Book 2 Chapter 169

Marine One landed at the Norfolk Navy Yard shortly before 0800. A group of VIP vans carried me and the group that always traveled with me. Today there were additional officials; Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations and General Ingram were among them. Of course there were a couple of news people that had won today’s lottery.
I waited at the base of the stairs with the Chief of Naval Operations to be piped aboard. All the other officials had already boarded; I was the last to board along with part of my security.
As I waited to climb the stairs, the others in my group went first. Each was announced as being aboard stepped by their rank and position. As I stepped from the stairs to the deck the loud speaker announced, ”Attention all hands! The Commander In Chief is now aboard.” That was followed by ‘Stars and Stripes’ as I walked across the deck to the Island.
”Prepare to cast off all lines.”
I felt the ship move as tugs started to pull the ship away from the dock. It takes several large tugs to maneuver a ship this size to or away from the dock and into the channel. Tides and currents play havoc in narrow channels and ports with large ships. Tugs make sure they do not run aground or are pushed against docks or other ships.
Once the ships are underway and in deep channels, the tugs are no longer needed unless there are high winds.
At the Island we went up three decks to the control room. It was glass enclosed with a three sixty visibility. All the ships functions were controlled from decks of the Island.
Where I was on the third deck with the ship’s wheel that guided the ship, there were fancy chairs for the captains and there were several already seated; the Rear Admiral and a couple more other important officers. Flight operations on the flight deck could be observed from here. A lowly captain was ordered to give up his fancy swivel seat for me.
By now we had passed over the section of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel that connected the eastern shore of Virginia to Virginia proper. Several Burke class destroyers followed the Thomas out of the Hampton Roads harbor. As we moved further out to sea we were met with several more ships, including a missile cruiser and a couple more destroyers.
The Fordson and the Stennis were behind us – we were a couple miles at sea when I saw them move to into formation and picked up speed to join us.
We were picking up speed; I could tell by the vibrations and by looking at the instruments that were on all sides. Ships operations were under way with all the officers doing something. It was here that Rear Admiral Scott and Captain McCoy turned to talk to me.
”Our air operations will begin in about twenty minutes. We will land twenty aircraft initially and they will do a series of launches and landings. For some of the pilots it will be the first actual carrier landings. Pensacola Flight School has deemed they are carrier qualified so we shall find out if they remember all the training,” Captain McCoy said.
They talked navy for twenty minutes, explaining carrier operations and how the escort ships fit into the picture. The carrier is the center of the task force. It was the job of the escorts to mirror the movements of the carrier for a lot of reasons.
The escort’s primary job was to protect the carrier from damage by the enemy from submarines, aircraft, and missiles. Escorts ships came with specialized duties. Some were submarine hunters, others were designed to do antimissile functions and anti-aircraft duties.
Another important function was to rescue pilots that ejected from troubled aircraft in launch or landing modes. They were also tasked in hunting for anyone that fell off the carrier.
The announcement that aircraft were inbound and the ship turning into the wind to assist in the process of landing ended our conversation. I watched as the hook of the first plane caught the arresting cable bringing the plane to an immediate stop. The second plane missed the cables and had to go around. On the second try the pilot caught the second cable. The Thompson’s air group continued to come aboard – twenty planes in all. It was a mix of F35, F37 and late model F18 H models.
With binoculars I watched the Fordson air group trying to get aboard. It wasn’t going well. I saw five planes land and then the remaining aircraft were in a holding pattern; the deck was full of people. Twenty minutes later the planes were still in a holding pattern.
”Admiral Scott, can you monitor the Fordson’s air group radios?” I asked.
”Yes ma-am,” he said as he ordered it to be put on the speaker.
We listened as the problems with the landing system were discussed. The fifteen pilots in the air were told that if the problem could not be fixed in fifteen minutes, an order would be given that they were to return to Oceania air station.
Oceania was one of the places that carrier planes were sent to as the carriers came to port. The planes were also flown from there to carriers leaving for a duty tour.
”What a shame. I’m sure some of those pilots are just out of training and need the experience to gain confidence in their abilities. Do you have room on deck or in the hangar to add them to the training group today?” I asked.
”Plenty of room! We only have twenty but we can carry eighty,” Captain McCoy said.
”Do it!” the Chief of Naval Operations said.
”Page the Fordson; I need to speak with Admiral Bramble,” Admiral Scott directed the radio operator.
”Admiral Bramble – per orders of President Jones and the Chief of Naval Operations, the fifteen planes in the air are to be assigned to the Thomas air group until you get your problem repaired. Have the planes contact Thomas air control for instructions at one niner niner point five,” Scott said.
Five minutes later the first of the planes hooked the cable, twenty minutes later the last one was on deck. As soon as the deck was clear, planes were coming up the elevators. The Thomas’ twenty planes were launched in pairs. Twenty minutes later the Fordson’s fifteen were launched.
Control was forming them up in five plane squadrons. Young pilots were learning that carrier life and flying was going to be a lot different than Pensacola Naval Air station. The squadrons were vectored back one at a time to land and repeat.
Admiral Scott winked at me and moved his head to look out the window to the Fordson. The deck was still full of men trying to fix the problem. He looked back at me and smiled.
He was old school and had faith in old school technology. I was sure Admiral Bramble was going to get a ribbing back at the officers club.
”Captain McCoy, have you got an old school Chief Petty Officer that can give me a tour below decks while you teach them virgins how to grab the cable the first time?” I asked.
”Yes Ma-am, Chief Stevens will meet you at the hatchway to the flight deck,” he said.
Two Secret Service agents and I made our way to the hatch and waited for the Chief.
”Madam President, what would you like to see?” he asked.
