Thomas Calabrese ….Matt Nielsen had been with the Navy Seals for eight years and was currently assigned to Team Five in Coronado, California. He was on his third deployment to the Middle East when his unit was assigned a rescue mission. American aid worker Jennifer Bohanon and her Swedish colleague, Elias Karlsson, were working for a nongovernmental organization called the Scandinavian Relief Council in west Somalia when they were kidnapped in June, 2016. They had been in captivity for six months and the rebels were moving them to different locations every few days to deter a rescue. Satellite surveillance showed unusual activity in the town of Adado in north-central Somalia and leadership decided that they needed to move quickly and hope for the best.
On the night of January 25, 2017, an Air Force Special Operations plane carried two dozen operators from Seal Team Five to a location about two miles from where the hostages were being held. After parachuting down and walking through darkness to the camp, the SEALs surprised the kidnappers, killing nine of them within minutes. Matt Nielsen pushed one of his fellow SEALs out of the way and took two bullets to his upper chest. Bohanon, Karlsson and Special Operator Nielsen were evacuated to an American base in Djibouti where they received medical treatment.
Matt was sent to San Diego Naval Hospital for additional surgeries and physical rehabilitation for his injuries. After six months, Doctor Alex Coleman called Matt into his office. “You’ve made remarkable progress and I’m prepared to release you back to your unit…on one condition.”
“Which is, sir?” Matt asked.
“That you play it straight with yourself and your teammates. If you can’t do the job then say so.”
“You’ve got my word,” Matt promised.
When he got back to his unit, it soon became obvious that while he could do most of the required duties, the stiffness in his arm made climbing and high altitude parachuting extremely difficult. Matt could have suffered through the physical pain, but he couldn’t take the chance that when his team needed him most, he might not be able to perform at the highest level. Every man in Special Ops knows that any mission could be his last and Matt kept his word to Doctor Coleman by going to his section leader, Lt. Commander Deke Lange, “I’m going to have to call it a day.”
There was no discussion, no wasted sentimentality, just two men that trusted each other’s judgement. “I’ll make the necessary arrangements.”
Matt took a transfer to Supply to finish his enlistment, but several weeks before leaving the Navy, he was approached by former teammate Navy SEAL, Jeff McDaniels at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado Fitness Center while he was doing pull-ups, “Hey buddy.”
“What’s going on, Mac?” Matt exhaled as he did ten more pull-ups before releasing his grip on the bar.
“I heard that you’re getting out,” Jeff said.
“A few more weeks, I’m a one-digit midget.”
“Got any plans?” Jeff asked.
“I should have prepared myself for this eventuality, but I guess was thinking that if I wasn’t thinking about it then maybe I wouldn’t have to deal with it.”
One door closes and another one opens,” Jeff philosophized then jumped up and popped out twenty quick pull-ups, “There is a facility in Carlsbad that helps prepare college football players for the NFL combine. They also help athletes in every sport maximize their performance. The owners are thinking about expanding their services to include men and women who want to join elite units in the military, Basic Underwater Demolition, Marine Force Recon, Air Force Pararescue, Army Rangers and Delta Force.”
“And they approached you?” Matt smiled.
“I’m putting together a workout program for tactical athletes and could use your input. If they like it, there will be a position for a qualified instructor once we go operational.”
“Let me think about it,” Matt replied.
“I would expect no less. I’m giving you first shot at this, but I can’t keep it open indefinitely. Seven days…yay or nay.”
“Roger that, thanks for the offer.”
Matt took a few days to think about his options, then helped Mac put together an extensive eight part program that included; physical training, nutrition, mental preparation, visualization and use of technology that he presented to the owners of Aspire Athletics. After he left the Navy, Matt accepted a job as an instructor while working toward his Associates degree at Mira Costa Junior College in Oceanside. He shared a house in the Arrowhead residential neighborhood located by the San Luis Rey gate of Camp Pendleton with two Marine Corps captains that he worked with on his previous deployment to Iraq.
