Archive for April, 2016

We return to the MSS by a slightly different route to avoid possible ambush on our previous route, eventually making our way to the designated entrance entrance/exit point. Using multiple entrance/exits at an MSS or patrol base increases the risk of it’s compromise by anyone coming across the additional sign. Also, anyone not approaching the base toward the designated point should be regarded with extra scrutiny.

As we approach the entrance, Andy assumes we are close enough to be under the observation of the man on security, so he signals a halt and then goes to ground. I turn to watch our back trail as he reaches up with his support hand, lifts his boonie of his head and holds it with the sewn-in VS-17 panel inside showing toward the entrance. After waiting for a few seconds, he sees the reply through the thicket, the magenta side of another small VS-17 panel flashed our direction. This is the proper IFF sign-countersign per our current SOI. If the wrong color is displayed on either end, it is assumed that end is compromised and under duress.

Moving through the concealed entrance we find Al on security. Andy and I take up positions on his right and quietly watch our back trail for a few minutes.

After determining we aren’t being trailed, I stand and move next to Al. “Rally on the rucks” I whisper to him, having noticed that our rucks have been retrieved and are lying ready next to the others at the center of the MSS. Jim is lying prone near them, watching in the opposite direction.

Al nods, falls in behind Andy and we gather next to Jim, who looks our way and gives a nod.

I look toward Al and ask, “Messages go out O.K.?

“Yes,” he replies, “No traffic our way though.”

I nod and then tell them, “We’ve found a good spot for the hide. Good news is, it’ll fit all four of us and there’s not much digging involved.”

“Digging, all four of us?” Al questions, a confused look on his face.

He goes on to say, “I thought you were going to set up a hasty above ground hide while we were running the MSS here. Just long enough to look the area over before we go down to Mr. Conner’s place. You know, make sure nothing is out of the ordinary first. “

Jim rolls over on his side to face us.

“Al, do you honestly believe that everything we’ve seen in this valley is “ordinary”?” Jim remarks using his fingers to make apostrophes in order to emphasize the word “ordinary” and then adds, “I agree with Dan. I think we’re gonna be here longer than we bargained for. There’s a lot of bad actors moving around in this AO and I for one don’t want 30 of them bringing heat down on the four of us just because we were too lazy to build a proper hide. All it would take is a hunter out looking for a deer or turkey for his pot to stumble on us and next thing you know we’re fighten’ for our hides. No sir, I’m all for diggin’ in.”

Jim has said his piece and turns back to his sector. It’s quiet while we take in Jim’s comments. I look over at Al half expecting him to take offense at Jim’s usual tactless reply.

Andy not wanting to be left out of the conversation adds dryly,

“Jim, we haven’t seen any sign of a deer, bear, hog, or a turkey in these mountains for over 2 years, let alone the real thing. Not even a whistle pig.” Andy adds, referring to the local name for the ground hog. “They’ve all been hunted out, you know that. It’s so bad the coyotes have left”

“Well… squirrels then. We still got lots’a tree rats around here.” Jim responds, this time not turning to face us.

I shake my head and smile at Andy. He grins back.

“Okay guys,” I say, “I’m doing a FRAGO (fragmentary order or change) to the OPORD. That’s why the MSS is listed as “Tentative” in the OPORD. That gave us some flexibility in case the proposed site sucks or the mission changes. And as I see it, the mission has changed from checking up on Jack’s place to getting an understanding of the overall situation in this valley and sending that info back to the retreat so they can analyze it and make an informed decision on how we’re going to handle this. Remember, this is very close to our back yard. You wrote the radio intercept transcript Al. You know they were making comments about our valley. My guess is that after they clean this area out, they are headed there next.”

Al nods in agreement, or at least understanding, as I continue. “It’s going to take a little longer than we anticipated and the threat level has gone up considerably. So we’re going to all move to the new location where we’ll set up a dug-in observation hide. I know in the past you’ve worked out of a temporary “sniper hide” or FFP (Final Firing Position). This is a little different. An observation hide is a long term hide used primarily for surveillance missions, so it’s more complicated and usually takes more time, muscle, material and different tools to construct. We’ll run a combined MSS and hide until Martin pulls us out or the mission changes.”

