and headed for the door. “Be glad you didn't have to read through Darren's packet. Just looking at that might cause you to lose your lunch.”

“Did it scare her into a trip on a C-130 back to Nellis?” His GIB asked.

“No, but I may have alerted her to a story,” Guru said. “I'll bet any amount of money that her editor back in Sydney told her that any story dealing with the war is fair game.” He pointed to the packet. “And Soviet atrocities probably are at the top of that list.”

Goalie nodded. “You know the media: 'If it bleeds, it leads.' And something like that would count.”

“It does,” Guru said. “Round up the rest of the flight. Let's get lunch, then I'll talk with Van Loan and get our next mission.”

“As long as it's not CAS. We had two back-to-back ones this morning.”

“No arguing that. Give me a visit to an airfield, armed recon, or bridge-busting any time. Let's go.”


After lunch with the flight, Guru then went to see his Ops Officer, and Capt. Don Van Loan was expecting him. “Don,”

“Boss,” Van Loan said. “Got a good one for you.”

“As long as it's not on-call CAS. Had enough of that this morning. What have you got?”

Van Loan handed his CO a packet. “Cleburne Municipal Airport. It's south of Fort Worth, and is in the Cuban 2nd Army's sector.”

“Which means Army-level air defense,” the CO said. “Lovely.”

“Yeah. Cleburne proper is the HQ for that army, so you know what to expect. There's also a Soviet-manned SA-2 site, the usual 37-mm and 57-mm AAA, and MANPADS.”

“Who's flying from there?”

“A mix. Cuban Su-25s for sure. And both Soviet and Cuban MiG-23s have been staging there. Intel thinks the MiGs that went after the AWACS a few days ago staged through there,” Van Loan noted.

“We getting Weasels?” Asked the CO.

“Coors Flight will meet you at the Mineral Wells tanker track,” the Ops Officer said.

“Okay, Don. Thanks.”

“Good luck, Boss.”

The CO nodded, then went back to his flight's briefing room. “People, listen up. We've got a new mission.”

“Where to?” Kara asked. “Please, no CAS.”

“Be careful of what you wish for, Kara,” the CO reminded her. “Cleburne Municipal Airport. Cuban Su-25s are flying out of there, and we get to shut them down for a while. And here's the kicker. Cleburne is the HQ for the Cuban 2nd Army.”

“Just like Stephenville, Boss,” Sweaty said. “Same threat?”

“Pretty much, according to Intel,” the CO said. “Soviet-manned SA-2 east of town. Two 57-mm batteries east of the airport, and a 37-mm site to the west. Throw in Army-level SA-4, and MANPADS as well.”

Hoser West asked, “Weasels coming?”

“They are,” Guru replied. “Coors Flight meets us at the Mineral Wells tanker track. Now, ordnance loads.”

“What have we got?” KT, Hoser's GIB, asked.

“First element, that's me and Kara,” the CO nodded at Kara, “gets twelve Rockeye CBUs. Sweaty? You and Hoser get twelve Mark-82 Snakeyes.”

“And the air-to-air loadout?” Kara asked.

“Usual,” Guru replied. “Two AIM-7Es and four AIM-9Ps each airplane, plus full load of 20-mm and an ECM pod. ALQ-119 for the element leaders, ALQ-101 for the wingies.”

“Ingress route?” Goalie wanted to know.

“We have a pre-strike refueling with the tankers, then we head south from I-20 and follow the Brazos River. All the way to the northern end of Lake Whitney and the State Route 174 bridge. Turn east, then thirty seconds later, turn north. Our pop-up point is the Lake Pat Cleburne Dam, here, Make your runs due north, because the Cleburne High School is southeast of the airport. And if it's open, they're using the kids as human shields. If you can't positively ID the target? Hold onto your ordnance.”

“And egress?” Brainiac, Kara's GIB, asked.

'Head northwest, roughly on a heading of 330,” Guru said. “That gets you to I-20 and Weatherford. Join up on the tankers, we take a drink, then we come home.”

Sweaty nodded. “MiG threat?”

“Same as before, with Su-27s at the old James Connelly AFB at Waco. MiG-29s at Gray AAF, Fort Hood. A second MiG-29 regiment is now reported at Bergstrom AFB in Austin, while MiG-23s are at Temple Regional Airport and at Brownwood. Connelly AFB also has MiG-21s, as does Brownwood.”

“And bailout areas?” Kara asked.

“Anyplace rural and away from the roads. Jollys have been active at night, so that's your best bet. Of course, anywhere north of I-20 is the best,” the CO pointed out. The front lines in this part of Texas were largely south of I-20, so that meant friendly territory. “Weather is fair to good the rest of the afternoon. Anything else?”

“How many more today?” Goalie asked.

“Plan for one more,” Guru said. “That it?” Heads shook no. “Let's gear up, and meet me at 512.”

After the crews geared up, they left the ops building, and found Ms. Wendt and her camera crew wrapping up a conversation with Sandi Jenkins. Then Ms. Wendt came over to the CO. “Major, mind if we tag along?”

“Not at all,” Guru said. And as the crews headed over to 512's revetment, they were being filmed. When they got to the revetment, Guru gathered the crews for his final instructions. “Okay, we're Camaro Flight. Mission code to AWACS, Weasels, and other interested parties. Call signs between us, as usual.”

“Gotcha, Boss,” Sweaty said, and heads nodded.

“What's with our friends?” Kara asked.

“They're shooting some stuff for a segment they're sending to Sydney tonight. It'll be on AFN tomorrow night, so watch the CBS Evening News and see if Walter Cronkite talks about us,” Guru said. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. Guru then clapped his hands. “Let's hit it.”

The crews then went to their aircraft, and as they did, they were filmed. Guru and Goalie did their walk-around, and then Guru signed for 512. “She's all set, Major,” Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley, his Crew Chief, said.

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. He and Goalie mounted their bird, and got strapped in. Then they did their preflight. “I'm surprised she didn't scare easily,” Guru said about Ms. Wendt when they were finished.

“So am I,” Goalie said. “Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom; check yours. Maybe the first time she'll scare is when she has to get into her MOPP gear.”

“Haven't had that for a while,” Goalie said. “Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

As Sergeant Crowley gave the “Start Engines” signal to Guru, Kodak Griffith went over to Ms. Wendt and the camera crew. “Ma'am, you'll have to back away. You don't have any ear protection, and those engines get pretty loud.”

The crew backed out of the way as first, one, then two, J-79 engines started. After warm-up, 512 taxied out, and they saw the Crew Chief snap a salute to the crew, and they returned it.

Guru taxied 512 to the end of the runway, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties, and then the flight had to wait while a C-130 took off, and a pair of returning Marine F-4 strike flights landed. Only then was Camaro Flight cleared to taxi onto the runway.

Guru looked to his Four O'clock, and saw Kara in 520 tucked in. She and Brainiac gave the thumbs-up, and both he and Goalie returned it. Then he called the tower. “Sheppard Tower, Camaro Lead requesting clearance for takeoff.”

The tower flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff. Guru and Goalie closed their canopies, and saw Kara and Brainiac do the same in 520. Then he firewalled the engines, released the brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air, with Kara right behind him. Then it was the turn of Sweaty and Hoser, and they followed their flight leader into the air.


Over Northern Texas, 1310 Hours Central War Time:


Camaro Flight was headed south, having had their pre-strike refueling and rendezvous with the Weasel element. Now, they had passed I-20 and were headed south, following the Brazos River and the boundary between the Cubans and Nicaraguans. So far, so good, and no one was shooting at them.

“Three minutes to turn point,” Goalie called from 512's rear cockpit.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. “So far, so good.” He glanced up ahead, and saw the two Weasels just above and ahead of the strike flight. They were at 450 feet AGL and doing five hundred knots. “Sky's clear,” he added, meaning the RWR was clear of any radar-guided threats. Or search radars.

“Copy,” Goalie said. While the GIBs handled the navigation, the pilots were concentrating on flying and keeping a sharp eye out for threats. Habits drilled into them at the RTU were second nature, no matter how long it had been, “Lake Granbury Dam dead ahead,”

“Got it,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. Dam dead ahead. Watch for flak.”

“Two copies,” Kara replied.

“Three,” Sweaty called.

“Four, Roger,” Hoser said.

Sure enough, as Camaro Flight approached the dam, the flak batteries on each side of the dam opened up. On the east side, it was the Cubans, and their 37-mm and 57-mm fire came close, but not close enough to threaten the aircraft. The Nicaraguans on the west side, though, their fire was heavy, but wildly inaccurate, with tracers from 23-mm and 57-mm going in all directions.

Down below, in the town of Glen Rose, the local Nicaraguan commander was trying to keep things stable. A Soviet Army rear-area protection division had just arrived, and those units had a reputation for looting more often than usual, and taking liberties with the local women. The Colonel was trying to assure the Mayor, who was very skeptical about the Soviets, that he was in charge of the area, not the Soviets. The fact that the front lines were not that far north, and that the dull rumble of artillery fire could be heard, meant that the fighting was not that far away, didn't help matters with the locals. Who were obviously hoping that the U.S. Army was getting close.

Suddenly, the air raid alarm sounded, and as his men went to their posts, they saw the six F-4s fly past, and the locals were cheering. The Colonel looked at the Mayor, who simply shrugged. Then he looked around, and saw that the aircraft had not bombed anywhere near the town. Wherever they were going, and what they hit, wasn't his problem.

“One minute thirty to turn point,” Goalie said as they flew past Glen Rose.

“Copy,” Guru replied “Crystal Palace, Camaro One-one. Say threat?”

“Camaro One-one, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing one-seven-five for eighty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing two-one-zero for sixty-five. Medium, going away.” The AWACS controller replied.

“Roger that, Crystal Palace,” Guru said.

“We're not that far from Waco and those Flankers,” said Goalie. “One minute to turn.”

“Copy.”

Camaro Flight then flew past the U.S. 67 bridge, and they, too drew flak, but the strike birds were so fast that the 23-mm and unguided 57-mm never threatened the aircraft. “Coming up on turn point.”

Bing Bing....a sound came over both their headsets. Guru checked his EW repeater. “Oh, shit. Su-27 radar ahead.”

“They pick us up?” Goalie asked. “Fifteen seconds.”

“Hope not,” Guru replied. “And turning.” Guru put 512 into a hard left turn, just short of the Route 174 Bridge and over a bend in the Brazos River. Flak sites at the bridge opened fire again, but the strike package easily gave the AAA the slip.

“Thirty seconds to final turn.” Goalie said.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. “Crystal Palace, Camaro One-one. Say threat?”

“Camaro One-one, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing one-eight-one for sixty-five. Medium, steady.”

“That's good,” Goalie said. “Stand by to turn.”

“Ready.” Guru said. He was checking outside for threats, and checking the EW repeater.

“And turn.”

Camaro Flight then made its final turn, heading north, past the town of Rio Vista, where, unknown to the aircews, people saw the F-4s and waved, not caring about the Cuban Motor-Rifle battalion garrisoned in the town for rest and refit.

“Lake Cleburne Dam dead ahead,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. IP ahead. Switches on, and stand by to pull. Break. Coors Lead, time for you guys to go to work.”

“Ten seconds,” came the call from Goalie.

“Set'em up. Everything in one pass.”

“And pull! Switches set. You're hot.”

Guru pulled 512 into a climb just as he reached the dam, and saw the Weasels going to work. “Magnum” calls came over the radio as the SA-2 site, and one of the SA-4 batteries, came up. And HARM and Standard-ARM missiles went after the SAM radars as well as a radar-guided 57-mm site.

As he pulled, Guru saw the target. “Target in sight. Lead's in!” He then rolled 512 to the right, and lined up on the airport. Runway 33 was directly ahead, and he came in a couple of degrees to the right. He wanted the ramp area, and saw several Su-25s and helos on the ramp. Steady....he said, ignoring the flak coming up at him. Then a Standard-ARM missile flew past him and hit the Firecan radar at the 57-mm site, and not only did it take out the radar, but shrapnel from the explosion of the 214-lb warhead killed a number of gunners and put three guns out of action. He lined up the ramp in his pipper. “HACK!” Guru hit the pickle button, and a dozen Mark-20 Rockeyes came off the F-4's bomb racks.

At the nearby Cleburne High School, unknown to the incoming strike pilots, classes were not in session, the school having been taken over by the Cubans to house their aircrews and support personnel. The commander of the Cuban Air Force's 26th Ground-Attack Regiment was in the assistant principal's office, and he heard the anti-aircraft batteries open fire, and then the sounds of aircraft. Thinking that a flight of his aircraft was coming in, and the AA gunners were firing on friendly aircraft, he called the nearest battery. No answer. He then ran outside, and saw Guru's F-4 on its run. The Cuban Colonel then jumped into the nearest slit trench as the Rockeye CBUs went off.

“SHACK!” Goalie called as Guru pulled away. She saw the CBUs go off, and several aircraft explode as a result. “GOOD HITS!”

“Secondaries?” Guru asked as he banked to the left, setting course northwest for I-20. “Lead's off safe,” he called over the radio

“Several,” Goalie said.

“Good enough!” came the reply as Guru went down low and headed out.


“Two's in hot!” Kara called as she put 520 on its attack run. She saw the CO's bombs going off, and decided to lay hers to the north of where Guru had planted his. Kara saw several secondaries where the CO's bombs had gone off, and also picked out several Su-25s and a Mi-6 Hook helicopter. My, my, what big things you have, she thought. Not for long......Kara lined up the north side of the ramp, centering the Mi-6 in her pipper. “HACK!” She hit the pickle button, releasing her twelve CBUs onto the ramp. As she followed Guru north over the town, then northwest, she called, “Two off safe.”

The Cuban colonel watched as Kara's F-4 came in, and dropped its CBUs. He saw the Mi-6 and two of his Su-25s go up in fireballs, and he also watched as the 37-mm battery tried to track the F-4, but the aircraft was too fast, and the black puffs of AA fire erupted behind the aircraft. A soldier got up and fired a Strela-2 shoulder-fired SAM, but it was too late. Then shouts came behind him. Two more F-4s were coming in.

“GOOD HITS!” Brainiac called from 520's rear seat.

“Good enough?” Kara asked as she followed the CO out.

“Damned good enough,” was the reply.

“Rightous!” Kara said as she turned to catch up with Guru's bird.


“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called as she came in. As she came in, she noticed that the hangars were still intact for the most part. That won't do, Sweaty thought as she lined up the hangars in her pipper. Tough break, Fidel....”HACK!” She called as twelve Mark-82 Snakeyes were released. As she pulled away, she called “Three off target.”

The Cuban colonel poked his head up again as Sweaty's F-4 made its bomb run. He groaned as her bombs fell on the hangars. Prewar buildings used for civilian light aircraft, but also able to house his Su-25s, but that wouldn't protect them from this. Bomb blasts engulfed three of the hangars, and they crumpled in flames.

“SHACK!” Preacher Simmonds called.

Sweaty replied as she turned to follow Kara and meet up with the CO, “Secondaries?”

“A couple. Fuel truck maybe.”

“Roger that,” Sweaty replied as she headed out.


“Four's in!” Hoser called as he rolled onto his bomb run. He decided to hit the single runway, and he came in angle-off, so that he could lay down his bombs over the most runway possible without flying straight down the runway, and be an easy target for AAA in the process. Hoser came in, ignoring the flak, and even an SA-7 that came at him from dead ahead and flew right down his left side. He centered the runway in the pipper. 'HACK!” He hit the pickle button, and twelve more Mark-82s fell onto the target. “Four off target,” he called as he pulled away.

As he stood up in the trench, the Cuban colonel groaned as Hoser's bombs marched across the runway, a taxiway, and the parking ramp. A fuel bower took a hit and an orange-red fireball erupted, and so did a damaged Su-25. Again, the AA batteries fired ineffectively as the F-4 turned north. The man got out of the trench and looked around. No more aircraft were flying from this field today, he knew.


KT yelled into the intecom, “SHACK!”

“Good hits?” Hoser wanted to know as he turned northwest, after his element leader.

“Got a secondary, and there's a couple bombs on the runway.”

“All right!” He replied, heading northwest towards I-20.

“Coors, how's it going?” Guru called.

“You guys clear?” Coors Lead replied.

“Four's off target. We're headed out,” said Guru.

“Copy that. Get your asses north. We're right behind you.”

“Roger,” Guru said as 520 came up in combat spread, and he saw both Kara and Brainiac give the thumbs-up. “Sweaty, where are you?”

“Right behind you, Boss,” she replied. “Have a visual on you.”

“Coors Flight is off target,” the Weasel leader called. The two F-4Gs had done their job, and lived up to the Weasel motto, “First in, last out.”

As they flew out, the Cubans below them were surprised to see F-4s coming from behind them. Their air-defense people had no time to react, apart from a couple of soldiers who fired Strela-2s at the Yanqui aircraft, but they missed.

It wasn't long until the twin ribbons of I-20 appeared, and that meant the FLOT. As they climbed, the crews made sure their IFF was on, so that the Army air-defense pukes down below didn't fire on them. The join-up with the tankers went without a hitch, and after the Weasels drank fuel and headed back ot their base, it was Camaro's turn. Their refueling went without a hitch, and then they headed back to Sheppard.

At Sheppard, Ms. Wendt and her crew were on the edge of the runway, filming some footage that would appear in their segment going out later that night. There had been some excitement as a Marine A-4 came in trailing smoke and having a collapsed landing gear on landing, and the fire and rescue trucks went to assist. The pilot managed to get away from the aircraft before it was fully involved in flames, but the Skyhawk was a total loss. “That's a bonus,” Trevor Scott, the cameraman, said after it was all over.

'At least the pilot's okay,” Kodak Griffith said. “They'll scavenge the wreck for parts, then scrap it. And the whole thing starts all over again.”

“So when's the Major due back?” Wendt asked.

“Anytime,” Griffith said. He had a walkie-talkie tuned to the tower frequency. He heard some conversation, then nodded. “They're coming in. Four out and four back.”

They watched as four F-4s came into the pattern, then landed. The crews popped their canopies as they taxied in past the TV crew, and the crew noticed the thumbs-up sign. “We know what that means,” Wendt said. “How would we know if they were in a dogfight?”

“If they had a kill, they'd be holding up fingers,” Griffith said. He had three kills himself in the backseat. “Want to head on over?”

“Sure,”

“Come with me, then,” Kodak said. He led them to a Crew-cab pickup and drove them to the 335th's dispersal area.

Guru taxied into 512's revetment and shut down the engines. He and Goalie quickly ran through the post-flight checklist, then he stood up in the cockpit. “Good one.”

“And one more coming,” Goalie said. By the tone of her voice, it wasn't a question.

Guru nodded as Sergeant Crowley brought the crew ladder over. “That's a given.” He climbed down, then Goalie followed. After a quick post-flight walk-around, he nodded to Sergeant Crowley. “No holes, and no problems. Get 512 turned around, Sergeant.”

“You got it, Major!” Crowley said. “How'd it go, sir?”

“Made some Su-25s go away, and tore up their field,” the CO said. “How's that?”

“Pretty damn good, sir,” Crowley nodded. He turned to the ground crew. “You heard the Major. Get her turned around.”

“Good man, Sergeant,” Guru said. Then he and Goalie went to the revetment's entrance, where Kara and Brainiac were waiting. They were joined by Sweaty, Preacher, Hoser, and KT. “That's three and done.”

“And one more?” Kara asked as she put on a 335th ball cap.

Guru nodded. “Maybe two. Been a while since we did a hot turnaround,” he said, then he took a swig from a bottle of water.

The others nodded, then Hoser said, “Major, news media at Twelve,” seeing the Crew-cab pickup arrive and the news crew come out.

“Okay,” the CO said. “Smile, be polite, and you know the drill.”

Heads nodded as Ms. Wendt came over, microphone ready. “Major, how'd it go?”

“Not bad,” Guru said. “Tore up an airfield, and made some of Fidel's Su-25s become scrap metal.”

“How was the resistance?”

“You mean ground fire?” Guru asked, seeing her nod. “There was a lot of shooting. Didn't touch us, though.”

“So what's next?” the reporter asked.

The CO smiled politely. “We debrief, get something to eat, then we get ready and go out again.”

“Thank you, Major.”

The crews nodded as they headed off to Squadron Ops. “She going to press you for an interview?” Sweaty asked.

“Hope not,” Guru replied. “But if she does, I can't say no. That directive from Tenth Air Force is pretty clear. 'Reasonable cooperation with the press.'”

Goalie looked at her pilot and CO. “And if she asks about your time with the Resistance?” She knew his story, and was only one of four people he'd confided the whole experience with. His SERE debriefer, a SERE shrink, and Colonel Rivers were the other three.

“The condensed version'll do,” Major Wiser said. “Tough luck if she doesn't like it.”

“And so we debrief, eat, then go and do it again,” Sweaty said.

“Yeah. And now I'm wishing for the weather guys to be wrong. A real storm with a day off from flying. Some more downtime is what we need,” the CO nodded. “Come on, let's get the debrief done, then we've got about an hour before we go back out.”
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Old 03-02-2016, 07:48 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Any comments or questions, fellows, before the next installments?
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Old 03-03-2016, 07:55 AM
lordroel lordroel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Wiser View Post
Any comments or questions, fellows, before the next installments?
Just keep up the good work.
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Old 03-22-2016, 08:45 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And some more...sorry for the delay, fellas, but RL....


335th TFS Squadron Ops, 1400 Hours Central War Time:


After debriefing the mission, Major Wiser went to his office. He, like everyone else in the flight, had to take care of squadron paperwork. When he got there, he found his Exec waiting. “Mark,”

“Boss,” Ellis replied. “Got a few things for you.”

“Shoot,” Major Wiser said while checking his IN box. Nothing there, he was pleased to see.

“First, we're getting a USO show in a week or so.”

The CO's eye's widened. That was something new. “Oh, and who are we getting?”

“Belinda Carlisle, and Katrina and the Waves.” Ellis read from the dispatch. “Not quite the Bob Hope Show.....”

“But enough,” Major Wiser said. “I like their music, especially Belinda's, and that remake of We Gotta Get Out of This Place that Katrina and the Waves do.”

“You're not the only one. They're pretty popular on AFN's rock station.”

“They are,” nodded the CO. “Next?”

“Sandi's bird cleared its check flight. We're back to twenty aircraft. The two from McClellan will be here in three days.” the Exec reported.

“Good. Any word on the replacement crews?”

“No. We won't find out who we're getting until they get here.”

Major Wiser let out a sigh. “Okay. What else?”

“Updated weather report,” Ellis said, handing the CO a paper. “And nobody's going to like it.”

The Major scanned the paper. “Only a fifty percent chance of rain? Lovely. And it'll all be over by noon.”

“Which means we sit on our asses for the morning, and have a full plate in the afternoon,” Ellis commented. “And I hate those days.”

“You and me both. I'd rather have a full day on the ground, or a full day flying,” the CO noted. “What else?”

“Just these. The Red Cross is asking for more donations from military personnel, while the American Legion is already offering memberships-”

“They're getting ahead of themselves. The war's not over yet!” Said the CO.

“Don't look at me, Boss,” Ellis replied. “I just report 'em.”

“All right. Post those on the bulletin board, You getting ready to go out?”

“Briefing in fifteen,” the Exec said. “You?”

“In an hour,” the CO said. “Mark? You take care of yourself out there. Not just today, but every time. Because if anything happens to you, Don Van Loan becomes Exec, and I'd hate to have to break him into the job.”

“Do my best.”

“Do more than that. Because if Van Loan gets the Exec's job, Kara becomes Ops Officer.” the CO reminded his Exec. “I'd hate to have to break in a new Exec and a new Ops Officer.”

The Exec slapped his CO on the shoulder. “Will do, Chief.”

“All right. You have a good one,” Major Wiser said.

“You too, Boss.”

As the Exec left, Doc Waters, the 335th Flight Surgeon, came in. “Major,”

“Doc,” the CO nodded pleasantly. It was never a good idea to get on the wrong side of the Flight Surgeon, especially when one had to have a flight physical once a year. “What can I do for you?”

“Just letting you know: Ms. Wendt and her cameraman have made appointments to see me. Tomorrow, at Zero Eight Hundred.”

“Good, Doc. Tomorrow morning's going to be a wet one, FYI. Once they're done with you....” the CO said.

“I turn 'em over to the Life Support guys.” Doc Waters nodded.

“That you do,” Major Wiser said. “Now, I have a favor to ask.”

“Name it,”

“Keep an eye on Major Carson. You're one of the few people who's chatty with him at the Club. Talk him up, see if anything's bothering him physically....” Major Wiser said. “Because if you find a reason to ground him....”

“Okay, Major. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but his last flight physical was two months ago, back at Cannon. He passed with flying colors.” Doc replied.

The CO sighed. “I was afraid of that. Okay, still, keep an eye on him. If you can find a reason to ground him, and maybe send him out of here for tests of some kind....”

“It relieves the pressure on you to find a way to boot his ass out of here,” Doc finished.

“Smart man, Doc.”

Doc grinned. “Will do.”

“All right: thanks, Doc.” the CO said, offering his hand.

“Anytime, Major,” the flight surgeon replied, shaking hands with the CO.

Guru nodded, then as Doc left, he said to himself. “Why, Frank, are you the epitome of health? If you had a heart murmur, or blurred vision, Doc can ground you and then you get reassigned somewhere to push paper.” Hoping that Doc did find something to ground Carson, the CO then left his office and went to the Ops Desk. “Don,” he said to the Ops Officer.

“Boss,” Van Loan said, handing the CO a packet. “Here's your last one for the day. Hopefully.”

“What have you got for me?”

“Supply Dump at Dublin, southwest of Stephenville. It's in the East German sector. Also division HQ for their 9th Panzer Division.”

The CO looked at Van Loan. “And that's divisional level air defense. Thanks a lot. We're getting Weasels?”

“That you are, Boss. Miller Flight will meet you at the tankers.”

Nodding, the CO flipped through the packet. “At least it's outside of town, and not in the town proper.”

“There is that, Boss.”

“Okay, Don. Thanks. You have a good one yourself.”

“Same to you, Boss.” Van Loan said, shaking the CO's hand.

Nodding, the CO left the Ops Office and, as he headed back to his flight's briefing room, ran into Sergeant Ross. “Sergeant,” the CO said. “Any word on my.....request?”

“No, sir. Not yet. I've called my two friends in officer detailing, and they are on the lookout for someone who meets your requirements,” Ross replied. “I should know sometime tomorrow.”

“Okay, Sergeant,” Major Wiser said. “Even if you wind up goose-egg, at least you tried.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Oh, Sergeant? One other thing. If your scroungers can find a Pave Tack pod to go with the two we already have? That's a bonus. You guys found a Pave Spike pod, and see if you can't improve on that.”

Ross nodded .“One Pave Tack pod, unattended? Yes sir!”

“Carry on, Sergeant,” the CO smiled.

“Yes, sir!”


Major Wiser then went to the Briefing Room, and he found the rest of his flight waiting. “Okay, people, we've got our new one.”

“What do we have, Chief?” Sweaty asked.

“Hold onto your hats. Dublin, southwest of Stephenville. HQ, East German 9th Panzer Division.”

Kara stared at her CO and Flight Leader. “Who gave us this one? Divisional HQ? Fuck that very much!”

“Take it easy, Kara. We're not going for Divisional HQ, that's somewhere in town. East of the town, at the intersection of State Route 6 and F.M. 344, is the divisional supply dump. That's where we're going.”

“Still hairy,” Goalie pointed out.

“It is, and we're getting Weasels in support. Miller One-five and one-six will meet us at the tankers. Now, the threats are SA-6, plus light 23-mm and medium 57-mm at the target, plus MANPADS and small-arms fire. And that's just the East Germans. There's also a Soviet Army rear-area protection division reported, and they have their own flak.”

“Swell,” Hoser said. “Ingress route, Boss?”

“We'll be following roughly State Route 16, which is the boundary between the East Germans and the Soviet 48th Army. Those guys are Cat III or worse, and lack the air defense systems their Cat I and II units have. Once we get to Proctor Lake, we turn southeast, and that avoids a Soviet-manned SA-2 site at Comanche, by the way, and pick up U.S. 67/377. We follow the road northeast, until we hit a dairy a mile southwest of town. Make a right turn, then cross F.M. 210 south of town, and buzz a dairy that also has a private airstrip. There's no helos or transports on the photos, but assume that there are. That is not our target, people!” The CO stressed.

