One Hell of a Ride
Known as the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta SFOD-D, also commonly referred to as Delta Force, Combat Applications Group, the unit, Army Compartmented Element, or Delta is an elite Army special operations force under the control of Joint Special Operations Command. There is no pathway to go from civilian to Delta Force operator. In order to apply for selection, an individual must hold the rank of E-4 through E-8(enlisted) or O-3 through O-4, (officer) and be at least 21 years old. Delta usually recruits from the Rangers and Green Berets, although they will also accept special operatives from the other military services.
Joe Connelly, Billy Cleaver, Tony Dowling, Dan Scanlon and Russ Hensler were members of the elite force and were united by a bond that few men ever know. Despite coming from diverse backgrounds, their core beliefs were almost identical. They were currently in Afghanistan conducting operations in the Helmand Province.
When asked by recently elected Congresswoman Delores Mathis, on her first fact finding tour of the war-torn country why he does it, Joe Connelly tersely responded, “Ma’am, it’s our job to go into hellholes all over the world to kill bad guys. All that we ask is you give us the tools to do our job…then leave us alone.”
Congresswoman Mathis continued, “You told me what you do, Sergeant, you didn’t tell me why?”
“Permission to speak freely?”
“Permission granted,” Congressman Mathis answered.
“Ma’am, I don’t think that you want terrorists strolling around your neighborhood and I know for damn sure that I don’t want them on American soil. Until the government finds somebody better than Delta, Navy Seals or Marine Recon to do the job, then you’re stuck with us.”
Dan Scanlon was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions during a mission where he ran through enemy fire to destroy a fortified terrorist position and rescue two wounded Rangers while in Somalia. Dan was hoping the Pentagon would disapprove the award. His reasoning was simple, he would need special permission to stay with his team if he did receive the Nation’s highest honor. Another drawback was going to the White House where he would be part of a well-orchestrated photo op and official dinner. He voiced his concerns to his teammates and they were more than willing to express their opinions.
Billy Cleaver quipped, “I’d rather sit in a foxhole in a hurricane, eating cold beans than share a five course meal with career politicians.”
“I don’t know if I’d go that far. I’ll tell you what I’d do, I’d accept the invitation and then when I got to the White House,” Russ Hensler explained, “I’d see what was on the menu, and if I liked it, I’d say I was having flashbacks and needed to be alone. They’d be all freaked out with me being proficient with killing people and would want to get me out of there in a New York minute. I’d get my food and go back to the hotel and watch Leave It To Beaver, reruns. That would be my plan.”
Tony Dowling added, “I don’t think about politicians but if I was in close proximity to a bunch of worthless career bureaucrats, I wouldn’t have much of an appetite. That’s saying something coming from a guy who has eaten worms and dirt.”
Back in Washington, President Joe Biden said in a speech from the White House Treaty Room, “It is time to end America’s longest war.”
Former White House adviser Richard Clarke issued a dire warning on Fox News, “There is a high probability that the President’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11th 2021 will result in the collapse of the Afghan government and a takeover by the Taliban. There could be images on our TV screens, whether it’s a year or two from now, of a lot of Afghan people getting killed or imprisoned. It will be particularly disastrous for women, who will be thrown back into the 14th century.”
The Delta Force operatives were ordered to start winding down from all existing operations. Joe Connelly went to Headquarters to find out if the withdrawal took into account the Afghans who had worked with them and would be in extreme danger after the pull-out.
Colonel Robert Cordova answered, “I haven’t received any word on that yet.”
“Some of these people have put their lives on the lines for us, relying on the promise that we wouldn’t forsake them.”
“It’s above my pay grade…sorry,” Colonel Cordova sighed, “I wish I could give you better news.”
Medical Doctor Abdul Ali Baloch, was born in Kabul and educated in the United States. He returned to his homeland with his family to open a clinic and has cared for thousands of Afghans over the last five years. He made this decision despite the great risks and in the process alienated the Taliban by practicing western medicine and working with the Americans.
Upon Staff Sergeant Connelly’s return, Billy Cleaver inquired, “What did you find out?”
“The Colonel doesn’t know any more than we do,” Joe responded.