“Al,” interjects Andy, “It’ll be built a lot like the over-watch bunker up on the hill at the entry road to our cove only not quite as permanent.” Then he adds, “Hey, remember when Jim, and Randall and I had to work out of one over near the airport back before everything started to get real bad? This is the same thing.”

“Yes, I remember. “Al replied. Then he added quietly, “Randall never came back, he’s still buried over there.”

Jim, turning again on his side toward us says quickly, “Andy, thanks for that great example, you knuckle head. Al, this ain’t the same as that. We were pretty green then. This ain’t our first rodeo and you know it, so don’t go gettin’ all spooked on us.”

I reach out and put a hand on Al’s shoulder.

“Jim’s right Al.” I add. “This isn’t the same situation. Back then we had no idea who was our friend and who was our enemy, and we were stabbed in the back by some folks from outside of our community. A lot has washed out since then. I trust you three men with my life and the lives of my family.”

“Sorry about that.” Andy says.

“No big deal.” Jim responds with a shrug. “We took care of those SOBs and nobody in the entire valley has missed ’em.

It’s quiet again as I watch for Al’s reaction. He lowers his head sightly, peering toward the ground for a few minutes, deep in thought. Andy fiddles absentmindedly with his knife.

After a few moments Al shrugs his shoulders, looks up and asks, “So we’re going to run everything from the hide, no MSS?”

“No MSS. It’ll be tight but it’ll make it easier on all of us. One less body pulling security, smaller footprint, less chance of compromise, more rest.” I reply.

Al asks, “What about comms? How will we run comms back to the retreat without a separate MSS?”

“We’ll run them out of the hide.” I answer.

Al gives me a confused look.

I reply, “Not to worry Al, I’ll help you set up. I’ve done it that way more often than not. Really, the only difference is instead of leaving our extra equipment and rucks with the MSS, we will have to build a separate hide for the rucks once we empty them. No room for them in the primary hide.”

“You’re not concerned we’ll get DF’d transmitting out of the hide?” asked Al.

“From what we’ve seen so far I don’t think this bunch has the capability. In this environment, I’m a lot more concerned we’ll get scarfed up by someone out looking for some meat for dinner, like Jim so eloquently stated.”

Jim snorts.

Al has been listening with a thoughtful look on his face and then abruptly replies, “OK, I’m on board.”

“Good,” I reply. “Any questions?

There are none.

Jim, this place sterilized?” I ask.

“Yep, ready to go.” Jim replies.

“Andy and Jim up front, Andy take point, you know the way. Al pick up slack, let’s go.”

We ruck up and slowly leave the thicket then stop about 50 yards out to watch our back trail again. While waiting, we notice that the snow has completely stopped and the wind has slowed a little. The clouds are thinning out. I figure we have about 4 hours of daylight left.

We patrol back up the backside of the spur, stopping about 50 yards short of the hide spot. Prior to occupying the hide location, we set up another over-watch and keep eyes on it for about 15 minutes in the event that someone moved in while we were gone. If we had a larger patrol, I would have left a 2 man team to maintain eyes on the site while Andy and I returned to the MSS to bring up the remainder of the team.

Andy takes security while we work on hide construction.

Per our SOP, we approach the tentative hide from the side opposite of the target area and will avoid moving through the target side if at all possible. Regardless if it would be near impossible for threat personnel to approach the front of this hide due to the cliff, it would build bad work habits that could lead to future mistakes. Surveying the hole under the unearthed root ball, we determine that we will be able to fit all four team members in it.

“Well, you’re right, we won’t have to do a bunch of diggin’, unless you want a full-on sub-surface hide.” Jim states, staring down into the hole.

“No”, I reply, “We don’t have the tools or supplies to build one. We’d need shovels and mattocks and pre-fab roof sections. I think a modified belly hide will do. A little deeper than a belly hide where we can move around some and sit up occasionally, and a deeper area where the observer can stay seated.”

