Seals (2005), страница 9
Now, sweat-soaked from the dangerous trek, the Second Squad was two hundred meters from the southeast portion of the walls around the warlord's compound. This put them in a position exactly opposite of where the First Squad would be located during the hostage rescue portion of the mission. Bruno Puglisi had one of the French mortars slung over his muscular left shoulder while his M-16/M-203 hung on the right. Joe Miskoski had been chosen to be his assistant gunner, and he had rigged haversacks from a couple of the ammo packs for use in carrying the shells. They both breathed the proverbial sighs of relief when the squad reached its objective and they could drop the extra weaponry to set up a mortar emplacement.
Cruiser, in his usual micromanagement style, personally selected firing positions for each man and the mortar. After the emplacements were scooped out of the ground with entrenching tools, the SEALs gathered brush to use as concealment around the fighting holes. Noise discipline was a must in those hours of darkness, when even the softest of sounds was amplified. It took extra effort to do the work in silence.
A half hour later, as soon as each man was ready, the lieutenant went to his own position and readied himself for the battle ahead. He checked his watch, observing the luminescent second hand work its way up to the 12. After one more glance around, he spoke in an excited whisper over the LASH headset to his mortar team.
0145 HOURS LOCAL
THE firing of the first mortar rounds was a welcome sound to the First Squad. The Bravo Fire Team under Senior Chief Buford Dawkins was set up similarly to the Second Squad on the other side of the compound. However, the Bravos were charged with fire support only and were under strict orders not to shoot unless absolutely necessary. Brannigan wanted the mujahideen to think there was only one attack and it was coming from the southeast side. If this ploy failed, then the mission of the First Squad would deteriorate into a fighting withdrawal. In that disastrous event, Connie Concord was standing by with his M-16/M-203 ready to arc HE grenades at any potential attackers. Since he would have no time to employ one of the more effective French mini-mortars, the second of these recently acquired weapons had been left back on West Ridge.
"Let's go," Brannigan whispered, and he moved out toward the northwest portion of the compound wall. The rest of Alpha Fire Team--Mike Assad, Frank Gomez and Dave Leibowitz--followed after him. When they reached the mud fortress, Mike knelt down while Dave stood in front of him. Brannigan stepped on Mike's back and went up on Dave's shoulders then stepped up on the wall and slipped over, dropping to the ground. Frank did the same, but stayed on top of the wall to reach down and pull Mike and Dave up. In less than forty-five seconds they were all inside the compound.
The people of the village were already noisily reacting to the firing off to the southeast, and the men had sleepily stumbled outside, carrying their weapons. Their leaders shouted at them in the Pashto language, gesturing for them to hurry toward the sound of the fighting.
The Alphas skirted the outlying huts of the village and swung around to the vehicle park. They concealed themselves behind a Ford van and waited for a good opportunity to get over to the storage containers. The firing from the Second Squad had built up to a steady crescendo, and the loud detonations of mortar shells punctuated the rolling thunder of the fusillades. Jim Cruiser and his two fire teams were rocking and rolling with a vengeance.
Meanwhile, the women were out in front of their huts, obviously frightened out of their wits. They clung to their children, screeching at the boys who wanted to go join their dads and older brothers in the fighting. These were people who had endured attacks before, yet they could still panic into spasms of irrationality, to wander around where stray bullets could quickly end a life or cause grievous wounds.
But they did have the presence of mind to turn out all the lanterns in their quarters.
The Alphas waited a few minutes to be sure the villagers' collective attention was wrapped up in the developing battle. Then Brannigan whispered, "Let's have a jailbreak!"
He led his trio of men off to the shadows at the side of the vehicle park and over to an area where two large storage containers were situated in a row. The four SEALs came to a sudden stop when they heard excited male voices a few meters ahead. After determining that the speakers were stationary, they eased forward in the shadows to check the mujahideen's exact position.
The two fighters, obviously standing guard in the area where the hostages were held, stood looking toward the sound of the fighting. They seemed to be discussing whether to remain at their assigned sentry post or go join their brother mujahideen doing battle with the attackers. Brannigan pulled his K-Bar, pointed to himself and then to the man on the right. Next he pointed to Mike and the man on the left. Now Mike pulled his knife as Dave and Frank took the CAR-15s from him and the Skipper to hold while the owners tended to the bloody task ahead.
The two moved slowly toward their quarry, appreciative of the noise from all the shooting some hundred meters away. They stopped a scant two paces from the guards, then Brannigan nodded to order the attack. Both SEALs struck simultaneously with the viciousness of cobras, driving the blades of their weapons under the back of rib cages and up into the vital areas where organs and arteries were located. The knives were violently twisted to enlarge the wounds. Brannigan and Mike kept their hands over the victims' mouths, working the knives until the mujahideen went limp. At that point the dead men were lowered gently to the ground to avoid unnecessary noise.
"Shit!" Mike whispered. "The son of a bitch vomited."
"It's a messy job no matter which way you cut it," Brannigan said. "No pun intended."
