SPECIAL FORCES MAKE A GRAB IN CUBA
Excerpt From Chapter One of Dragon's Fury - The Long March
Volume IV in the Dragon's Fury Series by JeffHead
Copyright 2003 by Jeff Head, All rights reserved
April 3, 2009, 02:37 EDT
Isolated Training Area
Fort Benning, Georgia
The two rotors were still turning as the eight man team came down the ramp out of the tail end of the modified Osprey aircraft and quickly made their way into the forest next to the small clearing. No sooner had they cleared the back ramp of the aircraft than the Osprey canted it props slightly forward, leaned that way and took off, leaving the men to their own devices.
None of the eight wore uniforms or any identifying insignia. All eight of them were using the latest generation night vision equipment and carrying MAC-10 submachine guns and other equipment on their back. They communicated through miniature radios that were fitted to small ear-pieces lodged in each of their right ears. All of them were perfectly fluent in Spanish.
Despite the lack of official uniforms, if ever captured with the equipment that they carried, that equipment itself would identify who they fought for, whether they were personally identified or not. For this reason, most of their high-tech equipment, except for their miniature and very powerful digital radio, would be cached in a specific area about two miles from their landing zone for later use after they had met up with their point of contact (POC) on the ground. That contact was a long-time partisan and CIA operative who had been working for the United States government for many years. The meeting with their POC and the expeditious caching of their equipment was what the soldiers were practicing this early morning in the Georgia woods.
They had been practicing and training for the various aspects of their operation for over eight weeks now. Eight grueling weeks amounting to 14-16 hour days and covering every conceivable aspect of their upcoming mission. From the insertion and meeting of their POC, to the caching, to every conceivable alternative for accomplishing their mission in advance of the major U.S. military operation that would follow. Tonight was the last practice run at the insertion. Four days from now, on April 7th, the practice would become reality.
Sergeant Hernando Rodriguez considered all of this as he led the team into the trees. Once completely under cover of the trees and in their shadows, Hernando used hand signals and instructed the others to quickly kneel down and take up defensive positions from which they could observe the small clearing they had just left, and from which they could watch for the signal indicating that their contact had seen them and all was safe.
After the intense fighting in Alaska over the last several months, Hernando had welcomed the call back to Georgia. He knew it meant that he would be picking up where he had left off before being called north with so many others to fight the Red Chinese invasion across the Bering Strait in June of last year. That invasion had been spectacularly successful for the Chinese and ominous for America and her allies. Nome had fallen, Fairbanks had fallen, Prudhoe Bay and the American north slope oil fields had fallen, and then been destroyed by the Americans themselves using nuclear demolition devices. It had all finally been stopped right at the outskirts of Anchorage with the use of the new Hail Storm missiles that American forces had employed.
Although the Chinese had not been completely defeated in Alaska to date, they had now fallen back to a strong defensive position well to the east of Nome, which they continued to occupy. American and Canadian forces were now building up for the upcoming offensive and more AGM-999 Hail Storm missiles were being produced and stockpiled for use in that big offensive that would hopefully eject the Chinese from North America later in the Spring.
Hernando had been called back south just ten weeks earlier, before the big offensive could begin. After an all too short two week leave to visit his wife and new son in Miami, he had returned to Fort Benning to prepare for this mission.
Along with the allied offensive in Alaska the U.S. and its allies were also on the offensive in Israel, where American, British and Israeli forces had used masterful strategy and more Hail Storm missiles to decimate GIR forces surrounding that nation. This had allowed them to break out of the vast perimeter in which they had been contained. Allied forces had now advanced well beyond Damascus on the north and had retaken the Egyptian capital of Cairo and the Nile River valley in the west.
A similar victory for allied forces near Moscow was allowing Russian, European and American forces in that theater to go on the offensive this spring as well. As a result, allied prospects had dramatically shifted for the good. For the first time since the outset of hostilities in 2005, the allies were moving forward, pushing back the Greater Islamic Republic (GIR) and Coalition of Asian State (CAS) forces in several critical areas around the globe. This included Hernando's upcoming operation where the U.S. leadership was now directing more resources and energies back towards what was viewed as unfinished business in the Caribbean.