Russ Hensler asked, “So what do we do?”
Dan Scanlon interjected, “We’ll do what we always do…kill the enemy and protect the innocent.”
“You’re talking about going rogue,” Tony Dowling warned his comrades.
Joe snarled, “I’m not talking about anything and neither is anybody else.”
Billy Cleaver concurred, “Roger that.”
It was a big risk but these were men of honor and courage and once they made a commitment, they were all in. While operating under current Army rules of engagement, they were limited on the extent of their mission. But now, every Taliban target of opportunity was on the table.
While pretending to stand down, The Delta team began carrying out their own covert missions. They had a two-fold objective, eliminate as much of the Taliban leadership before September 11th and steal as much money as they could get their hands on. The money was not for them, but to help Abdul Ali Baloch and his family leave Afghanistan before it was too late.
Colonel Cordova had his suspicions about who was behind the targeted assassinations but had no hard evidence. When he began inquiring about getting authority for the Baloch family to relocate to the United States he was surprised to find out about they already had visas for Australia. He was an astute and perceptive man and it wasn’t hard to put the pieces together. Colonel Cordova called the entire Delta team into his office and expressed his thoughts on the matter, “I’m not going to ask you questions because I don’t want you to lie and if you tell me the truth then I’ll be obligated to take the appropriate actions. For all concerned, let’s not go down that path.”
Joe Connelly responded, “Thank you, sir.”
“I recently found out that the Baloch family have visas for Australia. Those visas were expedited with a large financial incentive. More money than the Baloch family has…so where did that money come from?” Colonel Cordova said.
None of the Delta team spoke up and Colonel Cordova continued, “That’s a moot point as far as I’m concerned. I was recently contacted by investigators from the State Department who feared that the recent series of attacks on the Taliban might complicate our scheduled withdrawal. Once they find out, and they eventually will, who gave the money to the Australian attache’ then… well. I’m trying hard to say something without actually saying it, and that’s not my style.”
Dan Scanlon offered his assistance, “Let me throw something out there and see where it lands. What are the current options as you perceive them for whomever may be involved.”
“The administration is going to look for somebody to hang this on…that’s how these things usually go. Every one of you have served your country with honor and distinction and I’ve been proud to know you. Some of you are trying to make your twenty and retire, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. We all are aware that an investigation is harder to conduct when the suspects are no longer under the jurisdiction of the Army. Think about it…dismissed.”
The Delta Team returned to their area and after a short discussion they came to the only conclusion that made sense. They informed Colonel Cordova of their decision and he discreetly processed their paperwork for their separation from Special Operations. He also hindered the official investigation at every opportunity, but eventually it came to the point where he became a target, so he chose to retire.
The Baloch family made it to Melbourne, Australia, and Abdul Ali’s medical skills were welcomed in the land down under. Colonel Cordova was offered a position with an international security company and he promptly asked the former Delta Force to join him in Singapore. This worked out well for the former Army personnel because it placed a major roadblock in the State Department’s inquiry because the former Delta operatives refused to return stateside to be questioned. Eventually, the investigators had no other choice but to focus their attention on cases and suspects in their jurisdiction.
Singapore has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires, with one out of every six households having at least one million US dollars in disposable wealth. It also has a high number of multi-millionaires and billionaires and is rated the most expensive city in the world to live. There is another reason that the wealthy like Singapore. It is a tax haven with favorable policies for people living and doing business there and offers a low corporate and personal tax rate. It is especially enticing for investors because Singapore does not levy taxes on capital gains.
With this amount of vast wealth, there was an ample amount of work for men who had the skills of the former Delta Force operatives. Tipton Beresford was one of the richest men in the world, having made billions in shipping, the oil industry and mining. His interests spanned the globe and Billingsley Security was kept on a multi-million dollar annual retainer to deal with unique problems.
Australia is one of the world’s leading producers of aluminum ore, lithium, gold, lead, diamonds, uranium and zinc. Beresford Mining was involved in all of the above and when their trucks started getting hijacked and drivers killed, the former Special Operatives were sent to Queensland to stop it.