“Gotcha, Boss,” Kara said. “That our pop-up point?”

“It is. We pop up, and to our right, at the intersection of Route 6 and F.M. 344, is the target. We roll in, and make our runs. The dump is bisected by Route 6, and 'tis a big one. Make your runs, and get your asses north,”

Sweaty asked, “Ordnance loads?”

“For the lead element, that's you and me, Kara,” the CO said. “Twelve Mark-82 Snakeyes.” Seeing Kara nod, he went on. “Sweaty? You and Hoser get a dozen CBU-58/Bs. The ones with the incendiary submunitions. What Kara and I don't blow up? You burn.”

“Gotcha, Boss,” Sweaty nodded. “Air to air still the same?”

“You got it. Four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Es each airplane, plus a full load of 20-mm. ALQ-119 pod for the element leaders, ALQ-101 for the others.”

“Bailout areas?” Hoser asked.

“Anyplace rural and away from roads. Jolly has been active at night, so that's your best bet.” Major Wiser said. “The MiG threat is the same as earlier today.”

“Weather?” Goalie asked.

“No change this afternoon, but we'll be getting some rain tonight and tomorrow morning. It should clear out by noon, and we get a half day of flying,” the CO replied.

“Some time off's better than none,” KT quipped.

“Can't have it our way all the time,” Major Wiser admitted. “Okay, this should be our last one for the day, but we haven't had a hot turnaround in a while, so if we taxi in and find out we're not even getting out of the cockpit? Grin and bear it, because you could say it's our turn.”

“All good things come to those who wait,” Preacher said.

“They do,” the CO nodded. “Okay, anything else?” Heads shook no. “Gear up, and I'll see you at 512.”

The crews geared up, and as they went outside, they ran into Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins. “Guru,” Golen nodded.

“Dave,” Guru replied. “And Sandi. Getting ready to go back out?”

“That we are,” Golen said. “And you are, I see.”

“You guys have a good one, and Sandi? You get your bird back tomorrow, if you know what I mean.” He turned to his flight. “You guys go on to 512. I need to talk with Dave and Sandi.”

Nodding, Kara and the others headed on to 512, while Guru stayed to talk for a minute.

“Thanks, Major,” Sandi replied. “Be glad to be back in my bird again.”

“Always a good day when you get your own mount back,” Guru said. “Dave, what's your call sign, in case I need you?”

Golen nodded. “Cobra One-one, after the Ford Cobra.”

“Okay, Dave. You two make Carroll Shelby proud, and show Ivan and his lackeys you've got venom in your sting.”

Golen, Sandi, and their GIBs grinned. “We'll do just that, Guru,” Golen said.

Guru nodded. “Okay, Dave. You and Sandi be careful. Don't want to write any letters just yet.”

“Understood,” Golen said, shaking Guru's hand.

“Good luck,” Guru said.

“You too.”

Guru then headed to 512's revetment, and found the others waiting. “What was that all about?” Sweaty asked.

“Just having a chat with Dave and Sandi,” Guru said. “They're Cobra One-one and One-two, just in case we need help.”

“Last time that happened, we had a brawl up there,” Kara noted.

“We did,” Guru nodded. “Okay, Mission code to AWACS and other interested parties. Call signs between us, as usual.”

“Got it,” Sweaty said.

The CO looked at his flight. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. He clapped his hand. “All right. Let's hit it.”

The flight members headed to their aircraft, while Guru and Goalie went to 512. Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, was waiting with the rest of the ground crew. 'Major,” he said, saluting.

“Sergeant,” Guru said as he and Goalie sketched salutes in return. “She ready?”

“More than ready, sir,” Crowley said.

Nodding, both Guru and Goalie then went and did the preflight walk-around, then Guru signed for the aircraft. Then he and Goalie mounted the aircraft and, after strapping in, went through the preflight checklist.

After going through the checklist, Goalie said, “You do know that this is the first time since they've been here that we haven't been filmed?”

“It is?” Guru asked. “Been too busy to notice. Hope it's a good omen. Ready for engine start.” He gave the thumbs-up to Sergeant Crowley, who gave him the “Start engines” signal in return. First, one, then both, J-79 engines started, and after the run-up, Guru called the tower. “Tower, Rambler Flight with four, requesting permission to taxi.” After getting permission to taxi, he gave the thumbs-up again to Crowley. The ground crew pulled the chocks away from the wheels, and Crowley gave the taxi signals.

Guru nodded, and he taxied 512 out, and as he passed his Crew Chief, Crowley snapped a salute. He and Goalie returned it, then 512 taxied to the nearest runway, with Kara in 520 right behind him, followed by Sweaty and Hoser. They taxied to the end of the runway, and held so that the armorers could remove the weapon safeties. The tower gave permission to taxi onto the runway, and 512 taxied onto the runway, with Kara taxiing 520 right into the Four O'clock position. Then Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler One-one with four, requesting clearance for takeoff.”

The tower flashed a green light in reply.

“Canopy coming down,” Guru said as he pulled down his canopy, and Goalie did the same. Then he glanced over at 520, where Kara and Brainiac gave the thumbs-up. Guru and Goalie returned it, then he applied full power, released the brakes, then he rolled 512 down the runway and into the air, with Kara right behind him. Then Sweaty and Hoser followed, and Rambler Flight was on its way.
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  #262  
Old 03-22-2016, 08:50 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Some more, and some air-to-air action:



Over Central Texas, 1500 Central War Time:


Rambler Flight had met up with the two F-4Gs that were their Weasel support, had a pre-strike refueling from the KC-135s, and was now past I-20, and that meant enemy territory. Fortunately, they were on their intended ingress, and there were no signs of Soviet or East German radars looking for them. “How long to Proctor Lake?” Guru asked from 512's front seat.

“Two minutes,” Goalie replied. She was handing the navigation, using compass, time, and distance, while Guru scanned the sky ahead for threats. It wasn't just SAMs or MiGs, but terrain features as well as obstructions like radio or TV transmitter towers could easily ruin their day.

“Roger that,” Guru said. He was concentrating on flying, but glanced ahead, and saw the two F-4Gs slightly above and ahead of them. They were at 450 feet AGL doing five hundred knots. Low and fast, that was his preferred way of penetrating enemy territory. “No threats on the EW.”

“Good to hear,”

'Always,” Guru said. “Crystal Palace, Rambler One-one, Say threats?”

“Rambler One-one, Crystal Palace,” the AWACS controller replied. “Threat bearing two-four-zero for forty-five. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-seven-five for eighty, Medium, steady. Third threat bearing zero-nine-seven for seventy-five. Medium, going away.”

“Copy, Crystal Palace,” Guru replied. So far, so good. No MiGs or Sukhois in the way. So far.

“Proctor Lake dead ahead,” Goalie called. Sure enough, the lake came into view.

The strike birds crossed the lake, then Guru led them into their turn to follow U.S. 67/377. Unknown to them, they drew some flak from the guns near the Proctor Lake Dam “How long to turn?”

“Forty-five seconds,” Goalie said.

“Flight, Lead. Switches on, music on, and stand by.”

“Two,” Kara.

“Three, copy,” Sweaty.

“Four, roger,” Hoser.


On the highway, an East German patrol from the Third Battalion, 9th Motor-rifle Regiment, was on a routine patrol of the area. Prewar, they had been equipped with BMP-2s, similar to the divisions in the Group of Soviet Forces Germany, but now, they had been equipped with BMP-1s taken from war reserve stocks. As they went along U.S. 67/377, many of the soldiers were glad to be off the front line, and in reserve, while their officers were hoping to not just get some new vehicles from the production lines, and they were hoping for new BMP-2s from either Poland or Czechoslovakia, but replacement personnel also. Here, in this part of Texas, there wasn't much bandit activity, though the occasional booby trap, or sniping incident reminded the East Germans that neither they, nor the Soviets or Cubans, were welcome in this miserable land called Texas, and that the locals cheered whenever they saw American aircraft overhead.

The Patrol had reached the lake called Proctor Lake on their maps, and that was the end of their Area of Responsibility. The patrol turned around, and as they did, the Company Commander, a young Lieutenant fresh from officer training, checked his map. Yes, this town named Proctor and the dam were the limit. He glanced to the left as the company reformed to head back north when his Company Staff Sergeant pointed. 'AIRCRAFT ALARM!” Six F-4s flew by, first over the lake, then turning to follow the road. The lieutenant moved the company into the small town of Proctor, and radioed his battalion commander. For some reason, the commander refused to listen to him.

“Thirty seconds to turn,” Goalie said. “So far, so good.”

“Careful, now,” Guru reminded her. “Almost time to turn the Weasels loose.”

“Turn in five, four, three, two, one, NOW!”

Guru put 512 into a right turn, headed for the IP. “Miller Lead, Rambler Lead. Time for you guys to go to work.”

“Roger that,” Miller Lead replied. He and his wingman pulled up, and then all sorts of radars came up. Followed by “Magnum” calls as HARM or Standard-ARM missiles hunted for the offending radars.

“IP dead ahead,” Goalie said.

“Flight, Lead. Stand by....and PULL!” Guru called, pulling 512 into a steep climb. He looked out to the east as he did, and saw the supply dump. “Target in sight. Lead's in hot!” He rolled right, then lined up the target for the bomb run.

“Switches set,” Goalie said. “Everything in one pass.”

“Good girl,” Guur said. He concentrated on lining up the northern part of the supply dump in his pipper, ignoring the 23-mm and 57-mm flak that was coming up. “And.....HACK!” Guru hit the pickle button, and a dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes came off the racks. “Lead's off target,” he called as he pulled away and headed north.

In Dublin's City Hall, the East German divisional commander was talking with his Chief of Staff, as well as the Mayor. For the moment, he was in command of the area, not the fat Soviet Colonel that commanded the local garrison. Though the garrison had largely left the local population alone, the arrival of the East Germans meant that “peace, law, and order” would be strictly enforced. “Mayor, though I have no intention of becoming a member of the Stasi, I will take whatever measures to see to it that offenses committed against my troops are punished.”

“And that means killing people who had nothing to do with anything that happened,” the Mayor replied. He had been a prewar City Councilman, and had been appointed to the job by the Soviet garrison commander after the untimely deaths of two of his predecessors.

“If we cannot find the culprits, then we must show that we mean business-” the Major General said. He was interrupted by an air raid siren sounding, then the sounds of antiaircraft fire and SAMs being launched.

At the supply dump, the divisional supply officer was going over requisitions from the various regiments and battalions. His musings were interrupted by the air raid alarm, then the anti-aircraft guns opening fire. He stepped outside his officer trailer-found at the site of a prewar construction company, and saw an F-4 coming right at his dump. The man stood frozen in fear as a dozen bombs came off the F-4, and one of the bombs landed only ten meters from him......

“SHACK!” Goalie called as Guru pulled away and their bombs exploded. “Got a few secondaries!”

“Good ones?” Guru asked as an SA-6, either launched optically or just plain “dumb” flew across their flight path.

'Looks like ammo going up.”

“Those are crowd pleasers,” said Guru as he headed north towards I-20.

“Two's in!” Kara called as she put 520 on its attack run. She took the south side of the dump, and saw the CO's bombs going off, and several secondaries followed as a result. Kara lined up some fuel tanks, and ignored the flak coming up. Just before she dropped, a GUN warning came up, then just as suddenly went off as a missile, probably a Standard-ARM, hit the battery's fire-control radar trailer. “Too bad, Franz,” she muttered as the fuel dump came into the pipper. “HACK!” She hit the pickle button, and her twelve Mark-82s came off the racks. Kara put 520 on a northerly course as she pulled away. “Two off safe.”

At the supply dump, the staff had taken shelter for the most part, but a political officer was running around, shouting uselessly. To the staff, who had been bombed or shelled numerous times, the Party man was a useless appendage, and would only get himself killed. No great loss, some of the enlisted men said to each other. Then they ducked as Kara's F-4 came over, and not only did the political officer get blown apart by a bomb, but several bombs fell on the fuel depot, sending several fireballs into the air.

“Righteous!” Brainiac yelled in 520's rear office. “You got the fuel dump!”

“Shit hot!” Kara yelled back. She, too, headed for I-20, and ignored the flak coming up. 'You listening to Preacher?”

“No, but that display would give anyone religion.”

“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called. She put her F-4 in on where the CO had laid his bombs, and with her CBUs, could make things hot for those in the target area-literally. Though the CO's bombs had set off quite a few secondaries, and more sympathetic detonations followed as fires reached ammo storage, there was still more to hit, and she chose the motor pool on the north side. She, too, ignored the 23-mm flak that was coming up, and even an SA-7 or SA-14 that flew past her bird without tracking. “Steady....” Sweaty muttered as she lined up the motor pool in her pipper. “HACK!” She called, hitting the pickle button and releasing a dozen CBU-58/Bs onto the motor pool. “Three's off target.”

Below, the assistant supply officer was yelling at his men to take cover. He had just seen his commander blown to pieces by an American bomb,and he knew from past experience that American aircraft didn't come singly or in a pair. Glancing southward, he saw an F-4 coming in, and he ducked into his slit trench. More Imperialist aircraft coming in.....

“Good hits!” Preacher yelled.

“How'd we do?” Sweaty asked as she banked to avoid an unguided SA-6 that came up suddenly. The SAM flew past the F-4, and as she headed north,

“Got a few secondaries, and Guru's are still going off, bless his heart.”

“I'll go with that,” replied Sweaty as she put her bird towards I-20.


“Four's in hot!” Hoser called. He was last in, as usual, and though the Weasels were doing their job, the unguided flak was still intense. Hoser ignored the flak as he lined up the southern part of the fuel dump, where Kara had blasted the fuel depot, and he saw another section of fuel drums that hadn't been hit. Okay, then....He lined the unhit portion of the fuel dump in his pipper, while KT ducked involuntarily as an SA-7 or -14 flew past the right side of the F-4. “Steady.....HACK!” Hoser hit the pickle button, and twelve more CBU-58/Bs came off the racks. Then Hoser leveled off and headed north, clear of the target. “Four's off target.”

Below, the deputy commander stuck his head out of the slit trench. He saw the carnage at the motor pool, and started to get up when he saw another Fascist F-4 coming in at him. The East German Major stood there, transfixed, as Hoser's aircraft released its bombs, Just as the F-4 flew overhead, someone pulled him back into the trench as the bomblets found their mark,exploding the fuel drums.

KT yelled, “Barbeque time!” as their bomblets went off.

“We got what Kara didn't?” Hoser asked.

“We did.”

Hoser grinned underneath his oxygen mask. 'Time to get out of Dodge,” he said as he set course for I-20.

“Rambler Flight, Lead. Form on me,” Guru said.

“Rambler, Miller,” called the Weasel lead. “We'll keep 'em busy while you clear out. MAGNUM!” And a HARM missile flew off the F-4G.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. Just as he did, Kara in 520 joined up on him in combat spread. “Sweaty, where are you?”

“Got you in sight, and Hoser right behind me,” replied Sweaty.

“Copy that. Miller Lead, we're clear.”

“Roger, Rambler. Miller Flight coming out.”

The four F-4Es and two F-4Gs formed up and headed north, leaving a burning and exploding supply depot in their wake. And defenders who were now very nervous about any kind of approaching aircraft.

At the city hall, the divisional commander picked himself up from the floor of his office. “Well, Mayor, what do you have to say about this?”

“Well, General,” the Mayor replied. “Maybe you're worried about the wrong thing. It's not the Resistance you have to worry about. It's the Air Force.'


In 512, Guru scanned the way ahead. They were egressing right over the East German 11th Motor-Rifle Division, and he was gambling that the East German air-defense people would not expect any American aircraft to first appear behind them. As they headed north, an SA-8 came up, and Miller One-two fired his last HARM to kill the threat. Only when they crossed I-20 did anyone breathe easy. “Miller One-One, Rambler. Good job, fella. Maybe we can do this again.”

'Anytime, Rambler,” Miller One-one replied.

Both flights then headed for the tankers, and as they were refueling from the KC-135s, the crews noticed the HVUCAP breaking off and headed south. “What's up with those guys?” Kara called.

“Don't know, but I'll check,” Guru replied. “Crystal Palace, Rambler One-one.”

“Rambler, Crystal Palace,” the controller replied “Threat bearing one-eight-three for thirty-five, low, closing.”

Heads perked up in F-4 cockpits as they heard that. “They're close,” Goalie said.

“Lead, Sweaty. Want us to go after 'em?” Sweaty asked.

“Negative,” Guru called. He watched as four F-15s and four F-16s went after the inbounds.

“Rambler One-one, Crystal Palace. Say air-to-air ordnance.” The call came from the AWACS.

“Crystal Palace, Rambler. Four Heat and two radar, full guns.” Guru replied.

“Copy. Orbit, and assume CAP.” The controller ordered.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. The CO, and the others, assumed an orbit between the tankers and the threat, while four F-16s still orbited above the tankers. Off in the distance, they watched several aircraft fall in flames, while calls of “Fox One,” and “Fox two” came over the radio. Then four F-15s and three F-16s returned. “One of the -16s went down.”

“Who were they going after?” Goalie asked.

“That is a very good question,” Guru replied. “Crystal Palace, Rambler One-one.”

“Rambler, Crystal Palace. Go.” The AWACS controller replied.

“Crystal Palace, Rambler. We need to hit home plate. How long do you want us here?”

“Stand by,” the reply came. After what seemed like an eternity, but was only a couple of minutes, the controller got back to him. “Rambler, Crystal Palace. Waiting on Eagles and Vipers.” That last meant F-16s. “ETA four minutes.”

“Copy that,” replied Guru.

The flight orbited for four minutes, then four F-15s and four more F-16s came in from the north. “Glad to see those guys.” Goalie said.

“You're not the only one,” Guru said. “Crystal Palace, Rambler One-one. Are we clear to RTB?”

“Rambler One-one, Crystal Palace,” the reply came back. “Clear to RTB.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. 'Rambler, Lead. On me and let's go home.”

Rambler Flight headed north, back towards Sheppard, and as they did, Sweaty noticed aircraft off in the distance. “Lead, Sweaty. Have a look at your Nine.”

Then the call came from AWACS,as a female voice came over the radio. “Rambler, threat bearing Two-seven-five, for forty. Cobra, threat bearing Two-zero-zero for fifty. Mustang, threat bearing One-eight-one for fifty-five. Knight One-one, threat bearing one-nine-five for thirty-five.” And the controllers continued notifying aircraft of threats. Followed by, “Clear to engage. Kill. Repeat: KILL.”

“You heard her,” Guru replied. “Rambler One-one copies.” He put 512 into a turn, and the rest followed.

Unknown to anyone, the Soviets had not learned the lesson of going after AWACS, and sent another MiG-23 regiment after the AWACS, while sending squadron-sized elements of MiG-21s after the various tanker tracks. But there had been a mix-up, and two attempts at going for tankers had been botched. Which meant that there would be plenty of American fighters to go for the inbound MiG-23s.

In 512, Guru went to full military power, and headed for the MiGs. “See if you can pick them up.”

“I'm tryin,” Goalie said as she worked the radar controls. “They're low. Too much ground clutter.”

“Lightning One-zero-one, FOX THREE!” Someone called over the radio. Fox Three meant AIM-54 Phoenix, and that also meant F-14s in the area. Then several other Fox Three calls came from other Tomcats.

“Lead, two,” Kara called. “Somebody just blew away a bunch of MiGs.”

Guru looked ahead. Sure enough, there were at least a dozen aircraft falling in flames, while the remaining MiGs climbed on full power. Then the MiG-23s split. Some kept going ahead, while others turned to face their attackers. Then Guru's EW warning came. A radar signal appeared on the EW repeater, with a “23” next to it. “Flight, Lead. Music on, and let's go get 'em.”

“Copy, Lead,” Kara said.

“Three copies,' Sweaty.

'Four,” Hoser.


Guru checked his radar repeater. Four blips appeared on the scope, and they were headed for Rambler Flight. “Go boresight,” he told Goalie.

“Roger that,” she replied. That meant that the radar was set to the pilot's pipper.

Guru went to auto-acquisition, and lined up a target. At ten miles, he had a full system lock. “FOX ONE!” He called, sending an AIM-7E Sparrow after the MiG. Then he fired again. “FOX ONE again!”

“Starbuck has a FOX ONE!” Kara called. She, too, sent two Sparrow missiles after the MiGs.

The MiG-23s were trying to lock up the Americans when their own Sirena-3 RWRs went off. The MiGs scattered as Sparrow missiles came towards them.

Guru watched as one of his Sparrows did a barrel roll before turning off to the left,away from the MiGs, while the second flew halfway to the target before exploding prematurely. “Damn it!”

Kara, too, watched helplessly as her first Sparrow plain missed the target. The second one appeared to track, then it just burned out and fell away. “Mother-humping.....They're breaking,” She called. The MiGs were splitting up. Two going left, two right.

“Copy. Two. On me. Sweaty, you and Hoser take your shots.”

“Roger that!” Sweaty replied, followed by her own missile call. “FOX ONE!” Two more AIM-7s flew off from an F-4. And Sweaty gave a scowl underneath her oxygen mask as one Sparrow just fell away, a dud. The second seemed to track a MiG, only to have the MiG-23 pull a turn tight enough to defeat the missile.

“Rambler One-four, FOX ONE!” Hoser called. He, too, ripple-fired his two AIM-7s, and one flew past the second element's wingman to the right. The MiG pilot turned to the right, which solved the problem for his second missile, for the AIM-7 speared the MiG just in front of the tail, blowing the tail off the Flogger, and sending it down in flames. “SPLASH!”

“Good kill, Hoser,' Guru called. He had switched from RADAR to HEAT, and both he and Kara were closing in on the lead element. Guru uncaged a Sidewinder, and it was growling in his headset. Then it growled loud. Missile lock. He squeezed the trigger on the control stick. “FOX TWO!”, sending an AIM-9P after the MiG.

The MiG leader saw the F-4 fire a missile, then he pulled a tighter turn. He knew the Sidewinder couldn't maintain missile lock in turns greater than 6G, so he buried the stick in his gut, hoping to defeat the missile.

“Double-damn!” Guru yelled. The MiG had defeated the AIM-9 shot. Then he calmed down, and did a barrel roll to try and gain another firing angle. Kara was right alongside her leader, as a wingmate should, and both were trying to get Sidewinder lock. Just as Guru gained lock, he heard a call.

“Outlaw One-four, FOX ONE!”

“Who's he?” Goalie asked.

“Who cares?” Guru replied, squeezing the trigger. “FOX TWO!” And another AIM-9 came off of 512's rails. The Sidewinder was tracking, then suddenly, one, then two, missile trails came down from above, as two AIM-7s tracked down the MiG-23 and exploded it.

“SPLASH ONE!” the call came.

“WTF?” Goalie yelled. “That sumbitch took our kill!”

“He did,” Guru angrily replied as his Sidewinder flew into the fireball and exploded. Then one, and another F-15C flew by, buffeting the F-4s in their jetwash.

“Lead, two,” Kara called. “Somebody just took your kill.”

“Tell me about it!” Guru replied. “Where's the other Flogger?” He was concerned about the MiG wingman.

In both 512 and 520, pilots and GIBs scanned the sky. Then Brainiac called him. “Flogger at Ten O'clock low, going away.”

Guru looked down and saw the MiG, with an F-15 hot on his tail. The F-15 then fired a Sidewinder, and the missile tracked down the MiG and exploded it. Then came a call that no fighter pilot wanted to hear. “Rambler Lead, Break!”

Instantly, Guru and Kara reacted. He broke high and left, while Kara went low and right. As he turned, he saw two MiG-23s coming down, with two F-4s right behind them. “Thank you, whoever you are,”

“My pleasure,” a familiar voice came over the radio. It was Dave Golen. “Cobra Lead, FOX TWO!” He fired a Sidewinder, and the AIM-9 flew up the first MiG's tailpipe and exploded it. The MiG-23 tumbled out of the sky in flames, and as it did, the canopy came off, and the pilot ejected. 'Splash one!”

“Good kill,” Kara yelled.

“Cobra One-two, FOX TWO!” Sandi Jenkins called. She had locked up the second MiG and fired her own Sidewinder. Again, the missile tracked to the target and the MiG exploded. This time, though, there was no chute as the plane disintegrated in a ball of fire.

'Good kill, Sandi,” Guru said. “Sweaty, what's your posit?”

“Two miles south, Hoser's pressing a bandit,” Sweaty replied.

Sure enough, Hoser was gaining on the last of the original four MiGs to confront Rambler Flight. He gained Sidewinder lock and fired. “FOX TWO!” Again, a Sidewinder came off the rail, and tracked down a MiG-23. The missile flew up the MiG's tailpipe and exploded. This time, the pilot managed to eject. “Splash!”

“Sierra Hotel, Hoser,” Guru said. “Crystal Palace, Rambler One-one. Say bogey dope? We are near bingo fuel and need to RTB.”

“Rambler One-one, Crystal Palace. Threats all outbound. Clear to RTB.”

“Copy that,” Guru replied. “Rambler, form up on me and let's go home.”

All four F-4s formed up, and Dave Golen's Cobra Flight joined up as well. Then they headed back to Sheppard. As they did, the crews noticed quite a few aircraft crash sites with smoke coming up from where aircraft had crashed. After contacting the tower, they had to wait while several flights that were fuel critical came in. Once it was their turn, Hoser did a couple of victory rolls to signal MiG kills,while Dave and Sandi did solo ones, then they formed up and landed.

As they taxied, Ms. Wendt and her crew were filming. They had just sent their segment to Sydney via satellite when the alarm rang on the base, and instead of going to a shelter, the crew had gone outside to film whatever happened. Instead of an air battle overhead, they saw the action was elsewhere, but aircraft came in, and several pilots were holding up fingers to signal kills. Then Ms. Wendt noticed the CO's flight taxiing in. She saw the Major had no fingers up, nor did the Wild Thing. Sweaty taxied by, and she didn't have any up, either. Then the last plane, Hoser's, came by, and he held up two. And Ms.Wendt noticed the ground crew erupting. “They cheering because he got two and the rest got one?”

“That's it. He's top gun for the day.' Kodak Griffith replied.

Guru taxied 512 into its revetment, and after shutting down, stood up in his cockpit. “Four and done,” he said.

“Glad that's over,” Goalie said as she did the same.

Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, brought over the Crew Ladder, and both pilot and GIB got down. “Major, how'd it go?”

“Hit the target, and then got into a furball on the way back. Some F-15 jockey stole a kill from us,” the CO growled. “Like to know who that was.”

Goalie nodded. “Same here. Where are those guys flying from?”

“Not sure, but I'll find out,” Guru said, none too happy. “Sergeant we still have an hour of daylight. Get her turned around for air-to-air at least.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then get her ready. We've got weather coming in overnight and in the morning, but we'll be at it in the afternoon,” Major Wiser said. “No problems or issues, and she's working like a champ.”

“Thanks, sir,” Crowley said. “We'll get her up and ready. You heard the man,” he told his ground crew. “Let's get the CO's bird ready to go.”

“Good man, Sergeant,” Guru nodded as he and Goalie headed out of the revetment. When they got there, they found Kara and Brainiac there,and neither one was in a good mood. “Kara,'

'Boss. Remind me when I have a kid. He or she is NOT going to be an Eagle driver. That asshole stole our kill.” Starbuck growled.

“'Our' kill?” Goalie asked.

“If you had missed your second Sidewinder shot, I might have had a chance,” Kara shot back. “Who was that guy?”

“Probably somebody with buck fever. Can't get them all, and we know it,” Guru said. “Come on, let's see Hoser. He's now two away from ace, and Dave Golen got his fifth.”

“Sandi Jenkins got her third,” Goalie reminded them.

“She did,” Kara nodded.

“Let's go,” Major Wiser said. They rounded up Sweaty and Preacher, who were just as furious at the F-15 jocks, then they came to Hoser's bird. He and KT had just climbed down from their mount, and were shaking hands with the ground crew. “Hoser! Two more for you guys. You two need two more and you're officially aces.”

“That'd be good, Boss,” Hoser said, while KT was grinning from ear to ear.

'It would,” Guru nodded. Then Dave Golen, Sandi Jenkins, and their GIBs came over. “Dave, Sandi. Looks like congratulations are in order. You're an ace in F-4s, Dave. Three in '73, four in F-16s back in '82, and now...”

