July 2, 2021
I’ve had some strange reviews of my books (all of which enjoy 4+ star ratings). Some have made me laugh; others have me scratching my head.
I had a recent review where the person stated the book could be better (this was for the first book of the series, Camp Chaos) because he disagreed with the politics.
My seven-member covert law enforcement team isn’t out there to spout political views, although their opinions may be thought political. They may remark that the bad guys they’re chasing are part of a left-wing or right-wing extremist group, or that they have racist leanings, or that they are apparently mentally ill. One of the main characters (Spud, a former Secret Service agent in the Presidential Protective Detail) explains in his backstory (the prequel to the series, Before the Unit: The Recruiting of Kevin Banks) that there were presidents that the agents didn’t appreciate, and others that they did. Is this reality? According to a family relative who was formerly in the Presidential Protective Detail, you bet! Presidents are human, after all, and so are their family members. So, also, the agents sworn to protect them as part of protecting of office of the presidency.
You will never see the word “Republican” nor “Democrat” in any of my books. A careful perusal of the past will show that the parties have swapped sides between conservatism and liberalism frequently, and I expect that will occur in the future as well. It makes no difference to the team which political side someone is on. Their sworn duty is to one thing and one thing only: the Constitution of the United States. As such, they’ll take a hard look at anyone who might be on the wrong side of the law.
That oath, by the way, is the same one those in Congress take, as well as every federal officer—law enforcement and military—who is commissioned. In case you’ve never seen it, here it is:
I [name] do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
The president’s oath differs slightly, but is also an oath to the Constitution:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Notice that neither oath allows for any “cherry-picking” of the Constitution’s provisions, and this is why on occasion in the books you will see one of the characters studying constitutional law, typically with an eye on how it impacts police procedures. And that’s about as “political” as it gets.
MARCH 17, 2021
WHAT’S WITH THE MISSILE SILOS?
The Field Team had to deal with “aliens” in Roswell, NM. Their remote base there is located in a decommissioned Atlas F nuclear missile silo.
At one time, Walker Air Force Base had bombers stationed there. As a result, an installation of 12 nuclear missile silos were built around the city of Roswell. These comprised the 579th SMS, and each held a single Atlas F intercontinental ballistic missile.
The Atlas F was not intended to be an offensive weapon (a “first strike” weapon), but instead was in place to respond to a missile strike against the United States. The underground areas of each silo consisted of a command and control center, located 40 feet underground and having two levels: one for the crew to work in, and one for all of the launch control equipment. The silo containing the missile had lots of equipment as well as the missile itself. Each silo is around 170 feet deep and had the missile itself on an elevator that would bring it to the surface for firing should the situation warrant it. It never did.
This is a map of the missile silos that surround Roswell. I’ve seen most of them in person, including the silo the unit uses.
The silos were actually built to be a big Faraday cage so that the EMP from a nearby nuclear strike wouldn’t fry all of the electronics needed to launch a retaliatory strike. The walls of the silo and Command and Control are three feet thick, and so packed with rebar that there was just enough space for the cement to flow around it. The cement is also special in that it doesn’t deteriorate with exposure to water. Most Atlas F silos have filled with water, but if pumped dry the cement is still in good shape even though the silos were decommissioned in the ’60s. All were sold after being stripped of anything salvageable. Most went for around $15,000. Multiply that times ten, and you still can’t buy one of them now!
This is Site 10 of the 579th. The silo, as are most, is not accessible to the public. This isn’t the unit’s silo, but a different one in the same missile group. Here, the doors are open as they would be for the missile to be raised and fired. It’s the only one in the area that has open silo doors. Each door weighs 1.5 tons and would be opened with a huge hydraulic arm. The white structure you see to the left is the entrance to both the silo’s underground area and the command and control area.
This is a close-up of a silo entrance located at a different location. (No, not the unit’s.) It would have been painted white, but has been repainted fluorescent orange. No accounting for some folks’ taste! The “candy cane” is a ventilation conduit.
Here is a look at the “front door”: the entrance to the underground areas. Note that the owner of this silo has welded a piece of rebar to keep people out. The silos are often vandalized, given they still exist in areas that are remote. This doorway leads to a stairwell and corridor that connects the C&C area to the silo.
