THE BLOODY BUCKET
The Keystone Division after WW3
Meetings -- PT I 0050 1 MAY 03 HQ, 3/103rd Armored Lewisburg, PA
[Reb] A bigger grin from Will this time. "Like, duck?" He hurried on in a apologetic tone. "Sorry, couldn't resist. You said there's been some problems with infiltration into the wire...a regular occurrence or has it stepped up recently? Sure could use a few Claymore's in the perimeter if a really big push comes in..."
[Berger] "I'm sure the Colonel'd pay $200 a pop for some claymores, *if*, and that's a big *if*, we could find 'em somewhere. Actually, I'm working on an improvised version. Would you like to help me try 'em out?" He paused. "That didn't come out right. I mean, let's test these sometime. I trust you've seen the real thing in action. I haven't."
[Reb's] Reb grinned as the Sergeant rephrased the offer. "Yeah..had a little experience. Not as much as a regular grunt, mind you. But I'll be more than willing to help out. Shame we can't get our hands on enough stuff to brew up some Fu-gas...Top in the 2/278th used to talk about using it in 'Nam...sounded pretty damn awesome." His eyes took on a far away look as he stared at the floor. "Top caught a round under his kevlar a few months ago...was a heck of a troop." After a moment of silence, Reb looked back up at Hans, Mike and Brooke. With a shrug he simply said "Sorry."
[Reb] After Berger's response, Reb grins. "Still got that bottle, Sarge? I believe I am now O-ficially off-duty and one drink couldn't hurt."
[Berger] Berger grabbed another coffee mug from a crate beneath his cot, and poured Reb a mugful of the clear liquid. Berger diluted his with some iced tea from a "sun tea" jug that always seemed within arms reach of him.
"Well, belly up to the bar!" He admired the unmarked bottle. "This '03 is a fine year for Keystone Kicker. It has that oaky-fruity-cabbage-y, um, bouquet..." Berger swallowed hard thru a painfully shitty grin.
[Reb] Will took the mug with a grin, waving off the mixer that Berger offered. Taking a long pull, Reb grimaced and swallowed hard. "That is some nasty stuff, Sarge" he managed with a choking laugh. "What are you brewing that with? Crab grass and draino?" His grin almost split his weathered face. "Ah, any port in a storm, eh?" Another swig that went down slightly easier. "An acquired taste, I imagine." O'Herren turned and offered a drink to Whittaker.
Brooke accepted the bottle and poured only a small quantity into the coffee mug. She had remembered her relatives making this stuff and having been offered a taste when she was a child. This seemed to be of the same quality. The fumes coming off of it alone was strong enough to bring tears to her eyes. She took a small hesitant sip and then quickly finished the rest of it just to bring the experience to an end. Brooke pauses a moment to regain some composure and hands the bottle back to Berger. "I haven't had anything like that in a LONG time. I think it's going to take a while to get used to it again."
Brooke politely refuses any other offers of this beverage. Getting drunk would not be a good image to present on the first night here, not to mention losing control in a place like this.
A few minutes later, O'Herren turned to Berger. "What can you tell me about First Platoon and Sergeant Royce, Hans?"
[OOC] Reb will spend an hour or so swapping war stories with Berger and Wu (and Brooke if she stays)...glad to finally have some *real* soldiers to talk to instead of only officers. After finishing his drink (he'll only brave one), Reb will go by the coral to check on Francis, then to his tent and do a quick equipment check. Then, he'll fall into his usual state of sleep...you'd think he was dead unless there's sound of weaponry and then he's up surprisingly quick.
The Major thinks wistfully of that unknown, lucky rat-bastard unit that got to set up its cantonment around the Starbucks plant in Seattle and sighs. Mocha. Mooooooooocha.... And exactly what does cinnimon taste like again?
