The USS Iwo Jima was close enough I could read the name and ship number LHD7 on the bow. It was an amphibious assault ship with a flight deck like a carrier for helicopters and a well in the stern that could be open and discharge air cushioned landing craft or traditional tracked landing craft.
It was a newer sister ship of the USS Boxer that was in the Arabian Sea. When ready to fight, it carried two thousand Marines and at times – special operations personnel.
There were three landing craft in the water headed our way as we picked up speed to the island. They matched our speed and kept up with us. The military officers in my staff were keeping everyone informed on our daily plans. There were four AH-1 Super Cobra/Viper helicopters flying towards the island.
Low Island was aimed north-east by south-west with one hundred and forty plus acres. The east side was the ocean side. It had a cliff with a steep drop off of several thousand feet – almost straight down – according to the ocean charts.
The lee or western side had a sloped sandy beach that stretched several hundred yards before reaching a depth of less than one hundred feet at its deepest before climbing to shallows waters on the south side of Deep water Cay.
We crossed the two miles in no time and were soon unloading the equipment on the beach. My security was on the ATVs because they could get around a lot faster. The Gators were larger, had more wheels and less likely to turn over – just safer for us with the boys.
The three Navy landing craft came ashore and unloaded men. I noticed they were heavy on officers as they came to introduce themselves. The helicopters were crossing the island in a search pattern.
”Madam President, I’m Brigadier General Oliver Stilwell. Washington asked us to do a security check on the island since it is unoccupied most of the time and we were in the area monitoring drug traffic as part of the anti-drug task force,” he said as I returned his salute.
”I will have to thank General Ingram for his concern for my safety,” I said.
The White House photographer and media were clicking away. No doubt those pictures would gather plenty of conversation. I was in a small bikini and a White House issue baseball cap with the seal of the President on it with my hair in a ponytail, wearing my favorite aviator sunglasses and tennis shoes. All my mates were dressed pretty much the same way. After all, we were on vacation and it was in the mid-80s
Access to the mansion and to the runway was from the sandy beach up a winding path. The Marines walked the path while the General and officers talked about the island. The General insisted that we wait until the other officers and Marines made it to the top and checked things out.
General Stillwell and my family talked while we were waiting. ”You have got the Navy scared with the threat of canceling those carriers. Admirals are jumping through hoops and they have Newport News Ship Building scrambling,” he said.
”I’m afraid we may need them sooner than we expect,” I said.
The Marines were at the top and signaled all clear. I knew it was by the camera and sensor system that Lorrie had installed after she bought the Island. She and Andy were worried about the isolation of the mansion on the island.
Andy had a full blown security system installed, the original solar field expanded and found out that the original reserve battery system was only capable of holding fifty percent of its reserve capacity. Age had taken its toll as with all batteries.
Andy replaced and expanded the standby system with the new lithium deep cycle batteries and a new converter/ inverter. The system was capable of supplying power to the security system for thirty days if the sun didn’t shine and all the power needs of the mansion if it did.
The windmill generator was worn out and not producing anything. Lorrie and Andy wanted a backup system so the windmill power was eliminated while the diesel generator was serviced, updated and load tested.
This was ‘Hurricane Ally’. Hurricane force winds and wind power generators were bitter enemies. Without advanced controls they would over speed and destroy the gearbox or the armature, rendering it useless. The wind power was removed and junked. The tower that it was mounted on was left and an antenna mounted on it.
I sent the Gators on to the mansion and walked up the path with the General and the rest of the group that was with us. At the top of the hill after we rounded the dunes, the mansion was enormous.
Who-ever designed it must have designed castles in a previous life. The walls were of cut stone at least a foot thick. The windows had massive cedar shutters that could be closed to protect the glass from storms. There was a screened in porch that had large hinge pins on every supporting post. I assumed they were for storm shutters that were stored somewhere.
