Thomas Calabrese… The coordinates were 6.9214 North, 122.0790 East, Destination, Zamboanga City, Philippines, time, zero three hundred hours. Two C-23A Sherpa turbo prop transport aircrafts were cruising at an altitude of 25,000 feet and the forty person force was equally divided with twenty personnel in each aircraft. The men went through their standard pre –jump protocol and checked the pressure of their oxygen bottles and looked for signs of hypoxia and decompression sickness when they were notified that they were within ten minutes of the designated drop zone.
The lights turned green and both planes emptied their human cargo in less than thirty seconds. The forty men moved into their standard free fall formation and quickly attained the terminal velocity of 126 mph and descended to the altitude of 2500 feet in less than two minutes and thirty seconds. The men deployed their chutes in choreographed succession and were jerked upward and the last man to open was less than two thousand feet from the ground. The drop zone was a clearing on the windward side of a mountain that was less than a hundred feet long and fifty feet wide. The entire unit landed so close to each other that there was only one foot distance between each opened parachute. Every man wore face camouflage and clothing that completely blended in with the terrain. Once they moved out in single file, they seemed to disappear into the jungle.
The Maro Islamic Liberation Front was brutalizing the local population with acts of cruelty that defied human comprehension. Their philosophy was to intimidate the weak and defenseless into compliance and their standard recruiting procedure was simple; join us or die. When a group of international missionaries ignored travel warnings and went into the area to provide humanitarian aid to the victims, they were kidnapped.
The leaders of the Maro Islamic Liberation Front attempted to use them to negotiate for concessions with the central government in Manila, but when their demands were rejected, the terrorists gave a timeline when the executions were to begin…sunrise.
The forty man strike force was trained and educated in the dangerous art of counter terrorism and each fighter was a finely tuned instrument of singular destruction. Whether it was weapons, hand to hand combat, demolition, strategy or a dozen other valuable skills, they were second to none. The unit trained relentlessly, diligently and most of all, precisely so that any situation they encountered never caught them off guard. On this particular mission, the satellite photos of the terrorist compound provided enough details to create a reasonable simile of it and the team rehearsed their assigned tasks a dozen times before leaving their home base for the command performance.
The guard shack had five armed terrorists in it and when the unit got close enough, one of the men motioned to the others with a simple hand gesture. The men of the counter terrorism unit knew each other very well and their non-verbal communication vocabulary was extensive. In this particular case, it meant, five bad guys and I got them. The operative was wearing tactical assault gloves with carbon fiber knuckle plating. When he entered the shack, he punched quickly, precisely and powerfully. Three of the terrorists died from traumatic brain injury when the punches crushed their skulls, one died from a crushed throat and the last man was hit in the chest and his heart ruptured. The silent attack took less than twenty seconds and when the man exited the shack, the team moved to their next objective. A group of terrorists were sleeping in their hammocks under a wooden canopy. The same man gestured and ten men went under the canopy and methodically walked among the hammocks, shooting the men in them. The high tech noise suppressors on the barrels of their Heckler&Koch weapons held nine conical baffles and the sound of a round being fired was only slightly louder then opening the top of a carbonated beverage can.
Since most of the terrorists were now neutralized, the focus of the unit was now on rescuing the missionaries. They were being held in a ten foot deep underground pit and four guards stood at each corner of it. The signal was given and the four terrorists were shot simultaneously in the head. While ten members of the unit helped the hostages out of the pit, twenty more headed to the command area. They burst through the door and shot nine individuals dead and when one of the terrorists reached for a machete, the man who killed the five guards shot him through the hand, and when he reached for it with his other hand, he took a round to that one as well. Several men began downloading information from computers while others began planting explosives around the compound. The fighter grabbed the wounded terrorist by the collar and slammed him to the ground. He interrogated him in the Chavacano language for two minutes until the signal was given that it was time to go.
The fighter shot the terrorist in both feet and left him with the instructions to pass the word to his fellow miscreants that this was just a small dose of what awaited them in the future.
