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Blue squadron

Undated photo of DEVGRU Blue Squadron members in Afghanistan.

Written by USMC Lance

**WARNING: THIS FANFIC CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE, CRUDE HUMOR, AND BLOOD & GORE. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED**

This is a Military/War story, that follows a service member in his service with the elite men of Blue Squadron, Naval Special Warfare Development Group or DEVGRU, the Navy's elite Tier 1 counter terrorism unit. It follows them in deployments to Afghanistan, training, and elsewhere. This story is also an indirect sequel to The War: Operation Phantom Fury

DISCLAIMER: As this story is about a highly secretive Tier 1 unit, it must be stressed enough that there is no "compromising" or revealing information in this story. All of the details and information are things already available to the public. Public resources such as television, websites, films, articles, books, (Including No Easy Day and No Hero by Mark Owen) were used for this, and much more. The plot in this story is also fictional and is not intended to represent any current or previous real life operations. The real names and real battles mentioned in this story were only meant as an addition to the plot, and to honor the real life fallen.

Also a special thanks to Mark Owen for being a large inspiration for this fanfic and an inspiration to many others. It is about the team, as Owen says, and hopefully this pays some sort of respect and honor to the sacrifices SEALs have made over many years, and continue to make today. The point of this story is to also show an unbiased and truthful portrayal of these warriors; Raising necessary questions and discussions of ethics and morality in sections of it's plot.

To conclude, please enjoy and feedback is always appreciated! :)

Part OneEdit

Chapter One - Arriving in Afghanistan (Part I)Edit

0600 Hours (6:00 AM)

August 2, 2012

Bagram Air Base, Parwin Province, Afghanistan

We're finally in Afghanistan. We had taken a large C-130 transport plane from an airport near Virginia Beach, Virginia and have just landed here in Bagram.

The air was unpleasantly muggy and thick. It was the middle of the summer, and we had just finished some one month pre-deployment training in Nevada, now in Afghanistan. They posed very similar environments, but one things for sure; This shit hole wasn't any better.

It's been approximately eight years since my first deployment to Iraq with the Marines operating in Fallujah. And god damn, shit has changed. 

After my first deployment, I received an honorable discharge due to a serious ankle injury in a car accident on leave. This was during early 2005, and besides that, I discharged of my own request to my upper commanders. I was already tired of the bullshit in the Corps, and I simply wanted more to do than the just Marines. Plus I was interested a lot in the SEALs, the Navy's famous special operations force that everyone knows about, that specializes in Sea, Air, and Land.

"So you really wanna be a SEAL, huh?" Said Major Wellington, one of my favorite commanders who I'd known in the Corps. We were in Camp Lejeune and on this particular day in February 2005, I'd walk into his office on the side of the barracks we were stationed on.

Slim built, six feet tall with big blue eyes and a sharp high-and-tight haircut, Wellington was a well respected and a well liked Marine who'd spent years in the Corps, developing his status as an officer and also maintaining a proper personal life as well, having a wife and three children.

We'd developed a close bond, even during my deployment, and I used to mail him a lot and tell him about my combat deployment to Iraq. I'd mention the SEALs to him often, as I was having a growing interest for them. I also considered Wellington a really close friend, and we used to have a lot of good times at the barracks together. Till this day, I still keep in touch with him, even after he retired from the military.

"Yes sir," I said with a confident smile, while in his office. "I feel like I have more to offer to the military than just being an infantry Marine. I've always been appealed to the sensitivity and uniqueness of special operations, particularly with the SEALs." I'd been in the Marines for around three years, and like I said, I was tired. Real tired.

He'd ask me at the same time why I didn't consider Force or Battalion Recon, which was the Marine Corps "special operations capable" units or whatever they called them, but I still felt I could do something bigger. I wanted something unique, a true and well respected special operations force. And I felt the SEALs offered exactly that.

"So there's no way I can talk you out of this?" Wellington said with a smile.

"No sir, I'm set for it. It's a new chapter in my life." I answered.

We smiled at each other, then I came over to him, and we exchanged fives like friends and hugged each other.

"Good luck brother." He said, "Nothing is going to be easy, and you'll have to earn everything you desire. Remember man, all or nothing. All in, everyday, any day." He sat back down in his office chair and saluted me.

"You bet it sir, Semper Fi."

I turned on my heel, saluted him, and walked out his office. I always remembered that day even throughout BUD/S and Green Team. Always.

After that, literally a month later, I received my discharge papers and I was out. Now I had to wait six more months for my ankle to heel and to be eligible to enlist into another service. It was worth the wait, and I was very patient. There was no rush for the SEALs, and I had to be 100% for enlistment and BUD/S.

So basic training was a calm breeze and I finished that by November. Since I entered on a delayed entry program, which detailed as long as I could complete the PST (Physical Screening Test) for BUD/S, I was in BUD/S in around two months after. For about eight weeks, I went through a preparatory school that was essentially a precursor to BUD/S. It was intense, and it made my former Marine Corps boot camp look like a walk in the park.

It was a taste for what BUD/S had to come, and even in It's intensity, I still manage to complete it and move on to BUD/S.

BUD/S however, or Basic Underwater Demolitions - SEAL as they call it, was a whole different ball game. It's easy to say that it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Without a doubt. BUD/S tested your mental and physical capabilities to places way beyond what they are. In fact, BUD/S was mind over matter. It was the mental aspect that was most crucial to finishing the training. Those mental capabilities often even allowed you to push yourself physically through the hardest of exercises.

The simple, "Let me just make it through this exercise and on to the next, one step at a time," thought was easy enough to even complete four miles for me. Not in the literal sense, this is still a very hard deed, but the point is, having a good mentality and keeping mind over matter is crucial to completing BUD/S.

BUD/S is hell on Earth essentially. You're going to constantly go through constant grueling PT (physical training), obstacle courses, constant swimming, running miles daily, and etc. This is especially grueling during Hell Week, which is in the early to mid stages of BUD/S, where candidates do PT constantly for five days straight, with as much as four hours of sleep the entire five days.

Hell Week is a true test of everyone's capabilities, mentally and physically. It also typically weeds out many of the candidates, and is often an indication of who's going to finish BUD/S, and perhaps the entire SEAL pipeline as well. I think at least twenty five percent of my entire class was weeded out in just Hell Week. That says a lot, and it just goes to show why everyone calls it Hell Week in the first place.

"This is design to hurt, this is design to hurt!", was often repeated by our instructors. Some may consider BUD/S torture-like, but the instructors are very good and do everything in their best interests to find out who fits the right bill for the SEALs.

I believe in the end, after six months, about sixty out of our entire two hundred man class finished training. That's not even half of the class, nothing close to half. That's 30% of us who finished, with 70% of the people who started not making it. Not to mention our class had very good and able candidates, typical attrition rates could reach up to 85%. That's astonishing and it justs a reminder of how grueling the training exactly is.

It's crazy how much you sacrifice physically and mentally in BUD/S. There were many times where I asked myself, "Is it really worth it?" But then I remembered this something I really wanna do, a community I really want to represent. And all that sacrifice is going to be worth it once you complete BUD/S.

As soon as I finished it, I was so fucking happy. It gave me a new sense of pride and confidence, and I had no doubt in my mind I was going to finish the entire pipeline.

Another thing about BUD/S is that you establish close companions and relationships with fellow candidates. Especially with the guys you finished with, and been through hell and back with. In fact, till this day, one of the guys I finished BUD/S with still operates with me, which is amazing.

After BUD/S, I went to Airborne School, and then SEAL Qualification Training (SQT). SQT differed vastly from BUD/S as it wasn't necessarily about pushing mental and physical capabilities beyond normal limits, but more learning core skills, abilities, and the essential basics of being a Navy SEAL.

It also lasted about six months and I finished it with ease. I then finally earned my SEAL trident in January 2007. It was one of the greatest moments of my life, I don't think anything could top it. The feeling of knowing I'd finally made it, through all the doubt and everything that I'd sacrifice for, was priceless. There's nothing that feels better than that. Nothing.

As I received my trident, I then was assigned to SEAL Team Four, and serving four years with them, I went on two sixth month deployments to Afghanistan. It was around December 2010 towards the end of my second six month deployment, when I heard about DEVGRU.

The Naval Special Warfare Development Group or DEVGRU (or as It's popularly called, SEAL Team Six) is a Tier 1 special mission unit of the U.S. Navy specializing in counter terrorism. It's sister unit, CAG or Combat Applications Group (more popularly known as Delta Force) is the Army's premier counter terrorism force and is also a Tier 1 special mission unit. There wasn't much difference between the two, except maybe culture and who got more limelight in the media, but that's a whole different ballgame needed to be discussed at other times.

What attracted me to DEVGRU was that only the best SEALs got to be selected. Plus I figured, I wanted to be as unique and special as possible, and I also remembered Wellington's words of, "All or nothing." I had to at least try for it, regardless of anything.

DEVGRU performs high-risk and often highly classified operations around the globe. They've had extremely important parts in the War on Terror, and after all, it was a team of DEVGRU guys who killed Osama Bin Laden last year. Another thing that attracted me to DEVGRU was that it was all about being an asset to the team. It was all about being at the best of your ability, all day everyday. And I loved the way that sounded, and I was ready for that responsibility. I was most certainly ready.

So after my second deployment, my platoon went back home at around January 2011 and after a month of leave, we were out at our base in Virginia. I remember we were out doing PT and firing out on the range, when my 'swim buddy', which was basically the Navy's version of the Army's 'battle buddy', called me over and said DEVGRU were doing screenings at the time. It was weird because my swim buddy and I were the only ones in our whole platoon going for screenings, but it didn't bother me too much.

I had only four years however, and DEVGRU required five. Somehow my enlistment contract was done, and my platoon commander managed to get me a spot in screening, as long as I re-enlisted which was fine with me. Same with my swim buddy.

We then drove down to Virginia Beach where many other candidates and us were located at a remote part of DEVGRU's headquarters. The senior instructor explained to us some of the in's-and-outs of the screening process, and how we would be starting the very next morning.

I was nervous. Nervous in the sense that I had no idea of what kind of workouts or mental stress to expect the following morning, or how we would be selected for the training course entirely. Not to mention my buddy and I were already very tired and stressed out from doing PT that day, and we had been wearing the same Crye Precision combat uniforms as well. Plus, we were starting to smell from the sweat and funk that had came from our bodies during training.

I pushed the thoughts out of my mind. It was shit I couldn't control. That's one thing about the SEALs; Only worry about what you can worry about. It's also another essential motto to go by. If you worry too much about intangible or impractical things, you could create problems for yourself and put a whole lot of stress onto yourself too. It was all about organizing what you needed to do, and what not to worry about.

For an example, at that moment I only had to worry about how I could do in the physical the next morning. I had no idea what to expect, and that was the only thing I should've been focused on. How I smelled, or whether my uniform was clean or not, or how I was tired, were things I couldn't control. So I pushed them out of my mind and only worried about the task at hand.

The very next morning, we were out on the beach preparing to do our workouts. It wasn't very hot thankfully, as it was mid-winter, so the calm breeze whistled through the air and the sun shined on our faces.

We began with a four-mile run. I got to tell you, I was pretty fucking tired, QUICKLY. I'm not in the best physical shape by no means, and I'd honestly been a lazy couch potato most of my life. I did improve on this when I enjoyed football often as a teen, but the Marine Corps really strengthened my physical capabilities, as well as BUD/S. My multiple combat deployments assisted too, but I still struggled significantly compared to the other candidates. I was just naturally not a very physical person, but that was okay because I had the perfect SEAL mentality, however.

I never quitted. Ever. I always thought of mind over matter. That's what got me through BUD/S and the whole pipeline, and I realized that was the thing that was going to get me through screening as well. It didn't matter if I wasn't the most fit guy in the teams or anything like that, I just had the mental capability to push through like no one else could.

I remember nearly drowning and losing consciousness in BUD/S because of not being able to swim well, but still pushing on and doing my best. That's what the instructors wanted to see; Literally pushing your mind and body until neither could tolerate any more punishment. And I'd prove that, time and time again.

However, at the moment, it still didn't mean the screening workouts didn't fucking hurt. It didn't help that I had eaten like a glutton the whole week before, and continued into the same week.

My swim buddy on the other hand, barely broke a sweat after the four mile run. During our break, I was gulping down bottles of Gatorade trying to catch my breath, while he looked at me laughing, sipping on a bottle of water.

"Hey bro, you tired yet? This is what you get for not listening to Chief in the platoon, and eating like a piece of shit for the whole week. Hope you can finish fat fuck." My swim buddy said, giggling.

"Eat my dick motherfucker." I flipped him the bird and threw an empty Gatorade bottle at him, and by that point, we were both laughing, even though we had so much more to do.

My swim buddy was a very physical person. That was one of his strong points, and he'd always excelled at it, even at BUD/S. It was amazing to see how much he could push himself and he always seemed to have the perfect 'charm', the sort of charm where you'd just look at him and think, "Yeah, this guy definitely deserves to be here." It should also be noted he's one of my friends who I still operate and keep in touch with till this day.

After the run, we did much push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups. During each break I was still struggling to catch my breath, but thankfully with a little determination, I met the minimum requirements. However, in DEVGRU, everything is about exceeding standards, and to the instructors, I probably failed miserably. And that was the way I was feeling too.

My buddy of course dominated all of the exercises and finished at the top of the class. Nothing unexpected. However, he didn't do as well in the final swim, which was neither of our strong points, but we still passed with relative ease.

Swimming had been hard at first, but it was something that I was starting to get accustomed to, so the final exercise wasn't very difficult. When this and all of the other exercises were finished however, the next day we had interviews. This was purely a mental thing, and I had a good feeling about it.

The only worry I had was about my physical scores. I was going to be interviewed by an oral board of senior DEVGRU operators, who were going to throw a barrage of questions at me, and I knew without a doubt they'd mention how I did during the PT the day before. However, I stopped thinking about it, and pushed it out of my mind. I focused on the task at hand and to just excel in the interview the best I could.

I arrived for my interview in my dress uniform, with a brand new haircut and my facial hair shaved. This was one of the few times looking formal actually mattered in the SEALs.

So to my surprise, the interview went well. The barrages of questions didn't bother me; I just took everything one question at a time, and gave logical answers. Well, answers that I felt were logical; I had no idea if I was right or wrong to the instructors. Of course, they mentioned my PT scores, as well as a really old incident that happened during a deployment which I had no idea they knew of.

Long story short, me and a fellow SEAL had a fist fight after a questionable decision during a patrol, which almost got someone killed.

I simply told them I was better than that, and that I took full responsibility for these things, as they would never occur again. Simple. At the end, they'd let me know in approximately sixth months whether I had been selected or not.

After screening, my swim buddy and I returned back to training with our platoon. Guys asked us how it went, and we just shrugged. We were just worried about being back at training now, there wasn't time to focus on it anymore. This was until the six months past, of course.

And then they did pass. Out of the blue during our HALO/HAHO training at Fort Benning, my swim buddy and I found out we had made it. And it didn't mean we had made the squadrons of course, but I still couldn't fucking believe it. It amazed me. I was so glad I had done well in the interview, so glad.

We then went through the nine month Operators Training Course, starting in August 2011, which actually determined whether we would be in DEVGRU or not. It was a sad time for DEVGRU, as at least fifteen of their operators had gotten killed in a devasting helicopter crash, and it just increased the pressure during the whole course.

OTC was sort of like a combination of BUD/S and SQT, in the sense of pushing your capabilities and learning or refining skills and values, but at a whole other level of intensity.

It was all about managing stress. That was the key to the course. Managing stress, and literally exceeding standards significantly all the time. Another level of intensity is the fact that the instructors made us write peer reviews. If you were slacking during training or weren't being good with the guys socially, it was sure you'd be out of the course early. It was another level of stress added, and a whole other dimension added to the course as well.

I busted my ass on the course everyday. The instructors didn't wait for you to catch up, everything was fast. If you didn't catch up quickly, it was sure as hell your ass would be gone from the course early. Like I said, managing the stress and literally doing what you had to do at the best of your abilities was the key to finishing OTC. It wasn't as much as quitting or not quitting, it was all about your reactions to highly stressful situations and how you dealt with them; That's what the instructors looked for.

We had about a forty man class, but only half of us made it. Nothing surprising as high attrition rates were expected, with only the best of the best making it through. I swear, my swim buddy and I were the proudest motherfuckers alive when we made it. Nothing could top this.

We were now at the top of the food chain in the military, and special operations in general. It was a feeling of pride and honor like no other. My responsibilities now held even greater purpose than they'd ever had in my life. Ever.

When I graduated this April, I had become part of a team that made up less than 1% of the military. To be frank, I'd pretty much fulfilled my dream. And that was totally fine with me.

And something I'd cherish for the rest of my life.

Chapter Two - Arriving in Afghanistan. (Part II)Edit

0800 Hours - 0900 Hours (8:00 AM - 9:00 AM)

August 2, 2012

FOB Goldberg, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

After we landed at Bagram, the plane refueled, and we flew all the way to the Kandahar Airport because we'd be operating in that province. The whole troop was going, and this was my first deployment with DEVGRU. I wasn't nervous as this was my third time in Afghanistan, but I was interested to see how things would turn out.

Then we got on a Chinook, a large transport helicopter that literally looked like a flying school bus, and flew to FOB Goldberg. It was a newly created forward operating base named after a SEAL killed in action a couple of months before. It was south of Kandahar City, and looked just like all of the other FOBs.

Barbwire, HESCO barriers, B-Huts, or "hooches" as we called them; Mess halls, helicopter pads, an operations center, and etc. It wasn't so bad, and I'll tell you what: It was way better than some of the shitty firebases I've been in earlier during my career. It was decent sized, housing my whole troop of about twenty five operators, and also a RECCE (recon) sniper troop of twenty three guys, with DEVGRU support and aviation personnel as well. All and all, there were about one hundred and fifty guys at the FOB in total, including other personnel like cooks, military police that guarded the base, and etc.

We were tasked in Kandahar to track down a high level Taliban commander who'd escape from the Helmand Province in 2010. This was after vicious fighting with the Marines during Operation Moshtarak, and he was now harvesting fighters from the east and building up his reputation in Kandahar. During the mean time, we were to track his henchmen and do raids and operations on Taliban fighters, or anyone associated with him. It was a short deployment, like the majority of DEVGRU's deployments, and was only going to last three months. It meant we had a lot of work to do, and to get in as much work done as we possibly can.

I'd arrived at the base with the troop, and had then walked into my hooch.

The hooch, tent, 'b-hut' (or whatever the fuck you wanted to call it) was a cheap, compact, pre-fabricated building used as living quarters for troops deployed. It had one big room, that was usually split into multiple small rooms divided by plywood walls, each with a bed and desk for each individual. It was very tight space, but at least you had some privacy.

We rationalized that it was better than nothing.

You could also put lining around your bed for some extra privacy, or to block any bugs and other crap from trying to get to you.

In the room, there was a common walkway down the center of the whole room, with a door in the front and back, used as an entrance and exit. We would go through the front into the opening space of the whole base, and the back opened up to the site of stacked HESCO barriers and barbed wire, with two porta potties to the near right. It would be used for us to take a leak or shit in, during the morning when we awoke.

The hooch also had fluorescent lights and a decent air conditioner, which was really good for this hot summer we were going to operate in. Also, towards the right of the front entrance, there was a little space where we had assembled a lounge. It housed a decent sized couch and a nice, sixty-inch flatscreen TV, in 1080p HD. On this TV, we could watch regular shows and movies on the American Forces Network, and it was pretty decent. We also had a Playstation 3 rigged to the TV with about five video games, and guys could sometimes play during our free time.

There were six guys to come in the hooch and we were designated as Bravo Team. If extra guys arrived to our team, they'd take any remaining beds we hadn't touched.

Another hooch towards the right of ours housed the Alpha Team in the troop, and to our left was the Charlie Team hooch. A hooch that sat far away from the three of ours, housed the operations center, and would be where the troop chief and troop commander lived. It had a coffee maker, a coffee table, a couple of computers, radios; Plus another flatscreen TV that was actually rigged to show the drone feed from the Air Force ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) guys. Since it was filled with other stuff, there was only space for two beds in the back, which was where our leaders slept.

The rest of the base had hooches for the support and aviation personnel, plus the things I already mentioned such as a mess hall and helicopter pads, as well as a gym and more. There was even a mini kill-house at the far end of the base that we used for CQB training, and it was pretty damn decent. It was almost as advanced as the kill houses we used in OTC.

As I arrived in my mini-room and began unpacking my gear, I was approached by one of my friends, Petty Officer First Class Damien Brady, some Mulatto guy from New Jersey who I'd known since BUD/S.

Yes, this is the same physical beast who was my swim buddy at SEAL Team Four and had completed Green Team with me. He sort of looks like an older Corbin Bleu from High School Musical, and had a buzzcut with a scruffy beard (I looked pretty similar to be honest). He's about an inch shorter than me, and has a lean physique. He also has hazel eyes and looked like he belonged in an Ebony magazine. Brady's twenty nine with a decent college degree, and we have been in the SEALs for the same period of time.

He's funny as shit to look at, and he's practically my best friend. We had served in different platoons in ST4 after finishing BUD/S together, but after my last deployment with them, he transferred to my platoon and that's when we started to know each other even more. We then both completed Green Team, and were miraculously assigned to the same squadron and troop.

I was glad to have him around, as he always has a brash, eccentric personality, similar me. We bonded well together and we were always cursing the fuck out of each other, literally for the fun of it. Plus we were the only black (or semi black) guys in the troop, and we found that shit hilarious, which made our bond even tighter. It's not common for the SEALs to lack diversity as far as operators go, but that's a whole other topic.