“More kills in F-4s than you do in F-16s,” Sweaty said.

“Going back to Double-Ugly when you get back home?” Kara asked with a grin. “You can tell those F-16 guys of yours a few things.”

“I can,” Golen replied with a grin. “Too bad it wasn't a gun shot kill like in our book, but I'll take it. And Sandi here....two more for her and she'll be an ace.”

“Good work, Sandi,” Major Wiser said, shaking her hand. “Colonel Rivers with you again?”

“I think so, sir,” Sandi nodded. “I swear I heard him saying 'Good kill'. I can't explain it.”

Goalie looked at her squadron mate, then her CO. “What was that old movie with Spencer Tracy back in the '40s? Where he played a veteran pilot who'd been killed, and he was a ghostly mentor to a rookie?”

Kara quipped, “I don't care for ghost stories unless they're around a campfire.” She turned to the CO. “Now what?”

“Get ready to possibly go back out,” Major Wiser told everyone. “The birds will be turned around for air-to-air, just in case. Ivan sent at least a regiment out on that sweep, and I'd like to know what they were up to.”

“Going after the AWACS again?” Golen asked.

'If they were, they burned up most of a regiment at least. And they didn't even get close,” the CO said. “I'd also like to know who those F-15s were.”

“The ones who stole at least two kills?” Sweaty wanted to know.

“Those chumps?” The Major asked. Seeing several heads nod, he went on. “Yeah. If they were taking a BVR shot, one thing. But charging in unannounced and doing some poaching? Different story.”

“And where was AWACS?” Kara asked. “They were not on the ball.”

“Probably too busy,” Goalie said.

“Come on. Let's go debrief, see if Licon knows anything, and see if we do have to go back out,” Major Wiser said.
__________________
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

Old USMC Adage
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  #263  
Old 03-22-2016, 09:27 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Location: Auberry, CA
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And the day is done, but there's another one coming:



335th TFS Ops Building: 1615 Hours Central War Time:


Major Wiser went into his office, having finished the debriefing. He had told his flight to keep their flight gear handy, just in case of a scramble or other air defense mission on short notice, such as backing up the F-15s and F-16s that were CAP for the AWACS and tankers. It had been a while since the 335 had fly those missions, but one never knew. When the CO got to his office, he found the Exec waiting for him. “Mark.”

“Boss,” the XO said. “How'd you do in that furball?'

“Had an F-15 jock steal a kill from me,” the CO said, and by the tone of voice, Ellis could tell that the CO was still angry.” Do me a favor: try and find out who Outlaw One-four was. I'd like to tear him a new hole for poaching.”

“I'll try, but you know....”

“I know. Call signs change every so often. If you can't find out, I'll talk to Colonel Brady. How'd you do?”

“Got a MiG-23 confirmed and a probable,' Ellis said.

“A probable?” Major Wiser asked. “How'd that happen?”

Ellis showed with his hands, like all fighter pilots did. “Got in behind him, and took a Sidewinder shot, then someone called for me to break. I broke right and rolled, and saw an F-16 chasing another MiG. Then I rolled back in, and saw the -23 falling in flames. But since I didn't see the missile strike on the guy-”

“Licon couldn't confirm the kill,” the CO finished.

“Yeah,” Ellis said. “Then I rolled in behind another MiG-23, and took the shot. Sidewinder flew right up his tailpipe and he blew up.”

“That one, Licon could confirm.”

“Yeah,” the Exec said. “Happens sometimes. You've got probables, right?”

“Three or four,” the CO said. “So, what do you have for me before today wraps?”

“We have twenty birds for tomorrow, once the weather clears,” Ellis reported. “Everyone's back. No birds with battle damage, Kev O'Donnell says.” Capt. Kevin O'Donnell was the Squadron's Maintenance Officer.

“Okay, anything on the two birds due from McClellan?” Major Wiser asked. “We've been waiting for almost a week.”

“Should be here day after tomorrow, and before you ask, no word yet on the crews.”

“All right,” the CO nodded. “What else?”

“Scroungers will be out, Ross says,' The Exec handed the CO a list of material. “Before you freak out, half of the stuff they want is for horsetrading.”

The Major looked at the list. “That explains some of this stuff. I was about to ask why we need 40 cases of WD-40. The brake fluid, engine oil, and hydraulic fluid, I can understand.” Then the CO looked at another item. “Mark, we eat at the Marines' Mess Tent. What's with 350 canned hams?”

“Uh, for horsetrading with the Army,” Ellis said. “Ross knows somebody who has access to a lot of captured supplies from that Pueblo Pocket. A Polish division was one of those caught in the pocket, they say, so....”

“Say no more,” Major Wiser said. He finished scanning the list. “Just so you know. I talked with Ross earlier. He has orders to find us another Pave Tack pod.”

Ellis stared at his CO. “Boss, those things go for a million dollars a pop. What-”

“Mark, you and I have flown enough PGM missions that can be counted on one hand,” the CO reminded his Exec. “We've got crews qualified and trained to use Pave Tack and Pave Spike, and we have two of the former pods and three of the latter. Get another Pave Tack and we can go out and hit some point stuff. I'd rather spend a GBU-10 or two on some 'Liberation Broadcasting” radio or TV transmitter instead of walking a dozen Mark-82s across the transmitter site, to name one example. Hitting pontoon bridges is another.”

“Understood, Boss,” Ellis nodded.

'What else?”

“Frank Carson's got another complaint. This one's about Sandi Jenkins.”

“What?” The CO asked.

“He says she flashed him as she was coming out of the shower this morning.” Ellis said, handing the CO the signed complaint.

Major Wiser scanned the paper. “She said-and this is his version-'You saw me naked on your terms, so you get to see me on mine.' Then she opened the towel. Well, that might be the only payback she ever gets.”

“You're right about that,” Ellis said. “What about the complaint?”

“Feed it to the shredder.” the CO nodded. “Along with anything else he sends that is not a transfer request.”

“With pleasure,” replied the XO, who fed the paper to the office shredder.

“Now, before we hit the club, something just occurred to me, and it's about Frank.”

“What do you mean?” Ellis asked.

The CO looked at his Exec with due seriousness. “Pray we don't lose any flight leaders. Because he is technically qualified as a Flight Lead. I don't want to put him back in that slot unless I have no other choice.”

“I don't blame you, Major,” Ellis said. “Don't want to make that call if I can help it.”

“If anything happens to me, Mark? You will have to make that call.” The CO reminded his Exec. “Not that anything will, but...”

“I know. He's done okay as an element lead,” Ellis reminded his CO.

“And that's what he's best at,” the Major commented. “Other than making an ass of himself. I know, he's still Flight Lead qualified, but you know his record.”

“Having six crews shot out from under him is not the mark of a good flight leader,” Ellis nodded, remembering what the CO had told him and the other key players in the 335th about Carson's record.
“How about getting Kara qualified?”

“She's element lead qualified, but we haven't lost anyone there yet,” the CO said. “Hate to say this, but that's the only way she's getting an element is by attrition. And there's several others in the same boat she is.”

“And she has to have that combat time as an element lead before she's qualified for Flight Lead,” Ellis noted.

Major Wiser nodded. “You got it. Now, if Frank has to be bumped up, I don't want this just being my decision. I want your input, and Don Van Loan's as well.”

“I can tell you right now: I'll support that call, but I can tell you're not that happy about it. And neither am I.”

“And Don shares that view, in all likelihood,” the CO finished. “Still, I want to hear from him anyway. Just hope we don't have to make that call.”

“You and I both, Boss,” Ellis said.

The Major nodded. “Part of the job, either as CO or XO. Come on,” he said, standing up from the desk. “Let's hit the Club.”

Before they could even open the office door, there was a knock. “Now who's that?” Ellis asked.

“Come on in and show yourself,” Major Wiser said.

The door opened, and it was one of the Admin NCOs. “Sir,” the male Staff Sergeant said. “Major Carson wants to see you.”

“What does that twerp want?” the CO asked.

“He didn't say, sir,” the harried NCO said. “He just wants to see you.”

“Send him in,” Major Wiser said. “Mark, stay here, in case I need backup. Or help in throwing him out.”

“With pleasure,” the Exec said.

Major Wiser decided to show just how serious he took anything Carson said. He went to the front of his desk and sat on a corner. Then the officer everyone in the 335th loathed came in. Both the CO and XO saw that Carson had gotten out of his flight gear and into his undress whites. And his salute was Academy perfect.

“Sir,” Carson said as he saluted.

“What is it now, Frank?' Major Wiser said as he sketched a return salute. “It's been a long day, I'm a little pissed at some F-15 jocks, not to mention being tired, and right now, getting something to eat is at the top of my agenda. Not listening to you. So get it out of you.”

“Sir,” Carson said, and both the CO and XO could tell the contempt in his voice. “I am wondering what kind of action you'll be taking about the complaints I've filed.”

“You mean the ones about various female officers showing you portions of their anatomy?

“Yes, sir, and that kind of conduct-”

“You're lucky that's all they did,” Major Wiser shot back. “If it wasn't worth a possible court-martial, any one of them would've been justified in slugging you. Since one of them wanted to take that chance, they did the next best thing. Or were you deliberately trying to get one of them to slug you?”

“No....sir,” Carson replied. And again, the CO and XO noted the contempt in the Major's tone of voice.

“And what about the other complaint?”

“Sandi Jenkins doing the same thing to you this morning? Well, considering the history the two of you have? She found a way to get back at you.”

“There are still such things as Air Force rules and regulations, not to mention standards-”

“If I were you, Frank, I'd shut up before I said another word about that. Because of what's in your 201 File, you are a bloody hypocrite when it comes to that,” Major Wiser reminded Carson. “And I'll tell you this now: you have taken your last female airman to bed, because any of the enlisted women who work for you will bypass your signature and take their applications to the Exec here,” the CO said, nodding at the Exec.

“What?” Carson stammered.

“Yeah,” Ellis said. “Everyone in this unit knows your scam, and your price for signing a female airman's application for Airman to Pilot. So we're bypassing you. I sign'em instead, and then the CO gets the application.”

“We're cutting you out,” Major Wiser said. “You have had your last victim, Frank. And as for your complaints? I put them right where they belong.”

A smile came to Carson's face. “In their files, I trust?”

“No,” Major Wiser said. He nodded at the office shredder. “That's a more appropriate place, I'd say. And I'm sending anything you send me, other than a signed request for a transfer, straight there.”

“You shredded them!? The indignation in Carson's voice was clear to both the CO and XO.

Major Wiser grinned. “Colonel Rivers did the same thing, remember? I'm just carrying on in his stead.” Then the CO got into Carson's face. “The only thing of yours I'm not shredding is a signed request for a transfer. Anytime, Frank. Just come to me with that paper and I'll happily sign 'Approved.' The only regret is that I'd be inflicting you on a fellow officer who'd be wondering what he'd done to deserve you showing up.”

“And what about New Year's Eve, Boss?” Ellis asked.

“Thanks for reminding me,” Major Wiser said. He shot a thumb at the calendar. “Remember, Frank: 11:59 PM on New Year's Eve. If you haven't shaped up by then? You're out of my squadron. And if you fuck up just once before then? You are out. Period. And pray that any such fuckup doesn't get anyone killed. I'll kick you out of here so fast you'll never know what hit you. Comprende?”

Carson looked at this...OTS-trained peasant from California who was his CO, and his lackey, who had gone to Ohio State and AFROTC with a mix of contempt and anger. It galled him that both were in command positions above him and nothing he'd tried to do had changed that. “Yes....sir.”

“I hope you do, Frank. Now, is there anything else?” Major Wiser asked.

“No, sir.....”

“Good. Then get out of my sight!”

“Yes, sir....” Carson said. He snapped a perfect salute, did an about-face, and left the office, slamming the door on the way out.

“That is not a happy person, Boss,” observed Ellis.

'And thanks to General Tanner,” the CO said. “JAG and OSI will ignore anything Frank sends them, and so will the IG's office. Anything from Frank is considered a frivolous complaint. And there's nothing he can do. Other than wail to whichever Senator or Congressman his dad bought and paid for.”

“Who will complain to the Secretary of the Air Force, but can't do much otherwise,” Ellis said. “And the headlines in the Boston Globe if said Senator tried blocking AF promotions in the Senate over this would not be very complimentary. Even if it is Teddy Kennedy.”

“No doubt,” Major Wiser nodded. Then there was another knock on the door. “Show yourself and come in!”

Goalie came in, in her flight suit but no G-suit or harness. “Guru, we've been relieved of our air defense tasking, and Van Loan asked me to give you this.” She handed the CO a paper. “Hot off the fax.”

“What is it?” Ellis asked.

“Info on the two new crews we're getting. The pilots?” Guru said. “One's an astronomy major, the other's got a Master's degree in Applied Physics.”

Goalie looked at her CO and pilot. “Great, a future astronaut and a future egghead.”

“Down, girl,” the CO said. “We need those folks, too.”

“And the GIBs? Ellis asked.

“One's a criminology major from the University of Hawaii, the other? A Poli-Sci major from BYU.” Major Wiser handed the paper to his Exec. “Three men and one woman, Mark. See about billeting.”

“Will do, Boss.”

“What'd Carson want?” Goalie asked.

“The complaint about you guys flashing him. Put it right where it belongs,” Guru said. “In the shredder. He did one on Sandi Jenkins as well, and it got the same treatment.”

“Good to hear,” Goalie smiled. “See you in a few?”

“After I get out of my flight gear,” Guru said. “And tell Kara that if she wants to see how our guests from Down Under handle poker or the pool table? The leash is cut. We'll see how they handle it.”

“With pleasure,” Goalie said.

“All right: see you in a few,” Guru said.

Goalie smiled and headed on out.

“Why, Boss, do I get the feeling that everything we said to Frank went in one ear and out the other?”
Ellis said.

“I know. At least it was on the record, Mark. Come on, let's get out of our flight gear, and head to the Club. Some good food, a beer or three, and good company. At least twelve-hour doesn't kick in until 2200 tonight, with this weather coming in.” The CO nodded.

“One good thing about the weather. We get to sleep in.”

“We do,” Guru nodded. “Let's go.”


Officer's Club Tent, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1700 Hours Central War Time:


When Guru and Ellis went into the Officer's Club, they found the place already a bit raucous. With an ace to celebrate, as well as several other MiG-killers, and the partial stand-down the next morning, people were in a celebratory mood. Guru noticed Goalie, Sweaty, and Kara sitting at a table, and he nodded, as he fully intended to join them and the GIBs, but he had some business to take care of. He went to the bar and found Colonel Brady talking with Trevor Scott, Ms. Wendt's cameraman. “Colonel,” Guru nodded. “Mr. Scott,”

“Major,” Brady said. “How'd things go up there?”

“It was a brawl, Colonel,” Guru said. “Sir, can you find out who Outlaw One-four was?”

“What happened?”

“Took a Sidewinder shot on a MiG-23, and right after I fired, heard this guy call a Fox One.”

“Fox one?” Scott asked.

“That's the code for a Sparrow missile shot,” Brady explained. “Go on, Major.”

“Well, sir, my GIB and I see one, then two, Sparrows come down and take out the MiG I just shot at. The Sidewinder flew into the fireball and detonated. Then two F-15s came down and we got in their jetwash,” Guru spat. “That sumbitch took my kill.”

“Why the anger?” Scott asked.

“Fighter pilots are territorial,” Brady explained. “We don't like party crashers in our hunting grounds.”

“And this guy probably took the shot without checking IFF,” Guru added with a scowl. “He could've just as easily locked me up, and we could have had a fratricide incident.”

“What you in the media call 'Friendly Fire',” Brady pointed out. “No fun for all involved.”

“So, this guy pretty much came into your fight and started shooting?” Scott asked.

“If AWACS told him to, yeah, and nothing we can do about that,” Guru nodded. “But if this flight came in on their own, looking for some action, different story.”

“Don't worry, Major,” said Brady. “I was up there myself, and heard quite a bit. I'll see if I can find out who those F-15s were, and see if I can't tear them a new hole. And if I can't? General Tanner will.”

“Thanks, Colonel,” Guru said. “Chances are, though, we may never know, or, if we do, we'll find out it was somebody with buck fever.”

Colonel Brady nodded. “Chances are, that's what it was. Just take your anger out for a little swim, and go from there, Major.” Brady waved the barkeep over. “What'll it be, Major?”

“Any Sam Adams?” Guru asked the barkeep.

“Not for a couple more days, at least,” the barkeep replied. “Sorry, Major.”

“Bud, then.”

The barkeep nodded, then opened a bottle and handed it to him. “Here you go, Major.”

“Thanks,” Guru said. “Well, Colonel, we can celebrate a partial stand-down tomorrow, and I, for one will be glad to sleep in.”

“That we can, Major,” Brady said. “And you guys have another ace, even if he is technically an 'observer'. “ He was referring to Major Dave Golen.

“And we can't report it,” Scott said. “Jana said there were several things we can't touch, and Israelis over here doing more than observing happens to be one of 'em. Oh, well. Still a lot for us to cover.”

“There is that,” Guru nodded. “And we've got a crew that's only two kills away from making ace themselves. They got two today.” He nodded towards Hoser and KT, who were talking with a couple of Marine F-4 crewers.

Scott looked at him, then nodded himself. “Saw them as they came in.”

“Glad to hear that,” Guru said. “And good luck with Doc Waters tomorrow. Plus the survival training.”

'It'll be worth it.”


After some additional conversation, Guru and Ellis took their leave, and noticed Goalie, Kara, Sweaty, Hoser, and their GIBs sitting at a table. “Got room for your CO and XO?” Guru asked.

“Have a seat, Boss,” Kara said. When the two were seated, she went on. “Hell of a day.”

“That it was, but look at it this way,” the CO said.

“Boss?”

“We didn't lose anyone, and nobody came back with holes in their birds,” Guru said. “That's always a good day.”

“Won't last forever,” Sweaty noted. “Like clockwork: we go a few days without losing anyone, then BAM! One or two planes go down on the same day.”

“If that happens,” Guru said. “Pray we don't lose a flight lead or two. Because if that happens...”

Heads turned to face the CO. “Frank becomes a flight lead again?” Sweaty asked, a look of shock on her face.

“If I have to,” Guru said. “If we only lose one, I'll put Dave Golen in as a flight lead, even if he is just an 'observer,”. But, if we lose two, I'll have no choice.”

“God forbid,” Preacher said. He quickly muttered a prayer, and the former seminary student hadn't forgotten his initial calling. “Hope God heard that one.”

“He'd better,” KT said. “I pity the folks who fly with him already.”

“Same here,” Goalie said.

“We all have that,” the CO nodded. “Okay, a little bit more of shop talk. We're getting two new birds from Japan via McClellan day after tomorrow, if all goes well. And we get to keep the crews who fly them in.”

“Fresh from Kingsley Field,” Kara said. “Four new FNGs.”

“We were all that, once,” Ellis said. “Even those who flew on Day One.”

Goalie looked at Kara, “Wasn't that long ago you were an FNG,” the CO's GIB reminded her.

“Guilty,” Kara admitted.

“Still, she's right,” Guru said. “Over fifty percent of our losses are people who go down before their first ten missions are done.” He looked at the people around the table. “Don't want to write any letters over the next week or so.”

Heads nodded at that. Everyone had been in an element or flight where a new crew hadn't lasted long. “Here's hoping that doesn't happen,” Kara said, raising her beer bottle.

“Hear, hear,” Sweaty said.

Just then, the Marine mess people arrived with dinner. Either pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy, with mixed vegetables, or, this being Texas, Barbeque chicken with chili and cornbread. After getting their meals and eating, the group kept yapping.

“Notice the food's gotten better since we got here?” Goalie asked.

“Except those sandwiches,” Kara growled. “They'll never change. Either something inside moves, or the tomatoes look back at you.”

'Yeah,” Guru said. “But, Colonel Brady told me this: they've got some civilians helping out. They used to be in the restaurant business in Wichita Falls prewar, and working with the military is one way they can pay us back. One of the guys working there used to run the BBQ joint to go to in Wichita Falls prewar. Because he had more than a dozen employees, the KGB called him a 'class enemy', and he went underground. They never found him, but they got back at him this way: when 23rd ID got here, some ALA die-hards made a stand in his establishment. The Army had to blow the place down around 'em. He wants to rebuild, but that'll have to wait. So he and a bunch of other restauranteurs are helping run the Marines' mess department. And using their old recipes.”

“And I doubt the Marine mess sergeants were happy about that, having a bunch of civilian chefs showing them how to do things,” Brainiac said.

“They weren't,” Ellis said. “Colonel Brady said that they either would get the help, or he'd send them to 5th Marine Division. They shut up pretty damned fast.”

“They won't change their roadkill sandwiches,” Kara said.

“No, but breakfast and dinner will be a whole lot better,” Guru said.

“Mostly,” Goalie laughed.

Then Guru got up, went to the bar, and rang the bell. “People! First, we got a couple things to celebrate. First, Hoser and KT from the 335th? They got two and three today, and miracle of miracles, one of 'em was a Sparrow shot, out of eight fired from my flight. Two more, and they become aces, so how's that?”

Shouts of approval, and applause, followed.

“Okay, next item! Major Dave Golen? Now, you may be an 'observer', but as far as the USAF is concerned? You're our latest ace. Five kills with the 335, add to that three from '73 and four from the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot in '82. Twelve kills, my friend, in three wars. And whoever the IDF's top scorer is? You can tell that guy that he's no longer top gun, because there's a few people here who have beaten him.”

“Will do, Guru,” Golen said, smiling. He wasn't too keen on telling the IDF's top ace that the Yanks had several people who had beaten his score.

“Now, Sandi Jenkins? You got number three today, and if you and your GIB get two more? Both of you are aces. And if you and Hoser get ace on the same day? This place will rock! Isn't that right, people?”
Guru asked the crowd of mostly AF and Marine aircrew.

“Hell, yes!” Kara said, and quite a few echoed that.

“We get a chance to sleep in, but come noon? We're back in the game. So drink up, and enjoy the downtime.” Guru said, to loud applause.


After dinner, people began gravitating to the pool tables or poker games, but Guru, Goalie, Sweaty, and Mark Ellis were at their table, eyes glued to a rerun of a USC-Notre Dame football game on ABC. “Glad for reruns?” Sweaty asked.

'Beats no sports at all,” Goalie replied. “At least the pro sports teams can travel. But college?”

“As long as they stay close by,” Ellis said. “Ohio and Ohio State still play each other.”

“And USC and UCLA, or Stanford and Cal,” Guru pointed out. “As long as it's a bus or train ride.”

Then Don Van Loan and Dave Golen came to the table. “Boss,” Van Loan said. “Got today's Stars and Stripes.” He threw a couple of copies of the newspaper on the table, and eager hands grabbed for parts.

“Anything good?”

“Bush announced he's running for a full term in his own right. Next year's an election year, after all,” Van Loan said.

“Anyone running against him?” Goalie asked.

“Don't know, but whoever it is? They'll be a sacrificial lamb,” Ellis said. “No way is Bush going to lose the nomination, let alone the General Election.”

Golen looked at them. “How are you going to have a Presidential Election with parts of three states still occupied?”

“The best way we can, Dave,” Guru said. “We had Congressional Elections back in '86. Congress passed a law saying that Congressmen and Senators whose States were partially or completely occupied could keep their seats until the first election after their districts were liberated. Guess what? Next year is the first one.”

“And most of the members of Congress who were anti-military before the war? They got thrown out by the voters last year,” Goalie added.
“The rest'll get what's coming to them this time around,” Ellis said. “The Senators, anyway. The Congressmen? They all got kicked out.”

Golen nodded understanding “And their reward for such sentiments is political oblivion?”

“That's about it,” Guru said.

Goalie looked at her pilot and CO. “Anything else that's interesting?”

“Bob Hope's having two USO tours. The first one's around Thanksgiving, the second around Christmas. No word on which theater he'll be going to first,” Guru said.

“Ever have one of those USO shows come by?” Golen asked.

“Christmas last year,” Goalie said. “Not the Bob Hope Show, but it was pretty good anyway. Had a band and a comedy act.”

“Who was which?” Scott asked, coming by. He'd attended and covered USO shows when he was in Southeast Asia.

“The band? Katrina and the Waves,” Ellis said. “They have a version of The Animals' We Gotta Get Out of This Place that's pretty good.”

“Most requested song on AFN's rock station right now,” Goalie added.

“And the comedy act?” Golen asked.

“Just Steve Martin and Robin Williams,” Guru said.

“Hey, have a look at this,” Sweaty said. “Says here the Dutch Foreign Minister got exposed as a KGB asset.”

'One more of the 'neutralists' being exposed for what they are,” Ellis spat. “He'll be on the next plane to Moscow, I bet.”

“Not quite, XO. He got arrested. Their Parliament’s called a 'no-confidence' vote, whatever that means, on their government. What's that mean?” Sweaty asked.

“It means that if the Parliament votes no on the government, it falls,” Golen said. The Israeli Knesset had a similar system. “They have to call new elections.”

Guru nodded. “Which means more of these rats get exposed for what they are,” the CO spat.

“No argument there,” Goalie said.

Then Ms. Wendt came over.”Major, good news. The segment about you aired on our morning news, and it'll air on the CBS Evening News tomorrow night.”

“Well, now,” said Guru. “Guess we'll have to tune in.”

“I think you'll like it,” Ms. Wendt said. “And I have a favor to ask.”

“Let me guess: you want a sit-down interview.”

“When you have the time.”

“Okay,” Guru said. “But on one condition. You have a follow-up with my entire flight. I want you to see how folks with differing levels of experience handle combat.”

“Deal,” Ms. Wendt said. “When?”

'Two or three days,” Guru nodded. “Remind me then.”

“Fair enough,” Ms. Wendt replied. She saw Kara at the Pool Table. “And that's the 'Wild Thing', I see.”

“Be warned,” Sweaty said. “She doesn't take IOUs, and very rarely takes checks. Have cash on hand if you lose to her.”

“And she's in a foul mood,” Goalie added. “General Tanner was on a visit a few days ago, and he beat her two nights in a row. She's out for blood.”

“To prove it wasn't a fluke,” Scott said. “Reminds me of a few people I knew in Saigon. The hotel bars had their share of pool hustlers.” He went off to the pool table to watch.

“And if he can't pay what he owes her?” Ms. Wendt asked.

The aircrews all looked at each other. Then Goalie said, “Well.....since you did ask, it involves the supply tent, a Coleman lantern for ambiance, maybe some music over an AM radio, and a sleeping bag...”

“I get the rest of the picture,” Ms. Wendt nodded. “She's a nymphomaniac?”

“If they gave out board certifications in that, she'd qualify,” said Guru. “But she's the best I've got when it comes to flying. And before you ask, it's not just this unit, but all over military aviation. We have a phrase that sums up our attitude: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow they may not separate us from the rest of the airplane.”

The reporter thought for a minute. “Because you people, as aircrew, do most of the fighting in the Air Force, and take most of the casualties?”

“That's about it,” Sweaty said. “Pararescue, Combat Controllers, and other 'special mission' guys, they do their share, and bases got overrun early on, and there's still Spetsnatz and air raids, but yeah.”

“TAC and SAC do most of the combat, and take most of the losses,” Goalie added.

“And so the Air Force, and presumably the other services, feels that you all have a right to get a little crazy when the occasion demands,” Ms. Wendt finished.

“That's pretty much it,” Guru said. He turned to Goalie. “Want one more? Two's my limit, even with twelve-hour kicking in at 2200.”

“Yeah, I'll take one more,” Goalie nodded.

“Got you,” Guru said. He got up and headed for the bar.

“Twelve-hour?” Ms. Wendt asked.

“Twelve-hour Rule,” Sweaty said. “No alcohol twelve hours before flying.”

“Oh.”

Guru went to the bar, got a couple more beers, then went back to the table. Then he noticed Kara and Scott talking. “Excuse me,” he said politely, then went over to Kara. “Kara, a word of warning.”

She came over to her CO. “Boss?”

“He's been around the block, and knows your kind of drill. From his old hangouts in Saigon. Just so you know.”

“Gotcha.”

“And Kara? If he beats you? Smile, nod, be polite, pay him, and come back tomorrow night. If he loses to you? Don't get him into a position where your.....alternative payment kicks in. Take a check,” the CO told her.

“Is that an order?” Kara asked. She could tell the seriousness in her CO's expression.

