Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fiction: Unwanted President. Chapter 23

SEAL Team 5

By Ed Rogers

SEAL Team 5 boarded the plane that would fly them to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. There they would undertake special training for a top-secret mission. The only thing the men knew for sure was it would more than likely be somewhere in the Middle East.
    Their Team leader was Lieutenant Mark Lowery, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The lieutenant had been in command of Team 5 for a little over a year, and most of that time was spent in Afghanistan and Iraq. The last six months of his tour had been in a hellhole of a combat zone in Afghanistan.
    His team had only been back in the States for eight days, and now they were going to be redeployed before their twenty days were up. He protested the new assignment, what with its coming so soon after their deployment in the mountains of Afghanistan – his men needed some time off. A man could burn out fast in those mountains. His concern for his men was noted, but it didn’t change the orders. He had wasted a day in DC trying to dissuade the commander of Special Ops. Now he had to catch up with his men at Fort Campbell.
    His team was short one man. Seaman Bobby Wise from Conyers, Texas had died in the mountains of Afghanistan. No big battle, no heroic deed – he had just stepped wrong and fallen over a cliff. He was someone’s son, and Lowery had to write the letter. The orders stated that all letters were to start out, “Your Son/Daughter was a Hero.” Yeah, a hero who walked off the side of a mountain, Lowery was thinking as he wrote the letter.
    They told Lowery that Wise’s replacement would meet him at Ft. Campbell. He didn’t like the idea of breaking in a new man in a combat situation. You needed to know the men in your team better than your own family. They were the only thing that stood between you and death. He wasn’t looking forward to going back into combat with a team that wasn’t at one hundred percent.
    The staff car picked Lowery up at the plane and drove him to a building with a sign over the door that read “HQ. Ops.” His team was standing around outside. The new man was very noticeable, standing off to one side and not talking to the other men. Lowery knew this would change. You couldn’t walk into a SEAL team and have them welcome you with open arms. Each man had to prove himself worthy of the team’s trust.
    As Lowery stepped from the car, Chief Jamieson called the men to attention.
    “At ease men,” Lowery said. He turned toward the new man.
    “Corporal Venice Zimmerman, reporting for duty, sir.”
    “At ease, Corporal, have you met the other men in the team? If not, you men get to know each other – we’ve got a job to do together.”
    “L-T,” Pvt. Berry moaned, “why is it always us? Hell, my kid didn’t even know who I was when I got home.”
    “That’s because he’s been calling Jodie Daddy for so long,” Pvt. Jakafe kidded.
    “Hang here,” Lowery said. “I’ll be back as soon as I find out where they’re bunking us down.” He turned and walked into the building.
    Lowery walked up to the desk were a sergeant first class was hard at work trying to type reports with two fingers. He waited for the sergeant to come to attention.
    Lowery waited a few seconds, then he cleared his throat, but the soldier never looked up. “Sergeant, is there some reason you don’t stand when an officer enters the room?”
    The sergeant looked up at the Navy lieutenant and said, “I don’t know how they do it in the Navy, sir, but in the Army, when a general says, ‘You don’t stop your work for anyone,’ I take that to mean Navy lieutenants as well as everyone else, sir.”
    Lowery could see that it was not going where he wanted it to go, so he just asked, “In that case, sergeant, can you take time out of your busy day to point me to the officer in charge?”
    The sergeant pointed toward a door, and said, “Captain Hicks’s office is right over there, sir.”
    “Thank you, sergeant,” Lowery said, and walked to the door and knocked.
    “Enter,” replied the voice from the other side of the door.
    Lowery stepped into the room and closed the door. Facing the captain, he stood at attention and said, “Lt. Mark Lowery of SEAL Team 5 reporting as ordered, sir.”
    “Stand at ease, lieutenant. Let’s see your orders.”
    The captain read the orders, and then returned them to Lowery. “Lieutenant, here is a number you are to call upon arrival. Use my phone and desk – I’ll be outside. Let me know when you’ve finished.”
    By the time Lowery got back to his men, a bus was waiting to carry them back to the airfield. It was a silent ride out to the plane. The silence was broken only by someone occasionally clearing his throat. Everybody but Corporal Venice Zimmerman had seen that look on their lieutenant before – it meant they were in deep shit.
    To keep busy and not have to answer questions from the men, Lowery began reviewing his men’s personal records. The very first one was his new man. Corporal Venice Zimmerman was a graduate of MIT, with an advanced degree in fiber-optic design. On September 12, 2001, one day after the Towers came down, Venice Zimmerman tried to join the Marines. Although he was starting his first year in college, even the Marines drew a line at letting fifteen-year-old kids join the Corps.