"Sir, I examined the computer center last night, and I believe that computerizing the index will be both feasible and not too taxing on our system's storage capabilities. It'll take about two days of continuous work to do it, but after that we should be able to do our data searches considerably faster. Before this commences, we'll need to find a safe place to set up the laptop so that it doesn't suffer moisture damage if there's a storm. I know these things were built to last but... why take chances?"
"I also spoke with SGT Berger last night regarding the state of our forces got a general idea of our operational plan which, as I understand it, is static garrison defense. If you have no other plans for me, I'd like to take some time to read over the reports from our more recent patrols, both to get an idea of ongoing intelligence operations and to get a feel for their skill level in patrol and reconaissence duties. Also, depending on current plans and CAPT. Panoake's needs I would like to send out CPL. O'Herren with a partol today - I'd like to get his feedback on what the skill level of the troops are, and where they need work.
"My assessment is that while everyone here has gone above and beyond the call of duty, and has done a fantastic job given the situation, there is still a need for ongoing training, particularly of the civilians. If we're going to be locked into a purely defensive perimeter, we need good, aggressive reconaissance and good intelligence to be prepared for whatever the enemy might throw at us, otherwise we'll wind up like the Mar...," Von Fischer pauses and, glancing over at Panoake, winces slightly and then continues, "the French at Dien Bien Phu."*
"Depending on other requirements, I'd like to start going over the personnel files to find out who in the unit has previous recon experience. Ultimately, presuming that there is both the availability and the need, I would like to set up a rotating training schedule giving basic instruction in orienteering and field observation and interrogation techniques."
"Finally, if our operational posture permits it, I would like to take or send a patrol-in-force to scout out as much of the route that those remnants of Aviation Brigade will be taking to get here as possible. It seems to me that anything we can do to get them inside our perimeter is worth doing. Depending on the size of the operation, we might be able to salvage some heavy weapons from the downed choppers if we can make it that far, and I'd sure rather we have them than someone else. Since I am not yet completely familiar with the manpower requirements here I'll work with CAPT. Panoake to plan the operation as big or small as you want it, if you even think that such a thing is feasible."
Having now made his report, the Major waits to see how far he has stuck his foot down his throat ... this time.
*NOTE: when originally writing this post, I did, in fact, use the Marines at Khe Sanh as the example. Then, realizing that we had a Marine in our presence, I thought of changing the post. Ultimately, I decided that I'd include it as a "slip of the tongue" since it adds a bit of color. No insult against CAPT. Panoake, his player, the game, or the Marine Corps in general, and those who fought at Khe Sanh in specific, is intended.
On arrival at Operations the Major goes through the proper motions and reports for duty.
Cpt. Panoke finishes his inspection of the medical area sorts the medical supplies into useful and non useful items and makes sure we can find what we need in a hurry. As he finishes he watch's the two troopers with the .50 cal for a moment. If they look like they know what they are doing then he nods, if not he steps over and says I suggest that you try this. Which ever happens he finishes off and heads for the HQ tent. He salutes the higher ranks there and says good Morning gentlemen. He waits for any questions about the medical Area then thinks for a moment and says. Lighting is bad that definitely needs work on. He smiles and adds I think some one pulled a smash and grab raid on a drug store by the varieties of what we have. Still we will have to make do. It's all we have got for the moment. Sir ( to the Colonel )do you wish me to set up a morning medical session We might be able to nip some problems quickly that way. With your permission I will catalogue what Small arms and munitions we have available to us this morning. Do we have reloading capability ? If so in what types ? If possible I would recommend we rechamber to most available types.
[GM] Breakfast (Oatmeal, bread, and fruit, coffee(real!?!?, tea(herbal), and milk) is served at 0600.
01 MAY 03 / 0700
Colonel Stryfe addressed the assembly in the Mess Tent from a darkly-stained walnut pulpit. This morning's sermon would be on the unit's present situation. He had some notes, and a map of the 3-county area(Union, Snyder, Northumberland.) on an easle. After formally introducing the newest members of the 3/103rd, he launched right into a discussion of the events that would dominate the camp's efforts for the next few days. As bleak as the situation was, most of the camp's complement seemed encouraged by the Colonel's speech, which focused on several positives that most people seemed to neglect.
