As we were following the Humvee to our assigned parking spot I looked over at Vicky, remembering how much she had grown since I had met her. In just two and a half short years she has proven herself time and time again that she can master anything that came her way just like the other girls back home.
Remembering just last week, when Vicky proved herself once again in the heat of battle during the first embassy visit,- she followed me around back and took two rounds in the vest and still managed to take down her terrorist that had gotten into the compound. But nothing could prepare her for what awaited us off base. We knew that the King Khalid International Airport was under attack. Watching the news of the attack for most is surreal like 911, but being part of it seeing and hearing it – it takes on a whole meaning to the soul. But there she was still holding her own – and showing no fear.
If the Jacksons were shaken up by the buzz by from the F18’s and listening to Vicky and I talking about the security reports for this region, stepping on to tarmac hearing the whistles and thumps of explosions in the distance from the tarmac really bothered them by the expressions on their faces. It occurred to me that Emily had never been anywhere near a combat zone. Bob was doing all he could to keep her from jumping out of her skin.
Because of my time in the sandbox, I could tell transportation was coming our way. An extended all – terrain vehicle sped towards us with its engine screaming pulled to a screeching stop in front of us. As it came into view, I could see a lieutenant was in the passenger seat and a private was in the driver’s seat. After the vehicle came to a stop, the Lieutenant jumped out, stood at attention in front of me and gave a salute. In kind, I returned his gesture by coming to attention and returning the salute.
“Welcome to Riyadh Air force Base. Ms. Jones, Ms. Snow, the officers on base have been scrambling to put together a welcome since the State Department requested that your flight be diverted here with such short notice. I have been ordered to take you ladies and your guest to the VIP cafeteria until the embassy sends someone to pick you up.”
“Thank you for the welcome lieutenant,” I replied as we slid into the seats of the all – terrain vehicle.
In the VIP lounge Vicky and I were trying to drink what the Air Force passed off as coffee, it was much diluted. I guess the Air Force people could not handle the stronger Marine version of coffee that we liked. Bob and Emily took a seat by the window watching all the aircraft activity.
Before we left, General McJames had given me a number for the base public relations officer who he had contacted for the info on Bob Jr. As I was getting a second cup of what was passed as coffee Captain Kenny Horsey came to me. He recognized my name immediately.
“General McJames speaks very highly of you ma-am, let me make a couple calls but I am sure that with the events of this morning Captain Jackson is most likely flying at the moment. The brass wanted extra fire power in the air just to be safe.”
While Capt. Horsey was on his smarter than smart phone I was looking out the window too. I didn’t like what I saw; I could see that Vance and Josh were not happy campers. I saw them talking with the fuel truck operator who had stopped at the jet along with a Humvee full of officers. There seemed to be an agitated discussion going on.
A few moments later Capt. Horsey hung up his phone and said, “His group is going to be relieved within 20 minutes and they should back at base a short time after that,” then added, “The ground crew has been told to have him report to the VIP cafeteria after his debriefing,” Capt. Horsey replied.
I thanked the Capt. Then I introduced him to Vicky, Bob and Emily. Knowing how bothered the boys looked, I excused my self and went outside. That’s when I heard, “That is the boss. I am sure she can supply the information you need,” I heard Vance say as I closed the distance.
“What’s up men, how are we doing today?” was my opening line to put myself into the conversation.
“Boss, I was trying to get fuel here; we are below the minimum takeoff requirement. It would not have been a problem if we had landed at the international airport.”
He continued by saying, “these gentlemen are saying there is no way they can refuel a non-military plane and that we are going to have to get a fuel truck to drive from the international airport to get fuel. That could take several days. I was trying to convince them that we were not a civilian plane,” Vance replied.
Seeing that the fuel truck operator was not going to budge, I said, “Vance, I’ll take care of the problem,” I pulled out my State Department secure phone. I used it to make the call to General McJames. I knew he could have any fuel purchases back charged to the State Department and they would bill JBG.
As always with that phone there was a process after you keyed the call button. “Enter ID,” then “Scan fingerprint.” I had it on speaker as loud as it would go so I could hear with all the noise.
