By Rob Carter
Imagine if you will a time in the future when nations are willing to work together to stop the actions of those who undermine and disregard basic human rights. No longer only employing military force solely as an instrument of military power to reinforce a single nation’s diplomatic or economic agenda, but now working together to assemble a quick reaction force until multinational peacekeeping forces can be employed. Nations are willing to use military power to halt genocide, border expansion/incursions, and terrorist group expansion in unstable regions of the world. Members of this force draw on the models from Greek and Irish mythology for the justice that they bring. In Greek mythology, Harpies were seen as personifications of the destructive forces of the wind. They were viewed as the servants of Zeus who would swoop down and steal food from those who have done wrong, and punish those whom Zeus was unhappy with or had killed a member of their family. In Irish tradition a banshee, a wailing and shrieking woman, comes to let a family know that one of them will die. In this time our military is able to come screaming in and help restore order in certain places…
Half asleep I roll over, hand reaching up to my head as if that will bring the answer to mind more quickly. “Think, think, think…” What do I do to answer the call as I can hear it in my head even though the words are not “out loud”? Running through the process as I just received the message as it travels from the embedded transmitter, sending the sounds though vibrations in my cheek bones to my still asleep brain. Memory engaged, I go through the motions to be able to respond through the other surgical implants added to my face. Slide upper muscle up under nose forward, begin to speak, and my words are transmitted to the Command Post, CP. “Here, message received, will be in for brief in 30 minutes.”
“Response verified, roger, out.”
Looking over at my spouse still sleeping or appearing to, I marvel at how easy that call was once I woke up and remembered what to do. I move over to the closet to pull out my duty uniform wishing yet again that I would get smart enough to just put everything on one hanger.
“If you are trying to be quiet it’s not working.”
“Got it, have to head in, we have an alert.”
“Once you get the whole being quiet down I will be able to appreciate you being able to answer people speaking in your head.”
“Ha, technically it is through my bones, but I get what you are saying.”
“Where to, can you say?”
“Not yet, once I know and I can let you know, will share, though you may catch it on the news first.”
“That’s what they say about you Banshees, we know where you are after the screaming has begun.”
Bending over, always wondering if my next view will be of his head greeting me with a kiss because I am waking up from time in the healing sphere, and the mission went south. I give John a light kiss and squeeze his shoulder before I head out. “See you soon, love you.” He rolls over, “Love you to, make it back soon as you can.” Turning around, I grab my boots and head out to the lift. I program in where I need to be and sit back and start to scroll through messages. Looks like the whole team has been alerted and we are all heading in for the Mission Brief at the CP.
We were supposed to be HARPIES, or the High Altitude Rocket Propelled Internal Engagement System, a force sent by the government to go and make things better on short notice anywhere in the world. But the technology that placed us on the field, the noise from our chutes and silos deescalating have given us the label Banshee, and that is what I have painted in the side of my command column and how most everyone referred to the unit. We are the new definition of the best of the best, a level of engagement and selection even higher than those serving in the Navy SEALS, Air Force Pararescue, Ranger battalions, Special Forces, and Delta Force back in my grandfather’s day. As hard as women had to struggle to get their chance there, we rule in the silos since our bodies are more compact and have been proved to be able to operate better in the high-g environment. The focus it takes to execute all of the tasks necessary to deploy the assets that have loaded into the columns that come together to build each deployable silo just seems to be something women have a knack for. Unfortunately, we are still heading to the same places, and trying to keep the conflicts that have been simmering for years from spilling over and bringing us to another world war since the days of conventional deployments of special forces and large numbers of ground troops.
Getting to the room for the mission brief I am glad to see everyone else is already there. I move up to my seat before the podium after a quick glance at my number two and get the thumbs up.
“All present and prepared for the brief Commander.” I
It all goes by in a blur, much of it I will review as we are traveling in the silo to be deployed, this time along the Turkey-Syria border. We grew from the idea of having mobile towers along the U.S. Mexican border, then someone added having us be deployable by air, and the next logical addition was to send us by rocket. Our current configuration is a combination of air and rocket delivery systems.
