The Keystone Division after WW3
Friend or Foe

Are they friendlies?...

Friend or Foe

Timothy McCain grew up on the coast of Lake Erie and spent many a day hunting and fishing with his father. He loved the outdoors and decided this was where he wanted to work.

He went directly into graduate school after getting his BS, where he earned a Masters degree in Forestry. His graduate thesis took him to Canada, where he befriended a beautiful French Canadian lady, by the name of Genevieve LeCroix. They became engaged after several years of courting and were to be married had she not been called up in the Canadian Reserves...

Tim entered the Forestry Department just as wide spread mobilization began. He served in the Northeastern US in a variety of capacities. As tensions heated up between Canada and the US, Tim found himself in a confrontation with Militia Groups and Survivalists in Northern PA. Just as the Forestry department was about to forcefully evict this armed party, word came in that the US had just been invaded by Canada. Tim, a few other Forestry officers and a small contingent of National Guard fought along side the Militia members in holding action against the Canadian Armed forces. The Militia group conducted hit and run raids against the Canadians until the linkup with a US Army Reserve unit in the Northern Tier of PA.

Tim and Pete had orignally worked together for a just brief time, about 3 months. This was during one of the Canadian incursions into PA and NY, when the two fought alongside the Northern Tier Militia, Pete as a National Guardsman, and Tim as a Forestry Service employee-turned Militiaman.

Pete Slade grew up in Freeburg, a small rural community in Central PA. Like Tim, Pete spent much of his early years hunting, fishing, and hiking through the beautiful forests and mountains of the area.

He was of above average intelligence, but knew after graduation in 1998, that college wasn't really for him. So instead, he took a job at a local furniture factory, which paid the bills and left him a little spending money to have fun with. One great plus was that Pete had alot of time to devote to his hobbies and other interests, without having many responsibilities. It was a great time for fun...

After the July 4th, 1999 nuke bombing of Independance Square, Philadelphia, Pete realized that the US, and even PA could be a target for terrorism. In an uncharacteristic moment of patriotism, he and several friends joined the PA Army Reserves / National Guard, in an inactive status. His unit was the 3rd Battalion, 103rd Armored Brigade, Headquartered in Lewisburg, PA. The battalion was part of the 28th (Keystone) Division. Later in November of 1999, elements of the Keystone Division Deployed to Saudi Arabia, but Pete, who trained as an infantryman, remained behind in Lewisburg, PA, with other members of C (Charlie) Company.

In March of 2000, Pete met the love of his life, Annie Wickerson, and six months later, married her. About five months after that, his son was born. Pete's days of minimal responsibility were over. He decided to give up some of his free time to the PA Army Reserves / National Guard, by changing his enlistment to active status. This would bring in a little more money for his new family.

The first half of 2001 found the US under attack from Mexico, Nicaragua, and other countries "south of the border", by the Federation del Sud. Pete's unit, Company C, is mobilized and thrown into what later became known as The Second Battle of Gettysburg(July 29-30, 2001). The Battle was a desperate attempt by outnumbered units of the Keystone Division to halt Federation del Sud troops at the PA-MD border. The Company was poorly supported, and although it ended the FS attacks, there were very few veterans of the battle who survived to tell about it.

Pete returned home to find his wife and child hiding in the mountains, and his house and his community in ruins. While he was away, marauding bands stripped the Central Susquehanna Valley clean of food, vehicles, technology, and other equipment -- literally anything of value was either taken or destroyed. After seeing to his family's safety, Pete began planning. Thankfully his favorite weekend project, a Pontiac GTO he was restoring, was well-hidden in an abandoned cabin in the woods atop a mountain, and was untouched by the scavenging bands. His anger over the situation nearly ate him up...

Late in the year, Pete returned home a second time, only to find conditions were even worse than when he left. Disease and starvation claimed hundreds of people's lives in the small communities. Somehow Pete's little family still hung in there. The November mutiney of the 28th Division brought more destruction to the area, and there were several battles and skirmishes in the surrounding counties, as units of the 28th Division went rogue or remained loyal.

Tim stayed with the Militia group, acting as a scout and guide in the area for several years. He was recently scouting south of his usual area of operations in PA, when he found himself cutoff from the rest of his party. Escaping to the woods, he met up with an old aquaintance, a man by the name of Pete Slade.

