Disembarkation – Part 1

LCpl Nathaniel Romero entered Venezuelan waters on a clear night in the summer of 2026. He along with the rest of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion 2nd Marines, the “Warlords” of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were about to take part in the largest combat operation of a generation. They were part of Task Force Iwo Jima, then deeply underway in what was being called in the political realm, Operation Preserving Purity.

Nathaniel, along with the rest of his expeditionary squad, were aboard an Amphibious Combat Vehicle, ACV. Moonlight danced anxiously on the Caribbean waves outside the Marines’ ACV as it trudged through the sea the night of the late July invasion. They road within for the remainder of their ocean going voyage. The craft carelessly rocked in the gentle waters of the Caribbean en route to the beach. The Marines onboard were set to disembark again soon.

His ride in the bowels of this floating tin can was nearing its midpoint for the three-hour voyage to shore. As the ship rocked back and forth in the water, sprays of ocean splashed into the gunner’s turret and collected in tiny pools flowing across the floor. They charged forward and feigned back with the waves in a constant and ceaseless struggle. Boiling away by the heat of the cab, they filled the tiny vessel with the hot, humid scent of salty seawater.

In his gut, Nathaniel felt a sinking feeling. He never enjoyed the hauls from ship to shore. The rocking of the boat with the ocean, the cramped casings with gear stacked all around him rattling about. Then there was the steady roar of the engines and the metal creaking. The sounds of the seaborne landing craft had the effect of sending Romero into a state of nausea combined with a cold panic. It wasn’t seasickness, though. The open water didn’t bother him, especially not when he had a few pills with the very specific purpose of combatting the rhythmic gyrations of the open ocean. Get him above deck and he may as well have been on dry land. This was a form of anxiety he felt only when in the cramped confines of the floating steel coffins.

It was probably the sound of the metal creaking that almost did him in. They told him it was just hot metal contracting and expanding when exposed to the chill of the water. They said that the vessel was designed to do it, and that it was completely normal. That explanation did nothing to ease his fears that, at any moment, the hull would crack open and the cabin would suddenly flood with salty seawater, pulling them all down until they reached the ocean bottom to be eaten by crabs and other scavengers of the deep. The thought wavered in and out of his mind, that the whole lot of them would succumb to a watery grave without ever reaching the shoreline. Thoughts like that made him almost look forward to the battle outside waiting for him on the beach.

This time, though, was different. He wasn’t feeling the same anxiety he had during training in similar maneuvers hundreds of times before. He never liked the ACVs, but this guttural feeling wasn’t that phobic reaction he’d had before. It was less a fear of some mechanical failure, his Corporal’s reprimands, or the fury of his Gunny in the event of a failed exercise. He was contemplating the battle in which he was about to take part; the war which had just begun only hours earlier.

Distantly, Romero could hear the sounds of war. Outside the tiny vessel, missiles launched from the ships, by then very far behind them. Their naval counterparts fired the big guns, and from their bowels heavy shells bombarded against the shoreline, resonating out across the water. From time to time, the roar of jet engines passed and then awhile later they would return, perhaps preparing to launch a second time, or perhaps a third by then. Along with innumerable air strikes racking the seascape, the world outside their vessel was an orchestra of mayhem. The symphony rippled out across the waves, reverberating in the tiny hull of the transport carrier.

Beyond the echoing of the war front, were the beaches of the north coast. This is why they had come. The Marines were tasked with creating a beachhead along the central part of the north coast of Venezuela. Following this, they would be moving inland. None of them knew exactly where they would be heading. All they knew was that they would be moving fast, and following information that would be provided en route. Heavy vegetation prevented the use of the Marines’ ACV progressing to give them a quick, if not to mention armored, means of transportation. Aerial reconnaissance also revealed what few serviceable roads in the deep of the jungle remained had been sabotaged with roadside bombs and barbed wire. That would gum up the tracked vehicles and tires of the light armored reconnaissance fleet, to the point that combat engineer crews would be needed to clear them before any combat vehicles could be useful again. Relative to the invasions of the past, this would reduce the American advance to a crawl.

All this came together to mean one thing. Nathanial Romero and the Marines of Task Force Iwo Jima were about to do something no Marines had before them in half a century. They had already disembarked to invade an enemy controlled beach. They would take it before moving toward their main objective several miles away. What was different about this invasion, however, was that they would be making the initial assault through the jungle, under the cover of darkness – and on foot.


Me 3

I’m really happy to be putting out my next chapter: Disembarkation.

Here, we pick up with Romero again, but this time we will be focused on him and the rest of the team. War is all around them as they enter the field. The dark jungles of Venezuela await them as the next adventure awaits.

Thanks to everyone who has followed so far and I am super excited to see this next phase of the book take off.

 


If you would like to support the creation of The Next Warrior, as well as get access to special bonus features, such as essays about the technology being showcased, author’s notes and commentaries on the story behind the story, as well as bonus artwork, become a patron of Jon Davis by following this link. Support the Next Warrior.