The long-awaited move against Cuba was now in the final stages of preparation and a critical part of its overall success would hinge on the success of this covert mission in which Hernando would take part, and in the which he would personally play such a pivotal role. The invasion of Cuba was slated for April 14th, and its prospect of success would directly correlate with the successful completion of Hernandos mission. Those parameters provided for the quickest victory with the least resistance if the Cuban leader was already out of the picture.
Hernando was proud to have been selected for this pivotal role in the overall operation. He thanked God and his parents for his upbringing that had put him in such a position. He prayed he would do well, that he would make his wife and son, his parents, his superiors, his nation and his God proud of him.
and his prayers were soon to be answered.
April 5, 2009, 14:45 local time
Fifteen year old Ernesto Contrerez shut down his personal computer where he had been reviewing the latest data available to him on the war, and got up from his desk. He walked out of his personal, finely adorned bedroom into the large living room of the central air-conditioned mansion to watch his satellite TV in the hopes of catching a WNN report. As he did so, he reflected again on his position in Cuban society. At times like this, it never ceased to amaze him that he lived in such opulence, while so many of his countrymen lived in such poor conditions...even squalor.
His father lived with him here in this wing of the Presidential residence as they had done for several years. His father drew a fine wage from the state for just assenting to whatever it wanted with respect to Ernesto. The two of them often found themselves trotted out before the local and international press, and displayed as a shining example of what the state and its glorious leader could accomplish for the individual.
But at fifteen years of age, Ernesto had formed definite opinions of his own in that regard. Like any teenager, he was prone to question those in authority over him, particularly his parents, and he had a lot of questions for both his biological father and for the individual who acted as the true father, his Padre. Ernesto knew that the Cuban dictator viewed himself not only as his father, but as the father of the entire nation. In so doing, he made sure that he kept both Ernesto and his father very close to him.
But these questions and thoughts were not something he dared raise openly with either his own father or his Padre. If nothing else, nine years of living in near proximity to the mechanisms of the state apparatus had taught him at an early age what he could safely explore openly and what he couldnt
and the questions he had regarding his own position in society, and how that society provided for him and for his countrymen, were definitely off limits.
In the end, Ernesto knew that his biological father was utterly bought and paid for by, and at the beck and call of, the leader of their nation and its apparatus. His dad had found himself in the right place at the right time over nine years ago when events concerning Ernesto had unfolded on the international stage, and he had immediately moved to take advantage of them by being the absolute lackey of the state and demanding complete custody of Ernesto.
"I'm not sure that he had any viable choice," thought Ernesto as he reflected on those events.
"Not to have done so would have probably meant his death."
But as Ernesto thought about the potential death sentence his father would have received for defying the state, his recollection was drawn back to another individual, and the very real death that individual had experienced. His mother had died smuggling Ernesto out of Cuba back in 1999 when he was only six years old.
"She had given her life for me on those waters and she had done so freely," Ernesto reflected, "and she had done it in an effort to deliver me out of this hell hole to what she was sure would be a better way of life."
Now, nine years later, Ernesto's had never forgotten his mother, even though his father and El Macho himself were sure that they had obliterated any capitalist or other American tendencies left over from those few months Ernesto had spent in America.
But they were wrong, utterly and completely wrong. Ernesto, while at the focal point of that international incident between Cuba and America had not forgotten the experiences he had while there. He was, to this day, constantly comparing what he was being told by the state with what he had both seen and experienced in America
and what he was being told by the state was coming up very short. He thought back on it again as he sat down in the soft, deep cushions of the couch and turned on the television.
"So much freedom
how could they all be so free?" he thought.
"I can still remember it.
"So much love from my Aunt, Uncle and cousins. So much care from those who saved me from the sea. So much love from so many others-and they helped me in spite of their state apparatus and not to garner favors from it."
and the food and material wealth those people had, he still marveled when he thought on it.
"So much to eat and so many comforts for everyone! How could it be
how could so many of them have such positive outlooks, even when their own government at the time was doing all it could to also kiss up to El Macho?"
In his heart, Ernesto knew why.
