The Troops Ship Out
Upol Military Base
Saturday, January 4th, 2020, 8:20 AM
General Avery Reynolds of the Zamastanian Armed Forces stood in his headquarters in Vulkar. Situated at the Upol Military Base, he gazed over the spread maps on his war room desk. Part of him couldn’t believe so many troops were back in Vulkaria after so long, but then again, he had never left his station. Having been the head of Zamastanian command in Vulkaria since the 2017 uprising began, he had seen dozens of soldiers fall, thousands of bombs dropped, and still the Malvarian Liberation Front continued to hold ground. For Reynolds, it was about time that the troops went on the offensive.
Reynolds had been at the Zamastanian Embassy two days ago, January 2nd, 2020. He witnessed security forces rush across the city to aid the hundreds of injured after the M.L.F. bombed embassies and schools and apartment buildings. Across the IDU, thousands of people had been killed. Reynolds’ own city of Providence had been attacked. Now that President Sakzi had committed forces to the destruction of the terrorists in Vulkaria, Reynolds was in command of all Coalition operations.
“General Reynolds, are we good to go?” A deep, stern voice said over the video monitor on the wall. President Sakzi and three other men were on the television in four separate corners for the conference call before coordinating the assaults on insurgent held territories. Among those on the conference call were General Chase Lyons, who would be controlling forces from Vulkar. His contingent was set up a few buildings down on the base. The other two were Godenia Command, General Ollie Reeves, and Lacarno Command, General Bond Wolfe. Wolfe was waiting for coalition forces to meet with the Zamastanians in Lacarno.
“Ready to go, Mister President.” Reynolds said. He switched his projection on the screen to the satellite images of Freeborn, the first major city in the insurgent controlled area, only 18 miles away from Vulkar. “This is Freeborn, the first city the Coalition will target. We have a contingent of Shen and Maximusian forces ready under command to proceed with an assault.”
“What do defenses look like,” Lyons asked, “is there any change from yesterday’s positions?”
“No significant change in the troop numbers,” Reynolds stated, “however, they have moved artillery pieces into position.”
“Heavy?” questioned President Sakzi.
“Yessir,” Reynolds responded. “Rocket placements can hit Vulkar from there, and there are also howitzer models in place. Either one can hit Vulkar.”
“If they have the capability to hit Vulkar, why aren’t they?” asked Wolfe.
“It’s possible they’re waiting for the first wave of attacking forces. They’ve also set up within the city, so they don’t want to get hit by airstrikes.”
“Too dense for airstrikes?” President Sakzi quizzed, looking concerned. “I don’t want airstrikes in there in the risk of civilian casualties is too high.”
“That, and that they’ve also positioned anti-air turrets across the city too. We just don’t have determinations on their exact locations because they’re constantly moving on flatbed trucks. Any airstrike in Freeborn runs the risk of collateral damage and the loss of aircraft.”
“So,” Lyons spoke up, “ground forces will need to get rid of those artillery pieces.”
“That’s probably the move,” sighed Reynolds.
“You have green light to move,” Sakzi said, leaning back in his desk seat through the monitor. “The sooner we capture Freeborn, then we can move onto the rest of the highway. The offensive will be a lot better off once we’re moving.”
“I agree, Mister President.”
The four men signed off of the monitor, leaving General Reynolds to look over his maps again.
Elsewhere on the Base
10,000 soldiers were lined up in rows, boarding and packing trucks, tanks, helicopters, and cargo jets for the offensives soon to be underway across the nation. Lieutenant Colonel Emmett Marsh stood in front of his battalion of 500 soldiers on the tarmac, waiting with his men to board helicopters that would take them to a staging areas right outside of Freeborn. Soon, he and his men would be engaging enemy fighters in an attempt to take the city.
“Alright men,” Marsh said loudly over the sound of propellers and motors roaring, “hours from now, we will be in hostile territory. We’re in this for the long haul. We’re doing this for everyone back home. We’re doing this for everyone we’ve lost and everyone our loved ones have lost. We’re gonna give em’ some hearty pay back, am I right?”
His men snapped to attention and shouted. “Yes sir!”
The soldiers grabbed their heavy backpacks, heaved them onto their backs, picked up their rifles, and one by one, boarded the helicopters. They were angsty for a fight - the first time most of them had seen combat. Zamastanian troops had not been deployed in full force since 2005, and the 15-year long wait had made them anxious to make a name for their team: the 46th Battalion.
Once they were at the staging area, command would meet with the Maximusian Command and the Shen Battalions to establish the framework of the assault. The capture of Freeborn was essential to securing the route into the heart of M.L.F. and V.N.A. controlled areas.
