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On distant shores, p.1
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       On Distant Shores, p.1

           Mark Harritt
 
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On Distant Shores
On Distant Shores

  Copyright 2014 Mark Harritt

  Contents

  Title Page

  Chapter One – Then

  Chapter Two – Then

  Chapter Three – Then

  Chapter Four – Then

  Chapter Five - Then

  Chapter Six – Then

  Chapter Seven – Then

  Chapter Eight - Now

  Chapter Nine – Now

  Chapter Ten – Now

  Chapter Eleven – Now

  Chapter Twelve – Now

  Chapter Thirteen – Now

  Chapter Fourteen – Now

  Chapter Fifteen – Mayhem

  Chapter Sixteen – The New Reality

  Chapter Seventeen A Place to call Home

  Epilog – The Past

  About the Author

  Other books by Mark Harritt

  Connect with Mark Harritt

  Chapter One – Then

  “You bought a what?”

  “A bassinet.”

  “What the hell is a bassinet?

  “It’s like a small crib for new born babies.”

  The three men walked from Everett’s SUV to the compound. Mike loved Fort Carson, surrounded as it was by the mountains in the distance. They had gone out to lunch, and were returning to the office. Master Sergeant Everett Calhoun looked at Staff Sergeant Roberto “Rob” Torres y Torres.

  “Rob, I can tell you have never been around a nesting female.” Everett was a handsome, fit man, thirty-eight, African American, with Cherokee blood on his mom’s side. He had a reddish cast to his tan skin.

  Rob flashed the smile that was famous in bars and bedrooms around the local area. The man was a magnet to attractive woman. He could walk into any bar, announce that he was Roberto Torres y Torres in a serious deep voice, and then start making jokes about his mom and dad having the same last name. His easy smile showed bright white teeth against dark skin. His thin waist and wide shoulders cut an imposing figure, combined with the easy grace of a natural dancer when he was on the dance floor. Women’s eyes naturally gravitated towards him.

  “No, I try to leave that to other men. I avoid the messy part of the biology.”

  MSG Calhoun looked at SSG Torres. “That’s not what I hear. I heard it got pretty messy the other night when that 1st Lieutenant got pissed that you were dancing with his girl.”

  Rob nodded his head, “Different kind of mess, but, yes, though I did buy him a beer after he went over the couch. He’s lucky, I talked to the bouncers, and told them that he was a friend of mine and it was private disagreement. So, they didn’t kick his ass on the way out. Plus, with all the blood on his shirt, he had to leave early. After the beer of course.”

  Everett smiled at Mike, drawing him into the conversation. “Mike here has a friend that was asking about you. Seems nobody knows the name of the Hispanic male, medium height, 180 pounds, who split the lip of their company executive officer.”

  Mike nodded, “Yep, you may want to stay away from 3rd Armored Cav land for a while. There may be a few fellows looking for you after this weekend. Or, if you do go that way, you may want to take D’Inazio with you.”

  Mike was talking about Sergeant First Class Mickey D’Inazio, the “Beast of Brooklyn,” as he styled himself. Most of the team was of average build, slim, muscular, but not anything to really stand out in a crowd. It was different with D’Inazio. Irish mother, Italian father, right out of Brooklyn. He had been lifting weights since he was thirteen years old. At six feet, three inches in height, he was a good 240 pounds with very little body fat. He complained about all the running he did for the job, because of the increased carb and protein load he needed to maintain his muscularity. With Mickey in tow, Rob wouldn’t need anybody else to watch his back. Plus, SFC D’Inazio was one of the team medics. If a fight broke out, he possessed the skills to patch people up. It was usually the other guy that needed patching up, though.

  All of the team took their combat skills seriously, but it was not as if Rob went out of his way to get into bar fights. If he was that unstable, he wouldn’t be on the team. The bouncers and patrons knew Rob as a fun guy, no real harm in him. It was usually a pissed off boyfriend or potential boyfriend he had to contend with.

  MSG Calhoun said, “One of these days, some pissed off male is going to shoot you in the dick.”

  “You’re one to talk, Everett. How many ex-wives do you have, three or four?” Rob asked.

  The master sergeant replied, “That would be three ex, and four kids. Plus, I’m always on the lookout for my next ex-wife.”

  Rob asked, “That is different than me because . . . ?”

  Everett replied, “Because I believe in holy matrimony, and think that it is a sin to co-habitat without the blessing of God.”

  “And your priest . . . ?” Rob asked.

  Mike chuckled, “Rob, Everett is a protestant. He doesn’t have to ask forgiveness for his sins from a priest. He goes straight to the source.”

