The Road to Harrisburg Seven – A Final Days based tale

  As predicted, the next thirty-six to forty hours were a whirlwind of activity… and no little bitching about Ye Olde Condition of Hurry-Up-And-Wait.  My people were super on it for every task- some of it was genuine desire to get done and get back out, the rest was just ‘get it done so we can sleep’.  That Army Mentality… 

The LT was correct on the reinforcements- each of Stryker squads were now a full nine dismounts and two-man vehicle crew.  Even my squad, which represented the Weapons Squad in a normal platoon, was a full element, though armed a bit differently.  Instead of two 240’s and two riflemen, we had a pair of 249’s and one Designated Marksman along with a pair of normal rifleman.  And our Marksman was a damn trip….

Specialist Anna-Belle Li was one of the last graduates of the Army’s Ranger Q Course and one of the very few female graduates to manage that school.  All five foot six inches of her, the Texas native was home on leave when The Event happened and after a time of it trying to get back to Benning, she was diverted to Hood for a Replacement Pool.

 Once there, the Green Machine had her pulling all sorts of odd duties over the last few months until being assigned to a Replacement Pool for use in the Disaster Areas of the US.  Somewhere along the line, she managed to pick up a few schools along the way- one of which was an abbreviated Sniper School course.  Which of course got her assigned a specific rifle- in this case a re-issued SR25, a rifle that had been replaced in service while I was on Active Duty…  but in these times, whatever weapon could be put in to service I guess.

It’s a good rifle though.  Even if it’s almost as big as the user.  Which is kinda funny, if you ask me.  Considering its always the small guys who get the SAWs (when you want big guys for them), I suppose having a short person with a big gun fit.  I’m not gonna argue- I carried one for a brief time humping mountains and if its felt she can handle it, who am I to say shit otherwise?  As long as she can carry it alright and shoot, Go Her.

  The rest of the replacements and augments were truly a hodge-podge of Services.  Mostly Army, we had a few more Marines sent to us (made Gunny happy, that’s for sure) as well as a few more sailors.  Thankfully, they all knew how to handle a M-4 so there was no remedial training needed.  And even as the new troops joined up, they pitched in to make sure all of Delta Third was ready to go out the gates again.  Shit was happening and this was maybe the start of the road back for the US.

Before long and only three hours behind schedule, the reinforced Third Platoon rolled from the cantonment alongside a unit of the 23rd Engineers.  The Bridge Layer, based on an Abrams tank, was more than able to keep up with us on the ride west.  And it was not a short ride either.  Because of the surprise found in E-Town four days ago, a serious effort had been made to check all the built-up areas for any other leakers.

  And there were a few.  All small elements, not much bigger than a platoon in most cases, were discovered in and around the edges of the county- to include in the last 24 hours, an attempt at kicking the Government out of Falmouth, over by 3 Mile Island.  That had been a mistake on their part… as Gen Leyland reinforced that location and even sent two platoons of Mech to the island to secure it.  Last I knew, it wasn’t too badly contested- gunfights in and around a nuke plant are not exactly desired things.

 Given the continued presence of groups of Wagner Mercs being encountered as well as even Black Water (jesus christ Prince, how fucking far you fell…), anything super sensitive was being given the Steely Eyeball and labeled a priority to secure when possible.  And that plant was going to be needed to jump start the Electrical Grid as long as its systems weren’t fried.

Thankfully, it was not a long time to the access trail to the crossing point.  As we drove off the road by the old Starlite No-Tell Motel, I could not help but lament at the weirdness of all of this again.  Or shake the feeling that this push to Harrisburg was going to be messy.  After about five minutes navigating the access trail, we pulled up at the crossing point.

  Delta 2 had secured the area for the initial Engineer crews to bulldoze some additional dirt and rock to the shoreline and tamp it down some.  The Bridge was long enough but it never hurt to make sure it would reach.  Two’s command, 1st Lieutenant Kevin McCoy, was happy to see us when we got there.  In a quick powwow as the bridge was being emplaced, he informed me of the occasional sniping from the other side of the creek.  Nothing big or super threatening but annoying none the less.  And no less deadly, just… intermittent.

Not my idea of a good time, to be sure.

 McCoy indicated that they’d hold the bank and we’d be going across… which was also not my idea of a good time.  But it’s the job and well, I knew it was dangerous when I took it.  Though crossing a bridge in an armored personnel carrier into unknown places…  was never mentioned in the brochures.  Then again, I looked at Navy ones; maybe the Army ones said so.

  Delta One would be following behind us along with a Bradley platoon, when it showed up from the Big Red One.  When that would be was anyone’s guess- this march on Harrisburg, was taking longer than expected but then, its only been officially three days. And going on five since E-Town.  I think five days… I’m not sure anymore, to be honest.  Every day is Ground Hog day…

 Returning to the platoon, I called the squad leaders over for a face to face.  When they arrived, I laid out a map and started talking.

“Ok…  When the bridge is set and the engineers say it’s good, we are leading the charge across.  McCade, I want you to cover the left here with these warehouses and that alleyway between.  Reed, you got the right towards the northbound rail line and those apartment buildings…  Keep eyes open- Josias here has the job of bouncing through this fence to the apartment complex here.  If anything is going to come at us, its gonna be from the North and Northwest…  I’ll be taking my element and backing McCade initially while Gunny has her up-armor’s coming in behind you on the right.  When 1st platoon crosses, they are going to head up that rail line and try to hit that bridge on 230 to clear the buildings around it.  Our job is to screen their left and make sure nothing hits from their flank.  Rally points are this fire house here on the corner of Pineford and Adelia.  No advancing north past 230 or west past 441.

Bravo Company should be working its way up 441 and as long as they are on time, link up should be sometime within the next two hours or so.  Charlie is our Cavalry and Alpha is working the 283 line with some of the First Infantry and other elements of the 114th.  If all goes well, we will be across and rushing the airport by nightfall.”  I relayed to everyone.  “Expected resistance is only infantry and maybe light armor.  No one is thinking they have anything in the air… but look up once in a while.  We know dumb shit happens….  Any questions?”

“I do, Senior,” Reed said as she indicated the airport.  “If opportunity presents itself when we swing west…  should we try to hit the airport?”

“Good question… and if all of Delta is across, we can try.  If we have those Gun System Strykers from one of the other companies, I don’t see why not.  My concern is all the open ground and well, the potential for a big surprise or two.” I said.  “Just ‘cause we haven’t seen much in the way of air assets don’t mean there is none; They weren’t supposed to have BMDs either…”

Nods all around at that last one even as my still-healing shoulder twinged a little.  Nothing about all this was sitting right and I long ago learned to pay attention to the little voice on my shoulder telling me shit was potentially stupid.  Didn’t always listen of course… but I did pay attention.  But something smelled- and I had a feeling it would come about at the airport.

“Alright… any questions, ask now; them engineers are not gonna wait to put that bridge in.” I asked.  And was rewarded with one from McCade.

“Senior…  what if we come across a situation like at that school?  Hostages and the like?”  He asked.  And it was a good question.  One for which I had a non-reg answer.

“Then Specialist Li gets to demonstrate her ability with that oversized peashooter of hers,” I answered.  “Between her and I, I think she’s probably the better shot with it.”  Now that was an admission- the lone time I humped the SR25, I only missed a handful of times in three engagements…. And my eyesight was damn better then.  Now?  I’d be fooling myself… “Of everyone here, she and I are the best options I think, followed by Reed.  But its her role, her shot.  Let’s just hope we don’t need to test out her ability in that way, eh?”

“Roger that, Senior.”

“Ok then…”  I said.  “Back to your squads and make sure tacnet coms are all operational.  As some of you know, City Fighting is a bitch… and if it’s a fight here, there is just enough space between houses for us to get in trouble quick.”

A chorus of acknowledgements and the squad leaders all departed for their vehicles.  Mounting up on my Stryker, I motioned for MacKenzie to get out of the hatch.  I wanted to see what the hell was going on and being inside kinda limited that.  Delta was then given its warning to move…. And not sixty seconds after the bridge was in place, we charged over it.

Almost like we had rehearsed it (and no we didn’t), each squad took its position and about thirty seconds later, 1st Platoon made its crossing.  No weapon fire greeted us yet but I knew it would not be long in coming.  Anyone with half a brain knew this was a potential crossing area if assets available…. And Big Army had them.

  1st Platoon raced up the rail line and to the bridge crossing as planned, with a Company from First Battalion of the 112th, who had been tasked with forcing that bridge, starting their push about the same time .  Lots of small arms fire and a few RPG shots greeted the boys from our sister Battalion… up until 1st hit the site hard from the flank.  After that, it was a whole two minutes of Strenuous Discussion as the Gun Systems on First Battalion’s Strykers and the mix of Fifty Cal ‘n Mk19 from the 1st Platoon ended all resistance.

 Seems like the Free State/DCP Boys had zero interest in fighting outgunned against light armor.  Lots of talk but no stomach when it was time to put up.

And this make me wonder at what was going on back at home in the Skook.

  We had a number of yay-hoos and asshats like these guys.  Hell, I’d bet I was considered one… but I also know there is shit bigger than me and sometimes, that’s more important.  When I left back in March, there had been talk but none serious about saying fuck it and going independent.  But there was a reason it stayed talk.  Robbie’s HAM kept folks informed though and I guess that’s the difference.  People knew it was bad all over and that efforts were happening to get help to places.  And my neighborhood was way out of the way…  I know the neighborhood was safe enough and I expect whoever gets up there with assets will be pleasantly surprised like they were in Manheim-Litiz.