"It is because they are truly free," he whispered to himself.
And so Ernesto had not forgotten. At first, upon being delivered back to Cuba, he had been too young to recognize the significance of those memories. He had nonetheless locked them away in a quiet, secret place within his mind.
He pulled them out to examine them often over the years, sometimes late at night, sometimes when he pretended to be listening to his tutors and handlers, sometimes when he was taken to the estates out in the country to hunt or fish. He would review them over and over in his own mind, determined not to forget his mother or his relatives, or the things he had seen, heard and experienced there in America. Over time, yes, he had developed his own opinions about what it all meant.
At the time of his mothers death, and his brief stay in America, the experience was whirlwind, and he was so young. There was little time to reflect upon the deeper meaning of it all. Now he was older and after considering the conditions around him from what he considered to be a much more mature and informed perspective, and after comparing them to the memories emblazoned in his heart and in his mind, those opinions had crystallized. He believed he understood why his mother was willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to get him to the shores of America. And now he wanted, perhaps more than anything else, to repay her for her sacrifice.
Despite the inherent dangers of harboring such opinions, and the greater dangers of ever expressing them openly, Ernesto knew that life in Cuba was a lie. It was a lie that was being fed to the entire world to justify that which could not be justified
to bolster and support a decadent, weak and perverse system.
It was a lie that to this day sullied the memory and the sacrifice of his mother. It could not be allowed to stand, and Ernesto, emboldened by the determination and ideals of youth, was resolved that he was going to do something about it, do something to turn it around and expose the truth.
and he already knew who he could count on to help him accomplish it.
April 9, 2009, 23:37 local time
35km outside of Havana
Hernando Rodriguez considered what his point of contact had just shared with him. He had been in country for two days with his team. The insertion, caching of his weapons and contact with his POC had gone exactly as planned. Now, if the information he had just received proved to be reliable, it would be a bonanza for American forces and allow him to completely and optimally fulfill his mission.
But the operation was risky.
Apparently, according to the POC, there was a relatively high level official in the Cuban government whom the point of contact had known for two decades and who regularly supplied data to him, which was then passed on to the CIA. That official had been hinting for the last five years that there was a potential to infiltrate the Cuban leader's direct, personal circle of influence. But that potential mole was so politically charged that the official had never been willing to mention the specifics.
Until this week.
Now, the official had come forward and indicated that the potential mole wanted to contact the Americans and arrange for the capture or killing of the Cuban leader himself. What was more, the point of contact had determined who the mole was and the name was a shocker. The story of Ernesto Contrerez was something Hernando himself was personally familiar with. He remembered it almost as if it were yesterday. Hernando had been thirteen years old at the time and, being from the Little Havana area, he had gone with his parents down to Ernesto's Uncle's house to stand vigil on several occasions while Ernesto was staying there.
He and his family had been there that fateful day when the INS, armed to the teeth like a bunch of Gestapo secret police, had stormed the house while their superiors continued negotiating with Ernesto's Uncle's family for transfer of custody of Ernesto to the government so they could send him back to Cuba and his father. Hernando remembered the heavy handed tactics of those American officers-how they rifle butted their way into the house and held the family at gunpoint while absconding with Ernesto.
"I still cant believe any American administration, even one as left leaning as the one in Washington at the time, would send that little boy back to the tyranny of Cuba," Hernando thought.
But they had, and within a few months, the stories regarding Ernesto had faded from the public view, except within the Cuban community where his basic status was tracked through the Cuban grapevine as Ernesto was inducted into a life of propaganda, reprogramming and state-sponsored opulence.
"Now, here I am, contemplating contacting a fifteen year old Ernesto to have him help my team capture the terrorist leader of Cuba and bring him to justice in America."
But Hernando was by now a wise and experienced combat soldier as well. One who had seen with his own eyes what the result could be if American forces were suckered in by an enemy ruse. He was concerned about the timing of Ernesto's desire. He was concerned about Ernesto's stability and commitment. It sounded too good to be true
just the sort of thing the secret police in Cuba would use to lure dissidents out into the open where they could be destroyed.
