Monday, June 1, 2020

Quest: Mice and Decoys


Quinn still spent most nights out in the field, but now it was in a tent.

He got up in the morning and ran PT with the troops.

Dysen helped with morning chow.

Quinn had major heartburn over Dysen accompanying him. She put her foot down. They were married. If he was in the field and there were no shots being fired, she was going to be sleeping beside him.

Quinn attempted the “I cannot take special privilege” argument. It did not fly.

“When those men start complaining, I will stay home.

Having a girl dishing out your morning oatmeal, spreading peanut butter on your toast and pouring coffee is something few men will complain about. Especially when she gives each man a smile or a quick touch to their hand. Dysen had not been born yesterday.

One of the lessons that burned deep was the need to keep information in watertight silos. Quinn had been thinking at the squad level. Every member had to be proficient in every position so battle-field losses would not cripple the entire unit.

Things were different at the theater level. The deserters had walked off with critical information and materials. The enemy would soon have crystal clear information regarding the limitations of the weapons that were deployed and the basic battlefield tactics and discipline.

Quinn still made after-sunset inspections. He went “across the river” with Tomanica and they inspected the ground invaders would have to traverse before becoming a threat to the defenders of the buffer zone.

Tomanica’s help was clinical. He told Quinn he needed to ditch the radios they were using. They were compromised. He also told Quinn to expect communication protocols to change. Orders would be sent by text and in code. The specific codes would activate pre-written scripts. The codes would change on a daily basis. A royal pain, but required.

Sammie was working with Dmitri to set up a repeater tower ten miles west of the buffer zone. The new radios Quinn would use would have directional antennas and signals would be bounced off the repeater, amplified and sent back to the buffer-zone. To the invaders, it would appear as if every radio transmission emanated from fifteen miles west of the West Branch of the Red Cedar.

Tomanica and Quinn roamed the east/west road leading up to the buffer zone. In any avenue of approach, there are always limited number of places where transport for men and material can be staged. Tomanica and Quinn knew, in their hearts, that one of the attacks would be along I-96 and the other was almost certainly would be along Howell Road, the road that David Greene had been tasked with defending.

Tomanica was a big fan of Buckey Walbridge. Buckey and Tomanica had served several tours together and spent months in remote, forward operating bases. Walbridge had a genius for passing time. He trapped mice.

His record was twenty-four mice on a single, half-peanut.

The peanut had been rescued from an M&M that had fallen to the floor and been stepped on. Walbridge’s secret was that he had super-glued the half-peanut to the dog of the trap.

Walbridge had a system. He moved his traps around until he found the best places for them. Buckey pointed out that mice like certain things. They like runways along baseboards. They like overhead cover. They like clutter.

Once he found the optimal locations, he made sure the traps were always set and baited and did not move them from those optimal locations. “Some people will leave the dead mouse in the trap overnight. Me, I hear the snap. I jump up, pull the dead mouse and rebait it.” Buckey said. “That trap can’t catch mice when there is a dead mouse in it.”

There were direct applications in the field. There are very few places where hostiles can efficiently stage twenty trucks or set-up artillery bases. The ground must be firm, flat and close to the road.

Humans are more intelligent than mice. The trick, in Tomanica’s mind, was to make the booby traps different and to exercise patience in activating them. That way, the hostiles can delude themselves into thinking the explosion was a onsie or a lucky hit with a mortar.

“You have to think strategically” Tomanica said to Quinn. “What can they replace? Cannon fodder is easy to come by. We are doing them a favor if we whittle down the numbers of unskilled men.”

“Trucks can be had by the thousands. Weapons...especially belt-fed machine guns and heavy weapons, and the ammo to feed them...those are worth destroying.”

“Leadership? That is the top priority. Killing leadership destroys their chain of command-and-control. Their mortars won’t fire if there is no leadership to select targets.” Tomanica said.

“It cuts both ways, though” Tomanica continued. “We gotta make sure our leadership doesn’t get wiped out.”

Quinn was looking at the intersection of Howell road and Nicholson. “How would that work?” he asked as he pointed to the intersection.

Nicholson "T-eed" into Howell Road from the north.

Tomanica walked north on Nicholson for a couple of hundred yards and then walked back. Nicholson Road was 1.0 miles east of the West Branch and safely out of range from buffer-zone mortars.

“Think it through from the standpoint of the Logistics Officer” Tomanica said. “He is going to park them on the west side of Nicholson, pointing south. If it were me, I would have them park with a two-truck gap between each truck.”

“The drivers are on the left side of the truck, right behind the steering wheel” Tomanica continued. “The officer is going to be in front of them and standing along the east side of the road so all of his drivers can see him. He won’t be standing on Howell Road because he doesn't want to have to move for westbound traffic, but will be damned close to it.”

Looking around, Tomanica pointed at a large maple tree. “A Claymore mine on that tree will take out the officer and probably four or five drivers."

Thinking a bit, Tomanica added, "It would probably make sense to leave a couple of half-assed decoys for them to find but to have them facing Howell Road. That way they will think Howell Road was our primary target."

“The next time they stage trucks, they will do it a hundred yards back from the corner and they will probably bunch up. That would be the place to put a string of IEDs in a paint-buckets and other trash, again, on the east side of the road” Tomanica said. Then we can take out the second tier of leadership and some more trucks and drivers."

Somebody less thoughtful than Tomanica would have put them on the west side of Nicholson in order to damage the trucks.

Tomanica, to give him his due, was a sneaky, old bastard. “They will be looking for our mortar installations. Drones work to their advantage. They will use them for targeting”

“So rather than abandon the mortar nests that Greene knows about, we will turn them into enhanced decoys.”

If it had snowed during the night, the troops first task was to fill the paths into, and around the mortar nests with footprints.

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