  “You Protestants are a crafty bunch. I have to get up early on Sunday to get to church, otherwise my priest gives me grief about not going to church when I’m in confession, and adds that to my act of contrition.”

  Everett nodded in agreement, “Thank the lord for Martin Luther and Henry the 8th.”

  Rob looked at Mike, “And you and Jo?”

  Mike replied, “We’re straight up heathens. I find my religion in Jo’s arms.”

  Rob nodded, “Jo is a lovely woman.”

  Mike smiled, “I’ll shoot you in the dick if you come around my house.”

  Rob shook his head, a hurt look on his face, “No, no it’s not like that. Besides, Jo would shoot me in the dick if I came ‘round your house, and she’d have a shotgun.”

  MSG Calhoun said, “And she’s a better shot than Mike.”

  Mike took offence, “Hey! That is just not a nice thing to say.”

  Rob replied, “Mike, everybody on the team is a better shot than you.”

  “That’s not a bad place to be though. The team is a highly trained, cohesive, killing machine. Civilians are not better shots than me, however. I’m pretty damn deadly on the range,” Mike retorted.

  MSG Calhoun just shook his head, “What about the civilian target in the tire house?”

  “One, just one, in three years on the team. Besides, she had shifty eyes. I think that she was a collaborator.”

  They walked to a non-descript building that didn’t stand out from any of the other buildings in the area, two stories high, standard brick military construction. The only difference was the chain link fence with the razor wire on the top. There was a sign stating that the building was a secure area, and that deadly force was authorized. There didn’t seem to be any security, until they stepped through the door. Behind the door was a window with thick plexi-glass and a revolving plexi-glass door. There was no way in unless you presented your ID to the security guards behind the counter.

  They showed their IDs, and were buzzed in. Individually, they stepped through the revolving security gate. They started walking down the hallway towards the team room.

  The ground floor was filled with the offices of the headquarters staff. The Flight Commander, LTC Bretscif, and his staff were at the front of the building. Normally, in a special operations unit this size, a company size element, there would be a Major as the Flight Commander. Since they were not located close to headquarters at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, it was deemed to be a good idea that the commander was a Lieutenant Colonel to deal with other officers on Fort Carson.

  The individual team offices were at the back of the first floor. Communications, Personnel, and Intel were on the second floor. There was ano
ther floor, a basement, which had storage for all of the teams. This was also where supply worked. Extra equipment for operations was kept there, as well as equipment that was used to replace combat and field loss items. There was a small gym down there. The armory, for the storage of weapons and munitions was there. There was also a small shooting range for the armorers and gunsmiths, well ventilated, so that they could tune up the weapons for the operators.

  “But Chief, that’s the only one in the past five years that’s been shot,” Everett replied. “No other team has killed a civilian target.”

  Rob was enjoying the fact that the pressure was off of him. It didn’t matter that Mike shot consistently high scores on the range, or in the tire house. What did matter was that his stray bullet creased the head of one of the civilian targets in the tire house. Because of that, until somebody else did it, or worse, shot one of the civilian targets between the eyes, Mike would be labeled as the guy who shot civilians. Of course everybody knew that it was B.S., but they all enjoyed watching Mike squirm.

  “That’s it, we’re going to the range today. Pistols, and the loser buys the beer after work,” Mike threw down the gauntlet.

  The guys nodded and said hello to various people they knew as they walked. They arrived at the secure door of the team room, punched in the combination, and walked in. The team room was comprised of five individual rooms. A main room with a few chairs and couches for the team to sit in, with a TV and a regular size refrigerator. There was a smaller room with lockers for all of the team. There was an office for the team leader, Captain Bostak, and Mike, the team Executive Officer, or XO. Everett, as the team sergeant, had his own office with two extra desks in the room so that the rest of the team could come in, sit down, and catch up on email and the Intel packets that the Intel section sent out. There was a larger room with equipment lockers for team equipment. The guns and munitions were kept down in the basement in the locked cage area, in a large safe. Normally, in a conventional unit, there was no way that munitions would be held on site. This organization had to be able to stand up for operations within twelve hours. They had special dispensation to keep munitions on site.

  SFC D’Inazio and SSG Thomas Milkin were in the team room. Tom was one of the snipers and weapons specialists for the team. He was skinny compared to the rest of the team, as tall as Mike, curly blond hair. He was murder with a long gun. He was famous for the long distances that he could reach out and touch someone with a rifle, either the Barrett .50 caliber, or the Desert Tactical SRS .338 Lapua.

