Category Archives: Writing

DIRECT ACTION, Chapter Four

SEAL_Samruk_130304

Chapter 4

Deckard touched down in Kabul where he was met by a minder, a bored looking private security contractor who escorted him to a waiting area where he sat quietly until his name was called. Boarding a CASA C-212, the aircraft took off down the runway like a shot, forcing Deckard to hold on to the fuselage to avoid being thrown out of his seat. No one bothered to tell him what their destination was. There were several pallets of supplies on board, probably destined for some remote combat outpost in the hinterlands somewhere. Deckard was just a strap hanger hitching a ride.

Drifting off to sleep, he woke with a start as the landing gear bounced off a dirt runway. The CASA spun around at the end of the landing strip as the loadmaster lowered the ramp. Hooking a thumb out into the dusty runway, he indicated to Deckard that it was time for him to unass himself from their bird so they could head to their final destination.

Stepping off the ramp, Deckard moved to the side to avoid the CASA as it powered back down the runway and soared off into the air. He soon oriented himself, recognizing where he was by identifying the aircraft graveyard off to the side of the runway. There were old Russian planes and helicopters that sat collecting rust and dust under the Afghan sun.

He was at FOB Chapman in Southern Afghanistan. He has passed through the base several times back when he used to do work for Ground Branch.

Left to his own devices, Deckard walked alongside the runway. He spotted a few contractors milling about in the distance around some of the buildings but there was no one waiting of him or even acknowledging his presence. Heat coming up off the ground created a mirage, making the buildings ahead of him seem to ripple in the morning light.

It was a long walk, Deckard undoing a couple buttons on his North Face shirt to try to get some air. By the time he walked up to the camp, a pickup truck had come through the gate and cruised up alongside him. The driver wore a pair of sunglasses and sported a half assed beard and mustache. His skin was dark, Filipino maybe.

“You Deckard?” the driver asked.

“Yeah.”

The driver got out and patted Deckard down. All he had in his pockets was his alias passport, a credit card, and the other documents that Sarah had issued him in DC.

“Get in.”

Deckard did as he was told, slamming the door as he jumped into the passenger seat. Spinning the wheel, the driver took them back out through the gate. Several Afghan guards and a CIA Global Response Staff contractor opened the gate for them. Outside, they drove onto a dirt road, up the side of a dry stream bed and onto a paved road heading south.

His escort wasn’t the talkative type apparently, didn’t even give a name. Deckard noted the Glock 19 strapped to the driver’s hip and the AK sitting on the backseat. Meanwhile, Deckard was unarmed. If shit went sideways, he’d go for the AK and it would be a mad minute. Whatever happened, happened.

He sniffed at the familiar scent that hung in the air as the pickup truck kicked up a long plume of dust in its wake. Large patches of poorly farmed plots of land zipped by on both sides, small blotches of green showing where the Afghans had managed to irrigate the soil. Large walled compounds that housed entire families sat amid the open fields.

Holding on to the handle on the door, Deckard bounced as the driver launched them down the side of an embankment, going off road. They were rumbling across the Khowst bowl. The flat lunar landscape stretched across the earth in all directions until the heat mirage blended it into the distant snow capped mountains. Those mountains could leave men dead in seconds, Deckard knew from first hand experience. He has last been in Afghanistan less than six months ago with Samruk International when they cleared out a Afghan drug lord’s enclave out of his mountain redoubt.

They drove through the morning. Deckard squinted in the sunlight but the driver wore his dark sunglasses and remained stoic, unphased by the passing terrain or his passenger. Deckard tried to place him.

Of the four words he had muttered, the accent was clearly American. He wore Solomon cross trainers, blue jeans, and an Afghanistan soccer Jersey. Even sitting down, Deckard could tell that the driver was short, maybe five foot five. His skin was brown and had probably darkened since he had been in country. Most likely of Filipino descent. There were Filipino-Americans who served in US Special Operations Forces, but it could also be possible that he was a veteran of the Filipino Naval Special Operations Group which did extensive training and exchange programs from his home country to the US Navy SEALs.

Time would tell.

The driver reached behind Deckard’s seat and grabbed a couple bottles of water. He tossed one to his passenger while unscrewing the cap on the other, locking the wheel by holding it between his knees.