“Consider it as such,” Guru said. “They're our guests, remember?”

Kara looked at her CO, then nodded. “Understood, Major.”

“Okay. Now kick his ass.”

She let out an evil-looking grin. “Yes, sir.” Then she went over to the pool table.

“What'd you tell Kara?” Goalie asked.

“Be gracious in defeat, take a check and avoid the, uh, alternative payment plan, and to kick his ass.”
Guru said.

It didn't take long for Kara's skills to show, and soon, the Aussie cameraman had his wallet lightened by $50.00. He smiled, paid her, then came back to his reporter and soundman in a fit of the sulks, much to the amusement of the aircrews. “I'll get her one of these days,” Scott muttered.

“Just like Saigon?” Sweaty asked.

“Yeah,” he said, then Scott went to the bar.

Before he came back, the air raid siren began to sound. “Air raid?” Ms. Wendt asked.

“Haven't been on the ground for one in a while,” Guru said. He and the other crews ran outside, while the reporters got their equipment. They got out of the tent to see two aircraft, both dropping flares, but no bombs falling. Then a Marine I-HAWK SAM shot into the night sky, and one of the aircraft became a fireball and tumbled out of the sky, exploding on impact a mile or so away.

“What's going on?” Wendt asked. “Where's the bombs?”

Goalie recognized it, and so did the others. But she said it out loud. “Those aren't decoy flares, but photo-flash ones. That's a recon run.”

Scott had gotten the SAM launch and the explosion on tape. “What?”

“Night photography,'” Darren Licon, the Intelligence Officer for the 335th, said. “You're on Ivan's version of Candid Camera.”

The second recon plane, MiG, Yak, or Sukhoi, made its run over the base, dropping flares, then turned away. A second HAWK went up after the aircraft, but missed. A second pair of aircraft came in, but one took a HAWK and blew apart in midair, while the other aborted its run and turned away. Then two Marine F/A-18s scrambled after the intruders.

“Shouldn't we head for a shelter?” Ms. Wendt asked.

“If a strike was coming in behind them? It would've been here by now,” Guru said. He turned and saw Colonel Brady talking into a walkie-talkie. Then the all-clear sounded. He went over to Colonel Brady. “Sir?”

“Got Marines out now, looking for the crash sites, and any downed pilots,” Brady said. “The Army's been notified, and they've got people out, and they'll get the locals involved.”

“The Resistance?” Ms. Wendt asked. She'd overheard the conversation.

“They haven't turned in their guns, and when it comes to looking for downed pilots? They know every nook and cranny around here,” Guru said. “If anybody bailed out of those two planes?”

“They'll find 'em,” Brady finished. “And bring them in.”

“They will,” Guru said. “Come on, people! Two more hours to twelve-hour!”

People headed back into the Club, and the party continued until 2200, when Doc Waters rang the bell. “Twelve-hour in effect!”

Hearing that, people finished their drinks, and quite a few headed off to their tents. Guru and his flight among them. “Where are you headed?” Ms. Wendt asked.

“We've got a chance to do something we don't get to do that often,” Guru said. “So we're going to crash out.”

“Crash out?”

“Sleep,” said Sweaty.

“For at least ten hours,” Guru added.

The reporter looked at the aircrews, then nodded. “Oh,”

“Have a good night, Ms. Wendt.” the CO said.

Ms. Wendt nodded. “Good night, Major,”

“And remember, you've got an appointment with Doc Waters tomorrow morning.”

“We'll be there.”

The aircrews headed over to the tent city, and found where the 335th's people were billeted. They found their tents, and it wasn't long until they were all fast asleep.
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  #264  
Old 04-03-2016, 09:15 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Some more, and the stand-down is all too brief...



335th TFS Operations, 2 November, 1987, 0800 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser entered the Ops Building, and took off his flight jacket. Though the rain had stopped for the most part, it was still wet outside. As he headed for his office, he smiled. Someone had a radio on their desk, and AFN's morning show was playing Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band's Old Time Rock'n Roll. Smiling, he began humming the song as he went to his office, and found the Exec waiting for him. “Morning, Mark.”

“Morning, Boss,” Ellis said, handing his CO a cup of cocoa. “Got a few things for you.”

“Eaten yet?” the CO asked as he took a clipboard that Ellis handed him.

“Not yet. Just got up myself about twenty minutes ago.”

“Same here,” Major Wiser said. “Okay, what have you got before I go eat?”

“Morning Report for MAG-11,” said Ellis.

Major Wiser nodded, scanned it, then signed it. “How many birds this morning?”

“Twenty birds, same as last night's report,” Ellis said. “No one down for maintenance or BDR.” BDR meant Battle-Damage Repair.

“That won't last,” the CO noted. “Like clockwork. We'll either soon have somebody down for a maintenance issue, or somebody getting shot up.”

Ellis nodded. “Or worse: we lose people.”

“To be avoided as long as we can,” Major Wiser commented. He flipped to the next paper on the clipboard. “Scroungers out?”

“They were, and got some of the stuff on their list. During that recon run.”

The CO looked at his Exec. “Let me guess: 'In confusion, there is profit,' or words to that effect.”

“I plead the Fifth on that, Boss.” the XO smiled.

Major Wiser looked at his Exec, then smiled back. “Okay. Anything else?”

“Ross is checking on both of your requests on specific items.”

“As long as he tries,” the CO said. “That's all I ask. Any word on last night's visitors?”

“They found both wrecks,” Ellis reported. “Both were Yak-28Rs. Pilot and nav found from one aircraft and Intel's chatting with them, while the other crew was found in the wreck.”

“And Intel hasn't found out where these fellas came from,” Major Wiser finished. “Hope they do, so we can return the visit. With interest.”

Ellis nodded .”We'll know soon enough. But paying them a visit might belong to the A-6s and F-111s.”

'As long as somebody does. Our Fourth Estate guests are with Doc Waters right now?”

“They are.”

“All right. Once they're cleared, we'll find a couple of check rides for 'em. Maybe scaring them back to Nellis might involve getting Ms. Wendt airsick,” the CO said. He recalled a prewar incentive ride one airman got, and the kid had been advised-strongly-to take some airsickness bags with him in the flight suit pockets. The young man wound up using every one of them as Guru had given the airman the ride of his life.

'We'll find out soon enough, but she may be an adrenalin junkie,” Ellis reminded his CO.

“Maybe.” Then someone knocked on the door to the CO's office. “Show yourself and come on in!”

Goalie came in, with a cup of coffee for the CO. “Morning, Guru.”

“Lieutenant,” Major Wiser replied. “Still bribing me with coffee?”

“Always,” Goalie smiled, handing her pilot and CO a plastic cup with the steaming liquid.

The Major nodded, then took a sip. “Okay. Anything else, Mark?”

“Weather report. We should have good flying weather beginning at 1100. I know, we got a light shower out there, but it'll clear up by then. First missions on the ATO begin at that time,” the XO replied.

“And I'll be first out the gate,” Major Wiser said, glancing at his GIB, who nodded. “That it?”

“It is for now,” Ellis said.

“All right: let's go eat,” the CO said, draining the rest of the coffee. He had just opened the office door when they heard a familiar-and loathed-voice berating an airman. “That's Frank.”

“It is,” Goalie said. “What's this about?”

Major Wiser went over to Carson, and asked, “What now, Frank?”

“Sir,” Major Carson said. “Listening to the radio while on duty in the office?”

“Frank, if the office crew wants to listen to Casey Kasem's morning show on AFN, Shadoe Stevens during the day, Don Steele evenings, or for the overnight shift, Wolfman Jack? That's fine with me. Just because nobody here cares about what you listen to at your desk is no reason to shut them out. If you don't like the AFN rock station? Get a Walkman and tapes of whatever you listen to. Comprende?”

“Sir, you're not taking this seriously!”

“No, I'm not. Why are you?”

Ellis grinned. “Somebody exercised the good out of him and saddled us with what's left.”

“Sir!” Carson said.

“Frank, none of these admin people are career Air Force. Ninety percent of these folks are wartime volunteers who joined after the balloon went up. They're in for the duration, and six months to a year after the war's over, they're going home. This is the war for them. And if listening to AFN makes the office day go by a little faster? That's fine by me. Got that?” The CO glared at the despised Major.

“Yes....sir.”

“I hope so, but I doubt it. Now get out of my sight!”

Carson saluted, then left the building.

“Major,” Capt. Kevin O'Donnell, who was the squadron's senior maintenance officer, asked. “When are you kicking out that POS?”

“By New Year's Eve, if he doesn't fuck up sooner than that,” Major Wiser said. “People, if you've got a radio by your desk, and want to listen to whatever AFN station you want? It's fine by me.”

There was some applause at that from the admin folks.

“And pass that on to the overnight shift,” the CO said. He turned to the Exec and his GIB. “Come on. Let's eat.”


The CO, XO, and Goalie went on over to the Mess Tent, where they found most of their squadron's aircrew getting into line for breakfast. Sweaty, Kara, Don Van Loan, and most of the usual faces were there. “Morning, all,” the CO said.

“Morning, Boss,” Kara said. “When are we flying today?”

“First wheels up at 1100,” Major Wiser nodded. “And that's us. We'll be first out the gate.”

Kara sighed. “Couldn't wait until Noon? Oh, well, it was fun while it lasted.”

“We'll be here for the winter, it looks like. So we'll have snow days as well. I'm sure the RED HORSE guys and the Seabees handle snow removal,” the CO said. “Anyone seen Frank?”

“He came out just as we got here,” Van Loan said. “Headed right for the office.”

“And he got there just in time to try and tear the admin people a new hole over listening to AFN at work,” Major Wiser noted. “He definitely got up on the wrong side of bed this morning.”

“You're kidding,” Preacher said. He then saw the expression on the CO's face. “No, you're not. Trying to keep people from listening to AFN at work? What's with him?”

“Remember,” Goalie said. “He's from Boston. The phrase 'Banned in Boston' comes to mind.”

“Come on,” Major Wiser said. “Let's eat, then we got a little time to kill. Mission brief at 1030.”


After eating, the aircrews headed to their briefing rooms, while the CO went back to his office to kill any late-appearing paperwork that showed up. Then, just before 1030, he went to the Ops Desk, and found Van Loan waiting for him. “Don,” the Major said. “What have you got for me?”

The Ops Officer handed the CO a sheet. “Your favorite. On-call CAS.”

Major Wiser stared at his Ops Officer. “Don, we were just there yesterday. Two back-to-back CAS runs.”

“Ivan's trying to take advantage of the weather,” Van Loan replied.

“Okay,” Major Wiser said. He scanned the sheet. “Northeast Sector, which means anyplace between Lake Ray Hubbard and Greenville. And expect air defense threats from Regiment on up. Nice. MiG threat still the same?”

“That's right, and Terrell Municipal is now operational again.”

“You're full of good news today, Don.” replied the CO. “Okay, do me a favor.”

“Name it,” Van Loan said.

“Find us an airfield, or maybe one of those 'Liberation Radio and TV' transmitters. We'll get two at least today, maybe three. So....”

“Will try, Boss,” Van Loan handed the CO another sheet. “Here's some alternate targets in case the FACs don't give you anything.”

The CO nodded. “Okay, thanks, Don. You have a good one yourself.”

“Got it, Boss.”

Major Wiser nodded, then headed to the old classroom his flight used as a briefing room. When he got there, he found the rest of the flight waiting. “Okay, people, we've got a mission.”

“What's up?” Kara asked.

“Probably everyone's temper, because it's our favorite-not. On-call CAS,” said the CO.

“What?” Sweaty asked as jaws dropped. “We did two of those yesterday. Back-to-back, if you'll remember.”

“We did, and I do,” Major Wiser replied. “Northeast Sector, between Lake Ray Hubbard and Greenville. Ivan's mounting some kind of counterattack, and though the Hogs are there, we need to give the A-10 folks a hand.”

“Swell,” Hoser said. “Uh, Boss.”

“I know, the A-4, A-7, and A-10 guys live and breathe CAS, but there's too much tasking for them to handle. So we give them a hand,” Major Wiser reminded them, and heads nodded at that. “Questions?”

“Ordnance load?” Sweaty asked.

“Antiarmor, which means twelve Rockeye CBUs each bird, plus the usual air-to-air load of four Sidewinders and two Sparrows, and full 20-mm. Element leads have the ALQ-119 pod and wingmates have the ALQ-101.”

“Bailout areas?” Kara wanted to know.

“Anyplace rural and away from roads,” Major Wiser told the crews. “Best place of all is north of I-30: that's the front lines in this particular area, if you'll remember. Usual divert fields such as Perrin AFB near Sherman, or Gainesville Muni in a pinch.”

“Tanker tracks?”

“Tanker track SHELL is over Denison, Oklahoma,” Major Wiser said.

Hoser then asked, “What if we can't get a FAC tasking?”

“I'll call Hillsboro and ask for either armed recon or free strike,” the CO said. “We don't get paid for bringing ordnance home.” Hillsboro was the EC-130 Airborne Command Post that controlled ground-attack missions, and the FACs got their birds from Hillsboro.

“MiG threat?” Preacher asked.

“Good question,” Sweaty added.

“Same as when we've gone into the Dallas area,” Major Wiser said. “The Su-27 threat is still the same, and MiGs at Tyler, Terrell Municipal-which is now operational again,” the CO added. “Plus Waco, Corsicana, Temple, and both Austin Regional and Bergstrom AFB. All have either -21s or -23s. MiG-29s are still at Gray AAF at Fort Hood. As for ground-based air defense? Expect the threat from regimental level on up. Minimum SA-9 and they go up from there. No SA-15 reported, which is good. SA-11 is the most advanced one we may see. Expect the usual guns and MANPADS as well.”

“Thanks a lot, Boss,” muttered Kara.

“Comes with CAS, and we know it,” Major Wiser reminded them. “Any other questions?” Heads shook no. “All right! Gear up and meet at 512.”

The aircrews geared up and headed on out, and as they did, they ran into Maj. Dave Golen and Lieutenant Sandi Jenkins, and their GIBs. “Guru,” Golen said, calling the CO by call sign.

“Dave,” the CO replied. “Looking for your sixth with us?”

“If it comes, I'll take it,” Golen said. “If not...oh, well.”

“Sandi?” Major Wiser said. “Stick to him like glue. He's your older brother from another mother, remember, and if you get MiG action? Hope you get your fourth and fifth.”

“Yes, sir,!” Sandi replied. She was hoping to make ace. And make the late Colonel Rivers proud.

“Okay, then. Have a good one, but be careful.”

“Always,” Golen said.

“Dave, we're Corvette Flight. What's yours?”

“Cobra again.”

“Good. If we get air-to-air and we can't handle it? I'll call you.”

“We'll be there.” Golen said.

“Good to know, Dave.” Major Wiser said. They shook hands. “You take care up there.”

“You too, Guru.”

Major Wiser then went to the revetment where his bird, 512, was parked, and found the rest of the flight there. “Have another chat with Dave?” Kara asked.

“Yep. He and Sandi are Cobra Flight, so if we hit serious MiG trouble, I'll holler and he'll be there,” Guru said.

“He's bailed us out of a few jams,” Sweaty nodded. “Glad he's here.”

“So am I,” Goalie said. Dave Golen had shot MiGs off of 512's tail at least twice.

“You're not the only one,” Guru said. “Okay, listen up. Mission code to AWACS, Tankers, Hillsboro, FACs, and other interested parties, as usual. Call signs between us.”

“Got it,” Kara said, and the others nodded.

“Okay, we have at least one more today, probably two. We could have a hot turnaround when we get back, so take it in stride, as we haven't had one of those in a while. Got it?”

“Got it, Boss,” Hoser said.

“Good. Anything else?” The CO asked. Heads shook no again. He clapped his hands. “Okay. Mount up and let's hit it.”

The crews headed for their aircraft, and both Guru and Goalie went to 512, where Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley, the Crew Chief, was waiting. “Major, Lieutenant,” Crowley said as he snapped a perfect salute. “We're good to go.”

The CO and GIB sketched salutes in return. “Good to know, Sergeant,” Guru said. He and Goalie did their walk-arounds, then Guru signed for the aircraft. After getting strapped in, and going through their preflight checks, Guru said, “Hope our guests enjoyed getting poked and prodded.”

“The joys of a flight physical,” Goalie said. “Ejection Seats armed?”

“Top and bottom. Check yours,” Guru replied. “Unlike the flight surgeon at the RTU, Doc Waters doesn't go out of his way to look for anything bad. That guy....he was looking for the slightest reason to ground me when I came back from Colorado.”

“What's his name? Cottle?” Goalie asked. She, too had encountered the man in question. “We're good. Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

“That's him,” Guru said. He gave the thumbs-up to Sergeant Crowley, who then gave the “Start Engines” signal in return.

“Engine start,” Goalie noted, and Guru nodded.

First one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running. Once the run-up was complete, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Lead with four, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

The Tower cleared him to taxi, and Sergeant Crowley signaled the ground crew to pull the chocks away from the landing gear. Once that was done, the Crew Chief signaled Guru to taxi, and 512 began to ease out of the revetment. When Guru cleared the revetment Crowley snapped a salute, and both pilot and GIB returned it.

Guru then taxied 512 to the runway, with the rest of the flight right behind him. They held at the runway so that the armorers could remove the weapon safety pins, and now the ordnance was live. Then Guru was cleared to taxi 512 onto the runway, and Kara in 520 followed. She was right in his Four O'clock, tucked in for takeoff. “Tower, Corvette Lead requesting permission for takeoff.”

The Tower flashed a green light, and both crews closed and locked their canopies. Guru then ran both engines to full power, released the brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air, with Kara's bird right alongside him. Then Sweaty and Hoser taxied into position, and they, too followed the lead element into the air.
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Old USMC Adage
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  #265  
Old 04-03-2016, 10:54 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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First mission of an abbreviated flying day:



Over North-Central Texas, 1150 Hours Central War Time:


Corvette Flight was orbiting, somewhere between Bonham and Greenville, at 18,000 feet. They had topped up from the tankers over Oklahoma, and were now waiting in a holding pattern Major Wiser had checked in with Hillsboro, the EC-130E Airborne Command Post that handled air-to-ground tasking, and had been told to wait. The flight crews had watched as A-4s (both AF and Marine), A-7s (AF and Navy), and A-10s had gone in ahead of them, but the F-4s, both AF and Marine, had been told to wait.

“How long have we been here?” Goalie asked.

“About fifteen minutes,” Guru said. “Wing tanks are empty and we're on internal fuel.”

“Lead, Three,” Sweaty called. She was going by the book in case someone on the AWACS was listening. Not that anyone had ever called them on the carpet for that, but one never knew. Once they were doing their thing, and the flak was coming up, different story, though. “How long we going to wait here?”

“Stand by one,” Guru called back. “I'll check with Hillsboro. Need to remind those guys we can't stay up here all day.”

“Standing by.”

“Hillsboro, Corvette One-one. Any tasking for us?” Guru radioed the ABCCC.

“Stand by, Corvette,” the controller replied.

“He'd better not take his time,” Goalie muttered.

A couple of minutes passed, then the controller came back. “Corvette, contact Covey Two-eight-two for tasking.”

“Copy, Hillsboro,” Guru replied. “Covey Two-eight-two for tasking.”

“Who's that?” Goalie asked.

Guru recalled a briefing back before PRAIRIE FIRE got going. Covey was the call sign used by ground FACs. “Ground FAC.” He then called the FAC. “Covey Two-eight-two, Corvette One-one. You have tasking for us?”

“Copy that, Corvette. Say aircraft and type of ordnance, please,” the FAC called back.

“Corvette Flight is four Foxtrot-Four Echoes, with twelve Rockeyes and full twenty-mike-mike.”

“Roger that, Corvette,” the FAC said. “We've got armor moving north on Route 34 past Cash, and we need to make them go away. How many passes can you give me?”

“One pass only,” Guru said. That was a squadron rule unless the threat allowed multiple passes.

“Roger that,” the FAC replied.

“Covey, Corvette, say threat,” Guru said as he brought 512 around, quickly consulted a map, and began to descend in a left turn, with the flight following.

“Corvette, Covey. Threat is regimental level and above. Immediate Sierra-Alpha threat are Grails, but be advised heavy stuff is around.”

“Roger that, Covey. We can give you one pass, east to west.”

“Your call, Corvette,” the FAC said.

“Covey, can you mark the target or have the ground-pounders do that?”

“That's affirm,” Covey replied. “Will have Willie-Pete in the target area.”

“Roger that,” Guru said as he passed through 10,000 feet. He flew past Greenville, then headed south, descending as he led the flight in. “Two mikes to target.”

As the flight descended, they could see the Army moving south, with Greenville Municipal Airport now swarming with armor and other vehicles, then the crews saw the bursts of WP. That meant their target area. “Corvette, Covey. Target marked. Can you identify?” The FAC called.

Guru saw the WP bursts. “Roger that, Covey. Target in sight. Flight, Lead. Switches on, Music on, and time to go to work. One pass only! Meet up over Lavon Lake.”

“Roger, Lead,” Kara called.

“Three copies,” replied Sweaty.

“Four, roger,” Hoser said.

“Target in sight, and Lead's in hot!” Guru said as he rolled in on his attack run.


Down below, the 83rd Mechanized Infantry Division from XIX Corps had retaken the Greenville Municipal Airport, and was pushing south towards Route 34 and the town of Cash. The Soviet 1st Guards Army was alarmed at that, and the Army commander wanted to send the 41st Guards Tank Division to counterattack, but they were committed to another counterattack near Rockwall, so the 204th MRD and the newly-arrived 70th Tank Division, both mobilization only units, to push the 83rd back. The Americans had the M-60A3TTS tanks, along with a battalion's worth of captured T-72s with mostly female crews, and were waiting for the counterattack force. Unfortunately for the Soviets, the 204th MRD's armor was mainly old T-54A models, with open-topped BTR-60Ps for APCs, while the 70th TD, newly arrived from Chernigov in the Ukraine, had IS-3Ms in its tank regiments and T-34/85s in the motor-rifle regiment, with early-model BMP-1s for APCs.

When the FACs informed the 83rd that tac air was coming in, the tank gunners began looking for and picking out any mobile AA guns or SA-9 launchers, and began taking them out.

As he advanced in his IS-3M, the commander of the 698th Tank Regiment from the 70th TD was furious. His regimental reconnaissance company had suddenly gone off the air, and were not answering his calls. The regimental commander, a Major, had been wishing for additional training time before their deployment to America in the spring, but the division had deployed, and what additional training they had gotten after arriving in Texas was clearly not enough. He made a mental promise to relieve the recon company commander later on, but fireballs ahead meant that the Americans might have saved him the trouble. Then a cry came over the radio, and what it said chilled him. “AIRCRAFT ALARM-EAST!” He looked out the hatch and saw smoke trails descending on him.

Guru lined up the tanks in his pipper, and to his surprise, his RWR repeater was quiet, and there was no flak coming up. Ivan had been caught fat, dumb, and happy. Their mistake, and they won't live to regret it. “Where's the damned flak?” He asked.

“Complaining?” Goalie asked from the back seat.

“Not at all. Steady, steady.....HACK!” He hit the pickle button and a dozen Rockeye CBUs came off 512's racks. He pulled wings level and headed off towards the west, and I-30. “Lead's off safe”

The Soviet regimental commander watched as an F-4 unloaded cluster munitions on his regiment, and he saw a number of tanks erupt in fireballs, or skid to a stop, their treads broken by the bomblets. Several tank commanders tried to fire at the attacker as it headed off to the west, but it was no use. Then he saw a second F-4 coming in....


“SHACK!” Goalie called. “Got some secondaries.” That meant they had killed some tanks.

“Good enough,” Guru said as he headed for I-30. As he did so, he saw several A-10s and A-7s working the area to the west, and more fireballs erupting on the ground. Ivan may have had a good morning, but the rest of the day would not be so pleasant.

Kara made her call as she rolled in. “Two's in!” As she rolled down the chute, she saw the Rockeyes the CO had unloaded go off, and a number of tanks erupt in fireballs. A few tracers suddenly started to come up, either from tank machine guns or ZU-23s mounted on either trucks or BTR-152s. Not enough, Ivan....Kara lined up on more tanks, and then hit the pickle button. “HACK!” Another dozen CBUs came down on the Soviet armor....

“Disperse!” The Regimental Commander yelled into his radio. His tankers, either overage reservists or boys fresh out of the training division, were in combat for the first time, and it was showing. Then a second F-4 came in from the east, and put its bombs onto the tanks of his 3rd Battalion. Several more IS-3Ms erupted in fireballs, while one came to a stop, a bomblet having scored a freak hit on the tank's main gun, blowing the 122-mm gun in two.

“Good hits!” Brainiac called from Kara's back seat. “There's some secondaries.”

“Anything coming behind us?” Kara asked. She meant SAMs.

“Nada.”

“Their bad day,” Kara replied as she headed for the rendezvous.


“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called. She rolled in, and as she came down the chute, saw some tanks and APCs together. That meant a command group. Fine by me, she thought as she lined the vehicles up in her pipper. And like Guru, she was wondering about the flak-or lack thereof. “Where's god-dammed flak?” She asked Preacher.

Her WSO smiled underneath his oxygen mask. Though one shouldn't take the Lord's name in vain, he felt that in combat, there had to be an exception. “Maybe the Army took them out?”

“They did the Air Force a favor,” Sweaty said as she hit the pickle button. “HACK!” More Rockeyes came down on the Soviet armor. As Sweaty pulled away, she called, “Three off target.”

“You idiots!” The Soviet regimental commander yelled into his radio. “I said disperse!” Now, his command group had pulled up in their APCs and another IS-3M, and were acting, in his mind, like cowardly sheep. Then his Zampolit, riding in an APC next to his tank, yelled. “AIRCRAFT!” and pointed to the east. Another F-4 was coming in, and as it came over, more cluster bombs came off. The Major dropped into his tank and closed the hatch. It wasn't enough, as he heard screams and explosions as bomblets went off, and then two bomblets struck the thin top armor of his tank. Their shaped-charge warheads burned through the top armor-and him. The last thing he heard was his crew screaming as the tank's ammo began to burn, and then exploded.....

“Good hits!” Preacher yelled at Sweaty.

“Good enough?”

The ex-seminary student replied, “A couple of somebodies just went up.”

“Righteous!” Sweaty said as she headed for the rendezvous point.


Hoser rolled in. “Four's in!” He rolled in as Sweaty pulled off target. Now, he saw some flak coming up, and even a couple of SAMs, either Grails or SA-9s, coming up at him. Those old missiles didn't have all-aspect seekers, and they flew right on by. He lined up some more tanks in his pipper, while KT, his backseater, ducked involuntarily as one of the SAMs passed very close to their bird. “HACK!” Hoser called as he hit the pickle button, and more Rockeyes came down on the Soviet armor.


For the 698th Regiment's 1st Battalion, a bad day had just gotten worse. The battalion commander had just been killed by an anti-tank missile, and the company commanders were arguing on the radio over who should take the battalion forward. None of them had gotten along at all in training, and with no one senior above them to give orders, they were still arguing. No one saw Hoser's F-4 until it was too late, and CBU bomblets rained down on the stalled tanks. Several tanks fireballed, including one of the company commanders.....

“SHACK!” KT called.

“Good hits?” Hoser asked as he took his F-4 to the rendezvous point.

“Got some,” came the reply. Then another SAM passed very close to their plane, and she ducked again as the missile flew by.


“Covey Two-eight-two, Corvette One-one.” Guru called the FAC. “Four birds in and out. We are RTB at this time.”

“Copy that, Corvette. I give you guys one hundred percent bombs on target. Nice job, fella.” Covey replied.

“Thank you. Flight, Lead. Form on me and let's go,” Guru said.

“On your wing,” Kara replied, and both Guru and Goalie looked at their Four O'clock. Kara's 520 was there in combat spread.

“Three and Four right behind you,” Sweaty said.

“Copy that, Sweaty,” Guru said. “Form up and let's go home.”

The four F-4s joined up and cleared the area, and as they climbed to altitude, a voice came on over the radio. “Corvette Lead, Cobra Lead. Mind if we join you?” It was Dave Golen, and he and Sandi Jenkins pulled up alongside.

“Not at all, Cobra,” Guru replied. “Get any?”

“Negative,” Golen replied. “No one came up to play.”

“Their problem, Cobra Lead,” Kara said.

