Codename Scribbler Six
It was now my job to lurk in the shadows, ever ready to bring violence and harm to those people my government decided had too much oil.
I could smell the al Qaeda swine crawling through the wadi.
I knew that in the next five minutes the bastards would be able to attack from a covered position. I snatched up my silenced submachine gun from a secret compartment in my computer bag, checked the magazine and chambered a round.
Some of the 82nd paratroopers sleeping next to me stirred a little, but no one woke up. I liberated some night vision goggles from a sleeping private, making a mental note to return them before his first sergeant put a boot in his ass, and set off to intercept the intruders. As I crested the hill on the south side of the patrol base -- careful not to be seen by the American sentry -- I saw the three bastards crawl behind a pile of rocks. One carried a rocket launcher, the other two AK-47s. I couldn't help but grin slightly as I set off to flank them. Two years ago, I couldn't take on three terrorists. Now, it took an Army to stop me.
I low crawled toward them with a knife in my teeth. My Pashto was not native yet, but I could here the one with the rocket launcher ask Wahid when to fire. I only had a few seconds before the rocket hit the camp. Good thing "die terrorist bastards" sounds the same in any language from the muzzle of a gun. The submachine jumped in my hands as it sprayed hot lead into their position. The next morning I filed a story about how Fort Bragg paratroopers discovered the bodies of three Taliban fighters in a wadi less than 100 meters from their patrol base riddled with bullets. Got front page play.
North Carolina 2003
I met Boss at the Ruby Tuesday's on Skibo road. He had something to talk to me about and wanted to hit the killer salad bar. It was a reunion of sorts. We'd both just returned from Iraq. I covered the war for the local paper and did counter-intelligence for one of the battalions at Fort Bragg. A knee injury and a new job had him home months before the rest of the other paratroopers.
He was already waiting for me when I arrived. Dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, he looked different than the crusty warrior I met in the desert of Iraq. A former Special Forces soldier, he was no longer the slender operator of old, but his eyes were still alert and he could still use a weapon. The hostess took us to a booth in the back away from the other diners. I found out later that was standard tradecraft. A technique I used many times. We made small talk about our wives and families, traded war stories and had three plates of salad.
The salad bar was killer.
Over our third round of diet cola, Boss got serious.
"Every thought about working for the red, white and blue, kid?" he said.
"I would rather drink a cup of your urine than join the service," I said.
"No brother," Boss said shaking his head. "I mean doing covert work. You basically do what I do. You gather information and report it back. You have the skills, now all you need is some training."
The offer confused me.
"Rumsfeld wants to take this embed program to a new level," Boss said. "We've already got operatives at most of the big papers, but I talked with the boys in DC and they like what you can offer. So, what do you think?"
"I'm in," I said.
Boss told me that I would start training at Fort Bragg immediately. We agreed to meet the next day. He told me I would be gone for about a week.
The next morning, I met Boss at a local golf course. He handed me three typed pages as I climbed into his truck. It was a story with my byline about the exercise I was supposed to cover. Not the best writing, but good enough that I wouldn't need to do a lot of editing.
"Where are we headed?" I asked.
"A compound on Bragg," he said.
"I never thought I would get a chance to see the Delta boys," I said.
"I'm not taking you to the Delta compound," Boss said. "I'm taking you to the Epsilon compound."
"Epsilon?" I asked.
"They are more secret than secret. I mean really secret," Boss said.
So secret, I learned later, the unit uses the Greek alphabet instead of the military phonetic alphabet. Based on a World War II unit, Special Operation Detachment Epsilon units -- teams of no more than two operators -- appear as normal civilians to the public and the enemy. The unit had teams everywhere acting like cooks, insurance agents, trash men, even reporters.
We drove out toward the drop zones and gun ranges on the western side of the massive Army base. Boss turned onto the shoulder and stopped. He took out his cell phone and dialed three numbers. A few feet ahead of us, a large trap door opened up revealing a ramp that looked like it entered into an underground parking garage.
Boss gunned his truck and we entered. I knew at that point there was no going back. I was about to take my place on the wall guarding America for those who wished her harm. It was now my job to lurk in the shadows, ever ready to bring violence and harm to those people my government decided had too much oil.
I took to the training like a baby to his mother's breast.
Every morning, I ran ten miles on an underground track. Then, I practiced hand-to-hand combat and fired 500 rounds with every weapon in the U.S. arsenal. Training in the afternoon varied. Sometimes I learned how to work the many gadgets that came with the job or focused on special skills that would keep me alive in the future. After a week, I could scale walls, fashion a parachute out of my pants and swim underwater for an hour.
I became a deadly weapon.
My graduation ceremony was modest. Boss looked like a proud father when Vice President Cheney shook my hand. Afterward, Boss handed me my orange beret and gave me my code name.
I was now Scribbler Six.