Castle Roland

Duty and Honor

by Eric Aune


Chapter 4

Published: 10 Nov 16

Duty and Honor

Copyright © 2016 by Eric Aune and the Revolutions Universe Partnership
All Rights Reserved

Duty and Honor Logo"This is the M1 Garand, .30 caliber semi-automatic rifle. It replaced the 1903 Springfield Bolt Action rifle and was the standard US service rifle from World War II until 1960 when it was replaced by the M14 rifle. Even though it is no longer the US standard service rifle, it has been found to be used in conflicts up until today by other countries. General George Patton called it 'the greatest battle implement ever devised'. It is loaded with an En Bloc clip of eight rounds. When the eighth round is fired, the clip is ejected making a particular pinging sound as it does." Floyd looked at the thirty cadets who were seated in the small bleachers behind the firing line of the school's shooting range. He saw that he had their unwavering attention.

After breakfast everyone had walked down to where the rifle range was located for their introduction to the weapons that they would be using in the rescue attempt.

"It is a heavy rifle weighing around ten pounds and is effective to about 500 yards. So for some of you, it will probably be very hard to hold steady in order to shoot accurately. However, everyone is going to fire one clip each so that we can see what you are able to do. I will be demonstrating the four standard shooting positions by firing two rounds in each position. When it is your turn, I want you to find which position is the best and most comfortable for you. There are only twenty of these rifles, so that means the twenty best shots will be issued them for our rescue mission. For those who find them either too heavy to use or are not as good a shot with them, we will have something else for you to use. So do not feel that you will be left out."

He checked to make sure he still had their undivided attention. After making sure the rifle was pointed down the firing line in a safe direction he continued. "The M1 is loaded like this. Pull the bolt back like this until it locks open. Press the clip down into the internal magazine until it locks in place, push the bolt forward with your hand and the first round is loaded into the breech of the rifle. Be careful to keep your thumb and other fingers clear of the moving bolt or they will be smashed and you will experience what many young soldiers experienced the first time they used this rifle, Garand thumb. Disengage the safety here at the front of the trigger guard and you are ready to shoot. Do not put your finger on the trigger nor disengage the safety until you are in position and ready to shoot. Always keep it pointed downrange and in a safe direction. Meaning don't point it at anything you do not intend to shoot. If I catch one of you being careless, I will bend you over my knee and whip your ass. None of you are too old for me to do that and none of you can prevent it. So pay attention to what I am saying."

His look was stern as he met each set of eyes on all the cadets. He looked at the adults who were standing to the side of the bleachers just as sternly. "That means any of you as well." The boys looked at the adults and there was some slight giggling and chuckling among the cadets. They quieted down when he turned his attention back to them. "When it is your turn, I will expect you to do your best to hit the targets downrange. The targets are set at 100 yards. Pay attention now."

Floyd turned to face downrange. "The first position is standing." He brought the rifle up and aimed downrange. After a moment he fired two aimed shots. The younger boys were surprised by how loud the rifles were. "The next position is kneeling. Remember to put the rifle onto safe when changing positions. We don't want any accidents." He put the rifle on safe and he got into the kneeling position with his elbow propped on his left knee to steady the rifle, before he fired. "The third position is sitting." He used the same procedure of making the rifle safe before moving into position. He sat down with his legs crossed and again steadied the rifle on his left knee when he fired. "The fourth position is prone." He got down onto his belly with his legs spread behind him and both elbows on the ground propping the rifle up. After his second shot in that position, everyone heard the ping that he had described and saw the clip eject out of the gun and land on the ground to his right. Floyd stood back up and brushed himself off. He showed them the breech of the rifle locked back in the open position ready for another clip.

"That is how it is done. Now Major Aragon will call five people to the line and you will get your chance to shoot." He watched as Clay came forward with a clipboard in his hand. "Lee, Henson, Bierce, Stowe and Claiborne. Move up to the line and put your ear and eye protection on." The five youngest cadets stepped up to the firing line putting their protection on. While they did, Ken stepped to the left side of the firing line and Gabe stepped up to the right side. Each of the boys were handed a rifle taken from a nearby rack and they were still surprised at how heavy it was. Even though they had been told the rifles were heavy it didn't seem real to them until they held them. Floyd stepped up. "Before you get a loaded clip, I want each of you to try each position with an unloaded rifle first before we let you load and shoot."

The five boys nodded and everyone watched as they tried each position. As expected the standing was the most difficult for the youngest boys. The guns were wavering all over the place and they all gave that position up quickly as being too hard for them. The kneeling and sitting positions seemed to be the most popular with them. When he was satisfied, Floyd handed them the clips and watched as each one inserted the clip into the rifle. It took some effort for each of them to seat it all the way in. "Remember to keep your fingers out of the way when you push the bolt forward." Each boy had to put the heel of his hand against the bolt to push hard on it, to move it forward. When Floyd had demonstrated, it was a quick forward push, for them it took a bit more effort.

When they were ready, Floyd looked to the left. "Ready on the left?" Ken raised his hand. Floyd looked right. "Ready on the right?" Gabe raised his hand. "Ready on the line. Commence firing." They watched as the boys tried to steady themselves and started firing. You could see their bodies being rocked back by the recoil of the heavy guns. On the line they heard one of the boys say 'Ouch'. Floyd moved over to Quinton and saw him reach up to rub his shoulder. He knelt down next to the boy. "You have to hold it tight into your shoulder son, otherwise that's what happens." Quinton looked at him and nodded. "Yes sir." He brought the gun back up as Floyd watched. He nodded when he saw the way the boy held the gun. "Good job." Quinton nodded that he heard and fired again. This time the recoil still rocked his body, but it was more manageable and didn't hurt. The boys ended up choosing the kneeling and sitting positions to fire the rifles. When they were done, Floyd checked left and right and declared the firing line clear. The boys were instructed to check their rifles to make sure they were empty before placing them in a nearby rack. The younger boys stepped back, all of them were rubbing their shoulders a little bit. "Go and retrieve your targets." Floyd handed each of them a new target to attach to the stands along with a staple gun.

