(Sept 30, 2011)
Stationed at the army base in Stuttgart Germany, Simon Wheatley, at just twenty-two years old, was one of the youngest soldiers to make Sergeant in the Special Forces. He joined at the age of eighteen, after his parents became victims of a terrorist attack at Union Station in Chicago.
During the afternoon, Simon was working out in the base’ make shift gym when the call to attention sounded as the Captain of his section came into the room. Simon snapped to, along with the rest of his team.
“At ease,” the Captain stated as he handed Lieutenant Davis a folder.
“Lieutenant, prepare your team, you have an assignment,” he said. “You can brief your men in the air.”
“Mount up,” Davis yelled.
Lieutenant Davis and his twelve-man team gathered their gear. Already having a few missions under his belt, Sergeant Wheatley and his team made their way to a nearby airstrip in the back of a deuce and a half as the smell of diesel fuel wafted through the air. Simon’s adrenaline started to course through his veins as was typical when a mission arose. He liked the feeling.
Lieutenant Davis read the file during the ride and, once on the plane, he would fill his team in on the mission.
The truck pulled onto what served as a tarmac and up to the back of a C-130. The makeshift runway was dark except for markers that served as runway lights every few yards and the lights of the truck. The engines of the plane roared to life as the soldiers quickly piled into the cargo hold and once they settled in, the Lieutenant addressed them.
“We’re headed into Libya,” Davis said over the roar of the engines. “The Libyan Liberation Foundation has taken a small group of Americans hostage and we are to expedite their escape. There are approximately twenty armed radicals and six hostages. Under the cover of darkness, we are to equalize the threat and get the hostages to an extraction point about two miles from their present location. We will be dropping in just outside of Al Jawf, about sixty miles from the border of Egypt.”
During the flight, Simon inspected his gear, making sure everything was in working order and then he re-checked the gear of his teammates, working by the red lights in the plane’s hold, which would turn green when it was time to jump. The weather stood calm, the half-moon barely visible through the clouds, and this made for an easy flight.
The hum of the engines and the movement of air filled Simon’s ears as he made his way down the small isle of the plane. The radio bud in his right ear stifled the noise a bit and he had plenty of practice acclimating his hearing to keep the radio from interfering with the other sounds around him.
Before any mission, Simon often experienced moments of doubt, but he would quickly overcome them, knowing his training would prevail. The young man was good at everything he put his mind to, and military training was no exception. It didn’t take long during basic for the instructors to realize his potential and soon Simon became squad leader of his platoon; a role he was okay with taking and a role he unofficially held with his current team. Even the Lieutenant often looked to him for advice.
When he finished checking the gear, he sat quietly and waited. The temperature would make for a cold decent as they deployed, yet that was of no consequence to Simon who had jumped in weather far worse. He was looking forward to the free fall, however short it would be.
The small group looked over maps of the area and the rest of the intelligence supplied to them by the C.I.A. It was common for the men to joke and pump each other up before jumping in order to keep moral at its peak, and this mission was no different from the others.
As the plane approached the jump zone, the red lights began to blink and the signal for jump sounded; a low wrenching buzz in successions of three. Each member shuffled to the door and took his turn, catapulting himself into the night sky, Simon being next to last in line, just before the Lieutenant. He wasn’t particular about the jumping order, but he liked being close to last so he could keep an eye on his teammates.
The cold air brushed his face as the feeling of weightlessness took over his body. As he gained speed, he looked around at his comrades below him, and watched for the first one out to open his chute. When he saw it open, he counted to twelve and pulled his ripcord.
With ultra-violet night vision goggles, they could see the flat desert terrain as it rose to meet them. There was little in the way of hills or structures or trees to keep anyone from seeing them once on the ground, however there was little in the way of inhabitants as well. They landed about a half mile from the abandoned factory with multiple out buildings; the target of their hostage extraction.
Quickly they gathered their gear, pulling up their chutes and stuffing them back into the bags. The team would be sure to leave nothing behind as they made their way on foot to the property, which sat in the middle of an open field. There were several buildings surrounded by an eight–foot chain-link fence and as the soldiers approached, slowly and cautiously inching their way, the use of their night-vision goggles picked up a laser field, just inside the fence. Sergeant Hall inspected an area near the fence and radioed the team.