He'd have to call this one in to HQ using their encrypted and secure communications equipment tonight and then allow it to proceed through the proper channels. He wished he could do it this afternoon, but his orders were clear, even if time was becoming a more and more critical constraint. As he now saw it, there were two options: either take a chance on what appeared to be an almost perfect gift, or come up with another plan that would probably be equally dangerous.
Before calling in his report, he ended up sitting down with his 2nd in command and splitting his command to pursue parallel options. He would work with three of the team members and pursue the planning necessary for utilizing the Ernest Contrerez option. The other four team members would prepare another avenue for either capturing or neutralizing the Cuban leader before the invasion began.
Tonight he would propose to his superiors that they adopt this parallel approach as a part of the go forward plan in any case, whatever his command and ultimately Washington thought of using Ernesto. In this way, Ernesto felt, after observing conditions here on the ground, that he could most productively and efficiently utilize his team to assure a successful mission.
April 10, 2009, 9:12 EDT
Situation Room, The White House
The President was digitally conferenced into the meeting of his National Security team from Cincinnati. NORCOMM had made a very early morning call to the NSA and the information from that call had quickly found its way to the president who was on one of his American Bolstering Effort, or ABE, visits in Ohio.
Those visits had started relatively early in the war when the terrorist attacks within the United States were at their height and when allied military prospects were being dealt one terrible blow after another in the Pacific and the Mid East. Based on his wife's, Linda's, suggestion, the President, the Vice President, the Directory of Homeland Security and the Attorney General began to make very public appearances in the face of the danger, in order to bolster the American public's confidence and determination. The effort had succeeded beyond expectation and continued to this day, despite the continued concerns of the Secret Service in terms of protecting the President and the other leaders.
Upon getting the information from Cuba, the President, at the suggestion of his National Security Advisor and with the full agreement of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had called for a meeting of the entire National Security Team to discuss the matter and arrive at a decision. The meeting was now being squeezed in before his scheduled appearance in downtown Cincinnati this morning, where he would make a speech and dedicate a new electronics packaging plant.
Addressing the assembled members of his National Security team, the President began.
"Alright, every one of you has a folder containing the same information I am looking at. We have a decision to make and I believe we need to arrive at it quickly.
"Our advance team in Cuba appears to have a significant opportunity that may allow for the capture of the Cuban leader. Today, in this meeting, we need to determine if it is worth the risk.
"General Stone, the Vice President and I have already conferred and we are of one mind. What is your take? Is this just too good to be true, or is it a viable option?"
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had been contemplating this very question since early this morning when the information had become available to him. His own opinion was that the military had a job to do and they all knew the risks.
"Mr. President, the team leader over there is inclined to go for it and he has formulated a good fall back plan. We have granted him permission to prepare that plan and feel that the information is worth the risk.
"I will have to depend on others in State or in the CIA for an analysis of the young man, Ernesto Contrerez, and his viability as a contact and concerning the possibility that his memories of our nation would lead him to this.
"I personally hope to God it is so. That would be a military, intelligence and PR bonanza all wrapped into one beautiful little package.
"I say we act on this and proceed."
Taking this in, the President then addressed his old friend, the Secretary of State.
"Fred, what are your thoughts?"
Fred Reissinger had his doubts. The set of circumstances was almost too good to be true. At the same time, he could see how Ernesto, despite the way the administration at the time had so roughly sent him back into the tyranny of Cuba, might well remember what he had seen and felt in little Havana for all of those weeks back in 1999 and 2000.
"Mr. President, if this were to come off, it would be a diplomatic gold mine to use against our enemies and to influence more fence sitters.
"I agree with the General. I say we ask the team on the ground to use this boy and his contact and bring that old SOB here where he can stand trial for his crimes against our nation."
Next, the President turned his attention to the Director of the CIA, Robert Ballard, and to his National Security Advisor, Bill Hendrickson, who were sitting next to one another at the far end of the conference table.
"Well, Bob and Bill, the ball is in your court. What are your thoughts and recommendations?"
The CIA Director answered first.
"Mr. President, the government official with whom we have contact has been hinting at something like this for some time. We just were not aware of the specifics. I believe it is the real thing and that we should act on it.
