DAY 7 + 0920 HRS (L)
“Delta-Flight inbound westerly.” The intra-team R/T squawked with Ravi’s voice as Pathanya walked down the stone steps behind the large palace building that formed the Bhutanese Government offices. He was escorted by a group of Bhutanese officials who were walking a few steps behind him. Pathanya had an intimidating appearance to the local Bhutanese with his six foot height and build. It didn’t help for them to see his shoulder slung rifle with grenade launchers and the sunglasses he wore under the white and brown camo hat that all Spear-Team members wore at any given time here. His face was still painted in stripes of white and brown from yesterday and his comms were still in his ear as he walked. To the locals he was something just short of a demon, symbolizing everything that was happening with their small Himalayan Kingdom. And so they had hesitation moving in step with him. But he didn’t care. There was no time for that.
“Give me the optics.” He said to another trooper from his team standing at the base of steps with his rifle slung on his chest as he waited for order. He handed Pathanya his binoculars without uttering a word and went back to scanning the peaks around for suspicious activity.
Pathanya continued walking down the north end of the pad where Ravi was standing with his binoculars out and pointed westwards. The first whipping noises of the helicopters were now reverberating in the valley. As Pathanya brought up his own binoculars to confirm the inbounds, Ravi lowered his and looked over to the group of Bhutanese officials standing in a bunch near the pad, a dozen or so meters away.
“How much did you scare them?” he said with a chuckle.
“Just enough to get them to sign off on using this place as a jump-off point for the defense of this city.” Pathanya said without looking away. Once he was satisfied that the inbounds were indeed helicopters from Paro, he lowered his scopes and waited. The helicopters were still thirty seconds out.
“Just remember that once the Colonel is on the ground, he is in command of this AO. And we act like it. So lose the informality. No more ‘boss’ stuff? I am now ‘Sir’ to all you bozos until we are back out in the bushes somewhere, doing what we do. Get it?” Pathanya said quietly as the Lancer flew overhead and went around the palace buildings, looking for trouble. Just west of the pad, the Mi-17 and one of the two Dhruvs slowed to a hover, allowing the second helicopter to make its approach on to the pad.
“Yes ‘sir’, I got it.” Ravi responded over the intra-team comms.
“Good. Then pass the word along.”
Pathanya replied and then chimed off from his team comms as Ravi walked away to check on the rest of the team. The first helicopter landed and raised a flurry of snow all around. The doors of the helicopter slid open and a small group of Paras in full combat gear jumped out, weapons at the ready. They didn’t exactly depend on Spear-Team’s security perimeter given the handful of men in the team. As their squad NCO began shouting orders to his men, the last man in the helicopter stepped out wearing a white camo uniform complete with the red-beret of the Paras; A man lot older than the rest of the young soldiers leaping off the chopper. Pathanya realized that he was looking at their CO and ran over as the flurry of whipped up snow intensified and the Dhruv leaped off the pad, clearing it for the next helicopter in line to land at the pad. Pathanya shook hands with the Colonel and both men were holding on to their headgear with one hand until they sprinted off the pad and onto the stone steps leading into the white government buildings with red roofs.
“Let me guess, you are Captain Pathanya?” Colonel Misra stated rather than asked.
Misra stopped at the head of the stairs and looked around Thimpu even as the second Dhruv lifted off the pads and the massive bladed Mi-17 touched down a few seconds later, offloading a dozen other Paras and a lot of field equipment and weapons required to secure this building including LMGs and rocket launchers. Pathanya nodded in approval as he watched the equipment coming in. His face said it all to the Colonel: Finally!
“Give me a layout of your unit positions here, Captain.” Misra said.
“Yes sir. I have one three-man OP group in the northern outskirts about three-quarter click north from here that’s been doing spotting for Hotel-Six fire-missions on Chinese positions. I have six men here providing security for this landing zone and I have about three dozen or so RBA soldiers that I have absorbed under my command. Their own commander fell during the shelling at Wang-Chu about six kilometers north from here two days ago. So they fell back here. No heavy weapons and only pouch ammo. I called in a resupply mission and Delta-Flight brought in everything I can give to these guys from the IMTRAT armory at Haa Dzong. Rifles, grenades and several rocket launchers. I have deployed them in a three-hundred meters perimeter around this LZ. The OP team is ordered to fall back here in case the Chinese break through our fire-missions and reach the city.” Pathanya said and the Colonel nodded his approval. He then looked at the group of Bhutanese officials standing away from them and then back at Pathanya:
“Who the hell are these guys?”
Before Pathanya could speak, the leading older official stepped forward and spoke in clear English:
“These guys, as you say, Colonel, are the officials of the government and the people whom we hope you are here to protect. We are here to offer the services of the Royal Guards unit of the RBA to your force. They are our most loyal and well trained soldiers and trained, in fact, by your forces from IMTRAT.”
Pathanya kept his peace but had a small smile that crept up along the corners of his lips. The Colonel was not amused at the rebuttal…
“We shall see. But just so we are clear: Lt-General Potgam is the Commander of all Indian and Bhutanese forces until the end of hostilities as per the treaty signed by your King with the Indian Government yesterday. So I need you to go get your men organized and send their commanding officer to me. In the meantime I am taking control of these buildings as my Battalion staging area. Is that clear?” Misra said and the Bhutanese official nodded and went back to his group. They all left into the building a minute later.
“Sir, I see the 9TH Para is now deploying. What are the orders for me and my team?” Pathanya said to the Colonel as he saw another Mi-17 approaching the pads from the south. This was the direct approach vector now that the first troops were on the ground. This flight in particular was bringing in the men and equipment for the Para forces Battalion HQ. Misra’s radiomen ran up to where they were and began setting up the comms with Warlord-Central.
“Captain, get your men together and reinforce your OP group to the north. Once my infantry companies start arriving, I am going to move them out in detachments to seal all entrances to the city once and for all. 9TH Para is just the tip of the iceberg, son. If the Chinese keep hanging on Bhutan for the rest of the day today, General Potgam will be moving an entire Brigade worth of Paras into Thimpu before the end of the day. Once that happens we will be taking the fight to the battered Chinese Battalions north of here. Get your team ready, Captain. I want them rested and rearmed. We will be dropping you behind enemy lines soon enough. Once there, I want you rampaging through their rear echelon logistics and in general raising all sorts of hell. That will help my boys in shoving my boot down the Chinese throats when the time comes. How do you like that idea, son?” Misra said with a smile.
“Sir, I think that’s the best idea I have heard all morning today.”