Author: Petty Officer First Class Boo PM
Staff Sergeant Michael "Dust" Durst is a former Force Recon and MARSOC Marine. In his last tour of duty, he is to lead a completely fresh squad of recruits. Will they make it through Afghanistan in one piece? Or will they come home in shambles? Realistic.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Tragedy - Chapters: 6 - Words: 37,378 - Reviews: 8 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 07-25-12 - Published: 04-15-12 - id: 8027898
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: It's been slow but action is around the corner. This next chapter is purely focused on the gritty and raw of combat. As always, please enjoy this chapter.
September 16th, 2014
Staff Sergeant Michael "Dust" Durst
Forward Operating Base Utah
My ears were ringing, why were they ringing? Dust stung my lungs and something sticky dripped from my forehead. I felt my senses slowly slip from me as if I was drunk. I realized I was faced down on the mountainside and pushed tried to push myself off to ground. My arms were numb and limp. I didn't feel Gaf's reassuring grip on my body armor's neck strap nor did I hear him yell. All I could do was roll over. My eyes snapped open to a daze of colors, white dominated the dark sky. It felt like I was having a concussion. Groaning, my hand went to the chest holster to find my pistol gone but my rifle, luckily, was still slung around my neck. I pulled out the SCAR mag and stared hard at it as if the bullets would jump out and into my eyes. I smacked the magazine back into the rifle and rolled over.
"Dust!" I heard someone scream, "Dust!"
"What the fuck is it?" the words came out of my mouth.
"I'm hit!" I was in disbelief.
"What?" I yelled, sitting up and aiming up the mountain.
"I'm fucking hit!" he screamed.
I scrambled towards him, worry shot through my body. I couldn't illuminate the area due to the threat of the insurgents. But, I could throw a flare in their direction. I reached into my pack pulled out a cylindrical tube. I bit the top off and smashed the butt into the ground. Smoke plumed from the top with small sparks of orange. With a quick toss, the flare exploded into a ball of burning orange light.
Light bathed the entire top half of the mountainside. There I saw four, no five ragheads all dressed in military camouflage equipped with ancient AK-47 rifles. One of them was clean shaven and was holding a grenade in his hand. Time seemed to stop as I stared down the five of them. I saw sweat dripping from his forehead, his face slick with grime and oil. I realized that I was holding my breath. Fuck.
"Oh shit!" Gaf yelled as I lifted the SCAR with one hand.
I squeezed the trigger and felt the gun jump wildly in my hand, the recoil was too much for one hand. Heat seared my left cheek. Gaf was firing his rifle so close to me that the back blast from the silencer was being directed towards my face. Two went down instantly after we opened fire. The one with the grenade pulled out the pin as I gripped the rifle with two hands. My fingers moved with reflex, the scope aimed dead center on his bright and green body. Crack. Crack. Two 7.62mm bullets slammed into his body and created two small dark puncture holes. I lowered my rifle to see red expanding from the holes the bullet made. He fell backwards, the grenade still in his hands. Alarmed, one of the men jumped from his position and started to run. His friend turned around to tell him to come back.
My eyes widened, they were only a few meters away.
"Gaf, get the fuck down!" I screamed and jumped on top of his body.
My body covered Gaf's entirely. Maybe not the legs. I heard an ear splitting bang shatter the brief silence. The both of us was rocked slightly from the explosion. My ears, once again, were ringing. Something fell onto my helmet. It sounded like rain, the pitter-patter of water. Except it wasn't water. Rocks, pebbles and dirt were blown into the air by the grenade. Burning. Something burned all over my arm. I got off Gaf and felt my entire arm explode into a mixed sensation of stinging and burning. Gaf sat up and looked at me before speaking. No words came out of his mouth.
"You're bleeding!" he screamed, it felt like I just surfaced from being underwater.
"What?" I yelled back.
"You're. Bleeding!" I looked down at my arm.
"Fuck me," I whispered.