They quickly walked out and removed their targets replacing them with fresh targets for the next shooters. The targets were handed to Mister Marmion, who scored them and gave them back to each boy.

"Forrest, Stevens, Baird, Harrington, Chestnut." The slightly older boys stepped forward and followed the same instructions, but they each decided to try all four positions. They had only slightly better success in holding the rifle steady in the standing position, but they did try.

The practice continued for the next couple of hours. For the oldest boys even though they could control the rifles better in the standing position, it was still difficult for most of the boys to hold it steady enough to shoot well from that position. Most found the kneeling and sitting to be the most comfortable for them. Others preferred the prone position. After the boys were done, the three adult instructors took a turn with the rifles. Both Gabe and Ken used all four positions and seemed the most comfortable with the rifle.

When everyone was finished, Floyd turned to look at everyone. "Good job, you paid attention and gave it your best. Now a couple of things I wish to point out. When you don't need to move very fast or are in a fixed position, the sitting and prone positions are best. If you need to be able to get up and move around, the standing and kneeling positions are best. We'll take a look at the scores and from there we'll find out who will be using the M1s. As I said don't worry, we'll have something for everyone, even if it is a .22. Even those can kill or injure someone, so don't be discouraged if you end up with a .22."

Floyd nodded to Clay. He stepped up. "Class dismissed." The boys stood up and filed out of the bleachers for the walk back to the school buildings. Most of the cadet officers went with them. Only those who were tasked with reloading the clips and cleaning the rifles stayed behind. There was also another reason for them to stay behind. Sawyer and Pierre were going to demonstrate one of the canister rounds that they had put together. Earlier that morning, they had hauled one of the Hotchkiss guns down to the range. It was in the back of the school pickup truck parked nearby. They took it out in four pieces. The transom was placed on the ground and then the two wheels were attached to it. The gun barrel was placed in the transom and locked down. Finally, the breechblock was put in place. When it was reassembled, and Sawyer determined it was in working condition, Pierre pulled two of the cannon cartridges from the bag he had over his shoulder. One of them was the cartridge case with Styrofoam showing in the end of it. The other was very strange looking. It had a Coke can taped to the end of the case. "What is that?"

Sawyer pulled a small booklet from the pocket of his ACUs. It was a small manual. He turned to a page. "It says in the manual that there were three types of ammo for the gun, one was an explosive shell, one was a timed explosive shell and the final type was canister. This is how the canister looks. We wanted to see what the difference would be. If we load directly into the cartridge case, we can't put as many bullets inside, but if we fill the coke can with bullets we can use more for the canister. The original canister rounds had a tin shell holding the lead balls in it. It would blow apart when it is fired, so we figured this should work just as well. The aluminum should blow apart when the gun is fired." Ken nodded for them to go ahead.

They aimed the gun down the rifle range at the target stands. The first cartridge was loaded and the breech closed. Sawyer attached the lanyard to the breech block and stepped back. "Fire in the hole!" He jerked the lanyard and the gun jumped up a little. Downrange, they could see the target stands and surrounding area peppered by the bullets. He opened the breech and the empty case was ejected. Pierre loaded the coke can topped cartridge. It was almost too long with the can attached to the front, but it fit. Sawyer once again attached the lanyard and stepped back. "Fire in the hole!" When he pulled the lanyard this time, the gun jumped a bit more and there was a louder boom. The target stands were shredded by the number of bullets that hit them.

As the smoke cleared one of the target stands fell over because it had been cut in half by the lead bullets. "Well, that seemed to work." Ken looked at Sawyer. "How many of those rounds can you make?"

"We can make all twenty, sir." Ken nodded. "Good. Let's get everything back to the armory, clean the guns and I'll leave you two and Jackson to finish loading the clips we used and load all the canister shells like that last one. I think they will be a big help to us." Everything was loaded up and they headed back to the armory. The adults and Clay walked from the armory to Pettus Hall.

Ken led them to the conference room where they had been working on the plans. "I think the placement of the guns is pretty good, but I want to make a slight change. We will put three guns here aimed at the front entrance. I think that should be enough to take some of them out. I will want the crews to fire once to get their attention and take out the guards at the front. Then when the soldiers start to come out of the building, three more rounds as fast as you can. After that abandon the guns and head to the trees over here and circle around to join the rest of the company over by this building. We will place the one gun by this fence line as you suggested. The crew will stay low until the enemy gets in range and then fire at their flank when they come across this field. One of the other guns will then wheel from behind the corner of this building and fire once at any targets and to keep their heads down. Then your cavalry will charge from behind the building using pistols to give cover to the crew by the fence while they retreat. You will then circle your horses around through this grassy area southeast of the buildings along this road and head away from the fighting. You can regroup back by this far building. At that point I would say dismount, and move forward on foot to help the rest of the team. I think you'll only get one cavalry charge. If you try again, remember you make a big target and they will have AK-47s, so you could be easily cut down before you get close enough to hit them again."

Ken stopped because Clay held up his hand. "Um, sir. We don't have any pistols." Floyd chuckled. "I'll take care of that. I have some for you that will work. I'll talk to your cavalry guys later and we'll go out to the range so you can see how they work for you." Clay nodded and Ken continued.

