by Geoff Cain
A special operations unit encounters fierce resistance in eastern Afghanistan.
|As the intense sun rose and shimmered across the arid, deathly plateau with the elevated mountains standing tall in the distance, the bright light hit my eyes and I slowly came out of my deep sleep. It was exactly six o’clock, the usual time I would get up when on duty on the USS Indianapolis. But this time I was undertaking a mission, and I knew I wouldn’t have to get up until the others awoke.
This was not one of those fancy bases we resided in back in the States. In fact, it was far from that. Imagine the US military operating in a rugged, broken-down dwelling in the middle of the desert with towering Hindu Kush Mountains in the distance, the tops of them the glistening with snow—a sign that the deadly Afghan winter was coming.
My name is Corporal Carl Hamilton of the US Army. As part of the elite Rangers, my mission was to coordinate the anti-Taliban forces in eastern Afghanistan. The government dispatched squads of us all over the place to direct the rebels and ultimately kill Osama. We didn’t have a full squad of soldiers here—only five others, about three hundred Afghans, and a few journalists.
My commander was Lieutenant Jack Fitzgerald. Then there was Steve who happened to be my long-time partner in the area of sniping and the rest of them were Green Berets. The Afghan commander, Mohammed Zaman, was one whom I had met personally and kept close contact to win this war. Unfortunately this was not Somalia, or Kosovo, and according to Jack we had to adjust our tactics to this warfare, otherwise the al-Qaeda assassins would have slaughtered us.
As I opened my eyes, the Jack gleamed his beady eyes straight into mine. He was a young man, attractive to all the women back at home. His tall stature and muscular physique made him the ideal Ranger—he was the type of man any army in the world would desire to have, or in our enemies’ case, kill. His dog tag hanged off his neck, and for some odd reason, it really annoyed me as it got into my face.
“Get up, soldier!” he shouted in his drill sergeant voice. Most of the time he didn’t act like that, but instead was much more flexible. “The Northern Alliance took Kabul. Now’s our chance to maneuver forward and isolate the city’s eastern flank,” he told me as a shell landed nearby.
I nearly jumped out of my bed, or whatever it was, and took guard to ensure I wouldn’t be blasted to smithereens by one of those deadly artillery rounds. But I remembered I would be fine. After all, the shelling had gone on all night, night after night, as the Taliban kept trying to weaken our forces. But that was all they would do. I had yet to see any real fighting, or even one of those cowards they called soldiers, and I hoped that day to get a kill. Throughout my whole career I had not killed a single man, but at the same time my comrades had boasted about those they had slain in previous operations.
I arose from my bed, my brown hair muddled into an odd position. I had not taken a shower in days—all I had was a comb, a toothbrush, and a stick of deodorant. I didn’t feel embarrassed by this. In fact, it felt normal to be surrounded by a couple hundred men who hadn’t taken showers in weeks—even months—except when they happened to find a nearby pond or well to soak their filthy, lice-ridden hair into.
“Everyone’s getting their guns. You better move it!” he said in an overly emphatic manner. “Today might be our chance to nab Osama!” I could understand why. After all, getting rid of that cold-blooded murderer would not only mean a safer and happier America, but honor and medals for myself and all of us in Afghanistan.
Rubbing my baggy raccoon-like eyes, I grabbed my M16 and headed over to the gather point. Nearly the whole entire army of Eastern Alliance soldiers was over here, and it was an odd site. Everywhere the eye could see, Afghans were sitting on their tanks, smoking cigarettes and socializing among each other. In the distance, I could see Steve and the rest of the Green Berets waiting for orders from the Lieutenant. I casually walked over to them anticipating the soldiers to rally and the blockade to start.
It was then that Jack and Commander Zaman walked out of their tent with a voice magnifier in hand, and shouted, “Everyone to your positions! All infantry get on a tank and all tanks get in line formation! We leave in ten minutes!”
With that said, I ran over to the nearest tank and got on the most comfortable spot I could ride on. Of course, with so little tanks and so many foot soldiers, it was nearly impossible to stay comfortable when crammed in by fifteen dirty, filthy, cigarette-smoking Afghans. Luckily I knew I had at least one American friend by my side. Steve had come and sat next to me, which was extremely good, hence I knew I had at least one fully trained soldier to watch my back as opposed to several untrained civilian militia.
“Hey Carl,” he said in his light-hearted voice. He wasn’t the kind of tough guy usually stereotyped in the Army, especially for a Ranger. Don’t be mistaken—he was certainly strong like the rest of us. But he had a certain charm that everyone liked about him. Perhaps it was his perfectly glistened white teeth that shimmered every time he spoke or smiled.
“What’s up?” I replied in a friendly tone.
“A lot today. Hoping to finally get your kill?”
We both chuckled as I had received the reputation of being the only Ranger in our squad to never kill a man.
“Today’s the day, Steve, I know it.”
The brief conversation ended there as Commander Zemen and the Lieutenant gave the order to move shortly after hopping into their Jeep.
As the tank sped up and I became accustomed to sitting in such a position, Steve turned to me and said, “Think we’re gonna get a fight today?”
