you’d let the sucker go on about his business and he turned out to be a
Hind on his way to shoot down the UN Hip.”
“Hell, CAG, we can’t win for losing,” Cat Garrity said. There were a few
chuckles in the room, and the tension eased a little.
“That’s exactly right, Cat,” Magruder said. “This no-fly zone crap is
one of the trickiest damned ops we’ve taken on. There’s no clear-cut
enemy out there, nothing but a set of vague rules that we have to
interpret well enough to keep everybody off our backs while we try to do
our job at the same time. Right now, our biggest worry about this
incident is the fact that there were reporters on that UN helo.”
“Reporters!” Malibu said.
“Oh, shit!” Dixie added.
“The headline news tonight may lead off with a real humdinger of a
Something like “Navy Downs Army Helo Over Georgia.'”
“If we’re lucky,” Coyote said with a grin, “they’ll play it on the
sports segment. “Navy Scores Over Army, 1-0.'”
“More likely we’re going to get a storm of inquiries. Congressmen
calling. Interviews. Hell, maybe somebody will start asking some
intelligent questions. Like what the devil is a carrier battle group
doing way the hell out here? But in the meantime, we have to do our part
to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
“What the hell happened with the helo’s IFF?” Batman wanted to know.
“As near as we can tell, no one bothered to tell us that a couple of
Army helos had been sent into Georgia to work with the UN team.”
“I thought the Navy was supposed to be handling no-fly zone security?”
Tombstone shrugged. “You know how it goes. One service gets a plum
assignment, and suddenly everyone wants a piece of the action.”
“Grenada,” Coyote added, and Tombstone nodded.
That monumental foul-up was still a reminder–and a warning–of how not
to conduct joint military operations. When America decided to invade the
tiny Caribbean country in 1983, the op had started off as a relatively
small mission. Then invasion fever had started spreading through the
Pentagon. One service after another had wanted in. .. as did each of the
elite combat units within the larger branches. The SEALS. Delta Force.
Army Special Forces. No one knew what anyone else was doing, radio
frequencies and call signs weren’t distributed to the proper people, and
in one classic case of idiocy, orders describing an air assault gave a
time but failed to say whether that was EST, GMT, or local time.
A lot of Americans died unnecessarily in that invasion.
Tombstone let out a sigh. “Okay, people. There will be no disciplinary
action from my office. I should warn you all, though, that I don’t have
the last say here. Depending on how big a noise this makes with the
brass Stateside, or with the news media, there could be a further
“You mean we’re still on the hook,” Batman said. He looked resigned.
“What do you want us to do, CAG?”
“First thing, I want reports. All four of you get a complete report on
the incident done and on my desk by 1600 hours. And I mean complete. I
don’t want excuses, but I damn sure do want anybody who reads these
reports to know what we’re going through to police these damned zones.
We’ve got Zoos and helos. ..”
“And bears, oh my,” Cat Garrity put in with a grin.
Tombstone caught Batman’s eye and smiled. “No, thank God, no Bears this
time.” Both men had been through some harrowing encounters with the
Russian aircraft code-named Bears. As a matter of fact, the first time
Magruder had ever chewed out Batman Wayne was over a Bear hunt, back
when Tombstone was the squadron CO and Batman a young hot dog just
joining the squadron. Some things, it seemed, never changed. He let the
smile drop. “Next. Dixie, I’m taking you off the zone patrols for a few
days. You’ll be limited to flying CAP until further notice.”
“No arguments. I know your record; I know you think you’re the hottest
pilot Viper Squadron’s ever seen; I know how much you want to be out