Richard Herman The Warbirds

ISBN 13: 9780340624913

The Warbirds

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9780340624913: The Warbirds

Colonel Anthony "Muddy" Waters has a mission: to mold a company of poorly trained rogues and misfits into heroes. His assignment is one that no other officer in the United States Air Force would touch. But Waters has a fabled stubbornness and dedication unparalleled in the armed services ... and the will to make the impossible possible.

The Warbirds is the breakthrough novel that captures the saga of the F-4 Phantom and the men who made it a legend: like "Muddy" Waters, who must transform the men and women under his command -- Including a superbly talented pilot but loose cannon named Jack Locke-into a fighting force to be reckoned with. Because their country could ask them at any time to fly their F-4s into the eye of the firestorm, to face an overwhelming enemy and brave the flames of hell itself without question and with no support.

Tomorrow that call will come.

And there will be no turning backwhen the heavens explode.

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About the Author:

A former weapons system operator, Richard Herman was a member of the United States Air Force for twenty-one years, until he retired in 1983 with the rank of major. He is the author of ten previous novels, including The Warbirds, Power Curve, Against All Enemies, Edge of Honor, and The Trojan Sea, all published by Avon Books. Herman currently lives and works in Gold River, a suburb of Sacramento, California.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One16 July: 0200 hours, Greenwich Mean Time0400 hours, Athens, Greece

The changeover crew of the reconnaissance aircraft slowly gathered outside base operations in the soft, early-morning dark. Colonel Anthony J. Waters glanced out the window as he and the aircraft commander, Captain Kelly, went through the routine of debriefing the crew they were replacing, checking the weather, and filing a flight plan for the upcoming flight. "I haven't seen Cruzak yet," Waters said.

"No sweat, Colonel," the young captain beamed. "He won't be late for a flight again. He's already here doing loadmaster duties, helping the other crew clean the bird up before we take it. He's going to be the highest flying janitor in the Air Force until he cleans his act up."

Waters glanced at Captain Kelly with a look of resignation. The colonel liked the captain and he was a good pilot who could fly the RC-135 with a smooth and cool hand. But Sergeant Stan Cruzak was only the latest in a string of problems that plagued his crew, and Waters doubted that making the joker an acting loadmaster would help the situation.

Because of the highly sophisticated equipment in the rear of the aircraft, only personnel with a Top Secret Crypto clearance were allowed in the reconnaissance module aft of the flight deck. So when they were TDY (an Temporary Duty) away from their home base, only the crews that kept the aircraft constantly in the air had thenecessary clearances to clean and service the cabin. The enlisted crew rotated the cleanup responsibilities, calling it "loadmaster duties," hating every minute of it.

Normally, pilots in charge of Air Force aircraft were the commanders of the crew regardless of rank, and the captain of this particular RC-135 insisted on maintaining every inch of his control over the radio specialists and translators that manned the module. But Waters was the module commander and in charge of their mission-intelligence gathering and monitoring communications. Supposedly, he didn't have to concern himself with the more mundane problems of flying the airplane and looking after the crew. That fell to the aircraft commander, who took his orders from the module commander. So Waters felt like a highly paid passenger, something he chalked up to the Air Force's having too many colonels and not enough jobs for them.

First Lieutenant William G. Carroll was waiting for them when they walked out of Ops and headed toward the heavily guarded plane. Waters liked the young intelligence officer, who was also the best translator on the crew. Carroll was dark complected, slender, of medium height, and had an easy manner that hid a high intellect. "Anything new for us to be worried about on this go-round?" the colonel asked.

"No, sir," Carroll said. "All the crazies are quiet and nothing has changed since the last time we flew. Should be a quiet twelve hours. I'll brief the flight crew after we take off. "

The two security guards who would fly on this mission met the crew at the break in the rope that surrounded the RC-135. The Air Force had assigned a security team to maintain a constant guard on its latest and most valuablereconnaissance platform. The RC-135 never took off with-out two guards and a K-9 guard dog on board in case the aircraft had to divert into a civilian field for an emergency. Although the guards knew each of the crew, they carefullychecked the restricted area badge of each person before allowing them past the barrier. Waters was the last through and paused, aware that once they launched, the guards would be restricted to the small compartment at the crew entrance door with the dog for the long flight. "Hell of a way to mess up your day," Waters said.

"No problem," one replied, "if Cruzak will stop bothering the dog."

A ground power unit was roaring nearby, supplying power to the aircraft, and Waters could barely hear the

angry barking and howling of the well-trained K-9 coming from inside the aircraft. "What the-" Waters strode quickly up the steps leading to the crew entrance door. He had never heard the dog bark before.

He caught up with the pilot as they pushed through the knot of people standing and laughing in the entrance. Inside, Cruzak was crouched on the deck on all fours, barking furiously at the dog that was in its cage, ready for the flight. The dog responded in kind and the two were setting up a tremendous wail. Waters stifled a smile and brushed his dark, unruly hair back, shaking, his head in amusement.

"Cruzak' What the hell are you doing?" Captain Kelly shouted, adding to the confusion.

The sergeant twisted his head and looked at the pilot. He did not move from in front of the cage. "Sir! I'm the loadmaster on this United States Air Force aircraft, right?"

The pilot nodded, dumbfounded.

"I checked the regulations, sir! As loadmaster I am required to brief all passengers who are not regularly assigned crew members on safety procedures." With that, -he turned back to the dog and resumed his barking and growling.

The pilot stepped forward, reaching for the collar of the young sergeant. Waters grabbed the captain's shoulder and pulled him back before he touched Cruzak. "Get this beast into the air, Captain Kelly. I'll sort this one out. " The young pilot looked at Waters, relieved that he had taken charge of the problem, and retreated into the cockpit. Waters motioned the rest of the crew into the module. "Hold on, Stan. We need to talk."

The dog quieted as the sergeant stood up. "What's going on, Stan? You can do better than this."

"Aah, Colonel," he shrugged, holding his head down in front of the tall colonel, "the captain just gets bent out of shape over the wrong things. If he were like you, there'd...

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