Rushing For Russians
Thomas Calabrese –Retired Air Force pilot Colonel Danny ‘Reaper’ Kozak spent 28 years in the military flying fighter jets. He was stationed all over the world and flew in conflicts against some of the best foreign pilots in the world and defeated them all. Danny did a tour of duty as squadron commander and lead pilot for the elite Air Force Thunderbirds. Colonel Kozak also piloted the SR-71 Blackbird, a long-range Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft with a top speed of 2,455 mph and capable of flying at a sustained altitude exceeding 85,000 feet.
The elite pilot’s role model was legendary General Chuck Yeager who flew 67 combat missions in World War II and broke the sound barrier in 1947. After leaving the Air Force, Danny Kozak became a test pilot for Lockheed Martin and also flew his Zivko Edge 540 MXS-R, equipped with a Lycoming Thunderbolt engine in Red Bull races around the globe for recreation.
Danny was admired and respected by his fellow pilots for his unparalleled aeronautical skills and code of conduct. He was a loyal and faithful friend and a dedicated and tenacious adversary. When he was competing against his fellow pilots in various scenarios, Danny gave 100 percent, but win or lose, he was as gracious in victory as he was in defeat.
When he was in the cockpit of an aircraft, it literally became an extension of his body and mind. Combine that gift with his thousands of flight hours and it was thoroughly amazing to witness what this American warrior could do in an aircraft. He also defied aeronautical engineering principles. Colonel Kozak could fly in the inverted position at treetop level or soar among the stars at Mach 3 with equal expertise. He mastered the complex maneuvers of the High and Low Yo-Yo, G-Barrel Roll, Pugachev’s Cobra, Kulbit, Herbst Maneuver, also known as the J Roll and the Hineri- Komi, which starts off with a steep climb that transitions into a half loop then to a side slip and finally into an inverted dive.
Colonel Danny Kozak had been married to his wife, Janet, for 18 years. She was an orthopedic surgeon at Scripps Hospital in Encinitas. They met when Danny hurt his knee when he stepped into a gopher hole while running the trails in Calaveras Hills in Carlsbad. She performed the surgery and during one of the follow up appointments, Danny asked Janet to lunch, the rest is history. Soon after the wedding they purchased a five-acre parcel of land in Olivenhain, California and had a large home built. At first it seemed like it was too big for them, but when their three daughters, Riley, Krista and Callen came along, it seemed like the right size or even a little small at times. In fact, when, Riley turned 18, Danny and Janet built a guest cottage on the property so she would have her own space.
Many of Danny’s family on his father’s side resided in Ukraine and as a young boy he would often visit them. Even after he joined the Air Force and had the opportunity to fly to Vasylkiv Air base near Kiev for refueling, he took the opportunity so he could visit his family. Danny developed friendships with the Ukrainian pilots of the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade during some of these layovers.
When Russia surrounded Ukraine and threatened to invade, Danny called his Aunt Olena Marcenko to see how she was doing, “Are you thinking about leaving?”
Olena responded, “No, never! This is my home and I will stay. No one will drive me off as long as I have one breath in my body to fight back!”
Danny was proud and concerned for his Aunt Olena, but he knew that once she made up her mind, she would not change it.
Russia did invade and one of their missile strikes hit the apartment building where Olena and several of Danny’s relatives lived. Danny was notified of the tragedy by his cousin, Pavlo, who choked back his sorrow to get the words out. “They were all killed. I will fight the Russians. I’m going to get me a rifle at the police station. If I never see you again then remember that I did the right thing.” In the background, shelling grew closer. There was a loud explosion and the phone connection was severed.
Danny held a family meeting in the dining room that evening and told the family of his decision. “I’m going to Ukraine, I’ve got the skills to make a difference and I can’t stay here and do nothing.”
The family was silent for a moment until Janet found the strength. “Do what you need to…you have our full support. You take our love with you.”
Danny embraced his family. “Thanks for making this easier to do.”
When Danny notified his employer, Lockheed Martin of his decision to leave and fight in Ukraine, they fully supported his decision by sending one of their long range executive jets to the Carlsbad Airport to pick him up.
Colonel Danny Kozak arrived at the Polish Air force base in Lask, Poland, where he was met by Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk, Commander of the Ukranian Air Force.
“It is an honor to meet you, Colonel Kozak. Your reputation precedes you.”
Danny smiled, “One thing about reputations, they are seldom accurate. I’m here to help in any way I can.”
“We can use it. We just received a shipment of F-15’s and 16’s.” Lt. General Oleschuk stated.
“Can you give me a quiet placed to rest for an hour and then I would like to meet with the maintenance crews.” Danny said.
Danny was shown to a building where there were several beds. He sat down on one, took off his boots, put in earplugs to block out the sound and a blindfold to shut out the light and laid down. He meditated for ten minutes and then fell asleep. One hour later he was awakened and proceeded to meet the maintenance crews. “I am retired Colonel Dan Kozak. I intend to fly until Russia has been defeated or I’ve been shot down and killed.
We are greatly outnumbered on the ground and in the skies. I need to change those odds in a hurry which means I need to stay airborne. I can’t do that without you. Here’s my plan; I’ll take a plane up and when I’ve used up my bombs and missiles and the rest of the armament, I’ll return. I’ll need an hour’s rest and then I’ll take another plane up. I know from experience that I can repeat this process indefinitely. Don’t let me down and I’ll do my best not to fail you. Any questions?”
No one spoke up and Danny said, “Let’s do this.”
