As I have said it countless times I owe it to Kaylea Cross' Bagram Special Ops series, and more specifically the first book Deadly Descent my discovering and falling hard and fast for the military romance sub-genre. So I couldn't be happier to celebrate with Kaylea the release of Tactical Strike, Book #2 in the series, which let me tell you was just as fantastic as the first one (and is on sale at Amazon right now)! Please give Kaylea a warm welcome and get to know Staff Sgt. Ryan Wentworth, the hero of Tactical Strike!
Tactical Strike: USAF Combat Controllers
by Kaylea Cross
Tactical Strike is the second book of the Bagram Special Ops series, following Deadly Descent. The third book will release this September.
The hero of Tactical Strike is an Air Force Combat Controller (CCT), and I’m so excited for you to read about what these guys do. They’re pretty amazing, and so very handy to have with you out in the field in harm’s way. The training “pipeline” is so difficult to get through that less than 15-20% of the students graduate. And that’s only the initial phase. Oh yeah.
The down and dirty definition of CCTs from Wikipedia reads:
Air Force Special Operations Command's Combat Controllers are Battlefield Airmen assigned to special tactics squadrons. They are trained special operations forces and certified Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers. The mission of a Combat Controller is to deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to conduct special reconnaissance, establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command, control, and communications and forward air control. They deploy with air and ground forces in support of direct action, such as counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian assistance, and combat search and rescue. Combat Controllers employ all-terrain vehicles, amphibious vehicles, weapons and demolitions in pursuit of their objectives, which may include obstacle destruction.
|CCT on patrol|
I’ve put quite a lot of work into research for this story, so I hope you’ll learn a lot of new things about the military operations in Afghanistan, as well as the men and women of Air Force Special Operations Command. Plus, the book’s on sale for only $2.99 until mid April!
Book #2 in the Bagram Special Ops series
Gunship pilot Captain Candace Bradford has worked long and hard to earn her rank and position within the male-dominated world of Air Force Special Operations. She’s not about to let anything or anyone jeopardize that, let alone one sinfully tempting man who seems determined to cause her nothing but trouble. Even if she’s starting to fall for him.
As an elite Combat Controller, Staff Sergeant Ryan Wentworth is used to overcoming adversity in order to complete a mission. Breaking through Candace’s prickly exterior and into her heart is a challenge he can’t let go. But just when he’s begun to gain her trust, they’re thrown together in the field facing an overwhelming enemy force.
Candace and Ryan find themselves on the run, searching the skies for an emergency extraction. But one dangerous enemy has an agenda in mind and he’ll use whatever means necessary to achieve it, including using American forces to do his dirty work…
“Take cover! Move, move!”
M-4 carbine up and ready, Air Force Staff Sergeant Ryan Wentworth pounded across the dusty ground toward the safety of a rock outcropping as the firefight raged around him in the darkness. Bullets impacted only yards in front of him, kicking up sprays of dirt, tracer fire arcing through the night lit up in green by his night vision goggles.
He tore across the remaining distance and skidded to his knees behind the rocks to join the rest of his teammates, a Special Forces A-Team. Breathing hard from the run and the exertion of carrying over a hundred pounds of gear at this increased altitude, he went into a crouch and got on his radio to the F-18 he had holding to the west. “We’re taking heavy fire. Request immediate CAS to our position.” He relayed the coordinates quickly and clearly.
The pilot responded a moment later. “Roger that, Echo two seven. I’m inbound to your position, ETA thirty seconds.”
“Copy.” Ryan plugged a gloved finger into his ear to help drown out the background noise of the gunfire going on around him, the distinctive bark of AK-47s clear over the rest of the din. “Enemy position two hundred meters to our southeast, near a Russian tank. Target marked with laser.”
Ryan raised his SOFLAM to his goggles and peered through an opening in the rocks at the enemy out front, hidden behind the ancient rusted remains of a long-abandoned Soviet-era tank.
“What’s the status with our air, Sergeant?” Captain Hawking, the ODA team leader, yelled from Ryan’s right.
More rounds impacted in front of their cover, these close enough to elevate his heart rate. “CAS en route, coming up on station.” He stared through the laser target designator to paint the tank, his heart pounding hard and fast. A well-placed shot near there would wipe out the enemy force with one blow.
On either side of him, the other SF operators stretched out in their defensive position, all firing precise shots to keep the enemy pinned down behind their own rocks. Seconds later the distinctive roar of an approaching fighter jet echoed across the vast, darkened plain.
The radio squawked. “Raptor four one, on station.”
Music to his ears. Ryan kept his eyes trained on the target through the device’s viewfinder. His fingers tightened around it, anticipation roaring through his veins at the high-pitched scream of the fast mover’s engines. Still aiming the laser at the target with one hand, he radioed the pilot back. “Copy. You’re cleared hot.”
“Roger that.” A pause, then, “Weapon away.”
An instant later there was a slight hissing sound as the Hellfire missile streaked toward its target, following the invisible beam of light from the SOFLAM. In less than a second the weapon impacted the target and exploded. The old Russian tank shot off the ground in a ball of fire and rained flaming pieces of metal onto the cold Afghan soil, while a sonic boom echoed across the desolate Afghan landscape. There was no return fire from the enemy.
