(note- all locations in these stories are real. Just the events aren’t. -John)
(the following is partial transcript of an Official Inquiry into the events of Sunday Morning, 9 July 2023. This interview was conducted at TF Lancaster headquarters, Lancaster Airport Lititz on 15 August, 2023)
Senior Investigator Lt Colonel Johnathan Colon, USAF: Good Afternoon… Before we get the proceedings started, I would like to assure the subject he is not under any investigation at this time. This board of inquiry is being done to get a better picture of the events of the early morning of 9 July, 2023; no more no less. Do you understand the reasons for this inquiry and do you have any questions?
Chief Petty Officer James Ganic, USN(retired): Sir, I understand the reasons for this discussion and have no questions at this time.
LtC Colon: Excellent. Please state your name, rank and position with Task Force Lancaster for the record.
CPO Ganic: Sir, My name is James Michael Ganic, Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer; currently, I am assigned as Acting Platoon Sergeant for Third Platoon of Delta Company, Second Battalion, One Hundred Twelfth Infantry of the Fifty-Sixth Striker Brigade, Twenty Eighth Infantry.
LtC Colon: Chief Ganic, how does a highly decorated and retired naval special warfare chief petty officer become part of a national guard infantry unit in these times?
CPO Ganic: Sir… (a pause) I volunteered to help, sir.
I learned about the Task Force through one of the HAM radio operators near my home in southern Schuylkill County who had functioning gear; he had been fortunate to have his equipment depowered and disassembled when the EMP blast hit last fall. Can’t transmit but it can receive so at least our area up there knew some of what was going out outside of our area.
Given my history and knowledge, sir, I knew that every able hand was going to be needed. The largest question was where could I help and when would opportunity arise. With the area I was in being pretty self-sufficient, I made the decision to go to wherever efforts to recover from the federal side of things were happening when the weather cooperated.
When news of the Lancaster Effort reached me, I literally packed my horse with the proper travel gear and left my farm, riding south until I made it here. It was rough going for the handful of days it took, being late winter… but having the experience I had from prior service using traditional means of travel, I had no major issue with the journey.
I approached TF Lancaster in March and offered to re-enlist, as it were, because I felt my help was going to be needed. After a period of time spent by the Task Force’s G-2 inquiring after my records from St Louis, my volunteering to return to duty was accepted and Colonel Leyland assigned me to take charge of one of his under-manned platoons.
Considering it was made up of recalled to service augmentees from various branches, I believe it was deemed I would be best utilized in charge of them. Sir… I believe the phrasing used was “Chief, you speak Marine… and I need someone who speaks Army, Navy and Marine over there.”
With all due respect sir, with a request like that I really could not refuse.
LtC Colon: Indeed, Chief. And it was rather selfless of you to leave where you were, considering. But given your record of service which I have in front of me, it should not be a surprise.
Now then… please explain how and why your platoon was in the area of the Pennsy Quarry of the night of 8 July, morning of 9 July.
CPO Ganic: Sir… When the news of pseudo-Governor of Pa more or less declaring secession from the United States, it made the events of a few days previous seem like a precursor to an attempt on this area. So I requested from higher to be allowed to patrol the western section of our Area of Operations. Given that the Windy Creek Area seems to have become something of an iconic location, I suspected an attempt to cause some physical issues was coming. And I had a strong suspicion it would come from that direction.
LtC Colon: Chief Ganic, why there?
CPO Ganic.: Sir… a few reasons. One, its not a location that anyone would use for anything other than disposal; I mean… there is nothing important there other than some buildings and those… likely looted. Definitely nothing what I would call living space.
Two, its out of prying eyes and if someone wanted to hide something close by, its fairly accessible and by means not visible to elements of TF Lancaster and its normal patrols.
Three, if I was planning an op against Windy Creek or the airport, I’d want something capable of hiding my force and near enough to serve as a staging area or fall back point.
The abandoned malls along 283, like Park City which is just south of it and the strip malls on both sides of the highway, are too obvious a choice for hiding… and pose too much risk of discovery if your force is anything bigger than a dozen men. There are people that still go poking through there… and I believe some of the stores are being lived out of, even now.
The Quarry seemed to fit the best for needs of such an attempt, were one to be made. Decent Access from the west and southwest, proximity to here and defensibility if chased there. Granted, it’s a bit close to the target location- perhaps too close… but anyone who performed a reconnaissance of the area would know it isn’t checked nearly enough.
Because of its lack of importance to recovery operations, no real infrastructure use… what ever the reason, its not a high priority location for a dedicated patrol through other than the occasional looksee from the road. The farms and such, which are usually something to be used by teams and the like looking to raid a place, are too well patrolled out here. Any opposing force leader would reject it for fear of discovery too soon.