“Drink up.”

It was early afternoon by the time they rolled up on their destination, a lone compound near a spur coming off the mountains. Clicking a hand held radio, the driver announced their arrival and someone inside opened the gate for them. Pulling inside the thick earthen walls, the driver parked alongside the mud and stone structure in the center of the compound. There was one other pickup truck and a large Afghan janga truck inside the compound.

Covered from top to bottom with colorful murals, ribbons, blue and yellow sashes, and hanging chimes, the trucks were used by locals for transporting materials, the outside of the vehicles painted up and decorated for good luck.

“Wait here,” the driver instructed as they stepped out of the pickup and slammed the doors. The Filipino disappeared inside the stone hut while the gate guard who had let them in strode towards him. His eyes were slits as he stared at Deckard with contempt. He wasn’t just sizing up the new comer. There was something more. He looked at him like he was a piece of steak on a table. The gate guard wore dusty civilian clothes with a AK-47 slung over his back. He readjusted it on his shoulder as he blew passed Deckard and followed the driver inside.

Leaning up against the pickup, Deckard felt that everything inside the compound had gotten a little too quiet. In the cab of the truck, he could see the rifle that the driver had left behind. It put him somewhat at ease. A loaded rifle would not have been left there if they were planning to kill him. It wouldn’t have been a bad plan from their point of view. If this really was Liquid Sky, they could run a counter-intelligence operation by luring in potential infiltrators and then killing them. It would send a hell of a message to anyone else who might have been thinking along the same lines. Who was really laying a trap for who?

A hulking figure emerged from inside the stone building. He was built like a linebacker with arms and legs like tree trunks. Coming in around six foot three, he was almost as wide as he was tall. As he approached Deckard, his eyes were drilling holes into the newcomer.

“You’re Deckard?” he asked as if his driver may have picked up the wrong person. “Tell me a story,” he said as he ran a hand over his goatee.

“What kind of story?” Deckard said with a frown.

“A Deckard story. One of the good ones. The kind I hear are so outlandish, so fucking bizarre, I don’t know what to think. I’ve seen some shit in my day but the stuff I hear about you makes me wonder.”

“What have you heard? I will tell you if its real or not.”

“Heard you are some kind of rogue operator. Deckard: used to be shit hot in Army Special Operations, got picked up by the Agency, and then you fucked up so they PNG’ed you.”

“True story.”

“Vigilante Dirty Harry shit, assassinating terrorists. Working as a singleton to rescue a Delta team in Colombia.”

“Maybe.”

“Rumors going around that you almost started a war with the Chinese in Burma, cleaning out one of these Hadji drug lords from his mountain fortress,” the man motioned to the Hindu Kush mountains that towered above them. “Even heard you were involved with para-military operations in Mexico.”

“Some of those stories are exaggerated.”

“What about this tale people whisper in hushed tones about some cruise liner in the Pacific Ocean. The one that sank with all hands on board, the ship packed with high level shot callers in government and business. Was that you?”

“They call it one of the world’s largest public safety accidents.”

“Public safety accident?”

“That’s what they say. Like the Hindenburg.”

“Like the Hindenburg?”

“Fucking Nazi Zeppelin.”

“And I suppose that story just a tall tale.”

“Must be. Can’t believe every conspiracy theory you hear.”

“You can call me Bill,” he told Deckard while reaching into his pocket and pulling out his Oakley sunglasses. “I run this outfit. Here is the deal. You check out as legit, some ugly shit in your past but that is the name of the game. We’ve only had a day to prepare for a mission that is probably going to go down tonight. You are tagging along. Probationary status only. You kit up, go where you are told, do what you are told. No questions. My team does the op. You just pull security and make sure we don’t get our asses shot off. Got it?”

“Got it.”

“Come with me.”

Bill led him inside the stone building which served as their operations center. The conditions were spartan inside. Some gear and weapons were stacked up against one wall. A couple desks had been improvised by laying plywood on top of stacked cinder blocks. Deckard’s driver sat at one of the desks looking at an open laptop that displayed satellite photography. He had a Iridium satellite phone pressed to his ear, a wire from it leading out a window to a up link antennae on the roof.

