...."Any further comments?"
"I know that it doesn't need saying, but total noise and light discipline will be in effect...don't bring anything that will clank or reflect light. We'll be moving kind of fast when necessary so don't take anything that will slow you down." O'Herren shurgs. "I know you all know that, just wanted to give you a friendly reminder. We return with the same number we take...no one gets left behind if I can help it. And, watch your six."
Turning to directly face the Major, Will continues. "If you don't mind the suggestion, sir, I think while on foot we should advance in a modified diamond formation, with a soldier on point, two flankers and one tail-gun charlie...with yourself in the middle in command, of course. Begging your pardon, Major, if I've overstepped my rank. Not my intention on telling you how to run this operation, sir." Reb starts to continue, then thinking he's probably run his mouth enough, reconsiders...
"I'm not sure whether its proper protocol or not, but I've always felt that advice on how not to get killed should be considered very deeply, no matter what the relative rank of the advisor and the recipient are. Please don't hesitate to make suggestions in the future, Corporal."
"Affirmative, sir. Will do." With respect in his eyes Reb nods once at Major Fischer. "And thank you for that, Major."
"Very well - We'll meet here for a final brief at 2215. Captain Panoake, if you would be so kind as to inform Sergeant Royce when you see him? Dismissed."
Cpt Panoke checked what the team had, and what was still needed. He then found Sgt. Royce and informed him of the Major's briefing time. He checked up on the Sgt's needs for the patrol, as well. He got the impression that Royce was experienced, competant, and hated officers...
"When do you think you'll have the time to give that map a good once over, Sarge? Like to get a little idea of what we're up against..."
"No time like the present..."
Berger and Reb went over the map with the Major and Captain, identifying landmarks, possible ambush sites, and so on.
Both officers, a Major and a Captain, offered their comments on the operation. Although competent, and intelligent, they both seemed somewhat new to the camp as well. Perhaps that is why the briefing was delivered by the two SGTs...
So it would appear this evening would be on-the-job-training for more than one or two people this evening.
Panoke stood watching and listening to the briefing that the SGTs gave. As they finished he stepped forward.
"Good evening all. The Sgts have covered most of what needs to be said so I will limit my self to a couple of points."
"This has been noted, is a quiet probe for Intel purposes. While we do not want contact at this point with any of the forces that are opposing us, it may come to that through no fault of our own."
"If it does remember that the opposing forces have mutinied."
"Regarding Guinness the rottwieler , I hope we will be able to use him at a later date, but until we know how well he reacts with the unit, then I have to agree that he stays here."
"If no other questions or comments, let's get this mission under way."
Panoke waited for a few minutes to see if any one wanted to say anything.
I think I have equipment carried on the mission for almost everyone. The Major put in a request for night vision and photographic equipment for the group and Brooke.
Sean's camera stuff should fit the bill as close as anything else. COL Stryfe is requisitioning the following for use by the group during the mission, after which, it will be returned to Sean: Leica camera, Pentax camera, Minolta camera, 10 rolls 35 mm film(36 exp), 2 rolls infrared film, lowlight camera lens.
01 MAY 03 / 2300 hours
near 3/103rd HQ tent
CPT Tyler was pissed. Here a bunch of civilians and a ragtag assemblage of military people were being sent out on a recon mission, while his squad sat idle in the camp.
Granted, the men from Aviation Brigade had been thru a harrowing 2 days, but this was nuts. His squad was trained to do this sort of job. Tyler was a Ranger, Valdez could pop a canteloupe at 800 meters with his M21, and Sneed could shred the enemy like they were cabbage with the M249. The rest of the men in the squad had worked together. They had unit cohesion. They knew what each other would do before they did it.
And here they all sat. He hoped the Colonel knew what he was doing, here. The two men's "Screaming Eagle days" were just a memory now. This was a good way to get all those people killed...
Things were different, tho. Tyler had to remind himself he was not in the 101st anymore, and he wasn't in the 28th's Aviation Brigade, either. He was assigned as a Platoon Leader of a mixed bunch of civilian workers. His experienced NCOs had been replaced by an ex-schoolteacher. He had been torn from his men. So they weren't really *his* men anymore. They were all in the 3/103rd Armored now, and tanks or no tanks, Stryfe had the rank.
The two men had served together in the 101st, and had escaped the Middle East aboard the Gulf Eagle. Them and about 1600 others of the Division were all that made it back to the US of A. And the Colonel had not let anyone down then. Tyler had to have Faith. And Faith was often forgotten in the good times, only to be tested during the tough ones...
As Tyler paced around, for lack of anything else to do, he happened to run into Stryfe, who was himself pacing.
