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The Disreputable Half-Dozen

Old Guy

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The Mission

Gunny marched into the office and halted. "Gunnery Sergeant Thrift reporting, sir."

The 2nd lieutenant behind the desk looked to be all of fifteen years old. His voice squeaked as he indicated a chair. "Take a load off, Gunny. Want some coffee? The old man is outside the wire talking to the local chiefs."

"I'd love some coffee, sir." Gunny looked around. The smell of unwashed bodies and the broken terrain he'd glimpsed outside the perimeter, along with the maps on the wall told him where he was. The Sandbox. Iraq. He accepted a cup of coffee from a corporal. "I didn't know there were any Marines left in Iraq, sir."

The lieutenant started to reply. A long burst of gunfire interrupted him. He grinned. "Sounds like the conference is over." He turned his attention back to a tattered Batman comic. "The old man will be back in a minute."

As advertised, a lieutenant-colonel laden with weapons stomped through the door. Gunny started to rise. "As you were," muttered the colonel. He leaned his carbine against a table and began shucking body armor. "God, I hate dealing with those jerks."

Gunny glanced at the still smoking carbine. "The chiefs?"

The colonel chuckled. "No. As if it were that simple. I just scared the crap out of a damn spy. Should have shot the bastard, but those pansies at HQ have heart palpitations when a reporter gets whacked."

The lieutenant laughed. Gunny stood mute, wondering what kind of crap he'd fallen into this time. He'd lost track of Old Guy when they stumbled out of the green tunnel, right into the muzzle of an M2 machine gun. Two startled Marines sat behind the weapon. Old Guy handed one of them a set of orders. Gunny turned to examine the perimeter. When he looked around, the old fart was gone. One of the Marines directed him to the orderly room.

"You must be Gunny Thrift," said the colonel, extending his hand. "I'm Griffin. I'm in charge of this fortress. You know why you're here?"

"I wasn't told much," said Gunny. "We got here kind of unexpectedly."

Griffin laughed. "Come into my office. I'll explain everything …" He looked at the lieutenant and shook his head. "Scratch that. I'll explain the explainable. I don't know how a kid still in junior high gets commissioned."

"I'm really twenty-two," said the shavetail. "I just look young."

Gunny followed the Colonel into a tiny office. "Take a load off, Gunny." He reached behind a stack of books and produced a bottle of Old Stump Blower. After filling a glass half full, he offered the bottle. "Want some sweetener?"

"Don't mind if I do, sir."

"Booze is forbidden to US personnel serving in Iraq," said Griffin. "Medicinal alcohol is okay. I suspect there may be one or even two officers who forgo a little taste when it's offered. In my experience, Marine sergeants never turn down a cigar or a drink."

"That has been my experience, sir."

Griffin sat down and pushed a folder across to Gunny. "Take a look at this."

Dread filled Gunny's chest as he studied the first page.

"You know those clowns?" The Colonel was smiling.

"Yes, sir. I know them." He ran a finger down the list. Sergeant Red, Corporal Dude, PFC Donster, PFC Whizkid, PFC Joker, and Private Archie. "What have they done this time?"

The Colonel chuckled. "They got here two days ago -- already drunk -- but we sort of expect that of Marines, especially the kind that get assigned out here." He paused to sip his drink. "We have a small club over by the mess hall. The six of them were in there, apparently sharing a bottle one of them smuggled in. Some Army Rangers -- four, I think -- wandered in."

"Rangers? Here, sir? I thought they were mostly in Afghanistan."

"I'm sure you're right. These, however, showed up yesterday, enroute to elsewhere. The Army supports us here -- being that there are no Marines "officially" in Iraq. The place really belongs to them."

"I see, sir." Gunny's guts iced up. He'd been "supported" by the Army before. He forced his mind back to the sorry tale of the six Marines.

"One of the Marines started putting moves on a Ranger." Griffin raised a hand, forestalling Gunny's response to THAT news. "It's not what you think. The Rangers were all female."

A fish out of water gapes less than Gunny did just then. "Woman Rangers?" he stammered. "I mean, the Forest Service has female rangers, but -- the Army?"

"Be glad they do have distaff Rangers," said Griffin. "When this PFC -- " He tapped the open folder. " -- Donster. PFC Donster. When he started in on the lady Ranger, she and her pals all took offense. Boy, did they take offense."