The terrain was too rugged for aircraft to land so the three CH-53 helicopters hovered above the treetops and dropped ropes down to the ground. The fighters scampered up the rope like spiders on an adrenalin high and hooked on. Several men stayed below and put special vests on the hostages, then hooked them to the ropes and then connected themselves. The signal was given for extraction and the helicopter headed west with the unit with the hostages dangling beneath them. Five minutes later, the entire terrorist compound exploded with such force that a fireball shot a hundred feet upward and filled the early morning sky with an orange and crimson haze.
When the helicopters reached the designated exchange point, they slowly descended, allowing several members of the unit man to disengage themselves and release the hostages from the ropes. The hostages were severely traumatized by their ordeal; the death defying escape only magnified their terror. One woman was trembling and crying, when the leader of the unit, Sergeant Major Pete DeAngelo walked over, took off his bloody right glove and gently wiped away her tears and smiled, “You’re safe now.”
In the distance a convoy of trucks and Humvees were coming up the road. Sergeant Major DeAngelo motioned for his men to reattach to the ropes and as usual he was the last one to hook on. He waved to the female missionary as the helicopters flew off and ten seconds later, reinforcements and medical personnel arrived to take care of the hostages.
If you asked ninety nine point nine per cent of the Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton about the 329th Support Battalion, they would not be able to tell you anything about the unit, not even where it was and the other one tenth of one per cent weren’t talking. It was located in the center of the base with only a single entry off Basilone Road. There was a guard shack with armed sentries’ and concrete barriers and no one passed beyond this point without special clearance. The area was restricted and not even the Commanding Officer of Camp Pendleton could visit the site without authorization from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The 329th was comprised of men from the most elite fighting units in the United States military; Navy Seals, Marine Corps Force Recon, Delta Force, Coast Guard Maritime Security Team, Air Force Pararescue, Green Berets and Army Rangers. The men didn’t wear rank insignia because this unit was based on performance and duty and not authority. Many people would find a military organization that wasn’t based on rank, too unbelievable to exist, but the 329th was not like the rest of the military. In a regular unit, one of the first things that military personnel are taught is to respect the rank first. In the 329th it was just the opposite.
A large sign was posted in the middle of the compound. The words; If You Have To Be Supervised Then You Are in The Wrong Place. Each man had two service record books, one was top secret and listed their commendations and medals and the other one was completely fictitious and detailed an uneventful military career with no combat action. The men were so careful about keeping a low profile know that they changed into civilian clothes before leaving the area.
There are some hellacious warriors who cannot compartmentalize, which meant they can’t control themselves when they are not in combat. They drink too much, take drugs or cause trouble which brings unwarranted attention to them and there was no place for them in the 329th. The men of the 329th made every effort to be unassuming in their everyday activities and avoided confrontations whenever possible, in fact, they might even seem meek or cowardly to the casual observer. They didn’t adhere to standard grooming regulations to avoid looking like active duty military personnel. They went to these extremes for one very important reason; every terrorist organization in the world would like nothing better than to capture or kill a member of the most dangerous counter terrorism unit in the world. These men were also invaluable assets in the protection of America and its citizens and in those rare instances when a member was involved in a situation beyond his control, the unit’s legal team quickly intervened and discreetly handled the situation.
Sergeant Major Peter DeAngelo had been with the 329th for twelve years and was the senior enlisted personnel in the unit. Because of his seniority and exemplary record, he was given his choice of duty stations and picked Camp Pendleton because he liked the atmosphere and weather of Southern California.
Pete entered the company office and knocked on the door of Colonel Travis Benson, “Hey Travis.”
“Pete…you doing alright?” Colonel Benson asked.
“Yeah, don’t I look alright?”
“I just don’t see you in the company office that often,” Colonel Benson said.
“I’ve been kind of busy lately, but I can put you on my social calendar if you’re that lonesome.”
“Please do,” Colonel Benson smiled.
“I need to take some leave,” Pete said.
“My dad’s seventieth birthday is coming up and I told the family I’d do my best to make it home for the celebration.”
“Take whatever you need,” Colonel Benson offered.
“See you when I get back.”
