... With Our Shields or On Them

Mission: Black Light

By: JHodge

Undisclosed Airstrip

South-West Azerbaijan

0037hrs Local

Present Day 2009

(Mission: Black Light + 0 days)

It took all but 30 minutes to reassemble and prep the three MH-6 'Little Bird' helicopters and within 4 minutes they were airborne for their target in eastern Armenia. The three helos were flying blacked out except for the green tritium laced instrument panel, glowed with the aid of night vision goggles. Chief Warrant Officer Bristole piloted the lead helicopter Rook 3-7, followed by Rooks 3-5 and 3-6 carrying the brunt of the assault force, Knight -3 and 4 on their external benches. Gunnery Sergeant Tomas Alvarez- the team leader of Knight 3 and mission commander, fidgeted with his assault vest in an ill-fated attempt to ease the pain of the pinched flesh caught between its straps. Seated on the forward outboard spot on Rook 3-5 he mentally rehearsed the mission ahead of him, contemplated contingencies as well as the planned escape and evasion options hatched by his company's planning and operation staff (S-3).

From this position he was exposed to the elements and could feel the cold air scrape across the uncovered portions of his face and creep through the neck line of his modified olive-drab coveralls, similar to the ones used by pilots, and cool the heat accumulating from underneath all of his gear. Looking to the south he could see the distant fiery-orange haze caused by a series of coordinated artillery and missile strikes against Armenian targets; military and/or civilian the Azeris could care less. The primary cause for the conflict within the former Russian Caucasus states began in 1988 between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region between the two countries and with it currently under Armenian occupation, it continues to be a problem for Azerbaijan and has slowly begun to unravel into a large-scale conflict. Within this realm of chaos stands the Autonomous Republic of Ajara, a former territory of the Republic of Georgia located on the Black Sea coast bordering Turkey to the south; with its rampant corruption and criminality it has become one of the prime import/export hubs for the international black market. According to Azeri intelligence findings, Ajara has been funneling arms and supplies to the Armenian forces on behalf of the Russian government (who continue to chastise Azerbaijan for their independence from Moscow), in addition to harboring smugglers, drug dealers, and terrorist groups.

After committing itself to Operation Eager Justice: aimed at countering a leftist military coup in Ecuador in late 2005, the continued struggles in Iraq, the inexhaustible War on Terrorism, to include operations throughout the Horn of Africa and other soon to boil-over conflicts; the United States was not eager to jump into another large scale operation. But a series of events would change the administrations' perception. It all began when three Marine Corps officers where kidnapped while deployed to ROTA Naval Station in Spain during the fall of 2006 and more than a year later nothing has been heard from them but those responsible were said to have been Basque terrorists with Eastern European funding. The second incident involved an American mine hunting ship (operating under a United Nations controlled deployment off the coast of Romania) that was nearly scuttled when a small merchant ship feigned distress and then exploded when the Navy vessel was within 300 meters of it, killing 7 Americans. This suicide bombing had been traced to an Islamic terrorist cell seeking refuge in Ajara. The third incident against American interest involved the hijacking of a small luxury cruiser (40 passengers) traveling throughout the Greek Isles; unfortunately faulty wiring caused the improvised explosive to detonate prematurely taking the lives of 17 Americans and 5 of the 7 terrorists. Those responsible for the luxury cruiser incident were identified as former members of a Serbian para-military group that had taken part in the atrocities committed in Kosovo; the money and materials were traced back to Ajara. Incidentally, non of these incidents were seen as a single act of terrorism by one group (at least to the untrained eye) or entity and were dismissed as just random attacks against American interests, and as such, conventional methods of dealing with those responsible would not be as effective as unconventional means.

The artillery bombardment witnessed by Gunnery Sergeant Alvarez was just one of those methods, which happened to be under the supervision of a detachment from the 10th Special Forces Group (Abn). The cooperation with Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim country, was a great step in both Americas foreign and military policy in the fight against terrorism. The union gave America two major airbases in Azerbaijan which softened the loss of airbases in both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The government of Azerbaijan also welcomed this joint venture to most importantly become a member of NATO, as its neighbor Georgia did in 2005, but to also receive the assistance needed to drive the Armenian occupants out of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region which is rightfully part of the Azeri national boundary.

