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Calendar >  Intersection of Isolation and Desolation -Thomas Calabrese

Intersection of Isolation and Desolation -Thomas Calabrese

By   /  February 24, 2024  /  10 Comments


Thomas Calabrese – Charlie Marshall’s Military Occupational Specialty (MOS 1341) was Engineer Equipment Mechanic and he was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 7, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California. After leaving the Corps, he accepted a civil service position doing the same type of work on base. Charlie had been in his civil service position for three years when he met Nancy Flynn, a supervisor in base housing. They dated for two years before getting married in Las Vegas. Charlie and Nancy had job security, promotional possibilities and the cost of living in the desert was much cheaper than other places in the Golden State. They had no inclination to relocate so they bought a four bedroom house in Yucca Valley and three years later, their son was born. The only life that Steve knew was the desert and as a child he had an adventurous and curious streak and would often wander off for hours before returning home. The searing summer heat often reached triple-digits and the winter cold sometimes dropped into the single digits and Steve knew how to handle both extremes.

Charlie told his ten year-old young son, “People who grow up in the cold, adapt, people who grow in the heat, adapt. That is what they call human nature and self-preservation. It’s only when you have other places as references is when you realize if you’ve been blessed or cursed by where you were brought up. Does that make sense?”

            “Yeah, I think so, I’ll keep my options open, but so far I like it here,” Steve said.

            “All I’m saying is that I served most of my enlistment on this base and have been working here since I got out.  Your mom has been in civil service since she was twenty-one years old. It worked for us because we wouldn’t have met otherwise. I’m content and I think your mom is too. Like you said, keep your options open, but don’t feel obligated to do it our way.”

 After graduating Yucca Valley High School, Steve joined the Marines because he was so familiar with the military service. After being assigned a primary Military Occupational Specialty of 0311, Rifleman and reaching the rank of Lance Corporal, Charlie applied for sniper school. There are four different locations, Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Base Quantico and Marine Corps Base, Hawaii. The course may feel like an eternity, but it is actually only 12.5 weeks of intense training where only 40 per cent of applicants graduate.

To be a good sniper, a Marine needs to excel in marksmanship and possess stellar land navigation skills, discipline, maturity and intelligence and Steve possessed all these qualities in abundance. While other applicants felt overwhelmed by the backcountry of Camp Pendleton, Steve thought it was cramped and confining. No matter how cold, wet or hot it got on base, it was nothing compared to what he had already experienced in the desert.

Applicant Marty Assali was shivering in the damp air while on a training exercise. He looked over at Steve who was sitting comfortably on a rock and gazing into the distance, “Does anything ever bother you?”

Steve smiled, “Some things do…why?”

            “I like the shooting part of training, but I’m having a tough time with my navigational skills,” Marty sighed.

            “Where were you brought up?”

          “In the heart of Youngstown, Ohio,” Marty said.

            “That explains it.”

            “What explains it?” Marty asked.

            “You’re used to being in a city, I’m used to being outdoors. Now if we were training in urban warfare, you’d have the advantage. I’ll help you any way I can, so don’t give up,” Steve encouraged.

With Steve’s help, Marty made it through the course and they ended up being paired together in Afghanistan.  Steve became the sniper and Marty was the spotter. The spotter watches the shot to help the sniper readjust his aim or change his position in the unlikely event that he misses the target. High velocity, long range rounds like the kind used in a sniper rifle actually leave a vapor trail as they fly through the air. The spotter can track the shot by watching for that vapor trail. It looks like mixed up air and the spotter can see the distortion. In observation missions, the sniper and spotter take turns using the spotter scope to prevent eye fatigue because in many cases the team can be observing and searching for their target. A sniper team always carries an automatic assault rifle because as a former SEAL explained, “If you get attacked, a sniper rifle is not much good for fighting your way out.”

During his four tours in Afghanistan, Steve Marshall had 133 confirmed kills. After his discharge from the Marine Corps, he returned to Yucca Valley and got a job with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. In size, San Bernardino is the largest county in the United States, encompassing over 20,000 square miles and includes most of the Mohave Desert. Because of his marksmanship skills, Steve was recruited to be part of the county’s SWAT team.  Since situations where a sniper is needed were very rare, Steve also worked as a deputy sheriff. He kept his Accuracy International Rifle, Razor Generation III 6x56mm riflescope and 100 rounds of Lupua.338 Caliber rounds in the trunk of his cruiser when he was on patrol and close by when he was off duty.

The large swaths of desert between Blythe and I-15 are some of the most desolate areas anywhere on the North American continent. Places such as Devil’ Playground the Kelso Dunes and Rice Valley are seldom visited by even the hardiest of travelers and are almost devoid of population. There are long stretches of lonely dirt roads, abandoned ranches, dry lake beds and beautiful, windswept dunes. There are no park rangers or tourists and it is a blend of spiritual solitude and silence with an ambiance of danger. For most people, this would be enough to keep them away, but not for Steve. He loved this part of the area and would set up targets at five hundred, one thousand and 1500 yards to practice his shooting.  Lapua 338 cartridges cost seven dollars each so Steve usually restricted his shooting to 15 shots a week or 60 a month. This was exactly what he was allowed to spend under the SWAT operating budget to keep his skills at the highest level. If he felt like firing more than that he would pay out of his own pocket.

