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Authors: David M. Salkin

The Team

BOOK: The Team
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The Team

 

David M. Salkin

 

Also By David M. Salkin

 

Hard Carbon

 

Deep Black Sea

 

Crescent Fire

 

Necessary Extremes

 

The MOP

 

Forever Hunger

 

Deep Down

 

A POST HILL PRESS BOOK

 

ISBN (eBook): 978-1-61868-857-6

 

THE TEAM

© 2015 by David M. Salkin

All Rights Reserved

 

Cover Design by David Walker

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and publisher.

 

 

 

Post Hill Press

275 Madison Avenue, 14th Floor

New York, NY 10016

http://posthillpress.com

 

The TEAM:

 

Coach
:
Chris Mackey, CIA

 

U S NAVY SEALs
:

Chris Cascaes, Chief Petty Officer, SEAL team leader

Al Carlogio – “Moose”

Vinny “Ripper” Colgan

Ray Jensen

Pete McCoy

Jon Cohen

Ryan O’Conner

 

Marine Recondos
:

Eric Hodges

Earl Jones

Raul Santos

Army Rangers:

Lance Woods

Jake Koches

 

CIA
:

Ernesto Perez, “Ernie P.”

Joe Smith, “Smitty”

Cory Stewart –

 

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

Winston Churchill

Acknowledgement

 

This book, although a work of fiction, is based on a real military operation that took place in the late 1960s in Southeast Asia. I would like to thank Al C. (whose last name I will not reveal) for the information he shared with me as a US Navy frogman fighting in Vietnam. Al, known as Moose to his friends, was a “UDT” Underwater Demolition Team frogman. This group of specialized operators would later evolve into what we know today as Navy SEALs.

Al and his team were mostly Warrant Officers, and they were put together on a fictitious Navy All-Star Baseball team. It was their job to show baseball to the people of Southeast Asia as an exhibition team—playing against other service branches or locals who could put together a scratch team on short notice. The fifteen of them toured South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos playing baseball. There were fifteen men on their roster. There were never more than eleven in the dugout. Where were the other four? They were out “working”—and it wasn’t playing baseball.

When this idea was first showed to a publisher, they said it was a great story, but it wasn’t believable. Al laughed when I told him that. He was happy in a way, and said, “It was a good cover story after all, wasn’t it?” Yes it was, Al. Good enough that it deserves to be told…

For Al and his team, who risked life and limb for their country, thank you for your service and for sharing your story with me.

This book is dedicated to

 

Master Sergeant
Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class
Randy Shughart
.

 

Both recipients of the Medal of Honor

 

Killed in Action,
Battle of Mogadishu
, Somalia in October 1993.

 

And Corporal Patrick Daniel “Pat” Tillman—Army Ranger, NFL Star, and American Patriot—who left a successful NFL career to serve his country and made the ultimate sacrifice on April 22, 2004 in Afghanistan. The Heart of a Lion.

 

And Corporals Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, USMC, who stood their ground in the face of certain death and saved fifty of their brothers on April 22, 2008 near Ramadi. Their Navy Crosses seem so small compared to their actions. Their heroism is briefly memorialized in this book as a tribute to these courageous young Marines.

 

And finally, to my friend George Etlinger, gone before his time.

 

Thanks for all the laughs, George. You are missed.

 

Contents

 