"We will then have the final gun behind this shipping container that is located right here at the end of the parking lot. If they try to come across again, we'll use the gun to hold them off. I'm also going to put some of the cadets on top of the storage container and this first building here. So between that gun and the shooters on the roof and around the building and shipping container plus the element of surprise, I think we have a chance to beat them. Those on the container and building are going to have the old rifles to fire. I think five in each building, so each person will have two of the muskets. When the enemy begins to cross this area, they will fire each rifle once and then switch to your modern rifles, be they M1s or .22s."

Ken looked at the map for a few moments and nodded. "I think we might pull this off." He looked at Floyd and Gabe. "I would like you two to be the ones that will sneak into the loading dock and ambush any that try to get out of the building that way. I think that is the best we can do on this. I would keep a round or two left over for the mountain guns, to take with us inside the camp to threaten the guards in the building where the children are kept. If any of the soldiers out here surrender, take them prisoner. They will be useful in getting the other guards inside the camp to surrender. Other than that, I don't think there is much more that we can do to get ready. Clay, I want the boys to get to sleep early tonight so that they get enough sleep before we head to the camp."

"Cap, you mind if I take Gabe with me this afternoon for a recce of the camp? I just want to make sure there hasn't been any big changes. If so, we'll figure it out. I agree with you Cap. I think we're going to pull it off, but it's still going to be tough fight. For now though, Cadet Major, why don't you gather your cavalry and we'll check out what I have for you. Meet me at Wheeler House." Clay nodded and left the room to gather the others.

A few minutes later they saw Floyd standing next to his truck. "Hop in back boys, I'll drive you over to the range." Once everyone was sitting in the back, Floyd headed off. When they got there, Floyd picked up a crate out of the bed of the truck and carried it over to the firing line. "Okay gather round boys. This is the pistol, Caliber .45, Automatic, M1911A1. It was in service with the US military from 1911 until 1986 when it was replaced by the M9 Beretta in 9mm. Personally I like this pistol much better than the M9. So what we are going to do is let you each fire a couple of magazines through the pistol so you can get a feel for it. You have seven rounds in the magazine. Some people will put one in the chamber and then add one more to the magazine to give them eight shots, but for you boys, you're going to have just the seven for safety."

He pulled the slide back and locked it back. He took a loaded magazine out of the box. "It is simple to operate. The slide lock here holds the slide back so you can check to make sure the pistol is unloaded. You just push the lock down and the slide moves forward. When the final round is shot, it will lock open. Then you slide the next magazine into the butt and hit the lock again and it loads the round, the pistol is cocked and it is ready to fire. The magazine release is right here behind the trigger. To fire it, you need to have a strong grip, because you have to engage the grip safety here on the back of the butt for it to fire. If you don't grip it enough to disengage the safety, it will not fire. Any questions?" The boys shook their heads. "Okay, let's get some targets up and punch some paper."

They put some target stands out about twenty-five yards and went back to the firing line. Floyd handed out the pistols to each of them and one magazine each. "Now I want you to make slow aimed shots. Do your best." He pulled the slide back and locked it and waited until everyone did the same. They followed his moves as he inserted the magazine and then hit the slide lock and the slide moved forward. Floyd checked the boys. "The range is open, commence firing."

The seven of them began to fire at the targets. When they finished the magazine, he had them eject it and gave each of them a fresh magazine. They followed his actions once again and he gave the command to commence firing. When they finished, he made sure each pistol was empty and locked open. "Range is closed, retrieve your targets." They brought the targets back and Floyd looked at them for a few moments. "Not too bad." He looked at the youngest of them, Andrew. "How did it feel young man?" Andrew nodded. "It was okay sir."

"Good. Okay, let's head back to the Wheeler House. We'll clean these and then load the magazines. I have enough for each of you to have three magazines each. I also have a holster and belt for each of you." He looked at Andrew. "We'll probably have to adjust the belt a bit for you young man to make it fit, but it will be fine. Get in back and we'll be on our way."

Once the pistols were cleaned and magazines were loaded he let them go join the rest of the boys. Floyd went to Ken's office. Gabe was there. "You ready?" Gabe nodded. "Good. You still have the Beretta right?" Gabe nodded, "Well let's go. See you later Cap." The two of them left for their recon of the camp.

Floyd pulled in near the water tower and the two of them slipped into the trees. They stayed in the trees following the direction of the road for a short time and then moved toward the camp. They found themselves near the two buildings that their team would be using for cover. Checking to make sure they were unseen, they ran across the road to the fence line that ran along the perimeter of the airport property. Floyd pulled a small set of bolt cutters off his belt and cut a line from the top of the fence to the base. They were then able to pull it apart and run to the back of the building that was farthest from the headquarters building. They moved around the side of the building until they could look at the camp.

They could see the internees moving around inside the camp near the tents. The large building where they believed the inside garrison was located and where the younger kids were kept had a few guards at the front entrance. None of the young kids were visible, so they assumed they were kept inside. As they watched the camp they saw a group of the internees heading over to the building where their kids were kept. It was a group of men and women, with some of the teenagers with them. When the guards saw them coming, they straightened up and one of them went inside the building. When he returned, he has another couple of guards and someone who looked like an officer with them.