It was late Wednesday afternoon and Steve had two hours until he was off shift and since he was in the area, he drove down to Kelso Dunes to fire off a few rounds. After hitting his targets, he prepared to leave. Because he was so far from the Sheriff’s station, Steve was allowed to take his cruiser home.  While standing on the back of the vehicle and putting his weapon away, he heard a faint sound in the distance. He pulled out his binoculars, scanned the area and saw dozens of men entering an underground bunker. Steve watched for a couple minutes as he tried to get an accurate assessment of the situation and attempted to make a call on his cellphone, but he had no service. He checked his official radio and that communication channel had nothing but static. This was too much of a coincidence for Steve, he had experienced a similar situation when he was in Afghanistan and later found out that the Taliban were using a sophisticated jamming device.

Steve saw five armed Chinese men approaching and they did not look friendly. He pulled out his nine millimeter pistol and kept it by his side…just in case. He stepped into view and the Chinese men raised their weapons. Steve dived to the ground and they riddled his cruiser with bullets. Firing from the ground, he shot under the car and hit the men in their legs and ankles. After emptying his magazine, he reloaded, circled around and came up behind the wounded men. When one Chinese man tried to shoot him, Steve put a bullet in his forehead. While the other men lied there moaning from their wounds, Steve pulled their weapons away.  These individuals were not common illegal migrants, they were all in their twenties and their weapons were Chinese AK-47 assault rifles. One of the wounded Chinese cursed at Steve in well spoken English, “Americans are weak and foolish and you are going to die.”

Steve smashed the man in the face with the butt of a rifle and responded, “That’s a distinct possibility, but you’re not going to be the one to do it.”

Steve had heard about the massive influx of military age Chinese men crossing the Southern border from his friends in the Border Patrol and suspected that they had ulterior motives. This was his first confrontation with them and this confirmed his suspicions. The gunshots must have been heard by other Chinese in the area and they began moving toward his position…all of them armed and ready for battle. This was the time to implement his evade and escape policy. Steve took his sniper rifle, filled up a backpack with Lapua rounds and took two bottles of water. He shot the wounded Chinese with his pistol, raced off and hid in the ravine as a dozen Chinese men destroyed his cruiser with a barrage of gunfire. The rules of engagement were emphatically clear, kill or be killed. If the Chinese wanted to play it this way, that was alright with Steve. His deadly skills were forever etched into his memory.

To Steve Marshall, the desert was an ally, not an adversary so it was second nature for him to maintain his focus even in the darkness. He walked in one direction for a thousand yards until he was sure that he wasn’t being followed. Steve circled back and walked up a ridgeline that overlooked the area where he had seen the men going underground. There was a full moon and it gave Steve enough light to see a lot of activity going on in the valley below him with his binoculars. It quickly got cold once the sun went down so Steve dug a hole in the sand, crawled into it and pulled some brush over him to hide his position. He couldn’t remember how many times he had slept outside in harsh climates while waiting for a clear shot at a target. Steve felt a tinge of nostalgia as memories flashed through his mind.

When the sun came up, Steve watched the intensified activities of the Chinese for an hour before he heard the sound of dune buggies in the distance growing louder. He hoped that the drivers would not come in this direction, but that was not the case. The Chinese heard the sound and were waiting in ambush for the dune buggies when they came down the valley toward the secret underground structure. The drivers would never know what hit them once they came over the last dune.

Steve quickly adjusted his scope for the wind and temperature, got into the prone position and took aim. His targets were between seven hundred and nine hundred yards and this was easy shooting for a sniper whose record for a confirmed kill was 2000 yards. One by one the ambushers went down and the occupants of the two dune buggies made it across the valley without ever knowing how close they came to being killed. The body count was eleven by the time Steve stopped firing.

The former sniper knew better than to stay in the same place after shooting so he moved an area five hundred yards away and set his rifle up to be able to fire back at his previous location and waited to do his own ambush. When a group of Chinese men found the indentation in the ground on the ridge, they knew this where the shots had been fired that killed their comrades. Ten seconds later, they were lying dead too.

Stalking and concealment are as big a part of being a good sniper as is the shooting. That night Steve crawled three hundred yards past patrolling sentries until he was within fifty feet of the underground bunker. He could hear the Chinese speaking in their native tongue, but what surprised Steve is when he heard the English language, “Whoever this guy is, we need to take him out, there is too much at stake to take any chances.”

A man with a Chinese accent responded, “He’s a professional…I’m calling in our best men, they’ll be here tomorrow.”

            “They better be up to the task,” The man with the American accent responded.

A sniper rifle is of little use in close quarters so Steve left his long range rifle hidden behind a cactus plant and crawled toward a Chinese sentry. He came up behind the man and snapped his neck and took his AK-47. Steve checked to make sure he had a full magazine and put on the man’s jacket and hat. He saw some men walking into the underground bunker so he pulled the hat low on his face, kept his head down and followed them.

