Thomas Calabrese … Ibrahim Al Asiri tried to down a commercial airliner over Chicago on Christmas Day 2016. The plane sustained severe damage, but the pilot was able to make a miraculous landing in Lake Michigan without any loss of life. The Saudi-born Asiri was the lead bombmaker for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the organization’s most lethal franchise. He had once dispatched his own brother, Abdullah, in a failed attempt to kill the Saudi Arabia’s interior minister in 2009 with explosives that were surgically implanted into his abdomen. Luckily, a malfunction caused the explosives to detonate early. Asiri was also responsible for the manufacturing of numerous improvised explosive devices that killed and maimed hundreds of people including American military personnel. He was ruthless, radicalized and it was imperative that he be stopped.
American intelligence officials had been trying desperately to locate Asiri for the last five years, but he was cunning and evasive. He never stayed in one place very long and just when they thought they had him, he vanished. When credible Intel indicated that he was hiding in the Al Qaymariyya neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, Special Operations was given the assignment to bring him back for interrogation. Team Bravo was assigned the mission and told to expedite their departure for the Middle East.
Bravo was a unit that recruited from all branches of the military and its team members included the best of the Navy Seals, Marine Corps Force Recon and Air Force Pararescue. These men didn’t care about military affiliation; to them it was about performance, dedication to the mission and loyalty to the United States.
Commander Raymond Lennox was the Officer-in-Charge of the forty person unit and he knew that Bravo had just enough time for one rehearsal of the mission. Camp Pendleton was chosen as the site. “Master Chief Ed Garrison will lead the mission, call sign Surge, Chief Petty Officer Ben Cooper and his squad will be Pronto. Gunnery Sergeant Danny Da Silva and his men are Rickshaw, any questions?” When no one spoke up, he continued, “We’ve got satellite photos of the area, but since we’re rushed for time, we’ll do the briefing once we’re airborne. Wheels up at 1700 hours.”
Bravo was a finely tuned precision instrument and the run through was just standard procedure to make sure that every man knew his proper position on this particular mission. When they left combat town they went directly to the airfield where two CH-53 helicopters were waiting to transport them to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. A Boeing C-17 Globemaster was fueled and loaded with equipment when they arrived.
Commander Lennox was approached on the tarmac by three men who flashed their identification in unison, almost as if they had practiced the maneuver, “What can I do for you?”
“We’re going with you,” First Man said.
“This is a military operation,” Commander Lennox responded.
“With civilian oversight,” Second Man added.
“I’m not letting you on the plane just on your say so,” Commander Lennox snarled.
“We would have expected no less,” Third Man smiled, “Your Admiral is waiting for your call.”
Commander Lennox pulled out his cellphone and touched a number. Several seconds later he began to speak, “Admiral Barty, we’re ready for departure and three State Department knuckleheads are here.”
Admiral Barty responded, “It wasn’t my call.”
“Who then?” Commander Lennox asked.
“Somebody in the Senate Armed Forces Congressional Committee, I’m trying to find out. In the meantime you better get airborne. We’ll deal with this later.”
“Roger that sir,” Commander Lennox put his phone away.
After Bravo boarded the aircraft and it reached cruising altitude, Commander Lennox stood up to address his men, “We have three observers going with us.”
There was collective groan from Bravo. A man called out, “What kind of observers?”
“The State Department kind,” Commander Lennox answered and the groan grew louder.
During the briefing, the First Man stepped in front of Commander Lennox. “Asiri must be taken alive at all costs and every one of you is expendable. This is what you signed up for, so you better damn well do your jobs!”
The men of Bravo Team were consummate professionals and they didn’t like being spoken to in this manner, but instead of reacting, they held their tempers and focused on the mission. The Al Qaymariyya neighborhood was heavily fortified and Bravo knew that it was going to be a brutal fight, but they were hardened combat veterans and were used to life and death struggles.
