At this point in time our Company Commander was in a transitional mode in his battle plan. So far we’d only fielded 2-6 hour patrols in the AO, several of which had been attacked in guerrilla style ambushes. Essentially, the enemy was dictating what part of the AO we could operate freely in and that had to be stopped. The best way to do this was to make a move on our own and force them to react to us. Do this several times and we would be deciding what went on in the battlespace.
The first stage of this would be to set up a Listening/Observation Post (LP/OP) in the town of Cotbus. By sticking a single squad in the middle of the AO, we were essentially daring WARPAC to come out and attack us outright rather than simply hide in the shadows and conduct ambushes. This LP/OP would be put in place by US second squad and manned in shifts.
We were to relieve US second squad at 2300hrs and man the position until the Canadian section relieved us the next morning. As planned, we dropped our vehicles at the north end of the airport and met up with US 2nd squad at the top of the hill (moving south). They were supposed to send a vanguard to this position to meet us and then walk us into their rest position and the actual LP/OP so we could find them (at this point, it was very dark out and raining so visibility wasn’t great).
Instead, we met the entire US second squad at the rendezvous point and were advised that they had set their rest point in the church but had never actually built an LP/OP.
Knowing that enemy troops could have moved into Cotbus since second squad left, we quietly cleared the main 3 buildings and set up in the church. My bravo fire team leader, Spice and I moved quickly through the remaining structures, clearing them. As we made our way south, we heard a noise that sounded like someone walking on rocks. I placed him in some mounds to the south of the church and returned to the church to advise the rest of our unit of what we heard and where we would set our LP/OP for the night.
Unfortunately, we quickly learned that due to the recent rain, a signiificant amount of water was dripping down from the second floor of the church. This made it impossible to hear anything going on outside of the church if you were inside. This is a major issue, because at night you can almost always hear an enemy approaching well before you can see them.
As a result, we relocated our rest position to the next building to the south of the church. This would give us great visibility to the south and east, as well as fix the noise problem but it did prevent us from viewing the west or north very well.
I returned to Spice and notified him of the rest location change. The boots on rocks noise was continuing so I kept Spice as the primary lookout because he had a PVS 14 night vision device which was vastly superior to the completely fogged D-300 on my head.
It went on like this for hours…I was on pins and needles, feeling like a juicy piece of bait hanging in the air, just waiting to be nabbed by a giant impending assault. An assault that never came. We listened to boots crunching rocks for hours on end….just outside our visible range. And nothing happened.
And then something did happen. A couple hours before the sun came up, Spice advised me he had definate movement from south to north in the treeline to our east. Feeling like I was getting surrounded, I pulled our unit back to the north edge of Cotbus. There is a treeline here that divides it from the airport and we climbed down into a depression, easily hidden by any element pushing into Cotbus or the airport. At this time Spice advised he also saw possible movement in the trees to the west of Cotbus, unknown direction of travel.
Spice and I again pushed south into the north edge of Cotbus, attempting to get a positive identification of troops to our east or at least be in a position to see what direction they were heading. Again, Spice advised we had movement on the east side from south to north. We returned to the rest of our unit and disseminated the information.
At this point we had about 45 minutes until our scheduled meet with the Canadian section in the airport. Due to the movement we’d seen in the east and the possible contact on the west, I decided to move our entire unit to the meeting point. This would enable us to hold the position it if we were attacked and to give overwatch to the location where the Canadians were supposed to park their vehicles. I decided that the best route would be straight up the middle of the airport, using the many vehicles, buildings and obstacles as cover. We assumed that whomever was out there hadn’t seen us so silence would be the key.
We moved out, spaced out as far as we could manage in the darkness and moving as silently as possible. About 1/3 of the way to the meeting, Spice advised he had definite movement on our west. I moved us into a building, and worked with Moulner, our RTO to craft a message. As far as I was concerned, if there were elements hanging around on either side of us, we needed to at least let our replacements know.
Message coded, sent, response received, decoded, response coded, sent, confirmed (you get the picture), we started to move out. STOP! Spice whispered to me that he had movement south to north on our west flank and continued noise on our east. Back into the building we went. If the elements on either side of us kept on course, they would hit the north end of the airport about the same time as the Canadians did, resulting in a beautiful ambush (for WARPAC).
Another string of messages coded, sent, received and decoded and we were ready to move out again. Spice advised that all movement had pushed out of visual range to our north. I deduced that this was probably our best chance to hoof it to the meeting site. If we hunkered down where we were at, we’d be no help for any incoming units. As much as I wanted to hunker down and keep my guys safe, I knew that only by mutually supporting the other units soon to be in the field would we have a chance at a decisive victory should a firefight ensue.
We snuck up to the tower, right at the top of the hill in the northern third of the airport near grid 7030, 5092. We split into two fighting positions and got low. Higher advised that the Canadian section and the Quick Response Force (QRF) had been dispatched to our position. It was getting light now, and we took a few moments to adjust into daytime fighting mode.
After what seemed like an eternity, the Canadian section appeared over the rise and pulled into our position. They had swept the valley to our east and come up empty. We held the tower with them for awhile and finally received orders to pull out. We headed to base, exhausted, wet and completely worn out.
To add insult to injury, we later found out that the boots on rocks noise was in fact water dripping on Styrofoam. Go figure!
Thanks to Arbee for the use of his photos!