This is the top of the silo. You can see the seams where the silo doors are closed. The silo is 54 feet in diameter, with walls three feet thick. Again, chock full of rebar. Access is through the entryway’s underground corridors.
Two of the silos in the 579th have interesting histories. One had an accident during construction when a crane operator got too close to the silo hole. When the crane plunged to the bottom of the hole, the fuel tank ruptured and sent up a fireball that killed four workers. A second had an accident during a defueling/refueling exercise. There’s an account online from one of the men who was sent to figure out what was going on in the silo before it blew. When he and the other guy realized that kerosene and LOX, the fuels for the missile, were spilling into the silo instead of going into the rocket due to a stuck valve, they both hightailed it out of there! They took shelter in the C&C and said they could feel the whole thing rock when the rocket exploded. Fortunately, the warhead had been demated beforehand. It took four hours for the “all clear” to be called so they could leave the C&C. I should mention here that the C&C is supported on huge shock absorbers so it would survive a near strike. It also had an escape hatch so the guys could get out in the event the entrance was destroyed. In this accident, the silo doors were blown off, and pieces of the missile sent up to a mile away. Supposedly, you might still find a chunk of the missile out there in the desert that surrounds the silo.
This Army Corps of Engineering depiction shows what the entire missile installation looked like. Many of the current owners of these silos make underground homes in the Command and Control area. This link shows you what one guy did with his. I would LOVE to have a silo and have it renovated into an underground home. I think if you checked out the link I gave to the one the guy is renovating, you’ll understand why. There’s another one in the 579th that’s being renovated as well. There’s a lot of work involved, but in the end, how cool is that?
February 28, 2021 ·
FUNNY THE THINGS YOU COME ACROSS when you’re clearing out old items.
Today’s find was an article by the Cessna Pilot Center. I learned in a C172, but Cessnas weren’t my favorite airplanes, and when I started my own flight school I got Pipers.
But I digress.
The title of this article is, “Who Says Girls Can’t Fly?“
I have chuckled on occasion when reading reviews of the books in The Unit series, but none have made me laugh more than the review by a foreign reader that began, “If you want to read a story about special ops from the viewpoint of a girl…” (or something to that effect). It seems there are still some males out there that haven’t figured out that it’s not the possession of certain apparatus between your legs that makes you capable of doing something, but the sheer willpower of wanting to do it.
Thus it has been for me both in terms of piloting and in terms of marksmanship. There is an old saying that the bumblebee is not aerodynamically capable of flight, but nevertheless does it, not having ever been told it can’t. I was never told that a “girl” can’t fly an airplane nor shoot a gun, so I took up both because I liked the idea of the challenge. Same goes for taking a degree in a hard science.
I was once interviewed on one of those late night talk shows about being a woman in aviation (I had recently become El Paso’s first Master Certificated Flight Instructor), and most vividly recall the interviewer asking me about the differences in being a woman at the yoke versus a man at the yoke. My reply was, “The airplane has no idea what sex I am. If I command it to fly correctly, it flies correctly. If I don’t, it kills me.” The same goes for firearms: if you bother to learn both their proper use and the dangers of not handling them safely, ensuring you do the former and avoid the latter, they’re a lot of fun.
I draw on my experiences as a woman who has tackled many things considered male domains to construct Hank, the main character, female sniper, and pilot. It may be coincidental that today I read not only the above-mentioned article, but an article about Annie Oakley, who was a suffragette before suffragettes came on the scene, touring with Wild Bill Hickock in his Wild West show as a sharpshooter. We’ve been around a long time, we women who have never been told we cannot fly, cannot shoot, cannot do whatever because that’s what men do. With the exception of fathering a child, I would postulate that there are few things that men do that women can’t, and I extend the same feelings about the diversity of people who can do a single thing to anyone who simply has the heart to try that I do to women.
So I’ll make a parting remark: Don’t let anyone ever tell you ‘you can’t.’ Don’t let anyone ever tell you that your singular contribution won’t make a difference. History proves that wrong time and again. What history doesn’t prove wrong is a simple fact: you cannot grasp the brass ring on the merry-go-round unless you reach for it. So give it a good stretch—the ring is there for the taking.