Forty Minutes Later
The city of Freeborn, population 17,000, sat two miles from the staging ground, across the Amden River. As the 46th Battalion disembarked from their choppers, they could see the smoke rising over the city from where the Zamastanian airstrikes had struck earlier. The muffled and distant sounds of explosions rocked the ground for only a slight moment as additional fighter jets roared overhead. The staging ground was established. On the terraced hill overlooking the city and the river valley sat 3,000 Zamastanian soldiers. Artillery, tanks, and vehicles clogged the highway leading into the city, stopped at a checkpoint just a few hundred meters to the south of the force's position. The supply and escort convoys would wait on the road until the city was captured, and then it was only a matter of time until the Coalition could move onto the next cities.
97 Miles Southwest
North of Lacarno
A lone Zamastanian helicopter raced over the hillside and into the open, sunny air of the dusty and dry Sangra Valley, leaving a trail and cloud of dirt rushing in a spiral loop following the chopper's low-to-ground take off. On board, 10 members of the Zamastanian Special Forces Unit reequipped themselves and took time to breathe, un buckling their seat belts to prepare for the landing and disembarkation. Zamastanian intelligence had picked up a high-value-target in a small isolated farm-house south of the city of Masenma.
"Ten seconds," shouted the pilot over the intercom. The helicopter descended quickly, leaving a butterfly feeling in the stomachs of the commandos. "Going hot in five, four, three, two..." The helicopter hit the ground with a thud, and the side doors swung open, leaving the soldiers to pour out into a dampened wheat field, their boots squishing in the shallow mud. Taking point, the lead commando signaled forward. The troops began hustling to a walled-compound, keeping themselves low and hunched so as not to be detected in the tall wheat.
"Flank right," the lead commando spoke softly into the intercom system. "They definetely saw the chopper, but if they haven't fired at us yet, they must be holed up inside."
"Copy," said another member of the unit. "Flanking right."
The team split out of the wheat plants and up against the brick wall of the compound.
"Looking for a door or breaching, sir?"
"Breaching. Place it."
A commando stuck the explosive device to the brick wall, stepping back and signalling to the others to get their guns up. Clicking the trigger, the wall exploded outwards in a quick but dusty blast, and the commandos poured into the compound.
"Contact!" the lead commando shouted, squeezing his trigger and emptying several rounds into a target standing dazed at the door. Checking his body as they took his position, they recognized the armband and weapon at his side to mean he was a M.L.F. member.
"Target is definitely in here," one commando spoke up.
"Get the door down," shouted the lead commando. "Flashes in, watch for kids."
Two soldiers started butting the wooden door with their weapon hilts, breaking a hole through the handle area and pushing the door open. One soldier threw a flash grenade inside, which detonated with a loud bang. Another soldier, who was standing point next to the door, opened fire inside. As the team moved in, two dead terrorists lay on the carpet. The screams of a woman shrieked through the house, but quickly the source was located and a woman and her small child were escorted out of the building. As they left the house, she shouted back at the soldiers,
"Please don't hurt him, he's upstairs behind the bed!"
"Upstairs! Go, go!"
Four members of the team flanked up the stairs rapidly, the lead commando firing an additional shot at a terrorist hiding behind a cupboard at the top of the stairs. As the team reached the landing, they positioned around the bedroom door, shouting for the target inside to surrender. In response, three bullets smashed through the wooden door, striking the wall opposite of the four commandos. Busting the door down, it was only a second more until additional gunfire into the room ceased the fighting. The team moved the bodies out of the compound, laying them in the courtyard. Picture identification and a fingerprint testing came back positive, and a DNA sample was taken along with the team to have further confirmation back at staging.
The helicopter landed once again in the wheat field, as the team dragged the body-bagged target into the aircraft with them.
"Target down," the lead commando radioed back to Command in Lacarno. "Target has been killed."
The helicopter rose from the compound and rushed back across the valley. Looking over the lush farm fields and dry, rocky mountains surrounding them, the soldiers only could wonder what the inevitable Coalition-led battles in this region would hold, and how long the terrorists could hold out for.
Zian Presidential Mansion
5 hours later
President Sakzi stood with his triumphant smile at the podium of the mansion's press room, greeting the media with the first major development of military operations in Vulkaria.
"My fellow Zamastanians and friends of the Coalition Forces, I can say with certainty and conclusion today that a team of our Special Forces has killed Bryn Matteo, a M.L.F. commander known as a crucial part of the group's command structure, the coordinator of and one of the perpetrators behind the 2017 Tofino Attacks. Matteo also was crucial to the planning of the January 2nd Attacks, and was known as one of the Malvarian Liberation Front's main recruiters and trainers. He was third in command of the terrorist group, and was planning many more attacks across the IDU and Vulkaria. Now, he is dead.
Our small ten-man strike team of special forces engaged him and his defenders at an isolated compound south of Masenma, taking four other terrorists down with him. We did not suffer a single injury or death. This is a good day for the Coalition forces as we prepare for the complete destruction and tear-down of the rebellious, deceitful and malicious terror groups in Northwest Vulkaria..."
Sakzi continued talking for a long while, soaking in the moment of celebration and pride he had as Commander-in-Chief. Soon, though, he would have to be back in the war room.