0800 local Mogadishu, Somalia.
The pipe-hitters are all jammed into a small masonry room in the airport terminal building ready to sort of hear the morning intel report from New York Sam. NY Sam was born in Lebanon, and raised in one of the Burroughs of NYC, though I am loath to admit I don’t recall which.
NY Sam was as Arab-looking as they come, and ripped like crazy as physiques go for intel weenies. I’ll venture to say that NY Sam got rudimentary respect just for that reason from the pipe-hitters. That and the fact that he was smart as hell and didn’t take crap at any level. And then there was his thicker-than-thick New York accent that served to intimidate somewhat.
The intel briefs were really such a wash; the noise was so, so, so overwhelming. Just outside on the tarmac were American C5A heavy transports aircraft, Russian Antonov heavy transports, C-130 Combat Talons, and AC-130 Spectre gunships. None of them ever shut down their engines; they just screamed nonstop like banshees ALL THE TIME!
They were not allowed to shut down because of the threat of indirect fire from downtown metropolitan Mogadishu. The Skinnies routinely dropped mortars on us whenever they thought they had figured out how to aim their tubes; that is, without either moving them closer in or farther back to find their range. The transports landed, off-loaded, and flew away as fast as they could. Nobody wanted another Khe Sanh.
“We should fuck with them and keep moving the airport back and forth,” suggested Samuel Booth Foster from my own five-man assault team that only ever had four men.
Chill-D just blinked at Samuel, thinking him to be a miscreant for suggesting that one could indeed move an entire airport back and forth just to confuse some Somali gunners. He only thanked his lucky stars that he had NOT been born with the same mental deficit that Samuel Foster had.
“A four-man assault team was better than five men anyway…” Sam had once postulated, “…we won’t be stuck with that awkward odd-man-out when it comes to ballroom dancing.”
“Yeah but… when the hell are we ever going to do that???” Chill-D asked in a grating tone. Chill-D was a top-shelf operator, he just didn’t process some humor or rhetoric well.
Ah, and then there was omnipresent whopping of the MH-60 Blackhawk rotor blades that wore me out the most. They were alert birds with engines always running ready to lift off with a band of intensely pissed-off pipe-hitters as soon as our counter-battery radar backtraced the trajectory of the latest mortar round. They were armed with the basis of some stellar ROE: “Kick ass — repeat!”
All of those noise contributions made New York Sam nearly impossible to hear/understand. Everyone in the room kept eyes locked on NY Sam’s screaming mouth to try to collect some vestige of lip-reading intelligence to supplement their pallid audio input. It was easy to drift off on a daydream until perked up by something NY Sam said.
“Did I hear NY Sam right? Did he mention Haiti in there just now?”
“Yeah… he’s been mentioning Haiti for two days now, asshole!”
“Woah, woah, woah… one war at a time! We’re not finished with this Somalia war — can we please finish our Somalia war before we move onto the Haiti war?”
Well, business was booming was all I could think of. The prospect of flying direct to Haiti from Somalia was pretty real. In fact, our intel messages from New York Sam had drifted completely away from anything about Somalia at all to favoring Haiti. We had gone from an effort to capture Muhammad Aideed, to screw “Aideed we just want our pilot Michael Durant back.” Now that we had Mike back there was really no further interest in the shit hole that was Mogadishu.
“Skinnies are Skinnies,” Samuel Foster remarked every time I lamented the operations’ tempo. I got that; he was saying that target profiles from Somalia to Haiti were essentially the same. To a guy like me, his remark was shocking in the manner that it dehumanized the persons we were targeting. To a sociopath like Sam Foster, it was just a business model.
Don’t get me wrong… not all sociopaths are sadistic serial killers; in fact, I envied not being a sociopath in Delta. How pleasant would it be to eliminate all my internal human struggles and be able to pop a person in the head or pop a zit with equal priority and absence of emotional baggage! I recognized, thoroughly devoid of any pretense, that Samuel Foster was the better man for Delta than I: he was a man with absolutely zero fear or compunction.
