Our next mission actually came unexpectedly. Our squad was on SAT(QRF) duty, so my fire team was sitting in the ready tent taking turns dozing while wearing all our kit. It was around 0000hrs and we had a mission planned for 0500-1200hrs. All of a sudden the XO, Abacus burst in and advised us that our mission was being moved up to 0200hrs. The Canadian section was prepping to hit an objective that we thought to be an enemy supply cache. We were to move into the same area and help them assault the objective or hold it after the fact depending on the outcome of their mission. The remainder of the company would deploy squad by squad throughout the next morning until the entire company was on the objective. We were told to pack our rucks with everything we needed for 3 days of combat (the remainder of the event). We immediately began rotating out one at a time to quickly pack our rucks. The XO returned and advised that he had misinformed us. We were to leave in 15 minutes.
We sprinted back to the troop tent and crammed everything we thought we needed into our rucks. I ran back to the TOC to ensure that I had the proper SOI card for the mission perimeter and to get a few last minute clarifications. We were instructed to only bring our fighting loads and what we absolutely had to have to make it through the night. Our sleeping bags, cold weather gear, E-tools, etc were to be packed in our rucks and left on our cots. This would all be trucked out to us in the morning.
Piling into the back of a blacked out M880 (a Dodge pickup truck modified for military use), we flew down country roads and reached our drop point. Meanwhile, I did my comms checks and relayed our arrival at the drop in case we were hit right away. Our first objective was to find and link up with the Canadian section. When we got close to the link up location I was to contact them on the radio. Once we had good comms we would move to the link up point and they would signal us with two different color glow sticks. We would then show the same two glow sticks to confirm our identity. While this sounds all nice and simple, it was further complicated by the rush of our departure, time crunch to make contact and the pressure resulting from our entire mission hinging on the link up. I immediately set to trying to coordinate a link up point. What I didn’t know was that my assigned pro-word for the objective was different from the Canadian’s. The TOC had not given me any of their pro-words and that’s just about all they were using. Eventually, after much frustration the TOC sent me a set of coordinates for us to move to. They were only a couple hundred meters away and we arrived as swiftly as one moves in the middle of the night while trying not to be seen or heard.
Upon arrival at the coordinates given (701, 505), we saw the visual signal about 100 meters to our east and replied with the appropriate signal. Our squad leader moved up to make contact and coordinate our positions. This was actually the objective they had assaulted and taken without contact. The Canadians were to watch the perimeter while we bedded down for the night. We had been up all night and knew we would need a good nights sleep for what would follow.
It turns out that the temperature dropped a good 10-20 degrees below what the weatherman had estimated so none of us really slept well. Not to mention, one of our members had managed to lose or forget his warmth layer so there went my M65 liner. The only bright side is that he decided to spoon with our Alpha Team leader so at least we gained some humor from it all.
Around 0500, U. S. second squad joined our position and quickly began digging fighting positions. We awoke to the sound of E-tools splitting rock and soon after the Canadian section headed back to base for some much needed rest. At almost the same time, the British/West German section arrived along with picketts and coils of concertina wire. We set to transporting the wire and helping out wherever we could as our digging implements were in our rucks which had yet to arrive.
One of our squad stated he had hypothermia, so his battle buddy set to taking care of him. I assessed him quickly and he did have the early symptoms. Better to treat and get back to work than to let one fall out seriously, so we were 2 men down for a time.
We were able to scavenge some digging tools from one of the mutt supply runs and started digging. Our section of the defensive line stretched between the road entering our position from the east to the northeast corner. There, U. S. second squad would cover from the northeast corner to the northern road, sealing us off against the edge of the AO. To our front and south was a comforting strand of concertina wire but we knew all too well that would only slow the enemy down (wire cutting is completely in play at Eastwind).
We placed Lopez and the 60 in a position to cover the road and our right flank. Our ATL and I started digging a position to his left while our squad leader, BTL and hypothermia patient started another position further down the line. We had lost our other 2 members to illness so that completed our short defensive line.
Not too long after breakfast we were hit with a probing attack on the southern front. We repelled it without causing any casualties. A second attack a half hour later or so met a similar fate. Just before we ate lunch we were hit with a large enemy force on that same side. The XO borrowed Lopez and his 60 to assist and set me on begging for reinforcements via radio. The Canadian section was awake but not ready to leave and we repelled the attack before they were able to arrive. However, when they did arrive they brought hot rations from the kitchen which provided a brief but welcome from the hard labor.
The next few hours were spent improving our fighting positions and patrolling “the wire”. We took shifts to provide some variety and to prevent any one of us from wearing themselves completely out. Additionally, we cleared brush to create clear lanes of fire between our positions and the razor wire and piled the brush between our fox holes. In the event that the enemy took one of our positions, this would prevent them from firing along the defensive line and killing us all in one fell swoop. They would be forced to take each position individually.
In the center of camp a large tree was delimbed and the large branches were allowed to fall around the trunk. This created a natural teepee shape and the headquarters foxholes were dug under it. We expected an attack at any moment and feared one we weren’t prepared for.
Finally we got some good news, the German/Brit section would be taking our place on the line so we could get some sleep. We rotated out and set up camp in the rear area. We pulled out our sleeping bags, pads and I hung a tarp for shade. Some MRE bits and water down the hatch and I crashed out…M16 inches from my hand just in case.
While part of me expected to be jarred from sleep to another attack in progress I genuinely hoped that no one would hit us until dark so I could get a solid rest in and be ready for it. Unfortunately, I would not get that rest but it was not for the reason I had expected.
Photos by Eightball, Hoober and Mercy.