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Seals the Warrior Breed: Marks of Valor
By H. Riker
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 H. Riker
All right reserved.
Monday, 30 June 1969
Cai Song Valley
Khanh Hoa Province
It was raining, a wet, heavy drizzle that had been continuing for the better part of a month, ever since the heavy storms that marked the beginning of the monsoon season in May. The Wheel gave the silent signal, and ET3 Greg Halstead slipped noiselessly over the low, portside gunwale of the LSSC, entering the SEAL support craft's wake with scarcely a splash to mark his entry. The water was mud-thick and warm, the night a moonless, overcast darkness so black he could scarcely see the gray hull of the boat as it motored on upstream, leaving him behind. Greg let himself crouch as the wake lapped past him; the river was only about four feet deep here, with a soft and muddy bottom. As the night and rain swallowed the boat upstream, he began to move.
There are many ways to insert a direct action team deep inside enemy territory, and the SEALs had utilized most of them at one time or another during their service in the Republic of Vietnam. So far as Greg knew, none of the SEALs in the Nam had taken advantage of their parachute training yet, but, truth to tell, there simply weren't that many opportunities to use chutes in the tangled, often swampy,sometimes mountainous, occasionally rice paddy-muddy, frequently heavily forested terrain that made up most of the country. He hadn't done a combat insertion by SDV, either, though he'd worked with the SEAL wet-compartment minisubs several times in training. Vietnam's muddy, twisting, and mostly shallow rivers didn't lend themselves to submarine insertions, though rumors abounded about secret ops off the coast of North Vietnam.
Someday, maybe. . .
Haistead had done most of the rest though, from helocasting -- a moderately insane leap from a helicopter flying just above the water -- to various types of helo and boat deployments, to the relatively new "parakeet op" that was just now beginning to come into widespread use with the Teams. A parakeet op, generally used to kidnap high-ranking members of the local Communist infrastructure, was not his favorite modus operandi, despite the method's success rate so far. There was something so...so public about inserting by helicopter into the middle of an unsecured village in broad daylight, grabbing your mark, and hauling tail for the jungle while support helos moved in to cover your ass. It didn't seem to go with the SEALs' usual covert mode, slipping silently through water, mud, and darkness.
He preferred boat insertions. Like this one.
The LSSC, or Light SEAL Support Craft, had already made several rather noisy stops along the Cal Song River, diversions, all of them. There was no easy way to hide the boat's presence on this river flowing through the Cal Valley-a region almost totally given over to NVA and VC regional units operating northwest of Nha Trang. The only way to confuse the enemy watchers out there in the forest was to make several fake insertions...with the SEALs slipping off the boat quietly while it was moving from one decoy insert to the next.
Carefully, Greg began moving toward the shoreline that had been to starboard of the LSSC as they'd moved upstream, his weapon -- a 5.56mm Stoner Commando -- held above his head to keep it out of the mud. He couldn't see the shore, but he could smell it, a pungent mix of earth, rot, and fungus stirred by the incessant rain. With each step, his bare feet sank calf-deep into the yielding bottom. He'd slung his shoes -- lightweight coral shoes dyed black -- around his neck so that the mud wouldn't suck them from his feet.
Once he reached the riverbank, he paused again, crouching in the water while he listened carefully. The raucous keek-keek-keek of insects and small amphibians filled the night uninterrupted. The absence of man-made sounds, as well as the presence of the natural ones, was at once reassuring and a source of pride. Nearby, four other men were moving through the water and darkness, but Greg could detect no trace of their presence.
He crawled ashore, dripping and stinking of river mud, careful to keep his Stoner clear of the muck. Checking his weapon was the first thing he did on shore; second was rinsing his feet and slipping his coral shoes on.
Movement parted reeds and palm fronds to his left. Two quick finger snaps sounded, just audible above the pattering rain.
Greg clicked his fingers twice, then twice again. A face -- a sheer nightmare in green and black beneath a pirate's olive drab bandanna stretched tight over the skull -- appeared among the reeds. The mustache alone, longer than Navy regulations allowed, with the corners drooping past the ends of the paint-smeared mouth, identified the face as that of Richard Rodriguez, "Bandit" to the other SEALs of Delta Platoon. Bandit reached out and lightly grabbed Greg's shoulder, a silent Hey, man! Good to see you! Greg returned the gesture. He was very glad to see Bandit's heavily painted face. It would be all too easy to lose half the squad in the darkness.
Delta Platoon, SEAL Team One, had been operating out of Cam Ranh Bay on the South China Sea coast of South Vietnam for five months now, and they were tight, tight as only such combat-forged fraternities as the U.S. Navy SEALs could be, tight enough to damn near read each other's thoughts as they assembled in the darkness. One by one, the other SEALs gathered on the riverbank, each announcing his presence with a pair of finger snaps. There were five altogether, a short squad. Communicating entirely by hand gestures, they formed into a line and began moving silently inland.
Normally, they would have spaced themselves out more, but in the near-pitch darkness, each SEAL stayed close enough to the next man ahead that he could still make out his shape, a slightly lighter blob of darkness against the blackof the forest. . . .
Excerpted from Seals the Warrior Breed: Marks of Valor by H. Riker Copyright © 2006 by H. Riker. Excerpted by permission.
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