Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.
The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.
Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in.
“As I understand it, you were to fly to the drop off point about two miles from the abandoned farm where the operatives were hiding, and not far from the farm, where a group of enemy soldiers had set up camp. The plan was one team was to create a diversion, while the other rescued the operatives.”
It sounded quite simple and equally workable when said out loud, now.
But, at the time and on the ground, nothing could be further from the truth. It had sounded equally simple when we discussed the final plan before we moved out. My team would provide the diversion; Treen’s would affect the rescue.
“In your post operational debriefing, you said you encountered the enemy not far from the drop zone.” He looked down at his notebook, and then up again, after checking what the question was, “but you didn’t exactly say how that affected moving forward, or whether you thought they had been informed prior to your arrival.”
“It was basically unexpected and both Treen and I had to adjust the plan on the fly so to speak. It was a setback, but it wasn’t what might be called a show stopper. Not initially, anyway.”
Except Treen had lost it because I soon discovered he didn’t like changes. The plan was the plan, come what may.
“And, now, after you’ve had time to think about it?”
“I did say, at the briefing, that if the source of the ground had gone silent, it might mean he’d been caught, and if so, may have told the enemy of our intentions.”
“And this suggestion was given no credence?”
“It was left to Treen to factor that into his decision as the officer in charge. I’m sure that decision was based on more than just my input. but, on the other hand, no one else asked seemed to consider that a possibility. So, if it was you, would it not seem strange the enemy would let the choppers land, drop us off, and take off again, then give us time to set up before attacking. If I’d been told anyone was coming, I’d use rockets to take out the choppers in the air, kill the raid before it started.”
Lallo had his best poker face on, so I had no idea what he thought, but he did make a note.
“Where was Treen after you landed?”
“With his group. We’d re-worked the plan while in the air, and to minimise the choppers exposure, we were to hit the ground running. We had different destinations, so I didn’t see him or his team. It was dark, and not possible to see where anyone other than your immediate team members were.”
But as it turned out, their chopper had landed closer to the pickup zone, and we had enemy soldiers between us and them. We were as soon as we landed effectively cut off from Tree, and he would not get any support from us.
“The choppers didn’t land together?”
“No. We were a hundred yards, maybe more, apart.”
“But you knew they were close. You said you heard shots fired not long after your chopper took off. Was the gunfire theirs or ours?”
“All guns sound the same at night. It was impossible to say. It was the first indication that there was a group of enemy soldiers near the drop zone, coincidentally or otherwise, and Treen’s team had been seen. I sent Sycamore to find out what had happened, and the rest of the team waited. No point walking into a firefight. I trusted Treen to get the job done whatever the circumstances.”
“Your man didn’t come back?”
“What happened then?”
My team members disobeyed orders to stay on mission, and not wanting to remain alone in the field, I followed them on what I thought was suicide. If the other members of their team had been killed, or, worse, captured, and it was certainly looking like it, then the odds were they were going to join them.
It’s a perfect situation where being the odd man out works in your favour.
I saw Andrews and Ledgeman go over the hill and disappear, and seconds later the sound of automatic fire. It was exactly as I thought it would be. I broke for cover and made it just in time to see a dozen enemy soldiers come over the hill, heading towards our drop zone. I assumed they’d done a head count and found one was missing.
“It was over before it started.”
© Charles Heath 2019