The impromptu six-ship headed back to Sheppard, with Cobra Flight behind Corvette, a couple miles in trail and a thousand feet above. Given what had happened on several past occasions, Dave Golen thought it was a good idea to tag along behind the CO's flight. Only this time, everyone was disappointed that the MiGs didn't come up.

When they got back to Sheppard, both flights had to wait as several outbound flights, both 335th and Marine, had priority. Then they got into the pattern and landed. As the CO taxied 512 toward its revetment, he told Goalie, “One and done for the day.”

“Yeah, but how many more? Did you see all that armor?”

“Even a blind man could have seen all those tanks,” replied Guru. “But where was the flak? Hardly anything came up.”

“No Shilkas? I'll take that any day,” Goalie said.

“Join the club,” Guru said. He then taxied 512 into its revetment and got the “Shut Down” signal from Sergeant Crowley. He and Goalie then popped their canopies and raised them, as the ground crew came with the crew ladder. Both pilot and GIB did a quick post-flight walk-around, then Guru turned to his Crew Chief. “Sergeant, she's working like a champ. No problems or issues. Get her turned around.”

Sergeant Crowley was beaming. Anytime “his” plane came back without any holes was a good time. “You got it, Major! Okay, people!” The Crew Chief turned to the ground crew. “Let's get her ready to go again! NOW, PEOPLE!”

Guru and Goalie then went over to the end of the revetment, and found Kara, Sweaty, and the rest of their flight gathered there, and were joined by Dave Golen, Sandi Jenkins, and their GIBs. “How'd it go?”

“Where'd they get those old tanks?” Sweaty asked. “Some of those looked like IS-2s or -3s from World War II or the '50s.”

“IS-3s,” Dave Golen said. “My older brother fought in Sinai in 1967 as an M-48 tank commander. They faced Egyptian IS-3s. Hit some myself in 1973.”

Kara looked at Golen, then her CO. “That's what? Ivan's fourth or fifth string?”

“Something like that,” KT said.

Then a Dodge Crew-Cab pickup pulled up to the group, and both Capt Don Van Loan, the Ops Officer, and Capt. Darren Licon, the Intel Officer, got out. “Don?” The Major asked. “What's up with you and Darren?”

“Lunch will have to wait, Major. You guys are going back out. As soon as you're turned around,” the Ops Officer said.

“WHAT?”

“You guys saw it. That was a two-division attack going in, and the Army's hollering for more air support. Both Corvette and Camaro flights are going back there,” Van Loan replied.

“Okay, Don. Darren, who are we facing?” the CO asked.

“Two divisions from 1st Guards Army,” Licon replied. “Both are Mobilization-Only outfits. So no radar SAMs, or if they do, they're the oldest SA-6 or SA-8s they have.”

“We didn't pick up anything on the RWR gear,” Kara pointed out.

“Assume they're there,” the Intel said. “How'd you guys do?”

“Made some tanks go away,” Guru said. “Pretty much the same for all of us.”

“I think I hit a command group,” Sweaty added. “A couple of tanks, plus some APCs around them? Had to be.”

“Either a regimental level or maybe a divisional HQ on the move,” Licon nodded. “The Army's going to appreciate that. Watch for Hogs, A-7s, Marines, the works. This is shaping up into a decent brawl.” The intel looked at the pilots. “Could you show where you made your runs, please?” He spread out a TPC chart of the area on the hood of the truck, and the crews did so. “All right, sir. I'll write it up. Armor hit with secondaries noted, and possible command group taken out. Oh, and Major? There's some bottled water in the truck.”

“Get a drink, folks, and hit the latrine,” the CO said. “It'll have to do until we get back.” He picked up a bottle of water and promptly drained half of it.

The others took his advice, then Capt. Kevin O'Donnell, the Maintenance Officer, came over. “Major? Your flight and Major Golen's are good to go. Twelve Rockeyes each bird, and air-to-air unchanged.”

“Thanks, Kev,” Guru said. “All right, people, listen up! Same drill as this last one. Mission code to AWACS and other interested parties. Call signs between us. Got it?”

“Got it, Boss,” Sweaty said, while the others nodded.

“Any questions?”

“What about MiGs? Sandi Jenkins asked.

“MiG activity's been light, because of the weather,” Licon replied. “Same for their attack helos. That will change as the afternoon wears on and the weather clears.”

“That answer your question, Sandi?” Guru asked, and the response was a grin from ear to ear.

“I'd say it does,” Golen said.

The CO looked at them, then the rest of his flight, and both Kara and Hoser had matching grins. “No trolling for MiGs, people. Air-to-mud is tops right now. If somebody crashes the party, fine. But that's it. Understood?” Heads nodded in the affirmative.

“Major?” Van Loan said. “Be careful. The Exec's not here to say it, so I will. And good luck.”

“You too,” Guru said. “You headed that way?”

“As soon as they finish loading Mavericks,” Van Loan replied. His flight would be loaded with six AGM-65s each to take on armor from standoff range.

“Okay, we might see you up there. Pass this to everyone headed that way. If they're hit? Get their asses north of I-30 if they can. The Army'll pick them up.”

“Will do.”

“All right,” the CO turned to Dave Golen. “See you guys up there.”

“We'll be up there,” Golen replied, then he and Sandi, along with their GIBs, headed for their aircraft.

“Anything else?” Guru asked his flight.

Kara looked at him. “We doing this all afternoon?”

“We just might,” replied Guru. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “All right, let's hit it.”

The crews headed to mount their aircraft, and as 512's crew went back to their aircraft, Staff Sergeant Crowley was waiting for them. “Major, she's ready to go.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru replied. He and Goalie did a quick walk-around, then mounted the aircraft. As they did their preflight, he told Goalie, “Too bad our guests are busy. They'd love to see this.”

“Maybe they'll get out early,” Goalie said.

“Maybe.” Guru replied. He got the “Start engines” signal from Sergeant Crowley. One, then both, J-79 engines started up, and after the run-up, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Flight with four, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

“Corvette Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to runway Three-Three Left. Hold prior to the runway.”

“Roger, Tower.”

The ground crew pulled back the chocks, and Guru released the brakes. He taxied 512 out of the revetment, and as he did, Sergeant Crowley snapped a salute. He and Goalie returned it, and the CO led his flight to the runway. There, they held so that the armorers could remove weapon safeties. “Ready?” Guru asked his GIB.

“Whenever you are,” Goalie replied. “All set back here.”

Guru nodded, then called the Tower for permission to taxi for takeoff. It came quickly, and he taxied onto the runway, and Kara taxied 520 right alongside his aircraft. She gave her flight lead a thumbs-up, and both Guru and Goalie returned it. “Tower, Corvette Flight requesting clearance for takeoff.”

The tower didn't respond, but flashed a green light in reply. Clear for takeoff.

“Here we go,” Guru said as he pulled his canopy down, and Goalie did the same. He looked at 520 and saw Kara and Brainiac pull their canopies down. Then he applied full power, released the brakes, and 512 rumbled down the runway and into the air, with Kara right behind him. Then Sweaty and Hoser followed, and a minute later, Cobra Flight followed the CO's into the air.
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  #266  
Old 04-03-2016, 11:58 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auberry, CA
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And the day grinds on:



Over North-Central Texas, near Greenville, 1245 Hours Central War Time:



Corvette Flight was orbiting at 15,000 feet, just north of Greenville. When they got to the orbit point, Hillsboro had simply told them, “Get in line at 25,000 and wait your turn.” Ahead of the flight were Marine F-4s, some 335th F-4s, Marine and AF Skyhawks, Navy and AF A-7s, even Marine Intruders. Clearly, this was a maximum effort, and given that the Army down below was being hit by two Soviet divisions, Ivan was definitely going to feel some serious hurt this day.

As he descended, and with a glance above showing more aircraft coming into the pattern above, Guru remarked, “Feels like a traffic jam.”

“Haven't had one of those in a while,” Goalie said. “Not since PRAIRIE FIRE. Remember highway 287?”

“Yeah, when Ivan was running south towards Wichita Falls from Amarillo. Those guys were in anything and everything with wheels and tracks, trying to get away.”

“And a lot of 'em didn't,” Goalie reminded him.

“Yep,” Guru said, remembering a whole day of strikes on Soviets, Cubans, and others trying to escape the rampage of Sixth Army during that operation.

Then Sweaty called him. “Lead, Three. Any word?”

“Just follow me,” Guru replied. “You heard Hillsboro.”

“Lead, I did. Just hate waiting.”

“Join the club, Three,” Guru replied. Then he called Hillsboro. “Hillsboro, Corvette One-one. Say tasking?”

“Stand by one, Corvette,” the ABCCC controller replied. A minute passed, then he came back. “Corvette One-one, contact Nail Six-two for tasking.”

“Roger, Hillsboro,” Guru replied. “Nail Six-two, Corvette One-one.”

“Corvette, Nail,” the FAC replied. The Nail call sign was a dead giveaway it was an airborne FAC, probably in an A-7K. “Say aircraft and type of ordnance.”

“Nail, Corvette has four Foxtrot-Four Echoes with twelve Rockeyes each bird. Full cannon load and air-to-air.”

“Copy, Corvette. Target is a concentration of armor at the Route 34-FM 1564 interchange.”

“Roger, Nail,” replied Guru. “Can you mark the target?”

“Affirmative, Corvette,” the FAC replied. “How many passes can you give me?”

“One pass only, Nail.” Guru told the FAC. “Say air defense threat?”

'Corvette, threat is mixed. Some guns, some missiles.”

“Copy, Nail, Making run South to North.” Guru said as he led the flight past 7,000 feet.

“Your call, Corvette,” the FAC said as his A-7 orbited, then rolled in and fired two WP rockets. As he did, some AAA fire came up, but exploded well behind the A-7. “There's your target area.”

“Roger,” Guru said as he made a 180 turn to line up on the target area. He then called Goalie on the intercom. “Set it up. Everything in one pass.”

“Got it,” his GIB replied. “All set.”

“Roger that. Flight, Lead,” Guru called the flight. “Follow me in. Switches on, music on, and time to go to work.” That meant arm their weapons and turn on their ECM pods.

“Two copies,” Kara.

“Three's ready,” Sweaty.

“Four, copy,” Hoser.

“Ready?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Born ready,” Goalie replied.

“Flight, Lead,” Guru called. “Lead's in hot!” Guru then rolled in on his attack run.


Down below, the acting commander of the 70th Tank Division, a Colonel who had been pulled from a teaching position at the Kharkov Guards Higher Tank Command School and sent to the division, was having a fit. He had always taught his students never to attack without proper maps, and to his fury, the only maps available were American maps from the local area, and while they showed the local roads, the maps did not show the terrain. The Colonel had gone forward, as the eyes and ears of the Divisional Commander, only to be told over the radio that the Divisional Command Post had been hit by an air strike, and everyone there was either dead or seriously wounded. The Divisional Commander was among the dead, and so the Colonel was now in command. He decided to lead the division's attack from the front, and had watched as the 698th Tank Regiment and the 1124th Motor-Rifle Regiment had led the division's attack, only to run into American armor and anti-tank missile fire that, along with air strikes and enemy attack helicopters, had cut both regiments to ribbons. His command tank, an IS-3M, pulled up to where the remnants of a battalion from the 698th were gathered, and a Captain was trying to rally the men. The Colonel pulled up and asked the Captain how his efforts were going.

“Comrade Colonel, I never thought I'd be doing this again. I went through something like this back in May. At Wichita,” the Captain said, not caring a bit if he sounded insubordinate or defeatist. He had come from the 12th Guards Tank Division, a unit that had been shattered at Wichita, and pulled out of the line to refit and reorganize. But he had been sent to this unit, along with several other officers, to give them the benefit of combat-experienced officers in key positions.

“Comrade Captain, do your best,” the Colonel said. His Zampolit, a Captain younger than the tank officer, tapped him on the shoulder. “Yes?”

“Comrade Commander, request permission to form blocking detachments with the KGB troops and the GRU Field Security Unit. We must take steps to combat cowardice.” The Party man said.

“Comrade Zampolit....” the Colonel started to say, then the sound of an aircraft came over, then two White Phosphorous rockets exploded among the tanks. He knew right away what that meant. “AIR ALARM!”

Guru rolled in, and as he did, he saw several tanks and APCs at the intersection. Command group? Might be. Sweaty probably killed a regimental commander this morning, he thought. This might be a divisional commander.....He lined a tank and APC in his pipper, then hit the pickle button. “HACK!” Twelve Rockeye CBUs came off of 512.

“Take cover!” the Captain yelled, then jumped into a roadside drainage ditch. His men jumped into the ditch, or bomb and shell craters. Anyplace but their tanks. He knew from experience what was coming as Guru's F-4 flew past, and the Cluster munitions came off the aircraft. He ducked his head as the bomblets exploded, killing not just APCs, but tanks.

“SHACK!” Goalie yelled. “We got some tanks!”

“Secondaries?” Guru said as he beat a path for I-30.

“Got some!” Goalie said. Then she turned her head as an SA-7 flew past 512. “Whoa!”

“Saw it,” Guru said. “Lead's off target,” he called.

“Copy that, Lead,” Kara called. “Two's in!” She rolled 520 in for her attack run.


The Colonel was stunned. The General had been told they'd been promised air cover and air support, and it was nowhere to be seen. His air-defense assets, weak to begin with, had been hit by enemy air strikes and attack helicopters, and now, he was being hit from the air again. The ZSU-57s that had provided AA defense for the tank regiment, and the BTR-152s with ZU-23s that had done the same for the MR regiment, had been hunted down by American attack helicopters and knocked out. The Colonel waved for his command group to move forward. Get out of the Americans' kill zone as quickly as possible. Then a tank commander began firing to the south. More American aircraft were coming in.

“Steady....” Kara said as she saw the small group of tanks and APCs pull away from where Guru had dropped his bombs. “Steady....and HACK!” She hit the pickle button, and a dozen more CBUs fell onto the Russians. She pulled 520 away, and called, “Two's off.”

The Colonel dropped into his IS-3M and closed the hatch, ordering his driver to hit the gas and move forward. He and his crew heard the explosions all around as the bomblets exploded, and then two large explosions as either tanks or APCs went up. Then there was an explosion behind him. And then another. CBU bomblets had hit the engine deck and external fuel tanks. “Out!” he ordered. The crew popped the hatches, but before they could do so, the fuel tanks exploded, which also set off the ammunition.....the last thing he felt was the heat....

“Good hits!” Brainiac called from 520's back seat. “Got some secondaries.”

“Good enough,” Kara said as she followed the CO north. She kept her head on a swivel, checking for any Grails or AAA tracers as she headed to I-30.


“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called as she rolled in. She noticed more armor coming up along Route 34, and since they were coming into the target area.....Sweaty checked her RWR, and it was clear. No radar-guided guns or missiles around. Good. This looked like a tank regiment on a road march.....bad day, Ivan..She lined up the lead vehicles in the column in her pipper and hit the pickle button. “HACK!” Twelve Rockeye CBUs fell onto the lead battalion of the 699th Tank Regiment. “Three's off target!” Sweaty called as she pulled out and headed north.

The Captain stuck his head out of the ditch, and saw the Colonel's tank and the command APCs burning, with the tank turret blown off. He didn't know who was in command of the division now, and frankly, he didn't care. Then he saw what looked like a fresh regiment moving up along this Route 34, and then another F-4 came in. Not wanting to see what happened, he got back into the ditch as Sweaty's F-4 came over and then past him.

“SHACK!” Preacher called. “Good hits!”

“Got some tanks?” Sweaty asked as she headed north.

“Got some!”

“Time to go,” Sweaty said, heading for I-30 and the rendezvous, not noticing the SA-7 that flew past their aircraft.


Hoser then rolled in. “Four in hot!” He called, seeing where Sweaty had laid down her bombs, and there was still plenty of armor behind that. He lined up some tanks in his pipper and hit the pickle button. “HACK!”

The First Battalion, 699th Tank Regiment, had been ordered to pass through the 698th and continue the attack north, and retake the airport south of Greenville. The battalion commander, a Captain who had been with the division since its mobilization in 1986, watched as Sweaty's F-4 flew over his battalion command group and put its bombs on the lead company. After the company commander didn't respond on the radio, he moved his command group forward to rally the survivors, and found the company commander's tank a burning wreck. The senior platoon leader, a junior lieutenant fresh from an officer's training course at the University in Donetsk, seemed to have the situation in hand, even if he was shouting orders right out of the manual. Then he heard the sound of an aircraft, and then many small explosions around his tank. Then suddenly, he felt heat all around him, then his tank exploded as a fuel fire started by a CBU bomblet hitting his fuel tanks exploded the tank's ammunition storage.

KT yelled from the back seat, “Great hits!”

“Good ones?” Hoser asked.

“Got secondaries,” came the reply.

“Copy that,” Hoser said. “Four's off target.” He, too, headed for I-30, then the rendezvous.

The Captain from the 698th heard Hoser's F-4 fly past, then a number of explosions. When the sound of the aircraft had faded, he and his men stood up, out of their trench. They looked around and saw IS-3Ms and BMPs either burning, or disabled and abandoned by their crews. He also looked at where the battalion command group had been, and the command APC was a burning wreck. At least that useless Party hack went up with it, he thought. As the tanks from the 699th passed by, he saw the expressions on the commanders' faces. Their first combat, and it's a repeat of Wichita. Shaking his head, he went back to trying to get some order in what was left of his battalion.


“Four in, four out,” Goalie said from 520's back seat.

“Copy that,” Guru said as I-30 passed beneath them. “Flight, Lead. Meet up over Lavon Lake.”

“Roger, Lead,” Kara called. “Right in with you.”

Guru turned in his cockpit and saw 520 right with him in combat spread. “Sweaty, you there?”

“Behind you, Lead.” Sweaty replied.

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

“Corvette, Nail. I give you a four-decimal-zero. Nice work, fella,” the FAC called.

“Roger that,and thanks. We are RTB,” Guru said as Sweaty and Hoser joined up, and then they headed northwest towards Wichita Falls.

“Corvette Lead, Cobra Lead,” Dave Golen called. “Mind if we join you?”

“Come on in,” Guru said, and he saw Dave's and Sandi's Phantoms come in slightly behind and above them. Golen was in the top cover slot, and for that, he was thankful. “How'd you guys do?”

“No kills,” Golen said. “The MiGs are not coming.”

“We'll talk on the ground,” Guru said.

A few minutes later, they were in the traffic pattern for Sheppard. Guru contacted the tower, and they were told to wait, as a battle-damaged F-4 had priority in the pattern. He watched the cripple come in, and the SEA scheme told him it was a 335th bird. Then the rest of that flight landed on an adjacent runway, then it was their turn. Corvette flight came in and landed, and as they taxied towards their dispersal area, they could see that it was Mark Ellis' bird, 519. The flight then taxied into their revetments, with the canopies raised.

When Guru arrived at 512's revetment, he taxied in, then Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, gave the “Shut down” signal. Guru shut down the engines, then the ground crew came up with the crew ladder, and put the chocks around the wheels. “Good one,” he said after taking off his helmet and standing up.

“Killed some more tanks,” Goalie said. “Want to bet we'll be doing that all afternoon?”

“No bets. That's a given,” Guru said as he climbed down from the front office, and Goalie followed.

“How'd it go, Major?” Sergeant Crowley asked.

“Killed more tanks,” Guru said. “And no battle damage. Get 512 turned around ASAP, Sergeant. We'll be at this all afternoon, looks like.”

“Yes, sir!” His Crew Chief replied. “You heard the Major! Let's get this bird ready to go!” Crowley shouted at the ground crew.

Guru and Goalie went to the revetment entrance, and found Kara there with Brainiac, and they were soon joined by Sweaty, Preacher, Hoser, and KT. “Well?”

“Killed more tanks,” Kara said, and the rest of them nodded. “We doing this the rest of the day?”

“Even money bet,” Major Wiser said. Then Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins, with their GIBs, came over. “Dave, how'd things go with you?”

“Killed some FROG rocket launchers,” Golen said. “The FAC said they were the old tracked ones.”

“Not anymore,” Sandi added. “They went up pretty good.”

Then the XO and the Intel Officer arrived in a Dodge Crew-Cab pickup. “Major,” Mark Ellis said.

“What happened with you, Mark?” The CO asked.

“Took an SA-7 in the outer wing panel, the one that folds on a Navy bird,” Ellis said. “Didn't go off, though. Kev O'Donnell says it's a two hour job to patch the hole.”

“Okay, Bryan has your second element, right?” The CO was referring to 1st Lt. Bryan Woods.

“He does, and let me guess: he's going out as a two-ship?”

Guru nodded.

“Fair enough,” Ellis said.

“Major,” Capt. Darren Licon, the SIO, asked. “Can you guys debrief here. Then you guys can go eat.”

“Might as well, since you're here,” the CO said. “Made some tanks go away.”

The Intel unfolded a TPC map and laid it on the hood of the pickup. “Could you show me where, please?”

Guru, then the other pilots, showed him. “Lot of tanks there,” the CO nodded.

“Target-rich environment,” Sweaty added, and the others nodded.

“Any flak?” Licon asked.

The CO shook his head. “Hardly any,”

“Saw a couple SA-7s, though,” Kara said.

“Major Golen? How'd things go with you?” Licon asked.

“Killed some FROG rocket launchers,” Golen said, pointing to the location on the map.

“Got the resupply trucks,” Sandi added.

“Thanks, everyone,” the Intel said. “I'll get these off to Tenth Air Force.”

The CO nodded, then drained a bottle of water. “What's next, Mark? Or have you been inside yet?”

“Not yet, but Licon says the Marines have chow ready. Fried Chicken with Cole Slaw and French Fries” Ellis said.

“Okay, people, let's take a deep breath, get something to eat, then we're going back out,” Major Wiser said. “Just like PRAIRIE FIRE.”

Kara nodded. “At least we won't be pulling a seven-mission day,” she quipped.

“Never say never,” Sweaty poked her in the elbow.

“Let's go, people,” Major Wiser nodded. “Get some food, something to drink, then we're back at it.”



335th TFS Operations, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1330 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser sat at his desk, going over some paperwork, while Ratt's Round and Round played on his radio, which was tuned to Shadoe Stevens' midday show on AFN. Even though he and his flight had had a quick lunch, the ongoing war with “the other enemy”, namely, the AF bureaucracy, never stopped. Though most of those parasites had slithered away when the balloon went up, there were still enough to cause trouble and get in the way of fighting the war. Once he was finished, and put the material in his OUT box, there was a knock on his office door. “Show yourself and come on in!”

Capt. Mark Ellis, his Exec, came in. “Got a few things for you,” he told the CO.

“Lay it on me,” Major Wiser said.

“First, our....guests are now cleared for their backseat rides. Doc Waters OK'd them physically, while Master Sergeant Madden gave them their parachute and ejection training.” Master Sgt. Leo Madden was the NCOIC of the 335th Life Support Shop.

“Well, that's out of the way,” the CO said. “Their ride, though, may have to wait. What else?”

“Van Loan's back,” Ellis reported. “He's with the Intel right now.”

“They sent him out with Mavericks, right?” The CO asked, and the Exec nodded. “Well, not often we're on the ground and Kara's running the Ops office.” Capt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace was not only his wingmate, but the Assistant Ops Officer.

Ellis laughed. “She does do a good job as Assistant Ops Officer.”

“That she does,” admitted the CO. “If, and I do mean if, anything happens to Don, the Ops Office is in good hands. Anything else?”

“Ross has found your first item. It'll be here on tomorrow's C-141.”

The CO grinned. “He found a Pave Tack pod.”

“He did,” the XO said. “How he did, and how he managed to get it shipped here, I have no idea.”

'Leave the scroungers be, Mark,” Major Wiser said. “Still no word on a PAO?”

“Not yet, and I did ask.”

“Tell him to keep trying,” the CO nodded. “That it?”

“Your flight's bombed up and ready to go. So is Dave Golen's.”

“Looks like time to go, then,” Major Wiser said, standing up. “Guess I'll get us a mission.”

“Good luck,” Ellis said as he held open the office door.

“Thanks, Mark. Tell Kev O' Donnell to light a fire on the BDR guys and get your bird mission-ready.”

“Will do.”


Major Wiser went over to the Ops Desk, where Capt. Don Van Loan had just arrived. “Don, how'd it go?”

The Ops Officer nodded. “Six Maverick shots, six hits. Killed us some tanks and APCs. You guys killed some IS-3s, right?'

“We did,” Kara said.

“Okay, you guys went in on a tank division. We got sent only a few miles west, and went after a motor-rifle division. Old stuff: T-54s and open-topped BTRs. No radar SAMs or Triple-A. Another flight went in on some towed artillery that was set up to fire. Old stuff as well.”

The CO looked at his Ops Officer. “What's the term? Mobilization-only division for those guys?”

“Something like that,” Capt. Darren Licon, the Intelligence Officer, said as he came by.

“Okay,” Major Wiser said. “Kara, what have we got?”

“CAS,” Kara said as she handed the CO a paper. “Every squadron in MAG-11's committed to that until sunset.”

“Okay, round up the gang, tell them to gear up, and we'll meet at 512,” the CO told his wingmate. “Find Dave Golen and have him and his people do the same.”

“Will do, and I'm gone.” Kara said as she got up and went to corral the rest of the CO's flight.

“Don, any MiGs?” Major Wiser asked.

“BARCAP's keeping them at bay for now, but some leakers are a given,” the Ops Officer said. “Helos are around too. Saw an Army AH-1 shoot down a Hip while we were there.”

“Good to hear, Don,” Major Wiser said. “And time to go.”

“Good luck, Boss.”

“Thanks,” replied the CO. He then went to the locker room to gear up, and he found his GIB, 1st Lt. Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, waiting for him outside. “Ready?”

“More CAS?” she asked.

“More CAS,” Major Wiser nodded. “Be busy with it the rest of the day.”

“Well, let's get it over with.”

The two headed on out, and went over to the revetment where 512, the CO's bird, was parked. They found the rest of their flight there, as well as Maj. Dave Golen, their IDF “Observer”, with his wingmate 1st Lt. Sandi Jenkins, and their respective GIBs. “Okay, people, listen up.”

“Let me guess: CAS,” 1st. Lt. Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard, his second element leader, said.

'If you were hoping Kara was wrong, you're mistaken,” the CO said. “CAS is the order of the day, and we're committed to it the rest of the afternoon.”

“Swell, Boss.”

“Okay, listen up,” Major Wiser said. “Dave, you're not technically in the flight, but you're headed the same way. Come in behind us.”

“Will do, Guru,” Golen replied. Guru was the CO's call sign.

The CO nodded, then glanced over to his aircraft. The ordnance load was the same as they had in the two morning runs, namely, twelve Rockeye Cluster Bombs: Three on each inner wing station, and six on the centerline MER rack. “Okay, we could be going after anything: armor, artillery, APCs, supply vehicles, whatever. Be advised that MiGs are now active. BARCAP's keeping them away for the most part, but there's always leakers. Helos are also reported, and if you do engage a helo? Make sure of the ID, because Army choppers are up, too. Weather's improving, and the usual divert fields and bailout areas are the same as the morning. Ditto for tanker tracks.”

“Same drill otherwise?” 1st Lt. Nathan “Hoser” West, Sweaty's wingman, asked.

“You got it,” Major Wiser said. “Call signs between flight members, mission code to other parties. Now, we could get a hot turnaround when we get back, because as I said, we're committed to CAS until sunset.”

“Lovely,” Kara said. “Haven't had one of those for a while.”

“If it happens, we're due,” Major Wiser said. “Anything else?” Heads shook no on that. “Okay,” the CO said, clapping his hands once. “Let's hit it. Mount up.”

The crews headed for their aircraft, and Guru and Goalie went to 512, where Staff Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, was waiting. “Sergeant,” Guru nodded.

“Major,” Crowley said. “512's ready to rock.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said. He and Goalie did a quick walk-around, then got strapped in and began their preflight. As they did, Crowley climbed up the crew ladder. “What's up, Sergeant?”

“Sir, you guys have been kicking ass and taking names all day. Keep it up, sir, if you don't mind my saying,” the Crew Chief said.

“We'll do that, Sergeant, and I don't mind at all,” Guru said.

Nodding, the Crew Chief smiled as he got back down, and he took the crew ladder with him.

“They don't get enough credit,” Goalie said as she went through the preflight.