“You’ve met Ramon,” Bill informed him. Now he had a name to go with the face. Deckard was taking it all in. Who was Ramon on the phone with? Someone back in Kabul? Someone in the field? As Bill had pointed out, it wasn’t his place to ask questions.

“This is the team you’ll be working with,” Bill waved towards the men lounging around the room. “You’re gear is in the corner over there. We go in like Indig. This is a low-vis operation so everyone will be sterile when we leave the wire. If you die, we will try to recover your body, not because we like you but in order to protect our OPSEC. If you get left out there for the enemy to pick over, you will be presumed to be a white mercenary as you will have no identification papers on you and no American weapons or gear.”

Bill sat down in front of another computer and opened his email.

“Get your kit together. We are standby to launch at 2230.”

The three other Operators on the team stared at Deckard. They were sizing him up like a piece of meat. There were no handshakes or high fives. It wasn’t just a professional distrust that stemmed from them not having any past experiences together. Deckard felt like he had just walked into a meeting with the mafia. There was no brotherhood, just a nest of vipers who could turn on him at any moment.

He had expected nothing less but the question remained, was this Liquid Sky?

Recognizing one of the team members as the guy who had opened the gate for them, Deckard tried to piece together who these guys were. This one had long slicked back hair, looked like he was well manicured even out in the field. He was the pretty boy on the team. He had a mobile game console fired up and was engrossed in shooting up space aliens or something, not even bothering to look up at Deckard again. The other two were built like Bill and looked like they had been drafted from an NFL lineup. One of them snorted at Deckard before going back to flipping through a magazine. The other was busy cleaning his Glock pistol.

Deckard went to the pile of gear that Bill had pointed him towards as being his for the mission. There was a locally made man dress, the dishdasha that Afghan men wore. There was also some el cheapo concealable body armor made in Latin America, a Glock with locally procured cloth holster, a AK-47, a Chinese chest rig for spare magazines and a few other odds and ends. It wasn’t much to work with. If their mission was to be completely denied then they had to use local weapons and kit, no high tech on this mission.

It got him thinking again. Why the need for deniability? US Special Operations Forces were still conducting counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan on a regular basis. With Conventional Forces withdrawing, it was left to Special Operations to perform maintenance on any Islamist fools who went passed a certain threshold. Once a terrorist started acting up too much, they would send in shooters to sort him out. Or a drone strike. It had become such a sport that Delta Force was even sending their students from the Operator Training Course to Afghanistan for their final exam, a live combat operation.

So what was the need for this team and their plausible deniability?

Deckard spent an hour and a half squaring his kit away. He had a small commercial radio which he made sure was charged up with a full battery. He loaded up five AK-47 magazines from a box of loose ammunition before loading up his Glock magazines as well. Then he field stripped both weapons and conducted functions checks. He was careful and deliberate about this final task, it was possible that Bill had his weapons rendered inert by messing with the trigger mechanism or filing down the firing pins but both weapons were good to go.

After getting his kit together the way he wanted it he went off and found a cardboard box full of bottled water. Twisting off the cap he downed half a bottle in one gulp. He needed to be hydrated if they were going to be out all night cruising through ‘vills and scaling ridge lines.

As he sipped the rest of the water he tried to place Bill and his team. It seemed that his intuition had been correct about the team he was after being former US Special Operations but which unit did they come from?

Each unit had their own culture, their own bravado, and their own way of doing things. Rangers were typically younger guys. Hard charging door kicking maldoons who took no shit from no one. Special Forces guys were usually older. Often with age they brought some more maturity to the table and the ability to operate in small teams. Most of them were pretty laid back dudes, a character trait needed when conducting their primary missions, Unconventional Warfare and Foreign Internal Defense. The Ranger mentality didn’t exactly lend itself to training foreign third world soldiers. While the team sized up Deckard, he had sized them up as well. These guys were not former Rangers or Special Forces.

The other Army Special Operations unit was Delta Force and that was a whole other animal. Trained for Counter-Terrorist operations ranging from Direct Action raids to aircraft take downs, Delta drew talent from both Special Forces and Rangers then polished their combat skills to ridiculously high levels. Delta was known for being the military’s most professional unit. The team he was with now seemed a little too non-nonchalant, like they had an expectation of victory. That sense of entitlement didn’t exist in Delta.

