[Civil Affairs] A Night In Zargabad (Part 1)

Zargabad, Takistan. 2200 hours.

The pale sand whistled between every dilapidated brick house. The sun had died hours earlier, the twilight had passed, and the sky was now consumed with an emptiness only death could imagine. Not a star was seen that night, nor a moon of any division. Seven men had embarked on this frightful mission into the heart of hell: into a city occupied by an army of terrorist fighters, and a lot of them. Our squad had moved in through the eastern fields with orders to clear buildings, streets, and make our way to the mosque in the center. Here we had to eliminate any threats and take back the area. After a tough few hours of fighting and co-ordination, we had made it to the mosque.

The bejeweled sapphire walls stood towering over us as we approached the nearest entrance into the compound. The fight this far hadn’t been easy, with two men already lost in the process: two close friends we owed our lives to for their persistent dedication in getting us here. We’d been attacked and ambushed at every turn, but we were where we needed to be. We marched outside the walls to prepare to move in, securing the perimeter for any enemy contacts. I took a look through the side of the entrance. Despite the high absence of light, I could just make out the silhouettes of several enemy contacts as they patrolled around the building. After relaying it to the squad, we made our move.

We breached the walls one by one, taking out contacts and controlling the inner walls. The crimson stains of enemy blood juxtaposed with the bright blue mosque in the cold darkness. After we had cleared the outside of the building, it was time to finish this. We broke into the mosque from the eastern entrance and began searching the place. Several enemies began attacking us as we moved through the holy dwelling, but they were soon dealt with. Lacking my night vision goggles, the interior was incredibly dull, with few light sources assisting my poor vision. I broke through the door into the room on the far western wing of the mosque to be met with what I could only make out as a terrorist fighter, like the many I’d already shot today. Quickly raising my LMG, I instinctively pulled the trigger as the bullets charged into the room, striking the concealed figure and forcing his body to the cold stone floor. As my eyes adjusted to the shadows drowning my view, I was met with the awful realization that this was an unarmed fighter, one that had surrendered in his last moments alive.

Starring at his lifeless, bullet consumed corpse, I was overcome with a deep regret in my mindless actions. Time and time again we're told not to execute unarmed soldiers, and I just killed him through my own ignorance and ineptitude; my state of panic had caused the demise of such a hapless soul, one who didn't deserve his given fate. I hated what I’d done, but the mission couldn’t allow for a decline in morale to become a liability. With extreme reluctance, I endured on.

As we cleared out the building, we began to hear yells from the somber streets to our close west, not far from the walls of the compound. We needed to get out of there, and fast. Our squad leader yelled for me and PFC Leon to stay back to cover their escape before we moved. Raising my LMG, I looked around the sides of the exterior for contacts while Leon stayed towards the inner parts of the building. Nothing yet, but they were approaching with haste like a merciless cyclone. The air began moving with a bitter frost and the night’s gloom grew stronger as my vision weakened. The stark white sand danced around the deep red stains of blood beside the lifeless bodies of the fallen and the unlucky. They wouldn’t have wanted to be here as much as I didn’t want to be either; I was starting to feel like a bullet in my chest might feel like a saving grace from the brutality of war.

Suddenly, shots could be heard from the west, growing louder by the second. With everyone else moved to safety, I radioed in to Leon that we should urgently begin making our move towards our squad.

But no reply.

I tried again before moving towards him. As I turned the corner, all I saw was Leon’s inert body lying still on the floor. It hit me with a feeling of anguish and grief; he hadn’t deserved this, none of them had. In the distance, I noticed several silhouettes floating towards me like corrupted ghosts. As I ran for the eastern exit, what was left of my squad began to come in on the radio. “Milo’s down!” yelled PFC Cooper, taking charge. As I regrouped, several enemy contacts began to appear in sight, danger close, instantly firing rounds at us as fast as lightning and as loud as thunder. We ducked down before I began to suppress to hold them off. I had no room to look where I was shooting, but the sounds of the blazing bullets were enough for an accurate guess. A cloud of mist began to encase us as a nearby smoke grenade disguised our sight. We had time to think and time to move into better cover. I couldn’t see my squad mates, but I could see a nearby wall no taller than an average car. I cowered behind it, begging for the fog to take as long as possible to subside: but in the blistering wind, it took mere seconds for it to dwindle. In the clearance, PFC Cooper’s body could be seen on the road, frayed from a hail of relentless bullets. I looked around for anyone left, fully aware I couldn’t make it out on my own. I tried radioing in to whoever was left, but the line went dead. I was all that was left.

Was there any point in me continuing? It was inevitable I was going to die. I looked around for anywhere to move to: anything with solid cover and protection while I could request an extraction, if there was anything within range. Across a nearby street, I saw an open house, completely clear of any enemies. I made a run out of cover for it, no regard to who was around me, no regard for where the enemy might be. It was a terrible tactic to put into action, but it was lucky I did so. The tattered red door of the decrepit dwelling stood half-open, awaiting my arrival as if I wasn’t the only person who had been through there that day. As I stumbled through the entrance, I focused by vision towards the end of the narrow corridor. To my relief, PFC Jones could be seen on the other side of the room crouched behind the opposing door, staring out across the wasteland of a street. He turned his head as he noticed me enter.

“I can’t believe it, you’re alive!” he exclaimed as he approached me, leaving his cover behind the exit. “My radio was hit with a stray bullet,” he added. “It’s completely dead.”

I was as relieved as he was, I wasn’t the only one left alive. We were the last two men of the seven that had embarked on this mission, and we would get out of this hell together. We moved instantly out the door, with no time to stay perched on a single spot for too long. The walls of the mosque could be seen close by, with enemies continuing to pour out of the entrance, marking our bodies for death. I began to throw smoke in the road as Jones began suppressing them with his LMG to cover my movement past the wall. This is what it had come down to, two automatic riflemen, several hundred rounds of ammunition, and a few grenades against an army of terrorist fighters.

To Be Continued...

Written by PFC Laird.
Edited by WO1 Brewer.
Formatted by PFC Laird.


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