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The Grand Bazaar, deep in the Iranian Capital of Tehran, once a bustling market full of traders and families – now a dank, desolate war torn hell hole rife with Persian graffiti and PLR propaganda posters advertising the benefits of a strict Sharia state to the very people whose safety they disregard. Contrary to the usual Iranian climate, the weather was saturating. The seemingly light drizzle drenches you in only a few minutes, making your flak feel like it weighs twice as much and serves to be a great hindrance.
Our mission was simple. Our squad will infiltrate the bazaar accompanied by two others, both of the US Marine Corps and destroy eight M-COM stations, all vital for PLR communications, all with their Russian allies willing to give their lives to keep them intact. I knew I could rely on my squad mates as they had been with me during countless operations and not only in Iran. Our acquaintances go way back to places like Laguna Presa in South America and White Pass in the Rocky Mountains during the Second Russo-American War. My squad were all experts in their chosen fields. Colonel Mason, First Sergeant Miller, Gunnery Sergeant Brotherton (affectionately known as 'Cookie') and I - Colonel Farrant, were all veterans of the Battlefield. However, what did worry me were our two supporting squads. Eight soldiers who may be keen for war, but lacked the experience needed to be effective on the Battlefield… Hopefully I would be proven wrong.
"Deploying in twenty seconds." I called calmly to my squad mates as I attached my red dot sight to my M4 carbine and put my SMAW on my back. Colonel Mason was stuffing his pockets with C4 and deciding whether to take his IAR into battle, or something with a bit more kick to it. After only ten seconds the sirens started wailing to announce that an M-COM station had been rigged with explosives. "What the fuck, lads?" The protocol had changed, usually we count down before we deploy, but as of yesterday the rules of engagement had changed. And our forgetful minds had allowed our two, so called 'inexperienced' supporting squads to go in without us. Thankfully they had done well.
"This is bullshit, Farrant." First Sergeant Miller exclaimed. "Because of the hurry I've ended up deploying with a fucking MAV instead of a TUG-S"
"I know mate, can't see why we can't have a few seconds before we fight to compose ourselves" I replied.
The fight was hard, but we pressed on. Destroying the M-COM stations and striking a dagger through the heart of the PLR's communications infrastructure till only two remained. But things started getting messy.
"I'm getting my shit pushed in over here!" I screamed as bullets were flying over my head. Lying on the deck behind a concrete slab, my vision blurred, my cover getting chipped away as every bullet struck it. I fumbled around for a frag grenade which was attached to my webbing and took a knee – something I would come to regret. "Fuck you! Here come the frags!" just as the grenade left my hand, a handful of rounds penetrated my shoulder. I could do nothing else but get my dick in the dirt and look around for help, and the closest person was around 25 meters away, and he hadn't seen me.
I looked directly at him and screamed, "MEDIC!". He stopped in his tracks, took a knee behind cover and looked directly into my eyes.
"Hey let me fix you up!" He shouted.
This was a medic I have never seen before… Just a random soldier on the same operation, and usually it's hard to get their attention. I didn't know how he was going to do this though, there were bullets flying everywhere. And without even thinking, he sprinted through the mist of bullets. He would be so suppressed he would probably not be able to even see where he's going, but he was going to make it. He was getting closer. He ripped the medkit off his back and through it over to me.
"Thanks I needed tha…" I got cut short by a wailing scream. A barrage of bullets went straight through him as he fell lifelessly to the deck. "I need a fucking medic!" I cried out but there was nobody around to hear. I had nothing that could help. A horrifying feeling shot through my body – not a bullet this time, but guilt. This soldier did not even know my name, yet he risked, and gave his life so that I could keep breathing. I had to do something and I did not have time to think about it.
I grabbed my second and last M67 grenade and lobbed it over the wall. A lucky throw. It flushed out the three Russians who had me pinned down and gave me a chance to empty a magazine in their direction, whilst still very disorientated. 31 rounds later and there was one enemy left. I pulled out my M1911 sidearm and finished him off before sprinting to the casualty. I remember thinking to myself, "I'm an engineer and I'm not trained for this. Oh fuck it." I dumped my kit down by his body, only seconds from bleeding out. I grabbed his defibrillators and zap. His eyes shot open. "Let's go!"
Even amongst all this anguish and death all around, I remember having a little chuckle thinking, "He's gunna be confused as fuck when he realises he has an M4, and I do like this new SA80 I must say". I really felt good about myself though.
"Sergeant Miller! We still got two M-COMs to go! What's the story on this fucking tank?