The Marines had Recon, Force Recon, and their new Special Operations component, MARSOC. Marines were brought up the right way, starting at boot camp at Paris Island. The Recon and MARSOC shooters in the Marine Corps were clean cut but straight shooters who knew how to take the fight to the enemy. Their sense of tradition, esprit de corps, and discipline along with their Infantry background placed them closer to Rangers than Special Forces. Deckard frowned. You could pick a single Marine out of a crowd of a hundred people and none of these people were one of them.

Then you had the Navy. He already suspected that Ramon was a US or perhaps Filipino Navy SEAL. Deckard had worked with and respected many men on the teams but had to wonder. The linebacker physic that most of them had came from an obsession that many SEALs had with jacking steel in the gym. There was one particular Squadron within SEAL Team Six, the Navy’s equivalent to Delta Force, that was known to specifically recruit the biggest guys out of Green Platoon. It wasn’t much to go on though. Finishing his bottle of water, Deckard knew he’d have to wait and see, develop the situation, and see what shook out of the woodwork.

Hopefully he wouldn’t die in the meantime.

“So you’re here to pick up the slack for Henderson?” A voice said from behind.

Deckard turned to face him, thinking fast. It was a dude with the slicked back hair who had been playing video games.

“Henderson?”

“Made a non-verbal withdraw from the course on our last op. Ate one to the facepiece.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Why?” he asked with a shrug of his shoulder. “Fuck do you care.”

“Just saying. I didn’t know him.”

“Just try to hang with us tonight and don’t step on your crank with golf cleats. If you fuck us, we’ll leave your sorry ass out there.”

“I understand.”

“What the fuck ever,” he said as if there was a period after each word. “I heard the RUMINT on you and I don’t fucking buy it. I think you’re just a shit head Army fuck who bolo’ed his ops. You don’t even belong here. You’re not one of us.”

“You mean because I wasn’t in the teams?” Deckard dropped it, intentionally trying to elicit information.

“Fuck the teams. That’s vanilla shit. We operate on a whole different level, even before we left the Navy.”

Gotcha, Deckard thought.

“Hey!” Ramon interrupted from across the room. He was on the satellite phone again.

“We a go?” Bill asked as he looked up from his computer.

“Overwatch has eyes on the target. He just arrived at the objective. This should be his bed down site unless overwatch reports him leaving.”

“That’s a green light,” Bill confirmed. “Everyone kit up, we roll in ten.”

Deckard’s antagonist with the pretty hair swung back around to confront him one more time.

“You stay on me while we are out there cheese dick. You’re going to pull black side security on the objective and make sure Hadji doesn’t skull fuck us while our backs are turned. I’ll release you once we get close to the target compound.”

“Okay.”

“Grab your shit and let’s go.”

“What’s your callsign on the net?”

“What the fuck is this callsign shit? Just call me Rick.”

Deckard ditched his civilian clothes and slipped into the dishdasha, then shrugged into his chest rig, holstered the Glock, slung his AK-47, and clipped his radio in his collar. Ramon was already taking all of the documents and maps from the operations center and dumping them into a burn barrel outside. Lighting a match, it all went up in a golden glow that burned in the early evening light.

Deckard headed outside.

Now he was convinced.

It was going to be another one of those nights.

Deckard was now rolling with Liquid Sky.

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Filed under Military Fiction, Writing

The Three Best Novels About Assassins

The professional assassin is a different animal than the professional soldier.  For one thing, the assassin is almost always working outside of the law while the soldier works within it…mostly anyhow.  The professional assassin isn’t some amateur going off half assed like some kind of gangland thug.  He is a meticulous planner who games specific situations and specific targets, coming up with a specialized operation which applies to that target’s routines and patterns of life.  Take for instance, Teddy Medina an NPA assassin in the Philippines.  He trained for about ten minutes a day, every day, on drawing his .45 caliber handgun from concealment and executing his target.  To that end, he became very adept at planning his hits.  On the other hand you have professional soldiers, let’s take one from the same era: Jerry “Mad Dog” Shriver who served in MACV-SOG in Vietnam.  Jerry was a soldier and like other SOG troops, would train with a variety of weapons, not just a .45.  These guys had to know how to use CAR-15’s, M79 grenade launchers, hand grenades, pistols, and even technical induction based eavesdropping equipment.  The skill sets they had to master were more general because of the number of threats and situations they faced in the jungles of South East Asia.  Still, there is something that has always held the popular imagination about the assassin, including the realm of fiction.  Let’s take a minute to look at a couple of my favorite fictional and semi-fictional assassins.

