[Note: This is an excerpt from a work of fiction called The Rubicon War: Operation Four Winds. It was published last week by Don Kilmer and Sam Whittemore. This excerpt is reprinted with permission. You can read the full story at RubiconWar.com. –NA]
Have you ever wondered how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on hardware to fight the Empire? Me too. My guess is that those Star Wars guys stole their X-wings when the fecal material hit the breeze maker in their galaxy far, far away. If that’s what happened, can you blame them? Shouldn’t capital goods be returned to their owners when an enterprise fails? What if that enterprise is your government?
This narrative is going to be either Exhibit A at my court martial, or one of many stories told about how America’s Second Civil War kicked off. One of my history professors once said: “Difficult, but necessary decisions made during a crisis may not yield immediate consequences, or easily recognized benefits, but they had to be made anyway. The men and women who made them made the history we study today.”
If I’m helping to make history, I didn’t ask for the job. I’m doing what I believe is right based on the available information and to make a record that absolves my men of any blame. This was my idea. What happened was done under my orders.
It started with a visit by my maintenance chief. I was about to be subjected to a diatribe for the umpteenth time about our logistics problems. I like cranky mechanics. The good ones tend to be perfectionists. And my maintenance chief was a very good and very cranky mechanic. I am, at least right now, the commanding officer of the 190th Fighter Squadron. We fly A-10s. Our squadron is attached to the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Fighter Wing, out of Gowen Field near Boise.
“Colonel, I can’t get Logistics Command on the phone. They don’t answer my emails. And the Northwest Military Regional Network servers have been down for some kind of software upgrade for the past 30 days. This is beyond normal levels of crazy. My section leaders are dipping into coffee funds to buy flashlight batteries at Costco. What can we do?”
I asked, “Have you tried your brother over at Hill?” That was Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
“Begging your pardon, sir, he’s not my brother. My sister marrying an Air Force puke doesn’t make that desk-jockey my brother.”
My maintenance chief came to my command after serving 20 years as a Marine Aviation wrench. He kept hardware in the air for the Corps and had experience and motivation for meeting the demands of close air support for ground troops. I think he resented that the Marines never got the Warthogs.
He got bored with hunting and fishing the Sawtooth Range in retirement and joined the Air National Guard here in Idaho. The National Guard and Marines use the same rank structure, so he was technically a Master Sergeant. And his interservice rivalry patter was mostly reflexive. I’ve been on the houseboat he and his brother-in-law have up on Lake Cascade. They run fishing camps for “troubled” young boys and girls three times a year up there. His personality is exactly the same when he’s disciplining civilian delinquents and drilling his own troops. Tough, but fair.
It irritated him when I called him “chief,” a hold-over from my own naval aviation days. Sergeants in the Navy are chiefs. And don’t get a Marine started on the Navy. Anyway, I guess I got bored with hunting and fishing too. That’s how we both ended up working for the State of Idaho, with hand-me-down military gear from the U.S. Air Force.
He rolled his eyes.
“Chief, the Defense Logistics Agency is literally up the road from Hill, AFB. I’ve heard Air Force isn’t getting much materiel either. Maybe your brother-in-law has heard something backchannel. Use my personal cell phone and see what you can find out.”
I could tell the chief was genuinely frustrated. He took a lot of pride in making sure our Hogs could hoot and holler on demand. Keeping them fed with 30mm Gatling gun rounds, wing ordnance, and JP-8 aviation fuel is what made our A-10s so lovable. It was all they needed. The plane could operate out of airfields that would make a crop-duster nervous, and still be able to spit death and destruction against enemy armor and help out our friendlies on the ground.
But these Warthogs need to be fed. Their pilots have perishable skills that simulators can’t maintain. We already had to stop target practice in the high desert south of Boise. We even had to stop making practice runs because we were running low on fuel. The situation was somewhere between dismal and bleak.
Creative bookkeeping kept a reserve of hog-juice and Gatling ammo on base. Flying hogs are earthbound pigs if they can’t deliver fireworks. I was already worried about having to cough up an explanation at the next command inspection if some bean-counter found out that I was hoarding JP-8 and 30mm rounds. They were easier to hide than pricey specialty missiles, though I had some of those stashed away too.
In a way, this is a very old story. When isn’t the military expected to work miracles with tired old equipment because some new wizbang weapon system sucks out more than its share of money from the Pentagon? That cost-benefit analysis was above my pay grade. But if you ask the ground pounders who take and hold land in a hot war, they’ll confirm that the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, has been an excellent return on investment for American taxpayers.
Lately, though, it’s been a struggle to get enough “official” fuel to log the minimum flight hours for my pilots to qualify for flight pay. And my pilots get grumpy when they can’t ride their hogs and get paid for the privilege.
Chief’s call was a bust. “Nothing doing, sir. I got him on the phone. He’s tried his own snooping around and he’s getting the same run-around.”
“Sir, It seems like all Air Force units anywhere near the mountain states are hurting. From the Pacific to the Dakotas, supply chains are gone. No spare parts. Everything’s rationed. Ordinance is being treated like precious metal. At least out here. I’m not sure about the east coast.”
“Colonel, I’ve been around the block a few times. When the pinkos take power and try to cash the peace dividend by closing military bases, they shout it from the rooftops and then squabble about which congresscritter will lose the gravy train in which district. But they eventually go ahead and close bases. This unit has been on the chopping block for years. Everybody knows that. But something else is going on. It’s like our supply chain has been told to ignore us. And not just us.”
No argument there.
It was time to use my personal phone to make some calls. Rank has its privileges. At first I didn’t understand—still don’t—the Pentagon’s new Armed Forces-wide order directing that only base commanders and officers with a rank above O-7 were allowed personal phones on military installations. Military comms were authorized, of course. But bringing a personal cell phone onto a military base after that order could get you kicked out of the service.
[Read the rest of the story here at RubiconWar.com.]
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