Conspiracy at Desert One
By Bernace Charles
November 11, 1979
At ten p.m. the sky over Albuquerque, New Mexico, was clear. The stars
shined through a crisp, brittle, night's wind. The cold wind announced
that life turned serious to the coming winter. Colonel Kevin Keller of
the United States Air Force was tired and just arrived home from Kirkland
Air Force Base where his current assignment was with the 1606th Air Base
Wing. As he turned into the drive of a newly purchased home, Kevin's thoughts
were on how the assignment at Kirkland was mundane compared to years in
NAM. He also thought of how the Pentagon over filled the few colonel slots
in Air Force Special Operations. Keller's current assignment to the base
resource shop didn't set the adrenaline flowing as did the many years in
Special Operations in Southeast Asia.
Keller turned his car into his driveway to see a note taped to the garage
door. The light of the car's headlights held the note in their capture.
As he exited his car, Keller knew something was out of the ordinary. He
pulled the note free and discovered it written by a pilot once assigned
to him in NAM. The note instructed him to call a telephone number. He recognized
the number as one from the Pentagon. With suspicion churning his thoughts
Keller entered the house to pick up the telephone and called the number.
A female voice answered by repeating the number for security verification.
Keller said with his thoughts running ahead of his words, "This is
Colonel Kevin Keller calling for Major Mike McCoy." It was obvious
something for special Ops was in the wind. The past week militant, Iranian
students took over the American Embassy in Tehran.
Major McCoy came on the line. His words were sharp. They didn't relay
his excitement, "Colonel Keller, you need to get here. Two days ago
would've been best. Get a flight out tonight if you can. Major General
Wallace wants you here ASAP! Get here, go to the River Entrance, and have
"I'll get on the first flight I can. It may be late morning before
I get there."
"That's OK. Just get here. We need you. I'll come get you at the
River Entrance. You'll be briefed on your arrival." The telephone
connection went dead.
At three a.m., Keller was on a flight to Washington, D.C. As the plane
lifted into the night and headed east, the lights of Albuquerque slipped
away beneath him. Keller knew something was coming down. He held suspicions
about the call and what its urgency meant. Silently acknowledging the tired
smile of a woman sitting in the row of seats opposite him, Keller wondered
at the insanity of the world. He knew his country couldn't sit back and
react passively to a country breaking international law. Colonel Keller
hadn't been in the Pentagon, and whom others dubbed "The Puzzle Palace."
He decided it was useless to attempt sleep.
It was a raw, November morning along the Potomac River, across Washington,
D.C., and over the Pentagon. A cab dropped Colonel Keller at the River
Front entrance. There, weary from the flight, Keller eyed the structure
and thought how it embraced the elite of the United States Armed Forces.
Inside the guardhouse at the entry, the guard put a call through to
Major McCoy. Less than five minutes later, Mike McCoy appeared at the corridor
guard post. Colonel Keller held a tired but expectant expression. McCoy
offered, "Kevin, glad you're here. Prepare yourself for hell."
"I think I already have. What's going on?"
"You'll find out soon enough. Come on. I need to get you to the
Operation's Room, get some coffee in you, and get you settled in."
The two men turned down a corridor with Keller taking in the fact they
passed the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Further
down the corridor, McCoy made a second turn and they walked the maze until
entering the Special Operations Division.
Kevin Keller knew he was right about a possible mission assignment.
It would deal with the hostages in Tehran and a way to get them out.
Kevin said, "Damn it, Mike, why me? What do they want from me?
You know my experience is in NAM or the Pacific Theater. Not only that,
but the powers on the Hill have damn near disemboweled Special Operations."
Major McCoy disregarded Keller's words and said, "You're entering
the world of the Unconventional Warfare Branch. We have to get you checked
in, get your security clearance, and get a security level assigned. There's
a meeting with the Army Chief of Staff later this morning. You need to
be there to get a feel for where this thing is heading. Let's just say
for now, it's in its embryonic stage."
"Is this what I'm thinking it is?"
The major continued, "Later this afternoon there'll be a briefing
from General Wallace. He'll be in control as the head of the team. He's
on a Concord coming in from Europe. Welcome aboard, Kevin. You have some
hard days ahead. This has to be done and soon. Let's hope nobody pushes
us into doing something for which we aren't ready to do. The people held
are halfway around the world and held in a major city. It isn't going to
Keller asked, "What do they expect me to do?"
"The general wants you as part of the Air Force component."
Major McCoy escorted the colonel past another security check and into a
back room of the Unconventional Warfare section.
Gathered around several desks and long tables, men were studying intelligence
reports, recon photos, and wondering how they might penetrate Iranian airspace.
To his amazement, Kevin Keller soon found the most up-to-date intelligence
reports coming from international news coverage as it unfolded in waves
of mob hysterics in Tehran. McCoy reiterated, "As I said, there are
tough weeks ahead. Be prepared for some late nights and lots of homework.
We're going back to the drawing boards on this one >>>
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