At least were it me planning an assault on here. My opinion, sir.
LtC Colon: I am not a ground combat specialist… but it would seem your reasoning does appear sound. According to Task Force records, (a pause) you requested the use of Hummvee’s and horses, of all things, supplemented by a pair of Strykers. Might I ask why horses?
CPO Ganic: Scouts sir. While Humvees are fairly quiet, horses are even more so… and if you have skilled enough riders, darkness doesn’t matter too much. We used them in Afghanistan… why not here? They make for a good recon element- because you won’t hear them coming unless you are really looking for it. And I was fairly certain anyone not from here would. Turns out I was right.
LtC Colon: I see. (a pause) Now then… Where was your platoon leader? He’s not mentioned as being involved in this incident.
CPO Ganic: Sir, Lieutenant Wilson was not on the patrol. He had gotten injured the day before when he slipped and fell off the top of one of the Strykers, breaking his arm. He was aware of this patrol and he was… (a pause) he was disappointed in being unable to participate.
LtC Colon: Duly noted, Chief. Now what did your recon element encounter upon their arrival at the area?
CPO Ganic: What recon found was about thirty-five to forty men in among the buildings. Their vehicles, mostly jeeps and blazers, were pulled into the building’s garages out of sight of easy visualization. And this was bad news for the area if left alone and not dealt with.
LtC Colon: Chief, I suspect that is an accurate assessment. What was your reasoning for engaging them then?
CPO Ganic: Sir… when the information from recon got back to me, I knew any delay in in order to try to bolster my numbers would probably tip them off and they would either scatter or make ready to hit any probe hard before retreating. Worst case, they could drive out and into Windy Creek with weapons blazing or worse.
The prospect of civilian casualties was far too high for my estimation. With what I had available, I felt, as did my assistant platoon sergeant, that we could effectively neutralize them on our own- or keep them pinned until additional assets arrived.
LtC Colon: Your assistant…. That would be Gunnery Sergeant Margaret Falkner, US Marines, correct?
CPO Ganic: Sir yes sir.
LtC Colon: We have already spoken with Gunnery Sergeant Falkner and her account seems to agree with your assessment to engage. Please continue, Chief.
CPO Ganic: Sir. Once I made the call to attempt dealing with them, I had my horse troops head out and make their way to the northern side of the complex and dismount, entering on foot. Once they were in place about thirty minutes after I sent them out, I gave the order to move in, with strict orders to fire only if found or if it looked like they were about to bug out. I made sure everyone understood to choose targets because of the north side element. No fully automatic fire if possible, unless you were fairly sure of where your rounds were going.
I then notified higher of our discovery and that unless directed otherwise, we would be investigating and engaging as needed. I requested supplemental elements at that point to be dispatched at that time for back up.
It was about a minute or two after that call was made, we started moving in. I believe it was about five to ten minutes- I’m not sure how long exactly- after I ordered our advance when the forces within the building complex began to move about like they were about to leave. I do know we were in the positions I envisioned to be in or nearly so. Given there was now no more time, I had a 203 gunner fire a flare at that point; as soon as it lit up, I called out to the subjects to stand down, that they were surrounded.
Sir, they chose not to.
LtC Colon: Chief, it appeared they made a wrong decision.
CPO Ganic: Sir… the decision on their part to not stand down, I think, was possibly one of the worst choices to make in the history of bad choices. I mean, there is more than a few pieces of famous media out there that depict the situation they were in… and how bad a choice it would be to try to run or fight it out, that it would be a blood bath. But they chose to do so and we did as we had to do.
(A long pause)
While I take pride in defeating them and stopping an attack on our area, I am not…. Sir, I do not like having to do what I did. Most of them were Americans; and well, they were being fu-…. They were being stupid. (pause) Sir.
LtC Colon: Understood, Chief Ganic, understood. As I said at the beginning, no one is under investigation for actions and activities of the incident. And as discovered, their group was not the only group in the area but it was the one that caused the others to be found, Yes?
CPO Ganic: Sir yes sir. When we were able to enter the complex, we found intel on two other groups in the area and their means of communications. I had my radioman contact Higher to let the Colonel know what was found and how short time seemed for actions to be taken. At that point, the backup arrived and I sent the intel back with them for Headquarters to utilize.
LtC Colon: After that point, you eventually finished conducting your patrol?
CPO Ganic: Sir, that would be correct. Thankfully, my platoon didn’t lose any one killed. Six wounded and of those, one was serious.
LtC Colon: I believe that is all that’s needed, Chief. Thank you for your candor and time. You are dismissed, Chief.
CPO Ganic: Sir, you’re welcome.