"While it is true that such tactics are also used to draw our operatives out in the open, we feel that if this had been the case the information would have come to us some time ago in an effort to expose our current operative.
"Our recommendation is to give our team the green light and let their military command issue an execute order to them."
Bill Hendrickson, the president's National Security Advisor, took Director Ballard's last statement as his cue to speak.
"NSA concurs, Mr. President. We are being presented with an excellent opportunity here and if the man on the ground is comfortable with it and feels he is adequately covered with an alternate plan, I believe we should let him go for it."
The President paused for a few moments as he reflected on all of this. He remembered well the international incident and furor that had been caused by Ernesto's initial rescue, his stay in America with his relatives and then the tragedy of the ruling that sent him back to Cuba, particularly the heavy handed way in which that ruling was carried out.
He still cringed when he thought of officers sworn to protect and to serve, spiriting a young boy off at the point of a gun and returning that child to a life of tyranny. Well, now there was a chance to right that wrong while bringing justice to the criminal who had manipulated our own weak leaders at the time, and who had committed far worse acts of war against America since.
Once again the President looked around the table through the digital video feed. After a short pause he continued.
"Any other comments on this matter?"
After a few more seconds pause during which there were no further responses, the President continued.
"If not, then I am prepared to make a decision.
"General, you have permission to proceed. Have your people use this opportunity to get that Cuban SOB. If Ernesto so desires, or if it is necessary to do so to protect him, have our people bring the boy back as well. Make sure they time the capture and evacuation as we have discussed in conjunction with our press briefing and with the invasion itself.
"It's time we cleaned up the entire mess that Cuba has represented for decades, and I believe that, with their dictator in chains awaiting trial for his terrorist crimes, the entire island will quickly celebrate the end of his regime and his control.
"Like Iraq in operation Iraqi Freedom of 2003, there will be some hard days between now and then as we clean out his staunch supporters and adherents. But, based on everything I have heard and seen, I honestly believe that we will quickly see Cuba come around and enter the family of free nations once the regime is decapitated and out of power.
"That is all."
April 12, 2009, 12:30 local time
Outside the Presidential Residence
The motorcade was ready to leave and travel out into the countryside outside of Havana to one of the many Presidential estates that were maintained for the rest, relaxation and recreation of the El Presidente. Four security cars, two in front and two in back, would protect the President's vehicle which would be carrying the President, Ernesto and Ernesto's father. Each car carried three elite and well armed security personnel.
An observation helicopter and two attack helicopters would cover the motorcade, with the attack helicopters covering the procession from several thousand feet in the air, and the observation helicopter in advance looking for any danger. Each helicopter was equipped with the latest FLIR equipment and the most advanced weapons the Cubans could obtain.
Finally, a flight of four Mig-29 aircraft, outfitted with the latest radar and air-to-air missiles, would be loitering thirty thousand feet over the vicinity of the motorcade and the Presidential group at all times. They would be controlled by one of the new Chinese AWACS aircraft the Cubans had acquired before the war started. They would be backed up by eight more Mig-29 aircraft on ready alert, four each at two airfields near Havana.
This was standard security procedure for the Cuban president and was well known to American intelligence forces who monitored the whereabouts of the Cuban leader at all times.
In this particular case, though, thanks to Ernesto and his complicit government official, the Americans also knew the exact itinerary of the Presidential procession and they were prepared to intercept it.
"I wonder if Felix has already got the Americans inside the Estate?" Ernesto wondered as the car left the walled-in Presidential Residence and passed by the security station there.
Ernesto and his father were sitting behind the glassed-off drivers compartment facing the rear of the car, and directly across from the President, who was sipping on a glass of wine as they traveled.
The President sat the wine goblet down in a holder that was built into the leather arm rest he was using. While he did so, he looked up and caught Ernesto's father's eye and winked. Then he addressed Ernesto.
"Ernesto, you are growing up quickly. Soon we will begin to make use of the military training you are receiving from your tutors and have you start your physical training.
"My young friend, you are destined to be a leader in our People's Paradise and only the best training and equipment will be available to you.
