By Doug Ianelli, (c) 1999
“PX Poker Night” is a scenario written by Delta Green co-author Dennis Detwiller.
These files are transcripts from a game based on the scenario, played over the Internet by Jared Fialkow (“Lt. Chance Boudreaux”) and Doug Iannelli (the Keeper, playing all other roles).
NAVAL AUXILIARY AIR STATION (NAAS), LIBERTY, COLORADO
Naval Auxiliary Air Station Liberty traces its origins to 1942, when the Civil Aviation Administration and the Army Air Corps began construction of several airfields as part of the Western Defense Program, initiated to repel an anticipated Japanese attack on the west coast of the continental United States. The existing Civil Aviation Airfield located near the small town of Liberty, Colorado was among the sites chosen to participate in this program.
As the war in the Pacific developed, the individual aviation branches of the United States military were recognizing the need to train growing numbers of pilots. With all existing coastal installations and air stations already taxed and fully committed to operations in support of the war effort, the War Department soon found itself beseiged by requests from the Navy for additional facilities. In 1943, the United States Navy assumed control of the Liberty Civil Aviation Airfield and its two 5,200-foot runways. Construction soon began on barracks, hangars, air traffic control facilities and target ranges. By June of 1944, Naval Auxiliary Air Station Liberty, Colorado was commissioned.
The mission of NAAS Liberty was the training, servicing, and support of Navy air groups deployed there for air combat instruction. To fulfill these objectives, the Station was provided with a torpedo bombing range at Deadman Creek Reservoir and operated three satellite fields. Soon after taking in its first classes of trainees, two more free gunnery ranges as well as rocket bombing and ground-straffing targets were established, including the Cold Creek Range (Sierra 6).
Operations at NAAS Liberty reached their peak in 1945 with thousands of take-offs and landings recorded at the Station. Ironically, just as construction of the initial airfield project was completed and the training program in full gear, the Japanese surrendered and brought an untimely end to the growth of the facility. Perceived necessity for the facility waned and by mid-1946 the Navy had abandoned all operations there, removing the official designation of Naval Auxiliary Airfield. Control of the facility was transferred to the local regional office of the National Forestry Service.
The Korean Conflict brought renewed military activity to the installation. In 1951, Liberty Airfield became a joint USN/USAF Auxiliary Landing Field for military aircraft making use of existing ranges in the area. In October 1953, NAAS Liberty was reestablished by order of the Department of Defense and additional bombing ranges, Sierra 3, 4, and 5 were created.
In 1956, the United States Air Force established a permanent presence at NAAS Liberty as part of the country’s fledgling early warning radar system. The Air Force would share commands with the Navy at Liberty until the mid-1980s. During this time, the airfield’s most sophisticated range, the electronic warfare (EW) range, was established in 1967 for joint Navy/Air Force use and the La Veta Military Operations Area (MOA) was approved to incorporate all existing military airspace over Colorado and Kansas.
With the departure of the Air Force and the establishment of the Fighter Weapons School at NAS Coronado (TOPGUN), NAAS Liberty was again deprived of its operational life’s blood. In October 1989, the Navy placed the facility on “reduced operation status.”
The end of the Cold War and the era of military downsizing heralded by the Clinton Administration would write the final chapter for NAAS Liberty. It was among the first Navy installations identified in the 1994 Base Realignment and Closure List; target date for decommissioning: 01 May 1998. Liberty was further reduced to “maintenance status” that same year and was designated as a temporary repository for obsolete aircraft; there to be refurbished prior to purchase by foreign governments or cannibalized for parts by a Navy and Marine Corps growing ever more desperate to maintain a level of readiness in the face of sweeping defense budget cuts.
NAAS Liberty served in its capacity as a Department of Defense used car lot until May 1997, when with decommissioning date one year away, it was further reduced to “caretaker status” and all non-essential staffing reassigned to other facilities or the Fleets.
Life at NAAS Liberty
When you stepped off the C-130 transport six months ago, the station at least had the semblence of an active military facility. But as the old staff made way for the new, the whole demeanor of the place seemed to change – to become depressed – as if, despite the natural scenic beauty within which they were nestled, the old World War II-vintage structures of the Station could sense their doom.
That was six months ago. Today, NAAS Liberty, six-months shy of its complete decommissioning, is a ghostly shell of its former glory. A little more than a dozen buildings remain, centered around two pothole-pocked runways. The “graveyard,” a collection of metallic corpses of helicopters, trainers, and jet aircraft nearly a football field in size, litter the southern portion of the facility. There they lie unpurchased and eviscerated, for even those functions have ceased. The twelve remaining staff members at Liberty are here to serve in a different capacity – they are the Navy’s morticians carrying out the last rites on this terminal piece of military real estate.
