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Excerpt From Chapter Seven of Dragon's Fury - The Long March
November 12, 2009, 11:38 local time
Incirlik Air Force Base
Near Adana, Turkey
1st Sergeant Dave Johnson and Security Force Superintendent (SFS), Nick Jackson, of the 159th Security Forces Squadron of the Louisiana Air National Guard, both waited impatiently, along with their commanding officer, Colonel Lee Bowman, for the upcoming meeting. All three of them had arrived here at the new operations center just moments ago in an up-armored M998 HMMV escorted by two of the new M1117A Armored Security Vehicles (ASV) vehicles, which had been designated ASV+ to distinguish them from the earlier ASV models.
Watching now as the M117As and the M998 took up their positions in a mutually defensive, blocking formation on the new tarmac, the 1st Sergeant couldn’t help but think to himself.
"The ASV+ sure is a great upgrade to the original M1117.
"Putting a larger turret on them so they could hold that 25mm chain gun and a TOW missile launcher in addition to the M2 50 and the M19 grenade launcher, has really added the kind of firepower we need to cover all of our ground defense bases.
"It's good seeing them there…just makes a guy feel…well, just more secure. Now, if we could just get that AAW variant.
Turning to Nick Jackson, and knowing that Colonel Bowman was hearing every word of what he was saying, the 1st Sergeant commented out loud.
"Chief, when are we going to get the air-defense variety of the M1117As we've been promised?
"It sure would be nice to have a coupe of them hanging out here with us as well don't you think?"
Before the chief could respond, Colonel Bowman, taking the hint, responded for him.
"Chief, explain to the 1st-shirt here that we're being adequately watched over. We have four Navy Hornets above us, four patriot batteries up and functioning, and four HUMRAAMs all making sure the boogey man keeps away."
Then, turning to the 1st Sergeant and speaking directly at him while continuing to address the Chief…and with a twinkle in his eye, Bowman continued.
"But, let him know, Chief Jackson, that the air defense M1117s are being unloaded in Adana tomorrow and we'll have them here on the base by the end of the week."
As he finished, the Colonel winked, and then strolled over to the group of individuals where the Colonel's who commanded the Rangers and the Turkish forces stood.
Chief Jackson wasn't long in responding for himself as the Colonel walked away.
"Well, Dave, you heard the man…sounds like we're in good shape, and like those units will be here before you know it."
Johnson was glad to hear it…and appreciated the manner in which the Colonel and his Chief had delivered the message. All of them, Johnson, Jackson and Bowman, along with almost their entire squadron, had trained together as a National Guard unit and known each other for many years. Their last duty assignment had been in Cuba where the 159th had set up security arrangements at one of the large Cuban air bases right after it had been taken in the fighting.
But with their sterling combat record and with the current offensive in the Mid East, the 159th had been pulled out of Cuba so other, less experienced squadrons could use the now more peaceful assignment in Cuba as a place to learn…while the 159th was assigned to the task force with the critical combat mission of invading the underbelly of Turkey and taking and holding the Incirlik Air Base.
Now they had been on the ground here in Turkey for less than a week firming up the security situation around the newly re-conquered base as the front lines pushed deeper to the north and east into Turkey. All three men were anxious to conduct this meeting and get some very useful pointers from the special guest who was about to pay them a visit.
As they waited, Johnson felt the current security situation at Incirlik was well under control, but he would never underestimate the enemy, or allow his people to over play their own hand. They still had a regiment of U.S. Army Rangers and an entire battalion of Turkish forces augmenting the perimeter security at the base, guarding against a possible GIR break through should the enemy counter attack and break through allied front lines that were now over fifty miles to the north and to the east. Such a counter attack was still a definite possibility and allied forces at Incirlik and Adana had to continue to guard against that possibility.
As its first order of business, the 159th Security Forces Squadron had been assigned to handle all of the inner ring security at Incirlik. And that was what these three men were focused upon. Ultimately they would be responsible for the security of the entire base, once the overall tactical situation calmed down further and allowed their force to accomplish that mission by themselves.
