Rotors thudded all around Moran and Reed. Twelve Nighthawks just starting to take off. They could feel the throb deep in their chests.
They helped the crew chief get the last of the boxes loaded in the helicopter. Everly supervised the operation personally. He glanced at his watch. "Time to suit up," he said.
They pulled on their ALICE packs. Moran checked his weapon and locked and loaded a round in the chamber.
Everly handed him a green laundry bag. "Give this to a guy named Sergeant Jack Russell when you get there," he said. Moran struggled to seat himself on the deck. Reed and the other replacements looked for something to hold on to.
"Relax," the crew chief shouted. "Its a cold landing zone. Hold on to something and don't fall out the fucking door." He said a few words into the microphone and the chopper lifted and veered off, following a course northwest into the mountains.
Forty minutes out the Nighthawk began to descend. Moran saw the grassy hilltop but did not realize it was the landing zone until the chopper came down to treetop level directly above it. The forest concealed the troopers below, blending into the foliage like chameleons. Displaced air flattened knee-high grass in a circle as the helicopter touched down.
When the replacements jumped from the chopper, several troopers approached, knees bent and shoulders hunched. The noncom in charge came running up to Moran and Reed. Russell it said on his nametag. He had E-7 chevrons pinned on his lapel, a black metal pin.
Russell welcomed Moran and Reed with a nod. Moran handed him the laundry bag. The troopers off-loaded supplies.
"Captain Everly told me to give this to you," Moran said.
The sergeant took the bag and dropped it on the dirt. He took a pad and pencil from his trouser-leg pocket. Russell was in his early thirties, average looking, quiet, component. Moran liked him right off.
"My name is Russell and I'm your demolitions man," he said. "Give me your names and service numbers," and he wrote the information on the pad. "Lieutenant Michaels is the squad leader," he said, turning his head from side to side. "He's around here someplace."
"Say I thought we were supposed to land at Ft. Brag," Moran said.
"Ft. Brag? That's gone, man. The Reds overran the place a couple days ago. Ever since then we've been hanging out up here," Russell replied. Russell then squatted over the laundry bag and pulled out four string-tied packs of letters. He stood up and handed Moran the stack marked First Squad. He pointed to a tall, heavy-set man in his mid twenties. "There's Michaels, the squad leader," he said to Moran and Reed. "Bring him the mail and he'll square you away."
Moran grabbed the mail and headed toward Lieutenant Michaels. "Lieutenants Moran and Reed reporting for duty. We are your new snipers," Moran said.
"Good," Michaels replied. "You better get some rest. Tonight we are going out to get some revenge for Ft. Brag."
Moran awoke to the low throb of the rotors of a Nighthawk. "Get the hell up," Reed kicked him in the ribs lightly. "Thats our ride."
Moran jumped up and grabbed his weapon, still with a round in the chamber, and the two sprinted toward the Nighthawk. As soon as they hopped on board the helicopter lifted off and headed west.
"Since your friend slept a little late," Michaels yelled at Reed. "Ill fill him in on the situation," he then turned to Moran. "Intel has pinpointed the site where the V3 attacks on Brag were coming from. We are supposed to capture the V3 and fire a missile against the Russkie base it came from." "Well who knows Russian here?" Moran said.
"Goldstein does. And lucky for us hes also our electronics specialist."
For the duration of the ride, everybody was silent. After about twenty minutes the Nighthawk began to descend into a valley until it went into a hover just above tree level. The group threw ropes over the side and belayed down to the ground.