But what was happening here…  I didn’t know whether to be sad or mad.  Especially as a few folks looked out of windows at us as we pulled perimeter security, working the streets in the assigned area.  It was definitely a fear thing here.  I am no Seer or Psychic… but the feeling I was getting as we patrolled the streets was that.  What Folks remained were afraid… and likely because they didn’t know exactly what was happening.

All them jokes about bringin’ Freedom to places- kinda fucked up that we were doing it here… but Life and the Universe always got ideas of their own.

  This op…  needed to happen sooner.  Wish it could have happened faster, of course, but assets needed to be had and launching before being ready would have been stupid.  At least it was happening now… and may the Gods help them bastards in Harrisburg.

The Road to Harrisburg Six- A Final Days Tale

  Over the next four hours, I managed to get cleaned up with the assistance of MA2 (get your mind out of the gutter…) back in the billets.  The wound got cleaned and bandages replaced with hemostatic ones courtesy of HM1 “Doc” Mason McGee, an FMF corpsman from a Cargo unit assigned to this end of the Supply MSR coming from Philly.  Gunny grabbed him on her way back with some MREs along with the rest of the Platoon not hemmed up elsewhere.

Meals Ready to Eat…  The prepackaged food carried by soldiers and dropped by the pallet-load in disaster areas the world over.  Some guys hated them, some loved them…  Me however, I never turned ‘em down as you never knew when it might be a while before you get anything resembling a damn cracker.  So I took my Veggie Tortellini and mc-murdered it cold.

I was that hungry; veggie tortellini MRE is pretty damn gross as hell unheated.

  I also got a more complete picture of what was going on and what happened after I got hit, which did wonders for my morale in some ways.

  After I dropped Belov, the trio of squads secured everything possible in the room as well as Belov.  Asshole was quite awake after I shot him and Nicols really did threaten to blow his nuts off.  Considering he likely would not have gotten to the knife I know he usually carried (back when I knew him) before she shot him… well, I could have wished he was stupid for once.  The woman he had held hostage, turned out to be a local symp working for the Harrisburg government and liaison for the mercenaries here.  At least until she got used as a human shield; being used as a potential bullet sponge tends to color sympathies after such events.

  Needless to say, she spilled her guts to MA2 when she got in there to secure the room; what Reed managed to note take was pretty potent info or so she said.  This lady identified The Wagner Group- mostly Russians and other sorts- and mentioned there was plenty of Militia types.  All wanna-be heroes, for sure. She even said she had seen a lot of armored vehicles and some other strange equipment- wheeled guns and the like.
  Good info, though not heavy on the specifics… but being one of them True Believer sorts that blamed everyone but themselves (“Chief, she even blamed Obama for her being taken hostage!”), one had to take her info with a saltshaker.  Considering we just faced some light armor, I’m thinking a chunk of her rambling is legit.  Me, I’d like to pick Belov’s brain but noy my job.  At least here….

  Speaking of said light armor, our Heavy Armor cleaned some clocks as the dismounts of 1st and 2nd ran over the Militia like the Steelers front seven against a pop-warner team.  Our sister platoons secured plenty outside and all told, Delta captured about forty Combatants with almost a hundred (counting vehicle crews) KIA for about twenty-three wounded and five KIA for us.  Of the dead, two were members of 3-3.

    One BMD got a shot off on an Abrams; left a mark by busting a track.  Its brothers detonated the lucky(?) enemy armor in reply.

  Miraculously, Carlson survived his wounds but was medevac’d directly to UPMC Lititz.  According to MacKenzie, the docs were able to save one leg and going to fly him to either the re-constituted UPenn in Philly or west to St Louis.  Either way, he was getting out of here.  The Apache gunner *was* dead- a third eye will do that and he has already been pulled by Mortuary Affairs.  All in all, the majority of the wounded were Walking, with only a handful like myself being considered super serious for fast removal.

Not long after E Town was truly secure, 3rd was pulled back from the first wave and told to rest, resupply and stand by…. Which is how Reed and Gunny were around when the General was coming to the conference room.

  Speaking of which, I took note of the gathering of troops in the barracks and noticed Sands and his horsemen were not here.  Looking over at Gunny, I asked after them.

  “Jefe, Sands and his patrol elected to stay out there.  Something about looking for other sneaky gits that bypassed the blockades.” She replied.  “He was mad about those APCs and not seeing them sooner.”

A frown.  “Sands isn’t a Scout, Gunny.”

“No… but he has eyes.  And he is muy enojado he and his missed them.  Said unless directed otherwise, he was staying out there to go hunting.”

Unless directed otherwise…  I am a bad influence on my people as they were now using MY reasoning on me. “What’s Wilson saying about this?  And about your hair, Reed?  Don’t think I’m not saying anything about that- I know my ass chewing is coming…”

  Reed actually blushed as Gunny answered.  “The Lieutenant said you were more versed in the tactical of what’s going on.  He figured you either knew or would extract a pound of flesh from Sands when you got back.  He said he’d handle some of it; the rest is in your creative hands,” She smiled.  “His words, James.”

Then the aforementioned blushing MA spoke when gunny finished.  “Chief, I figured since we were going to be out there for a while, coloring my hair for war was a thing.  It’s not like I wear whoad like some of the Brits I worked with in Kandahar going out the gate…. But no different,” She replied.  “I never expected to be back here any time soon… or to have Captain Fisk, much less the General, see my locks.  What there is of them, at least.”

  Considering a helmet covered her now much shorter hair well, I could see the logic, after a fashion.  But I knew we were both going to get chewed on.  “You do realize the amount of ass we stand to lose, right?”

“I do…  and well, you already have a rep for Unconventional with your chosen gear, Chief- which reminds me, Mikey Makosh has your pistol and AR in the armory.  I recovered both and handed ‘em off to them.” Reed said.  “I think we will be ok…. But if you insist on my losing the color, I can do it tonight.”  She batted her eyes at me…

  Oh now she was messing with her Elders. And she was right- I did have a rep already for what I allowed and didn’t allow among my troops- at least three of my platoon carried hand axes and the lone Mohawk (a guy in Sand’s squad) sported a tomahawk.  What’s one more thing?

“Goddamnit.”  I sighed.  “Ok, keep the color.  First ass-chewing I get, I find a bottle of peroxide or whatever to start removing it.”  I am such the soft touch, I swear…

“Aye Aye, Senior,”

From there, things went round robin as I got more out of the rest of the platoon.  Of the 40 remaining, everyone was pretty stoked, even Nicols, who caught some good-natured ribbing when I related the last thing I heard before passing out….  Which was about 36 hours prior at this point.

Lt Wilson came in as the laughter died down and motioned for a pow-wow in the Platoon office.  Gunny and I joined him and himself got down to the plans for the next forty-eight hours.

  It would seem the resistance between Elizabethtown and the Airport in Middletown stiffened a good bit for the Initial push to the line.  Even some IED’s were discovered and dealt with.  But with the amount of cover-slash-concealment from the county line to the Swatara, it made for some difficult going.  Once we were ready, the Third was to provide the engineers additional security as they moved to put up a crossing point on the Swatara at the ass end of the Univar complex.  And of course, I’m reminded of a saying about a gun behind every blade of grass…  Makes the Stan seem tame by comparison in some ways.

And it wasn’t just our front that was having issues.  The area along 81 by FIG was about the same for resistance and IED placements.  Hummelstown was just holding in place- the plan was for North and South to pinch and once situated in Steelton and the Farmers Show Complex respectively, TF Lebanon was going to start its push west.  TF York was going to send forays north as harassment… and maybe a detachment to Mechanicsburg to see what could be tore up there.  Given they had support from Raven Rock (aka the infamous Site R), I was fairly certain there was a plan afoot to hit from that side though no one was saying squat all about it.  Master planning isn’t in my job description…

  Not for the first time, I lamented being the one looking to invade something in my country.  Weird as hell.  But its Rule of Law… and my oath.  I didn’t like the previous Pres nor did I like the previous Governor- though his lieutenant governor was pretty cool.  But they were elected…. And they were Americans.  This guy…  is an opportunist petty thug backed by some pretty sketch folks with Non-US support.

And given who I’ve now met working for him, I really wanted that fuck gone.  More than just on a professional level…  Traitorous shit.

I thanked the LT for the news.  “How much time we got, sir?”

The LT looked at his watch.  “Realistically, maybe thirty six hours, I think,” He replied.  “We already have a replacement Stryker for you and replacements to bulk us up.  Everyone is going to have a full squad now, Senior.  Army and other services.  Augmentees like yourself and MA2.  Which reminds me…”

“Her hair,” I finished.  “Sir, she and I already spoke.  Unless you want it gone yesterday, I’m inclined to let her keep it until we take the Governor’s Mansion.  I’ll take the grief…. And besides, having at least one rebellious child among us helps morale.”

Wilson gave me the Side Eye.  “Oh?”