After arriving in Australia, the team met with mining executives and were told that they suspected the hijackings and murders might have been committed by the Coffin Cheaters, a motorcycle gang with chapters in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. They reportedly have between 300 and 400 members. The only evidence however, were motorcycle tire tracks at the scenes of the hijackings.
Mining Superintendent, Leyton Huarte, explained the situation, “The hooligans are getting bolder by the day. I don’t feel comfortable sending my drivers out there anymore.”
Dan commented, “Since that is all you have, we’ll go with that. We’ll adjust our actions accordingly if we find anything new.”
“What about the shipments…I’ve halted them indefinitely,” Leyton Huarte said.
“We’ll be doing the driving from this point on,” Joe replied.
Leyton Huarte sighed, “Mr. Beresford said to give you whatever you need, I’ll have the trucks ready to go by first light tomorrow morning.”
Russ warned the mining superintendent, “Don’t tell anybody what we’re here for, just in case somebody is relaying Intel to the hijackers. We’re just new drivers that have been hired.”
“I understand,” Leyton nodded.
Joe and Billy were in the first truck, filled with lithium deposits and Dan and Russ had a similar load in the second vehicle. Tony was flying overhead in a Quest Kodiak bush plane. He was in constant communications with the trucks below.
The trucks had traveled 116 miles and were on an isolated area of the Gold Coast Highway. While flying at an altitude of 1000 feet with his elevated visibility of the terrain, Tony was able to see far ahead of the trucks.
When he saw a group of motorcycles, he pulled out his high powered binoculars to get a closer look, then radioed, “That theory about a motorcycle gang might be valid. I’ve got 25 bogeys, 1000 meters to your front.”
The armed men had their guns drawn and were lined up across the highway. The trucks slowed to a stop. One of the hijackers ordered, “Get out!”
The former Delta operatives were armed and ready when they exited the cabs of the trucks. They shot nine of the hijackers and the others quickly surrendered. Having heard the gunshots, another group of the Coffin Cheaters came racing to aid their comrades. Tony dived toward them while firing his HK 416 automatic carbine and sent a dozen motorcycles crashing into each other.
After interrogating one of the captured hijackers, it was found out that a man at the mining site was relaying information to the gang every time a truck left the compound. There was only one thing left to do. The operatives planted explosives at the Coffin Cheaters local chapter hideout and blew the building apart. This sent a clear message to the gang that their hijacking business had concluded.
As they were leaving, Leyton Huarte commented, “I can see why Mr. Beresford sent you…you’re very good.”
Joe smiled, “We get lucky every now and then.”
“You should be alright from now on, but if you do need us, don’t hesitate to let the boss know and he’ll send us back,” Russ said.
While driving back to the airport, Billy made a comment, “Since we’re in Australia…why don’t we…”
Tony responded, “I’m thinking the same thing.”
Abdul Ali Baloch was overcome with emotion when his American friends showed up at his Port Melbourne clinic and he ran to embrace each man. The team stayed two days and when it was time to leave, Abdul said, “I am very sorry that it cost your military careers to save me and my family.”
Joe extended his hand in friendship, “It didn’t cost us anything that we weren’t willing to pay.”
The team returned to Singapore. Their apartments were located in the same buildings in the Bukit Timah residential neighborhood. They were supposed to have a week off before their next assignment and were eating lunch at the Greenwood Fish Market and Bistro, when they received a text. They quickly finished their meal and headed to corporate headquarters.
Robert Cordova was waiting for them when they arrived, “Sorry to call you on your time off, but Mr. Beresford specifically requested your involvement.”
“It’s not like we were doing anything important,” Joe smiled, “I can watch Billy eat anytime.”
Billy commented, “Sounds important.”
“A petroleum engineer has been kidnapped. The company jet is fueled and ready. How fast can you leave?”
“We keep ‘go bags’ at the hangar. We’ll leave directly from here for the airport,” Tony said.
Robert Cordova responded, “Good…I’ll brief you while you’re in flight, I’m still collecting Intel.”
“Can I ask where we’re going?” Russ inquired.
“Nigeria,” Robert answered.