Floyd pulled a small pair of binoculars out of his jacket pocket and looked at the building. He confirmed that it was an officer who came out of the building. The officer stood with his hands on his web belt and waited for the group to come near. When they got close, all of the guards pointed their rifles at the group. The people stopped several yards away and one man stepped forward. From where they were hiding, Floyd and Gabe could hear that they were saying something, but couldn't make out the words. They talked for a few moments and then more of the people in the crowd raised their voices. It is obvious that there were some angry words being exchanged, then everything changed when the officer yelled something and all the guards brought their guns up and aimed them at the crowd. The officer began yelling and gesturing to the crowd. There was a tense moment or two before the crowd turned around and headed back to the tents, but not before a few loud remarks were made. The guards kept aiming at the crowd until they were sure that the crowd had gone back to the tents before lowering their weapons. The officer talked to the men before heading back inside. The two soldiers that had come out with him stayed outside and the guards looked more vigilant as they kept looking toward the tent area.

"If I was to guess, I would think those are some of the parents of the kids who are being held in there and they wanted to see their kids, but the officer said no and when they objected, he made it clear what would happen if they tried to force the issue." Gabe agreed. "Let's head around the back of the building and take a look at the HQ." Floyd turned around and they moved along the back of the building until they could see between the two buildings. Floyd looked around the corner and from there he could see to where the storage container was sitting at the far end of the small parking lot. Nothing seemed to have changed from the last time. They could hear some yelling in the direction of the headquarters building.

"I'm going to cross over to the other building and then you follow a few moments later."

"Right behind you Sar Major." Floyd grinned and looked around the corner to make sure he was unseen and then moved quickly to the back of the next building. He glanced around the corner to make sure it was still clear and then moved back to give room for Gabriel to come across. Once he made it, Gabe checked to make sure he had made it also. There was no outcry so he turned to follow Floyd to the other end of the building. It appeared that no one had seen them. They were wrong.

In the camp one of the young men, Jack, was walking around kicking the ground angrily thinking about him and his family's predicament. He was a freshman at the University of Alabama and had brought his friend and roommate home for Thanksgiving. The two eighteen year olds had arrived at his home on Wednesday afternoon. That evening, some soldiers had barged into their house and said that they were being arrested for treason and sedition. They had no chance to resist the soldiers since they came in with guns out and ready. The soldiers had their hands zip tied behind them quickly, even his little brother, who was only ten and marched them outside into an army truck. From there they were taken to the county jail, where there were other families like theirs.

They weren't given much to eat and on Friday morning early, all of them were loaded onto another truck that was part of a convoy. This time though, the soldiers who were in charge of them were not US soldiers, they looked like they were from some other country, because their uniforms looked different and they spoke Spanish. It was a long drive, but eventually the convoy stopped and they were told to get out of the trucks. They saw they had arrived at this prison or whatever it was. Once they were all out of the trucks, the soldiers separated the young kids including his little brother Richie. The parents started to object and one of the kids, who Jack guessed was about eleven or twelve started to fight back when they grabbed a younger girl probably his sister. One of the soldiers hit the boy knocking him to the ground. The boy's father went to him and helped him get back up and said something to the boy who nodded and went over to his sister to lead her to the group of other young kids who had been grouped together, Richie among them.

The kids were taken to the big building. His father had gone over there this morning with a group to see if they could see what was going on with their kids, but was told that if they came over there again, they would be shot. So Jack was a little pissed about everything that was going on and didn't understand any of it. "Hey Jack!"

Jack turned around and saw his roommate walking toward him. He waved. "Hey Steve." Steve joined him. "I heard what happened, sorry you didn't get to see your little brother, man. You think he's alright?" Jack nodded. "I think so, but it would be nice to know for certain." Steve nodded sympathetically. "It's just, what the fuck is going on. They said we were arrested for treason and sedition. What the fuck is that about?" Jack looked up. "I mean we've….." Jack stopped talking for a moment as he looked to some buildings outside the fence line. "What the fu…Steve, come over here and stand next to me like we're talking." Steve gave him a weird look but moved over next to him. "I thought that's what we are doing, talking." Jack shushed him. "No man, I thought I saw something and I want you to look too, but don't make it look like you're looking." Steve glanced sideways at him feeling very confused. "Look at the space between those two buildings outside the fence." Steve shrugged and glanced up and around like he was just looking around. Both of them saw someone run between the two buildings. The person looked like he was dressed in an Army uniform.

They exchanged looks as if asking if they had each seen that. "Did that look like a soldier to you?" Steve nodded. "I thought so, a moment ago, I thought I saw one run by and now two. I wonder if there are any others." The two boys stood there as if they were talking, but they kept glancing at the buildings.

Meanwhile Floyd led the way to look toward the sound of the yelling and when he got to the corner, he was able to see a group of the soldiers playing basketball on the small half court south of the headquarters building. Some were playing and others were watching and making comments. They were obviously enjoying themselves. Floyd brought his binoculars up and scanned the area. The only difference now was that the trucks and a couple of Humvees were parked near the loading dock at the back of the building. Floyd checked everything and decided there was no reason to change the plans. They would be going in tonight.

The two men walked back to the edge of the building and looked around to make sure none of the guards were in sight. This time Gabe went first, followed a few moments later by Floyd. They walked behind that building until they were near the cut fence. At the fence, they pulled the fence together and loosely hooked the cut ends so that it looked intact from a distance. So far the guards didn't seem to be patrolling much, so they hoped that didn't change. They quickly moved under the cover of the trees.

"Steve, look." He and Steve were sitting down and if anyone had looked at them, they would see two young men sitting and apparently talking with each other. Steve looked up and got a glimpse of someone running behind one of the buildings. A moment later they saw a second man run between the buildings. They stood up and tried to look casual as they walked along watching the building out of the corner of their eyes. They saw the same two men run from the back corner of the building and into the trees behind them where they disappeared from sight. "We need to tell my dad." The two of them glanced at the trees and then turned toward the tents to find Jack's dad.

