The Amazing Utility of Facebook
Night in the Mojave requires layering. This becomes extremely important when movement stops. Inserting with the always excellent assistance from the Nightstalkers south of ludlow, a tiny way-station along I-40 in the Mojave Desert. The Stalkers left us in the low foothills along Bagdad Chase road and we walked towards the lights. Zero Dark Thirty looks like this no matter where you are. Cold, lonely, and usually filled with things to stumble over in the dark. Thank goodness for night vision.
NSA intercepted telephone communications which placed nameless faceless terrorists approaching Ludlow from the east. The scenario of Jihadi’s inserting along the U.S. Mexico border – anticipated for years – was now so commonplace Special Activities Division and SoCom assigned a team permanently to the southwest region. So here we are, humping into an afterthought of a place to live to intercept professional “haters” somewhere far from civilization. The thought being that out here, there would be minimal collateral damage.
My name is Captain Terry Gentry, on loan from Seal Team Four. our SOG connection, Master Gunny Devin O’Kirk walked next to me listening to the Commando Solo ELINT Aircraft keeping us updated on the progress the targets were making traveling west on I-40. Quietly pacing measured steps behind Gunny O’Kirk was Sergeant Enrique Llona Falconi. Enrique scared Terry sometimes, but was Devin’s favorite. Born of Ecuadorian ex-patriots living in Fresno California, Enrique served as their point man and navigator. Enrique’s favorite movie was the Adam Sandler version of the classic film Mr. Deeds. Everyone on the team felt that it was spookily appropriate that his favorite character was John Turturro’s character Emilio Lopez. After all he could recite almost all of his lines. But, by far his best imitation was his ability to sneak up on you like Emilio did in the movie. One moment you were alone, the next, there was Enrique, smiling at you saying, “I fear you are underestimating the sneakiness, sir!” It was unanimous that Enrique be point man.
Corporal Sammy Samson – Comms Tech – carrying the team’s iPad and signals jamming equipment, and Staff Sergeant Haliburton James – Burt – team sniper filling in behind made up the rest of the team. Burt standing a full six foot seven, cradling his Socom PSR with TrackingPoint scope, reminded Terry of a very mean Blake Griffin. Sammy didn’t remind Terry of anyone. Sammy was the ghost of the group. Urban ops especially. Sammy looked so generic, Terry swore he could stand in a store window and mimic a manikin and spend all day without being discovered.
Tonight promised to be an interesting exercise in communications cooperation between SOAR, NSA, and the team. As controversial as the news was making it, the communications intercepts value had proven themselves at an increasing rate the more illegal immigrants infiltrated into the desert southwest. Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Southern California were rapidly becoming one gigantic – and deadly – hide and seek playground. So the intercepts rivaled gold in value…in Terry’s opinion. So tonight the relay looked like this; NSA relaying to the Solo, then downlinking to Samson and Gunny O’Kirk. The trick would be getting into Ludlow before the bad guys.
Driving all night from Texas is not an easy task. But, driving at night can make it easier. Less traffic and cooler temperatures. Jim Thibodeau and his daughter Wendy O’Neil – a little road weary – anticipating stopping for sleep in Barstow, pulled into Ludlow looking for gas. The map showed both a Chevron and the Ludlow 76. Hopefully, one of them would be open at close to 1AM. The Advocare convention still fresh in their minds, had occupied much of the conversation since leaving Texas. Jim’s weight loss fired up the enthusiasm in his retired years as well as his daughters incredible energy propelling the entire trip.
Jim faced a little bit of a dilemma with his weight loss. Really it came down to realistic priorities. This thought always caused Jim to chuckle. Jim looked in the rearview mirror to see a thinning mirror image of Santa Claus. A graduate of the International School of Santa’s, his Santa pictures reflected the spirit of Norman Rockwell’s picture of the Jolly One. Never was there a better Santa. But, now health dictated weight loss and daughter Wendy turned dad onto Advocare. The weight fell off quickly and Jim became a disciple.
Wendy, a devoted follower of Jesus and missionary to Ireland, formed the other half of her husband Erin and together they had built a joyful family. Erin and Wendy, both dark haired and handsome young adults looked Irish and had the name to prove it. Their love for the island tinged all of their thoughts of eventually returning to pick up their ministry work. But, this week was father daughter. Wendy, very tired from a days worth of driving urgently looked forward to the gas station’s restroom. It would be her turn to drive the rest of the way into Barstow – hopefully they could find a room.