"You're a hard guy to find. I figured you'd be comatose by now. Can't sleep?"
"No..." The CPT searched for the words, but said nothing.
The COL realized what was up, even if it went unsaid. "They'll be ok. And if we send you and your boys out, and it *is* a clusterf*** and you all die, then *all* our a**es are hanging out. I need you and your men at the camp for security, in case those bastards from B Company counterattack. And the green guys need to get some experience. They don't get that sitting in camp, or guarding the fields. You know that, Ryan."
As an afterthought, Stryfe put the 'cookie' he had been withholding, onto the table in front of Tyler. "Oh by the way... meet me in the HQ tent at 0900 tomorrow. I'm planning something tailor-made for you and your boys, and we'll discuss it then."
"Yes sir." Tyler thought to himself. "Well, something is better than nothing. That is, if any of us are still here by 0900..."
01 MAY 03 / 2300 hours
leaving 3/103rd camp
The Security Platoon had mounted up, some people sharing horses since there weren't near enough to go around. The Recon Team was in the middle of the column. They all quietly left the safety of the Camp, trotted downhill on RT 15 to the intersection in front of the old highschool, and turned east.
Down Market Street they went, past burned out, demolished houses. Finally they reached the river, and crossed the rickety railroad bridge.
Brooke was not afraid of heights, but the look in her eyes told von Fischer her assessment of the railroad bridge. The group crossed without incident, under the watchful eyes of the people in the big brick house, which served as the OP at this end of the town.
01 MAY 03 / 2320 hours
The group paralleled the river on RT 405, and after a time, had crossed the Chillesquaque Creek (Chill-iss-kwa-kwee, or just "Chilly"), and reached RT 147. The river was about 1 klick west of them at this point. The column crossed RT 147 and disappeared into the woods. It was much slower going, but hopefully there, they would not be as easily discovered.
02 MAY 03 / 0015 hours
The group finally reached the rally point without incident. They dismounted. The Security PTN wished the Recon Team good luck!, and with that, Recon was off, leaving 1st PTN and the horses behind...
02 MAY 03 / 0025 hours
The group advanced to the SE, to the little cul-de-sac road near the "g" in the words "Knapp Heights" on the map, using the USGS maps to guide them. This area is about 100 meters higher than the level of RT 147, and is very rough going on foot. Reb crawled ahead to peer over the edge of the cliff onto Northumberland, below to the SE. Suddenly, Reb flattened himself against the ground. The others followed suit. A few seconds later, he raised his hand high enough to point.
There, not 20 meters south of them, in some trees near the cliff, was a hunter's tree stand. The thing was just a wooden box, more or less, built up into the trees at a height of about 15 meters. It looked big enough to seat two men. A ladder led up into the western (cliff) side, and the thing opened, apparently, to the east.
[GM] The rally point is right where the M in "MAPQUEST" is, on the Northumberland map.
I think it was said before that Reb would be on point. What is the marching order for the rest of the group. Von Fischer and Panoke, work it out and let me know. Weapons carried are listed on the BBB page.
Weather conditions: slight fog, variable visibility, temp 48 degrees F, moon is full, but clouded over.
Marching order (IMHO)
Reb, von Fischer, Whittacker, Panoake, in a simple line formation, with von Fischer as left flanker and Whittacker as right flanker (von Fischer is left handed, like me - I assume that Whittacker is right-handed, like most people). Panoak comes last as cleanup man, and because he has the longer ranged weapon to cover the rest of us with if we have to fall back.
Panoke Looks thinks for a moment and then nods and takes up position of tailend charlie.
Brooke followed the rest of the group by dropping flat to the ground. She was not as frightened as she thought she would be, but it seemed that all her senses suddenly kicked in with the rush of adrenaline. Her sports experience allowed her to keep control and calm. She focused her attention on what Reb was pointing at -- the hunter's tree stand. Brooke watched for any signs of movement while trying to minimize her own.
The light fog was probably helping hide her group, but it could also prevent them from seeing anyone up there. Brooke stayed alert and waited for those with more combat experience to tell her what to do.
O'Herren held his breath for a moment, waiting to see if by some chance they had been spotted.
There was no reaction from any persons real or imagined from within the treestand. However, they could've just been waiting for a better shot. ;) We'll go with "curtain #2"...
After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only a few tense minutes, he breathed again. Slowly he began to inch his way back towards the Major, halting without coming too far into the formation. Looking directly at Fischer, Reb used the first two fingers of one hand in a V position to point to his eyes and shook his head as if to say no. Then he shrugged. Pointing to his chest, he motioned an arc around toward the western side of the tree stand (the ladder side) and then pointed to his eyes again. He held his position, waiting for a response from the Major.
