14 Escaped Afghanistan - Sunday

Escaped: Fighting my way home

© Copyright 2009

Written by Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia




Chapter 14 – Sunday 07 October – Monday 08 October


Afghanistan & NALTS – Sunday Day Thirty-seven – Monday Day Thirty-eight


Jens slept like crap last night, and because she didn’t sleep well, I didn't sleep well either. She tossed, turned and moaned all night long. I was up before dawn, long before anyone else. I slipped out of bed, pulled on my clothes, turned on my flashlight, and gently woke Liz and the crew.


I whispered, "Get your cameras and follow me."


Liz whispered back, "What the hell are you going to do this time?"


"Follow me and find out," I answered as I found my guitar and amp and went outside to the top of our bunker.


I checked my watch - it was about half an hour to sunrise and gave me just enough time to setup my surprise. I wandered into the barracks, found all the amps I could and rousted their owners. I told them my plan. They laughed and helped me haul all the amps to the top of the bunker. When we hooked up the power, I wasn't sure that we weren't going to blow a breaker. Then we daisy-chained all the inputs together.


I tuned up the Fender Strat and plugged into the amps and waited… just as sunrise started, I pulled on my ear protectors and waited. The other Marines nodded. When the morning call to prayer started, I played the opening notes of The Star Spangled Banner - Jimi Hendrix style.


The sound level was so extreme it shook the whole top of the bunker and I could feel the notes vibrate my guts! Even with the ear protection it still hurt my ears. The Marines in front of the bunker plugged their ears and grinned. The whole base awakened! Jens ripped out of the bunker and plugged her ears too. Marines poured out of the barracks thinking they were under attack, but once they realized what was happening they started clapping. The BCO and second ran up, plugged their ears and were yelling at me - but I couldn't hear them. I finished the song, shut things down and pulled off my ear protectors. All the Marines, except the brass, started clapping and cheering.


The BCO said something to the second and stormed away. The second came up to me, "SM Blaine, you have ten minutes to be in the BCOs office!"


Jens ran up, "SM Blaine, that was a hell-of-a-way to wake me up. You scared the crap out of me."


I handed her the guitar and asked, "Sgt. Donaldson, will you pack this and the amps away for me? I need to get my ass to the BCO's office."


"Do you think you're in trouble?" She asked.


I looked at the brass storming away and answered, "Oh yeah! I'm in big trouble this time."


Jens turned and yelled, "Liz, I need you!"


Liz ran up, "What's wrong?"


"SM Blaine's little stunt has gotten him into trouble and we're going to the BCO's office together. Can you take care of his guitar and amp?"


Liz looked at me, "It was a great stunt and we caught all of it on video. I can only imagine how much  the brass was not impressed. Let's get someone else to take care of things and I'll come along and see if I can smooth things over."


I looked out and saw Gunny Horton, "Gunny, get your ass over here."


He runs up laughing, "SM Blaine, that was a hell of a prank! I was wondering what you would pull this time. What can I do for you?"


"It seems that the BCO wasn't amused and wants me in his office in ten minutes. I need you to take care of my guitar and the amps. This is my amp and the others are borrowed. Their owner's will come and get them." I said as I handed him my guitar.


"Damn Banzai, won't you ever learn. It seems like every time you're assigned to a new base you do some prank that gets your ass in trouble." Gunny told me.


"I just want to make sure they know I'm here."


"Well you'd better haul ass. If you're late the BCO will chew your ass so bad that you won't have anything left."


"He's going to have two asses to chew because we're a team and I'm coming too." Jens said.


Gunny looked at Jens, "Damn Banzai you're right - she's a real hellcat."


Jens grinned and I said to her, "I think you're crazy Sgt. Donaldson. But if that's what you want to do, then let's go."


We broke into a trot and headed to the BCO's new office. I glanced over and saw Liz and one of the crew following us. As we ran to meet with the BCO, the other Marines were still clapping and cheering.


"That was fucking awesome!"


"Way to go SM!"


"For once we didn't have to listen to that mooslim crap."


We made it to the office with time to spare and I leaned over and said to Jens before we walked in, "Thanks for coming but this was my prank and this is my fight. Do me a big favor and keep your mouth shut."


She whispered back, "I love and live to serve you!"


We walked into the outer office and taken right into the BCO's office. He was sitting down and the second was standing beside him.


The BCO looked at Jens, "Sgt. Donaldson, you were not part of this and you are excused."


"Sir! We are a team and as a team if one of us is in trouble, both of us are in trouble." Jens replied.


"Suit yourself. SM Blaine, what the hell were you thinking you would accomplish with this stupid stunt of yours! You woke up the whole damn base and offended all the Muslims in the whole damn city. Do you know how many complaints we have already received? That was one of the most idiotic stunts I've ever seen anyone pull. I would have expected better behavior from you. So what do you have to say for yourself?"


"Sir, I don't know what I was thinking. Sir!" I answered.


"That's right! You weren't fucking thinking were you?"


"No Sir! I was not thinking. Sir!"


He looked at the second, "Cpt. Kast you're dismissed."


Cpt. Kast left the room and after the door closed the BCO said, "Shit Banzai and Sgt. Donaldson, sit down. That was one hell of a stunt and while I have to reprimand you in public, I can tell you I'm proud as hell of what you did."


"It's great to be under your command again Colonel Rowe," I replied.


Jens was blinking her eyes as if she couldn't believe what had just happened until I looked at her and said, "Colonel Rowe and I go waaay back."


Colonel Rowe continued, "I've know Banzai since he joined the Corps. And I knew he was going to pull some sort of stunt - he always does."


"Excuse me Sir, but isn’t SM Blaine in trouble?" Jens asked.


He laughed, "Well, I will have to reprimand him and I guess you also since you're a team. But what he did was great for the morale of the troops and he has my thanks for that."


I looked at Colonel Rowe, "So, office time1?"

1 Marine's equivalent to article 15.


He laughed, "Normally you'd have a good dose of office time. But you lucked out because you two leave on a mission tonight and you won't have the opportunity to serve office time."


Colonel Rowe made a call on the intercom and a spook and the Commanding General of the theater were escorted into the office. Jens and I both snapped to attention.


The General said, "At ease. This is Sam and he's going to brief you on your mission."


"Is this office secure?" Sam asked.


