Pest control - Southern style
(October 15, 2024) The final mission brief went quickly. It covered the positions for everyone and their scheme of maneuver once they hit the area of operations and the objective.
Takeoff was at 2030 local time for both aircraft. The speed of the Dragonfly let them and the MC-130J fly together as a section. Their course was flying toward the objective as direct as possible, the Air Force plane leading the way low over the water, the S-97 Raider trailing behind either of the fuel hoses streaming from the refueling pods on the cargo plane. Weather over the center of the Caribbean Sea started getting less than marginal, becoming worse as they crept closer to the target.
“LoneStar, Dragonfly, we’d like to hang on the hose as long as possible in case we have to breakup,” was the call from Wingnut to the tanker crew. In case they had to split up the flight, proceeding as a single aircraft, the Dogs’ pilot wanted as much fuel as possible to ensure they had either their max range or loiter time available.
“Roger, Dragonfly, you’re cleared either hose whenever you like. Fuel will be on,” came the reply.
Wingnut got behind the left hose of the tanker, remaining in the pre-contact position, then refueling all the way to full whenever they went down by one-quarter of a tank. Having a full bag of gas would allow them to at least get to their alternate rendezvous point or to one of the CIA airfield diverts in the area. Since the CIA didn’t even know they were in the area, they wanted to avoid that if possible.
The cloud level was consistent at one thousand five hundred feet above the ground, giving both aircraft room to maneuver, but the torrential downpour and lightning made for a brilliant light show on the aircrew’s NVGs. Even though there was a two-thirds moon in the sky, it was blocked by the rain and storm clouds, making it as dark as a moonless night. Some light was reflected off the clouds from cities and villages along the coast, but the intent was to avoid these populated areas as much as possible.
Approaching the Panama-Colombia border, the two aircraft broke away from each other once the rotorcraft was topped off with fuel. Wingnut turned due south to head down the Colombian countryside. Houston and his crew continued southwest, directly over the border of the two countries to the designated loiter area west of the objective over the Pacific Ocean. They would remain twelve miles off the coast, in International waters, trying to keep as much plausible deniability as they could, relying heavily on Brain to do her magic back at the Kennel.
The Dragonfly rolled up a valley, staying west of Route 62, a main road from the northern coast to Medellin. It was slow going as Wingnut and Colonel Warr had to dodge rain squalls, as well as avoiding flying into the terrain, as they pressed inbound. What should have taken thirty-five minutes ended up just shy of an hour. They had used satellite imagery back at the Kennel to find a place to set the helo down on a sand bar in the Rio Penderisco about a mile from the objective area. They had both primary and alternate sites picked out, but as it turned out the first site they approached was suitable. The hard-packed dirt and grass provided just enough firmness to keep the small helicopter from sinking into the terrain. Rotor noise-dampening attachments, designed by Brain, and the natural terrain allowed the Dragonfly to get that close. The clamor of the thunderstorm didn’t hurt either. Once on the deck, Wingnut brought the rotors and engines back to ground idle, then off. He kept switches and levers in a ‘hot’ position though. They wanted to be prepared for a quick getaway in case there were more sentries patrolling than they had anticipated.
“Have I mentioned how much I hate getting wet?” Breeze complained as the team disembarked, making their way riverside. Having grown up a city boy, he wasn’t a fan of the water, but had conquered any fear he’d had in order to become a better operator.
“What’s a matter, Breeze, you leave your arm floaties back at the Kennel?” was the response by the normally quiet Sandman.
“Whoa! Dude! Who are you and what have you done with our sniper?” Breeze retorted, saying what everyone else was thinking.
“Just working on the routine in case this covert action gig doesn’t work out,” the sniper fired back. Even though it was dark outside, they could all see Sandman’s millimeter smile creep across his face.