Captains Glenn Warner and Bruce Nolan were helicopter pilots and were assigned to HMLA-167 (Helicopter Marine Light Attack) on base. The home was owned by retired Marine Corps Colonel Jackson Adderly who lived in Scottsdale, Arizona. The three men were professional and conscientious and lived a quiet life when they were home and fit in perfectly with the families around them. The two Marines were currently on pre-deployment training at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base and Matt was at the house by himself.
Rosa Garcia worked at the Officers’ Club on Camp Pendleton during the week as a cook’s helper and did housecleaning on weekends. The three men hired Rosa to come to their house every other Saturday and do a thorough cleaning. They also liked helping the hardworking mother of two supplement her income,
Matt was an early riser and had already been up two hours when Rosa arrived at 0630 hours. He was doing school work on his computer and checking his e-mails when the doorbell rang. Matt walked over and opened the front door to see Rosa standing there with her two young sleepy children, “Good morning, Rosa.”
“Good morning, I’m a little early, is that alright?” Rosa replied.
“If the sun is up then you’re not too early. I’ll finish up a couple things and then get out of your way.”
Rosa’s two children was a girl, Maria who was 13 years old and a boy, Chris who was 11. Matt went back to close down his computer and the two children followed him over to the dining table while Rosa began for the kitchen. Chris yawned over Matt’s shoulder. The former Navy Seal had a good relationship with Rosa’s children, and while he would never admit it, he always looked forward to seeing them.
“The older you get, the easier it is to wake up in the morning.” Matt said.
Chris rubbed his eyes and yawned again, “I don’t think I’ll ever get that old.”
“What are you working on?” Maria asked.
“Schoolwork,” Matt asked.
“You still in school?” Chris asked.
“Another thing that happens when you get older is that you begin to realize how much you still have to learn,” Matt advised.
“Are those life lessons that you’re trying to impart?” Maria smiled.
“Imparting is not in my job description, I’m just speaking from my own experiences. It might be completely different for an intellectual such as yourself. You might find out that you know everything that there is to know.”
“I think he’s being sarcastic,” Chris laughed.
“I thought you were tired, why don’t you lie down somewhere,” Matt suggested.
“We were, but we always get our second wind whenever we’re around you,” Maria teased.
Matt opened an e-mail and began to read it; I need your help I lost my phone, passport and wallet in a Taxi in Cyprus. Please lend me 900 Euros, I will pay you back when I get home. Let me know how much you can help me with so I can forward you details for transfer. Joe Ashby.
Chris read it too and commented, “That looks like a scam e-mail to me.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Matt replied.
“What do you mean?” Maria asked, “Do you know Joe Ashby?”
“If you don’t know you him well enough to send him money and it’s not a scam, then it must be,” Chris contemplated the options for several seconds then burst out, “It’s a coded message telling you to do something.”
“You’re on to me,” Matt typed in his answer, The crows fly low over the dog park in the early evening while the black dog chases the orange ball. Owners are required to clean up after their pets, then hits the send command.
“Now what?” Chris asked.
“I await further instructions, remember you are sworn to secrecy,” Matt gave the Boy Scouts salute; “I have to meet some people, talk to you soon.”
As an undisclosed location, dozens of men and women were sitting at computer terminals. Their assigned duties are to look for suspicious e-mails from various individuals. A woman prints something and walks over to a private office, “Excuse me, sir.”
“What is it?” The elderly gentleman grumbled without looking up.
“You’ll want to see this, sir,” The woman handed the paper to the man, who read it, “Who sent this?”
“Matthew Nielsen,” The woman answered.
“Those damn Navy Seals.”
“Yes sir,” the woman agreed, “They can be damn trouble.”