The term “staff,” with regard to the personnel currently assigned to NAAS Liberty, is a misnomer. With the exception of the Station Commander (and even this is questionable), everyone at Liberty is serving mandatory time for screwing up in some capacity in their individually colorful Navy or Marine Corps careers. The way you see it, Liberty’s the last stop on the road to a dishonorable discharge and only one step away from Leavenworth. . . the Navy’s way of getting the last remaining ounce of productivity out of a bunch of losers before releasing them back out into society.
The lifestyle at Liberty is one of enforced and geographic isolation mixed with a heavy dose of boredom and industrial-strength janitorial work. All leaves and passes have been suspended pending the successful closure of the Station by the deadline of May 1st. To stray beyond the gates is to risk a charge of AWOL compounding whatever problems the staff member might already have with regard to his current service status. Not that anyone really has anywhere to go. If you blink, you’ll miss Liberty on 811 and Crestone (if local television news reports are accurate), might be less than hospitable towards military personnel since the Colorado Air National Guard proposed its Colorado Airspace Initiative to expand the boundaries of the La Veta MOA over much of the San Luis Valley. Everybody’s been promised a break (or a discharge, if so desired) when the job is done, but until then it’s assholes and elbows at NAAS Liberty.
Daily operations undertaken by the staff include the demolition of unsafe or uninhabitable structures, the draining and removal of above- and below-ground fuel storage tanks, the inventorying of equipment still felt to have viable use by the Navy, and the “subsurface relocation” (burying) of hazardous materials to avoid the expense of proper disposal and scrutiny of crybabying environmentalists. On top of these duties, any aircraft in the “graveyard” still thought by the CO to be potentially sellable are to be maintained and spit-shined for some third-world bigwig everybody knows will never show up. All in all, there is little done at NAAS Liberty these days that does not involve some sort of Class A shit detail.
As if that weren’t enough, the notorious San Luis Valley’s weather is beginning to show its true colors. Even when you arrived last summer, warm layered clothing was required for protection against the sun and wind. After dark, temperatures sometimes dropped as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and that was the middle of July! Now, with winter in full swing, the weather is downright brutal. Frigid temperatures have been the norm since October, with wind chills and cloud cover driving the daytime temperatures into the teens and nighttime temperatures into the -20s. Fortunately, the snow hasn’t begun to fall yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
The only real high points at Liberty (other than Baywatch) are Saturday nights, because rain, shine, or whatever the hell else Mother Nature decides to grace this God-forsaken place with, it’s poker night at the Exchange. Even the CO plays, and only those in the dutch for misconduct and pulling gate duty (as many as half the staff, from time to time) would ever dream of missing it. Poker night is the one bright shining light in this pit of despair and discontent and is greatly anticipated if for no other reason than everyone has a shot at collecting the next asshole’s predominantly unspent paycheck.
NAAS Liberty is located at the end of State Highway 811 in southeastern Saguache County, Colorado and is nestled against the northwestern border of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in the heart of the Colorado portion of the San Luis Valley at an altitude of 8,200 feet. The nearest community is Liberty proper, about six miles north of the installation. A collection of necessary ammenities and a post office serving the local ranchers, Liberty’s resident population numbers a mere 56. It is roughly 25 miles north to the nearest true urban center of Crestone. 811 outside the station is a lonely stretch and it is rarity to see traffic more than once or twice a month. Supplies are flown in monthly.
The Station itself lies on the eastern edge of a five square-mile, roughly rectangular military reserve that encompasses a portion of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument with which it shares its southern and eastern boundaries. To the north and west lie miles of rugged pastureland interrupted only by barbed-wire fencing and Highway 811. The Sand and Cold Creeks (the latter a seasonal wash) flow out of the jagged Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east and reach a confluence in the southwestern portion of the reserve. On clear days, the majestic Blanca Massif, home of the fourth tallest peak in Colorado, is visible on the southern horizon.
The Cold Creek Range (Sierra 6) reaches eastward out of the northeastern corner of the Liberty Military Reserve approximately 8 miles into the magnificant sand dunes spilling forth from the National Monument.
The geologic phenomena that is the Great Sand Dunes National Monument is the world’s highest dune field. Rising 700 feet above the valley floor, the age of this 50 square-mile pile of shifting sand is not definitively known. It is believed that the dunes probably began to form as glaciers from the last Ice Age began to melt. The Rio Grande, swollen with glacial melt-water and debris, spread sand and gravel across a large portion of the San Luis Valley. Today, as yesterday, the prevailing southwest wind sweeps across the valley and carries the sand toward a natural barrier, the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. Here, at the foot of the mountains, the sand is deposited as the wind loses velocity and funnels through several low passes.