  The rest of the team was still on leave. The team was comprised of twelve team members. The Team Commander, the XO, and the Team Sergeant comprised the command element. The enlisted positions were two weapons specialists, two explosives specialists, two communications specialists, two medics, and one Intel specialist. MSG Calhoun grew up in Special Forces as a weapons specialist, and was trained in an additional military specialty as an explosives expert. Everybody was crossed trained in each other’s specialties.

  Currently, this team was on Red Status. The teams, six of them on Fort Carson, operated in Red, Amber, and Green. Red was down time, used for leave, medical and dental appointments, paperwork. It was also used for maintenance on all weapons, electronics, and equipment. Med bags and go bags were restocked to ensure that the team was mission capable. It also ensured that the teams got to spend time with their families. Amber was for training status, and green was when the team was actually out doing missions. Amber and Green sometimes blurred together, depending on what the operational requirements were. Command tried to keep the Red down time sacrosanct, but it didn’t always happen.

  Special Operations had the highest divorce rate in the military, especially after 9/11. It was unfortunate that many families couldn’t cope with the sacrifices made by the men and women in Spec Ops. Mike prayed every day that he and Jo would be the statistical error that crept by, that they would be the family that made it. He prayed every day that he and Jo would grow old together, watch their children grow up and have kids of their own. He knew that the odds were against them, though.

  “Hey, we’re going to the gun range. Pistols, and the low score buys,” Rob announced to Mickey and Tom.

  Tom turned to Mike, “He still gets you going about that accidental head shot, doesn’t he?”

  Mickey, knowing this joke from long experience, joined in, “Look, I agree with Mike, I think she was a collaborator. She had that look on her face. Besides, it was a graze. She would have lived.”

  Mike nodded, “Exactly what I was saying. She was a collaborator. Plus, after she was grazed by the top operators in the world, she would have repented her dirty collaborator ways, and gotten out of the business.”

  Everett stepped in, “What business is that?”

  A chorus of voices replied, “The bad guy business.” “The long dirt nap business.” “The ‘becoming room temperature’ business.”

  Mickey chimed in, “The ‘oh shit, Mike shot me’ business.”

  Mike replied, “Screw you guys.”

  That brought out the grins on everybody’s faces. Mike flipped the bird, turned and went into his office. He sat down, entered his login and password, and waited for the machine to go through the login procedures.

  Mike started going through the emails, piled up in his in-box. There were the usual Intel dumps. There were emails from S1, personnel, and a few from S4, logistics. He had an email from Major Salk, the squadron executive officer. He read the email, sighed, stood up and walked into the team room.

  Mickey looked up as Mike walked across the room. Mickey was sitting at a table with open boxes that contained medical supplies. There were three medic bags next to the table, in line for inspection, and one on the table with its supplies laid out. The other three team members were in Everett’s office on the computers.

  “What’s up?” Mickey asked, as Mike walked by.

  “I have to go talk to the XO.”

  Mickey nodded and kept inventorying the medical bag that he was digging through. Every now and then he would pull some medical supplies from one of the boxes on the table in front of him, and add it to the bag. He did this until he was satisfied that all of the supplies that were on the printed inventory were, in fact, in the bag.

  Mike walked out of the team room into the hallway. People were walking through the hallways, some on personal missions, some with supplies, some just talking or joking as they walked. Someone mentioned North Korea.

  “That’s someone else’s problem,” he thought.

  His team operated in South and Central America. They all spoke fluent Spanish, with the help of Rob, who grilled them constantly to ensure that they could nominally blend in. Their Intel sergeant, Sergeant First Class Evans, spoke Arabic and Farsi as well. Their problem set dealt with the growing influence of Hezbollah in the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, the nexus of Iran working with Venezuela, and the possibility of missiles being moved from Iran to Venezuela.

  Now there was a growing possibility that ISIS might be working south of the border as well. This kept the team busy, and made life very interesting for them. The possibilities of Hezbollah working with the drug cartels in the Sonora and Chihuahua states was increasing their workload. It’s all fun and games until somebody slips nuclear, biological or chemical weapons or supplies in across the southern border for attacks against a major metropolitan area in the United States.

  Mike walked to the Squadron command group. SSG Bob Cooper was there with a cast and sling on his arm. SSG Cooper was shot on mission two months back. He would have been back to work sooner, but the bullet hit bone, and it was taking longer than he appreciated to get back to one hundred percent. His team had deployed on mission without him, and he was doing time in the command group until his arm was one hundred percent.

  “Hey Chief, how’s it going?” SSG Cooper asked.

  “Pretty good. H
ow’s the arm feeling today?”

  “It’s doing okay. Hurts every now and again, but at least I’m vertical,” he replied.

