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Calendar >  Lethal Capabilities – Thomas Calabrese

Lethal Capabilities – Thomas Calabrese

By   /  November 2, 2019  /  14 Comments


Not Lethal Tendencies

Thomas Calabrese — The United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) is a component of the United States Special Operations Command. Their core capabilities are direct action, special reconnaissance and foreign internal defense. A detachment of these Marine Raiders were stationed at Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait. Chief Warrant Officer Jeb Gallan had been a Raider for six years and in the Marine Corps for sixteen years and was fairly content with how things were progressing in his military career. He wasn’t married and made it a point to keep his emotional distance from anyone who could divert his attention from his primary mission.  The only other thing that ever crossed Jeb’s mind was collecting his retirement benefits which meant he had four more years to go until he had his full twenty years in. Now if he didn’t live that long, well that was the occupational risk that came with being a special operative.

His detachment team wasgiven only three hours to get ready for the upcoming mission. A team of Navy SEALS had parachuted into Northern Syria two days earlier to rescue nine American civilian contractors who had been captured by a group of Syrian bandits. Their extraction point had been compromised and they were now holed up in an abandoned compound and were surrounded.  Just as the Marines were ready to board their aircraft, Sergeant Ressler approached Chief Warrant Officer Gallan, “Excuse me,sir, Colonel Hutton wants to see you.”

Jeb stepped out of line and followed Sergeant Ressler. Just as he arrived at the command center, he saw the aircraft taking off without him and his unit in it. When he entered Colonel Hutton’s office,the senior Marine officer apologized, “Sorry about separating you from your men, but I just got these orders from the Secretary of Defense a few minutes ago.  You were specifically requested as the operative.”

            “Whenever they ask for you by name, it’s never a good thing.” Jeb spoke from previous experience.

            “Isn’t it the truth,” Colonel Hutton agreed then added, “We received Intel that Russians mercenaries  had an elaborate ambush planned when you met up with the Navy Seals.

            “They figured to knock out a bunch of our top tier operatives all at once?” Jeb surmised.

            “They want serious payback after your mission in the Ukraine where your team killed eleven FSB soldiers. Intel has it that the Kremlin put a million euros bounty on your head,” Colonel Hutton said.

Jeb was pretty good military strategy, “You know that the Russians have eyes on our base and you want to make sure that they see the plane take off. I get that part, but what am I doing here?”

            “Air Force pararescue is waiting for you. We’ve got satellite surveillance over the area and have pinpointed the Russians’positions. You’ll parachute behind them and rendevous with a Kurdish freedom fighter that will only deal with you.”

            “You must be talking about Arsad Goran,” Jeb guessed.

 The Chief Warrant Officer had spent a year embedded with Kurdish fighters in the battle of ISIS terrorists and developed a friendship with Goran. “I look forward to seeing him again, “He’s a good friend and a valiant warrior.”

            “There’s one other thing that you should be aware of.”

            “Yes sir,” Jeb said.

            “Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is supposed to be in the area. After taking out the mercs and getting the contractors out safely, you may be ordered to go after Baghdadi if we find his exact location and we think he’s going to move,we might send you in. ”

            “The good thing about doing two missions at once is that we’ll save the government money on aircraft fuel,” Jeb joked, “Where’s my unit going to be?”

            “They’ll maintain the diversion of meeting up with the Navy SEALS and give you enough time for your attack,” Colonel Hutton answered, “Good luck.”

Jeb parachuted out of the transport plane with a dozen Air Force pararescue personnel and was met by Goran and fifty Kurdish fighters. “You look good my friend,” Goran smiled.

            “You as well. What do we know about the Russians?”

            “My best men have them under surveillance,” Goran answered, “There are a lot of checkpoints in the area, but I’ve already made the necessary arrangements to get through them.”

            “Let’s get going then?” Jeb suggested, “What’s the strength of the Russian force?”

