The Mission Statement was typical enough — move to assault objective Beaver Dam in Area of Operations (AO) Hangus-Hugh, destroy assigned objective, exfiltrate from AO Hangus-Hugh. Hangus-Hugh… where did the Army generate these bizarre-o names? Why couldn’t we call it Hang’em-High? Yeah, that sounded good to me — Hang’em High… but no!
There were four of us: three natal males and one biologically assigned at birth as “other than natal male.” Two of us performed the actions on the objective and the other two filled the role of support and security. The Devil for sure was in the details as it would turn out.
Barker was the team leader for this mission. He had been there with our unit for a while and had a good-many connections with landowners in the vicinity, including the owner of all the land that encompassed AO Hangus-Hugh. Mr. Ed was the owner and Mr. Ed had a small problem — he
had a tremendous beaver dam formed up on his property that was choking off the creek as it ran through the land.
Barker thought on it for a spell then quickly offered that he could take that beaver dam out for Ed at no expense or strings attached. Ed was pleased but full of questions. Barker formed the plan with Ed which was then sealed with a gentleman’s handshake.
Here’s the nutshell version of the mission:
• Airdrop one 4×4 automobile and four personnel into AO Hangus-Hugh
• Explosively construct abatis obstacle
• Explosively remove objective Beaver Dam
• Conduct vehicular exfiltration of AO Hangus-Hugh
• Conduct After Action Review (AAR)
I was (of course) chomping at the bit when Q&A came around:
“Are we really going to parachute a car in, Barker? What car do we even have for this?”
“Yes we are, Geo; you and I are going downtown to a used car lot and buying one. Then we’ll have our Rigger shed rig it for a low-level static-line drop. The night of the drop we’ll dump the car out and we’ll follow it out of the AC — it’s going to be cool!” Yeah, what he said.
As the plan worked out, me and a brother named Weez were to set up a security post west of the objective on a terrain road that lead to Mr. Ed’s place. Barker and Jo-Jo (Ms.) were to carry the attack forward to the dam.
At the predesignated point of execution, the dam was to be blown sky-high and the abatis blasted and dropped to the road in three separate charges. We wanted to drop 12 trees to show that we had a correctly constructed an abatis with trees interlaced and laid pointing the right way. The deal was that Mr. Ed would only give us three trees to cut down, so…
Barker and I went to the nearest used car lot and scoped out a suitable 4×4-wheel drive car. Once at the Rigger shed, we decided to crawl under the car and try to stop all fluid leaks so the Riggers were not left with a mess of monkey work to be done.
It was a fine idea though in retrospect the execution was poorly carried out as there was just not the room under there to contain our two fat mouths, a thing that was manifest when in spite of all of Barker’s accuracy and dexterity he managed to crack me squarely in the face with a wrench:
“Gawd, brother? Did you seriously mean to bean me between the eyes with that thing — stop using crescent wrenches! Who the hell even uses a crescent wrench anymore these days?!“
“Well the motor pool uses them — these are their tools. Come on, less yappin’ and more nut-twisting… gotta gidder done.” And so it went.
On the night of the mission, we collected ourselves and our equipment and moved to our “departure airfield” which was one of the smaller Drop Zones (DZ) at our disposal. Our infiltration was not at all that far away but the drop aircraft (AC) was instructed to take a one-hour flight to give a more authentic impression to the mission players.
Realistic training is invaluable to our military. We were keenly inclined to establish training venues that have little notional or artificial elements. There was no climbing into the back of a transport truck and: “Ok brothers, presently we are in a C-130 flying to a hangar in Peru… got it?”
So we listened to the hum of a quartet of turboprop engines as we flew a circuitous route that kept us in transit until H-Hour drop. Barker kept time checks with the flight crew to make sure we would be on a short final to jump within 30 seconds of our planned arrival time.
We had our asset on the ground to call us in safe to the Drop Zone and mark the release point for the car, which we operationally referred to as “the cargo.” I saw later that it was the same guy who had acted the part of a bigot when I had interviewed him in Spanish about the objective days earlier at home base. He (claimed) to have known the Hangul-Hugh AO very well, but we understood we were trusting a man who had not been fully vetted for veracity.
He described the drop zone in wonderful detail and even drew us some quite decent sketches. He added a north-seeking arrow to the top of his sketches leading me to believe quite frankly that he was a member of some country’s military, at least in an earlier life.
It was the night of the infiltration jump and we were giving the bigot the acid test at the cost of our entire mission. The load crew positioned themselves at the rear of the AC. Once the green light went on, out went the cargo, and with a brief pause behind it, we joined the car into the refreshing inky goodness.
(Continued in Part II)
By Almighty God and with honor,