Acknowledgement

Chapter 1: January 2012, Hawaii

Chapter 2: January 2012, Hawaii

Chapter 3: Al Qaisumah, Saudi dessert

Chapter 4: January 2012, Hawaii

Chapter 5: April 2012, Over the Med

Chapter 6: Saudi Arabia

Chapter 7: Saudi Desert Road

Chapter 8: The Stadium

Chapter 9: Ambush

Chapter 10: Top of the 9th

Chapter 11: Eskan Village

Chapter 12: Homeward Bound

Chapter 13: CIA Training Facility

Chapter 14: CIA Training Facility

Chapter 15: From Riyadh to Paradise

Chapter 16: Palace of Prince Abdul bin-Mustafa Awadi

Chapter 17: CIA Training Facility

Chapter 18: R & R

Chapter 19: Mackey

Chapter 20: CIA Training Facility

Chapter 21: The Rematch

Chapter 22: Post Game

Chapter 23: Al Udeid Air Base

Chapter 24: Al Hamaq

Chapter 25: Al Udeid

Chapter 26: Al Hamaq

Chapter 27: Al Udeid Air Base

Chapter 28: Abandoned Oil Facility, Saudi Desert

Chapter 29: CIA Briefing

Chapter 30: Abandoned Oil Facility, Saudi Desert

Chapter 31: Operation Silent Serpent, Al Udeid Hanger, 1900 Hours

Chapter 32: Qatar – Sunset

Chapter 33: Al Udeid: 0300 Hours

Chapter 34: Langley

Chapter 35: Qatar

Chapter 36: Qatar, Thursday Morning

Chapter 37: Al Udeid

Chapter 38: Zero Hour

Chapter 39: Assault on Al Udeid

Chapter 40

Chapter 41: Airborne

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44: Stadium

Chapter 45: Upper Deck

Chapter 46: Lower Deck

Chapter 47: Al Udeid

Chapter 48: Soccer Stadium

Chapter 49: Al Udeid

Chapter 50: Cleanup

Chapter 51: One Last Detail

About the Author

Chapter 1

January 2012, Hawaii

 

While on a two-week liberty in Hawaii, Chris Mackey had been relaxing and doing some beer drinking on the beach with Chris Cascaes and a few of his SEALs. They had all become pretty tight after working together on a counter-terrorism operation, code named “Crescent Fire.” After a couple of days of sleeping like hibernating bears, the exhausted men recovered and got bored. The next few days turned into a combination drink-fest/tail-chasing marathon, which eventually slowed down and led to some beach volleyball and finally to a few baseball games.

The baseball games ended up becoming real games—competitive natured guys who were in primo physical shape and didn’t like losing, taking on other competitive natured guys who were in primo physical shape and also didn’t like losing. The beach where they were staying was a popular spot with enlisted men from every branch of the service, as well as tourists, and there was no shortage of testosterone-pumped young guys wanting to be the next Babe Ruth. The game became a daily ritual, always played at eleven in the morning, which allowed at least five hours of sleep after an entire evening of the afore-mentioned drinking and tail chasing.

Cascaes, Mackey, and the bunch of Navy SEALs added a few Marine Recondos, a couple of Army Rangers, and three CIA operatives, who had been imbedded with the Army Rangers in Afghanistan that Mackey knew, to their team, and they proceeded to take on all-comers each day.

By the fourth day in a row of grueling baseball games, Mackey volunteered to be official coach, as he was completely exhausted. Cascaes, a SEAL through and through, would not allow himself to verbalize his physical pain, nor show his crew that he was indeed getting older. He did, however, make second base his official position on the team, where he hoped he wouldn’t have to run or throw too far.

It was on the sixth day, while drinking beer and watching the huge Ensign they called Moose strike out his sixth batter in three innings, that Mackey’s light bulb went off.

He nudged Cascaes and commented as a Marine struck out and threw his bat. “Ya know, these guys are
really
good.”

The two men were sitting back in low beach chairs, feet buried in the sand, surrounded by a copious amount of squashed empty beer cans. The sun was getting low on the horizon, and the beer can collection had started when it was high overhead.

Cascaes finished his cold can and burped. “Yeah, well,
we
used to be twenty-one, too.”

“No, no,” Mackey said smiling, “I mean these guys are
really
good. You know much about special operations in Vietnam?”

“What the Hell does that have to do with baseball?” asked Cascaes.

“Do you?” he asked again.

“No, Mack. I am practically young enough to be your son—I wasn’t old enough for ‘Nam,” he said sarcastically.

“Yeah, well,
I
was there. Remember hearing about the Phoenix Project?”

“Yeah—assassinations and Black Ops,” said Cascaes.

“I wasn’t involved in that stuff. I was flying recon planes over the jungle and getting holes in my plane while I tried to take pictures. But I had a few friends from ‘Nam that I used to shoot the shit with back in the day. We were all in Intelligence so we used to talk a little, you know? Not about the
most
secret shit but about general stuff we still weren’t supposed to talk about.”

“So?” asked Cascaes, now fully interested.

“Strike three!” yelled somebody in the background.

“Well, one of my buddies in the Navy—he was UDT—underwater demolition team. Before the SEALs…”

“Yeah, I know what UDT is, Mack.”

“Well, you being so
young
and all, I wasn’t sure you’d know,” he said sarcastically. “Anyway, my buddy, he told me a story about a baseball team. I think I have an idea…”

 

* * *

 

It took four strong men to move the large wooden crate from the truck to the boat. They were working under the cover of night in a small commercial marina that had no activity at three in the morning. The boat was a rust-bucket that had been used for cargo since the Second World War, but was inconspicuous enough to be perfect for smuggling. Once the crate was aboard, it was tarped and covered with other cargo, and the small boat began its voyage from Lebanon to Egypt.