"Hey you fat fuck." He said, with a sarcastic smile, "What you been up to Marine?"

"Just chillin', what's good bitch boy." I replied back. We then laughed and exchanged fives.

"You just came right?" He said, throwing his gear in the mini-room next to me.

"Yeah, and I've just started unpacking. You seen any of those other assholes yet?" I said.

"Nah man. Probably in the operations center or something, I don't fuckin' know. I do know that Spencer is taking the meanest shit of his life in the porta potty. I could smell it from outside the building." Brady made a grimace and then laughed hardly.

PO1 (Petty Officer First Class) Spencer Foust, to be exact, is one of the other guys I came to DEVGRU with, besides Brady. He's this guy from San Diego who seemed to know how to take care of himself, and is really tall, about six foot six. He made Brady and I look short, even if we were six-one and six-two.

He is the tallest guy in the troop, and had played varsity basketball and football during high school. A bad knee injury in his senior year severely affected his chances of achieving a scholarship, so he decided to join the Navy and become a SEAL, which leads him to this point.

Spencer is twenty seven and came from SEAL Team Five on the west coast, having been in the SEALs for about a year more than us. Brady and I became pretty close with him during Green Team selection, and we're like a trio in certain aspects.

I'd like to add that Spencer is usually the more serious and logical one out of the three of us, but he still had a really fun side to himself too.

I then returned the laugh, and told Brady to get Spencer out of the porta potty.

"You must be smoking some rocks, want me to report you to Chief? The smell of that bathroom alone will make me a casualty." He smirked like the idiot he was.

"Hey what team are you part of?" I then asked him.

"Bravo. If I was part of Charlie or Alpha, I wouldn't be here, dickhead." He looked at me like I was the biggest dumbass in existence and I flipped him the bird with a grin. He did have a point though, there was no one else who should have been in the hooch except for those part of Bravo Team.

It didn't help that I forgotten the word "BRAVO!" spray painted on the front door entrance of the hooch. So indeed, I felt stupid.

"Yeah you're right bro. I just saw it and forgot, I was just trying to get inside and unpack. I guess I got a couple of nerves." I said. 

"I hear you. Later." Brady responded. That was his response whenever he didn't care about a conversation anymore and wanted it to finish. I smiled.

Then Spencer came in the hooch from the back entrance with this tired look on his face, and his gear in his hand. He threw his gear on a bed and mini room across from me, and then pulled up a folded steel chair to Brady and I.

"So how's your stomach bro?" Brady grinned.

"Really?" Spencer said in disgust. "Look, that porta potty smells worse than a dead hajji. Don't go in there. Any of the other guys came in?"

"Hope so," I said. "We're still pretty new to the squadron and I still wanna learn a thing or two. Not to mention most of the senior guys are CPOs [Chief Petty Officers} and they all have double digit deployments."

It was true. The senior guys in the squadron had years of combat experience. They were grizzled veterans, and were usually at least thirty years old, with double-digit deployments and senior enlisted ranks. They were the bulk of DEVGRU, and were the guys who knew it all. They were the guys we were trying to be like, and the guys our trio looked up to.

"Yeah you're right." Spencer said, "I just hope we don't get chewed up for still being the new guys."

Even though we'd been at DEVGRU for a couple of months by this point, we were still the newest guys at the team and that came with a little pressure. The senior guys were on your ass a little bit, and you were expected to do your job perfectly. This wasn't a problem however, as this was exactly what I expected from DEVGRU. It wasn't going to be easy, as nothing came easy in the SEALs.

"I don't think we will." Brady chimed in. "Just as long as we do what we're told, we're good. It's nothing different from the vanilla teams, just do everything at your best."

"I hear you," I said. "So when is breakfast?"

"I think Spencer here would know." Brady grinned villainously at him, and Spencer told him to suck his dick or something of that nature.

"Shit is not funny man, those cooks at the mess hall gave me this half-assed bacon and smelly milk that's had my stomach feeling like crap for the past thirty minutes now." Spencer said, as Brady continued to laugh his ass off. I couldn't help but start laughing too, because I thought he had the brain to realize it was spoiled food. He probably thought it was just the way it tasted; It's military food after all.

"Really bro? There must be a personal problem or something for them to do some shit like that." I said.

"Yeah Lance," Brady answered. "Spencer probably fucked the head cook's wife. He probably creampied her, you know how he likes to fuck Monday Night RAW." 

"No pun intended." He added, smiling some more. That smile now lit up the hooch, and then I burst out laughing, yet again.

That's Brady in a nutshell to be honest. You never knew what the fuck kind of next shit he was going to say.

"Fuck you guys," Spencer then said. "I really feel like shit, and you fuck faces are cracking jokes." He shook his head at us.

We laughed some more and then after awhile, Spencer couldn't keep his straight face and was bursting out laughing with us. It was a good moment, until we were interrupted by our team leader bursting through the door and asking us why we weren't unpacking our gear.

"Hey, I interrupted the party?" He said, with a sarcastic smile, which quickly changed to a look of disappointment.

"Come on guys, what the hell? You're grown men in DEVGRU, I shouldn't have to tell you to do anything. No reason why your gear shouldn't be out. This is your first deployment with us, get it right quick or get the fuck out." He said.

"Roger that." We all said, and we knew it wouldn't happen again. He left the hooch.

Our team leader is a Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Griffin from Cincinatti, Ohio. He is one of the senior guys in the troop, and I believe he's on his twelfth deployment this particular time. Griffin joined DEVGRU in 2004, and has been a team leader for three years. He sort of resembles Brad Pitt; But he has longer hair, a neat beard, being around five-eleven with a stocky frame. He's thirty five years old, and has a wife and two sons.

You can tell he's a very good guy and cares about his teammates. He has this sort of positive vibe and attitude he carries around, and has perfect leadership skills. It also didn't hurt that he has a good temper, and never seemed to be angry. At the same time however, he wasn't afraid to tell you how it is and what the fuck you were doing wrong at any given moment, which is another thing I liked about him.

Anwyay, he was absolutely right about what he said to us. In DEVGRU, there was little to no management and it was required that you were mostly independent. You were required to know everything you needed for an operation, and how to take care of your gear, etc. There was no babysitting, these were the "big-boy rules" as we called it. We operated as teams and this was most important however, but everyone still took care of themselves.

For where the gear itself goes, there were three other hooches that had our gear lockers for each team. Gear lockers are large locker compartments used to hold all of our gear and equipment. The hooches that have them are called arms or locker rooms, and also have fluorescent lights as well.

The lockers sort of looked like decent closets, all organized in rows. These things were fucking great, being able to hold whatever we put in them. It didn't help that the weapons and equipment I was putting in my gear locker, made the stuff I had used in Marines and even the vanilla SEALs look like toys compared to now.

Sooner or later, we all walked to the lockers, and unpacked our gear. I had sets of Crye Precision NC (Navy-Custom) combat uniforms in AOR 1, AOR 2, which were desert digital and woodland digital camouflage patterns. I also had G3 (Generation 3) combat shirts and AC combat pants in Multicam, the very popular multi-terrain camouflage used around the world and favored by units like us in the U.S. Special Operations Command.

I had two uniforms for each camouflage (AOR 1, AOR 2, Multicam), totaling at six uniforms in total. I had my AOR 1 and Multicam uniforms hanging off the top of the lockers on the edges. The other uniforms were in the large luggage container at the bottom compartment of the locker, folded neatly and precisely. I'd take them out whenever they were needed for different kinds of ops.

What was unique about the Crye Precision uniforms were both the combat pants and combat shirt. The pants had removable Airflex knee pads, and many pockets that came in handy for holding anything you needed for an mission. The combat shirts also had removable elbow pads, and were unique in the fact that they were nothing like the traditional combat jackets or blouses used by militaries in the world. They instead used a moisture wicking fabric for the entire torso area that came in handy for the hot summer. It was also much more comfortable to put on your body armor and you could keep cool much easier.

The shirts were complemented by camouflaged sleeves, which meant your concealment in environments wasn't compromised by the shirt area of the torso. Guys in the squadron often cut the sleeves above the elbow, which made the combat shirt look more like an actual t-shirt. This was usually done during the summer (like now) and exposed the forearms for more ventilation.

With other units, this was a sure no-no, but as DEVGRU operators, we had the freedom and independence to operate almost any way we wanted.

Even though much of us wore Crye Precision apparel, a lot of guys also wore Arc'Teryx LEAF apparel, which was hands down some of the best outdoor gear on the market. They were pretty fucking expensive though, with one of pair of FR (flame-resistant) Multicam trousers costing $700; Just ONE pair. But at the command, everything was free and was issued to us, so that was never a problem.

I brought four soft shell, Arc'Teryx Combat Jackets in AOR 1, AOR 2, Multicam, and crocodile brown that were placed in my luggage container. These would be useful towards the end of the deployment where the temperatures would decrease significantly, but it wouldn't be too cold for any hard shell jackets that were thicker and more durable.

The main thing was though, was that in DEVGRU you could basically wear whatever you wanted. As long as you wore the authorized camouflages and things like that, what specific gear you wore didn't matter. It was all about what was best for you and the mission. It just so happened that the Crye and Arc'Teryx gear was the best out there, so that was what the majority of us wore.

Back in my luggage container, there were other things that came out of it such as my two Crye Field Pants that were khaki-colored. I plan to wear these in garrison, when I was chilling around and not doing any operations, so I kept them back in a small container under my bed at my hooch.

My luggage container also had my utility uniform that I'd use rarely. It was in AOR 1 and was a blouse and trousers, with my name tape, rank, and branch tape on the blouse. I sometimes wore it on base, but it was mainly for when I was stateside, usually around high ranking commanders. I even had these old-school pair of Crye DCU combat pants in tri-color desert or "coffee stain" camouflage. I never wore them, but they were custom, and still had the knee pads attached.

Griffin had given them to me, and he explained he had used them during raids in Iraq back around 2005-2006, and it was his favorite pair of trousers. Ha, we had made some stupid bet during training about whether troop chief would stay with one of his new girlfriends or not, since he seemed to be complaining about females every other day. I said he wouldn't, but Griffin said he would. He offered his favorite pants, and I offered my brand new pair of sneakers that I'd bought before training, which were some Air Jordan's I'd paid $200 for.

I had no doubt in my mind I'd win, that's why I offered them up and he indeed loss. Two days after our bet, troop chief was complaining about faifthfulness and beating his dick again, which were the only signs we needed to know whether things had worked out.

And they didn't.

Now, back in my gear locker, there were also Under Armour tactical t-shirts, compression shirts, and briefs that I wore under my outfits. The t-shirts were moisture wicking, and had velcro on each sleeve in case we wanted to put patches on the shirt. As expected, this clothing was folded neatly in my big luggage container. I had others under my bed, kept in the small container at the hooch.

For my feet, I wore brown, Salomon Quest hiking boots that were handy for any environment. These were the main boots I used during operations. I also had a pair of tan Danner Tanicus boots I usually used when I had my utility uniform on. Bloused boots were also practically obsolete with our guys. We preferred hiking boots and trail running shoes, which weren't meant for blousing, and the trousers we wore were meant to be worn with the pants sitting on the shoe. Blousing was only for our utility uniforms, and that was that.

Beside the boots, I had a bunch of sneakers. Adidas, Vans, Nikes, Air Jordan's; You name it. I wore these sometimes on base, but usually when I was back home or on flights back home. I kept them under my bunk in the hooch.

To protect my hands on operations, I wore flame-resistant assault gloves. They were Outdoor Research, Overlord Short Gloves colored tan and black. They came with a hefty price tag however, and were around $170. It was worth it, as they were light and very comfortable. I did everything with them.

On the top compartment of my locker, I housed my four, Ops Core FAST Maritime helmets that were hydrodipped in AOR 1, AOR 2, and Multicam; The fourth one spray-painted in a 'snakeskin' camo. To give you an idea, I basically painted the whole helmet (including the rails) dark brown, and then used mesh from a sniper veil to spray the snakeskin design all over in khaki. It created a pretty dope and distinctive look, so I loved it a lot.

Continuing, my ballistic helmets were stacked on top of each other, and on my AOR 1 helmet, were my attached high tech, four-tubed night vision goggles called GPNVG-18s. These things were state of the art and were at least $38,000.

They had a panamoric field of view, which was twice of that of traditional binocular (two-tubed) night vision goggles, allowing us to see so much more in the field. This just goes to show that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) we fell under did their best, and played no games when it came to giving us the best equipment in the world. No games.

There was cool shit on my helmets too. My helmets had Manta strobes, which were infrared strobes used to mark targets or landing zones. They also had flashlights mounted on the left rails, and my AOR 1 helmet had a camera mount on the right rail, which I sometimes used for my high definition, Contour helmet camera. This helmet camera was often used to record training footage, and etc.

As for weapons, I had three primary weapons and two sidearms, plus a grenade launcher. My rifles were two HK (Heckler & Koch) 416s with a fourteen inch and sixteen inch barrel. All of my weapons had many attachments and aftermarket parts that the armorers assembled for me.

The fourteen inch '416 was my primary rifle I used daily. It had an EOTech holographic sight with a 3x zoom magnifier, suppressor, Magpul CTR stock, vertical foregrip, with a laser sight - flashlight combo on the front rails. It was also completely spray painted in AOR 1 camo.

My other rifle was a HK416 with a sixteen inch barrel, and had a 2.5-10x42 zoom Nightforce scope, as well as a suppressor and laser sight with the same Magpul stock. The gun also had a foregrip and a bipod in front of it, which allowed me to stabilize the rifle when I was both prone and moving.

I had a clip on FLIR thermal sight I sometimes used on the gun. This was when illumination during our night ops was little to none which lessened the ability of our NVGs, with the black and white glow of the thermal sight coming in handy. They were high resolution, making these things expensive as fuck, costing around $10,000.

My fourteen inch came in handy for most environments, so I rarely used the sixteen inch rifle. It was only important when there was no illumination, and when we were shooting at farther targets. The sixteen inch was spray painted beige, with thick brown stripes all across the rifle.

Most guys preferred the ten & fourteen-inch barrel combo of rifles, but I just generally preffered any gun that'd be great for longer ranges; That's why my '416s had longer barrels than everyone else's. It was all preference.

We also had HK417s, which carried a more powerful cartridge, and were usually used as sniper rifles & designated marksman rifles (DMRs). They were mainly used by the RECCE troop, so I rarely touched them. Those guys also used a bunch of other sniper systems (usually mission dependent); Like the SEAL Recon Rifle (nicknamed the 'RECCE rifle') and the Enchanced Sniper Rifle, but the HK417 was still primary.

My other primary weapon was a HK MP7, a sub machine gun that I used often. It was usually important when we needed to be extremely quiet on ops, or when weight and size needed to be limited, particularly on jungle or ship-boarding training and missions. It didn't have the power of the 416s, obviously due to the smaller cartridges it used, but the 416s didn't compare to the MP7s when we needed extreme quietness.

I remember times on the range during our pre deployment training when Brady would be letting off round after round with his suppressed MP7, close to my ear, and sometimes I could literally hear nothing. I could be having a whole conversation with the troop chief about improving my shooting, and he could be letting off round after round, literally fifteen feet from me. It amazed me and that's why the MP7s were well liked by us.

My MP7, stock extended, had a holographic sight, extended forty round magazine, laser sight, suppressor, and the built-in foregrip that came with the weapon. I also left the stock painting on the weapon, as I liked the way the matte dark gray looked.

My two sidearms were a Sig Saeur P226 (standard issue Navy SEAL sidearm) and a HK45C. I preferred the P226 because of it's light weight, but I liked the 45C when I felt like I wanted more stopping power in the field. They were both suppressed, and I attached laser sights to them.

No, I didn't paint them. We didn't care that much as there were rare chances we would actually ever use our pistols during operations. The holsters that we held them in, however, were spray painted.

I also carried a customized M79 grenade launcher or pirate gun, as we called it. It had a shortened barrel and the stock was modified into a pistol grip, literally looking like a blunderbuss a pirate in the 17th Century would use. It was a fun little weapon, and it was usually used when we needed a combination of firepower and range during a training or an operation. I painted it AOR 1.

There were machine guns too. But Spencer carried them. They were the Mark. 46 and Mark. 48 (MK.46, MK.48). They were special operations versions of the infantry M249, and usually the assaulter with the best shot or who could handle the weapons the best carried them. There was usually one or two machine gunners for each team, but it was depending on what the commander wanted and if he wanted the .46 and .48 divided between two assaulters.

Spencer was a big guy, and those big ass guns did indeed fit him. He carried the MK.46 when we were trying to be light (most of the time), and carried the .48 for longer ranges & more firepower. He still did however, have a MP7 and M79 like the rest of us.

What was weird about all of my weapons too, was that I'd never used them in combat, only during training environments and operations. It'd be interesting to see their stopping power against real fighters and insurgents.

I also kept the weapons in stand up positions in the center of my locker, with my M79 and sidearms laid out on the top compartment next to my helmets.

As for body armor, the standard plate carrier I wore on most missions was a LBT (London Bridge Tactical) 6094. Guys had lots of varieties for what they wanted to wear, but that was indeed my go-to plate carrier. It was just perfect for me on most missions. I had it in AOR 1, AOR 2, Multicam, and coyote brown. I also had a Crye CPC (CAGE Plate Carrier) which I liked to use sometimes as well. It was the Naval Special Warfare version of the CPC, the NCPC  to be specific, but I still called it the CPC generally. I was always a fan of Crye, everything Crye was good to me, so I had to get one of their plate carriers. It just wasn't as comfortable as the 6094 but I still liked to use it. I had it in AOR 1, AOR 2, and Multicam.

Griffin had also told me during training that some of the guys didn't even carry their ballistic plates on missions. That made me think they were crazy, carrying empty plate carriers on high-risk operations that could easily cost them their lives. He then explained however, that they did this on highly taxing missions where they'd become fatigued quickly, and that they were trying to stay light as possible.

I understood this logic. There was a saying in DEVGRU called light is right. The lighter it is, the righter it is. And that's what we went by. We stripped every part of our kits and gear to the most basic essentials, making sure we were as light and comfortable as possible during each operation. Not to mention, ballistic plates weren't really practical in let's say, an operation in the mountains of the country where long distance climbing and hiking would bring severe fatigue to the guys. Of course, the plates were always practical to have; They'd protect you from all kinds of rounds and shrapnel, but sometimes, they weren't practical enough to be on a mission, and I understood that.

I had two plate carriers in the center next to my rifles, and another two stacked on top of my luggage container. I kept the rest of the plate carriers in my gear bags at the hooch.

I also had miscellaneous stuff in my luggage container. Things like boonie hats, chest rigs, and gun slings in different camos; Headsets, radios, tactical glasses, holsters, belts, extra pouches, my Gerber knives, etc. My luggage container was pretty big, so it could hold a lot of gear and equipment. Everything was switchable and went hand in hand with my other gear, so if I needed something from my container for a mission, I'd definitely take it out.

My entire in garrison outfit was probably the khaki field pants, Salomon boots, an Under Armour t-shirt, and this baseball cap I wore backwards that said "FDNY" on the back of it. I wore it in remembrance to the firefighters and EMTs who died on 9/11, and cause I was from New York and I understood the sacrifices they made everyday, much the same we make overseas. I had a NYPD cap that I wore sometimes too, and when It was really cold, an Arc'Teryx beanie in crocodile brown.

After fixing our gear up in the lockers, my team and I went to breakfast at around 0900 hours, except Spencer of course, because he was feeling like shit. I kept it in mind not to take any bacon or milk.

There were about fifty guys at the mess hall, mostly our team, and support personnel. There was also aviation personnel there too.

Our aviation personnel, were the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment from the Army, or 160th SOAR. They were nicknamed the Night Stalkers, because most of their missions were done at night, and they were some of the best pilots in the world, without a doubt. They had a bunch of aircraft, including four MH-47 Chinooks, four MH-60 Blackhawks, and four MH-6/AH-6 Little Bird helicopters at the base; Two being attack helicopters, and the other two being transport helicopters. The pilots seemed really cool, and they had some sort of bounce whenever they walked. I don't know if it was just me, but they walked with this sort of confidence like they knew they were the shit.

And really, they were; They'd proven it countless times.

I sat at a table with Brady, two other SEALs who completed our team called Styles and Prigioni, and this SOAR pilot called Anderson.

To start off, Styles and Prigioni (We called him "Prig") were the other two senior guys of the team and were both Chief Petty Officers. They weren't team leaders because of rank and it didn't mean they weren't fantastic operators, but it was simply because Griffin had better leadership skills by far, and he was always next in line before them.

Ralph Prigioni or 'Prig', is an Italian guy who had by far the strongest Boston accent I've heard in awhile. I swear this motherfucker could have been straight out of a mafia movie or some shit. He even has the look too, with olive skin, jelled jet black hair, and piercing dark brown eyes. Besides that, Prig is an inch above average height, and is shaped like an Olympic swimmer. Unlike the rest of us, most of the time he kept a clean shave, which made him look even more like a greaser.

All in all, Prig is very laid back and chill. He liked to play acoustic guitar and crack a couple of jokes, but he's mostly a chill person and kept himself away from many discussions. When it mattered however, he always knew the right thing to say at the crucial moments, and that's what we appreciated from him. He is also the medic of our group, being the only one who completed the Special Operations Combat Medic course. Prig is thirty two, with around nine deployments, and a divorced father of one son.

Patrick Styles, however, is exactly like his name sounded. He's this college dropout from Seattle who seemed all about partying. He had even been in a fraternity, and he'd tell us a lot of stories about being drunk and high as shit, even admitting that he faked his drug test in basic by getting his friend to urine in a container.

