(above: most recent intel photo of the HVT from his social media accounts)
Around 2130 Zulu on 24 December, the 3rd Battalion of the 25th Infantry conducted a deliberate attack on Objective Yeti at grid SC69641519. The mission was to capture or kill a high-value target (HVT) with many aliases, among them Babbo Natale, Julenisse, and Saint Nikolaus. The following is the account of Lieutenant Colonel Chris Noel, commander of Task Force 3/25 during Operation Insensible Havoc.
I’d love for one of these chickenhawk armchair quarterbacks to wear my Danner boots for just one minute. Try juggling the air assault of two companies onto a contested landing zone, the movement of two dozen helicopters, supporting artillery, and close air support – all while flying above the battle space in a command and control helo and talking on four radios. The full moon and bright shimmering Northern Lights negated the need for night vision devices. I was so absorbed with making sure my ground element landed safely, that I didn’t hear the warning from my pilot. “What was that, John?”
“Gold Six just got shot down, sir. Last thing he said was, watch out for the red light.” We began wide orbits above the two rifle companies.
The staff captain next to me chimed in. “What the hell does that mean?”
“Nothing, Gish,” I said. “Continue as planned. What’s A Company’s status?”
“Their commander was hit on the landing zone, sir. The XO is taking over and encountering heavy resistance. To their east, C Company still hasn’t made contact with the enemy.”
“Annan,” I told the Fire Support Officer, “I want artillery to paste everything to the west, north, and east of A Company.”
“On it, sir.” She was one hell of an artist with artillery. In five minutes, I looked out the window to see a horseshoe of explosions around my embattled A Company. To their northeast, C Company cut the miniature train line connecting the factory at Objective Yeti with the elves’ barracks, and was almost at their assault position. Still no enemy contact for C Co.; this was worrisome.
“Crazyhorse Six, this is Abu Five,” A Company’s acting commander called me. She had to yell into her radio mike to be heard over the background noise of a raging firefight. “We’re advancing again, but it looks like some leakers escaped north towards Yeti, over.”
“Roger. Keep an eye out, I think Red just shot down Gold Six.”
“Crazyhorse, this is Abu Five, be advised, my Blue element just got hit by suicide sleigh borne IED, but minimal casualties, over.”
“Basher is on station, sir!” My terminal attack controller looked like he’d just won the lottery, announcing that the AC-130 had finally arrived. The four-engine transport plane bristled with cannons that could flatten one city block every thirty seconds. Looking up, I saw him enter a shallow left turn to bring his guns to bear. Then I saw three much smaller specks appear out of a cloud.
“Crazyhorse, this is Basher – damn it! Departing station – looks like we found Donder, Dasher, and Blixem. Ten to twelve points on their antlers, big sons of bitches. One of them just tried to ram my starboard -” A high-pitched squeal over the radio net. Then a dirty fireball that cascaded down from 15,000 feet, leaving a greasy trail that marred the aurora.
I didn’t have to say anything to John, who wrenched our bird as low to the snowy steppe as he dared. The TAC threw up all over himself and his radios. Annan looked paler than usual and held the side supports of her seat in a death grip. Gish stared at the Blue Force Tracker as if divining something from the screen. I’m not too proud to admit, I almost wet myself while we plunged from 4,000 to 50 feet above the ground in what felt like only two seconds.
“Annan, tell the guns to cease fire so the jets can come in. TAC, I want fighters here like yesterday! Make it happen.” Both got on their radios. A flash and thin stream of white smoke streaked past my helicopter, then a roar audible even through my noise canceling headset as two F-22 Raptors chased the marauding reindeer. But where the hell was Red?
“Splash one,” an exultant Raptor pilot said. One of his missiles connected, leaving a small black cloud and smoldering pieces of reindeer meat.
The lead Raptor zoomed up, silhouetted against the moon, chandelled back down, and literally shot Donder in the face with another Sidewinder.
The third reindeer clawed its way towards the wingman. “The hell, he’s trying to chew my stabilizer off!”
“Monster, I can’t get him without shooting you.”
“Shoot, Irish! I’m ejecting!”
Irish’s Sidewinder obliterated both Monster’s $200 million jet and one murderous reindeer. Monster floated down towards C Company in his parachute.
“This is Bone. Bombs away.” God love the B-1 bomber crews. They were so high you couldn’t see them, but they laid waste to the house and factory on Objective Yeti with thirty 2,000 pound JDAMs. It looked like Hiroshima in the Arctic.