A nod.  “Yeah….  For some reason, having one smartass in a platoon seems to help everyone else do better or stay positive… especially when he or she is popular; and Reed is.  Granted, all of us in the Teams were one form or another of smartass…. But that was mostly snark and the occasional patch or tatt so my perceptions are a bit skewed, sir.  With Reed and the hair color…  to be honest sir, I know her history and record. Inside the Navy and a little outside of it…  If this is the only thing she does that isn’t reg, I’m not going to complain too much,” I said.  “And she knows if I show up with peroxide, it goes and she won’t fight it.”
 A long pause.  “Come to think of it, Sir…  I don’t think the regs say anything about hair color.  Only length…. And cleanliness.”

The lieutenant sat back in his chair.  “That’s an interesting observation, Senior Chief.” He mused.  “I think you might be right about that.  Ok… unless someone’s able to find the reg that says different, I will defer to you and your wisdom on this.  To be honest between we three, I’m kind of amused.”

Gunny piped up.  “AS long as she does her job, Lieutenant, I don’t care if its hot pink,” She replied.  “Though I might vomit a little if it was.  I hate that color…in crayon form or other.”

Chuckles from both the LT and I.  “Good to know Gunny,” Wilson said.  “Good to know…”

“So no pink barrel shrouds for you then?” I asked.  “And here I was going to go looking when we got a chance at the next gun shop not totally looted…”

“James, don’t make me hit you…”  Gunny replied in her Stern Mom voice.  Which made for more laughter among us.

After the levity, our meeting broke apart.  There was a ton of details to take care of and not a lot of time.  Gunny said she’d take care of getting the squads sorted- as she pointed out, I was running on little sleep and a single MRE.  Her and the Lieutenant could manage getting everyone ready for pre-move checks and integrating the reinforcements- they were due in the morning.  Right now, I needed the rest if higher was even going to let me on the Op, as I was still considered Light Duty.

I could not argue that…. And I suspected, tomorrow was going to be a very hectic day.

The Road to Harrisburg Five- A Final Days based tale

  The first thing I noticed when I came to was the bumpy ride.  The second was that I was actually in an Ambulance and not the back of a Humvee.  Those were positives, I suppose.  That I couldn’t feel my damn shoulder right now, not so much.  Which meant I must be doped up something fierce- I was sleepy as hell and I hated that feeling.

  Cracking open an eye, I managed to focus in on the medic through what must be a morphine haze. Christ…  I fucking hate this shit. I thought as I tried to form something resembling a coherent sentence to say.  Or at least croak.  Boy was my mouth dry.  “Anyone got a water?” I asked and coughed once to clear my throat.

  The medic looked down at me.  “Sorry Chief,” He said as he quick checked the bandage on my shoulder.  “Rules…  and you know it.”

 A weak laugh. “Ya…  and they suck,” I replied. “How many?”  I somehow doubted the medic knew how many we lost… but I had to know how bad I fucked up.

  The Medic frowned…  but answered anyway to my surprise.  “Three, Chief,” He spoke as he laid a hand on my good shoulder.  “Fifteen wounded…. They’re being taken care of.  There is not a fucking thing you could have done different, understand me?”

  In my brain, I absolutely did.  Pride though… was a motherfucker.  “Doc… there is always something that can be done different.” I said “But I’m not gonna fight ya.  Too old to do it with one arm….”  Why the fuck was I so damn sleepy?  Oh right, Morphine….

“Rest Chief.  We are almost to the MASH.”  Was the last thing I heard for a while.


  MASH Units have come a long way since Korea and the 4077th.  A long way…  Insulated tents with air conditioning and or heating, good lighting, generators for all the fancy gear, you name it.  But in the end, it was still a fairly spartan facility- OR tables were OR tables and cutters were still cutters…  just they have a ton better gear now.

  I woke up once more while in Post Op some six hours later- my normal stubborn self worked on willing the sedative haze to take a walk.  If I was going to snooze, I wanted it on my own terms… or supported by a bottle of Single Malt.  Until I could do the latter, I wanted to be awake.

  Seeing about six others in the room, I took a long look at them.  A mix of troops and some rebels it looked like.  The quartet of MPs in the ward reinforced that notion.  Either that or I was in deep shit.  At any rate, some of them looked to be awake.  And at least two were from Third.

  “Hey boats…” I called out, forgetting few knew the usual greeting when you didn’t know jack-all about the other guy’s rate.  Everyone was a bosun mate in the Navy- you just had a Day Job if a different rate.  Thankfully for me, one of the wounded guys there knew.  Or had heard it before.

  “Chief?” Came the reply from across the room.  “Hey you’re awake!”

  “Yeah…  I am.” I replied.  “Feels like I’ve been used as a punching bag… but I’ve been worse.  Who’s you?’

  “PFC Jorge Rodrigez, One of MA2’s shooters,” came the reply.  “Zigged when I should have zagged, Chief.”

  “Usually the case, Rod; Who else from 3rd is here?”  I struggled a bit to sit up and managed to do so, shoulder yelling at me for my case of stubborn stupids.

  The other man next to Rod spoke up.  “Specialist Steve Santos, I’m with 3-1, Chief.”

  A nod.  “I was told there was a dozen of us around here.“ Had to know… morbid curiosity and all.

Rod answered.  “17 total Chief. About a dozen from Third and a few from the other platoons.  No body too serious though I heard Corporal Max from 1st may lose a leg.  It was a bad hit, Chief.”

  Santos looked over at me.  “Hey Chief…  got a question.”

  “Go ahead.”

  “It true you saved a lady in that building Eastwood style?” He asked.

  A low laugh escaped my mouth.  “Depends on who you ask, Specialist.  Depends on who you ask…”  Oh shit… so it begins.  “I took a shot I damn well shouldn’t have.  I’m just glad I didn’t miss.”

  “That was some shit, Chief.  Everyone be talking about it,” Rod replied.  “MA2 is jealous.”  Laughter from the others in the room who were part of the task force.  The two rebels in here were quiet.  Likely gathering intel on us talking… but they weren’t gonna be blabbing anytime soon.

  Just then, a handful of orderlies came in.  “Alright fellas,” The lead one began.  “Time to move you out of here; there’s a waiting list for these fine accommodations.”

  I looked at said orderly.  “Get me a set of boots and pants; I’ll get myself out of here.” I smiled.  I needed to find out what was going on and to get back to the platoon.  And something told me if I didn’t get going, I wasn’t going to get the chance.

  The orderly closest to me looked at a form in his hand then at me.  “Funny you should say that, Chief.  I’ve got orders for you.”

  “Oh?”  Color me surprised… though I doubted I’d like the orders.  Considering the MP’s weren’t moving, I was sure it wasn’t anything bad.  I hoped.

  “Yep- Verbal orders.  You are getting a fresh uniform and boots; you get to ride herd on all these gents back to the Airport.  There, I don’t know what’s after for you but I imagine someone will have something for you,” The orderly replied.  “And Chief, I know y’all Ops types get creative with orders.  Please don’t….”

  It was at that point, I caught sight of the railroad tracks on the man’s collar.  Wasn’t often you saw an O3 doing grunt work like this… but sometimes, you do.  Made me respect this guy… and I wasn’t gonna make him mad.  An O was still an O, no matter the service.  “Sir… would not dream of it,” I commented.    “Last thing I need is my ass in a sling along with my arm.”

 “Good man…” He said as another brought him a bag with clothes in it.  “Ah… here you go.  I imagine boots are coming shortly.”  He set the uniform on the bed and moved on to help another patient get moved to a stretcher.

  If you never tried to dress with one arm, do so.  It is one of the most humbling things in the universe… and if you don’t get compassion for the ones who can’t get their wing back afterward, y’all can go fuck yourself.  I had experience with dressing with one arm- remember, I’ve gotten shot before… and like most things done repetitively in the past, muscle memory took over for most.  Getting the t-shirt on was a small bitch but I managed.

  That captain came over and gave me a hand with the uniform blouse top and after a few words of wisdom, my boots showed and I got them on too.  Once ready, I departed with the remaining members of the ward (minus rebels- the MP’s went with them) to a school bus repurposed as a transport and settled in for the ride to the airport.

  It was then I got a good look at who was on the bus who was wounded.  Three true stretcher cases with attendants.  No one was on a machine, at least, but they were being moved which meant they were serious enough to send elsewhere.  Everyone else was walking wounded or wounded enough to warrant being moved out of theater….

  Listen to me, out of theater…  I still entertained notions that this was a really bad dream from crappy moonshine but even in those, y’all ain’t supposed to get hurt.  Superman shit, sure… but never hurt.  I did some superman shit a few hours ago but I got hurt in the process.  So, I knew this wasn’t a dream.

  After the short trip, I saw a C-17 with its engines at low idle as the bus rolled up.  There was a pair of Humvee’s there too as well as some cargo trucks.  Once the bus stopped, troops came over to escort patients or carry stretchers up into the bird.  Given I wasn’t told I was going WITH them, I kinda knew one of them Humvees was for me.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

  Walking up to me was a pair of troops.  Well, a Sergeant and a Navy Lieutenant. Given where we were, there was no saluting…  Don’t care how secure here was supposed to be- anyone who was here in July knew better.  “Sir,” I called out when he came close enough.

  “Chief Ganic?” He asked.  When I nodded, he continued.  “LT Wertz, Military Liaison for the Region Administrator.  Figured I would come get you instead of anyone else.”

  A chuckle.  “Geez Sir…  do I have that kind of reputation or is everyone hedging bets?”

  “Some of Column A and Column B, Chief,” the LT replied as he motioned to move to the Humvee.  “I know SO’s have a rep for creative order interpretation and CPO’s can be as bad.  You’re both….”