He's something else, and seemed a lot like Brady, which was cool. He's also short, in fact the shortest out of all of us, at five foot seven. Plus he's stocky and yoked as fuck, having thick arms and a wide chest. He topped it off with a thick stubble, and a medium length buzzcut. Styles is thirty four, single, and unmarried. He seemed like the player type, probably. He's also on his eleventh deployment.

It's crazy how many different personalities you'd see in the SEALs. You saw guys who came all over the place and had all kinds of different upbringings. From Brady and I's urban upbringing from the hoods and streets of New York and Jersey, to Styles' upper-middle class childhood and college experiences in wealthy Seattle, we were all still the same and motivated by the same purposes.

To be an asset to the team, and to always give all or nothing. That's what it was about. Our brotherhood and doing our best 24/7.

It was funny because our team is only six guys, and Alpha and Charlie have eight and nine guys each. It didn't matter if we were undermanned, we still have a great bond and could get the job done just as good.

"So how's the party?" Styles said at the table, with a huge grin on his face. He had a stack of sausage patties that were disappearing quickly.

"Shit man, it already started?" Brady said.

"Forget that. How you guys liking the base so far?" I asked. I was sipping on a cup of coffee.

"It's good, needs more girls in the atmosphere, ya know?" Styles said, shrugging.

"WHERE DA' HOES AT MOTHERFUCKERS?" Brady yelled, and we snickered. The other people in the mess hall, weren't laughing however, and some support guy muttered behind me, "Fuckin' SEAL dickheads, man." Brady looked at him, and laughed in his face. The support guy shook his head and turned away.

"Nah but seriously, it's pretty decent. The hooches are somewhat okay, and I'm pretty content with the gear lockers." Brady said, crunching his toast.

"Yeah bro, there's a decent gym with a bench press, and dumbbells, and even a kill house at a far section of the base." I added.

"Fuckin' A man," Styles said, slapping me a five. "Can't wait to get on the range though, I want to destroy Spencer with the machine guns and actually use them on the team."

We all knew Styles was somewhat sarcastic, cause there was literally no one with a better shot than Spencer. Our troop commander had even recommended him to attend a sniper school so he could be assigned to the RECCE troop, but he declined. He liked being an assaulter.

Still, we laughed at Styles.

"Yeah, maybe if somewhere in his skull he wants to join the RECCE troop you'll get the machine guns bro." Brady said.

"Hey you guys know when's our first op?" Anderson, the SOAR guy said, chiming in.

He sort of looked like a therapist, and had a calm demeanor in my eyes. He flew the Blackhawk helicopters, and was one of the senior pilots of the SOAR company. Anderson also wore a standard issue Army Combat Uniform in Multicam, minus the name tape, branch tape, and shoulder sleeve insignia as he was a special operations aviator. His boots were unbloused too.

He's old, at least fourty years old, and you could see the stress in his eyes. He has at least double digit deployments under his belt, and he looks like he needs to retire soon.

"I don't know, man." Styles said, "Griffin, our team leader, said he doesn't know when operations were going to start but we should remain on a standby. The way the war works nowadays is weird."

Styles was right. As the war waned down and combat lessened, there was starting to become a lot of sitting around and doing nothing, hoping for the next big operation. Not to mention we could barely do operations without unnecessary approval from commanders we barely trusted, which I started noticing on my last deployment with ST4. It was becoming more "pacification" and "winning the hearts and minds" of the Afghani people, who didn't seem to like us very much at all, ironically.

The RoE or Rules of Engagement was getting even tighter too. There was absolutely no way to take risks on collateral damage without some sort of backfire, and we could only engage fighters with full clearance from our commanders as well. Also, certain times on my ST4 deployments, we'd capture fighters and keep them at our bases for about a couple days, and if there was any mention of 'abuse' by the fighters to upper commanders, there was going to be instant investigations, which further complicated things.

It was literally fighting a war with our hands tied behind our backs. It was stressful and didn't make anything easier, but we still had a job to do, and we were gonna be our best at it.

"Yeah bro," Brady said. "I'm just hoping our first op is good, and it somehow doesn't get canceled or something."

"Eh don't worry about it." Prig chimed in and I hadn't even noticed he was scarfing down his plate the whole time.

"What makes you say that?" Brady asked.

"Cause bro, Griffin and I had a whole talk about what the heck was going to happen today. Apparently the troop chief and troop commander are going to have us doing a raid with the Blackhawks at around 2300 hours. Some shit about killing or capturing this well-known opium dealer who might have ties with our Taliban commander."

It sounded nice. I was itching to get into combat and how the planning would go.

"Sounds decent," Anderson said. "Ask your troop chief and commander how they want us to be inserted, and what kind of speed and altitude I'll be traveling in."

"Roger that brother," Prig said. There was about half a minute of silence until he said something else.

"Hey Lance, know what a greaser likes more than his hair?" Prig asked me with a grin, changing the topic.

"His baked ziti?" Styles answered instead.

"No, I asked Lance anyway. It's a black chick with some huge ass cheeks, man." Prig laughed and we all started laughing.

"I never knew you guys liked the ebony queens, what the fuck?" Brady said.

"Right, where'd this come from?" I said.

"Nah, I need me some chocolate. I want a nice chocolate girl who can make parmigiana with me man, just like my ex-wife." Prig said.

"That's good," I said. "Appreciate black women and everything about them. But just like anyone else, don't fuck them over. We won't be there to rescue you."

We laughed some more and finished our breakfast.

Sooner or later, we returned back to our hooch, and Griffin told us we had an op, as we expected, and that we had to get some sleep. In DEVGRU, we had vampire hours, meaning we operated at night and slept during the day. So really, it was like 2100 hours (9:00 PM) at this time, and we needed to get some sleep.

"You boys better be ready to roll," Styles said excitingly, looking at us new guys.

"Hell yeah, man." Spencer answered, as we were back in the hooch with him.

Griffin was already sound asleep.

I then laid down, and took some sleeping pills. I then started re-lacing my boots for some time, before falling asleep, with my first operation to be done later.

I was gonna be ready to roll.

Chapter Three - First OperationEdit

2100 Hours - 2400 Hours (9:00 PM - 12:00 AM)

August 2 - August 3, 2012

Panjwayi District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

I had awoken at around 7:00 PM and two hours had passed since then.

It was now night time at the base, where everyone was most active, waiting for the call for an operation or fixing their gear and weapons. We were in our hooches at this moment, chilling around and preparing for our operation at any moments notice. The plan hadn't been exactly detailed yet to all of us, but we heard from Griffin that the troop chief was suppose to deliver the crucial details in the operations center at around 2200 hours.

"Hey, what do you guys think of Obama?" Styles asked, curiously.

It was a random question, and he meant nothing by it, but it still had our heads turning. We always tried to limit politics during our discussions and operations as it didn't help us with anything. But right now, I felt like Styles presented it in not necessarily the best way, but decent enough for us to answer.

"I like him," I said. "I don't like the way he's handling the war, however."

And that was essentially what everyone basically agreed with through the whole discussion. We respected him as a president and what he did for the country entirely, but we most certainly didn't respect his foreign policy. Like I said, nowadays during Afghan deployments, we felt like we were operating with our hands tied behind our backs, and it was largely in part due to the policies he'd recommended for the commanders and all U.S. forces to follow.

We then started discussing impractical matters (in the sense, they weren't relevant to our missions) like sports, television, and some of our family lives. Griffin was discussing how his fifteen year old son was already taller than him in his Freshman year of high school.

"Guys it's really crazy," He said. "I'm five-eleven and this bastard is already six feet. I'm feeding him too much, I need to start giving him less food and more PT."

"Hopefully the little one doesn't get that big. Or I'm gonna have to make him suffer too." Griffin smiled, now talking about his five year old boy.

That was another thing Griffin loved; His family. Hell, he loved his family just as much as the SEALs.

"You think the wife would be okay with that?" I asked.

"Why not?" He asserted, "She's okay with buying jewelry that can't even fit her fat ass fuckin' fingers and cost more than our night vision goggles; She better be okay with it. Besides, I don't want them to become spoiled and lazy."

We all laughed and agreed with him.

"Right on Griff'," Brady said. "It's crazy 'cause by that age I was already the man of the house."

He was serious. Brady had had a rough upbringing living on the streets of Newark, New Jersey. He had a white mother and black father, he said, and that his father was gone from his life at an early age, due to being incarcerated for crack and heroin possession, which he was also addicted to.

"I could remember going to the rehab facilities he was in after prison," Brady said, shaking his head. "Those were the hardest times. You never wanted to see your mother or anyone you care about cry that much. It broke my heart."

Him and his mother had a special bond that they held until this day, and endured many struggles together. Brady somehow managed to do well in school, and went to college and got his degree.

His father however, passed away in 2007 after a long battle with cancer. It really hurt Brady, as he said him and his father were finally starting to get things right and his father had been out of rehab for five years by then.

"I still miss and love him with all my heart, man." He said, almost emotional just by the thought of it. "He made a lot of mistakes but he did his best to patch them up."

"I'm sorry brother," Griffin said. "It's part of life. Things are gonna happen, and you always have to bring back your thoughts together to keep things on track."

Brady was strong without a doubt. Everyone is strong, we're Tier 1 operators. We aren't better than anyone else, everyone is equal in our eyes; But we have the type of strength and resiliency for our specific jobs that many don't have for their own. Family was however, one of the things that was hard for Brady to talk about, regardless of anything.

"Roger that," Styles said.

"Yeah I hear you Griff. I still try to deal with it." Brady replied, nodding. Spencer walked over to Brady and patted his shoulder.

We then switched topics, talking about things that were actually irrelevant; Including how someone pranked the troop chief with a dildo during training one time, and how Spencer somehow had a dick the size of someone's forearm.

"I couldn't believe it," And of course it was Brady who said this bullshit, as always.

We were laughing our asses off and Styles made a public service announcement to start calling Spencer horse cock man.

Spencer was laughing as much as us, but then he made Styles shut up when he mentioned his shooting, and also made Brady shut up when he mentioned how he caught Brady searching up BBW porn on his phone one time. Of course, this held little meaning as you could never actually make Brady shut up. Afterwards, Prig mentioned baked zitis again, and we started talking about whether it sounded better as baked titties or baked zitis.

We must have spent literally forty five minutes chilling around and talking about pure bullshit, until our troop chief called us up. We went to the briefing room near the operations center to discuss the plan, and for us to begin preparation. There were about twenty five seats in the briefing room, and I took a seat next to Styles. We were all in our combat uniforms, faces covered with thick beards, with many guys wearing baseball caps in AOR 1 & Multicam. 

"Alright so guys, you all got good sleep?" Troop chief said.

"Roger," Our troop said.

"Good because my fucking mattress is killing me," He said, chuckling. We didn't laugh.

There wasn't much to say about troop chief. His name was Marcus, or 'Marc' as we called him. He was a Senior Chief Petty Officer, and had immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden when he was three.

He's pretty old; Forty one to be exact, and most of his hair is already grey, as is his beard. He's also divorced, and seems to have a new relationship problem every other day as I mentioned before.

"But anyways, let's get to business." Senior Chief Marc continued, changing the slide on the Microsoft PowerPoint that was on a projector.

"We're on a kill or capture operation for a well-known opium dealer in the province." He said, pointing to the PowerPoint. "The HVT's name is Ahmed al-Vermani, and he's been harvesting the opium [heroin], trafficking it around the province for months now."

"Our intelligence analysts have given us some key information through out the day that Vermani is possibly in a hide out south-west of Kandahar City. Apparently, he's on the verge of possibly beginning to traffic weapons and arms from an unknown source in Pakistan to Kandahar, trying to ramp up the insurgency and give them back some of their previous fighting power."

He changed the slide.

"We've also gotten tips and information that Vermani has close ties with our high level Taliban commander [Abu Zawahiri] and the two have apparently known each other for years. It's not one hundred percent fact, but there's been speculation that Zawahiri is going to be one of the key individuals who ramps up the insurgency, and that he could possibly be near Vermani as of this moment."

Zawahiri wasn't related to the Al-Qaeda commander Ayman al-Zawahiri. It just so happened that these two faces of evil held the same last name.

"We're supposed to hit the target at around 2300 to 2330 hours and I'll let Peter lead the way." Marc handed over the little remote for the projector to Peter, our troop commander, and took a seat.

"Okay, so you all will be flown in a Chinook to a landing zone around four kilometers from the target, patrolling all the way there. You need to keep your element of surprise because our first priority is to capture Vermani, so I want you guys to be as silent as possible. Adjust your mission load out accordingly, you know what to do."

"The whole troop is going, including Senior Chief. I'll remain here however, and coordinate the operation, remaining on the radio. Marc will split you guys into your usual three teams and you'll patrol in multiple formations. As you also know by the rules of engagement, don't fire unless you see a CLEAR threat. Simple as that, we've done this countless times before."

"There's also a team from the RECCE troop going with you guys, who'll be providing covering fire if things get a little shaky. Don't worry, their commander has already briefed them, so everything is set."

"As far as environmental factors; The area is very flat and contains mostly plains and fields, but there is some high and mountainous topography around, so watch your step."

Peter then skipped to the last slide on the projector.

"To conclude, as soon as Vermani is killed or captured, the Chinook will come back from base and exfil you out accordingly. We don't know exactly how many fighters are there, but the ISR (drones) have tracked about five to ten fighters moving in and out of the target compound, with Vermani pacing around the compound often as well. So stock up on gear, and keep your loadouts exactly essential to the mission."

"Copy? Any questions?" He finished after about ten minutes. It was 2200 hours.

Griffin and other guys asked questions about how we wanted to prioritize the kill or capture, but Peter said it was valuable we tried to capture him first. It was because he'd probably solve a big piece in the missing puzzle about Zawahiri's whereabouts and current actions.

It was a decent op. I had done missions similar to this with ST4, and this seemed textbook. I had no doubt things would go decent.

After that we went to our gear lockers, and started dressing up. Most of us were gonna wear AOR 1 uniforms since the area was mostly full of dirt and arid from what we heard, but guys liked to mismatch their gear considerably. No two operators looked the same. I was gonna take a shot and wear my Crye Multicam uniform this time with the G3 combat shirt and AC combat pants, since it blended in with any environment pretty much anywhere. I did however, wear the CPC in AOR 1 as my body armor. I topped it off with my Multicam Ops Core helmet.

Only Styles and Brady mismatched with me. Styles had an AOR 1 top, and Multicam pants with a Multicam Crye NJPC (Jumpable Plate Carrier). Brady on the other hand, only wore a black, Ironclad t-shirt that was very similar to the Under Armour t-shirts I had, having velcro on each sleeve. He topped it with his AOR 1 6094 plate carrier and Multicam pants.

He sort of looked liked a contractor or a SAD (CIA's Special Activities Division) guy. No one cared either. You get to wear pretty much whatever you want in DEVGRU, just as long as It's practical.

The rest of the team wore all AOR 1 gear, and that was that.

For weapons, since we needed to be extremely quiet, I carried my MP7 and HK 45C. I liked carrying my P226, but the suppressor made a weird noise, and the 45C had better knock down power anyways. Some other guys still carried their rifles, but I was point man, and was gonna be the first one in the compound, meaning absolute silence was valuable.

We finished prepping up, and then we walked to other side of the base where the Chinook was. On the way there, Anderson saw us and told us good luck.

He didn't go because he was a Blackhawk pilot, but I knew he wanted us to do our best, and get the job done.

We all stepped into the large transport helicopter, that had room for around fifty five occupants, although around thirty five of us were going on the operation. It was our troop of about twenty four operators since Peter wasn't going, and a team of about seven guys from the RECCE troop, with three support personnel (A dog handler with a K-9 named 'Bruno', an EOD tech, and an intelligence specialist).

Sooner or later, the choppers lifted off. It was pitch black inside the helicopters as it was 2225 hours. I looked through the green hue of my four tubed night vision goggles, and saw the guys around me. Thankfully, tonight had good illumination as it was almost a full moon, meaning we could see almost as clear as day. Griffin said it was also a plus for the fighters, because it meant they could see better too, and we had to be even more quiet.

We were going to the Panjwayi District, an area that has been tensely contested between coalition forces and the Taliban for years. The Canadians had fought in the district time and time again, including the Battle of Panjwayi in 2006, killing estimates of up to a thousand fighters. It's also known as the birth of the Taliban movement, and saw a large military surge in 2010, where night raids, operations, and special operations forces had increased in drastic numbers. It didn't help that a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant killed sixteen civilians in March of this year, increasing the tension of the civilians in the district against American and other coalition forces.

It was crazy because that Staff Sergeant was working with Green Berets and SEALs at Camp Belambai. This meant us as SEALs, were vulnerable in the area. We all knew the risks and where we were going to, but it didn't make us break a sweat, because we still knew what we were going to do.

Spencer sat next to me in the chopper and smiled, giving me a thumbs up. His big, six foot six frame could barely even fit in the fucking seats, and I almost laughed. I returned the thumbs up.

"Brady looks like a stiff erection sitting there. He hasn't moved around in like five minutes." He said.

I laughed and I looked at Brady, who was across from me, having a nap with his head back against the chopper. He was drooling, and I could see it clearly through my night vision goggles.

"He looks the way a girl looks after she gets some good dick." I said. I slapped Spencer a five.

Everyone else was also mostly resting. We always tried to get a little bit more sleep before going in. A tired, grumpy operator won't get the job done.

I wasn't nervous. This was my first real operation with DEVGRU, but I was calm. I knew what to do, and I knew how to react. However, I wasn't very comfortable though. I was still one of the new guys and I had gotten some of the heavier extra equipment like the extendable ladder and bolt cutters, and put them into a large AOR 1 colored backpack. It wasn't too bad, as I was only carrying my MP7 and a sidearm, but it was still a burden.

Spencer didn't get shit because he was already holding a MK.46 and had to carry belts of ammo. Not to mention he had a MP7 in his holster. Brady didn't get any "new meat" gear either, but I was gonna give him the extendable ladder. I needed my bolt cutters in case the compound door was locked.

It was a short trip, and we eventually landed in the LZ at around 2240 hours; Only a fifteen minute ride. The chopper then flew back to base, and we established a perimeter, doing another check on our gear. This lasted around two minutes.

"Let's move out." Marc then said, and we began patrolling. The near-full moon was bright in the night sky, and a calm breeze blew through the fields and vegetation. Through my night vision goggles, it was as clear as day and we could see hundreds of meters in front of us. I passed Brady the extendable ladder and he took it without hesitation. He said he wanted to be first in the compound anyways, and I didn't budge. I was still gonna be the first man up to the compound door regardless.

As point man, I led the team through the patrol. We were in an upside down V-formation, with me at the top of the it. On the left slope or angle of the V, was Griffin behind me, Spencer, and Brady. On the other angle, was Prigioni behind me, Styles, and two guys from Charlie Team.

There was another V-formation behind us with eight operators from the rest of Charlie Team, and troop chief. The last formation was on our far left flank, with Alpha Team patrolling in a simple, vertical line formation. The RECCE guys and support personnel were also patrolling in a line formation on our farthest right flanks. A predator drone around the compound was giving feed to Griffin and Marc. It had been watching the movement of Vermani and the other fighters in and out of the compound through out the day.

"Drone pilot says there's no movement. The fighters and Vermani have stayed inside the compound, presumably." Griffin said to me, from behind.

"We're still assaulting the same way right?" I asked.

"Hope so, but that's up to Senior Chief and Peter." Griffin said.

I hoped they were sleeping. That meant we could catch them off guard and hopefully result in the simple capture of Vermani, sparing any casualties. It would make things easier, and we could get some valuable intelligence about Zawahiri, the high level Taliban commander. However, nothing was certain and we still had to keep open eyes.

There was also no clue if there were innocent civilians in the compound. We presumed not due to the fact the compound was in the middle of an abandoned village that'd seen hard fighting over many years. You could rightfully assume anyone still living in an abandoned village was up to something sketchy.

Our dog on the patrol, Bruno, was also very fucking annoying. He barked uncontrollably, and it was like he worked for the Taliban. He was giving me an uneasy feeling, and I almost felt like cursing at the K-9 handler to make Bruno be quiet. The handler was trying his best though, and I could tell he was starting to get annoyed as well.

"This dog is fucking killing us." I heard Brady mutter from behind.

"No shit." Styles added on.

The dog barked a bit more, we moved smooth and silently for a bit more, until we finally reached the area of the compound after walking the four kilometers. It had taken forty minutes, and it was now 2320 hours. I had a good feeling the targets were now asleep, and we had good ground on them.

Senior Chief Marc was getting information from the troop commander on his headset and was relaying it back to us. I couldn't hear what Peter was saying as he was on the command net talking to Senior Chief, was was only used by team leaders and upper commanders. Everyone else used the troop net.

"RECCE, get set." He said, over the internal radio net that talked to everyone on the ground.

"Support boys, I'm with you, and we'll stay behind to provide security."

"Copy." I heard someone mutter over the net. It sounded like the EOD tech.

The troop waited as the RECCE and support guys moved into position. We were directly in front of the compound, kneeling down on one knee and keeping a low profile. We had regrouped, and now each assaulter was back with their respective teams.

Marc and the support guys moved to the compound, and stood on the left side of the compound walls. Meanwhile, the seven man RECCE team moved to the far east of the compound: About one hundreds meters from the target. They put their positions up on a small elevated hill crest, using it as a support and overwatch position for us assaulting the target. They were armed with suppressed RECCE rifles instead of the HK417, and suppressed MP7's. I heard the RECCE team leader say he carried only one ballistic plate in his plate carrier because the climb to the hill crest would be a little tough.