Finally, everyone below the rank of CPL was dismissed. Guards were posted outside and at the doors. That left only a few people in the tent -- Stryfe, Everett, von Fischer, Panoke, Berger, O'Herren. Stryfe introduced three people the newcomers had not met, -- SGT Royce (Canadian uniform,1st Ptn leader), SGT Boyle(Canadian uniform, 2nd Ptn Leader), and CPL Lopez, (3/103 Reservist, leader of 3rd Ptn(heavy weapons)) Stryfe indicated that MS Whittaker, and a MR. Stoltzfus, an Amish blacksmith, and 2nd-in-charge of the Garrison/Support Platoon, should remain.
Stryfe listened to MAJ von Fischer, nodding in agreement here and there. He actually smiled when the Major mentioned a patrol. "Very good, Major. I'm turning you loose on some of the admin stuff. Feel free to go over all the old after action reports, and make your recommendations. Intel is a step away from Info Systems. The 'computer center' is now your baby. Handle it. You are now also training officer. Use your discretion, and keep me appraised. There, now you have three more hats, much to SGT Berger's relief I'm sure."
Berger nearly blushed.
"As for Aviation Brigade, we should be joined by one remnant group later this morning. Apparently, they destroyed everything they couldn't carry off. They did manage to grab a HUMVEE and a M163, however."
"As for Operations", he looked at Everett, "CDR Everett and I have something in the works in that department. He convinced me that we should throw you new folks in for some orientation and on-the-job-training yourselves. You all are very skilled in your respective areas, but you need to see what our capabilities are, as well as those of the Opposing Forces, first hand."
Strange how Stryfe called the mutineers 'Opposing Forces', like this was some tactical excercise at Fort Knox or something...
Stryfe continued. "Here is the Frag-O to cover the information:"
"Situation: We have just been biding our time these past few months. We are plagued by manpower and equipment limitations. Yes, our posture is static defense. Although we were lucky and weren't hit last night, a few more raids and this camp will cease to exist.
Foremost, we need fresh Intel on Opposing forces. This includes the disposition of any civilian inhabitants of the area. After that, we need to step up our construction projects, especially defensive measures, and continue with training our complement in both military and trade specialties. Our equipment is in short supply, and what we have is only marginally working. We need to scrounge or manufacture alternatives for what we require."
"Our new additions to the 3/103rd have brought some gear along. This will be needed by the whole of the camp at times. In this case, the mission requires a hand radio, as well as a manpack radio."
"Mission: The mission at hand is a night recon patrol of the towns of Northumberland and Sunbury. An assessment of Opposing Forces is essential. Secondary to that is an assessment of highways and bridges in the area, with particular emphasis on railroad equipment -- tracks, rolling stock, fuel, and maintenance facilities. Contact is to be avoided at all costs. If contact is unavoidable, and a prisoner or two taken, that, of course, would be most beneficial. The group will leave camp at 2300 hours 01 MAY 03, and return by 0700 02 MAY 03."
"Support: Travel will be by horse, from the camp to a secure area, and then on foot, from the secure area to the objectives."
"Command and Signal: We will use standard platoon, company, battallion call signs and frequencies. Two hand radios will be used by the group for emergancies. Radio silence is to be adhered to once leaving the security area. The security platoon will take the manpack radio, and the recon team will take the hand radio."
"Enemy: As yet undetermined. Most probably elements of B Co. 3/103 Armor."
[Brooke] "Armor?" Brooke whispers to whoever is nearest to her. "They are going to have tanks?"
[Stryfe] "Friendly Forces: Just us. First platoon, commanded by SGT Royce, will travel to, and set up the Security area. The recon will be done by MAJ von Fischer, and CPT Panoke. SGT Berger will serve as an area guide. CPL O'Herren and MS. Whittaker will accompany the recon group, lending their specialties as needed."
