This is the latest chapter in the new SEAL adventure I’m currently writing: Navy SEAL Spartan 16. I thought I’d add a little clarification on my choice of adding a women to compete for SEAL training in the book.
I feel that women will add greatly to the SEAL community and my fiction book will show that. Things are rapidly changing in this world we live in. If you are open minded and progressive in your view about this reality you will agree that a balanced world will be a better world.
Helen glanced up at the roof of Halsey Field House where they continued their PRT. The intensity of the rain had picked up and pounded on the domed roof like fists hammering at it. The coal black clouds blotted out all light in Halsey. Other than the overhead computerized lighting system that automatically adjusted to provide ample light, it was dark and threatening outside. Thunder hammered loudly, causing the building to reverberate from the noise. Several midshipmen reflexively ducked and shot worried looks up to see whether the roof was still intact or not.
The Halsey Field House was a multi-purpose arena with a seating capacity of 5,000 people. First opened in 1957 it was named after former alumni, lettering football fullback and Fleet Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, a WWII Navy commander and hero. Helen marveled at the newly reopened indoor multipurpose gym gleaming with new state of the art equipment. It had been part of a multiyear modernization program implemented for all the Naval academies sports facilities. The massive building was capable of multiple sporting events at one time. Right now, she was either going to make her PRT scores and get a shot at BUD/s or not.
”Form a line on the two hundred meter indoor field track after I call out your name!” Stapleton hollered. They all moved as a group over to the synthetic track with several running lanes for competition sporting events. It encircled the entire regulation sized basketball court. The basketball team was just finishing with their drills and was heading exhausted and sweat drenched, to the locker rooms. The SEAL PST midshipmen passed them and exchanged high fives with some of the players. The sound of hands exchanging slaps against each other was the only sound and reverberated upwards toward the mammoth ceiling until they were absorbed by its immensity.
“Go!” Monroe shouted to the first runner. Simultaneously, he thumbed the stopwatch button.
It was starting to rain so hard again on the roof seventy feet above them that Helen could barely hear Stapleton call out the order to start running. She glanced over at him and he had a smirk on his face.
Stapleton could barely hide his contempt. “And the last place runner will be Midshipman Kennedy.”
Helen knew to keep her face expressionless. She’d learned it the hard way in her plebe year when she allowed her anger to show. It had gotten her in a lot of trouble and she had vowed to not let her hair-trigger anger jeopardize her ambitions to become a SEAL. She ignored him and jogged in place to warm up her legs, focused on the mental preparation.
Helen was last in line as each runner was started at twenty-second intervals. “Go!” Monroe called to her.
She felt good and warmed up after all the physical activity. The muscles in her long, lean legs contracted as she landed on her heel and pushed off the toe in her black lightweight Bates boots. She matched the rhythm of her breathing to that of her stride.
I’m going to have to dig deep on this run and beat the competitive time of 9:30 to make a good impression. I was barely able to knockout fourteen pull-ups! Her muscles had shaken uncontrollably, as if she were trapped in a major earthquake. She’d collapsed off the bar just inches from her fifteenth pull-up. Helen knew it had been her passion to become a SEAL that was responsible for her pit bull tenacity to get those fourteen pull-ups. Her own family regarded her as a loose thread, or worse, little more than a nuisance. Her brothers had been doted upon and cherished by her parents so much that it made Helen nauseous just to think about it.
The anger that she wasn’t important to her family made her dig deeper and push harder. Her breath was coming in tearing gasps sweat running down her temples. Salt from her sweat burned her eyes and she squinted and swiped at the sweat with her hand, cursing the distraction. She commanded herself, Faster! She passed several of the midshipmen in front of her. One lap left, and she pushed harder than she ever had for any competitive run.
Competitive sports had been her outlet for years to focus and channel her rage. Sprint to the end!
“9:25,” Monroe called out.
Helen felt dejected. She had beat what was considered the competitive time of 9:30 by only five seconds.
She did a cool down lap while the other runners checked in their times before she stood broke down to a trot and then got in line with the rest of her friends.
Dirty met her as she moved into the line. “How did you do?” He had already given his time and stopped by to check on Helen.
“I got 9:25 how ‘bout you?” Helen asked between gasps of breath.
“That’s a great time! I got a time of 8:51,” Dirty said proudly.
“Not bad for a big guy she congratulated,” grinning up at him between breaths. She was starting to calm down from the exertion.