Wesley

bomb_trade

A Bomb Built in Hell is one of the best books I’ve ever read.  Aside from the relevant social commentary, Andrew Vachss’ first novel pulls no punches, a style he became well known for years later.  Wesley is a small time con who gets recruited by a mobster in prison who begins to teach him assassin trade craft so that he can kill the man who betrayed him once Wesley gets out of prison, as the mafioso is in for life.  The techniques Wesley learns are chilling but effective as you see when he gets out of the joint and starts plying his trade.  Well ahead of its time, A Bomb Built in Hell was way too hardcore for polite society, forcing Vachss to shelve it for years.  It was only recently that it finally made it to print.

Court Gentry

Thegrayman

Court Gentry is another mysterious assassin who is right up there with Wesley.  Court also started off as a criminal until he got recruited into a CIA initiative to conduct covert operations.  After 9/11 shit got real, maybe a little too real and Court got burned by the Agency.  Now he works as a freelance singleton operator.  The first in the series, The Gray Man, is one of the best action-adventure books out there these days.  Court pisses off some very powerful people who put out a high end contract on him, a contract that the world’s intelligence services and Special Operations forces respond too.  Maybe the most interesting of Court’s opposition is an equally mysterious operative from South Korea, another singleton operator who does missions in North Korea.  This is must read book.

The Clinic

The Feather Men

I have mixed feelings about The Clinic as portrayed in The Feathermen, later made into a “okay” film called Killer Elite.  The Clinic is actually a bunch of low life sociopathic assassins who square off with another non-official group called The Feathermen.  The Feathermen act like guardian angels for British SAS soldiers, protecting them from the likes of the IRA and others.  I’ve been told that such groups really exist, for both the SAS and SBS.  The Clinic consists of a former US Marine as team leader with two others, including a technician who knows how to sabotage cars and helicopters.  The Clinic specializes in making their assassinations look like accidents, or at least something other than what they are.  The book is about a tribal leader in Oman who hires the Clinic to go and kill the SAS men who were behind killing his family members year prior.  But The Feathermen is also problematic, the author wrote the book with the byline “fact or fiction?” and openly concedes that he blended fact and fiction, that the groups and people in it are real but that much of the book was fictionalized, leaving the reader to determine which is which.  I would say that the reader is best off regarding the entire book as a work of clever fiction and nothing more.

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Filed under Military Fiction, Reviews, Writing

The Activity Comic Book w/ Nathan Edmondson for ABC News

PHOTO: The graphic novel "The Activity" tells fictional stories based on a very real secret Army intelligence unit.

In a dark corner of American special operations there exists, alongside the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s Osama bin Laden-killing SEAL Team Six, a small unit of Army spies known as the Intelligence Support Activity.

Created more than 30 years ago, the ISA has had its hand in almost every high-profile American special operation around the world in recent history, and countless others, according to published reports and special operations veterans with firsthand knowledge of the group.

And though relatively little is known about the secret unit — the military still refuses to acknowledge its existence — a new, colorful picture of the group has emerged through, of all things, a comic book.

In the panels of the comic “The Activity,” writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Mitch Gerads create a cell-shaded version of the ISA’s world in which the plot is fictional, but much of the rest rings true, even to those few familiar with the comic’s real-life counterpart.

One former member of the special operations community, who requested anonymity to speak about the ISA, told ABC News that while the comic clearly condenses intelligence-gathering timelines and significantly expands the ISA’s duties for the sake of dramatic story telling, he was surprised at its overall accuracy.

Read the rest on ABC News!