"What do you think of that?
"Are you ready to actually handle the equipment that you have only played with in computer simulations to date?"
Ernesto knew by long experience not to give anything away in his eyes or facial expressions. He noticed his dad looking at him. A casual observer might have mistaken the look for pride, but Ernesto knew better. It was a look of craving...craving the power and wealth that would accrue to him if his son did well.
Ernesto answered honestly, never betraying the hidden truth in the words he now directed at the President, using the familiar nickname he had given him and which the leader loved to hear from this young man.
"Padre, the lessons have been good and I know I have done well. I defeat most of the tutors and many of the military war gamers when they go up against me on the computer.
"I am anxious now to put into practice what I have learned. I will make Cuba proud of me and I know even you yourself will be surprised at how well I conduct field operations once I have been given the chance."
The President laughed out loud.
"Ha! See Armijo, your son has great cajones, as a future leader should have. He is sure of himself and unafraid. You should take some notes!
"Ernesto, I have no doubts that you will make us all proud and surprise us all with your capabilities. We will start next month, in July, and see how you handle the heat."
April 12, 2009, that same time
40 km outside of Havana, Cuba
Hernando reviewed the plan in his mind.
His team of four was already here, inside the estate. His three Rangers were all dressed as employees of the estate just as the governmental official had indicated and provided for. Each was well armed, having retrieved their MAC-10's and other weapons last night and smuggled them into the estate with the help of the official and their point of contact and his men.
Several of those men, another eight to be exact, were also inside the estate with him, posing as workers as well. All of them were also armed underneath their work clothes and would be tasked with handling the internal, close in security contingent that was permanently stationed on the estate grounds, within the walls.
The government official assured them that the guards at the external security posts guarding the entries into the estate were all in on the plan and would pose no threat. They would not make any moves to assist the gringos, but they would also not help the government teams. Their aim would be directed high, above the heads of the Americans and the others when the firing broke out and they would not move to assist the inner security team or those arriving with the President.
Hernando and his Rangers were to deal with the twelve security personnel arriving with the President in the four cars. A pretty tall order, but they had the element of surprise and they had the weapons to accomplish it.
He was very concerned about those two attack helicopters and the four MIGs overhead
but he had been assured by his superiors that the Cuban air assets would be handled by the U.S. Air Force when the time came. He simply had to broadcast the execute order as soon as the motorcade arrived.
That would be in another twenty-five minutes if everything went according to plan.
"The government official, our point of contact and his men, those guards on the perimeter and Ernesto are risking everything, including every member of their families," Hernando thought as he continued to review the various aspects of the plan.
"El Presidente must really like this kid to respond to his request so quickly
either that or we're all being set up," he thought.
"Well, we'll know soon enough. May God guide me back to Maria safely," he concluded as he set out the serving plates as he had been instructed, preparing to join the other workers to greet the President when he arrived.
April 12, 2009, 12:55 local time
40 km outside of Havana, Cuba
Ernesto watched the security guards closely as they passed through the outer gates. He knew there were four guards at each of the three entry gates and that their barracks nearby housed the other two shifts who were off duty. He also knew that these external guards were all a part of the plan and would not interfere.
As the motorcade entered the estate, he watched the ornate and plush grounds pass by as they drove the full kilometer up to the main buildings. The estate itself covered over twelve hundred acres and was well watered and tended. The grounds boasted acres of fruit trees, flower gardens, fountains, wooded groves and large open spaces. There were also three stocked fish ponds and a rifle range, as well as full sized polo and soccer fields.
As they came closer, the motorcade left the asphalt main road and was now entering the circular, marble drive that led to the main building proper. The marble made for a very smooth ride for the cars in the motorcade and Ernesto noticed that everything had gotten deathly quiet inside their car.
"It's just my nerves," he thought.
"We've driven up these drives dozens and dozens of times and it's always this quiet."
The quiet was broken by the President himself.
"Look, Ernesto, they have all the servants out to greet us. Pretend you are the reviewing officer when we get out and let me know what you think. Dont go easy on them.
"Also, are you ready to fish right now, or do you want to eat first?" the President asked as he sat up and the motorcade began to come to a stop.
