The flight only took two hours and thirty nine minutes. I was clock watching – call it impatience, anxiety or enthusiasm – I wasn’t sure.
The 747-200 had already made the trip, leaving forty minutes earlier with the men from Morton.
When we landed the place was full of men and women, this time in JBG uniforms as it should be. Uniforms were part of discipline, moral, order and ended the preverbal question of who are you? Do you belong here?
This was what Fort Dean had been built for – to be used aggressively, not like the day we made the un-announced stop.
The road into Fort Dean had been paved as I had told Andy to have done. It was twenty feet wide with a double yellow stripe down the middle.
The archway was exactly what I had in mind, Fort Dean in big letters at the top of the arch that spanned the new roadway. The JBG security logo was on the left side, on the right was Cameron Parish, Louisiana – Southern and Central American command and training center.
Past the arch the road split with an armed guard shack in the middle and the one arm barrier controlled by the guards. Past the barrier were a double row of vicious tire spikes that were close enough that even a motorcycle could not pass; they dropped out of sight when the barrier was raised. On the departing lane was the same set of spikes controlled by the guardhouse.
The trash was gone and not one cigarette butt could be seen, the command center had been painted with new signage. The barracks had been painted inside and out with new windows, doors, a new roof and new AC units.
The fuel truck had been replaced with a new and bigger one. The fuel farm was expanded. Where there was only one fuel tank there were now six.
The command center was new inside – gone were all those worn out surplus military metal desks. There was a nice office for the Fort commander with a big flat screen and camera for MTAC and VCATS with any of our offices. There was a smaller office for his second in command.
Smart new cubicles were occupied by others. On them were new flat screens and laptop docking stations with all the bells and whistles Robert’s group thought they needed.
On one wall was a really big flat screen that everyone could see by turning around.
Andy had torqued someone when he left to see my orders – his orders completed.
The barracks was full; all six hundred men were there for final briefing and assignment to the six battalions. Andy, Paul Drake and eight of Andy’s top men he trusted were put in command.
As soon as these six hundred were in Mexico, four hundred more from the call up group were assembling at Fort Dean for backup or to begin Part D of the contract. By the end of the week we would have ten battalions in Mexico – the one thousand man limit in the original contract.
Battalion red one and red two were – for the lack of a better term – mobile infantry units. Each unit had fifteen MRAPS, fifteen Humvees and a total of one hundred men each.
Battalion blue one and blue two were the aviation support for red one and red two. Of the four 802s two were equipped with a mini gun and rockets, the other two with mini gun and Hellfire missiles. Four Blackhawks were with each group to quickly get advance men to the two airfields. With the aviation support group there were fifty men in each of those battalions.
I was surprised to see Robbie with the aviation support group.
”How did they get you away from the shop?” I asked.
”So much going on I just wanted to be here, be a part of it and to see what you do,” Robbie replied.
Green battalions one and two were logistics – the freezer tractor trailers with frozen foods, ten eight thousand gallon potable fresh water trucks with a slight taste of chlorine. There were cooks, portable messes, tents, sleep buses and portable showers and toilets; latrines were out of the questions.
The last thing I needed was an environmental waste scandal to hit the media in several months. There were two sewage trucks to remove the sewage from the sleep buses, showers and toilets. It was to be trucked back to the Brownsville treatment plant.
There was a front end loader, a grader and a small bulldozer loaded on trailers to help set up the two camps. The two battalions were one hundred and fifty men. If things moved quickly I doubted that would be enough.
Orange battalions one and two were camp security with fifty men each. They were also responsible for any prisoners – and I wanted prisoners. There were two doctors and two nurses courtesy of Doc Burns.
I let Hanna and Melinda take a camera sweep in the field house with the men assembled and still shots of the entrance to use on reports after we were in Mexico. They would need filler to keep what we were doing in the news cycle.
All day long the men were drilled on what groups they were with and vehicles they were to be assigned to.
