D-Day in Afghanistan! America’s first house-call after the 9-11 attack by extremist Islam. As with most countries that come to garner American G.I. contempt, the country was kindly awarded the nom de guerre “Asscrackistan” lest any of the G.I.’s be accused of any faux respect to the nation.
“Asscrackistan!” cried the pipe-hitters and the airborne fire support drivers.
“Asscrackistan!” cried the munificent combat logistic support trains.
“Asscrackistan!” cried the town… crier…
“Asscrackistan!” cried the Commanding General, and Asscrackistan it so came to be:
“Woe betide us — we’ll smite them with the butts of our rifles when munitions are depleted!” vowed the men without caveat, provision, or pretense.
And yea, it came to be that Chief Warrant Officer 4 Gregory “Gravy” Coker was bedecked with the title of Fire Support Director aboard an airborne command and control platform — an AC-130 Spectre Gunship. Chief Coker had 100 aircraft that he was responsible for coordinating with on this night assault. Chief Greg Coker had:
- Delta Force Ground Assault Force
Six CH-47 Chinook Helicopters (four for the assault force and two flying spares)
Two MH-46 Blackhawk Direct Aerial Penetrator (DAP) gunships in support of the Chinooks
- Fixed-Wing Bombers
B-2 Stealth Spirits
B-52 Strato Fortresses
- Fighter Aircraft
F-15 Strike Eagles
F-16 Fighting Falcons
- Ground Attack Support
Harrier Jump Jet
RAF GR4 Tornado
MC-130 Hercules Combat Talons
AC-130 Spectre Gunships (see Feature Image)
KC-135 Airborne Tanker Aircraft
Quick Reaction Force of 75th Ranger Regiment in 4 x MH-60 Blackhawks
Me, I hate it when the phone and the doorbell both ring at the same time…
Chief Coker had his work cut out for him in his airborne position of control. His job was to support the capture and control of Objectives Rhino and Gecko. Rhino was an airfield that was to be seized by the 75th Ranger Regiment. Meanwhile, the Delta Force had to assault the all-important primary Objective Gecko, the compound of Osama bin Laden’s Finance Minister — Mullah Muhammad Omar.
The capture of Mullah Omar was important in order to seize and control Bin Laden’s finances. That would doubtless be a solid way to put a significant hurt on his ability to run the terrorist organization. Delta was going to Objective Gecko to storm Omar’s compound and tell him just exactly what they expected him to do from that point on.
Rhino was a corollary airfield that was tactically key to the support of the assault effort on the ground. The U.S. had to own it, and the Rangers were going to make painful sure of that.
The six Chinooks Helicopters of the assault force were numbered chalks one through six. “Falcon” was the senior Delta Sergeant on chalk four. With him was a fairly new officer to the Unit. Technically the officer was “in charge” but the Falcon saw him all along as nothing but a stuffed shirt, a liability in frequent need of much adult supervision. That is one of the best descriptives I have ever heard from the Falcon — in need of adult supervision.
Chief Greg Coker recognized that the mission on the D-Day night of the invasion of Asscrackistan was one of the most complex operations of modern military history, and was all but too proud to be a part of it in his magnificent role. Greg’s crew of 16 gathered together to recite the Lord’s Prayer prior to boarding the fleet of five AC-130 gunships. Three were to come with him to support Gecko; two were to support the Ranger Airfield seizure at Rhino.
Chief prayed quietly to himself — not for the Creator to keep him safe, but for the courage and wisdom to make all the right decisions by his soldiers and airmen, something that is realized by persons with the compassion and humility to recognize and accept a force that is greater than themselves. There were no bones with Greg about the magnitude of his role or his resolve to accept it. At that moment it all became about strapping into his departure aircraft.
Greg rubbed his eyes momentarily but knew that the Lord was only testing him when he was approached by a wee Leprechaun. The Leprechaun introduced himself as callsign “Monkey” the Task Force Blue (SEAL Team 6) Liaison Officer (LNO) and FA-18 Hornet pilot. Yeah, so… none of his crew had ever seen his mug; he was not at any of the mission coordination meetings, yet here he was this cocky little asshole with a chip on his shoulder.
“You Coker? I’ll be joining you on this flight. Where’s my kit and where do I sit?”
