Read an Excerpt
By Bernard R. Cenney
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Bernard R. Cenney
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Perfect Life
It was six o'clock in the morning. Captain James Ross was extremely happy. He had just driven his 1968 Ford Mustang through the agonizing slowness of Broadway in Steilacoom. He was now putting it through its paces on the main drag leading to north Fort Lewis. The car was barely holding on to its lime gold original paint. It only had a six cylinder 200 cubic inch engine, however Ross still loved it. It did not even have power steering or power brakes. But it was his. He had always wanted a '68 fastback. Now he had a beauty. The engine roared as Ross fiddled with the forty year old AM radio trying to get a rock station. He finally settled on a Beatles song and relaxed back in the bucket seats to enjoy the ride. The car had a musty old, even mysterious smell about it. He always wondered where it had been in the last forty years and what stories it could tell him. Outside, it was starting to mist and drizzle, as it always did in Washington State. He turned on the wipers to clear his view.
Ross was twenty-nine years old. He had piercing dark brown eyes with brown hair that would never stay put, and a knack for picking up languages. He graduated from Texas Christian University of Fort Worth eight years ago majoring in political science. This led to his original commissioning in Army Intelligence. He branch transferred to Special Forces as soon as he could.
Special Forces, otherwise known as the Green Berets, was exactly where Ross wanted to be. Veteran Special Forces or SF men, as they all liked to refer to themselves, would say the term "Green Beret" designated only a hat and the words "Green Beret" should never be used to refer to them. Secretly though, they all enjoyed calling themselves Green Berets.
Special Forces had been around officially in the United States Army since 1952. It was originally designed as a counter measure to the increasing Soviet threat in Europe. SF men were considered three time volunteers. They had volunteered for the Army, for Airborne School, and for Special Forces training. The basic concept was to take a motivated volunteer soldier and make him parachute qualified, otherwise known as "Airborne." Then teach him infantry tactics until he could expertly teach those same tactics to others. Finally, they were taught how to be a guerrilla fighter and succeed in the complex world of unconventional warfare. President John F. Kennedy authorized the wear of the Green Beret headgear for these exquisite soldiers over the objections of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1961. Kennedy was very smart and quick to realize that the growing trend for small brush fire revolutions fanned by the Soviet Union could only be countered by a light infantry-type U.S. guerrilla force of trained experts. The basic SF missions had remained pretty much the same since President Kennedy's time. The missions consisted of Special Reconnaissance, Direct Action, Foreign Internal Defense, and Unconventional Warfare in support of United States national objectives. Since the 1980's, SF missions now included Counterterrorism to combat the growing terrorist threat. The original concept was to parachute a Special Forces twelve man Alpha or "A" Detachment behind enemy lines. That detachment would then act as a force multiplier to train, equip, and lead, if necessary, a battalion sized force of indigenous troops to combat the guerrilla threat. It was an intriguing concept and put to the test extensively during the Vietnam War. After the war in Vietnam drew down, so did the ranks of Special Forces. SF man strength saw a surge during the Reagan years however and continues to grow to this day.
Captain James Ross was considered a seasoned operator. He had just finished two years worth of command of an Operational Detachment Alpha, otherwise known as ODA. He had been a Special Forces Team Commander in Company C, 3rd Battalion 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis. Now he was doing his staff time as the 1st Special Forces Group S-2, or senior intelligence officer. He had been selected by the Group Commander to be the S-2, even though the position was considered senior staff and normally required an officer in the rank of Major to fill it. He spent most of his time interfacing with national agencies on special operations matters and a great deal of time traveling to the Group's area of operations, the Southeast Asian basin. He supervised an intelligence section consisting of a senior Master Sergeant and three other veteran operators. Ross was single and could spend as much time as needed at the unit or traveling. The more overseas he traveled, the more he was steered towards making the Army a career. He had never felt better about his choice of career. He loved his job and his life.
Soon Ross was motoring up to the front gate of Fort Lewis and hauling out his laminated identification card for the guards. Then he was thru and on his way to the 1st Group compound. He parked his Mustang in the designated S-2 spot. His Non-Commissioned-Officer-In-Charge Master Sergeant Jeremy Clark spotted him and motioned for Ross to hurry up. Everyone called Jeremy Clark by his initials, "JC."
As Ross loped up the concrete steps, Clark said, "Cool car Sir, but if you ever leave the Great Northwest and get assigned down south you'll wish you had air conditioning in it."
"Not to worry JC, I'll just think cool," Ross laughed out loud.
Clark slapped Ross on the shoulder and said, "Rumor is the old man has been looking for you."
"Really?" said Ross. "I wonder what I did now?"