02 MAY 03 / 0027 hours
Very quietly in the Majors ear " Sir lets get on with it".
The Major nodded.
Nodding toward the Major, Reb begins moving in a wide arc behind the tree stand. Using a combination of crouching, and low crawling he eases slowly around the raised platform...all the while keeping a sharp eye for any movement in, or fire from, the stand. Always conscious of cover, O'Herren stays at least 15 meters from the treestand and continues to look for an area that may provide the group with a way to bypass the stand without leaving them in view of anyone in the possible Observation Post...
Reb was not fired upon. Reb soon understood why the treestand was placed where it was. It would be impossible to bypass without going in front, or sneaking up behind the treestand. It was probably not put there to hunt deer from...
The distance from the treestand to the edge of the cliff is 3 meters. The path between the cliff and the back of the treestand was only perhaps a meter wide. The treestand was concealed in some trees.
The terrain is mixed, some very uneven ground, along with the aforementioned trees. .
The others in the group could detect nothing further from their position.
2 MAY 03 / 0025 hours
Outskirts of Northumberland, PA
"We'll hold tight for now, while O'Herren scouts an alternate route," von Fischer whispers back, then low crawls towards the nearest cover.
Gently, Reb begins to retrace his movement back to the rest of the group taking care to be as silent as possible. Upon reaching Major von Fischer, O'Herren takes the time to detail everything that he saw; terrain, the paths and the commanding presence of the observation post...O'Herren looks the Major in the eye and whispers "Can't say for sure if the OP is manned, but *I* would keep someone there if I were the enemy." The Corporal shrugs. "Not good Sir, orders?" Will asks...
Von Fischer replies by signalling for the party to pull back down the trail they had been following.
Once the patrol is a good hundred yards away from the hunters loft and in good cover, von Fischer will whisper: "Lets find another route."
"Well, we could get a look from the east side of town, but it'll be a bit of a haul to get there. Let's mark this OP on the map. We'll assume it's active, I guess..."
The group consulted the map.
"Looks like if we cut to the northeast for a mile, then southeast for another mile, we'll skirt the town and end up on RT 11, east of Northumberland. That should put us by the petroleum distributers, the VFW, and the UPS warehouse. It's been a couple months since I was out here, so I've no idea what, if anything, is still in use or inhabited."
Berger looked to the group.
"What do you folks think?"
"You're the expert, SGT. Lets go."
McCain took a few minutes to recall some details from a past visit to this area.
You knew of a restaurant or 2 here in town, and are suprised that the large Armory, and Bucknell University are in such sorry shape, not to mention the hospital, the large Methodist Home, and the two shopping centers. Bucknell University (College Park on the Lewisburg Map) was a nice campus. Bucknell was considered by some to be an Ivy League school. It was well-respected, but I(Eric) don't think it's quite that good. But the girls were rich and all have BMWs, Volvos, etc. There was a nice Performing Arts Center there, donated by Mr. Weisner of Weisner Markets, Inc. a large grocery chain in PA, WV, OH, & MD. Weisner HQ was in Sunbury, and there were large warehouses there and in Northumberland, both of them stops on tonite's snoop-show.
Actually, from the sounds of it, you might have gone shooting a time or two at a gun range right about where the rally point should be on the map. You remembered a large greenhouse / plant nursery right off RT 147, and then turn east, and head out about 2-3 miles on some township road. That's where the gun range was, but the powerline cut through the woods and mountain about 1/2 mile short of the gun range. So I'll rule that you know the rally point and surrounding area as well as Berger, Royce or anyone else.
Norry(Northumberland's nickname) and Sunbury never were places you hung out much. Kindof depressing dirty little towns. 2/3 of Sunbury was waterfront property during the '72, '96, and 2001 floods. So much for the impressive 18' floodwall. So much for the US Army Corps of Engineers... Not much excitement elsewise. You remember Norry was the homebase of Rite-Aide Drugs, a pharmacy chain. Big railyards, Resolite gym mats, uh, about 6 vacant factories outside town, (what was that thing we worked out with Mexico in the 90's... NAFTA?...)
Well, there was one cool place in town. Make that two. The Old Stationhouse was a converted restaurant. Dang good Prime Rib. Excellent selection of beers. Quaint atmosphere, lotsa railroad lamps, and train stuff hanging on the walls... You saw Davy Jones of The Monkees play there once. He was cool for someone pretty famous! Someone said he lives nearby in RL...
