the patrol starts moving back when suddenly......

After laying prone for what…probably 12 hours?, his legs need to be moved by force of will. His combats stick to his skin, the t-shirt feels slimy and heavy with sweat. He dreads to imagine what the smell will be like back at base when he takes his combat trousers and underwear off. They don’t tell you in the recruiting office about crap like this. “…Sure son, we will train you to be the best killer you can be, then send you out into the boonies for a few days, where your uniform will start to rot off you, where you will sleep maybe 2 hours out of every 24, where food will be bland and almost never enough to fill a cat…so sign on this line, and join the team!…” Maybe he should’ve gone to college…

The Lt had made another sound decision. This patrol was a waste of time from the start. The intel report had only stated that there were possible reports of movement in the area, and lucky old 1st squad were sent off to check it out. The fact the Lt came along, doesn’t show his distrust in the sarge, far from it. His distrust lays with anyone who conducts a war using a map only, and never setting foot in the field.

Lead scout. A lot can be said by a title in the armed forces. Lead scout is an unofficial one that carries a seniority all of its own. You become one by being super observant, cautious, and basically turning feral. He had become one by accident. 2 months into his tour, he had taken point duty a few times, never really sure what to look for, the enemy could have been within inches and he wouldn’t have know. Then one day, he noticed some leaves on the trail were a different colour, like they had been overturned by a footstep. Anything that seems unusual in this place, is. After calling up a more experienced soldier, who agreed something was odd, the patrol had fanned out, and spoiled a carefully planned enemy ambush. All thanks to some leaves looking odd on a trail. That had been 9 months ago, and since then, he had become possibly the best scout in the Company.

He looks and nods to the other scout. The remaining 10 men of the patrol will move out in a tactical line, staggered from right to left, all eyes quartering the jungle for signs of the enemy. He, is the eyes and ears of the patrol on the right flank. The other scout will be on the just off to his left. They move out to their positions, about 10 metres to the front of the patrol, and maybe 3 meters between them. The Lt will be within visual contact at all times, ready to respond to the slightest change in body stance, or hand signal.

The only noise is the sound of soft footfalls, leaves rustling under foot, the creak of branches as they move back into position after his passing. After his tour is over, he will make one hell of a hunter. If he lives to see the end of his tour…

The midday sun sends shafts of light through the top of the jungle canopy. The heat has risen steadily through the morning, burning away the last of the mist from the dawn. All around, the usual sounds of the jungle are welcome, for if the wildlife is out and about, then that means no-one else is. Every 30 minutes, the Lt calls a short halt. Checking his map, he makes sure that the direction is good. The men appreciate his caution. 2 weeks ago, a new Lieutenant joined the Company, and got lost on his first patrol due to the fact that he was too arrogant to take advice from his Sergeant. They walked into an ambush, the usual alertness of the men eroded by the constant pointless orders of the FNG Lieutenant in charge. When the first rounds came in, the Lieutenant froze, and was one of the first to be cut down. It was left to the Sergeant to take command and rally the remaining survivors. When all was said and done, there were 6 dead, 11 wounded (2 critically), out of 30 men originally. All because the new Lieutenant thought he new better than a veteran Sergeant.

Silence. Not good. He raises his hand while dropping into a crouch. He knows without looking the rest of the patrol have dropped to the ground too. He looks to the other scout. He senses it too. Something has made the jungle quiet. The only nearby sound is that of the trees as the wind pushes the branches. Off in the far distance, howlers monkeys call out. Just WHAT has gotten his attention? He looks everywhere instantly, moving his rifle moving in tune with his eyes. Sweat runs rivers down his back. The other scout motions his intentions to move up a few meters. The Lt nods in agreement. The patrol have fanned out, taking up a defensive perimeter. Everyone is tense. He prepares to earn the name of ‘scout’ yet again.

Every step he takes is thought about in advance. Twigs are brushed aside with the toe of his boot before he steps forward. Branches are ducked under, not moved. Not a sound comes from him. Every single bit of equipment that could possible make a noise has been taped down, or removed full stop. He is as silent as a shadow.

There. In that clearing up ahead. What looks to be about maybe 20 enemy are having a break, sat around eating their rations. There doesn’t appear to be any prowler guards, just a couple of static ones. And there is the one who gave the game away. Smoking a cigarette on patrol is possible the stupidest thing any combatant could do. He realizes, the faint smell of tobacco on the breeze was enough to get both his and the other scouts attention. Within just a few seconds, he has memorised the enemy force. Numbers. Weapons. Positions. The element of surprise will override the fact they are out numbered, should the Lt decide to attack. He knows the other scout will have done the same. The Lt will take their observations, and decide on the best course of action.

Backtracking to the Lt, he arrives just as the other scout reports in too. “About 30 meters ahead in a clearing. 20 live bodies that I could see. 2 static guards at the edges of the clearing, East to West about 5 metres from the main body. The enemy are in 2 distinct groups, one of 13, one of 5. They look to have settled down to eat rations. All have automatic rifles, only saw one light machine gun, but I figure on at least one more. They appear relaxed and not very switched on. I don’t think they know we are here Boss.” The second scout confirms what he had seen, including the location of the second LMG in the group.

The Lt calls forward the Sergeant. A few seconds discussion.

Its set. We are about to bring death and destruction to this small part of paradise.

The End

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