For the duration of the trip Alvarez had tuned the world out of his head; drifting off into that zone of semi-consciousness controlled by instinct and intuition. Lost in his surroundings, a burst of static followed by the flight leaders voice rushed through the FM frequency and into the left padded ear-cup of Alvarez's headset, "Gunny be advised, were 11 minutes from the target and the objective is still well illuminated if, we push on we'll be compromised," informed the flight leader- Chief Bristole. Alvarez methodically replied, "Roger that Chief, have some faith. Press on."

And with no notice or clamor the ground ahead of them went black, as though consumed by a massive black hole. "Oh shit, I think somebody kind'a fucked up down there," yapped Sergeant Peters over the team's communication network- TeamNet. Instead of the preplanned nine blacked out city blocks, covert assets managed to disable the entire town's electrical grid. The incident was so unexpected that it dissolved most of the pre-mission anxiety, "You know I'm gonna wanna hear that story when we get back," replied Alvarez over team-net. "No kidding," mocked Peters over his microphone's boom.

The flight to their target had been gauged at 40 minutes and the aerial convoy had been flying for 36 of them. After receiving the 2-minute warning from the lead pilot and confirming with his own GPS unit, Alvarez adjusted his MICH helmet- tactical replacement to the bulkier combat helmet, flipped down and engaged his night vision monocle as the rest of the assault force made last minute equipment checks. Chief Bristole, carrying a sniper/observer, broke away from the formation and slipped into an over-watch position which circled the target building as Rooks 3-5 and 3-6 continued the one-minute flight to the target building's roof. Gunny Alvarez checked the FM frequency his MBITR was set to and applied pressure to his radios press-to-talk button, "Knight-3-Lead to all Knight elements, stand-by for insertion," he ordered over the FM frequency.

The sleek and agile MH-6 decelerated and hovered at 2 feet over the target building's roof for a few seconds, giving the operators of Knight-3 enough time to unhook their safety-lines and slip off of the helicopters benches. Alvarez's team fanned out taking up security on the rooftop's four corners as Rook 3-6 came in fast, flared and deposited Knight-4 who then proceeded to the roof's access door. Chief Bristole then transmitted a brief message back to the team's mobile tactical operations center located at the Azeri airstrip, "Rook-Lead to Queen-6, Guard Dog. I say again Guard Dog," confirming the successful deployment of the assault force.

Knight-4's team leader quietly articulated through the TeamNet, "In position, demo up." Upon hearing this, Knight 3 collapsed its perimeter from the four corners and moved towards the access door behind Knight-4, Sergeant Peters from team-3 prepared a full-frame breaching charge- three shaped C4 charges were placed vertically to destroy the door hinges while a fourth was placed to cover the locking mechanism. While Sergeant Peters placed the demolitions, Corporal Smith- Knight-3's communication specialist, removed the two-foot long satellite antennae from its black carry-bag and unfurled its brackets back. Smith placed the antennae on top of the access door and pointed it in the appropriate azimuth of the nearest orbiting satellite constellation. He would then trail a fiber optic cable behind the assault force and connect it into a wireless signal repeater which would be received by the multi-band satellite radio he carried.

The bare MH-6's from the 160th SOAR(A) took up a flight plan that would circle them around the target at a distance of 5 minutes. The Knight elements stacked up in anticipation of a dynamic entry; Knight-4 was located to the right of the door while Knight-3 was on its left side. The demolitions sergeant was positioned at the head of his team and would use a lightweight battering ram to push back the metal door after the explosive charge went off on the order to breach, so that Knight-4 could smoothly lead them through the door and down the flight of stairs to their objective.

"Knight-3-Lead to all Knight elements, I have control- stand by," commanded Alvarez as hegripped the electrical firing devicelinked to the breaching charges. "Five…Four…Three…Two…Breach…Go! Go! Go!"