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Filed under News, Special Forces, Writing

Researching Target Deck

Today I thought I would share with you guys some of the sources I used when researching the background data I needed when writing Target Deck.  I put a high premium on realism but since these are novels I’m writing what I often do is take elements that are very real and combine them in ways in which I can only speculate may be happening but could never prove.  I’m also guilty of kicking everything up by several orders of magnitude, this is action-adventure we’re talking about here.  However, for those interested in the real life issues that you might encounter in the novel and would like to get the real deal, I can recommend a few places to start looking.

Teenage girls who were arrested while training to become cartel assassins

Teenage girls who were arrested while training to become cartel assassins

Amexica by Ed Vulliamy and El Narco by Ioan Grillo were two books which I found very helpful when trying to penetrate the world of Mexican drug cartels and get some situational awareness not just of how the mechanics of the cartels function but the cultural overlay that exists south of the border around the drug plazas.  Both of these books attempted to do what Roberto Saviano did with not just exposing but understanding the Italian mafia in his brilliant book Gomorrah.  All three of these books include some great investigative journalism and hands on accounts of life inside organized crime.

Borderland Beat provided some great background by publishing fascinating information about the cartel wars that would have otherwise remained obscure if not completely unreported.  For instance, I found some great tidbits about the Office of Bi-National Intelligence, an interview with perhaps my favorite military analyst, Robert Bunker, the cartel’s clandestine communications network, and information about US Special Operations planning to capture/kill a cartel boss.

Narco blog has some interesting information as well after filtering it though a language translator for us gringos.

Daniel Hopsicker is one bad ass mofo as far as I’m concerned.  We need more hardcore journalists like him who are out there dropping some bombs on official collusion between drug cartels and “the authorities” on both sides of the border.  His blog, Madcowprod was invaluable to me as I tried to understand how the criminal underground works as a globalized system of drug smuggling and money laundering.  Click your heels three times and repeat after me, “there are no American drug lords.”

MEK terrorists, supported by the "good guys"

MEK terrorists, supported by the “good guys”

Old school investigative journalist Sy Hersh also came through and helped fit together some puzzle pieces.  His article, “Our Men in Iran” is a must read.  Did you know that the US government has been training an Iranian terrorist group on US soil as a Nevada Department of Energy facility?  When people ask me which parts of my books are fact and which parts are fiction, I simply remind them that the creepy parts are the most realistic.

While writing Target Deck I also cultivated a number of my own sources of information regarding what is going on down in Mexico.  This proved to be invaluable and helped steer me in the right direction.  For instance, I found out that the so-called Fast and Furious scandal is really just a drop in the bucket.  The weapons that ATF allowed to “walk” across the border is nothing compared to the military hardware that the cartels are hijacking in transit as the US government ships them to Mexico under the Merida Initiative.  It’s some heavy shit getting stolen too, AT4 anti-tank rockets, M203 grenade launchers, ect…  We’ve heard nothing about this on the news thus far.

For those looking for a one stop shop and get the inside line on the cartels, I can’t recommend this article from Small Wars Journal enough.  It sums up much of the above information.

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Filed under News, Uncategorized, Weapons and Tactics, Writing

Coming Soon: Benghazi E-Book by Jack Murphy and Brandon Webb

benghazi

Coming in early February is my non-fiction ebook which I co-wrote with Brandon Webb.  If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been posting on SOFREP as much as usual, it is because of this project.  I spent months on this ebook.  I sifted through the stacks in the basements of Columbia, read through diplomatic cables that came out via Wikileaks, combed through white papers, and went back and researched relevant books to get the most complete picture on Benghazi and Libya.  Beyond that, I consulted with numerous sources on Benghazi who helped flesh out the big picture and what really happened that day.

It was a long, uphill battle in which many of my own assumptions about the attack on the US Consulate and the death of four Americans was called into question.  One of the deceased was in fact best friends with Brandon Webb and an acquaintance of mine.  For this reason alone, we felt compelled to get the most complete story.  Yes, the media lied to you, but maybe not in the ways that you think.

