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A Fold to Extinction: Welcome to the Team

Updated: Feb 9

Security Operational Detachment, S.O.D., simply called SOD, was the newest addition to the laundry list of specialized units the Department of Defense had created. Technically a military unit. The units reported to the Secretary of Homeland Security, similar to how the U.S. Coast Guard had been assigned. Like the Coast Guard, they could be shifted to another Department, but that had yet to happen in its short lifetime thus far.

It was within one such SOD unit that a newly assigned Staff Sergeant waited outside the triage of a naval medical bay to hear the outcome of a recent incident. It was the smell that made the wait worse, that god-awful nasty smell, kind of like a sulfur and something pretty rotten mixed in with the tropic Pacific heat. Sweat beaded off Dean’s forehead. His uniform had been freshly pressed, but the combination of the heat, the humidity, and the fresh shower and dampness that still hung to him was quickly causing his fatigues to settle awkwardly.

It had all happened quickly, a training exercise, not unlike the dozens of others he had been on before, had come to a screeching halt. Accidents happen, often, and likely are the source of the vast majority of claims Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines put into the VA. But there Dean Hawkins was, waiting on the outcome to hear how his section leader would fair. Dean had been below, in the raft when his section leader took the plunge from higher up. Boarding a ship has to happen in specific steps, and if one step is done incorrectly can either allow the vessel being boarded to be lost or worse, an accident can severely injure or even kill a man. That’s exactly the situation he found himself in now.

He recalled looking up just in time to catch the dark figure of a body blocking out the hot, glowing sun above. The raft jerked up as something slammed the boat. A wet thwack sent the rest of them rocking. They scrambled as the body came to the surface. Their leader had fallen from the boarding ladder on the side of the ship.

Preliminary checks on the raft showed he was still alive. That was the only relief. A severe break protruded from just above one of his ankles. As he was sat back up, he vomited near Dean’s boots – a wretched smell mixed with the diesel and saltwater that surrounded them. Dean helped where he could, and the best was to work on getting the raft back and staying away as the medics worked him over.

Dean let out a sigh as he remembered the events. He had seen a lot, but seeing a friend, and a compassionate leader hurt brought his heart down like an anchor in a deep bay. That sinking feeling had tightened to a ball—a knot that was not to be undone anytime soon. It was as bad as if his father had taken the fall, or a blood brother had. That is what they were – were they not brothers in arms?

Being any form of special operation did not help the sensation either. Dean was only a year into his Staff Sergeant role with his only special operation experience being the few support roles he had done during his stint in the Army. SOD had put him through several good schools – airborne, Ranger, SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, and escape) – yet still he felt he was still way behind the curve compared to his peers, even the junior ones. It was intimidating to assume a leadership position only to find that many of the subordinates were combat veterans or from former special operation groups, even SEALs. His peers, his subordinates were larger than life, and Dean swore every night he would not make some junior varsity like mistake in front of them.

Their commander, Gale Fite had waited awhile watching Dean work before arranging their first one-on-one meeting since Dean had joined. Gale did not wait for an introduction or any niceties. Gale had told him straight out – “We teach these men how to think, not what to think, just remember that.” From there, the rest of their talk was about expectations, and roles within the newly created unit and organization.

More than anything, Dean had to swallow whatever pride and be relieved that he would lean on some very talented men who were more than willing to help him learn the skills. For that, Dean was eternally grateful.

Finally, the door swung open and out stepped both the small and wiry frame of Gale Fite and the burly hairy husk of Paul Baker, their Chief.

“He’ll be good, but not with us anytime soon.” Gale stated straight to the point before the question could ever leave Dean’s lips. “The break on his ankle is bad, bad enough he may not be mission capable anytime soon and his concussion really rang his bell.”

“You know what that means, right Hawkins?” Paul growled from under his grey bushy mustache.

“You’re taking over his section.” Gale spat out before Dean could respond.

“We’ll be short a man in the Team. Are there back fills lined up?”

“You let me worry about that.” Paul grunted and a dark smile crept across his face. “I know just the man I can plug in to fill any holes.”

Dean had noted the solemn aura that radiated off Gale, but he did not pick up the same from Paul. In fact, the smile, and the thrown back shoulders, the confidence, and the briskness seemed he was pleased with the outcome. Dean wiggled his nose at the rancid thought.

“I guess this really the welcoming to the Team after all this time.” Gale added.

“You’ll do fine, just lean on me and Will if you have a concern.” Paul patted him hard on the shoulder with a wink. “Welcome to the Team.”

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