Turkey Combat

Big Game

Your orders, Captain, are to find the Commander and terminate his command.

I’M LOST, LOW ON GAS, AND THE ONLY LANDMARK is the Afghan village I just passed. Well, that’s not completely true. There’s a shot-up Humvee to the west, a huge column of black smoke to the east. Directly overhead five fighter jets roar by in single file, low and slow.

I get out of my truck to make sure it isn’t interfering with my compass reading. A call comes in. It’s the Major. What do I tell him? He doesn’t need more things to worry about. He won’t believe I’m lost anyway. I never get lost. Besides, what is “lost”? No, I can’t point to my location on the map and trace my route. But I still have viable options for becoming “found.” The Major begins, “Son, I’ve been trying to reach you. Are you out in the wild somewhere?”

“Yes, Dad, I am. I’m scouting, and I’m completely lost.” He laughs at that, as I hoped he would.

Maybe he can help. The Major has flown over this Air Force Base in the Deep South a thousand times during his career as a fighter pilot instructor. I ask, “Dad, do you remember the pine flatwoods between the drone launch site and the firefighter training facility where they burn jet fuel in a huge cauldron?”

“No, Son, I don’t. But if you head south you’ll eventually hit the Gulf.”

“Thanks, Dad.” He’s still laughing, thinking I’m joking. I’m still lost, but at least I’m laughing too.

I reverse course and return to some buildings that I swear aren’t on my satellite photo. Now I see that the new buildings are actually shipping containers painted a mottled-adobe color and arranged in the defensive style of rural Afghan compounds. The stripped fuselage of an F-4 Phantom is the centerpiece of one courtyard. Charred, junked vehicles are scattered outside perimeter walls bearing graffiti in a looping foreign script that reminds me of drag marks from the wings of a strutting turkey. A temporary sign near the boat ramp says Road Closed For Training. There are only two plausible explanations for the increased military activity. Either the Air Force is providing contingency combat support training to units deploying to the Middle East, or the turkeys I’m here to hunt are staging an uprising…

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