Gunny shook his head sadly. "Where are they now?"

"The Rangers? Gone. An Army helo picked them up this morning."

"No. I meant the Marines, sir."

"In the brig. I had 'em filling sand bags, trying to sweat the booze out of 'em. Right now they're in the brig. Waiting for you."

His worst fears were coming true. "What am I to do with them, sir?"

"Special mission," said the Colonel. "I thought you knew. You and your Marines are going to take out Achmed Achmed."

"Achmed Achmed? Is that smiling sonofabitch still alive?"

"Very much so. To the press he's a freedom fighter. The reporters love him. I think they drop their drawers when he walks into the room."

"So the women reporters really like the bastard, eh, sir?"

"Not just the women." Griffin chuckled. "I don't think Achmed has a preference -- unless it's camels." He slid a map across the desk. "Right now he's lying low. We have solid intell on his location. He's holed up in one of Saddam's mountain retreats."

Gunny turned the map around. "Jesus. That's almost in Turkey. And not far from Iran. What's he doing so far from his usual haunts?"

"Rumor has it that he is suffering from a social disease." Griffin shrugged. "That's a little better than barrack scuttlebutt -- but not much. We know for sure that he has sought medical advice. Two months ago he left the French Riviera unexpectedly. His confederates smuggled him back into Iraq via Syria, then took him by helicopter to the mountains. The name of the place is Jin's Home or something like that."

"I think that's the name of the mountain, sir. Lair of the Djin or maybe just Djin Peak. It's not particularly high by our standards, but the terrain is damn rugged. The castle or hideout or whatever was built with a lot of red rock. Back when he was trying to make peace with the mullahs, Saddam named it Blood of the Infidel. I don't know if he ever stayed there. The locals call it the red house on the mountain."

Griffin regarded him for a moment. "They told me you were familiar with the area. I guess I can take that to the bank."

"I was in the area once, sir. A long time ago." Gunny shook his head, as if to clear it. "What are we supposed to do there?"

"Kill Achmed Achmed and any of his thugs you run into. I thought that was obvious."

"Yes, sir. How will we get there?"

"The Army will take you wherever you want to go." Griffin laid a finger on Saddam's mountain retreat. "As long as it's somewhere near here."

The two men stared at the map. Gunny sensed that he was dismissed. He stood up. "May I keep the map, sir?"

"Sure. You can have all the maps you want. First, though, you better go bail your Marines out of the brig."


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Yeah, he does have an eye for a good hump.

Pardon me, gentlemen, while I wash out my fingers with soap...

Picking your nose, or something, eh Stag?

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Bring it on Marines! I will celebrate your violent deaths and dance on your remains! Achmed has spoken! This is a promise to you! Write your letters home now! The end is coming soon! You must die because of your ill-willed thought of animal fornication! Achmed only breeds with women! That CIA agent in France gave me the clap! And Penicillin is as hard to get in Iraq as Ice Cream!

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The Six

A passing Lance-corporal directed Gunny to the brig. "It ain't nothing but a shipping container shoved up against the command bunker and covered with sandbags. Them guys they tossed in there belong to you?"

"Unfortunately, they do. Were you in the club when the fracas started?"

"No, Gunny, I was on duty. We run a communications and data hub. Only reason Colonel Griffin is in charge is 'cause he out-ranks the dogface major."

An Army staff sergeant greeted Gunny as he entered the command bunker. "You must be here for the wayward souls we got locked up."

"I am. Do I hafta sign for 'em or anything?"

"No. They wasn't charged with nothing. We figgered they was safer here than anywhere else. The medics patched 'em up." The sergeant unlatched the shipping container door and flipped a light switch. "Rise and shine in there!"

Bunks lined both sides of the container. A low groan emanated from within. "Oh, crap. It's Gunny." Six pale, battered faces peered from the bunks.

"Get out of those racks," snarled Gunny. "On your feet!"

"I can't get up," whined a bulky form on a lower bunk. "My back is broke, Gunny. And I think my arm's been twisted out of the socket. I'm dying."

Gunny glanced at the staff sergeant. "When he finishes dying I reckon you can toss Donnie out the gate. Once the local women finish cutting him up, the dogs will eat his worthless hide."

