Authors: Dick Couch,George Galdorisi
Tags: #War & Military, #Historical, #Fiction
Nolan rogered up and started to move from the water, then froze. Between Sonny and him was a small wooden platform stilted a few inches above the waterline. It was too small to be a dock but would serve as a small-boat tie-off and loading pier. The big SEAL and his chief were still shoulder deep in the dark water on either side of the structure. As they waited motionless, a sentry stepped from behind a tree and out onto the platform. It was always the one you didn’t see. As Engel, Nolan, and Sonny held their breath, Weimy sighted in. “I have him,” Weimy whispered over the tac net, and he did.
The shot took him just over the heart on his left side, spinning him to his left and over backward toward Nolan. Nolan reached up and caught him before his body splashed the water, and eased him below the surface. Not yet dead, the guard jerked involuntarily as he inhaled water, but it did not last long. When he stopped moving, the chief released him and pushed him under the wooden pier.
Tom Clancy Presents
ACT OF VALOR
SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY
NOVELIZATION WRITTEN BY
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
TOM CLANCY PRESENTS ACT OF VALOR
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with the authors
Berkley premium edition / January 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Relativity Media.
“Foreword” copyright © 2012 by Rubicon, Inc.
Cover design by Sarah Oberrender.
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If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the authors nor the publisher have received any payment for this “stripped book.”
This book is dedicated to the men and women of the United States Special Operations Command, who for the last ten years, and counting, have been on continuous deployment in harm’s way. Their service and their sacrifice, together with that of their sister armed services, have kept our nation safe and free from a recurrence of the events of 9/11.
The authors would like to thank their agent, John Silbersack of the Trident Media Group, who in true Navy SEAL fashion—and against heavy odds—hung in there and completed his mission to make this book a reality.
by Tom Clancy
Navy SEALs are Olympic athletes that kill people for a living. But they never get to stand up on a podium at the end of the race, heads bowed in anticipation of a gold medal, while the national anthem plays overhead. They are the most special breed of Americans. They typically pass unnoticed to civilians, but are almost instantly recognizable to one another—even if they have never met before. They don’t stand out, spin webs out of their wrists, or wear capes when they work. They breathe and bleed like the rest of us, but they live life differently and that’s what distinguishes them.
BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) Training is perhaps the most challenging training program known to man. The dropout rate is almost 80 percent of those invited to participate, and if you’re part of that roughly 20 percent who graduate, you’ve earned yourself a place atop my list of most respected individuals on the planet. The SEALs risk their lives protecting the freedoms and privileges too many of us take for granted. They are most deserving of our deepest and most sincere respect and thanks, yet it goes against their nature to seek appreciation or recognition. We rarely hear or read about their successes (with some rather notable exceptions), but their real or imaginary failures make front page news. The modest amount we pay these guys is most certainly not enough.
Most people are generally aware that SEALs are gifted athletes, but they are not just fighters, they are thinkers as well. I have had the privilege of getting to know several SEALs and one of the first things I noticed about them is that they’re really smart. And they’re really brave. They consider it a privilege to be an American citizen and are willing to put their lives on the line and do whatever is asked of them when duty calls, at any time or place. It takes a special type of individual indeed to jump out of a cargo plane, let alone into pitch black darkness in a dangerous foreign land, carrying one hundred pounds of gear while temperatures hover below zero. Fortunately their survival rate is incredibly high—and but for two incredibly disheartening helicopter crashes, this rate would be even higher.
When I first learned about the plans the SEALs had to make the
Act of Valor
movie and accompanying novelization, I immediately wanted to support the project in any and every possible way. The events in this book and movie may not always be easy to read about or watch, but it is important for us to get a glimpse into the lives of these courageous Americans, and to gain a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices they make for us.
We have an obligation to honor the SEALs and their families—not just in the event that we are fortunate enough to meet any of them one day, but by living our lives to the fullest, enjoying and preserving the liberties afforded to us because of their work.
And the next time you see one of our nation’s young champions bowing for a medal at the Olympic games, while his or her tearful and joyous family looks on, perhaps you might take a moment to consider a similarly talented but entirely different set of champions, working anoighnymously in darkness overseas. Champions whose families go to sleep each night wondering when, or if, they will see them again.
Read the book. See the movie. If you are inspired by what you read and see, please consider joining me in making a donation to the Navy SEAL Foundation at: nswfoundation.org.