A Special Forces "A" Detachment had recently been inserted into the area, which was effectively cut off during the 28th's mutiney. Pete lost some of his longtime friends to disease, starvation, and the fighting, but made a few new friends along the way. One of these friends was actually an old contact from about 2 years ago, a guy named Tim McCain. Tim and Pete were members of a resistance group under the direction of a Special Forces Sgt. named Jed Thomas. Working together, the group helped the survivors in the community through the long rough Winter of 2002-2003.

Sgt. Jed Thomas had seen better days. The 50-something Staff Sgt. had seen a long career, which began with some work in his early adulthood in Cambodia, during the 70's. He had experience in Grenada, Nicarauga, Panama, Desert Storm, and Somalia. "Sarge" was a comical, gruff man. He had scars covering both arms, from when he had spent a few years doing some stick-fighting in the Far East. And he was missing 2 fingers on his left hand, and one on his right, the curse of many a demolitions man. Sarge was perhaps 5'8" and about 175#. His stature caused many to underestimate him. This was a mistake...

Most recently he had returned from the Ukraine, and been inserted into Central PA with A- Detachment 231. Jed had broken both of his legs in a rapelling accident a month ago, and realized that he would only slow the Special Forces group down by continuing with them, so he insisted on being left behind. Two civilians, Tim McCain and Pete Slade, had come across Thomas a few weeks later, who was slowed down and nearly starved, but hardly helpless...

Date: 31 APR 03
Time: 1600 hours
Place: A treeline, outside Perdix, a very small village along the Susquehanna River, a few kM North of Harrisburg, PA
People: Tim McCain / Pete Slade / Sgt. Jed Thomas

[SGT. Jed Thomas](an NPC)
Thomas laid on an improvised stretcher. The whole thing was camouflaged, and was where Thomas had rested, eyes ever on RT.15, the only major North-South highway artery in Central PA. Slade and McCain were somewhere nearby, trying to find something to eat. The stretcher looked very uncomfortable, but he never complained. His legs were broken, but his spirits would never be...

Suddenly, Thomas perked up. It was something, moving down the highway. Thomas adjusted his binoculars, and made out the shape. Throwing noise discipline to the wind, he barked for his companions.

"SLADE! MCCAIN! Where are ya!?! We gotta get moving! I see a dust cloud about 3 klicks south of here...Looks like something heavy's coming right up RT 15..."

Tim looks up from digging up from picking dandoline greens hearing Sarge's urgent call. He quickly moves back to Sarge's position.

"We need to get the Sarge somewhere safe and well hidden if we have bad guys a coming."

Here's the topography of the area in question:
RT 15 runs parallel to the north-south running Susquehanna River. You are facing south, and see the dust cloud coming north, right for your position. You are atop a hill, at a road cut, a natural choke point. The river is to your left, down over a steep bank, perhaps 75 feet down, and across 3 sets of railroad tracks. To your right, the bank continues to ascend perhaps another 100 feet, and is heavily wooded, with some crumbled houses here and there.

About 2km north of your position, the land flattens out. The railroad tracks continue to parallel the river, and the road and the river seperate by 200 yards/meters at this point.

Pete had to leave his GTO about 12km north of here, where a highway bridge had caved in, making the road impassable. Don't worry Petey, the GTO is well camoflaged off the road a-ways, you have the starter in your backpack should anyone wanna carjack it. And Sarge left a few "goodies" (heh heh) for anyone who might get too close...

So this means you 2 lugs carried the Sarge on the litter for 12 klicks. Plus your gear. Sounds fun, huh?!?

this intermission is OVER...

"S*** ! Looks like an Abrams MBT, and a coupla M113s in the lead. Some civilian vehicles in the main. And they're bookin' it. Some group's making a push north. How the H***'d they get outta Harrisburg, I'd liketa know... Let's get up and get a closer look! C'mon!

Grab the Sarge and head for the woods to our right, then take cover to see if we can make out any markings on the vehicles, look over at Tim "Do you have any skoal on ya mines in the car?"

Reaches down and assists Slade with the stretcher. "You know I gave that stuff up several years ago. Hey, have you or Sarge any binoculars? Maybe we could get a better look at this column."

Sarge offers up his binocs to the first taker, saying "I could just make out what they were -- we really need to get in closer to see much else... Just move quick as you can without stirring up too much dust..."

