Touchdown – 187

Written by: Matt Witten; Watch Now: – Sorry, not available on Amazon

[Very interesting follow-up to a previous JAG episode showing the degradation of the Sturgis Turner character. Harm and Mac still were in parallel stories requiring “flip-flops” which made the plot complicated. Harms story was based upon an actual landing of a C-130 on the USS Forestall by Lt James H Flatley and Lcdr W. W. “Smokey” Stovall on October 30th 1963]

Still flying for the CIA, Harm (H) and Cdr Beth O’Neil were assigned by Blaisdell to “extract” Saed Labdouni, the highest level “asset” in Libya. He had information of government involvement in the Lockerbie plane crash. The only plane available was a C-130 transport and there was no backup or contingency plan. Harm was told he was the “lead” this time, and had to fly down at 200 feet to avoid Russian tracking. He had to turn off his radar to avoid detection and fly “visually” in the dark. At rendezvous one of the nav satellites went out making his GPS inaccurate so he had to turn and make another run before he found the signal. On landing he found that Labdouni had brought his wife, Aziza, mother-in-law, Ismitta and cousin Fadil with his family. Telling him that extra passengers weren’t authorized, they were fired on by machine-gun wielding jeeps so had to board fast. Unfortunately they were shot at during take off and engine #1 began to flame. Instead of “blowing it,” O’Neil insisted on shutting it down, in case they needed it later; H complied and told her that she was “lucky this time.” Just then, they were attacked by a Russian MIG. Not being able to out run it, H had to drop flares to avoid a missile. They didn’t avoid his gun fire however; so, at the last minute, he positioned next to a mountain, and mass fired all his flares at once just at the time of “pull up.” The MIG pilot, using night vision enhancement, was unexpectedly blinded, and crashed into the mountain. Now engine #2 was loosing oil so needed to be shut down or “freeze up.” They then restarted #1 and luckily it didn’t start fire. Harm had to “fight” the plane knowing that they couldn’t abandon because of all the extra passengers, including children, who didn’t have parachutes. Harm asked Blaisdell the coordinates of the Seahawk, and to get help with the captain, from Washington.

Back at JAG headquarters, Sturgis Turner (T) was assigned the capital prosecution of seaman Weston for treason after trying to kill his fellow soldiers as a secret member of an al Qaeda cell. He flailed at Bud (B) for not noticing that the Xerox machine had missed page three of a document. Bud offered to withdraw, saying he knew the only reason he was second, was because of Chegwidden’s (C) insistence. He further pissed off T by observing that the case was a “slam dunk.” Mac (M) was assigned the defense but didn’t have her heart in it. Weston claimed that he was innocent. He kept a low profile on his religion (wasn’t hiding it) for fear of prejudice; the email to his cousin from his base in Bahrain, about it being “easy to kill soldiers in the chow hall” was merely a comment on the laxity of security; and, the “confession” of a prisoner implicating him, was a “complete lie.” Mac reviewed the interrogation tapes where Sabet admitted that he had met with Weston three times and had been asked for Sarin nerve gas to release in the chow hall on Friday where over 100 men would be killed. Mac noticed a trigger device in the interrogator, Abu Kamel’s, hand and demanded to talk to him. Kamel was a haughty, arrogant man, glib about all the equipment the American’s had bought him. He gloated in the 50,000 volt stun belt that he used and said that it was “better than the older method.” He bragged that “we in the middle east have been dealing with terrorists longer than the US” and that “you will come around to our ways.” Mac seemed to only argue the morality issue, not the “finding the real truth” issue, and T told B that his opinions were irrelevant. Chegwidden had to defuse the argument and told them that he was bringing Imes back from Europe to replace H. Before the hearing M argued to suppress Sabet’s testimony on moral grounds, T cited previous allowed torture testimony but got flummoxed at the judges questions. Bud bailed him out with logical responses. The judge said that he did believe Sabet’s testimony would be under threat of torture, but it wasn’t from the US so he would allow the members (jury) to decide for themselves of its truthfulness. Mac didn’t seem upset with the ruling, said “I thought I had you there,” and “now I’m stuck defending him.” She complimented B, so did T except with “you had my back, unlike last time.”

Mac, trying to calm Weston down, said she could bring witnesses to show his testimony can’t be trusted. Weston replied, “I shouldn’t have trusted him either.” Then he whined that “they’ll kill me,” and M said “I guess since you just confessed to me, you can’t complain.” He pontificated that his only complaint would be that he “couldn’t do anything useful before I got caught.” He went into a diatribe about “his peoples” oppression of slavery and “his prophets work.” He wanted to cop a plea to guilty to avoid the death penalty because he “didn’t want to die, could do the prophet’s work in prison, and be alive when the great American Empire is destroyed.” Mac merely, disgustedly, said “who ever taught you to hate like that should be in prison too.” She tried to get T to deal but he refused. She got into it with him in the hall asking him “what’s the matter with you? last week you wanted to throw a guy in the brig for refusing to kill a 10 year old boy, now you’re being hard nosed to point of absurdity.” They were intercepted by C, into his office. Mac continued – “you support torture even though you wouldn’t do it, then you want to electrocute him, even though you wouldn’t pull the switch.” T told her, “I see no contradiction in that.” Chegwidden agreed with T in the presence of M, then excused her to talk to T. He told T that “you’ve been under stress since your conduct unbecoming case. You may be trying too hard to prove yourself all over again.” T said, “I don’t see it.” C said, “Well I do, you don’t have to prove yourself to me.” Regarding the plea bargain, he pointed out that, even though he would like to see him executed as well, T should consider the possibility that M would win – and he should “make the best choice.” Turner went immediately to M and accepted the offer, to her puzzlement.

The joint chiefs flash messaged Capt Johnson of the Seahawk to provide all feasible assistance. A C-130 doesn’t have tail hook, is 3 times bigger than any previous landing plane, and has wings so big all aircraft needed to be moved in less than 25 minutes. O’Neil guessed at a “lens angle of 4.0, more or less,” Harm presented it with certainty to the Captain. The Seahawk shot off all excess planes, moved all others so their tails were off the deck, reset the lens to 4, removed the landing wires so the nose gear wouldn’t get caught, and couldn’t put up barriers because the cable might hit the cockpit. O’Neil gave their only three life preservers to the kids. Then they realized there was a hydraulic failure so they had no brakes. They dumped all but 1000 pounds of fuel to slow approach and would reverse engines at the threshold. The captain told them that there was only 3 knot’s of headwind and the ship could only give them 45 knot’s with speed. Harm told him to give them all they’ve got and the Captain demanded to know what was going on. Harm told him their predicament and that they would use “reverse thrust at threshold and a stiff headwind.” They dumped more fuel as they got closer then found that their landing gear wouldn’t go down. O’Neil had Labdoni manually crank down the wheel. There was no lock on the gear until after they had already gotten so close that they engaged flaps. When throttling back on their only two good engines, one engine flamed out. They hit the deck with screeches taking them to where their nose was off the end of the ship before they stopped. Harm got out first and helped everyone down, he was carrying a child when the CNN reporter shoved a camera in his face, [not good for a CIA spook)!

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