“Pentagon office of public affairs, Lieutenant Fergerson how may I help you?” the Lt replied.
“Hello LT, This is BJ Jones, of JBG Security. Is General McJames available?” I asked. The expressions on everyone’s face suddenly changed.
“The General is coming down the hall now with General Short; it will just be a moment.”
A moment later the General was on the line. “BJ, how is the trip progressing?” the General asked.
“Vicky and I and the Jacksons landed safely at the Riyadh Air Force base, we were diverted from the International Airport because of the terrorist attack there. Thanks for the escort by the way. I am calling because we are having problems refueling my plane, we are below minimum on fuel for takeoff; they are not going to let us get any here. They are telling us that we have to wait until it can be trucked in from the International airport after all the ruckus dies down. That could be a couple days. There would have been no problem if we had made our destination. Other than that, Ok,” I said.
“The fuel is no problem I’ll make a call to the base commander and rattle his cage. Someone there does not know what they’re doing; there is an established procedure for State connected flights,” the General replied.
“You need to get to VCATS right away – contact Amy and Victor. They are both on line now. Morocco just went south a couple minutes ago,” General McJames said.
“Thanks for the heads up, I’m headed that way now,” I replied.
“Josh, go get Vicky – tell her we have an emergency,” I shouted.
I followed Vance up the ladder. The auxiliary power unit started running as I was getting logged in. Vance assumed this was going to be a long conversation. Without the APU running, a long conversation would kill the jet’s batteries. I paged both Amy and Victor and waited.
Moments later, Vicky came bounding up the plane stairs, “What’s wrong BJ?” she asked.
“Bad news from Morocco, I think,” I replied.
Vicky pulled up the Morocco US embassy live video feed while I was waiting for my pages to be answered. When the very first camera image popped up my heart sank.
Sitting inside the front gate was one of our Suburbans blown apart and burning. The audio was AK47 gunfire and shouting in the background. Men were standing behind the security wall trying to put the fire out with fire extinguishers and trying not to get shot, while others were giving covering fire. I could tell there were bodies still inside the burning Suburban.
I could easily distinguish the difference between the AK47 of the attackers and the M16’s and the M4 we used in the audio.
“Vicky, call Marcy; we need an emergency SVOL meeting now,” I said. Then I set up to connect to the gym.
I flipped from one video channel to another hoping things were better. The embassy itself looked secure – there was one place that looked like an RPG had hit it, the embassy grounds was another thing.
There were black-hooded bodies lying inside the rear entrance; there were a dozen or more. In the south-west corner the security wall had a section blown away with more hooded bodies on the ground.
I recognized some of the JBG employees in the video. I quickly opened the employee file for the Morocco embassy. I was trying to account for employees but soon gave up on that; there was just too much running around going on.
While we were waiting on Marcy, Amy answered the VCATS page.
“BJ, I have some bad news, are you looking at the video feed from Morocco?” she asked.
‘Yes, I see the Suburban, how many were in it?” I asked.
“Four – the driver, Albert Koons the other front seat passenger Phil Adams were both JBG – the two in the back were Mills Pike, the assistant ambassador and Brain Hovater, the advisor to the ambassador.
“It looks like from the number of dead and wounded insurgents that after the initial attack the security group did OK. Amy are you saying intelligence didn’t pick up any indication that this was coming?” I asked.
Amy responded by saying, “Victor will have to answer that but not as far as I have been told,” Amy replied.
“Where do we go from here, there is nothing in any of the manuals for this situation. What is the procedure?” I asked.
“As soon as things are settled down and a preliminary investigation is done. The bodies will be flown to the Mortuary at Dover Air Force Mortuary for positive identification and whatever else they do there. In this case it isn’t going to be much. From there, the two bodies will be turned over to the families or to JBG to handle,” Amy replied.
“I need to send someone to participate in the investigation,” I replied.
“There are no flights in or out of Morocco; the place is shut down for at least a couple of days. As soon as the shooting stops the physical investigation will start and be done fast. Almost all of it will be based on the video and physical evidence,” Amy replied. Then she added, “Rewind and copy all the video for your files; make sure you copy it to DVD’s.”
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Joe H.