Read an Excerpt
One Perfect Op
Speeding across a dark ocean, rain squalls coming and going and the wind in our faces, I had no way of knowing that I was now on my last combat operation, but if I had known, I couldn't have chosen a better crew to be with than the Teammates I had trained alongside for years.
The mission was to rescue an American citizen -- an eighteen-month old baby -- and her family from an unfriendly shore. Two black rubber boats were speeding away from a darkened U.S. Navy warship, each boat full of SEALs (Sea, Air, Land) determined to see the operation through.
We had 55-horsepower outboard engines on our Zodiac F-470 boats. With the weight and space factor tight, we had to consider limiting our extras, so we had only two 35-horsepower outboards as spares. A full crew was on each of the boats, and we had to save room for the cargo we were on our way to pick up.
Each SEAL going in with the landing party was armed with a full loadout. I was geared up for a water op, just like everyone else. Wearing my “Farmer John's” wet suit would give me some additional buoyancy. Around my neck I had an inflatable UDT (Underwater Demolitions Team) buoyance vest in case I needed a little extra flotation. And I wasn't running too light in case it came to a fight. My M4 carbine was loaded with twenty-eight rounds in its magazine, each third round a tracer. The last five rounds in the magazine were all tracers, to warn me that it was time to reload. The nine other magazines I had in three pouchesat my waist were all loaded the same way. That gave me 280 rounds of 5.56mm killers to depend on.
If I had to dump the M4 and switch to my secondary weapon, I would be well served by my SIG P226 loaded with a full fifteen-round magazine of hot copper-jacketed serrated 9mm hollowpoints. The other four P226 magazines I carried in two separate pouches gave me seventy-five rounds for my pistol alone. Finally, I had my Glock knife at my right hip with a Mark 13 day /night signal flare taped to its scabbard. Hanging around my neck on a line was a set of Cyclops night vision goggles, a binocular NVG with a single tube that would magnify the available starlight 50,000 times. The goggles would make all of thedark surrounding area visible in a green-tinted light.
But it was across my chest that I carried my most important piece of equipment: the black-painted, fully padded baby carrier that I had carried my own baby daughter in. Tied to the carrier, sterilized and sealed in a plastic bag, was a baby's pacifier, an incongruous item among all my lethal hardware.
The boat's crew were all SEALs who had trained for hours to navigate their craft across a dark sea just like the one we were traveling on now. Vectoring in on calculated points, the coxswains for the craft were steering us over ten miles of open water to our target, a small chunk of beach in a big ocean. On that beach would be the target family and some friendlies. Those friendlies would be the only allies that family would have immediately at hand. Other than that, the area was full of armed people who did not want to see that family escape.
We had a very tight timeline. If we were late or missed the target, at best the operation would be scrubbed, at worst the people we were going in to get would be caught and imprisoned. About three hours had been planned for transit to the beach and locating our target. A three-hour tour, only there wasn't any Gilligan on this boat ride, and Mary Ann and Ginger weren't waiting for us at the other end.
That was a lot to think about, but dwelling on the could-bes would take my mind away from the task at hand. Even while bouncing across the waves, licking the salt spray from my lips, I had to concentrate on what was ahead.
It was a warm moonless night and the sky was overcast. The clouds would help to conceal us. When a small storm came up, the little bit of rain that came down would also help reduce the chance of any idle late-night strollers on our target beach. If we were really lucky, the rain might also hold down any local patrols. Continuing on, we rode the high tide along our plotted course line.
The smells in the air were mostly of the ocean, and just starting to come up was the smell of civilization. Our target was only some five miles away from a built-up area, not much more than hooches and huts along with a lot of vegetation. We knew we were headed in the right direction when the sky shine of a small town was visible in our NVGs, along with the outline of hills in the distance.
We hit our first vector point on schedule and turned to aim for the next one: a buoy inside a harbor that was anything but friendly. From that buoy, we would make a straight shot to the target beach. So with everything riding on our tight schedule, it was time for Mr. Murphy to show up and humble us a bit with one of his laws: If anything can go wrong, it will, and at the worst possible time.
Our boat's outboard decided it had been working hard enough. The slight phosphorescent bow wave the boat had been pushing up sagged and faded as our engine sputtered and died. Our coxswain and the rest of the boat crew immediately set to work to repair the engine and get it...One Perfect Op. Copyright © by Dennis Chalker. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.