THE KILLING SCHOOL: RANGER SNIPERS, ALONG WITH MARINES, AMBUSH THE ALIBAN AND THWART AN ATTACK
Dawn finally broke in Helmand Province. Nick Irving sat and waited. For now, at least, the long night was over.
Just then Finnegan called over quietly; he’d just heard from the Marines back at their compound. They’d decided they didn’t want to wait for yet another morning attack. They wanted to take the fight to the enemy. They were on their way to join the group. All riiight! was Nick’s first thought. They were going to see some serious contact.
At the same time, it seemed kind of bizarre that the Marines would make the decision to go in on the very same day that Nick and his team were out there, ready to ambush them. Nick wished they could hang on and wait a bit. He could already see signs of people in the village starting to prepare. He could see the movement, feel the energy in the air, that sense of something bad about to happen. He knew that very soon, the moment these guys presented themselves clearly, he and Pemberton could do some real damage.
READY TO ROCK
The two snipers were perked up and ready. Nick had his spotting scope set up right next to where he sat with Dirty Diana, everything clean and good to go.
Okay, the Marines were coming. So be it. Nick would support the overwatch. From his highground vantage point, he could see things the Marines couldn’t and was in a good position to take out danger before it happened, or call it out if he couldn’t hit it himself.
Just as the sun began peeking up over the horizon, giving a grayish tint to the scene before him, he heard the approach of a column of Humvees. Then—ssssnap! Ssssnap! Someone was taking sporadic shots at the Marines.
Nick heard them on the radio asking, “Hey, you guys see where that’s coming from?”
The Marines in Humvees couldn’t see it. The Marine snipers in their hide couldn’t see it. Nick couldn’t see it either. Then the whole area in Nick’s sector started coming alive, people hustling, running around, clearly getting ready to fight. Nick called over to Pemberton, “Hey man, get ready to start dropping guys.”
But neither of them saw any weapons yet, so neither of them took any shots. So far, it was just a bunch of people running around.
THE MARINES ARE COMING
The Marines were getting closer.
Nick noticed one guy in his sector who stood out. Something about the way the guy was acting struck him as suspicious. Gunfire erupted. The Marines’ column was being fired on. Nick heard their .50 cal gunners return fire. Their guys were in serious contact. Just then the guy Nick had been watching ducked behind the corner of a small house. A moment later he reappeared bearing an RPG. Nick looked a few degrees to the right. A
Marine Humvee was approaching, closing in on passing the guy at a distance of maybe 50 meters, at most. For an RPG, that’s not pointblank range, but it is damn close.
He looked back at the guy. Sure enough, he dropped down to one knee and took aim. He was tucked into the corner pretty well; the Humvee driver didn’t see him. Besides, the Humvees were absorbed in their own firefight, engaging targets mainly in the opposite direction.
From his long night of detailed calculations, Nick already had the kneeling guy’s range: 743 yards. He quickly dialed the distance into his scope.
“Watch this guy,” he told Pemberton. “On ’im.”
Pemberton was already there. The two didn’t need to talk, at least not in sentences. For months they had already been operating together like a single organism, and a word or two was all it took to convey the necessary meaning. On ’im. Rog.
Pemberton’s job was to watch the target and make sure Irving had hit him, and if not, then to see exactly where the bullet went. Irving’s job was to shoot.
BOOM. The shot took the man in his upper stomach area. The guy dropped and folded, like a folding chair collapsing.
Up to this point the enemy hadn’t suffered any actual casualties. Yes, they were mounting attacks on the Marine camp every morning, but they were the type of firefights where both sides shot at each other but no one really hit anybody. It was just a bunch of bullets flying back and forth. (You might be surprised at how often this happens in war.)
Now these guys suddenly saw their friend just drop, DOA. And Dirty Diana was wearing her suppressor, so the shot was quiet, too, and probably impossible to hear in the midst of the rest of the gunfire. It freaked the Taliban forces out. They started shooting like crazy. One Tali fighter stood up a little too brazenly— Pemberton took him out with a single devastating explosion from the Win Mag.
Now a barrage of gunfire started pouring onto the site where Nick and Pemberton were holed up. Nick and Pemberton returned fire, joined by their recce mate, joining in with the Marines.
The barrage didn’t last. After a few minutes, the Taliban collected their slain and made a hasty retreat. Nick later learned that after that dawn skirmish, that Marine unit never got attacked again for the rest of that deployment. The victory came at a cost, though: during the barrage, the Marines had taken one KIA as well.
4 DAYS WITHOUT SLEEP
Just then they got a call from the other recce operators back at the Marine base. Rangers from Second Platoon evidently had some intel on where their HVT was now headed and were on their way to rendezvous. Which meant that as soon as Nick and Pemberton could extract themselves from their ambush of the ambush, they had to get back and plan for the next mission—the real mission, the reason they’d gone out there in the first place.
When they got back to the Marine compound, they found four truckloads of men and equipment waiting for them. Second Platoon had arrived. Dress rehearsal was over. Time to plan and move.
While the platoon organized themselves and prepared for their nighttime departure, Nick lay down on the ground by a good-sized rock he’d noticed. Not much of a pillow, but it would have to do.
He placed his head on the rock and stretched out his aching limbs. He was hoping to grab a few quick Z’s. Aside from a catnap snatched here and there, they had now been up four days straight without sleep. A very long night. It was about to get a lot longer.
Four truckloads of men and equipment were waiting for them. Dress rehearsal was over. Time to plan and move.