A.K.A. The Turkey
Thomas Calabrese….. The Navy Seal Team boarded the Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk stealth helicopter on the deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan at 0400 hours in the Mediterranean Sea. They were forty six miles off shore from Tripoli, Libya. Their mission was to retake the Safwa Hotel currently being held by a group of ISIS terrorists and rescue as many of the hostages as possible. Their rules of engagement were clear and political correctness did not enter into the equation. If they had a clear shot at a terrorist then take it.
Mark Bryant, Hunter Morrison and Carlos Sena were part of the force and when they fast roped down to the roof of the hotel, each Navy Seal knew exactly how his fellow team member would react in any given situation and this gave them the required confidence to face any adversary without hesitation. As they came down the roof access stairs, they encountered eight terrorists. Mark took out three with accurate headshots, Hunter got the next four and Carlos took out the last one with a knife thrust to the throat.
A dozen hotel guests were being held under guard on the top floors and two Navy Seals led them to the roof for extraction. Four snipers were positioned on each corner of the roof and as soon as they saw the hostages arrive on the roof, they took out six enemy combatants on the street below, “You are clear for descent,” Sniper responded.
“Copy that,” Mark Bryant responded and the team methodically worked their way down from the top floor to the lobby, clearing each room as they went. The lobby of the hotel held two dozen captured guests and this is where the Navy Seals had to be precise and deadly with their shots. Once the targets were assigned and each man knew his responsibility, the countdown was given, “On my signal, three… two…one…fire,” Hunter Morrison counted and eight terrorists went down simultaneously and the Navy Seals rushed into the lobby and secured the area. Once that was done, the call was sent out for extraction. One of the snipers on the roof saw a large truck racing down the street, crashing into cars and headed toward the hotel, “A truck is headed your way and it doesn’t look good.”
“It’s your call,” Mark Bryant responded.
The sniper called his fellow sharpshooters over to his position and each man took aim at the truck and began firing rounds into it from their Barrett M107A1, 50 caliber rifles. They killed the driver and the passenger and the truck careened off course and crashed into a fountain located one hundred yards from the entrance to the Safwa Hotel. The driver lived just long enough to detonate the massive bomb in the back of the truck with the remote control in his pocket. Windows shattered for over a quarter mile as buildings shook violently.
The Loomis house was located on Ocean Boulevard in Coronado, California and was part of the Loomis family trust. Richard Loomis was a decorated Navy frogman who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War and rose up through the ranks to Rear Admiral and Commanding Officer of Naval Special Warfare Command. After retiring in 1969, Richard Loomis started his own real estate and construction companies. Twenty years later, his companies were worth millions and by the time Richard Loomis passed away in 2009, his numerous holdings were valued at over two billion dollars.
In his last will and testament, Richard Loomis made it emphatically clear that the house on Ocean Blvd would never be sold and could only be rented to single Navy Seals stationed at Coronado Naval Amphibious base. The house was four thousand square feet with three master suites, gourmet kitchen, large dining and family room and was built on a twelve thousand square foot beachfront lot. The property was appraised at sixteen million dollars and could easily rent for twenty thousand dollars monthly. One of the stipulations in his will was that the rent could never exceed the BAH (basic allowance for housing) that a military member received when living off base. Richard Loomis did not want any Navy Seal to have any out of pocket expenses so utilities were also included. Any single Navy Seal could put his name in the lottery to live in the house whenever there was a vacancy.
Mark Bryant had been there seven months and had been a Navy Seal for nine years. Hunter Morrison moved in five months ago and was going on his eighth year with the team. This was Carlos Sena’s first assignment after finishing training as a Special Combat Medic. He was lucky enough to take the place of Brock Rollins who was recently transferred to Seal Team 4 in Little Creek, Virginia.
It was one week before Thanksgiving and the Navy Seals were preparing for the Loomis Thanksgiving Weekend Celebration. Over the years, it had changed from just being the Loomis Thanksgiving dinner to four days of meals and various festivities that ended on Sunday evening.
With the cooperation of the city of Coronado, the entire block was cordoned off and the other neighbors were happy to be part of the event. Dozens of tables were set up from one end of the street to the other to accommodate the many attendees. Current and former Navy Seals and their families had an open invitation and it was not unusual for men serving overseas to fly in for a few days. It was more than just celebrating the Thanksgiving Holiday, it was about brave and honorable men getting together who haven’t seen each other in a while to enjoy some downtime together while honoring their fallen comrades.
Nothing was left to chance because these men were used to planning everything down to the minutest details. The volleyball nets were set up on the beach and the Over the Line and field for the flag football game were marked. Serving tables were set up and everything was on schedule. It was common practice for the men staying at the Loomis House to take the lead and oversee the entire operation. The Seals assigned to the Coronado base were considered the hosts and those not leaving the area to visit family were also actively involved. It was Wednesday morning and Thanksgiving dinner would be tomorrow afternoon and three residents of the Loomis House were finalizing the preparations.