Once inside, he saw a several rows of cots and an armory where weapons were stored. The structure had its own heating and cooling system and Steve could hear the motor running. Off to the side were three Caucasian men talking to three Chinese men. One the Caucasian men said, “When the word comes down, these will be your targets.” The man pointed to the several red circles on the map.”

The Chinese man responded, “I understand.”

Steve could not see what the man was pointing at, but he assumed it was part of the local power grid and other essential services. He had to stop them…but how? He walked toward the armory and saw several weapons lying on a table and next to them were loaded magazines.

One Chinese man became suspicious and walked closer as Steve pulled out his knife and kept it hidden behind him. At the last possible instant he stabbed the man in the heart and set him down in a chair. It was now or never! Steve sprayed the room with his bullets. He killed two Chinese men in the armory, grabbed another weapon, loaded it and fired. He repeated the process one more time until nobody was left standing.

One of the Caucasian men was critically wounded and spitting up blood. He defiantly looked up at Steve, “This changes nothing…you’ve only delayed the inevitable. If you think the borders were opened for humanitarian purposes then you’re a fool,” The man laughed and choked at the same time.

Steve turned to the right and nonchalantly shot a wounded Chinese man reaching for a weapon then focused back on the man before him, “I never thought that at all. Being as a long range marksman, I know how to make logical calculations from what I see and feel. I always hope for the best, but am prepared for the worst,” Steve shot the man in the head. “Give my regards to the others traitors in hell,” and took the map on his way out.

As he came out of the underground bunker, Steve saw two helicopters approaching the site and ran over to where he hid his rifle. He took aim and shot both aircraft with multiple rounds until they crashed to the desert floor.

The next day, Steve returned to the site with several former Border Patrol officers and some of his former Marine Corps buddies “We’ve got a war and it is on our homeland. Defeat is not an option and as long we’ve got bullets and breath, we’ll fight for every inch of American soil. Take anything we can use.” The men entered the underground bunker.

Steve looked around the desert that had been his sanctuary for most of his life, took a deep breath, felt a chill run down his spine and knew that the worst was yet to come. He had lived his entire life as a liberty loving American and had willingly gone into harms’ way on numerous occasions. There was no doubt in his mind that he would rather die a free man than survive in a world of tyranny and oppression. He looked upward and requested assistance from his creator, “I am at the intersection of isolation and desolation… God, please keep me on your GPS should I ever waiver from the path of righteousness.”

The End


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  1. Tom says:

    Is this vigilante justice or patriotism at its best? Is there a distinct difference? Our borders are more porous than a sieve. I applaud the men and women of the Border Patrol and the LEOs of the southern border states. They have a dangerous job. Senior DHS officials should be compelled to patrol the border under the same conditions as their subordinates. Perhaps then they would arm and equip these teams with the same type of equipment that the bad guys have. I have not considered the Chinese as armed intruders the same as the “usual suspects” we read about. I guess I am naive.Well written…as always

  2. Skip says:

    Steve is “the man”! If we can grow a few platoons of him in California, we’ll vote more tax dollars to chip in for more ammo!
    Semper Fidelis and best regards,

  3. Joe says:

    You really know how to bring the “real” world home to us. Thanks.

  4. john michels says:

    Interesting story or might I say warning

  5. Tony says:

    Mr. Calabrese is right up in step with the current events with this Sunday Story in the Vista Press and it is a great message for all of us to pay attention too. No matter our political preference, this is about America and our families. It is not specifically about the Chinese because we have a number of bad characters that have already crossed the boarder into America that can easily be recruited for a number of devious tasks from many countries. No asks how did they travel so far and cross so many countries with or without proper passports and Visa’s? They are not destitute or truly in fear of their government.When my parents came to the USA it was because the country needed them and their skills.They worked at any job they could when not employed because their was not unemployment. They grew America into what it is today. They came from all lands and became Americans. Our politicians have divided us into ethnic groups, religious groups and whatever else they can, but I will try to do what is best for America because when the smoke clears, hopefully, America will remain. Thank you Mr. Calabrese for trying to keep us on our toes as to what has happened on our Southern Border with this story that appears to be fiction. God Bless America.

  6. Robert says:

    Liked the story.

  7. bob wolf says:

    sadly, this story may be more fact than fiction.

  8. Tamra Jordan-Brown says:

    Tom you told the 100% truth! This “one” sends chills down my spine because it confirms @ least 4 dreams, that I’ve had. 2 of the exact same or ( recurring ), dreams, were 10 years apart! They were the same enemies as you described in this short story, but they had a little help! 10 out of 10. You knocked this one, out of the park! Thank you!

  9. Clyde says:

    I agree with the previous comments. This immigration problem is a deliberate plan by the traitors in our government. It will take patriots to solve it.

  10. Esther says:

    Great story, and a great start for a series. I can’t wait for the next one!

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