Jim steps into the depression to locate the direction of the target and to determine the best location for the viewing aperture. The rest of the hide will be situated and built around it.

“The clouds are really lifting out.” Jim states as he looks over the lip toward the west. “We’re gonna have a birds-eye view of the whole valley from here.”

“This is a good spot.” Al adds, looking around. “The cedars provide a nice dark area to work in. There’s very little danger of being silhouetted against the ridge behind us. Very good for antennas.”

“Yep, good piece of real estate.” says Jim. “The cliff out front is a nice touch. The only way anyone gets to us is from the rear or sides and we’ll have plenty of warning if they try. I like it.”

“I’m glad you two approve. Now let’s get to work.” I reply.

We pull all of the empty sandbags from our rucks and lay them out in a square outlining the proposed hide. Then due to the wind, we temporarily peg ponchos around the outside of the hide to protect the area from disturbance and to catch any loose dirt taken from the hide.

Next we remove the large twigs, limbs and leaves from the ground on top of the future hide and set them aside for later use. Jim then uses a small pair of pruning shears to lop off the brambles and small saplings growing from the bottom of the pit.

We then cut any sod inside the hide boundary with e-tools. We carry one per 2 man team. The e-tools are locked at a 90 degree angle and the sod is first cut into 2′ wide sections perpendicular to the hide, from the center of the pit toward the sandbag boundaries. When the sections are all cut length-wise, we set the e-tools at full extension, then undercut and roll the sod away from the hole onto the ponchos, keeping the outside edge of the sod attached to help hold each section in place when it is rolled back out. Next we cut the walls of the hide perpendicular until the floor is completely flat, about 24 inches deep. Then we cut a lip in the dirt, 8 inches wide and 6 inches deep, completely around the hide next to the walls. Most of the spoil is placed in the empty sandbags. Jim points out that we have enough room to excavate a sitting area for up to 2 side-by-side observers. This area is directly behind the aperture, near the right hand corner of the pit, facing the target. The area for the feet is about 24 inches deep below the seat. The seat is about 30 inches below the lip of the hide. Any roots we encounter are either cut with the e-tool or by plunging the 10” blade of a Sportsman folding saws into the ground and cutting it loose. Rocks are pried out with the e-tools.

Since the heavy sod will cover about 1′ to 2′ of the hide roof from the edges when it is rolled back out, its weight will cause the poncho roof under it to sag. To support the sod, we select 4 small trees, place a poncho on the ground at their base to catch the sawdust, then cut them as close to the ground as possible and limb them. The sawdust is placed into one of the sandbags while the small limbs are cut into small sections with the pruning shears and disposed well away from the hide along with any extra soil. The tree stumps are painted with a mixture of soil and water to age the cut and then covered with leaves.

To support the poles, a filled sandbag is placed about a foot from each corner of the lip. The end of each pole is then laid on a corner sandbag and the pole ends are lashed together. Each horizontal pole is then supported at the center by lashing it to a short vertical pole stuck into the ground. We stand back and look at our handiwork while Jim completes the last of the lashing. He puts the weight of his body on each pole in turn and grunts his approval. We now have a sturdy pole support system, about a foot inside the lip, completely surrounding the pit.

We fill the rest of the empty sandbags with a majority of the removed soil. To deal with the left over soil, Al and I empty two of the rucks, then line them with black trash bags. After we work for a few minutes I notice Al is shoveling a lot of soil in his ruck.

“Al, you might want to take it easy with the dirt” I warn him.

“Why don’t we fill the rucks? Less trips right? Al replies.

“Well, these are 110 liter rucks and 1 liter of dry clay weighs a little under 2.5 lbs. Do the math.” I say as I close up the bag and top flap on my ruck.

Al stares at his ruck for a moment, and then with a grunt, attempts to lift it. He tips the ruck back into the hole, dumping a good portion.

“Ready” he announces as he lifts the ruck onto his back.