While in the air on the 6,920 miles flight from Singapore to Lagos, Nigeria in the Gulfstream 700, the team received additional information. Mario Saladino, a petroleum engineer who was employed by Beresford Petroleum was kidnapped by Boko Haram, a terrorist group. The ransom demand was 10 million dollars.
Robert Cordova suggested, “You might want to get a few hours sleep, you won’t be getting much once you get there.”
The team took the suggestion and slept the last six hours of the flight. The plane touched down at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria and taxied to a private hangar. They were met by the infamous Rolf Steiner and his strike team. Steiner was a retired professional German mercenary who began his military career as a French Foreign Legion paratrooper and saw combat in Asia, The Middle East, Africa and South America. He currently resided in a heavily guarded seaside mansion in Mombasa, Kenya. Nothing that occurred on the continent of Africa escaped the Steiner intelligence network. The infamous mercenary heard about the oil executive’s abduction even before Tipton Beresford did, so it was no surprise when he got the call for his assistance.
Steiner greeted the former Delta operatives, “It’s been a while, gentleman…you’re looking good.”
Tony answered, “Right back at you.”
The men had worked together on a covert mission in Uganda five years earlier, recovering stolen uranium from Iranian agents.
Rolf Steiner volunteered, “Mr. Beresford asked if I would be interested in giving you some back-up. My reply was not yes…but hell yes!”
Joe smiled, “Thanks for coming.”
“You ready to send some terrorists to hell?” Rolf asked.
“Absolutely!” Russ exclaimed.
The mission was set up, Rolf Steiner and his men would provide cover and back-up and the former Delta Team would do the extraction. The entire force met with a high ranking officer of the Nigerian Army. Rolf gave the man $10,000 in American currency in exchange for information about Saladino’s whereabouts, as well as a detailed layout of the compound and how many defenders were there.
The former Delta operatives and Rolf and his team were highly skilled and experienced in these types of missions. The six Boko Haram guards were taken out simultaneously and the Americans moved in as Rolf and his team gave them cover. They burst through the door and shot six men and rescued Saladino. On their way to meet Steiner, the team saw three trucks filled with terrorists approaching. Tony found a tree and placed the petroleum engineer behind it, “Don’t move… we’ll come back for you.”
Saladino was too scared to talk so he just nodded and crouched lower to the ground. The Americans and Steiner’s team were heavily armed and their weaponry included grenade launchers and light anti-tank weapons. The terrorists entered a buzzsaw and their only way out went through the halls of hell.
Engineer Mario Saladino boarded a plane for Nairobi and medical evaluation. Rolf Steiner and his team returned to Mombasa and the Americans boarded the Gulfstream for their flight to Singapore. Another successful mission was in the books.
Tipton Beresford rarely met with people in his employ, except for his executive assistants who relayed his orders down the chain of command and then reported back to him on the results. He was a quiet and unassuming individual and at first glance or meeting, a person would never guess how wealthy and powerful that Tipton Beresford was. The multi-millionaire wouldn’t have it any other way.
When he showed up alone at Billingsley Security Headquarters, he wasn’t recognized by the receptionist.
The receptionist called Robert Cordova, “Excuse me, sir, there’s a man who wishes to see you. He doesn’t have an appointment.”
Robert Cordova inquired, “What’s his name?”
The quiet man in his mid-seventies interjected, “Tell him that it’s Tipton Beresford.”
The former Delta operatives arrived at corporate headquarters and went directly to Robert Cordova’s office.
“You wanted to see us,” Joe said as the men stood in the doorway.
Robert said, “C’mon in, somebody wants to meet you.”
Tipton stood up and said, “I wanted to thank you personally. You completed two very dangerous missions with the utmost professionalism.”
“Thanks,” Dan said, “Who are you?”
Robert answered, “This is our client, Tipton Beresford.”
“A pleasure to meet you, sir.” Joe responded.
Tipton said, “The pleasure is mine. I have another assignment for you.”
“We serve at your pleasure,” Billy responded.
“Good, happy to hear that,” Tipton smiled, “I have a small yacht anchored at Monte Carlo that I let my business associates use occasionally. It is April and the beginning of the yachting season in the Mediterranean and my Captain has a new crew and chef. I was wondering if you would do a shakedown cruise and make sure that everything is up to standards. I want you to use everything like you were guests instead of employees. I’ll expect your honest opinions when you get back in a couple weeks. Can you do that for me?”