Thirty minutes later. Danny was airborne in an F-15. He shot down two MIG-29’s with his AIM-120 air-to air missiles then dived down to destroy a Russian convoy with his 20 mm Gatling gun.
The maintenance crew was up to the task and a fully loaded F-16 was ready to go. Danny decompressed for his required 60 minutes, got something to eat and was airborne again. His destination was Odesa, a port city in the southwest area of the country. Danny shot down four more Russian aircraft then caused severe damage to three Russian ships. A missile was fired by one vessel at him and Danny dived down until he was 50 feet above the water with the missile on his tail. He headed directly toward the ship and when he got within 100 feet he went into an inverted vertical climb. The missile was unable to make the quick adjustment and hit the Russian ship.
Over the first four days, Danny shot down 10 fighter jets and 23 attack helicopters. He also destroyed dozens of tanks and trucks trying to invade Ukraine cities, sending hundreds of Russian troops running for cover. His heroic actions gave the Ukrainians a fighting chance on the ground.
Putin was outraged that his Air Force could not stop one pilot so he offered a five million euros bounty to anyone who shot down Colonel Kozak. When he was told about it, Danny shrugged. “It’s always nice to be wanted.”
Fifteen missions later and the numbers increased dramatically, Danny’s confirmed kills were now 18 fighter jets, 86 attack helicopters, three air transports and four more ships. They stopped keeping count of destroyed trucks and tanks.
Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk approached Danny as he prepared for another mission. “You should take a couple of days off.”
Danny responded. “I’m just getting into my groove…don’t stop me now. Besides I’ll stop when the Russians do.”
“You know what the people of Ukraine call you… Death Angel of Ukraine.”
Danny responded. “I’ve been called worse. I hate to cut this conversation short, but I’m rushing for Russians.”
Colonel Kozak hit supersonic speed and set course for Kharkiv. The Russians were pummeling the city with artillery. Danny destroyed six artillery emplacements and headed back to his home base to switch planes. On the way back he was intercepted by six Sukhoi Su-57 jets.
Danny knew their capabilities and weaknesses and used that knowledge to his ultimate advantage. He shot down four of them using complex aeronautical maneuvers and the other two retreated.
There was a report that Russia was planning a major attack and using Belarus as their staging area. It was heavily fortified with anti-aircraft weapons, but Danny figured it was worth the risks. Mogilev is a city in eastern Belarus on the Dnieper River. The plan was to fly under the radar along the river and at the last moment change direction and commence the attack.
Hundreds of vehicles were lined up along the road and when Danny got the convoy in his sights, he rained hellfire on the stationary targets. Starting in the front and finishing at the end, it was just black smoke and burning hulks of metal when he had completed his strategic assault. Now it was time for escape and evade. The Russian pilots were no match for the skilled American who whipped around buildings like he was in a Red Bull race.
Danny met with Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk to discuss his plan. “It is time to take the war to Putin. He’s done enough damage to Ukraine and killed enough innocent people.”
“So what do you want to do?” Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk asked.
Danny replied simply, with no more emotion than if he was going to take a casual walk to the corner store. “I’m going to blow the hell out of the Kremlin. It is only about nine hundred miles.”
Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk was shocked. “You’re the best pilot I’ve ever seen, but this is too much even for a man of your skills.”
“After the attack on Pearl Harbor, America needed to send an unmistakable message to Japan that they weren’t untouchable. On 18 April 1942, Colonel Doolittle led 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers, each with a crew of five from the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet located in the Pacific to attack Tokyo .They had no fighter escort, had to take off within the allotted 500 feet of the carrier deck or crash. They carried 2,000 pounds of bombs, and traveled 2,000 miles. At the end of this impossible mission they had two choices, crash land in China or ditch into the ocean. This will be a piece of cake compared to that. Besides, in all my years of flying, I’ve never flown into Moscow airspace. I’m curious to see how it looks.”
Danny took off, reached an altitude of 10,000 feet and went to Mach 2, twice the speed of sound and was over Moscow in less than 20 minutes. An irate and frustrated President Putin was inside the Kremlin threatening his generals about their lack of success in defeating the Ukrainians. He heard a loud explosion and then the ceiling collapsed on him. Before leaving the area, Danny shot down three MIG-29’s and they crashed into Red Square.
Two days later, Russian forces began their withdrawal from Ukraine soil. When Danny was sure that it wasn’t a trick, he visited the cemetery to pay his respects to his deceased relatives. One week later, he returned home.
Janet picked him up at the Carlsbad Airport. She said. “It’s good to have you back.”
“It’s good to be home.”
Janet asked. “How was it?”
Danny responded simply. “It could have been worse.”
Janet knew her husband well enough not to push the issue. As the months passed, the topic of Ukraine would occasionally come up. Danny’s humility always influenced his reply. “I did what I could, the real heroes are those who gave their lives for the cause.”
Ukraine began the arduous task of rebuilding their ravaged nation and one year quickly passed. President Volodmyr Zelensky made a call to Danny and invited him and his family to be his personal guests at a ceremony to reaffirm Ukraine’s democracy.
Thousands of Ukrainians were in attendance in front of the Parliament Building. When the large tarp was pulled off the 50 foot high statute, the crowd burst into applause and shouts of jubilation echoed through the streets of Kiev.
The unmistakable bronze image was of a man in a flight suit holding a plane in his right hand and a globe in the other. Engraved on the pedestal were these words; Colonel Dan Kozak, Death Angel of Ukraine. You have our eternal gratitude.
– Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance
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