Then Ernesto saw a peculiar look pass over the President's face. He did not appreciate it and had no way of knowing that the President had a sixth sense that had served him well over the many decades. Ever since the Cuban revolution, the President had developed a knack of knowing when danger was present and he paid heed to the unspoken, instinctual warnings as religiously as any pious church parishner listened to his priest.
Leaning forward rapidly, the President rapped hard on the window and shouted, "Manual, pronto, get us out of here now!"
The driver turned and saw the look on his President's face and needed no more. He turned the wheel sharply and stepped on the gas.
As he did, the President began to sit back. A look of understanding and then unadulterated hatred passed over his features as he glanced quickly at Ernesto and his father.
Then the firing started outside of the car.
April 12, 2009, that same time
40 km outside of Havana, Cuba
Hernando was just about to give the signal to attack when the Presidential limo suddenly turned its wheels sharply and sped up. In an instant it had grazed the security car in front of it and begun to fishtail.
Disregarding the need for hand motions, Hernando sent the rally signal to his other four team members outside the estate and then shouted in Spanish to those around him.
The eight Cubans who were working for the point of contact were positioned near each of the eight guards of the Cuban internal security detachment. They immediately drew their weapons from under their clothing and fired on their assigned targets.
Seven of those security personnel went down immediately, at which time they were dispatched by a second shot to the head. Those seven insurgents then began running from their various positions towards the main building to take up covering fire positions in support of the Rangers.
One of the security detachment, being in a position to see the Presidential limo make its sudden move, was alerted and prepared when the posing worker began to draw his weapon. He used his sub-machine gun and killed the rebel before his weapon could be drawn. This Cuban security guard now ran to the sound of gunfire to enter the firefight on the side of the Cuban security detachment arriving with the President.
Back at the main building, as his Cuban allies were cutting down most of the internal security detachment, Sergeant Rodriguez and his men went into action.
Two of his men dropped to the earth and immediately pulled compact Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) launchers from behind bushes where they had been hidden and opened fire at the leading and trailing security cars.
Both cars had already come to a complete stop and the three personnel were trying to pile out of them when the small rockets, meant to destroy armored personnel carriers, hit the cars and detonated. The resulting explosions and infernos completely destroyed the two cars and killed four of the six personnel outright and severely wounded the other two, who were thrown several yards away from the carnage where they lay unconscious.
While this was occurring, the Presidential limo, which had clipped the security car in front of it and fishtailed halfway around, came out of the fishtail just in time to slam sideways into the wreckage of the leading security vehicle that had just been destroyed by one of the RPG's. Pushing the wreckage several feet, the limo came to a rest next to the burning vehicle where its engine stalled and would not restart.
All of the occupants of the limo were thrown violently up against that side of the car. Ernesto's father was knocked unconscious when the President was thrown into him, knocking his head hard up against the leaded glass. The President was stunned and began to disengage himself from the unconscious man, only to find himself facing Ernesto, who was fully conscious and who had pulled out the six inch switch-blade knife that the President himself had given him three years earlier on his twelfth birthday, and which the President allowed him to carry wherever he went.
Meanwhile, the firefight outside the car intensified. One of the Rangers with an RPG was able to fire a second round and take out the security car that had been trailing directly behind the Presidential limo. That car had stopped and its occupants had gotten out and opened fire at Hernando's other Ranger companion and stitched him across the chest and in the legs, knocking him to the ground, mortally wounded.
The impact of the RPG on this car killed all three of the Cuban personnel there and set off another large explosion as it penetrated through to the gas tank.
This left the last security car and the single remaining internal security guard, all of whom had now had several seconds to take up positions away from the last car and fire on their attackers. They were trying desperately to defend the Presidential limo which was still stalled next to the wrecked and burning leading security car.
Before fire could be brought to bear on them, these four men had hit and killed four of their Cuban attackers and wounded the other Ranger who was carrying an RPG. But then the firepower of the last two Rangers and the four remaining Cubans took effect.