My arm looked like burnt meat, the multicam combat shirt had been shredded from the shrapnel. That wasn't even the bad part, the bad part was the burns that came with the detonation. My charred skin looked dangerously reddened and some areas were just plain black. As the adrenaline started to fade, pain started to creep in. I gritted my teeth and looked to Gaf who was busy trying to dress his own. The men that were attacking us had been killed in the grenade explosion. Two bloodied remains decorated the small forest clearing with limbs and pieces of dead meat.
"Damn it!" Gaf yelled trying to bandage his wound, it was too far down for him to reach.
"Gaf," I said moving closer to him, "help me with my bandages and I'll patch you up."
"Alright," he grunted and went to grab some alcohol.
"Christ," he whispered again seeing the burn wounds.
"What have you got into Dust?" I saw him pulled out his canteen.
The both of us took out our knives and started cutting away at the pieces of the shirt that clung onto the wound. With each piece of cloth coming off, it felt like fire was being lit on my skin. I soaked a bandage in cool water and gave it to Gaf. The gently pressed the bandage onto my arm. Pain shot up my arm. At first, it stung, it stung like a bitch before it became a throbbing pain. The process was repeated until a roll of gauze was used to secure the entire thing in place. It honestly looked like a mosaic of red, brown and yellow on my arm. I nodded to Gaf and flipped him on his back. His right calve had been struck by a piece of shrapnel and offending metal shard was protruding out of his skin. I lined up my equipment in order. Alcohol, bandages, gauze, tape.
"Bite onto your knife," I told him and saw him bite down hard onto his combat knife's hilt.
I gripped the shard and gently started to pull. Gaf's muffled scream filled the silence as I pulled harder. When it seemed like Gaf was going to faint from exhaustion, the shard slipped out. With a sigh of relief, his head slumped down into the ground. The shard was about an inch or two wide and one side was dripping with blood. Alcohol quickly came next and was poured all over the wound before a roll of gauze was packed into the small bleeding slit. Blood was pouring out as the gauze filled in every gap inside his calve to prevent it from moving and absorb the blood pouring out. Another roll of gauze was used to secure the entire thing in place and tape to hold it together. With a relieved sigh, Gaf and I laid on the cold ground for a short breather.
"Ironhide One Three, Ironhide One One, come in over," the headset came to life.
"Roger that Ironhide One Three. Ironhide One One here, where the fuck were you guys? Over," I chuckled looking at the entire gravity of the situation.
"We were in a bit of a jam with the Ali Babas. SITREP is, the pilots and crewmen are safe, wounds patched up with a healthy dose of Iraqis coming for us. What's your 20?" Combo asked as I glanced at Gaf.
"We're two thirds up the mountain and just confirmed killed five hajjis. But we're both man downed. Over," I replied.
"You're both hit?" Combo said with a hint of surprise in his voice.
"Yeah," I said nonchalantly since it was part of the job, "I got blasted by a frag's heat and shrapnel, burned my arm and probably embedded hundreds of metal pieces in my arm while shrapnel clipped One Two's right calve."
"Fucking hell," Combo whispered, "what about the mission?"
"We'll improvise and complete it. Don't worry about it," I replied and ended the transmission.
I laid still for a few minutes to gather my thoughts and form a plan. The flare started to fade, sputtering out from orange brilliance into pitch black darkness. Only the light from the moon fell upon the silent world below filled with mountains and forests. Stars sparkled in the dark sky littered with clouds floating across the moon and blocking it with occasional periods of blissful darkness. The wind picked up and carried the smell of gunpowder away from the surroundings. Birds, insects and small animals resumed their chirping after a brief pause. The world felt still once again.
My arm started to burn, burn white hot before numbing.
Beeping, annoying beeping filled the air and made the memory evaporate in a puff of smoke. I grunted and flipped over in my sleep, my right arm was numb from being slept on. I tried to turn off the alarm on my watch just to feel electrical sparks course through my entire right arm. With a growl of frustration, I got out of bed and started my routine. Make my bed, go take a shower and brush my teeth, put on my gear, eat and grab ammunition for the squad before I go on patrol. I took one last look at the photo taped on the wooden wall. This might as well be my last time on this planet, the job was dangerous and I knew it when I enlisted.