Colonel Rowe looked at him with distaste, "As secure as it can be. You can either brief them here or forget about it."


Sam went on to tell us that they needed some recon on an al-qaeda base located in an Arabic country that wasn't our friend and didn't allow our military to operate within its borders. They had satellite photos of the base, but couldn't prove enough with the existing photos. We were supposed to reconnoiter the base and take pictures of any high ranking officer we saw. They felt this base was the major training base for the towel head troops attacking our soldiers. It was a damn important mission.


Fuck! I hate spooks. I looked at Sam and said, "What are the rules of engagement on this mission?"


Sam smiled and answered, "You are to take pictures and that is all we are authorizing. However should certain targets of opportunity appear, it wouldn't bother us if they were dispatched." He slid a folder across the table to us. We opened the folder and started looking at the pictures. I looked at Jens because we both recognized all the pictures in the folder.


"I know you already have an entrance plan, but I want to make sure that we have an exit plan. We're not going on this mission until we're both sure we can get back out." I said.


The General cleared his throat, "I will personally guarantee that unless you are captured, we will do whatever it takes to get both of you out of the country."


"How about the ability to resupply if we need it?" I questioned.


"It's too risky to run flights in to resupply you two. You will be dropped in the country with all you can carry and one pallet of supplies." The General said.


I didn't much like this mission, and I said as I looked a Jens. "Sir, before we decide, I'd like a chance to speak alone with Sgt. Donaldson for about five minutes."


They stood up and left the office, "Well Jens, what do you think about this mission?"


She bit her lip, "It's an important mission but it's dangerous as hell. I want to run some simulations on my laptop before we decide."


"Why don't you run and get your laptop and bring it back here. Then we can tell them what we need and modify their plan so it will work." I answered.


Jens gave me a big hug and said, "I'll be right back - entertain the brass while I'm gone."


Everyone walked back in and I said, "Sgt. Donaldson would like to run some simulations of this mission and needs to get her laptop. Does anyone have problems with her leaving to go get it?"


Sam started complaining until the general told him to shut the hell up and Jens took off to get the laptop.


We all sat down and the general said, "That was a hell-of-a reveille you played for us this morning."


"Thank you Sir. I don't know what I was thinking when I did that stunt."


"I've read your service record and I know exactly what you were thinking and I know that you planned this. So cut the crap and let me tell you we all appreciate the morale boost you gave the troops. And I've made sure none of this goes in either of your records."


There was a knock on the door and Jens came in with the laptop. She sat it up on the table and fired it up.


"I don't know if I trust Sgt. Donaldson with running a simulation of this mission on a laptop." Sam complained.


Jens looked at him, "You're not military so that's Dr. Donaldson to you. I either get to run the simulations on my laptop and refine your half-assed plan or we don't take the mission and you can go find someone else to be your cannon fodder."


He shut up and everyone watched as Jens entered all the parameters and ran the mission simulation. With their plan, the mission failed over half the time and the computer was playing the funeral dirge. Jens looked at Sam, "I thought so. This is a half-baked, half-assed bogus piece of bullshit tactical plan. We die half the time, and a fourth of the time we don’t even get into the country without dying first. Are you trying to get us killed!" She was pissed off.


"Do you really trust this computer to tell you if the mission will be a success or not?" Sam asked.


"I sure as hell do! I wrote this program for my doctoral thesis and it's way more accurate than anything the military or you spooks have. I promised SM Blaine that we never go on a mission unless the computer gives us a ninety percent success rate. Anything else is suicide." Jens said.


"So this means you're refusing the mission?" Sam continued.


"Hell no! If we refuse this mission, you'll just take this piece of shit tactical plan and use it to get others killed. Leave me the hell alone while I modify this shitty plan into something that will work." Jens ordered.


I looked at the others, "I think we need to go and get a cup of coffee and let Sgt. Donaldson do some work."


"I'd like a cup of coffee too, please." Jens requested.


The colonel had his aide bring in a cup and a pot of coffee for Jens while we started to leave the room. "Just remember we can't say anything about this mission outside of this room,” Sam said.


I gave him a dirty look, "I should kick your ass for even thinking we would be that stupid. You've looked at my record and you know the missions I've been on - that's why you chose us. We're not amateurs and we refuse to be treated as such." I turned to the general, "If he says one more stupid thing I'd like your permission to kick his ass and refuse the mission."


The general laughed, "Sam, you'd better just keep your mouth shut or I'll let him do it."


We went over to the mess and grabbed a cup of coffee. You should have seen the surprised look on everyone’s faces when they saw all of us together. I was busy running lists of equipment through my head so I didn't say much. Since I was hungry, I grabbed a plate of food and continued with my planning while I ate. I finished and said to the three, "I'm going to grab some chow for Sgt. Donaldson and then we should head back over." I loaded up a plate, threw a cover on it and we walked back to the BCO's office.


As we knocked and walked in, Jens turned and smiled at me, "Thank you SM Blaine for bringing me some food. I'm starving."


"So how did the simulations go?" I asked.


She looked at us and said, "I've got the success rate up to ninety-one percent."


"Good, let's see your plan." Sam asked.


She gave him a dirty look, "There's no way in hell that I'm letting you or anyone else not directly necessary for the mission see this plan. I don't want anything to leak out. The only thing I need from you is the camera equipment. General, we request that Sam be isolated until we return from our mission."


He was going to complain when the general put his hand on his shoulder and said, "Look, they're going to take your mission and that's really all you need to know. I'll call some MPs to escort you and the camera gear over to the ready room."


Jens looked at Colonel Rowe, "Sir, no offense but I would prefer that you didn't know the details of this mission either."


He laughed and said, "I can take a hint." And then he left the room.


With everyone gone except for the General and me, Jens outlined her plan and told the General what we needed in the way of support from him. She then ran the scenario on her computer. The General laughed when he heard the wedding march as the mission succeeded.


"Glen told me about you two and I really didn't want to send you on this mission. But I figured that with your smarts and Banzai's luck that you were the only two that could pull this off. It's going to take some work to get everything that you need setup but this mission is important enough that I'll personally make sure that you get everything you need. Go to your bunker, grab your gear, and requisition everything you need. Then get your asses to the ready room and stay there until the mission starts. No talking to that news reporter of yours." The general ordered.