It was two stories with a second floor open porch that went completely around the house. The porch on the ground level was just on the ocean side. There was a big door that opened to the porch. From the porch to the ocean cliff was a hundred yards at least. There was a heavy duty double pipe rail to keep people from walking off the cliff and dropping into the ocean.
Inside, the place was extravagant with ten foot ceilings, a massive chandelier in the living room with a fireplace with sitting rooms and an entertainment room. Every room was accented with carved moldings and woodwork. The large kitchen had been modernized not long ago with big upright freezers and refrigerators. The dining area had fancy thickly padded walnut tables and chairs.
From the upstairs porch I could see for miles on the ocean to the east. To the west I could Deep Water Cay and the bay with the Iwo Jima sitting at anchor along with the surrounding islands.
There were eight bedrooms; three of them were master bedrooms with full baths. The other bedrooms shared several half baths. The master rooms had colonial style king-sized four poster beds built with exotic lumber; teak, walnut or cherry. It was the same with multiple dressers with fancy woodwork. Each had small walk-in closet.
This place cost a bloody fortune to build and maintain. If I had been asked about the purchase I would have said no. I was sure Lorrie and Marcy had ideas other than just our privacy. There was no doubt one could relax and have peace and quiet here.
When the girls asked me what I thought, ”Absolutely beautiful house and a great piece of property,” I responded – it was ours, I would just have to see what the plans were for it.
The helicopters radioed that everything was clear so we rode the island shoreline in the Gators and ATVs along the ocean side and returned on the bay side.
With the place locked and secure, it was time for us to head back to the Cay.
”Madam President – Captain McKay invites you and your group aboard for a tour of the Iwo Jima and coffee,” General Stilwell said.
I asked the girls if they wanted to go take a tour of the Iwo? I hadn’t hardly finished when the boys let us know they wanted to go.
It took a few minutes to sort out everything with the Secret Service and my JBG security to decide who was going and who was returning to the island. Obviously the two military officers with football were going. We had to use a Marine landing craft to be able to board the Iwo; they were afraid our aluminum ones weren’t built heavy enough.
Twenty minutes later we were going to through the well deck opening and being winched tight to the loading platform before they dropped the front gate. The other two landing crafts were beside us – one of them crowded with Marines who had made room for us in the others.
When the gate dropped, the General and I were piped aboard. The ship’s address system announced that the CIC was aboard. We were the first ones out and stepped out to the full VIP treatment. The ship’s commander and officers, the Marine officers, sailors in their whites and a Marine detachment in dress blues – all at attention along with an admiral. The admiral was one star Rear Admiral Clayton Perry.
We toured the main deck, the mess, the officers quarters, the hangar deck and listened to the operations people explain their mission and responsibilities. We were given a tour of the bridge with an explanation of all its functions and operational control.
We watched the radar sweeps of the area with the explanation of how it worked. The boys were fascinated – my mates had seen it before with the Doppler radar at Morton.
Secret Service Special Agent Donald Gardner was the senior agent and field supervisor of the agent detachment for my vacation. I trusted him with my 2 phones when I was in vacation attire – namely a bikini. There was no place to carry the phone.
I heard the phone ring, ”Madam President, it is your White House phone,” he said as he handed it to me.
”Hello,” and then I listened as General Ingram said a few words and then asked if I was in a position to converse by MTAC.
Turning to Admiral, ”I need to use your MTAC communications room.”
”Follow me,” General Stilwell said.
”Captain, will you show my group to the flight deck and show them the new helicopters you have?” I asked.
”Yes ma-am I would be glad to,” he said.
I followed the Admiral and General to the MTAC which was a room below the bridge on the main deck.
”Please page General Ingram,” I said.
After a few minutes, ”It says not authorized – the highest we can page is the Chief of Naval operations,” the controller said.
”Sign out and let me sign in,” I said as I waited for her to move from the terminal.