Tony responded, “I’ve seen photos of your yacht, it’s a superyacht, one of the largest in the world. And our assignment is to act like guests?”
“Small…super, it’s all on your perspective,” Tipton said.
After the team left, Robert Cordova said, “You could have just told them that it was a bonus.”
“From my years of experience, I have found out that men like your team have a much easier time accepting an assignment than a gift,” Tipton said.
Robert Cordova, “I agree with that, sir.”
The Cassiopeia measured 260 feet from bow to stern. She was bold, unique and sleek with no shortage of exquisite features. It had a large swimming pool, cinema room, a fitness center and full commercial kitchen. There was an ensemble of spacious cabins, seven VIP staterooms and the master suite was on the wheelhouse deck. The main deck was defined by floor-to-ceiling windows that could be dimmed for privacy. There was a tasteful combination of white sparkling Calcutta marble and deep emperor black marble on the floors. A dozen Italian master craftsmen meticulously paneled the walls with ultra-expensive Burmese Teak, Agarwood and Bocote wood in a variety of unique and artistic designs.
When the team arrived at the Monte Carlo yacht harbor, Captain Bruce Hudkins and the crew were standing on the dock near the gangplank in their dress whites to greet them. “I am Captain Hudkins and this is my crew. It is the primary responsibility of all of us to make sure that you have a wonderful and memorable time. The crew is here to take care of all your needs. Don’t hesitate to call on them. As long as you are on the Cassiopeia, someone will always be on duty. Any complaints, come to me and I’ll rectify the problem. Are there any questions?”
Joe answered, “Not from me…anybody have any questions?”
Nobody said anything.
Captain Hudkins said, “Let’s get aboard and I’ll have Jane, the first mate give you a tour. Before I forget, who is the primary guest?”
Dan inquired, “What does that mean?”
“There is one master suite and ten VIP staterooms. The primary usually gets the master.”
“May I have a sheet of paper and a pen?” Billy asked.
One of the crew gave him a pen and paper and Billy tore the paper in five pieces and wrote a number on each one, then wadded them up. He walked over to a female crew member and handed the papers to her, “I’ll let you decide who gets the master suite. I’ve written the numbers one through five. Hand these out to us and whoever gets number one gets first choice, two gets second choice, and so on.”
Tony got the master suite, but nobody really cared because the other suites were also extremely plush.
Several hours later, the five men were sitting in the observation lounge and enjoying cool drinks when Chef Henri Lecounte approached, “I usually get a food preference list from the guests before they arrive so I know what to order. I did not get one this time. Is there anything I should know?”
Russ answered, “None of us have food allergies, and we’re all over the chart on what we like so why don’t you surprise us. I’m sure that anything you make is going to be more than good enough for us.”
“Yes sir,” Henri said.
Joe suggested, “Call us by our first names. You keep calling us sir and we think our boss is standing behind us.”
That evening, Henri made a delicious seafood buffet for the team with all the appropriate side dishes. It was obvious that the three female servers were extremely nervous, afraid of making the slightest misstep. The team picked up on the tension. When Emily was clearing the dishes from the table, she dropped them in Dan’s lap and food splattered all over his pants.
Emily was so upset at her mistake that she broke into tears and began apologizing over and over. “I’m sorry…please forgive me…I’m sorry… I’ll be more careful.”
Russ commented, “It’s no big deal…he’s had worse things thrown on him.”
Joe and Tony helped clean up the mess and put the plates on a tray and took it down to the galley.
When Captain Hudkins saw the guests doing chores, he went into a verbal tirade against the crew.
The next morning, the team went to the bridge to see Captain Hudkins. Joe said, “You told us to come see you if we had a complaint.”
Captain Hudkins responded, “I saw what happened at dinner and I’ve told Emily that she’ll be getting off at the next port. You have my word that kind of carelessness will never happen again.”
“Our complaint isn’t with Emily or the food or with the rest of the crew…it’s with you,” Tony said.
