Found at: American Mercenary

28 APRIL 2013


Johnny inched forward, moving one limb at a time, each in turn until his torso was ready to be moved another tiny bit forward.

The ancient Remington 700 action been scavenged from a hunting cabin in western Montana.  The old 270 Win barrel removed, the action trued by a crusty old machinist, “blueprinted” was the buzzword that others would use to describe the work.  A 308 barrel blank was turned to a 1″ bull barrel, 22 inches long, and threaded for the home made K baffle suppressor the machinist manufactured.  The wooden stock from the original rifle was wrapped in fiberglass, the action area relieved, and when all was ready the action and stock were mated together with a glass and pillar bedding job.

Johnny inched forward again.

The scope bases were commercial, standard 1″ rings.  The scope was a plain hunting scope, a 4-16x optic with a thick duplex reticle and 50mm main lens.  Johnny wished he had a euro style post or milspec mildot reticle, but the thicker lines of the “30/30” pattern would do.  In the absence of a multi thousand dollar night scope having a low power, big main lens scope with a thick reticle on lowest magnification was the best option Johnny had for this mission.  The finger adjustable target turrets marked with range adjustments in fine tip marker completed the prep of the scope.

One inch at a time Johnny crawled, the custom built rifle dragging behind him in the improvised drag bag.  An old canvas tent gave the olive drab cotton he cut for the shell, and an “egg crate” mattress pad provided the cushion.  Johnny sewed, fabric glued, and laced it all together to protect his rifle.  A 550 cord lead allowed Johnny to pull the drag bag with contents behind him, one inch at a time.  Survival bars, beef jerky, and two full hydration bladders were stuffed into the drag bag.

This portion of the trip was the most important.  Within line of sight of the enemy operations base, 300 yards of open field.  The enemy engineers had cut down the trees, but they didn’t bother to mow the scrub and brush that grew to waist level.  Johnny inched through the brush, hoping that the heat reflective mylar thermal blanket material he glued to the inside of his gillie suit base dropped his IR signature to something less suspicious than a man sized blob of heat.  The enemy had FLIR optics, top of the line, and Johnny knew he was risking his life in a big way.

The wind picked up, and a few more raindrops fell.  Johnny used the rustling of the brush to speed up his advance.  The off and on rain kept the brush and ground wet, and Johnny was soaked, his synthetic thermal underwear and gillie suit and thermal poncho kept him from shivering uncontrollably.  The thermal poncho sat on top of his body, not something normally used for a stalk to a final firing point, but Johnny wanted the extra concealment from any FLIR sensors in the area.

Johnny finally reached the small draw heading up a hill, and concealed from direct line of site to the base began to rapidly low crawl up.  200 meters away from the open flat that took 7 hours to cross, Johnny pulled the small entrenching tool from his drag bag and began preparing his hide.  By starting his final stalk at dusk the evening prior Johnny had two hours left before dawn.  The sandy soil filled sandbags.  The drag bag became the top cover of the hide, the thermal poncho on top of that staked down with small sticks.

Johnny was well concealed from overhead detection by the time the sun came up.  All loose dirt camouflaged, and he began improving his position, digging deeper into the hillside, working a small tunnel under the ridge to create a firing port with line of sight to the enemy base.  Johnny stopped to sleep around noon, the musty smell of dirt in his nostrils.  He resumed work at dusk, completing his firing port  and camouflaging it with vegetation from the inside out.  And then he waited.

Johnny remembered everything from the mission packet.  The senior commander.  The intelligence chief.  The reaction force platoon sergeant.  The known shift changes.  The weekly briefing schedule.  The location of the commander’s hooch.  The known path from the hooch to the chow tent.  The delivery schedule of food, fuel, and ammo.  Johnny used sandbags to prop his rifle up on target.  A small electronic timer set to give an audible buzz sat next to Johnny’s head, and he let himself drift off to sleep.

The timer buzzed, and Johnny silenced it without opening his eyes.  He pushed himself back into position on his rifle, and observed through the scope.  The door to the commander’s hooch began to open, and Johnny caressed the trigger as the commander’s left foot swung into view.  The rifle bucked against his shoulder, the bullet began it’s 1.3 second flight.  The scope settled back down as the rifle resumed position on the sandbags, and Johnny watched his bullet impact 800 yards away, a bit low and to the left, but still a decent shot.  The commander, wearing a physical training uniform as he normally did for his morning workout routine, felt the impact, and collapsed from the shock to his system.  Johnny hit a button on the timer, starting a stopwatch function.

Johnny worked the action on the Remington, and chambered a new round.  Three clicks up on the scope changed his zero, and he targeted the generator that powered the operations cell.  A quick exhale, paused, and Johnny felt the rifle buck against his shoulder.  Johnny worked the bolt, and noted with satisfaction that the power had gone out to a small portion of the camp.  Having shot twice from the same position Johnny was on borrowed time.  He worked the bolt again and adjusted down five clicks to get the generator that powered the maintenance and logistic section.  Exhale, pause, the rifle bucked against his shoulder.  Miss.  Johnny cycled the action, corrected a half minute to the right, and fired again.  Hit.

