A Field Exercise
It’s that time again. Alice pack loaded down to sixty pounds. A few more miles, and the hump is over. Twelve miles makes a tedious morning. Finally rest. Hard legs, stiff backs, sweat soaked cammies, and soft covers up and down the column. Streaks through my war paint expose my flushed face.
Chow time! Another MRE, grilled chicken breast, no time to heat, only eat, and no good dessert. Three minutes for mess and then relieve Barefoot so he can enjoy his “bag nasty.” It’s daylight now, time enough to dry shave and redo my war paint.
On your feet! Saddle up! Move out! Columns of two! Disperse! Here we go. They’ve picked a post near the enemy, and of course on top of a hill, very defendable. Only drawback, it’s another three miles away. Oh well, at least we’re moving slower.
On top of the world once more. The area is large, so the perimeter is spread thin. We have got fifty yards on between fighting holes on both sides us. Barefoot and I “dig in” from 1100 to 1230. Too many rocks to deal with, no soft earth, makes the digging slow. Got ‘er done; we can both fit easily and move around. Even dug seats to sit on! Set up my aiming posts, line of sight, avenue of approach, and do some weapons maintenance.
We settle in and Barefoot takes first watch. Chow, ammo, and water get passed out. The pass word goes out too, “anchovies.” It’s only good till 2400, and then it changes to “sour mash.”
Hours go by slower and slower. Sun grows high, hotter and hotter. Still no enemy sighted, only a deer and a scrounged coyote in the last five hours. Dusk fades and they need a recon patrol. We grab only water and ammo. Barefoot and I double time up to the CP. Radio operators listen intently for breaks in the static. We get orders, are briefed, and know our mission well.
Gather intel – group size, location, weapons, and direction of travel – fall back, set an ambush. No one comes so we return successful and unnoticed. Debriefed and tired we return to our fighting hole, home sweet home.
We each get three hours of rack time. Barefoot goes first. 0200 and I remember it’s Harris’s birthday. Search and hunt for my MRE fudge brownie. Substitute peanut butter for icing, and a match for
candles. Barefoot starts his watch while I run “next door” with the “cake.” Harris loved it, nineteen years today, stuck in a hole on a mountain in an undisclosed location, waitin’ to get some. Says it’s one of the best birthdays ever!
No contact all night. Dawn brings the dew and the chills. What’s that moving? Over there on the edge of the tree line. A patrol? No, too big. It’s platoon size! They’re in range, but they don’t see our positions. We’ll wait till they’re closer. Wait for it, wait for it, two hundred yards, one hundred eighty yards, one hundred fifty yards, NOW!!! I open up my SAW! Barefoot pops smoke and throws it down the hill to mark their location! The enemy hits the deck and struggles to find adequate cover. They find none but the tall grass. As they attempt to move for ground and better cover, we shoot them down instantly and efficiently.
Not bad, not bad at all. The dead and wounded counted, the prisoners taken, we consolidate and debrief. Our company commander congratulates us both.
It’s only a three-day FX, at the end of twenty-one days in the field. The dead and wounded are happy, now they can smoke and joke, eat chow and rest for a few hours. Not the prisoners though, they have to be interrogated. Time to go again. Filling in our hole takes minutes compared to the hours digging it out. Police call the area, square away our trash, count our ammo and head to the CP.
Going back to barrack feels great! No one cares that it’s fifteen miles away anymore. They no longer mind humping up the inclines, down the steep draws, or through the waist high vegetation that is home to all sorts of “lovely” creatures. The only thing on our minds is warm water to shave with, hot water to shower with and real food! Not hard to please, not hard at all.