“The lasers are attached to flood lights,” he said.
“Snipers get ready,” Lt Davis ordered.
He and Simon approached a section of fence on the west side of the structures. The two men often worked side by side, as the Lieutenant saw great potential in the young Sergeant. Three guards posted outside the main building, near the front, and three more covering the rear entrance, confirmed the location of the hostages.
Two snipers set up outside the fence, ready to target the sentries once the orders came across the radio. Two of the soldiers cut the chain-link on opposite sides of the compound, so they could breach from both directions.
It would be detrimental for the snipers to take out the guards quickly and efficiently so the members of the group inside the building would remain unaware of their presence. Once the soldiers confirmed they cut the fence, Davis gave the order to the snipers. Each of the two snipers fired three shots from silenced weapons, each hitting their targets, and dropping the men before they could return fire.
The snipers, their spotters, and two others took positions outside to cover the area in case more rebels arrived while the other six men headed for the building, careful not to trip the laser as they entered the area.
“Our intel indicates the hostages are on the third floor,” Lt Davis said.
He and Simon approached the rear door of the building stopping at the base of the stairs to ensure the guards were dead. Simon kneeled down and checked their pulses and with each, he nodded to Davis.
Lt. Davis didn’t seem typical when it came to leadership. He wasn’t a man to stay back while his troops moved ahead. It was easy to tell he enjoyed the action.
The two man groups split up and a sweep of the building began. With their M4 Carbines at the ready, each member quietly moved along the darkened first floor, lined with offices leading to a manufacturing area where the stairs to the second and third floor were located.
The halls were dark though the ultra-violet goggles worked well. As Simon and Lt. Davis approached the door to the manufacturing area, movement seen through the glass window in the door stopped them.
Davis motioned for Simon and, lowering his carbine, Simon took the 9MM Berretta with silencer from its holster. The weapon was matte black to keep any light from reflecting off the metal surface. Simon had his choice of weapons and he preferred the berretta for its simplicity and reliability.
He approached the door and peeked through the glass. One of the Libyan rebels walked by, rifle slung over his shoulder, oblivious to his surroundings. Looking through the glass, Simon couldn’t see any other opposition in the area. Slowly, he inched open one of the double doors and fired his 9MM through the small gap.
The soldier groaned and fell to the floor with a thud. Simon along with Lt. Davis quickly made their way into the large room filled with machines and conveyor belts. Making his way to the fallen man, Simon checked for a pulse and found none. At 6’2” and one hundred ninety pounds, the former high school athlete and Aikido black belt was in tremendous shape. He quickly grabbed the man by the collar on his shirt, dragged the body out of open view, and set the dead man by a nearby boiler.
The three-story room had lights on around the exterior walls and stood dark at the core. With the help of the goggles, Simon quietly searched the area and signaled to Lt. Davis, the all clear.
Together, they headed for the stairs. Quietly, they moved, listening for anyone else that might enter the area. As they reached the bottom of the stairs, two men emerged from a door on the floor above them.
The two opponents spoke Arabic, one of several languages Simon spoke fluently. Simon put his finger to his nose alerting Davis that someone was approaching, and then he listened intensely.
“After we give them a break, I’m going to take a nap,” one man said to the other as they approached the top of the stairs.
Simon and Lt. Davis moved under the stair well and stood ready.
“That sounds good,” the other man responded.
Holding his silenced weapon, Simon motioned to Davis and stood under the stairs. Simon pointed to his chest and then pointed up before pointing to Davis and then down. This was his way of letting his partner know he’d take the one higher on the stairs and Davis should take out the one lower.
Davis pulled his 9MM and as Simon used his free hand to count down from three, he and Davis fired at the same time through the opened risers and both men fell down the last couple of stairs.
As they were about to climb the stairs, they could see two of their teammates coming into the room from the other side.
“Three down on the interior,” Davis whispered over the radio. “You two sweep the second floor; we’ll head straight to the third.”
“Roger that,” replied one of the men.