  “Shit.”  This LT was alright.  Smarter than the average Navy O too.  I wonder if he’s related to the Administrator around here.

  A laugh from the Lt.  “That sums it up nicely.  The General and his staff want to pick your brain on a few things…”

“Great… I got a few questions too… like who the fuck missed BMD’s in broad daylight?” I said, briefly letting my anger from yesterday morning (I think? Fuck if I know- I don’t have my watch; it could be two days ago) at the start of that fight flare a touch.  “Sorry sir… This is all informal and I let my mouth decide to jog.”

  The LT got in just after I did.  “Don’t worry about it and I don’t have that answer, Chief.  What I do know and can tell you is there’s questions about who that Russian was and why you knew him.”

  “Sir?” Well isn’t this special…  no guards though so it can’t be that bad.

  “Chief, I can only say there is questions…. And that no one has access to a section of your records that covers the time period we figured out he was in the Netherlands.”  The LT said as the driver left the airfield.  “They tried as soon as word was passed about what happened over there in Elizabethtown.”

  “Sir… that’s likely cause unless you are the President, SecDef, MCPOON, the CNO or someone from Langley, getting into some of those files ain’t happening,” I commented.  “Hell, I was there and I can’t even look at them.  That a fact… and it’s kinda not surprising folks be looking into that instead of how he got out and got here. You’d think figuring that out would be a priority.”

  LT Wertz shook his head.  “That’s no lie- sometimes command has odd priorities.  It’s a Strange world, Chief, a strange world.”

  I snorted.  “Sir, I’ve been saying that for the last 11 months.” I said as our vehicle entered the cantonment.


  So for the second time in as many months, I was sitting before a minor inquiry board.  This one was a bit more serious though- it seems the presence of an accomplished mercenary who also managed to go hunting specific folks in this mess had some desk jockey’s knickers in a twist.  And that I knew him, even more so.

  At least that’s the feeling I got with the two MPs at the door.  In my mind, it was either to keep others away or to deal with me afterward.  Even money, really.  I’d seen both.

  At any rate, the questions were fairly direct.  I appreciated such too and said so.  I do know my answers were not always things they wanted to hear or were happy about.  But at least it seemed like they weren’t blaming me.

  Not my damn fault some things had higher classification levels than Eyes Only.  We used to joke about Burn Before Reading being one… and of the five folks in the room with me, at least two got the reference when I brought it up.

  But I gave as complete answers as I could, spelling out why I could not say a thing for some questions- either because of BBR level classification paranoia the Agency gave some of this crap (no way I was violating that) or that I honestly didn’t know anything about said subject to even give answers for the question.  It seemed to be appreciated, at least and it was said.  At least one person on that panel, wasn’t happy though.

  After what seemed like hours- hours in which I still had not eaten and well, fresh out of a MASH without a shower I wasn’t exactly fresh smelling.  Whore-baths and wet wipes only go so far.  And I brought it up as politely as I could.  Because well… it was truth.  And truth will set you free, right?

  The lead of the inquiry party, Major John Gregory, US Army, looked at the notepad in front of him.  He’d been the biggest pit-bull on this- Being he was the only one not in Cammies and light on the fruit salad, I knew he wasn’t from here.  Probably pissed he had to come where amenities were sparce.  Probably a desk spook too… Fucking POG.  “Chief Ganic, you raise some valid points and perhaps we have kept you from getting cleaned up too long,” He said without sincerity- I was certain my bandage was leaking at this point.  Felt like it anyway…  “There are still questions to be answered but I am starting to think you may be correct in that those answers lie elsewhere.”

  The lone female on the panel, an Airforce Major named Carly Simms, sighed at the words from Gregory.  She wore Digi’s and sported a wicked scar above her right eye- the kind that has a serious No Shit story attached, no doubt.  Vibe I got off her was one of annoyance- and not at me.  “Major, considering about 24 hours ago, he was in a firefight, I think his still being awake is rather impressive.  I doubt continued questioning is going to add to what we have right now.”

  Murmurs of agreement came from the other three on the panel- a trio of Army Captains and despite having rank, Gregory was decidedly outnumbered here.  And he knew it.  “As it is the opinion of the board that there is nothing further at this time, I’m going to end this session.  Please be available tomorrow- there may be more to be asked.”

  I nodded.  “Aye Aye, sir,” I replied.  This guy had a serious hard on for something involved in all this.  Damned if I know what.  “May I be dismissed?”

  “Yes Chief.”

  I got up and after saluting, I turned and headed for the door of the conference room.  Acid test was now- I still had a funny feeling shit wasn’t over and if the MPs went to snatch me, well, wouldn’t be the first time in recorded history doing the right thing got me in trouble.

  Damn sure didn’t expect what was next.

  Coming into the Conference Room, I saw a single star on two collars.  Considering there was only one of those in the AO, I knew who it was… and reacted instinctively in my tired state.

“ATTENTION ON DECK” escaped my mouth before I could remember Army rules about that.  Heck with it… I’m tired, hungry and definitely bleeding again from my shoulder wound.  Good thing these were new cammies- it would show otherwise.

  The officers still in the room snapped heads up and at the door where the General was entering.  As they scrambled to come to attention, General Leyland waved them down.  “As you were…” he said to them then looked at me.  “Good evening, Senior Chief,” he said. “Has anyone told you you’re out of Uniform?”

  Out of uniform? “Sir no Sir,” I replied and continued putting my foot in my mouth.  “And sir, It’s Chief Petty Officer.  The Navy hasn’t sat a board for me to even try for Senior, considering I retired three years ago and technically not eligible.  Though being back Active, it could happen,” A pause. “Who knows when I’d get a chance…  Sir.”  Way to go, Ganic.  Correcting a General Officer and looking like shit doing it.  Brilliant.  I thought.  Way to lose Chief…

  A half smile. “I got it right the first time, Senior,” The general replied as he reached into a pocket and pulled out a small card with two subdued pins on them.  Two subdued Senior Chief insignia pins.  “I suspect no one told you because of everything the last 24 hours… All things considered; you would have likely found out when you got back here when rotated off the line.  Notification came yesterday over your promotion.  I believe promotion without being Boarded happens under special circumstances… and I should think what’s going on meets criteria…”

  Behind him, the other ranking navy members of Task Force Lancaster, MA2 Reed along with Lt Wertz appeared.  They were followed by Gunny Falkner.  Reed and Falkner were still dirty as fuck and somewhere, Reed had gotten hold of hair dye to make her hair turquoise blue.

 She had told me a while ago it was her War Paint and numerous discussions had happened over it.  That she was Pagan, hammering her over it would lead to all sorts of strenuous discussions on religious freedom…  That Leyland seemed unfazed?  Well, damn.

Reed pulled out a book from her back pocket and handed it to the Lieutenant.  Inside was a piece of paper and just after the Lieutenant glanced at it, he smiled.

Reed and Falkner came up alongside of the General and stood at attention as the LT began to speak.


The Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Chief of Naval Operations and Secretary of the Navy, has reposed special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and professionalism of James Michael Ganic.

  In view of these qualities and continuously demonstrated leadership along with his dedicated service to the United States Armed Forces, James Michael Ganic is hereby Promoted to the rank of Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator, Effective 31 August, 2023, with all privileges, authority and pay as commensurate with the rank.”

General Leyland had removed the two pins from the carboard and handed one to both Gunny and MA2.  As the Lieutenant read the Orders, they stepped to either side of me and proceeded to pin the ranks to my collars.  Once done, they stepped back away from me and over towards the general.

A copy of the Constitution in book form appeared from somewhere; who had it I’ll never know…  but when it did, I knew what came next.  As the General spoke, I repeated after him- one hand on the book and the other upraised:


General Leyland lowered his own hand and handed the book off to one of the officers.  “Congratulations, Senior Chief…  My apologies for your long day.”

I blinked.  “Sir, thank you sir…”  Yeah, after everything that has happened over the last day and a half or so, this was pretty much the LAST thing I saw coming.  And Gunny was over there trying to contain her pride at all this.  And then I felt a wet trickle down my side.  “Sir…  no offense, but I think I need to go.  I think my bandages have sprung a leak.”

  The General nodded and gave a slight grin.  “Go get that checked, Senior, then get some rest.  Consider it an Order.” 

“Sir…”  I said and departed in a hurry.  I needed to get this leak plugged and a shower.  Then food…  THEN sleep.  Gunny and Reed followed, they and the rest of the platoon had been pulled back about three hours ago and only got in when grabbed for this. Gunny said she’d take care of food and Reed said she’d make sure I got taken care of.  Were I less tired, I’d have something smart to say about that last… but I didn’t.

Probably smart.  Gunny would likely produce a chancla and hit me with it.

The Road to Harrisburg Four- A Final Days based Tale

  Scrambling back, I sent out a request for update from the others of Delta as we made to move from this house.  Where we were, opposite of the corner of School and High, wasn’t bad…  but it was drawing a lotta fire.  Between the cannon of the advancing armor and some rifles of troops inside the school (there was a really bad joke there somewhere…), my merry band had a problem.   Reed’s Stryker was still operational, at least, as was the other two elements, which was good.