"2nd, 3rd, and 4th Platoons will remain in camp providing security. In SGT Berger's absence, MR. Stoltzfus will lead the Garrison/Support Platoon." The burly beared man dressed in plain black clothes and a straw hat, hugged his shotgun and nodded."
"There is a possibility that the remnants of Aviation Brigade will be encountered, should they not arrive as scheduled. Their CO is CPT Tyler, radio callsign 'Shadow'. Last known position, Selinsgrove, PA. That's on this side of the river. You will be on the east side of the Susquehanna. There very well could be other remnant groups, so stay alert."
Stryfe paused. "OK any questions/comments?..."
[Brooke] Feeling somewhat out of place, Brooke is reluctant to ask her question so as not to look too stupid. Still, it was better to ask now than get into trouble later. "Colonel, I'm kind of new to this all, so this might sound kind of dumb. If they see us, are there any kind of rules as to when to use weapons? Like, should we only fire if fired upon or in self-defense or should we just fall back?"
[Stryfe] "This mission is a special issue -- the goal is to gather information, and return with it, not to inflict casualties on the enemy. Only fire if you've been seen, and cannot readily make your escape. When you return to camp, there are other rules to act upon."
Also, when the timing is appropriate, "Is there anything in particular that the camp really needs that you want us to bring back, you know, if the situation presents itself?"
[Stryfe] Stryfe smiled. "Bring yourselves back. We have others working on specialty items. If you are in the clear, and it won't slow you down, weapons, ammo, medical supplies would be beneficial. But that's not more important than you all returning safely. Listen to your officers, and NCO's. They'll get you to where you can do your part of the mission."
[Stryfe] "OK, then, this operation will remain classified from the rest of the camp. Those involved in the recon team will be released from other duties from 1800 to 2200 in order to rest prior to the mission. All others will continue with their normal schedules."
"That is all. Go about your duties. Dismissed."
[Brooke] Brooke stood up and stretched before going out to start her duties. It's actually something she's been looking forward to doing.
[Major] Major von Fischer snags CPL. O'Herren.
"Corporal, if you would be so kind as to help me round up, Sergeant Berger, Sergeant Royce, and Ms. Whittaker I'd like to have a few words with them in our tent at their earliest convenience."
"Affirmative, sir" Will replies. Turning from the Major, O'Herren makes his way toward those the Major named and informs them of Fischer's request. After talking to all three and settling on the best time for the meeting, he returns to the Major and reports when the others will be at the tent.
The Major then pursues CAPT. Panoake.
"A word with you Captain?" he says quietly.
"Sir", says Panoke coming to a respectful stance. The Marine waited to see what Major von Fischer's instructions/ orders would be.
"Captain," von Fischer begins, then stops, frowns, and starts again. "I wanted to talk to you about..." he stops again, frowned again.
Panoke looked at the Major and waited for the Major to spit out what ever is bothering him. Things were running through his mind -- "okay, how did I step on his toes, and what is the man worried about?..."
"Damnation," he said quietly, then straightened his back and looked Panoake in the eye. During his monologue he maintained eye contact, though the Captain could once again recognize that it was hard for him.
Panoke met the Majors eye .
"We don't have time for any vanity on my part, Captain, so I'll just come right out and say this. I'm a staff officer - I've always been a staff officer. Until everything went to hell the closest I ever expected to be to the front line was an air conditioned trailer in an HQ compound somewhere."
"I've read your file - the portions that weren't classified or lost - and your time in Russia gave you a lot more field experience than I've ever had. Don't misunderstand me - I understand the responsibilities of rank and I'm not trying to abdicate anything. But I don't want anyone coming back in a body bag because I don't know my fieldcraft either. If you think I'm screwing up, or you have opinions or comments, I want to hear about it."
Panoke stood there and thought for a moment.