Breeze continued his diatribe, lamenting his disdain about slipping into the murky water. “Let’s not forget all the fucking creepy crawlies. You know what kind of critters are just waiting to bite you, stab you, or stick you in this water? Adding insult to injury, who knows what kind of shit, and that may be very literal, has been poured into this water? I’m trying not to hurl just thinking about it.”
“Okay, comedians, time to get wet. Wetter,” Colonel Warr chided. He’d gotten out of the comfortable confines of the cockpit to see his team off. The rain had already soaked everyone to the bone so going into the river wasn’t going to do much more to them as far as a good soaking. “Remember, you signed up for this.” The colonel stated, gazing directly at his disgruntled soldier.
“I’m seriously thinking I should have my head examined when I get back to the Kennel,” Breeze muttered. Truth be told, he, like any good military member, knew exactly what he had signed up for, but couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to complain about it.
One by one, they slipped into the murky waters of the Rio Penderisco. The devices they used for their transit down the river resembled paddleboards used by children learning to swim. They were, however, a bit more technologically advanced than your plain old paddleboard. Each apparatus was comprised of a fiberglass shell housing an electric impulse motor capable of propelling a two-hundred-pound man at two knots for over two hours. This was owing to the Brain-designed battery that, like their TacTabs, seemed to take forever before losing their charge. The electric motor made for an extremely quiet means of propulsion. A mount on the rear of the board allowed for the installation of each member’s TacTab. This afforded the sled the capability of GPS location and routing with all its communication functionality available while transiting through the water.
Quietly slipping their way upriver, the team looked like a parade of alligators with just their heads peeking above the surface. They maintained thirty to fifty yards between each other to keep from being too conspicuous. There weren’t alligators in this river and logs didn’t float upstream. Their swim goggles and NVGs allowing them to keep each other in sight while being partially submerged.
The smallest and least likely to draw attention, Rat came ashore first. He floated over to the muddy bank of the river four hundred yards from the edge of the factory complex, secured his sled under an overhanging group of trees, then slithered his way up the mild slope. Under the concealment of the foliage, he scoured the soggy landscape for any undesired interlopers, or anything else that might compromise the rest of the Dogs as they made their way ashore.
Breeze came next, the look on his face one of pure disgust and revulsion. Given a choice, he preferred jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft, hanging in his parachute on the way to the ground, over anything resembling waterborne operations. Stowing his sled in the same position marked on the TacTab by Rat, he joined his infiltration teammate at his initial position. After rendezvousing with Rat, Breeze couldn’t resist griping some more about getting wet.
“A snake! I think I saw a fucking snake following me in the water,” he whispered. “I hate this place already and we just got here.” he continued.
Rat rolled his eyes. Breeze knew they were all miserable, none of them liked the inclement weather, but it came with the territory. As glamorous and special as Special Forces were, this was the opposite end of that spectrum where the true mettle of an operator was tested. That waterlogged pair turned southeast, clearing their path one last time before stepping off.
“Razor Lead is feet dry. Calling Budweiser,” Breeze radioed, signaling everyone on the mission common frequency that he and Rat were starting their trek inland.
A double-click on the radio by Colonel Warr let the team and the monitors back at headquarters know the message was received. Back at the Kennel, Brain was doing her best keeping an eye out for undesirable characters with the satellite view she had, but the trees and weather weren’t helping her at all. Her crippled surveillance attempts, were frustrating her to no end.
Brick was the third fighter to go feet dry. Making his way inland a few yards, he waited for his partner, Maxxum. It was rare for the large heavy-weapons expert to carry a smaller caliber weapon. He had opted for the 5.56mm M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). It was tempting to carry a G28 like the rest, but he felt it was his responsibility for a heavy volume of fire if necessary. The Dragonfly was a smaller aircraft than the Cerberus AV-22s, so weight and space savings were at a premium. Maxxum was working his way up to Brick when lightning revealed a silhouette in front of the big man. It wasn’t Brick. He was still several yards ahead, while the other two Dogs already ashore were making their way over to the outbuildings . Oh shit, thought Maxxum, freezing in his tracks.