A couple minutes later I was looking at General Ingram, ”Good afternoon General, I take it we have problems. I am in the MTAC on the Iwo Jima, with General Stillwell and Admiral Perry and the two operators. Should I clear the room before we have a conversation?” I asked.
”Yes, clear everyone except the Admiral and General can stay,” he said. The two operators left the room.
”Next time you go on vacation I’m coming as the DOD representative. I can hand you a beer or tan lotion or something. You are killing the Secret Service and others with you with so much skin,” he said.
”You could have come this time – that is what happens when you don’t answer your phone,” I said.
”So that’s whose blocked number that was,” he said, ”Damn.”
”Iran is moving large numbers of troops,” he said and there were several maps on the screen he was standing beside with a pointer.
”Do you think they are part of the war games they are doing?” I asked.
”Could be possible. If it is, it is more than they have ever moved as part of any games before,” he said.
”What’s the CIA saying? They are supposed to be in the know,” I said.
”I have a call in for Frank Love as we speak. They are telling me he is in a classified meeting and will join us shortly,” he replied.
”What about Bob Smith – anything from the NSA intercepts?” I asked.
”No, he is several days behind on intercept translation. He has lost several people,” he said.
”Stay on the line, I will go a different route,” I said.
I moved over to the other terminal and opened the internet then JBG’s security site, then entered all the passwords and clicked to enter the command center main console. I then keyed the two screens together as one.
”Hello boss, been awhile since you have called in while I was manning the desk,” said Tom Folsom who usually worked the night shift.
”Hello Tom, whose arm did you break to get day work?” I asked.
”Jimmy is on vacation – I’m pulling a double today,” Tom replied.
”Helping each other out – nothing wrong with that,” I said.
”Tom, connect me with Robert, Andy and Gabriel in Oman and Ike Gardner at AD – Demand Saudi Arabia please,” I said.
Robert and Andy were the first on line; they were at the office.
”Robert, are you up to date on the intercepts from the listening post on the strait of Hormuz?” I asked.
”I’m sure the team has finished today’s intercepts, I can send you the summary if you like,” he said.
”Has there been anything intercepted about all the troop movements that Iran is doing? ” I asked.
”Yes! Quite a bit from Tiam and general communications. The orders are directing assembly at the Iranian army training area and live fire drills slated at Kashan. There are some other things in it I made Andy aware of,” Robert said.
”No orders directing any troops towards the Strait or any of the JBG assets?” I asked.
”No, none and it is scheduled to be a two week drill,” Robert replied.
”Sounds like they are prepping for war and that coincides with the other intel we have,” I said.
”Andy, what are your thoughts on your Middle Eastern sites?” I asked.
”I increased the awareness code level – as it stands we are good. I look at the intel every day and will change as necessary. I would like to have some additional weapons,” Andy said.
”Give a list to Vicky when we get home – she can get what you need,” I said.
”General Ingram, since the agencies are slow translating the intelligence, do you want the summary or the complete report from Robert?” I asked.
”The complete report would be good,” the General said.
”Robert, remove the things that could point to JBG and email it to me at my DC office, if you would please,” I said.
”Gentlemen is there anything else we need to discuss?” I asked.
They said ”no” and the windows starting closing one at a time.
”I need to take a quick tour, find my group and get back to Deep Water Cay,” I said.
”Before you go I have an Iwo Jima cap for you,” the Admiral said.
”Have you got a sharpie? I will trade for this one I am wearing,” I said.
With the sharpie I signed the presidential hat I was wearing, ”R. Jones 47th. President.”
After a quick walk-through of the upper decks and talking with a few sailors and Marines, we boarded a couple helicopters to carry us to Deep Water Cay. I was sitting behind the pilot and copilot.
I tapped the pilot on the shoulder, ”You do realize that when I am aboard, this helicopter becomes Marine One – use it as your aircraft ID. Don’t forget to enter in your log pilot in command time for Marine One. It may not mean much now but will be a great conversation piece with the children and grandchildren. The same goes for you as the copilot,” I said.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.