  “You might want to think about dodging next time. Remember, the first action is, ‘Seek Cover.’”

  “Well Chief, this isn’t exactly dodge ball.”

  Mike smiled and said, “Well, if you can dodge a bullet, you can dodge a ball.”

  SSG Cooper shook his head, “you’re so lucky that you’re married, because most women can’t stand that level of geek.”

  Mike chuckled, “That’s nerd to you, brother.”

  “What are you here for, Chief?” SSG Cooper asked.

  “I got a message from the XO to see him. Is he in?” Mike asked.

  “Yeah, I think he’s still in. Let me check.”

  SSG Cooper walked back to the office. “Sir, Chief Duggins is here to see you.”

  Mike heard a muffled reply. SSG Cooper waved him back to the office. As he walked by he said, “Yeah, go on in Chief, he’s waiting for you.”

  Mike walked back to the XO’s office. It was filled with pictures of Major Salk’s family and men that the Major had worked with throughout his career. There were small mementoes from the various parts of the world that he had worked in. There were a lot of challenge coins displayed on his desk as well. The Major was sitting, looking at paperwork on his desk. Evidently he was satisfied with what he saw. He put his signature on the paper and set it aside.

  “Hey Mike, how’s it going?” Major Gary Salk waved Mike into the office and motioned to one of the chairs.

  “It’s going pretty good, Sir, how are you doing? How’s Rose doing?” Mike asked.

  “She’s doing fairly well. She took the news about her mom pretty hard. Judy was a young woman.” CPT Salk replied.

  Rose was Major Salk’s wife. Her mother passed away suddenly, and she flew home two days ago. Major Salk was going to fly to Minnesota tomorrow to help his wife and her family. He had to wait three extra days because LTC Bretscif, the Squadron Commander, had been at a conference in Washington D.C., and was returning tomorrow.

  Rose called Jo when it happened, and Jo went over to talk to her. Judy was fifty-nine years old when she passed, and Rose had taken it pretty hard. Jo and Rose were really good friends, which ensured that Rose and Gary were often guests over at Mike’s house and Mike and Jo were often guests over at their house, despite the rank difference.

  “How’s Jo doing?” Major Salk asked.

  Mike nodded, “She’s doing great. The first trimester was rough, with the morning sickness, but she’s doing better now. We have the first ultra sound in two weeks.”

  Major Salk winced, then sighed, knowing that Mike wouldn’t like what he was going to say, “I hate to tell you this, but you may not be there for the ultra sound. I hope the Geek Squad is good for a quick mission.”

  He used that nickname because of their special assignment. Mike’s team worked with the Western Zone Nuclear Emergency Support Teams. Technically, they were black ops for the Special Operations Command. His team, and this entire flight, had special skills when compared to the other Spec Ops teams in SOCOM. Captain Bostak had a BS in Physics. SSG Torres had a BS in structural engineering, and was a member of Mensa. SSG Shawn Phillips, the other explosives expert on the team, had a BS in electronics. Mike had a Master’s degree in mathematics. Mickey had a BS in biochemistry. Most of the guys on the team scored extremely high on their Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB. Their scores on the General Test grade were anywhere from 135 to 146, the highest you could get on the GT score. While they couldn’t design a nuclear bomb, they had a damn good chance of ensuring that it never went off.

  Mike’s face didn’t show any emotion at the pronouncement that he might not be there for the ultra sound, “We’re all doing pretty good. Everybody is itching to get back to work.”

  Major Salk nodded, “Well, I have a special assignment for your team until everybody gets back off of leave. You guys caught a, ‘hey you,’ assignment.”

  “What’s up?” Mike asked.

  “We have a special request that we think, well, know that only your team can fill.” Major Salk replied. “There is a special request that requires a Top Secret clearance, Department of Energy clearance, and an infantry background.”

  Mike’s face screwed up at requirements. He came from the infantry, and in fact, joined the infantry because his dad was infantry in Vietnam, his granddad was infantry in World War II and Korea, and he joined because he wanted to fulfill the tradition of his family. He had volunteered for infantry school, airborne school, and the Ranger indoctrination program, or RIP. He spent his first three years in Ranger Battalion, then went to the 82nd Infantry afterwards. But it was a strange request for a job that also included Top Secret and Department of Energy security clearances.

  “Your team will need to take everything that you would use on a five man team, to include small arms, sniper rifles, explosives, communications, and medical. You’ll also need to take additional ammunition for all weapons systems as normal. I’ll send down a list of the small arms and equipment that they were asking about. Once you get to your location, you’ll be read on to a special access program, and when you get back,” Major Salk was smiling at Mike’s growing consternation, “you’ll never tell anybody what you did.”

