Dee Stroyer loved team sports ever since she was a kid organizing the all-girl football games in her neighborhood. She thrilled at the idea of getting a team together and pointing out how they could punch massive holes into the other team's defenses. Combine that with her love for helping her dad tinker with his cars and, when she joined the Army, the Armored Division was a no-brainer.
Starting as a Loader, Dee learned everything she could about every type of ammo that her tank could fire. She progressed to a Systems Maintainer, taking class after class on the electronics systems and mechanical processes that allow the tank to crush its enemies. When she made Staff Sergeant she wanted nothing more than to command her own tank. With a near-perfect record (aside from that time she punched Private Johnson in the…private...for telling her she had a big butt) and an intimate knowledge of the inside of an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, it wasn't a difficult transition.
After a dream that "Baby," her BFV, was being attacked by Afghani rebels, Dee wakes before dawn and stops by to check on her before heading to mess. After a quick breakfast, she meets with her CO (commanding officer), a Platoon Leader who lays out the day’s mission: armored support for recon. Her armored platoon will roll along the border of the Kandahar Province while another platoon tries to capture photographs of enemy encampments in the mountains.
Tank Battalions have been incredibly important in Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, desert warfare is the ideal situation to deploy tanks. While tanks can roll through other terrains, even some jungle growth, the flat barren landscape lets them put the pedal to the metal.
Dee gathers her crew and goes over the day's plan. She discusses munitions with the Gunner and the Loader and files the requisition for the ammo they feel is needed. She also goes over the systems with the Systems Maintainer, who is worried about a few minor mechanical issues. Luckily they have a few hours before their deployment and so she assigns him the task of getting this hiccup smoothed out.
While her crew preps and fuels Baby, Dee meets with the other Tank Commanders and the Platoon Leader to work out the details and map out the day’s route. The M2 Bradley is a formidable vehicle. It can reach top speeds of 45 MPH and can be powered with anything from kerosene to jet fuel. That versatility is nice, but the engine burns 60 gallons of fuel per hour. As for firepower, Baby carries a 25mm cannon, twin BGM-71 TOW wire guided missiles, a coaxial 7.62 machine gun, an M242 25mm chain gun, and…well, there's a lot of firepower. A LOT. Let’s just say you don't play chicken with a Bradley. It's not long until the crew hits the road. The armored platoon rolls out in formation, Dee joking to her Communications Officer that the platoon must look like a herd of dinosaurs rolling across the desert. After all, the platoon comprises hundreds of tons of metal. All they need is Jeff Goldblum and the Jurassic Park theme music.
The day is mostly uneventful. As they stretch into nightfall, they munch on rations and talk about the upcoming softball game between platoons. Dee has been pushing her team as hard on that as she has on operating the tank. What can she say? She loves her softball.
And then, just as their guard is down, a dull sound echoes off the hull of the tank. The ground shakes.
The radio screeches. Static. Then a squawk from another tank commander.
"Hostiles! We're under…."
Before the message can finish, Baby rocks to the side. It's been hit. Dee thinks it's a low-grade round from a rocket launcher. Luckily the Bradley's armor is thick and it can take a punch.
She scrambles into action, barking orders at the team. She pulls up the exterior cameras on her monitor, sensor information, satellite maps, and a hundred other pieces of information.
Dee whirls to the Communications Officer.
"The attack has been pinpointed. Hostiles are half a clique west."
She doesn't need to listen to any more. On her monitor, she sees a rock outcropping in the hills. Small wisps of smoke rise from it.
Orders spill from her mouth at a machine gun pace. Her crew scrambles to fill them. The Loader slides the high-caliber "bunker buster" shells into position. The Gunner whirls the turret, aiming the Bradley's massive canon. The Communications Officer relays the information to the other tanks.
Everyone braces themselves, holding handles and straps. When an armored vehicle fires, the shell is ejected with such force that the entire tank moves.
A loud, bass thump sounds and Baby jerks back like she was hit by a dump truck. The hillside disintegrates in a shower of dust and pebble.
Dee and her crew hold their breath, waiting for the smoke to clear.
The smoke drifts away, leaving only a pile of rubble where the outcropping was. There's no heat signature, no movement, nothing to indicate that anyone exists on the hill any longer.
After several long, tense minutes, the recon team is sent to scout the hill.
Again, everyone waits. Dee wipes the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand.
The radio hisses and clicks. It's the recon team. It looks like whoever was up there won't ever be firing a rocket again.
Dee's crew leap to their feet and cheer. She laughs, the tension easing, and offers a quick congratulations. There's a mission to complete, however, and she's determined to do so.
As they continue on, she contacts her Platoon Leader and reports the encounter. There will be mounds of paperwork when she gets back, but at least everyone's safe. When they finally return, get debriefed, and perform their maintenance checks on Baby, Dee wants nothing more than to kick back, put her feet up, and relax. However, she catches sight of the other Platoon practicing their pitching.
She sighs, grabs her bat, and goes to collect her crew. A successful mission is one thing, but she really wants that softball trophy.