They resheathed the K-Bars, retrieved their weapons from Dave and Frank, then went to the first container. This was the one Senior Chief Buford Dawkins had reported as the one where two prisoners were being kept. Brannigan noted that there was no lock on the door; only a handle that slid through an eyelet to hold it shut. He pulled the lever on the handle and pushed the device to the side. The door cracked a bit, and he had to pull it the rest of the way open.
Two frightened young men looked up at him. The wide-eyed and openmouthed expressions on their faces made them appear weird in the night vision goggles. They cringed as if expecting to be shot.
Brannigan spoke quickly. "Do you speak English?" "Yes," one said, puzzled. "We are speaking English. Who are you?"
"I'm the guy that's going to get you the hell out of here:' Brannigan said, noting the overflowing bucket used for a night toilet. "Follow me out of this place."
"Oh, yes, sir," one said. "We are thanking you so very much."
"You are a nice man," the other added.
"Right," Brannigan said. "Now listen carefully. You can't see, but we're wearing night vision goggles. Do you understand? We can see perfectly in the dark."
"We are understanding what it is you are telling us," the first said.
"When we get outside, I'm going to have each of you grab the belt of one of my men to hold on to for guidance. We'll move rapidly as possible, but don't worry about bumping into anything. We'll be as careful as we can. We'll be going to a wall. We'll help you over, and then join the rest of my command. Now listen up! You must be quiet. Don't make any noise. Don't say a thing. Not a word!'
"We are being quiet like little mouses," the second man promised.
Brannigan took them outside, handing one over to Frank and the other to Dave. Thus, prepared, they moved back through the vehicle park toward the wall.
0115 HOURS LOCAL
THE fighting on the southeast wall built up in intensity as more mujahideen joined their brothers-in-arms at the position. The tower at that corner of the fortification became unpopular with the warlord's men since the SEALs kept a steady fire on it whenever someone had the temerity to climb up in it to shoot down at them. The flares fired up by the defenders made them bolder than they should have been. Within
Bruno Puglisi and Joe Miskoski had to go through a vital learning process with the mortar, firing several rounds before they got the hang of the little support weapon. They were extremely inaccurate with the first three shots, but the resultant shell strikes scared the hell out of the mujahideen. But it wasn't long before the two impromptu mortarmen had the elevation and traverse down, and had found the range for the wall itself.
Joe slid a shell down the tube. As soon as it was positioned, Puglisi pulled the trigger. It responded with an "oomph" sound as it fired, and the intrepid mortar gunners made a count of "hut-thousand, two-thousand, three-thousand" until reaching "six-thousand." At that moment the shell fell on the wall, blowing chunks of mud and pieces of mujahideen straight up into the air. This strike was immediately followed by three more.
The defenders expected an all-out assault from a large number of attackers now that their wall was breached. They prepared themselves by quickly occupying positions where they could cover the ragged opening when the expected horde of infidels charged through it.
But Cruiser's Second Squad stayed put, throwing out short bursts of automatic fire. One of the senior mujahideen, feeling the power of Allah surging through his soul, organized a half dozen others into a small attacking force with wild screams of religious urgings to follow him. He led the small group through the wall and out into the open country. None of them made more than three steps before the combined fire of six CAR-15s cut them down.
Now Puglisi and Joe began to pace their barrages to make their supply of shells last as long as possible.
ALPHA FIRE TEAM
WHILE the Second Squad kept that part of the wall pinned down, Brannigan and his Alpha Team were on the opposite side of the compound, struggling to get the two hostages over the top of the earthen barrier.
Neither one was in particularly good physical condition, and the poor diet they had been receiving in the warlord's crude jail had not helped either. One was pudgy, with little athletic ability, and the other was skinny with a minimum of physical strength. When they reached the wall, Dave Leibowitz boosted his buddy Mike Assad up to the top. When Mike was positioned, he reached down, taking the hand of the pudgy hostage as he was pushed upward toward him. He pulled the guy hard, getting him astride the wall.
"Stay here," Mike ordered. He looked down at Dave. "Next!"
The skinny guy was quickly pulled up and positioned next to his buddy. Next the Skipper and Frank Gomez were hefted up. Both Frank and Brannigan reached down and grabbed Dave's wrists to haul him to the top. The SEALs leaped down to the opposite side of the wall, then turned and helped their charges to lower themselves to the ground.
With all the Alphas and the two hostages out of the fort, the group moved across the open ground to link up with the rest of the First Squad.
"How'd it go?" Senior Chief Buford Dawkins asked as they joined the others. "They was two of 'em, huh?"
"Right, Senior Chief," Mike answered. "They wouldn't be classified One-A by their local draft board so we'll have to make allowances for them while we haul ass the hell out of here."
The sound of the fighting to the southeast rose and fell, showing that the battle was still going at full speed. "Let's go, people!" Brannigan ordered. "Form a squad column with our guests in the middle. Move out!"
The small group headed southward to the scheduled rendezvous with Second Squad.
