NAS Key West
03:40 (08:40 GMT)
Petty Officer Second Class Raymond Shulster was on his first night of working the graveyard shift. It had been a quiet night with nothing on the radio. He leaned back in his chair and started to daydream about his afternoon. His heavy eyes reminded him that he should have gone to sleep instead, but the invitation from the two women that he and a friend had met earlier that week was just too good to turn down.
“Oh Raymond, you’re such a doll. Would you please put some sun block on my back and legs, please?”
Would I? Hell, yeah. “Sure thing.”
He grabbed the nearly empty bottle of Hawaiian Tropic and gave it a big shake before he popped the lid. When he gave it a good squeeze, it made a farting noise and splattered lotion…
His head snapped up from the sleep jerk. He took in a deep breath and forced his eyes open wide while he ran his fingers though his hair. “Oh….. shit…!” I really should have gone to sleep instead. Maybe some coffee will help.
In the break room, Raymond plopped himself into a chair small round table with a fresh coffee and a Road & Track. He turned to the article on the Geneva Auto Show to look at all the new cars coming out. Halfway through the article he stopped.
“Oh God.” He rubbed his eyes. “Just five minutes. That’s all I need.” I’ll put my head down and close my eyes for just five minutes.
Thirty minutes later, the radio woke him up.
“Somebody answer, God dammit! This is an emergency!”
Raymond’s eyes sprung open as he leaped from his position. “Oh shit!”
The voice continued to plead for help as he put on his headphones. “This is NAS Key West. State your name and the purpose of your emergency.”
“This is CU-H133. I’m on special assignment and I’m taking hostile fire. I need assistance. Now!”
Shulster, tried to shake the cobwebs from his head. “Uh—shit. Seriously? Is this a joke? If this is a joke we can have you arrested for...”
The radio squawked. “Listen, to me! I’m a federal officer and I am about to get shot down. I know Commander Thieme. Wake him up…”
“What’s your name, sir?”
“I’m not going to tell you my… Shit!”
Shulster could hear the bullets plinking into the side of the chopper over the radio.
“Sir? You there, sir?”
“Just wake the commander. Tell him—Blake MacKay is on the line. Wait! Call in the support first, then get the Commander. Do it now, soldier!”
“Look at the goddamn radar! I’m around twenty-three degrees north by eighty-two degrees west. I’m heading right for you! Get me F eighteens. I can’t hold these guys off much longer!”
“Yes, Sir. Hold Please.”
Shulster picked up the phone and dialed Commander Thieme and told him about the situation.
“What? Who is it?”
“Blake MacKay? He said you’d know him.”
“Affirmative. Scramble the Gladiators! Give him whatever support he needs. I’m on my way.”
The Navy Air Station (NAS) was also the home of the Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106), the Gladiators. Captain Donald “Donny” Donaldson was a twenty-five year veteran. His new “wingman” was thirty-three year old Lieutenant Stacy “Luke” Luking, a real hotshot known not just for her great flying ability, but more so, her ability to keep a calm demeanor in combat situations. They both scrambled out onto the tarmacs and climbed into their aircraft.
Ten minutes later, two F/A – 18 Super Hornets took off in formation and initiated radio contact with Blake.
Commander Thieme ran into the radio room.
Blake checked his six and saw the nav lights of the chopper still in pursuit.
“CU-H133, this is RedCloud from NAS Key West. We are in route. What are your coordinates?”
Thank God! “RedCloud, this is CU-H133. I’m heading directly for you at approximately twenty-four degrees, three minutes north by eighty-one degrees, fifty-five minutes west. I have an unfriendly on my tail and I am taking fire! Repeat. I am taking fire.”
“Copy that, we have you confirmed on radar. Visual in three minutes.”
Commander Thieme picked up the radio mic. “Blake, this is Jack. What’s going on?”
“Long story. Thanks for the support. I’ll be happier once these guys behind me are gone. I’m also afraid you only have me half covered. It looks like I won’t have enough fuel to get there. I’m going to have to ditch this bird in the drink. Can you send someone to come pick me up?”
“Not a problem. I’ll get a SAR in the air asap.”
Even though Blake kept his distance, the spray from the automatic weapons behind him still managed to find him. He bared hard right and one found its way through the front canopy. Alarms sounded and the chopper began to shake.
“Jack! I’ve been hit. Looks like I’m losing oil pressure!”
Jack responded, “Blake, we’ve got a cutter heading back. It’s close to your position. It’s launching its SAR as we speak. ETA is fifteen minutes.”
“Roger that,” Blake said as he fought the stick to increase his altitude.
Lieutenant Luking sounded out. “CU-H133, we have visual, three seconds to target.”
Blake’s heart pounded. Sweat ran down his back. “Roger.”
The other chopper closed its distance. Blake’s fight for altitude was lost. The sound of bullets, as they hit the chopper stopped. He turned the bird hard left and looked back at the other chopper. It had stopped firing and leveled out a hundred meters away.
What are they doing? Oh shit. I’ve got a bad feeling…
Blake saw the AIM-9 sidewinder missile, fired from one of the F/A – 18’s, head toward the chopper. He turned his head, but not before he saw a projectile fired from inside the other chopper. Oh holy hell!