It takes 3 trips. We find an area of thick briars growing just below a small rock face. There we dump it off from the top of the cliff into the thick mass below.

“Al,” I point out, I picked this spot out to dump the dirt because these rock faces usually make good dens for Timber Rattlers. I don’t think we need to worry about anyone poking around in the briars beneath them and finding it.”

Al looks the rocky area over intently and nods.

I go on to add, “If we didn’t have this slide, we could look for a groundhog hole or the hole from a rotted tree stump to dump it in. Even better would be a large creek or river. Worst case we would have to scatter it over a large area.”

While we are dumping the soil, Jim connects and arches 4 flexible fiberglass tent poles sections over the top of the hide and then pushes the ends into the ground on each side forming a low dome. The poles are held together with internal shock cords. Then the overlapping poles are secured to one another with duct tape at each cross-over point. He snaps 2 military camouflaged ponchos together, stretches them over the poles and secures them at the lip surrounding the hide with small aluminum tent stakes pushed through the grommets. Next he places the filled sandbags along the lip surrounding the excavation and onto the edges of the ponchos to hold them in place.

Jim retrieves the patrol’s two 4’x8′ camouflaged nets, tie-wraps them together and drags them face down on the ground through an area behind and below the hide. This will cause the net to pickup a lot of natural plant material. The net is then stretched over the camouflaged ponchos and sandbags and also pegged into place. Last, he rolls the sod back in place over the sandbags, the wooden support poles and up the net about a foot. We return from our dump mission in time to help camo the sod and the rest of the net with the dead fall and leaves that were saved from the pit.

Al asks, “Why do we use the camouflage netting, isn’t the camouflage poncho enough?”

Jim looks up from his work, wiping his hands on his trousers as he replies. “Well, the poncho works O.K. at a distance, but its better if you add a little depth and texture for up close. The net adds that. Now, if the sod completely covered the hide roof, we wouldn’t have needed the net, but we would have to spend a bunch a’ time building a stout frame underneath to handle the weight. So, I reckon it’s a wash. Another thing, when that nylon poncho gets wet from rain or the sun hits it at a certain angle, it’ll shine like a nekid babies butt. So, we use the net and the leaves and twigs and such to hold down the shine.”

“Interesting” Al replies, looking closer at the netting.

“Yeah, interestin’” Jim replies.

Opposite the aperture, I dig a small entry opening below the support pole and the 2 sandbags are removed. At the opening, I hang the door itself which consists of a brown section of burlap with a small section of camo net sewn at the top edge. It has also been garnished with natural vegetation. It is then attached to the exterior net and is allowed to drape over the door opening. It will be held in place from the inside with a few small rocks placed on the lower end of the flap. During the day the burlap section can be rolled up inside and tied off while the net is left hanging covering the opening. This will provide more ventilation.

The aperture is constructed next. Al and Jim dig a wide ledge, 36” wide by 12” deep, slightly below ground level to accommodate 2 sandbags. They will be used as a rest for the spotting scope tripod. Several short branches about 12 inches long are pushed into the ground about 24” apart on each side of the opening and lashed together with 550 cord. Next a filled sandbag is placed on either side of these branches, perpendicular to the sandbags around the perimeter of the hide. Then several other large branches about 36” long are placed on top of the sandbags forming a top shelf. The ponchos edges are pulled over the shelf, sandbags placed on top to hold them into place, then the sod is rolled back over the wood frame opening. From the inside, the small aperture opening is then cut out of the sod. Lastly, the camo net is draped over the aperture and pegged down.

“Jim” Al asks, “Why is the hole in the sod so small, why don’t we make it bigger like the bunker at home. Then we would have a wider field of view.”

“Well, mainly because at night, if someone down there,” he points toward the valley below, “has a thermal imager, then all the body heat inside this hide would cause a bigger opening to light up like a neon sign. So we keep the opening just small enough to get our scope or nod lens a good view. We’re far enough away they won’t spot a small image. Don’t take much of a hole to see out of. Now, during the day, we can roll it open and just use the net. It’ll get some fresh air in, and believe me we’re gonna need it if were here for long. We’ll get mighty ripe.”