  3-1 and 3-3 had managed to hammer the original targets and actually dump their dismounts into the building; McCade figured it was the safest place for them… and that if there was intel, it was there.  Smart kid…  Burke also had his dismounts join them, giving us at least 18 men inside the place.  Not going to be a fun time but at least they were busy- the two Strykers were now playing Dodge the Cannon with the BMD’s.  3-4 was still engaging from the tree line, though they were picking targets as best they could.  My dragoons didn’t carry anything heavier than a -203.  We get out of this, I was changing that….

  Gunny was still back with Three Five protecting our trains, as it were, as well as making sure no one snuck past us.  She was gonna kick my ass for assuming…. Provided my ass and the others got out of this fine mess.

 Time to get creative.  Creative as in figure out how to get to that school…  and inside.

  For all intents and purposes, it looked like they were using it as a base. And if so, there was bound to be some good intel.  Just had to cross about three hundred feet or so of semi-open ground.  Go fucking figure…  At least with the dismounts inside, it *should* take some of the heat from us.

Just about then, a pair of Apaches showed up to the party and they began hunting enemy armor.  With them distracted, it was probably a good idea to boogie.

“Everyone!!  Pop Smoke and haul ass!!” I hollered as I lifted my rifle to send lead down range.  “Bounding overwatch up the street.  Mac, watch the left!!”

  “Ayeaye” came MacKenzie’s call and we moved out…. Only to see a missile streak up and clip an Apache.

Said Apache’s pilot performed a heroic autorotate even as his gunner laid into the area where the SAM came from.  Thankfully for him, the drop wasn’t catastrophic, being he was only about twenty feet off the deck.  Still high enough to hurt when they landed.

“Change of plan!  Cover me!!”  I yelled and sprinted for the downed bird, now sitting in the middle of the road like a cooked goose.  As I got to the attack chopper, I head one of our precious few AT4’s get launched.  As the pilot managed to pop his cockpit hatch, I used the front of the bird as cover and added my rifle to the chaos.

 The pilot climbed out and reached for his gunner who appeared lifeless.  A quick assessment confirmed what it looked like.  “He’d dead,” the pilot yelled at me.

  “So are we if we don’t get out of here!!” I yelled back and made to cover the pilot to get back to the crew… when Reed had her Stryker and dismounts come around the corner of the house directly across from the front of the school, her Mk 19 spitting rounds at anything that looked like it hid someone trying to shoot us.  Which was pretty much everywhere in front of us.

  My squad beat feet at this point, using 3-2 as cover/distraction to cross the ground to the wreck of the chopper and towards the school.  Reed’s boys were also putting fire into windows to allow the movement.  A second AT-4 was heard and seen streaking out at something out of my field of vision…  which was fine.  If I couldn’t see it, it wasn’t seeing me either.

As for the school, being hit from two sides gave what passed for defenders a reason to back off…. Which meant we were going to get TO the building.  Once inside, it was going to be a mess.  But a mess I was far better at than this open field shit.

Slinging my rifle, I drew my pistol; for close work, I preferred it or an MP5 to anything AR-related.  Just plain more maneuverable.  “3-2, 3-6.  Get back.  We are about to breach building.”

[Don’t have to tell me twice] Reed said as mere seconds later, her Stryker reversed back behind a building- a tank round crashing into the building just past her.

Climbing through a window, I was ready for almost anything when a very welcome sound came over my headset.  [Delta Three Six, Delta One Six, Status?] Oh sweet Jesus…  the Cavalry.

“Delta One Six, Three Six…  We are down one Stryker and one Apache.  Whiskey India Alpha unknown at this point, at least two Kilo India Alpha.  Pilot of Apache recovered and able.  Enemy combatants engaged and at least six vehicles destroyed.  Currently inside base camp building and engaged.”

[Three Six, One Six, confirm at least five enemy armor destroyed or inop.  ETA to location sixty seconds.  Brutus Element says add sixty; they are coming from Two Eight Three…]  came the reply.  [Ganic, we’re coming…]  The commander of Delta Company’s First Platoon, Jim Roach, was a former Seabee and a UDT washout through no fault of his own- leg injuries were a bitch to work through and that was what got him then.  Didn’t stop him from joining the Guard though and getting a commission.

  Remember when I said Small World?

 “Trust me, Roach… Outside of the ‘Stan, I have never been so out of my goddamn element…” I replied.  “This Fish is NOT happy right now…”

[No shit,] Came that familiar drawl back.  [ETA 30 seconds, Jim.  Fireworks coming…]

[Delta Three elements, Brutus Two One Alpha…  the Cav is here…]

  I found out later on from Reed that one of the BMD’s had come around the back side of the houses and had her dead to rights when it blew the hell up from a 120mm HE round.  The Brutus Troop, having hauled ass to get here, had spread out line abreast as it came down the road- running over lawns and small trees as the quartet of 72-ton behemoths that were the M1A2 Abrams tank just drove through anything in the way.  And once on scene, they hammered anything remotely armor related.  Them light tanks stood zero chance.

 Delta One and Two swarmed the outside; one hundred fairly angry Army Infantry backed by both standard and Gun System Strykers made some fast work out of resistance from outside troops AND managed to grab prisoners too.  However, the fight inside the high school… would not be resolved so fast.

And strangely enough, it was an element I was very capable in.

“Ok guys… by the numbers,” I said to my guys in the school district building portion’s lobby, stepping over the very dead body of a Rebel.  “3-1 and 3 have their inside down the end and will advance when we get stuck in.  Check your shots and make ‘em count.”  Two of my dismounts gave a thumbs up.  “Just like school, fellas.”

One shot back.  “These aren’t Sim-munitions, Chief.”

“So don’t get shot…” was my snark reply.  “Ready?”

Nods from all present, even Nicols, who usually wasn’t part of these things.  “Ready, Chief.” She said with a shaky smile.

A quick check of the load in the USP I had to hand verified I had the hollow points I favored.  “Alrighty…  Three…” I said as I stepped to the right of the Lobby, weapon trained up and out.  “Two…  One…. GO GO GO!”

  Like a coiled spring, we moved out and advanced down the hall towards what likely was a cafeteria and gym, advancing doorway to doorway down the hall, the lockers serving as areas of cover for the advance.  Down the hall, a couple of riflemen from the Opfor ducked into the hallway and froze, not expecting our happy asses to be here.

Two seconds later, both were dead as they attempted to lift their rifles and got shot for their efforts.  At a sprint, we covered the ground of the hall- knowing full well someone was going to investigate the shots.  And one did, poking his head out to look.  It earned a shot from my pistol- which missed but not by damn much.  We were ten feet from the door.

“Cover!” I called and ducked into an alcove, gun up.  The rest did the same and Nicols took up station behind me, checking the room whose door we were using.  One of my riflemen pulled out a frag and made it ready for use.  “Count three and don’t miss,” I called out.

 “Right,” He said as he set his rifle down.  “Egg Toss!” He called out as he pulls the pin, let the spoon fly and two heartbeats later, horked it down the hall to bounce into the doorway the enemy had been seen.


As soon as it went off, I was running down the hall alongside two of the fire team.  Getting to the door, I looked fast and ducked back as several rounds came out where my head had been about a second before.  “US ARMY!!” I called out.  “BUILDING IS SURROUNDED AND YOU GOT NO WHERE TO GO!!”

  Some voices from inside as well as a muffled scream.  Oh that’s not good…

A Russian accented voice was heard yelling back.  “That’s nice, American.  You will let us go or there will be civilian deaths on your hands… “

  I knew that voice.  By Neptune’s beard, I knew that voice.  Looking over at Nicols, I quick and quietly told her to notify Delta 1 and 2 that we may have the local command holed up here with hostages.  She nodded and stepped back to relay the info as I returned my attention to what was in the room.  “*BELOV?*” I called out in Russian, hoping my memory could make up for the rust in using it.  “*BELOV? IS THAT YOU, YOU UNCULTURED BARBARIAN?*”  My eyes were closed, trying to gage where in the room he was by sound.  Given there was a small war going on outside, it wasn’t easy… but some skills are like riding a bicycle…

  In English came the reply.  “That is some horrible Russian, Comrade…  And who are you?”

 I smiled…  both at the surprise of my troops and the shock surprise in the voice of the man in the room.  “*Ah COMRADE…  I AM NOT SURPRISED YOU DON’T REMEMBER MY VOICE…*” I said and switched to English.  “YOU WERE QUITE BOUND AND GAGGED AT THE TIME ON THAT BLACKHAWK WHEN VASILY WAS ABOUT TO DROP YOU OUT THE DOOR…”  I really hoped the statute of limitations was up for that Job…

Some murmurs inside then a reply, in English again.  “Ganic?” He asked.  “You are supposed to be Dead, Comrade…  Can’t find good help these days, It seems.  How’s your Commander doing?  Has he gotten his eye back?”

Ooooooooooo I should fucking know better than to talk to shitbags like him.  “OH HE’S DOING BETTER…  I’LL TELL HIM YOU SEND REGUARDS.” I swapped mags on my pistol.  I was pretty damn sure I had where in the room he was when a tap on my arm took my attention.  It was Nicols, who had a makeup mirror in her hand.  I mouthed Thank You to her and brought it up so I could see without getting my hand shot off.

  Belov had a prisoner in hand and held just in front of him, a pistol of his own in position to cover the door or shoot the woman.  I will say this much… he wasn’t giving me a lot of space to work with but then, I’m fairly sure he’d never been in a SEAL shoot-house.  Still… I needed to know where others *might* be.