Chapter 2

January 2012, Hawaii

 

It was the bottom of the ninth and getting hot as hell—over ninety-five degrees. If the SEALs hadn’t just come home from a year operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, they might have noticed. Instead, they laughed and joked as they played in the humid Hawaiian sun, still running at full speed while the sweat ran down into their sneakers. The locals they were playing, who were also used to the heat, were not smiling or joking because the score was eleven to nothing. They shouldn’t have been too ashamed—the SEALs and Marine Recondos had beaten an Air Force team the day before by fifteen runs.

After Al “Moose” Carlogio struck out the last batter to end the game, his catcher jogged up to the mound to high-five him. Vinny “Ripper” Colgan, the catcher, had been Moose’s dive-buddy for so long they didn’t even have to use signals half the time. It was only fitting that they were a pitcher-catcher duo, since they’d been buddies in every operation in and out of the water for the past seven years.

“Jesus, man. You keep this up and I’m gonna have to get a new catcher’s mitt. I bet your fastball was hitting ninety-five today. My hand
hurts
,” he said with a broad smile. Something about the gap between his two front teeth just made him look more like a catcher.

Vinny was as broad as Moose and two inches taller at six-four. They were the biggest guys on the SEAL team, the rest being between five-ten and six-foot with medium builds. Everyone always assumed SEALs were huge, but in fact most were average-sized guys who were just too stubborn to ever quit anything.

Moose smiled. “Yeah, I was
on
today. I think I throw better when it’s hot like this. I’m about ready to swim—you in?”

“After a cold one,” said Ripper with a grin as he headed to the bench.

The rest of the team jogged in and they converged on the cooler under the bench. A couple of the locals came over and shared a beer or joke, but they left pretty quickly, sensing that they were definitely outsiders. Even though the team was comprised of Navy, Marines, CIA, and Army, they had bonded pretty quickly and dropped the usual inter-service ribbing. They had started playing very well as a team and had really enjoyed destroying the teams they played against every day.

As soon as they threw back a beer, Moose announced it was “time to get wet”—a phrase they had all learned to hate in BUDs
1
training but now considered just a part of everyday life. The SEALs, including their commanding officer, Chris Cascaes, didn’t wait for a second call. They all started running to the beach a few hundred yards away, stripping as they went. A trail of shirts, sneakers, socks, baseball gloves, batting gloves, and baseball hats stretched from the bench to the beach. The Army Rangers and CIA operatives just laughed and shook their heads at the SEALs as they splashed their way into the waves.

As they did every day after the game, the SEALs swam two miles, including two twenty-five yard underwater swims. All this
after
playing baseball in the sun for hours and getting drunk the night before. Moose and Ripper, two of the more senior team members, made sure the group stayed in top shape at all times. On missions, there was a great sense of confidence that came from knowing you could swim or run forever and never get tired. And, as life usually goes, you never knew when a mission was going to come your way—hence every day was training day. The SEALs typically sang out in unison,

the only easy day was yesterday,

their unofficial motto.

While the SEALs swam, Jake Koches and Lance Wood, the two Army Rangers, finished another couple of beers and recapped exploits from the night before. Their laughter attracted the three Marines and three CIA operatives, who sat down next to them and listened with great amusement to how two Rangers ended up with three nurses in one hotel room. The story was just getting explicitly interesting when Chris Mackey plopped into the sand next to them and interrupted their little story.

“You guys play some serious ball,” said Mackey.

“My man Hodges took the cover off that sumbitch today!” said Earl Jones, one of the Marines, about one of his fellow Jarheads. His smile and laugh were contagious.

Eric Hodges, a wiry little redhead from Oklahoma, flashed a toothy grin. “Yeah, baby. I got
all
of that one today.” He exchanged a fancy handshake with Earl Jones.

“Any of you guys play in college?” asked Mackey.

Jones laughed loudly. “
College
? If I went to college already, I wouldn’t be humpin’ around Afghanistan and Iraq!” He laughed and gave Hodges another handshake.

“What about you guys?” asked Mackey, looking at the rest of them. They mostly exchanged glances, not wanting to be the “nerd who went to college” after Jones’ comment.

“I played at Rutgers,” said Jake Koches after another second went by. He was ROTC in college and was a second lieutenant in the Rangers.