On the Go command Sergeant Peters stepped forward and swung the ram forward with all of his strength to push the disabled door out of the way. Staff Sergeant Amos Kooch Kochavi and his assault team, Knight-4, led the offensive into the building and first through the door was Sergeant McCormick who immediately came into contact with two bewildered guards who still had their hands protecting their bloodied ears. The engagement was brief as McCormick dispatched the first guard with two 5.56mm rounds to the chest and as the second guard turned to run, McCormick's third round entered under the guard's armpit and exited through his abdomen, he quickly crumpled to the ground. The four-story stonemason house had once upon a time been a local administrative building for the Armenian government, but now it housed political prisoners, prisoners of conflict, and the countrymen of other nations that could be used for future financial support. It was the latter, their own countrymen that the Marines were risking their lives for; three kidnapped Marine officers who had been missing since 2006. Now intelligence assets indicated that they were being held on the third floor of this dilapidated building normally guarded by a local constabulary force, however, due to the presence of high-risk captives, the structures security had been augmented with a small force of Armenian paramilitaries.

Team 4's first shooting pair, Kochavi and McCormick, split off on the 4th floor and entered and secured the minute office space as the second pair- Sergeants Aston and Eagan, moved down to the second floor thus isolating the primary assault team, Knight-3, who was responsible for conducting the snatch on the third floor. The guards were taking by surprise by the foreign intruders as they tried to make sense of the commotion on the roof, unfortunately for them by the time they realized what was going on-180seconds past, Knight-3 began their assault of the target floor.

With security established, Knight-3 restacked by the door of entry. Because there was no time to setup a breaching charge, Peters would use the battering ram to bust through the simple locking mechanism the door used. To the right of the door Gunnery Sergeant Alvarez was in the number one spot followed by his commo specialist Corporal Smith and HM1 Sommers, with Sergeant Peters positioned on the opposite side of the door. Alvarez, in a crouch, tried the door to see if it was unlocked; as he slowly turned the knob his breathing and his entire world transitioned into slow motion as he tried the door. Immediately, everything rushed back to normal as the knob wouldn't complete the rotation; Alvarez looked up to Peters and shook his head to communicate that it was indeed locked. The Gunny then reached into a pouch on his vest and removed two flash/bang distraction grenades, tucking one into a gap in his chest harness and holding the other in his right hand. With his left hand he extended his five fingers, so that the rest of the team could see as he counted down. 5…4…3…2… and on the 1 command, Sergeant Peters swung the battering ram at full force against the wooden door and landed the head of the ram square on the lock, purging it from its location and swaying the battered door inwards.

As the door swung open, Zack Peters rotated back to his starting position before the paramilitaries began firing wildly at and through the door frame. Alvarez pulled the safety pins from the two flash/bangs, while keeping the spoons tightly in place, and waited for the defenders to change their magazines before tossing the devices. Once the first AK-47 magazine was heard clanking on the ground, Alvarez tossed his two distraction grenades followed by one from Peters. The highly trained operators waited for the detonations from the distraction devices before entering and as if on cue three consecutive bangs went off and the team flowed into the long rectangular room -filled with a smoky haze- in their well rehearsed room-entry maneuver.

Alvarez was the first through the door and moved to the left side of the room immediately running through his mental checklist for the rules of engagement; have gun- kill, reach for gun- kill, act suspiciously stupid- kill, a simple yet effective set of ROE's. The first two rounds from his M4 struck center-mass on a guard who had just cocked his rifle and was bringing it to bear on the operator. Peters was the second to enter and crossed to the right of the room and released a burst against a target at the far end of room striking his upper body. In a matter of seconds the two Marines had already dominated the room as the younger and not so experienced Corporal Smith entered the room. The young Marine moved in to the left side towards Alvarez and while on the move slewed the AN/PEQ-2 infrared laser, attached to the top of his M-4, against a head rising from behind a desk and when he spotted the rifle barrel protruding from behind the desk he instinctively squeezed-off three rounds, catching the Armenian paramilitary in the upper throat and collar bone. Doc Sommers was the fourth operator to enter the room and declared "Rear and primary entry clear." The three other operators moved slowly forward and when satisfied that all of the bad guys had been neutralized called out "Left clear," informed Alvarez, followed by "Right clear," from Peters and "Center clear," by Smith. The brief firefight had barely touched a minute by the time it was all over. Each man cracked and then shook to life several bright white chem-lites to provide better lighting so that they could give their AN/PVS-14 night-vision monocles and eyes a break.