Chief Petty Officer Cooper and ten men took their positions on the west end of the targeted area and Gunnery Sergeant DaSilva took the east side with the same amount of fighters. These two groups were heavily armed with fifty caliber rifles, armor piercing rounds and grenade launchers. If it was any other normal military unit, the weight of their weaponry would have buckled their legs, but not Bravo, they double-timed into position. Master Chief Garrison and his team of twenty would be carrying much less weight and would be tasked with the capture of Asiri. Each man had his assault weapon of choice, pistol and three hundred rounds. Two corpsman would accompany the insertion team. Cooper and DaSilva’s squads engaged the enemy and the entire area rocked with explosions as gunfire echoed through the streets.
The command center was located inside the aircraft and manned by support personnel who viewed enemy movements on monitors being fed video footage from overhead drones. The three state department employees inserted themselves right in the middle of Bravo’s support personnel while repeating the same warning, “You men know that Asiri must taken alive.”
“They know the mission,” Commander Lennox snapped back without taking his eyes off the monitors. He then began relaying pertinent information to his men, “Pronto, two vehicles approaching your position.”
“Roger that,” Pronto replied and when the pick-up trucks came into view loaded with armed fighters, they were taken out by rocket propelled grenades. Commander Lennox then turned his attention to another screen and saw twenty armed fighters moving in from the other direction, “Rickshaw, twenty bogeys coming toward you.”
“Confirmed,” Rickshaw responded and the Americans got into position. When the approaching enemy fighters came into view, they were cut to shreds by barrage gunfire.
“Surge, this is Scooter, what is your status?” Commander Lennox radioed.
Master Chief Garrison responded, “Moving through the building, encountering heavy resistance.”
The men of Surge were kicking in doors and encountering al Qaeda fighters behind each one. As Master Chief Garrison was communicating on the radio, two enemy combatants came into his view and he dispatched them without hesitation.
When Commander Lennox saw a large group of enemy fighters in several large trucks at a distance of five hundred yards, he warned, “If you don’t find Asiri in the next 30 seconds then abort the mission. Repeat abort!”
A State Department official vehemently protested, “You can’t pull out, we’ll never get another opportunity like this!”
Commander Lennox angrily shoved the man aside, “Back off!… Surge, repeat abort mission!” he radioed.
Master Chief Garrison replied, “If we don’t have him in one minute then we’re outa’ here.”
The men expedited their search and just when they were ready to withdraw from the building, they found the infamous bombmaker hiding under a cot. He was dragged out and his wrists were bound. “Moving out! Conway, take point!” Master Chief Garrison ordered.
Surge moved out, but they were confronted by enemy fighters and were pinned down as soon they exited the rear entrance. They couldn’t expect help from Pronto and Rickshaw who were engaged in their own firefights. Three men and Asiri were wounded and the inevitable call came out, “Corpsman ! Corpsman!” Two medical personnel quickly responded to the fallen while staying low to avoid a hail of incoming gunfire. One of them turned to Master Chief Garrison after he made a quick examination of the wounded. “Who do you want us to take care of first?”
“Our people first,” Master Chief Garrison ordered.
“Asiri won’t make it unless he gets immediate treatment.”
“Like I said, take care of our men first.”
The wounded men of Surge survived, but Asiri bled to death from his abdominal wound. When Bravo returned to the United States, charges were filed against Commander Lennox for conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman, willful dereliction of duty and failure to obey orders. Master Chief Garrison was accused of pre-meditated murder and even if the decision to treat the wounded Americans first contributed to the death of Asiri, a first degree murder charge was totally inappropriate. The government’s case was that Garrison stabbed Asiri in the neck while he lay helpless and seriously wounded.
Master Chief Garrison was placed in pre-trial confinement at the Miramar brig. When prosecutors threatened to file charges against other members of Bravo as accomplices to murder, Garrison pleaded guilty to all charges to protect his brothers and was given the maximum sentence of life imprisonment without parole. He was scheduled to be transferred from the Miramar brig to the Portsmouth Naval Prison on the grounds of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery Maine in six days.
Every man of Bravo team was in attendance at the hillside home of retired Lt. Commander Jacob Porter, one of the original Bravo team members in Bonsall, California. Porter was currently employed as a security consultant for an international oil exploration conglomerate. “We can dispense with the formalities; we all know what needs to be done. Anybody who doesn’t feel this is the right thing or it offends them in any way, shape or manner, now is the time to walk away before this goes any further. If you stay then you’re in.” Nobody moved or even flinched. “Okay then, any questions?”