Floyd and Gabe had no problem getting back to the truck and to the school. It was nearly dinner time when they got back to Wheeler House. They went to Ken's office and found him there. "Hey Cap. No changes except that they parked the trucks near the loading dock entrance." Ken nodded. "Thanks. I guess we go then. We should get everything loaded up tonight after dinner and then send the boys to bed. We'll get them up at 0300. Get a good hot meal into them and then head over to the camp. That should give us plenty of time to get the boys in position." Floyd thought for a moment before nodding. "I agree Cap. I think we've done all we can to prepare them. Now we eat, get some rest, and be ready to do our best to save those kids."

After dinner, a group of older cadets were tasked with taking care of getting the six Hotchkiss guns taken apart and loaded onto the school's stake bed truck. Sawyer, Jackson and Pierre checked all of the rifles to make sure they were cleaned and ready. They also loaded all of the Hotchkiss rounds, each with different varieties of soda cans carefully taped to the end of the cartridge to hold the lead bullets. They were taking all of the M1s, all of the Springfield Rifled Muskets and a few of the .22s. They had enough clips for seven clips per M1. For the muskets, they loaded all twenty except for putting the ignition cap on the nipple for safety reasons. Each boy who was tasked to shoot the muskets would place the percussion cap on the nipple when they were ready to use them. They knew the .22s wouldn't have much power, and might take several shots by them to do any real damage to the foreign soldiers, but the younger boys who had trouble with the M1s would have no problem using the smaller rifle, and besides, at the least they will be an annoyance to the enemy.

The cavalry hooked the horse trailer up to the school's big dually pickup truck that was normally used for hauling the trailer to events and loaded their McClellan saddles and other Civil War tack into the storage area. They would load the horses into the trailer early in the morning. They knew the horses wouldn't like being cooped up in the trailer all night long.

With all the preparations made, the orders went out to get some sleep. Ken gathered everyone in the barracks quad. "Battalion, Atten-hut!" The quad echoed with the sound of the thirty cadets coming to attention. Ken nodded to Clay and walked front and center of the formation to face them. "At Ease!" The formation relaxed slightly by coming to a modified parade rest position.

"First I want to say that all of you have worked hard with no complaints to get everything ready for the morning. You are all fine examples of the cadets of Wheeler Academy. I know we are asking you to do something far above what would normally be expected of Wheeler Academy Cadets. In fact, I wish there was some other way to do this without involving you, but we apparently are the only ones with any sort of training that can step in and help the people who have been unlawfully imprisoned and held by foreign troops. I feel much like General John Breckenridge must have felt at the Battle of New Market when he was forced to send the VMI Cadets into the battle line in 1864, when he said, 'Put the boys in and may God forgive me for the order.'

Ken's eyes scanned across the cadets. "I think we have taken all the precautions and preparations that we can. Now it is up to us to do our best. Listen to your officers and NCOs out there. Watch out for each other. There is no reason for anyone to be a hero. Keep your heads down and be careful out there. Let me finish by saying, I'm extremely proud of all of you. I think if General Wheeler was here now he would also be proud of you. If he was with us when we go into battle he would probably yell out the same thing he said in Cuba when he was a US Major General of Volunteers in Cuba at the Battle of Guasimas, 'Let's go boys! We've got the damn Yankees on the run again.' May God bless you all."

Ken turned away and Clay stepped forward. "Battalion, Atten-hut!" The formation came to attention. "Cadets, return to your rooms and try to get some sleep. We will be getting you up at 0300 and hope to be out of here no later than 0400. When we leave here you will be unable to bring anything with you, unless you can carry it in a pocket of your ACUs. We will not be coming back here afterwards, so keep that in mind. Battalion, Dis-missed!"

The cadets broke formation and headed to their rooms. As Ken watched them, he knew that it would be hard for them to go to sleep. He knew most, if not all of them were a bit keyed up about everything. Many were probably scared, but putting on a brave front or they hadn't really connected it in their minds that this would be different than the tactical exercises they went through here at the school. Ken was almost certain that some of these boys might not make it and he hoped he would be able to forgive himself if that happened.

He turned to the other adults. "Well gentlemen, shall we repair to Wheeler House for a nightcap before we also go to our beds and not get any sleep." The men chuckled lightly. Floyd clapped him on the back. "We've done what we can Cap. They're good boys." Ken nodded. "Yes they are."

The men walked over to Wheeler house for a last run through of what was going to happen, drank a toast to the boys and repaired to their beds to try to get some rest.

In Clay and Hardy's room, both boys had undressed and were lying in bed. "Clay, are you awake?"


"Are you scared?"

"I think everyone is scared Hardy, including the major and the other adults."

"I am too."

"I know, but try not to worry about it and get some rest. Tomorrow is going to be a long and busy day."

"Yes sir. I'll try."

"Good night Hardy."

"Good night Clay."

There were similar exchanges in other rooms, especially where an older boy had one of the younger boys as a roommate. Each older boy did what they could calm the younger boy's fear about what was about to happen. Eventually in each barracks room, they all quieted and eventually fell asleep.

For the adults they also eventually dropped off, but their sleep was much more fitful, so at best they were able to doze off and get a few catnaps.

Ken eventually gave up the fight of trying to sleep and got up around 0200. His moving around woke Floyd, who joined Ken in the small kitchen where the coffee had just finished brewing. "Morning Cap." Ken nodded and filled a cup that he handed to Floyd. "Do you think the boys got much sleep?" Ken glanced at Floyd over his cup and nodded. "They're teens, they live for sleep." Floyd nodded in agreement.

Floyd finished his cup. "Well, it's time to get ready. I have the M16s and .45s for the adults out in my truck. There are six loaded magazines for each rifle, and three magazines for the pistols. I have load bearing gear to go with each person as well." Floyd left the room and returned a few minutes later in his army ACUs. Ken was just buttoning up his ACU top. Setting the cap on his head, he waved to the door. "Let's go wake up the boys."