The rising sun was his enemy now, and Johnny had to execute his withdrawal plan. Exiting the back of the hide Johnny stowed his rifle in the drag bag and rolled up the thermal poncho.  A booby trapped grenade left in the hide would likely slow down enemy investigators for a while.  Johnny checked the timer, almost eight minutes.  Johnny took off downhill, careful not to hurry and lose his footing.  The telltale sound of a small UAV could barely be heard in the distance, Johnny knew that he didn’t have much time before he needed overhead concealment.  The base of the hill gave way to a seasonal stream, just a trickle now but as the fall rains proceeded it would grow.  Johnny made it to the trees that lined the muddy banks, and worked his way downstream until he found a small overhang of the bank where he jammed himself in.  He couldn’t hear the UAV engine, which didn’t mean much as it could have just gained enough altitude to be out of earshot.

Johnny checked his timer, 20 minutes from just after the first shot.  He reset the mode from stopwatch to timer, and set it for 90 minutes, hoping that the UAV would be a short range model would have to return to base and refuel.  Johnny waited tense for 90 minutes before starting his movement downstream.  Moving slowly Johnny made his way downstream, moving quickly when the trees were thick, moving slowly, inch at a time, when they were thin, moving over the grass on the bank and through the scrub.  Johnny was near an undercut in the bank when he heard helicopters, and he wedged himself in, using the thermal poncho as cover.  The helicopters flew up and down the stream bed for a few hours.  Johnny estimated the time of flight for the nearest air base as 20 minutes.  Once the aircraft were off station for 15 minutes Johnny continued his movement.

The cat and mouse game went on, Johnny going to ground the moment he heard any sort of motor sound, trusting that his gillie and thermal poncho would break up his signature enough to avoid detection.  It was a big gamble.  The first night on his planned exit route Johnny moved until he was so tired that he found himself nodding off on the move.  Johnny found a dense patch of brush about 150 meters from the stream bed and crawled into it, first circling up hill 400 meters, covering his trail as best as he could in the dark then hooking back.  Once in the brush he ate some jerky and survival bar and went to sleep.

The morning twighlight woke Johnny, and he lay still in the brush letting his senses acclimate to being awake.  In the distance he saw movement.  A squad of Soldiers were walking in standard wedge formation down the creek bed.  With as little movement as possible Johnny pulled out the pistol.  The patrol passed by, the right flank rifleman passing within 35 meters of where he lay concealed.  The soldier must have been a bad tracker as he crossed right over the sign Johnny had made going uphill in the dark without even stopping to check out some of the bent grasses Johnny hadn’t been able to straighten.

The patrol passed on, and Johnny stayed put, not knowing if the squad was the advance portion of a platoon.  When a second squad appeared, with two machine gun crews mixed in, Johnny was glad he stayed put.  The platoon passed by the same as the squad, each soldier putting more tracks over the ones Johnny had tried to erase.  Johnny waited for the platoon to be out of sight for at least an hour before he left the thicket.

Where to go?  Following the platoon would be dangerous if they doubled back on the creek bed.  The sparse trees on the hills would make poor concealment in the daytime.  Johnny decided that he would have to follow the platoon down the creek bed  until he reached the confluence of two streams, his planned take off point for heading towards the link up point.  The platoon was evidently in the business of “clearing” the stream bed and not setting up an ambush.  Johnny made it to the stream intersection, topped off his hydration pouches and dropped in iodine tablets.

At the lower elevation trees were more plentiful, and Johnny used them to his advantage as he followed his compass to the northeast.  Every time he heard any motor noise he went to ground under the thermal poncho.  Johnny barely made three miles that day.  The following day he made up the seven miles to get to the road where he would link up with his ride.

His ride was an old three quarter ton pickup truck.  A man cutting rounds from a log pile stopped when he saw Johnny and motioned him forward, giving a hand signal to confirm his identity.  Johnny gave the correct hand sign in return.  The man helped Johnny stow his gear in a false bottom of the truck box, and a fresh set of clothes to change into.  Johnny used baby wipes and a solar shower to clean up, then change into the work worn clothes.  Johnny helped the man load the truck with firewood, he found a splitting maul from behind the seat and split the wood into quarters before they stacked it in the bed..  At noon they hopped in the truck and took the logging road back into civilization.  They stopped at houses along the way, dropping off firewood for men and women too old or infirm to chop their own for the coming winter.

The sun was finally setting when the man pulled his now empty truck into his garage.  Johnny thanked the man for the ride, and transferred his gear into the waiting station wagon.  The cargo area had a false compartment built in, and Johnny’s civilian camping gear excuse went on top of that.  Johnny secured it all with bungy cords so the load wouldn’t rattle.  He drove himself back to his parent’s farm.  He pulled in to the yard and parked his car.

“Mom, Dad, I’m back.”  He called as he entered through the kitchen door.

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