So tonight, I had left Scout back at basecamp. In Iraq the Marines use German Shepherds and Dobermans. In this arena, Scout has an advantage over them. When you come across refugees in need of food, water or first aid, an orange Queensland heeler is much less threatening. After the abuse heaped upon the refugees by the enemy in the desert, they are fragile. Care must be used when aiding them.
Just as it was in Nazi Germany and Tojo Japan, once the enemy has been defeated, the refugees may return home to rebuild in freedom and prosperity. If America could win this war, that could happen again.
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I would have felt more confident with the whole team on line. The enemy held the high ground. They had eyes in the hills. They had satellite communications. We didn’t. We were in a dead zone, with no means to call for back up. If the proverbial fertilizer hit the fan, we were on our own.
The distant barking faded. The enemy had moved beyond the compound and was nearing our position. This wasn’t the only group that we would come into contact with that night. A group of 29 refugees had trekked directly through our position. Their scout halted the column as he went on alone to scan the wash down the trail. Although my language skills are limited, I listened as they whispered about the cold, the already sore spots from their packs, the soreness in their arms from the loads of water they carried. This is rough country and it was already taking its toll on them. As they dropped some of their gear for a brief rest, I prayed that they wouldn’t step on me.
Gunny Thurman had once coached me: “If you are setting up in a tree, you be that tree. You believe with your entire will and every cell in your body that you are part of that tree and the enemy can walk right up to you, look straight at you, and he will never see you.” I hoped he was right. Problem was, at that moment I didn’t even have a real tree, more like a bush. “Be the bush….be the bush….” kept repeating in my brain. I held my ribs as tight as I could with my left arm and tried to breath without expanding my rib cage. Forget flat on the ground, I was desperately willing my legs to sink beneath the sand.
That group picked up their gear and moved on as soon as the scout determined that the wash was clear. I wondered how many of the women in that column would ever make it to trail’s end.
This squad was better. They were almost to the trees before we heard them. That was outstanding noise discipline. The soldier on point was very good. At 27 yards he spotted the red pinhead sized dot from my spotting scope and slammed to a halt. I quickly shut it down.
Funny the thoughts that run through your head. My first was, “Wow. He is a pretty good dresser. His hat matches his coat, which matches his pants, which really sort of coordinate well with his sidearm and all the equipment that he has slung on his web gear.” A split second of silent brain laughter moved me into my second thought…. “These guys do slapstick better than the three stooges…” Boom, boom, boom. The three shorter men behind the leader stacked up and ran into each other with his abrupt halt.
Looking back at the tape later it was easy to see why. Their heavy loads had them bent over looking at the ground, instead of the man in front of them. Also, by watching the ground and stepping in the same prints of the man in front of them, the enemy made it much more difficult for us to accurately determine their numbers when we were tracking them.
The thermo cam still hadn’t come on line. You can bet your butt I was thoroughly impressed as the squad leader halted his column, and with only hand signals and a few whispered orders, he divided his men into two groups. He sent the first one around our right flank and up a low hill.
Our thermo came up just as his second in command brought up the rear and led the remainder of the squad to link up with the first.
These men were only yards away, full packs and equipment and we barely heard squat.
Usually when surprised, you will hear tuna cans or water jugs clinking together as the infiltrators didi mau away. Not these guys. There wasn’t a buckle jingle or cracking twig between them. These guys were well trained pros. This was a very efficient mule train moving contraband incountry at will. (Part 1 || Part 3 || Part 4)