“How are we doing with the assignments?” Mark asked.
“Everyone is on four hours and off eight until Monday morning.” Hunter replied, “We’ve got cooks, servers and cleaner uppers.”
“How about food?” Mark emphasized, “Under no circumstances can we run out of food that would be like running out of ammunition in the middle of a mission.”
“Every house on the block has their refrigerators and garages full and we also have perishables and non- perishables stored on base. I will personally supervise the loading of the supplies this evening into regular and refrigerated trucks. We’ll park them in our driveway where we’ll have easy access throughout the weekend. After the last meal on Sunday evening, we load everything that we didn’t use and deliver it to Father Joe’s Villages on Monday,” Carlos said without hesitation.
“I talked to some of our tech savvy guys and they’re going to hook up three big screen televisions in the backyard so the guests can watch football games. We’ll put them under a tent,” Hunter added.
“That’s a good idea, wish I thought of it,” Mark smiled.
As the three Navy Seals went over the checklist, there was a knock at the door and Carlos went to answer it.”
“You guys rented some restrooms and shower trailers?” The man asked, “I’ve got them outside.”
“I’ll show you where to park them,” Carlos answered then called out, “The trailers are here.”
“Remember to put them by the hydrant,” Mark said, “The fire department said they’ll hook them up in the morning.”
“Right on schedule, so far, so good,” Hunter smiled.
“We need to carry it through all the way to the end,” Mark reminded him.
Thanksgiving morning, 0800 hours and Ocean Boulevard was bustling with activity and at 1000 hours, everything was completed, tables were set and the food was being prepared. Mark, Hunter and Carlos sat down, knowing that they had done everything in their power to make this the best Loomis Thanksgiving holiday in Navy Seal history. Whether it would turn out that way or not, only time would tell. Carlos cellphone rang and he walked off to answer it.
“I need to go,” Carlos’ face was etched in worry when he returned.
“Go where?” Hunter asked.
“Mexico,” Carlos responded.
Now?” Mark asked, “In case you’ve forgotten, we’re doing something right now.”
“My family is in trouble,” Carlos snapped back.
“What kind of trouble?” Hunter inquired.
“This is my family, I’ll handle it.”
“And you’re part of this Seal family, therefore if you’ve got a problem then we all have one, got it?” Mark said without hesitation.
“Let’s go in the house and discuss this where we have some privacy,” Hunter suggested.
The three men went into the den and shut the door behind them, “Go,” Mark said.
“That was my Uncle Luis, he told me that his daughter Elena was kidnapped and they are asking for five million dollars for her return,” Carlos explained.
“Your uncle has got that much money?” Hunter asked.
“I don’t know if he does or not…that might be part of the problem,” Carlos answered.
“Get him on the phone so we can find a way to help him,” Mark suggested.
“We….you don’t have to do anything,” Carlos reminded his comrades.
“What part of ‘we’ don’t you understand,” Mark said firmly and left no room for discussion.
Carlos dialed his Uncle, “Uncle Luis, I’m going to put you on speaker. I’m with two of my teammates and they’re going to help.”
“Good morning, Sir, my name is Mark Bryant and Hunter Morrison is here as well.”
“Good morning, sir,” Hunter added.
“If you can tell us what is going on, then maybe we can help,” Mark said.
There was a long pause on the other end.
“It is alright, I trust these men with my life,” Carlos encouraged his uncle to speak freely.
“I previously owned several hotel and resorts in Mexico, but hurricanes, earthquakes and several other unfortunate events placed me in a financial situation where I had to sell most of my assets to stay afloat. I now only have one property left and I am using my remaining capital to keep from losing it,” Luis Sena explained.
“Carlos told us that the ransom demand is five million, do you have that much money?” Hunter asked.
“I do not, but I was offered exactly that amount for my remaining resort.”
“So you’ll have to sell your property to get your daughter back,” Mark guessed, “Very coincidental and convenient for your buyer.”
“Exactly,” Luis responded.
“It sounds to me like this person could be involved in the kidnapping,” Hunter added, “What do you know about him?”
“Arturo Mondano is a businessman who works with the Cinaloa Cartel. He launders their drug money by buying property all over Mexico and South America. When people refuse, things like this happen to them,” Luis said, “and they quickly become very motivated sellers.”
“Do you have any idea where the kidnappers have taken Elena?” Carlos asked.
“I have my suspicions,” Luis responded, “Mondano has a heavily guarded beachfront estate in San Felipe.”
