by Joseph Lupoli
Before the sun had risen enough to spread its first teasing ray of bitter cold, purple light upon us, I watched the chopper zoom upward from our LZ and quickly spin around and head north, its rope ladders pulled up along the way.
With silence restored, our twelve-man Delta Company platoon unit stood up, brushed off our dark gray field uniforms, and commenced a speed-march south down the thin, knotty trail, moving in string formation so that in the event of a grenade attack not all of us would get killed.
Only hours before, we were briefed on the latest intelligence: a small but heavily armed group of rebels were holed up in the catacombs of a dilapidated soccer stadium, purportedly to launch a raid against government loyalists sometime that day.
Our mission was not to kill the bastards, but to disarm and prep them for evacuation to Interrogation Headquarters.
We stopped within two kilometers to set up surveillance when suddenly a .50 caliber machine gun opened up, scattering us like rats and forcing each man to dive for the nearest available tree wide enough to hide a torso.
And when the first mortar hit, I realized that my tree wasn’t wide enough to protect a hamster, but just as I was about to race toward a bigger tree, the whistle blew—our Advanced Special Forces Combat Training exercise at Fort Benning, Georgia had concluded for the day.