We stood and shook hands, "You two be careful and get us the information we need."


"Sir, we and my Father will be counting on you to get us out when we call you." Jens said.


"We'll come and get you when you call. Just don't get captured." He ordered.


We left the office and ran into Liz talking to the BCO, "Hey where have you guys been. I've been trying to get you out of trouble with Mike, I mean Colonel Rowe."


"We've been busy but we can't tell you anything about it." Jens said.


Liz started to complain and I grinned and said, "NALTS!"


We headed to the bunker and Liz tagged along, "So you really can't tell me anything?"


Jens answered, "That's right. All you need to know is we are going away for a while and we don't even know how long. You'll have to entertain yourself here on the base."


I gave her an evil grin, "Just don't use our cots for your orgies. I don't want to have to burn them when we get back."


"I would never do that!" Liz grumped and Jens and I both laughed.


We got to the bunker and I looked a Liz and said, "You and the crew need to stop taping us and make your selves scarce."


She didn't like it but she did leave. Jens ran over, jumped into my arms and gave me a huge hug and kiss, "Wow! There’s never a dull moment with you around and it looks like we're going on our first mission together." We spent about five minutes getting reacquainted and then I said, "We need to get moving, there's a bunch of gear I think we'll need."


We started comparing notes and came up with a list of equipment and supplies. I looked at Jens, "You know we're only bringing enough supplies for a week. Any longer and we're screwed."


She cuddled up close to me, "If it lasts longer than a week we'll just have to live on love. Besides you're getting a little fat and could stand to lose a few pounds."


"Look who's talking!" I shot back and we ended up wrestling for a couple minutes.


We checked and double-checked the gear from the bunker and headed out the door. Waiting outside for us was our chariot - a Humvee and two MPs. "We're here to escort you to supply and then the ready room," One of the MPs said. We humped the gear into the Humvee, headed over to supply and told them what we wanted. The General was there making sure we received everything without any hassles.


"The rest of your gear will be here in two hours, it's being choppered in from Kabul." The general told us. "Good luck and God speed." He shook our hands and the MPs took us to the ready room.


Sam was in the ready room when we got there and showed us the camera gear. Jens took one look at it and said, "We're not taking your gear because we have our own gear which is comparable. I can't trust that your gear hasn't been bugged."


Sam blew a gasket and said, "Why you snotty little bit…" He never finished the last word because I knocked his ass out.


"Damn! That felt good! I never did like the little bastard." I said.


Since we were alone Jens came over and gave me a hell-of-a kiss and squeezed my butt, "I love it when you protect me."


I went to the door and yelled for the MPs. "Call the General and tell him Sam had an accident and needs to be kept in solitary until we get back." Ten minutes later they hauled his ass off to the brig.


There was nothing to do but wait, so Jens decided it was a great time to cuddle. We shared a bed and fell asleep holding each other. We awakened when they brought dinner to us, "Enjoy your last meal, after this it's MREs until we get back." Jens smiled and prayed.


I even bowed my head and silently said, "God I don't know you and I don't know how to do this. But please keep my Jens safe on this mission."


I looked up and Jens was smiling at me, she had sensed my feelings, "Thanks dear for praying for me."


We finished the meal, cleaned up, put on fresh clothes and continued cuddling until we heard the chopper arrive. It was pitch black when we jumped up, grabbed our gear and headed out the door. The general handed us the rest of the gear we requested, "We'll be monitoring this continually for calls from you."


I checked and the gear pallet was loaded aboard the chopper so we sat down and took the short ride to the airport.


All the gear was loaded on board a modified Boeing 727 and we took off. I looked at Jens, "I figure we have about three hours flight time so I'm going to catch a nap."


"I think I will too." Then we both fell asleep.


Two and a half hours later, we were awakened. "Time for you two to get ready for your jump," the crewmember said.


We geared up, put on the chutes and headed to the back of the 727 near the rear exit.


Jens looked at me and said, "I hope the ECM2 boys did their job, and the stealth fighters took out the power grid in this area. Otherwise this is going to be a short mission."

2 Electronic Counter Measures.


I was thinking the same thing as I felt the 727 slow and saw the back stairs start to lower. The wind was whipping around and blowing bits of crap out of the back of the plane.


The jumpmaster was watching us. When the green light flashed, he dumped the cargo pallet. Jens went out next and I was right behind her. We were coming in low and slow and had to deploy our chutes immediately. I had on my NV and saw the cargo pallet floating down below us and Jens was already chasing it down - I was right on her ass. I looked back and saw the 727 booking it back in the direction it came from. We were truly on our own.


The ground was coming up so I dropped my rucksack, let it hit the ground, flared my chute and lightly touched down.  We quickly hid our chutes, opened the pallet and geared up. Then we covered the pallet with a camo net.


I dropped us over five klicks from the camp because if these guys were like the ones I'd fought at the base they were pretty good and would probably have patrols and sentries. The base was located in a very large and wide box canyon and we planned to get on a ridge where we could keep an eye on things without revealing our position.


"Okay Jens, we need to beat feet for about three clicks and then g-up (ghillie suite). We’ll crawl the rest of the way. I want to be in position one hour before sunrise."


"Lead on Ben and I will follow you."


We set off at a good lope across the rough ground. Since there was just enough light from the waning moon for us to see, we could make pretty good time without having to worry about breaking an ankle. Jens was right behind me matching my pace step for step. We were getting close to the g-spot when she grabbed my shoulder and pushed me down. She fell right beside me. From her signing, I knew she saw a patrol with two terrorists just ahead of us. Damn, I missed them completely! I pulled out my NV and sure enough, there they were setting in a little depression as if they were expecting us. I knew that if Jens hadn’t pushed me down, our mission would now be over. We both g-upped and crawled towards our objective, leaving a wide berth around the two fucking towel heads. When we were far enough away I said, "What the fuck were they doing out in the middle of nowhere?"


"I don't know, but I don't have a good feeling about this." Jens answered. I didn't have a good feeling either.


It was going to be light soon so we moved into a rocky area overlooking our target. Our ghillie suites allowed us to pretend to be bushes. I took out my rifles and made sure they were ready. Jens unpacked the camera gear and spotting scope from her pack and set everything up. She reached into her pack and threw me a square of Hudson Bay Bread, "Here's your breakfast for today."