They walked over to the barracks and knocked on Clay's door. They heard someone walk to the door. When Clay opened the door, he already had his trousers on and was tucking in his t-shirt. "Good morning sir."

"Morning Clay. It's time." Clay nodded. "Yes sir. I'll get them up."

"Good, we'll be in the mess hall." Clay nodded and closed the door. He went to Hardy's bed and gently shook the younger boy. "Time to get up Hardy." The boy slowly turned over and stretched as he opened his eyes. "Mmm…Yes sir." Hardy sat up and saw that Clay was just putting on his ACU jacket and that spurred him to quicker action as he quickly put on his trousers and went down the hall to the bathroom. Clay grabbed his cap and left the room to start waking the cadets up.

Once he woke some of his officers, they helped him get the rest of the boys up. The hall of the barracks began to fill with half-dressed yawning boys who were making their way to the bathroom to clean up and empty full bladders. There were no problems to get everyone up and quickly get ready. They could all feel the anticipation in the air. Everyone was ready within twenty minutes and they soon arrived in the mess hall where the smell of a good hot breakfast greeted them. The Mills' had gone all out for the boys' meal. There was bacon, eggs, sausage, and pancakes with milk, juice and hot chocolate to warm them up. The adults were already in the room and drinking coffee.

At the end of breakfast Ken stood up and got everyone's attention. "Good morning Cadets."

"Good morning sir."

"Once everyone is finished, we will head to the west parking lot." He looked at Mister Marmion. "William, I'll need you to go with the boys to get the horses loaded and meet us at the parking lot." William nodded. "Sawyer, Pierre and Jackson, you will be working with Sergeant Rodriguez with handing out the rifles and equipment to everyone. Clay when you get the horses loaded meet us in the parking lot, see Sergeant Major Bundy to get what you'll need." Clay nodded. Ken looked at the young faces looking up at him. "Alright finish up and let's get moving." That was the signal to the boys to quickly finish up and head outside.

It was pretty cold outside and everyone's breath was steaming as they gathered in the parking lot. Gabe had a clipboard in his hands and he began calling out names. As each boy came up, he was given one of the rifles, M1 or .22. The muskets would be given out once they got there, to those that would fire them before switching to their main rifle. They were also given their ammunition which went into their pockets.

Clay and his group went to the stables and got their horses loaded in the trailer. The horses were well trained so they didn't give them too much trouble, but even then it took them some time to get them loaded. By the time they got to the parking lot, all the rifles had been issued to the cadets. When the trailer showed up, Gabe started loading the boys into one of the school's buses.

Clay and his group went over to Sergeant Major Bundy's truck. "Okay boys line up." He began passing out web belts with holsters on them and pouches for the extra magazines. The boys put them on, making adjustments as needed. Andrew as the youngest had to make the biggest adjustment, but they got it to fit right and he headed to the bus with four of the others. Clay and Clement got into the dually that was hauling the trailer. Sawyer, Pierre and Jackson climbed into the stake bed truck carrying the disassembled mountain guns.

Once all the boys were loaded, the adults gathered at Floyd's truck. He opened two crates that were in the back. He handed out the M16s to each adult and explained that they were fully automatic but they needed to maintain fire discipline as they only had a finite amount of ammunition for each one. When he held one out to Father Lafferty, Patrick shook his head and pointed to the large bag over his shoulder. "I'll be the medic. Tyler helped me get this bag together from the medical stores. If anyone gets hurt, call out and I'll tend to them." Floyd nodded. "Fair enough Father. I'll take the extra ammo with Gabe and me. We may need it where we're going." He also handed out a .45 to any of them that wanted one, except Gabe because he still had the M9 Beretta that Floyd had given him for the first reconnaissance to the camp. He closed up the crates and looked at Ken. "Well Cap, time to go." Ken nodded and looked over at Richard and Hillary who had joined them. "Are you sure you two will be alright?" Richard nodded. "I don't see why not. We have our little house over there. If anyone asks we'll just tell them that everyone else has left."

Ken handed them his keys. "Okay. Take care."

"You too and take care of the boys. We'll see you when you get back, however long that is." He shook hands with them and the adults split up. William headed over to the dually and Gabe and Patrick went to the bus, Ken and Floyd got into Floyd's truck. With one last wave Floyd led the convoy away from the Wheeler Military Academy. The Mills' waved to everyone as they drove away and watched until the convoy could no longer be seen before returning to the kitchen to clean up, asking God to watch over the boys and bring them back safely. Someday anyway.

Floyd led the small convoy out of the school gates and down the highway to Courtland. They stuck to the edges of town as much as possible, but had to go through the center of town, and then east toward the airport and camp. They followed the same route that the others had followed to get there and when they got to the water tower, they pulled off into the open area that was surrounding it.

Everyone got out of the vehicles and they gathered around Ken and Floyd. "Sawyer, do you have your three gun crews for the HQ building?" Sawyer nodded. "I'll lead the battery in front of HQ. Pierre will lead the battery at the building and container." He stepped forward and called out each two-man crew for the mountain guns and they stepped forward. "Rhett and Brock, you and your crews will be with me in front of the HQ. Pierre, you'll be at the fence. Roy Lee at the building and Finn, the container."