LIBERTY NAAS STAFF
Cpt. Andrew Tauch, USN
Commander, NAAS Liberty, age 47
Description: Tauch is a tall, dumpy looking, chain-smoking shell of a man who walks with a slight limp. His graying brown hair that is thinning and perpetually unkept. A drooping moustache and sharp facial features present the impression of a worn-out soul with deep dark eyes within a drawn, pursed face. Tauch always wears his khaki uniform with his minor collection of awards and ribbons tacked on it accompanied by his “NAAS Liberty” ball-cap that looks like he’s been wearing it since he was commissioned. Tauch speaks with a nasally Southern-drawl.
Your Impression: Tauch’s burnt-out, and perhaps rightfully so. With his time in and rank, Liberty’s about as far from any professional ambitions you can imagine he might have had earlier in his career. He seems to view everything as a hassle and completely lacks any command presence. He’s never mentioned what got him this assignment and no one’s had the audacity to ask, but your best guess is that he’s just an underachiever and this assignment is the Navy’s way of letting him know his services are no longer required. You get along with him okay, and he seems to afford you a level of respect in accordance with your experience, rank, and position among the staff.
Lt. Marlon Galloway, USN
Former Sea Stallion Helicopter Pilot and ad hoc Executive Officer, NAAS Liberty, 38
Description: Galloway is of average height and build, with slightly graying sandy-brown hair parted down the middle and a perpetual grin on his face. He’s rarely caught without a coffee cup within arm’s reach and smokes Swisher Sweet cigarillos. Galloway speaks with a non-descript, mid-Western twang.
Your Impression: Having been busted-down to nearly the same rank, you and Galloway are kindred spirits at Liberty. Marlon’s got a wild side that he sometimes has difficulty suppressing and is prone to sudden outbursts of locker-room humor. The lack of women at Liberty is obviously taking its toll on his overactive libido. A few too many drinks with his crew chief, Sparks, back in Louisiana found them taking a joy ride in his helicopter with Sparks (an enlisted man) at the helm. The subsequent landing on top of a couple of parked cars in a Wal-Mart parking lot got them both shipped-off to Liberty. Galloway, for all his faults, is a good man that actually cares about his performance when he’s not inebriated or distracted. He serves as unofficial XO by virtue of his rank and his lack of other specified duties.
PO3 Kenneth (Kenny) Sparks, USN
Rotary-Wing Aircraft Crew Chief, 21
Description: Sparks is a tall, gangly young man with curly blonde hair and a handle-bar moustache. To many of the staff, Sparks is stand-offish and portrays a cynical outlook on life that is really just a mask for his dry sense of humor. He is clannish, however, and tends to stick close to his partner-in-crime and former pilot, Galloway. He has very little good to say about the Navy and even less about Tauch. Sparks smokes Marlboro 100’s.
Your Impression: By virtue of the fact that you and Galloway associate with one another often, you have been afforded the opportunity to get to know Kenny a little better than the others and to see through his brooding facade. Behind the scowling countenance is a closet-wildman just like Galloway waiting to escape. He’s just a little more guarded about who he exposes this to.
PO2 David McDermott, USN
Personnel Clerk, 26
Description: McDermott is the geek of the bunch: short and thin, with bristly black hair and glasses. He’s also Liberty’s only resident white-collar offender, and is consistently the butt of harassment by some of the other men doing “harder” time. McDermott has a very nervous manner that can really annoy people. He’s here to make sure all of the paperwork regarding the Station and its staff is properly filed and annotated, provided, that is, he doesn’t resume his activities of skimming Department of the Navy payroll sheets. He’s a damn good poker player though, although he can’t escape the inevitability that everyone else thinks he’s cheating.
Your Impression: McDermott strikes you as a little weasel, and, back in your enlisted days, you might have fallen in with the other men in giving him a hard time. Now, rank and stature have forced you to bite your tongue. You are very careful to go over your paychecks thoroughly since you learned why he was sent to Liberty.
PFC Ronald Doty, USMC
Fixed-Wing Aircraft Mechanic, 20
Description: Doty’s a short, stout, corn-fed Nebraka lad with light-brown hair, freckles, and a boyish-face. He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, it’s usually directed towards Spacek because if there’s one thing Doty evidently does not like, it’s “niggers.” Doty spends alot of time in the gym, and can benchpress nearly 400 pounds. He eats like a horse and uses Copenhagen snuff. Evidently, Doty was involved in a barracks brawl that nearly resulted in the death of another Marine.
