Friday, August 20, 2021
Tanks a Lot
Yes, that was Rene’s unit that the newsies turned into celebrities. How could they resist the drama of four guys standing off a trio of Iranian tanks? But it’s Rene’s story to tell. They’ll probably hound him for interviews forever if he doesn’t tell them to slag off…
Hola, y’all. We had some excitement out in the middle of nowhere, and I guess everyone’s heard about it by now.
The Iranians sent a suicide squadron down the Basra route. It was meant to draw the bombers, and it did a fine job of that. Meanwhile, they slipped a bunch of tanks up and around, then through the Empty Quarter and into Saudi while they ran small boats across the gulf overnight. They were all over the place before we knew what was up. We were getting some chatter from our normal channels, but nothing about this. They must have figured out that we could tap their comms.
So Monday started out like any other day out here: hot, sunny, and quiet. We had a little marine radar up on one of the dunes, and it started pinging around 1000. We had to wake up Manny, and he was pissy about that, but the major got everyone at attention and reminded us that we had a plan for this. He sent me and Sammy T out to get a visual. I carried the binoculars and the radio, and Sammy got an RPG.
It was shimmery out across the dunes, like it always is, but I made out three tanks. “Hey Manny,” I said, “you think they can hear our radar? If they can, it’ll lead ’em right here.”
“Roger,” he said, and cut it off. Probably a little too late; they were either headed right for us or were going to miss close.
“Assume they’ll find us,” the major said. “Keep an eye on ’em and let me know when they get closer.” They were getting closer all the time, but I figured he meant something else.
Manny must have left the mike open, because I could hear it when he started calling Dooby on the comms. “This is Rabbit 2,” he said. “We got bogeys, three tanks incoming. Need air support chop-chop.”
“Copy, Rabbit 2,” they responded. “Your situation is Rice Cooker.” That meant it would take 20 minutes to get someone here.
“Bogeys will be here inside 10 minutes, sir,” I said. “Ask ’em if they can use the microwave or something.”
“Confirm Rice Cooker,” Manny said, ignoring me. “Might as well be forever,” he told the major. “If they advance, we got nothin’.”
“I know. Boys, get back inside, double-time. We need to charge the EMP and talk real quick.”
We ran back to the tent. Major Shevchuk told Sammy to go below, charge the EMP, and bring the remote detonator. He talked loud and down the hole so Sammy could hear. “Tobias, Cardenas, you two take the RPGs and fall back to the tops of the dune behind us. Velasquez, you and I will see if the kittycat wants to talk. We will not fire the first shot, understand? Good. Sammy, bring the evac kits and the weapons up with you. Let’s move.”
We got up and over the dune just in time, keeping the RPGs and ourselves out of sight. We’d have to get lucky to take out three tanks with RPGs, and I had a feeling our luck had run out. I figured we had about twelve minutes to wait for the cavalry. The tanks topped the dune opposite us and stopped; they were probably trying to figure out who was crazy enough to pitch a tent clear out here. That bought us another two minutes, then the commander hopped out and started down the dune.
“One walker coming down,” Sammy rasped over the radio.
“We see him,” Manny said. “We’re watching out the tent flap. Cut the chatter.”
They waited for the kittycat (Persian… army slang) to reach the bottom, then Major Shevchuk and Manny stepped out with their rifles at right shoulder arms to meet him. The kittycat looked a little startled, but not much, and loosened his sidearm but didn’t draw. He had bigger guns already pointed at our guys. But another minute had gone by. Nine to go.
“I suppose I will need to speak English,” the commander said (Manny was wearing his headset and had the gain cranked up). “Tell me, what are American soldiers doing in this part of the desert?”
“Beach party,” Manny said. “The tide went out a lot farther than we expected, though.”
The commander looked both annoyed and amused. “If you were the king,” he said to the major, “you would have a court fool at hand already.”
“But I’m not the king, fortunately. I am, as you guessed, the post commander though. Major Robert Shevchuk. This is Corporal Manuel Velasquez, our communications officer. And you?”
The kittycat gave his name, which I can’t remember. “Two American soldiers in a tent,” he said. “What do I do about this?”
“Well…” the major pulled off his cap and scratched his head, looking at the sky and buying a few more seconds. “I suppose you could go around us. It’s not like we’re any threat to a squadron of tanks, two guys with rifles.”
“You know as well as I: that is impossible. I can offer you surrender, and in return I will guarantee that you will be treated better than your people treated our brothers in Iraq.”
“Hm.” The long look at the sky again — eight minutes? seven? “Maybe you can give us like ten minutes to think about it?”
“Five. If at the end of five minutes, I do not see you coming out unarmed and hands up, we will open fire.” Kittycat about-faced and walked back up the dune, and the major and Manny went back in the tent.