For the time being, they were still experiencing enough GIR air attacks and persistent small arms attacks from groups of GIR soldiers and local Islamic partisans to warrant the additional allied forces. Those GIR ground forces had either gone to ground or been bypassed in the general allied offensive that had landed near Adana and then captured Incirlik three weeks ago. With time, those enemy attacks were decreasing in both number and intensity as the enemy groups were identified, prosecuted and either captured or destroyed.
The base itself, and it's rapidly ongoing repair, was serving as a model of Joint Operations effectiveness in the ongoing allied operation. Marine and Air Force engineers, and Civil contractors were getting the runways, hangars and control facilities rapidly into working order. The Navy was bringing in more than sufficient fuel and other supplies by ship and was providing air defense over the base from both TBM Aegis ships and carrier aircraft until air operations were possible from the base itself. American, British and other allied intelligence operations were providing a very clear picture of the current overall tactical and strategic picture. And, as he had already covered in his mind, Johnson knew that Army and his own Air Force security personnel, augmented by returning Turkish forces, had local security well in hand.
But, despite their confidence in the current intelligence and security situation, there was nothing like firsthand experience, to augment their perceptions and preparedness. The man they were about to meet represented the epitome of firsthand experience for this entire area over the last few years, not only for Incirlik, but all the way across Turkey and up into Armenia and Georgia, when dealing with GIR military forces. He had been doing so, with the barest minimum of resources for almost four years, behind enemy lines.
Amongst American security forces, particularly U.S. Air Force security squadrons, the name of Captain Luke Hanson was something of a legend in this conflict. And David Johnson, Nick Jackson and their commanding officer, Colonel Lee Bowman, all would be meeting that legend today.
In fact, that meeting would occur in just a few moments as all three men saw that the Black Hawk helicopter carrying Hanson was just landing about a hundred yards away at that very moment.
November 12, 2009, 11:41 local time
Luke Hanson soaked up the memories as the helicopter flared to a gently descending hover before touching down, allowing him to exit the aircraft with the intelligence and security personnel who had escorted him here.
It was hard to believe he was back at Incirlik, standing on this ground where so many of his friends had been wounded or died, and where he and a few others had narrowly escaped alive in January of 2006…almost four years earlier.
So much had happened in the intervening years as he fought the GIR behind enemy lines. All of those guerilla and partisan experiences had finally culminating almost a year ago with the successful covert operation directed at GIR General Talabari in Tbilisi, Georgia, in November of 2008, when the U.S. CIA operative, Riley Adams, had successfully eliminated the famous GIR general.
That success had been followed by the amazing allied victories later that fall in Alaska, Israel and near Moscow, and then the great breakthrough in Syria into Saudi Arabia and the former Iraq late this summer. Those later breakthroughs had eased pressure on his own partisan forces in Georgia as the enemy armies in those areas, seeing that they were about to be cut off entirely on the Turkish peninsula, streamed to the east to try and thwart the allied advances.
The vast reduction in GRI forces in his area had allowed Hanson to successfully carry out the mission he had been given last month and make his way south, to meet up with the American, British and Turkish at the beachhead here. That meeting was occurring today, here near Adana, where the allies, using American C-90A transports, huge SSTN amphibious assault submarines, a massive allied naval task force and a plentiful supply of Hail Storm missiles had forced their way ashore. The US and its allies were now pouring more and more men and materiel into a massive pincer on the GIR forces which were trying to defend their holdings in Turkey and keep American forces out of central Iran.
Reflecting on all that he had experienced in the fighting of the past years leading to this moment, those few months as the calendar turned from 2005 to 2006, were indelibly etched in his memory. Those weeks saw him transform from a regular army officer to a guerilla fighter who built a force of partisans to combat the conquering GIR forces in this part of the world.
Nor had he forgotten his home back in Nebraska, and now, at long last, he was going to be returning there.