Brandon and I are both proud of this book and will be doing some press for it upon release.  Because this book questions assumptions and even includes on the ground accounts of what happened that night there will be a lot of controversy.  I know what kind of heat is coming.  When people have been caught up in a scam their natural reaction when that scam is revealed is to withdraw even deeper into the fraud.  It is a protective measure, no one wants to admit that they were wrong.

As I wrote in the prologue of the book, let the chips fall where they may.

Now available for pre-order.

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Filed under News, Writing

The Weapons and Equipment of “Target Deck”

Grayman Sub-Saharan

sub-sahresize

The Sub-Saharan from Grayman knives is made for killing. I searched far and wide but was unable to find a Nazi, communist, or terrorist to sink this blade into. I killed the s**t out of a downed tree for you though to give you an idea of the kind of damage this knife can deal out. The picture above shows the tree after maybe five or six chops on each side. The Sub-Saharan has more in common with a Roman short sword than the type of fixed blade knives that most of us are familiar with.  Deckard makes short work of some cartel trash in Target Deck.  It is also the knife depicted on the cover of the book.

Carl Gustav

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Admittedly, the M3 Carl Gustaf isn’t the sexiest of weapons among the 75th Ranger Regiment’s rather extensive arsenal.  This is especially true when you have to pack this giant metal tube into an AT4 jump pack with cardboard honeycomb and exit a C-17 during a Mass-Tactical airborne jump at night.  Getting hung up in a MH-60 with the Goose slung over your back while fast roping and dangling 50ft in the air ain’t sexy either.  Don’t ask me how I know that…  I’ve written about being Tank Sniper and elaborated on the training and tactical issues surrounding the Gustaf in the past, so take a look!

In Target Deck, the mercenaries of Samruk International utilize the flechette round against a hoard of cartel gunmen.

HK 417

hk417_12-2

The HK 417 is the 7.62 big brother of the 5.56 HK 416 developed at the request of a certain Special Mission Unit and now used in various SOF units.  Chambered for the larger 7.62 round, Nikita makes good use of the 417 as a sniper rifle in Target Deck.  You will also get a lesson in the intricacies of making a high angle shot.

Hooligan tool

hoolie

Basically the Hooligan tool, or Hoolie, is a high speed pry bar for mechanical breaches.  Useful for making a quiet entry…

MK48

Mk48Rgr

The most memorable remark about the Mk48 that I ever heard was, “That is the lightest heavy machine gun I’ve ever seen!” As a Corporal, I was a Gun Team Leader in Ranger Battalion where my team made great use of the Mk48 in training as well as combat. The Mk48 is the size of a SAW but packs the 7.62 punch of a M240B. It’s small size makes it perfect for immediate support by fire in dismounted, urban environments.

Chromacamo

Chromacamo is a name I invented for the next generation of camouflage uniforms, those that actually change their color to mimic their surrounds.  The idea for it is based on SMARTCAMO developed by Hypersteath which I have written about previously on this blog.

Improvised breaching charge

m84new1pc6

IVbagEver wonder what you can do with a flashbang and an IV bag?  Some MacGuyver shit, that’s what.

AK-103

AK103

Pencil

pencil

Alone and un-armed, Deckard has to improvise a solution when trapped in a room with a very dangerous Lebanese money launderer and his bodyguard.  A pencil laying on his desk makes a handy weapon, especially when jabbed into the soft tissue of the body guard’s neck.

MK-19

mk19

On my last deployment, we were no longer permitted to use the MK19 inside the cities, so these were left to collect dust in my weapons shed until myself or my Junior Weapons Sergeant gave them a cleaning every so often. While fun to shoot, I always found the 40mm rounds to be under powered, not providing sufficient explosive impact. Then again, I never had the chance to use the MK19 against dismounted infantry. I did have a friend who was a MK19 gunner in Afghanistan when his convoy was ambushed. He rotated his turret and let it rip on the enemy positions to devastating effect. One point to remember with the MK19 is that you have to charge it twice, that is to say, rack the charging handles, drop the bolt, and then repeat the procedure once more to seat the first round all the way down onto the bolt face. Not knowing how to do this properly can result in an accidental discharge, or worse yet, leave you firing on an empty chamber during a firefight!