"Sir I think we would have all liked an air conditioned trailer some where. As to field experience be thankful you did not have to go through that. Thats what us Captains and the Sgts are for."
Panoke's voice was warm and concerned
"Look you tell me what you want doing and I will see it done. Once we are alone I will try to show you how things go."
Panoke hesitated, then adds "I bet that before this ever gets back to normal you will be teaching me about command life. I am a solo operator not a unit man. So let's help one another Sir, and see where this leads us. Yes I will tell you privately if I think you are wrong. I will not shame you in front of any one sir. You got us here, so you are not useless Sir."
"Now lets see what our Sgt has for us shall we."
[Major] "Thank you Captain, I'm glad we understand one another. What I'll need from you in a few minutes is for you to go to work as Ops. Officer seeing to the nuts and bolts of this patrol. Out in the field I'll need you to make sure I don't get someone killed through inexperience. In the future I'm certain we can think of all sorts of ways to cooperate - I'll be going over some personnel files and after action reports this afternoon and I'll flag the interesting ones for your perusal."
"And if we get the time I'll be happy to educate you in the finer points of command etiquette, brown nosing your superior officer, and golf."
The Major, who belatedly realizes that the 'brown nosing' comment might be taken the wrong way - mentally kicks himself (again - he's getting bruises on his brain from doing that too often) and wishes that he knew how to actually speak with authority and confidence [OOC--with a CHA of 2 the Major has all the talent, charisma, and leadership potential of a road-kill banana slug, and with an INT of 7 he's smart enough to know it]
After finishing his brief conversation with CAPT. Panoake the Major makes a brief trip to operations and snags a map of the target area, folding it carefully and putting it in a pocket for the return trip to his tent. By the time he arrives, CAPT. Panoake, SGTS Berger and Royce, CPL. O'Herren and Ms. Whittaker are all present (and most likely in the process of being claimed by a dog or cat).
Von Fischer sticks the map up in a convenient location, then turns to face his now semi-captive audience.
"Gentlemen, ma'am, I thought it best if we sat down as soon as possible and hashed out the particulars of this patrol, all the moreso because many of us are new to the unit. SGT. Berger, I thought we would begin by having you go over the route we're taking there and back, paying particular attention to navigational landmarks. After that SGT. Royce I'd like to hear your thoughts on placement of the security platoon. After that SGT. Berger I'd like to hear about particular items of interest in the target area - bridges we can expect to assess, where we'll find the railroad facilities, etc.
After that CAPT. Panoake, the rest of the planning session will fall into your lap as Ops. Officer." Von Fischer's smile comes and goes once again as he glances down at his watch. "Consider yourself fortunate - you had ten minutes more warning than I did."
With that the Major yields the floor.
[Captain] "With your permission, sir"
The Major nodded.
[Panoke] "Okay this patrol has been deemed as a soft patrol by the Co. That is to say it is for information only. We are only going to be out for the gathering of information. Prisoners and equipment collection are to take a secondary role this time out."
"But if you have the chance for Medical drugs/ equipment. With out placing yourself or the patrol in peril then you may consider it..."
"But if you draw attention to us by being greedy then we will all suffer." Panoke looked around the room, then turned back to the major.
"Thank you Sir."
[Major] "Sergeant Berger, if you could outline our route please. I'd particularly like to hear about local navigational landmarks - some of us aren't too familiar with local terrain, and some obvious geographical features that would help us find our way home if we get lost would be helpful. Also, if you can give us any information on the target area, that would be helpful."
"Sergeant Royce, you'll be up after Sergeant Berger. I'd like to hear your thoughts on the placement of your platoon, as well as any security issues you may want to raise."
"Finally, Ms. Whittacker I would like to hear from you the specifics on what you will need to do in making your assessments, and what it is going to take from us to help you do it."
[GM] Just by way of information, shortly after the 0700 assembly broke up, a group of 9 soldiers entered the camp. There were also three civilians along with them. All, except one, the Captain-in-charge, were taken into "protective custody", and are currently being held under guard in the mess tent.