“I hope so. Haven’t had any real combat in a few years now. Only these covert operations.”
Just as I stated that, I looked down at the tank I was sitting on. It just so happened I was sitting on a T80. That gloomy memory of battle came to me. It was Kosovo—we had been sitting at our base all night, anticipating an attack. The night seemed dead quiet, almost too quiet. There was no artillery fire or anything—just a pitch-black night at a poor village in Kosovo.
I remembered holding my anti-tank gun with Steve sitting next to me, machine gun in hand, ready to fire. It was then, on that ominous and eerie night, that we could suddenly hear the distinct sound of about five tanks heading towards us—one of them a T80.
We were the only Americans in the base at the time. The rest were Kosovo rebels. But at that point it didn’t matter—we braced our sweaty hands and prepared for an imminent breakout of fighting.
As the tanks approached, I could not but help a feeling of excitement yet total fear. This could have been the night I died, or even the night I killed. At one point they were within range. Luckily there weren’t too many, and luckily we had been supplied with enough arms to rip apart these racial oppressors. Slowly gripping my weapon, we all prepared to ambush these suckers, and without seeing us, we opened fire on them.
It was an odd yet thrilling experience for me. I could hear the sounds of guns firing, people shouting, and buildings collapsing. Their soldiers were confused and shocked, looking everywhere for a place to hide, but unable to find a sufficient spot. Then, with a rocket loaded in my gun, I kneeled and aimed at the T80 firing HE rounds at our poor allies who were being killed. With Steve madly firing his machine gun at everything that moved, I knew that now was my chance with his cover fire to destroy that tank.
Just as I had my aim perfect and my finger on the trigger, an artillery shell landed right behind me, and I stumbled, firing the rocket. It missed and hit a nearby building. Unfortunately for me, I had lost my only chance to kill someone and had revealed my position to the deadly tank at hand.
The tank’s turret slowly turned towards our position as we dropped our weapons and ran like this was about to be our last breath of our. We hid behind a building as the tank began firing its machine gun at us. Lucky for us, a shell landed right next to the tank as its armor caved in and it flipped to its side. It stopped firing—a relief for us, but not great for them, since they were probably all dead.
After this point all of their soldiers ran away as we gunned the poor souls down. But I still hadn’t killed anyone, and had prayed to God I would get another chance at it.
Suddenly I jumped back into reality as Steve tapped my shoulder.
“What is it?” I asked.
“We’re getting off here and setting up the blockade,” he replied.
I hopped off my tank and ran to the nearest area of cover—a small pile of rocks that had been broken in by a number of soldiers who had obviously hid there in the past. Unfortunately, we were surrounded by hills on all sides, definitely not a good blockade plan. I had pondered why such an esteemed commander like the Lieutenant would order us to entrench in such a pinned area.
After that, we sat and waited for the Taliban to come over the hill and meet an unexpected surprise. But they never came.
The glowing, ginger sun was setting in the distance over the rocky mountains to the west. It was a peaceful site—the only one that calmed me during a time of war. But as we sat there waiting for the enemy to come, they just wouldn’t come. It was impossible for them to have simply disappeared, as they were surrounded in every direction. After a day of boredom and disappointment, the Lieutenant ordered us to simply set up camp in the area instead of simply sitting in a hot, arid desert wasting our lives away.
At that moment in time a spine-tingling feeling struck me as I peered through the hills surrounding us, seeing a quick, blinding light suddenly shine in my face. I knew something was wrong. Either God himself had decided to shine light us, or someone was peering in his binoculars from the distance.
I urgently ran to the Lieutenant to warn him of an incoming attack, but by then it was too late. I turned my head to see a rocket destroy one our tanks, then suddenly the ear-piercing sounds of gunfire as men around me dropped with blood covering their chests. I entered a state of total confusion on top of distress, with the horrifying sounds of blaring explosions and people screaming in excruciating pain.
I ran to my tent and picked up my gun as lethal bullets whizzed past my head. All around me was death and destruction—there was no way I could know if any of my friends were still alive, as I appeared to be one of the not crawling on the ground.
I grabbed my M16 and sprinted to the nearest area of cover. I helplessly watched as men, even children, were gunned down in a deliberate act of war. As I turned to my left, I watched, as a French journalist was gruesomely shot in the chest twice as she slowly fell to the ground lifeless. I had realized that this was exactly what I had asked for—and this was what got.
Luckily I could see Steve nearby, fortunately still alive. He had a rocket launcher in hand, waiting to fire it once their tanks charged down the hill. At this point I had developed a total hatred for all these haters of America, radicals who only desired to murder anyone affiliated with the western world.
I ran over to Steve as he loaded a rocket into his weapon. His face was stained with dirt and had marks of the blood that was shed around him blotted on his uniform. Looking over at me, I could see the relief on his face that at least he had one man to watch his back.
By now, all the survivors of this lethal ambush had taken up arms and set up cover. The skirmish raged on showing no mercy to anyone who happened to be caught in the deadly line of fire. Bullets were rushing by our heads, barely skimming the surfaces of our skin as artillery rounds and rockets obliterated the ground near us, sparing no one in their path.
