Book One Chapter Two

Posted: March 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
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CHAPTER 2

 

 

Captain Donovan McLean, whom the men called Diesel, was whistling the happy birthday tune to himself. Most people who met him thought that he should be on the recruitment posters as he looked every inch the Marine.  Diesel and his men had just returned from a mission on the coast of Japan. His men should be cleaning their weapons and getting some chow. Diesel had just finished taking his shower. He opened the wall locker to look at his reflection. “Happy twenty eighth Diesel, may you have many, many more,” he said to himself. Diesel ran his finger over his square jaw and realized he would need to replace the razor blade head before he shaved again. “Looks like I will need a haircut in a week or so as he looked at the stubble on the side of his head were the high and tight was growing out to reveal just a few gray hairs. Tossing his towel onto his rack he struggled to get his massive form dressed in sweats. The mass of different scars across his body started him to reminisce about his career.

Diesel recounted the last several years spent in different combat zones. Diesel had fought in the second Mexican war. Helped fight as part of the United Nations forces against India. He had helped restore order in Columbia, and a myriad of other places as the needs of his country and corps called upon him.

Now he was off the coast of China onboard the USS Jackson, the newest ship in the Navy.  The USS Jackson was nearly 200 feet longer than the USS Wasp, her sister ship that she helped to support.  The Jackson was part of the Marines amphibious warships which were designed to support Operational Maneuver from the Sea (OMFTS) and Ship to Objective Maneuver (STOM).  This class of warships must be able to sail in harm’s way and provide a rapid buildup of combat power upon distant shores in the face of enemy opposition.

Diesel glanced in the mirror and noticed in the reflection that the mail had been delivered while he was out on mission.  He glanced at the wall clock; it read 2130 hours, he had thirty minutes to finish getting dressed before the poker game. He finished quickly then walked over and picked up his mail. He sat down in a well worn chair in front of a small fold out desk. He examined his mail; three letters; one from his accountant, one from a credit card company for a pre-approved card, and the last was from his brother Ian. A big smile spread over his face as Diesel reflected that Ian should have just returned from his honeymoon. He opened the letter from his brother first.

 

Greetings dear brother of mine,

Stacey and I just wanted to thank you personally for the his and her remotes, how thoughtful!  The crystal decanter was also a great gift. We would especially like to thank you for the care you took in making our honeymoon reservations and travel arrangements. The person that kept knocking on the door and telling us to keep it to a dull roar was a nice touch. The best was when we went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast that first morning and realized that it was not a penguin convention but a convention for priests and nuns.

We ate at a reserved table with a sign over it that read the newlyweds table. Every priest and nun in the restaurant came up to congratulate us. The extra care and thought that you must have put into this to make sure we were the only non-church related guests in the hotel is mind-boggling. I’m quite sure that the thought of our situation in the hotel must have made you giggle for hours and hours.

Stacy is now deciding which kitchen item to use on your head, the rolling pin or the cast iron skillet. I have decided to use the golf clubs.

The wedding reception was an outstanding affair. Your taped toast along with the videos, charts and graphs, and the pictures had the crowd crying with laughter. Thank you very, very much. Stacy is still asking me some very pointed questions, it’s been three weeks. Your ass is mine!!!!!

I saw Coach Phillips, he is fine. He asked how you are doing and wanted me to tell you that when you grow tired of playing “army” that he has a linebacker coaching job waiting for you along with a teaching position.

I also saw Rebecca. I think she still has a thing or three for you.

In all honesty we had a great time on the honeymoon. Thankfully the convention ended the next day. How did you plan that?

Love

Ian,

Your bigger, younger, and better looking brother who is plotting you downfall.

 

PS. I overheard mom talking to Mrs. Poole, Mom said something about you moving up to the top of her next-to-get-hitched list……. HA! HA! HA!  My day of revenge will soon be here.

 

Diesel unlocked and opened his foldout desk, connected the ethernet card cable to his laptop computer and booted the computer up. After a few moments he logged on the ships network and then to the internet to send his brother a short email.

 

To my bigger, younger, but uglier brother,

The hotel called two weeks after I made the reservations to tell me about the convention.

The sign was my idea and I asked the manager to do it. Yes I had many hours of laughter at your expense. I still am in fact. As for the person who was knocking on your door, you might want to talk to your friends Billy and Greg, they were asking Mom about where you two were staying.

Right now, I have time for one woman in my life. That woman is the Corps. Please cut mom off at the pass for me. Thanks.

Thinking of you

Donovan

 

Diesel hit send and a short time afterward he received a notification telling him his email was successfully sent. Diesel ripped up the letter from the credit card company and tossed the accountants letter on to the small shelf in his locker for letter. On the inside of the small wall locker were three quotes:

“It is the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak.”