Takes the binoculars, nods, then heads towards a good observation point that still has sufficient cover. He moves as swiftly as he can without causing too much movement of the foliage around him. Once in place he scans the area of the column, noting the vehicles, insignia or unit designations and strength. He also scans ahead of the column and on both sides to see if there are any scouts. Once he has this information, he moves back to the Sarge and Pete.

Pulls his shotgun and covers Sarge till Tim gets back.

After a few minutes, the column stopped. The dustcloud kept following this group of vehicles, about a mile behind. Petey and Sarge were about 1/2 mile from the leading vehicle.

Took the binoculars, nodded, then headed towards a good observation point that offered sufficient cover, behind some huge rhododendron bushes. He moved as swiftly as he could without causing too much movement of the foliage around him. Once in place he scaned the area of the column, noting the vehicles, insignia or unit designations and strength. He also scanned ahead of the column and on both sides to see if there were any scouts. Satisfied with his information, he moved back to the Sarge and Pete.

Date: 31 APR 03
Time: 1621
Place: A treeline, just outside of Perdix
People: Tim / Pete / Sarge

McCain moved as quickly as secrecy permitted. He arrived back and filled in Sarge and Petey.

"Looks like a convoy of 6 US military vehicles, with a few troops in civilian 4x4s. They've stopped now, and are setting up and camouflaging themselves in that little stand of trees. There was an Abrams tank, a Bradley fighting vehicle, 2- M113 APCs with chain guns, and 2- deuce-and-a-half trucks. Some of the civilian vehicles mounted MGs, and I think I saw several soldiers carrying rocket launchers or missiles, I'm not sure...

Some infantry was hangin' on to the vehicles, looked like a coupla squads, all together. And between the Bradley and the M113's, they could transport nearly another platoon. I did catch some markings on one of the 113's. They read '1/109'. Must be a unit designation, huh Sarge."

"Bingo that -- Don't wanna draw TOO MANY conclusions, but at least that ONE vehicle was from the 1st Battalion, 109th Brigade. That's a Field Artillery unit of the 28th Division, if I remember correctly. Artillery units aren't usually issued Main Battle Tanks, so I doubt if we'll all be swappin' beans and beers with them later... They were originally armed with M109s -- you know, a BFG on tracks..."

"Well guys, as I see it we got two choices. Either hide out here til this group passes and hope for the best or high tail it out of here fast as we can. If we stay, we might as well get a closer look at these guys and find out what they are all about."

"You guys are on foot. And luggin' me around on a friggin' stretcher. How could you outrun vehicles? Or have you been chewing those damned mushrooms again?"

"Aw Sarge, we's just gonna leave you." McCain says with a winked eye and goofy grin. "What do you guys think about sneaking down and trying to overhear the sentries? That may give us a better indication on who we are up against."

"Well, they seem to be making camp, or setting up an ambush, or both. And we're outnumbered, oh, say, about 16-to-1. I think we can take 'em... humpfh!... Having a peek might not be a bad idea, but you should wait for dark. It'd be all too easy for them to peg you on your way down there. Both of you go, and I'll, uh, watch your six... heh heh..."

Throughout this discussion of scouting the troops below, Pete looked rather uncomfortable or even nervous.

Tim noticed this. He had known Pete for awhile, and had known that Pete was anything but a whimp. Pete was not afraid of pulling the trigger, and had never shrunk away from a fight. In fact, Pete had only acted like this twice before, that Tim remembered.

The first was when Tim and Pete met, nearly two years ago. Tim had worked with Pete and some other National Guardsmen for about 3 months. The brief association ended abruptly when Pete was declared missing in action after a disasterous retreat from Canadian forces.

The other time was when Pete and Tim had met SSG Jed Thomas. That particular relationship was never easy, what with the Green Beret being "saddled" with 2 "sissy-vilians" as the Special Forces man jokingly referred to Tim and Pete. Pete didn't seem so sensitive that a little joke like that would bother him.

Actually, what really was kinda strange was that Pete would stray too far from his wife and child. From the picture Pete carried, Annie was nothing short of being a TOTAL knockout. So why would Petey be out here, eating dandelion roots and scrawny squirrels, toting around a lame Green Beret, and hanging out with ole mountain-man Tim, when he could be home with Annie, discussing other tactical maneuvers... Well, apparently, Petey had been through alot, and it probably was just one of those things...

