After Action Report: Operation Persian Freedom Phase 3 Mission 17: Munitions Factory at Aghar Jan 11.14.04

by Guest Writer boNes
and Cat (text in gray)

“Despite the challenges that Strike Fighter Squadron One Zero Three faced, Commander Naczowicz never faltered and always rose to meet every challenge,” I continued, addressing the family and friends of Naz assembled at his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. The day was sunny and a cool breeze flowed lazily amongst the trees and the garden of stone, a sharp contrast to the weather I was used to in the North Arabian Gulf. It was good to be back in the States again, but the reason why bothered me greatly. It was for a funeral for someone under my command. It wasn’t getting any easier knowing it was with one of the closest friends I’ve had in my career, and my XO.

“He was popular among all members of the squadron, from the enlisted personnel right up to the senior officers, as well as the air wing staff officers, but most of all, by me. As my XO, Commander Naczowicz was always there to give me support, to help me run the squadron, and was instrumental on many occasions in securing relief and aid for the Jolly Rogers. Not only that, but he was an encouraging force for those who were down and out and too tired to keep going on their own in this long campaign. I am deeply honored to have flown with him on his last mission, to have known him, and to have called him my friend.”

I looked at Naz’s flag-draped coffin, and saluted.

“Fair winds and following seas, shipmate.”

All military personnel present did the same. Curtly and with honor, they snapped to their salute. The 21-gun salute began as a section of four F/A-18E Super Hornets flew overhead, a single one pulling up hard into the sky.

Naz was then laid to rest, the tune of “Taps” fading in as the Super Hornets loud engines faded out. I held the folded flag in my arms and turned to Naz’s wife Roni. She had tears in her eyes as I walked towards her to present her with the flag. I could barely hold my tears back as I struggled to speak. “On behalf of the President of the United States and the Chief of Naval Operations, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to this Country and a grateful Navy.”

Roni mouthed out “Thank you,” the most she was able to muster under such sadness. I wasn’t doing that much better myself. As I stuttered through my words and held back tears, I added, “God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.”

“You hungry?” said Pokey’s guard in broken English. No, he thought, but I want to friggin’ go home!

“Sure,” he replied. “And so is my friend.” Pokey motioned over to Coyote whose puffy face was still bleeding in some places. At least their new captors were consistent, thought Pokey. They probably figured we were used to the beatings and thought it best to not take away things that were familiar to us for so long. How long has it been anyway? It had to be months. Pokey had no way of knowing, and that sacred him more than he truly knew.

The guard left and came back with some chicken smeared over some rice and bread. “You eat now. We are your friends. You eat, come.”The guard motioned over to Pokey. Pokey suspiciously watched which hand he was using to tear the thin, puffy, white bread to scoop the chicken and rice up with. After all, he thought, anyone who eats with one hand and wipes with the other is bound to get the two confused once in awhile.

Pokey hobbled over to the bars and took the food from the man. “Thank you,” he said graciously to the guard. Pokey stumbled for the Arabic word for thank you and spit out, “Shakran.”

The guard pointed to himself, and again said, “Friend.”

Pokey nodded, smiled, and brought the food to Coyote who was sleeping soundly despite his wounds.

“The time is not good enough!” said Osborne sternly to his men. “Look people, we are Marine Force Recon, not some army infantry puke. Three minutes is NOT, I repeat NOT a good enough time for this man’s Corps!”

Osborne walked along the enlisted men assembled in line in front of him.  None of them were below the rank of Staff Sergeant, and most were Gunnies. Only 3 of them were officers, and that included Major Osborne himself, who had personally hand-picked each one of the Marines under Colonel Spengler’s authorization. He wanted the best Recon Marines he could find, but also with enough experience, hence the NCO and above status. “You have to be able to form your sight picture, discriminate between your targets, and put two to the body, one to the head, as naturally as it takes for you to take a leak. Sergeant Ruiz?”

“Aye, sir!”

“Do you need to think when you take a leak?”

“No, sir, I do not!”

“Then why the hell are you thinking for something as natural as firing your weapon?”

“Sir, sorry, sir.”

“Well, this will be your chance to make up for it. The same with the rest of you Marines. Sergeant Ruiz here is not the only one off. Several of you are too — only worse than he. Sergeant Ruiz is consistently the best operator here, that’s why I picked on him.”  Osborne’s expression suddenly changed into one of disgust and his voice reached a screaming level. “SO THE REST OF YOU BETTER SHAPE UP!!!”

“Sir, yes, sir!” yelled all the Marines.

Osborne went back to being quiet. “Then show me.”

“Hoorah!” they yelled as they plopped their helmets back on, picked up their rifles, and headed back into the killhouse.

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