“It is the responsibility of any society to help those that cannot help themselves.”

“People forget and God forgives, neither of these are Marine Corps policy.”

 

Diesel was locking up the wall locker and desk when there was a knock at the hatch.  “Yes?” he said.

“Sir, it’s Speed, ah, Corporal Boxer, sir,” said a voice from outside the small room.

“What do you need Speed?” yelled Diesel through the door.

“Sir, Gunny says you’re needed in the ready room sir.”

“Thank you. Walk with me down there,” replied Diesel.  He took the letter from his brother and placed it in the foldout deck and locked it away in his desk before opening the door to the officer’s state room.

“Yes sir,” responded Corporal Boxer. “Nice state room, sir.”

“I know, I have a rack, a desk, and a wall locker. I press a button and the rack turns into a tanning bed or a pool table. The wall locker doubles as a sauna, and the desk turns into a wet bar complete with dancing girls,”

In reality the room was very Spartan.

Diesel exited the room and Speed walked behind him. They efficiently began making their way to the ready room where an assembly of men had gathered awaiting information about an impending possible mission.  On their way there Diesel remarked to himself how it seemed that the ship never slept. Sailors and Marines were always moving about the ship day and night. There was maintenance to the ship itself and the wide variety of aircrafts it helped support, missions to prep for, and aircrafts to be moved into launch positions and flights returning. Meals had to be prepared and eaten, gear for everything; from the landing vehicles to personal items to be checked, cleaned and then rechecked. The ship was really a small floating city. The ship had a library, dry cleaners, laundry, store, post office, and internet café.

The two men strode through the bowels of the ship, walking single file with the Corporal trailing behind.

“Speed, how old are you?” asked Diesel.

“I’m 23, next month I will be 24,” was his reply.

“You’re from Tennessee, aren’t you?”

“Yes sir, I grow up in a small town in the foothills of the smoky mountains called Dandridge. In the spring and fall the fog would roll in around dawn and the tops of the hills looked like little islands.

“How did you get the callsign Speed?”

“Well sir the short version is my brother is a member of a pit-crew for a nascar racer, and before I joined the Corps I would test drive the cars and I happen to have a number speeding tickets on and off base,” he said sheepishly. Diesel slowed his pace and allowed the man to walk at his side.

“You married Speed?” asked Diesel.

“Nooo sir!  Why the question sir?” asked Speed.

“It’s just that my younger brother just got married and my mother is making noises about me, that’s all.” replied the Captain.

“It was nice knowing you sir,” said Speed with a grin.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Ah, just that mothers have a way of getting what they want and making you feel guilty about it,” Speed chuckled.

The Captain snorted and shook his head in agreement with the young corporal.

“How do you and the others feel about me working with the first platoon instead of the Lieutenant Smith?” inquired the Captain.

“Permission to speak freely, sir?”

“Granted.”

“Sir, to tell you the truth, we’re awful happy to have you with us. Don’t get me wrong about the ell-tee,  but for the for the first two weeks before you took over, he had us marching and doing rifle drills in the hanger deck after our normal day of classes and training. Now sir, I’ve been in the Corps five years, and he’s been in less than four months and he thinks that he knows more about what’s going to happen in a combat situation than the men that have spent the last three years fighting. He just won’t listen to any suggestions that might be better than his current idea. I think it’s a bad idea to let green lieutenants to be in recon units. They need to have some real experience fighting the enemy first. The part about the ell-tee is just my personal opinion, Sir. You should really talk to the Gunny and the other staff NCOs about Lieutenant Smith, Sir”.

“I have talked to them many times in the past month about this. It’s the reason I have been spending so much time with your platoon,” said the Captain.

“Any word on Lieutenant Parks, Sir?” asked Speed.

“His career is over.  He lost the arm and one kidney.”

“Damn sir, he was a good Lieutenant.  He knew what questions to ask and when to ask them. I really liked him.  He was a fair minded man that would back your call if he wasn’t there to make it,” Speed said with a hint of grief upon hearing the news about Parks.

“Corporal, what don’t you like about the new Lieutenant?” asked Diesel.

“Sir, it is not my place,”

“Just go on.”