Then there was the Marina. It was a restaurant overlooking the river, on the little island labeled Shikellamy State Park on the map. It was shaped like a ocean liner, kinda. Specialized in Seafood, (duh). Some guy with a ponytail played lite jazz there for the older crowd. He looked like he wanted to be elsewhere. Shit, was that SGT Berger?!? Hey, didn't I know you when?... Tim realized it probably was SGT Berger he saw playing the piano there, years ago. Anyway, it could be seen from across the river from Blue Hill, RT 11, and RT 15. As for their fate in 2003, who knows...
But you remembered the large railyard started on the west side of RT 147, between the highway and the river. It was pretty good fishing there, and you snuck across the tracks once... It was more or less right across from the greenhouse... uh, was it Rice's. Hey, they owned a fruit market and a sporting goods store like 200 yards down the road.
Oh, and Furman's, that was the huge vegetable farm and cannery along the township road, going out to the gun range. Come to think of it, the gun range, the sporting goods, the greenhouse, and the fruit market were all owned by the same family...
02 MAY 03 / 0015 hours
As the Recon Team disappeared into the woods, SGT Royce snapped to...
Royce is Canadian, but his accent is mostly like Scottish. I try not to annoy you too much with phonetic (FON ET ICK) spellings to approximate his accent... [Royce]
"OK, ladies, let's be gettin' doan to business. We're gonna set up in a circle, with me in the center to control things. Remember, we're not out here to start WW IV... fire only if it canna be avoided."
"Only about 1/3 of us have automatic weapons, so we'll intersperce them among the civilian rifles. Hapczick, Rasmus, Taylor, you fellas guard the horses here in the middle. The rest of you, fan out, find some cover or concealment. Keep mebee 30 meters between you and the next guy. I'll walk the perimeter in a few minutes to check things oat."
Royce called out names and assigned positions.
"...Cunning'um, MacCain," said Royce, emphasising the 'Mac', "you fellas will be at thrree, and fahr O'clock, respectively on our perimeter, with Noon being Narth. You got me?"
Royce checked everything out, adjusting a few people's positions, adding some foliage here and there, and so on.
"Everyone look sharp. We'll be here 'til dawn, or thereaboats. I'll pull ya off the perimeter and rotate ya back to watch the horses, and for breaks. While you're at the horses, you can heed nature's call, or eat. Don't smoke. Don't leave garbage behind. Bury your shit. And don't blaze away if we happen ta see someone. It could just be Recon. Or a few enemy scouts, nosin' 'round just like Recon is for us. Our job is to be here for when Recon gets back, and to slow down any pursuers that might be followin' them."
"Oh, and one more thing, COL Stryfe has ordered me ta shoot anyone found desertin', or sleepin' on the perimeter. I don't like it, but I will do it. So if you're tired, ya better be chewin' on a pinecone or some other-assed thing..."
Sean checked his weapons to make sure they were ready. Then he hunkered down, trying to make himself invisible.
Found a position with cover in front, a fallen log and uprooted stump provided a pretty good position. "Watch out for critters." he whispers to Cunningham as he is getting into position..
02 MAY 03 / 0025 hours
Outskirts (NW) of Northumberland, PA
"you're the expert, SERGEANT".
The stocky man smiled. "I'm a guitar player, sir... Anyway, I've never been this route before. I know how to get where we're going by way of a car on a road. I know where I wanna have us end up when we reach RT 11 East, but I've gotta admit, I'm not the greatest with this compass stuff yet."
Berger thought for a moment, and conferred the map again.
"Let's see. The petroleum distributers and UPS warehouse were both on the south side of RT 11. We'll be coming in from the north. Let's shoot for the VFW. It sits back from the road abit, and there was a little woods back behind it. That'd let us get that far hopefully without being observed. So, Reb, how would you work it out. Near as I can make it, we're here, and wanna get here." He pointed to the map twice.
O'Herren looks at the map and the location noted by Berger. Taking a moment to orient himself in the right direction, Will nods. "Keep low and use the terrain...the woods behind the VFW will be ideal to screen us once we get there. If we're going to try and keep our schedule we had need to move faster than I would like, though I think we can keep it quiet enough." Turning to Von Fischer, O'Herren adds "Ya know, sir, I never did hear anything inside that OP...could have been abandoned. I figured our job wasn't to start a firefight, so I didn't take any chances. Maybe I should have..." He grins ruefully. "This is a little different from scouting for an armored column." He sobers, awaiting orders...
"No Corporal, you were absolutely right. Just knowing it was there was enough. Remember that our primary objective is to get home without getting killed in the process. Any information we get is gravy this time out. For now lets get moving."