As soon as we heard what we had to from the command brief we all shook out the last vestiges of sleep, texted our goodbyes and moved out to get what we needed from our lockers and head to the airfield to link up with the teams who made the final adjustments to assemble our silos, making them ready for launch. I was so glad that so much of what used to be required for logistical and mission support is now automated. Only four hours to prep, and then 14 hours of travel, and we would be descending into our positions and defending those who are not able to themselves. The politics have swung all the way from only engaging the military when there were resources needed at risk, to being willing to use our silos to set up defensive perimeters to readily defend those who were at the mercy of terrorists, warlords, and rogue nations. We just needed to get there, use our deployable armaments to create a zone where peace was enforced and stay until the UN and or NATO forces were able to deploy and help reestablish a government reflecting the will of the people.
Moving out from the locker room to the loading area I am always amazed as the docks roll up over each of the preloaded compartments, what we called columns, and pick them up so they are ready to be assembled into a silo and dropped into position on the cradle for their “plane” to pick them up and carry us into the upper atmosphere where we launch and travel to our target reference points for the mission. Seeing them roll out the columns is always something that makes me feel like a kid. Each silo is made up of a Command Module that takes up position 3, we have choices about what can be in 1 or 2, and 5, or 6. 4 is always filled with life support. Each of us gets to decide what the mix of items will be, 90 percent of the column is food and water, 10 percent is what we put in for comfort items. Mine is all chocolate. It’s always interesting to see what mix my husband has packed for me in the box that goes there, it is one of the ways he stays with me while out on the mission. For this mission I am loading out Column 1 with Arial, 2 with antipersonnel drones, 5 is reloads for ammunition, and 6 is a mix of antipersonnel mines and additional missiles for the Arial drones. They say one silo is the equivalent of the firepower that used to be projected by an entire brigade and can cover the same area that used to be secured by a full infantry division. Which is really only true when you factor in the fear our presence brings.
Americans are tired of seeing the same bad people able to do the same bad things in the same places all over the world. With the payload that we can carry the Banshees are part of the solution our government is now willing to pay to help bring peace to the world, and we are not having to see so many refugees come to our shores as the only hope they have for a better way of life. Getting contributions from other nations to help pay for the payload has helped the American people more easily swallow the responsibility that comes with the cost of being the global cop. As our nation has continued to draw refugees from the places we fought there are now second and third generation citizens in our country who would like to see change and peace back in the nations that they have come from. There are the children of immigrants who came here after the U.S. pulled out of Syria in 2019, some now elected to Congress, and who have been lobbying to see us reengage with the region. The descendants of these war refugees do not want to see a repeat of the lack of engagement or interest.
Knowing the coordinates for the mission are already loaded, and everything we need is in the columns, we each shake hands and climb into our command columns before the silos are set for takeoff and delivery. Each column locks together, is lifted and carried over the aircraft using a monstrously huge system similar to that used to move containers off of a ship and around the shipyard. Once bought over to the airframe it clicks into the fuselage, really just a nose, tail, and wings, and we are just a passenger until we reach the elevation and location for the drop and the rockets kick in for the last leg of the journey before we reenter the atmosphere and slow down for emplacement on the ground.
“Banshee 1, release point reached, prepare for drop”
“Carriage 4, Ready, see you when we get back to base.”
“Banshee 1, counting on it, you can let us know what winter along the Syria Turkey Border looks like, and if that is a future vacation destination spot we should be considering.”
“Carriage 4, probably not, but I will let you know.”
Always a slight jerk and pull back into the gyro harness as the jet kicks in and we make the journey up. I start to click through the screens and look at the tactical layout. All coordinates were in, and it looks like we are landing in a standard diamond pattern. I’ll be right in a bend of the Euphrates River, hoping that the engineers have the soil pattern right and that I will be able to level out the silo as it digs in, really hoping that their maps and satellite images are accurate and that I am on the ground and not in the water. That happened once and it was not a fun time.