“Not enough,” Guru admitted. “They work longer than we do. And we can't fly without 'em,” he added, referring to the ground crews.

“True that,” Goalie said. “Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom,” Guru replied. “Check yours. We're ready.”

“We are. Preflight complete and time for engine start.”

Guru nodded, then gave Sergeant Crowley the thumbs-up. Then he saw the Crew Chief give the “Start Engines” signal. One, then both, of 512's J-79 engines were quickly up and running. Once the warm-up was done, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Flight with four, requesting clearance for taxi and takeoff.”

“Corvette Lead, Tower, Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Three Left. Hold prior to the runway.”

“Roger, Tower. Corvette Lead rolling.” Guru gave another thumbs-up, the ground crew pulled the chocks away from the wheels, and Crowley signaled him to taxi. Guru taxied 512 out of the revetment, and as he did, Sergeant Crowley snapped a salute. Both pilot and GIB returned it, then Guru taxied 512 to the runway, with the others following. They held prior to the runway so the armorers could remove the weapon safeties, then Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Lead requesting permission to taxi for takeoff.”

“Roger, Corvette Lead, clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-eight-two at ten.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru replied. He taxied 512 onto the runway, and Kara in 520 followed. “Ready?” He asked Goalie.

“Let's go,” she replied. “Get it done.”

“Tower, Corvette Flight requesting clearance for takeoff.”

The tower replied by flashing a green light. Clear for takeoff.

Guru replied by closing his canopy, and Goalie did the same. He looked to his Four, and saw Kara and Brainiac doing the same. That done, he went to afterburner, released the brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air, with Kara's 520 right with him. Sweaty and Hoser followed, and a minute later, it was Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins' turn.


Over North-Central Texas, 1345 Hours Central War Time:


Corvette Flight had refueled from the tankers over Oklahoma, and was now waiting in the CAS que over Farmersville, Texas. It had been the same as the previous two missions that morning. “Get in line at 25,000 and wait your turn,” Hillsboro had told Guru when he checked in. Now, as they descended, the crews in Corvette Flight could see other CAS missions going in, fireballs erupting on the ground, and Army helicopters going about their business, whether it was tank-busting or dustoff. When they cleared 10,000 feet, Guru called Hillsboro. “Hillsboro, Corvette One-one. Any trade for us?”

“Stand by, Corvette,” Hillsboro said, and Guru could tell there was a hint of disgust in the controller's voice.

“Want to bet every flight lead today has asked that question?” Goalie asked.

“No, because that's a given,” Guru replied.

“Lead, Three,” Sweaty called. “How close are we to showtime?”

“Not long, Three,” Guru replied.

“Corvette Lead, Hillsboro. Contact Nail Six-six for tasking,” the EC-130 controller said. “Good luck.”

“Roger that, Hillsboro, Nail Six-six, and thank you.” Guru then called the FAC. “Nail Six-six, Corvette One-one.”

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

“Nail, Corvette has four Foxtrot-Four Echoes with twelve Rockeyes each airplane, full air-to-air and guns,” Guru called back. “What's the target?”

“Corvette, got some armor for you. Moving northeast past the F.M. 36-F.M. 2275 junction. Regimental strength at least, mixed tanks and APCs,” Nail replied.

“Copy that, Nail. Say threat?”

“Threat is mixed. Negative radar missiles, but IR, and no radar Triple-A. Lots of 23-mike-mike, though.”

“Roger that. Can give you one run only, south to north,” Guru replied.

“Your call, Corvette. Will mark with Willie-Pete,” the FAC said. The A-7K rolled in, and fired two rockets, and the WP exploded among the Soviet armor. “That's your target area,”

“Roger that,” Guru said. Then he checked his EW repeater. A radar came up, and there was a “4” next to the strobe. That meant an SA-4 radar was now active. “Nail, any Weasels around? Just had a SAM radar come up.”

“I've got it, Corvette. Will advise,” Nail replied.

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, music on, and let's go to work.”

“Roger, Lead.” Kara replied.

“Three's ready,” Sweaty.

“Four, copy.” Hoser.

“All set back there?” Guru asked Goalie.

“We're set.” Goalie replied.

“Hang on,” Guru said. “Corvette Lead in hot!” He rolled the F-4, then went in on his attack run.


Below Corvette Flight, the 1261st Motor-Rifle Regiment from the 204th Motor-Rifle Division was moving forward. The regiment was moving, with the rest of the division, to counterattack the Americans who had taken the Greenville Airport, and to assist the 70th TD, The Regiment had been hit hard by air strikes, and not only had the regimental commander been killed, but his deputy, an overage Colonel, had suddenly dropped dead from a heart attack, and the Chief of Staff was now in command. Turning things over to his deputy, the new commander went forward, and found his three motor-rifle battalions moving forward, but with American aircraft and attack helicopters attacking his regiment. Ordering his battalion commanders to disregard the aircraft, and keep moving forward, Fireballs erupted as TOW missiles from the cursed AH-1s took out his BTR-152 gun trucks, which mounted ZU-23s as ADA vehicles, and even picked off the occasional T-54A tank. Peering through binoculars, he made out some writing in English on the side of one of the helicopters, and his Zampolit, who spoke fluent English, read it.

“It says, 'This girl eats T-80s,' Comrade Commander,”

“Hmpf,” the Commander replied. “Forward, you scum! Forward!”

Then the Zampolit turned to the rear of the BTR-60 command vehicle and pointed. “AIRCRAFT ALARM-SOUTH!

“What are you babbling about-” the Commander said, then he saw the chevron tails and the smoke trails. F-4 Phantoms were coming in, if his Air Force liaison officer was right. And they were headed right for his regiment.....”Deploy! NOW!”


“Steady...” Guru said. He lined up some tanks and APCs in his pipper. Looked like a battalion's worth of vehicles on the move. Then the armor began to deploy. He'd been spotted, likely. Not your day, Ivan.....Guru lined up some tanks and hit the pickle button. HACK!” A dozen Rockeye CBUs came off of 512's racks. “Lead's off target.”

The Soviet commander watched as Guru's F-4 flew over his command vehicle, and released its load of cluster bombs on his lead battalion and the tanks supporting it. He howled with anger when several T-54As and BTR-60s took hits from the CBUs. Some exploded at once, others simply caught fire, while a couple of tanks skidded to a halt, their tracks broken by the bomblets. “Don't stop! Keep moving!” he shouted into his throat mike.

“SHACK!” Goalie called as Guru pulled 512 up and away. “Got some secondaries!”

“Anyone shooting at us?” Guru asked as he headed north for I-30, then Lavon Lake.

“Nada.”


“Two in hot!” Kara called as she rolled 520 in. She saw Guru pull off, and fireballs erupt where he had deposited his CBUs. Noting some armor moving to the right of that, she made those vehicles her target. Lining up some APCs and tanks in her pipper, she was surprised to see no flak coming up. Maybe they don't have any, she thought. Bad day, Ivan....HACK!” She hit the pickle button and a dozen Rockeyes fell on the Soviet battalion......”Two's off safe.”

The Soviet Colonel watched with anger as a second F-4 rolled in, and hit his Third Battalion. More BTR-60Ps and a few T-54As fireballed as CBU bomblets did their deadly work, and to his anger, the air defense platoons were not firing their Strela-2 (SA-7) missiles. Several BTRs did stop, and their troops deployed, but they were more concerned with taking cover than in firing back. Ordering his battalion commanders to get their air defense assets into action, he roared for his regiment to keep moving, not noticing the second pair of F-4s coming in....

“GOOD HITS!” Brainiac called from 520's back seat.

“Secondaries?” Kara asked as she followed the CO north.

“Got some, and nobody shooting at us,” he replied.

“Good enough for me,” Kara said as 520 cleared the I-30.


Sweaty rolled in on her run. “Three's in!” She called. Sweaty noticed some armor to the left of where Kara had made her run, and decided it was their turn. Lining them up in her pipper, she saw that no one was shooting at her, and that, she decided, made it a good run in her book. Sweaty lined up some APCs that had just stopped, and hit the pickle button. “HACK!” Rockeye CBUs came off the racks, and as Sweaty pulled away, she called, “Three's off target.”

The Soviet commander watched in horror as his First battalion was hit this time, and several BTRs that had stopped to deploy their troops exploded under the rain of CBUs, He saw the F-4 that had done the deed pull away, leaving several burning BTRs and a couple of burning tanks in its wake, and numerous dead and maimed men. He pulled up to the Battalion Commander's vehicle, and ordered him forward. The Captain in command began to argue, and the two were still arguing, not noticing another F-4 coming in...

“SHACK!” Preacher called to Sweaty from the back seat.

“Good hits?” Sweaty asked as she headed for the rendezvous point.

“Good secondaries,” Preacher said.

“I'll take that,” Sweaty said as they cleared the I-30 freeway.


“Four's in!” Hoser called. He saw where the other three had laid down their ordnance, and he was looking for something that hadn't been hit. Then he saw some APCs moving together, which meant a command group. Good enough, he thought as he lined them up. Seeing that nobody was shooting at him was a bonus as he lined the APCs up. “HACK!” Hoser hit the pickle button, and released his CBUs. He then pulled away, and called, “Four off target.”

The Soviet Colonel was busy shouting at First Battalion's commander, completely oblivious to Hoser's F-4 coming in. He only saw the aircraft as it flew over, and a rain of CBUs came down around him. His command BTR took several bomblets and exploded as the fuel tank took a hit and fireballed. His last sensation was the heat, and he never knew if the screams he heard were the vehicle's crew or his own....

“GOOD HITS!” KT called. “Got some secondaries!”

“How many?” Hoser asked as he headed north.

“Enough!” KT replied. 'And nobody shooting at us.”

Hoser nodded as he headed for the I-30 and then the rendezvous point. A strike where nobody shot at you was always a good one, he thought.


Guru made it to Lavon Lake, and as he did, he saw 520 right with him. “Three, where are you?” He called Sweaty.

“Right on you,” she replied, and Guru could see Sweaty joining up, with Hoser's F-4 right behind.

“Nail, Corvette One-one. Four in and out. How'd we do?”

“Corvette, Nail, I give you one hundred percent bombs on target. Great job.” the FAC called back. “The Army says 'Thank you.'”

“Tell 'em 'You're welcome,'” Guru replied. “We are outbound and RTB.”

“Roger that, Corvette, and thanks again.”

As Corvette Flight formed up for the trip home, Cobra Flight came in behind them. “Corvette, Cobra, mind if we join you?” It was Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins.

“Come on in,” Guru said.

The six-ship then headed back to Sheppard, and after receiving clearance, got in the landing pattern. This time, they didn't have to wait, as they were first in, and the two flights came in and landed. As they taxied to their dispersal area, the crews popped their canopies, and raised them. The ground crews waved, and the crews waved back, and the crews also noticed their media guests were back, filming them as they taxied in. “Surprised?” Guru asked Goalie.

“No, now that they're cleared,” she replied. “We on the news tonight?”

“That's what she said,” Guru replied as he taxied 512 into its revetment. “Have to check AFN to see when the CBS Evening News is on.”

“And Walter Cronkite talks about us,” Goalie finished.

“We'll see,” Guru said. He saw Sergeant Crowley give him the “Shut down” signal, and he shut down the engines. The ground crew came with the crew ladder, as well as the chocks for the landing gear. After going though a quick postflight in the cockpit, Guru, then Goalie climbed out of the aircraft. They did a quick post-flight walk-around, then Guru called to Sergeant Crowley. “Nobody shot at us this time, Sergeant. Get 512 turned around ASAP.”

“Yes, sir!” Crowley said. “You heard him,” he told the ground crew.

Guru and Goalie then went to the edge of the revetment, and the other crews joined them there. Then Dave and Sandi, with their GIBs, came over. “How'd it go?” Guru asked.

“Pretty good, Boss,” Kara said. “Got some tanks,and nobody was shooting back.”

“I'll go along with that,” Sweaty added.

“Where were the guns?” Preacher asked. “Didn't see a single gun down there.”

Guru nodded. “That is a very good question. Maybe those AH-1s we saw had something to do with it. A TOW missile rips apart a ZSU-23 a lot better than it does a tank.”

A Dodge Crew-cab pickup pulled up to the revetment, and both the Exec and the Intel Officer got out. “Boss,” Mark Ellis said. “You guys have to debrief here. As soon as you're turned around, you're all going back out.”

“Haven't had that for a while,” Goalie said.

“No kidding,” the CO said. He turned to his Crew Chief. “Sergeant? How long on the turnaround?”

“Twenty minutes, sir,” Crowley replied. “Easy.”

“There we go, then,” Kara said.

“Just like PRAIRIE FIRE, remember?” Goalie asked. “Been a while, though.”

“It has,” Guru admitted. “So, we debrief here?”

“You do, sir,” Capt. Darren Licon, the SIO, said. He unfolded a TPC chart and a USGS map of the area in question. “Could you show where you hit, and what?”

“Tanks and APCs,” Guru said, showing the Intel on both maps where they had hit armor. “Right here, and nobody shot at us.”

“I'll second that,” Sweaty said. “No SAMs, no flak, nothing.”

“The rest of you agree?” Licon asked, and both Kara and Hoser nodded, along with the GIBs.

“Had an SA-4 radar come up before the bomb run,” added Guru. “The FAC said he'd call in Weasels.”

“What kind of armor?” Licon wanted to know.

“Old stuff,” Kara said, and the others nodded. “Looked like T-54s or -55s, and open-topped APCs.”

“BTR-60s or -152s,” said Licon. “All right, Major Golen?”

Their IDF “observer” pointed on the map. “Hit some artillery pieces, here. Just south of that regiment. Towed guns, and they were lined up, getting ready to fire.”

“Any secondaries?”

“With those ammo trucks going up?” Sandi Jenkins asked. “Those guys came back down-in pieces.”

“Had to ask,” Licon said. “Any MiGs?”

Golen shook his head sadly. “Not a one. No helicopters, either.”

“Same for us,” Guru said. “Only choppers we saw were friendlies, AH-1s. And only friendly aircraft.”

“Thanks, Major, everyone,” Licon said. “I'll write these up and get them off. “

The CO nodded. “Okay, Darren.” He then turned to his Exec. “It may be a half day, but it's a long one.”

“It is, Boss,” Ellis said. “Got some drinks in the truck, and sandwiches as well.”

“Marine roadkill sandwiches?” Preacher asked. “Whatever's in them has been dead for a while and can only improve with age.”

“Unless it's a BLT,” Kara said. “Then something in the tomato looks back at you,” and everyone laughed.

“Get something to eat, and something to drink, people,” Guru said with due seriousness. “Won't be long until it's time to go again,” he nodded, and pointed to 512, where the ordnance people were bringing Mark-82 five-hundred pound bombs to the aircraft.

“You heard him,” Dave Golen said, and everyone went to get a sandwich and some water. Guru waited, as he had to talk with the Exec.

“Mark, when are you going back out?”

“Kev O'Donnell says forty-five minutes,” Ellis said. “The repair's an easy one.”

“Okay,” Guru replied. “Keep things humming while I'm gone.”

“Will do,” Ellis said.

Guru nodded, then got himself a turkey sandwich and some water. While they ate, the crews watched other flights going in and coming back, and then Ms. Wendt and her camera crew came over. He asked the reporter, “How'd things go with you?”

“Getting poked and prodded for an hour was no fun, then the other training, though?” She replied. “That was more interesting.”

“Now you guys know what a flight physical's like,” Kara laughed. “With you, it's one and done. We have to have one every year.”

“Once is enough, thanks,” Wendt said. “Going back out, Major?” She asked the CO.

“Getting ready to,” Guru admitted. “Haven't had one of these in a while.”

“You should've been with us back in May,” Sweaty said. “Had three straight seven-mission days.”

“How was that?” the reporter asked.

“Day three?” Kara said. “They were lifting us out of the cockpit after the last mission because we were dead tired. Had the next day off, and slept for ten hours.”

“Hope it's not like that for tomorrow,” KT added.

While they were talking, Guru noticed Sergeant Crowley checking 512. Then he went to the other aircraft in the flight, and Cobra Flight's birds as well. Then the crew chief came back. “Sergeant?”

“Major, all of your flight are ready to go. Major Golen's birds as well,” the crew chief said.

“All right, people! Finish up, and get ready to fly.”

Everyone finished their sandwiches and water, then gathered around Guru for his final instructions. “Same drill, Boss?” Sweaty asked.

“Same drill,” Guru said. “Radio procedures, MiG threat, tanker tracks, and so on. Nothing's changed.”
He looked at Dave Golen. “Dave, you guys are a separate flight, but you might as well tag along with us until we call Hillsboro.”

“We'll be there,” Golen said.

“Okay, same rendezvous as last time: Lavon Lake. Anything else?” Guru asked.

“And we're at this until sunset,” Kara said. It wasn't a question.

“We are,” Guru nodded. “That it?” Heads nodded at that, then the CO clapped his hand.”All right, let's hit it.”

The crews headed for their aircraft, while Mark Ellis and Kodak Griffith got the camera crew out of the way, as it would be pretty noisy in a few minutes.

“Everything set, Sergeant?” Guru asked his Crew Chief.

“All ready, Major. If you're wondering, the ordnance guys brought was was immediately available. They're not running low on CBUs, if that's what you're wondering.”

“Okay, Sergeant.” Guru said. He and Goalie did a quick walk-around, then mounted the aircraft. Their cockpit preflight was equally quick, and both thought that their RTU instructors would be apoplectic at that. After Sergeant Crowley gave the “Start Engines” signal, Guru started, then ran up, the two J-79 engines. Then it was time to taxi. “Tower, Corvette Flight with four, request taxi and takeoff instructions.”

“Corvette Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-three Left. Hold prior to the runway.”

“Roger, Tower,” Guru replied, then it was time to taxi. After clearing the revetment, Sergeant Crowley snapped a salute, and both pilot and GIB returned it. Guru taxied to the runway, and held for the armorers to remove the safeties. He then called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

“Corvette Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi. Winds are two-seven-three for five.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru then taxied 512 onto the runway, and Kara did the same with 520. Then he called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Lead requesting clearance for takeoff.”

The Tower flashed the usual green light in response. Clear for takeoff.

Both crews closed their canopies, and the pilots ran their engines to full power and then afterburner. Then Guru released his brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air, with Kara taking 520 right with him. Then it was Sweaty's and Hoser's turn, and after that, Dave Golen led Sandi Jenkins into the air.
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  #267  
Old 04-07-2016, 08:59 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auberry, CA
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The next one, and the 335th takes a couple of hits:



West of Greenville, Texas, 1515 Hours Central War Time:


Corvette Flight had a quick trip back to the holding area, and after Guru had checked in with both AWACS and then Hillsboro, had been told to get in line. After getting in line at 25,000 feet, they had listened in to strikes going in, and were past 17,000 when they heard Dodge Flight, which was normally Mark Ellis' flight, but with his plane damaged, his second element had gone out as a two-ship, going in. The two Phantoms had just made their runs when Dodge Two-three, who was 1st Lt. Bryan Woods, called “Dodge Two-four is down.”

“Oh, shit!” Goalie said over the IC in 512.

“I'll second that,” Guru said. Then an SAR beeper came over the radio. “Somebody got out. Crystal Palace, Corvette One-one.”

The AWACS controller replied. “Corvette, Crystal Palace. We heard it. Jollys on the way.” That meant the HH-3 or HH-53 Jolly Green Giant rescue choppers.

'Roger that,” Guru replied. “Dodge Two-three, Corvette Lead. What happened?”

“Corvette, Dodge. Don't know, Boss,” Woods replied. “He called off target, then said he was taking fire. Next thing I hear is the beeper.”

“Copy that, Dodge. Hold at Lavon Lake if you have the fuel. If you can't, RTB.”

'Roger, Corvette. Will orbit.”

“Lead, Three,” Sweaty called. “We going to help out?”

“Flight, Lead. Only if the FAC tells us we're needed. Still got a job to do.”

“Copy, Lead,” Kara replied.

Three, copy,” Sweaty added.

“Four, Roger,” Hoser said.

They kept descending as others ahead of them got called in by FACs, and when Corvette Flight got to 10,000 feet, the ABCCC controller got a hold of Guru. “Corvette One-one, Hillsboro. We have tasking for you.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. “What have you got?”

“Contact Nail Seven-one for tasking.”

“Copy, Nail Seven-one,” Guru replied. “Goalie, do me a favor.”

“Name it,” his GIB said.

“Use your radio and get on the CSAR frequency,” Guru said. “Try and listen in.”

“Will do,” Goalie replied.

“Nail Seven-one, Corvette Lead.”

“Corvette, Nail Seven-one, I copy. Say aircraft and type of ordnance, please.”

Nail, Corvette Flight is four Foxtrot-Four Echoes, with twelve Mark-8-2 Snakeyes and full air-to-air each airplane. Can give you one pass in the target area,” Guru said.

“Roger that, Corvette. I have mixed tanks and APCs moving northeast, east of the F.M. 36-F.M. 2276 intersection,” the FAC told Guru.

“Copy, Nail. Say ground-to-air threat?” Guru had heard one of his planes shot down, and sure didn't want any more sharing that fate this day.

“Corvette, Nail. Threat is mixed. Some radar SAMs are now in the area. Mostly guns and MANPADS at present,” the FAC replied.

“Roger that. One pass, south to north,” Guru told the FAC.

“Your call, Corvette. Marking the target now,” the FAC said.

Guru and the rest of the flight watched as an A-7K orbited the area, then rolled in and fired two rockets, with WP exploding amidst the armor below. “Nail, Corvette. Have Willie Pete in sight.”

“Roger, Corvette, they're yours.”

“Goalie, anything?” Guru asked his GIB.

“Jolly inbound. Two HH-3s coming in with Cobras in support,” Goalie replied.

“Okay, back to work,” Guru said. “Set everything up. All in one pass.”

“Roger that,” Goalie replied. She worked the backseater's armament controls. “All set here”

“Good girl,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. Target is marked and in sight. Follow me in. Lead is in hot!” He rolled 512 in onto the target.


Below, the 1278th Motor-Rifle Regiment was assuming a hasty defense, as the 204th MRD had run into serious American resistance, and two regiments had been shot to pieces, and the regiment had been ordered to hold in place, along with the 1180th Tank Regiment. The tank regiment was moving into position on their right flank so as to be able to counterattack, but their old T-54As would likely be facing M-60A3s or the IPM-1.

The regimental commander, a Colonel who had been with the 41st Guards Tank Division before this division had been mobilized, was concerned. He had no accurate information on the enemy, other than two regiments had been ahead of his own, and both had been shattered by American air and fire strikes before encountering the enemy defenses, and now the Americans were reportedly moving in a counterattack of their own. His regiment, with old T-54As and “monkey model” BMP-1s originally meant for export, was in for it. But his air defense people were in high spirits, as the last American air attack on the regiment had an F-4 shot down, and though a parachute had been seen, the pilot was about a kilometer at least in front of the regiment, and though regimental reconnaissance was out, a downed pilot was the least of their concerns, with a reported brigade of American armor and mechanized infantry coming at the regiment. He had just ordered his battalions to stand-to when he noticed white phosphorous exploding on his unit's positions. That meant an air attack inbound. But where? He never saw the F-4s coming in on his regiment until it was too late....

Guru rolled 512 in, and saw the tanks and BMPs. He couldn't make out any obvious command groups, so he picked out some BMPs and lined them up in his pipper. “Steady....Steady..”

“No flak?” Goalie asked.

“Not yet...” replied Guru. “And...HACK!” He hit the pickle button and a dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes came off 512's racks. He pulled up and away, towards I-30, and called, “Lead's off target.”

The Soviet Colonel ducked into his command vehicle as an F-4 came over and released a dozen five-hundred pound bombs onto his Second Battalion. Several BMPs exploded from direct hits or were flipped onto their sides by the force of the blasts, while bodies were tossed like rags in the wind. Only then did he yell into his throat mike, “AIRCRAFT ALARM!”

“SHACK!” Goalie yelled.

“Secondaries?” Guru asked as he headed for the I-30 line.

“Can't tell,” Goalie said. Then she looked at their One O'clock. “Jollys at One, and they're going to work.”

Guru glanced in that direction. He saw an HH-3E helo moving into hover, while Army AH-1s were either making rocket passes or using their 20-mm guns. “Good,” said Guru. If they did their job, he'd only have one letter to write....

“Two's in!” Kara called. She rolled 520 in, and as she saw Guru's bird pull away, she noticed where he'd planted his bombs. Right behind that was a battalion's worth of tanks, probably the regiment's tank battalion. How nice of them to deploy in the open.....Kara lined up the center company in her pipper, and even a thirty-year old T-54 couldn't stand up to a Mark-82 if laid down right...and just before she hit the pickle button, she noticed tracers coming up. Tankers using their machine guns. “Not today, she muttered. “And....HACK!” A dozen more Mark-82s landed on the Soviet regiment. “Two's off” she called as she pulled 520 out and headed north.

The Soviet regimental commander watched with a mix of admiration and anger as Kara's F-4 pulled away from its run. Admiration for the pilots, who were disregarding the tracers from machine guns and small-arms fire from his men as they made their runs, and anger at the losses being inflicted. The Colonel saw two tanks take direct hits from bombs and blow apart, while another tank's external fuel tank was sliced open by shrapnel, and exploded, drenching the T-54 in flaming fuel. A couple of other tanks shared that fate, and another tank had driven into a bomb crater and was thus immobilized. Watching this, the Colonel knew it wasn't over yet, as more aircraft were bound to come in.

“GOOD HITS!” Shouted Brainiac from 520's back seat.

“Secondaries?” Kara asked as she followed the CO out of the target area.

“Looks like a couple,” her GIB said. “Hey, Jolly at One.”

Kara glanced at her One O'clock, and saw an HH-3 Jolly Green with someone on its rescue hoist, then she turned to follow Guru out. “They got somebody.”

“Who?”

“We'll find out on the ground.”


“Three's in hot!” Called Sweaty as she rolled in on her run. As she did, she noticed flak to the right, 57-mm by the looks of it. Ignoring it, Sweaty picked out what looked like Regimental artillery deployed, and those were towed guns. As she lined up a battery in her pipper, a couple of SA-7s came up, but with no all-aspect seekers, the SA-7 was just fireworks, though Preacher involuntarily ducked in the back seat as the missiles flew past the F-4. “Not today, Ivan..” Sweaty lined up the guns and hit the pickle button. 'HACK!” More Mark-82s fell onto the Soviet regiment, and she pulled away, “Three's off!”

The Colonel's chief of staff tapped him on the shoulder, and pointed to the rear. Both saw Sweaty's F-4 pulling away, and a dozen bombs exploding on the regiment's artillery battalion. One battery position was covered in smoke and debris as bombs landed on the battery, and exploded not just the old M-20 122-mm howitzers, but ready ammunition, and some of the prime movers and ammunition trucks. The Colonel was in a rage, as his own regiment's anti-aircraft battery consisted of old BTR-152s with ZU-23s mounted on top, and, lacking the Strela-1 (SA-9) battery, had an extra air defense platoon with soldiers armed with Strela-2 (SA-7) missiles. A couple of Strela-2s followed the F-4 as it streaked away to the north, but failed to hit.

“SHACK! Great Hits!” Preacher called from the back seat.

“Secondaries?” Sweaty asked as she headed for I-30.

“Big ones! You hit the ammo trucks!” Preacher replied.

“Good!”


Four's in!' Hoser called, and as he came in, he, too, noticed the flak. He ignored it so he could concentrate on the bomb run, and decided to hit the guns his element lead had gone after. Hoser lined up another battery in his pipper, and KT was calling out the altitude, and she also saw the flak coming up, not just ahead of them, but to their right. Hoser lined up another battery of guns in his pipper, and, despite the tracers and the flak, hit the pickle button. “HACK!” Twelve more Mark-82s landed on the Soviet artillery battalion, and Hoser pulled away, “Four off target,”


The Soviet Colonel watched as Hoser's F-4 came in and released its bombs, and again, bombs landed on one of his artillery batteries. Guns and gunners were tossed around like toys, while ready ammunition and ammunition trucks went off in secondary explosions. As he watched the F-4 pull away, it was bracketed by anti-aircraft fire from the nearby tank regiment and its ZSU-57-2s.

“SHACK!” KT called, “We got secondaries! Break left!”