“Speed sprints during football practice makes a big difference,” he said as he wiped the sweat from his face with a white towel.
“I’ve only been running in boots a couple of weeks, so I should be able to get my times down more after I’ve had more practice,” Helen said, a little worry in her tone.
“Oh, I’ve been meaning to ask you to run with me after classes but you’re always on the run it seems,” and he smiled, giving her a questioning look to see if she was interested in taking him up on his invite.
“Sure you’re okay if a girl beats you?” Helen teased, giving him a mischievous smile.
“I’m okay with it, but you won’t beat me,” Dan said with a challenging glint in his eyes.
Helen’s smile faded. “I’m going to be the first, Mr. Dirty Dan,” she promised him lightly. She could feel her competitive nature rising in her. Dan was a good friend, but when she was in competition, she’d let her speed convince him.
Dan’s brown eye’s narrowed, picking up the spirit of the contest. “I like a good competition,” he said with smile.
“Good,” Helen said, enjoying the competitiveness in Dirty’s narrowing eyes. “Four o’clock at Rip Miller Field.” She absorbed his warrior-like stare with one of her own. He had no idea how deep she could reach within herself in order to succeed. A saucy smile tugged at her lips and Dirty suddenly cracked up, laughing. Helen laughed with him. Her stomach hurt and her smile faded and she got serious with him.
“I’ve heard that several of the midshipmen are wagering I’ll never make it to SEAL training,” Helen muttered under her breath. “Have you heard about it?”
Dirty’s brows drawing downward, anger glinting in his eyes, “Yeah.” And then he gave her an evil smile. “I’ve got five different bets of twenty dollars each riding on you to make it all the way to SEAL training, Helen. That’s what I think of those guys betting against you.”
Her heart warmed toward her friend who idolized her.
“What about making it through BUD/S training?” she asked, eyeing him closely for his reaction.
His mouth drew into a wry grin. “As a matter of fact, I’ll take my winnings after your selection to BUD/S training and double down. Does that answer your question? When you make it through BUD/S, I’ll be a rich man from all my winnings.”
“How can you be so sure?” Helen demanded, her brow crinkling. Her parents and brother did not believe in her at all. Why did he? She desperately needed someone in her corner to cheer her on and Dirty stepped willingly into that role with her. It was easy for Helen to look up to the midshipman because he did believe in her. She stared at his big shoulders and thought he could easily take the weight of all the snide remarks he must be carrying for backing her bid for BUD/S.
“I look at you and just know,” Dirty said, giving a shrug. “My parents taught me to listen to my heart, and it tells me you’ll succeed, Helen. I’ve learned to trust it and it never lets me down. Besides, look at you,” he said, pointing at her, his big light brown eyes dancing with laughter. “You look like a Valkyrie. Honest to God, you do.”
“A Valkyrie? I’ve been called a lot of things, but never that.”
“Yes, Valkyries were Viking female figures that chose which warriors died and which would survive the battle. When I look at you, for some reason a scene from the movie. ‘Apocalypse Now,’ pops into my head,” he said, pointing to his brow.
“You’re thinking of the scene where American troops in the Viet Nam war ride into battle on helo’s while Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyrie’s’ blares from loudspeakers right?” Helen asked.
“That’s it! And since you’re a Valkyrie, I would want you on my side so that I would have a better chance surviving that battle.” He waggled his brows, his mouth stretching into a huge smile. “You’d let me live to see another battle, Helen. I know you would.”
“All right,” she said, chuckling, “I see the logic. If I had the power of your fate, noble warrior, you’re right, I would grant you victory in battle. Always.” Helen lifted an invisible sword in her hands and Dirty knelt down on one knee, playing along with the charade. He bowed his head. With her sword in her right hand held high, she lowered it in a regal manner and knighted him on both shoulders.
Helen knew Dirty had always been in awe of her and maybe now, she was beginning to understand why. He saw her as a badass warrior. If only she could trade her two older brothers in for Dirty. At least he liked her, respected her and genuinely enjoyed being around her. Most of all Dirty supported and encouraged her, believing that she could do it all.
“Thank you my lady,” Dirty said, rising, his grin silly. “ By your leave, I must now go and wash my smelly self.”
Helen laughed. “I’ll see you later, Sir Dirty Dan,” she called out after him. “Congratulations!”
Dirty nodded grinning, lifted a hand good-bye in her direction and started for the locker room where most of the other midshipmen were heading.