"Wait. Wait," Donnie rolled out of the bunk and struggled to his knees. "Maybe I ain't dying after all." He stood up slowly, whimpering all the way.

"Form 'em up outside, Sergeant," growled Gunny.

For a long moment nobody moved. Then Red seemed to remember that he was a sergeant. "You heard the man! Outside! Form up!" The battered Marines shuffled outside, groaning and whining at every step.

"Good luck," said the Army sergeant. "Looks like you'll need it."

"My luck's already run out. The only good thing is -- it can't get much worse."

"Don't say that!" admonished the sergeant. "For chrissake, you been around long enough to know that things can always get worse."

"Jesus." Gunny ran a shaking hand through his close-cropped hair. "I must be more upset with those nitwits than I thought."

The sergeant turned toward a Spec-4 slouched behind the counter. "Get the Gunny a couple cigars out of my private supply. And don't let any of 'em stick to your paws."

"Jeez, Sarge. You know I can't stand them pieces of rope you smoke." He handed two dark stogies to Gunny.

"I don't know what the military is coming to," lamented the sergeant. "These damn kids don't drink nothing but soda pop and they don't smoke."

Gunny sniffed the cigars and tucked them away. "Thanks. You and I smoke the same brand." He headed for the entrance. Behind him, the staff sergeant continued to berate the specialist.

"You ain't never gonna be a sergeant if you don't pick up some bad habits."

When Gunny stepped outside, Red called the little formation to attention. Wincing as he executed a creditable about-face, he reported the detail formed and ready.

"Ready for what, I wonder?" Gunny pointed to the end of the line. "Fall in, Sergeant."

Red took his place. Gunny strolled along the line, taking in the unshaven faces, visible bruises, torn uniforms, and generally sloppy appearance. Donnie was the worst. His BDU jacket was missing, as was one boot. Black rings circled red-veined eyes. Someone had belabored his face with a blunt object, possibly his own boot.

Gunny returned to the front of the formation. "Stand at ease." The men relaxed slightly, still wary of his intentions. He pointed at Red. "Female Rangers?"

"We -- um -- that is, Donnie didn't know they was Rangers."

"And Donnie was up to his usual tricks?"

"Well -- he had a load on and one of the chicks -- I mean one of the Rangers was pretty well stacked." Red cupped his hands in front of his chest to show just how well endowed the woman had been. "You know Donnie."

"I do know Donnie." Gunny raked the Simians with cold eyes. "Words fail me." Then, just to make sure they knew he was joking about not having anything more to say, he went on: "Six Marines ought to be able to handle a dozen Rangers. And yet, FOUR -- " He held up four fingers, in case any of them didn't remember how to count. " -- FOUR FEMALE Rangers cleaned your clocks. Can anyone tell me how that happened?"

"We was kinda drunk," began Red.

"We was kinda drunk," mimicked Gunny. "Drunk, caught by surprise, out of shape. Look at you! You're a disgrace to the Marine Corps."

The six miscreants stood mute.

"What am I gonna do with you?"

The six elected to remain silent, recognizing a rhetorical question when they heard one.

"Well." Gunny shook his head sadly. "That will have to wait. Sergeant, march 'em over to Army Supply. We have to draw equipment for a mission."

Shocked, Donnie spoke up without meaning to. "Mission? We ain't in no shape fer …" He clamped his mouth shut as Gunny stepped closer.

"You're in perfect shape for this job, PFC Donster! We're gonna walk way, way into the mountains where I'm gonna strap fifty pounds of C4 to your ass and drop you off a cliff. The Air Force has done run out of bunker busters so I volunteered you!"

Sergeant Red called the squad to attention and marched them away before anyone got killed.


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Shocked, Donnie spoke up without meaning to. "Mission? We ain't in no shape fer …" He clamped his mouth shut as Gunny stepped closer.

"You're in perfect shape for this job, PFC Donster! We're gonna walk way, way into the mountains where I'm gonna strap fifty pounds of C4 to your ass and drop you off a cliff. The Air Force has done run out of bunker busters so I volunteered you!"

Should take care of that hemorrhoid and constipation problem I've been having lately ... :blink:

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"You're in perfect shape for this job, PFC Donster! We're gonna walk way, way into the mountains where I'm gonna strap fifty pounds of C4 to your ass and drop you off a cliff. The Air Force has done run out of bunker busters so I volunteered you!"