Ross was always getting advice and counseling from the old man, otherwise known as Group Commander Colonel Fred Gautier. It seemed more regularly than not lately. There was the time in Thailand he was told to have his team, "fire up all your ammunition in country." Only Ross decided not to waste the ammo and built a storage bunker for it on the Thai SF compound in Korat. He planned on keeping the ammo there for future missions. That did not go over very well with Colonel Gautier. Then there was the time Ross had asked his friend, National Guard C-130 pilot Captain Henry Dabnae, to make a run out of northern Chiang Mai to fly the team "girl friends" over to Pattaya for some relaxation. That took some explaining. Ross finally ended up telling Colonel Gautier that they were "Thai nurse angels of mercy" needed for a Civic Action Program he was running down south. Not too far from the truth really, he thought. Somehow it always worked out for Ross. The old man seemed to love him. The Colonel had determined Ross's fate many times and it was always good. Ross finally came to realize that Colonel Gautier was the greatest mentor he had ever known.
Ross squared his shoulders and walked up the concrete steps of the headquarters building and in through the double doors, allowing the cipher lock to disengage. He took off his Green Beret with the yellow flash sewn on it representing 1st Special Forces Group. The 1st Special Forces Group flash was originally completely yellow, signifying Asia. The Army added a black border to the flash in memory of President John F. Kennedy after he was assassinated in 1963. Ross folded his beret and stowed it in his right leg pants cargo pocket, with a third of it hanging out. He remembered the time several years back when a no-nonsense "leg" or non-airborne-type Sergeant Major had stopped him inside the MEDCOM building at Fort Sam Houston, the Mecca of Army Medicine. The Sergeant Major proceeded to inform him that he had to have his beret completely covered inside by his pants cargo pocket flap. Ross looked at the Sergeant Major quizzically and then told him it was President John F. Kennedy who authorized the Green Beret headgear back in 1961. He said that all SF soldiers let their berets hang out in respect for JFK, per Presidential order. He told the Sergeant Major he would not tarnish JFK's memory by tucking it in. The medic Sergeant Major, with a look of shock, told Ross he would have to run that by the JAG lawyers first for verification. Ross realized that small exchange was the difference between the conventional Army and SF. He had walked away from that encounter hardly able to contain himself from laughing.
Now Ross was through the long awards encrusted corridor decked out with photographs of past commanders and flags from all Southeast Asia, including the Army and SF Regimental flags. He saw the overhead placard indicating the S-1 or Personnel Section. Slowly he ambled over to the Adjutants' desk in the command suite and asked, "Chris, I heard the Colonel wants to see me?"
Captain Chris Rogers, the Adjutant, looked up from his stack of orders, evaluations, transfers, and SPECAT special category priority messages and frowned.
"What's up Jim? Yeah, the Colonel wants to send you TDY to Thailand and Malaysia this time, why you and not me, huh?"
Ross flipped back, "I've never been to Malaysia, but if he's sending me to Thailand it's probably to Mae Rim. I'll be staying in Thai barracks again and fighting off the mosquitoes and leaches. You know I never get to go to any classy hotels like the Oriental or Dusit Thani!"
Rogers raised an eyebrow and said, "You mean no Soi Cowboy or Patpong Road? No Tuc-tuc motorcycle rides and no fake Rolexes?"
Ross looked at Captain Rogers with a forced frown on his face.
"Sorry, I meant replica tribute Rolexes," apologized Rogers with a smile.
Ross raised his hands as if to surrender and said, "All I ever get is kowpaht to eat, warm rice wine in a plastic baggy, and dysentery."
Captain Rogers smiled and reached for the STU-III secure telephone unit on his desk. He punched in the Commanders' personal extension number and put the receiver to his ear. After a brief discussion he set the receiver down in its cradle. He motioned for Ross to move ahead.
The Commanders door was closed and Ross knocked hard on it three times.
"Come in," yelled Colonel Gautier through the door.
Ross entered marching in briskly. He stood at the position of attention in front of the Colonels desk and snapped out a smart salute.
Colonel Gautier was fifty-one years old with closely cropped grey hair. He had a worn and weathered face, but a friendly smile that seemed to say he would take care of you. He loved his SF boys. He looked up from his stack of papers while taking off his reading glasses. The Colonel studied Ross for a moment then saluted back.
Colonel Gautier told Ross with an air of authority, "Take a seat Captain. I have something I want you to do."
Chapter TwoToo Good To Be True
Ross executed an about face and sat in the chair deliberately placed in front of the Colonels desk. He crossed his right leg over his left knee grasping his ankle with his left hand. He relaxed back and looked squarely into the old man's eyes. Ross waited for the Colonel to continue.
Colonel Gautier looked up from his stack of papers and said, "How is my S-2 doing these days?"
"I'm fine Sir, just fine."
"I see the new one-time encryption pads came in from the National Security Agency last week. Have you distributed them to the communications company yet?"
"Yes Sir. We sent them out as soon as they were inventoried."
"What about the new Philippine maps from Defense Mapping? Do we have them yet?"
"Yes Sir. I already sent 1st Battalion on Okinawa their stash and distributed the rest to 2nd and 3rd Bat and the MI guys."