While Jim and Al are busy inside, spreading out a large piece of black plastic that makes up the floor covering, I do a walk around the hide to look for deficiencies.

The hide is about 18 inches above ground level at the center and about 12 inches at the edges. The south side of the hide is hard against the upturned root ball which adds to the camouflage effect with its tangled mass of roots jutting over the net. The north side is partially covered by some low hanging spruce boughs. I adjust and add camo here and there. Then I moves about 25 yards away and carefully walks around the hide looking for problems just stopping short of walking in the area facing the target. I will do another check after dark when we will use a red lens light inside to test for leaks.

Next, we unload the equipment from our rucks that we will need to operate in the hide. The following equipment is kept in a dry bag in the observation area: Our 0-60 power spotting scope, one set of binoculars, one set of NVGs with spare batteries, blank sector sketch sheets and a small log book.

Al places all of the communication equipment and batteries as well as the radio log, SOI, and one-time pads in a dry bag in the admin area next to the observation area. We unload 1 sleeping bag; it will be warm in the hide and only one will sleep at a time. Food is packed into another dry bag kept in the admin area. Other non-essential equipment is kept in the rucks, which are placed in rain covers, then moved to a separate simple hide site, an area of thick briars, about 50 yards down the mountain but still within view of the man pulling security.

The interior of the hide is now separated into three areas: observation, rear security, and admin/sleeping area. A blackout poncho is hung from the ceiling tent poles to separate the admin area from the observation area. Another is hung near the rear opening or rear security area. No light will be used in the observation or security areas, and only red light is used sparingly in the admin area.

One man will be on observation, one on radio watch and one on rear security at the door opening. The last will sleep. We will rotate through each position once every 2 hours with the man sleeping getting 6 hours at a stretch.

Al and I setup the HF antenna system. We cut and install the dipole antenna low and well hidden in the trees about 25 feet away from the hide, insuring that the antenna wire is not touching any vegetation. This time the cobra head at the center of the antenna is located at a fairly large tree. After the antenna is hoisted, we trace the flat gray painted coax down the tree trunk and lightly tack it at the top and bottom with painted fence staples. Next we cut a shallow slit in the ground with our e-tools from the base of the tree to the hide. The portion of the coax on the ground is then pushed into the slit, which is then closed as we go. Ground litter is then sprinkled over the slit.

Next we install the 292 receive antenna for the scanner. It is ran up into a cedar tree overhanging the hide where it disappears between the boughs. It’s thin coax is also stapled loosely to the tree trunk, then buried in a slit in the ground which runs into the hide. Both buried coaxes will be checked every morning, if one were to be dug up at night by animals, they could be seen and would lead to the hide location.

“Dan,” Al asks as we work, “Are we going to have to re-cut the antenna every day since the SOI stipulates a new frequency every day?”

“Yes” I reply. “Even though I said I don’t think these guys have the ability to DF us, if they have access to Jack’s radio room, they can listen in. I don’t want to make it easy for them.

“You’re probably right, It’s just that I thought it would be better if we stay out of sight as much as possible.” Al replies without looking up from his work, burying the coax.

“You say that now,” I say. “I think you might re-think that after you have been cooped up in that hole for a few days.”

Al stops working for a moment then replies, “Jim said the same thing earlier. I hadn’t thought about that. This will be a new experience for me.” He mulls it over for another moment, then goes back to his task.

After we push the end of the scanner coax into the hide, I call everyone together.

“OK, let’s go over our routine. This will be a little different than operating two sites like we normally do. First, clothing. Put on whatever clothing you are going to need. That includes cold weather gear. Since the sod doesn’t completely cover the hide, we’ll lose some heat. Also bring your load bearing gear, you’ll have it on at all times, to include when your in the sleeping bag. That goes for boots too, we sleep with our boots on. Once we cache the rucks, we won’t access them again until the mission is complete. You can take stuff off if you get too hot. I would suggest everyone have his woobie to wrap up in if it gets real cold. For sleeping, I had Jim put my fart sack in the hide. We will hot rack until we finish. If you want a change of socks or underwear, there is enough room for extra dry bags in the hide.”