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Proving Grounds – Part 16

The sound of chopper blades slicing the wind shook Romero from his ill-timed, exhaustion-induced slumber. The indicator on his heads-up display showed an incoming V-280 Valor. It wasn’t a helicopter, but something better. It was the Marines’ new tilt-rotor insertion aircraft, a smaller version of the old Ospreys. Inside would be enough men and muscle to level the forest, a team of Marines ready to lay waste to the enemy in pursuit of him. They could burn the wilderness to the ground along with everything it. He had lost all concern for what happened to the forest. All he cared about was that getting to that bird meant his operation was over.
The Valor finally appeared over the trees. It was coming in fast. The plane’s wings began tilting as the large propellers shifted, transitioning its forward momentum slowly into a hover over a clear patch of grass before it began its final descent into the meadow. The plane was on the far side of the glade, about one hundred yards from him then. It was just beyond his reach.
As the plane began to descend, Romero abandoned his makeshift shelter. With his weapon in arms, he began a desperate sprint to the landing point. The PFC was ecstatic at the sight of this marvelous machine, as if a metal angel descended from on high to deliver him from tribulation. He just knew that in a matter of moments he would be done, secure and on his way to some de-briefing, having successfully completed his mission. He looked up to see the pilot’s cockpit. From there Romero saw what he imagined to be the pilot inside, looking back down at him. It seemed like he was watching Nathaniel run, greeting him with the warm embrace of security he had not known for such a long time then. “It was over,” the young Marine thought.
As the soles of his boots pounded the ground in an Olympian’s gallop, Nathaniel was suddenly stopped, when, to his horror, his greatest fears became realized. He was distressed to see the plane lurch upward, as if pulling its hand away from the discovery of a venomous snake, poised to deliver a fatal strike. Aghast by the threat of unseen terrors snuffing out his own life, he continued running in pursuit of the fleeing airlift. It was then he saw a faint movement from the peripherals of his vision. It was on his far right amidst the bush. In the forest, beyond the veil of the trees, a soldier, the snake, readied a weapon, directed not toward Romero, but towards the Valor aircraft.
Still sprinting, Romero saw a mote of grey streak across the meadow and burst suddenly beside the midair beast. The thunderclap roared throughout the forest and throughout the young Marine standing below. It was only a moment, one desperate and chaotic second; a trail of smoke, and the sound of a rocket-propelled grenade’s frightful cry as it burst next to the Valor’s engine. Romero stopped dead in the middle of the clearing, unsure of what he had seen, but instinctively aware that something terrible had happened. He was desperately trying then to fathom what had befallen him. Seeing the debris flying, as the plane reeled in air, Nathaniel was overwhelmed with shock and disbelief.
At first, the plane seemed to be rocked by the explosion, and being thrown from the sky seemed a real danger. Then it began to steady, and listed shakily to a hover and then to a controlled ascent. The explosion damaged the V-280, but it would recover. The plane, however, had no chance of landing here. Romero would receive no deliverance from this bird with its broken wing today. Fleeing to put itself out of enemy weapon’s range, it started to rise again into the sky.
“No! No! No!” Romero whimpered out in a forlorn cry. “You can’t leave me here! Take me with you! You have to take me with you!”
The plane was gaining altitude again as it recovered from the attack. It was indeed going to leave Romero behind. Regrettably, no pilot would deny the morbid calculus that there was no justifiable reason in risking the lives of an entire flight crew and rescue team for one doomed Marine. The plane began to move away, taking with it what one would believe to be Romero’s last hopes.
Staring in shattered disbelief, Romero’s heart sank as he stood alone in the field. It was at that last desperate moment, when all he could do was stare at his failed rescue, flying higher and higher, that a second stream of smoke tore through the sky. A second explosion, one borne from a second round and yet another hidden soldier, ripped across the sky over the meadow, utterly destroying the engine closest to Nathaniel.

Me 3The Bell 280-Valor will be the next generation of Marine Corps infantry aviation.

The Valor is the next step from the Osprey, a plane that had revolutionary systems and changed much of the way we fight. It’s tiltrotor meant that a plane could begin to act like a helicopter when it needed to. While not as a fast as other planes, it’s ability to mimic the capabilities of rotary wings meant that it could operate in places that the fixed wings weren’t. For one, wind patterns in mountains prevent many helicopter units from being able to be fully utilized at great distances. The Osprey and the Valor cut through that obstacle. Added to this, it provided infantry support, revolutionized by the helicopter in Vietnam, more than twice the range, and at twice the speed of rotary wings.

The Osprey had problems though. It was horrendous to fly and it’s role wasn’t clear early on. Once computerized, fly by wire systems began to have a more active role in piloting, it became a flexible and powerful platform.

The V-280 will be the next step up from the aging Ospreys. Set to make their way onto the battlefield in the early 2020s, they will be a smaller, sleeker combat system. They will allow the military to begin retiring the Ospreys, but even will have the ability to replace the Army’s Blackhawk fleet, as the new V-280 will (hopefully) provide the same capabilities, but much faster, fly much farther, and perhaps allow Marines and soldiers to do more with less than the already great aircraft available today.


If you would like to support the creation of The Next Warrior, as well as get access to special bonus features, such as essays about the technology being showcased, author’s notes and commentaries on the story behind the story, as well as bonus artwork, become a patron of Jon Davis by following this link. Support the Next Warrior.

Cover Art