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.