Just as I had radioed my message out, 65 tonnes of cold steel came hurtling around the corner. "Hey I need a ride!" I exclaimed. First Sergeant Miller slowed down as Gunnery Sergeant Brotherton jumped into the CITV station and I took the reigns of the mounted 50. cal.
"Mines ahead! Ten meters!" Brotherton shouted whilst making full use of his infrared monitor, which made the mines appear to be lit up like Christmas trees. All it took was a swift shell to the cluster in the middle of the road and the threat was removed. "AT on the overpass!"
"I'm on it Cookie!" I affirmed as I zoomed in on my targets for added accuracy. The .50 calibre rounds tore through the thin aluminium fencing before puncturing the enemy and ripping him to shreds, but not before an RPG was fired, destined to make contact with our M1 Abrams. "Holy Shit! What are these fuckers made out of?"
"They're Russian, Farrant. Enough said!" Miller joked.
The rocket propelled grenade crashed into the top of the turret and shook the whole vehicle. The vibrations ran straight through the structure of the vehicle, up through the soles of my feet and right through to my fingertips. Yet the vehicle was seemingly undamaged. "Thank the Lord for reactive armour."
"A-fucking-men to that, Miller!" I shouted.
We advanced towards objective A, suppressing the enemy with the .50 and blowing seven shades of shit out of anybody who dared to enter the open whilst Colonel Mason advanced towards the M-COM supported by the other squads. We had driven them back, they seemed to abandon the M-COM and plough all their resources into protecting objective bravo, and that was next on the hit list.
"That's the shiznit boys, keep this up and we can all go home." The comforting words came over the radio as the penultimate objective was blown to smithereens. For a split second, all I could see in my mind was 'home'. The Tyne Bridge was the first thing I pictured. Then St. James' Park, home of Newcastle United, the football team I had supported since I could remember. At least that's what it had been called since 1892 before the new cockney twat of an owner decided to rename it after his scummy sports shop… Funny the amount of stuff that can go through your mind in a split second.
We rolled towards the final objective, still annihilating everything in our path before complacency set in. Gunnery Sergeant Brotherton seemed a bit wary, turning his CITV IR camera full circle.
"Hang on. Shit! Bail! Get the fuck out now! Fucking Now! Now!" We acted fast and dived out of the heavy armour. When exiting the tank, we dived out at the front, but as Cookie was looking behind at the time, he didn't.
"Bang!" The tank exploded, triggered by three loads of plastic explosives stuck to the rear.
"Get to fucking cover. Behind the wreck! Go!" First Sergeant Miller, although unable to pull rank was the first to open his mouth and it was a suggestion I would not argue with. The Russian who planted the C4 was caught in his own blast. And he wasn't the only one. Laying all of 3 feet away from the wreck was the corpse of Gunnery Sergeant Brotherton.
He was dead. I could tell by the vacant and accusing stare in his eyes and the unorthodox way he was lying on the ground. I still had the defibrillators I took from the medic earlier, but it was no use. They had no effect. I dropped to my knees and shook his lifeless body, nearly blinded by tears.
"Wake up! Now! That's a fucking order soldier! On your fucking feet!" I kept shouting as panic set in. I guess it was naïve of me to think that a few words of encouragement could achieve what 1000 volts to the chest had failed to do, but it's strange how the horrors of war can affect the way you think. Not just me, but anyone.
"We need to go! We need to go now, Farrant!" Miller was able to keep his composure, something I had failed to do. I wiped my face clean of sweat and tears and grabbed my kit as I ran my index and middle fingers down Cookie's eyelids, allowing him to rest peacefully.
"One more to go!" I shouted. "Let's get this fucking done!"
What was left of our squad regrouped behind cover approximately 50 meters away from the final objective whist our supporting squads continued to lay down covering fire. Colonel Mason threw his ammo pack on the deck and we restocked our pouches. The final objective was positioned at the end of a narrow street. Enemy marksmen monitored the tarmac from overpasses, now naked of all the aluminium shielding. Closer to the objective towards the end of the street there was a Russian LMG position which made getting anywhere near the M-COM an arduous task and the M-COM itself was protected with claymores.
"Farrant, you take the left side. Miller, get yourself on the right making sure you both hug the walls." Mason continues. "I'll set up here and lay down the law with my LMG. Ten metres at a time then you stop, and it's my turn to move. Ready? Go!" Miller and I both took up our positions at either side of the road and waited for the signal, the signal being hundreds of rounds getting fired down range and making a lot of noise in the process.