            “We estimate sixty well armed fighters,”  Goran answered.

About five clicks away (A ‘click’is the slang or short term for one kilometer. Five klicks is five kilometers. The military uses metric measurements for maps and distances.) The Marine Detachment moved slowly and deliberately toward the compound while cautiously looking around without arousing suspicion.

Jeb took the lead with Goran and the group moved down a ravine that shielded them from view from the Russians. Jeb communicated with his unit, “We’re moving toward the objective.”

            “Roger that,” Captain Kirchner responded, “We’ll let you know when we’re in position.”

The Marines got within 300 yards of the compound where the Navy Seals and hostages were located and would have to cross an open field to reach them. Captain Kirchner led his men to the edge of the clearing and stopped there. The Russians were so focused on their primary target that they didn’t even think about Chief Warrant Officer Gallan and the Kurdish fighters coming up behind them. Forty Russian fighters were quickly killed and the others surrendered.

When Jeb rendevoused with his unit, they made their way to the compound where the Navy SEALS welcomed them, “It’s good to see you, c’mon on in,” Master Chief Freddy Rodriguez smiled.

Captain Kirchner radioed back to command, “We’ve secured the objective, Russians neutralized and we’re ready for extraction.”

Colonel  Hutton replied, “Roger that, as of five minutes ago your mission has been expanded. Baghdadti’s location has been confirmed and Central Command doesn’t want to send in extraction choppers and possibly alert him. Delta is their own way, your orders are to assist them in the mission. I’ll radio you the coordinates for the rendevous point.”

            “Yes sir,” Captain Kirchner replied.

The Marines, Navy SEALS, hostages and the Russian prisoners began walking to meet the Delta Force operatives.

Capain Kirchner turned to Jeb, “Good job back there.”

            “Thanks to the Kurds,” Jeb responded.

When Delta Force landed in eight stealth helicopters, the Marines and Navy SEALS were ordered to secure the perimeter while Delta Force did the insertion. This was the Army’s mission and their call from beginning to end. Delta Force moved toward the west wall. One of the Russian mercenaries who spoke fairly good English called to Jeb. “Chief Warrant Officer Gallan, that compound has an escape tunnel. I’ve been in there and I’d be happy to show you where it comes out.”

            “In return for what?” Jeb asked.

            “Put a good word in for me when we get back,”  The Russian shrugged.

            “If the Intel is correct, I’ve got no problem with that.”

Jeb relayed the information to Captain Kirchner who responded, “Check it out Gunner.”

The Russian led the way over the rocky and sandy terrain with Jeb right behind him and his assault rifle pointed at the mercenary’s back. A squad of Marines fell in behind them in single file. About two hundred meters into their mission, a medium sized tan colored dog approached Jeb, “What are you doing out here, don’t you know it’s dangerous.”

The dog wagged his tail and when Jeb bent down to pet him, the animal licked his face in a sign of affection. The dog walked besides Chief Warrant Officer Gallan, his keen animal senses alert for danger. The Russian mercenary pointed to a pile of rocks that were a hundred feet away, “It’s right over there.”

When Jeb diverted his attention for a split second, the Russian saw his opportunity and attempted to grab his weapon. The dog lunged forward and snapped down on the mercenary’s wrist and the man yelped in pain. Jeb smashed the butt of his rifle into the Russian’s face then called  to one of his Marines, “Tie and gag this idiot!” and petted the dog as a sign of gratiutude.

Jeb and the dog moved closer to the rocks and began searching for the opening of the tunnel while the other Marines covered them. Suddenly two ISIS fighters popped out of the ground right behind Jeb and he would have been shot if the dog had not warned him with a bark. Chief Warrant Officer Gallan spun around and killed both men and turned to the dog, “Thanks, I owe you again.”