Everybody nods understanding.

“Next, shifts. We will rotate on two hour shifts to each position. Sleep shift will be 6 hours, then rotate to observation first, then admin, last security. Then back to sleep. Observation follows sleep because it’s the only position you can sit up in. Less chance of falling back to sleep.”

I look into each man’s face. Still no questions.

“Duties will be per SOP. Admin will monitor the radios, scanners and their logs. Security will keep an eye on our six as well as emplace and monitor the solar panel as needed. We don’t know how long we’ll be here, so it’s whoever is on admin to monitor the batteries. Observation, we made the hole big enough to fit two, so if you feel like there’s too much going on to keep the log, call in the man on admin to help. If that happens, the radio will answer a call on its own, just take the scanner with you. Make sure you keep good logs, everything you see gets logged; structures, personalities, activities, supplies, vehicles, weapons, comms, anything you see day and night. Speaking of night, watch the nod batteries, keep the spares charged.”

“Eating will only take place in the admin area. No hot food, we don’t have enough butane canisters for the Jet Boil to heat food and if even if we did, the smell could give up our location. Also, no MRE heaters. Start one and the fumes will run us all out of the hide. The Whisper-lite stove is a no-go in the hide also. We don’t need a liquid fuel spill or fire in the hide. The man coming off of sleep detail can heat a cup of water for an instant coffee or whatever. Again, use the Jet Boil. The dry bag with the food will be in the admin area. I don’t have to tell you that we will be on short rations due to the situation we’re in. Originally we thought this would be a quick 4 day in-and-out. So we gotta stretch it as far as we can. Good thing is, we won’t be burning a lot of calories lying around in the hole.”

“Hygiene. Not much chance of bathing in the spring, it’s too small plus you’d contaminate the water supply. About all we have is the bottle of hand sanitizer Kathy gave us. She had squirreled it away in the medical supplies but felt like we would need it. Use it to keep your hands as clean as possible. We don’t need someone with the squirts while we are in this hole.”

“Too bad we can’t get wet-wipes anymore. I sure miss them.” sighs Andy.

“They were a crutch” replies Jim.

Andy rolls his eyes.

I ignore them and continue.

“Lights only in the admin area and try to hold it down to red-light if possible.”

“Hey Dan, can we get a flap that we can cover the aperture with so we can fill out the observation log at night?” asks Andy.

After thinking about it for a few seconds I reply, “No, I don’t want to take the chance of any light getting out through the only opening we have facing the target area. On a moonless night, even red light can be seen a long ways off. If you have to record anything in the log at night, pass it over to the man in the admin area and dictate to him.”

“I agree.” Jim replies.

“30 minutes before BMNT and EENT we will have stand-to. Everyone will be up with their gear on, weapons ready. 30 minute listening, then first light walk around to check camo by the man on security and re-cut the antenna and check the coax by the man on admin. Last light checks after EENT will be security’s job.”

“Water resupply.” Jim says.

“Oh yeah” I continue, “we got real lucky there. While we were out dumping the spoil earlier, Al spotted an old game trail which we followed back this way. It led to a small spring in a rocky area with lots of tree cover. So we don’t have to make the daily trip down the mountain. Whoever is cutting the antenna will take the man on security in the morning to refill canteens. Standard IFF per the daily SOI applies when returning. Remember, it changes daily so make sure you check it before you leave. Same goes for the man pulling security. Water detail gets compromised, we go into E&E plan back to the rally point over the mountain. Jim, I’m thinking iodine tabs instead of the filters.”

“I’m with you, lots faster, less time at the water source and less to carry. The morning Joe will taste a little funky though.” Jim replies wrinkling his forehead, then he adds, “I guess if we get bored we could filter the iodine out once we get back inside the hide. What about latrines?”