With his bipod set up and a 200 round belt ready to be spent, Mason started firing. Almost instantaneously the LMG nest at the end of the street fell silent as the gunner ducked down behind the concrete. The supporting squads were suppressing the snipers on the overpass and we had a clear run to the next section of cover.
"Okay Mason! Suppressing fire!" I screamed. I had my newly acquired L85A2 on the three round burst setting in order to spend more time shooting and less time reloading. When I did need to change my magazine, I always made sure to retain a round in the chamber as the second you can save by not having to cock your weapon can be the difference between life and death. First Sergeant Miller was using his semi-automatic SKS rifle mounted with a 4x magnification ACOG sight, perfect for this sort of range. The marksmen on the overpass never stood a chance.
In the distance I could hear a heavy weapon of some sort. I couldn't make out what it was. It sounded similar to a tank, but not as loud. And the explosions produced after what sounded like the turret firing a shell, seemed to be quieter than usual. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. "Hey guys! I think we have light Armour incoming! Possibly a BMP!"
"That aint no IFV! It's a fucking USAS! Get the fuck down!" Mason warned.
As soon as he said that, a squad of Russians came running out of a side street with automatic shotguns firing what can only be described as explosive shells. "These fuckers are starting to get desperate now!" The frag rounds rendered our cover useless, they were just shooting above and beside us and shrapnel was flying everywhere as the environment was torn up.
"Fall back!" I ordered.
As I retreated, Miller had other ideas. Yet again, he managed to keep his cool under pressure and despite the devastating effects and significant suppression of these explosive rounds, he fired. He fired again. And again. And one more time. Four headshots meant four dead Russians lay before us. "Haha, fucking get in there!".
We continued manoeuvring up the street. Till we were just a stones throw from the machine gun nest and the gunner wasn't letting up. The high calibre rounds of his PKP Pecheneg were not the sort of things I'd win an argument with. The soldier operating it could tell he was in trouble as we advanced on his position.
"Keep him busy." Mason asked as he slung his M249 on his back and drew his combat knife. In the prone position he slowly made his way along the pavement, protected by concrete slabs until he reached a large steel container. He rose to his feet and managed to get himself behind the MG nest. He had this rather sadistic look in his eyes, quite like he was even enjoying himself. He stayed low and slowly crept up on the gunner before grabbing him, turning him around and sinking seven inches of steel into the Russian's neck. As his victim was allowing gravity to become his master and pull him to the ground, Mason stuck out his arm and grabbed his dog tags. "Colonel Mocha Jezus. Un-fucking-lucky son! Haha! Now someone get a grenade in there to clear those claymores!"
With the claymores detonated we moved into the building, with just a corridor separating us from our final objective. We moved slowly. Waltzing down the hallway to the sound of our ear-piercing heartbeats. Itchy index fingers glued to our cold triggers. Ready for anything that the enemy had left to throw at us.
We were so close. I lowered my rifle and started rigging the M-COM station with explosives as Miller covered the entrance to the building and Mason planted C4 around the room to slow down if not stop anybody trying to disarm the explosives.
"Okay, charge is armed. Fall back and cover the entrance!" I ordered. We all took up positions around the doorway to the battered building. Mason had his detonator in hand, just waiting for an opportune moment to blow the C4 and anybody who happens to be in that room sky high. The sirens were wailing and the Russians were going to throw everything they had at us. "Just don't stop fucking shooting!" The Russians were dropping like flies as they disregarded their safety to try and get to that M-COM. However the sheer number of bodies that needed to be stopped meant there was always going to be one that slipped through the net. "Blow it, Mason!" The shockwaves from the C4 rumbled through the architecture and could be felt through the ground beneath us. Anyone in that room would now be in ten different pieces.
"Mason! Ammo!" I exclaimed. By now I was down to my sidearm, but a suppressed M1911 was nothing to be ashamed of. I just did all I could and that was keep the bullets flying. Another Russian managed to get through. "This one's mine." I said calmly before moving in. I could hear a melody of beeping, he was disarming the explosives. I had to move fast. I ran up behind him before a strong Russian voice echoed down the corridor behind me.
Despite not being fluent in the Russian language, this was one word I did know the meaning of. The sound of the metal projectile rolling across the threshold, and into the room sent shivers running up through my spine. I had a chance to bug out of there and leave the Russian engineer to it, but what I did not have was time to think. I carried on and drove my knife into the Russians back, grabbed his tags and let him fall to the floor. I then just stood there, staring at the M-COM.
As the final objective and the Russian grenade exploded, my vision faded to black.
Dulce et decorum estpro patria mori.
It is sweet and honourable to die for your country.