Tunisia, North Africa
Staging Area, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division
A convoy of Jeeps and Trucks rumbled along a dusty desert road, dodging other vehicles headed in the opposite direction. Drivers honked and cursed at one another as they encountered the innumerable traffic jams of an army on the move. On either side of the road, baking in the heat, lay burnt-out wreckage of German Vehicles - tanks, trucks, and cars alike. Some still smoldered, the last of the gas burning out.
Dust clouds billowed from the trucks, covering them in a thin layer of sand and grit. The heat was marginally bearable, well into the hundreds. The shade of the trucks helped keep the men cool. Some were used to the heat; others, those who had only been moved there recently, sat sweating in morose silence and had already emptied their canteens. The war in North Africa was finally over, but the Desert Fox had fled, called back to France weeks before. So close, yet so far.
These particular Jimmy Trucks and Jeeps were odd. They were completely covered, as if driving in a winter landscape. The men inside, around 10 men in each with all their equipment, were a rag-tag band of veterans from various outfits. Some were British, some Canadian, others were Americans from various ethnic backgrounds. They had never fought with each other before, and except for the Machine Gun and Mortar Teams, all were strangers.
As their journey neared its end, they heard a Wing of planes flying low overhead. The Trucks and Jeeps stopped as they reached the entrance of a compound. The MP Guards waved them through and then the convoy growled to a stopped once more. This time, the drivers hopped out and opened up the backs, letting in a blast of hot, humid air. As the men assembled in Roll Call lines, they looked around. The compound was massive, and stretched off in all directions. Wooden barracks had been constructed to their left, with a trim line of HQ buildings in front of them. In the distance stood larger, tin buildings, obviously hangers. And beyond those lay an airfield with AA Batteries Positioned seemingly randomly along the perimeter. The Barbed wire fence and pillboxes - mostly empty - served as a safety perimeter.
The sign above the nearest HQ building could just be read through the blowing sand:
* * * * *
504th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division
Special Action Detachment
Captain S. McDriver, M Company CO
Major T. Burns, Regimental Liason
* * * * *
None of the men could say they had heard of this "Special Detachment", or of M Company. No one even had any idea what the M stood for. As the men struggled to get their bearings, a small group of officers appeared out of the HQ building, walking over to stand in front of new arrivals.
A short, hard-looking Captain in his mid 40s stepped forward to address the men. He was balding, and his gray eyes squinted against the sun and the sand. As the Captain stepped forward, a sergeant called, "Ten HUT!" and the men snapped to attention.
"Men," the Captain began. His voice was loud and piercing. "Welcome to M Company. My name is Captain Scott McDriver -- I'll be your Company CO. Youmen are probably a little confused, so I am going to do what I can to fill you in on our current situation." The Captain looked around and grinned.
"Everyone here must have done something very right or very wrong to end up in this unit. Regiment has been working with the OSS and the SAS to build a Special Action Detachment here in the 82nd. Several months ago, we put out a call for the toughest sons-of-bitches in the Armed Forces from all our Allied countries. The idea is to assemble a group of troopers from the US and Great Britain, from Canada and Australia, heck, from all over the place -- and to see if these men can fight together as a unit. We are going to be tackling some tough missions, so we requested proven soldiers that were self-reliant, intelligent, and mean as hell. And,to be blunt about it, your names came up. So you all should be very proud to be here. But don't start patting each other on the back just yet -- we've got a long road ahead of us, and some tough times. I'm going to introduce you to Grant Gamble -- he's my executive officer and is platoon leader for first platoon. He is going to read off your platoon assignments."
The Captain pats a young first lieutenant on the shoulder, and he steps in front of the crowd. The LT is lean and fairly tall, but he moves casually and stands with a relaxed slouch. "I'm Lieutenant Gamble," he says. "Welcome to M Company -- we're glad to have you all aboard." His low voice seems soft after the shrill voice of the Captain, but, even in the wind, is clear and confident. "I'm going to call out a list of NCOs. Sergeants, when I call your names report to the specified officer and platoon. Squad leaders will meet their officers and be given their squad assignments -- it will then be up to you to assemble the men in your squad.
The LT shields his eyes with a tanned hand and reads from a clipboard. "First platoon NCOs will report to me. They are: Sergeant Mick Tucci, Sergeant Peter Simon, Sergeant John Heeney...
"Second platoon NCOs will report to Lieutenant Wade. They are..."
After the NCOs have been named for each platoon, Lieutenant Gamble looks up at the assembled men. "If your names were called, report to your officer. The rest of you can put down your packs and take 15 minutes to get something to drink. There's some water set up for you all across the parade ground -- we know it has been a long trip."Command Element:
1st Lt. Grant Gamble - 1st Platoon OC
Tech. Sgt. Robert L. Swagger - 1st Pt 1st SGT
Lori Bowen-Seger - "Press Rep"/OSS Agent
Pvt. Tony Genna - Radio Op 1st Squad:
Sgt. Peter Simon
Cpl. Sean MacDermott
PFC.Chris Sloan - Marksman
PFC Adam Johnson - Machine Gun Leader
Pvt Brendon Gunner - Asst. Machine Gunner
Pvt. Jesse Welsh
Pvt. Thomas Edwards
Pvt. George Ward
Pvt. William "Bill" Rodgers
Pvt. James Courtney
Pvt. Allan Morrison
Pvt. Lonnie Barry2nd Squad
Sgt. Andy Hookans
Cpl. "Aussie" Boyd
PFC. James Stumpawitz - Bazooka Team Leader
Pvt. William Kelly - Asst. Bazooka
PFC. Pete Murphy - BAR Team Leader
Pvt. Darryl Richards - Asst. BAR
Pvt. George Parker
Pvt. John Connery - Demolitions
Pvt. Joe Stoddard
Pvt. Jack McAllister
Pvt. Ray "Buddy"Poppell
Pvt. Albert "Spam" Ruth3rd Squad
Cpl. Karl Collier
PFC. George Kitteridge
PFC. Eric Middendorf - Mortar Team Leader
Pvt. Thomas Fuller - Asst. Mortar
Pvt. Lewis Yost
Pvt. Thomas Riels
Pvt. Jerry Harden
Pvt. Lawrence "Lucky" Engers
Pvt. Travis Smith
Pvt. Sidney Langford
Pvt. Charles MaxwellMedical Specialists (Medics)
PFC Andrew Ma
Pvt. Henry Perry
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Lori Bowen-Seger - "Press Rep"/OSS Agent
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