    One week after graduation from MIT, Venice was on his way to Marine boot camp. He finished his advanced training, and then he requested a transfer to the SEALs. Venice had not joined the Marines to sit on the sidelines. He knew if there was going to be any action, the SEALs would be right in the middle of the fight. He had a hard time making it through training, but the day he became a SEAL was the greatest day of his life. What Venice didn’t know was that there are many layers to any organization, and the Marine Corps was no exception.
    His commanding officer tried to get him to go to Officer Training School after SEAL Training School, but he turned him down – Venice wanted to see combat. Unfortunately for Venice, the Marines saw in Venice Zimmerman a commodity they were in short supply of – intellectual abilities bordering on genius. Instead of combat, Venice found himself in a lab at the University of Maryland, where he had been for the last two long years. Despite his ongoing requests for transfer to a combat unit, it looked like he would spend his four years right there in that lab.
    The day his orders came to report to SEAL Team 5, he requested the orders to be authenticated. He thought someone was playing a joke on him. It was no mistake; he was going to a combat unit.
    Lowery shook his head. What were they thinking sending a man like this into combat? My God, it was bad enough he’d never been shot at – he’d never been out of a lab.
    He smiled as he opened the next file.
    Chief Thomas Jamieson was a lifer. He had fifteen years in the Navy. Eleven of those fifteen years he had been a Navy SEAL. The Chief had been married twice, and after the second marriage failed, the SEALs became his family.
    SEAL Team 5 was just one more set of young men in a long line of young men the Chief had taken into combat. Some came back and some didn’t. The Chief took the loss of each man personally. It was his job to bring them home. He had a book where he kept the names of those he had lost. With the names were notes of how they died, and why they died. He reviewed his notes repeatedly looking for the mistake he made. The Chief knew he couldn’t save them all. Like Seaman Wise. There are some things a person can’t foresee. The notes were to make sure that those who could be saved were given that opportunity.
    Lowery knew the Chief looked upon him as one more chick he had to take care of, but Lowery didn’t mine. He was smart enough to defer to the Chief’s judgment when it came to the men. Lowery’s predecessor would still be alive if he had been as smart.
    Then Lowery opened his own file, which was not as big as the Chief’s.
    Lieutenant Mark Lowery graduated from the University of Alabama. He was in the Navy ROTC, where he showed great leadership abilities. Right after graduation, he went into the Navy as a lieutenant (junior grade). They gave him what they called a dream sheet. This was where you could write down your preferred assignments – it was not called a dream for no reason. However, the only thing Mark Lowery put on his list was to be assigned to Navy SEAL Training School. He got his assignment and graduated from SEAL Training School at the top of his class. He had bounced around from one SEAL team to the other, and after a year in combat, Lowery was given ST5. He and the Chief hit it off from day one and they worked well together. SEAL Team 5 had a reputation for getting the job done, no matter how hard or impossible it seemed.
    The loss of Seaman Wise was hard on the team. Up until Seaman Wise’s death, they thought the new lieutenant was their good luck charm and they had become indestructible. Now they knew they were not special, just lucky.
    In the dim light of the plane, Lowery looked around at the faces of his men and wondered who would be returning home sitting up and who would be coming back in a bag. There was something about the assignment that felt bad. He could tell the Chief was uneasy, and he didn’t even know what the assignment was.
    Lowery stood up and faced his men. “Get some sleep if you can. We are on our way back to Afghanistan, and it’s going to be a long flight. We will get new orders once we land. I can assure you that whatever the orders are, you will wish you had taken this time to sleep.”
    As Lowery sat down, he heard the groans and curses of his men and knew they had every right to be mad, but they would do their job. He also knew that none of them would be sleeping during this trip.

The plane banked hard and made a steep dive toward Kandahar Airport. The idea was to come in hot and fast, just in case someone might want to take a shot at you. A base had been built two miles away from the airport. The US had pulled out of Kabul and moved closer to their lifeline.
    As they disembarked, Pvt. Berry called out, “Guess what, the corporal here is a bloody genius. They didn’t send us a combat SEAL, they sent us a professor.” Never again would he be known as “Corporal Zimmerman.”
    SEAL Team 5 spent two weeks training in the mountains. The first week they took the Professor somewhere else while the team practiced digging holes all over the mountains of Afghanistan.
    The second week the Professor came back to the team and they added something new to their digging. Now they were burying cable at the bottom of the hole. Then they dug the hole again, and this time the Professor jumped in and cut the cable. After the Professor attached a black box to the cable, they buried it once more. Then the team humped ten miles to their pick-up point. Nothing to it, just a cake walk.
    So why did Lowery have such a foreboding feeling about this assignment?
[Editor’s Note: The novel from which this excerpt is taken can be ordered from Amazon, as either a paperback or a Kindle book.]

Copyright © 2017 by Ed Rogers

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