  “Is this some kind of special mission to kill somebody, or go deep cover and kill somebody?” Mike was stretching out his words, implying “was there something else he may need to know.”

  Major Salk enjoyed his confusion for a little while before letting him off the hook. “Well Mike, I can’t tell you everything, and, to be honest, I don’t know. I just know that you’re not deploying outside the United States, you’re to palletize all of your equipment. You’ll be flying by C-12 to Malmstrom Air Force Base. And, you’ll be gone a total of three weeks, flying to your destination on Monday, and then flying back in time to start training with your team.”

  Mike waited to see if there was anything else, then shrugged, “Okay, I don’t know what the hell is going on, but mine is not to reason why . . .” He left the words hang. There was no reply.

  Major Salk sat back, and motioned with his hands, palms up. “I wish I could tell you more, but that’s all I know. You’ll be fully briefed once you get to your destination.”

  Mike nodded, “March to the sound of the guns.”

  Major Salk agreed, “Exactly. I’ll email the particulars to you, so that your team can get the equipment palletized and ready to go. We have the orders from SOCOM, and I’ll include those as well on the email. Since you aren’t going outside the United States, you won’t need passports or any cover identities.”

  Major Salk leaned forward and held out his hand, signifying that the quick briefing was over. “I’m sorry about the ultra sound, but Jo should understand.”

  “Understand my ass,” Mike thought.

  Mike stood and gripped the outstretched hand. “Sir, please give Rose our best when you see her. Also, if you could get us the address to the funeral home, the team would like to send flowers. Jo and I would also like to send flowers.”

  “Thanks, Mike, I’ll let her know that you and Jo were thinking about her. And, I’ll make sure that you get the address when I get there.”

  “If you need somebody to check on the house while you’re gone, Jo and I can stop by over the weekend,” Mike said.

  “No, that’s okay, we won’t be gone long. The funeral is this weekend, and we should be back home by next Tuesday, so I don’t see a problem with that. If we get stuck there, we may give you a call.”

  “Alright, but if you need anything, just let us know,” Mike replied.

  “Thanks, Mike, I appreciate it.”

  Mike walked out of Major Salk’s office, and nodded at SSG Cooper as he left.

  “Remember, dodge, and seek cover. Then you return fire.” Mike put emphasis on ‘dodge,’
cover,’ and ‘then’ just to get one more dig at SSG Cooper.

  SSG Cooper laughed, “Screw you asshole.”

  “That’s Chief Warrant asshole, thank you very much.”

  Mike ducked out of the office before SSG Cooper could throw something at him. Mike walked by First Sergeant Grant, who was looking at one of the TVs that had news on twenty-four/seven.

  “How’s it going, Top?” Mike asked.

  The First Sergeant looked at Mike, and said, “One coke addled asshole and the whole world stops turning.”

  Mike nodded in sympathy, “Assholes have a tendency to do that, especially when they have a nuclear bomb.”

  The First Sergeant shook his head and walked down the hall. Mike could sympathize. He and his team had multiple headaches whenever the Iranian President came for a visit to Venezuela. It was looking more and more like Iran was willing to use proxies to attack the United States.

  Mike thought about the new mission. “Jo is going to be pissed,” he thought.

  She wanted Mike there for the ultra sound. Mike wanted to be there for the ultra sound. He just hoped she wouldn’t take it out on him. He didn’t think he would be able to dodge that bullet, though.

  Mike continued on to the team room. Rob, Tom and Mickey were now stripping weapons and cleaning them. Tom was inspecting the weapons to ensure that all the parts were in working order. He was the armorer for the team. If he found a problem that he wasn’t able to fix with a spare part, he would take the weapon down to the gunsmiths in the basement to get it fixed. He was also a gunsmith, but regulation required him to use the squadron gunsmiths. The team was working through all the weapons for the team.

  Everett was in his office working on evaluation reports that were due to the First Sergeant before Friday. The First Sergeant had to review them before Captain Bostak signed them when he got back from leave.

  Mike went to his computer, logged on, and read the WARNO for the mission next week. Major Salk was not kidding when he said there really was not much information in the warning order. It just detailed the equipment needed, the information needed to get the pallet on the correct C-12 over at Peterson Air Force Base, and the manifest for his team. Not much to look at. Mike was surprised by the amount of weapons and ammunition that was required. Major Salk was correct about the requirements for Top Secret and Department of Energy security clearances, and an infantry background. It was no wonder that his team had gotten this mission. Strangely, it seemed tailor made for them. He locked the computer, stood up and walked into the main room. Mike started to pick up one of the weapons.