Belov laughed.  “I’m certain he will be thrilled to know I’m alive.  If he still is, of course.  That you are is shocking…”

I had managed to figure out where the other five or so were in the room.  They were covering the door and the spaces that looked outside.  A lot to cover…  I looked at the remaining troops with me and spied elements of 3-1 and 3 on their way up the hall.  But this thing about me being dead…  I had to know.

“COMRADE…  WHAT IS THIS DEAD THING YOU PRATTLE ON ABOUT?” I asked as I returned the compact mirror to Nicols, who ducked back once more.  To the others on the far side of the door, I motioned about what I saw their positions were and got nods as they adjusted feet.

  This might be the Call of Duty Generation… but given how popular the Door Stack mods were, these young’ns got it.  We were moving in thirty seconds…. And I hoped Shoot House really was like riding a bike.

“Ah Comrade… when I came to the United States, I figured I would settle some old scores.  You see, I owe you a bullet for every year I was in the Netherlands…. Too bad you were in EMP land…. Made getting you difficult.”

Oh so that’s who was looking for me back in November, I thought as I held up five fingers.  Everyone tensed up as I shifted my feet.  “SO THAT WAS THE FOOLS WHO GOT IN THE SHEEP PEN,” I said.  “THE RAM DIDN’T LIKE THEM IN THERE….” I started dropping fingers.  “AND WE NEVER DID IDENTIFY THEM.  WE REALLY SHOULD TALK ABOUT THE QUALITY OF THE HELP YOU HIRE….”  I dropped my hand and we moved….

The one thing about Violence of Action and doing a thing that was almost one hundred percent muscle memory, time really did seem to stand still.  I mean, there was the Hollywood interpretation of it and there was what it actually felt like- watching your rounds leave your weapon and striking where you and yours aimed.

Strangely enough, the movies did come close to how it felt, imagery wise.  The other was like in the sims where you see the return fire coming for you and not being quite fast enough to make it miss.

This would be one of those times.

In the span of three seconds, I came around the corner with my troop and we proceeded to drop everyone standing in the room that was armed.  Shit you not, my merry band of misfits performed better than I had any right to hope for…  Everyone who was armed and standing got got… as it should be.

  My target was Belov and the body part I was aiming for was EXACTLY where I hit- a wonderfully placed forty-five hollowpoint in the man’s right shoulder of his gun arm.  In the process, he did let go of the woman he was holding…

The problem for me was he put a nine-millimeter in my own shoulder where the body armor wasn’t…  And I really don’t remember getting shot hurting this much.

Time then sped up.



Hands grabbed me on the ground to set me on my back and another set pulled the armor off as a Combat Lifesaver trained troop started Immediate Care.  At this point, I wasn’t aware of much- that shot fucking hurt a lot more than the last time I caught a round and concentrating was a wee bit difficult.

The last voice I heard was Nicol’s shrill “MOTHERFUCKER- MOVE WRONG AND I’LL BLOW YOUR NUTS OFF!!”.  And my last thoughts before I passed out were-

 Boy she sounds mad. I wonder if its Belov she’s threatening?

   Motherfucker, that round hurt.

    Sucks getting old…

The Road to Harrisburg Three- A Final Days tale

  To say Task Force Steelton Command (aka Group in my vernacular) was thrilled with my idea would be a big fib.  Actually, Colonel Johnson, a normally genial West Pointer, was rather against the idea…  or against the idea of a Po’ Ol’ Squid Chief leading the charge.  Who’s to say?

  But when it was pointed out that waiting for heavier assets could let them get away, the auth to try to take them down with the assets I had on hand was given.  He did say he’d get something to us to back us shortly; ops in Mount Joy were just about done and the follow on of 1st and 2nd platoons of Delta along with a tank platoon from B Squadron of the 104th Cavalry, 56th Stryker.  Johnson expected them to be by us within the hour.

Of course, my cocky ass didn’t want to wait- and I probably should have.  I had a feeling Murphy was lurking but if we moved quick, we should manage to evade his love and affections.  Fat chance, of course…. But I had to try.

  The plan, as it were, was pretty straight forward; 3-1 and 3-3 advance up Market and then cut right on Park for the southeast side of the school.  3-2 and 3-6 (my squad) would go up to High then cut right, for the northern side of the school…. And Belov.  I hoped at least.  I had a 50 cal on this Stryker and I wanted to introduce him to it.  Reed had a Mk 19 on her wheels… and wasn’t afraid to use it.  She had the bigger squad on board, at nine troops while I have five (counting my radioman Nicols).  If we have to un-ass for housework, Lance Corporal Charles MacKenzie would slide up into the command hatch.

  Even as old as I was, I’d been doing shoot and scoot since before the Lance was born.  And if there was intel to be had here, I had more experience in IDing such shit.  So I’d be leading any search parties, with the MA2 providing security with her troops.

  McCade and Burke would be looking to tackle the enemy from the south side, supported by the rifles of 3-4 from the woods between the college and the high school.  In theory, we’d get in and hit them before they mounted up or in the process thereof.  I knew the Mk19’s would hammer the BMPs and cause havoc in the area.  The real question was going to be could we get in fast enough to do the job.

  And of course, the other question was- is this all there was?  That question, I should have remembered the rule of Where you See Two, there is One somewhere Else.  We knew it was likely there might be more BMPs but how many?  I honestly didn’t expect there to be too many- Harrisburg had a lot of ground to cover in defense of their holdings… and the Air Force had been working overtime to interdict shit coming by air.  So, I was fairly confident there was not that many to deal with.  At least around here.

I should have known better.

  The start of shit…  went well.  31 and 33 made the turn as planned and after a twenty second pause, gunned it for the school.  Us however, well, we made it to High Street and took the turn.  And that’s when the plan started to go south.  And in a big way.

  [Delta Three Six, Three Four!!] Came the call over the headset.

  “Three Four, Three Six-send it,” I replied as I scanned.

  [Six, Opfor is scrambling… and they just got help.  BMD’s.  Tank gun kind,] Sands said as I heard rifle fire over his mic.  [Engaging to divert.]

  “Four, copy BMD assets joinin’ the party.  Where at- never mind.”  I sent as the aforementioned vehicles came into view as we roared up the road.  “Three Two, Three Six…  Weapons free….”  As I said that, Reed cut loose with the Mk 19 in their general direction.  Her initial shots were glancing hits or so it looked… but my driver, PFC Kev Carlson (“Of NorthWest Phillly yo”) zigged at the right time for return fire to show up.

  Enemy Fire wasn’t terribly accurate, thankfully… but that 100mm on the BMD was close enough to clip the rear tires of 3-6, causing us to spin and nearly roll.  Like a boss, Carlson kept us upright.  As he gyrated in his awesome act to keep us upright, I got a fairly good idea of what was out there.  And internally cursed Murphy and his timing.

 Three BMDs…  looked like 4’s.  And all air transportable.  And behind them was what looked like another quartet of BMP’s.  This was just getting better and better…

  As soon as we stopped, I gave the order to get out.  “Deep Six this bitch,” I yelled as my fire team un-fucked themselves from seats.  “Grab yo’ bugouts and get before we eat another!!”  Thankfully, the back door wasn’t fucked by the hit.  The ramp was but the hatches weren’t… and given we were a whole six bodies, getting out wasn’t hard.  Carlson though…  I heard him screaming.  “Chief!! My hatch is stuck!”


  I spun back in and reached for his armor strap. “Kev, go limp!” I screamed and then pulled.  I could hear through my earbud on the fancy short range coms we carried (I fucking wish we had these ten years ago…) that 3-2 was still alive and my short squad was also adding their rifles to the mix.  Kev went limp as asked for and I was able to pull him from his seat…. At the same time 30mm fire struck the front of the Stryker.

  The ONLY reasons I’m alive and not wounded is because of the angle our beast was sitting and that monster engine in it.  However, Carlson wasn’t so lucky.  The armor of the Stryker is designed to laugh at HMG fire and deflect the blast energy of an IED.  Against the power of the 30mm, well… not so much.

 The Slat Armor worked to deflect some of the rounds and cut down their effectiveness, but they were designed for RPGs, not autocannon fire.  Some of the shots penetrated the front of the IFV and hit my driver in the legs.  I did take some hits from spalling- not a lot but enough to be grateful for my body armor.

  Pulling Carlson further, I saw the damage and then heard MacKenzie screaming from the back door.  “GIVE HIM TO ME CHIEF!!”

  As quick as I could, I handed off my driver to the Marine who threw the now unconscious Carlson over his shoulder.  I quickly followed, grabbing my bag and AR as I launched feet first out the open hatch.  Landing in a very ungraceful-for-me tumble (pride be damned), I managed to get to my feet and stagger-run to the house nearest to our now dead Stryker.  Diving through the front door of the house, I could hear the 240 barking its song as well as rifles of the rest of my squad.  Getting to an internal room, I sat down and called out over the squad channel.  “Shoot and get back.  That thirty will eat this house!”  As I said this, said weapon started chewing part of the house’s front wall.  At least two screams were heard of troopers getting hit.  Shit shit shit….

