Julie and Bambi – the other two chopper pilots – had stayed at the airport. They were to test fly the Blackhawk after Tommy Bell and Daniel Owens (the two mechanics) reinstalled the rotors and completed the necessary test and inspections.
Bambi called on the satellite phone that they were ready to do the test flight.
“If the test flight is OK, fill it with fuel and fly it to the embassy. Fly north-north east; we are on the east side of the main road that cuts through the city. I will send you the GPS numbers in a moment. The men have already made a landing pad,” I replied.
I found Andy and relayed the conversation. Andy made the call to make sure the last security persons with the Suburban saw to it the mechanics got over to the terminal building for the flight home and then return to the embassy.
The truck and vehicles arrived with the last of our crates and people. The skid steer driver now had it down to a science. The crates were quickly unloaded.
There was still plenty of daylight left so Andy assigned Mac Desilva (one of the team leaders) and his group the duty of sorting the crates. Derek Wilson, who was operating the skid steer, was one of Mac’s team.
Two of the food crates and one of the bread crates went into the kitchen to be emptied into the walk-in freezer and refrigerator. Two of the men and two of the ladies who had volunteered to be cooks were already in the kitchen getting operating instructions from the cook who was leaving.
My men who were going to take shifts in the communications room were getting their final lessons from the ones leaving. Even though all the systems were the same, they all seemed to have little quirks that made each system unique.
Ambassador Bernardi found me out back to tell me all his team was packed and ready to leave for the airport on time. While we were standing I could hear the thump, thump of the big blades of the Blackhawk coming.
Bambi circled to get a good look at the site and wind direction by looking at the direction the flag was flying, before sitting the chopper on the pad. It did not put up as much dirt and dust as I expected.
I made a mental note to secure enough fire hose to reach the pad; in the walk around I noticed that there were attachments and a hydrant near the rear of the building. We had brought a dozen 20 pound dry chemical fire extinguishers with us, but with fire more is better. Those 20 pounders were now loosely tied together in groups of four at each corner of the pad.
“Wow, you get your own chopper and it is a big one, at that,” he replied.
“Unless the department wants to pay to swap it out to a 407, it will be assigned here when you come back,” I replied.
When the rotors stopped turning, Ambassador Bernardi and I walked over to the chopper.
“Fly’s great! Do want to go for a ride and look at the city?” Bambi asked.
“When we get everything done, if there is still time we will go. Right now we need your hands. I want everything done we can get done before dark. Andy is going to pull 10 people and send them to rest so they can do the night security shift,” I replied.
At six Andy loaded the ambassador and his staff and carried them to Kampala International for their trip for to the US.
“Good luck with your surgery Ambassador and have a safe trip,” I said as I closed the door on the limo.
When the men returned, it was the time to shake down today’s progress over a quick easy supper of hamburgers and hot dogs.
Andy was the commander of the RRT; with 37 men and ladies today he also had a crew assigned to him. There would be three shifts of 12; each with a pilot for the chopper, a cook and a person to man the communications/security room.
During the day when the communications room would be the busiest, one of my girls would be assigned there to help. Each shift had two leaders, two teams of six. Between the burgers, shift assignments and team assignments were made. Part of that process would start tonight.
It was time to tell the group why we were here, what we thought was going to happen, what our mission was and the outcome we expected, and then how we were going to accomplish that.
Defensively there were things Andy wanted to do and we needed to talk about them so they could start tomorrow.
Andy wanted to reinforce the interior of the building to stand up to the potential blast and put sand bag emplacements on the roof for shooting positions. All this had to be done without giving away what we were doing.
“It’s going to take so much reinforcing to strengthen that big flat wall of the building that it may be useless to us. Instead of bracing for it, let’s deflect the blast,” I said.
“Just how can we do that?” Andy asked.
I was sure that he thought I was joking or lost my mind.
“On aircraft carriers when they launch a jet, a big steel plate comes up at an angle to deflect the full power exhaust of the engine upwards. If they did not do that, the exhaust blast would blow planes and men off the deck,” I said.
“Let’s build an angled deflector 10 feet from the building, the length of the building out of heavy lumber. It will go up a lot easier,” I said.
“We drove past a large lumberyard going back and forth to the airport,” Mac added.
“Won’t that just telegraph what we are doing? Just how do you camouflage that?” Andy asked.
“We paint it to look like a big US flag, big and angled so the chopper can see it from 10,000 feet,” I replied.
“Hell, that just might work,” Mac replied.
“I guess you have an idea then on how we are going to get sand for the sand bags,” Andy replied.
“Sure; all us ladies need to keep our sun tans and there is no better way to do that than beach volleyball in skimpy bikinis. We just have to order several truckloads of sand, with one of them dumped in the wrong place in the back of the building.”
“The skid steer can level the sand for the court and lift the bags to the top of the building from the back; out of sight and mind. There is a volleyball kit in one of the general crates,” I said.
One of my three girls replied, “We did not bring any bikinis.”
“OK, we can just play naked, get or keep our all over tans. That will distract the natives for sure. They won’t see anything the men are doing,” I replied.
“To build this blast thing is going to mean we have a lot of holes to dig and it would be best to put concrete around the posts,” Derek replied.
“Before I decided to bring our own skid steer, I looked for John Deere dealers. There was one listed for Kampala but I could not get an inventory list. They may have a post hole digger attachment. If not, you know a city of this size has to have an equipment rental place or the like,” I replied.
“Another thing that we need to do is to build a couple walls in the basement so the different shifts each have a place to sleep that won’t be so noisy, we brought tools to do that. We can pick up that material in some of the trips,” Andy replied.
“Well, the day people have a lot of things to be looking for tomorrow. I don’t want anyone working their shift dragging ass for the lack of sleep, but if you feel like you can help 3 or 4 four hours before hitting the bunk it would be appreciated,” Andy replied.
“If the intelligence is right, we have about ten days. But as soon as the roof is ready I want some of the weapons up there just in case,” I replied.
“Howie, you need to assemble two of each of those toys you have been working on. Just leave the battery out until we need them,” Andy added.
We finished the supper and I went to the communications room to VCATS with the girls and then Victor. This would be the first time that I would carry on my conversations in a room with other people in there. I almost cried when the girls with the boys came keyed live. I missed them so much already.
The VCATS room at the embassies operated just like MTEC did on NCIS; my two communications people were off to the side controlling the console. All the security cameras were monitored from there. At least they worked for me.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.