This was also the reasoning of carrying the RECCE rifles, as they weighed less than the HK417 with it's 7.62 rounds.

Our troop then moved into position, as we were about to climb the compound walls. There were multiple extendable ladders, with Alpha Team using ladders on the left side of the walls, my team using ladders on the center of the walls which had the front entrance behind it, and Charlie Team with ladders on the right side of the walls.

I was the point man, but like I said before, Brady wanted to climb first. I whistled Brady to set up the ladder, and he firmly placed it against the compound wall. He slowly began to climb the large mud structure, slowly and silently. Griffin passed me another ladder to give to him, so when he reached the top of the wall, he'd use the second ladder to climb down safely.

We did this one by one, person by person, each of us climbing up and down the ladder until we surrounded all of entrances of the main house in the compound. We had no clue of the insides of the house, but we knew there were three doors that entered into the house, hence the assault from three different sides. Whether there were villagers here or not, no one knew.

All of our teams got into positions, moving as quietly as possible through the courtyard and animal pens reaching the doors, and waiting for the go from Marc. A couple of minutes passed and then he finally got on the troop net, his voice cracking.

"Proceed assault." He said

I was first man up, followed by Griffin, Styles, Brady, Spencer, and Prig. Griffin tapped me on my shoulder, which was the signal to move in. I reached my hand out, and I tried the door. It was unlocked, as I slowly opened it inward and proceeded in. Everyone followed, as we slowly and smoothly moved into the main room, simultaneously as the rest of the troop moved through the two other sides. The special laser sights that we used, which could only be seen through our night vision goggles, scanned through out the large living room; Hitting walls, looking for possible targets. There was another floor in the house, which Charlie Team proceeded up to.

As we moved through the living room, we split into two fire teams of three guys each, and Alpha Team did the same, but with four guys each. Alpha stayed in the living room and searched around for any sort of intel, or fighters hiding around; While we moved to the end of the living room that led to a horizontal hallway with a door on each far side, leading into rooms. Even though they had the bigger team, it was sort of a quick split second decision I made to keep proceeding down the living room, and I think Alpha Team knew we had it under control.

But once I reached the hallway, there was not a doubt in my mind, there were people in those rooms. No doubt.

We paused at the end of the living room and looked through both sides of the hallway to the doors. We then looked at each other for a second, and I knew by then that we all knew that there were fighters in the rooms.

Griffin then tapped my shoulder, and we seeminglessly veered off to both sides, with Brady and Spencer following me to the far right door, and Styles and Prigioni following Griffin to the far left door. We moved silently towards the front of the doors. Everything was going perfectly; Swift and smooth the way it was supposed to be.

That was, until I heard a sporadic burst from up-stairs and suddenly the pit of my stomach twisted into a hard knot.

"Shit," Brady muttered quietly.

"Keep going," Griffin said on the radio net. The pace of my walking increased.

The three of us finally reached the door and we paused in front of it. I slowly opened it inward, feeling Brady's hand grip my upper back, as the door began to creak. As soon as I had the door fully opened, I saw at least ten fighters starting to jump up from their sleeping positions, attempting to grab their weapons.

It took me no more than three seconds to visualize each fighter, before I moved in quickly, firing bursts on them; As Brady and Spencer moved in from behind me, simultaneously doing the same. The fighters all flopped back, and twisted in weird angles as the rounds impacted their bodies with rapid accuracy. Even though it was so fast, I know for certain I shot at least two fighters with direct headshots to the forehead.

In a matter of five seconds, every fighter was dead. We moved up a couple more feet to see if they were all neutralized, as we shot a couple of more rounds at them.

"Clear!" I muttered after. Then Spencer yelled a moving call, and we moved out the room, following him. We then checked on Griffin's team, who had shot and killed fighters as well. They managed to get around five of them. However, some of the fighters had managed to grab their weapons amazingly, and Styles got hit in the arm with a round.

By that point, the whole operation was over in just five minutes.

"Shit man, you okay?" I asked Styles.

"Yeah, just fucking stings though." He muttered. Prig had already wrapped a torniquet on his arm. We then proceeded back into the living room, where the other teams were coming back down the stairs.

"What the hell happened?" Griffin asked.

"Fuckin' assholes knew we were here the whole time," Charlie's team leader, Schultz, said. "They must've heard us coming up the stairs, but my pointman saw a barrel and part of a hand stuck through one of the door openings. Once that dude poked his head out, my guy lit him up."

"You guys okay?" Griffin then asked.

"Yeah brother," Schultz said. "We didn't see the HVT [Vermani], but we got three fighters."

"My guys got at least fifteen of them. Place was crawling with fighters, we're gonna bring in the intel specialist to ID them." Griffin said.

"Roger that, move out boys!" Schultz said to his team.

Griffin got on the troop net and told senior everything that happened. Surprisingly, Marc and the support guys also engaged two fighters who had literally jumped out of the third floor windows because they didn't want to be shot. They landed in the courtyard with their weapons in hand, injuring themselves. Then they got up and started to move towards the front entrance of the compound.

Senior and the support personnel heard the gunfire from the house, and the voices of the injured fighters. Then the dog barked in the direction of where the fighters were. They figured it out, so apparently Marc took a damn extendable ladder and climbed to the top of the compound wall. He engaged both fighters with his HK416, sitting upright and nearly falling into the compound. The RECCE guys apparently had eyes on the fighters, and were about to shoot them until suddenly Marc opened up on them.

Shit sounded like a fucking action movie. You couldn't get more badass than that.

It was 2340 hours now. We were now all out of the compound, laughing and cracking jokes about how senior's balls were stronger than steel, and waiting for exfil. The RECCE guys had just arriven, joining along with the laughing and jokes, saying how senior had taken their kills.

"This is preposterous, Senior Chief took the kill that was gonna make me hit my quota of a hundred hajjis I've killed." The RECCE team leader said, half joking, half serious.

"I vote Senior Chief should do porn for having such strong balls. He'll make more money there anyway." Styles added, and we were laughing our asses off.

"Spencer how does it feel to know someone has a bigger dick and balls than you, bro?" Brady said and we were dying with laughter.

"Shit he actually uses them, so it's okay." Spencer answered.

"Okay okay, enough," Marc said, giggling. "We did good today, and one of the dead fighters on the second floor has been positively identified as Vermani. Although things didn't go perfectly, and one of us were hit, it was nothing major and we still got the job done. We were swift and precise. Good job boys."

Then we smiled. Sooner or later, the exfil arrived and we were on our way back to base. It was 2350 hours. I was tired as shit and I was so glad my first operation had gone well.

"Jesus, my fucking dick is itching! MY FUCKING DICK MAN!" A guy from the RECCE team at the far end of the chopper shouted, with his hand in his crotch.

"Yeah you got the clap you burning motherfucker." I heard Brady respond.

We all looked at each other for a bit and started bursting out laughing, thousands of feet in the air on the Chinook. It was the funniest thing we heard all night, besides Chief's balls of steel.

The laughs ended after a while, and then it was quiet again. It was now midnight, as I let my head rest on the seat, reflecting my first day. I quietly fell asleep.

Chapter Four - ReconEdit

0100 Hours - 0200 Hours (1:00 AM - 2:00 AM)

August 18, 2012

Daman District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

The operation on Vermani had gone well, two weeks ago. Everything was quick and precise. Although we had hoped for a capture, we eliminated one of the key pieces of Kandahar's opium distribution and opium trade. We still however, were working hard to find Zawahiri, the high level Taliban commander.

There were surprises during that operation too. The ISR had designated about five to ten fighters in the compound, but instead we were met with around twenty. Also the fact we were heard moving into compound, was another surprise.

We had an AAR, short for After Action Review, after that operation. The AAR was essentially a meeting we had after every mission or operation, reviewing what we did right or wrong. Sometimes I found them quite tedious and boring, but they were absolutely vital to the way we did missions, and how we developed as teammates and operators.

Guys were asking questions about how there were so many fighters and how they'd had their position compromised during the op, and how things could've turned out differently. It went well, and we'd find out based on some intel that'd we knacked a whole insurgent stronghold that was gonna be used as the staging for Taliban operations in that particular area.

As far as Senior Chief with his crazy super hero-like antics during the op, he got a Bronze Star with a V for valor in combat. It was well deserved, and he had earned it. What was even more interesting was that it was his seventh Bronze Star and third one with a V for valor. Styles on the other hand got a Purple Heart, his third of his career.

It wasn't surprising to see DEVGRU guys highly decorated. We most certainly didn't do it for the medals and awards obviously, but in the high-risk and highly sensitive missions we did, common acts of valor and gallantry happened all the time.

After that operation, things were slow, very slow. We raided a couple more compounds but they mostly contained civilians, and suspected fighters who posed no threat to us. The past two weeks have been a long drag, made up of hours of boredom and seconds of terror. We've only been in two firefights since then and are still waiting for another good operation. In the meantime, I was on a reconnaissance mission with two guys from the RECCE team on our previous op, and Spencer tagged along with me.

Spencer and I had missed a day from work, because I'd sprained my ankle during one of our raids and Spencer had gotten the shits again. I think he was done with the food in the mess hall altogether by then. Therefore, we had to go on a mission with the RECCE guys.

We were tasked with traveling to the Daman District, which was immediately south of our base, to do recon on a suspected Taliban patrol moving into a compound near a small village. The drones had followed them harassing other villages throughout the day, abusing civilians and wrecking havoc among tribal areas. It was pretty late, the fighters had been walking in the same direction towards the compound for awhile, and we figured the fighters were gonna settle down eventually in one of the main houses in that particular compound.

For this operation, we needed to be light and quick, so we travelled in dirt bikes, modified Honda CRF-450Rs painted in AOR 1. The bikes were great quality, as good as the motocross dirt bikes you saw in the 'States. They were also fast as shit, and had immense power, making them versatile for a variety of environments.

They were fitted with gun brackets for our rifles, infrared headlights, and quiet mufflers to avoid any attention. The bikes also could get us to our AO in about an hour, and reach speeds up to eighty miles per hour.

After getting to our AO, we'd set up positions deep in a nearby hillside about three hundred meters from the compound, and wait until the patrol arrived near it. Once we spotted the patrol, we'd radio Alpha and Charlie teams from our troop, who were also patrolling in the area, to raid the compound once the fighters were settled inside. The drones would be out of range when we spotted the patrol, so that's why we were given the task. When the raid was finished however, we'd rendezvous with them all, and wait for exfil.

We'd left the base at midnight, and it was pitch black darkness. Riding the dirt bikes already posed some difficulty on any other day, but it was a whole different ball game in the dark. We had to ride over multiple dirt roads, rocks, hills, etc. Spencer nearly fell over a hill when his bike slipped over a rock while we were riding up.

On this op, I carried my sixteen inch HK416, and M79. There was little to no illumination, and we'd be operating at long ranges from the compound. My clothing and gear was all AOR 1 this time, and I carried my backpack again which had my binoculars, bolt cutters, extra mags, grenades, boonie hat, and a ration. We didn't know how long we'd be there, so that's why I brought so much stuff. I also didn't carry a plate carrier because of the need to be light, only carrying my LBT 1961 chest rig.

We reached the hillside at 0100 hours. It was hot as shit, even in the night, and I had cut the sleeves off of my combat shirt. I pulled out my equipment and began setting up into position. Spencer was nearby taking a leak. The RECCE team leader, Benson, was on the radio and a RECCE sniper named Kane to the right of him was taking position with a HK417. He was looking through the scope with his night vision goggles, aiming towards the open desert and the compound it led to.

"Alpha One, Alpha One; this is Echo One. Proceeding with reconnaissance on target compound two hundred meters away. It is two o'clock, over." Benson said, to Alpha Team's team leader.

"Alpha and Charlie should arrive around 0130," Benson stated to us, off the radio. "The Predator drone pilot said the fighters should be here any minute now, and your troop commander said to assault once our teams are here and the fighters are inside the compound"

"Roger that," I said. I took off my helmet and placed it on my backpack, and then placed my headset next to me. I was trying to get a little comfortable then, so I threw on my boonie hat in AOR 1 and took out my special night vision binoculars.

They essentially functioned the same as my NVGs, but had much better range and could zoom in and out. I then set up my sixteen inch barrel '416, and had the clip-on thermal sight attached due to the low illumnation, as I also wanted more precise shooting.

Spencer came over from his leak and got into position next to me. He had the larger MK.48 Mod 1 for today's op, which had a longer barrel than the MK.46 for longer ranges. It'd be very effective with it's 7.62 rounds against the thick house and compound walls our teammates were gonna assault into. His boonie hat sagged a little over his forehead, as he looked through his binoculars at the compound.

"I don't know about this." Spencer said, with a tone of doubt.

"How so?" I asked.

"Say there's already fighters in the compound? The drone only made an estimate as to how many fighters they've seen patrolling in the area, which is about twenty. No no one knows whether the entire compound could be littered with fighters who've just never came out. This could be just like last time." He said.

"Well, that's a chance we're willing to take, isn't it? Besides, I don't think multiple fighters could stay in one household without coming out to do SOMETHING." I answered him. Things went silent for a little while.

I stared at the compound, looking at the relatively short compound walls. They looked climable, even through the binoculars, and nothing else about the compound seemed difficult. There were multiple windows around each side of the houses that made up the compound, and the perimeter of the compound was made up of a small courtyard.

I figured the fighters were in a rush, and were simply using the compound as temporary living quarters. We needed to hit them now and get them quick. The mission couldn't be quiet because as soon as the assault began the fighters would probably still be wide awake, but they wouldn't be expecting it, so that was our element of surprise.

"Hey Marine, how's your relationship status?" Spencer said to me, changing the subject. I laughed.

The guys occasionally called me "marine" as a hint to my previous service and to fuck around with me a little, but it wasn't anything serious.

For the past seven years however, I'd been in on and off relationships with several women. I remember after my first deployment with the Marines, I'd fallen for a fellow Marine named Casey Kennedy, but things went wrong after a while when she realized I wanted to stay in the military and to pursue a career. Till this day however, she's still a very close friend of mine and she's been married for three years.

The rest were just names, and no connections. Laura, Crystal, Alima, Kiara, Amber, etc. They were made up of different cultures and nationalities, but none could tolerate me. They couldn't understand the sacrifices I made for my military career, and in a way I understood that, but some didn't even try. Once my deployments became a problem for certain women, I'd become the problem. And we were done.

There was however one person, who ALMOST made it with me. Someone I could picture spending the rest of my life with. And that was Crystal. It was sad to see how it went but I saw faith in her, definitely. I'm twenty eight years old however, so I think I'll keep my faith.

"Same old shit, man." I answered Spencer. "You try to do your part the best you can, but shit still doesn't turn out how you would like it."

"I feel you bro," Spencer said. "I try not to worry about it though. I don't stress about people in my personal life. At the end of the day, we rarely see them, and I wouldn't want the burden of a relationship constantly in my mind while I'm trying to shoot bad guys in the face." He snickered, but I knew exactly what Spencer meant.

"Copy that bro. Like I don't need a girl or some shit like that, but it'd be nice to have one, you know?" I told him and he smiled.

"You guys talking about relationships and I'm ready to get my dick hard by getting a couple of insurgents, what the fuck man?" Kane said, the RECCE sniper. I looked at him and he had a frown. His helmet seemed too big for his head, and Spencer and I laughed at him, saying he looked like an ugly cartoon character.

"Yeah yeah yeah," Kane said, "We'll see who's laughing when your fat asses fall off your bikes." That was a good comeback, cause neither me or Spencer could ride them shits well, but we still laughed. Meanwhile, Benson was still on the radio, looking through his binoculars for any sign of the Taliban patrol. About another ten minutes or so passed, and I started eating an MRE, our rations.

I was chewing on ravioli when Benson said he'd spot the patrol. We all quickly got into position and began looking at the compound. Through my binoculars, I could see the twenty fighters walking towards the compound in a line formation. It was 0120 hours, and our assaulters were supposed to arrive in ten minutes or so.

"Bingo," Benson said. "I'll radio the assault teams that the fighters have arrived. You guys just keep a watch on them."

"Roger." Spencer answered.

The fighters walked for about five more minutes or so, until they reached compound, hopping the compound walls, and forcefully going into the houses. Suddenly, they began forcing civilians out and I could a see a lot of commotion as well.

"What the fuck," Kane said. "They better not be doing anything fucking stupid."

"Right, as soon as they shoot a civilian I'm lighting those motherfuckers up." Spencer said.

"Guys, shut up! We need clearance, and the assault teams are gonna be here any minute now."

The civilians began running out of the compound as they were forced out, heading into the direction of the nearby village east of the compound. Some children ran wildly, with their mothers and fathers picking them up and holding them as they all ran together.

"Shit man. They're helpless." Spencer sounded pissed off.

"Hold your fire, keep your weapons tight. I want to get those fuckers too. But we need to wait for the assaulters and clearance." Benson said.

Rules of Engagement was in our way, as usual. Like I said, it was basically fighting with our hands tied behind our backs.

Some time passed, and then the fighters settled into the main house of the compound. The civilians had long gone ran out of sight, and we could see our assaulters now patrolling towards the compound from the north. They moved slowly and silently. In DEVGRU, there was always a saying about not running to your death. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

As the teams finally reached the compound, we began gripping our weapons. We were all prone, and the bipod of my HK416 was deployed, and I gripped the gun by the foregrip behind it. I put the binoculars down, and looked through the FLIR thermal sight on the weapon. I spotted the black and white heat signatures of the assault teams hopping the compound walls.

"You motherfuckers ready to roll? I know I am, I'm trying to reach my quota." Benson said, with a huge grin. His quota was apparently how many kills he needed to reach in order to be the most deadliest sniper in his troop.

We chuckled and said, "Roger that."

The assault teams eventually all stacked up on the main house, and reached the front door. There were about eighteen operators, including Senior Chief Marc, and two dog handlers with Bruno and another dog named Karl. All in all, there were about twenty guys and two dogs. It was weird that the house only had one front door, which meant everyone would have to go through it and it was sure the fighters would know that the assaulters were in the house, but it'd be too late for them. Without a doubt.

"Alpha Team, Charlie Team; this is Echo One, proceed with assault, over." Benson said, and I heard a copy that.

I immediately looked through my sight, scanning the windows and looking at the white hue of fighters moving around a room on the top floor. My heart began racing and I was ready for a firefight. We were all lined up beside each other, and I saw Spencer looking through the scope of his machine gun, and Kane on the left of him with his finger on the trigger of his HK417. Benson was to my right, holding another HK417.

Through my thermal sight, the assaulters busted the door open, and began moving through the house. The fighters on the top floor heard the opening of the door, and as they began rushing down the stairs, I fired multiple shots from my rifle, killing two fighters and then everyone began opening up on the top floor of house. The assaulters on the main floor held their fire, as they didn't wanna get hit from our rapid fire hitting the compound walls and the house. Spencer pumped round after round on the MK.48, and with all four of our guns firing at once literally right next to each other, I thought I was going deaf.

Fighters who were laying down on couches began to flip up and down, as the rounds crashed through the windows and into their bodies. We literally sent barrages of gunfire, until each fighter couldn't even move. I used two full magazines on the main house in the compound, and spent shells were around us everywhere.

"It's clear!" Benson said on the radio. I looked through my binoculars and I saw literally the whole top section of the house was riddled with bullets. The windows were all gone, and a part of the concrete roof had been shot off the house. Other houses in the perimeter of the compound also laid riddled with bullets and gunfire. The compound walls were nearly desecrated too.

The assaulters then split up into four teams of five and moved through the house. Two teams went up into the top floor to see the fighters we had shot up, and another two teams stayed downstairs to look for remaining fighters. We had killed around ten fighters, but there were twenty apart of the patrol.

"Marc just radioed me asking what the fuck did we do to the insurgents." Benson said smiling, and we all laughed.

"We blew them to shits, that's what the fuck we did." Kane said and Spencer slapped him a five.

I put down my binoculars and began looking through my scope and thermal sight again. As I scanned the bottom floor of the house and the assaulters moving around, I saw the white hue of about five fighters hopping the compound walls and running to the direction of the nearby village. Another five were huddled into the kitchen of the house, and were waiting to ambush the assaulters.

"Guys, we've got five fucking squirters, three o'clock to the compound!" I shouted and then everyone turned their guns. I told Benson about the huddled fighters in the kitchen and he radioed the assaulters. A team then moved near the kitchen, and tossed multiple grenades, exploding and killing the huddled fighters. To the farther right out of the compound, a dog handler with Bruno or Karl was chasing the squirters with two other assaulters, and we were starting to lose vision of the fighters.

"Fuck bro I can't see them from here." Spencer said. A huge boulder to our right was blocking the view of a large section of the open desert where the fighters wee running.

"Get up! We got to start moving on this hillside!" Benson shouted, and we turned right, and began moving through the hillside, to where the fighters were running. We ran a couple of meters on the hillside, until we found a position where we could clearly see the fighters being chased. The dogs and assaulters were starting to catch up with them, but the fighters were closing in toward the nearby village and we didn't wanna fire on the fighters when they reached the village, at risk of collateral damage. We then threw ourselves into prone positions, and began firing on the squirters.

Through my thermal sight, their white hues began flopping into the dirt as we cut them down with our gun fire. We shot them up to shits as well, and they were all down within thirty seconds or so. The assaulters and dogs caught up with them, and then it was over. The whole firefight had lasted around twenty minutes and now it was 0150 hours. I hadn't used my M79, FUCK. It never crossed my mind and we could have gotten the insurgents quicker, but then I realized I was out of range. The shortened barrel of the custom M79 would've shortened significantly how far the rounds would go, so it was pointless to even fire it. The operation was over anyways.