Jeb found the opening of the tunnel covered by a straw mat and pulled it away. He looked down the hole and saw two women on the last rung of the metal ladder. From his vantage point Jeb saw that they were wearing suicide vests. When they made eye contact  Jeb instinctively knew that they were not going to give up and he only had a split second to make  his decision. He could not let them out of the hole and blow themselves up so he shot them both in the head just as they detonated their vests. Jeb was blown backward and that end of the tunnel was sealed off.  

Baghdadti was inside the tunnel when the explosions went off and he realized that he had nowhere to run. Rather than be captured he also detonated his suicide vest and another section of the tunnel collapsed.  The force of this explosion was so powerful that the ground that Jeb was lying on collapsed ten feet into the base of the tunnel and he was buried under rock and dirt.  The other Marines ran forward and furiously began throwing rocks out of the way to reach their fallen comrade. The dog pinpointed the exact location of Chief Warrant Officer Gallan, but by the time they found him, he had stopped breathing.

The Corpsman quickly began administering CPR and resusciatated  Chief Warrant Officer Gallan. When the extraction helicopters arrived, Jeb made sure that the dog left with him.

During the de-briefing back in Kuwait, Army leadership was extremely upset that Jeb interferred with their well planned mission, but Marine Corps commanders rebutted their claims, stating that Chief Warrant Officer Gallan acted appropriately under the circumstances. It got so testy between the two military branches that the Pentagon was called for guidance. When they couldn’t resolve the issue, it was kicked upstairs to Secretary of Defense Ted Flynn. After several days of reviewing the after action reports, Flynn made his decision and approached the Commandant of the Marine Corps with his solution, “Gallan can medically retire because of the injuries he suffered during the mission and that will be the end of it.  If he decides to stay and fight this then I’ll be recommending a court martial.”

 Colonel Hutton was notified of the decision and he told Chief Warrant Officer Gallan about his options,  “In my personal opinion, you did the right thing, but nobody is asking me.”

            “It’s time for me to move on. The court martial would just be a formality if they really want to get rid of me,” Jeb replied matter of factly.

            “It’s been a honor to serve with you,” Colonel Hutton extended his hand, “If there is anything I can ever do for you, don’t hesitate to ask.”

Jeb shook his commanding officer’s hand and replied, “I do need one thing approved before I leave for the states.”  

That one thing was that Chief Warrant Officer Gallan wanted was permission to bring the dog that had saved his life three times home with him. He named the animal Spencer after  his high school classmate and best friend Spencer Drake who died on graduation night. It was the death of this young man that motivated Jeb to join the Marine Corps. Spencer had been drinking heavily and Jeb warned him to take it easy. They found his friend floating in the pool the next morning. The coroner determined that Spencer Drake fell down the concrete stairs, knocked himself unconscious and rolled into the pool and drowned. Jeb always felt that if he looked after his friend a little closer that night, he would still be alive. That guilt never left him and Jeb vowed that if any of his Marines died, it would not be because of his neglience or oversight.  While he had his regrets on how things turned out, Jeb took consolation knowing that he had kept his promise.

After returning to Camp Pendleton and waiting to be processed out of the Corps, Jeb attended a veterans’ job fair at the Staff NCO Club in the Wire Mountain area of the base.  It was during this time that Jeb got Spencer certified as a service animal because of the TBI (traumatic brain injury) he suffered in Syria.

As Jeb and Spencer passed by the booths of employers, nothing seemed to catch his eye or interest him until he saw an elderly gentleman sitting on a folding metal chair with a sign above him Anderson Towing. Jeb struck up a conversation with the retired Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

That was three years ago and Jeb had been driving for Ollie Anderson since his separation from  the Marines. He was vastly overqualified, but the job fit his lifestyle. Ollie had a small trailer on the rear of the tow lot that Jeb used as his residence. He was not there that often since he was on call seven days a week, twenty four hour a day. His area of responsibility included Oceanside, Carlsbad and the 18 miles stretch of Interstate Five through Camp Pendleton to San Clemente. The cost of living in Southern California had risen dramatically over the years and since Jed no rental expenses, he was able to live on his disability pension and invest most of his work income in the stock market.