0145 HOURS LOCAL
Lieutenant Jim Cruiser checked his watch. It was now time to go into the fire-and-maneuver withdrawal phase to break contact with the mujahideen. "Puglisi! Miskoski!" he said over the LASH. "Make a final barrage. Six rounds."
"Aye, sir:' Bruno Puglisi replied.
Joe Miskoski inserted the first shell into the tube, then Puglisi pulled the trigger. This was repeated five more times as the rest of the squad lay down heavy fire on the mujahideen behind the rubble of the wall. When the final mortar round was launched, Puglisi folded up the weapon and slung it over his shoulder, wincing at the feel of the hot tube through his BDU. Joe grabbed the haversack with the three remaining rounds.
"Charlie Fire Team!" Cruiser said. "Continue to fire! Delta Fire Team, withdraw!"
Joe joined his Charlie mates, adding his CAR-15 to the fusillades. Puglisi fell in with the Deltas now rushing rearward. They went some fifteen meters before turning and dropping to the ground. As soon as they began firing, the Charlies leaped to their feet and rushed back to join them.
This began a seesaw action of withdrawal and covering fire as the squad successfully broke off contact with the mujahideen. At that point, they turned west to meet up with the First Squad at the contact point.
O215 HOURS LOCAL
THE squads linked up at a point along East Ridge that was two kilometers south of the warlord's compound. The two hostages were exhausted from the quick run down the ridge line and were sitting on the ground breathing hard as the First Squad made its appearance. The fatter one gagged, then rolled over to his hands and knees to vomit.
James Bradley quickly checked him out. "He's just tired, sir," he reported to Brannigan. "I'll give them both stimulants?'
"Do it quickly," Brannigan said. He looked the SEALs over, glad to note that they had taken no casualties. "Guys," he said, relieved, "this mission has been a piece of cake so far. Everything's going our way, but we've got to stay on our toes. I want everyone to concentrate on their assignments. This is the time that things can really get fucked up."
Jim Cruise glanced over at the hostages. "Do you think they can make it all the way back to the CP?"
"Bradley's getting them hopped up on some of his pills," Brannigan said. "At least they don't have to hump any heavy gear." He walked up to a point in front of the platoon. "Let's get the hell out of here! Platoon column! First Squad on the right, Second Squad on the left. Assad and Leibowitz take the point. Chiefs, each of you put a flanker out:'
Dawkins nodded to Gutsy Olson. "Take the right flank." Adam Clifford got the honors in the First Squad as he was ordered out to the left side of the column.
When they were all formed up, Brannigan signaled up to the front where Mike Assad and Dave Leibowitz waited. "Take us home!"
The platoon, with the officers and hostages in the middle of the column, moved westward into the darkness.
THE WARLORD'S COMPOUND
0730 HOURS LOCAL
THE devastation in the southeast corner of the wall was complete. The remnants of that corner of the earthen fortification were no more than piles of dirt with bits of mud brick mixed in. The mujahideen had pulled the corpses of their brethren from the wreckage and carried them back to the village area. Even now the loud keening of mourning women permeated the atmosphere with the intensity of bitch wolves howling in the mountains.
Warlord Ayyub Durtami stood on the roof of his residence with Ahmet Kharani, looking out over the valley between the compound and the ridge. "I have now lost almost a hundred men in these past days," Durtami said. "Who can those infidel devils be? And how many are they?"
"They could be getting reinforcements, Amir," Kharani suggested. "Perhaps they grow stronger as we grow weaker?'
"They took the hostages!" Durtami exclaimed. "How in Satan's power could that have happened? Some of them actually came in here amongst us, killed two guards and took our prisoners away. What sort of demons are they? Do they have black magic to make them invisible?"
"They are not phantoms, Amir," Kharani assured him.
"Then we must do something or my men's fear will grow to panic! The unbelievers must be crushed as soon as possible. We can no longer tolerate this situation. It will cost many men, I fear, but an all-out effo
"Unfortunately, we do not know what part of the far ridge they are on," Kharani reminded him.
"I have a good idea what their position might be from the place the patrol of young fighters was wiped out," Durtami said. "And the mortar section that was massacred also gives us solid evidence of their campsite."
Kharani glanced over where the dead of the battle were now being prepared for burial. "You are right, Amir. The men are losing their courage. If we do not score a victory soon, your fiefdom will be lost to the infidel Americans and Europeans. The government in Kabul will send troops here. Your men will run away with their families. They will seek shelter and protection from your brother-in-law Hassan Khamami."
"I did not think the situation grave enough," Durtami admitted, "but now I recognize that I must proclaim a jihad --a holy war--to give the men the will and ferocity to sacrifice themselves for a final victory."
The words just spoken had an instant effect on Kharani. He was close to tears with religious fervor. "Praise Allah who is merciful and beneficent! He shall give us a magnificent victory and welcome our dead mujahideen to Paradise."
"Allah akbar!" Durtami exclaimed. "God is great!"
CP ON WEST RIDGE
1445 HOURS LOCAL
THE platoon, except for the men on watch, was at rest. Those off duty lounged on their foam mattresses, the more thrifty now consuming the final cans of beer they had hoarded from their six-packs.