Joe added, “Emily was already upset, then you berated her and now you’re going to fire her?”
“You may be a hell of a technical captain, but you need to brush up on your leadership skills,” Russ said.
Billy added his opinion, “We don’t know what kind of people you’re used to dealing with, but we don’t mind a fork falling on the floor or someone dropping a plate. What we do mind is witnessing people being mistreated and even worse, you made us feel like we were the reason for the abuse.”
Captain Hudkins was obviously embarrassed, “What can I do differently?”
“Simple…lighten up,” Joe suggested.
From that point forward everything on the Cassiopeia went smoothly. The mood was lighthearted and jovial and when the crew wasn’t on duty they often socialized with the former Delta team.
While cruising, the yacht docked at Marina Di Portofino Genova, one of the most famous ports in the Italian Mediterranean. This port has a beautiful setting and is based around a natural cove. Four members of the crew, Emily, Gabriella, Jeremy and Dustin were given the night off to go into town. The four crew members were socializing at Bar Le Saline when they were invited by some locals to a party on a yacht in the harbor.
What these four members of the crew were unaware of was China’s ever increasing influence and investments in Italy. The celebration was being held on a yacht that was actually owned by the Chinese Communist Party. China currently owns 27 per cent of foreign investments in Italy and 300 companies that employ 18,000 people and produces 8.4 billion dollars of the country’s GNP. They wield a lot of power and influence over local jurisdictions and law enforcement.
After being at the party for several hours, the four young crew members decided it was time to leave. Jeremy and Dustin were told they could go, but Emily and Gabriella had to stay. When the two young men protested too strongly, they were badly beaten and dragged off the vessel. They reported the incident to the local police, but law enforcement said they had no jurisdiction aboard the yacht.
Still covered with blood and in pain from their beating, the two crew members rushed backed to inform Captain Hudkins of the situation. Dan Scanlon was sitting on deck and overheard the conversation and approached the three men and offered, “Can I help?”
Captain Hudkins nervously replied, “I can handle this.”
“Maybe…maybe not.” Dan turned to the crew members, “Get yourselves cleaned up, I’ll get my friends and you can show us where this yacht is.”
When they arrived, Joe saw the Chinese guards standing at the gangplank. From his prior experience, he had a pretty good idea what awaited them so he reminded his comrades, “Let’s do this.” The team checked their weapons and put them back in their waistbands.
Joe told Captain Hudkins, “We need to be ready to depart as soon as we get the girls…got it?”
Captain Hudkins nodded, “We’ll be ready…what are you going to do?”
Billy responded, “You don’t want to know.”
The team got out of the car and slowly walked toward the Chinese yacht. When they reached the gangplank, the three armed guards blocked their path. When the Chinese men reached for their weapons, the team drew theirs, shot the guards and dropped their bodies in the water. They boarded the vessel, shot two more guards and hid those bodies under a tarp. The team went below deck, killed four more Chinese guards and three high ranking officials of the Communist Party. They searched several cabins before they found Emily and Gabriella with ten other women locked in the main dining room. They made their escape just as the sun was rising.
The Cassiopeia’s engines were warmed up and the mooring lines were unsecured by the time the team arrived with the women. It set course for its homeport in Monte Carlo, which was 133 miles away at full speed. It was out of Italian territorial waters before anyone realized what had happened.
Back in Singapore, the former operatives gave a detailed de-briefing to Tipton Beresford on what happened. He apologized, “Sorry that you had to get involved.”
Joe smiled, “No problem, we’re always prepared…even on a leisurely cruise.”
Tipton thought for a moment then made this offer, “The Chinese have been expanding their influence all over the world. Their arrogance has been getting on my nerves for quite some time. This latest incident has convinced me that the time has come to vastly increase my holdings in sectors where they have had a free rein to do as they please. This world needs a country or somebody to use the same rules, or lack thereof against China, that they’ve been using against others for years. Care to join me, gentlemen? I can’t guarantee how things will turn out, but it will be a reckoning and one hell of a ride.”
***This is a fiction . While it may have some facts in it, the reader should realize that the story was created by the writer for entertainment purposes.