I have never been on the receiving end of a Banshee deployment, but I have seen the tapes, and ridden in the silos twice now so I can imagine the fear they bring to the battlefield. At night, like today, we start as a burning spot in the sky, then there is the screeching of reentry and the vibrations that push the sound down as we tear through the sky and begin to glide so we can deaccelerate. As we slow down and come into the range where we will be emplaced the rocket section on our tail begins to flower out and act as an additional break, creating even more noise, and then the rocket and fuel disengage. Then the pack with all of the chutes opens, but this can be the most dangerous time when we are slow enough now to be hit by anti-air fire. Next comes the most nerve wracking part, engaging the drill and ensuring we maintain an upright position. The noise outside ratchets up again as the gears grind the column into the earth pushing out the soil and building a berm around the silo as it gets planted into the overwatch position for the mission.
“Horizon Control this is Banshee 1, downward descent started, chute deployed and preparing to target security position for initial deployment. Coordinates are green, over.”
“Banshee 1, this is Horizon Control, Banshee 2 and 4 are in position, 3 still airborne you are cleared for emplacement. Out.”
Looking up at the screen I verify that we are still on the trajectories and plan from the mission brief. I see the target is aligned for a clear patch, off to the East I see Manbij and to my right the Euphrates River as I continue to deaccelerate upon reentry. I cut the cables and ignite the parachute, screaming back to earth ensconced in silken flames.
The initial crunch from impact subsides, and then the drill burrows into the earth until only the last stage is barely above ground. While this is happening I release six of the 14 aerial drones within my payload to begin their sweep along my area of responsibility which runs from the border from the Euphrates to just outside Aleppo. My primary mission is to eliminate any armed threats between M4 highway and the border, and then ensure that we have a secure route along M4 to Latakia. Once there, our resources will be picked up after the mission, containerized, and shipped back through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic back home to the U.S.
“Horizon Control, Banshee 1 in position, prepared to assume control from the ground, 2, 3, and 4 locked in and beginning to secure their Zulu Charlies.”
“Roger Banshee 1, cleared to fire upon all armed elements that engage your assets, leaflets dropped 12 hours ago, so both picture and written descriptions for your forces and intent have been distributed to local nationals. Anticipate UN peacekeepr forces arriving in six to eight hours from African nations, and forces from our NATO partners will be landing in Aleppo within the next four. They will secure the airfield and then you can begin to focus on your egress route. Anticipate your control of the area secured at Splash + 12, egress prep NET Splash + 36. Priority 1 eliminate armed hostile targets Priority 2 ensure Medical, Industrial, and Cultural sites protected, Priority 3 egress route choke points. All known anti-aircraft locations strafed and destroyed prior to you entry. Be prepared to engage portable surface-to-air missiles we did not have knowledge of. Acknowledge, over.”
“Horizon 1, Roll Call acknowledge, Banshee 1, out.”
“Banshee 2, out.”
“Banshee 3, out.”
“Banshee 4, out.”
I rotated the aerial drones out twice, engaged several targets, set the mines up around the silo, and then began to secure the industrial areas that were on my priority target list. Sometimes it seems like a video game, switching views between the eyes from the aerial cameras to those on the Rack drones crawling cross country to ensure M4 is clear for transport. Each Rack features three turrets with a belly full of ammunition on a tracked chassis. They run off compressed solid fuel and all of the munitions are inert until fired. This allows them to take a real beating during transport and while conducting missions. I generally pair one rack with an aerial drone, keeping the drone in a race track pattern to be able to serve as eyes above the hilltops and horizon and provide overwatch if engaged. In my column I use the screens in the same orientation as where I have sent them to keep track, which keeps my gyro moving as I get alerts either because of the country they are crossing, or as they are engaged by hostiles.
The willingness of the UN to support our employment here, and the force we are capable of generating made this mission less of a force-on-force affair than we had expected. Most of those engaging us seem to be at the tail end of a withdrawal, they must have started pulling back as soon as they had reports the UN had sanctioned our use and that we were on the way in response to their crossing the border in violation of the Accords that had reestablished the borders back to 2018 lines.