New York Sam was damned-near exhausted when he was finished with the day’s intel shout. He just retired to his plywood intel shop to sip soothing liquids for the remainder of the day. Us pipe-slingers bellied up to planning tables and cobbled together outrageous spitballs and what-ifs for the afternoon. It was a thing we were inclined to do where there were such cavernous gaps in the intelligence preparation of the battlespace (IPB).
“There’s nothing to do, but we’re going to do something anyway,” remarked my Troop Sergeant (dare I introduce yet another to the narrative) Sam J., who just went by his callsign “Slammer.” And could there be a more palpable coincidence in mentioning that Slammer was also from Lebanon and grew up in the States?
“I wonder if Slammer and New York Sam knew each other as babies in Lebanon,” Samuel Foster remarked once, a thing that Chill-D simply couldn’t process as you know:
“What are the FREAKING ODDS, Sam, that those two in an entire country could have known each other, and how well could they have known anyone being just little babies?!? Chill-D roared! Samuel just stared at him with a blank face, totally satisfied with the rile he had just provoked in Chill-D.
“We have an assignment finally,” Slammer began, (pointing to a structure on the Haiti map). “This warehouse has at least two armored fighting vehicles — likely three — maintained by forces loyal to François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. We are going to take them — best-case scenario — or take them out — worst case. We have to get in that warehouse undetected from an LCC (Last Covered and Concealed safe location) — ideas? Ok, ok… laugh it up guys; go ahead and get it alll out. When you’re done, I want ideas.
(laughter dies down giving way to awkward silence)
“Well, Geo speaks that chicken-scratching turd-fuck creole-pidgin-patois mumbo-jumbo language, doesn’t he? He can go in ahead of us and explain that we are a traveling remake of the Glenn Miller Jazz orchestra.”
“Ok, alright I said hold it down, guys… I MEAN IT, GODDAMNIT!!”
The room jerked to a halt; when Slammer got to his “Goddamnit phase” we knew the party was over and it was time to go to school. Slammer was not a swearing man but he could at least look like one when he got really steamed.
“Duuuuh… ummm… ( hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee…) guayabera shirts, Slammer.”
“Guayabera shirts, Slammer… they are those ugly, wispy, cotton, collard button-downs that nearly every man in the Caribbean wears — Cubans, Puerto Ricans… HAITIANS!”
Slammer looked at me blankly for what seemed like the longest-ass time, but sorted it out nicely:
“Ok, that’s at least a start. We do at a very minimum need to be able to pass a cursory glance inspection, so we need to sport the local garb — logistics will get on it.”
“They’re reasonable too, Slammer, at just about $17.00 per shirt. Some of them have four pockets on the front too, plus they are light and airy in tropical climates!”
“No shit, geo… no shit just $17.00 a shirt — really?”
Sam’s face — by the countenance it held — informed me the ice beneath my feet was thawing rapidly.
In the first afternoon we had figured out prime, second, and tertiary routes to and from the warehouse from our tentative LCCs. We had vehicle quantities, personnel loads by name, and some broad-brush actions on the assault objectives. Carl Gustaf 84mm Recoilless Rifles and thermite grenades-o-plenty were the star performers in our plans. I say, our plan was certainly to own them and turn them on Papa-Doc’s own boys, but if we couldn’t have them then nobody could, cuz we were just vindictive like that.
We even realized that our own terminal building at the Mogadishu airport mimicked the warehouse in Port au Prince, Haiti, where “our” armored vehicles were stationed. We used it to rehearse — minus the guayabera shirts — actions on the assault objective several times.
The last day of the last 0800 intel brief with New York Sam came. Slammer, Samuel, and I sat together waiting for it to begin as NY Sam glanced over his notes. Something was wrong; something just wasn’t quite right — something was drastically different. In fact, it was as quiet as a pin in there; you could hear a mouse drop. No howling jet engines, no jackhammering rotor whops-whops — nothing!
Operations in Mogadishu had come to an end, and we were merely transient baggage waiting to be hauled away. The transports were gone and the Hawks were silent. All that was left was New York Sam — the Lebanese, muscle-ripped, heavily accented by the Burroughs Sam. Satisfied with his scan of his notes he looked up at us and, heavily punctuated by his no-nonsense affect, he moved his mouth in the usual screaming fashion… but made no sound!
…and the room howled with laughter.
By Almighty God and with honor,