"Thanks Jens, you always take such good care of me."


Jens pulled the scrambled sat phone out of her pack and made a call, "This is Bravo Juliet reporting, we are in position and have eyes on the target." Then she killed the call.


We both lay down and started watching the base. This was sure different than any Taliban base I'd ever seen. This looked more like a secure factory. They had concertina wire and a fence around the whole base, guard towers with machine guns and sentries walking the perimeter. I was trying to determine if they were trying to keep people in or out of the base.


"This place looks like a fucking secure factory." I whispered to Jens.


"That's exactly what I was thinking. I've never seen anything like this." She replied.


"Why don't you range me on some targets so we will be ready if it’s needed?" I asked.


She looked through the spotting scope and gave me some ranges, I checked them through the riflescope and we were ready.


I was thankful it was fall because we wouldn't bake quite as much in the ghillie suits and under the camo netting. Jens was busy taking pictures of everything and said, "Ben, why don't you take a nap while I keep an eye on things."


"Thanks, wake me in two hours and I'll let you sleep," I said as I lay my head on my pack and quickly fell asleep.


"Psst, Ben it's time to wake up." Jens whispered.


I blinked my eyes and got them used to the light, "Anything exciting happen yet?"


"Well, it definitely isn't a factory. You should see these fricken bastards train, it's almost like they're Marines," she said.


"Let's trade places and you can nap while I watch." We rolled past each other and I copped a little feel of her butt. "Hey, I'll give you about a hundred years to stop that." Jens grinned.


"Sorry, I guess all this waiting is getting me a little horny." I replied.


She put her head on the pack and was out like a light - damn she was tired. I watched the camp with intense interest. Jens was right they were training the hell out of these poor bastards. I took a bunch more pictures, concentrating on the men in charge of the training. Something didn't seem right about them. I cranked the zoom all the way up on the camera and I understood why:  Those bastards weren't Arabic, they were Oriental. I took a bunch more pictures, trying to catch their faces.


I looked over at Jens, she was peacefully snoring and I decided to let her sleep longer. I wasn't tired and this was fascinating. It looked to me like they combined the best of all the services into the training on this base. I watched when one trainee must have done something wrong. The trainer pulled his pistol and shot him. The other trainees didn't even flinch and two of them drug him off.


I noticed some dust and pointed the camera towards the motion. A convoy was approaching the base. I started taking pictures as it stopped at the gate. The security was high and they searched all vehicles, one by one, before they entered the base. I made sure I documented all of it.


The motor pool was off to the right of the gate but the trucks didn't stop there - they headed over to another set of buildings. I followed them with the camera. When the trucks stopped, the trainees ran over, started unloading crates, and hauled them into some buildings. It was too far away to tell, but they looked like weapons. After they unloaded the crates they went back to their intense training.


I took the aerial map of the base and started making notations. I heard a siren sound and the next thing I knew everyone hid and the base looked empty. I noted the time on the map and figured that it must have been a satellite fly over. Thirty minutes later, they were training again - this time it was a live fire obstacle course. I watched as a couple of trainees failed the exercise and died for doing it.


Jens started yawning and stretching, "Hey how long did you let me sleep."


I looked at my watch, "Most of the day. You didn't sleep well the night before and I knew you were tired."


"You doin’ okay?"


"Not bad. It's been fascinating watching the training. I've seen them kill three men today. I could use a break and some food." I replied.


"Okay, let me go take care of a couple of things and then I'll whip us up some food and take over." She crawled out the back of the net and around behind some rocks. A few minutes later she was back, "Whew, I feel much better now."


She gauged the wind and said, "Looks like no hot food tonight. The wind is blowing towards the camp and they'd smell it if we heated it up." She threw me a PBJ MRE, "This is about the best one to eat cold." Then she dug into hers.


I was hungry and it was better than nothing so I wolfed it down. "You need to learn to eat slower or you'll get sick some day." Jens chided.


"I wanted to get this into my stomach before my mouth could taste it and complain."


I slipped out the back and took care of some business, came back and put my head on the pack. "Wake me when you get tired or if anything happens."


We alternated through the night taking turns watching the base. Nothing much happened and it was boring as hell. Early the next morning we were both awake.


I looked over at Jens, "This is the worst part about being a sniper; waiting for something or anything to happen."


"You could always recite some poetry for me." Jens said.


I looked at her as if she was crazy and I figured what the hell.


Out through the fields and the woods 
And over the walls I have wended; 
I have climbed the hills of view 
And looked at the world and descended; 
I have come by the highway home, 
And lo, it is ended. 

The leaves are all dead on the ground, 
Save those that the oak is keeping 
To ravel them one by one 
And let them go scraping and creeping 
Out over the crusted snow, 
When others are sleeping. 

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still, 
No longer blown hither and thither; 
The last lone aster is gone; 
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither; 
The heart is still aching to seek, 
But the feet question 'Whither?' 

Ah, when to the heart of man 
Was it ever less than a treason 
To go with the drift of things, 
To yield with a grace to reason, 
And bow and accept the end 
Of a love or a season? 


Jens looked at me and a single tear went down her cheek, "Robert Frost, I should have known. I don't know if I can listen to another one like that."


"Okay, see if you like this one better." I thought for a moment and started.


Love is enough: though the world be a-waning, 
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining, 
Though the skies be too dark for dim eyes to discover 
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming there under, 
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder, 
And this day draw a veil over all deeds passed over, 
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter: 
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter 
These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover. 


She smiled at that one, "I don't know the author but I like that one a lot!"


"It's William Morse and I thought of it the first time I saw you." I answered.


"Hey! It looks like something is finally going on. There's another convoy coming but this one is a lot different," Jens said.


I rolled over, looked through my scope and saw a bunch of Mercedes SUVs pulling up to the gate. I wasn't sure what was going on but I was planning on being ready so I readied my XM-1093.

3 XM-109 is a semi-automatic twenty-five- millimeter rifle that has a seventeen-point-six-inch long barrel and an overall length of forty-six inches. It weighs in at forty-six pounds and has a five-round magazine.


I cranked the BORS knob to the estimated range and waited. Jens had slid over to her spotting scope. We were both watching as the cars unloaded. Jens whispered, "Primary target of opportunity sighted." She took a bunch of pictures.


"Range me Jens." I said.