But he had one last assignment to fulfill before doing so, and he was looking forward to it. He was here to brief the new security forces on the defense of his old base here at Incirlik, helping them understand how the GIR had been able to defeat the base in early 2006, and then over-run it with their massive forces.
And from that understanding, he was hoping to convey to them how they could prevent it from happening in the future.
Approaching the group, he saw a full-bird U.S Air Force Colonel, flanked by a U.S. Army Ranger Colonel and a Turkish Colonel, step forward. The Air Force Colonel addressed him as they warmly shook hands.
"Captain Hanson, I'm Colonel Lee Bowman, commanding the 159th Security Forces Squadron.
"Let me be the first to welcome you back here to Incirlik Air Force Base. You've been away far too long."
After shaking hands, the Colonel made all of the other introductions to the other two Colonels, to SFS Jackson, and to 1st Sergeant, David Johnson. Then, just before moving indoors, he halted the entire group and made another announcement.
"Before we proceed with the briefing, Captain, let me just add this so that everyone can be sure to keep their schedules straight.
"You are going to be involved in a special awards ceremony here at the base tomorrow afternoon, before your departure, which will be repeated in Washington, D.C., when you return stateside.
"That ceremony will include the presentation of to you of a Silver Star, and an advancement in rank.
"So let me be the first to personally congratulate you, Lieutenant Colonel Hanson, well done !"
Luke Hanson really didn’t know what to say as all of those present shook his hand again and slapped him on the back, wishing him the best. All of this was news to him and came as quite a shock.
Looking around, he caught site of the ASV+ vehicles, standing vigil over their gathering, and he had to stare at them.
"Colonel," he said, as everyone turned their gaze towards the M1117As where Lieutenant Colonel Hanson was looking.
"If I may?"
Colonel Bowman understood very well why Hanson was captivated with the new Armored Security Vehicles. They represented a firepower capability that was a far cry over the capabilities of the V-150 security vehicles that would have been in place here at Incirlik when the base had been overrun and upon which Hanson and his own forces would have had to depend.
"1st-shirt, why don’t you accompany the Lieutenant Colonel and explain to him all of the finer points of the ASV+"
David Johnson gladly complied.
"My pleasure, sir."
As the two of them walked over to the nearest vehicle, Johnson found, that for the moment, there was very little to say. The mood just wasn't right for discussion or explanation at this point. Hanson could very well see for himself the strength of this vehicle. As they got close, the vehicle commander climbed out and greeted them both with a friendly smile and a warm hand shake.
When Hanson reached the vehicle, he climbed up on its large front tire and then onto its armored side and stood up on the deck surrounding the turret. He leaned over and thoughtfully, reflectively touched the 25mm gun barrel and put his other hand up on the TOW missile launcher while observing the .50 caliber machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher barrels that also protruded from the turret.
Standing up to his full height again, Hanson slowly turned around and surveyed the view from where he stood.
The 1st Sergeant could see the far away look in his eyes and knew that Lee Hanson was thinking back on the fight that took place near here when he had been in charge of the security at Incirlik and had been facing overwhelming odds.
"It's a fine piece of equipment, Colonel.
"I'm sure you guys would have made the most of them in that fight back in 2006."
Hanson was brought back to the present by the 1st Sergeant's comments. Looking down, he smiled as he imagined what he could have done with three or four of these babies.
"1st Sergeant…you're right.
"It is a fine piece of equipment and we most assuredly would have made the best of them.
"They would not have turned the tide in that battle…there were far too many GIR tanks and aircraft for that.
"But we surely would have sold this base at a much stiffer price, and perhaps a few more of us would have made it out. I just hope we've learned in the intervening years to never underestimate the capabilities of our enemies."
And for that, the 1st Sergeant had a most definitive answer.
As Hanson climbed down off the vehicle and they began walking back to the operations building to start the briefing, 1st Sergeant David Johnson put his arm on Hanson's shoulder and replied.
"Lieutenant Colonel Hanson, we have learned that lesson, over and over and over again over the last four years.
"…and I believe you are going to be very pleasantly surprised and satisfied at just how well we have learned it."