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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Teaser Thursday: A short entry from *With Honor, and with Courage*

Teaser Thursday returns! Today, here's a short sample from a work-in-progress, a novel about a US Army tank crewman in Lithuania with his unit, when the (almost) unthinkable happens: a deliberate attack against the US and NATO units in Lithuania by Russian forces. The novel is tentatively titled With Honor and with Courage, and I'm hoping to have it ready in 2017.

I looked at my watch. Almost time to go REDCON 1. I tapped sergeant Beach on his arm, and said over the intercom “sar’nt, I’m gonna check the turret one last time.” He nodded and I hopped out of my hatch. I checked both side sponson boxes, closed and latched. I double checked the tarp and the bustle rack, to make sure the fold covered all our crap and was tied down, but still accessible: check. I leaned over and checked the hatches on the back deck, which were all closed and secured. The crosswind sensor was upright and latched. I checked the TC’s .50: locked & loaded; same with my Mark-19 grenade launcher. I slipped back down inside the turret, and made sure the coax was locked and loaded, then popped open the ready ammo door just to visually record the layout. I stowed the knee switch and the door closed with that satisfying thunk it always made. We were ready for war.
At exactly 08:10 zulu, the LT gave his short count over the radio. At the end of the countdown, Dock started the engine. I turned the radio back on, and assumed my standing position: facing the left rear of the tank, observing for enemy helicopters and aircraft. I left the grenade launcher oriented up and front instead of spinning it around like I normally would, at least until we got clear of the AA and started heading to the LD. I knew myself and that weapon well enough to know I wouldn’t accidentally discharge it, but there’s no sense in even looking like you’re tempting fate. She’s a stone-cold bitch like that, and will fire off a grenade from your launcher just for thinking about traversing it early.
We sat in our troop coil, waiting for … I don’t know exactly what. Bodacious, my magnificent tank, only had the one radio and it was tuned to the 1st platoon frequency. Although technically each platoon has its own frequency, we often shared one or the other between the tank and scout platoons, to make it easier for the platoon leaders to share information. Since we can only monitor one frequency on this tank, we kept it on the platoon frequency, which meant we couldn’t hear any of the other chatter at the troop or higher level.
Finally, after what seemed like a half hour we heard the scout platoon sergeant on the radio: “Red and White elements, prepare for movement. Red elements line up on Red 1 and Red 4.” The Strykers pulled out of their positions in the coil, and started heading out toward the road 500 meters ahead that served as the Line of Departure.
“Alright Dock, slow and easy back hard left.” SSG Beach wanted to pull back first, to line up in the direction of movement rather than pull straight out from our coil position. It’s a trait of tankers borne out of the necessity to never pull forward of a firing or other stationary position, lest the enemy be waiting on you.
I heard the whine of the engine as Dock put it in reverse, and the metallic THUD of the transmission engaging, then felt a slight jerk as he slowly applied power. I crept up a little bit, standing on the edge of the turret ring rather than on my loader’s seat/platform, to get better eyes behind the tank. SSG Beach was also directing his eyes rearward, over the right side of the turret.
“Okay, straighten out, back up about fifteen more meters.”
Dock leveled out the handles, and gave it a little bit of gas. I grabbed the skate ring for support, and stepped back down onto the standing platform. I look a last look around with my bare eyes at the deep green of the forest and grass around us. I pulled down the goggles to cover my eyes and pulled up my “tanker’s kerchief”—really, just a bandana in the US Army’s “scorpion” camouflage pattern—to keep the dust out of my mouth and nose. It gets a little hard to breathe occasionally, especially when it’s humid like this, but it’s better than digging dirt out of your teeth and nose for a year afterward.
“Got it Dock. Pull out.” Dock slowly applied the brakes, then I felt and heard the THUD of the tranny dropping into gear. With a slight wobble, we began moving forward about 10 mph or so. I resumed my rearward facing guard position, but this time I traversed my magnificent Mark-19 grenade launcher. Sometimes, I miss the machine gun, but right now is not one of those times. I could see the TOC and the rest of the troop combat trains getting assembled behind us to our left rear, about 300 meters, and the CO’s tank pulled over toward the main village road. Blue and Green platoons were over on the other side of the village doing the same thing we were, barely visible through the slight haze from the dust of our movement. I could see Green 3, roughly on line with us now, before they pulled forward of the edge of Kazimieravas and became obscured by the foliage.

“Good to go Dock, hold here.” SSG Beach looked over and lined us up with the rest of White platoon, and we waited again.

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