The river was cold. Balls freezing cold. In the days, the weather was so hot you could fry an egg on the rocks. But during the middle of night, the weather fell below zero and ice was starting to frost in the two rivers. Doesn't bother me though, I just needed to take a quick dip to get some water on my skin. Flood lights bathed the roads in blinding light and only some of the luminance spilled into the rivers. I had to wear night vision goggles just to take a short dip before heading over to the armory to pick up my designated ammunition.
On the way to the armory, I saw Captain Eddington sipping from a small metal cup with a tray still full of food. The mess was essentially a giant tent with rudimentary wooden tables and chairs. Day in and day out we were served with rice, a sprinkle of pork or beef with a side dish of military candy bars for dessert. As for beverages, the service was even worse than the worst of fast food restaurants. The only choices were water, energy drink laced with loads of sugar and caffeine, coffee or standard piss-warm (or in this case piss-cold) orange juice. I grabbed a tray from the overworked Corporal manning the station and walked towards Eddington who sat in the most deserted corner with her back turned to me.
"Wake up early, ma'am?" I asked addressing her as per regulations, she was clearly annoyed by me addressing her as such.
"You can drop the formalities Durst. I'm not under my command, I'm under yours. We're basically friends," she huffed as I sat down next to her.
"You got it Captain," I chuckled.
"Dammit Durst!" she snapped.
"Bollocks, sorry." she quickly apologized. I was surprised by her sudden outburst.
"Something wrong?" I asked, digging into the cold food.
"I-It's just..." Elizabeth breathed, "I didn't get enough sleep."
"I thought you were a grunt before," I said and felt the goop of rice sliding down my throat. If the Taliban could live off this, so could we.
"I-I was," she stuttered, "and still am! It's just that...I was what you would call a 'POG'."
"So," I stated plainly, "this was your first real 'battlefield' experience."
"You could say that," she whispered at polished her brand-new, metal field cup with her thumbs.
"How the did you make it past First Lieutenant without ever experiencing 'the shock'?" I asked glancing at her as I swallowed down the dry meat.
"Never mind, scratch that last. It's probably the British MOD's weird way of promoting people," I huffed and took a sip of the freezing cold juice.
Battlefield shock or 'the shock' as we Marines called it is the condition when new, fresh out of boot camp recruits entered the theater for the first time. After taking their first contact, many, if not all, were changed drastically from that moment in life onwards. Symptoms included, lack of sleep, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constant shaking and paranoia. All of Charlie squad went through 'the shock'. During the first few months, many had already become adept at adapting to their environment. With the exception of Hayes. Hayes was a wimpy kid in school. Good grades, but under par confidence and lack of athleticism. Like many others, he joined for the money and a chance at college. He came from a poor family and wanted to man up for once in his life. The Marines was his first choice and soon, like all that joined, became his family. When he was injured, I could tell that all of my squad had taken a heavy blow.
Elizabeth opened her mouth to speak, but closed it and looked away. A single breath of white mist escaped her mouth as she sighed before sipping the liquid. I looked at my watch. 0135 Hours, about twenty five minutes before wake-up call. I finished my meal and gulped down the juice, many things needed to be done before we leaved for patrol.
I stood up to leave.
"Going already?" Elizabeth asked, her voice was lowered and hushed.
"I need to set up the radios and sight my rifle," I replied, "you could come with me if you want."
She simply nodded in reply.
The two of us walked over to a deserted rifle range, no one was practicing and all of the sentries were busy looking at a pitch black canvas of darkness or were dozing off. The occasional pop from mortars sent a bright, orange glowing balls of light into the air to illuminate the area for any advancing enemies during the cover of darkness. The Taliban seldom attacking at night but there were instances where they did, and with surprising lethality. I sat on the bench, fiddling with the AN/PRC-148 MBITR's (Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio) radio frequencies to key in for support, command and squad communications. Elizabeth looked at her rifle as if she never fired it. I knew she did in her training, but it was her inability to practice with it that made her so confused.
"You ever fire that thing?" I asked, gesturing at the British L85A2 assault rifle.