  Tom stopped him with a motion from his hand and said, “Nope, that’s the finished group. The ‘uther uns are the ones you want.” Tom’s Tennessee country roots showed with the pronunciation of ‘uther uns.’

  Mike grabbed an M4, picked a chair at the table, and started field stripping the weapon to check it for any dirt build up. There were several gun cleaning kits and bore snakes on the table to be used on any offending dirt or dust that was found. There was very little dust and no dirt at all. Mike expected no less. The weapons were cleaned before the team went into Red status three months prior.

  “So what’s up with the XO?” Rob asked.

  “The XO has a mission for us.”

  Mickey piped up, “Yeah, who do we get to kill? Is it Mexico, Venezuela, or Paraguay?”

  Mike shook his head, smiling, “None of the above.”

  They looked at him, expectant.

  “We have a mission in the United States. It requires five guys with TS and DOE clearances, and Infantry backgrounds,” Mike stated.

  “Is that it? What about weapon systems, communications, targets?” Rob asked.

  “Well, all of it, or, all of it for five guys. We just have to have all of our equipment palletized, then they put us on a C-12, and we fly off to Malmstrom Air Force Base. Once we land, they brief us, read us into a SAP, and then we’re on mission for three weeks, and we fly back,” Mike replied.

  “No papers, passports, operations orders . . . ,” Tom trailed off.

  “Nope, none of that. We stay in country. We don’t even need our regular passports.”

  Everett stepped out of his office, “But we’re going to bring them, correct?”

  “Hell yeah,” Mike replied. “Just ‘cause the brass doesn’t think it’s necessary, doesn’t make it so. Plus, something may happen that pulls us off of this job and shifts us back to our primary mission.”

  Mickey spoke, “Good call, I agree.”

  Tom nodded, “Better to have it, and not need it . . .,” he started.

  “. . . Than to need it and not have it,” Rob finished.

  “So what do you need from us, boss man?” Everett asked.

  Mike replied, “Well, I have the list of everything that we need. It’s all weapon systems and supplies. Just make sure that we have two medic bags, and you have go bags packed, with civilian clothes, and some tactical clothes. It is a three week trip, with travel, so plan for twenty-one days. I don’t want to smell Mickey’s dirty underwear on day three.”

  Mickey snorted in amusement at the comment.

  Rob looked at Mickey in all seriousness, “Dude, he ain’t kidding. I don’t know what you eat, but the gas you pass makes me want to vomit.”

  Mickey’s smile broadened, “Pure protein supplements, my friend.”

  He launched into a double bicep pump, followed up by extending his left arm and pointing his fingers away from his body in a classic body builder pose. He turned and kissed his bicep.

  “If you want quality, you eat quality.”

  Rob grabbed his crotch, “I have something for you to chow on.”

  Mickey shook his head with a sad look on his face, “Sorry brother, I need more than a light snack.”

  Mike laughed, and cut off the next foray in the verbal brinksmanship, “I’ll email out the list, and I want everybody to review, and ensure that we have everything needed for twenty-one days. Tom, we don’t know the mission or target, but we have a list of weapons, ammunition, and we’re going to need flash bangs, thermite and fragmentation grenades. Rob,” Mike turned to look at him, “make sure we have two claymores, and five sticks of C4, blasting caps, and det. cord for anything that may crop up.”

  “It’s summer, so we don’t need heavy cold weather gear, but even in the summer, it can get cold at night in Montana, so full sleeping bags, and light cold weather gear.”

  Everett spoke up. “Brother, I never go on a trip without my full sleeping bag. You never know when you’re going to risk hypothermia.”

  Mike nodded, “We have a full pallet that we can load, so equipment and some snivel gear is appropriate, make sure you bring the cots, and a couple of boxes of MREs. Who knows, we may get a chance to go to Yellowstone one night.”

  Mickey looked up, “Man, I‘ve never been there, and I always wanted to go.”

  Tom asked, “So where the hell are we going?”

  “Some Air Force base called Malmstrom,” Mike said.

  “What the hell is there?”

  “341st Space Command, I believe is the host unit for the base.”

  “Are we doing an infiltration?” Everett asked.

  Spec Ops units frequently did infiltration of military bases and secure areas to identify weaknesses in security. This allowed the military base or secure facility security services the capability to review security procedures and revamp them if needed.

  “I don’t know, Everett. Usually that mission would require a few weeks to prep. We aren’t getting enough lead time to go through the entire military decision making process. No mention of going into isolation for mission prep, so I doubt it.”