  “Chief, I’ve got Group on the horn,” Nicols yelled from next to me even as the rest of the squad pulled back.  Damn woman was thinking on her feet despite every reason to spaz…  Hell, I’m fucking experienced as hell and I’M spazzing a little.  Time to get it together, Ganic.  A quick glance told me the squad were all alive though two were wounded.  Carlson was not among them…  I’d find out later he came to and elected to stay behind… I hope that kid gets a Medal…

“Steelton 6, Delta Three Six- FLASH TRAFFIC!” It wasn’t the right word… but my brain was reverting to Navy Speak… ““Steelton 6, Delta Three Six- FLASH TRAFFIC…”

 [Delta Three Six, Steelton SIX, Send it].  Christ…  the voice on the other end sounded like Johnson’s.  If it was, I might be in trouble when I get back.

“Delta Three elements engaged with now probable enemy company.  At least three BMD’s and up to eight BMPs with Infantry Assets, up from initial intel of last update.  BMDs approaching down High Street from direction of Route Two Eight Three.  Delta Casualties light but not for long; Requesting immediate Reinforcements, over”

  As I was reporting, one of the squad- I forget the kids name- leaned over and updated me on what was left.  There was two less BMP’s and at least one dead BMD.  Reed was a monster…. I needed to remember to tell her that.

  [Three Six, Steelton Six Actual, copy up to eight BMP and three BMD your location. Delta One and Two are Enroute; Brutus Element currently being dispatched and enroute.  ETA your location nine minutes.]  Yep, it was him.

  This was going to be the longest nine minutes of my life.

The Road to Harrisburg Two- A Final Days based story

After our quick confab, I awaited word from Sands on what they found.  Word was bound to get out we were sitting this wood-line near Route 230 before long… and I’m no fan of sitting in one place in a mediocre hide.

  Even if I have better gear since the last time I did this shit…

Almost like clockwork or someone was listening, Nicols waved at me from the back of the Stryker, headset line stretched.  “Chief…  Three Four is on and he’s calling for you…”

Shit.  That was the first word that came to mind…  and usually, whatever event triggered THAT word tended to be something fucked up.  And this would be a pretty accurate assessment.

Plugging into the vehicle’s comm system, I tripped the mic.  “Three Four, Three Six Actual…  Whatcha got Hoot?”

  The reply was almost immediate.  [Six, Three Four.  I’ve got a problem over here you need to eyeball, over…] Came the concern-laden voice in my ear.  [And it’s kinda big.]

Frowning, I hated the hedging.  “Like How Big?” I sent.

[Six…  like twenty tons big] Sands replied.  [If you can get the drone over here, you might want to peek.]

Oh shit… Closing my eyes, I answered him.  “Ok…  up in five.  Stand by…”  Unplugging from the net, I turned to look over to Gunny across the way.  “Abuela… Get Parsons out with his drone.  Something big is over at the school…”

Gunny nodded. “Si.  On it, Jim.  What’s going on?”

“Sands might have Armor Trouble,” I replied, and her face went pale slightly.

Madre dio..”

“Right… This day got interesting…”  And boy did it.

Tech Sergeant Mike Parsons USAF was a young man of average size and physique but a wiz with both computers and keeping the electrical toys working.  Like his little mini helicopter thing called a Black Hornet.

  The mini drone… like about the size of large matchbox car, had been in use by the Marines for a few years back in Afghanistan; that they didn’t break ‘em when using them is a minor miracle.  Must have eaten the grey crayons those days…

  But anyway, they have been in service for a while with the US military.  That our Air Force guy had them was weird… but these days, weird is the new normal.  And let’s be honest, weird was getting old quick.

Within about seven minutes, Parsons had the drone out, powered on and winging its way towards the school.  If nothing else, the lack of electronics emissions nowadays allowed for some fine control of his gizmo and a little more range.

  And what it showed was kinda what I had a sinking feeling about as the little drone beamed its video back to us.

It appeared that our friendly neighborhood Bad Guys did manage to get some assets.  Nothing huge, mind you- but the BMP 3 was a decent IFV.  And armed far better than our Strykers- anything from a light chain gun to autocannon to a tank gun could be on the damn things…  Going by what I was seeing over by the bleachers, they had four of them tucked in from overhead view.  Granted, the tents and trucks nearby indicated *something* was here that was important.  And the bad guys were smart enough to drape some tarps down from the upper bleachers.  Pretty smart thinking, come to think of it.  Someone on their side was thinking…  But facing Genuine Russian Armor, even though they were air transportable IFV’s, was not something anyone thought was gonna happen.  But apparently, some did get through the interdictions somehow.

  What they were armed with- one looked like the tank gun variant, the rest chain guns… was definitely a problem for anyone on the receiving end if they got to the field around here as all our M-1’s were well back behind us with the Regular Army types out in Mount Joy; their SP time wasn’t until later today.

Well, at least they weren’t T-72s.  These things, our popgun anti-tank weapons could hurt if we engaged.  And of course, we were going to engage.  Right now, we had surprise.

Being back on the net when the Drone got there, I let Sands know we were watching and seeing what he saw.

[Six, Four…  Are they what I think they are?] He asked.

“If you are thinking Bimps that could crack our strykers, yes” I replied.  “Keep them under observation, Four.  Get yourself a good hide and your horses inside something in case they got what we got.”

[Affirm…  already done.  In the college gym…]

“Good man…”  I said.  “let us know if they start to mount up…”  I trailed off in reply as a familiar face showed up on the feed near the tents and trucks.  “Six out.”

Parsons started to move the drone back towards us and I stopped him.  “Sarge…  bring that group of people by that tent between the two panel vans, wouldya?”  I hope to hell it was a damn doppleganger…

  Parsons nodded.  “Sure thing,” And the vid from the little tech toy changed as it swung back around.  “Got about ten minutes left, Chief, before I gotta bring it back.”  The image on the vid focused in on the group of people in question.

Laying a hand on the tech’s shoulder, I looked at the feed.  “Zoom in?”  Wordlessly, the image closed in on the men talking.  Could not get too close- tech does have limits at this range and it was at the far end of the drone’s…. but I’d not mistake that face anywhere.  Even if it had been almost ten years.

“Screen cap that, would you… and get it sent back to the intel guys,” I ordered.  “And thanks…”  I stepped away from Parsons as he replied something akin to No Problem.  I wanted no one to see my hands clenched as tight as they were.  As I walked around to the front of my Striker, I looked around and then looked up to the sky.  “Oh you goddamn fickle motherfucker….” I said under my breath as I followed the words with about a dozen curse words in Serb and Russian, along with some the handful of German I knew.

I’d seen a ghost.  Rather… I’d seen what looked like someone who should be languishing in a jail in the Hague’s prison in the Netherlands.  This was NOT good news.  Not at goddamn all.

  Fuck.  Fuck, fuck, FUCK.  I am too damn old for this shit and his shit too…

And like Radar O’Reilly in M*A*S*H with his ability to show up the right time for everything, Gunny Falkner came around the corner.  “Ganic…  you ok?”  She asked in her Mom voice.  And like all good boys who loved their mama, there was no way I could not answer.  At least I could inject some humor.

“Define ok?”  I asked as I looked over at her.  At the stern look that led to a thrown sandal the last time I got it, I answered properly.  “I just saw a damn ghost, Gunny.  Someone who should be cooling his damn heels in a Dutch jail.”

“And what escoria would that be,” She asked, arms folded.  Nope… there was no not answering that question- she was ready to pit-bull this.  I must be more spooked looking than I thought.

“Said escoria is a gent names Alexi Iosef Belov…  former Spetznaz, one time Merc and someone I helped drag in from the Balkans in one of the few times the Russians were willing to actually help with bagging a problem,” I replied.  “And it was damn hard job too.  Three of the Russian Spetznaz working with us were killed along with one of my team.  Granted, it was twelve on fifty…  but he was a very wanted man.”  I really wanted a cigar right now…  and a bat.  And breakables…

Gunny made a wave of a hand, indicating gimme more.  Damnit…

“It was a special job for the folks at Langley; they had no assets capable and asked their counterparts over in Moscow for assistance.  They knew the Russians wanted him too…  Dude was a professional badass and cold blooded as hell.  Russians wanted him for the death of some politburo official’s family and we wanted him cause he was behind some of our problems in North Africa.  Specifically, the Embassy in Benghazi.”

“What?” She exclaimed.  “I thought that was a local thing there.”

“It was… but they knew where to hit the building and had some tools you don’t find in a North African shithole, gunny.  He either trained or helped train the fucks that broke in.  Not something you hear about on the news… and it’s also partially why Billary evaded real repercussions over it.  Out that, you out a lot of shit no one wanted to have heard; especially the Christians In Action.”

“wooooooooow….” Was her reply.  “that’s fucked up.”

“Yeah…  we wanted him for that.  The Russians wanted him for their reasons… and apparently, he did shit in the Balkans that made the Hague want him,” I explained.  “So we teamed up to get him.  Right fucking mess it was too… but we got him.  And put his ass in jail.”  A pause.  “And now he’s out. And here…”

“And I’m gonna kill him.”  I know it had to sound melodramatic.  It did to MY ears at least…  but it’s how I was feeling at the time.  Fuck me, right?

“One thing at a time, Jefe, one thing at a time,” Gunny replied in the Momma-Knows-Best voice.  “I know you got a plan on how to deal with these bimps… so lets get it together, Si?”

“Oh yeah…” I said.  “I’ve got a plan…. I think.”  Heading back to the passenger compartment of my ride, I called out.  “Nicols, get Group on the comms….  Time for them to know what’s up.”