Helen sighed and got with the program. She was the last to report to Stapleton and automatically tensed inwardly as she gave him her times for the run. Stapleton looked up after scribbling her time down in the logbook. Looking around to see that they were alone, he snarled, “What exactly do you think your doing, Third Class Kennedy?”
Helen saw the malevolence in his dark green eyes. It was like he was trying to suck the energy out of her, but she would have none of that and stared fearlessly back at him. “I’m positioning myself for a possible slot if they approve women for combat positions for SEAL’s, sir.”
Stapleton rear back and then he roared with laughter. “Fat chance they’ll ever do that Kennedy,” and he shook his head and snapped the book shut with finality. He turned his back on her and walked away.
Helen felt her rage skyrocket within her. She bit her lower lip. The arrogant bastard! Stapleton strutted around like the barnyard cock he was. Flushed, wanting to lash out, Helen muttered under her breath, instead. She swore she would prove to all the jerks like Stapleton that women could be SEAL’s. Damn right she was going to.
A tremendous crack of thunder sounded outside, reminding Helen it sounded like giants above her clashing cymbals together. The lightning flash from King Neptune’s bolt lit up the night. It was so intense that it momentarily brightened the cavernous field house. The sound echoed through the building, the vibration shaking her before it finally faded. The rain came down once more, a heavy pounding across the domed roof as if a resounding applause. At least, that’s how Helen took it and she smiled a little.
Helen picked up her gear bag. All of the practice and sporting events were now over and the maintenance man walked over to the main breaker box and switched off the large overhead lighting. A loud metallic clack reverberated off the seventy-foot high walls in the stillness. Darkness poured through the building behind the last of the light rays from the overhead lights. Only the exit lights were visible as they cast an ominous red light across the empty gymnasium. She hurried toward an exit, not excited about getting drenched by the downpour waiting for her outside.
Doug Stapleton sauntered over to LT James who was watching the performance with a grin on his face like a proud father. “Here are the PST results, sir.”
The steady background hum of the bagpipe sounded cheerfully off the high marble walls of Memorial Hall. Massive crystal chandeliers winked and glowed with warm light overhead as the steady beat of a drum kept time for the kilted dancers. Scottish basket hilted broad swords flashed in the flickering electric candlelight, adding to the ambience of the ancient ritual dance.
The glittering steel of the long broad swords were thrust and slashed up and down as the men and women midshipmen danced and spun for hundreds of cheering and clapping midshipmen. The dancers would not have looked out of place if they had been transported back in time to the seventeenth century and had performed in a Scottish castle.
“Thank you for being prompt, Stapleton,” James said as he took the green logbook and turned casually to the PST results.
Stapleton turned his head towards the dancers as the LT seemed intent and focused with analyzing the scores.
“How do you think they did overall Stapleton?” James demanded as he scanned the figures.
“Sorry, sir?” Stapleton dragged his interest in the dance back to the SEAL officer.
James gave him a hard look. “I shouldn’t have to repeat my question, Stapleton. How do you think the Youngster’s did in the PST?”
“I think they did well overall, sir,” Stapleton stumbled, his face flushing red.
“But, there’s something else?” James prodded, reading Stapleton’s hesitation as a sign of an issue he wasn’t talking about.
“Yes sir,” he said, wrestling to keep the anger out of his tone, “there’s something else. The female in the group.”
James held on to his deteriorating patience with the firstie who seemed far more interested in the Scottish dancing than discussing these numbers with him. He saw Stapleton’s anger in his eyes and heard it in his voice. “Midshipman Kennedy?” He hoped like hell Stapleton was not prejudice because if he was, it going to piss him off royally.
“Yes, sir, I don’t understand why she’s being allowed to participate.” Stapleton’s voice grew deprecating. “Obviously, women will never have what it takes to make it through BUD/S.”
Anger threaded through James, his jaw tightening as he stared at Stapleton’s arrogant face. “I see,” he growled. “Come to attention, Mr. Stapleton,” he snapped.
Stapleton’s eyes widened for a split second over the unexpected, snarling command and he suddenly braced, eyes straight ahead, sweat popping out on his brow.