Pete left Camp Pendleton through the front gate and drove the short distance to the Oceanside harbor where his boat was docked. A close friend and teammate of his, Master Chief Petty Officer Jeremy Madden, divorced after twenty years of marriage and gave everything to his wife. He figured that was the least he could do after what she endured as a military spouse, since he was gone most of the time they were married. After moving out, Jeremy bought a 50 foot Bluewater Islander powerboat and docked it at the Oceanside Harbor and lived there when he wasn’t training or on missions with the 329th. He was killed by a sniper while on a covert operation in Columbia and in his final will, Jeremy left the boat to Pete, who changed the name from Special K, after Jeremy’s wife, Kelly to Prospect Boulevard, the street where he grew up as a boy. Pete slept in the aft stateroom that night then packed a small travel bag in the morning and took a shuttle to the San Diego Airport for his afternoon flight to Kansas City, Missouri.
Frank DeAngelo was parked outside terminal one at Kansas City International Airport when Pete exited and immediately jumped out and rushed over to embrace him, “Good to see you my son.”
“Good to see you too, dad.” Pete replied, “You’re looking pretty good for a seventy year old man.”
“You might be a Marine, but I can still take you, don’t forget that,”
“I’ll never do that, they teach us in the Corps to know when we’re up against a superior opponent,” Pete smiled.
As they drove home, Pete made casual small talk, “How’s mom doing?”
“Good, she was going to come, but she’d rather cook your favorite foods than ride with me,” Frank joked as he sped around a slower vehicle on the interstate.
“I can see that you’re still following your own personal code of vehicular operations, where you don’t want anybody in front, behind or alongside you when you’re driving.”
“Who do you think taught Mario Andretti?” Frank weaved in and out of traffic.
“Since we’re changing lanes without signaling, might as well change subjects that quickly too. How’s Katie?
The mood quickly changed from lighthearted to somber in the blink of an eye, “She’s alright.”
Pete instinctively knew something was wrong, but now was not the time to pursue the issue so he sat quietly and looked out the window.
Carl “Little Fresh” Badalucco was a cheap thug at heart even if he did wear tailor made clothes and had a stable of expensive cars. His father, Carl “Wheels” Badalucco was a wise guy who owned several trucking companies and Carl “Big Fresh” Badalucco, the patriarch owned produce companies throughout the Midwest and eastern seaboard. It was fairly obvious how they got their nicknames and their businesses existed primarily to launder money. Even when Pete was growing up in the predominately Italian neighborhood, everybody knew about the Badaluccos and their legacy of criminality and brutality. In the old days, wise guys kept their business out of the neighborhood and didn’t victimize the hardworking families, but times have changed and “Little Fresh” was a completely different man from his grandfather and father. His family should have reined him in years ago, but he was too powerful to control now.
It was unusual that Katherina DeAngelo or Katie did not meet her brother at the airport, but she called later that night with the feeble excuse, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you arrived, but I got a touch of food poisoning, I hope to be well enough to attend the party.”
Frank DeAngelo’s birthday celebration was being held as Cicero’s, an Italian restaurant in North Kansas City and the family reserved the main banquet room for the guests. Pete sat at the front table with his father and mother, but the seat reserved for Katie was empty. The room was almost full when Little Fresh and his entourage arrived, shaking hands and joking with the people of each table. It was obvious that he timed his arrival to be the center of attention and when Pete looked at his father and mother, he could see the disgust on their faces. Katie entered almost as an afterthought, following meekly behind the group of men.
Little Fresh walked over to the main table,” Get me a chair.”
One of his men rushed over to an occupied table and took the chair away from a man who was sitting in it and brought it over. Little Fresh sat down then called to Katie, “Hurry up, I’m hungry.”
Katie meekly sat down and turned to her brother, “Hi Pete.”
Pete was used to keeping a low profile and controlling his temper in every volatile and dangerous situation that he had ever faced, but he was seething in anger and having to exert maximum effort to restraint himself right now. Little Fresh ruined the festivities, making sure that he always spoke loudly enough for everybody in the room to hear his every comment while everybody ceased their conversations,
“You know what they say, the Marines are looking for a few good men, but they’ll take anybody until they come along,” The entourage burst into uproarious laughter while the other guests fearfully joined in, but Little Fresh wasn’t done yet, “Ever get into combat or they still got you working as a file clerk?”