"Of course!" she replied bluntly.
"In the last six weeks," I added and saw her back hunch.
"Don't worry," I chuckled, "I'll turn you into one my Marines yet."
I walked towards a small booth and saw the Marine that was working at the armory doing extra shifts at the range.
"Hey Rodney," I greeted seeing the Private reading an outdated car magazine, "how are you doing?"
"Hello Staff Sergeant!" he said with a smile and turned towards me, "Pretty good. How can I help you today?"
"Can you get me two boxes of 5.56 ammunition?" I asked.
"Yeah sure. No problem," he replied and walked into the backroom.
"What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be asleep by now?" I yelled, hearing metal clinking from the room.
"I was just doing this for the quartermaster!" he screamed back before walking out with two metal ammunition boxes, "He was offering call cards to us. My wife has a baby on the way and he's due in a few days. We're going to be home within the week but I'll still miss his birth."
"Cheer up Rodney," I said with a grin, "having a child is one of the greatest things that could happen to a man."
"W-well, I mean," he stuttered, "when I go back how am I supposed to hold the child? I'm scared I'll drop the baby! My wife's getting more anxious as the day goes by, the call card's barely enough."
"Don't worry about it. When you see your wife and the baby, everything else will come by instinct," I assured the young Private.
"Really?" he asked, anxiously.
"Yes really," I replied and glanced back at the Captain, "I've got to go."
"Thanks for the advice Sergeant," Rodney said.
I walked back to the bench and dropped the two boxes next to Elizabeth who looked at me with quizzical look. Without a word, I sat down and opened the box. Taking one of the magazines from my pouch, I started loading it with bullets. Elizabeth hesitated at first, but quickly followed my lead. Her hands were clumsy. Bullets dropping from the metal cartridge with untrained hands. The casing of the bullet being slid in, instead of being pushed straight down and into the magazine. I was finished in a matter of minutes. She was still loading. I decided to wait a few minutes more to let her finish loading.
"Are you doing?" I asked seeing her nod, one of her magazines had a bullet tip protruding just outside of the magazine.
"No you're not," I said.
"Yes I," she started looking down at her magazine, "oh."
I nodded in satisfaction and stood up, drawing one of the magazines from my pouch. Stepping into one of the lanes, I slammed the magazine in and racked the bolt. The round chambered with a sharp clack. The entire range was dark. Two targets at the edge of the range was completely shrouded in the pitch black of the night. Five targets closer towards the range at fifty meters however were lit by the range's flood lights, bathing the area in a white light from it's tungsten bulb. I waited and waited before hearing a rifle go off. I glanced to see Elizabeth trying to hit a target at eighty meters, and missing. She tried again. Her finger jerking the trigger and sending the round right over the metal plate.
Another illumination round had gone up and lit up the entire valley the FOB was in. The target out at two hundred meters glistened with it's metal plate covered in darkened black soot from the bullets. I steadied my breathing and squeezed the trigger. The rifle recoiled into my shoulder, the kick felt like a soft tap to my shoulder. A split second later, the round impacted the plate with a satisfying tink. I fired again, and again, and again. Just as the illumination round extinguished I heard my rifle click empty. Hot smoke drifting out of the chamber in the cold weather. I pulled out the magazine and exhaled, letting my lungs breathe again after thirty seconds of holding my breath. I heard the crack of Elizabeth's rifle and the zing of a ricocheting round. She managed to miss yet again. She tried again, her finger spazzing the trigger.
"Don't jerk the trigger," I instructed, "let your finger slowly pull it."
"What do you know?" She growled with frustration.
"You're just some trigger puller," she said as she fired once again and missed the target.
"This trigger puller," I said putting more force behind my voice, "was a Scout Sniper. This trigger puller, was a Special Forces operative and this trigger puller, will get you from being killed."
"Listen to me if you do not want to end up as an executed prisoner on live hajji TV," she looked down at her rifle, her face still defiant.
"Take aim," I ordered and saw her hold up her weapon.
"Breathe in, then out. In then out, in and hold," she did as told and paused her breathing.