The mission commander (Alvarez) chirped into his radios' boom, "This is Knight-3, floor secured. Knight-4 gimme a sitrep," requesting the two shooting pairs to report their current situation. Knight-4's team leader was the first to respond with his situation report, "This is 4-Lead, my location is secure, encountered light contact on my level, but something's not feeling right," followed by Staff Sergeant Aston, team 4's assisting team leader (ATL) down on the second floor, "4-2 here, my location is secure, I think they've figured out what's going on and might attempt to counter-attack but I think we're cool for now." Satisfied with the team's status he ended the transmission, "Roger that, hold status Knight-4." While the Gunnery Sergeant assumed his command responsibilities, the other members of Knight-3 assumed their own mission responsibilities; Sergeant Peters and Doc Sommers ensured that the dead were not faking their deaths by checking their pulse's and then collected any weapons they possessed and dumped them at the other side of the room. Corporal Smith roughly scuffled through any paper work he encountered looking for any viable intelligence as he was the Company's primary Russian linguist. However his slightly erratic behavior caught the senior Marines' eye prompting him to approach the 24 year-old communication specialist, "You okay kid," asked Alvarez placing his right hand on the younger Marines' shoulder. "Locked and cocked Gunny," he responded shrugging off the instant flashback of his first face to face kill. The team leader nodded understanding the new members' plight, and then squeezed and shook Smith's shoulder, "We'll deal with it later. Get you game face on, we're still in the shit," Alvarez firmly assured.

"Gunny we got a situation over here!" Without hesitation Alvarez turned 90 degrees to face one of his operators crouched over a dirty motionless body. He took a knee by the operator and quietly questioned him, "So what Doc, is this one of our boys?" "Yea" reported the glum operator as he compared a picture against the victim's face. "Captain Frank Olsen, 0206. Looks like they beat the shit out of him, just massive cranial damage, see the swelling here and along the crown. Then bang - bang," the medically trained operator said as he emulated a weapon pointed at the victim's chest, "short burst to the chest, he was practically brain dead by then." The corpsman looked over to Alvarez who appeared to have already figured it out as well and confirmed the Gunnery Sergeants thoughts, " 'Fraid we just missed them Tomas." Distraught, Alvarez nodded in acknowledgement, "Alright Sommers pack him up," he said and making sure that his microphone's boom was in the right position, he squeezed the PTT located on his vest and requested Kochavi's presence.

Petty Officer First Class Sommers, the company's senior enlisted medic or Corpsman, motioned Smith over. "Sup Doc," asked the tall and wiry Marine standing over the naval medic. "We lost one of the Captains, grab the sked from my pack," he said pointing to the rolled up plastic that was attached to the side of his medic-pack. The sked was a lightweight stretcher made of a durable plastic material which could be rolled-up and stretched out to 72 inches. Doc Sommers rolled the dead Marine face up onto the plastic litter and secured him in place with the tie-down straps which came with the stretcher. As he finalized this morbid task, a voice crowed from one of the corrupt-smelling holding-cells.

In his best broken English the prisoner revealed further insight into the incident, "They were taking them-moving to a new location, but there was a struggle, a f-fight, and they overpowered several guards but, but I know where the two are now, where they take them." Infuriated by the lapse in responsibility by one his team members, the Gunny approached the locked cell not amused by what he was hearing, "Peter's didn't you search this area?" "Who are you," interrogated the Gunnery Sergeant "Shenya, Rav-Samal Shenya Harel," answered the captive indicating he was the equivalent of a US Navy's Petty Officer Second Class. "An Israeli," asked the surprised Marine. "Yes, Shayetet 13, I've been imprisoned for a little over a year now."

