The 160th Aviation Regiment, better known as the Night Stalkers was flying a crew of special operators into the desert behind the Iraqi Tawakalna Division. That was prior to the Desert Storm battle which would eventually become known as 73 Easting.
We were the taxi service for the spooks because our HH53B Pave Lows were more-or-less invisible at night. They also mounted M134-D miniguns whose depleted uranium rounds could deal out serious hurt if challenged. As we began the descent into the desert I was a twenty one year old crew chief and door gunner, nearing the end of his first hitch.
I was strapped into the gunner’s position wearing all of the night vision technology that was available in 1992 and peering out onto the desert floor looking for bad guys. The problem is that deserts are not flat. They look like frozen oceans and there were a million waves out there, any one of which could be hiding evil doers under the crest.
The Warrant Officer who was steering the aircraft came in to hover at 12 feet so that the operators could jump the rest of the way onto the downslope of the dune. Then we planned to get the fuck out of there because a hovering helicopter is a sitting duck. As the last of our operators dropped, we discovered to our chagrin that we were dropping them about 70 yards from the most surprised group of Tangos in the entire Republican Guard.
They had heard all of the noise but they couldn’t see the Pave Low in the dark. Our guys had night vision so they saw them as soon as they hit and rolled and they proceeded to open fire with everything they had. The problem was that they were outnumbered 20 to 1 and given the sheer weight of numbers their prospects for continued survival were not looking very positive.
I expended the entire belt of my Gatling in 10 six second bursts. The 7.62mm bullets kicked up a storm of sand as they walked through the ranks of the Iraqis, who were starting to deploy behind an old Soviet BTR-60 armored personnel carrier. Given the M-124’s 2,000 rounds per minute rate of fire, my tracers must have looked like I was using a ray-gun.
The BTR then blew up cutting the odds down to about 8 to 1. I was frantically re-belting when somebody on their side got our starboard engine with an RPG. The helicopter began to violently rock and auto-rotate. In the meantime I had finally reloaded and gone back to providing the firepower that the operators needed to chase the rest of the Iraqis off.
Of course in order to do that I had to continue to man my position and I rode that doomed bird into the ground, firing all the way. The resulting crash was a seriously painful experience. I was ejected and rolled down the face of the dune at thirty miles an hour, just as the upper bulkhead of the helicopter crashed down on me.
Somehow the flailing rotor missed me. My body armor and the helmet and the full face mask I was wearing saved my life but I was in very bad shape. The special operators patched me up as best they could and then carried me and the body of the pilot out after they had finished their mission. The mission was to paint an Iraqi command and control center for two JDAMS that were probably dropped from 40,000 feet. Breathing was a real problem for me due to the broken ribs but I still remember the “end of the world” roar of four tons of high explosive arriving from out of nowhere.
Malcolm was the one who put me in for the Silver Star. He was a very tough, do-it-all kind of Brit who was clearly not in OUR military. In fact it was never clear to me what he was doing leading a Delta team. I just assumed that he worked for a little “Company” that is still based in Langley Virginia. They all knew that it was the fact that I had stuck by my gun that had saved them from the indescribable experience of sharing Saddam’s hospitality.
Mal in particular was grateful. He visited me a lot when I was in the hospital and we struck up a friendship that was one of the few close relationships I have ever had with anybody. I am a very private person. Janey says I am just shy. But I really think it has more to do with my general attitude toward the human race. In my experience most of the people I have known will sell anybody out for the legendary 17 pieces of silver and I just can’t tolerate that.
Mal was different. He was what we men call a “solid, standup guy.” You could trust him at his word and he never let me down. He was the jaunty kind of devil-may-care, damn-your-eyes sort of fellow that the Brits have relied on for the past 400 years to ensure that “the sun never sets.” He was ten years older than me, handsome to a fault in that classic Oxbridge sort of way and to top it off I had heard that he was also a genuine English Lord.
The fact that a guy with all of that breeding and culture was willing to spend any time with a kid from the Duluth docks was very special to me and frankly there was a lot of hero worship going on, even though I was the one who got the medal.
Northern Minnesota is not the kind of place that lends itself to easy living and my dad was a very hard man. My mom had died some time so far in the dim past that I couldn’t remember what she looked like.
The family lore had it that it was a car crash that killed her. But it could have just as easily been a moose stampede for all that anybody knew, or cared.
I was raised by various relatives and learned very quickly that the only person who I could trust was me.
My old man was a tough bar fighting, whore fucking individual who was drunk more than he was sober. Yet he never missed a day of work on the ore ships. His lifestyle finally caught up with him when he picked a fight with the wrong person in a bar and the guy shot him on my eighth birthday.
I was raised after that by his sister who considered me a “burden placed on her by a vengeful God.” Needless to say the word “love” was an abstract to me. I didn’t experience it growing up and definitely didn’t feel it.
Some people remember their teenage years as a time of football games and proms. I worked the taconite ore loading docks from the time I was eight, running errands for the men and bringing them things.
Eventually I worked my way into a loader’s assistant job at 13, shoveling stray pellets of low grade iron ore back on the conveyer belts.
The pay was man’s pay, 14 dollars an hour and I worked weekends and any time after school since the ore freighters were pretty-much a 24 hour operation.
Some of the money went to the old man’s family but most of it went into a special account that I had set up for myself.
I really didn’t miss the high school social life. For guys, most of that time is spent either proving your manhood or trying to get laid.
Working a ten hour shift on an ore freighter shoveling iron pellets did wonders for my physique and one of my older cousins took my cherry when I was 13.
Plus, there were plenty of low class slutty girls hanging around the bars that my friends from the ore ships liked to sneak me into. A “precocious” teenager who was as strong as me was like catnip to all of them.
So the getting laid part was just a matter of finding the time between work and school.
I joined the Army the day I turned 18. The transition into the military is hard for a lot of kids but for me it was the first time I felt a part of something. The food was regular and there was daily comradeship. And I threw myself into Basic the way Janey did dance. It was a passion and a dedication and as a result I was first in everything.
With my ASVAB scores and my performance in Basic, I had the option of any MOS when I was assigned. But mechanics interested me the most and helicopters seemed like the future. So I did the entire 15u program.
Frankly, the discipline that it took for a 21 year old to keep something as complex as a Sikorsky 53H flying, was the introduction to manhood that my old man had missed giving me.
I was never lonely in the Army. My friends and I worked together as a team and we played together like a pack of young wolves. The drinking and fucking part is just what all boys that age do.
This might give away some of our male secrets but nobody in that particular age group is thinking, “I desperately need to find the girl who I can settle down with and raise children.”
That’s what they might tell some susceptible girl in order to nail down a reliable supply of pussy, or get their rocks off in a one night stand. But mainly they just want to brag to their friends that they fucked Sally. The subtext being, “Who you weren’t man enough to convince to open her legs.”
Romance, or any kind of emotion except horniness, rarely plays a part in the calculation when teenage boy sex happens. I realize that that may make guys sound a little simple minded. But the fact that something like the same concept was running through the minds of the female population only made the sex at that age even more meaningless.
For several years Malcolm and I had a running contest every time our leaves coincided. We would pick up any number of girls in whatever off-base, honkey-tonk we happened to be frequenting and party until we passed out. The aim was to fuck as many of those women as we could in that period and then compare scores.
Since we traded them with each other I realize that that sounds both risky, and maybe even gay as hell. But boys in their twenties are rarely deep philosophical thinkers, particularly if they are drunken soldiers on leave.
Obviously, it was important to me to keep that part of my past away from Janey, since I am pretty sure she would not like the person I used to be.
.... There is more of this story ...