“Thanks, getting to that.” I reply. “Each of us should have a 2 quart collapsible canteen with a big “P” in black permanent marker on each side. That’s your personal urinal. Keep it with you, if it leaks we’ll be smelling your piss on everything. Don’t be that guy. Make sure you keep the caps tight. Enough said. It gets dumped in a hole and covered during the morning check by the guy re-cutting the antenna. When you have to take a dump, do it in one of the MRE outer bags, roll the top over and seal it with duct tape, then put it in a large zip lock bag. We’ll keep them stored in the admin area in one of the black garbage bags we used to haul the dirt out. When we pull out of here, we’ll bury them.”

“Looks like we’re gonna get to know each other real well over the next few days.” blurts out Andy.

Everyone laughs quietly.

“Yeah, now I wish I hadn’t ate that meatball marinara MRE yesterday.” Jim added.

“Us more so.” Al replied quietly, giving Jim a sideways look.

We all laughed again as Jim reaches out smiling and rubbed the top of Al’s head vigorously.

“Last area to cover is actions in the hide if we are compromised.” I said looking toward Jim. “Go over it for us Jim.”

“Sure thing. First, anyone can call a compromise but most likely it will be the guy on security who will know it first. When Dan makes the decision to pop smoke, whoever is the radio man sends the “compromised” message back to the retreat. It’s already loaded in the radio, right Al?”

Al nods, “Yes”.

Jim continues. “Good, then the radio man stores the comms equipment in the dry bag and pulls it out with him. The observer does the same with his equipment and logs. Security man exits, goes right and establishes a position facing the threat. His team member does the same. Other two go to the left of the hide and set up same facing the same direction. From that point Dan will decide which direction we move out. We run a standard break contact drill, bounding in pairs until we break contact with the threat. Then we go into standard formation and move out of the area. Just like we rehearsed at home. Any questions?”

“None? O.K., if we make contact while we’re in the hide, security calls contact front, right, left, whatever. When the break contact command is given, security man lays down a base of fire until he empties a mag, he reloads, exits to his right and lays down suppressive fire. The radio man assumes his old position at the exit and lays down the hate until his mag is empty. He does this based on what he sees or by command from the man that is outside the hide. He will reload, exit to the opposite side and begin suppressing the bad guys. The observer will follow suit to the right and the last man will go left. At that point we have two bad-ass fire teams that will then perform a flawless break contact drill, where we kill all the bad guys that haven’t shit their pants and ran, ’cause all they know is they’ve come up on a humongous ground hornet’s nest and a bunch of stone cold killers are pouring out of a hole in the ground. Then we scalp th’ dead as a lesson to the rest and un-ass this pop stand. Just like we drilled.”

“Thanks Jim, I think.” I replied.

“Welcome” Jim replies with a broad smile on his face.

“Just one thing guys, no scalping” I add as an afterthought.

“Party Poop” Jim interjects.

“Any questions?” I ask, ignoring Jim. I search the faces of the team. No response.

“I’ve got to say this” I continue, “you men have really accomplished something today. We’ve moved a fair distance over some fairly rough terrain, gathered a ton of information, got it back to the folks back home, then found and managed to build a pretty substantial hide site. I’m proud to be with you”

Looking at one another, they all nod in agreement.

“Then let’s get this show on the road. Looks like the sun’s going behind the ridge across the valley. Jim you got ob, Andy on radio, I got security, and Al, you get to sack out. Andy, do one more look around the site before you come in. I’ll turn on a red light inside”

“Got it.” replies Andy.

“Once everyone is inside, I’ll take security while you men take a few minutes to grab something to eat. Then one of you relieve me, I’ll eat. When I finish, we start the work plan.”

While waiting my turn to crawl into the hide, I notice the sky is clear, the wind has died down and it is getting colder. I walk along the left hand side of the hide, through the dense cedars, close to the edge of the cliff. The sun has descended below the mountains to the west highlighting their massive silhouettes. Looking down between the boughs into the darkening valley below, I can see the vague outline of a large house about 500 meters away along the paved road.

Several of the windows are lighted.