Stealth and Evasion
Wednesday, July 6, and Thursday, July 7, 2005
Meese still didn’t move, knowing the best weapons now were hiding and patience.
His face buried behind the backpack, he frowned as the throb of the two helicopters didn’t change; they weren’t moving, weren’t returning to base… Maneuvering for another shot? Searching for the intruder? Had he been spotted running? Did they know he lived? Could infrared find him in the shallow hide? Would he soon feel the searing agony of a hail of machine gun bullets or the short-lived pain of another rocket blast obliterating his life?
After many moments the sound of the two helicopters seemed to shift, like they were exchanging position. Were they hovering? Were they dropping in fresh troops?
He waited, unmoving, for many minutes… Many minutes…
After what seemed like half an hour – although he hadn’t moved even enough to check his watch – there was the unmistakable crunching of boots on loose rocks and the sound of approaching voices. Apparently, they had scrambled up to the ledge to check if they’d gotten him or to flush him out if they hadn’t.
The voices moved closer. Although he did not speak Russian, it sure sounded like that language; but their tone was casual, not anxious or concerned, as if they were sure he was dead, as if this was just a formality, which meant they wouldn’t be looking that hard.
The volume and clarity suggested they were nearby, only twenty or thirty feet away. But what he didn’t know was a two-inch layer of dust and pebbles covered his body, making him indistinguishable from the mountainside, even masking any infrared signature.
He listened to the men moving around and what to him were unintelligible mutterings, but which had the tenor of bitching about the cold or that this was a waste of time. Minutes passed; eventually a barked command sounded as if it could mean something like “Let’s go” or “Move out.”
But… He had tried a dodge on them, so turnabout might be fair play. He didn’t trust them to be leaving… Hopefully they were.
The helicopters changed position but did not fade. Rather, he figured they were picking-up the remaining live soldiers and the bodies of those he’d killed. After what seemed like an hour, the two aircraft did move off, heading back upriver toward Lake Zorkul.
But it didn’t mean they hadn’t left a man or two – or for that matter, a fresh squad – behind, just in case their quarry wasn’t dead.
He waited… And waited… And was still…
He waited for the wind to talk to him, to share any warning sound not belonging to the desolate landscape – a movement, a muffled cough, a whispered word: Nothing.
The day dragged on, his senses focused, especially the sixth sense all soldiers who have survived a long time in combat seem to have, that danger was near: Nothing.
Sometime in the late afternoon or early evening he fell asleep. When he woke-up it was well after dark.
He was hungry; he hadn’t had anything to eat since yesterday morning – fourteen, sixteen hours ago?
But darkness didn’t mean safety. There could be a sniper with a night vision scope waiting for him to reveal himself. Even if there wasn’t, stumbling around in the darkness when there were plenty of dangerous natural hazards was not smart.
So, with slow and painstaking movements so as not to disturb any cover, he slid his hand up to the parka’s chest pocket where he’d stowed what was officially called a Soldier Fuel Bar, but what was more popularly known as a Hooah Bar, withdrew it and moved it up to his mouth.
Tearing it open with his teeth, he pushed the wrapper aside and took a bite from the corner. It was raspberry flavor, his least favorite, but let it sit there anyway, as this time it was as delicious as any steak dinner.
The food helped him get his bearings. Okay, the situation was dire, but not hopeless; he would not allow himself to go there. Until you are dead, there is always a chance, even if a slim one.
He spent many moments assessing: Two days of rations left, four if stretched. That wasn’t good; no matter what kind of ex-filtration plan they might come up with, it would likely involve more days than that.
The Barrett was gone, but its cumbersome four-foot length and heavy thirty-pound weight would have been more a hindrance than a help anyway. His strategy now had to be stealth and evasion, avoiding any confrontation with hostile forces if possible. He did have a Berretta nine-millimeter if shooting was inescapable.
He decided to remain in the hide; it had probably saved his life so far. Maybe the mountain was bringing a bit of good luck after all.
In the morning, if there didn’t seem to be any danger waiting, he would break cover, assess the surroundings and use the sat phone to call in for an evac plan.
He fell asleep fantasizing about a cup of hot chocolate; it – along with peanut butter – had always been his comfort food of choice as a kid, only nowadays he preferred the hot chocolate “fortified” with a shot of bourbon.
Next: You’re on your own now
© 2019 Dave Lager