Lieutenant Roark Engel stood with his hands on the back of his head while Chief Dave Nolan moved around behind him, systematically running hands over his body, checking each fastening, pulling here and tugging there. Nolan finished with the main chute and stepped again to Engel’s front, lifting the reserve with a jerk to check that it was securely attached to the torso harness. He cinched up the crotch straps with a violent jerk. Engel winced and staggered a bit to keep his balance but kept his hands on his head.
“Feeling a little aggressive this morning, are we, Chief?”
“Hey, Boss, just trying to keep your personal equipment intact in case you have a bad opening. You know,” he continued with a grin, “I did tell Jackie that I’d look out for you. That means having your back in a firefight as well as protecting your cods in case you’re upside down when your chute opens. You just may need them in the future.”
Engel started to say something, then refrained. Nolan slapped him on the helmet, stepped back, and put his hands to his own helmet. Engel returned the grin, then began a jumpmaster inspection of Nolan. Engel was methodical and thorough, but not all that gentle. It was a game between them, but in the process of the game, they inspected each other thoroughly.
Once finished with Nolan, Engel then began to work down one stick of seven parachutists, Nolan the other. There were other jumpmaster-qualified SEALs in the platoon, but both Engel and Nolan liked the ritual of inspecting their men. Today was one of the rare times when the platoon would jump Hollywood, meaning they would do so without equipment, and they would jump in the daytime. This evolution was a bonus jump with no training objective or requirement. The serious airborne portion of the deployment workup, which included the night-equipment jumps and the water jumps that led into full-mission profile training, were now behind them. Indeed, all of the pre-deployment work was behind them. Their bags were packed, so to speak, which meant that their operational equipment—weapons, dive gear, parachutes, mission-support equipment, and all the rest of the necessary combat support gear that keeps a SEAL platoon in the fight while deployed—was palletized and ready for loading onto the transport aircraft. The Bandito Platoon was ready for war.
Roark Engel was the platoon officer and Dave Nolan was the platoon chief, or senior enlisted SEAL. They were the leaders for Delta Platoon, SEAL Team Seven. The
nickname had come about years ago during one of the platoon’s trips to Baja California for off-road motorcycling in the desert. There was a cantina where they often stopped for a beer after a ride. During one of those stops, the proprietress calledhe d them the Yankee Banditos, and the name had stuck.
After the head-to-toe jumpmaster inspections were completed, Engel and Nolan led both sticks of SEALs up the ramp of the big C-130H Hercules transport. As stick or squad leaders for this jump, Engel and Nolan would be the last out. The jump and the timing of it had been carefully planned. The platoon SEALs had just reported back from their pre-deployment leave, so they had scheduled this non-equipment, daylight, low-altitude jump—a hop and pop. They all wore basic military HALO rigs, but they would not be jumping from any great height. After close to a year of training and preparation, it was time to refocus the platoon on deployment. The simplicity of a Hollywood jump would serve to ease the platoon SEALs back into their routine, with none of the stress and logistics of a night combat equipment jump, which was their norm. Most of their night combat jumps were at the front end of a three-to-five-day training mission, in which they humped for long distances with a hundred pounds of gear and slept for only an hour or two a night. This jump was just for the fun of it—for the brotherhood.
The big Hercules spun up its four Allison T-56-A-16 turboprop engines, neatly pirouetted upon the tarmac, and headed for the downwind threshold of the main runway at Naval Air Station North Island. The Air Force pilot brought the power up to takeoff power, and they rumbled down the concrete toward the Pacific Ocean. The bird needed just a third of the runway before it rotated and lifted gently into the air. They gained altitude, turned south then east, crossing Coronado and heading for the SEAL drop zone at Otay Mesa.
Engel ran his gaze slowly over the SEALs seated across the sterile metal canyon that was the bay of the 130. Each was equal measure friend, brother, and responsibility. It caused him a flashing moment of guilt to realize that he knew each of these men and the intimacies of their personal and professional lives in far more detail than that of his own biological brothers. Yet he was quick to remind himself that these men were brothers by choice; they shared a passion for their SEAL calling and for going into harm’s way in the service of their nation. As his gaze continued to pass man to man, his mind flashed back on their time together, like some sort of sports highlight film—from the recurring, lighthearted moments during the long training periods, which were a way of life with Navy SEALs, to the life-and-death episodes of previous deployments. There was no question that Engel loved each of these men. SEALs have a saying for this: brothers by different mothers. At the end of the stick across from him was his platoon chief. Nolan winked, and both of them broke into broad smiles of understanding. This was what it was all about. It was not about the jump or the training or the enemies of their nation they would soon engage—those insurgents and terrorists who were certainly worthy of their attention. This was about the brotherhood and what they all knew was the privilege of going to war as a team.