“There’s the Gas Station Wendy.” Jim sighed with his own sense of relief coming through. “You go while I fill up. Then I will go. You want anything from the Mini-Mart?”
“No Dad, I just want to get going? We still have some of the Gorp if I get hungry I will munch on that.” Wendy yawned.
“Ok.” Jim yawned back. “You sure you don’t want some coffee or something?”
Wendy just stretched, pushing her hands against the ceiling of the car. “Nah, I’m good. I just gotta use the restroom really bad.”
Jim just smiled and pulled into the station, the only car at the pumps.
Wendy, quickly sprinted to the restroom as Jim ran the credit card through the card reader and began to pump gas.
“Weasle One, target leaving I-40.” Squawked the voice in Gunny O’Kirk’s ear piece. “Looks like they are heading for the Chevron Station there on the corner.”
“Roger Stryper One.” Devin replied. “We can see them coming down Cucero. We are in position. There is one other vehicle in the station. Looks like a man and a woman. Is this a go. Potential collateral damage situation here.”
“Wait one Weasle.” came the answer.
The team, hidden in the trees and in the outbuildings across the street at the closed Ludlow Cafe, watched as the target van pulled up to the pumps next to the other vehicle. Terry glanced over at Devin as if to convey his nervousness with the situation.
“Weasle One, Stryper One. Over” The anticipated answer came through the cold desert air. “Prosecute, take down. Capture if you can. But, do not take chances. Targets are considered armed with AK’s and RPG’s.”
Terry and Devin, just motioned go to the team. Shadows separated themselves from the desert flora and converged on the gas station. Terry tapped Burt on the shoulder and the PSR coughed a suppressed bolt of metallic phlegm, into the engine block of the van, disabling it. Gunny O’Kirk sprinted from the back of the Cafe across the street, him M-4 leading the way. Samson and Enrique, advanced from the eastern corner of the intersection from their hide in a stand of trees. Speed and extreme surprising violence would be the key to this take down.
Standing in the cold night air helped clear Jim’s foggy mind. Even here under the lights of the gas station, “I can see so many stars! So amazing what God has made. Just think, there are more stars out there than there are grains of sand in the ocean! If that doesn’t blow your mind nothing will.”
The nozzle on the hose of the pump Jim had ended up with didn’t have a clip to hold the nozzle. So Jim had to stand there holding the nozzle as it filled the tank. The annoyance not enough to interrupt the rapture of the stars Jim held onto. But, standing there he noticed classic white dodge van pull in across the pump island from him. It was being driven by hispanic farm workers, it seemed. But, then Jim noticed the men beginning to file out of the van. They looked different. They looked middle eastern.
Jim heard an extremely loud noise come from the van. As if someone had hit the van with a sledgehammer. Things began to move in slow motion from that point. Jim noticed the guns coming out of the van. Those were AK-47’s. He had seen enough movies to recognize their distinctive shape. Standing there holding onto the nozzle Jim saw three of the men drop immediately, blood spurting from multiple gunshot wounds. But, there was no noise. Until, one of the middle easterners managed to get his gun firing. That was when Jim noticed the men running from across the street. Obviously, American special forces warriors, they were firing as they advanced. The difference between the middle easterner firing his AK randomly in desperation and the fast and silent professionalism of the operators readily apparent as Jim’s mind took the entire scene in.
Then one of the middle easterners ran around the front of the van and firing to east towards the two operators maneuvering past a row of short ornamental trees, was backing down towards Jim. And, Jim could see that the operators were not firing, because of Jim standing there.
So Jim took the nozzle out of the car’s fuel intake and smashed the middle easterner in the head gas spewing all over the side of the car and over the now unconscious jihadi. And, as quick as it started the fight was over. Out of six jihadi’s, four died, one was wounded by a carefully placed round from Gunny O’Kirk and the last concussed by Jim “Santa Claus” Thibodeau was alive and being carried to a Black Hawk Helicopter in the middle of the intersection.
Wendy opened the door from the restroom to see her father standing with a group of soldiers who seemed to be clapping him on the back like old friends.
“Dad, what’s going on?” Wendy asked.
Jim just turned to his daughter and smiled.
“It’s a guy thing Wendy. Just a guy thing.”
The Team looked at the puzzled look on Wendy’s face and laughed. The tension of another successful operation draining off with the implausible ending to the night.
Jim and Wendy talked well into the night.