Ken checked his watch. "It is 0400. Everyone needs to be in position by 0600. Sawyer, it will be up to you and your battery to start everything off." He looked at the rest of the cadets. "When their guns go off, that is the signal for the rest of us to be ready. Whoever is left after the opening rounds will be looking for whoever shot at them. Part of our job will be to get their attention away from the retreating gun crews. So we're going to take some shots from here. Those on top of the building and the container will fire several shots in their direction to get their attention. Then get your muskets ready to use. When they start toward us, fire each musket and then go back to your M1s. Don't hurry your shots. Gun crews, make your way through the trees and back to our position to help us. You will be our flank guard from the tree side. Any questions?"

"No Sir."

Ken looked up in the sky. "Everyone needs to be as careful as possible." He pointed up at the sky. "Lucky for us it is a bit overcast. As you can see the moon is almost full. It is dimmed a little by the clouds. If we're careful it should give us enough light to see where we're going but, it could also give you away. So be careful when you move into position."

Floyd walked up to the group. In his hands he was carrying his BAR and in a large scabbard over his shoulder was his Model 12 Trench Gun, at his hip was his .45. "Sergeant Rodriguez and I will be coming with you Lieutenant and we'll help you get the guns in position. Then we'll head to our position." Sawyer nodded before looking at Pierre. "You have the other battery."

"Yes, sir." Pierre looked at the cadets. "Let's get the guns off the truck." Everyone moved to assist with unloading the three guns that they would be using and getting them quickly assembled. While that was going on, the horses were being taken out of the trailer and saddled.

As soon as the guns were unloaded, those heading to the headquarters climbed into the truck. Ken walked over to the truck. "You all be careful and keep your heads down. We'll see you afterwards." He watched as Sawyer drove away.

Ken walked around watching the preparations. The guns were quickly assembled. Once the horse soldiers were ready Ken gathered everyone around him. "Okay boys. We're going to go down this road here and turn at the road that is closest to the camp. We'll follow the road halfway to the main road and then make our way quietly through the trees. The fence is cut near the back of the building closest to us. That is where we will enter the grounds. When we get to that spot we'll use the two buildings as cover to move across to the back side of them. Once we're all there, I'll give you your final positions and then we wait." The boys nodded and Ken waved for them to follow him. Ken and a couple of the cadet officers led the way, followed by the mountain gun crews, the cadets and finally the cavalry who were walking their horses at the rear of the group. With the moonlight, Ken could easily see the main road that crossed the one they were on and led into the camp. When he was sure they were about half way, he looked back and waved his arm to the left and led them into the trees.

They moved as quietly as they could through the trees. There was a blanket of fallen leaves from some of the trees that muffled the noise. Ken held his hand up when he got to the edge of the trees. He looked along the fence line until he found the spot where Floyd told him he had cut the fence. He tapped James and Morgan and gestured for them to come with him. The three of them made their way across the road between the trees and fence. Ken reached the fence and he pulled it apart. "Okay boys, quietly pull it open. It looks like they just attached it to the top so it should slide open. Just pull it aside like a set of drapes, but quietly." James and Morgan nodded and grabbed the cut edges and started pulling on the fence. The bottom part of the chain link was buried a little bit into the ground and they had to pull it out of the dirt to get it to move, but they soon had an opening about six feet wide. "You two stay here and hold it open, I'll bring everyone across."

Ken walked back into the trees. "Keep it quiet and make your way through that gap in the fence and gather at the back of the nearest building." He waved them on and watched from the edge of the trees as they rolled the guns across the road, through the gap and across the grass between the fence and the building. He sent one gun at a time. Once they were all safely through, he turned to the rest of them and pointed at five of the cadets and waved them forward. The cadets moved quickly in a crouched run. Once all the cadets were through, it was time for the horses. He followed the same pattern as with the guns, one horse and rider at a time. There was now a sizable number of people behind the building as he followed the last rider through and had Morgan and James let go of the fence. It rebounded slightly leaving a slight gap in the fence.

Ken went to Clay. "Clay, I'm going to help the crews set up the guns and get everyone else in place before you move up to your position behind the next building." Clay nodded. Ken walked over to William. "Will, I want you to take position with the boys behind the building, I'll be with the boys by the container." Will Marmion nodded nervously. Ken noticed and touched his shoulder to calm him and gave him a reassuring smile. Ken waved to James, Pierre and Morgan. "Let's get you set up in your positions." Ken went to the corner and looked between the buildings before he waved for the boys to go. They rolled two of the guns on the grass behind the buildings and brought them to the far corner of the building. Ken joined them and checked around the far corner of the building. He then tapped Pierre. Pierre tapped James and the two of them carefully moved the gun away from the building and across the open grassy area to the other fence that enclosed some sort of equipment. Normally it would have been easy for them to be seen from the front of the headquarters building, but the fence in this area was covered by the dark screen material attached along much of its length which blocked the view from the headquarters building. They were able to get across the open space and move the gun into position along the fence pointing south to the open grassy area that was between their positions and the headquarters building. When Pierre was set, he hunkered down behind the gun, while James ran back to join the rest. The other gun was moved to the corner of the building.

Ken led Morgan to a ladder that led to the room along the back of the building. He pointed it out to Morgan, who led his group to the ladder. Each of them carried a slung M1 and two muskets. They leaned the muskets against the wall and then with one person on the ground, one halfway up and Morgan at the top, they passed the muskets up to the roof. The building had a flat roof, but there was a three-foot-high wall that ran all around the edge. As they climbed up, Morgan had them keep low as they each picked up their muskets and moved to the west end of the building. He positioned them along the roof line and had them keep their heads down while he moved back to the ladder and waved to Ken below. James, Will Marmion and the gun crew took position near the corner of the building.