James held on to his deteriorating anger as he leaned inches from the Midshipman’s terrified face. “Stapleton, throughout history some of the best warrior cultures also trained their women to fight in combat. The Spartan women were renowned for their athletic and martial skills and actually defended the capital at one time against invasion from a force that had defeated the men. Viking women fought alongside the men in the shield wall. Scottish women, as you see here were trained in the use of the sword through dance movements. They defended the home while their men went off to war. Behind every great warrior culture were women trained in combat arts and supportive of their men. History is replete with famous women warriors that were as fierce and often more feared than their male counterparts.” James stopped biting off every word, spatting at Stapleton who was wincing visibly. He eased away from the little shit, taking in several deep breaths to calm himself.
“Yes, sir,” was all Stapleton squeaked after almost a minute of tense silence. He stared up at LT James’s forehead in his best, detached military parade ground look.
The pipe melody wafted high into the domed rotunda with its chandeliered skylight that allowed starlight through as the clouds thinned from the passing storm.
James gripped the log book in his large hand until his knuckles whitened, his voice still a low snarl. “In BUD/S everyone is given an equal opportunity, Stapleton. How would you like it if I discussed your inability to acknowledge your peers with the respect they deserve with some of my friends at BUD/S?”
“I wouldn’t like that, sir. I see your point, and will adjust my attitude, sir.” Stapleton’s voice was without any emotion and his face absolutely expressionless. His beady green eyes stared straight ahead as if he were one of the undead.
James didn’t like the man’s small, beady looking eyes. They were close set together, giving him nearly a cross-eyed look. Those beads of sweat had grown in size across Stapleton’s narrow forehead. Clenching his teeth, he hissed, “Dismissed.”
“Yes, sir!” Stapleton said, making a snappy about face, he marched out of the hall.
Trevor felt like he was going to explode, his anger white hot. This little turd, high on his own power as a firstie, wasn’t going to be the kind of Naval officer he’d ever want to work under. He took another deep breath and let it out slowly. He told himself nothing got his attention faster than a bigot. They were self-serving and rarely made good teammates. Stapleton’s type was always looking for how others could serve their own interests, rather than focusing their own talent into the greater good of the Teams effort. He clenched his fist and then forced himself to loosen it and relax.
He had a lot of time in grade with SEALs and Stapleton, if he ever made it out of BUD/S as an officer, would impact his team. He would taint the men and women beneath his command. Trevor could only imagine sending Stapleton into a country where his bigoted attitude might impact local teambuilding operations with foreign counterparts. He silently promised that when the opportune time came, he was going to have a conversation with the knucklehead about his attitude. Because there was no room in James’ world of SEALs that an officer like this would ever survive BUD/S, let alone, become an officer in a Team. Not on his watch.
Trevor pulled out a small black phone and hit a speed dial button and waited for the call to be answered.
“Hello” a voice answered
“This is LT James from the Naval Academy.” His kept his tone calm and professional. “The Admiral gave me specific orders to call him immediately after I received information regarding test results,” he told McCafferty’ personal aid.
“One moment, sir.”
Trevor waited patiently. After a moment, a Texas drawl said, “ LT James, what news do you have?”
“Admiral, Ms. Kennedy did well enough in the PST to move forward to the Mini Hell Week here at the academy next spring.” He tried to keep the excitement out of his voice, knowing the admiral would enjoy the news. Technically, he should have emotions about it one way or another, but dammit, he believed women could become good operators.
“Excellent. Keep me in the loop as she progresses, LT James.”
“Yes, sir, I will. Good-bye.”
Admiral Joseph McCafferty’ aid, Commander Kent, came over to his desk with another phone to his ear. He covered the mouthpiece and said in a hurried hushed tone, “Admiral, the plane with the battle wounded from Afghanistan has just touched down in Germany.”
“How are the men?” the admiral asked, concerned voice. Any time his men were wounded, he wanted to be kept on top of it.
“They’re all stable, sir,” the SEAL commander answered.
“Good,” he said, relief filtering through him “What did we find out about the explosion that took out Chief Wilkens?” No one knew but he had a special spot in his heart for this Navy SEAL chief. He’d lost his only son four years ago when Connor jumped on a grenade to save his fellow SEAL teammates during a firefight in Iraq. His son that had given up a spot at the Naval Academy and enlisted directly into the Navy, becoming a SEAL right after 9/11. Jake Wilkens reminded him of his own son and although this man didn’t know he held a special spot in his heart, Joe was going to shadow his career and help him where and when he could. He was Jake’s mentor although he didn’t know he had one and that’s how mentoring worked in the ranks.