Your Impression: Doty’s a good hard-working kid jaded by backwoods ignorance and traditional racial biases. You have no problem with him, but then you’re an officer, and white. You sure as hell wouldn’t want to have to take a punch from the guy, though.
SN John Pavliska, USN
Description: Pavliska’s a short, dumpy-looking man with a beer gut and a rapidly balding brown pate. He seems to know a little about everything and someone everywhere in the world. Not that he thinks he’s exceptionally intelligent, he’s just an amicable, friendly guy that likes to talk. Pavliska made the mistake of smuggling some C-4 away to his parent’s Virginia farm and getting caught when his father attempted to use the material to remove a tree stump near a barn. The explosion and resulting fire destroyed the structure and when the fire marshal’s investigation found military-grade explosive material in the ashes, Pavliska won a vacation at Liberty.
Your Impression: John’s just a nice guy, you really can’t say that enough. If anyone, by virtue of their personality, doesn’t belong stuck out in this shit-hole, it’s Pavliska. But, being the happy-go-lucky type that he is, he never complains and just keeps on smiling. He has made attempts to become friendly with all of the staff members to varying degrees of success, but no one dislikes him. You can see how he might actually know all the people he claims to have made acquaintances with by virtue of his outgoing personality.
SR Carl Pleasant, USN
Radio Operator, 29
Race: African American
Description: Pleasant is a soft-spoken, natural giant of a man with a clean-shaven head. He wears gold wire-rimmed glasses. He is a Black Muslim and spends much of his time reading the Koran and writing letters to relatives. He is interesting in that, rather than taking an antagonistic approach to dealing with Doty’s prejudices, he often sits down and hold lengthy debates with the man over such issues as religion and bigotry. He is a truly intelligent and well-read man. Carl has never spoken of what he did to wind up here, but the rumor is that it had to do with a former CO who happened to be a fundamentalist Christian.
Your Impression: Pleasant is a true believer in the peaceful interpretation of his religion. However, you’re inclined to believe it’s Carl’s size and not is message that results in a more civil response from Doty than that received by Spacek. One thing’s for sure, the guy’s an electronics genius.
SR James Fuller, USN
Heavy Equipment Mechanic, 24
Description: Fuller is a fit, short, red-headed young man with short wiry hair and silver-rimmed glasses. Once a devout Christian, Fuller went off the deep end when his wife ran off with a local Church of Christ minister at Coronado. Rather than pursue justice in the civil courts of California, Fuller sought it from behind the wheel of a huge bulldozer – destroying the offending minister’s car and a good portion of his house of worship. Now Fuller is a brooding, angry man with an extremely short fuse.
Your Impression: If anyone at Liberty has the potential to disintegrate into a “tower shooter,” it’s Fuller. You take special care to monitor his psychological health and have, on several occasions, attempted to go to Fuller to counsel him privately only to be turned away upon finding him weeping in his bunk.
SR Julius Spacek, USN
Race: African American
Description: Spacek is the anti-thesis to Pleasant – a thin rail of a man that has steadfastly resisted any attempts by the Navy and Pleasant to remove the “hood” in him. He comically endorses and displays all of the stereotypes of a “gangsta” from Comptom (his actual place of origin). His deep dark face and arms bear the vivid pink scars of his days as a trouble-maker back in the world. He likes to chew of drinking straws when not smoking Cool cigarettes.
Your Impression: Of all the staff at Liberty, Spacek is the one with the history you are the most educated about. It seems that along with packing his smart-ass street attitude with him when he shipped off to the Navy, he also brought along a nasty drug habit. He was eventually caught breaking into the controlled substances of the infirmary at Bethesda and, having failed several attempts to rehabilitate his addiction, was sent to Liberty to serve as your medical assistant. It’s a shame really, Julius has the skills to be a damn good corpsman if he’d just grow up and realize what a moron he presents himself as.
PVT. Alejo Miguel Gonzales, USMC
Description: Gonzales is the Mexican-equivalent of Spacek with one great exception: Gonzales enlisted in Marines to be given an opportunity to do more damage than he could on the streets of East L.A. Unfortunately for Pvt. Gonzales, no wars materialized and the Corps didn’t take too kindly to him knifing a Saudi Arabian sergeant over an obscene hand gesture. Gonzales is small, but fit. He wears his hair in a Ranger-cut and sports a long scar on his left cheek. To Gonzales, being a Marine is supposed to mean killing people and he has little use for any of the other duties he might be called upon to do as part of his service obligation.