The Road to Harrisburg One- a Final Days based tale

This was not for the first time since I made that decision back in March that I have questioned my sanity.

Mind you, after the EMP strike and crazy few months that came about afterward, I had figured I would ride it out back there in Auburn, on my farm with my horses.  I was a decent hunter, had a good supply of dry goods and thanks to an ex, knew a thing or three about plants and natural medicines.  When the winter passed and I got word the Army came, I knew I could not sit on the side lines.  There was going to be a need for manpower- Robbie’s Ham radio receiver still gave him news from the outside every so often… and while west of PA was good, the world was a shitshow.

Which is why I came off the mountain.  Figured I could free up a body for service outside of the US if needed and the Guard boys in Lancaster could use an experienced set of hands.  I’m over fifty years old, for Christ sake.  Warfighting is supposed to be a young man’s game and well, I figured I’d be doing Garrison Shit for the most part.

  Little did I know that I’d be smack dab in the middle of a local insurrection…. Who am I fooling?  I was in the middle of a damn war again.  Not that I expected to be- I mean, with as close as we came in January of ’21 after that dumb shit in DC, I figured when it didn’t boil over in the year that followed, one would think folks went back to being stupid in private.  Which would have been fine by me.

Silly me… they were just saving it for when the Adults weren’t around.  Which is how that crooked ass shit-bag state rep managed to step in with his fellow cronies to claim Harrisburg and PA as his fiefdom- calling it the Democratic Commonwealth of Pennsylvania- and fuck the Feds who did nothing (or so he claimed).  Which is bullshit- response takes time and the entire eastern third of the country is currently screwed right now.  FEMA can’t be everywhere, can they?  I mean, this is like ten times as bad as Katrina and Sandy combined… and THOSE were a mess of a response.  Though Sandy was better- Katrina exposed all sorts of holes in the system… and Sandy showed how much work was yet to be done.

  Eh, all it takes is one guy who can charm the skin off a snake and a bunch of folks to support his version of the truth- no matter how wrong it was- add in some outside backers and you create a minor nightmare for a still reeling country.  Then add in some non-thinking folks who will latch onto anything, even some falsehood nonsense like “The Feds don’t Care, We Do” and you have what we got here.

And as a result, its more or less why I am in Army cammies riding in a Stryker rolling west on Route 230 on the way to a formerly sleepy town of Elizabethtown in the company of a mixed bag of services (shit, even have a damn Zoomie with us as an Air FO) trolling for trouble.  Trouble… in the form of what passed for the Quote Army of Free Pennsylvania Un Quote or whatever they were calling themselves and their mercenary helpers.  It’s almost like some post-apocalyptic B-Movie come to life…. Just no rads or Mutants to shoot.  At least not yet.  After the year that 2020 was an’ this past ten months, I ain’t putting anything in the realm of No Fuckin’ Way anytime soon.

As it is, my merry band of misfits, officially known as Third Platoon of Delta Company, Second Battalion, One Hundred Twelfth Infantry of the Fifty-Sixth Striker Brigade, Twenty Eighth Infantry Division… was something out of a one of those B-Movies resistance forces.  Four Strikers, a handful of Up armored Humvees, some cargo trucks for supplies and a full eight-man squad of Horsemen riding some decent horses.  Yes… Horsemen.

  Everything old is new again… and because of my bright Idea back in July, the Army has authorized the re-creation of good old fashioned Dragoon Units.  No MTOE yet, of course; The Army hasn’t fielded Horse Cav since the 30’s and well…  the gear back then is way different than now.  And establishing what it will be is a work in progress.

Yeah, we have Horse Soldiers and we have regular soldiers… and after they were blooded at the battle of East Pete, you’d be hard pressed to find a more higher morale group.  I mean, my old Seal Team was some hard charging, tight, well-motivated troops… but right now, I’d rank my platoon with them for swagger.  Even the Lieutenant; he moved heaven and earth to find us some extra toys for the platoon after that battle.  Even located a tack shop to raid for better saddles for the horses.  Good guy, Wilson is, for a ring knocker.

But I digress.

Anyways…  after that event and the posturing that followed from Harrisburg and Denver- along with some skirmishes since, the Word came down that once the new headman here in Lancaster got in and settled some, we’d be making the push west.  We have the Big Red One with us as well as elements of the 78th and what tanks/Bradleys they managed to get back in service.

  The idea was once our logistics line from the East Coast solidified- it was admittedly dodgy but improving as supplies to folks really started to come in via middle of the Jersey shore, the effort to retake the Separatist (not much a better name for them really) areas before they got things like T-72’s or something.

Which would suck if they did- we had a handful of AT4’s and a double handful of the old fashioned LAWs but neither is really good against heavy armor, though the AT4 can manage ok in a pinch.  We did have plenty of 40mm grenades though which should be just fine for Technicals and such.  There was no way they were going to show up with anything bigger than those.  Just no way.

Of course, I had to say that…. When Mister Murphy has been so kind to me as of late, the extra work creating equipment lists for Dragoons notwithstanding.

“Chief Ganic,” The radioman, 24-year-old Specialist Cindy Nicols, called from below inside the stryker whereas I was up in the hatch daring a mother to take a shot.  “Contact report from the Hooter One Two.”

I looked down inside the hatch at her. Oh this will be interesting, I thought.  Hooter 1-2 (officially one half of Delta Three Four) was led by a good old boy, Sergeant Jerry Sands, from the town of Starlight in northeast Pa.  And one of the better horsemen we had.  Rode rodeo as a teen and really spoke horse.  Which was good, cause as good as my horse-speak was, I still sucked.  “What’s he got, Nicols?” I asked as I returned my gaze outward.

“Sergeant Sands said some locals told him there was some armed men using the high school as a camp or base,“ She replied as she checked her scrawled notes.  “Seems legit according to him.  Guy he’s talkin to is a Nam Vet and seems to know his shit.  Sand’s is asking for permission to go take a look.”

Hmmm….  Never one to turn down some good intel, I pondered the likelihood of a trap… and decided we needed to know more.   “Tell him I said go ahead…. And take the Nam guy’s name and addy down.  If this is a snipe hunt, I will be perturbed…”

A chuckle from Nicols as she relayed the permission.  “Delta Three Four, Squid 6 said get numbers then go look.  He’s gonna wanna chat with the Lima if its bogus.”  She paused, listening to the reply then answered.  “Understood Delta Three Four, Delta Three Six out”. She put the com back on scan and hollered up to me.  “Sergeant Sands said stand in line, Chief.”

I had to laugh at that.  Sands had a good head on his shoulders… and he’s already thinking ahead.  “RHIP, Specialist…” I called down to her as I pulled up a quick strip-map on the little iPad each platoon Lead carried.  Well, him and the LT, were he here.  He was back managing the logistics group as his arm STILL wasn’t right.  So Gunny Falkner had the other.  And I needed a quick confab with her.

Clicking on my headset, I called out over the platoon net.  “Delta Three Elements, Delta Three Six Actual”

[Three One].  The voice of Sergeant Cory McCade, the son of an old flame (small fucking world it was, let me tell you) was heard.  He knew who I was before I knew who HE was and apparently spoke up for me way back in March.  Said his mom was *still* in Philly and trying to fight fires, even with shit for equipment and had told him about me before the Strike.  Still had my picture on her desk too.  Goddamnit….

[Three Two] The whiskey tones of our resident centerfold badass MA2 (Master of Arms 2nd Class) Tera Reed came over the net.  She was a supermodel until she decided she rather be something else.  Joined in 2016 and made mockery of the exams by near maxing them as well as out shooting and out PT-ing pretty much everyone.  I watched one of the Regular Army guys get smoked by her in a pull-up and Push Up contest three weeks ago, not knowing her exercise regimen made marines cry.
  I made some money that day….  As well as three bottles of prized scotch.

[Three Three] The clipped tone of the lone Mennonite, Corporal Josias Burke, came over the speaker.  One does not expect a Mennonite to be in the Army…  but to my shock, there are a few.  He’s one and also the one I rely on to talk to the Amish around here.

[Three Five] Gunnery Sergeant Margaret Falkner, all business Mexican Mother in a five-foot two Marine Reservist Frame, responded.  The mother of four and grandmother of one treated the platoon as her extended family.  Praise and Discipline wise, too… as she demonstrated the myth of the thrown sandal was no myth…. And on me, too.  Hit me at thirty-five feet…

As Three Four was the Dragoon element and operating separate of us right this moment, I figured I would let folks know what was up.  “Delta Elements, Delta Three Six.  Four is off investigating an Indig intel dump on a possible Sierra camp.  Three One, recce the field to the west of the old Giant market up the way a bit.  I want everyone on the same map if crap happens”

[Three One…  Receive.  There in five…  will advise.]

  Now…  if Cory found dumb, the word Bogus would come across the net three times…. And we’d come running.  If it’s good, the pass phrase is “Valentine”.  Don’t look at me, I didn’t come up with these.

It was a long five minutes, almost seven, when the Valentine call came across.  And away we went.  Within ten, we were in the tree lines of the field behind the auto shop that was between the Giant and the Hatchery.  Actually some good foliage too.  Enough space to hide four Strykers and a handful of Humvees that comprise Gunny’s brood.

  The trio of 7 tons scooted behind the supermarket out of sight.  Best place for them right now.  Given this is all happening on cloudy day in August, we know we were going to be seen.  But no need to be in the open, now, is there?