"We're done, good job guys." Benson said.

We walked back to our original positions where our other gear, backpacks, and dirt bikes were. I took off my boonie hat, and put back on my helmet, headset, and night vision goggles. We packed everything up, and got on our dirt bikes. I led the motorcycle convoy, down the hillside and into the open desert. Once we were out of the hills with our bikes, we rode into the open desert at nearly sixty miles per hour, reaching the compound in about ten minutes.

To be honest, it was thrilling. Riding through the dirt with the wind blowing past my face looking through the green hue of my night vision goggles, it was a relaxing and releasing feeling of tension. I felt like riding all night through the desert.

Once we reached the compound, we were met with high fives and faces with awe.

"You guys really teared them a new asshole," A guy named Hamilton from Charlie Team said. "We walked up the stairs in the main house and the first thing we saw was this dead hajji with his entire face blown off. Good fucking shit!"

He slapped us fives and we moved toward a group of assaulters in front of the compound, as we waited for exfil. Senior Chief then saw us and shook our hands.

"You guys couldn't wait until we got up the stairs, holy shit!?" Marc said, and we laughed. It felt good to know we'd gotten the fighters and had gotten the job done. We'd did it rather grimly, firing hundreds of rounds into the compound and another guy told me we had shot a fighter's arm off, but all of those extra rounds were to make sure they were neutralized, and to make sure our guys were surely gonna be safe. That's all that mattered; The safety of the guys, our brothers. And we were willing to do whatever it took to assure that happened.

It was a little after 0200 hours when the exfil arrived, a large Chinook picking us up. We attached our bikes on the sides of the helicopter, and stepped in the chopper, taking our seats.

I was next to Spencer again and he had his MK.48 in his lap, his head rested against the seat. I tapped him on the shoulder, and nodded at him, and he returned the favor. His sleeves were cut and I could see the sweat dripping down his arms from my night vision goggles. He was tired, we were all tired, but we had gotten the job done.

"Good job bro." I said, and we knuckle touched. Some time passed, and he dove off into sleep, which I also did some time later.

Chapter Five - Endless TimeEdit

1900 Hours (7:00 PM)

September 3, 2012"

FOB Goldberg, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

We're in September now. Two weeks and a half has passed. Same old shit. We've went on countless more raids on compounds like the ones before, but to no new leads or anymore information about the Taliban commander, Zawahiri. It was constantly hitting the same type of targets, over and over again, only to gain nothing. Guys were getting frustrated and were on the edge.

It didn't help that a tragic incident had happened a week before. We were on a raid to a village far north of Kandahar City, in the Arghandab District, looking for a suspected bomb maker who could've possibly had ties with Zawahiri. Due to our RoE and the fact that there were many civilians in the area, we had to do "call outs." This meant we had to call out to civilians and people living in houses to come out with their hands up so they wouldn't get hurt.

But often times this was the exact opposite of what would happen. On this particular mission, we did our call outs and suddenly in one of the houses, two civilians came out with a fighter firing rounds over their heads, using them as shields. Of course, we had to make quick and split second decisions, so I believe a dude from Alpha Team fired on all of them and it resulted in two innocent civilians dead.

For nothing. And I mean, FOR FUCKING NOTHING.

We didn't even find the suspected bomb maker, or anymore other Taliban. As soon as those civilians were dead, we quickly left the area, in fear of more civilian casualties and collateral damage. The RoE made things constantly difficult and I was getting tired of it. We couldn't do our jobs the way we were supposed to do, meanwhile, fighters and insurgents could do whatever the fuck they wanted with zero moral grounds, and with us receiving the backlash for the mistakes we made that were never intentional. Like I always say, it's literally fighting the war with our hands tied behind our backs, we're severely restricted.

We've just returned from the kill house. Today has been quiet. ISR has no new leads on suspected fighters or anything. It's just been sleep, training, and more training. Guys were at the hooch playing video games or doing nothing. I was thinking about my parents.

My father, Rob, was a Vietnam Vet who had served with the Marines in 1967 and 1968. He was a squad leader, and he served during the major Battle of Hue City in 1968 and also served in Da Nang, Chu Lai, and much more. He lost a lot of good friends during the war and I remember he used to tell me stories about combat and those particular friends. He's pretty old now, around sixty-three, and he works at a sports gym in New York. My father however, was always a big inspiration for me when I joined the military.

My mother on the other hand, Martha, had met my father during the 1980s and I was born in December 1985. My mother is still around, and I love her very much, and she's sixty years old. She's retired, and she's a stay at home mom, probably reading newspapers or some shit, or using her phone or laptop.

I used to mail my father a lot of letters during my Marine deployments, but nowadays, things have just gotten slow and my relationships have strained with my family. Constant deployments took a toll on them, and me of course, and I receive letters sometimes, if I'm lucky. I also Skyped' them, but neither of my parents use computers very well, so that was rare.

My childhood was okay, but periods of struggles weren't uncommon. For the first seven years of my life, I'd had to deal with numerous homeless shelters and moving from place to place, while my parents tried to get their shit together. They managed to get decent jobs after a while and we all lived together in an apartment in Brooklyn, but the hood and the streets never escaped me. Smoking weed, seeing fights, people getting shot and killed, it was nothing new and it was part of your identity when you lived in the hood.

I had done well in school from about elementary to the end of middle school, and things began to fall apart. I began to not care in high school, and took on this attitude of letting things float by. I had friends and knew a lot of people, but I didn't care about school at all, and it was crazy to see the certain individuals who switched up on you quickly. I didn't do good, and I barely even graduated high school.

However, once school was finished, I had my mind set on the Marines. I wanted to be just like my father and wanted to get the fuck out of the hood, and it's struggles. I also hated school and I knew getting to a good college was slim for me, so all in all, the Marine Corps was my only option. I enlisted in August 2001, a month after high school and a month before 9/11.

Unfortuantely, 9/11 tragically happened in the middle of training, and by that point, I had a good feeling I was going to be sent to combat. I eventually finished basic training and everything else in early 2002, getting assigned as a infantryman to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines in Camp Lejeune.

The War in Afghanistan was in it's early beginnings and I wanted to be in combat, to be in the shit. I wanted to serve. However, my battalion was never in the shit, not until some uneventul deployment to Afghanistan in 2004 that I didn't care about. I wasn't involved in it either.

In fact it took me two years for my first deployment.

I got transferred to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines at Camp Pendleton in California during the summer of 2003. The battalion had been in the Invasion of Iraq that had recently happened, and had seen much of the early fighting. Months past with my new unit, and I found out we were deploying to the violent Al-Anbar Province of Iraq in mid-2004. We were stationed near Fallujah, a city that had suffered heavy fighting earlier that year, killing several Marines, and housing many insurgents from Al-Qaeda in Iraq. An offensive was launched in November 2004 to eliminate the whole insurgency in Fallujah, with thousands of coalition troops and the U.S. Marines spearheading the assault.

Until this day, that was some of the bloodiest and most vicious fighting I've ever been in. It was my first deployment, and quite frankly, it was my worst deployment so far. And it was my worst, because of all of the carnage and gore I saw. Guys were getting killed in brutal house to house fighting and IED blasts on a daily basis. Animals crawled over dead bodies. Houses were obliterated into walls with holes.

Death was constantly all around you. It really taught me a lesson for the realities of combat and what war really is. Until this day too, I still can't comprehend everything that happened at that time. And I don't want to either. I know it'll fuck me up. I don't wanna understand it. I don't indulge in the memories, I just keep things going. Especially as a SEAL, there isn't time for that.

After Fallujah, I got out of the Marines in early 2005, joined the Navy SEALs in 2007, and did two six month deployments to Afghanistan with SEAL Team Four, and I'm of course now with DEVGRU.

My ST4 deployments were from April 2009 until October 2009, and from July 2010 until January 2011. These deployments were also vicious, with constant raids and reconnaissance on targets all the time. We fought at valleys and mountains with infantry soldiers in Kunar during 2009, and with a Marine infantry platoon from 2010 to 2011 in the Sangin District of the Helmand Province, patrolling through opium fields and being weary of IEDs everywhere.

Both deployments were hell, sustaining significant casualties, but we also drove out much of the Taliban in these areas. I also learned more valuable lessons during these deployments, that I'd remember for the rest of my career. I formed tight brotherhoods with the marines and soldiers I fought with. The deployment also taught me regardless of service, training, or rank, we were all troops fighting to protect our brothers to the left and right of us, and to make sure we all got home in one piece. Politics or what the fuck we were fighting for didn't matter, it was all about making sure your brothers got home alive to be able to see their families and friends. That's what we really fought for.

I still to this day keep the SCAR-H I used on those deployments, which is back at my gear rack in Virginia. I keep it as a reminder for the things I've been through, the lessons I've learned, and the sacrifices of the guys around me made on both of those deployments. I use it for fun, sometimes on the range and kill house, and it's one my favorite weapons. Not only because of how good of a weapon it actually is, but because of the nostalgia I get whenever I shoot it.

For the rest of my family however, my father's cousins named Jerry and Steve, also were in the military. Steve served with the 101st Airborne Division with the Army in Vietnam, during 1970. He was severely wounded multiple times, and just like my dad, lost a lot of friends. He suffered a lot of PTSD, post-traumatic stess disorder, and had a hard time dealing with coming back home. This was because there was no homecoming, due to the turbulent times of the 60s and 70s. Thankfully, he's in a better place right now and he's still alive. I saw him at a barbecue two years ago.

Jerry, Steve's little brother; Served with the SEALs in SEAL Team Four, just like me, and was a big inspiration as to why I even joined the SEALs to begin with. He served in Panama and the Gulf War, and enjoyed his service thoroughly. He's fifty six years old now, and he works as an accountant.

His son, Jonathan, who I keep in touch with, served with the Green Berets during the height of the War in Iraq. He also served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade from 2007-2008 in Afghanistan, participating during the tragic Battle of Wanat, where he received a Silver Star. He's still in the military, and serves with the 75th Ranger Regiment as a Staff Sergeant, possibly being on deployment currently.

It was crazy how much loss all of us have had to deal with. After my very first deployment, I was petrified. I'd never experienced so much death and carnage around me at one point of time. It was hard to understand, and hard to decompress back home. But what got me through was my mentality. I've realized that has what got me through my entire life. Through the streets of New York, to finishing school, the PT in BUD/S, Green Team selection, and my multiple combat deployments, I've always kept the same attitude. Never quit and always stay positive. I always had this sort of feeling that things would get better.

Sure, sometimes it wouldn't be easy at all, but knowing that the bad and toughest things wouldn't last, is what got me through everything. Also, taking everything a step at time, and only effecting what you can effect. One by one, step at a time. Doing things all at once and trying to comprehend things all at once, never worked. It was all about taking things one at a time, and only worrying about the things you could change. And staying positive and never quitting were things that helped that a lot too.

Nevertheless, at times, the killing really did bother you. Not only of the guys around you, but often about the enemy you shot and killed. Certain things would linger in my head as to who was this bomb maker, Taliban commander, or so and so. Did he have a family? Did he have children? Why were we really doing this, was the biggest question. Your moral and ethical grounds tend to kick in, and you never try to forget your sanity. I vowed to never forget it, and to be vocal about whenever I felt something was wrong.

I also never forgot however, that this so and so Taliban bomb maker could have killed one of my friends during a patrol, or could've possibly threatened an innocent family to do crazy things like suicide bombing.

Knowing that, especially, kept me going.

That's one of the reasons I joined the teams. I never took any sides, I was never pro-war or anti-war, but I always felt I had a duty to fulfill. I had to do something for something or someone.

And DEVGRU would allow me to do that. Things went wrong, it was part of the job, but knowing maybe somewhere I eliminated a Taliban fighter who was bringing havoc onto innocent people in villages, or who could've killed one of my teammates, helped me do my job.

In my hooch right now, I was on my ASUS laptop. Recent history showed I had viewed porn, pre-season football scores, the Crye Precision website, Skype, YouTube, and of course, Facebook. Everyone used Facebook, but as DEVGRU operators, we kept our profiles on the low. Numerous privacy settings that only allowed friends and family to view our posts were required, as well as not stating the exact nature of our military service.

We were also only able to post photos while only being in garrison back at the 'States (albeit with censorship), or photos that were strickly family oriented. Some guys didn't even use their real names.

We took OPSEC and PERSEC (operational and personal security) very seriously, so we had to do whatever it took to limit our profile online or anywhere else. Another example was how my neighbors in New York had no idea what the heck I did for a living. I had bought a decent home in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn during my time with ST4 and had lived alone. I'd say hi to my next door neighbors, such as a woman named Carina (who I had sex with multiple times and she never knew the nature of my job. She also gave the best blowjobs), a lawyer named Sam, and a cool upper middle class white kid named Adam, who sort of looked like a mix of Eminem and Macklemore.

They simply knew me as the young guy who mowed his lawn, liked to have a good time, and loved red velvet cheesecake. I also shaved my beard and kept my hair short during leave, and I blended in with the neighborhood well. The funny part is, little did they know that I was a Navy SEAL in process of Green Team selection, and that in a week or two I'd be in a cargo plane thousands of feet into the air, performing HAHO jumps into the Arizona desert. It was something that was interesting, but I also found it exhilarating, covert; Knowing that you were something no one expected you to be.

I was watching a YouTube video of the HodgeTwins, these fit light-skinned dickheads from Virginia who made hilarious workout and comedy videos, when Prig said something from his bed.

"Things have been so fuckin' slow, man. I'm still trying to get over last week." He said, reminding us of the incident with the dead civilians.

"I know brother. We have to just relax, and stay focus, stay sharp." Griffin said. That's what I loved about him, and that's why he was team leader. He always knew how to keep the team together no matter what situation.

"Yeah, definitely. We need to just stay in the game, man. The targets are fucking lame, but sooner or later, we'll get something good." Styles said, reading an edition of TIME magazine from his bed and mini-room to the right of me. He was frustrated too, but he knew it wouldn't last.

"The Rules of Engagement sucks," I chimed in. "We can't do what we have to do efficiently. They bring out this 'call out' routine crap which is supposed to prevent less civilian casualties, and we end up getting more, what the fuck."

"I understand, but you have to do everything under the book." Griffin said, "We can't risk getting backlash for not going under RoE, cause one mistake, and our careers could be gone in weeks. We have to be smooth and fast, but also safe and causing no collateral damage as well." It was a good thing the call out routine was optional. Our troop commander decided not to use it as much after that op, only employing it when a large number of civilians were in a dense area.

"Yeah I understand." I said.

"You fellas think I should get back with my ex-wife?" Prig said, changing the topic.

"Yeah, and I also think we won the Vietnam War." Styles said, and we laughed.

"Nah but seriously, we haven't seen each other in a year. My kid is turning nine in about a month, he wants his old man to bring his mother back. I miss her too, she had this sorta' charm, and she was thick and brown skinned. You know, my favorite." Prig giggled, and started to play around with the strings of his acoustic guitar next to him.

"Yeah I feel you brother, you like the thick black girls. Might as well just find a Nicki Minaj, and tell your kid here's his new mother with the fat ass!" Styles grabbed his thick chest.

"And extra large tits!" He said, and we laughed some more.

"Man you're a fuckin' idiot." Prig said. "She's really nice though, my kid misses her. I started texting her and stuff before the deployment or whatever, and we're starting to get close again. We were married for ten years, ten fuckin' years, bro. We been through hell and back, but she sorta got tired of the deployments and shit. She sorta just gave up, you get me?"

"Gave up on everything, even my little man. He hasn't seen her in months and when I'm not deployed, he stays with my mother. He always asks me where she be at, and I never know what to tell him. Shit breaks my heart. It's like he has no parents at all. I'm always deployed and she's no where to be around. One more year and I'm out of the Navy. I need my family back together."

There was a sort of silence until Griffin spoke up.

"Sorry to hear that man. Just keep your head up. Make the best decisions for yourself. I get you have to get off the speeding train, all of these deployments and shit. Do what's best for you and your family, and to try to keep it together. Hell, I honestly don't even know how my wife still loves me the same every time I come home."

"Right, one of the reasons I never started a family." Styles said, "I knew the Navy would take a toll not only on me, but on my family as well, so I never decided to actually get married and have kids. I'm really glad I have nieces and nephews though. They make me feel like a father all of the time, and it's something I'm proud of." Styles smiled, with a hopeful look on his face.

A family was on my mind, and suddenly I realized I wasn't sure about how long this career would last. The "speeding train," as Griffin called our deployments and careers, would last awhile and a lot of guys would get "blowed out" after decades of deployments and training. I didn't want that, and I also wanted a family, but I was only twenty-eight and I still had a lot of time.

"Thanks fellas, I appreciate it. You guys are my brothers for life, man. The brotherhood never ends." Prig said, and then all four of us huddled to his bed, and patted each other on our backs. Cliche shit, but it reinforced our bond. We didn't care.

Spencer and Brady were at the front entrance of hooch playing NBA 2K12 and hadn't notice our conversation. They came and saw us huddled together, and started laughing their asses off.

"Guys is there something I need to know?" Brady said, sarcastically. "Is it true Lance's vagina has a large clitoris?" We all laughed and I flipped Brady the bird.

Bonding times like these was what strengthened our mission capabilities, but also strengthened our brotherhood and personal relationships as well. It brought us closer together, and to constantly reassure we had each others backs, not only in the field, but also in the real world, when we really needed someone to talk to. It made us the perfect set of guys who were ready and capable for anything, and also had each others' backs without a doubt in our mind.

The rest of the night was quiet, and we ended up sleeping early. It did fuck up our operational schedule, but we were already to be up at three o'clock in the morning if we had to.

Chapter Six - Big NewsEdit

0500 Hours - 0630 Hours (5:00 AM - 6:30 AM)

September 13, 2012

Jamame, Lower Juba, Somalia

There's something important to know about the SEALs, especially DEVGRU operators. We're literally regular guys. We all have senses of humor; We get mad, we're happy, we're excited, we're sad, and sometimes, we might even cry. We have families, friends, spouses; We watch television and go on the internet. We like sports and other hobbies, and love to enjoy ourselves. We're not indestructible, we can get hurt, both physically and mentally just like anyone else, and we sometimes pay the ultimate sacrifice.

The media has made it seem like we're ultra professional soldiers, who seem to be born with a gift or who are born to serve, almost like robots. That whole paragraph puts the reality into that.

Besides all that, what really set us apart was our mindset. It was unique. We all had the same general mindset. To be tenacious, to never quit, to be an asset to the team, to look after the guy to your left and right, and to do everything to the best of your ability. And most importantly, to get the job done. They're all traits that a lot of people in regular society don't have, living for themselves and living just to live. I believe that's how we've gotten to where we are in the first place. We're not special, but perhaps our perspective was.

Crazy shit has happened recently. The U.S. Embassy in Bengazi, Libya was attacked by Al-Qaeda fighters on 9/11, killing the U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and a U.S. Foreign Service officer named Sean Smith. Another assault on a CIA annex nearby killed two CIA GRS (Global Response Staff) officers names Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. What made it worse was that they were both former SEALs, two of our brothers.

Some guys in the troop knew them too, and it was devastating. Styles had did raids with Woods while in Ramadi during 2006, when the Iraq War was at It's height. Griffin also saw Woods during a deployment to Afghanistan. It was so sad to see. The guys took it hard, really hard and it didn't help the morale of any of us at all.

The last ten days have been quick and steady, with decent operations and fast training. This news still didn't help anything or anyone, however. We needed to keep our morale consistent, but I had to remember there would be good times and really bad times.

There was also even more pressure on us because we're on a big op currently. Really big operation. We had finally gotten the big break we needed.

Eight days ago, Al-Shabaab fighters captured an American doctor named Matt Edgerton. He's a physician's assistant and a former Special Forces Medic doing humanitarian work in Somalia due to It's current civil war. He was captured in his house while working in Kismayo, as Somali troops began to recapture the city from Al-Shabaab who were desperately trying to retreat. Sadly, the fighters killed another worker he was with it from Switzerland named Johan Enzali, and took Matt hostage.

Our ISA guys had tracked the fighters down. Intelligence Support Activity or the ISA as we called it, was an extremely secretive Army special operations unit that was even lesser known than DEVGRU or Delta Force. It's main task was to collect intelligence before many of the operations we did, in forms of SIGINT (signal intelligence) and HUMINT (human intelligence). They even have a combat element, called "shooters", made up of guys who've served in previous special operations forces and have went through the Operators' Training Course (OTC). They were trained as much as DEVGRU and Delta, and we sometimes cross-trained with them.

We had a unit like this, which was Black Squadron, but they were deployed all over the world. So the ISA was the only thing available now.

These guys have continuously tracked the movement of Matt and his captors by tapping their radio and cell phone receptions. Matt had already been moved about three times and we were fearing he was in imminent danger. He had stopped at a house with the fighters a day or two ago, a couple miles east of Jamame; A town in the Lower Juba region, and suddenly our intelligence guys lost reception.

What made things complicated was that Matt worked for a refugee organization based in Somalia. They were called SHADO, and apparently he had fled to Somalia last year when he finished some medical training and his last deployment with the Green Berets in Afghanistan. He sounded like one of the guys who genuinely wanted to make a difference in the world, and I guess he wanted to expand his work out of the service. The problem was though, was that the organization couldn't risk talking to the kidnappers as that would put their own lives in danger. This was due to them being in Somalia as well, and most of the them couldn't even speak English or Arabic.