The Gunnery Sergeant stared at the Israeli for what seemed to be an eternity, taking mental notes of his filthy ragged appearance; long disastrous hair, grimy dirt covered black and blued skin, rag-tag torn clothing and horrid oral hygiene. He wondered if this man was a decoy, providing disinformation on behalf of his captors or if he truly was who he said he was. He knew S'13 and several other IDF special mission units very well, as MARSOC and the Israeli Defense Force enjoyed a healthy friendship. Besides, if he were a fraud nobody would miss him. The mission leader turned to two of his team members, "Prep his ass for exfil, now," urged Alvarez as he locked gaze with Peters.

"Wow- hey now Gunny, I didn't sign up for this shit," rasped Sergeant Peters in a hushed tone as he wrapped several layers of detonation cord around the cell's metal lock, "Move away from the door" he ordered to the prisoner while he popped the 30-second burning fuse. With a bang and a small cloud of smoke the cell door creaked opened, followed by Peters' voice, "Ok, keep facing the wall with your hands on your head I want you to slowly back up to me." Peters was positioned behind their new prisoner while Corporal Smith kept his weapon trained on the prisoner while perpendicular with Peters, "Now stop and lay down with your hands stretched out." Peters then slung his weapon across his back and kneeled down next to the Israeli and began to search him for weapons, "He moves you'd better double-tap his dome," he remarked to Smith but before the Corporal could respond, gunfire resonated from the 2nd floor.

"It's getting pretty hot down here 3-Lead," announced Staff Sergeant Aston over the TeamNet from his position on the second floor. "Roger that. We're nearly done, just keep it cool. If you need another body let me know," replied Alvarez. Staff Sergeant Kochavi then joined Alvarez on the third floor, "What's up pawdna?" In silence he pointed to the dead Marine in response, "Yea, he's ready to go upstairs, Kooch." Nodding in acknowledgment he glimpsed over to the new souvenir, "Who the fuck is that?" "Apparently he's Rav-Samal Harel, one of your frog buddies from 'S'13'." "Well we shall see," answered Kochavi. The leader of team-3 turned to Smith and Peters and frustratingly looked at his timepiece; they were three minutes behind schedule "What the fuck is taking so long?" "Nada, he's ready to go, flex-cuffed and blindfolded like you like 'em Gunny," witted Peters.

"Ok smartass, move him up to the 4th floor get Doc and Kooch to help carry the stretcher up one time. Smith give Rook the go ahead." Smith unhooked the handset from his vest, checked the VHF frequency located on the remote display hooked to his left shoulder strap and applied pressure to the handset's press to talk button with his thumb, "Rook elements, extract is a go, I repeat green light for extract, over," after receiving confirmation Smith outstretched a thumbs up to his team leader and replaced the handset.

Through the black-starlit morning Sergeant McCormick kept watch with his night vision monocle from the roof's access door just as Doc Sommers crept up behind him and in a hushed tone asked him, "All clear Mac?" "Good to go." "Alright, the birds inbound and package secured," to which he responded with a nod. Alvarez joined Peters, Kochavi, the prisoner, and the dead officer at the bottom of the stairwell which led to the roof and spoke over the TeamNet, "4-2, pull back to the fourth floor extract is on" ordered Alvarez through the TeamNet. Several seconds' later and with no notice two loud concussions reverberated up through the stairwell, catching some of the operators off guard. "4-2, Status," barked Alvarez. "Cool it 3-Lead, we just bought us some time and distance," replied Aston referring to the two fragmentation grenades he had detonated. "Right, let's get a perimeter up on the LZ guys," continued the mission leader to the men in the stairwell.

McCormick and Sommers, positioned within the doorframe of the roof access door looked at each and in an instant put one of their fists in front of the other and played a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide who would leave the safety of the doorframe first. Unfortunately, McCormick's rock beat the corpsman's scissors to which the looser shot his head back in disbelief but accepted by knocking helmets with the victor then executed a quick gear check before stepping out into the cool early morning. Doc Sommers gripped his M4, wedged it firmly between his shoulders and got low into a crouch and scurried off to the only form of protection the open roof provided them; a seven foot long and 4 four foot high unfinished concrete addition. Sergeant McCormick remained vigilant as he swept his ACOG equipped M-4 from left to right against a rooftop nearly 300 meters from their location. Once in position, Sommers signaled back with two flashes from his red lens flashlight to McCormick who then relayed it to the others in the stair well. Knight 4's team leader was the next to crouch-run over to the wall while McCormick continued to provide cover.