"Squeeze," I said in a low, calm voice.
She slowly squeezed the trigger, the metal lever inching backwards. Her eye was focused on the target and her body was still. The barrel of her rifle bobbed up and down slightly but apart from that, everything was perfect. The crack of the bullet echoed through the silent valley. Her round was spot on in the torso of the human shaped metal plate. Her eyes widened with happiness as she repeated the process. Most of the bullets were hits with some being misses due to excitement at her new found accuracy and from jerking the trigger. Minutes passed before the both of us decided that target practice was enough for one early morning. I had thanked Private Rodney for letting us use the range during the twilight hours of the day and started the walk towards the grunt's barracks.
"I was wondering," Elizabeth said, "how come a former special forces solider is commanding this lot? Aren't your type supposed to be with each other forever or something like that?"
"Long story," I grunted.
"We've got time," she replied blissfully.
I scowled at her sudden happiness.
"Do you have a period or something?" I asked earning a glare from her.
"No," she sternly replied.
"Fine. I'll tell you the story," I grunted, "I hope I don't have to tell it to anyone again."
I re-accounted my experiences with MARSOC and Scout Sniper school along with some operations that I thought were important to the doctors diagnosing me with TBI. The nightmare memories of Iraq and hunting down the commander of the Iraqi Special Republic Guards. The amounts of close by explosions were the main reasons that operation had left a scar in my memory not to mention the loss of a life. If only the medevac birds would have arrived faster, then we wouldn't have had a death on the operation. Instead of spending the time with my family, I just had to babysit a group of teenagers. Fan-fucking-tastic.
"So that's how it is," Elizabeth whispered.
"Yeah and now I'm babysitting these crybabies," I said, stopping in front of the grunt's tent.
"Wait here, it's time for their wake up call."
I walked inside the barracks and stopped at a large clearing. The room was walled off by hescos, metal plates, wooden planks, anything that looked like it could stop flying metal. It was a large room enough to fit fifteen sleeping men with their sleeping bags and cots. Wilkins was sleeping in a small tent with mosquito netting, his own little upgrade for being 2IC as well as getting extra blankets. The fireteam leaders were the same and slept across from him in the same tent. They all had the same privileges. The regular Marines slept on the ground with two layers of sleeping bags, their gear all lined up against the wall. The center was cleared for people to walk through. On the walls were letters, pictures of their families, magazine pin-ups of hot women and posters of porn stars to keep them motivated. The roof was thick wood with Kevlar inserts raised off a couple centimeters from the hescos to allow air to come in but also to allow the Marines to fire through the space. I went to Wilkin's tent and crouched down.
"Wake up," I whispered tapping Wilkin's cheek.
"Huh?" Wilkins mumbled, his eyes fluttering open.
"Morning Staff Sergeant," he whispered and rubbed his eyes.
"Time to wake the boys up," I replied before walking over to Griffin's tent and repeating the same process.
"I'm up," Griffin grunted and jumped up from his sleeping bag.
"Same here," Davis yawned and shook his head.
"That was some quality snooze time," Wilkins grinned and pulled on a combat shirt.
"Right on brother," Taylor agreed before sneezing.
All the ruckus from waking up the fireteam leaders seem to not phase anyone except Tory who was quietly prepping his gear in the corner. The men shrugged on armored vests, jackets and packs. Within minutes they were wearing their full combat loads and turned towards the sleeping grunts who were still snoring away in their sleeping bags. I looked to the fireteam leaders who procured what looked like iPod speakers. They turned the speakers up to maximum power and started the song. I instantly recognized the tune and lyrics.
"My grandmother was 71!" a gruff voice sang from the speakers.
"My grandmother was 71!" the sound of young Marines running repeated.
"Did her PT just for fun!" the drill sergeant sang once again.
"Turn that shit off please!" Mejia grumbled from his sleeping bag.
"Wake the fuck up!" I screamed, making a few of the grunts jump in their sleeping bags.
"Wake up!" The fireteam leaders yelled.