Senior U.S. officials tried to negotiate with the captors and their insane $10 million dollar demand the first couple of days. That was until however, the captors revealed they'd killed the Swiss worker and had no problems killing Matt if their demands weren't met. With a lost of communication and fearing that Matt's life was in imminent danger, President Obama gave the green light to our JSOC commander, Lieutenant General Votel. We would launch a raid at the captors suspected location, rescuing Matt.

We were in the middle of a deployment obviously, but they allowed our troop to go to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti so we could spearhead the operation. Meanwhile, a Ranger platoon would be taking our place for a couple of days, until we came back and they went back to their base.

At around 0200 hours this early morning, we launched the operation. It was two teams on the mission, us and Alpha Team, plus Senior Chief Marc, totalling at about sixteen operators. Hamilton from Charlie Team had been moved to our team because our troop commander wanted to even things out, so we now have seven guys. I didn't think too much of it, Hamilton was cool as shit and one of the first guys I'd met at the command. Besides our two teams, we had Charlie Team in a RHIB, rigid-huled inflatable boat, patrolling near the Somalian border in the Indian Ocean.

The RHIB was a high speed, assault boat fitted with two weapons and two diesel engines. The weapons could be either .50 caliber machine guns, M240 machine guns, or MK.19 grenade launchers. Charlie Team would be in the ocean in case things got a little hot during our extraction. There were also three Grey Squadron guys; DEVGRU operators who specialized in using assault boats and transportation, who were driving the RHIB and using it's weapons.

Another boat team, made up of Special Warfare Combatant-Craft crewmen (SWCC or 'swick'), were in a heavily armed MK.5 special ops boat that could fit up to sixteen SEALs and a five man crew. They were patrolling the Jubba River, and we'd rendezvous with them after rescuing Matt, then driving down into the Indian Ocean. After that, we'd rendezvous with Charlie Team and the Gray Squadron guys in the RHIB, attaching their boat to ours, and finally extracting out of the area.

All and all, there were about thirty two personnel participating in the operation.

For this op, I had a jungle loadout. I carried my MP7, with my M79 on my right leg in a holster, and my suppressed P226 holstered onto the left side of my belt. I wore all AOR 2, with the Crye CPC as my body armor. I also wore a boonie hat, and green & black face paint, which allowed me to blend into my surroundings a little better. I had an AOR 2 backpack, which had my bolt cutters, a couple of breaching charges, extra pair of headsets, and ammo. I had around seventy pounds of gear.

As of course, loadouts varied. Some guys carried ten-inch '416s, with sawed off 870 shotguns as secondary weapons in case things got spicy in close quarters engagements. Other guys possibly didn't wear a plate carrier to stay light & comfortable, keeping just a chest rig. While the majority of us were in all AOR 2 gear, a few guys wore mixes of AOR 2 and Multicam, to help camouflage better. It was all preference, and we did whatever suited our needs.

Everything started with a HAHO jump at 0200. We were in a C-130 Hercules, thousands of feet into the air, and were preparing to jump into the dense vegetation of the Jubbaland region. The jumpmaster had put the green light on, and then he counted down. We all walked up to the end of the ramp, nodding at each other and giving thumbs up, as the jumpmaster finished counting.

We then jumped, one by one into the land, wearing our helmets, oxygen masks, and night vision googles. The rush of air hit me with lightning speed, as I dived through the troposphere of the Earth. The view was pretty much shit, with basically thick clouds all up in front of me, no stars in sight. Soon after I pulled the chord on my parachute, I began to float in the air, looking at the trees below me. All of my teammates had already followed suit.

We all landed at a designated field with grass and vegetation, regrouping. Charlie Team and the Gray Squadron guys had jumped with their boats a half hour before into the middle of ocean, and were now probably driving to their AO around the Somalian border. What sucked today, was that out of all fucking days, it was raining. No wonder why the clouds were so dark and thick.

As soon as we landed, minutes later it starting pouring and we were forced to put our helmets and night vision goggles in our backpacks. We threw on our boonie hats.

Instead of the coyote brown Peltor Comtac III headset that I wore regularly, I had on my "bone phones." Bone phones as they called it, were headsets that used bone conduction technology from your facial bones to hear sounds through your ears. They were very useful, as you placed them in front of your ears, allowing you to hear ambient and background noise as well.

The Peltor with it's large ear cups wasn't really practical with wearing a boonie hat, so that's where my bone phones came into place.

I still dreaded the rain. I had heard that the monsoon season in Somalia was around April to July, but I had never expected this shit. It was the middle of September and the monsoon rains were long gone. It was surprising, and the rain added another element of difficulty. We couldn't use our NVGs because they couldn't see through heavy rain, so there was literally little to no visibility. The illumination of the moon light was a life saver, and the only reason we could patrol and stick together.

Despite all of the bullshit, we didn't have an option. We had to launch the mission around this time, or it was sure Matt was gonna be executed. I didn't wanna see him on a graphic Live Leak video getting his head chopped off. It was our job, our duty, and we had to suck it up.

Our teams then began to march through the pouring rain and dense vegetation, for quite some time. My face paint dripped off my face due to the rain, water going into my eyes and hampering my visibility. Brady looked at me, grinning.

"Tough fucking luck, huh?" He said. His face was soaked, and there was mud under his eyes. He looked psychotic, and his boonie hat almost slipped from his head.

"Yeah, you look like a fucking pedophile." I answered, and he laughed.

Most of us had shaven our beards to let the face paint blend in a little better, and some of us had buzzcuts. We actually sort of looked like real soldiers, and not the way we'd look like vikings and rednecks when we were in Afghanistan. I looked like I was in high school again, and Griffin actually sort of looked like Brad Pitt. Styles had been asking him why he wasn't with Angelina Jolie and then he'd get Griff's hilarious comebacks about how he was a leprechaun with a gun.

We patroled for what seemed like three hours, with the rain stopping at around 0330 hours, and us reaching the area of the target houses at 0500 hours. It was the beginning of dawn, and sunrise would be around in another hour or so, meaning we had to be fast. We needed to assault the two houses, and rescue Matt before daylight came and villagers from nearby villages woke up and saw the commotion.

There were two houses that we were going to raid. They were in a compound surrounded by what looked like a prison-type fence, and were made out of thick mud and bricks. They sat about fifty meters from each other with a large dirt road or pavement in the center, that led up through the rear of the gate into the jungle. The houses weren't very large, and had wooden doors with thick metal hinges. If breaching the doors was going to be required, we of course had breaching charges and shotguns. Some guys also had tomahawks made from Winkler, that could break door knobs.

The hope was that the doors were unlocked, so we could quietly sneak in and catch the captors slipping; But nothing was certain. I still had a good feeling that even though we might have to breach, we'd have good enough ground on them anyways.

There was also a water tower in the far inside of the compound, that mostly likely had a guard or something. I could look through the trees and vegetation, and tell we were about a hundred meters from the compound entrance.

Senior Chief told us what was going to happen.

"Alright here's what we're gonna do," Marc said. "Alpha Team has the house on the far right side and Bravo has the house on the far left. We're going to assault in approximately fifteen minutes. Me, and Garcia from Alpha Team are going to set up over watch positions deep into the vegetation, fifty meters back into the forest. We're providing covering sniper fire. Meanwhile, you guys are going to get in line with your teams, and we're going to move into each of our positions right now. Griffin, Kaczmarek, get your teams together and move out. Let's go!"

Kaczmarek, or Kaz as we called him, was Alpha's team leader. He was a Polish-American thirty two year old with too many dimples for his age, and a healthy dose of almond-shaped head syndrome. He had a stubble, dark brown hair, and an undercut with a side part that almost made him look like a Nazi. He had broad shoulders, and sort of walked with a look of confidence and determination on his face.

He came over to us.

"You guys ready to roll?" He said, holding his HK416.

"Roger that, we got this shit brother. Keep your guys tight and take things smoothly." Griffin answered.

"Copy bro, stay sharp." Kaz nodded and gave Griffin a knuckle touch.

We moved into our positions. Garcia was a trained sniper who had just gotten out of a RECCE troop and back to a troop of assaulters. Him and Senior Chief got into these ghillie suits, concealment apparel that was made to look like heavy foliage. It was a whole suit, and the duo literally looked like walking vegetation.

Garcia had this AOR 2-painted, MK.13 Mod 5 sniper rifle that shot a .300 Win Mag round. It had a suppressor, and was made for medium range engagements, making it excellent for today's mission. Marc would be Garcia's spotter and would be on the radio telling us information about the combatants as the mission progressed. We got to our positions in a little over five minutes, and my Salomon boots were covered with mud, soaked by the rain. It was uncomfortable as shit.

I took a knee down in the mud, which fucking sucked, as Griffin began to speak up quietly.

"Once Senior Chief and Alpha Team is in position, we'll assault. You know what to do; Get your breaching charges and everything else ready. Now it's just the waiting game."

By now, we were about thirty meters from the entrance, with the trees as our only cover. I could see things pretty clearly now. The fence had a gate opening with a lock on it, which wasn't really good because it meant I had to use my bolt cutters. The houses were one story shacks that didn't even look like they could stand a grenade blast. I now saw the guard with an AK-47 on the water tower. He wore a three-holed balaclava, or ski mask, with a cheap, knock off plate carrier with grey pants and bloused black boots. He looked menacing, even to me, and I couldn't imagine the sort of fear Matt had when he was captured.

Probably not much though. After all, Matt had been a Green Beret and had of course been trained to deal with situations like this. We stood in the ankle-deep mud for what seemed like ten more minutes, before Griffin got a call on the radio that everyone was finally in position.

"Get ready boys." He whispered.

I checked the safety of my MP7 and made sure it was off. I adjusted my boonie hat and my backpack, and I was good to go.

The first thing that had to happen was the elimination of the guards, by Garcia. As we began to proceed down towards the entrance, I heard a small pop and saw the guard in the tower fall over. He had gotten shot in the head, and he fell out of the tower, into the woods below. Another shot seconds later got another guard to the far left outside of the compound, who was shot in the neck. About a thirty second wait later, apparently one more shot rang out, which caught a guard to the far right of the compound, coming out of a porta potty.

Marc radioed us that there were no more guards around and that we could proceed.

"Take it." He said.

We moved to the front of the compound, and reached the entrance. The lock on the gate was decent size, about twice the size of a locker combination lock, and Griffin called me over to cut it loose. I pulled my bolt cutters out and went to work, with the lock cutting loose about thirty seconds after. Then Prig who was on the point proceeded into the compound, with me and everyone else following. We were moving slowly and silently through dirt and vegetation to the shack that was twenty meters in front of us. To my far right, I could see Alpha Team moving through the compound towards the other house, at about the same rate as us. Sooner or later, we reached our target.

We all stacked up and got into position. I was nervous, stomach filled with butterflies and sweat dripping from my temple. Spencer who was behind me gripped my shoulder.

"Relax bro." He whispered. I followed his words and let out a couple of breathes, and I let my heart get back to it's normal rate. This was my first hostage rescue mission, and I didn't want to cause any mistake that could cost someone's life. Any.

After about thirty seconds, Griffin tapped Prig's shoulder which was the signal to move in. No fancy hand signals or none of that, just simply moving swiftly and silently with gentle touches here and there. Prig tried the door, and it was locked. It was around 0540 hours and it was almost the end of dawn, and I could see the sun rising in the horizon.

"Shit," He muttered under his breath.

We decided to use our shotguns. Breaching charges would be too collateral, and the tomahawks we had couldn't break hinges. The shotguns were the most viable option, and the only way we were getting inside. We alerted Marc, and he agreed.

Alpha Team had encountered the same shit.

"Bravo Team, this is Alpha One over. We've encountered locked doors, ballistic breaching is now in place." I could hear Kaz say it silently over the troop net through my bone phones.

Spencer then came out from behind me, pulling out his 870 twelve-gauge pump action shotgun. It wasn't a traditional 870, in the fact the buttstock had been shortened into a pistol grip and it had a sawed-off barrel. We wanted to keep it as light as possible, and we also carried mini reflex sights and holographic sights on it. It was only around five pounds, and some guys had actually painted their shotguns in AOR 2 before the mission.

Spencer got in front of the door with the shotgun, racking it and placing it at a forty five degree angle on the door. After about ten seconds, he shot each hinge on the door; One after another with perfect accuracy. He then turned and kicked the door through, with Prig and the rest of us proceeding into the house. Simultaneously, Alpha Team at other house did the exact same thing.

There were about three rooms in the shack besides the main room we entered, and as usual, guys began to split off into teams. One in the far center of the shack, followed by two on the far left and right as well. The laser sight of my MP7 scanned through the main room, which smelled like pure shit, and had a couch and an old school television set. This place didn't even have a damn kitchen or a bathroom, and it reminded me of how some of the abandoned houses in Brooklyn looked like.

Hamilton and Brady stayed in the living room, and started looking for intel or any sort of information in house. The rest of us proceeded into the rooms, with Griffin and I getting into position in front of the room at the center. We looked at each other, and nodded. I tried the door, and it was unlocked, pulling it open. Griffin then proceeded inside the room, and literally as soon as I began to enter, shots rang out.

Suddenly, as I turned my eyes towards the room, I saw Griffin going down. His body sort of collapsed onto the floor, and a horrible feeling of anxiety and fear creeped into my stomach as I realized Griffin had been shot. I quickly walked into the room, turning to my left and saw a fighter huddled in a corner with an AK-47 in his hand, wearing a white head garb. I could only see his eyes, and as soon as he looked at me, trying to accurately point his rifle, I simultaneously fired a large burst into his face, killing him instantly. The impact moved the garb off the top of his head, it now filling up with blood and turning into a thick red within a matter of thirty seconds. I could see from about ten feet where I shot him that the whole top of his head was riddled with thick holes, blood spewing out of the holes onto his face and garb.

It was a grim scene, but I still had to worry about Griffin.

"Holy shit, man down! Man down!" I shouted through the door. Seconds later, more shots rang out from the other rooms, and it was immediately silent again ten seconds later.

Griffin was on the floor, face down, as his boonie hat hung off his head. I flipped him over, and I assessed his wounds.

It was bad. Really bad. What made matters worse was that he didn't have a plate carrier.

He had gotten shot around five times. One round struck his abdomen, which I hopefully thought didn't touch his spine. Another round entered from the side and into his chest. Two other rounds entered the side of his left leg, where his trousers were now getting drenched with blood. A final round entered the top of his left shoulder.

He was heaving and he was struggling to breath.

"Aww shit, you're a hard motherfucker, man. You're going to get through this trust me!" I said, trying to be encouraging. I clenched his hand.

"Damn, brother." He said, quivering. "I never thought..... It'd happen like this. Hey....." He began to choke up blood, as I pulled out my knife and slit through his combat shirt to see the bad chest wound.

"What brother, what is it??? Stay in the game man, stay in the game!" I said urgently, tapping his face. He looked at me, and he didn't even look alive. In fact I don't even know how we was still alive.

I lifted his chest rig off of him, and I ripped open his shirt. Around the bottom of his left nipple, was a thick hole, probably half the size of my palm, where the round had struck his chest. Blood gurgled out in bubbles, and began to leak out of the hole all over his chest.

"Fuck man, it's bad!" I cried out. I took my hand and tried to put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding, and my Overlord gloves began to get soaked with blood. I took out the last bandage I had in my backpack and dressed the wound, trying to put pressure, but I knew it wouldn't do much.

"Aww man," Griffin said, in fear. "Jesus..... It hurts so much. Lance..... I want you to know brother. I love you okay? You're one hell of a new guy...... The best I've ever known. I see, I... I.. I see something in you." He said, still heaving and quivering.

"Love you too brother. Just stay in the game, stay in it!" I cried out again.

A couple of seconds later, Brady and Hamilton bursted into the room with the horror on their faces being something I'll never forget.

"Holy shit, oh my god. Lance what the fuck happened?!" Brady screamed out.

Hamilton scooted over to me and asked me how bad was it. I looked at him and shook my head.

"He's done man." I said. I was fighting it back, I really felt like crying and my eyes were glistening with tears. However, it just couldn't come out. Hamilton then looked back and sighed.

"You're going to be in a better place brother..." I said, sighing.

Griffin was now heaving uncontrollably, and Brady came over, and held him with me. His neck was sweating considerably, and his body felt limp as I held him. It already felt like the life was out of him. We were both starting to get drenched with Griff's blood from his wounds.

"Tell..... My wife.... I love her.... And the kids. Give this to her." Griffin slowly put his hand into his pocket, pulling out a white envelope, presumably with a letter inside. The blood he was choking up was now all over his chin and neck, with the whole bottom half of his torso soaked. The shoulder wound also bled, slowly and rhythmically.

"I didn't think... It-it-it'd happen this time..... But make sure... To-to get this to her...." He said, heaving wildly. His eyes began to roll in the back of his head, and we pulled him closer in our arms.

"Just take it easy Griff, we love you brother. We'll make sure to get it to her." Brady said, slowly taking the envelope from his limp hand. Bloody fingerprints were all over the piece of paper.

Hamilton looked at us, with a face of pure sadness. He then got up, and moved to the end of the room, where he found the hostage. Matt was tied to the side of a large bed, handcuffed and severely injured. Griffin's heaving only lasted for a little more time, before it was over, and he didn't have to suffer anymore. Brady looked at me, and looked like he had lost his own brother. That's how we all felt at this moment, that we'd lost our own blood brother. Brady continued to hold him, even after he stopped breathing, and I walked over to Hamilton.

"Shit man, we need to get him out of here." Hamilton told me.

"Roger, I'll cut the cuffs loose with my bolt cutters. Get the rest of the guys in here." I told him.

I cut the cuffs loose, and I looked at Matt. He looked like he'd been through hell. His whole face was mashed up, with his lips swollen, and with blood all over his face. His right leg was also broken, and he'd also been shot a couple of times in the arms. He was non-ambulatory, meaning he couldn't walk on his own, and we needed to get him on a stretcher. Sooner or later, the rest of the guys arrived in the room.

"Fuck man, I can't believe he's gone." Styles said.

"Me neither, it was too quick....." Spencer was petrified.

Prig took control. "Guys we need to get outta' here. Stay in the game, stay focused. That's what Griff would always want us to do anyway." He sighed. "I can't believe it either..... Jesus..... But we have a hostage to extract and we need to stick together. Always look after the guy to your left and right, and never lose focus. Let's get the fuck out!" He said.

I asked Matt a couple of questions in order to verify if it was indeed him, such as his mother's first name and the Special Forces Group he served in. It took a little while since he could barely speak, but sooner or later, we put him on the stretcher, and we were ready to extract.

We put Griffin in a body bag. Jesus, the sound of the body bag zipping was horrible. Not that it made things any better, but the bag was in case Matt had gotten killed already, which was bad in itself; No one thought it was going to be Griff, that was going to pay the ultimate sacrifice. No no no, not Griff! Not fucking Jonathan Griffin!! Numerous commendation medals, five Bronze Stars, two with Valor, and a Silver Star in the Battle of Ramadi; Two sons and a loving wife in Cincinatti. Not the guy who always kept us together. Not the guy who loved us just as much as his own family. Not the guy who mentored me through DEVGRU. Not that guy.

God no one thought it'd end like this.

All we could do was move. It was around 0600 hours and sunrise would be around in half an hour or so. The sky was a powder blue, with the sun continuing to rise in the horizon. Alpha Team had cleared the other house, and now they were with us. Kaz asked what happened and Brady told him.

"Griffin's gone man....." He said, shaking his head.

Kaz almost broke down. They'd known each other longer than I had been in the Navy. They'd become team leaders in the same squadron. They'd both given their all for their country. But Griffin paid the ultimate sacrifice.

There was a moment of silence for around thirty seconds or so. I was exhausted. I was tired, just tired of everything. I just wanted to get the hostage out alive. I wanted to keep Matt alive. Matt was a fighter, maybe even more of a fighter I'd ever be, but I had to keep him alive. We had to keep him alive. We started moving out again.

Marc radioed us to regroup with him and Garcia, and we waited some more time in the jungle. After around a minute or so of waiting, we could hear the sound of vehicles moving into the compound.

"Oh shit!!" A guy from Alpha Team muttered.

There was screaming, the sounds of people in anger. From the trees I could see Al-Shabaab fighters losing their shit because they'd lost some of their own in the assault. Suddenly, I heard another scream and bullets began to kick up the dirt where we were waiting.

"Let's fucking go!" Kaz shouted.

"We need to get the fuck out of here!" Spencer screamed.

It was bad. We began to run for our lives through the jungle. I was holding Matt on the stretcher with Hamilton, and my back and shoulders were fucking killing me. Two other guys from Alpha Team held Griffin's body bag as we ran and tried to traverse through the thick vegetation. Spencer, Brady, and Styles were returning fire towards the advancing Al-Shabaab fighters trying to get to us. Other guys from Alpha Team did the same, as Prig and Kaz led the way.

"Reaper One, Reaper One! This is Alpha One, over! Alpha and Bravo are proceeding to a secondary extract by another side of the river, we're under heavy fire! Get the fuck out of there!" Kaz said on his radio, screaming to Senior Chief Marc.

We ran and ran, with some guys tripping over branches and vegetation. Spencer picked Styles back up as he continuously tripped, and we kept moving. Matt began to moan as he rocked on the stretcher during our running, and I told him to stay conscious.

"Stay awake my man. We'll get you out of here, I promise. You're one of our army brothers. We'll keep you safe, you heard?" I said, trying to be encouraging.

"Roger.... Thanks." He said, moaning.