”Everything you think I would like to see, especially the things you think the captain would not want me to see. Somewhere along the way I would like a cup of coffee,” I said.
”Follow me,” he said as he tried not to smile.
Two hours later, a thousand stair steps, a thousand salutes and handshakes and several cups of coffee along with an interesting trip to the head, I was back in the island with the Admiral and Captain. There was no mistaking that there were air operations happening on the flight desk; no matter what part of the ship you were in, they were that noisy.
”Fordson has resolved their flight arrester problems and others – they think. We are launching their planes for them to recover,” Captain McCoy said.
”It’s been a great tour. I have seen enough to be satisfied that things are going in the right direction. Do you have a helicopter that can carry me back to Norfolk or do I need to call for one?” I asked.
“We have a Grumman C2 Greyhound landing in a half an hour; it can carry you and your group back to Oceania,” the Admiral said.
Both my cell phones went off; the JBG and the White House one.
Andy and Frank wanted an MTAC. For that I was led to the Admiral’s office which was spacious – considering some of the places I had seen earlier. I connected both calls together as I assumed they wanted to talk about the same thing – correctly for a change.
Robert, Vicky and Andy were on one screen as the controller tried to connect with Frank. When it finally came on Frank, General Ingram and Bob Smith were on the other one.
“What’s up? Who wants to go first?” I asked.
“In today’s intercepts from Tiam, General Bashir is ordering a lot of unknown units in Africa to meet up and attack the Nigerian town of Mubi and then move on to Garoua Cameroon. Both of those are pipeline transfer towns where several regional lines come together, merging into one that goes to the coast,” Andy said. Then added, ”Both lines are under the new contracts.”
”Are there any signs of any groups moving in the direction of Mubi in the latest satellite pictures?” I asked Frank.
”No, there are no signs at this time,” he said.
”What about field reports – anything from them?” I asked Andy.
”Just normal reports,” Andy said.
”How do you think we should prepare? I am looking at pulling security out of Mexico and Fort Dean; about fifteen hundred men,” Andy said.
”No, do not move any men or react in any way that could be viewed as we are reading their radio traffic. You can make plans on paper to shift forces but that is all and have nothing in our radio traffic. Increase the purchase of satellite time to look more often,” I said.
”You see something that I do not,” Andy replied.
”Yes but it would take too long to explain it today, here is the short version. He is checking to see if his communications have been breached. We have no evidence the groups the messages were sent to even exist. We have never heard of them before. They are watching to see if we respond in any way. If we do, they will change the message coding. We cannot take that risk right now.”
”The next part is he is trying to send the JBG resources on a wild goose chase, drawing them away from his intended objective. He wants our people either out of the strait or the numbers reduced. We would have to do that in order to handle the threat from his broadcast,” I said.
”This is the diversion we have been expecting,” I said.
”That said – do nothing, watch and wait. It would take them weeks to put together the manpower to carry out those kinds of raids and it would be visible to the satellites. There will be plenty of time to react if you see any real evidence,” I said.
”And if you are wrong? Nigeria and Cameroon are not going to be happy,” Andy replied.
”Then it’s on me. I will be the one to make the calls,” I said.
”Ok. I will keep you informed,” Andy replied as the screen closed.
”Frank and Bob, I need you in my office at 0800 with the latest updates, we will talk in more depth then. General Ingram, please stay on the line,” I said.
”Admiral, page the Chief of Naval Operations to come join the meeting,” I said. The Chief of Naval Operations came in and found a seat.
”General Ingram, based on historical actions and events that General Bashir has been involved with, he usually begins major actions three to four weeks after he starts checking his communications links. In the next few days his actions will be to double check everything. We should be able to see results of that. We should be able to pick up the increase in radio transmissions.”
”That puts whatever he plans to do into the middle of July. We know he already has large numbers of troop and armor near his southern border and they are being resupplied after live training, instead of returning to their normal bases.”
”He also begins a series of diversions – he did both today. In four weeks or less there is likely to be a major military event out of Iran. We know they will try to stop all oil exports from the region because they have said so.”
”We know they intend to destroy Israel and now Lebanon and Jordan are on that list. With Iraq in their pocket, that would give them a deep water port in the Mediterranean. That would give them a fast direct shipping route to all of Europe and cut Turkey out of the picture.”
”We know they have pledged to destroy all US military installations as a first strike.”
”The Roosevelt task force is at dock in California. I want it to be ready to go to sea in three weeks, get that in the works today,” I said for the Chief of Naval Operations benefit.
”General Ingram, I need to see the Joint Chiefs tomorrow at 0900; we will discuss the things you and I have discussed privately and put them in play,” I said.
”Yes Ma-am! I have it all worked out on paper,” he said.
I heard the Grumman hit the wire. If the Secret Service did not interfere, we were going to get the thrill G ride of a lifetime – a 0 to 120 in five seconds catapult launch.
Thirty minutes later the Grumman was unloaded and we were strapped in the passenger seats.
”Air control, Workhorse 2 5 Baker; all systems green, passengers secured with thumbs up. We are ready to launch,” the pilot radioed.
”Workhorse 2 5 Baker air control, call sign change – you are now Navy 1.”
”Air control, Navy 1 Roger.”
”Air control – Navy 1 we are ready to depart,” the pilot said.
”Launch is approved, contact the Flight Deck officer.”
The pilot was now taking direction from the launch control deck officer. The turbine engines went to full throttle; the plane vibrating like it was in a hurricane. Seconds later we was glued to the back of the seat by the G forces created by the catapult.
It was a smooth ride and landing at Oceania Naval station – a flight to remember.
The flight from Oceania to the White House on Marine One was boring.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.

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1 Response to Book 2 Chapter 169

  1. Chris says:

    For those that BJ doesn’t normally interact with in the military, I hope she is handing out Presidential challenge coins. 🙂

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