“What?” Hoser replied, then several flak bursts bracketed the F-4, then they took a hit to the nose, and there were a couple of near-misses. “Lead, Four. We're hit!”

“How bad, Hoser?' Guru called. He was orbiting over Lavon Lake, and as he maintained his turn, Kara joined up on him.

“Radar's out, controls are sluggish, and we're losing fuel,” Hoser replied. “Can make the fence.” That meant I-30 and friendly lines.

“Copy that, Hoser,” Guru replied. .

Dodge Two-three was orbiting with them, and soon, Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins in Cobra Flight arrived as well. Hoser made it past the I-30, then he called, “Got a fire warning light, We're getting out. See you later, Boss.” Then both he and KT punched out, and there were two good chutes.

“Good luck, Hoser,” said Guru. “Crystal Palace, Corvette One-one. One-four has ejected. Two good chutes, and request SAR.”

“Roger, Corvette One-one. Jolly Six-seven is en route. We have you orbiting the position.”

“Copy that, Crystal Palace. Can orbit for two-zero minutes.”


Jolly Six-six and Six-seven were two HH-3Es, from the 305th Rescue Squadron at Selfridge AFB in Michigan, but instead of going to the Northern Theater, the squadron, with HC-130s and HH-3Es, had gone south. This detachment from the 305th had been colocated with the Army, and the unit they were currently with was the 8-229 Attack Helicopter Battalion, the “Cobra Girls” or “Cobra Chicks.” The unit was famous for its combat debut at Wichita, and had built on that record during the drive south during PRAIRIE FIRE, but also had a well-deserved reputation for debauchery, hell-raising, and general rowdiness, much to the chagrin of the mostly AF Reserve crews. Though the AF people did attend the unit's parties, they were more.....restrained than their Army colleagues.

Now, they were back in their element, with Jolly Six-six having recovered an F-4 crew member from right between two Soviet motor-rifle regiments, and Six-seven having been in a holding area as backup. Now, with another F-4 down, though north of the front line, Jolly Six-seven was closest. In fact, the flight crew watched the F-4 crew eject, and they were already speeding to the area before the call came from the AWACS.

Six-seven's pilot was Capt. Beverly Lynne, who had been a cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles in her college days to help pay for school, and had joined the Air Force after graduation. Her original flying assignment had been flying UH-1Ns on missile site support for SAC at Whiteman, but with the war, and the end of the ban on women in combat, she had asked for Combat SAR. After a year with the 305th, she was one of the best pilots in the squadron, and was the deputy commander of the detachment. Now it was showtime. She brought the helo in next to a field where both F-4 crew members were coming down, and she saw several Army Hummers converging on the scene as well. Anxious to beat the Army and get the credit for the rescue, Lynne had her Pararescue men waiting to go as the first crew member landed in the field. She brought the helo in just as the second crew member landed, and all four PJ s jumped from the helo and ran for the survivors.

The Pararescue men got to the survivors just as the first Hummer entered the field, and when they asked the survivors if they were okay, both replied in the affirmative. The PJ s conducted the survivors to the waiting helo, and after everyone was aboard, Capt. Lynne gunned the big Sikorsky skyward, and after turning it over to her copilot, she asked the F-4 crew “Where are you guys from?”

“335th TFS” Hoser said, introducing himself and KT. “The Bastard Orphans of the Air Force.”

“Heard about you guys,” Lynne said. “Wait one Crystal Palace, Jolly Six-seven has two survivors. We are RTB at this time.”

“Roger, Jolly.” AWACS replied. “Will notify Corvette Lead.”

“Copy,” Lynne said. “Hey, you guys know Guru Wiser? He's an OTS classmate of mine.”

“Sure do,” KT said.

“He was the Ops Officer last I heard,” Lynne said.

“Not anymore. He's the CO now, and a Major,” Hoser said.

“Well, I'll be damned. If that other survivor we picked up is from your unit, I'll take you back myself. You guys need to get checked out, then we'll get you to your base later tonight.”

“Fair enough,” Hoser replied, and KT nodded.


“Corvette Lead, Crystal Palace. Jolly has the survivors. They are RTB at this time.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied with a big sigh of relief. “Flight, Lead. Jolly has Hoser and KT. Time to go home. Dodge Two-three, form up on us. Cobra Lead, you with us?”

“Right with you,” Dave Golen replied.

The impromptu flight then headed back to Sheppard, relived that two of their own had been rescued, but anxious to hear the fate of Dodge Two-four's crew. Who had made it, and who hadn't? Pilot or GIB?

The flight arrived in Sheppard's traffic pattern, and after waiting on a couple of outbound flights, was cleared in. First Dodge Two-three, then Corvette, then Cobra. At the 335th's Ops Building, several pilots and GIBs were watching, along with Kodak Griffith, Master Sergeant Ross and the news crew. As the aircraft taxied in, those watching made out the tail numbers. Then the group, led by the Exec, piled into a Crew-cab pickup and headed over to the squadron's dispersal area, and the revetment used by the CO's bird.

Guru taxied 512 into its revetment, and after popping his canopy and shutting down, took a deep breath. He knew that tonight, he'd be writing a letter to a family, and that, he knew, would not be pleasant. Colonel Rivers had told him that of all the jobs he had to do in the service, that was the lousiest, as he never really knew what to say. But somehow, he did, and Guru knew he'd have to as well. “Not a good one,” he said.

“How'd they get that lucky?” Goalie wanted to know.

“Some Kasha-eating Son of a Bitch got lucky. He just sprayed Hoser with 57 fire, and that was that.” Guru spat, standing up in the cockpit as the ground crew brought the crew ladder.

“Bad luck,” Goalie said as she stood up.

Guru nodded as he climbed down, then he turned to Sergeant Crowley. “Sergeant, 512's still truckin'. Get her turned around ASAP. We lost a couple of birds, but we still got a job to do.”

“Yes, sir,” the crew chief responded. “Sir, do we know who didn't....?”

“Not yet,” the CO said. “We need to hear from the RCC.” That meant the Rescue Coordination Center at McAlister Regional Airport in Oklahoma. “All we know is that someone got out of Two-four.”

“Yes, sir,” Crowley said. “Okay, people! You heard the Major. Let's get this bird ready to go!”

Guru and Goalie left the ground crew to their work, and headed to the entrance of the revetment, and found Kara, Brainiac, Sweaty, and Preacher gathering there. “Well, our bad luck today,” Guru said.

“WTF happened?” Kara asked. “All we got was light stuff-either machine guns or 23s!”

“ZSU-57, probably,” Preacher said. “We got some of it, and Hoser's bad luck he got the worst of it.”

“Preacher's right,” Sweaty added. “When are they coming back?”

“Need to hear from the RCC,” Guru said. “Sometime tonight, if they're not hurt.”

Then a Crew-Cab pickup arrived, and several pilots and GIBs jumped out, along with the Intel Officer. It was the Exec who got to the Major first. “Boss, what happened?”

“Not sure with Two-four,” Guru said. He motioned to 1st Lt. Brian Woods and 1st Lt. Paul Landon. “Brian, what happened from your viewpoint?”

“Not sure, Major,” Woods said. “All I know is that Razor called in hot, then said they were taking fire. Next thing I hear is the beeper.”

The Intel Officer, Capt. Darren Licon, pulled out a map of the area. “Could you show me where, please?”

Woods nodded, then indicated on the map where they had been sent to hit armor.

“We were south of that,” Major Wiser said.

“Okay, sir. Can you show me where you all went?” Licon asked.

Nodding, Woods, then Guru's flight, then Dave Golen's, indicated where they had gone and what they had hit. And where Hoser and KT had been hit and then had gone down. In friendly territory, but the crash site had to be marked.

“Thanks, everyone. I'll get this off to Tenth Air Force,” Licon said, with a touch of concern in his voice. He knew that he had briefed everyone about the threat, and was wondering if he'd missed something.

“Not your fault, Darren,” the CO said, knowing what Licon was feeling. “You just pass on what they send you.”

“Yes, sir,” the Intel said.

Then another pickup arrived, and Kodak Griffith, Sergeant Ross, and the news crew piled out. Ms. Wendt came over to the CO, and she knew right away something was wrong. Two faces she'd gotten familiar over the past two days were missing. “Major, what happened?”

“Not a good day,” Major Wiser said. “Two birds down, and someone didn't get out of the first one.”

“And the second?” Then she realized who....”Hoser and KT?”

“”They made it out, and got picked up,” said the CO. “Still waiting on who the other survivor is.” Major Wiser then turned to Kara. “Got a job for you.”

“Name it, Boss,” Kara replied.

“Have Sergeant Ross take you back to Ops. Call the RCC and find out who the other survivor is, and when we're getting Hoser, KT, and the third one back. Get our Frag Order while you're at it.”

Kara nodded, “I'm gone,” and climbed into Ross' pickup, and the Master Sergeant drove her back to Ops. While she was gone, people made small talk, or otherwise killed time, but it was only a few minutes until Ross brought her back. She jumped out of the truck and came over to the CO. “Got some news, Major. Frag order first.”

“More CAS.” The CO said. And the way he said it, it wasn't a question.

“You got it. Same AO,” Kara nodded. “And the lost sheep?”

“Who's coming back?” Major Wiser asked.

“Hoser and KT, you know,” Kara said. “The other one?”

“Yeah?” several people said at once.

“Revlon,” Kara said. 1st Lt. Julie “Revlon” Cole was backseat in Dodge Two-four. That meant that Capt. Paul “Razor” Gillette wasn't coming back.

“Damn it,” Mark Ellis said.

“Not your fault, Mark,” Major Wiser said, putting a hand on the Exec's shoulder.

“I know,” the Exec nodded. “Still....”

“It sucks, no doubt about it,” the CO said. “Three out of four coming back, but that doesn't make the letter-writing any easier.”


“Nope,” Ellis agreed. “This time, I have to write one. Razor was in my flight.”

“Part of the job,” Major Wiser nodded sympathetically. “One not covered in the recruiting brochure.”

“Or taught at the Academy, ROTC, or OTS,” Kara added.

“No,” the CO said. “Okay, Mark, when are you going out again?”

“Fifteen minutes,” said the Exec. “My element's being armed and fueled right now.”

Major Wiser looked at his Exec. “Mind going out as a two-ship?”

“Planning to,” Ellis said. “You want to borrow Brian?”

“Yeah,” Guru nodded. “Sweaty needs a wingman for the rest of today and tomorrow.”

“You got him,” Ellis said. “Just do me a favor: bring him, his GIB, and his plane back the way you found it.”

Major Wiser nodded. “Will do, Mark. Have a good one, and good luck.” Then CO and XO shook hands.

“Thanks,”

Then the CO addressed the pilots and GIBs gathered there. “Okay, people! Get back in the groove. There's two hours of daylight left. We've got missions to fly and bad guys to burn, bleed, and blow up.”

Kara looked at the Exec, who nodded. Then she clapped her hand once. “You heard the Major, Let's get with it.”

As the crowd broke up, the CO turned to Kara. “Get back to Ops. Find out when Van Loan's due back, and when our lost sheep are as well.”

“Will do.”

“Okay, then. Go.”

Kara nodded, then jumped into Ross' pickup, and the Master Sergeant drove her back to Ops.

“Sweaty?” Major Wiser turned to his number three. “You and Brian talk things over. He's your wingman for the rest of today and tomorrow.”

“Gotcha, Major,” Sweaty nodded, and so did Preacher.

Then the CO told his flight. “Get something to eat, something to drink, because we're out again in twenty minutes or so. Get back into game mode.”

While people were getting a snack or a bottle of water, Kara came back. “Major, got some news.”

“What is it?”

“Van Loan's on his way. Four out and four on the way back. The chopper with our friends should be here around 1830,” Kara reported.

Heads nodded at that, while Sweaty said, “Something to celebrate.”

“Yeah,” Goalie muttered.

“And we're on AFN tonight. CBS Evening News is at 1730,” Kara reminded everyone.

Then Sergeant Crowley came over. “Major? Your flight's ready to go. Lieutenant Wood's bird is all set, and so is Major Golen's element.”

Major Wiser took a look at 512 and found Rockeyes loaded. “All of us have Rockeyes?”

Crowley nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” the CO said. “Gather round, people. Birds are up and ready.”

The flight gathered around the CO, as he gave his final instructions. “Antiarmor, I see,” noted Sweaty.

“You got it,” the Major said. “Okay, Dave? You guys stick close. If the MiGs show up, it'll be interesting.”

“That it will, Guru,” Golen replied.

“All right, just put what happened an hour ago out of mind, and get on with the job,” Major Wiser told his flight. “Okay, Scorpion?' He nodded at Brian Woods. “Got things set with Sweaty?”

Woods nodded. “All set, Boss.”

“How'd he get that call sign?” Dave Golen asked Goalie.

“He made a flight at the RTU with a scorpion in his flight suit,” Goalie replied “He never knew about it until after he landed. Didn't get stung, either.”

“Judge?” the CO asked Paul Landon, Scorpion's GIB. “Clear with Preacher?”

Both GIBs nodded.

“And how'd he get that one?” Golen whispered to Goalie.

“His BA degree's Pre-law.” Goalie replied.

“Okay,” the CO went on. “We've got this one, and maybe time for one more. Do NOT get complacent, people! We've had two birds go down, and I don't want any more today. Got it?”

“Loud and clear, Major,” Kara said.

“Scorpion? Mission code to AWACS and other interested parties. Call signs between us.”

“XO does it the same way, Major,” Scorpion replied.

“Good. MiG threat, tanker tracks, divert fields, and bailout areas are the same as before,” said the CO. “Anything else?”

“Maybe the Army put the hurt on the chumps who were throwing up the flak,” Sweaty said.

The CO nodded. “To be wished for. That it?” Heads nodded in the affirmative. “Okay,” Guru clapped his hand. “Let's get it done. Mount up and time to hit it.”

As the flight crews headed to their aircraft, Guru and Goalie went to 512 and did a quick walk-around. Then they got into the cockpit and got strapped in. As they did another rushed preflight, Goalie said, “Want to bet the instructors at Kingsley would be docking us for the rush?”

“The ones I had at Homestead prewar sure would,” Guru said.

“Okay, checklist complete and ready for engine start.”

Sergeant Crowley gave the “Start Engines” signal, and Guru started the two J-79 engines. After the run-up, he called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Flight with four, ready for taxi and takeoff.”

“Corvette Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-three Center. Hold prior to the runway.”

“Roger, Tower. Corvette Lead is rolling.”

Sergeant Crowley gave the taxi signals, then he snapped a salute, as usual, when 512 was clear of the revetment.

Guru and Goalie returned it, then Guru taxied 512 to the center runway. Holding prior, the armorers removed the weapon safeties, then Guru contacted the tower again. He was cleared to taxi onto the runway, and Kara followed him. After a final cockpit check, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Corvette Lead requesting clearance for takeoff.”

A green light flashed from the Tower. Clear for takeoff.

Guru and Goalie pulled down and locked their canopies, and a quick glance saw Kara and Brainiac do the same. Then Guru applied full power, released the brakes, and 512 rolled down the runway and into the air, with Kara's 520 right behind him. Sweaty and Scorpion followed, and so did Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins.
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  #268  
Old 04-07-2016, 09:03 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Final mission of the day, and then the job of letter-writing to NOK; something NOT taught in OTS, ROTC, or the Academy:


Northeast of Dallas, TX: 1610 Hours Central War Time:



Corvette Flight was in the holding area, waiting in the holding pattern. It had been the same drill as before, when they had checked in with Hillsboro, they were told, “Get in line at 25 Grand and wait your turn.” As the flight orbited, the crews noticed not only the strike aircraft going in, but also MLRS rockets from the Army down below.

“Hope some of that goes for the flak that got Razor and Hoser,” Guru said to Goalie.

“I'll second that,” Goalie said, watching some of the rockets land on targets below. Each rocket had 644 submunitions, and even one MLRS vehicle's salvo was enough to take out an artillery battery.

“Lead, Three,” Sweaty called. “Enjoying the fireworks?”

“Looks good from here, Sweaty,” Guru replied. He checked his RWR display. “Sky's clear for SAM and Triple-A radar.”

“Lead, Two,” Kara called. 'Maybe the Army's good for something?”

“Maybe, Two,” Guru replied. “Don't count on it, though.”

“Corvette Lead, Hillsboro,” the ABCCC called. “Contact Nail Seven-one for tasking.”

“Roger, Hillsboro, Contact Nail Seven-one,” replied the CO. “Nail Seven-one, Corvette One-one.”

“Corvette, Nail Seven-one,” the FAC replied. “Say aircraft and type of ordnance, please.”

“Nail Seven-one, Corvette Lead,” Guru said. “Corvette has four Foxtrot-Four Echoes, with twelve Rockeyes, full air-to-air, and full twenty-mike-mike.”

“Roger that, Corvette,” Nail replied. “Got some mixed armor and APCs for you. Northeast of Route 34.”

“Copy, Nail. Say surface-to-air threat.”

“Air defense threat is mixed,” Nail called back. “Some guns, some MANPADS, and possible SA-4 around. Weasels are working the area.”

“Roger, Nail. Say gun threat.” Guru said. Having had two of his squadron's planes downed by Triple-A made him want to know that.

“Corvette, Nail. Gun threat is mixed. Best I can give you.”

Guru sighed beneath his oxygen mask. Oh, well. “Copy that. Can you have ground-pounders take on any air defense?”

“Will do, Corvette. Stand by, and will mark the target.”

“Copy,” Guru said. “Get ready. Set it up: everything in one pass.”

“Gotcha,” Goalie replied. She quickly worked the weapons control panel in the rear cockpit. “All set.”

Below, an A-7K rolled in and fired several WP rockets. As the FAC pulled up, there were some tracers coming at him, and even what looked like an SA-7 or two. “There's your target area, Corvette,” Nail said.

“Copy. One run, south to north,” Guru told the FAC.

“Your call, Corvette,” Nail replied.

Guru watched as several fireballs erupted on the ground; evidently, Nail had told the Army the fast-movers needed a hand. “Flight, Lead. Target area in sight. Switches on, music on, and let's go.”

“Two copies,” Starbuck replied.

“Three's ready,” Sweaty.

“Four, roger.” Scorpion said.

“Roger that, Flight. Lead's in hot!” And Guru rolled 512 in on his attack run.


Down below, the acting commander of the 70th Tank Division was in a fit. One of his regiments had been split from the division's main effort, pinned up against the west side of Lake Tawakoni, and was in the process of being annihilated, if it hadn't happened already. Another regiment had been hit hard by American air and fire strikes, and caught by an American ground attack, and been reduced to tattered remnants. His remaining tank regiment, and his motor-rifle regiment, were trying to hold what they had, while awaiting reinforcements from 1st Guards Army. He had asked the Army Commander for assistance from the 204th MRD, but was told that the 204th was in need of help just as much as his division was. An independent tank regiment with T-64s was on its way from Kaufman, but would not be there until dusk, and he wasn't sure if his division would still be there. The Soviet Colonel knew now that he was up against the 83rd Mechanized Infantry Division and the 15th Armored Cavalry Regiment from XIX Corps, and they clearly meant business, for they had ample attack helicopter and tactical air support in quantity. Wondering where his own air force was, the Colonel braced himself for another attack. He stuck his head out the hatch of his command vehicle, and saw an F-4 diving past him, headed north. The Colonel shook his head and groaned. Why me?


Guru lined up a group of tanks and APCs in his pipper, and was lining up the lead tank when he saw a vehicle explode. Somebody had a bad afternoon, he thought. And some of his friends were going to share that experience.....”Steady, Steady.....” he called as some tracers started to come up at him. “HACK!” Guru called as he hit the pickle button, and a dozen Rockeyes came off of 512's racks. He pulled up and away, calling, “Lead's off target.”

Unknown to Guru, he had picked the remnants of the 698th Tank Regiment as his target. These were largely stragglers who had vehicles damaged during the morning's fighting, as well as a few survivors from the Regimental attack. They had coalesced into an “assault group”, built around Second Battalion's commander, who was the senior surviving officer, though the young Captain in command wasn't too thrilled about it. He'd seen a motor-rifle lieutenant literally shouting orders out of a field manual, while many of the rank and file who were not tankers were mostly overage reservists from the Ukraine. The survivors were gathered around his location at Highway 34 and F.M. 2261, trying to defend the intersection from the Americans who were coming down from the north. The Captain had just talked with the senior survivor from 1st Battalion, a Senior Lieutenant who was a platoon commander, when his Sergeant Major shouted the words all dreaded. “AIRCRAFT ALARM!”

“SHACK!” Goalie called from 512's back seat. “Good hits!”

“Secondaries?” Guru asked as an SA-7 flew past 512. Somebody was on guard down there....

“Got a few.”

“I'll take your word for it,” Guru said as he headed for I-30 and “the fence.”

The Soviet Captain picked himself up from the ground. Several of the IS-3Ms and BTRs from what had been 3rd Battalion and the motor-rifle battalion were either burning or knocked out, and he saw a tank crew bail out of their burning vehicle just before a fuel fire exploded the tank's ammunition. He glanced to the south, and saw a second F-4 coming in. “TAKE COVER!” He shouted, jumping into a roadside ditch.

“Two in hot!” Kara called. She saw where Guru had planted his bombs, and noticed what looked like some trucks headed north towards those same vehicles. Resupply under fire? Not today, Ivan....Kara picked out the trucks, and centered the lead truck in the pipper. “And....HACK!” She hit the pickle button, and a dozen Rockeyes came off of 520. Ignoring the light tracer fire coming up, she pulled up and away, following the CO north. “Two's off safe.”

The Soviet Captain looked up as Kara's F-4 flew past. To his relief, the bombs didn't land on him or what he still felt was “his” battalion, but impacted to the rear. At first, he didn't know what was there, then when there were explosions of fuel and ammunition, he realized it was the regiment's supply vehicles, and that was the ammunition and fuel his men needed to hold off the Americans. He stood up, trying to see what had happened, when another officer pulled him back into the ditch. More American aircraft were coming in.

“SHACK!” Brainiac yelled. “We got secondaries!”

“Got those trucks?” Kara asked as an SA-7 flew over 520.

“We got some of 'em!”

“Good enough!” Kara grinned beneath her oxygen mask, and she followed the CO north.


Sweaty called, “Three's in!”and she rolled in on her attack run. She noticed that there was hardly any flak, and to her, that was a good thing. Maybe those Army pukes are good for something, she thought.
She saw where Kara had laid her bombs, and noticed several intact trucks backed up on the road. Nice try, Ivan....she lined up the trailing truck in her pipper, and noticed tracer fire coming from it. Gun truck. All right.....Sweaty lined the truck up, and hit the pickle button. “HACK!” A dozen more Rockeyes fell onto the Soviet column, and as they did, Sweaty pulled up and away. “Three's off safe!”

The Soviet Captain heard Sweaty's F-4 as it flew overhead, and to the south, there were more explosions. He stood up in the ditch, and saw several more of his regiment's supply vehicles exploding.
Cursing whoever had promised that the Air Force would be overhead in strength, he turned to issue orders, when a soldier pushed him back into the ditch. He started to bawl out the man, but saw several nearby tank commanders firing their machine guns to the south. Another American aircraft....


“Four in hot!” Scorpion called. He saw where Sweaty had put down her bombs, and noticed some tracers coming up to the left of that. The dots in his pipper soon revealed themselves as tanks, and he decided to make those go away. He lined up the tanks in his pipper......'Steady....”HACK!” Another dozen Rockeyes fell on the Soviet “Assault Group.” Ignoring the 12.7-mm tracers coming up, Scorpion pulled away. “Four off target.”

Across from the Captain, the tanks of what had been First Battalion's Third Company were firing at the approaching aircraft. The Junior Lieutenant who was now the Company Commander-company, all of four tanks, ordered his commanders to fire, but the F-4 was too fast, and they didn't lead the target. Scorpion's F-4 flew overhead, and suddenly, it was raining cluster bombs. The Lieutenant slammed the hatch shut on his IS-3M, and heard several explosions on and around his tank. Then a Rockeye bomblet landed on top of the turret armor, and detonated. The shaped-charge warhead burned through the top armor and exploded the tank's ammunition storage, blowing the tank-and its crew-apart. No one had a chance to scream....

“We got secondaries!” Judge, Scorpion's backseater, yelled.

“Got some tanks?” Scorpion asked.

“Two or three.”

Scorpion nodded, then followed Sweaty north, out of the target area.


“Nail, Corvette Lead. Four in and out. We are Winchester.” Guru called the FAC.

“Roger that, Corvette Lead. Thanks for the help, fella. I give you a four-decimal-zero, Corvette. Nice work!”

“Copy that, and thanks, Nail.” Guru replied. He was orbiting over Lavon Lake. “Two, with me?”

“Right on you, Lead.” Kara replied. She formed up on her CO, and was right there in combat spread.

“Three, where are you?”

“Comin' in,” Sweaty said, and Four's right on my tail.”

Guru nodded, and heard Cobra Flight make their runs, hitting some of the same armor they had. Only when Dave Golen and Sandi Jenkins came up from the South did he call Hillsboro. “Hillsboro, Corvette One-one. We are Winchester and are RTB at this time.”

“Copy that and good work, Corvette,” the ABCCC controller replied.

“Roger, Hillsboro, and thank you,” Guru replied. “Flight, Lead. Let's go home.”


Behind them, the Soviet Captain was trying to put some order back in his “Assault Group.” Despite having his supply trucks hit, there was still enough fuel and ammunition to make it hot for somebody, and he was having his officers and NCOs get a grip on things. While his Sergeant Major and the other sergeants shouted at the soldiers to get the ammunition loaded and the tanks fueled, he noticed several T-34s from the motor-rifle regiment pull up behind his own grouping, and he decided to go over and talk with their commander. Before he could, his political officer, a bright young man fresh from the Military-Political School in Riga, tapped on his shoulder. Several T-72s and BTRs were coming from the North. Who were they? They must be from another unit of 1st Guards Army. Before he could make contact with them, the T-72s suddenly opened fire on his tanks and BMPs, destroying several with the first shot.

“DON'T SHOOT!” He yelled at his men. He climbed onto his tank and tried contacting the tanks by radio. This was a fratricide incident of the worst kind. But when one of the tanks turned broadside to avoid a wrecked IS-3, he saw the inverted V symbol on the side, and a pit formed in his stomach. Those T-72s were American-operated! Somehow, they had captured enough T-72s to make use of them. Before he could order his tanks to open fire, a 125-mm sabot round slammed into the left side of the IS-3M, and penetrated the ammunition storage. The tank fireballed around him, and the Captain's last sensation was the heat....


In his command tank, the Commander of the 5-67 Armored Regiment grinned. Once again, the Rag-Tag Circus had pulled a fast one on Ivan, and as both IS-3s and T-34s fireballed, he radioed his people to continue the attack until they had reached the intersection, then they were to hold. Two other battalion task forces, both equipped with M-60A3s and M-113s, would pass through his position and continue the attack south until they reached the town of Cash. Then they'd wait until the rest of the division arrived, and see if Ivan really wanted this part of Texas. The Major looked at his gunner, who, prewar had been a heavy equipment operator at Fort Hood. She always seemed to have this evil smile when she had a Soviet tank or APC in her sights. Her boyfriend had been killed in Central Texas in September '85, with 2nd Armored Division, and she wanted revenge. Now, using Ivan's own tanks against him, she was getting it.


“Cobra, Corvette,” Guru called Dave Golen. “How'd it go?”

“Hit some armor,” Cobra Lead replied. “And no flak.”

“That's always good,” said Guru.

It wasn't long until the two flights were approaching Sheppard. This time, they had to wait as two outbound Marine F-4 flights, and a 335th F-4 flight, went out, then came the first Marine A-6s right after that. Then the two F-4 flights came in and landed. As they taxied back to their squadron's dispersal area, the mood was a lot more positive than it had been a couple hours earlier. When they popped their canopies on the way to dispersal, and the crews gave the thumbs-up sign, there was applause from the ground crews. Though the crews didn't notice Ms. Wendt and her crew filming them. Only when Guru took 512 into its revetment did he notice. “Looks like we may be on TV again tomorrow.”

“The crew?” Goalie asked as she went through the post-flight checklist. “Didn't notice.”

“Been a little busy,” Guru agreed. Then Sergeant Crowley brought the crew ladder, and the CO stood up. “Let's hope this is the last one.”

“You and me both. And I don't envy you. You got a letter to write.”