Ross wondered about the small talk. It was unlike the Colonel to ask these simple questions privately in person when he could have just as easily asked them at the daily o-nine-hundred staff meeting with the rest of the sections. No. The old man was bidding his time for something else. Ross could feel his heartbeat speed up.
Colonel Gautier continued. "Jim, ever since 1st Group reactivated here at Lewis in '84, all my predecessors have been trying to get a foothold in Malaysia. None of them could succeed. Now it's my turn. As you know, the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group has been conducting hit-and-run raids into southern Thailand for years. With accurate intelligence, Royal Thai SF and Thai Marines have intercepted many of these terrorist cells and have aggressively contained and controlled this insurrection."
"Yes Sir. Most of that information concerning Abu Sayyaf terrorist activities is in the weekly intelligence Black Book I create for you."
"I know Jim, I know. But did you know that recently with heavy Japanese investing, Malaysia has surpassed the Asian-tiger countries of Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea in the production of computer hard disks? The Chinese now strategically control the locally owned sectors of the Malay economy, including petroleum and maritime transportation. Also, Malaysia is now the world's largest Islamic banking and financial empire, centering in the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Did you know all that?"
"Some Sir and I see your point. We do need a presence down there."
"That's exactly right Jim." I need to send a strategic thinker out there to establish rapport with the Thai and Malay senior military leadership. I need someone to go out there and set up joint interoperability exercises with Royal Thai Special Forces, Royal Thai Marines, and the Malay Grup Gerak Khas."
"That's the Malay SF, right Sir?"
"That's right. Jim, I'm going to send the S-3 out there later to finalize training schedules, but only after you go and lay the ground work for intelligence collection initiatives and joint interagency cooperation. I want you to do an area assessment and get 1st Group involved in the Royal Thai military Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercises. They call them CARAT for short. CARAT involves forces from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines. We need to spearhead this. You're going to be my reconnaissance man. There's a CARAT strategic planning conference being conducted at the Petronas Twin Towers starting Monday next week in Kuala Lumpur and you're going to it. Provide me your report in two weeks. Keep it at the Secret classification level. Copies will go to CINCPAC, USSOCOM, and Special Forces Command."
"Yes Sir. No problem."
Colonel Gautier looked at the stainless steel Rolex Submariner on his right wrist.
"Good. Let's see, today is Tuesday. The S-3 section has already cut your orders. You're flying out on Thursday."
"That's perfect Sir, the sooner the better."
"Well, that's all Jim. Good luck. See you when you get back."
James Ross stood smartly to attention and saluted Colonel Gautier. The Colonel returned the salute. Ross executed an about face and marched out of the office and closed the door.
Walking past the Adjutants desk, Chris Rogers said, "I told you it was going to be good, too good to be true."
Ross stopped to shake Rogers's hand, smiled, and walked out.
As Ross was walking down the headquarters steps putting on his Green Beret, the cool mist from Puget Sound stung his face.
Ross said to himself, "Too good, too good to be true indeed."
Chapter Three"Watch Your Step Sir"
The Continental flight out of SEATAC International Airport on Thursday morning was pleasant. Ross spent most of the time writing a concept of operations to outline what he needed to do in country.
He was engrossed in his plans when a lovely Asian air stewardess in a pretty blue uniform bowed down and asked him, "Can I get something for you Sir?"
Ross looked at the air stewardess. She had beautiful dark black hair cut with Betty Page type bangs and almond eyes. Her face shown with a vibrant youthfulness and her skin was smooth and flawless. There was just a hint of perfume. Korean he thought. Her breasts filled out her blouse proudly, with a promise of mystery and enticement.
"Just a drink, please, a rum and coke if you've got it."
"Certainly Sir, I will have it right up for you."
Interesting phrase, thought Ross. He watched as she turned and walked down the aisle to get his drink.
Simply beautiful, he thought.
Ross looked at his watch. It was a Benrus Army issue that his grandfather had given him when he received his commission as an officer in the United States Army. Ross's grandfather had carried the Benrus in 1944 as an Infantry Sergeant in the Americal Division during the Philippine Campaigns of the Second World War. It was one of Ross's treasured possessions. The luminescent hands displayed seven o'clock in the evening. Ross knew he would be landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport in less than two hours.
His drink arrived. He drank it slowly and relaxed back in his chair. He was anxious about arriving and forced himself to close his eyes. After about ten minutes he fell into a deep, luxurious sleep.
Ross's arrival at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport went smoothly. He breezed through customs with his maroon U.S. official passport and walked outside to the taxi stands and into a light rain and immense heat.
The taxi drivers were all alert and jockeying for positions and customers. Ross hailed one saying to the driver, "Chan cha pai Windsor Hotel, kao chai mai?"
Excerpted from Sparrow's Tears by Bernard R. Cenney Copyright © 2010 by Bernard R. Cenney. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.