“Still pushing papers,” Pete replied softly.
“They need somebody like me in the Marines. I’d take care of those terrorists in a New York minute,” Little Fresh laughed then pulled his pearl handled nine millimeter pistol and menacingly waved it around.
Katie cowered in embarrassment and at that particular moment, Pete came to the stark realization of how much his sister had changed and fallen from who she used to be. She was a sultry and natural beauty, with dark hair and glistening green eyes that highlighted the best of her Italian heritage. She was gregarious, vivacious and could warm up a room with her laugh and illuminate it with a smile, but where a fire used to rage, barely a flicker remained.
Little Fresh hijacked the event for his personal gratification with his crude and inappropriate remarks. Pete noticed his sister flinch when Little Fresh reached across the table for a bottle of wine which was a pretty good indication to him that she was being abused. Katie had a long sleeve dress on, but Pete still noticed the discoloration on her wrists.
There were several options; Pete could confront and threaten the cheap thug, but if Little Fresh didn’t comply, Pete would have to take it to the next level which would subject his family to retaliation, and bring attention to himself and possibly jeopardize the mission of the 329th. He could also convince Katie to leave, but Little Fresh would just come after her and then he would be forced to deal with the volatile situation in a time and place, not of his choosing.
The next afternoon, Pete borrowed his dad’s car and drove to Little Fresh’s guarded compound in Gladstone, Missouri and parked a mile down the road then hiked through a wooded area until he got close enough to get a clear visual of the target. Nothing escaped his attention and when he was satisfied, he returned to his car and drove home.
Pete had his bag in his hand when he entered the kitchen the next morning, “Sorry, but I got a call from my unit and I need to get back to the base.”
“We’ll give you a ride,” Frank said.
“Don’t bother, I’ve already called a shuttle, I’ll call you when I get in. I’ll be back soon,” Pete kissed his mother and embraced his father and left.
There was nothing on the books for the 329th so Pete had ample time to plan his own personal mission, but it did not take long. One week later, he flew back to Kansas City using an alias identity and checked into a motel. At midnight he drove to the wooded area, changed into his combat gear and applied his face camouflage and began walking through the dense brush. When he reached the Badalucco compound, he shot the guard by the front gate and entered the property. In a matter of minutes, he eliminated four men in various locations of the residence with accurate headshots and when he got to the master suite, he saw his sister sleeping in the bed and heard someone in the bathroom. Pete injected a quick acting sedative into Katie’s arm and when she jumped in bed, he held his hand over her mouth to stop her from screaming. It only took a few seconds for her to pass out. He gently placed the blankets around her and stroked her hair.
When Little Fresh came out of the bathroom sniffling with the residue of cocaine under his nostrils and on his face Pete hit him with a crashing right hand that lifted him off his feet and slammed him into the wall. Little Fresh crumpled to the floor, disoriented and moaning in pain.
Pete bent over and snapped his neck and the room went deathly silent. He planted evidence and clues that would lead the police to believe that these murders were the results of a drug deal gone bad, kissed his sister on the forehead and whispered, “Love you,” then disappeared into the night. When he got back to his car, Pete called 911 on a burner phone and reported the killings, smashed the phone then drove back to his motel and caught the first flight back to California the next day.
Sergeant Major Pete De Angelo would do just about anything to protect what he loved most, his family and his country and Hell was filled with individuals who could testify to that fact.
It was taking a while and still remained a work in progress, but Katie was gradually regaining her inner strength and control of her life. She thought she had caught a fleeting glimpse of the man who drugged her and always had a feeling that her brother was much more than he pretended to be. Whether these two suspicions were connected on that fateful night…Katie would never ask, because she did not really want to know.
Six months later, Katie lounged on the deck of Pete’s boat in the Oceanside harbor as she sipped on a Margarita and gazed out to sea, “I don’t know if I could ever move away from Kansas City and leave mom and dad, but I have now officially designated this as my favorite getaway spot.”
Pete raised his cold bottle of beer and made a toast, “May you always be safe and happy on Prospect Blvd…whichever one you may choose.”