Your Impression: Gonzales is enraptured by the machismo image and extremely lazy when it comes to everyday work. He might have made a good combat trooper if he could have just controlled his quasi-homicidal warrior ethic and been patient enough to wait for the next war. Fortunately for everyone, Gonzales’ loud mouth seems to satisfy is desire to let all around him know what his true calling is. He bears watching though.
PVT Vincent Degrassi, USMC
Description: Degrassi’s a skinny Italian man from the Bronx, as is readily apparent by his thick accent. Another victim of inability to leave his old ways behind upon entering military service, Vincent was busted for running a small black-market scheme involving tax-free liquor and tobacco products while stationed in Siganella, Italy. Always looking for the angle, Degrassi’s still somehow able to come up with contraband items and sells them at exhorbatant prices to the other staff members. He has only recently emerged from hot water with the CO over some booze (expressly forbidden at Liberty) he somehow imported onto the facility a few months ago. Degrassi has short, black, curly hair and a dark complexion. He has a devilish smile and seems to smoke, although only when other staff members are running low on their supply of cigarettes.
Your Impression: Degrassi is the penultimate Italian player, straight out of some dime store novel. He plays down his role as the provider of things forbidden, but you all know where to go when a special occasion comes round and you need something to celebrate. He’s definitely an adherent to the code of silence, too. No one has ever been busted by him ratting them out the few times the CO has caught wind of his extracurricular activites.
STRANGE HAPPENINGS AT LIBERTY NAAS
You and the rest of the staff are familiar, through sporadic local affiliate news broadcasts, with the “flaps” of UFO sightings that frequently are reported to occur throughout the San Luis Valley as well as the occasional cow turning up “mutilated.” This has apparently been an ongoing occurance since long before the current staff arrived at Liberty and the media has even dubbed the phenomena the “Ghost Lights of the San Luis Valley.” Interviews with so-called “experts” aired in conjunction with these segments indicate that while sightings in the region are not uncommon, they have never been successfully photographed nor has any physical evidence of their activity been discovered. These broadcasts have sparked some lively discussions among the staff members watching them on the big-screen TV at the Exchange because up until recently, no one at Liberty had ever seen any “UFOs.”
November 12, 1997, six weeks ago
Gonzales and Fuller, while pulling guard duty in the early hours of the morning, woke the entire staff reporting that they were observing a group of strange lights – appearing, disappearing, and moving at incredible speeds over the Sierra 6 Range east of the Station. By the time the rest of the staff donned their cold-weather gear and hustled out to the guard shack to see what the two men where talking about, the skies over Sierra 6 were clear.
Gonzales and Fuller were adamant about what they claimed to have witnessed, and Cpt. Tauch quickly telephoned CANG HQ at Colorado Springs to verify that the Air Guard wasn’t conducting night training operations over the range. When no explanation from the Guard was forthcoming, Sparks brought up the “Ghost Lights,” much to the amusement of the others and the chagrin of Gonzales and Fuller. That one little comment almost sent Liberty’s two resident short-fuses off the deep end and required the collective efforts of much of the staff to restrain Gonzales from throttling Sparks.
Finally, the CO put his foot down, blaming the two men’s bizarre report on a combination of lack of sleep, overactive imaginations, and probably some of the contraband liquor Degrassi was busted for distrubuting to the staff members only a week earlier. When Gonzales and Fuller pressed the issue further, Tauch snapped, “If those dumb-ass news reports are going to mess with your ability to perform your duties around here, we’ll unplug that damn television! I don’t want to hear any more crap about “Ghost Lights” or UFOs or any of that kind of stuff. What’s next? You going to wake us all up to tell us that there are spacemen at the gates?”
At that point, Galloway interceded. “Whoa, wait a minute, sir. They seem convinced they saw something out on the Range. I’m not sayin’. . .”
Tauch spun on Galloway, and in an uncharacteristic outbust, ended the conversation. “The Air Force closed the case on all that UFO crap back in the 60s with that project. . .what the hell was it called? Bluebook. Project Bluebook. As far as I’m concerned, if the Air Force says it isn’t there, it isn’t there. I don’t give a fuck what the news people say.”
With that, the CO stomped off to return to the bed he was obviously nonplussed to have been dragged out of.
“Damn,” quipped Spacek, “Cap’n sure do need his beauty sleep.”
As the men dispersed, enlisted towards their barracks, and Galloway and yourself to your quarters, Galloway wondered aloud, “I wonder if Tauch knows the Air Force actually operated out of this place back in the 60s?”