Private Security – III

Rob’s special forces team consisted of twelve seasoned mountain warfare counter-terrorism veterans. Officially, they were participating in a coordinated effort involving US trained Afghan army and police units attempting to force Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents from a large mountainous area. Effectively, they were out there on their own, given the amount time required for combat support to arrive, if it arrived.

Late one evening just before dark, they reached a semi-barren plateau halfway to the top of the Hindu Kush mountains. Rob’s detachment commander decided they should rest through the night. They were tired from hours of climbing the steep path leading up to the plateau, checking caves along the way.

After selecting a defensive position behind a large pile of rocks adjacent to a clump of windswept trees, they deployed an eleven inch, eight pound robotic surveillance vehicle: controlled with a specialized touchscreen laptop computer, it maneuvered under, over, and around obstacles while scanning the area for electromagnetic vibrations in the visual and infrared spectrum using a miniature array of sensitive receptors and then transmitting its findings directly to the laptop where they could be viewed in real time, recorded, and analyzed.

Rob found a spot inside their defensive position where he could sit without removing his equipment: a flat rock with boulders stacked into a perfect alcove surrounding it. While still holding his fully automatic M4A1 carbine in his lap, he rested his backpack and combat helmet securely against the boulders. Then he closed his eyes, relaxed his body, and entered into a deep sleep using an auto suggestion technique learned from a book while in training.

He awoke at three in the morning with full recall of his situation and location. But the darkness had an uncomfortable feel. Partly from the high altitude and low atmospheric pressure, he realized, but also something else, like deja vu getting ready to happen. He remembered the recent combat where an air strike became their only course of action and he was not interested in living through that again. He washed the bitter taste from his mouth with saliva as he adjusted his night vision goggles.

Seeing everyone still asleep, Rob leaned over to awaken the chief warrant officer who had the specialized laptop. He checked the robot’s memory in the computer and found information indicating the presence of armed insurgents moving in position to surround them. The captain and the rest of the group were immediately awakened. Each soldier had a specific function on the team, yet they were cross trained to perform all other functions, and to operate as two teams of six each.

The captain decided to attack rather than wait. Rob’s team of six blasted their way through the surrounding circle of insurgents to get behind them. He didn’t know how many there were but the majority of them were probably men from local and remote villages being forced to join the Taliban or their family would be punished. Rob regretted having to kill them but, with his training, experience, and night vision equipment, he dropped them one at a time, making every shot count, and none go astray. All members of his team did likewise, using their computerized goggles to determine safe angles of fire relative to each team member’s position.

Rob slept soundly and often when he first returned home from the army. But, after a couple of weeks, he started waking up at three in the morning checking for situation and location, feeling comforted to realize he was home in bed and not sleeping on a pile of rocks high in the mountains, the sparsely populated center of world population, surrounded by numerous armed men who he needed to kill immediately to assure his own survival. When he couldn’t get back to sleep, he wondered about his special forces unit. He thought about returning to the army but he doubted the success, even the moral judgment, of their mission. He needed to find another way to make a difference in the world. And he wanted to do it at home, in the USA.

He walked across the university campus on his way to the admissions office, impressed by the number of construction projects at various stages of progress, especially in a down economy, a war drained economy. The students walking around campus looked young, wealthy, and fashionably dressed. He remembered dropping out of school to join the army because of credit card debt accumulated trying to keep up with them. And the sight of them now clashed with his still vivid memories of combat, of climbing over rugged mountain terrain in pursuit of combat, of interacting with understandably uptight Afghan villagers. The intensity of his negative reaction to the campus surprised him. He sensed himself going out of control emotionally. When he reached the administration building’s entrance, he turned and quickly walked away.

While in the army, he had everything under control, even during combat, especially then. Now, without the mental constraints he had developed in training, and strengthened through experience, his hidden fears were stepping forward into the light. Emotional stress that had been growing beneath the surface now entered his consciousness fully developed.

Sitting in his car, still in the parking lot with the windows down and the motor running, he felt almost normal. He wouldn’t have the patience for schoolwork, anyway, he told himself, deciding to forget the campus for now and find a job.

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2 Comments on “Private Security – III”

  1. You definitely bring up many good points, and what I especially enjoyed about this story, is that it’s not one-sided. Rather, it mirrors the multi-faceted reality with which, I imagine, those in the military have to deal. Also, the open-ended way in which the story closes allows the reader to continue thinking about the issues even when they’re read the story to the end.

    • Hi, interpretartistmama, thanks for commenting. After reading your Swords and Plowshares blog, I value your opinion on the subject. You quoted a “staggering statistic: more veterans commit suicide upon returning home than perish in combat.” If that’s even close to being true, we need to reorganize our military and re-prioritize our use of the military. One big problem, it’s not really our military anymore. It has been privatized. I admire and appreciate those who voluntarily enlist today to serve their country. But I think the civilian leadership misuses the military for political and economic purposes which serve the very wealthy almost exclusively. What happens next? To keep this story going, I need to do some detailed research.

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