"Range two-thousand-one-oh-five meters, wind five from fifteen steady."


I cranked the knob on the BORS to the exact setting, did the windage calculations and lined up on the target. I braced the 25mm cannon against my shoulder and squeezed the trigger losing sight of the target as the rifle fired.


A few seconds later, "Damn fine shooting, you blew him to hell."


I reacquired the next target and fired again, sending him to hell. Jens was frantically snapping pictures. By now they base had figured out something bad was happening and they all ran or ducked for cover.


I decided to raise some more hell, "Jens range the front of the Mercedes for me."


"Negative on that. Let's see what this rifle will do and go after the C2CS4 building.  Aim at the generator at the back of the building. Range two-thousand-five three meters, wind five from fifteen steady."

4 C2CS – Command and Control Communications System


She was right. We needed to cut off their communications first. I made the adjustments, targeted

the generator, and fired.


"Son-of-a-bitch! Our cannon blew it to hell and all the lights at the gate went out."


"Now the Mercedes," I heard her voice softly whisper, "First Mercedes two-thousand-oh-four meters, wind five from fifteen steady."


I adjusted the BORS, put the mildot on the engine compartment of the Mercedes took a breath let half out and ticked the trigger. "Damn, you blew the hell out of the Mercedes. Second Mercedes, two-thousand-ten meters, wind five from fifteen steady."


I scanned the first Mercedes as I lined up on the second one it was a smoking wreck. I adjusted the BORS and took out the next Mercedes.


"We have towel heads to the far left coming around the building. Range two-thousand-twenty-nine meters, wind five from fifteen steady."  I jacked another five round mag into the XM-109, adjusted the scope and swung around seeing them trying to get to a gun placement. I took out two of them and the third ran back behind the building.


"Ben that's looks like an anti-aircraft gun - try to take it out. Range, two-thousand-fifteen meters, wind five from fifteen steady."


I adjusted the BORS, took aim at the AA gun and fired. "Good, it looks like you hit the receiver let's hope it's disabled."


I took out the other three Mercedes. "Target the above ground gas tanks range two-thousand-four-four meters, wind five from fifteen steady."


Damn! This was a great target and I wished that I'd thought of it. I cranked the BORS and found the tanks, "Close or far one?" I asked.


"Close" Jens replied.


I lined up the scope and thought for a second, readjusted my shot and fired. "Damn! You went through both tanks." I reacquired the tanks and could see fuel spilling out of them.


"Let's take out the trucks in the motor pool. Closest truck range, two-thousand-one-six meters, wind five from fifteen steady." I acquired the target, blew it away and walked down the line of trucks - blasting the hell out of all of them.


"Looks like we have company," Jens said. "The fricken towel heads are getting brave and have decided to try to charge us." I looked and a bunch of them were headed towards the front gate. I'll range the first ones and then move over to the 98 Bravo, once they reach fifteen hundred meters we can both fire. Range, one-nine-oh-three meters, wind five from fifteen steady."


I adjusted the BORS and lined up on one of them, waited until he turned and started running straight towards us and fired. "Damn! They explode when you hit them with that." Jens said.


I estimated the meters to the next closest one adjusted the BORS and took him out. They finally got smart, fell to the ground and started crawling towards us. They didn't realize we were still high enough to target them so I made a couple of adjustments and took out another towel head.


I heard the 98 Bravo bark and looked over at Jens, "I guess they're close enough for this now."


At least we were too far away for them to use RPGs. Jens yells, "There's so damn many of them." She jacked another mag into the 98 Bravo.


She was right, they were crazy and just kept coming, I was taking out the bastards that were far and Jens was nailing them, as they were getting closer. "Jens we're going to need to get out of here and come back later tonight. Start loading up your gear and then cover me as I do the same." She threw everything in her pack and slung it on her back then she started firing the Bravo again. I collected my gear, slung the XM-109 over my shoulder and started using my Bravo. We both jacked in a new mag. "After this mag we're leaving." I ordered.


Jens finished first and I took two more shots, then we slipped down off the back of the hill and crawled into a little arroyo with an overhanging bank. Once there we started to beat feet, I wanted to get about four klicks away up into the hills and hide out until tonight. After about three hours we made it into the hills and found a nice cave to hole up in.


Damn it felt good to be out of the ghillie suit and feel the fresh air again. We sat back in the cool dark cave and laughed. Jens cooked up a couple of MREs while we were still laughing and then we sat back to relax.


I looked over at Jens and said, "Jens, that was some damn fine shooting out there today, I couldn't have done better myself, and your ranging was spot on!"


She moved over beside me and started cuddling, "Thanks my dear, you were incredible. How's your shoulder after all those shots with the XM-109?"


I moved my arm, "It's fine."


She reached up, poked it and I jumped, "Like hell it is, I can tell it's bruised and hurting you. Take your shirt off."


I looked at her and she gave me the you'd better listen to me look so I peeled my shirt off. She took a flashlight and looked at my shoulder, "Whew that's a nasty looking shoulder, let's see what we can do about that." She dug around in her pack and came out with a couple pills, "Take these."


I opened my mouth to argue and she popped them in my mouth and handed me a canteen. They tasted nasty so I washed them right down. Then she took a little bag and poured some water in it and banged on it some, "This is like an ice pack, put it on your shoulder." I held it up to my shoulder and it felt much better.


It was still early afternoon and I said, "Let's catch a few winks so we can be ready tonight."


One nice thing about the ghillie suits is they made it comfortable to sleep on the ground. Before we went to sleep, I went back down the arroyo that lead to the cave and setup a battery of ten claymores as a perimeter warning. I didn't think they would find us, but we really didn't hide our tracks when we came here. I knew I would sleep better if someone did come knocking and Mr. Claymore answered the door. We both needed to be awake and alert tonight for the plans I had.


When I got back, Jens had made us a nice bed of the ghillie suits. She was sitting in the middle of it and smiling, "Come on my big strong Marine, let's cuddle and fall asleep." We lay down beside each other and Jens fell asleep first. I thought how different this mission had been with Jens on it:  She was the best damn spotter and team member I'd ever had! I slowly drifted off to sleep.


I was having a bad dream about being tortured and scorpions biting and stinging me when we were rudely awakened by the sound of the claymores. I set them up so the one closest to us would detonate all of them and that would make sure that we would kill as many towel heads as possible.