Those in custody included a LT, 3 SGTs, and the remainder were lower enlisted men. The group had vehicles, including an M163(M113 with a 20mm Gatling gun ontop), a HUMVEE, and a Harley Davidson motorcycle with a sidecar. The group was fairly well-armed and well-supplied. And was accompanied by a large Rottweiler, who is rather enjoying chasing some cats around the compound....
[Major] $%#@! The major spent a few minutes discouraging the rotweiler when he got a chance. If all else fails I'll sic "Boris" on him (more on Boris in the upcoming post - "the pets of Major von Fischer. Look for it soon!)
[Berger] The SGT pulled out a map, and gave the group the 50-cent tour...
Notes: The bridge between Lewisburg and East Lewisburg is just a rickety railroad bridge. The highway bridge was demolished. The 3/103rd maintains an OP there, in a wrecked brick house on a hill overlooking the bridge.
The camp is located midway between "College Park"(Bucknell University) and the reverse-L shaped road that connects RT 15 with Miller Run. There are a few little swiggley roads there. I'll put a star there soon.
Proceed south on RT 147 and you come to Northumberland. Norry, as it is often called, was known for 2 things. First, Joseph Priestley lived there. He was the guy that discovered, or more correctly, proved that oxygen existed. Second, there was a fairly large railroad classification yard there. Not as big as Enola-Marysville, where Reb saved the civvies from the monster truck, but still pretty large. No idea what the current state of the RR yard is.
The bridge between Pine Knotter Park and Blue Hill has been demolished. Shikellamy State Park is also called "The Marina". It once had extensive recreational boating facilities. The fate of the boat docks, and the rail and highway bridges between Norry-the Marina-Sunbury are unknown.
Travelling south on RT 147 from Norry, you reach Sunbury. Sunbury is the Northumberland County Seat, and the OA of the Mutineers of the 3/103rd. The highway bridge linking RT 11&15 with Sunbury, just north of the Fabridam, has been demolished. The Fabridam, more or less, an inflatable dam, was also destroyed a few years ago. This leaves the river at a pretty low level sometimes in the summer.
[Berger] "So our route is basically this: We'll cross the Susquehanna on horseback, going over the railroad bridge from Lewisburg to East Lewisburg. We'll pick up RT 147, the main road that parallels the river, and we'll go south. About 9 miles south is Norry, but we'll stop about a half mile short of that, where the security platoon will set up.
[Royce] The ruddy man, somewhere in his 40s-50s, spoke with a strange accent. It was something akin to a Scottish accent. The tab on his shoulder read "Canada". He went on to describe the security platoon.
"The Platoon is 15 persons strong, we have 6- M16s and the remainder civilian hunting rifles. Many of them are scoped. We're a little sparse on ammunition. We have an M79 for support, but we're kinda shy on ammo for that. We've 4 rounds..." The SGT adjusted the L85 automatic rifle slung over his shoulder. "They're good people, they can shoot. They're the best platoon in the camp." He smiled with pride. Berger nodded as if to confirm this. "We'll hold onto the horses, and if pursued, we'll make a big ruckus to discourage those bastards from following..."
[Berger] "As for gear, I plan on travelling pretty light. I would suggest you do so, too. I'm taking a canteen, a knife, a pistol, and my bow. Nice in case we hafta, well, you know..."
"Does that about cover it?"
[Panoke] Jason needed no thought on the matter. For him, it would be standard gear, but he would leave the laser designator behind.
"Someone mentioned horses. Opps, one matter sir, I do not know about the rest of the team, but my riding skills are limited."
Berger smiled. It was a smile that telegraphed his own trepidation over the ride.
[Panoke] "Oh, well, guess I get to learn the hard way."
[Major] "I had a chance to take some equestrian classes at the Point, but I decided to take tennis instead."
"I guess we'll both be developing callouses in all the right places."