Ryan grinned. This never got old. “Direct hit,” he told the pilot. “Cease fire and RTB. Thanks for the help.”
“Roger,” the pilot answered, so calm he almost sounded bored. With the target eliminated, the Hornet nosed sharply upward and banked east overhead, winging its way back to base. It toggled its wings once in salute as it passed them before streaking away and vanishing in the distance.
In the wake of the massive explosion’s report, silence rang in the cold November air.
Ryan turned to Hawking with a smug smile. “And that’s how it’s done.”
The A-Team leader grinned and slapped him on the back. “Yeah, you did okay…for an airman.” He said it tongue-in-cheek, though Ryan knew the whole team respected his presence here. The team had its own radiomen trained in CAS, but Ryan had JTAC training that allowed him to call in fast movers, and his presence freed the rest of the team to focus on the objective at hand while he worried about calling in air support when needed.
Turning away, Hawking was already on the radio, announcing an end to the exercise.
As soon as he gave the command, two hundred meters from their position the “enemy” force stood up and emerged from behind cover—a few of the A-Team members and their Afghan National Army charges, well out of harm’s way from the impact site farther downrange. With the exercise completed, Ryan ditched his ruck and rose to stretch his legs and back, breathing in a deep lungful of the clean, cold air. Nothing like a live-fire training mission to get the blood pumping in the wee hours of the morning, even if it was pitch dark and colder than a witch’s tit out here at the ass end of nowhere.
“Want me to call for extraction now?” Ryan asked Hawking, his muscles sighing in relief at the respite from all the weight he’d been hauling around. The whole team was beat after being out in the field for so long.
The other man shook his head, a wicked grin spreading across his face. “Nope. Seems our original LZ has been compromised. We’ll have to hump it four clicks down the mountain to the secondary LZ.”
Ryan and the others groaned at the fabricated hiccup. They’d already covered more than that distance on the way in from the infil site, carrying full combat loads. Ryan had even more weight than the others because of his radio equipment and extra batteries.
Smirking, Hawking waved an arm toward the other team and shouted, “Let’s move.” Turning back, he aimed a positively evil grin at Ryan. The captain didn’t insist on formality while out in the field, but he never relaxed his expectations when it came to training. Then, he turned into a legendary hard-ass. “Thought we might top the morning off with a jump before we head back to base. Just for you, Went.”
Ryan withheld another groan as the other team members around them snickered. Sadistic bastard. One would think he’d be used to the ribbing he always took about his aversion to parachute jumps by now. Still burned though.
Hawking slapped him on the shoulder. “It’s only because I care. Don’t want you to lose your edge on account of lack of practice.”
Yeah, right. Lack of practice, his ass. He’d already racked up more jumps than some guys who’d been in the service for twenty years or more. Resigned to enduring whatever else the relentless team leader dished out until they got back to Bagram, Ryan shouldered his heavy ruck and started out with the others, moving in a wedge formation to counteract any surprise attacks along their route. Couldn’t be too careful out here in no-man’s land, where things could go to s**t in an instant.
One by one they all fell in line with the Afghans bringing up the rear, maintaining overwatch as they began their march.
“Another few hours and we’ll be showered up and in the chow hall,” Hawking called cheerily over his shoulder, his idea of a pep talk.
Despite his fatigue, Ryan perked up at the mention of the chow hall. They hadn’t had a shower or a hot meal in three days, but those weren’t the only reasons why he was suddenly eager to get back to base in a hurry. If they got there by the time the sun came up, there was a good chance a certain unforgettable Spooky pilot would be arriving back from her nightly sortie around then as well. Since the sexy but prickly captain was a creature of habit and always sat in the same place in the chow hall, he knew exactly where to find her at breakfast. He could just imagine the look on her face when he joined her—like she’d just bitten into a lemon.
At least then he’d know she wasn’t ignoring him.
“That grin mean you’re looking forward to a jump?” Hawking asked suspiciously.
Ryan toned the smile down. “No, sir.” It meant he had more interesting things on his mind. Specifically a curvy five-foot-ten blonde gunship pilot who’d saved him and his team a few weeks back and he couldn’t stop thinking about.
Though he hadn’t seen her in the two weeks since, it probably wasn’t long enough to suit her. Even after he’d made a little headway by personally thanking her for what she and her crew had done, she’d still had a permanent stick up her butt around him, trying her best to pretend he didn’t exist and calling him Sergeant whenever she was forced to acknowledge him. Captain Bradford was a total professional and a rigid rule follower who’d probably never breached any sort of protocol in her whole life.
She needed mussing up in the worst way, in his opinion. And he’d love to do the honors.
“Went, wipe that smirk off your face,” Hawking warned then shook his head in disappointment. “Fine, no jump for you.”
Oh yeah, now he’d definitely be back to base in time to see her. “Yessir.”
As a man who lived for bending the rules, Ryan couldn’t help enjoying ruffling her feathers a bit. He needed to figure out how to navigate through all those prickles to the softness inside her. He’d caught a glimpse of it that day when she’d reluctantly agreed to allow him to fix her bunk, then later in the hospital with her friend, Devon. She might not like him all that much yet, but he was determined to win her over.
Trudging along in line with the others, Ryan suppressed a smile at the thought of the imminent fireworks in store. The day was already shaping up nicely, and it wasn’t even dawn yet.
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