“We’ll call you back, Uncle Luis,” Carlos said, “My friends and I need to talk.”
Carlos disconnected the call then turned to Mark and Hunter, “What do you think?”
“Sounds like there is only one option,” Mark smiled.
“We need to get your cousin back,” Hunter said.
“Hunter and I will work on the Thanksgiving dinner while you get as much valuable Intel from your uncle as possible. This will be your call, Carlos. If you believe that your cousin is at the location, then we’ll go get her and if you don’t, then we’ll stand down. We’re one and done so make it count.”
“Copy that,” Carlos replied.
“It’s about 240 miles by car and 180 by plane to San Felipe,” Hunter said, “I’ll start getting our transportation ready just in case that’s where we’re going.”
The Thanksgiving Day festivities went off without a hitch and after the last guests left for the day, Hunter collected the donations from the barrels placed around the area. One of the other reasons for the weekend celebration was as a fundraiser for the Trident Fund, which helped the families of fallen Navy Seals. Ninety thousand dollars was raised last year and everybody hoped they would break the one hundred thousand dollar barrier this time around.
Hunter placed the cash in the wall safe, “I’ll count this later,” then sat down at the table with Mark and Carlos, “Are we going or not? Don’t keep me in suspense.”
My uncle drove to San Felipe and as of two hours ago he is absolutely sure that my cousin Elena is in that compound,” Carlos answered, “So if you guys are still in.”
“You explained to him that if he’s mistaken and we go in and she’s not there, that ends it for us,” Hunter reiterated, “They’ll be prepared for a second rescue attempt and we’ll lose the element of surprise.”
“I told him….repeatedly,” Carlos answered
“Then it’s a go,” Mark said.
“Tell your uncle that the next time the kidnappers call, he should tell them that he’s working on raising the money,” Mark suggested.
“He should even mention that he’s trying to sell some of his assets,” Hunter added.
“Why would he do that?” Carlos asked.
“Buys us some time,” Mark answered.
“They’ll let their guard down, thinking they’ve won,” Hunter said.
“Yeah right, that makes sense,” Carlos responded.
“We’re going to be doing this off the books, anybody want to give this mission a code name?” Mark asked.
“Yeah, let me think about it?” Hunter asked.
“It’s Thanksgiving weekend, how about El Pavo?” Carlos suggested.
“El Pavo a.k.a. The Turkey, I like it,” Mark agreed.
On Saturday morning, Mark, Hunter and Carlos met with retired Master Chief ‘Joltin’ Joe Carano, “Countdown to El Pavo, two hours and counting. I’ll do a pre-flight and fuel up, take off is eleven hundred hours.” Joe Carano owned an international security company and one of his company airplanes was a Cessna 425 turboprop twin engine light aircraft. It was parked at Brown Municipal Airport in Otay Mesa.
“Roger that,” Hunter replied.
Games were being played on the beach and guests were lounging around the area while partaking from the Saturday brunch choices and cheering on their team of choice.
Mark notified Ryan Everton, a member of his team that they were leaving, “We’re out of here, if anybody asks where we went, just tell them that a family emergency came up and we’ll back by tomorrow.”
“And if you’re not?” Ryan Everton.
“Then at that time you’ll be very glad that you don’t know anything,” Mark tapped Ryan on the shoulder and left. Hunter and Carlos were waiting in the SUV and the men drove to Brown Field and Joe Carano took off. Fifty five minutes later they touched down in San Felipe Mexico where Luis Sena was waiting for them.
After quick introductions and the unloading of tactical gear, the group was on their way to theMondano compound. They parked across the street and carefully looked at the walled fortress.
“We’re going to need to see it from the beach side,” Mark commented, “Find the best place to breech.”
“I got you a vacation rental about a mile down the beach,” Luis Sena said.
“You didn’t put it under your name, did you?” Carlos asked, “We don’t want anything leading this back to us or you.”
“I did just like you said and booked it online under an alias.”
Let’s take a run, gentlemen,” Hunter suggested.
The three Navy Seals changed clothes and slowly ran past to the Mondano compound like a trio of curious tourists then stopped far enough as to not arouse any suspicion.
“The northwest corner offers the best access point, agree?” Mark said.
“Agree,” Hunter responded.
“Affirmative,” Carlos seconded.
“Let’s get a drone overhead and see what’s in there,” Mark said and the three men ran off.
One hour later, the high tech surveillance drone flew over the compound and transmitted clear images of the target back to the computer screen as the group sat three hundred yards away under a cabana on the beach.
“We got eight guards,” Hunter counted.
Carlos saw something on the screen and pointed, “Zoom in right there.”
Mark pressed a button and the camera focused on a particular individual. Luis Sena exclaimed, “Elena! I knew that she was there!”