We both quickly sat up, and I looked out the mouth of the cave. "It's just getting dark and they must have tracked us. Let's get the hell out of here."


We threw on our gear, slipped up to the front of the cave and I peered out. The claymores must have worked because I didn't see anyone. We headed the other way and I said, "We need to loop back to the pallet and resupply for tonight." So we took off at an easy lope and chewed up the kilometers to the pallet.


Jens started digging around in the pallet and came out with a recoil shield, "Throw this on under your shirt and see if it doesn’t help."


I walked over and kissed the hell out of her, "Thanks for thinking of things that I never thought of bringing. Do you have any more surprises stashed in the pallet?"


"I wanted to pack a mortar, but we ran out of time. Now I'm kicking myself in the ass for not doing that." Jens stomped her foot as she answered.


I had my shirt back on and punched myself in the right shoulder a couple of times, "Thanks, I think this will really help."


I pulled out the sat phone and made a call, "Bravo Juliet reporting that two targets of opportunity were confirmed today and neutralized. This mission is no longer covert and we have confirmed and engaged the enemy." I turned off the phone.


"Ben, let's hit them from the other side tonight." Jens suggested and it made sense to me. So we took off jogging to the other side of the canyon.


The first patrol we saw was about three clicks from the pallet. It was a small patrol of five men. Jens scoped them for about fifteen minutes just to make sure it wasn't a trap - sometimes these bastards can be sneaky but this was not one of those times. We dropped and shouldered our Bravos and flipped on the NV scopes.  Five shots later, the patrol was history.


The Chinese had developed a method of slow and excruciating torture thousands of years ago called 'death by a thousand cuts.' Over the next few nights and days Jens and I were going to inflict our version of this on the towel heads. You see, they made a huge tactical mistake when they setup this base: It was surrounded by high hills on three sides and the hills were about 1000 to 2000 meters away from the base. I am sure it helped keep the wind and dust controlled for the base, but it was just perfect for our needs.


Now comes the tricky part. We are not fools and we knew the base probably had some fine shooters. We also knew those snipers had to be deployed by now. The trick was to be able to get into position to use the Barretts without being nailed by one of the towel head snipers. We knew the snipers would expect us to be in the hills around the base and they would probably be back further from the rim. So, we had to clear the back hills one side at a time and not make a mistake doing it. We went back even deeper in the hills and started a slow crawl towards the rim. We did have a big advantage - the towel heads didn't have the IR blocking ghillie suits yet. It would be easy to get on high ground and scope the snipers from their IR signature. Once we hit the highest spot around, Jen started scoping. With the night getting cold it didn't take long for her to scope the first towel head sniper and his spotter.


"Range me Jens."


"Range 800 meters, wind 5 from 273 and gusting to 20" Shit this wasn't going to be easy with the wind, I motioned for her that I was going to get closer so she should keep eyes on the target and watch for anything else. We switched on our tac radios and I started crawling down the hill to get closer to the targets. I was about half way to the targets and was getting ready to shoot when I heard two zings and matching moans to my left. Son-of-a-bitch, she had saved my ass.... again!


Through my tac radio I heard her whisper in my ear, "Sorry about that Ben I didn't see them at first because they were next to a rock outcropping that was still hot. I did get suspicious when the first two targets I scoped didn't look quite right. They moved too much to be snipers."


"Thanks Jens, you saved my ass again." I pulled the 98 Bravo up flipped the NV scope on, found the other two snipers and took them out.


"Jens, do you see anything else?"


"It's finally clear Ben."


Jens came down beside me and we worked our way to the top of the hill and had a nice overview of the base at about a thousand meters away. It was still pitch black.


I looked at Jens and said, "Well, I think we have wasted enough time on this bullshit, it's time to wreak havoc on the base." I pulled out the XM-109 and flipped on the NV scope. Jens pulled out her spotting scope and Bravo and fired things up.


The NV on the scopes lit up the base better than daylight and we could see the bastards moving around trying to fix things. "I'll concentrate on the hardened targets and you pick off the towel heads." I ordered.


Jens gave me a couple ranges and I cranked the BORS to the distance, she did the same and we both started firing. The recoil shield took the edge off the recoil - I owe Jens big-time for that but I’ll have to thank her later. My first target was some big ground mounted tank, I blew a hole in the bottom and something started leaking out.


Jens was doing a great job picking off the rat bastards until they figured out we were attacking again and went back in the buildings like rats crawling into their holes.


The trucks were destroyed, the Mercedes were dead, the fuel was gone and the generator was blown to hell. I was running out of hard targets and decided to start firing into the buildings. Shit! I figured the twenty-five millimeter round should go right through the walls and raise some hell inside. I started with the closest building and fired the remaining four rounds into the building. It must have done something because the bastards started running out the front door and Jens picked them off. "Woo Hooo! Keep that up Ben, the rat bastards came out of the building."


I jacked in a new mag, "Jens, next target is the closest building where they stored the weapons." I started firing randomly into the building and the fucking towel heads started running out. Jens was waiting, and hit most of them as they ran. I must have hit something good in the building because the next thing we knew, the building was on fire and more bastards ran out. Jens was busy shooting them as I jacked in another mag and waited for Jens.


She reloaded and I said, "Next storage building." And we opened up a can of whoop ass on it. She didn't get a chance to fire at anyone this time because the whole fucking building exploded blowing the roof completely off and flattening the walls. She did see some rat bastards looking out the windows of other buildings and started firing at them.


I guess they figured that the buildings weren't very safe so they might as well take their chances with us. They started swarming out of the buildings and heading towards our position. I switched over to my Bravo and we kept firing.


"It looks like we're going to have to take off again. Let's empty this mag and get the hell out of here." I told Jens.


We both finished and packed up. Just when we were getting ready to leave we noticed a convoy heading towards the base. "Jens cover me with one more mag and range that convoy." She pulled her Bravo around, emptied a mag at various targets and then pulled up her spotting scope. "Range two-thousand-five-hundred-four wind four at fifteen." I cranked the BORS and adjusted for the windage as Jens kept firing at the base. I fired and took out the lead vehicle's engine, it abruptly stopped and a bunch of towel heads started bailing out the back. I took out four more vehicles and said, "It looks like they have reinforcements, we need to get out of here." I couldn't resist taking out the last three vehicles, so I jacked in a new mag and did just that. Now they were on foot.


