The next day was a bit of a blur. We were all exhausted from the day before despite the sleep we’d gotten. However, it also contained my most memorable mission.
Due to the losses our squad suffered, our SAT team was reduced to one man. Me. US second squad was in the field and I hoped they wouldn’t need much help. I can lay it down with the best but I was in no condition to bail out a squad on my own! Of course, the call came.
The second squad RTO (radio operator) had called into the TOC stating that they had been attacked near Peitz (704,510) and he was the only survivor. The TOC advised him to destroy all of his sensitive documents, scramble his radio channels and escape/evade back to camp. I was to accompany the Canadian squad and rescue this RTO.
We moved out in a deuce in a half to the edge of the AO. Before we could even enter it, we came across our RTO. He had made it out of the AO on his own without being found or captured. He joined our patrol and the lot of us moved to the edge of the ravine where second squad had been ambushed (7040, 5103). Our hope was to find survivors or even ambush the unit that had hit them. Our secondary objective was to exfil in the M880 that second squad had taken. They had hidden it in a thick wood near R31 north of the airport (7070, 5095).
We moved along the rim of the ravine, moving south. This ravine is known as the “Valley of Death”. It is a great covert way to move large numbers of troops around the AO but it’s almost vertical sides make it a turkey shoot for anyone that commands the ridges. Several times we spotted WARPAC soldiers on the far side of the ravine but they were too far off to engage and they appeared to be focused on patrolling the main road in the airport to our due west.
With the knowledge that WARPAC was very close by, we decided to sneak down into where the M880 was and essentially drive as fast as possible out of the AO. I was chosen as the driver as we would be taking the same roads out that our squad had covered on our day 1 route reconnaissance. We found the truck backed into a thicket of saplings. It’s no wonder it was never found! The saplings were so thick we almost had to cut our way into the truck.
Doors were opened slowly and latched as quietly as possible with a 1980s something latch. Our near security jumped into the bed and I tried the key.
VROOM! The truck roared to life and we were off. M880s are full time 4 wheel drive and I made full use of that feature. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, fast means we don’t die. My goal was to make each turn once, as swiftly and safely as possible. No double turns, no flying off the road into a ditch. We scrambled up the hill and barely slowed down to pick up our overwatch element. The Canadian section leader watched them get in, turned to me and yelled “GO!” We were off. We had already made plenty of noise to alert the WARPAC patrol we had seen not 15 minutes before and had no intention of sticking around. A bone jarring fifteen minute ride and we were all safely back in base. Thank God no one thought to lay mines on that road!
One thing I must note – these guys are the real deal. I was very impressed with the Canadian squad’s organization, discipline and coordination. Every man knew the mission plan, what formations we would be using at each portion of the mission and where their place was in it. There were no annoying noises and everyone simply watched their sectors and relayed information up and down the line. It was a beautiful example of how a squad should be ran and I was thoroughly impressed that they were this wired tight this late in the game. I look forward to working with them again this year at Eastwind 8 and at other events in the future.
Photos by Hoober, Mercy and Lopez