We few, we blessed few,
Engel thought as he unclipped his seat belt and made his way up to the flight deck. Without consultation, Nolan also rose and headed aft.
The pilot and copilot were mirror images in flight suits, squadron patches, ball caps, headphones, and aviator sunglasses. “Thanks for coming out on a Saturday for a lift to the DZ, guys,” Engel shouted over the roar of the engines.
It was only when the pilot, a major, turned around that Engel realized that he was a or at he wshe. “Not a problem, Lieutenant. Saturday’s as fine a day as any to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Understand that you’re going overseas soon.”
“That’s right, ma’am. We deploy to WESTPAC a week from today.”
“Good luck on the drop and the deployment.”
Engel tossed her a salute and headed back to the cluster of jumpers seated in the middle of the aircraft. He did not buckle in because they would soon be at altitude near the Otay drop zone. They’d jump at 12,500 feet—the legal limit for a free-fall parachute jump without oxygen. Even in training, most of their jumps were well above 20,000 feet. Chief Nolan was back talking to the aircraft loadmaster and another SEAL who would serve as jumpmaster for the drop. Nolan thanked them both for spending part of their Saturday to support the jump. He returned to his seat and, once again, looked across at his platoon officer. Engel now had his head tipped back against the canvas webbing that served as a backrest for the bench seating along the fuselage. His eyes were closed, and his features were a mask of serenity. This deployment would mark Nolan’s ninth rotation and his third as the Bandito Platoon chief. It was Roark Engel’s third with the platoon, and probably his last. He was a senior lieutenant and in the zone for lieutenant commander. Time for him to move on to a more senior position. Roark Engel was, in Nolan’s opinion, the best officer he’d encountered in the Teams, and he’d known a few good ones.
best describes this lieutenant?
that’s it; he’s understated. He doesn’t look all
big at six feet and 190 pounds. And that round baby face makes him seem soft or even sedentary. He looks like an attorney or a financial consultant. But when it comes to SEAL work, he’s a bull. He can carry his load and part of someone else’s farther and faster than anyone in the platoon. And he’s quick, as the rest of us learned during a pickup soccer game when he was new to the platoon. He could go around any of them and score at will. Once that was established, he defended skillfully and passed the ball so that others on his team could score. His SEAL professional skill set is unmatched; he can move, shoot, and communicate with the best
especially the shooting. Once he shoots a top score, he easily reverts to the role of teacher and mentor, helping the others to bring up their scores. And on training operations, he’s good about calling periodic halts to the training to talk things over so that everyone understands the mission flow and the role of each member of the patrol. I guess that’s what’s really special about him,
Lieutenant Engel makes us all just a little bit better. He leads well and, since we want to live up to his standard, we follow well.
Chief Petty Officer Dave Nolan was a New Yorker, and even the Navy SEAL Teams could not dilute that part of him. Actually, the same values found in most guys who came from a blue-collar, New York hood—tenacity, toughness, self-reliance, with a generous dose of community and ethnic pride—only seemed to complement his service in the Teams. His platoon and the men in his platoon were family, and that counted for a great deal with Dave Nolan. One afternoon during his second semester at City College, he quietly rose from the back of the room in an economics class and slipped out the door. Forty minutes later he had been standing in front of a Navy recruiter.
“What’s the hardest, most difficult program you have?” he asked the man behind the desk.
“Well, son,” the recruiter told him, “that’d be the SEALs, but they aren’t really a part of the Navy. An’ most of ’em who put in for SEALs don’t make it through.”
“I’ll make it through,” Nolan replied. “Where do I sign?”
Dave Nolan returned from his first SEAL deployment, a series of training exercises with Pacific Rim allies, in early September of 2001. He had been back in Coronado for only a few days when the two airliners slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The Nolan family was well represented in both the NYPD and the FDNY, and more than a few Nolan women kept an anxious vigil during that terrible day and well into the night. But the burden of 9/11 fell heaviest on Dave’s immediate family. Nolan’s father was a cop, as was one of his bothers; two other brothers were firemen. By the following day, there was no escaping the terrible reckoning: Two of his brothers, a policeman and a firefighter, had perished in the attack. After attending the wakes and funerals of his two siblings, he headed back to Coronado to prepare grimly for his second deployment. He’d been at war ever since.
