It's night. We're out a fair piece. I'm not sure what language the locals spoke, but since we weren't with 'em, it doesn't matter a bunch. Probably one of the 'yard dialects, which were all outta my league, anyway. It's been a long, hot, miserable day. We're comin' out again. We've been in about five days, sneakin' and peekin', makin' with the low profile. Mostly 'cause this place is straight outta In Country, 3rd cut, 1st side of the tape - Six Clicks - and this is "Charlie's Land." Actually, it was big brother Chuck's, but you get the picture.

We'd been down in a valley with a goodly sized body of troops - not ours. They felt real comfortable there, not a lot of real tight security. We have some counts, some pics, a mail pouch some guy walkin' alone on a trail had been convinced he really didn't need anymore. We'd do that sometimes when it was time to go home. I'm told some people had use for this stuff. Don't know, don't read it any better than I speak it.

We'd moved a long way since then. We're about two klicks from our exfil point, where we're scheduled to be in the mornin'. Did a nice little fishhook, doublin' back to where we could overlook our own trail in case somebody is interested in recoverin' his mail. We move again one more time between sunset and last light, just to be sure. I have first watch. I always have first watch. I snore real bad and everybody wants to get to sleep before me. Whoever's got the watch will sit next to me for the same reason. Snorin' has its advantages - I'm always first to know.

I stand for two hours. It's dead out there. A few crickets, somethin' small movin' in the brush, some night birds about their business. We have mini-claymores out, and I make a last walk of the line before wakin' my relief. He's a "Bru," one of the northernmost tribe of 'yards; taller, heavier and darker than their southern kin. Still all of 5'4". He smiles, musta been dreamin' a good one. He takes the watch and I settle in for six or so hours of snooze. He too makes the rounds before sittin' down next to me. I'm still only in country for six months, and they're still checkin' me out. Okay, they have been doin' it for a lifetime, I'll take the crosscheck. Hell, they're better at it than I am, anyway. I drift.

Someone's shakin' my shoulder. Eyes fly open and I get ready to apologize - musta done it again. Isn't my Bru, it's Mr. Weet, the translator. His expression is not "anger-at-snoring." The rest of the senses come on line as he moves on to wake up the others. It's quiet now. Nary a cricket, bird or anythin' else. This is NOT good. Adrenalin begins to pump as the other rustle softly into wakefulness. It's been maybe two minutes since the first shake, and I'm in my web gear and recoverin' my pack. Weet comes back and points up slope in the general direction of our back trail. I don't, but I wanna scream. I also am glad for the cork, otherwise the place would be an advertisement with neon lights real fast.

A few meters below the crest of the ridge is a row of flashlights. They're movin' down slope, real slow, about five to ten meters apart, online, as dress-right-dress as the terrain allows. I've heard of this in war stories back at Kontum. Didn't believe 'em. Shit, flashlights, ridiculous! I'll figure out who I owe apologies to later. The one zero is up and looking, too. He looks distressed. Not at the flashlights, I think he's seen my face. I pick my jaw up, and my RPD. I'm straphangin', not a regular member of the team, and I don't want to look too bad.

The 'yards are up and ready to go. One of 'em hands Chief his CAR, and he starts makin' decisions. We get real close together and he speaks real soft. We're gonna cut and run. Don't look like we've been seen yet, though they damn sure know we are here. Don, our point (another Bru, couldn't pronounce his name, so settled on Don) starts puttin' timin' fuses on the mines. Chief makes sure everybody has grenades at hand. Directionless weapons - they go boom, and the other guys still don't know where you are. Real desirable tactic right now.

Its now about ten minutes after the first shake. Don's got everythin' rigged and we start movin' perpendicular to the approachin' line. Real slow-like. Think the phrase "excruciatingly slow" was made for this. We gotta try to be absolutely quiet in serious darkness and still make enough time to get past any flankers. There's only a few of us, and a good-sized squad could take us out. We're still too close to use the radio, too. Only got so much volume control on the damn things. We've got ten more minutes until the claymores go. That's supposed to draw attention, and when that happens we gonna run like all hell about forty-five degrees off course for the LZ. We'll hook in later when it quiets down again. We got an earlier than planned start, so we have the time. It's a good plan, the 'yards like it - so I like it.

We manage to get past the flank before time runs out. The mines go before the line gets to 'em. Seven of 'em, spaced by the time Don took to set it up. We hear startled grunts just about seven or eight meters straight uphill, where there are no flashlights. Lots of shootin' goin' on behind us, so it's "show time." The 'yards chunk grenades high thata way. I got green tracers, so I unload some of my ammo. This is prearranged, not like I'm thinkin' fast. Adrenalin dump is startin' to wear off. I'm gonna get another real soon now. One scream, maybe a grenade, maybe me. Lots of yellin'. Weet says we can cut a choggy now, they think we're confused "friendlies". We need no second invitation. There's a high speed trail about half a klick off in the direction we're goin'. No time to observe rules. Must have left a trail a blind guy could have followed. Ran the trail, too. Like I said, not a time for strict adherence to the rules.

About a half hour later, it's still dark. We set up in a bunch of rocks on a slope. We've put a ridgeline between us and the flashlights, and it's time for a little talkin'. The FAC won't be up yet, so Chief sets the radio for Moonbeam. Takes two calls, but they're home. He announces "deepshit!" and asks for a sunrise time at the LZ. Maybe some friendly air assets are in order? Damn straight! It's only two hours till dawn. So we get to humpin'. Hit the LZ early. Don and Weet leave us long enough to check it out. They come back with smiles. Good news, 'drenalin only carry you so far.

Sun begins to poke up about the time we hear a distant thunder that sounds like Phantom. Low down to the south we see the first snake comin' over a ridge line. Don sees movement on the far side of the LZ, bushes movin'. None of the rest of us see it. But we're tired. Chief has the fast movers and snakes tear up the real estate just to be on the safe side. A million bucks for a movin' bush. Whaddafuck! They can dock my pay.

We get on the slicks and make good time back to a friendly site where we use our bus transfers for the final leg home. Fire base somethin' or the other. Medic comes out on the firebase and paints the lacerations we got from the underbrush. Nobody's got any new holes, so we're in good shape. The guys at the fire base look at us funny. 'Sokay, we probably look a little harried. We sleep from there to Kontum. Door gunner has to wake us up. Didn't kiss the tarmac. Kissed the local equivalent of the porcelain god instead. Good enough, glad to be home.

We sleep for a day or so. Too much adrenalin is not good for you, y'know. We go to debriefin'. Doc (Recon Co. first shirt) is bent outta shape for the ordnance expenditure at the LZ. To a man, we tell him he can go do it his way next time. And what he can do with THAT. We go meet at the Recon Club and get knee-walkin', commode-huggin', snot-slingin' drunk. I apologize to the old timers. They can't figure out for what. One of 'em (Joe, I think) pulls out a flashlight and shines it in my eyes. They laugh their asses off when I shit gold bricks. Friends are priceless things. Have to be, who'd spend good money on 'em?

I still don't much like flashlights, even though they're handy when it gets dark.

Copyright © 1993 by Michael D. McCombs, All Rights Reserved

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