Ken rejoined the team that he would be with at the container. He walked over to Clay. "Clay, keep the horses here behind this building, until Sawyer's team fires at the HQ, then move your group behind the next building and be ready to go." He then turned to Rory. "We're going to cross to the back of the building and then make our way along the side of the building there until we can move behind the container." Rory nodded. They first moved the gun between the buildings and then along the side of the building until they could see the front. Now was the tricky part. They had a large mostly open asphalt parking area that they had to cross to get to where the container was located at the west edge next to the grass. Again the screen on the chain link fence kept their movements hidden from the headquarters, but Ken was worried that the guards at the building inside the camp might see them. There were other storage containers in the area as well as some delivery trucks and vans, he figured if they were careful, they should be able to use them to conceal their movement from that direction as well. He hoped that the guards over there were drowsy.

Ken led them across. It took them several minutes of moving, pausing, and skirting around the other containers and other equipment located on the asphalt until they finally reached their position. Ken breathed a sigh of relief. He patted Rory on the back and headed back to get the rest of the team. He found that they were waiting for him. He smiled at them. "Follow me. When we get to the next corner, I'm going to send you across by twos. Keep low, use the other storage containers and other equipment and trucks as cover. Rory will be waiting for you at your final position." They nodded their understanding and he led them along the building, hugging the wall. He made his way around and then turned to them and started them on their way. He could see to the other container, so he waited until the two of them were at the container before he sent the next group. Finally, there was just him and Hardy left. "Follow me Hardy and stay close." The boy nodded and they moved across the area following the others' path until they too joined the others.

Ken looked along the container for a moment. There was no ladder or anything. He waved Rory over as he checked his watch. "We don't have much time, it's almost five. He put his back against the container and bent down slightly, cupping his hands. "Put your foot in my hands Rory. I'm going to lift you up, but I want you and the others to stay very low and move slowly when you climb on top. It's flat and we don't want to alert anyone yet. Once you're up, we'll pass your rifles up to you. Rory nodded and leaned his M1 and the two muskets against the side of the container. He put his foot in Ken's cupped hands and his hands on Ken's shoulders. "Okay, when I lift reach for the top and put your other foot on my shoulder as you climb up. Remember to keep low." Rory nodded and was ready when Ken gave him a quick nod. He was quickly up and on top, laying on his belly up there. He helped the next one up. Once all five were there, Ken, Hardy and the gun crew lifted their rifles to them. The boys crawled around until they were in position facing the headquarters building with the guns by their side, at the ready.

Ken looked at Hardy. "You come with me to the other end of the container, we'll wait there." Hardy nodded and followed Ken. At the corner they crouched down. Ken looked over his shoulder. "Now we wait." He turned back to look toward the headquarters.

Sawyer drove the truck slowly down the road that was farthest from the camp. He had turned off the headlights and was trying to go by the moonlight. Floyd stood in the back of the truck and helped direct Sawyer. When they came to the main road that went to the camp, Floyd directed him across the road and onto the property of a darkened business. He had him drive around the buildings and park among the trees behind the business. They quickly got the guns unloaded and assembled. Then with Floyd and Gabriel leading, they slowly made their way across the two roads and the trees until they were looking across the overgrown building formations. In the middle of the foundation of a building there was a line of trees and shrubs. They knew that would be their position to set up the guns.

Floyd studied the ground between where they were and the the position they needed to get to for a few minutes. He looked at Sawyer. "Do you think together we can carry one of your cannons, without rolling it?" Sawyer glanced at his gun which was the one used for the morning salutes and nodded. "Yes sir." Floyd looked at the ground that led to the location. "Okay, that's what we'll do. We're going to move each gun one at a time. Very slowly and carefully, because those guards are not too much farther beyond those trees. If the gun gets heavy for anyone, let us know and we'll set it down and rest before moving forward again." He turned to the first gun. "On three." He had everyone gather around in and gave a quiet count of three and they lifted the gun up. They found that with everyone carrying it, the gun was easy enough to carry. It was making it across the broken ground and shrubs, that was the trick. Luckily the moon was bright enough and with Floyd directing them they made it around all obstacles. At the tree line they set it down and Floyd moved forward to check the guards. They were sitting down and leaning against the front of the building near the door, one was smoking and the other looked like he might be dozing. His head was leaning back against the wall. Floyd was smirking when he turned back to the team. "As long as we are as quiet as we just were, this is going to be no problem. One of the guards is asleep and the other is sitting on his ass. Let's get the other two cannons up here and then the sergeant and I need to get in position."

They went back for the other two guns and carefully got them across to the trees. Then slowly they pushed the guns forward until the muzzles were just clear of the cover. There was a low line of shrubs between them and the building, but they didn't think it would cause them any problems when they fired. They were able to see the guards were still oblivious to their presence. Floyd patted Sawyer on the back. "Okay Lieutenant. See you on the other side." Gabe gave the boys a thumbs up as he and Floyd disappeared into the trees.

The two of them followed the same route they had taken before. It was just as easy this time as before. Knowing the guards weren't doing much guarding, they were able to move faster and get to the loading dock. Since the trucks and Humvees had been parked in this area now, it was easy to get to the ramp. They made their way down the ramp. The area underneath was still empty. Once they entered the storage area beyond the dock, they split up and found good locations where they could cover the door that led into the main part of the building. Both of them were set up behind a large crate that was about chest high. Floyd on the right and Gabe on the left. Floyd placed his Trench Gun on top of the crate along with some of the magazines for the BAR, the rest he left in his ammo belt in case he needed to move from his position quickly. He then unfolded the bipod for the BAR and propped it up, pointing toward the stairs. Floyd looked over at Gabe and got a thumbs up to let him know he was ready as well. He had placed several magazines for his M16 nearby like Floyd had done within reach. Floyd checked his watch. Soon.

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