Like many in the Teams, Nolan did not fit the image many civilians had of a Navy SEAL. He appeared too average. With dark hair, dark eyes, and sharp features, Nolan at five feet eight, was smaller than most SEALs. He was not the best shot, not the best runner, and not the best swimmer in the platoon. Nor was he particularly athletic, as many SEALs were. There seemed to be no hard edges to Nolan, and he had a wry sense of humor that he liked to direct at himself. Yet when it came to the execution of their duties, there was a palpable intensity about him that no one missed or ever questioned. He never gave orders, only suggestions, after which platoon SEALs moved with a sense of urgency. In the purest sense of the word, he was a warrior and more than that—a
warrior. And he was a winner. He had always done whatever it took to win—to win the fight, to win the day. Furthermore, he expected nothing less of the SEALs with whom he served. Nolan was respected by his teammates and everyone up and down the chain of command. A term coined by their fellow warriors, the United States Marine Corps: “No better friend, no worse enemy,” was most applicable to Chief Dave Nolan.
Roark Engel was the picture of relaxation as he waited for the jump. He savored moments like this, much as an experienced wine connoisseur would savor a delicate pinot noir. The roar and turbulence of the aircraft, the prospect of jumping into a 130-knot slipstream, the falling to Earth as a human projectile—he enjoyed all of it. Yet what he savored the most was the Team. These were his SEALs, his Team. This jump had little training value, but as a team-building evolution, it would be a great jump. This one wasn’t for proficiency; it was for each other, and that made it special. Engel was not naive. He was a combat leader, and he knew that, as such, he would always be balancing the importance of the mission against the safety of his SEALs. Get the job done, get everyone home alive; that’s what combat leadership was all about. But not today. Today, they would defy gravity, if not death, for the pure enjoyment of doing so in the company of their own.
Roark Engel was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was an all-state running back in high school. He was the ideal picture of a high school hero—tall, sandy-haired, handsome in a boyish kind of way, and a student-athlete. He was heavily recruited by a number of Division I schools but elected an NROTC scholarship at Notre Dame and the opportunity to not play football. He could not articulate it at the time, but football simply did not seem like a team game to him. It bothered him that he got the attention while those who blocked for him received little or none. It violated his sense of fairness. He’d never played soccer but tried out for the varsity team as a walk-on. He was good, but he never became a starter. Yet the brutal practice sessions hardened him and refined his sense of team play. And on occasion, when an opposing midfielder became a little too physical with one of their side’s forwards, Roark was sent in to even things up a bit.
But it was in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, with its cold water, punishing physical regime, and Hell Week, that he came to know what it was to be a member of an elite team and a leader among equals. Combat only served to put a premium on team play and the bonds that can form only when you routinely risk your life with others. He knew he was doubly blessed—to be a SEAL and to lead a SEAL platoon. Lieutenant Roark Engel often felt this was what he was born to do. His brief reverie was broken by a hand on his shoulder.
“You wanna jump, Boss, or do you want to ride this crate back to North Island?” It was Nolan. “I mean, if you don’t wanna jump, I can have the duty driver pick you up and take you back to the Team area.”
“In your dreams, Chief.”
The two sticks of SEALs filed to the rear of the aircraft in preparation for the jump.
“Check equipment!” yelled the jumpmaster. Behind him, the ramp and top door of the 130 yawned open. “CHECK EQUIPMENT!” the platoon echoed as each man checked the equipment of the man in front of him. Engel checked Nolan’s and Nolan checked Engel’s. The SEALs then crowded on the ramp butt to belly. The unspoken game was to see just how fast the sixteen jumpers could cross the ramp and exit the aircraft.
“Green light. Go! Go! Go!”
The drop zone crew on the floor of the Otay Desert watched as what seemed to be a dense black mass of insects mushroomed from the rear of the aircraft and dispersed. Most were lost from view as the sixteen SEALs plummeted to the earth. Each stick or squad had a designated lead jumper, identified by a square of iridescent tape on his helmet. The others in his squad formed up on him in a loose V-formation, like a ragged gaggle of geese. It was not a long flight, just under sixty seconds. The lead jumpers pulled first. The other jumpers turned outward from their leader and quickly followed. Parachutes blossomed above the DZ.
On the way down, Lieutenant Engel and Chief Nolan flew as the tail-end charlies in their respective squad Vs. Nolan carefully watched his jumpers, noting with sat”ing witisfaction that they held good formation. Engel watched his SEALs as well, a contented smile wind-pasted to his face.
* * *
The next day, and half a world away, in Jakarta, Indonesia, an ice cream truck rumbled through a crowded section of town. Small cars and scooters zipped past it in the narrow, dusty street, a street squeezed between dilapidated two-story buildings. Shoppers looked over the wares merchants hawked in their ground-floor stores and stalls, while those living in the second-story apartments above leaned out of their windows, trying to get some relief from the torpid heat on that oppressively hot afternoon. The collective mood was hurried and busy.