  Rob asked, “So what do you think this is about, Chief?”

  Mike just shook his head. “I really don’t know. This doesn’t seem like an infiltration, security review, or any other mission I’ve been on, so I really don’t know what is going on.
What about you, Everett?”

  Everett was just as stumped as Mike. Between them they had 33 years of special operations experience.

  “No, Chief, I can’t think of anything that might explain this.”

  Mike shrugged, “March to the sound of the guns.”

  The team nodded.

  “Boss man, when do you want to get this done?” Everett asked.

  “Well, I think we can continue doing our preventative maintenance on the weapons, then prep the ones we need for this mission. I’ll get the paperwork started to get the munitions for the mission. We need to prep supply so that they know we’ll be building the pallet tomorrow. I don’t want supply to bitch about being blindsided. Then we can just move everything down in the morning and prep the pallet for the flight next Monday. I’ll check with transportation to make sure they have us on the manifest going in the right direction. And I think that will be it.”

  Mike thought, and added, “Just make sure that you have your clothes and tactical gear packed for the pallet tomorrow. We can get on the plane with a carry-on bag each, and that’ll make life easier for all of us. A few hours in the air, and hopefully we’ll find out what the hell this is all about.”

  Mike went into the office and started the paperwork for the munitions required. It was a tedious, but necessary part of the process. The supply section, S4, was audited regularly to ensure that there was nothing missing and that all munitions were accounted for. The last thing anybody in Special Operations Command wanted was their munitions sold on the black market. Or worse, used to facilitate a coup in some third world hell hole, and then tracked back to SOC. The paperwork was used to account for any munitions that were drawn from supply. Even more paperwork was required if anything was ever used. It had to be justified and accounted for, every single bullet, every ounce of explosive. Mike laughed when he heard about black ops budgets that were ‘off the books’ on TV. SOCOM, to include black ops, was Department of Defense, and DoD was a huge bureaucracy. Bureaucracy lived on paperwork. Nothing he had ever seen was off the books.

  Mike completed the paperwork and called the supply office to see if Staff Sergeant Drucker was in. Specialist Winters answered the phone.

  “This is supply, Specialist Winters, how may I help you Sir/Ma’am.”

  “Hello, Specialist Winters, this is Chief Duggins. How are you today?”

  Specialist Winters was a young black man, dark complexion, tall, with the skinny frame that goes with miles of running. He was a good soldier and his enthusiasm for the Army was a real pleasure to be around.

  “Sir, I’m doing fine. How may I help you today?” the young soldier inquired.

  “I have a special request for munitions, and I need Sergeant Drucker to expedite for me.”

  “Sir, I’ll see if he’s in his office,” the Specialist stated.

  “Roger,” Mike replied.

  Mike was put on hold, and he couldn’t hear anything. A few minutes later and a voice came on the phone.

  “Mike, how are you today?”

  It was Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Owens, once the 10th Special Forces Group Sergeant Major, and now Mr. Owens, a Government Services rank 11, or GS11. Mr. Owens pulled a few strings with old friends to land a job as the government civilian that worked in supply for the unit. And, since he was a weapons guy from way back, it was a good fit.

  “Hey Sergeant Major, how are you doing today?”

  “Mike, it’s Mister now, you don’t have to call me Sergeant Major,” Mr. Owens replied.

  “Yeah, I know, but you deserve the respect, so I’ll probably keep up that habit for a while.”

  Mr. Owens chuckled, “Mike, Sergeant Drucker isn’t here right now. But I can help. When are you bringing down the paperwork for your munitions?”

  “Ah, I guess word has gotten around, then,” Mike stated.

  “Yeah, Major Salk sent me an email detailing what you would need for the mission. When do you need it by?” Mr. Owens asked.

  “Well, we’re going to palletize it tomorrow. Can you have it ready to go in the morning? I’d like to put the munitions on the bottom. The weight helps stabilize the pallet.”

  “Yeah, Mike, we can get that together. Some of us may need to stay a little longer today, but that’s what young soldiers are for.” There was a slight pause, “Isn’t that right, Specialist Winters?”

  Mike heard a muffled, “Roger that, Sir.”

  “Mike, don’t worry, we’ll have it ready to go for you in the morning. Who’s coming down with the paperwork?” Mr. Owens asked.

  “That would be Rob, Sergeant Major,” Mike replied.

  Mike could hear the glee in Mr. Owens voice, “Good, I can screw with him about baiting young Lieutenants in the 3rd ACR.”

  Mike laughed, “Yeah, we’ve been messing with him about that all day. The only thing he can’t figure out, is who the hell told everybody about it.”