From the bottom of the stairwell Alvarez reached back and unhooked the handset from his communications specialists' vest just as Staff Sergeant Aston and Sergeant Eagan reached the fourth floor, "Knight3-Lead to Rook3-Lead, what's your ETA, over?" "Rook-Element is 3 mikes out, over." "Copy that Rook3. Peters switch me over to Juliet's frequency." The 24 year old complied, flipping open a touch pad attached to the communicator's left shoulder strap and punched in the new frequency for the satellite radio and said, "you're good to go." "Knight 3-Actual to Juliet 030, over." "Go ahead 3-Actual." "Package in play 4 minutes, come back, over." "Juliet 030 confirms package in play 4 mikes." Alvarez passed the handset back to Peters, "switch back over to the helos," and just as he swung his body back into position a barrage of small arms fire raked the rooftop sending the operators into full throttle. "Contact! Red side, building 3," blared Staff Sergeant Kochavi They snapped into a well-rehearsed immediate action drill as the security team poured 5.56mm at the assailants on the next rooftop and secured cover.

Alvarez rushed up to Sergeant McCormick, still positioned in the doorframe and each returned a magazine of ammo across the still-dark morning, save the tracers. The mission leader turned his head back to his radio operator, "Get the helos back on the horn and tell them to bust ass down here, ASAP," and maneuvered forward- dipping and dodging- to the repositioned security element as McCormick transitioned from suppressive fire to selective targeting. "Knight 3 to Rook 3-7, we are pinned down, receiving heavy fire from a building to our 7 o'clock, requesting immediate support over." "Roger that Knight 3, we are in orbit stand-by, 3-5 and 3-6 are 2 mikes out." Noticing the recent situation Peters couldn't contain himself, "Now this Gunny, is the SHIT I signed up for." "So what's it looking like" questioned Alvarez as he ignored his subordinate. "A cluster-fuck of assholes with automatic weapons, on higher ground with about a 5 foot brick and concrete wall keeping them alive" contested Kochavi. "Well that's just some awesome shit guys," replied Alvarez.

The team had found refuge behind the poorly constructed 7 foot wide smokestack; and at its very edge on the right side, Doc Sommers had gone prone exposing very little of himself in hopes of teaching some of these simpletons a lesson on effective combat medicine, "Don't you just get pissed off when you realize you didn't THINK you were gonna need some frigging 40 mike-mike." "Yea, ain't life a bitch Doc," replied Peters on the left side of the smokestack. Gunnery Sergeant Alvarez realized that his charges were becoming a little too comfortable with the situation and contemplated verbalizing some wisdom, just as Rook 3-7 came on station parallel with the enemy position giving Staff Sergeant Espinoza the freedom he needed to work his effective SR25-MK11Mod0 from the left external bench of the orbiting MH-6.

Within FM range of the helicopters, Alvarez adjusted the frequency on his Multi-Band-Intra-Team-Radio and communicated, "Rook3-7 this is Knight3-Lead, LZ is getting hot let's run extract option 3." "Roger that Knight3." Rook 3-7 had been originally configured to be the package bird -the lightest helo with only a sniper for fire support and space for what would have been the three captive Marines- but things changed. Now instead of it conducting the first pickup, it would be the last out, replaced by rook 3-6.

Espinoza nodded his head and waved a peace offering to Chief Bristole when he learned of the call for supporting fire. A seven-year victim of the suck with his last 2 in the RTI -Reconnaissance and Target Interdiction- team attached to 2nd Company/2nd Battalion Marine Special Operations Regiment, Espinoza was looking forward to putting the rifle to work. Prior to going over to the Dark Side (MARSOR or commonly referred to as the Regiment), he was a thriving team leader within a STA –Surveillance and Target Acquisition- platoon assigned to 7th Marines but thrived for these kinds of high-speed low-drag missions. As the Little Bird approached the target area, he could feel it throttle down and turn to the left exposing the firefight ahead and below them, "OK Chief I just saw the IR flash from our boys and I'm oriented; gimme 300 meters forward and go into a holding pattern." The MH-6 accelerated and positioned itself 865 yards away and went into a hover as Espinoza peered through the night vision enhanced scope, aligned the sight picture with the IR beam from the PEQ-2 attached to the rifle, thumbed the selector from Safety down to Fire, squeezed the trigger, and launched the bullet out of the rifled barrel giving the bullet a spin effect. Before the round punched a hole through the aggressors' sternum and seconds after the expert rifleman recovered from the recoil, he fired a second bullet targeted at the second aggressors' upper body. His heart was thumping, his saliva glands were on hiatus- causing his mouth to become arid but he was relaxed, his only concern was predicting the mild dips and rises the helicopter encountered but he managed to adapt and overcome to the situation.

