Live Fire Exercise and Departure for Colombia
Hewlett Worthington briefed the civilian code-talkers during a light catered breakfast of coffee and muffins. He described to them in detail the relationship between the CIA and U.S. military forces and how civilians interact with the military chain of command during low-intensity conflicts. The protocols for actions by civilian contractors were laid out clearly. The questions from the code-talkers were few and were directly concerned with clarifying Special Agent Worthington's points. Since the topics covered in this briefing are familiar to the intelligence community, the briefing is not detailed in this report. Slides from the report are included to offer an outline of the briefing.
Only one question suggested future problems.
Ed Fluegel: So, if someone disobeys an order in the military, they get court martialed, and I guess they get fired or something if they're in the civil service. So what happens to us?
The answer to this question is commonly known to members of the intelligence community and there is no need to reproduce it in this report.
From the briefing the group, including Hewlett Worthington, proceeded to a van. Delivery of box lunches was delayed and the van was unable to leave for about fifteen minutes. However, eventually the food arrived and the group was taken to Camp Coover, a semi-forested training facility some distance from Langley. Camp Coover is commonly known as The Sticks and all references to it in recorded speech use that name. The group ate lunch en route. Drinks had not been brought along with the box lunch and it was necessary to stop at a convenience store en route and purchase drinks. Hewlett Worthington did this, later requesting reimbursement.
At Camp Coover, Hewlett Worthington and the civilian code-talkers met with Gus Fortan, CIA, the director of the operation, and Lieutenant Colonel Charles Ancilla, the lead military officer involved. They greeted each other and Ancilla introduced the soldiers under his command: Private First Class Charles "Chuck" Auster, Private First Class Justin Real, Private First Class Les Redding, Specialist Jack Mersault, Corporal Jorge Ignacio Ramirez, and Sergeant Walter Peeler. The small group led by a Lieutenant Colonel formed a configuration simply referred to as a "team."
The civilian code-talkers received training in radio communications. All were able to operate the long-range two-way radios easily.
The civilian code-talkers were added to the team. In order to seize simulated contraband and quickly deal with dispersed guerrilla forces in known locations, the team broke into three tactical subteams, each with a civilian code-talker attached. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Ancilla, Private First Class Les Redding, Specialist Jack Mersault, and Bruce Springsteen were in the first subteam. Sergeant Walter Peeler, Private First Class Justin Real, and Gordon Doe were in the second subteam. Corporal Jorge Ignacio Ramirez, Private First Class Charles "Chuck" Auster, and Ed Fluegel were in the third subteam. The enlisted men were armed with M-16 semiautomatic rifles, with the exception of Sergeant Walter Peeler. He and Lieutenant Colonel Charles Ancilla each carried two Walther PPK 9mm pistols.
The three subteams entered the central thicket of The Sticks about 100 yards away and proceeded in a straight line. They could not see each other through the woods. The guerrilla forces were indicated with human-shaped targets placed in the woods. Despite the absence of enemy fire, failure to closely control troop movement and fire properly can result in casualty in these sorts of training exercises. Crossfire situations can arise if movement is not coordinated carefully.
Communicating through radios, the code-talkers successfully appraised the subteam leaders of the location of the other subteams. Although Ed Fluegel raised his voice inappropriately on one occasion, he controlled the volume of his speaking appropriately after this first error. The civilian code-talkers also relayed orders to open fire successfully, and relayed orders to cease fire successfully. The timing was coordinated correctly and the exercise was judged a success.
From the barracks the civilian code-talkers retrieved their equipment and clothing. They also picked up the special items which had been requested earlier: An electric travel guitar and small amp for Bruce Springsteen and a laptop for Hope Hearst. The laptop provided was a secured-hardware Toshiba Libretto with no floppy drive or accessible ports. Hope Hearst was told that data would only be released to her after security screening and that she should confine herself to writing about topics that did not bear on the current situation. The infrared port was left physically in place because, at that time, no one had ever successfully transmitted data using that model of computer and the installed operating system, Windows 95, via the IR port.
There was little talk at this time as the code-talkers had been instructed to pick up their things and proceed with escort immediately to the van. The audio record has only this exchange:
Gordon Doe: Backpack. Backpack. Look at this.
Bruce Springsteen: All right, look at this.
Ed Fluegel: Yeah! Santa came again. But I guess I've been bad because I didn't get anything.
BS: Do I have time to tune this?
Agent Virgule: I think we'd better get on to the van now.
EF: How about a song, boss?
BS: No, I'm out of sorts, I...
EF: Oh come one, you'll sing for free won't you?
The civilian code-talkers and other members of the team entered the van. The van was driven by Agent Virgule. The passengers were the complete military and CIA contingent of the operation team, bound for Colombia, where they would meet with the DEA component of the team.
On the way to the airstrip, reports indicate that Springsteen launched into a version of Arlo Guthrie's "Coming Into Los Angeles." [Mirror] The agents present agreed that this selection was in exceptionally poor taste, although Agent Virgule admitted being amused as he listened to the lyrics.
The team arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, was cleared through, and drove directly to the airstrip. After the civilian code-talkers bid farewell to Agent Virgule on the tarmac, they boarded a C-123 aircraft for the flight to Colombia. The plane took off at 23:05.
Postcard from Ed Fluegel to Bobby Fluegel, supposedly sent from Brazil.