The ice cream truck pulled up to the security gate of the Jakarta International School. Established in 1951 for expatriate students living in Jakarta, it was the largest international primary and secondary school in Indonesia. The school had students from sixty nationalities and was where the international elite were educated. The ice cream truck was a routine fixture at the school in the mid-afternoon. Even elite children loved ice cream, and the vehicle was allowed on school grounds as a reward to those who had to sit for a full day in the air-conditioned classrooms with the very high instructor-to-student ratios.
The woman driving the truck—the same one who drove it every day—gave a casual wave to the guard at the gate as another guard opened the gate. The ice cream truck pulled into the school’s large asphalt courtyard right on schedule. With bells tinkling, she guided the truck to the three-story low-slung building with enormous tiled overhangs on every story, a colonial design intended to shield the school’s 2,500 students from the blistering equatorial heat. It was the school’s main building, with the name displayed in letters a foot high on its second story. Primary school had just let out, and a cluster of first- through fifth-graders began to scamper toward the ice cream truck.
A large limousine, a Mercedes 600 flying the American flag on a stanchion attached to the right front of its hood, approached the gate and was waved through. The car came to a stop just inside the courtyard, and American ambassador Antonio Marguilles stepped out, donning his straw hat in deference to the mid-afternoon sun.
Abu Shabal stepped from the ice cream truck. At six feet two and 220 pounds he towered over the children, and his bulk gave him a presence that caused the children to immediately look at him.
“Come, children, line up, line up,” Shabal called jovially as he waved the children toward the truck’s open side door. “Graciela will take your orders.”
“Come, come,” Shabal continued as he herded the children toward the truck. He moved among the youngsters, yet his head was on a swivel. The welcoming smile was there, but his eyes were those of a predator. The children did what Shabal asked them to do because he was an adult and because he spoke in a commanding but disarmingly friendly tone. They also obeyed because of the horrible, disfiguring, crescent-shaped scar that covered the left side of his face. Instinctively, the children knew he was not to be trifled with.
“Now, children, liacechildrene up, please,” Graciela enjoined them. “No pushing, no shoving, be patient,” she continued. “There is plenty of ice cream for everyone.”
The scores of milling children pushed and shoved their way forward holding out their coins for Graciela as she began to dispense ice cream. The crowd swelled as more primary schoolers converged on the truck. It was joyful chaos. One of the students who was off to the side of the swelling queue was fourth-grader Nicolas Marguilles, the ambassador’s only son. He saw his father approaching and bolted toward him.
“Papa, Papa,” shouted Nicolas as he continued toward the ambassador, holding the straps of his backpack to keep it firm on his tiny back.
“Nicolas,” replied Marguilles as he took his hat off and waved it at his son. Soon Nicolas was at his side. The boy grasped his father’s legs as he hugged him.
“Papa, can we get some ice cream?” the boy entreated as he looked up at the tall ambassador.
“No, son, we have to go,” he said solemnly, but there was a twinkle in his eye.
“You always say no, Papa. Please.”
“Well, Nicolas, are you going to buy?” Marguilles teased.
“No, Papa, you buy!” replied Nicolas as he dragged Marguilles toward the ice cream truck.
“Well then, what are we getting today?”
“Passion fruit, Papa.”
“Okay, passion fruit it is,” replied Marguilles as he let Nicolas continue to drag him toward the ice cream truck.
Shabal noticed the ambassador approaching the ice cream truck. He smoothly detached himself from the crowd of children and began to walk calmly but deliberately away from the truck. Without looking back, he made his way to the school’s gate, which was now wide open as several other cars entered the school grounds—more parents picking up their kids at the end of the school day.
As Shabal crossed the street and turned the corner he slipped his right hand into his pocket, finding the remote transmitter. He did not need to remove the device. His fingers found the on/off rocker switch, then the activation button.
A low, buckling explosion shattered the calm day as a monstrous fireball engulfed the ice cream truck and a huge column of black smoke rolled upward. Moments later, ice cream bars mixed with small torsos and limbs rained down on the scene in a wide circle around what used to be the ice cream truck. Dozens were killed instantly, followed immediately by the piercing cries of wounded children. Ambassador Marguilles and Nicolas were nowhere to be seen; what was left of their bodies was part of the collective burning mass of flesh and twisted metal.
Shabal felt the pressure wave and heard the explosion. Yet he never looked back as he disappeared into the crowded city. It was not the first time he’d left burning and lac
erated bodies in his wake.