The culsterfuck of waking up was massive. Marines started coming out of their cocoons just to trip and slip, smashing their faces into the wall. Others rolled over in their bags to grab their gear. I watched, shaking my head at the so called 'Marines'. Within five minutes, everyone was shrugging on gear and grabbing their toothbrushes. The squad exited the barracks and headed straight towards the river while the team leaders synced comms with me inside the barracks. Captain Eddington poked her head through the entrance and was greeted by the cheerful Wilkins. I saw Langley brush his way past her without saying a word. The tension between the two was extremely tense.
"Elizabeth," I said seeing her glance at me, "do you have radios for I-COM (Intercept Communications)?"
"I have the radio and know how to understand I-COM chatter. But, I don't have the frequencies," she replied as I dug into my trouser pants to procure a notebook my previous translator used.
"This notebook belonged to Kayab, my previous translator. He was killed in combat but wanted someone to use this to help us take his country back from the Taliban," I explained and handed the small dust covered book to Elizabeth.
"Everything inside contains information on the Taliban's I-COM frequencies to the local people's goals for the future," I said, "Keep it safe."
She didn't say anything and simply looked at the notebook. Griffin, Davis, Taylor and Wilkins grabbed their packs and shrugged them on after taking a few brief minutes to do their hygienic routine. The leadership component of the infantry fireteam was ready to move out. Our current job was to carry ammunition to the gates and distribute them before we stepped off. I double-checked my gear, making sure everything was secure and that it didn't make noise as I moved.
"Davis, Griffin, Taylor, Wilkins," I said seeing the four turn towards me, "we have to go pick up ammunition."
"Roger that Staff Sergeant," Griffin said with a short nod.
The six of us walked towards the armory, including Captain Eddington to pick up our ordered supplies. Twelve boxes of various types of ammunition. Each weighed in at approximately fifteen kilograms/thirty five pounds each. Two boxes per men. That didn't bother me but it did sure bother the younger men not used to hoofing it with thirty to fifty kilograms of gear or sixty pounds to hundred pounds on their backs.
The front gates were simple, dreadfully so. Two small hescos were positioned with just enough space for a Humvee to get through and beyond that were rolls of barbwire arranged in alternating patterns to prevent the enemy from running straight into the FOB. This helped against suicide bombers, car bombs and just overall suicide attacks. The two watchtowers were always constantly monitored by a pair of standard Marine Infantry with designated marksman.
I stopped at the gates and placed the metal boxes on the ground, opening up to reveal a multitude of bullets. The fireteam leaders copied my actions and started pulling out their magazines. Pistols, rifles and machine gun magazines were topped off for the patrol. Water bladders filled, gear checked and radios synced. I ran through multiple checklists with the leadership before my Marines showed up minutes before the step-off time. They repeated what we just completed and prepared to initiate the patrol. I took a look at my watch. 0315 Hours. I turned around to see the men in their fireteams, running through their own final checks.
"Listen up!" I yelled and caught the attention of the Marines.
"We are no longer Bulldog One," I said hearing my radio squawk to life, "we will revert bag to our original call sign. We are Carnage 3-3, hooah?"
"Hooah!" They screamed back with such ferocity, a couple pet dogs in the FOB started to bark at them for being so loud.
"Carnage 3 Actual, radio check," the radio squawked as the squad leaders reported in.
"Carnage 3-3, Lima Charlie," I replied. Loud and Clear.
Time was starting to wind down and there was still no sign of Weapons Platoon's Charlie squad. 0323 Hours. The ragtag group of soldiers finally showed up, their squad leader apparently a fresh Lance Corporal with absolutely no battlefield experience. Their weapons were spit shine new, their boots barely dirtied and their faces still as soft as a baby's bottom. The Lance Corporal was dead serious, but the men in his squad wasn't. How there was no Sergeant to command the squad? I didn't care. It was my patrol and it was my responsibility to shape these slim Marines into a warrior. What I didn't expect were four more men. Or should I say women to add to the already big patrol.
"Fucking great," I whispered seeing the Lance Corporal and a female soldier walk up to me.
"Lance Corporal...Flint," he wheezed, already out of breath.