Lieutenant Davis and Simon moved to the third floor, taking their time on the metal stairs to assure their heavy footsteps wouldn’t echo. At the top of the stairs was another door leading to a hall. Peeking through the window in the door, they could see a few guards standing outside the break room, which they knew from their intelligence, was the last known location of the hostages.
“We’re ready to breach the third floor,” Davis said over the radio. “Secure a vehicle for transport and prepare to blow the others. Jackson, standby to kill the generator. Garvey, when you and Daniels finish the second floor sweep, head to the North West corner of the third floor. On my mark, we’ll blow the vehicles and generator and that should give us enough of a distraction to breach.”
Each of the men responded and Simon looked at Davis. Simon looked at his watch and calculated the time. He constantly needed to practice keeping his patience in check for he hated waiting around for things to happen. Lieutenant Davis would often counsel him and he was gradually becoming better.
Simon leaned his back against the wall and closed his eyes, as he started to count silently, employing a technique to ease his mind. Luckily, for Simon, the wait for this mission wasn’t long. The others informed them that everything was ready and Davis gave the order.
The interior of the building went black as explosions outside shook it. Simon burst through the door and fired his carbine. The muzzle flashes temporarily lit up the hall as he moved forward. The confused men outside the office dropped to the floor dead as the four soldiers converged from opposite directions, careful not to get hit in any crossfire.
Screams inside the office revealed the terror the hostages felt and as the men scrambled to the room, gunfire erupted in their direction. The Libyans fired blindly at the doors and wall. Bullets poured through in spots and the soldiers had to bide their time, waiting for the gunfire to die down.
Garvey threw a flashbang grenade through one of the openings and took cover. They knew this would affect the hostages as well, yet it was the easiest way to neutralize the threat. The flash went off sending a bright white light throughout the room and the noise disrupted the hearing of everyone inside. Smoke filled the air around the explosion. With the use of the night vision goggles, the soldiers quickly entered the room after the small explosion.
The room was ten by twenty feet and the hostages were crouched in the far corner, huddled together trying to shield one another. The remaining rebels in the room succumbed to the power of the carbine rifles as they tried to rally after the flashbang grenade.
“Lieutenant, we have company, two trucks headed this way,” one of the soldiers called over the radio.
“Hold them off, we’re on the way out,” he replied. “United States Army. Is anyone hurt?”
The hostages quickly scrambled to their feet, some of them a little battered and still feeling the effects of the flash bang, albeit mostly in good condition.
Davis and Simon led the way while the other two soldiers followed to make sure none of the hostages fell behind. They made their way to the first floor and as they exited the rear of the building, they could hear gunfire coming from the front.
The hostages scurried into the back of a military troop transporter and one of the soldiers jumped behind the wheel.
“Fall-back, time to go,” Davis said.
They waited for the forward troops to make their way to the truck. Within moments, the soldiers were in place and as the enemy moved toward the front gate, one of the soldiers set off two claymores, disrupting the attack as the transport truck broke through the fence and headed towards Egypt.
The party knew they would have to hurry to get to the extraction point. Two miles away, two Chinook helicopters waited for the soldiers and hostages.
The truck sped along the winding dirt roads kicking up a dust storm in its wake. The driver used his goggles to see where he was going as the fence broke the headlights out of the truck.
The hostages huddled together in the back amongst the soldiers, happy to be free, happy to be alive yet scared and uncomfortable with the ride.
It was apparent the claymores did their jobs as no pursuit followed the fleeing vehicle. The truck found its rendezvous spot with the chinooks about five minutes after leaving the factory.
As the helicopters lifted into the air and headed for the Egyptian border, the Special Forces group breathed a sigh of relief. The mission was a success, with zero casualties. They delivered the hostages to an airbase in Cairo and the team took the first transport flight back to their base in Germany.
As they arrived during the morning hours, the Captain of the unit approached Lieutenant Davis. The two men saluted.
“Good job Lieutenant,” the man said as he dropped his arm. “You and your men are to gather your gear. Your orders came through and you’re going home.”
“Yes sir,” Davis responded.
“You will be debriefed after which you can allow your men a brief R & R and then you report to Bragg for your next assignment,” the Captain stated.
The two men saluted again, before the Captain turned and walked away. Davis turned to his men and smiled.
“You heard the Captain,” he said.