"Yes sir" O'Herren replies, respect for the Major clearly displayed on his face. Turning to make sure everyone's ready, Will moves to his place on the point. With a forward wave of his arm, he begins to move toward the next objective, his eyes searching and ears straining...
Reb held his compass near the map for a moment, measured a few distances using a 3x5 index card, and more or less worked out where they'd be going. At least in theory... This was difficult in the dark, but was accomplished with a flashlight, covered with red cellophane, clearly improvised, but workable. Good thing Berger had that in his fannypack.
02 MAY 03 / 0030 hours The group set off on their new heading...
02 MAY 03 / 0115 hours
45 minutes later, the group had skirted around most of the town, and entered a heavily wooded area. It was mostly scrub pines, with alot of dense rhodadendron in clumps. Some of the bushes were 15 meters in diameter. Not your typical home nursery variety.
The group travelled through the woods, in their usual marching order. They saw nothing in the way of other humans. The birds and other critters in the woods went about their business, making noises occasionally, moving from tree to tree...
Berger indicated that the VFW building should be more or less nearby, but it wasn't to be seen. Berger tapped Reb on the shoulder, and gave him the signal to "circle wagons". The two rejoined the rest of the recon team, and talked thru options.
"We should've seen the VFW building by now. It should be easy to see at night, hell, it's a big white building, I think like a howitzer out front, and an old M48 parked their too. 'Less the bastards got both of 'em working..."
"We can't be far. Just another 100 meters, and we'll have another look. We'll but south, and should be able to see the road...
02 MAY 03 / 0120 hours
The group headed to the easternmost edge of the woods, turned south, and sure as Reb could whistle Dixie, there it was. They had managed to overshoot it by less than 200 meters. Berger looked impressed. Reb probably thought he could have done better.
[GM] Refer to the map of East Norry. The VFW building is the solid black rectangle just north of center. A woods is shown, surrounding the building. The road up to the VFW from the Old Danville Hwy loops like a lockpick. The group's current location is at the easternmost part of the loop, just southeast of the woods.
[GM] Light level is 2.5 out of 5. (Moon is poking thru clouds.) A slight breeze blowing from the west. Chilly, about 45-50 degrees F.
Nothing could be seen as to occupants or condition of the VFW. (at this point...)
The group headed toward the building, Reb in the lead, followed by Berger, 5 meters behind. Then slightly further back, about 7 meters, came von Fischer and Whittaker, with Panoke as the caboose.
Brooke tried to play soldier. This was difficult for her. Several times thru the night, she thought she had seen something. But it turned out to be shadows, animals, or just her imagination. Until now.
Brooke definately had seen something. Not a person, exactly. A... a box. She stopped. Panoke, even without seeing her face, instantly recognized the body language. He new something was up.
All Brooke could do, was to try and warn von Fischer. She took a big stride, covered the intervening ground with her long basketball-player legs, and put her hand gently, but firmly on his shoulder. The major stopped.
Brooke, Panoke, and von Fischer could only watch for a second or two as Reb and Berger walked right underneath another treestand...
Reb finally noticed the blocks of wood, nailed to the tree as a ladder. He stopped. With his eyes, He followed them up, and into the two meter square box. Apparently, Berger hadn't yet noticed. He walked right into Reb, and cursed under his breath...
Two people in the treestand were rather suprised and even more ticked off at their unannounced visitors. Reb did the only thing he could do, and raced up the ladder, skinning his knees along the way. As the two lookouts were fumbling with their rifles, Reb jammed his M16 into the belly of the first person he reached. Niether of the lookouts wanted to see blood spilled, and both were cooperative. While Reb sent the two back down the ladder, Berger, von Fischer, and Brooke covered them. Panoke kept alert elsewhere.
Brooke takes one of the lookout rifles upon the Major's direction and slings it over her shoulder. She felt much more comfortable with her own weapon right now. It made for better shooting when one was familiar with the weapon they were using. Besides, there was no way to know what kind of condition the rifle these guys had was in or how much ammo was in it if it came down to a firefight.
Brooke would have felt a little more comfortable if they had time to check these guys for other weapons. One of them could have had a knife or even a pistol hidden somewhere. Brooke was determined to not let them get a chance to do something like that.
As the other person approached with the flashlight, Brooke raised one finger to her lips and gave the familiar "Shhhh!" gesture to the prisoners that they should remain quiet. Also, she insisted that they should keep their hands resting on their heads by gesturing with her rifle whenever they appeared to start to drop off. Brooke was a bit uncomfortable pointing a loaded weapon at someone, but she was trying hard not to show it and preparing herself for the fact that she just might have to pull the trigger....