:lol: That's a great line!

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A Problem of Logistics

"We already got troubles, Gunny." Old Guy stood behind the Supply room counter. He wore master sergeant stripes and carried a clipboard. Gunny's equipment list lay on the counter.

"Now don't you start," cried Gunny. "Have you seen that mob I have to work with?"

"No, but I heard about 'em. You want to hear what I have to say?"

"I do not. Drag out that alien gizmo and get us out of here. If I take that bunch of lunatics on a mission like this one, somebody is gonna get whacked -- and it might be me."

"No can do. You know we won't return to our starting point until this thing is finished."

"This is all your fault, damn it. Write us back into a nice cool bar. I'll even drink that horse piss you call beer if that's what it takes."

Old Guy ignored him. "I've already been checking on most of this stuff." He nodded toward a nearby PFC. "Tell the Gunny what you can do for him, Bobby Lee."

The PFC, evidently Old Guy's understudy, consulted his own clipboard. "We got whatever BDUs y'all need, plus packs an' helmets an' stuff. Night vision goggles an' radios an' pistols -- but the pistols is 9mm. Grenades -- y'all can have all ya want." He looked up from the list. "No raffles. No M-240."

Old Guy grinned. "I'm sure you understood him to say that they have no rifles. I didn't get it until I had him spell it out."

"No rifles. No machine gun?" Gunny looked around. "I could have sworn this was an Army combat base. What the hell are they doing here?"

"These guys are mostly clerks and jerks, plus a few security types. Personal weapons they have, but no armory full of extras."

"Well, that does it. Grab your pencil and write us a way back home. I ain't going on any damn mission armed only with a pistol and a few grenades."

"Bobby Lee, I told you he was the suspicious type."

"Yeah." The PFC frowned. "But what's this here writin' a way back home thang?"

"Nothing. Marines tend to fantasize a lot. Why don't you take a break, Bobby Lee. I hear the mess hall is serving up ham with greens and grits."

"Dang! I better git on over thar." The PFC left at a dead run.

Gunny eyed the old fart suspiciously. "Are they really having ham with greens and grits?"

"If they weren't, they are now."

"How is that poss -- . Never mind. Tell me how my squad is going to obtain proper gear."

"Simple. I already talked to Griffin. He ain't bad for a field-grade officer. Whatever you don't have will be shipped to you at LZ Kamel."

"Wait a minute. Show me on the map."

Old Guy, always anxious to oblige, pulled out a plastic coated tactical map. "Right here," he said, pointing. "About forty klicks southeast of the target area."

"Klicks? I didn't know you Vietnam guys spoke metric."

"Sure. In fact -- " The old bastard got a faraway look in his eye. "In fact, I was on the sapper team charged with emplacing kilometer markers on the way to Moscow. We never got there, of course. Cold weather set in before we even got to Vilnius. My lieutenant wanted to go on, but we talked him into settling down to winter quarters just west of Vilnius." He shook his head. "The whole invasion thing turned out badly. The only bright spot was that blonde I spent the winter with."

Gunny started to speak, then changed his mind. Instead he turned to glare at the squad, lined up against the wall. "You guys need an engraved invitation? Get your gear, then form up outside. Donnie, you take one of the field radios. Joker, you carry the other one." The men gathered equipment and eased out the door, doing their best to avoid their leader's gaze.

Old Guy handed Donnie a single boot. "I even had Bobby Lee wash the dried blood off." The battered boob fancier just nodded and hobbled outside clutching a mound of gear.

Gunny stared at the map. "LZ Kamel looks to be in Kurdish territory. The target is definitely inside Kurdistan. Why haven't they taken Achmed Achmed out on their own?"

"He leaves 'em alone. Doesn't bother their women. They don't care about camels and goats. Nobody has paid them to whack him. Maybe the Company has run out of money. All I know is that you're staging out of LZ Kamel. Your other gear will be delivered to you there. Griffin arranged it. I'll make sure he has your list and knows what you picked up here."

There was no way around it. Gunny sighed. He and his nitwits were going to northern Iraq to assassinate a terrorist. "How we getting up there?"

"Come on. A pal of mine arranged for transportation." Old Guy led him outside.