“The explosion shattered the chief’s kneecap was from a five hundred pound JDAM dropped by an F-16, Admiral. The twelve rangers and two CAG operators that were also wounded had been under threat of being chewed up by enemy fire that had to be immediately suppressed. The SEAL Team Six operators didn’t receive the bombing run information as they ran into the firefight to help CAG and the Rangers.”
The Admiral digested the information. “Keep me informed of the operators progress after their surgeries, especially Chief Wilkens’ progress and prognosis, Commander Kent.
I’ve potentially got big plans for that young man, the Admiral thought. Joe left his office. He stood up, walking around his desk. Outside he knew there was a perfectly manicured lawn of green grass and tall palm trees surrounded the non-descript two-story concrete building with no windows. On top of the building was a large array of antennas and satellite dishes that could communicate with secure operations anywhere in the world. The Special Operations control center for the United States Special Operations Command sat on MacDill Air force Base in Tampa, Florida, was one of the most high tech buildings on the planet.
Moving his fingers through his silver and black short hair, Admiral McCafferty continued to slowly pace around his desk. For over twenty-four hours all their high tech equipment had been abuzz tracking and analyzing information from the battle for Zawahiri and his Taliban insurgents. Large flat screen TV’s on the walls mapped the path of the battle and the battle damage. The number of enemy forces that had been killed was in red and was continually being updated. The number currently stood at 178. Most of that number was located in the cave, but across the battlefield space were other dark red numbers. Fourteen green numbers and one blue were all located together close to the thick black line delineating the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. And that was where Chief Wilkin’s had been wounded, along with many others. McCafferty softly cursed the damn lapse of communication, hating friendly fire wounded and casualties.
Helen raced through a shower in the women’s locker room and emerged from an entrance just as the storm was clearing the immediate area. The darkness was transformed by soft light as Helen looked up and saw a beautiful crescent moon revealed from behind quickly moving clouds. Powerful emotions swept through her as she absorbed the sight. She loved the shape of that moon.
She hurried through the darkness of the yard to Memorial Hall to thank LT James for the opportunity to participate in the SEAL PST. It was her way to be inclusive and build working relationships and bring groups of people together as a constructive team. Most women she had known were team builders in this regard because creating families was in their DNA.
A hoot of an owl sounded close to her in the darkness. She looked up when the moon light in front of the sidewalk was interrupted by its shadow it flew over her head. Helen was sure the owl lived in the rafters of one of the rarely used buildings on the yard.
The bell in the tower clock over the chapel began to chime the hour. The sound filled the damp air and Helen could feel the tension of its ring reverberate through her body. In a crypt beneath the chapel were the remains of the Scottish American Captain John Paul Jones of Revolutionary war fame. Every time Helen heard the chapel’s bells she thought of his famous words of reply to a British officer’s taunt to surrender, “I have not yet begun to fight!”
She noticed Stapleton was walking quickly towards her on the same path. His fists were clenched by his side and were not swinging with his natural gait, as was normal for an American man. He became aware of her and shot her a look of pure hatred. Helen held his gaze unperturbed as they past each other. If a look can kill then he is trying his best right now.
Neither of them broke stride while continuing to look over their shoulder at each other.
I’ve had practice at this with both my brothers and I don’t back down sleazeball!
Stapleton broke eye contact first and walked even more quickly away from her, as if wanting to rid himself of her presence faster.
That guy needs a serious attitude adjustment!
Helen rounded the corner and crossed over the parade court with the statue of the wise American Indian chief Tecumseh silently watching her. She hurriedly walked across the wet stone steps leading up to Memorial Hall.
I hope I’m not too late.
She looked right as she mounted the steps at her favorite ornate bronze cannon on the yard named “Mars” after the god of war. Her footfall reverberated and echoed off the dimly lit granite walls of the surrounding five story buildings.
Helen heard the last of the drumming and bagpipe martial music as it came to a halt. The upper hall erupted in thunderous cheers and applause. She entered seeing LT James’ group of Scottish Highland dancers smiling ear to ear as they sheathed their swords. Their chests heaved up and down from the exertion of the dance. Sweat glistened on faces. They all took off their wool caps that dated back to the seventeenth century and bowed to the adoring crowd.
Helen saw LT James as she broached the top of the stairs into Memorial Hall. She saw that he had a smile from ear to ear. Their eyes met and he gave her the thumbs up.
He knows I passed! she thought, ecstatic.. I’m going to show these men that a woman can be a SEAL!