"Let's get the fuck out of here." I said and we both jumped up and started trotting directly away from the base. We ran for about two hours and I said, "I think with their reinforcements, we've done about all that we can do here. What do you think?"


Jens didn't answer me. "Jens, did you hear me?" I stopped.


She stopped a little ways away, bent over and started throwing up. I ran over to her and grabbed her, "Are you okay?"


We both slipped into a sitting position, "Ben, I didn't want to tell you, but I think I'm really sick. I've been puking for two days and the pain in my abdomen is severe."


I felt her forehead, "Shit! I think you've got a fever too."


She puked one more time, shivered and passed out.


I grabbed the sat phone out of my pack and made a call, "Bravo Juliet here, we need emergency extraction one team member is down." I gave them the rest of the details. The General came on the phone and told me they'd come and get us ASAP.


I sat in the dark holding Jens's limp body and praying to God that she would be okay and that they would get here in time.


Afghanistan – Day Fourteen


I wake up, stretch, and yawn. What time is it anyway? I curse Hussein for stealing my watch - some day I'm going to take it off his limp, dead wrist. This is the first time I've slept without interruption since we've started this traveling show and I feel great. I roll out the back of the truck, Dragunov in hand, and hear Zarika call from one hill and Yasmeen call from the other. I wave to both of them and go take care of my immediate needs.


I walk back to the truck and notice Zarika motioning for me to join her. I stretch a few more times and start jogging up the hill to see what she wants.


"Ben, how are you feeling?" Zarika asks.


"I feel great. It was nice to sleep without being bothered. Has anything happened since I was asleep?"


"We saw two large groups of trucks go by. One went very slow like they were looking for something."


I don't like the sound of that, "It's a good thing we hid our tracks very well. I think they were looking for us."


I looked over and Yasmeen was motioning for me, "I'm going to see what Yasmeen wants. When I get there, will you go down and start cooking? I will send her down to help."


I ran down the slope, jogged across the little canyon and ran up the other side. "Greetings Yasmeen, how are you?"


She smiles at me, "I am fine now that you are awake. After you were so tired last night, I worried all day that you might be sick. It is good to see you. You look very well."


"Thank you. Today is the best I've felt in a very long time. Can you tell me anything else about the convoys?"


"One looked just like the one with the blue circles on the door and was moving very fast. The other moved very slowly and they had men on the roofs with binoculars."


"They were hunting for us. We made many enemies when we destroyed the last convoy. Thank you for helping hide the truck tracks so well."


She smiles, "I will go help Zarika make dinner." Then she scooted down the hill.


I watched her and Zarika greet each other with hugs and kisses on the cheeks. They really have become sisters.


I sit under a scruffy bush and scan the road for any signs of traffic but I don't see anything. I feel anticipation welling in my soul. I know that soon we will be out of Afghanistan and into Tajikistan. Once we are there the battles will be over and the three of us can get to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, the American embassy and home!


I start to daydream and Jens's face looks so real that I reach my hand out and try to touch it. I try to stroke her golden hair and to see those lovely violet eyes and those sexy smiling lips. I want to feel her embrace and share her passionate kisses. I yearn to again share my bed with the only woman in the world for me.


How many months has it been? I look down at myself - and how I have changed. I wonder about the changes in her. It seems a lifetime ago since we were together – and I promise myself that this time we will never be separated again. I decide it's time to end our self-imposed celibacy and make her my wife.


Zarika's call snaps me back to reality. Dinner is ready and I motion for her to bring it up to me. I watch her and Yasmeen  both coming up the hill.


"Ben, we decided we will eat like the family we are tonight." Yasmeen says and hands me my food.


We all sit and this time when the girls pray, I pray too. They both smile at me and Zarika says, "See you can teach Ben some things."


That gets Yasmeen giggling, "You can teach an old dog new tricks."


I smile at her, "Yasmeen, I'm proud of you. You got the saying right."


The both laugh, "Ben we practiced this so she would get it right." Zarika says.


Yasmeen stares at me, "Ben, your eyes look different and I see a peace in your soul."


"I'm excited because we are very close to Tajikistan. Once we are there the battles will stop. We will stop by Zarika's village and then travel to Dushanbe and visit the American embassy. Then we will all go to America."


That gets the girls excited and they start chatting to each other - it reminded me of listening to a couple of birds. "Ben, what if they will not let us into America?" Zarika questions.


"I am sure that they will." I tell them. Then to address their fears, we decide on a contingency plan. They think the plan is good so they no longer worry.


Yasmeen says, "Ben I can tell there is more that you are not telling us."


I look at them and decide I don't want a war or a rebellion on my hands so I lie to them. "I'm just very excited to think about going home and taking you two with me."


For once, a lie of mine works and I dodge a major bullet for now. I'm sure I will have to address the problem when we arrive in America. I reach in my shirt pocket, pull out a picture, and hand it to them. "Ben, this is us at Mama and Papa's house. How did you get it?"


"Ivan had an instant camera and took it for me." Zarika looks at the picture.


"Oh yes, Basma told me about the camera and how upset she was when Ivan took naughty pictures of her. She tore up the pictures and made Ivan sleep on the couch for three nights." Yasmeen giggles.


I chuckle to myself thinking the old reprobate still hasn't changed. If I did that to Jens she would kick my butt!


"Ben, is this how I really look?" Zarika asks.


I realize that Zarika has never seen herself in a picture, "Yes Zarika, that's how we all look. I have two very young and pretty little sisters."


She scrunches up her face and moves the picture closer and then further away. Finally, she says, "I like how we look in this picture. I have never seen a picture of me before. It is different from a mirror. I do think I look a little fat."


I know I need to handle this carefully but Yasmeen beats me too it, "Basma says the camera makes everybody look a little fat."


"Is that true Ben?"


"People in America say that cameras make you look almost five kilos heavier." I answer.


"Then I think when I get to America I will make a camera that is not broken like these," Zarika states.


I stifle a laugh and say, " I think that if either of you will be able to do anything you decide you want to do."


We finish our dinner as the sun sets. It paints the sky with beautiful pastel shades of reds, oranges, yellows and blues – a truly spectacular sunset.