  “Well, I may be old, but I still like to go and drink a beer and talk to the honeys,” Mr. Owens replied. “Besides, when your son is one of the bouncers, you hear a lot of things.” Mr. Owens changed topics back to munitions. “When’s he coming down?” he asked.

  “Sergeant Major, I’ll send Rob down to you right now.”

  “That would be great.”

  “You have a great day, Sergeant Major.”

  “Oh, I will. I’ll let Specialist Winters do all the heavy lifting.”

  Mike chuckled and hung up. Mr. Owens was a great guy, but God help you if you screwed up something. Mr. Owens ran the S4 shop with a meticulous attention to detail.

  Mike yelled, “Hey Rob, can you come in here please?”

  Rob appeared at his door.

  “Rob, can you take these papers down to Mr. Owens?”

  Rob reached forward and took the paperwork out of Mike’s hand. He looked it over, double checking what Mike had written on the paperwork. Mike waited to see if Rob had any questions. Rob finished and said, “Yeah boss, I can get this down to Sergeant Drucker.”

  Rob turned and left the office. Mike heard the door to the team room open and shut. Mike got up from his desk and walked into the team room. “How’s it going?”

  Tom looked up and nodded, “everything here is in good shape. We busted the dust off it. We’re going to pack them in the travel cases next, and get them down to the armory. I’ll make sure that the weapons we need are left up front so we can grab them first thing tomorrow morning.”

  Mike smiled, knowing that Tom wouldn’t ever let any weapon get dusty, “Good work. Tomorrow, I need you and Rob to go down and get the munitions from supply so that we can get it all on the pallet. Sergeant Major will probably have it on the dolly waiting for you with Specialist Winters standing by to push it out for you.”

  “Roger boss.”

  Mickey was pulling up travel cases and setting weapons into them, “So, Chief, does the Sergeant Major know about Rob’s weekend?”

  Mike nodded, “Who do you think told everybody about it. I imagine that young Specialist Winters is about to hear some things that will give him mental images he will never forget, no matter how much he would hope to. That man could out swear a devil in a whore house. Rob is going to get so much grief from the Sergeant Major.”

  People are usually quite unimaginative when describing the act of intimacy between consenting adults, usually resorting to a few, select curses. Mr. Owens possessed the soul of a poet and the tact of a Bedouin goat farmer. He was able to describe the act of coitus in amazing prose, which often stunned people into submission when he started. He was such a master at couching his vernacular in subtle, sarcastic terms that many people didn’t recognize the insults levied at them. If you were not the target, it was a joy to listen to his mastery of carnal, physical juxtaposition.

  Mike jumped in and helped the guys with the cases. Soon everything was prepped and ready to go. Tom secured a dolly to transport the weapons on. Mike, Mickey, and To
m started placing the cases of weapons on the dolly.

  Everett stepped out of his office and raised his hands up as if he was a soccer referee signaling a goal, “I’ve completed all NCOERs. I can have a life again without being tied to a computer.” NCOERs were the evaluation reviews for sergeants in the Army.

  Mike asked, “Really?”

  Everett conceded, “Okay, mostly not be tied to a computer.”

  Once again, Mike asked, “Really?”

  “Man, you’re crushing my hopes and dreams here.”

  Mike, Tom, and Mickey laughed.

  “Well, at least you won’t have to worry about computers or reports next week. You just have to worry about the after action report once we’re done.”

  The door opened, and Rob walked into the team room, “Christ Mike, you could have warned me.”

  “And, what would be the fun in that?” Mike asked.

  Rob shook his head, “I don’t think most of that is anatomically possible, though there were a few suggestions that I’d like to talk to Wendy about.”

  “Who’s Wendy?” Everett asked.

  “The blond from this weekend. The one that I got in the fight over.”

  Mickey cocked his head sideways. “You mean you’re actually contemplating going out with the same woman twice? You actually remember her name?”

  Tom got a concerned look on his face, “Rob, man, you can’t do that to me, I live vicariously through you.” Tom married his high school sweetheart when he was 19, soon after he joined the Army. He had three young children, and, as he put it, “A sex life measured by the sleep cycle of small children.”

  Mike asked, “How did Specialist Winters take it?”

  Rob shook his head slowly, “Dude, really. He’s scarred for life. I didn’t know black men could blush like that. At one point, when Mr. Owens was talking about a big girl, a black cat, and a spatula, he actually had to get up and leave the room. I couldn’t tell if he was laughing or crying, but I think he was having trouble breathing.”

  Everyone started laughing. Mr. Owens was always a good education for the younger guys around him. They were still chuckling as they transported the guns to the armory.

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