“Yeah, Junior? There’s no pot-o-gold in my aircraft, and where is your Papa, son — I didn’t know this was bring-yer-kid-to-work day. We don’t need you here; this is not a SEAL mission, so… go find an arcade or something.”
With that, the Leprechaun started holding his breath. He held it and held it until he started to turn (Task Force) blue.
“Did you go potty? Greg started back to him, “you need to go potty before you get on my airplane — I mean it because we’re not going to turn our aircraft back around for you to go potty.” Monkey shot little toy daggers into Chief’s heart.
“You know, you have to be this tall to get on my airplane,” Chief Greg admonished as he held out his hand just a couple of inches above Monkey’s head. Monkey raised up on his tip-toes but Chief just raised his hand up a little higher — “Uh-uh; maybe on yer next birthday, sonny!”
“We still don’t need ya here, sport,” Chief reiterated. Then Monkey found the Flight Operations Control Officer (FOCO) and huffed and puffed and ranted and raved until he almost turned to butter. Finally, the FOCO relented and allowed him to board and “sit in the corner” of the aircraft as a pouting strap-hanger.
“Woah Chief… is this your kid??” one of the load crew joke as they climbed aboard, “Yeah, and his mom is Lady gagah, now let me by.”
Coker’s fleet lifted off to meet the rendezvous time on target within the strict one-minute window — 30 seconds before or 30 seconds after — that the Night Stalkers embraced as their diehard standard. It occurred to Greg that aircraft were taking off all over the globe to race to linkup at this little spot of the Earth. This embarkation was to be a great Crusade, much as it had been for the men at La Normandie on the D-Day of Operation Overlord some 65 years earlier.
Greg’s QRF Rangers and four Blackhawks stood ready at their Laager Site in Pakistan. The assault force in their four Chinooks lifted off from Navy vessels at sea. The Rangers lifted off from their departure airfield to make their parachute assault onto Objective Rhino.
After the nearly three-hour flight to Gecko Chief’s AC-130 needed fuel. His instructions were for the KC-135 airborne tankers to rendezvous at a location over the Indian Ocean, but the tankers did not make it there on time.
That was potentially a fatal flaw in the conduct of operations. Chief (near) frantically called for the tankers on every available channel and frequency. He tried using two tin cans attached by a string but they didn’t answer that either and the jet blast around the aircraft was causing too much turbulence to risk trying to throw out a carrier pigeon. He, thus. instructed the Air Force LNO to find his tankers as they flew orbit after orbit over Bum-Fuck, Indian Ocean.
Yessum, the USAF KC-130 tankers were late. To top it off they tried to play the challenge and password game with Chief as if these might not be the right five AC-130 Gunships at zero-exact-30 over Bum-Fuck Indian Ocean. By the time Chief had finished haggling with the radio operator on the tanker, he had her nearly in sobs. He got his fuel and they turned back and headed for Gecko — 50 minutes late.
The pilots dashed their birds full ahead running their engines wide open near the red. The rest of the crew quickly calculated variables over and over into their route equation trying (nearly) desperately to determine their next critical course of action. The critical question at hand was: did the assault force need to back off their time on target and go into a holding pattern over the Indian Ocean to wait for the AC-130 flight to catch up?
The navigator used a computer navigation system to affect calculation while Chief Coker made good use of an old-school analog E6B pilot “Whizz-Wheel” manual calculator that he was surprisingly proficient with. (This author’s father brought home one such calculator when the author was a young boy. The author spun the dials and marveled at the number but otherwise was quite stunningly oblivious to what he was doing.)
By-and-by, Greg jetted a glance at Monkey, who was sitting back in his chair in the “corner” of the aircraft sleeping with his mouth hanging open and spittle dribbling from his chin. With larger fish to fry at the moment, Greg vowed to put a place holder in his schedule to deal with the little punk when there was not a D-Day invasion to orchestrate.
Only after a myriad of data exchanges with his pilot and navigator did Greg believe that they had a solution that did not entail the bumping back of the assault hit time. But the gunships were going to have to maintain this dash speed that threatened to overburden their engines.
“If God is for us then who can be against us?”
(continued in part II)
By Almighty God and with honor,