With the help of Mark Bucklin, a friend of Ollie’s who was an investment broker. Jeb’s stock portfolio increased dramatically. Half of his investments were in high risk and higly speculative stocks that when things turned out right, they paid high returns. Jeb had become a savvy and well informed investor and in-between service calls, he would sit in his tow truck and read the Wall Street Journal and other investment papers and magazines on his laptop. It wasn’t unusual for him to be driving with Spencer in the passenger seat and Mark Bucklin on his Bluetooth discussing investment opportunties.

In fact Ollie was so impressed with Jeb’s work performance and integrity that he made him an offer, “How would you like to be my partner?”

            “That’s very generous,” Jeb replied.

            “I don’t know how generous it is; it’s more like good business. I’m getting to the point in my life where I’d like to start disentangling myself from my work obligations.”

            “Is disentangling another word for retirement?” Jeb asked.

            “I don’t like that word, I’ve known too many people who retire then quickly die,” Ollie said.

            “ Just tell me what you need me to do and I’ll do my best to get it done. I don’t need to be a partner to do that.  Hell you don’t even know if I’m up to it.”

Ollie looked down at Spencer, “Is he kidding me?

Spencer barked twice.

What Jeb found out later was that Ollie owned three commercial buildings on South Coast Highway, a motel by the harbor and two apartment buildings in Carlsbad. Jeb learned how to  multi-task when he was in the Corps and as long as he had his loyal companion by his side, nothing seemed too daunting a task for him.

It was early morning and Jeb had finished towing a Nissan Sentra to Mossy Nissan. He looked over at Spencer, “Do you mind if I stop off at Jose’s and get myself a breakfast quesadilla?”

If a person didn’t know better, you’d swear that Spencer nodded his head.  Spencer always wore his service animal vest which allowed him to enter places where animals weren’t allowed. While Jeb  was ordering at the counter, Spencer went to lay down lied near a corner table. Five constuction workers walked in and the biggest one of them tripped over Spencer and fell flat on his face. His friends laughed uproariously at his misstep and this angered the man. He got up and screamed out, “Who’s damn dog is this!!”

            Jeb calmly walked over, “That’s not a dog, that’s my friend.”

            “Get that mutt out of here before I kick him out,” The man threatened.

            “You don’t want to do that,” Jeb warned. Spencer got to his feet and bared his fangs. ‘My friend doesn’t like to be called a mutt.”

The man looked at his friends, he had already been embarrassed and now if he didn’t do something, he would also look like a coward so he threatened, “How about if I throw you out instead?”

            “That would be almost as big a mistake,” Jeb warned, “I’ll get my food and we’ll be out of here. No harm, no foul.”

Jeb could sense that the man was not going to let this go,but figured he would give him one more chance,  “It’s your call, but you don’t have  to do this”

The man took a swing and Jeb grabbed his arm, twisted it backward then punched him in the solar plexus so hard that it left him gasping for air. Another man attempted to intervene and Jeb slapped his hand over his ears and he yelped in pain. A third man picked up a chair and Jeb sidekicked him in the chest and sent him flying over a table. The last two men stood there looking undecided about joining in, “Make your move or sit down.” Jeb demanded. The two men quickly sat down and Jeb got his quesadilla and left with Spencer.

While returning to Oceanside after changing a flat tire for a stranded female motorist near the Las Pulgas Road exit late one night, Jeb noticed several bright and momentary flashes on the northbound side of Interstate Five. He drove a mile until he could get on the other side, then drove back to where he saw the flashes. There was a California Highway Patrol cruiser parked on the shoulder and another car in front of it, but there was no one in sight. Jeb put his hand on Spencer’s back and it was rock hard and his eyes were focused into the darkness. This was a signal that danger was nearby.