Feb. 5, 2021
WHAT HAS ANNE BEEN UP TO?
Yes, it’s been a while since I blogged, with being busy, busy, busy as my excuse. Writing is a business; publishing even more of one.
I’ve set a goal of putting down 3000 words a day toward the next sequel of The Unit series. ERROR 403 – FORBIDDEN is now at 42,000 words, and the action is heating up. What happened?! How did the unit lose Hal? And while in the middle of a desert survival exercise no less!
I also regularly promote the series, and I am Admin of a handful of Facebook groups other than this one, so there’s that to do each day. I edit for another author and recently got another manuscript from him. I wade through 60+ emails every day, read and review the works of other authors, and am still trying to wrap my head around WordPress to get a website going.
Last but not least, competition season is already here, meaning I’m spending time reloading ammunition (though the lack of reloading supplies may cut my competition season short this year) and practicing at the range.
It’s a good thing daylight hours are increasing. Now if only HOURS could increase!
I hope all of you are finding the stress levels we’ve all experienced lately abating somewhat. Hopefully, things will start getting back to normal soon. Then we can all relax and read a book.
January 9, 2021 ·
I HESITATE TO WRITE THIS…
…but I think it’s time.
As everyone around the world knows at this point, my nation—which I love with all my heart—has just undergone events that I frankly thought I’d never witness in my lifetime.
I don’t love the United States of America because our nation is perfect. Far from it! We’re like any other nation, with issues and problems that need to be solved. But I glory in our Constitution: perhaps the most elegant, concise, and definitive document ever to be written. It defines how our republic (no, we are not a democracy—we’re a republic with democratically-elected officials) is supposed to operate. As a people, I think we sometimes lose sight of the fact that we’re a republic, and that our Constitution was written not just to outline how the government of that republic operates but also to protect the rights of ALL of its citizens.
I was heartened by the fact that so many of our elected officials mentioned the fact that they took an oath to the Constitution. Every single one did, from the president on down. Every duly appointed officer of the government takes an oath to the Constitution, including those in the military and in federal law enforcement. I hope they will all revisit that esteemed document to remind themselves of just what that oath is to.
In The Unit, every member of the Field Operations Team has taken that same oath. Some more than once. Here is that oath:
“I [name] do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
Those who have read books in The Unit series will note that sometimes our heroine, Hank, will stand in front of her mirror, raise her hand, and repeat that oath from memory. She reads books on constitutional law and the decisions of the Supreme Court, reminds herself of proper police procedures, and does her best to practice restraint—all toward one end: that good should triumph over evil.
If there is one thing I hope defines my work, it’s that message: good should triumph over evil. Good will triumph over evil.
It takes good people doing good things for that to happen. Some do it in big ways: by wearing a uniform and fighting evil, whether on a battlefield or in the streets of our cities; wearing a collar and preaching from our pulpits; teaching others in our schools and universities… Some do it in small ways: by holding a door, by smiling and saying hello, by bending and picking up a piece of trash on their daily walk…
It makes no difference what good thing you do. To quote a product slogan: just do it.
Maybe my tiny way of doing it is to write stories where the good guys win—sometimes against the odds. It’s not much, I know. But I hope for those who read my work that they can cheer for the good guys and snarl at the bad guys. I hope that those who read my books and who wear uniforms, whether marked with their ranks, with badges attached, or in hospital scrubs will end each one saying, “What I do is worth it, even if it isn’t easy.”
A man I greatly admire, ADM William H. McRaven, has said that the most valuable thing you can give to anyone is hope. I remember the first time someone gave me hope: it was in the form of an orange, and it was my third grade teacher, Miss Hubbard. That one little gift I am certain changed the path of my life. So, in parting, I’ll say, don’t scoff at the little things. You have no idea how they might change a person’s life. Choose them wisely. The phrase “a drop in the bucket” is often used to portray the insignificance of something, but each little drop soon fills the bucket. Make your drops work for good, and we will soon see a world full of blossoms.