Banshee 3 is reporting that they are seeing a buildup South of Killis Merkez and Banshee 4 sees those in her vicinity pulling back to beyond Mardin.
“Banshee 1, to Horizon Control, we have cleared all marked vehicles out of our ZC, working now for consolidation and elimination of unmarked and local forces that supported the incursion.”
Moving across the controls, the drones identify targets, fly in to receive reloads, or get recharged before they go back out again to be my eyes. The Racks move through the villages, and over the countryside ensuring that there are no surprises, weapons caches, hidden troops, or sites that need to be checked for Law of Armed Conflict violations. Hard to believe that just 28 hours ago I was sleeping back home with my husband. The next 30 hours go by in a rush as we clear our AC, coordinate with Horizon 1, and prepare to hand off the mission to the UN forces who will be the boots on the ground to help them begin the process to rebuild while the UN works through the consequences of this incursion.
“Banshee 1 this is Horizon Control, Airfield Secure, I repeat Airfield Secure, begin to program for pickup and departure, Acknowledge, over.”
“Horizon 1, Roll Call acknowledge, Banshee 1, out.”
“Banshee 2, out.”
“Banshee 3, out.”
“Banshee 4, out.”
46 hours, not 46 Days, or 46 Months, gratefully not 46 years and we have ensured a peaceful resolution to the border incursion. If we had existed back in the day there would have been no need for a Desert Storm build up. We could have halted the expansion of Russia into the Crimea, but we probably would not have had that much effect on China’s Taiwan invasion. But at least this mission today is a win. Getting an aggressor to back down, and no loss of life on our side, is a win.
I check the screen so I can see when the hook will arrive, and I start the process to move the assets I brought in the silo to the seaport of debarkation, Latakia. I bring in all the birds, reload them with what armaments I still have on hand. Whatever is left is moved onto sleds and those get hooked behind the Racks and they start their journey down M4.
Watching the screen I can see as the hook draws closer, I pull the switch and the floor and ceiling of Column 1 and 2 blow up an out and the command column begins to slide up towards the top. It is an agonizing sound, like the scraping of nails on a chalkboard, some say that is the revenge of the engineers who designed this system, and then found out they could never be considered to use it, as the command column moves up through those now empty and hollow columns and moves above ground to be grabbed by the hook that comes to retrieve us. Looking off to the North East I can see it coming in, and feel my heart beating faster as it comes down and hovers above my position for pick up.
“Banshee 1, Hook 1 prepare for retrieval”
“Hook 1, this is Banshee 1, released from Silo, ready for lift.”
A short jerk then a pause and then the command column lifts off of the silo. I click the internal destruction switch and as we pull off and out to the container ship waiting for our team off in the Mediterranean. There is a flame up and then implosion as the charges blow the silo, and then the wracking of the earth as the mines deployed around the silo all go off The earth churns around in the area and collapses to erase evidence that the silo had ever been there. In a few years as nature reclaims the now churned up ground nothing but the personal memory of those who saw us come will mark that we were ever there, so long as other nations do their part to maintain the stability we earned.
I look out the port side screen as we pass through the airspace around Latakia. As Hook 1 moves over the water to the ship where we will all land, I see the Blue Beach off on a peninsula and imagine how much better of a world it would be if some rest and relaxation is what had brought me here. When I get back Stateside, I think that is what we will do. John and I will head to the Beach, and I will take some leave and sit out by the ocean, sipping drinks off the drink cart, and alternating between napping and spending time in the ocean to rest and recharge until the next time we are needed.
Rob Carter serves as a chaplain for Montefiore Nyack Hospital, Nyack, New York, leads Lutheran Worship at the Old Cadet Chapel, USMA, and serves in the Army Reserve as the Command Chaplain for the 377th TSC.
Featured Image: “Rocket Launch” by Stefan Kreller via Artstation