Caught between the remaining Rangers and the insurgents, the Cuban security personnel found themselves trapped in a deadly crossfire which included another RPG round. With three of their numbers down, the last man raised his hands, threw down his weapon and surrendered. The entire firefight had taken less than two minutes.
As Hernando rapidly organized his remaining force to cover the stalled limo and extract its passengers, he heard the unmistakable sound of rotors approaching rapidly from the west. Looking in that direction, he saw the easily recognizable silhouette of a HIND-D helicopter coming their way, its weapons pods filled with rockets and guns.
"I thought the Air Force was supposed to take care of those guys," he commented to no on in particular, as he began issuing orders for the remaining men to take cover.
At a distance of a mile, smoke puffs around the larger pods, and small amounts of smoke from the right side of the chin of the helicopter, announced that rocket and gun fire were coming their way.
"Those idiots are going to kill their own President!" Hernando screamed in frustration as the helicopter made its first pass, explosions resounding and buffeting them from either side. As the helicopter passed over, the men exited from their cover and fired at it from underneath, hoping to disable or destroy it. But there was no visible effect and the chopper began circling around for another pass.
Then, from well up in the clouds, a very bright light quickly fell through the clouds and made a bee line for the HIND. Impacting directly behind the rotor, an AMRAMM missile literally blew off the blades of the helicopter which then fell like a duck shot out of the air, impacting with a deafening explosion in the countryside, a quarter mile on the other side of the estate wall to the east.
A cheer went up from the remaining fighters as they now surrounded the limo and demanded in Spanish for the occupants to give themselves up and exit.
There was a muffled response from inside and two of the men rushed over and opened the left passenger door. Once it was completely opened and covered by three of the fighters, a befuddled and ruffled Cuban President exited the vehicle holding his left arm tightly which was bleeding heavily from a deep cut wound running from just below the shoulder almost to the elbow.
Then Ernesto exited the vehicle, holding his knife to his side and smiling broadly. Guessing that he was the leader by his demeanor and the way he carried himself, Ernesto approached Sergeant Rodriguez and spoke to him.
"I present to you El Presidente. My name is Ernesto Contrerez."
Hernando could still see the younger, six year old Ernesto in this young man, remembering him from the evenings when he and his parents would stand vigil outside Ernesto's uncle's house in 1999 in Miami. After having two men secure the Cuban President and tend to his wound, the Sergeant turned to Ernesto and responded.
"Ernesto, I am Sergeant Hernando Rodriguez, U.S. Army Rangers. An aircraft will be here very soon to take the President away. We have been asked to bring you with us, my friend, back to your relatives in Miami.
"Will you come?"
Ernesto considered this, smiling broadly. He had dreamed of this day. Then, thinking of his father, and the opportunity that true freedom might afford him, he answered the American.
"If you will get my father out of the limo
he is injured
and bring him with us, I will go with you."
Hernando did not have to think twice about it. He ordered two of the Cubans to bring Ernesto's father out of the limo, rig up a litter and carry him the three hundred yards over to their planned extraction point.
As they did so, Hernando saw that his other four team members had successfully entered the estate and were approaching from the north. He also noticed through the breaks in the clouds above them, that lazy circular contrail patterns were being drawn on the canvas of the sky by circling fighter aircraft, F-15C Eagles of the U.S. Air Force.
"Those fly boys did take care of business," he thought.
"I just love it when a plan comes together," he said to the unwounded Ranger as he nodded his head upward, to the contrails above.
And then another sound came to them as they stood there near the main building on the estate. It came low over the hills and over the estate walls to the north. It was
the sound of an approaching Special Forces Osprey aircraft, just like the one that had inserted Hernando and his team into Cuba on the 7th, only five days ago. Approaching rapidly, it flared over head and then descended vertically to the ground at the designated landing zone.
Within three minutes everyone was on board, including Hernando's team, the now deposed Cuban leader, Ernesto and his father, the wounded Ranger and the body of the dead Ranger. After all of them were on board, the Osprey took off and within another five minutes was well out over the Ocean, escorted by no less than fifteen American fighter aircraft, flying towards the United States where the Attorney General and Homeland Security officials were waiting to arrest and detain the Cuban President for his crimes against the people of the United States.