“How are we going to get Garrison out without hurting the guards?” Lieutenant Lennox asked. As part of his punishment, he was demoted from an O-5 Commander to O-3 Lieutenant, forfeiture of six months’ pay and loss of his command.
“I was in China a couple weeks ago and purchased a sleeping gas that can be pumped through the brig’s ventilation system. Once Garrison is out, arrangements have already been made to get him out of the country with a new identity.”
Gunnery Sergeant DaSilva said, “We better move quickly, he’s being transferred in a few days.”
“You guys are going to be the prime suspects so you’ll need airtight alibis. I’ve made arrangements for a group dinner at my friend’s restaurant. I’ll handle everything from here on.”
Chief Petty Officer Cooper grumbled, “If you’re going to do everything and you want us to just stand by or sit by or go out to dinner, why even tell us in the first place?”
“Because we’re bound by spilled blood and I’m not going to do anything without running it by you first and second I’m not going to hang you out to dry by going rogue. If you think you’re getting off easy then think again; a conspiracy to commit a crime is in effect a crime and now that I told you what I was going to do, you have become part of a conspiracy.”
“When you put it that way, count me in,” Chief Petty Cooper said and his team members echoed his sentiments.
“Garrison has a wife and two young children and they won’t have any income or benefits. I was thinking that one of you can come up with a financial plan where we contribute on a monthly basis to cover their bills and expenses. We all know the kind of man and teammate that Garrison is and it is going to be a lot easier on him to stay hidden if he knows that his family is taken care of,” Porter added.
“I’ll handle that,” Lt. Lennox volunteered.
Two nights later, the entire Bravo Team was having dinner at the Exhale Restaurant on 236 South Coast Highway in Oceanside, California. Closed circuit cameras confirmed and recorded their attendance. At the same time five highly trained cover operatives breeched Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and cautiously made their way to the brig. One man cut the intake hose to the ventilation system and connected a plastic tube to it. He turned on the valve to the five gallon tank and the men patiently waited exactly ten minutes, then slipped on oxygen masks and entered the building. The guards and prisoners were in a drug induced deep sleep and wherever they were when the sleeping gas took effect is exactly where they remained.
When they found Master Chief Ed Garrison, one of the men slipped a mask over his face and administered an injection. He awakened a few seconds later and the man commented, “You’ve been officially pardoned.”
The sleeping gas was so potent that as long as the tank was connected to the ventilation system the occupants would remain incapacitated. This gave the Garrison a six hour headstart before people slowly awakened and sounded the alarm of a prison break. By that time, the wrongly convicted Navy Seal was 30,000 feet high in a commercial airliner and over the Pacific Ocean.
Jacob Porter was driving south on Interstate Five and made a short call, “It’s done.”
“Roger that,” Admiral Barty acknowledged with an equally short response. When he hung up he dialed another number on a secure line, “Sir, mission completed.”
“Thank you Admiral,” President Wayne Stewart said.
Master Chief Edward Garrison arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand where he met with former Special Operatives for the purpose of developing a new team that would serve at the sole discretion of the President. Entirely funded by affluent American patriots, these men were a cross between Mission Impossible and the A Team. Wherever there was a problem in the world and there wasn’t enough time for the President to go through normal political channels or deal with a divided Congress, Garrison and his men were called.
President Wayne Stewart was elected to a second term and Garrison and his men continued to operate covertly until the end of his Presidency. One of the last official acts of the Chief Executive before he left office was a full and complete pardon for the American hero. There were no parades or public acknowledgements of the sacrifices that Master Chief Garrison made for his country. In fact only a select few would ever know what he did, but that was fine with him. Garrison didn’t serve because he wanted glory, accolades or medals, he did it because he had a code of honor and a clear sense of duty.
On that fateful day in Syria when State Department officials arrogantly put the welfare of an enemy bombmaker and cold blooded murderer above the lives of our American military men, it was Battlefield Betrayal at its worst. Even in that darkest moment, something unique and undeniably patriotic was born. History would eventually call this presidential unit, The Sons of Bravo.