Jeb slowly exited the tow truck with Spencer right by his side and found the officer with a bullet wound to his upper chest lying in front of his vehicle. He rushed back to the tow truck and got a towel and put pressure on the wound to slow the bleeding, “Stay calm, I’ll call for a ambulance.” When Jeb reached into the patrol cruiser for the radio, he felt the steel barrel of the pistol pressed against his neck, “Put it down,” came the menancing voice.

No sooner did Jeb drop the radio that Spencer came flying out the darkness and grabbed the man’s hand. Jeb took the pistol and shot another man who came out from his hiding place in the brush with his weapon drawn.  Spencer guarded the wounded gunman while Jeb administered emergency first aid until paramedics arrived. The Highway Patrol Officer made a full recovery.

Jeb was sitting at a picnic table at the rest stop outside Oceanside, alternating between working on his laptop and eating lunch. His radio was nearby while Spencer rested in the grass. An Amber Alert flashed on the screen of his computer with a description of the vehicle. Two girls had been abducted while walking to high school in Mission Viejo. There was a vague description of the vehicle,a large pick-up truck that was dark in color.

Fifteen minutes later, a Ford F-150 that was dark blue in color pulled to the far corner of the parking lot and two Hispanic men exited the vehicle and nervously looked around. “Let’s check this out.” Jeb commented. Spencer did not need to be asked twice. When they approached the two men, one of them quickly blurted out, “What do you want?”

Jeb pointed to his tow truck, “Easy does it, I got a call that somebody was broke down. Is it you guys?”

The second man angrily replied, “Hell not,get lost!”

The first man noticed Spencer sniffing around the Ford truck, “What’s your dog doing?”

            “Doing what he does best,”Jeb smiled.

Suddenly Spencer jumped inside the open window of the truck and one of the men quickly reached for his weapon.  Jeb pulled the other man in front of him as a shield and he took two bullets to the chest. Before the shooter could re-focus, Spencer came leaping out of the truck with a well directed bite to the shooter’s neck and he bled out after he fell to the ground. The two kidnapped girls were found tied and bound inside the truck and were returned unharmed to their families.

Some people simply called them the tow truck driver and his trusty companion, but perhaps Ollie Anderson explained it best when asked about his partner, “Former Marine Chief Warrant Officer Jeb Gallan and his best friend Spencer have lethal capabilities, not lethal tendencies.” The End


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  • Published: 7 months ago on November 2, 2019
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  • Last Modified: November 3, 2019 @ 1:19 am
  • Filed Under: The Back Page

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  1. Robert says:

    Nice story to start the week

  2. Tony says:

    Mr. Calabrese is right on with a follow story about recent events about taking out a terrorist in Syria Jeb Gallan and his faithful dog Spencer. It appears he retired just in time to care of Bullies and some Kidnappers too in our local area. It is always nice to read that the good guys win. Mr. Calabrese has another winner with this Sunday’s story as printed in the Vista Press.

  3. Ann says:

    Tom, it seems to me you’re writing that has only gotten better and better.

  4. Clyde says:

    Good boy, Spencer…steak and pork chops for you

  5. Joe says:

    Great story, and it’s following current events.
    By The Way, the dog that worked with us on the Batangan Pennisula was Bruno.

  6. Tanya says:

    I like the way that Tom takes a current event and weaves a story around it.

  7. Marsha says:

    Jeb Gallan , American hero, Spence,r American hero dog…a great team.

  8. Mona says:

    Excellent story and so relevant to today’s news.

  9. Greg says:

    Thanks again. I really enjoy your stories a LOT.

  10. Guy says:

    Very creative and relevant.

  11. Kyle says:

    Another good story..keep them coming.

  12. Elaine says:

    Good one! Would make a great movie.

  13. Steve says:

    A hero and a great dog…a hell of a combination.

  14. wolf says:

    Entertaining, a lot of plots to follow. Jeb, America’s 911 tow truck responder.

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