We rise and head down to the truck. I pull the map out and memorize our route for the night while the girls put the dishes and cookware away. The route looks easy, but I know that in these countries looks can be deceptive. The girls walk up and I show them where we are and where we have to go. Zarika gets very excited, "Ben tomorrow we will be in Tajikistan!"


"Yes we will."


"Have you thought how we will get a Chinese truck across the border?" Yasmeen asks.


We both look at her and my mouth drops open - I have totally forgotten about that small detail. Zarika stomps her foot, "She's right. They will not let us into Tajikistan with this truck especially when they search it and find all the weapons. They will think we are chewchemek terrorists."


I look at the map, "Zarika, are there any places that we can cross the border where there won’t be guards?"


"Papa and my brother never could find such a place,” she replies.


"How many men will be at the border?"


"Not many, only two or three. Ben you can't kill them, they are my countrymen and then we will be criminals." Zarika says.


"I will try to think of a plan tonight while I'm driving. Let's get moving."


The girls make sure that the supplies are loaded in the cab and we jump in and started to drive. They were tired tonight and fell asleep without their usual bedtime lullaby.


My mind doesn't wander tonight because I have a very real problem to deal with. I need to figure out how to get across the border in this truck. It would have been easier with our old truck because it was obviously not Chinese. Even if we took the red stars off the side of the truck you could still tell where the truck came from. I run a bunch of scenarios through my mind and come up with a couple that might work. I’ll run them by Zarika tomorrow. I keep a close eye on the mirrors and the road ahead - I do not want to run into the Taliban looking for us.


The night passes without problems. It's been calm, too calm. We're almost to the stopping point for the day and it hits me! I kick the truck out of gear and let it roll to a stop, "Fuck me!" I mutter.


Zarika anxiously replies, "Okay Ben!"


I look over at her, "Zarika, that was just an expression."


She looks disappointed as she says, "Oh, I thought you wanted me."


"You're my little sister and I told you we can't do that."


She changes the subject, "So we didn't run into trouble last night?"


"No, and I just figured out why. The fucking Taliban aren't going to bother to look for us. They're going to wait at the border for us to come to them."


She sits up and scratches her head, "I think that you are right. What are we going to do?"


"The first thing we're going to do is find a place to hide today and then have breakfast. I have some ideas and I need to see what we have in the back of the truck."


Zarika pokes Yasmeen, "Hey wake up you lazy butt. We need to find a place to hide."


Yasmeen yawns and sits right up, "I feel good today. It is nice sleeping through the night. Where are we?"


"We're about six klicks from the border and we need to find a place to hide for today. I think that I have a bunch of work to do on the truck." I answer.


"Why? Is the truck broken?" She replies.


"No, but I think the Taliban will be waiting for us at the border and the only way we will be able to get through them is to fight. If we have to fight a big battle there are some things I can do to this truck that will help us win."


"I want to send all the chewchemek Taliban to hell to live with their god." Zarika proudly boasts.


"Well I'm sure that we are going to do that to many of them. I just want to make sure that none of us get hurt. Let's find a place to hide."


Yasmeen starts scanning the area and says, "I think I see something over there." She points to a little change in the hills.


"Let's go check it out," I reply as we head in the direction she pointed. It was much further than it appeared. Distances can be deceiving in this desolate place. We travel about three klicks and find a very small and hidden canyon beside a very large hill. I turn the truck around and back into the canyon.


I go back and help the girls wipe out the tracks and then I set up three improvised claymores. The girls are busy with breakfast as I pull out the map and figure out where we are. Zarika brings me my food, "Ben where are we?"


"Thank you Zarika, we are right here." I point on the map to Zarika.


"We are so close to home!" Zarika excitedly says.


I point on the map to the top of the hill, "And we can see what it looks like at the border if we climb to the top of the hill."


Yasmeen overhears and the girls start arguing about which one will come with me, "This time neither of you are coming. I need you two to be ready to take off with the truck if you hear any gunfire."


"But Ben, we will leave you if we do that," Yasmeen complains.


"No arguments. I do not plan on firing on them, but if they start shooting at me, they will know that the truck is here and they will come after it. You will need to drive like the wind to escape and I promise to keep the chewchemeks from following you. Then I will come to find you. Don't forget about the booby traps. I plan on staying on top of the hill for many hours so do not worry and do not come up."


I finish my breakfast, grab some gear and head towards the top of the hill. It's long and steep and I have to pause several times. I check the truck and the girls are both inside the cab and wave to me. It takes about an hour to get about five hundred meters from the top. I drop to the ground and start crawling the rest of the way so I will not be seen.


I crest the top and thankfully there are no chewchemeks to be found. I'm glad they haven't figured out that I almost always use the hills. Hopefully, this will be the last time I have to do this. I slip to the edge, park myself under a windblown shrub and rub my face with dirt to take off the shine. I peek over the edge and my find my concerns to be well founded. I count ten vehicles that have setup a road block about one klick this side of the border. Counting the chewchemeks proves to be too cumbersome so I give it up. The next two hours I spend watching them and trying to figure out a plan. Finally I come up with something that might just work so I slowly slip off the top of the hill and head back to the truck.


The girls see me coming and jump out to meet me. "What did you see Ben." Zarika asks.


"I was right, there are many chewchemeks and they are blocking the road. I think I know a way we can make it into Tajikistan, but it will be dangerous."


"We will fight with you Ben and we are not afraid. You have brought us this far and we trust you." Yasmeen bravely says.


I hug both of them, "This will not be easy, and we will need some luck."


"I will pray that God gives us luck." Yasmeen continues.


"How will we get across the border?" Zarika asks.


"You were right as there are only three border guards. I think we will just drive right past them and crash through the gate."


"But you won't kill them right?"


"Yes Zarika, I promise you that I will not kill them."


"I need to get some sleep right now. Tonight we will modify the truck and get it ready. First thing tomorrow, right at dawn, we will attack the chewchemeks."


"Ben that is wise because they will have morning prayers and will be distracted." Yasmeen says.


"You're right and that's why we're waiting until then. You two go stand guard, but do not go very far up the hill. Be sure to keep an eye on the top of the hill so they can't send any chewchemeks over the top. I'm going to get some sleep."


They took off and when I saw they were in position I crawled into the back of the truck and fell asleep.