“It’s just that with Lieutenant Smith believes that he knows it all and micromanages the platoon. He’s wound so tight you couldn’t get a greased bb out of his ass, sir,” said Speed

Captain Mclean quickly recalled the events that led to Lieutenant Smith’s reassignment. Lieutenant Smith had walked his men straight into an ambush. He had broken a cardinal rule by splitting his unit in half without support, and sent each half to opposite flanks of the ambush with no covering fire. First platoon became too spread out and pinned down by the suppressing fire from a flanking unit. It was Gunny Riddel, assigned to first squad second platoon heavy weapons, and Diesel who charged through one set of the flankers and took the battle to enemy forces, allowing the men who were pinned down to get cover and then maneuver for suppressing fire. Diesel recalled the relieved looks on the faces of the men when he and the Gunny showed up just in the nick of time to save first platoon from being wiped out as a unit.

The firefight lasted forty seconds but it left two dead and seven wounded from the first platoon.  From that moment, first platoon came under the direct command of Diesel. He effectively cut the Lieutenant out of the decision making process. For the remainder of the month the Lieutenant had been given a special assignment in administration. Diesel had spoken to the Colonel about transferring the Lieutenant to a regular infantry unit. The Colonel agreed with the assessment and was due to sign the paper work at anytime.

The two men were coming up on the hatch to the ready room the unit was using as a temporary briefing room.  In this room were assembled a cadre of men.  All of the men were in their twenties and possibly early thirties. Some were sitting together discussing what they thought the assignment might entail while others were standing casually in groups of twos or threes. All the men were as tired as he was but still they came to the briefing even though they did not need to be here. Diesel noted that two squads of men and their squad leaders were gathered here with their fire teams and their respective leaders bringing the total of just over 30 men.  On the far wall hung a dry erase board, covered with notes left from a prior briefing.  In front of the boards stood a table stacked with manuals and a stray water bottle or two.  To the right of the folding table stood an oak lectern with the Navy emblem painted onto the front and a “Go Navy” bumper sticker was adhered just beneath the emblem.

Sergeant Burnell and Lance Corporal Thayer were clustered together killing time while they waited for the meeting to begin.

Sgt. Vincent Burnell, called Vinnie by the men, was a rough and tough man who grew up on the south side of Philadelphia. Vinnie was the team leader of the first fire team, first squad. Burnell loved to spar in the boxing ring and talk about his days in the gym watching the hopefuls train for their shot at the big time.  He stood at just less than 5 feet 11 inches, arms covered in tattoos.  He always had a wisecrack ready for use.

Lance Corporal Thayer was a corn feed bull of a young man standing at six foot six and 300 pounds. Besides his sheer size, his other striking feature was his eyes, a brilliant blue that women loved.  He had an enormous appetite, eating more food any two other men in the unit.  Lcpl. Thayer had the strength of an ox and the grace of one too. Funny as it might be to watch him trip over his own two feet walking to the head, he was not clumsy at all in the field. He grew up on a farm near Harrisonburg, Virginia.  He joked that he and his family would name the cattle, T-bone, Porterhouse, New York, and Prime Rib.  It was after relaying this bit of information to his bunkmates that he earned his name T-Bone. Diesel entered the room from the front and was walking toward the back of the room when he overheard a snippet of a conversation that caught his attention.

 

“So how did Stillman get his nickname?” asked Sergeant Vincent Burnell who was speaking to Lance Corporal Thayer.

“I have to hear this,” interrupted Diesel stopping to hear the story that would follow.

“Well you have to remember that Foster, who eventually became nicknamed Stillman; along with Greywolf, Tag, and I were all PFCs when this happened.  We all had just graduated from basic infantry training and were getting ready to start advanced infantry training, but our class wasn’t due to start for four weeks.  So we were put on various work details around the base.  From time to time, Foster would go to supply and fill out the necessary paper work to get things like copper tubing, glass beakers, and other stuff.  We thought nothing of it, until one day back at the barracks, he handed us a small glass of what we thought was water.

It was moonshine.  We told him that it was a bad idea to have a still in the barracks.  We thought on it some more, then we told him that he could sell this stuff for a mint.  He said the still didn’t produce enough to sell; it just made enough for him and a handful of friends.  Somehow the brass found out about the still and held a health and comfort inspection.  The base CO and the Sergeant Major found the still in the basement of the barracks with Foster doing some work on it.

Well… the way Foster tells it, the good CO and Sergeant Major confronted him as to what he was doing with a still.  He explained that he was only following the honorable tradition of the Marines by setting up a still and that he was testing the ph levels and temperature of the mash.  When asked where he learned how to make shine he replied that his mother’s family has known the secret of making the “elixir of life” and the magical device that dispenses it for years.  They then asked what his mother’s maiden name was.  He replied it was Daniels, from Lynchburg, Tennessee.  The CO told him to get a few people and move the still to the CO’s office.  This is where Tag, Greywolf and I come back into the story.  We came in and the CO and the Sergeant Major were sampling the shine as we started to dismantle the still.