Matt met five potential SEALs recruits at the Oceanside Pier and they got their gear ready, while the fog had burned away, exposing a cloudless day. The sun was shining down on the ocean and beach and it was warming up quickly “It’s a beautiful day for a three mile swim. We’re going to stay in a tight group so if you run into a problem, all you have to do is yell out,” Matt ran into the ocean and began swimming toward the horizon, the other men were right behind him.
Back at the undisclosed location, the elderly man read the report and ordered, “Pick him up.”
By the time they finished the swim, four men were so tired that they could hardly make it back to shore. Matt had one exhausted swimmer in a chest carry and when he reached the shore, “Not bad gentlemen, keep up the good work then turned to the man lying motionless on the beach, “You need to get stronger and increase your endurance. I’ll see you at the center next Monday. Be prepared,it’s only going to get harder from here on.”
As he walked back to his vehicle in the parking lot, Matt noticed two men following him. Parked next to his Toyota Highlander was a black Cadillac Escalade with darkly tinted windows. This aroused Matt’s suspicions so he walked back to the sea wall and sat down.
Inside the front of the Escalade, “What’s he doing?” A man in the passenger seat said..
“I don’t know,” The driver answered.
Sixty minutes later and Matt was still sitting on the wall. A man in the backseat of the SUV finally lost patience and radioed, “I’m tired of waiting, go get him.”
When Matt saw the two men walking toward him, he got up and walked into the public restroom. When the two men followed, they didn’t see him inside. Suddenly Matt jumped down from the rafters and hit one man in the throat with a quick jab that took his breath away. Matt choked out the other man and searched them both. He took their identifications and cellphones and disappeared. When one man tried to follow him, Matt punched him in the solar plexus and he went down to his knees, unable to move.
Matt used all extensive skills at evade and escape to get out of the area without being detected. Matt asked a pedestrian on the Strand if he could use their phone. Thirty minutes later, he was picked up on Wisconsin Avenue in Oceanside and was driven to a warehouse in Otay Mesa where he was met by several men.
“Somebody is on my trail,” Matt set a lead box (that blocked the signals of the cellphones) on the table with the men’s and identification inside.”
“Let me see what I can find out,” Harris Guzman promised.
Three days later, an unsanctioned rescue mission took place on the island of Cyprus. An American businessman and close friend of the President and his family had been kidnapped by Iranian militants. They were trying to use them as leverage to pressure the United States to reduce or remove sanctions. The masked rescue force worked in unison, like a finely tuned machine and killed eleven militants in a matter of minutes. The family was flown back to America without ever seeing the faces or knowing the names of their rescuers.
When Matt made it back to his home in Oceanside, the elderly man from the National Intelligence Service and his entourage were waiting for him. “If you’re selling home improvement, I’m just a renter, you’ll have to talk to the owner.”
“You Navy SEALs are playing a dangerous game,” Elderly Man said.
“We play a lot of dangerous games, you’ll have to be more specific,” Matt answered.
“We intercepted your e-mail, about Joe Ashby needing 900 Euros.”
“I hope you didn’t send him money…it was a scam,” Matt answered.
“What about your reply?” Elderly man said.
“The housekeeper’s kids were over my house and we were playing around on the computer,” Matt answered simply.
“You’ve got an answer for everything,” Elderly Man grumbled.
“Not everything, just your questions.”
“Where have you been for the last few days?”
“I like to go off by myself every so often, it helps relax me.”
“I’ll be watching you,” Elderly Man grumbled, “That’s a promise.”
“Don’t get too close, I tend to get nervous when people crowd me…and that is a warning.”
A group of former Navy SEALs including Matt and Jeff McDaniels were in an undisclosed location when one of them stood up and said, “We’re going to be changing our contact protocols and codes. We’ll set up another meeting when we have something.”
“What did you tell N.I.S.?” Jeff asked.
“That I was part of an organization that does covert missions that our military isn’t allowed to carry out,” Matt confessed.
“Really!” Jeff was shocked and speechless.
“Lighten up Luigi, I’m Just Kidding.”