Date: 31 APR 03
Time: 1626
Place: A treeline, just outside of Perdix
People: Tim / Pete / Sarge

The group goes back behind the crest of the hill for cover, and waits for darkness, which should arrive by 1900-1915 hours.

Petey was glad he didn't cut loose with his shotgun on that squirrel earlier. "It was just plain old luck! Would've let everyone down below know we were here". Yet his stomach rumbled with hunger. The group had been in this area for most of the day, and hadn't found squat for eats. Slade searched the ruins of 3-4 houses along the long slope, but luck was not with him, and he found nothing edible.

Tim pokes around the camp area looking for nuts, grubs or grasshoppers. Finding a handful of squigglies, Tim delights in eating his "gourmet" meal in front of the squeemish. "Mmm, the little cream filled kind. Sure you don't want any Petey?..."

As time passes, McCain pipes up, "Sarge, how close you think we should get to their camp down their tonight? I figure it would be best to sneak down there from their side."

"Close enough to get what we need, without gettin' skinned..."

Date: 31 APR 03
Time: 1635
Place: A treeline, just outside of Perdix
People: Tim / Pete / Sarge

While the three men discussed their options, two Apache helicopter gunships approached from the South West. They were so quiet that you hardly knew they were there, until they crossed the river. Then the group first heard, and then saw, the larger group, around 12-15 UH-60B Blackhawk transport choppers, which was following them. The group followed the river, until it was all but on top of the group of vehicles and men staked out along RT 15 below.

Suddenly all Hell broke loose. The M113s with chainguns opened up on the choppers, as did many of the infantry, who carried light surface-to-air missiles. The MGs on the civilian trucks added to the criss-crossing arcs of fire. An Apache immediately blew up. The second one shuddered violently, and auto-rotated to the ground. Several of the Blackhawks, at least 6 or 7, burst into flames, or were rapidly downed. Some of the choppers climbed abruptly, and flew away at top speed, heading West. It was all over within 90 pulse-pounding seconds.

Petey and Tim saw some survivors from two different grounded choppers exit the birds before they exploded. Both groups went into the woods East of RT 15, but at differant locations. One group numbered 4-5 men, the other 8-10 men. Apparently they were unseen by the group in vehicles. Two of the pickup trucks squealed tires and advanced toward the railroad bed, where the chopper carrying 8-10 men had crashed. They checked out the smoking wreck of the bird, but something must have spooked them, and they quickly returned to the rest of the outfit.

Tim, Petey, and Sarge continued to observe the area around RT15 for any activity. While they waited for darkness, Petey noticed movement 2-3 km down below, between the road and the river. He gestured to the others.

A HUMVEE travelled about 50m S to the edge of a pine forest. Two soldiers got out, loaded a few motionless forms into the HUMVEE, got back in the vehicle, and then slowly picked their way through the forest, still heading south, only to disappear in the thick growth between RT 15 and the river.

Handed Pete the binoculars, "Here Pete get a better look"

Took the binocs from Tim, tried to get a good look at the two motionless forms. "Tim you think maybe one of us should follow behind and get a better look?"

Petey, Tim, and Sarge were atop a small hill, at a treeline near Perdix. They are facing more or less east. Proceeding EAST, the major features were RT 15, (a 3 lane highway, about 100 m away from here, and 25 m lower in elevation) the railroad tracks(40m wide area, about 200 m away from here, and 10 m lower in elevation), and the river(500 m wide, about 300 m away from here, and another 3 m lower in elevation).

The main body of troops and vehicles was heading north, but had pulled off of RT 15, and was concealed in the trees and thick underbrush. So the main body was spread out between 200-300 m away from Petey, Tim, and Sarge.

A second group was 2-3 km south of the main body. The space between RT 15 and the railroad tracks was the same, but there was more ground between the tracks and the river, a wooded area studded with demolished houses, about 800 - 1000 m wide from RR tracks to river. Two men got out of a HUMVEE, loaded several bodies into it, got back in, and headed South, away from the main body. Petey, Tim and Sarge lost sight of them just a few seconds ago when they entered the woods, heading south.

"Looks like they came back to get their dead. What do you think Sarge? Renegade military unit or scavengers." McCain continues watching until they enter the woods. [Sarge]
"...Hard to say... just be patient... watch everything... maybe it'll fit into somethin'..."