Some guys got wounded by stray bullets from the fighters. Styles took one to the arm, like that op in Afghanistan; And another grazed his ear. His boonie hat was gone, and his face was muddy, with blood behind his ear & shoulder as he tried to return fire, running for his life. Spencer took a round to the calf, and Brady got hit by a little shrapnel from an RPG that landed around him. Other guys from Alpha Team decided to stay in the rear, since they didn't have any wounded, and the guys on my team were injured to shits.

"Bro, don't let him fall!" Hamilton shouted to me, as we traversed rocks and rough terrain.

"Copy!" I said.

We finally caught up with Marc and Garcia, who had removed their ghillie suits and were trying to keep up with the pace. I saw the look on Marc's face when he saw the body bag.

"Hey, what happened!?" He shouted at me, as we ran.

"Griffin's gone, Senior Chief...." I said.

"Wow," Were the only words he could find. He turned his face away and didn't say much after that.

The fighters had long ditched their vehicles and were proceeding on foot towards us. A dirt road that was on the far right flank of us had a technical; A civilian vehicle with mounted weapons such as machine guns and AA (anti-aircraft) guns, driving at a quick speed to catch up with us. However, thick trees and vegetation blocked their view of us, so we had a little more time before they knew our position.

"Fuck, when we lose our cover from the trees and vegetation; Brady, I want you to shoot the fuck out of that technical, understood?!" Senior Chief Marc shouted.

"Roger!" Brady said. His boonie hat was gone also, and he was struggling to run due to the shrapnel on his legs. Spencer still held him up, even though he'd gotten shot in the leg himself, as we continued to retreat from the fighters.

As we reached toward the end of the jungle, which was going to enter the Jubba River, our cover of trees and vegetation was gone.

"Get that fucking thing!" Kaz screamed.

The technical saw our position and the fighter on the mounted machine gun began to turn so he could fire at us. It was too late however. Brady had already pulled out his M72 LAW. It was the 66 millimeter, portable one-shot, anti-tank rocket launcher he had. It was light, only about five and a half pounds, and even though it was much older than the standard issue AT4, it could still get the job done and it was way lighter.

Like we always say, light is right.

He shot the round, about thirty meters from the technical, and on impact, the vehicle exploded into a massive fireball. The vehicle was on fire, and it began burning considerably, as smoke billowed into the air. We started to smile a little, before the fighters still chasing us began to shooting again.

"Let's go let's go!" Marc screamed.

We reached the end of the jungle, which now laid the huge Jubba River. Marc got on the radio and alerted the SWCC guys, who were thankfully right around the secondary extract. I turned back towards the jungle and began popping rounds out of my M79. It sounded like a bottle of champagne being opened, as I shot round after round towards the approximate twenty fighters sixty meters away. I know I caught at least two of them who were trying to set up a PKM machine gun, who then flew into the air like rag dolls, as their positions and trees around them were destroyed in the blast.

After about a minute or so of shooting back at the fighters and keeping cover, the large MK.5 boat arrived with the SWCC guys, stopping in the river in front of our positions.

"Guys we're gonna have to swim, keep Matt and Griff afloat!" Marc said.

We slowly moved into the brown water of the river. My whole body began to get soaked in the surprisingly warm water, as Hamilton and I tried to keep the stretcher with Matt above our heads. I was so exhausted, and I used literally the rest of my upper body strength trying to keep Matt afloat. Alpha Team guys did the same with Griffin's body, as water began to splash onto the bag. The remaining fighters caught up with us, and they were about fifteen meters behind us, when the SWCC guys opened up with massive firepower from the Gatling guns. I could hear the rounds literally cutting their bodies in half, and after around twenty seconds, all ten of the remaining fighters lay desecrated behind us.

Three SWCC guys then jumped out of the huge boat, and began to assistance us with getting everyone onto the boat. They still had their helmets, face paint, and headsets on but that didn't matter. I stepped onto the boat, and I took a seat. The rest of the guys finally got in, and did the same. After around five minutes, we were out and moving again.

It was 0630 hours. Sunrise had began. The drive was silent. No one said anything. I held Matt in my arms, wiping blood off of his face. Prig bandaged his left leg and his arms from bullet wounds. I looked up at Spencer, whose hair was wet and his calf had finally gotten bandaged. His face was full of mud, grit, and washed off face paint, and the only thing that could tell him apart was his piercing blue eyes, that looked out into the river.

"We really made it through....." I said, quietly. Other guys were next to me, fully asleep and exhausted from the long mission we had completed.

Spencer didn't say anything. Neither did Brady who was next to him, blood still dripping from the shrapnel wounds on his leg, seemingly ignoring it. Styles was also silent, ear being bandaged. Hamilton was next to me on my right, also looking into the distance. His face paint was still mostly on, and his dirty blonde hair was now dark with mud and grit. He didn't say anything either.

That's how the rest of the ride went. Silence. We finally reached the ocean, and linked up with Charlie Team and the Gray Squadron guys. They'd known what had happened, and there was nothing to be said. Nothing. They looked at us with sadness and faces of tragedy. But there was nothing to do or say. Absolutely nothing.

I looked into the horizon, which had the sun beaming through the light blue sky, shining towards the large ocean. I was covered in mud and grit, and my whole body was drenched with water. I could barely feel my shoulders, and I felt like the life was sucked out of me. Sooner or later, as the speed of the boat began to calm down, I fell asleep, peacefully and quietly.

We had gotten the job done, but Griffin was gone. Gone forever.

Chapter Seven - Dealing with stress.Edit

0900 Hours (9:00 AM)

September 25, 2012

FOB Goldberg, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

It was all over the news. It was everywhere. We couldn't keep it away from us.

"U.S. special operations forces launch daring, successful hostage rescue mission in Somalia; Results in one killed."

"SEAL Team Six commits raid in Somalia rescuing former-Green Beret, and resulting in one killed on Thursday."

"Family and friends remember highly decorated Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer killed in Thursday's raid in Somalia."

Everything happened too fast. It was hard to comprehend all at once. It was strange seeing Griffin's face all over the news in his service uniform. It was awful. It was horrible. We never thought this day would come, and the media attention didn't help anything for our sake, or his family's sake. There was even a Wikipedia page made for him. It was all chaotic.

There was of course controversy over nothing, and why a SEAL had to be killed, and blah blah blah, this and that. It was mostly from lousy politicians who didn't have a single clue about what happened on the ground, and from our own civilians back in the 'States, arguing on the New York Times website about U.S. foreign policy and shit that really didn't matter. It was all about Griffin and that the ultimate sacrifice that he paid. That was it.

All of us on both assault teams received Bronze Stars with a V for valor. This is was my third Bronze Star with valor, with my first two during my first deployment to Fallujah and my second deployment with SEAL Team Four, making it my fourth Bronze Star overall. Spencer, Brady, and Styles all received Purple Hearts; Their second, fifth, and fourth respectively. Their wounds weren't anything too major, and they were up and ready within a couple of days. It surprised me that Brady got his fifth Purple Heart, I never had any clue he'd been wounded so much.

The awards still didn't matter. Griffin was still gone, and that would never change. Ever.

His funeral was held on the 17th. There were about fifty people there. It was awful, so awful. We were all in our service dress uniforms, with me, Brady, Spencer, Styles, Prig, and Hamilton carrying his casket. His family was there, and I saw his fifteen year old son Jonathan Jr. and his ten year old son Christian. His wife was also there, named Olivia. She was pretty: Short with long blonde hair, and crystal blue eyes. However this time, her face was full of stress and grief. Tears streamed down her face and you could see the overwhelming dark circles under her eyes, indicating the stress and anxiety she'd been through due to his multiple deployments over the years.

Styles gave her the folded flag which was part of the ceremony, and we all put our SEAL tridents on his casket, which was constant SEAL tradition whenever one of our brothers had fallen. The shots of the rifles were haunting. I kept shaking whenever one went off, and it so was awful.

There was a lot of grief at the funeral, and it eventually ended. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. I had a chance to talk to his fifteen year old son afterwards.

"Hey bro," I walked all over to him and put my hand on his shoulder.

"Hey." He said. His face was still red and his eyes were still glistening from the tears that had been shed from his face.

"Your father loved you very much." I said, "He always mentioned you during our deployments and how you were taller than him."

We chuckled together, as I tried to lift his spirits up a little. The look on his face was too much, and tears began streaming from my face.

"Bro, I want you to know your father was a good man. He did everything he could to keep us together. In fact, he was like a father to us. When times got hard and things got stressful, he was always there. He was always there for us, the same way he was probably there for you when you needed him." I said, as tears streamed from my face.

"Thank you. I appreciate that so much." He answered, and he began crying again.

"He'd always say that he wanted you to live a life bigger than yourself, the same way he did. To look after the people who mean dearly to you, and to live with a great sense of purpose. It's something I'll never forget, and it's something I'll like to tell you from him to you." I said, quivering.

"He has a place dearly in our hearts and he'll never be forgotten, okay? Never. He was such a great man and I'm so proud you had a father like him." I began sobbing, and then Junior hugged me. He actually hugged me. We cried together for a little while, and I said goodbye to him afterwards.

Brady gave me the letter he took from Griff, probably a death note, and I gave it to Olivia. She cried and held me tight, as I gave it to her, and thanked us for all of the sacrifices we made on a daily basis. Then the funeral was really over. Down and done.

The command gave us five days of leave afterwards. Just to decompress what the heck we'd experience. I said goodbye to the guys, and I went back to New York. I saw a couple of friends I'd known since high school the first couple of days, and we had fun in the city [Manhattan].

Typical 'fun' in the city, was drinks, parties, and prostitutes. Or maybe just hooking up, it didn't matter. It was me, and my two friends Brian and Joseph. Brian was this white dude from Staten Island who looked like he belonged in an American Pie movie. I'd known him for around eleven years now, and he always managed to be the same, happy go-lucky guy I've always knew. Unlike me, who went to the military, he went to college and got a degree in business. He works for a business firm around Wall Street and lives in a condo somewhere near the East Village.

Joseph on the other hand, I'd known for fifteen years. We were good friends throughout middle school and high school, and we smoked a shit ton of weed back in the day. We both lived in Brooklyn, and had similar childhoods. He was a tall dark-skinned dude, the lady's man sort of type, and he owned a restaurant in Brooklyn that he had been working in for seven years.

We were in this bar in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, having drinks and talking about old times. It was the second day of leave.

"So Lance, how you doing bro?" Brian asked.

"I'm good, just got off deployment. How about y'all?" I said, sipping my bottle of Budweiser.

"I'm okay," Joseph said. "Trying to settle down you feel me? I'm tired of being a slut." We laughed, and Brian slapped him a five.

"Yes to that bro. This bitch I fucked a couple of days ago, man she was crazy." Brian said, which signaled he was going to tell one of his hilarious stories that were sometimes completely false. We still laughed and decided to listen.

"So I'm at her house right? We'd just met at some bar in Staten and she'd taken me to her crib. Things get hot really quickly, and I mean, really FUCKING quickly!" He said and we giggled.

"Sooner or later, I'm eating her out, and things are going great. After that, I ask her to return the favor, and she happily complied which surprised the shit out of me." Brian said, grinning. Girls in New York were keen to have their vaginas licked out but not to suck the soul of us. Or at least, that was the stereotype we made.

"So she's going down on me, and it's really nice. She starts going down the shaft and starts licking my sack and I'm here thinking, 'Holy shit, she's a fucking freak!'" Brian said and we giggled some more.

Just before he could finish the story, someone walked into the bar. And it was Crystal. Fucking Crystal. The girl I'd almost married, but who made me the problem. Out-fucking-standing.

Long story short, Brian's story ended up with him getting his ass eaten by that girl and him running out of her house, and I started to conversate with Crystal again. Sooner or later, I'm back in Brooklyn a couple of hours afterwards, and we're having sex in my bed room. It's really funny how things work.

Things quickly turned upside down when Crystal had found another pair of pink underwear somewhere in my room the next morning, from a girl I'd slept with months before. This particular female somehow left her stink-ass underwear in my room and because of my constant deployments, it'd slip my mind that the underwear was even there.

I pleaded with her to stay with me but nothing worked.

"This is why you're the fucking problem!" She shouted, crying. "Even if I try to put up with your life and the shit you do for a living, you always manage to fuck it up! ALWAYS!" Crystal looked like Jordan Sparks, except with a bigger butt, much darker skin, and had long curly hair. She was pretty, but also smart as well. Crystal was West Indian, and her parents were Guyanese immigrants. She worked as a nurse in a hospital in Brooklyn, and lived in the suburbs of Williamsburg.

It was sad to see her upset, but there was nothing I could do. She quickly took her things and stormed out of my house at 8 AM in the morning.

The rest of my leave went on mostly quiet. On my last day however, I received a surprising Skype call from my parents. I didn't expect it at all.

"Hey son, how you doing?" My father said. He was in the living room watching television on this particular night, and in the background I could see my mother making dinner.

"I'm doing okay pop, how are you?" I said. I was so glad to be hearing from them. I hadn't Skyped him since the second day of my deployment.

My father then started to talk about work, and how he'd just had a barbecue with Jerry, whilw they had a good time with the whole family. He also mentioned cousin Jonathan, who ironically had the same first name as Griffin, got deployed to Afghanistan two weeks ago. He's working in Kandahar with Delta Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion apparently.

My mother got in the Skype call and she began talking.

"We miss you." She said, smiling.

"I know mom, I miss y'all too." I said. I felt a rush of emotion building up in me.

"How's work?" She simply asked, and tears began streaming down my face. She saw me crying and asked what's wrong.

"It's nothing ma..... It's just things have been tough lately....." I said, trying to keep my composure.

"Lance we love you. Whenever you need us we're here. Whenever you can reach us, we're here. I know things can get hard and you can't say much about work, but whenever you need someone to talk to when you have time, come to us. We love you very much. We don't want you under so much stress, we want you okay." She said. The conversation went on for another ten minutes and we had a couple of laughs, and that was it. I said goodbye to them, and I went to sleep that night.

I simply lost my composure. Griffin's death was really hard on us. Hard on everyone in the squadron. And thinking about how much I missed my parents, I couldn't handle it and that's why I began crying. I was never afraid to express emotion, never. Combat and being in the command could get really difficult, but you had to stay resilient. You had to stay in the game as I always said. Or else, you'd lose it. You'd lose your sanity. And I wasn't going to let that happen.

The very next day I was in uniform on a plane back to Virginia Beach. I saw the guys and it was back to work. Hours later, I was on another plane back to Afghanistan. Simple as that. In less than twenty four hours, I was back in the field. It was really crazy how that worked, but we had jobs to do. It was our duty and we fully accepted it. We got back into Afghanistan yesterday, the 24th, and now it was the 25th.

Most of the guys were still sleeping as we had traditional vampire hours, meaning operations during the night and rest during the day. But I couldn't sleep. Griffin was still fresh on my mind. I put on my flip flops, and I walked into a makeshift shower around the hooch. I brushed my teeth, and cleaned myself. The water was warm, not too cold and not too hot, and I washed up. I then walked into the hooch to get dressed, and afterwards, I walked into the operations center.

As expected everyone was sleeping, except Kaz, who was pouring himself a cup of coffee. He was wearing a Nike dri-fit shirt and cargo shorts, with flip flops.

I looked at him and he looked stressed. His beard had began to grow back, and it was very uneven and scruffy. His eyes were also red, and dark rings were under them too. The command took a toll on everyone; It didn't discriminate.

He saw me and asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. I said yes and he poured me a cup. We walked over to the couch towards the front of the hooch and he turned on the television. The predator drone feed was gone as no operations were going on, and he turned the TV to the American Forces Network. We watched CNN for a little and started to talk.

"Hey man, you been sleeping?" I asked, sipping on my cup.

"Not really. How about you?" He said.

"Not at all. I haven't felt the same since the last op." I answered. Things went silent for a couple of minutes. Then the CNN analysts mentioned our raid in Somalia and Kaz closed the TV.

"I'm going back to sleep bro. Take care." He patted me on the shoulder and walked to his bed.

That was literally the biggest convo I had about combat stress. Guys had this sort of gung-ho, tough guy mentality that if you were feeling stressed and uneasy, that you were being weak. We never talked about it directly. Sure, we had a lot of operations that went wrong and made us upset, but we never directly mentioned anything like lack of sleep, anxiety, or PTSD, which was post-traumatic stress disorder.

After that, I went to the mess hall. I ate somewhat, and tried to keep my mind together. Tried to think positively. It was the only way I was going to get through anything. I ate and then went back outside, and stood around my hooch. The morning sunrise beamed on my face as I looked into the distance. The sounds of helicopters echoed through the air, and a couple other guys were walking around the base.

I went back inside the hooch, and laid down on my bed. I thought about Crystal, and how much I missed her, and how much I should've made things right with her.

Crystal and I met after my first deployment with the SEALs in 2009. I had just gotten back home, and I was on thirty day leave. The first couple of days, I had been fucking my next door neighbor Carina who I mentioned before that had the best blowjobs.

She was this Italian woman with red hair and green eyes, and probably put more cigarettes in her mouth than dicks in her mouth. She was kind of old, she was thirty seven and was a single mom with a thirteen year old son she kept home often. She was very beautiful though. I don't know how, but she was gorgeous. She looked like she belonged in a Playboy magazine. I remember bringing her over to my house, and literally having sex with her for hours at a time. It was stressful.

Carina had issues however. She was twice divorced and suffered from anxiety and depression. Sex seemed to be a gateway from her issues, and she seemed infatuated with me. I let go of her quickly; She seemed to be getting too infatuated and I didn't want to lead her on and seem like an asshole, when really; I only wanted to have sex with her. I still say hi to her whenever I'm in the neighborhood. Her son is getting old.

About a week into my leave when I was done with Carina, I was in Downtown Brooklyn at a Starbucks around Atlantic Avenue. I was ordering a coffee when Crystal first caught my eye.

In the general sense, she wasn't anything special. She had a lot of acne, which I'd suffered with considerably as a teen, and was kind of tall. She was twenty one years old in med school, didn't dress incredibly special, and she didn't look like a supermodel. But something about her caught my eye. I don't know, but she just made me feel some type of way. It was weird feeling. I wouldn't say love at first sight exists, but it truly felt that way.

I was nothing amazing either. I had a large head, a shitty buzzcut I'd received after my deployment, and my acne hadn't completely gone away. I also wasn't in perfect physical shape; My abs weren't defined, and I still look the same until this day. I'm nothing special, I'm a decent looking person and I still somehow attract a lot of females, so that's all I cared about.

Anyways, Crystal was alone on her phone, talking to someone, probably one of her female friends or something. I was on the line waiting for the coffee and I couldn't stop looking back at her. It was so weird. Then she caught me staring at her, and smiled. I was surprised, I thought she'd felt creeped out already. She had a nice smile though, a great smile. Her teeth were nice and straight, and her smile was filled with happiness. Her long curly hair went all the way past her shoulders, and her eyes were beautiful to look at.

I took my coffee and took a seat in the shop. I kept looking at her, and kept turning away when she looked back. I'd never felt nervous with females, but she sure as hell made me feel that way. After about a couple minutes or so of awkward eyeballing and looking away, she finally walked over to me, and sat in front of me.

"You okay?" She asked smiling. God, she looked even more beautiful to me now.

"Yeah haha. You just make me feel a way, that's all." I said.

She giggled. "What kind of way?"

"I don't know but you made me feel happy as soon as I laid eyes on you." I said, and her face began to blush.

We then introduced ourselves, and the rest is history. We exchanged numbers and began seeing each other heavily during my leave. We got really close and attached to each other quickly, and after about a week, we already had sex. We had great times together, seeing football games and going out on dates on the reg. It was all wonderful, and I was truly happy during that period. Truly happy.

We vowed to keep communication after I went back to the teams, and we did. We continued this for awhile, with us mailing letters and Skyping each other, until I came home and we got to see each other again. Things began to fall apart after I came home from my second deployment in January 2011. I had seen a lot of shit with the Marines, and I was having a hard time dealing with it, and communicating with her.

She was already tired of the constant away time and constant deployments, and I began being distant and keeping to myself, which didn't help anything. After a while, she sort of just gave up and I did, and by the time my leave ended, she was out of my house and gone.

It sucked, it really sucked. After that, I figured fuck it; I had lost the woman I cared about and I didn't really have anyone else, so I decided I'd do whatever it took to screen for Green Team and pass selection which I did. And here I am now, in Afghanistan lying in my bed, thinking about how shit went wrong so fast and how shit turned out this way.

I'd say "in love" are strong words. You can have love for anyone you care about, but being in love with someone is totally different. You accept and want every part of who and what they are. Their imperfections, their past, their mistakes, their good qualities, their talents, their passions; You just love and accept every part of it. And that's exactly how I felt for Crystal. I also wanted so much, to get that back.

After some time, the thinking slipped my mind. I let everything go, and I fell asleep in the hooch, quietly.

Part TwoEdit

Chapter Eight - The RangersEdit

2400 Hours (12:00 AM) - 0130 Hours (1:30 AM)

October 2, 2012

Daman District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

We were on a decent op. This time with two squads from a U.S. Army Ranger rifle platoon. This was going to be interesting.

The past week or so had been pretty damn good. We'd captured multiple Taliban bomb makers and facilitators through multiple raids all over the province. We'd also captured tens of weapons and explosives, and had eliminated around thirty fighters in just one week, with zero casualties of our own. Things were going good and we were finally getting the big break we needed.

For tonight's op, ISR drones had tracked a cluster of fighters moving through irrigated fields in a village deep in the Daman District. As they moved from field to field, the fighters eventually got into a bed-down location three hundred meters from the village. Bed down locations were usually places where fighters would catch rest in after a day's worth of patrols or whatever they did. They were huddled in a large wheat field towards the far right of the village, that was blocked by mud and brick walls all around it, providing them cover for the night.

