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Al Fasher, Sudan
1605 Hours, 17 December

Captain Kinsly watched as Sergeant Jackson prepared his small pathfinder team for their move. Besides Jackson, two of the eight Americans at Al Fasher were going north to locate and mark a suitable refuel point. The Sudanese lieutenant, two of his soldiers, and a guide who knew the northern portion of Darfur Province would also be traveling with them. Kinsly would remain at Al Fasher with the balance of the force, keeping the airfield under observation. They would provide information to the strike force, from meteorological data, to the location and number of aircraft on the ground, to changes in location of air defense weapons.

His inspection finished, Jackson's team began to load its equipment and gear onto its newly "procured" truck. After receiving their warning order for the mission late that morning, the Sudanese lieutenant and Sergeant Jackson had gone foraging, looking for things that would be needed, transportation being the main item. In short order the lieutenant was able to "borrow" a truck by hot-wiring it. Sergeant Jackson also had a run of good fortune. Wandering through the marketplace in the town, unarmed and dressed like a goat herder, he noticed two Russians at the entrance to an alley. Since they were unarmed, he watched them to see what they were up to. As he watched, Sudanese would come up to them with a bucket or container, hand the Russians money, and then disappear around the corner for a moment. It didn't take long to figure out that the Russians were selling things, running their own black market.

Being bold and curious rather than smart, Jackson walked up to them. All he wanted to do was to see what they were selling. To his surprise, they had several drums of gasoline along with other odds and ends in the alley. The bigger of the two Russians, a sergeant, stopped Jackson, putting out his palm for payment before letting him go further. Without saying a word, Jackson pulled a wad of money out of his pocket. Though it was the last of their operations funds, known as the captain's mad money, gasoline, from any source, was hard to pass up.

Seeing the money, the Russian sergeant's eyes lit up. He grabbed for it. Now it was Jackson's turn to have some fun with the Russians. Babbling in Arabic, Jackson made motions indicating that he would be back. When the Russian sergeant nodded that he understood, Jackson went looking for the Sudanese lieutenant and the truck. The lieutenant didn't want to bring the truck into the marketplace. He feared that someone would recognize it, but not the driver, and call the police. Jackson, however, prevailed. Returning, he bilked the Russians out of two drums of gasoline, the hand pump they had been using, six blankets, four pairs of boots, a box of rations, two water cans, a shovel, and both their belt buckles.

The negotiations, done by pointing and mumbling languages that neither side understood, were at times fierce. Whenever the Russian sergeant shouted "Nyet," Jackson would flap his arms, mumble in Arabic, turn his back, and begin to walk away. Inevitably the Russian would grab his arm and accept Jackson's lower offer. The Sudanese lieutenant didn't share Jackson's idea of fun. Every time Jackson pushed the Russian sergeant to the point of argument, the lieutenant all but passed out. Only time and the expenditure of all the Russians' commodities ended Jackson's wheeling and dealing. As he departed, both parties smiled and waved, the Russians calling out a phrase he recognized as the Russian equivalent of "Up yours." Smiling broadly and waving as he left, Jackson shouted in Arabic, "So long, shithead!"

The one thing that Jackson wouldn't have that concerned Kinsly was a radio, of any type. When ordered to Al Fasher, they had brought only a single tactical/satellite radio and a homing beacon. Kinsly had not foreseen the need to operate two independent teams over great distances. The decision had to be made who got the radio and who got the beacon. Since it was important to warn the strike force of any last-minute changes, both Kinsly and Jackson agreed that the radio needed to stay with Kinsly.

That solved one problem but created a new one. Jackson had the beacon to guide in the C-130s, the refuel team, and the strike force, but he didn't have a time for when those elements would arrive. When the order had come that morning to send the pathfinder team, no exact time was available for when the various elements would converge at the refuel point. Kinsly could have delayed Jackson's departure and waited for the exact time but opted to send him. He wanted to give Sergeant Jackson the maximum amount of time for travel to the refuel point and recon for a suitable site. Contacting 2nd Corps headquarters in Cairo just before Jackson's final inspection provided them with an approximate time, but nothing firm. Seeing no alternative, Kinsly instructed Jackson to establish the refuel point in the northern slopes of the Meidob Hills. Commencing at 2000 hours the night of 18 December, Jackson was to turn on the beacon to guide in the aircraft for ten seconds every thirty minutes. Only after Jackson heard the approach of aircraft would he switch it to the continuous mode. Kinsly relayed this information, along with the beacon's frequency, to Cairo.

Extraction of the two teams would be done in conjunction with the raid. Jackson and his team would leave with the fuel handlers after the Apaches had returned to the refuel stop and topped off. Kinsly's team would be picked up immediately after the raid by a UH-60 that would follow the Apaches to Al Fasher. Since it would be night and he had no beacon, the pickup point for Kinsly's team had to be near an easily identifiable terrain feature. Though he wasn't happy about that, a road junction five kilometers north of the airfield was selected. There was a deep ditch on one side of the junction and a stand of trees on the other. Either would provide cover for Kinsly and his men while they waited to be extracted.

Sergeant Jackson reported that all was ready. Kinsly went over his own checklist to make sure that Jackson had missed nothing. Included on the list was a detailed map that showed everything of tactical significance — in particular, the location of air defense weapons— on the airfield. That information had already been sent via radio to Cairo. Kinsly, however, felt that a map, in the hands of a man who had seen the actual airfield and sites, might help the Apache pilots during their last-minute briefings at the refuel site.

When both men were satisfied, Jackson smiled. "Well, sir, can't say I'm sorry to leave this garden spot. See you on the other side of hell, sir."

Kinsly smiled. "Sergeant Jackson, in case you haven't noticed, we are on the other side of hell. Take care, and good luck."

1615 Hours, 17 December

While no trip by car in Cairo was ever easy, today's seemed particularly gruesome. Fay had left the WNN offices with Johnny in a network van and returned to her apartment to pick up her two boys and their bags. That part of the trip was easy. Getting close to the American embassy was not. For an hour they slowly moved south along Comiche El Nile. Traffic, heading both ways, was appalling. Part of the reason was provided when they passed under the 6 October Overpass. Above them, on the overpass, columns of Egyptian military vehicles could be seen headed west. That road, the 6 October Bridge over the Nile, and several other bridges were closed to civilian traffic. There had been no warning, no plan what to do with the civilian traffic. Such trivial matters were of little concern to the Egyptian government at that moment.

As they sat stalled behind the Egyptian Museum, a flight of three helicopters in a line came zipping down the Nile from the north. Just before they reached the museum, they veered right and flew low between the Nile Hilton and the museum, right in front of the van. The helicopters were so low (and they were still descending) that Johnny and Fay could see the faces of the pilot and the door gunner. With their cargo doors open despite the cold, Fay could see combat troops sitting on the floor, their weapons at the ready. She knew things were going to be sticky, but she wasn't prepared to see armed troops.



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