“Southern Cal for two years,” said Lance. “Then I dropped out. The surfin’ was just
too
good.” That brought a few more chuckles.

Ernesto Perez, a CIA operative who had been working embedded with the Rangers for two years in Afghanistan, ‘fessed up to playing in Puerto Rico his entire life, but he never made it to college. “Ernie P.” as they called him, alternated pitching with Moose. When he wasn’t pitching, he played outfield and could put the ball on home plate from anywhere inside the stadium. Joe Smith, “Smitty”, CIA, and Cory Stewart, also CIA, both played growing up, but nothing serious. Even so, they were both great infielders, and Smitty could hit the ball a mile. Perez, Smith, and Stewart—for the purposes of hangin’ with the fellas—were all government contractors, but the entire team knew exactly whom they worked for. Perez had actually worked with Lance and Jake in Afghanistan, and they assumed his buddies were also CIA.

They talked baseball for a while, and finally Chris Mackey floated out an idea to the little group. “How would you guys like to stay together for a while playing some baseball and doing some traveling? You’d be with our Navy buddies out there, assuming they don’t get eaten by sharks.”

“Man, I think it’s the
sharks
that gotta worry,” said Jones. “Them muthafuckers is part
fish
, man. They swim more in a day then I done in my whole
life
.”

Everyone laughed.

“Ain’t no beach on a hundred and fiftieth street,” he added.

“Yeah, you might be right about the sharks,” said Mackey, scanning the ocean horizon for the SEALs, who had swum out almost a mile.

“What do you mean about staying and playing baseball?” Hodges asked Mackey.

“Not staying
here
. And not partying every day either. I’m talking about
working
. Using a baseball team as a cover and traveling around as an All-Star team of sorts. We’d use the cover to get in and out of countries where you’d be working.”

The CIA agents looked at each other and smiled. Mackey caught the glances. “What do you think?” he asked them.

“No comment,” said Smitty.

“Why not?” asked Mackey.

“Let’s just say it wouldn’t be the most unusual thing I ever heard of. If you end up putting it together, I’ll play ball,” he said with a grin.

Ernie P. and Cory looked at each other. Ernie spoke up. “Well shit, man. If he’s gonna play, I’ll play. You’re gonna need another pitcher.”

Hodges, with his slow Oklahoma drawl, looked around at the others and then at Mackey. “So let me get this right. Y’all gonna make a fake baseball team and do secret agent shit with it?”

Jones laughed at him, then mimicked his voice as best he could with his New York accent, “
Y’all gonna do secret agent shit?”
He laughed and high-fived Raul Santos, the other Marine.

Raul, who was usually quiet, whispered, “We’re gonna be secret agents and kill bad guys.”

The crowd laughed and shook their heads at Raul, who rarely cracked a smile but was occasionally hilarious.

Mackey was smiling but serious. “Yeah, that’s basically the idea. I’m thinking that we could put together a baseball demonstration team. Travel around spreading good will and showing the world American Baseball. And then occasionally steal state secrets or whack a bad guy.” He smiled.

They all agreed that they would do it if it ever came to fruition. They were just finishing up their conversation when the SEALs came jogging up the beach in a column of twos singing the theme from Gilligan’s Island. They had just swum a few miles, after playing baseball in killer heat for almost two and half hours, and now they were running in the sand singing like idiots. Mackey grinned. Hell—they could make a baseball team, a football team, a skydiving team—just about
anything
out of those guys.

Chris Mackey would later speak to Chris Cascaes about his idea, and Cascaes would be equally excited, immediately volunteering his SEAL team should the baseball team ever be assembled.

 

* * *

 

The boat had been sailing around the waters off of Egypt for hours, waiting for a time that was too late for working men and too early for fishermen. At a little before four in the morning, the boat chugged into a tiny marina near Alexandria that was typically used by commercial fishermen. It was dark, and the boat slipped into an open berth where it was met by four men who helped unload the heavy crate and move it to their truck.

A bag of cash was exchanged and the truck drove quickly to the small airstrip not far from the dock. A small birdcage sat on top of the crate that had been secured to the walls and floor of the cargo plane. Should the bird die, the crew knew they would only have seconds to open the cargo ramp to air out the plane and make an emergency landing. The two men in the back of the plane stared at the bird for the entire trip from Alexandria to Saudi Arabia.

1
Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) school. This is the beginning of the long, seemingly impossible route to becoming a US Navy SEAL.

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