Bright Star

Harold Coyle

Bright Star

FOREWORD:

Only study of the past can give us a sense of reality, and show u soldier will fight in the future.

— ARDANT DU PICQ

This book is neither a textbook nor an attempt to predict the future. The doctrine, tactics, plans, and policies discussed do not reflect current or planned U.S. Army doctrine, tactics, plans, and policy. Nor are the characters depicted in the story based on any people, living or dead. Any similarity between the characters in this book and real people is purely coincidental. There are many who will find fault in some of the actions and decisions made by the characters. Some of the weapons effects and employment are equally open to criticism. I apologize if my use of literary license, which is free and frequent, is offensive to some.

Politics and strategic and operational plans are not discussed in detail except where they are important to the story and its characters. Thus the reader should find himself, like the characters of the book, limited to the immediate and narrow world in which they live, lacking a full understanding of the "big picture."

Times used throughout the story are local times. All events are sequential.

All unit designations depicted are fictitious, but their organizations and equipment allowances are, in general, in accordance with current tables of organization. All information on weapons effects and characteristics as well as information on Egypt, Libya, and Germany are from open source materials available to the general public. The author does not have, nor has he ever had, access to contingency plans concerning operations in the area discussed in this book, nor has he participated in simulations concerning that area of operations. The scenario depicted is pure fiction.

PROLOGUE:

No man is fit to command that cannot command himself.

— WILLIAM PENN

Prince Frederick, Maryland

2335 Hours, 25 October

Except for the whine of the computer's fan, the house was quiet. The man seated at the computer desk, staring at the small screen of his Macintosh SE, was in his early forties. His close-cropped hair showed little sign of the gray that plagued his wife. Dressed in a well-worn gray VMI sweatshirt, casual slacks, and white crew socks, Major (Promotable) Scott Dixon's five-foot-ten frame was casually sprawled in his chair. The only visible motion was his hand moving the computer's mouse as he scrolled the letter on the screen.

It was a short letter, less than a page, but it was without doubt the most difficult he had ever written. In the fine tradition of military writing, it began with a reference to the letter he had received from his personnel manager at Armor Branch that afternoon: he expressed his gratitude to the man for taking the time to confirm Dixon's decision to turn down command of a tank-heavy task force in Germany.

Dixon's response, drafted and redrafted three times, was short, almost curt, but Dixon couldn't think of any other way to put it. "I have no need to reconsider my decision. Based on my performance during the war in Iran, I do not feel that I am qualified, or capable, of command. Coupled with family concerns and personal aspiration, command of a task force is not in my best interests." In that single, short paragraph, Dixon knew he was putting an end to his career. There would be no more promotions, no more challenging duties. Instead, he would fall by the wayside, diverted into backwater jobs and duties that required little responsibility and less thinking.

Satisfied, Dixon printed the letter. While he waited for the printer to finish, he picked up another letter, which he had printed earlier that evening. It, too, was set up in official Army format. But as difficult as his letter turning down the chance for command had been to write, the one in his hand had been even more so. It was his resignation.

Holding it at arm's length, Dixon reread it. Its contents were formal, copied from the example shown in the regulations. No, it wasn't the contents or the style that Dixon had difficulty with. It was the end result. Though he was willing to forgo command and accept the chain of dead-end jobs that that decision would yield, he was not sure he was ready to leave the Army. His wife, Fay, was ready: she took every opportunity to tell him so. But he was not.

Like an accountant balancing a ledger book, Dixon had mentally listed all the pros and cons of staying in and leaving. That approach, however, was too transparent, too simplistic. For Dixon, there was something to being a soldier that transcended the simple addition and subtraction of debts and assets. In his heart he knew it was time, but still he could not bring himself to leave the Army.

Without further thought he crumpled the letter of resignation between his hands. Leaning back in his chair, he turned and tossed the ball of paper toward a wastepaper basket in the corner. It bounced off one wall, then the lip of the basket, then landed on the floor. It would remain there for two days, untouched and forgotten.

Chapter 1

When the animals gathered, the lion looked at the eagle and said gravely, "We must abolish talons." The tiger looked at the elephant and said, "We must abolish tusks." The elephant looked back at the tiger and said, "We must abolish jaws and claws." Thus each animal in turn proposed the abolition of the weapons he did not have, until the bear rose up and said in the tones of sweet reasonableness: "Comrades, let us abolish everything — everything but the great universal embrace."

— ATTRIBUTED TO WINSTON CHURCHILL

Southern Sudan

1400 Hours, 1 November

Three officers, a Sudanese major followed by two Americans, emerged from the two-room hut that served as headquarters for regional defense force, a small force consisting of two under-strength infantry companies. The tall, black major — the force's commander — paused, straightened his lanky frame, then led the two Americans toward a waiting helicopter, walking with a casual, easy gait. Even the wave of his right hand as he acknowledged the salute of the two guards posted at the door of the hut was casual and unhurried. Part of his easy manner was for show, an effort to impress the American officers that all things would be done in his time. But part was due to the fact that he really was in no hurry. The war he and his men were waging against the communist guerrillas had been in progress when he joined the Army and would no doubt continue long after he returned to the hands of his God. He therefore found it difficult to understand why the Americans were always in a hurry, setting deadlines and rushing about. Battles, after all, couldn't start until both sides were present.

The two American officers following him were a study in contrast. The first lieutenant was as tall and as black as the Sudanese major, to whom he served as an adviser, but, unlike the lanky major, he had wide shoulders and a narrow waist. He wore a set of faded and well-worn battle dress — BDUs for short. The edge of a folded map protruded from the pocket on his right thigh, while the top of a spiral notebook wrapped in plastic popped out of the left thigh pocket. The other pockets of his BDUs bulged too, to varying degrees, hinting of more hidden cargo. Hanging from a web belt was a well-wom government-issue holster for his M1911A1 .45 pistol, an ammo pouch, a lensatic compass, and a two-quart canteen. His uniform was topped off by a well-molded green beret worn at a rakish angle. He walked with a purposeful gait that hinted at a swagger. At twenty-four years of age, First Lieutenant (Promotable) Jesse Kinsly was the very image of the field soldier, a warrior leader.

The other American, last of the three men to emerge from the hut, was Lieutenant Colonel William V. Dedinger. The colonel's attire left no doubt that he was a staff officer who neither belonged to the remote military post nor had any intention of staying. His BDUs were clean and appeared new. Despite regulations to the contrary, they were starched, with neat, sharp edges, and the pockets were ironed shut. The colonel didn't even carry a pen in his left breast pocket. His BDU cap, neatly blocked, was centered on his head, with the brim coming down and lightly touching the frame of his aviator sunglasses. Like the pilots of his helicopter, he was armed with a .38 pistol, which he carried in a highly polished shoulder holster under his left arm. The only other equipment Dedinger carried was a large black leather briefcase.

The appearance of the colonel and his briefcase was both scorned and dreaded by the men of Kinsly's Special Forces A Team. "Never trust an officer who takes a briefcase to the field," Kinsly's team sergeant, Sergeant First Class Hector Veldez, always reminded Kinsly when Dedinger arrived from Cairo. It didn't take Kinsly long to learn what Veldez meant.

Dedinger was the operations officer for the 2nd Corps (U.S.) (Forward), located in Cairo. Part of the 3rd U.S. Army, which itself belonged to the Rapid Deployment Force, 2nd Corp ...

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