"Calm down Marine," I ordered, "take a breath and then talk."
"Lance Corporal Flint Aldermen reporting for duty," he managed to spit out.
"And you?" I asked the female soldier.
"Lieutenant Jody Holland, Female Engagement Fireteam Leader," she replied as I nodded before turning around and squeezing the radio transmit.
"Carnage 33 Actual, Carnage 3 Actual, we have a Lieutenant Jody Holland from the FET reporting in," I spoke looking back and seeing the Marine crouching. The patrol didn't even start yet.
"Get off your knees Marine and form into my ranks," I ordered, waiting for the reply.
"Yeah Carnage 33 Actual, we've been ordered to attach a FET team at the last minute," Lieutenant Able replied.
"Last minute? You don't even give me a heads up 3 Actual?" I asked, waving Fireteam Alpha to the front of the patrol.
"Yes Staff Sergeant?" Davis asked with his men shrugging the gear on their backs.
"You got point. Make sure Mejia pulls out that fucking mine detector as we step off. I do not want your legs being blown off, understood?" I ordered seeing the team leader nod.
"Sorry about that. This order comes from the top 33 Actual," Lieutenant Able replied as I turned to the Lieutenant.
"Do you speak Pashto?" I asked seeing her nod.
"Good. Fall in line with Captain Eddington and follow her orders," I turned around to start the patrol but was interrupted by the FET team leader.
"Sergeant, might I remind you that we are on a miss-" I cut her off.
"You are attached to my squad, Lieutenant. You will follow my orders or you might get a bullet to the head. How long have you been here?" I spoke quickly and sternly, I didn't have time to spare as the patrol was about to start.
"T-Two weeks," she stuttered back.
"I've been here six months and I just got my tour extended by another fucking month. It is god damn volatile in this country Lieutenant. If you want to report me for talking back to a superior, sure, go ahead. I got called back into service, I don't need to be here, and it's my job to watch these kids. I have nothing to lose," I growled seeing her nod calmly before walking back to issue orders to her team.
"That's a bit bloody harsh," Captain Eddington quipped.
"I've already got a bloated squad. Least they could do is monitor I-COM," I replied and looked for Langley, who was close to the back of the line.
"Hey Langley!" I screamed seeing him jog to me.
"Yeah Staff Sergeant?" the Scotsman asked.
"Stay behind Eddington. You're my radioman," I ordered and saw him nod in reply.
"You got it Sergeant," he replied and assumed his position.
"All call signs, all call signs, this is Carnage 3 Actual. Patrols beginning in two minutes. Good luck," Lieutenant Able spoke on platoon wide comms.
I saw Mejia pull out his mine detector while the rest of the patrol readied their gear. Final, last minute checks began with the melody of gear clacking and clicking. I double checked my rifle and my armor to make sure that everything was tied down a secure. A series of muffled pats slowly traveled through the squad to signal that each man, or woman, was ready. With a final tug on my helmet, I felt someone slap my shoulder. I continued the procedure and slapped the guy's shoulder in front of me.
"Front ready! Patrol ready!" Mejia screamed out.
"Alright, all call signs initiate patrol. Good luck and may the seas be calm gentlemen," Lieutenant Able said right on time as the clock ticked 0330 Hours.
"Charlie squad move out!" I screamed seeing Mejia walk out the gates.
Outside the base were only a few flood lights to bath the road. Apart from those, nothing else illuminated the land in front of us. Pitch black darkness waited for the patrol and what lurked inside it. With some nervousness one by one we stepped off with a meter or two in between each one of us. The spacing was meant to protect men from IEDs. If one person got struck, the man behind wouldn't be in the helicopter next to the wounded due to the large spacing. As I stepped out of the gate, it felt like entering a neighborhood filled with people waiting to kill you at every corner. Adrenaline soared and our senses were cranked to the limits of our perception. Each step made my gut twist and turn. It was a feeling so bad, one couldn't describe it.
"Carnage 33 Actual, Carnage 3 Actual, we have stepped off. Proceeding on planned patrol route, over."