Working out the "triangle", with Tim, Pete, and Sarge being 300m from the main body, and the HUMVEE being 3000m south of there, gives a range of 3014 meters from them to the HUMVEE. At that range, a man is just a little spot. With binocs, there was a chance to spot this. Tim was lucky to spot it, and only did so because it was moving.

"Well I think I'm going to settle it right now"

Pete Grabs his shotgun, as well as his pistol and checks if they are loaded, then walks casually but directly toward the main force, shotgun over shoulder so as to look less threatening.

"McCain, are you coming or are you stayin' with Sarge?"

"Let's get the show on the road, Petey. Something is definately going on here and I'm ready to find out too." McCain checks his Thompson and spare mags over and prepares to move out. "We'll leave our packs and stuff with you Sarge and pick em up when we get back." McCain says with slightly worried look.

"Ever read 'Last of the Mohicans'?" Sarge chuckles to himself. "Sounds like you're just gonna walk right into what is perhaps an enemy position..."

"Oh Sarge, we're just a couple of hunters lookin' for some game, or handouts."

"Heh heh heh... last time I went deer hunting, I didn't use a Tommy Gun, but, you Boy Scouts enjoy yourselves, and don't get shot... Hey, if they have any, I could really go for a Big Bacon Classic. No onions, though. Bothers my D*** colon...

"Your sounding like one of those anti-gun nuts before the war, what better to stop a deer than a big .45 slug with a high capacity magazine. Don't have to track the wounded ones that way." Tim smirks.

"I'll sling my traps over my shoulder though, they got enough fur still between those teeth. That may help convince 'em. Need to clean those things one day. We'll work on that Big Bacon Classic, hope special orders don't upset 'em."

"Let's head that way and see if we can see where they are headed. May not be a bad idea to look for those chopper fellows also on the way. Sarge, you up to be moved that far?"

"I agree... let's go after the hummer... but... I have a bad feeling about this!!!..."

"Yeah, you better take me along. Just try to be quiet on the way. It'll be slow going..."

The group began their descent toward RT 15 under cover. Straightline distance was only 300m, but to remain unseen, the group walked perhaps 4 times that distance. More and more detail could be picked up the closer the group got to the main road. The journey took nearly 25 minutes. At the end, the group found a good place to hide, in a thick growth of rhododendron.

[GM: Here's the link for the tactical map:] FIRST FIGHT MAP

About 1/2 way down is a roadmap and a Tactical Diagram. The group's current position is not listed on the diagram, but they are 10m W of RT 15 in good cover. Currently they are staring at the right rear of the M3A1 (Bradley AFV) The Bradley was about 50m SE of the group. The vehicle commander is exposed, facing the other direction. His upper back and head are clearly visible.

Another 50m NE of the group was an M125A3(M113 APC with 81mm mortar mounted) The crew seemed to be facing either the woods to the south, or perhaps the river, or both... This vehicle was NOT pictured on the map.

There also was an M163(M113 APC with a 20mm Gatling gun mounted on top), smack in the middle of the field.

Four groups of 3 men each were visible in the field, and the southern-most group seemed to have a light MG, maybe an M249. All were dressed in US woodland camos.

The M163 and group of 12 men was roughly at the same position that the HUMVEE was when you noticed it earlier. The HUMVEE was now nowhere to be seen.

back to our story, already in progress...

Date: 30 APR 03
Time: 1805
Place: In the bushes, W of RT 15, near Perdix
People: Tim / Pete / Sarge

Rather suddenly, Tim, Pete, and Sarge were treated to the sound of a 20mm Vulcan Chain Gun cutting loose. There were two short bursts, followed by one long, ammo draining one. [GM: No! they're not sending Morse Code...]

The M163 just opened up on the river. It looks to be about 150m from the bank, and firing somewhere roughly in the middle of the water. Looking closer, it appears they're firing on a chopper! It was landed, hidden in some brush, on the second little island, the middle-sized one...

The old-timer responded to one of those funny feelings that keep men alive, and whispered and motioned for Tim and Petey to keep down. Sarge then pointed his fingers to his eyes, and then out into the field beyond, indicating that Tim and Petey should watch for a moment...

Where the men loaded the bodies into the HUMVEE

Teams of infantrymen could be seen advancing towards the woods. As if they were searching for something. Or setting up a perimeter. Suddenly, someone opened fire from the treeline, south of the field. An ambush! It would appear to be 10-15 people firing automatic weapons...



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