“Don't remind me,” Guru said. “I'm going to write that letter, then I'll come over to the Club, have dinner, then get slightly drunk in the time remaining before twelve-hour.”

Goalie nodded as she stood up in the rear cockpit. “In your shoes, I'd do the same.”

The CO nodded again, then got out of the aircraft. “Sergeant,” he said to Crowley. “She's still truckin'. No issues or problems. Get her ready for the next one.”

“Yes, sir!” Replied the Crew Chief. “Sir, How'd things go?”

Guru nodded. “Made some armor go away, but having a couple of SA-7s come by was no fun.”

“No kidding!” Goalie said. “How many times today have we had those things shot at us?”

“Enough,” Major Wiser said. Pilot and GIB then went through the post-flight walkaround, then went to the edge of the revetment, where they found Kara and Brainiac. “What'd you hit?”

“Tore up some supply trucks,” Kara said. “Those things had fuel or ammo. Because when they blew, they blew.”

“I'll go along with that,” Sweaty said as she came up with Preacher. “We dropped on some more of 'em.”

“Good for you,” the CO said. “How was it, Scorpion?”

“Dropped on some armor, just west of where you did, Major,” Scorpion said.

A Dodge Crew-Cab pickup arrived, and out came the Exec and the Intelligence Officer. “Major,” Mark Ellis said. “Nobody goes out after 1630.” He handed the CO a fax.

“More of the same tomorrow?” Kara asked. “We've had enough CAS for a while.”

“Down, girl,” Major Wiser said. “Says here to be prepared for either CAS or for striking assigned targets per the ATO. So get ready for either one.”

The Intelligence Officer, Capt. Darren Licon, came over. “Major, you guys want to debrief out here?”

“Might as well,” the CO said. “Hit some armor right about here.” He pointed to the Route 34/F.M. 2261 intersection. “Tanks and APCs mixed.”

“Any secondaries?” Licon asked.

“Got a few,” Goalie said, taking a swig from a bottle of water.

“Captain Thrace? Uh,...Kara?” Now that Licon was a Captain, he could call Kara by her first name, though he was still getting used to it.

“Took out some supply trucks,just south of the intersection.” Kara said, pointing the location out on Licon's map.

“And we got some big-ass secondaries,” Brainiac added. “Fuel and ammo, looked like.”

“We'll second that,” Sweaty said, and Preacher nodded. “Dropped on some trucks just south of that.”

“Same kind of secondaries?” Licon wanted to know.

“Big ones,” Preacher said.

“And you guys?” Licon asked Scorpion and Judge.

“Just like the Major,” Scorpion said. “Dropped on some tanks.”

“Got a couple of secondaries,” added Judge.

The Intel nodded. “Thanks. And Major Golen? How'd it go with you?”

The IDF “Observer” with the 335th pointed to a spot on the map, just north of Cash. “Divisional artillery, the FAC said. Towed guns, not self-propelled.”

“Secondaries?”

“A lot,” Sandi Jenkins said. “And I mean a lot!”

“What do you expect? Ammunition stacked near the guns, the ammunition trucks, and the prime movers?” Golen added.

“Had to ask,” Licon said. “All right, thanks a bunch, people. I'll write these up and get them off to Tenth Air Force.”

“Okay, Darren,” Major Wiser said. “And you did good yourself today. Not your fault you missed those guns earlier.”

“Sir...”

“You can only report what they pass on to you. Somebody above you screwed up. No sense beating yourself up about it, because what's done is done.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good man,” the CO said. “Mark, who's out?”

“Van Loan, you saw leave. Other than that? Just Frank. He left fifteen minutes before Don.”

Major Wiser sighed. But then again, as long as that skunk Carson was out, it was a good thing. “Okay, people, get out of your flight gear, check your desks, and clear any paperwork. Make sure that's all taken care of before you head to the Club.”

Heads nodded at that, and Major Wiser's flight piled into the pickup. Sweaty drove while the CO and Ellis talked. “And before hitting the Club?” Ellis asked.

“The two of us have something to do,” the CO said. “Something we're both not looking forward to.”

“Not your first, though. You sent one to Colonel Rivers' widow.”

“After six drafts, and after I finally got something good enough to send off? I went to the Club and got slightly drunk. Which is what I'm going to do. Write that damn letter, get something to eat, watch the news and see what our guests say about us, then get as drunk as I can before twelve-hour kicks in.”

“Looks like I'll have company,” the XO said.

“And the next person who says they know what to say in these things will be the first,” the CO nodded. “Something not covered in OTS, ROTC, or the Academy.”

Ellis looked at his CO. “Ain't that the truth, Boss.”

The CO nodded again as the truck pulled up to the 335th's Operations Building. “And so it is,” he said as the got out. “Might as well get it over with.”



335th TFS Operations, 1635 Hours Central War Time:


Major Wiser and the other crews from his flight went into the Ops Building. He turned to Kara. “Find out if they've told us we're back to the ATO, or still doing CAS in the morning.”

“Got you, Boss,” Kara said.

“And one more thing? Find out when those two new birds from Japan get here. They're due sometime tomorrow.”

“Got it,” Kara nodded, then she went off to the Ops Office. With Don Van Loan out, she was acting Ops Officer.

“Rest of you? Check your desks and clear any paperwork,” the CO said. Then he turned to his XO. “Aircraft status for the morning?”

“Eighteen birds for the morning, Kev O'Donnell says,” Ellis reported. Capt. Kevin O'Donnell was the squadron's maintenance officer. “And Ross is still looking for that special item you want.”

“Well, he made no promises, so I'm not holding him to it,” Major Wiser said. “Anything else?”

The XO shook his head. “Nada.”

“Okay, you've got a letter to write and so do I.” the CO said. He saw the Exec nod. “I'll see you in a while.”

“Misery loves company,” Ellis said.

“It does,” Major Wiser agreed. The CO then went to his own office, and talked to the female Staff Sergeant who was his unofficial secretary. “Unless it's one of the Department Heads like Captain Van Loan, Lieutenant Eichhorn, or the Exec, I'm not to be disturbed.”

“What about Major Carson, sir?” the Sergeant asked.

“I don't want to see him under any circumstances. If he makes an ass of himself, call Captain Blanchard and have her come over with a couple of CSPs and throw him out,” Major Wiser ordered.

“Yes, sir!”

The CO went into his office, and found his coffee maker. After pouring himself a cup of coffee, there was a knock on the door. “Yeah?”

The door opened, to reveal one of the Ops Sergeants. “Sir, got a couple things for you from Captain Thrace. The killed-in-action notice to sign.”

“I was afraid of that,” Major Wiser said. He took the form and signed it, then he gave it back to the NCO. “What else?”

“Message from Tenth Air Force. The Army found the wreckage of the plane. And Lieutenant Gillette's body.”

“Thank you, Sergeant,” the CO said. “Let me know when Captain Van Loan gets back.”

“Yes, sir.”

“That'll be all, Sergeant.”

“Sir.” the Sergeant came to attention and then left the office.

The CO then took out some paper and a pen. “Here goes,” he said, as he began to put pen to paper.


A few minutes later, two cups of coffee and several drafts sent into the wastebasket, the Major thought he had it. Then there was a knock on the door. “Yeah?”

It was the female Staff Sergeant. “Sir, Lieutenant Eichhorn wants to see you.”

“Goalie, come on in,” the CO said. “Thanks, Sergeant.”

“Sir,” the Staff Sergeant nodded. After Goalie went into the office, she closed the door.

“Well, how goes the letter-writing?” Goalie asked. “Or do I want to know?”

“Five drafts, five wadded-up pieces of paper into the can,” Major Wiser said, indicating the trash basket. “I think I've got it this time.”

Goalie looked at her CO and lover. Both confided in each other, and they had no secrets. She was one of a handful of people who knew the full story of his E&E. “Why don't you read it? I'm a good sounding board.”

The CO nodded. “Okay, here goes: 'Dear Mr. and Mrs. Gillette; It is with deep regret that I have to tell you that your son Paul was shot down and killed earlier today. He was flying in support of the Army when his plane was hit by antiaircraft fire, and though his Weapons Systems Officer managed to eject and was rescued, Paul did not. The Army has found the wreckage of his plane, and recovered his body, so there is some comfort in that he will receive a proper burial.' “How's that so far?”

“Not bad, but then again, I don't have much experience in this department,” Goalie said.

Guru nodded. “Neither do I, so here's the next part: 'Paul was a good friend, and a fine officer. He was well liked by the other officers, and not just for his flying. He never let being an Academy graduate go to his head, and earned the respect of not just the other officers in the squadron, but of the Sergeants and enlisted airmen. He will be missed by his friends in the squadron.' How's that?”

“So far, so good,” Goalie nodded. “What's left?”

“The final part,” Major Wiser said. “I hope you can take comfort in that Paul died as a fighter pilot. He was flying to free his fellow Americans from the jackboot of Soviet occupation, and gave his life so that, as President Lincoln said, 'Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.'

“Again, please accept my sympathies for your loss. If any new information becomes available about what happened when he was shot down, you will be informed as soon as possible. I wish I could say more, other that I'm sorry for your loss.

“Sincerely, and with sympathy, Matt Wiser, Major, USAF. Commanding Officer, 335th TFS.”

Goalie nodded. “Not bad. I hate to say this, but chances are, you'll get good at this. Still got a ways to go before the Rio Grande.”

Guru looked at his WSO and girlfriend. Then he nodded reluctantly. Because he knew that she was right. “Yeah. You're right about that.” He got up and opened his office door, and handed the handwritten letter to the Staff Sergeant. “Type that up, Sergeant. Right now, if you please.”
“Right away, sir.” the Sergeant replied. It took only a couple of minutes, then she pulled the typewritten copy out of the typewriter. “Here you go, sir.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” the CO said, then he went back into the office. “Mail's already gone out, right?”

“It has,” Goalie said.

“Okay, this goes out first thing in the morning.” Guru said. “Razor's friends packing his stuff?”

Goalie nodded. “Mark collared them and had them get on it. Before they do anything else.”

“Good. Now, let's get to the Club. I need to take my sorrows for a little swim, get something to eat, see how our news guests show us on the news, and welcome our lost sheep back,” Guru said. “Not in any particular order.”

“Bad day,” Goalie said.

“Bad day,” Guru agreed.


On the way out, they ran into Don Van Loan and his flight. They had just landed, and had debriefed out on the flight line, just as the CO's flight had. “Don,” Guru said. “How'd things go?”

“Not bad, Boss,” the Ops Officer said. “Made some division's field HQ go away. Or at least, that's what the FAC told us.”

“Anyone shooting at you?” the CO asked.

“No, thank God. The FAC had the Army dump some of those multiple-launch rockets on a couple of flak batteries. We had a free ride,” Van Loan said. “Had a couple of SA-4s come up, but nobody fired.”

“Anytime they don't fire is a good thing,” Goalie nodded.

“It is,” Major Wiser said. “Okay, Don. Get back to Ops and clear your desk. Kara'll be glad to see you, since she's been running Ops since we got back ourselves.”

Van Loan laughed. “No doubt, Major.”

“No doubt,” the CO agreed. “Mark says we're getting the two new birds from Japan tomorrow. Hoser and KT get the first one, and we'll give it to one of the new crews. And one other thing?”

“Yeah?”

“Hoser and KT, along with Revlon, are off the flight schedule tomorrow.”

“What about Scorpion and Judge?” Van Loan asked.

“They stay with Sweaty for tomorrow, then go back to Mark's flight,” Major Wiser said.

“Will do,” nodded the Ops Officer. “Anything else?”

“Yeah. Find out if we're getting an ATO, or doing more CAS,” said the Major. “I'd rather do preassigned targets or armed recon than CAS.”

“I'll check into it.”

“Thanks, Don,” Guru said “See you in a few.”

“I'll be there,” Van Loan grinned, then he led his flight back into the Ops Building.

“Come on,” Guru told Goalie. “Let's go on to the Club. I need two or three beers.”

“Yeah,” Goalie nodded. “So do I.”
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  #269  
Old 04-07-2016, 09:11 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The three shot-down aircrew return, and the 335th blows off steam. Anyone recognize the name of the HH-3E driver?


Officer's Club Tent, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1515 Hours Central War Time:


Guru and Goalie went into the O-Club Tent, and found the mood there a bit subdued than normal, since it hadn't just been the 335th that had taken lumps, for two Marine F-4 squadrons had lost birds and crews, and a Navy A-7 squadron had also lost two aircraft and a pilot. The CO and his GIB found Colonel Brady at the bar, along with Maj. Bill Poore, the CO of VMFA-134. “Colonel,” Guru said.

“Major,” Brady replied. “And Lieutenant. Word's gotten around about your losses.”

“Yes, sir. Two birds down and three of four crew recovered by the Jollys. The other crewman didn't get out.”

“Join the club,” Poore said. “Lost a bird and a crew. Just before you guys lost your two, and pretty much in the same place.”

Guru nodded. “Sorry, Bill. Still, losing only one crew member doesn't make the letter-writing any easier.”

“No, Major, it doesn't.” Brady said. “How'd that go?”

“Took five drafts and two cups of coffee,” Guru said. “I think I got it, but there's no real guidelines.”

“No, there isn't,” Brady agreed. “So, going to drown your sorrows?”

Guru nodded. “At the very least, sir? Take them for a little swim.” He gestured to the barkeep. “What do you have?”

“Major, Sam Adams arrived today,” the barkeep smiled.

“Good. Two: one for me, and one for the Lieutenant,” Guru said, nodding at Goalie.

The barkeep nodded and produced two bottles. “Here ya go, Major.”

“Thanks,” Guru said. He paid the man, then he and Goalie found a table and sat down. “Well...hell of a day.”

“That it was,” Goalie agreed. “So, what'll we drink to?”

“Just getting through the day,” the CO said.

“I'll drink to that.”


A few minutes later, Kara, Brainiac, Sweaty,and Preacher came in. They got their drinks, then came over to the CO's table. “Boss,” Kara said.

“Where's Don?” Guru asked.

“He'll be here in a few minutes. But we did get this from Tenth Air Force: we're getting an ATO. Hopefully, no more CAS,” Kara said.

“Here's to that,” Sweaty raised her bottle of Bud.

“Amen,” Preacher added.

“I'll go with that,” the CO said. “Anything else?”

“That's it,” Kara said.

Then the Marine Mess staff brought in dinner. Chicken-fried steak with corn on the cob and mashed potatoes, or Roast Chicken with the usual trimmings. After getting their dinner, people were eating and talking, when Ms. Wendt and her crew came in. After chatting with Colonel Brady, she came over to Guru's table. “Major,”

“Ms. Wendt,” the CO nodded politely. He was already on his second beer. “Hope you don't mind seeing a squadron CO get slightly drunk.”

“After what happened today? I don't blame you at all,” Ms. Wendt said. And the aircrews were surprised to hear that. Clearly, she was settling in as a combat correspondent. “At least we're now cleared to fly.”

“Like I said,” Guru nodded. “We'll see about getting you that check ride. Can't tell you when. But when it comes, be ready.”

“Thank you, Major.”

“You're welcome,” Guru said. He checked his watch, then turned to Kara. “It's 1728. Get the barkeep to change the TV to AFN's news channel.”

“Walter Cronkite and the CBS Evening News?” Kara asked, though she knew full well what the CO meant.

“You got it.” Guru said.

Kara nodded and went to the bar, talked to the barkeep, then not only got him to change the channel, but also brought back beers for her flight mates. “Here you go, people.”

“Thanks, Kara,” Guru said. Just then the Opening titles came on the screen, then the most trusted man in America came on.

“Good evening from Los Angeles,” Cronkite began. “U.S. Forces near Dallas engaged several Soviet divisions east of the city, and were engaged in heavy fighting to clear parts of East Texas from the Soviets. Richard Threkeld has a report.”

The veteran reporter, who had been in Vietnam and the Middle East, gave an account of being with the 83rd Infantry Division, as they pushed south from I-30. Images of M-60A3 tanks and M-113 APCs moving forward, IS-3M and T-34 tanks either burning or blowing apart, artillery falling (both friendly and enemy), and aircraft overhead. Images of grey-painted Phantoms and Skyhawks, Olive Drab A-10s and SEA-painted A-7s and F-4s also filled the screen, and that drew applause from the aircrews. As did some scenes of Soviet prisoners being sent to the rear.

“Glad to see they caught us,” Goalie said.

“You never know who's down there,” Sweaty said.

After a report from a carrier that was launching strikes into Cuba, and another from Philadelphia, mentioning Congressional action on a new GI Bill to go into effect when the war ended, came a commercial break. When that was over, a new segment came up. “The Army and Marine forces in Texas have been getting heavy air support. Jana Wendt, from our sister network in Australia, 9 News, filed this report from an air base in a liberated part of the Lone Star State.”

“Phantom, Skyhawk, Corsair, Intruder, Ardvark, Hornet. To the Marines and soldiers fighting in this part of Texas,” Ms. Wendt said, as footage of armed fighters taxiing to the runway and then taking off ran, “they are the brothers and sisters who take on enemy MiG fighters and take out targets ahead of them on the ground. To the pilots and navigators, these are the chariots that they go to war in. In one unit, an Air Force fighter squadron, their Phantoms look just like those that flew in Southeast Asia fifteen years ago. But none of the crews are Vietnam veterans. The average age of a pilot or navigator is 27. And the squadron's commander isn't that much older than the people he flies with. But today, it's just another mission, as far as he's concerned.”

The screen then showed Guru, with no titles on the screen, but anyone watching could see his nametag with wings, and the gold oak leaves on his shoulders. “How'd it go, Major?” Ms. Wendt asked.

“Not bad,” Guru said. “Tore up an airfield and made some of Fidel's Su-25s become scrap metal.”

“How was the resistance?”

“You mean ground fire? There was a lot of shooting. Didn't touch us, though.”

“And what's next? The Major had this answer,” Ms. Wendt's voice-over said.

“We debrief, get something to eat, then we get ready and go out again.”

“And so they did,” the voice-over continued. Images of F-4s taxiing out and taking off. “Just as their grandfathers did in World War II and Korea, and their fathers in Vietnam. And one more day, as one officer told me, until the Russians and Cubans get sent back where they came from. Or, as one female officer said, and I'll paraphrase her, 'sent someplace a lot more hotter.' To the men and women on this base, every bomb dropped means friendly lives saved on the ground, and fewer enemy for their countrymen in the Army and Marines to face. Jana Wendt, CBS News, with the U.S. Air Force, somewhere in Texas.”

After the segment aired, there was applause. Given how many military personnel still felt about the media, even after two years of war, the applause was a surprise to Ms. Wendt and her crew.

“Well, Ms. Wendt,” Kodak Griffith said. “Looks like they think you did a good enough job.”

“Still some bad feelings about the press, I was told,” she replied.

“You could say that,” the Marine PAO said. “Leftover from Vietnam and the years after. Now, different story.”


“Well, Guru?” Goalie asked. “How's it feel to be a TV star?”

“Got my TV exposure,” Guru nodded, taking a swig from his beer bottle. “Just hope some GRU analyst recording that didn't catch my nametag.”

“You think they have a file on you?” Sweaty asked. This was news to her.

“Probably on all of us. I was told in OTS that, after graduation, the Air Force would have one file on us, and there would be another one: in Moscow.”

Kara stared at her CO. “WHAT?”

“Yep. They ever tell you that in ROTC?” The CO replied. “Or the Academy?” He nodded in Goalie's direction.

“They did, but I thought they were pulling our legs,” Kara admitted.

“Same here,” Goalie said. “How would they find out?”

“Simple,” Darren Licon said. He'd been overhearing the conversation. “Prewar, the Soviet Air Attache either picked up a copy of Air Force Times, or had a source who did. New Lieutenants, promotions, all of that got printed. Same for the other services. I imagine they had people at their Washington Station going through all of that..”

'They don't do that these days,” Preacher said. “Print those lists, I mean.”

“No, but back then, different story,” the intelligence officer noted. “There's probably dossiers on every prewar officer in the 335th, and who knows how many others?”

“Too many,” Braniac nodded.

Kara and Goalie were incredulous, though. “There's files on all of us in Moscow?” Goalie asked.

“Probably,” Licon said.

“On that happy note,” Kara said. “I'm definitely getting drunk before Twelve-Hour.” She went to the bar and bought another round for their table.

“You going to the pool table?” Guru asked his wingmate.

“In a heartbeat,” Kara said proudly.

“Remember, as long as the newsies are here? Take a check if they can't pay you.”

Kara nodded. “Will do, Major.” She then headed to the pool table.


Soon, those inside the O-Club heard the sound of a large helicopter. “That's probably Jolly Green bringing our people back,” Mark Ellis noted.

“It probably is. Okay, Mark. Do me a favor. Find Ross,” Guru said.

“Let me guess: we need to get the SAR guys their reward.”

“You got it. A case of beer per rescued crew member,” said the CO. “That's the rule. Unofficially speaking.”

“On my way,” the Exec said.


A few minutes later, Ellis came back and went over to Guru. “Got it taken care of.”

“Good,” said Guru. “That was them?”

“It was,” the Exec replied. “Doc Waters is giving them a quick checkup, then they'll be over here. And the Jolly pilot? Friend of yours.”

“Oh?”

“Says she's an OTS classmate of yours.”

“There were a few women in my class,” Guru recalled. “A couple of them got flight, as I recall.”

“She says she was one of 'em,” Ellis said.

It wasn't long until Hoser, KT, and Revlon came into the Club, to the applause and cheers of everyone there. Even the loathed and despised Major Frank Carson was showing his gratitude, much to everyone's surprise. They were followed by the Jolly Green crew, who also got a round of applause. Everyone there knew that one day, they might need the Jolly Greens' services, and the arguments between “Zoomies” and “Rotorheads” stopped at that point. After Major Wiser bought drinks for the three lost sheep, he rang the bell. “People, I know we've all got mixed emotions right now, as the Air Force, Marines, and Navy here have all lost people today, but three of our lost sheep are back. Hoser, KT, and Revlon? Stand up and be counted.” They did, and there was yet another round of applause. “Here's to them. They came back to fly and fight another day.”

“Here, here,” Don Van Loan said.

'And here's to our CSAR brethren,” Guru went on, nodding at the two HH-3 pilots. “Don't laugh at those guys, because tomorrow's another day, and you might be needing their services,” the CO reminded everyone. “You guys get a case of beer per downed crew member recovered, so drink up when you can.”

The Jolly drivers grinned. And Guru still hadn't noticed the blonde female HH-3 driver nodding in his direction.

Guru then nodded to Colonel Brady and the other squadron commanders. They came up, and it was Colonel Brady who started it. “To our lost friends,” he said. And each CO gave the name or names of the aircrew lost that day.

When it was his turn, Guru nodded. “To Razor.”

“To Razor,” the 335th members said as they raised their bottles or glasses.

“Colonel?”

The MAG-11 CO nodded. “Okay, people! Twenty minutes to Twelve-Hour, so drink up!”

Guru got his fourth beer, then went back to Hoser, KT, and Revlon. “You guys okay?”

“Cleared for flight,” Hoser said. “Hardly had time to get out of our chutes when the PJ found us.”

“Same here,” KT said. “First guy I see is a PJ asking me if I'm hurt.”

“Revlon?”Major Wiser asked the survivor of Dodge Two-four. “What about you?”

“I'm okay, Major,” Revlon said, brushing back her cropped brown hair. “Landed between two Soviet Regiments, they told me. But a downed pilot was the least of their problems.”

“What happened with Razor?”

“Don't know. We took fire, then got hit. Right in the nose and next to the front cockpit. He might have bought it right there. So I got out.”

“Okay. You three are off the flight schedule tomorrow. Hoser, KT? You guys get a new bird due in from Japan tomorrow. And we'll get a new pilot for Revlon,” the CO said. “If you guys want to get drunk, be my guest. Sleep in, and get up when you feel like it. But sometime tomorrow, I'm going to want to hear from you all. I want to know what happened out there.”

“Will do, Major,” Hoser said, and the others nodded.

“All right, get loaded. That's an order.”

Revlon nodded. 'Major, that's an order we're glad to obey.” And the trio headed to the bar.

Guru then went back to his table. “Hell of a day,” the CO said. “Fourth, and last, beer before Twelve-Hour.”

“You're drunk, Boss,” Sweaty said. “And glad to be?”

“I am,” Guru said. Before he could sit down, there was a tap on his left shoulder. He turned, and saw a face he hadn't seen in a while. “Well, I'll be damned. Look who the cat dragged in.”

“Is that any way to greet an old classmate?” Capt. Beverly Lynne said. “Nice to see you, well, now, Major Guru.”

“Nice to see you, too,” Guru said, giving his old classmate a hug. “Thanks for bringing my people back.”

“That's our job,” a First Lieutenant standing next to Lynne said. “Steve Kearny, sir.”

“My copilot,” Lynne said. “When did you get the oak leaves?”

“Few days ago, after we lost our CO,” Guru said. “How long you been driving Jollys?”

“Since June '86,” said Lynne. “Been an AC since May.”

“PRAIRIE FIRE,” Goalie observed.

“My GIB,” Guru said, introducing everyone at the table. “You guys at Perrin?” That meant the old Perrin AFB near Sherman, now reactivated.

“Nope. We're with an Army unit. The Cobra Girls,” Lynne said. “They fly, fight, and party the same way. Hard.”

“So those were the Cobras covering you?” Sweaty asked.

“Yep. Been to their parties, and we blue-suiters are the sanest ones there,” Kearny told the 335th people.

Preacher looked at him, then his pilot. “Those girls as wild as they say?”

“Pretty much,” Lynne said. “They've got a reputation for hell-raising and debauchery that's probably only met by the 13th Cav.”

“Lord have mercy if the Cobra Chicks and the Hell's Angels are off the line at the same time,” the former seminary student said.

“Our detachment CO said the same thing,” Lynne said. She checked her watch. “Gotta run. Our chopper should be refueled by now.”

“You'll find some extra cargo loaded. My Master Sergeant had orders to get a case of beer for each crew member recovered,” Guru said.

“Thanks, Guru,” Lynne said. “Too bad we can't RON. I'd love to challenge your Kara Thrace at pool.”

“Be careful,” Braniac said. “She doesn't take checks, So have cash on hand.”

“What if you can't pay,for whatever reason?” Kearny asked.

The 335th crewers looked at each other. “Think the supply tent, a sleeping bag on the floor, a Coleman lantern for ambiance, and, well, you get the rest of the idea,” Sweaty told the Jolly drivers.

“Got you.”

“Consider yourselves warned, Bev,” said Guru. “If you have to RON? Bring cash, like Brainiac said.”

“That's good to know. Well, time to go. You take care, Guru.”

“You too, and Bev?”

The blonde Jolly driver turned to her old classmate. “Yeah?”

Major Wiser looked at his classmate with due seriousness. “Thanks. You guys made sure I only had one letter to write, instead of four.”

“That's our job,” Lynne said. “Be seeing you.”

“You too,” Guru said.

The Jolly drivers nodded, then headed on out.

“Well?” Goalie asked. “You two have a history?”

“Met in OTS. Stayed in touch afterward, and we both got flight. She got helos, while I got fast jets. Had a final fling after we got our wings, and that was it,” Guru said.

Goalie nodded. “Where was she, last you heard?”

“Whiteman,” said Guru.

“Glad she's not there now?” Sweaty asked.

“I'd ask Hoser, KT, and Revlon that,” Guru said. “And did you notice she had the mark of a ring on her finger? I'll bet she's either engaged or married.”

“One way to look at it,” Goalie said. “She was flying Site Support for SAC?”

“That's what I heard,” Guru said. “If she was in the air? I'll bet she saw Kansas City....”

On that happy thought, there was silence around the table.

“Not good,” Preacher said to break the silence.

“No,” agreed Guru.

A few minutes later, Doc Waters and one of the Navy flight surgeons rang the bell at the bar. “Twelve-Hour is now in effect!”

Those not on the flight schedule held onto their drinks, while those who were flying in the morning turned what was left of theirs in, or poured them out. It wasn't long until 2100 came along, and aircrew curfew. Those flying in the morning left the tent and either walked, or staggered, to their tents and found their racks. Because it wouldn't be long until 0430 and wake-up, And they would do it all over again.
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Old 04-13-2016, 08:03 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Anyone catch the name of the HH-3 driver? If you've ever watched Cinemax after dark, you will know....
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