After their second comrade fell to the ground the assailants realized they were in direct harm and started to search for cover as a third member was violently thrown to the ground by a high velocity bullet; Espinoza targeted a fourth victim but as he was about to fire his weapon a call or more like a yell to "Check Fire" exploded into his left headphone just as he saw one of the small helicopters blur through his high-powered scope.

The 32-year old veteran of 14 years was adjusting his helmet when an eager voice crackled into his headset, "Knight 3-Lead, this is Rook 3-6 we're 50 seconds inbound, over." "Roger that, 3-6." Gunnery Sergeant Alvarez, relieved, made eye contact with Kochavi and grabbed him by one of his shoulder straps, "Kooch, I want you out on the first bird with the package and prisoner, take one of your guys." He then adjusted the microphone boom in front of his mouth, "OK ladies, 3-6 is coming in for the package so let's try to look professional."

Chief Warrant Officer Steinback brought the Little Bird around the building and saw the operators distributed along the rooftop. He reduced the collective and put the egg shaped helicopter into a low hover on the LZ and looked to his right to see two combat-clad Marines approach the flying machine carrying what looked like a body, followed by what was probably a prisoner escorted by a third combatant. Steinback sensed something was wrong since the plan called for a three-man package and what he was seeing was clearly not adding up. He was startled by a hand tapping him on his left shoulder and turned to see Staff Sergeant Kochavi. "What happened," questioned the Army aviator from the 160th SOAR(A). "Don't worry, just uhm… just a lighter load Chief but we're ready to go." No further explanation was needed as it was evident something had gone wrong, his primary concern now was to get the package and operatives back to the airstrip. The dead Captain and the Israeli had been crammed into the diminutive rear compartment while Kochavi and McCormick rode out on opposite benches.

Rook 3-5 executed the exact landing procedure as 3-6, except it recovered Aston, Eagan, Sommers, and Peters. Smith was crouched in the doorframe with his carbine trained on the hostile rooftop when his handset began to crackle in an organized pattern that he immediately recognized as Morse code, Juliet 030 was calling. The communications specialist brought the handset to his free ear and waited until 030 finished relaying their request to go to voice before he hailed them. "Knight 3 to Juliet 030, go ahead we are sound secure over." "Knight 3 be advised greeting message inbound, two mikes with thirty, comeback over." "Confirmed message inbound," he placed the handset and pressured his TeamNet PTT and chirped into the boom, "Gunny the artillery is one minute thirty out." "Right, 3-7 is coming in now."

Gunnery Sergeant Alvarez and Corporal Smith were the last operators on the target buildings' roof, they were now more vigilant than ever because their air support had just flared and gone into a hover several feet off of the roof, rendering its human weapons platform inoperable. Operating off of instincts, Smith double-timed to the helo and after he was on, his team leader made his way to the bird and was pulled up by Staff Sergeant Espinoza as Chief Warrant Officer Bristole urged the little helicopter off the ground before Alvarez had a secure footing. Once his safety line was hooked onto his waist belt he turned to the pilot and gave him a thumb's up. With the MH-6 at full throttle, Alvarez looked back just as the first rounds from the artillery barrage began to explode on or around the building they had just been in. Although this operation had been relatively successfully, Alvarez was even more determined to bring the remaining Marine prisoners back home. But to the Gunnery Sergeant, Operation: Mameluke Sword was more about finding those responsible for his brothers death during the kidnapping of the Marine Officers.