“Confirmation on target,” Hunter said.
Sunday, November 26, 2017, 1300 hours, Mark, Hunter and Carlos were double-checking their weapons and equipment, “Sunset is 16:27 hours, we breech at 17:37 hours,” Mark said, “Carlos, your first priority is your cousin…don’t forget.”
“Copy that,” Carlos answered.
“What time do you want to take off?” Joe Carano asked.
“I’d like to be airborne by 1830 hours if all goes well.”
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll be ready to go by 1820 just in case,” Joe offered.
Luis Sena swallowed hard and stammered his heartfelt appreciation, “I want to thank you for doing this for me and my daughter.”
“Like I told Carlos, he’s family which means we’re glad to help,” Mark said.
Hunter smiled, “Besides hostage rescue is in our job description and we can always use the practice.”
The three Navy Seals dressed in tactical gear and faces hidden, breeched the wall in less than three seconds from the beach, then entered the house through a sliding door. They gave hand signals as they went through the kitchen and dining room to maintain noise discipline. When they heard men talking behind a door, Carlos opened it several inches and saw four men watching a soccer game, then closed the door and held up four fingers. Hunter nodded then re- opened the door and stuck the muzzle and noise suppressor of his Colt M4A1 assault rifle through the crack and squeezed off four rounds and gave the thumbs down signal.
A large man exited a room, drinking a beer. He caught a brief glimpse of the three intruders, but before he could react, Mark did a leg sweep and knocked the man to the floor and stuck a knife through his heart. Carlos dragged the dead body behind a couch and the three men went upstairs. Mark pointed left and Carlos went that way with Hunter covering his ‘six’.
A man came out of a room just as Carlos passed and Hunter shot him in the back of head and dragged him back into the room. Carlos made sure his mask was pulled up to his eyes then checked two more rooms before he found the one with Elena in it. Before she could react, he rushed in and grabbed her. Hunter gagged her, slipped a black hood over her head and put plastic restraints on her wrists.
Hunter rushed to the other end of the hall where Mark was standing outside the double doors to the master suite. Both men burst through the door and when Arturo Mondano reached for a handgun on the desk, Mark fired two rounds that hit inches from his hand.
Carlos came walking in with Elena and spoke in Spanish, “El dinero,”Mondano hesitated and Carlos fire two rounds between his feet, “Ahora!”
Mondano got up and walked over to a wall safe and opened it. It was filled with money. Carlos walked over while Mark took two king-size pillowcases off the pillows and tossed them to Carlos who began filling them up with cash. Carlos made it a point to expose his right forearm that had a tattoo with the symbol of the rival Tijuana Cartel.
Arturo Mondano pretended not to notice, but swore revenge under his breath as he was tied to his chair. The three Navy Seals and Elena made their way out of the house, over the wall and down the beach where Luis Sena was waiting for them.
Carlos took the hood off and removed the gag, “Sorry, but we had to make it look that it was a robbery and not a rescue,” then took a small bottle of water and poured it over the temporary tattoo and wiped it off with a rag.
Elena was emotionally distraught, but it only took her a few moments to regain her composure when she saw her father and realized that she was safe. Joe Carano was waiting at the San Felipe Airport when the car arrived and Hunter and Mark quickly loaded their equipment into the plane.
Carlos spoke to his uncle, “I’ve made arrangements for Elena to stay with some friends in Vista until we’re sure our plan has worked. She can come back to Mexico in a couple months after things cool down. Don’t mention this to anyone…ever.”
Mark walked over and handed Luis a pillowcase full of cash, “We might be coming back for a vacation so we would like to pay for our rooms in advance.”
Luis stared in disbelief at the vast amount of money that he was just handed.
“Let’s get out of here, the wild blue yonder is calling,” Joe Carano called out.
The plane took off and headed back to San Diego and the group made it back to Coronado later that evening as the festivities were winding down. Hunter inconspicuously dropped the cash from the second pillowcase into the donation barrel and the three Navy Seals walked to the edge of the water where a hundred of their current and former comrades were standing shoulder to shoulder. They were handed illumination flares and waited for the signal which took almost ten minutes to come.
Admiral John Allison came forward and called out, “Sorry for the delay, but the counting took a lot longer than expected. If you can believe this, we collected three million, two hundred and ninety seven thousand six hundred dollars!” Great Job and Happy Thanksgiving weekend to everyone! On my count gentlemen, one, two, three!”
Everyone shot their flares into the night sky to honor their fallen comrades and conclude another Loomis Thanksgiving weekend. Applause echoed across the beach as fellow Seal Ryan Everton approached, “Somebody was extremely generous, got any idea who it was?”
Mark, Hunter and Carlos looked at each other, smiled and responded in unison, “El Pavo.”