I watched as the Eastern Alliance soldiers were utterly desperate to kill those cowards who had oppressed their peoples, murdering their families and enforcing unjust policies upon anyone in their territory, executing anyone who disobeyed.
As I fired my assault rifle into the masses of Taliban soldiers trying to slaughter our men, the Lieutenant ran over to us, machine gun in hand, preparing to give those Taliban a taste of their own medicine. Steve still had his rocket launcher ready to ambush any tank that came over that hill.
“Here’s a machine gun! I want you to exterminate any Taliban murderers who come down this hill, understand me? Don’t take any prisoners! Kill them all!” Jack shouted as bullets hit the ground right near us.
“Yes, sir!” we both shouted back in unison.
With his head down, he sprinted over to the other Green Berets who were struggling to stay alive in a barrage of bullets. I picked up the heavy machine gun and began mowing down every single thing that moved. And I didn’t care one bit for all those helpless souls who were slaughtered on this battlefield. I just kept cold-bloodedly shooting at them, even killing the ones who lay on the ground injured. I had experienced first hand what war was really like, and forgot about my past and my future at the moment. All that mattered was now, how many of those cowards I murdered with a black heart, not caring to even feel sympathy for them.
Then, as my ammunition was slowly depleted, a heavily armored tank slowly rolled over the hill, mowing down any of our men who happened to be firing at it. Steve kneeled and aimed at the tank, with his sweaty finger on the trigger, ready to take the lives of all those who had murdered our soldiers in that heavy piece of metal. But as his keen eye was ready to blow away everyone in that tank, three bullets pierced his chest. His face seemed lifeless as he fell to the ground.
In a fit of rage, I shouted at those child-killers, who had murdered Americans in the past. There was no stopping me—I was now in a suicidal killing mode, ready to massacre that tank and all the soldiers surrounding it.
The tank’s turret slowly turned towards me. I knew this would be my last moment in life—there was no escaping it. I picked up Steve’s rocket launcher and loaded it with another rocket as quickly as possible, hoping that I could destroy that tank before he destroyed me. His turret turned slowly, preparing to slaughter me in a barrage of machine gun fire as I tried to shove a rocket into the rocket launcher.
Something was wrong—the rocket was jammed. It wouldn’t reload in the correct position. I struggled to load it properly, but the sweat dripping down my hands caused it to slip. I peered up to see the tank’s turret still turning in my direction as I constantly strived to load the gun and destroy it, before I was dead myself. But it was too late. Its turret was now facing directly at me, ready to fire a shell into my body and obliterate me into pieces. I knew it was all over. I dropped the rocket launcher and prepared for my death. There was no running—his machine gun would have mowed me down trying to sprint across a desert with no cover.
I sat and waited as the tank’s commander pointed at me, gun in hand. The adrenaline rushed through my body—the sweat dripped down my face. I knew this would be my last breath. Squinting my eyes and gritting my teeth, I felt the imminence of my massacre upon me. My whole life flashed through my head, my family, my friends, all those who died in the defense of our country. And I was about to join them.
Suddenly, I felt the shockwave and the ear-piercing explosion of a blast right near me. But it wasn’t the tank blowing me away. No, it was far from that. I opened my eyes in complete relief as I saw it go up in flames. I could see pieces of the tank flying everywhere, and I could feel the pain of the soldiers standing around it who were incinerated instantly.
I looked up in the sky to see five jets in formation flying over the bloody battlefield. Then, more bombs were dropped on the Taliban as they ran in fear of obliteration. Everyone cheered in elation and relief for the jets who had saved our lived. It was so wonderful to see them being blown away as they tried to escape the deadly barrage of bombs dropped upon them.
I held my gun high in the air as an F15 flew right over my head, low and ready to strafe all those retreating Taliban. I looked over to my right to see the Lieutenant pick up the American flag lying on the ground, full of bullet holes and burns, and wave it in the air for our victory over the battlefield. The Taliban had now completely and utterly lost. They had nowhere to go. Pinned from the air by our pilots, and surrounded on the ground by our military in every direction, their only choice was surrender or death—and I knew they were willing to fight to the death.
In the jubilee surrounding me, I could not help but feel grief for what had happened. I gloomily looked down at Steve’s body. That's it? Where's the glory? Look at the death and destruction all around me—all the lives that have been lost in only a few minutes. And what has come of it? I wanted this battle. I wanted to fight. I wanted to kill. And I got that. I had firsthand seen the horrors of war, not through some news service where I could simply turn it off when it got unpleasant.
There's really nothing else to say. I mean, the civilians and politicians go around talking about fighting for your country on a glorious battlefield. I don't see the glory. We fight, we die, and we go in the ground. For what? Commercial gain? So some old senator can get reelected? Or do we just have this innate bloodlust to compete, even if it means killing fellow human beings? I mean, that's what capitalism is all about. I certainly hope that is not the case, because if it is, peace is hopeless.