"Form up and follow me," snarled Gunny as he passed the squad. Men grabbed gear and stumbled after him. Donnie hopped along on one leg, pulling at his boot.

"You really got us in the crap this time," hissed Whizkid. "Couldn't you see them dames was trouble?"

"I didn’t see no Ranger tabs," whined Donnie. "They was all wearing t-shirts and BDU pants. How was I to know?"

Joker shook his head mournfully. "Jeez, Donnie. The six-pack stomachs and rippling arm muscles ought to have tipped you off. Or at least slowed you down."

"All I saw was those boobs."

"You gotta get some help," said Archie. "Is there a boobaholics anonymous?"

"Shaddup!" snarled Red in his best Gunny-imitation voice. "Knock off the grab ass."

Dude chuckled. "You gotta work on that snarl, Red."

"Here we are," said Old Guy. He smiled and waved at two clowns standing by a UH-1. Both wore black jeans with white shirts with black ties. Huge aviator sunglasses hid their faces.

"Gunny, meet Larry and Larry, my friends from -- well -- they're my friends." Neither of the two spooks offered to shake hands or even say 'howdy'. One started climbing into the pilot's seat, the other jerked a thumb toward the passenger compartment. "Get aboard," he said, then walked around to the co-pilot's position and got in.

"A Huey?" Gunny backed up a step or two, bumping into Red. "How old is this thing?"

Old Guy shrugged. The helo engine began whining, making conversation difficult. "It looks to be in good shape. Go on." He offered his hand. "See you in the funny papers."

"You'll see me in the damned obituaries, more like." Gunny motioned his squad aboard.

The helo took off in a flurry of dust. Old Guy headed back toward the Supply room. He was glad he hadn't pointed out the faded stingray insignia on the nose of the Huey. He'd last seen that emblem painted on slicks and gunships in Vietnam.

"I ain't seen a D-model in years and years," he muttered as he entered the compound. Still, it looked to be in good shape."


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It is quite funny that when I read Gunny's dialogue I can hear his voice in my head. In fact, there is one particular line of dialogue where I can hear Gunny speaking v e r y s l o w l y through clenched teeth like he does when we run and gun online. This is the line:

You're in perfect shape for this job, PFC Donster! We're gonna walk way, way into the mountains where I'm gonna strap fifty pounds of C4 to your ass and drop you off a cliff. The Air Force has done run out of bunker busters so I volunteered you!

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Im still alive , things are lookin good so far , great read OG , but no 240 , thats kinda harsh i think

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A note on uniforms

At present in the Middle East, US Marines wear the Desert MARPAT uniform.

The US Army has two uniforms in the area: The UCP and the MultiCam. The MultiCam appears to be used mostly in Afghanistan, but I'm sure the actual usage is mixed.

Kurdish peshmerga, according to a long article by an Army officer who was assigned with them between 2006-2008, are well organized and wear consistent uniforms, at least within units. Most popular are the Desert BDU (referred to in the story as BDU).

While I was aware that the Marines use MARPAT, THIS batch of Marines arrived via the green tube, and the green tube knows all. Since the lads will be associating with Kurds wearing BDU, the tube dressed them appropriately.

Once the squad got into trouble (as usual) and ended up bloody and beaten, any replacement uniforms would come from Army stocks. No Army supply sergeant will EVER issue a Marine anything current and up to date. Old stocks of BDUs are all they can expect.

Besides, this is a work of fiction. Even though I strive for maximum reality, I do have certain latitude in how things are done.

Wait a bit. You'll see. Things can get pretty wacky.



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It is quite funny that when I read Gunny's dialogue I can hear his voice in my head. In fact, there is one particular line of dialogue where I can hear Gunny speaking v e r y s l o w l y through clenched teeth like he does when we run and gun online. This is the line:

You're in perfect shape for this job, PFC Donster! We're gonna walk way, way into the mountains where I'm gonna strap fifty pounds of C4 to your ass and drop you off a cliff. The Air Force has done run out of bunker busters so I volunteered you!

I'm with you, Doug. I hear the same kind of resignation in his voice as when I screw up doing something in a Mission, and I hear "Oh, no, Whiz, for Gods sake.........!" Sometimes I actually feel sorry for him having to carry such a load!

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