As soon as the smoke on Yeti began to clear, all hell broke loose around C Company. Elves in red and green striped footie pajamas emerged from underground bunkers that had hidden them from our recon drones. They rushed headlong into C Company in a Christmasy version of the human wave attacks my grandfather fought off in Vietnam. The elves opened fire so close that C Company couldn’t even call for supporting arms. The little bastards threw everything at C Company: rocket propelled grenades, machine guns, rifles, even pistols that were supposed to have been presents for cops. It would’ve been an absolute slaughter, but thank Odin, elves have never been the best marksmen. C Company methodically returned accurate fire despite being outnumbered five to one, and slowly gained fire superiority. The elves left a colorful trail of casualties as they withdrew from their failed ambush.
“Abu Five,” I called A Company, “can you move northeast to help Claymore, while also blocking the road to the west?”
“That’s affirm, Crazyhorse. Detaching Abu Red and White to support Claymore – BREAK, BREAK! RED IS IN THE AIR, COMING AT ME FROM THE WEST!” And that was my last radio contact with A Company.
“This is Irish, I have eyes on target!” Another missile shot out from the remaining F-22. We watched it hit with a tiny explosion, watched Red’s front left leg separate from his body, then watched the beast’s nose light up. Irish didn’t have a chance. Whatever directed energy weapon Red had in his snout tore Irish’s wings off, and he spun into the steppe without ejecting.
“John, get us the hell out of here,” I yelled at the pilot, who was already doing just that.
The crew chief next to me pointed past the tail rotor. “Colonel, he’s behind us!”
“Can you get a shot?” John leveled the bird and turned right so the crew chief could bring his machine gun to bear. He got off one quick burst before our world became bright red for a second. In the next second, the engines started winding down, and the acrid smell of burnt wiring filled the cabin.
It took all of John’s skill to autorotate, not crash nose down at ninety knots. We hit the ground so hard that everyone’s seat collapsed on its support struts. The burning smell was replaced by the smell of jet fuel spurting from ruptured tanks. “Everybody off the helo! Right now!”
My staff, such as it was, unassed the bird in record time. The crew chiefs brought their machine guns, and the pilots hauled as much MG ammo as they could. Gish, Annan, and I removed the working radios and regained communication with the rest of the task force. Even the Air Force TAC lent a hand, scanning the skies for the crew chiefs and pilots.
Our HVT was down to six reindeer, but intel showed that he only needed five to take off with a fully loaded sleigh.
“This is Bugs, you kids need some help down there?” Bugs (it stands for Boobs Under G-Suit – don’t ask, or someone might lodge a SHARP complaint) was an A-10 pilot who had supported my units so often over the years, I reckoned I knew her voice almost as well as my wife’s. What I knew even better, however, were the whine of her jet’s engines and the sound of that wonderful GAU-8 cannon.
BRRRRRRT. It was like Thor’s hammer slapping reindeer, but with 30mm depleted uranium shells, which is infinitely better. BRRRRRRT. One more reindeer turned into mince pie for the polar bears. Red’s nose would shine no more.
“He’s in the air!”
“Who’s in the air?”
“The HVT – Sinterklaas. He’s got four – no, five – reindeer. Looks like he’s dropping bombs on Abu.”
“I see that fat SOB at the controls. Bugs is in hot. Rogue Eight, follow me in trail.”
BRRRRRRT. Then BRRRRRRT. Then BRRRRRRT again, as the Rogues made repeated gun runs. Through my binoculars, I could see that they’d shot one skid off, and two of the reindeer hung limply in their harnesses. The sleigh began to fly erratically, without enough reindeer power to remain airborne. The next pass settled the HVT’s hash for good. I swear I saw pieces of white beard through the mini explosions of 30mm DU rounds hitting the sleigh. Gaily wrapped presents, a red stocking cap, and chunks of lacquered oak were all that were left after the Rogues climbed away.
B Company, which I’d held in reserve, finished the fight. They air assaulted astride the most likely ratline for the HVT and his helpers, and blocked the elves’ escape with four platoons of pissed off infantrymen. Even though they’d missed most of the fight, they made up for it on any elves who didn’t seem to want to surrender. The resulting one-sided fight was like watching a baby wildebeest fight off a whole pride of hungry lions.
We spent the rest of the night consolidating and reorganizing, and combing the ruins of Yeti for actionable intel on other HVTs. The noose was tightening around a Middle Eastern rabble rouser who was building an insurgent force on the banks of the Jordan. This HVT, whom we only knew as the Carpenter, had know he was next. He and his twelve guerrillas would undoubtedly meet me and my soldiers on some dark Gallileean night.
Sherman was right. The war on Christmas is hell. Happy holidays from Task Force Crazyhorse.