I don’t even remember the flight or the infill. The first shots that rang out on the objective startled me awake. Ah, there is my nightly adrenaline fix! I’ve got my feet under me now and me and my boys from second squad are chasing a couple of guys through a fig orchard. The UH6 “little bird” helicopters are circling above giving us a play by play on the direction that the two squirters were headed. They started doing gun runs on those poor bastards. There really isn’t much that you can do when those guns open up, the 160th pilots are the most accurate in the world. They are the reason why a lot of special operations guys that I know are still on this earth.
For all you would be terrorists out there, just a heads up, hiding in the dark is easier when you’re not wearing a body length white tunic. We spot one guy laying on the ground to our right. Nick’s fire team goes straight for him, pouncing like a pride of lions on a fucking zebra. Joe and I advance past toward the second target. His hands are up and both of our rifle barrels are locked on his center mass. We are both at a full sprint at this point, moving toward him with the knowledge that the violence of action is the only thing that can keep us alive. I knew that Joe had him covered. In a full sprint, I dropped my rifle down to my side by way of the sling and struck that man with such force that he literally went feet over head nearly completing a full back flip. The best part was thanks to the technique that I recently learned at that tactical fighting school in Chicago it didn’t hurt my hand one bit. Thanks again Vanguard!
Joe covers me while I zip tie the man. Meanwhile one of Nick’s guys who was securing the first squirter tells him, “Sargent, my hands are all wet.” We avoided using white lights on missions because they have a tendency to make a quick target out of the person holding it. A quick check would reveal that the gun runs being made by the little bird pilots were effective. The man had a softball size exit wound on his inner left thigh. That gaping hole made it tough for him to walk all the way back to the initial target house but that was his fucking problem. None of our guys were going to carry him. Not after the reports came in from the other squads that were clearing the house letting us know that the house that they had just fled from was full of bomb making materials and pictures of high value U.S. targets. No, this shit head gets to walk. You may think that is inhumane but then again, you’ve probably never been blown up by a suicide bomber or watched as a group of your friends are erased by one.
When we got into the house I was able to see the extent of his injuries. That man’s scrotum was torn open and his left testicle had completely unraveled as a result of that helicopter raining down hate from the sky. All I could think at that moment was, holy shit that was a good shot! The man was screaming in agony by this point as I stood over him. Empathy? What the fuck is that? I had none at this point. I was perfectly content to watch that man roll around in agony until we ex-filled. He had a tourniquet on to stop any major hemorrhage but I hadn’t made any effort to pack the wound or help with pain management.
The company commander must have heard the screams from the other room. He came in and asked what the situation was. He was former Special Forces so he frequently considered the “hearts and minds” as being an important part of every mission. I’m not going to get into the dynamic of how each faction of special operations works but I will say that Green Berets in special forces typically have a slightly lighter touch than their Ranger counterparts. He told me to administer morphine to the man and pack his wounds. Now this man outranked me by a lot but not when it comes to patient treatment. On the ground the medic is the authority on all things medical. He was right though, I couldn’t just leave the guys nut dangling out and someone might trip over it. I calmly explained to the CO that I don’t carry enough morphine for him and you both so maybe I should hold on to the narcotics that I have in case one of our guys get laced open tonight.
As I knelt down over the man I wasn’t quite sure how to treat an uncoiled testicle. For all of the crazy scenarios that were drilled into us in SOMC, oddly enough, this one never came up. I decided that I would use it to help pack the wound in his leg. I can’t imagine how that must have felt packing that thing into his open wound with Kerlix then wrapping it with a trauma dressing without any morphine. A testicle when uncoiled is actually quite long. It took almost a minute to pack the entire thing into his open wound.
Just as I was finishing up I was told that there was three more squirters in the orchard that we needed to secure. We formed a small element to track them down. With the air assets that we had circling overhead we figured that it would be a quick game of hide and seek but in reality it took most of the night. We trudged through uneven muddy fields for hours taking direction from the guys overhead until we were exhausted. One by one we found all three men and they were not happy when we did, mainly because we weren’t happy that we had gone on a three hour death march to locate them.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, I punched one of them in the dick. Hard. Then placed my thumb in the wound that was created by one of our service dogs and used it like a joystick while we looked for his other two buddies. This isn’t something that I’m proud of but it isn’t something that I’m ashamed of either. It is simply the way that war is, it’s how it makes you and if you haven’t been there then you can keep your humanitarian opinion to your damn self. By the time we got back to the cluster of target houses we realized that we weren’t the only one’s putting in a nights work.
Apparently a pretty significant fire-fight went down in one of the houses. One of the snipers engaged an enemy target through the window of the house. It was an absolutely amazing shot. He was on the rooftop across the street and saw the figure running toward the front door that one of our fire teams was about to make entry on holding a rifle. One shot, straight through the neck. When I examined the person I could tell pretty quickly that, one, it was a woman and two, she was pregnant. When I informed the sniper that made the kill shot of this detail it didn’t seem to affect him in the slightest. In fact, he grinned the same grin that he did in that hangar in Balad when I handed him that atropine injector.
We piled up all of the bomb making materials and weapons and disposed of them with an incendiary grenade outside in the courtyard. We had a haul of prisoners and information that would likely lead us to the next mission, the next target house filled with people that want us to die. Nearly every night for over three straight months we punched the time card and went to work.
After the mandatory After Action Review (AAR) we headed back to our tents. It was 10am by this point and the desert sun was just starting to seep through the transparent tent ceiling. There isn’t even a point to lying down. I escape to the gym in an attempt to burn through this adrenaline. My tiny silk shorts and plain brown t-shirt would make me stick out like a sore thumb in the regular Army gym filled with squads of vibrant, well rested military personnel in their grey Army PT uniforms, complete with reflective belt and bad haircut. I get even more dirty looks as I am the sole gym occupant doing Olympic lifts and muscle ups in the corner in an attempt to cope with all that had transpired. It would be another full week and a half dozen more missions before I slept.