Improvised tank

Yeah, this bad boy makes an appearance in the book as well…

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Casting Target Deck

One of the questions I get asked a lot is who I would cast to play the characters in my novels if they were to be made into movies.  I usually resist answering for two reasons.  First, I don’t offer a whole lot of physical description of my characters.  This is especially true of Deckard, my protagonist.  I like to let readers fill in the blanks for themselves.  Second, I don’t like Hollywood and wouldn’t want them messing around with my books to begin with.  To tell you the truth, I’d rather have my books made into video games that movies anyway.  I think games are where its at these days and the creative teams behind them are doing a better job at story telling in my opinion…but that’s another post.

Since people are so curious I will go ahead and try to cast a few characters in Target Deck.

Deckard isn’t like most action heroes.  He isn’t Captain of the football team material, isn’t “all-American” or any of those stereotypes.  His motivations are different and this sets him apart from the rest of the pack.  He understands the absurdity going on in the world and can approach it with a sense of humor.  He has a strong sense of justice, but is a smart ass and doesn’t have much faith in the system as it were.  I think anyone playing Deckard has to be more than the Channing Tatum Dallas Cowboys Quarterback stand in.  A lot more actually.  The actor playing him has to be able to not only play a tough guy but play a smart ass.  Two candidates that come to mind are Guy Pearce and Clive Owen.

shootemup

Clive Owen does Gonzo pretty well, maybe too Gonzo…

Owen can play even the most absurd roles with a completely straight face and break people’s balls along the way.  You get the sense that there is a lot in life that he doesn’t take all that seriously.  Take the movie “Shoot ‘Em Up” for instance.  Guy Pearce is another great candidate because he comes off as being highly intelligence but with a sense of humor.  If you watched him in “Lock Out” you can see how well he plays the hero who is just winging it and flying by the seat of his pants the entire time despite the high stakes involved.  That’s Deckard material right there.  Pearce gets my endorsement for the lead role but I still like Owen as an actor.

Guy-Pearce

Guy Pearce plays the loveable rogue…

Casting a lot of these characters from my book is difficult because they are mostly composite characters of people I actually know but I will try to continue.  Another character, really Deckard’s right hand man, is a former Delta operator named Pat.  Pat is the archetype Senior NCO that we would all want to serve with in the military.  He is also the guy who has to reign Deckard in when he gets out of control.  For the role of Pat, I see no reason to beat around the bush.  The guy who comes immediately to mind for this role is Dale Comstock.  Dale served for almost thirty years, ten of those years in Delta Force, in addition to 82nd Airborne and 3rd Special Forces Group.  He’s been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.

dale-comstock

Dale Comstock: don’t sass him or he will reach through your computer screen and choke you.

Kurt Jager is a character I borrowed from Rob, a buddy of mine as a way of thanking him by interjecting Kurt into the books I write.  Think of it as a little “insider baseball” for people who have been reading my stuff for a long time.  Kurt a former German GSG-9 Counter-Terrorist commando and judging by the feedback I get from readers, he is one of their favorite characters.  I reached out to ask Rob who he could envision as playing Kurt Jager:

The-Expendables-2-Jason-Statham

Jason Statham as former GSG-9 commando Kurt Jager?

Aghassi is Samruk International’s HUMINT (Human Intelligence) specialist.  With an Middle Eastern background, he can blend into foreign cultures.  Having served in Army Special Operations he was then picked up by the secretive Intelligence Support Activity.  I would go with Saïd Taghmaoui for this role.  He has played a number of different roles that call for an Arab, I think he could do a great job playing an Arab-American spy.

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Saïd Taghmaoui as Aghassi, SOF super-spy

I was pretty stumped as to who would play the role of Samantha, the female police chief who inherits the job after her father is killed by a drug cartel.  It is not like there is any shortage of attractive Mexican women (also another post) but I think Tamara Feldman is a great candidate for the part of the gutsy Mexican police officer.  For those who think this character is just too impossible for fiction, you’re right.  She is based off of a real female police officer in Mexico.

Tamara

Tamara Feldman playing an unlikely police chief in Mexico? Why not.

Now what about Nikita, the rogue sniper from Kazakhstan who is barely under Deckard’s control half the time?  Who do you think could pull it off in a movie?

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