The CO yelled for us to stop and calmly says, “Lance Corporal, I said move it to my office not to break it down. For Pete’s sake, it’s not a still man.  It is a magical device that dispenses the elixir of life.”  That is when Foster ceased being Foster and wore the honorable name of Stillman.”

“I don’t believe it.” said Voodoo, who was sitting off to the side and had overheard the story.

“If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’.” said T-bone

Voodoo recently transferred over from 2nd platoon, replacing one of the fire team leaders in the second squad that was killed in a firefight over a month ago. Diesel brought over some of his more skilled people from the other platoons to help train up the replacements for the 1st platoon.  Voodoo, also formally known as Sergeant Wyatt Fields, was the new fire team leader for the first fire team of the second squad.

Sergeant Fields hailed from the Cajun area around New Orleans.  He was a skilled hunter by age twelve, often putting dinner on the family’s table each night. By fifteen he was offering his services as a guide for people who wished to venture into the bayous.  Sergeant Fields had spent seven years in the Corps, having joined immediately at age eighteen. It was eerie to watch him in the field, one moment he was standing in front of you and the next moment he was gone.  This was a feat for someone at 6 foot 4 inches. He also had a knack for sniffing out ambushes and booby traps. To this day, any unit he has been on point for, had not been ambushed or stumbled upon a booby trap either in training or in the field.   It was as though he had voodoo magic, earning him the name Voodoo by his brethren.

Diesel stood in the far corner of the room and watched the men and assessed their mood.  The men quieted down as they watched Gunny amble through the same hatch Diesel had come through just minutes before.   Gunny was holding a manila folder containing several papers as he strode efficiently up to the wooden podium.  He tossed the package onto the lectern and opened the folder, his expression was difficult to read, though Diesel had seen the look before and it told him that trouble lay ahead.  The Gunny, birth name Dean Riddel, was the old man of the unit at thirty-four years old. He was a man of average build; where others would use brute force, he relied on speed and finesse. His blue-green eye could size up a man, situation, or obstacle quickly. He was a reserved man full of contradictions, not many people knew that the Gunny was an aficionado of classical music and literature or that the Gunny held a master’s degree in classical literature.

The Gunny cleared his throat and barked, “This brief is for the fire team leaders and squad leaders, the rest of you animals can get out,” and he motioned with his thumb toward the hatch for the men not obligated to stay to move on. There was a chorus of yes sirs as the men not required to stay filed out.  The Gunny made his way to the back of the ready room to join the Captain. On his way to the rear of the room Gunny Riddel did a quick head check to make sure the necessary Marines were there for the brief.  Staff Sergeant Quinn Norse, Sergeants Vincent Burnell, Stan Baker, and Danny Gilbert from first squad, Sergeants James Olson, Wyatt Fields, Victor Jasper, and Kevin Christoff from second squad, Sergeant John Whitmore, the radioman and the Captain rounded out the list of attendees. Third squad was out on a mission. Diesel was leaning with his back against the wall, arms crossed in front of his chest.  Gunny took a position next to Diesel and leaned toward Captain Mclean knowing that the Captain would want the quick and the dirty about the mission he and his men would be embarking upon.

“What’s the word Gunny?” asked Diesel in a hushed voice.

“The scuttlebutt has it that a 28 just went down and we’re gonna get the pilots out and to make sure the aircraft is destroyed.”

“If the scuttlebutt is right, I’ll want to take three squads, one to get the pilots, one to secure the aircraft, and one in reserve.  But seeing how things are I’ll probably use one squad,” replied Diesel.

“Big Rig should be here soon,” remarked Gunny. “He was on his way to talk to the ship’s captain when he gave me the heads up.”

“Well it’s not as if we we’re going anywhere soon. Any idea as to where we will be going?” inquired Diesel.

“No sir, I was told to assemble the team leader and squad leader and you right here.”

Diesel look at his watch it read 2144 hours. He just knew that his days was going to be longer than he thought. The hatch in the front of the ready room swung open to reveal Colonel Rodgers. He was a short man with arms covered in short, curly red hair. His regulation high and tight hair cut was a mix of white and red stubble on the sides, while mostly white on top. He was a native Texan complete with the Texas drawl, love of good barbeque and cold beer, and was a spectator at Aggie football games when he wasn’t deployed.  When Texas was invaded by the Mexican Army he was called into service fighting in his home state defending it against the Mexican invaders from the south.  Colonel Rogers had a quick temper; a glance at the colonel conveyed that it would be a very bad idea to anger him. The men could clearly see that he was highly agitated as he walked to the podium.

