Shock & Awe
The FEMA camp that had become General Wei’s headquarters was a hive of activity. Wei sat on the rooftop of the former high school, an umbrella shading him from the warm May sun. As he sipped a sweetened ice tea, Wei watched with approval as his own troops combined their efforts with the men under Lanigan’s command. Surprisingly, despite the language barrier, the groups were working together quite effectively. A handful of the Chinese U.N. troops were capable English translators. Their abilities enabled the two groups to work together in a relatively seamless fashion. None of the Americans spoke either Mandarin or Cantonese.
That would come soon enough, Wei reckoned. In good time the United States would be a profitable Chinese colony … with Wei living a luxurious life as a feudal lord.
The general allowed himself a few moments to daydream about the possibilities while the work below progressed. In his typical fashion, the general jumped ahead in his mind glossing over the difficulties and challenges and focusing on the rewards.
Lanigan broke the general’s reverie, “We’re getting close, Wei.”
The general blinked his eyes and turned slowly to face Lanigan. The man had neither the respect to address the general by his title nor stand in front of him when speaking.
“What is left to do?” the general turned to face forward again leaving Lanigan to either speak to his back or walk around in front of him.
Lanigan rolled his eyes, wiped his brow and fantasized about a time in the not-too-distant future where he would gut this worthless slug like a fish.
Satisfied for the moment by his fantasy, Lanigan seated himself on an air conditioning unit just to the general’s right and then looked down on the scurrying men below.
“The M252A1’s … sorry, the mortars are all loaded up in the five-tons,” Lanigan began.
Wei despised the use of U.S. military nomenclature. Lanigan didn’t want to set the general off needlessly at this late stage of the game.
“How many do we have?” Wei ignored Lanigan’s use of the U.S. military designation for the mortars for the time being.
“We have sixteen fully operational launchers, four inoperable launchers for repair parts and a total of 180 mortar shells,” Lanigan reported.
Wei stroked his mustache, “Will that be adequate?”
Lanigan was silent for a moment then spoke somberly, “You know, Wei, I had a drill sergeant tell me back in Basic, there are only two times when you can have too much ammo … when you’re drowning and when you’re on fire. From all appearances, these guys we’re going up against are no pushover. I’d much rather have 1800 or 18,000 mortars than 180, but that’s what we have. It’s not like these things grow on trees.”
Wei bristled at the lecture from Lanigan, “Tell me about the rocket systems.”
“The M270 MLRS,” Lanigan began, purposefully using the U.S. Military nomenclature, “is an armored, self-propelled rocket launching system. We have a total of four pods with six missiles each – 32 of the M31 guided rockets – with an effective range of a little more than 25 miles.”
Wei nodded, grinning slightly. He wasn’t sure where Lanigan had come up with the mobile rocket launcher, but he liked the sound of it.
“The MLRS is our shock and awe,” Lanigan grinned a bit himself. “We can sit back 25 miles away and pound them into submission before they even know we’re in the area.”
“You have appropriate targets selected, I assume,” Wei’s tone was slightly condescending.
“Yeah, Wei, we had people all over their community mapping out prime target locations,” Lanigan returned the condescending tone and added a roll of his eyes. “This ain’t my first rodeo.”
Wei was confused by the idiom, but didn’t let on, “So, we soften their defenses with the rocket launcher and then move in with small arms to finish them off?”
“Not quite,” Lanigan shook his head and wondered how the general had survived as long as he had. “After we unleash the MLRS on them, we move to within mortar distance of the prime targets. We’ll hit them with a second wave of shock and awe and then clean up with small arms in close quarters battle if we have to.”
“What about the supplies?” Wei pressed Lanigan to find a hole in his plan. “Won’t they be destroyed in the shock and awe phase?”
“Not to any real extent,” Lanigan was confident. “According to our intelligence, most of the supplies are not stored in the houses. We hit the houses with shock and awe and leave the out buildings and fuel tanks untouched.”
“Your men are that accurate with the MLRS and mortars?” Wei was incredulous.
“We might be a tad off with the mortars, but the MLRS rockets will be as accurate as the coordinates we program into the computer,” Lanigan had seen the effectiveness of the M31 rockets during his tour in Afghanistan. The really good artillerymen could practically thread a needle with them. Although none of Lanigan’s men was that well versed in the M31, they would certainly be able to hit a target the size of a house with little collateral damage.
“Very well,” Wei clapped his hands together lightly. “What is our troop strength?”
“Between your men and mine, we’re right at 250 bodies,” Lanigan reported.
“And what do you estimate the troop strength of the Ameri …” Wei hesitated to call the group Americans thinking it might give Lanigan second thoughts. “What is their troop strength?”
“With men, women and children old enough to shoot … my best guess is close to the same,” Lanigan rubbed his jaw and looked off into the distance.
“Expected casualties from the shock and awe?” Wei was running through a checklist in his mind.
“Again … best guess … more than 50%,” Lanigan was matter-of-fact. He’d gotten past killing women and children decades ago during his first tour in Iraq. “If we catch them clustered in the houses early in the morning like we’re planning, that could go as high at 75 or 80%.”
“Very good,” Wei stroked his mustache again. “I like those odds much better.”
“You’re not alone,” Lanigan had finally found common ground with Wei. “We probed these guys’ response time and level and, based on the results of that probe, I have no intention of going head to head with nearly even odds – even if maybe 60% of those are women and children. They’re too good.”
“So, tell me Mr. Lanigan,” Wei was showing his teeth as he grinned, “when does the shock and awe show begin?”