The aviation unit was under command of a former unit commander just back from Iraq. He worked over and over with the pilots on flight patterns and ground support that had a mix of helicopters and fixed wing working the field together.
The pilots didn’t really need it; they had all been there in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. But the refresher may save a midair collision.
I wanted Mexico in the news cycle to distract the media from the French – Iranian growing problem.
The Iranians were internationally pissed that France had denied their demands to interview the prisoners and view the dead. One problem with viewing the dead was that they were buried – the next day as was the Muslim custom.
Iran was demanding a full UN assembly meeting to file a grievance against France and JBG. France as a permanent member of the Security Council voted to table the grievance but abstained when Iran reentered the grievance against JBG.
It would be a first in UN history for a non-nation to be the brunt of a full UN assembly action.
The President and supreme leader of Iran were coming to New York and going to personally address the full assembly. They were demanding a full UN war crimes inquiry into the JBG raid. They wanted UN interrogations of the prisoners after they were transferred to an independent third party Muslim country. All this was to happen in three weeks.
I wanted Mexico to fill the media, depriving Iran and putting them on the back page. Politics on an international scale – and I still hated it – but I was learning how to play it.
I had learned enough that when Dick James called he could offer no suggestions any better than I already knew.
We spent the night at Fort Dean. Sunday morning the men started flying to Brownsville International. The 747-200 made the first trip. Then the 747-400 carried the rest. Leased charter buses carried the men to the Texas steel site.
Hanna and Melinda were allowed to take more filler of the departure and arrival at Texas along with an overview of all the assembled equipment. There were fifty sleeping buses that had been completed, up from original twenty.
Both ladies toured the armored sleepers and took a lot of film of them being explained by Lorrie. It was a joint project by her and Andy – it was her pet project – and she was the most informed with Andy busy.
Once Texas Steel and Fabrication got their act together, Lorrie decided thirty more would give us a lot more flexibility as the mission progressed.
Today was a test of the logistics to feed the men and how the sleepers would work out – we were sleeping in them tonight. The cooks with the food trucks were feeding supper and breakfast tomorrow morning as a final test run.
Tomorrow would start at 04:00, breakfast at 04:30. At 05:30 – unless there were troubles – the units would be on the road crossing the border. The aircraft would be over the first runway and the Blackhawks putting the first of the men on the ground.
Bob Jackson of Bobs Construction called just before supper time. His engineers had finished the blueprints I has asked for. Both of the building and of the forms to precast them. After a lengthy discussion I had him fax all the blueprints to Texas Steel and Fabrication.
Monday morning Bob was going to call to them.
Even though there were the RVs on the lot, the girls and I slept in one of converted buses. I wanted to know just how much the men were going to have to rough it.
The conclusion – they were far better than a tent and bunk roll in sand.
Field cooked supper and breakfast needed improvement and that would come once the battalions were separated and in a more manageable size.
At 05:30 Hanna and Melinda were filming the men heading out the gate. The Mexican border guards had orders from Federal Police Inez not to stop any of our convoys. Hanna loaded up in the last MRAP with Red 1 to the first airfield.
Melinda was in one of the Blackhawks flying to the airfield Baker 2 and would arrive close to the time the MRAP and Humvees pulled onto the first one.
All the Blackhawks were carrying men to Baker 2 – a change from last night’s planning. The night vision from the DHS showed early traffic and then quiet at the Apple 1 airfield Red 1 was hitting.
It was a different story at the Baker 2, six planes had done the rodeo, land and take off. There were still cartel on the ground at daylight. The first two 802s were told to strafe and use the rockets on everything that they could see. Then return to Brownsville International, refuel and rearm then proceed to cover Red 1 while the other two 802s were to stay and provide cover for Red 2 if needed.
I told Hanna and Melinda then they could go live when they arrived at the airfields and I approved all but a couple minutes of the filler they had filmed, which they immediately cut out.
Let the games begin – Pawn to D4.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.