Before anyone had a chance to say anything, the Colonels voice boomed like a thunderclap throughout the room, “As you were.”

The Colonel slowly gazed around the room taking in everything and everyone.

“Good, y’all are here, I realize that this is a fast one, but the brass in the asylum wants this one done as of yesterday.”

The asylum was a slang term for the Pentagon, a name imparted to the five sided building and its employees due to the plethora of crazy ideas that had been generated from the high command working there over the many years of its existence.

“Here’s the skinny. Less than sixty minutes ago a XSR-28 went down. We have confirmation that the plane was being jammed and missiles were launched at her just prior to her being jumped by a large number of fighters. The time of her going down. The 28 climbed to evade, aircraft problems forced her back down. She was then engaged by fighters. We have confirmed reports that both pilots did eject. From the other squadrons of US fighters we know that several SAM sites were wiped off the map, fifteen Chinese fighters bought the farm. Thanks to 414, we have their last known location, but they have not as of yet radioed in. We do not know if the bird self-destructed on impact. Now, the powers that be want you to find and secure the pilots, find the bird, pull the data disks, and blow the bird,” as the colonel spoke he ticked off his fingers for each of the tasks he listed.

Staff Sergeant Norse’s hand shot into the air.  He was leaning back in his chair with the front legs of the chair tipped off the floor.

“Colonel, when you say the pilots were being jammed you mean by the Chinese, right?  Do we have information about ground forces in the area?”

Staff Sergeant Quinn Norse, call sign Loki, was the leader of first squad.  He was a tall man, nearly six feet, with the swiftness of a deer and deadly with any weapon the Corps had to offer.  Quinn was a prankster at heart who could be counted on to do anything for a laugh. Some of his greatest pranks included super gluing all of the men’s boots to the deck of the barracks and putting itching powder in the sandpits on the obstacle course before another company ran it.  But when it came to preparing for an expedition he took his leadership role to heart and was all business.  He wanted to go into battle fully prepared knowing what he was up against.

Colonel Rogers unrolled a map and place it on the image viewer. On the bulkhead behind the Colonel the image of the map suddenly appeared. “This is where they went down,” Colonel Rogers said pointing to a location on the enlarged view of the map   “We’ve got no information about troops in that area.  Prior to the bird getting into trouble we had information that showed that area pretty clear of troop activity. At this time, we are unsure who was jamming the 28.”

“Colonel, you said that we don’t know who was interfering with the 28. Does this mean that the Chinese knew about the flight?  Why were there fighters up there also?  Does the current Intel show if we can expect forces on the ground or above when we hit the insertion point?”  asked Sergeant Danny Gilbert.

“Unknown at this time,” replied Big Rig.

Sergeant Gilbert, Domino, was the team leader of the third fire team of the first squad.  He was a man that loved to play pool with a happy-go-lucky attitude. He was a Southside Chicago native who had a chance to play professional football with the Bears but joined the Corps instead.  His skin was the color of ebony, and when he smiled his teeth flashed brilliant white in contrast to his skin.

Big Rig answered succinctly, “In reverse order, no good Intel on what we can expect on the ground, other than some pissed off Chinese regulars.  Our Intel shows that the Chinese scrambled their fighters too, and by the looks of it, they might have been caught off guard when we flew over to assist the 28.  Second, no word on who was trying to bring the 28 down.  OK gentlemen, if that is it, then the meeting is over and y’all can get ready.  Good luck and see y’all soon. See you on the hanger deck in 45.”

The Colonel dismissed the men and he exited the ready room through a side door.   He was heading back to speak to the ship’s captain to continue their conversation from earlier that day.  Diesel remained leaning against the wall with Gunny on his left, mimicking his body posture. Diesel thought carefully about the information he just heard.

“Gunny,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong. A 28 is jumped while on a secret flight by SAMs, then by fighters. Yet the Chinese had to scramble more fighters.”

“That’s correct sir,” said Gunny

“Does this stink?” asked Diesel.

“Like a sewer.”

“We are going to have to move fast. It will be a foot race to get to the down pilots and the aircraft before the Chinese.

“The pilots still have not called in. That does not bode well,” commented Gunny.

The majority of the men had hustled out of the room on their way to collect their gear, leaving Gunny and Diesel remaining in the back of the room.  The men exchanged apprehensive looks, each sensing that there was something eschew.

Thirty minutes later the men reconvened on the deck of the ship, the men of first and second squads were completely briefed, with second squad acting as backup.  It was shortly before 2214 hours before both squads were armed and ready to go. Both squads were waiting on the hanger deck for word to come saying the mission was a go.

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