In 1989 there were five of us. To see us in an everyday setting nothing about any of us would stand out as special. We were nondescript. However, put the five of us together and we formed quite the unit and one of the nastiest fire teams you would ever come across.
We were all pulled into a briefing when the job came down late that morning. Across the border, a warehouse, kidnappers and their victims. We assumed it was either a full family or maybe just the kids who were being held. We were never told that much in regards to who it was. It was always safe to assume that one or both of the parents were significant in the scientific or political settings of their county of origin. Important enough for them to be in danger and for "us" to want them and to want to get them out.
This was the 80's and as fun as the 80's were, they were rather unsophisticated. This was old school. We were going in Mathias Rust style... That stunt of his taught us a lot. Our team and our pilot Ryan were going in low all crammed into a Cessna 182 without any seats. Like I said, unsophisticated. The reason for the Cessna and not any other fancy transport was that the warehouse in question was located right next to a small but regularly used airfield. This was something that we all were thankful for.... the less exotic the insertion the better and bonus, no long-assed walk to the objective dodging locals and the sort.
We took off. All of us and our gear. Minimal at best. We were never outfitted for a protracted outing and if a major firefight ever broke out we were screwed really. Nothing about us, our equipment or what we wore was "standard" either. Everybody had their own special stuff. Me, I had some old 70's vintage jungle fatigues complete with my ever present boonie hat. No rank, name or any tags for that matter. This stuff could have come out of a dumpster behind any surplus store in the world. Past that I had my knife in my waistband, a Gerber Mark I which was beat to hell and my weapon. Again completely generic, a Ruger Mini-30 with one full 30 round magazine tucked into the cargo pocket of my pants. The Mini-30 was practical because the places where we ended up, well, everyone had an abundance of 7.62x39 ammo. EVERYONE!
We landed at the airfield and while the plane was taxiing, we all went out the door on the right side of the plane facing away from the warehouse and ducked behind a snow plow to check things out. Ryan and the Cessna continued on to the far side of the airstrip far away from the warehouse but still close enough to observe.
Time was not on our side. It never was. We studied the warehouse intensely for five minutes and determined that we could make it there without being observed. There were no sentries posted and nobody else around the strip to interfere at the moment. We "knew" they were in there but where? Across the strip we went running flat out... all of us arriving at the side of the warehouse at the same time right by the white door.
Nothing dramatic had happened. Quite the opposite. Steve the team leader casually put his hand on the door knob, turned it and the door opened. Just like that... nothing Hollywood about it. No explosions, C-4, locks being shot off or any of that nonsense. This is how thing really happen.
We rushed into the building silently and cleared the entire structure in about 12 seconds. Nobody was home, or were they? On the north side of the structure there was another door that apparently went to a lower or basement level. That is why nobody was upstairs, they were hiding in the basement. Great, now what?
We congregated in an office in the middle of the warehouse and hunkered down to plot the next move. We had to flush them out. Steve found an old water bottle and ran out into the warehouse and filled with with some gas from the motor on a compressor and put some other flammable stuff in the bottle as well. Voila... Molotov Cocktail! How apropos. We had to move quick. Everybody took up positions in the office facing the door and I went up through a hatch in the office ceiling to the catwalk above. I always prefer being higher whenever possible. In an ambush I was known to frequently climb trees. People just never never look up. It always sort of felt like cheating to me to do that but who was I to argue, that tactic had kept me alive and it worked.
Steve ran to the basement door, kicked it open and threw the lit firebomb down the steps and ran like like hell back to the office area for cover. As soon as he had ducked and turned back around we heard the yelling and the noise. It was chaos as everyone came rushing out of the basement door and so easy to tell the good guys from the bad. In just seconds and after a couple dozen loud "pops" it was all over. Our team had effectively separated the wheat from the chaff for eternity. All of the bad guys were down.
Mark, who was our youngest team member (we were all young really, this meant he was 19 or 20 at the most) ran and opened the wide garage style door on the warehouse which was the signal for Ryan the pilot to use this radio on the plane to make his call. In just minutes after opening that door two vehicles came speeding up to the building. A large car and a truck. The family (all unhurt) were loaded into the car and it was gone. The truck... what looked like a local farm truck, was loaded with the bodies of the four dead men and taken away to who knows where. It was done.
Ryan had already taxied the Cessna to the warehouse and we all jumped in and were rolling to take off. All in all we were on the ground less than 30 minutes, more like 27 and change if I remember right, everybody was safe and we were going going back to our side of the border and the quicker the better. We were home by dinner and the most fun part of the day for me was that Ryan let me fly the plane a bit once we were back in our airspace. That was the best job ever.
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