We'd first simply thought of just bombing the fuck out of the field, but we didn't want to risk collateral damage to the nearby village.

We decided to launch a raid to the target. We were in a Chinook helicopter with our whole troop, and the two Ranger squads. Around forty five total personnel were in the helicopter, with Marc, two EOD techs, and a dog handler with Bruno complementing the troop and Ranger squads.

Marc had gotten promoted to Master Chief, the highest enlisted rank and held even more responsibility than he had before. It was well deserved though, as he was a fantastic troop chief. We also got a new team leader, a guy who's just recently finished Green Team instructing named Luke Lynsey.

He's a thirty seven year old Senior Chief from Idaho, and has been in the Navy for seventeen years. He seems pretty decent, and I'm already starting to get used to him. He looks a lot like John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with a beard and a buzzcut.

What was also very interesting about this mission was I met Jonathan. My fucking cousin! My own cousin was going on an op with me!

He was a squad leader of one of the two squads, in the 3rd Platoon of their Delta Company, and had arrived to our base a day before. It really felt crazy to see him, we were ecstatic as soon as we saw each other a couple of hours ago.

"Holy fucking shit, look who it is!" I said.

"You bet your ass!" He said, and we hugged tightly. It was great to see him again. Me and Jonathan had always been pretty close, and we'd play football together as children. Now look at us serving as highly trained special operations troops in basically the fucking middle of nowhere. It was crazy where life brought you to.

Jonathan or Jono as I called him, was a couple inches shorter than me, he was around five foot ten and was a little browner than me as well. He had a big bright smile, with a clean medium Caesar haircut, and sort of looked like the singer Miguel, albeit stockier. Jonathan was twenty seven years old, and had been married for four years to a Puerto Rican girl, and also had a child with her.

"How you doing bro? I thought your dumbass had gotten forced out of the Green Berets!" I said and we laughed. It was actually true though. Jonathan had gotten forced out of the 5th Special Forces Group after an eventful deployment to Iraq in 2007. He played a prank on his ODA commander, with his best friend (who sadly got killed soon after), lacing his coffee with vodka, driving his commander wild through meetings with tribal leaders.

It was really some childish shit, and Jonathan now regrets it, even though he still felt the commander had deserved some sort of punishment for putting the ODA in such overwhelming danger regularly. Jonathan received a forfeit of pay and almost a bad conduct discharge.

After that, he was transferred to the 173rd Airborne Brigade and went on a major and very eventful deployment to Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. It lasted a whole year, and many of the guys in his platoon were killed and wounded, particularly during the notable Battle of Wanat in July 2008. Jonathan received a Silver Star for his actions during the battle, and eventually after a re-enlistment and a couple more years, the Army allowed him to try out for RASP, which was the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.

He graduated in June 2010, and went on a six month deployment to Afghanistan from October 2010 to April 2011. He was now on his second deployment with the Ranger Regiment, and the fourth overall deployment of his career, as a Staff Sergeant leading a squad of Rangers in Kandahar.

"Nah man, you know how the shit goes. They let me try out RASP after awhile and now here I am, back in fucking Afghanistan with you motherfuckers!" He said and we laughed some more.

For the operation, I carried my fourteen-inch HK416, and my P226, essentially my basic loadout. I also wore all AOR 1 with a LBT 6094. This was as basic as a loadout or kit I carried, and suited the mission well enough. We didn't need anything else, we just used our stripped-down loadouts with only essentials.

Everyone else also wore all AOR 1, and that was that. The Rangers on the other hand, carried very similar weapons and gear compared us, with slight but significant differences here and there. They had dual tubed PVS-15 and PVS-23 night vision goggles, and had much tighter restrictions as to how they carried their loadouts. There was none of the mismatching gear or "light is right" ethos we had, and most of the way they operated was up to their commanders.

After all, even though they were a special operations force, at the heart; They were light infantrymen.

They used literally three different versions of the M4 (M4 Block II, M4 Block I, and the MK18 Mod 1) which were basically the same weapon, but with different length rails and barrels. They also carried SCARs, which I was very familiar with back in SEAL Team Four, that some of the higher enlisted men like Jonathan carried, and had standard issue regular army, Beretta M9 pistols. Their automatic riflemen carried the same MK.46s that our machine gunners like Spencer carried, and that was pretty dope.

Their clothes and gear was pretty good too. They didn't have as much of it compared to us, but they almost exclusively wore Crye Precision AC combat shirts and pants in Multicam. Although they mostly had older MICH 2000s with Multicam covers, there were guys here and there with Ops Core Maritime helmets. Their body armor was decent, with a standard issue Eagle MBAV (Modular Body Armor Vest) in khaki, decorated with a bunch of Multicam pouches.

Back to the mission, we landed about five kilometers from the target, and patrolled the whole distance through to the area. On the far left side of the enemy's location, sat a long dirt road that led all the way to the nearby village, and could cut through into the huge field. On the far right side, there was an irrigated field with moist soil that led to the huge field that the fighters had placed themselves, blocked off by large mud walls and fortifications.

The drones noted that there were IEDs, improvised explosive devices, that the fighters had placed on both sides around the field. This meant we had to watch our asses, and take every step with an extra bit of care.

The two Ranger squads took the long dirt road leading up to the village, and our dog handler and EOD techs went with them as well since we figured that that whole road would have the blunt of the planted mines. Our troop with Master Chief Marc took the irrigated land to the large field, and we would both assault from both sides as soon as we reached the large field, hitting the fighters from multiple flanks and catching them off guard.

Essentially, it was a triangle shaped assault. The fighters laid at the top (or vertex), which was the middle of the huge field. Meanwhile, we were at the bottom of the opposite left and right angles, trying to reach the top of the triangle. It would be the Rangers and EOD techs traversing up the left (the dirt road), with the rest of us moving up the right (irrigated field).

I really fucking hoped no one stepped on an IED. If one of the Rangers got hit, it would force us to turn all the way around and run through a large poppy field all the way back to the long dirt road. Everyone needed to stay in the game, and to keep their heads together.

"Stay sharp, man. Watch every step." I had told Jono before his teams took the long road.

"Got you bro, of course. And you too, be careful." He told me, as I gave him a five, and went on with our patrolling.

At this moment, it was 2430 hours, half an hour after midnight. We were about half way through the irrigated field that led back to the road, and we were moving smooth and decisively. The illumination was pretty good this night, and I could see up to three hundred meters in front of me with my night vision goggles. The climate was perfect, it was about sixty degrees Fahrenheit, and the air was moderately humid. Not too hot, not too cold. Just the way I liked it.

Our assault teams patrolled in three line formations, with us on the left flank and Charlie Team on the right flank. I was point man again, and Luke was behind me, followed by Brady, Master Chief Marc, Prig, Styles, Hamilton and Spencer. Alpha Team took the center, and I could see Kaz leading his team through the darkness.

After about five more minutes of patrolling, we were almost at the end of the irrigated field, which led to the first pair of walls that blocked us from the larger field the fighters were resting in. As we continued on, a large "BOOM!" echoed through the air, and the whole ground shook. I looked behind the patrol and saw no one had gotten hit, and after a couple of seconds, I realized the Rangers had stepped on an IED.

It was bad, and from there on, shit went out south quickly.

"Bravo and Alpha, stay here, stay here!" Marc shouted out to us. "Charlie Team and I will traverse all the way back to the road, stay sharp and be careful in case a fuckin' ambush starts!"

"Shit man, what the fuck is going on?!" Brady said.

"Fuck, we need to stay together!" Kaz screamed on the troop net.

Shit. It meant we were the only ones in the the field, and there were IEDs fucking everywhere. I was nervous. I was actually fucking nervous.

Marc took Charlie Team and smoothly traversed back down the irrigated field, being careful of staying in the right path and not stepping on any bombs. We stayed and Luke told me to push on. Alpha Team began to do the same, but literally as soon as we started to move however, we started taking heavy fire from fighters huddled near the walls a hundred meters in front of us.

I threw my myself backward onto the soft soil, and laid in a supine position with my head against the dirt as the fighters shot barrages of automatic fire towards us. Through my night vision goggles I could see tracers flying all over the place.

"Stay down, stay the fuck down!" Luke yelled on the troop net to our team and Alpha.

"Spence, set the '46, set the '46!" Hamilton shouted to Spencer, telling him to get his machine gun going. Kaz got one of his own machine gunners into position, who had a MK.48 today.

After some seconds of straight enemy fire smacking the dirt in front of us, we started returning fire. I rolled over and got into a prone position and started shooting my HK416. Spencer lay prone, shooting his MK.46 in a bipod position in a large, continuous burst towards the fighters, as we began to advance and move smoothly through the field under his covering fire. The gunner on Alpha did the exact same, providing cover for Kaz and his team, as they moved slowly through the center of the field as well.

"Watch your step fellas." Kaz said on the troop net, reminding us that there could be IEDs anywhere. I saw Brady popping grenades out of his M79 towards the walls, and Styles crawling through the dirt, popping rounds in and out of crawling. He looked calm, really calm. Both of our teams moved in rhythm, being slow and causcious, while firing rounds out of our weapons. The Alpha Team gunner with the MK.48 reloaded, as assaulters on his team covered him with their own fire towards the fighters.

The rest of my team moved forward in front of me a bit and after about five minutes or so of ongoing gunfire, the fighters had finally stopped firing. We stayed prone and Luke asked for a sit rep.

"I'm up!" We all said. Alpha Team had calmed their fire too, and Kaz was asking his team for sit reps.

Marc alerted us to hold our positions while he would be back with the Rangers in a couple of minutes. We weren't excited. Both of our teams were on open ground, and the fighters could start another firefight whenever they pleased, pinning us down.

"Shit, we're out in the open." Hamilton grunted.

"Exactly." Prig added on.

"I know, but we can't risk the IEDs and the possibility of the fighters firing again. If we start moving up and they start shooting, we'll be right in the cross fire and we'll sure as hell sustain casualties." Luke said.

"We're okay, no casualties sustained. Gotta keep our eyes moving." Kaz said, on the troop net.

We waited silently in our prone positions. Spencer tapped me, the large stock of his machine gun on his shoulder as he aimed towards the walls. He passed me a Snickers bar and grinned.

"You're not you when you're HUNGRY!" He said the Snickers slogan, and we giggled our asses off.

"Tough luck for a fuckin' chocolate bar, I see." I said. Styles and Brady saw what we were laughing about and they snickered (no pun intended) in the darkness.

We waited for what seemed like a whole hour, which was really five minutes, as Charlie Team arrived with the rest of the Rangers and support personnel. I checked to see if Jono was okay, and thankfully, he was.

"Two guys got hit in my squad," He said, pointing to two stretchers his other squad mates were holding. Two Rangers had gotten some of their limbs blown off and it was gruesome. One guy lost both of his legs, and another guy got his arm blown off. Jono's squad mates were encouraging their wounded comrades, and I smiled.

"Yeah, we were patrolling through the first section of the road," The other Ranger squad leader named Watson said. He had a thick neck and a thick chest, and had an undercut with a side part that looked a lot like Kaz's haircut. His helmet was off and in the moonlight shining on his face, he looked tired as shit. He was built like a football player and I could picture him playing linebacker for the New York Giants.

"The dog was barking like a motherfucker, so two guys in Jono's squad got distracted by it, and didn't follow the path. They ended up getting hit by a well placed fifty pound explosive. Shit was crazy, man." Watson said, putting back on his MICH 2000 and headset.

"Yeah, we were lucky you guys came quick to help or we would've been in deep shit." A young looking kid from their squad added. I swear this dude looked no older than nineteen.

"Your guys are going to make it," Marc chimed in. "Do you all honestly think we can still get those fighters?" By this point, no one wanted to risk anyone else's life over getting a bunch of low-level insurgents trying to score some kills on our guys on this particular night.

It wasn't the worth the IEDs, the guys who had already been wounded, and the rest of the fighters who were hiding behind mud walls in the huge wheat field. We all calmly said no, and it was decided we would call in some CAS (close air support). Two large, A-10 Thunderbolt attack jets would drop two 500-pound AGM-65 missiles onto the field the fighters were hiding and resting in, after about ten minutes or so.

In the meantime, we'd stay alert and establish a perimeter in the field we were in. Marc got the EOD techs, plus Bruno the dog and his handler, to disable any remaining IEDs in the area. Spencer, a gunner from Charlie Team, the gunner from Alpha, and an automatic rifleman from Watson's squad, would be providing them cover from two ditches around the perimeter.

Meanwhile, the rest of us would all relax and wait for the CAS.

I spotted Jono laying against a tree, and I took off my helmet, and sat near him. The moonlight shined gently onto his face. His NVGs were flipped up on his Ops Core and he looked with his normal vision. He had his SCAR-H cradled in his lap, and was looking into the distance.

"Reminds me of a shitty day at the park in Queens." He said. He pulled out some Skittles candy and offered me some, which I took. I had already long eaten my Snickers bar.

"How's it going with Monica?" I said, mentioning his wife.

"It's okay. My kid is getting old and she's about to start daycare which I'm really happy about." He smiled. I loved his daughter. Her name was Melissa and she was four years old. She was one of my favorite nieces (even if Jono was technically my second cousin) and she was so nice and cute.

Melissa meant a lot to Jono, because he'd name her after his late mother who had passed away when he was a child. It was important to him to be just as good as his father was when he was a child, and to treat his kid the same way.

"That's good bro. Shit is really crazy, who would've ever fuckin' thought we would see each other like this!?" I said and we chuckled.

"Right, man. I remember seeing you on leave when you were back SEAL Team Four during family reunions and shit, and we used to play beer pong together. Good times."

"Yeah bro." I said, "Remember the first time you got high and you were scared as shit?" We giggled in the darkness.

"Right I was like fifteen in the middle of my Sophomore year, and you were a senior turning seventeen in December. Motherfucker really took the R train all the way to Queens just to spark me up a couple of blunts in the middle of November. Shit, man I can't believe that was twelve fuckin' years ago!" We laughed some more. It was crazy how fast time went by.

"Yeah bro. I remember when we used to play football all the time, when I'd come over to your crib and shit. I remember when we used to listen to Eminem and Tupac together. Also remember when you got drunk as fuck at a party I brought you to when you were a Freshman, and I drew two dicks on your face."

We giggled some more. We were reflecting memories in one of the most precarious situations, at a mushy dirt field in war-torn Afghanistan at one o'clock in the morning. Not as regular soldiers, but as special operators serving together and trying to make it out alive. Oh, the irony of life.

"Shit, I remember when we heard that album, Hybrid Theory, by Linkin Park. We thought it was corny as shit that we found a rock band that was great cause everyone in the hood loved hip hop and R&B, and shit like that." Jonathan said, smiling. "Funny cause we still listen to shit like that until this day!" He said grinning.

"Yeah, but what I'll always remember is 9/11 bro. That whole day and what I was doing. I was in the middle of basic training with the Marines and we heard about it coming back from a shit ton of PT. Motherfuckers had just gotten chewed out by the Gunny', and then we find out that shit. Which made the whole day a nightmare." Things went a little silent for a little and Jono chimed in.

"Damn. I was on my way to school that day, and I was late as shit. I got to Manhattan off of the train at around 9 AM when the first tower had been strucked minutes before. People were going crazy and were calling their friends and family, and I heard there had been a big tragedy; A plane had struck one of the towers. I thought it just was an accident, but after about five minutes, I heard another plane struck the other tower and then I had no doubt in my mind we were being attacked."

"I got to school, and there were announcements all over the speaker about the attacks and all of the hallways were clear. It was like that for about another month or so. Silence. No one wanted to talk. No one wanted to deal with it. It was horrible, man. I'd never seen the city so lost of it's heart and soul, never. It motivated me man, really did. One of the big reasons I joined the army and the Special Forces."

Things went silent for a little while again until I speaked up.

"I feel you Jonathan. It's crazy how much sacrifices we've made since then. It's crazy, because no one in the real world would understand the shit we've been through and the shit we still do. But you know, I live with it. I mean, we all live with it. At the end of the day, you realize it's your job as a special operator. It's your duty and that's the only thing keeping you going." I said, and he finally nodded.

Sooner or later we found out that the CAS was coming, so packed up and moved. We all ran back towards the end of the field that led to the dirt road, trying to get as far away as possible from the impact of the bombs. I got into a ditch with Brady and Styles as we waited for the bombs to hit the target.

"Shit is going to be insane, you two better hold on to your asses!" Styles said, with a face of excitement and we giggled.

"Everyone stand by for CAS!" Marc said on the radio, which I heard through my headset. A JTAC (joint-terminal attack controller) from Alpha Team had called in the positions of the fighters a couple of minutes ago to the fast-moving planes.

About thirty seconds after I heard Marc's message on the radio, I heard the sounds of planes flying overhead. Seconds later, I poked my head out of the ditch and saw the bombs hitting the wall around the huge wheat field together. They exploded on impact into a fireball, going up into the sky in large, billowing clouds. The bright explosion completely lit up my field of view on my NVGs, sort of like a flashbang explosion, before slowly calming down after ten seconds.

I could feel the shock wave impacting the terrain, even in the ditch. It felt astounding, and the three of us started to cheer in the ditch.

"Fucking A man, fucking A!" Brady said, smiling and giving us fives.

We crawled out of the ditch, and regrouped. The Rangers were cheering as well and slapping each other fives. Marc and Charlie Team walked over with the other support personnel, and told the rest of us that the drone feeds from above had confirmed every fighter was dead. It was good news, and it meant we didn't have to go all the way towards the field they were in to eliminate the rest of them.

We waited for exfil. I got to Jono again and we sparked up a conversation. He was with one of the two wounded guys, with a medic and the young guy from his squad looking over him.

"He's going to be fine right?" I asked the medic.

"Yeah, he just loss a lot of blood quickly but he's been stabilized." The medic was a Specialist and sort of looked like a current day Zac Efron. His MK18 was beside him, as he fixed the bandages on the leg stumps of the wounded guy. Prig who was also with us, assisted him.

"Shit I can't believe it." The wounded Ranger actually started talking. He seemed uncomfortable as shit in the stretcher, and the medic loosened the strap so he could turn his head and talk to us.

"Believe what?" Jono asked, "Can't believe your legs are fucking gone?" We all giggled.

"Yeah bro," He shook his head. "Everything is different now. Everything." We were quiet for a little after that.

"Not really, you're still the same guy. Maybe with no legs," Jonathan said, chuckling, trying to keep the spirits up. "But you're the same, bro. You're the same father of your kid, the same guy who rescued three pinned down guys last deployment, the same guy with a perfect PT score, and most importantly, you're still one of our brothers. Nothing else matters bro. That's something no one could take away from you."

"Great fuckin' words." Prig said.

And Jono basically sealed the deal. We all smiled, and the wounded Ranger sighed in relief, knowing he was fully accepted as the same person to his fellow squad mates. Sooner or later, the Chinook arrived at around 0120 hours to extract us. A Blackhawk helicopter also arrived as a MEDEVAC (medical evacuation) for the wounded Rangers and we were out of the area by 0130 hours.

I looked at Jono on the helicopter ride back to base, and smiled at him.

"Love you bro, we did okay today." I said.

"Copy that and love you too bro." He said, smiling as well. We dapped each other up, and the rest of the ride was at peace.

Chapter Nine - Quick ActionEdit

0300 Hours - 0420 Hours (3:00 AM - 4:20 AM)

October 7, 2012

Kandahar City, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

Another five days have passed, and the Rangers were on their last operation with us, before they went back to a remote fire base near the Arghandab Valley. They had been valuable to the missions during the week, and had been with us to assist in finding leads to Zawahiri, the high level Taliban commander.

It was sad to see them go, especially Jonathan, and I'd miss the shit out of him. This week was one of the rare times I actually got to see him because work and our deployments were always in the way, but we had jobs to do and I accepted it. We made sure to make the most out of the last operation we were having with each other.

The constant pace of operations never ended. It was target after target, raid after raid, everyday. We've already done at least forty combat missions in only two months or so. Everything is continuous. That's exactly why we called it the 'speeding train.'

For this morning, we were on a mission to capture Zawahiri's right hand man, Mahud Mohammed, another senior Taliban leader who had led numerous anti-coalition attacks for years in the Helmand Province, before disappearing sometime in 2010, around the same time as Zawahiri, and possibly with him as well. The capturing of Mahud had been a cold case, before our intelligence analysts earlier last month figured out he had gotten a fake identity and had changed his name to Abu Mabad, and was living literally right in Kandahar City with his family of four.

We had four Black Squadron operatives operating out of Kandahar Airport driving in Toyota trucks through out the city in late September. They were doing covert surveillance and recon on Mahud's home with binoculars and cameras, and also planted listening devices around his home during the night as well. Their photos were confirmed to be Mahud, and their listening devices had shown that Mahud had told one of his cousin's that he was going to leave Kandahar City in a couple of weeks, in fear of being under suspicion and investigation by the Afghan National Police. It meant around this point of time currently, it was now or never, and we had to get him.

If we were able to pull this off and actually capture him, he would be extremely vital to providing the possible whereabouts of Zawahiri, and if Zawahiri was still conducting operations in the Kandahar Province.

We'd left the base at around 3 AM in the morning, 0300 hours. The plan was for us to assault the house in two Blackhawk helicopters, with my team fast-roping onto the roof of the house and and assaulting downward. Jonathan's squad of Rangers would fast-rope in front of the house, and assault into the structure. We'd breach the roof door, and clear downward. The Rangers would then do the same after about thirty seconds, breaching the front door and clearing up into the building, creating a diversion.

After that, we'd probably be together clearing rooms and then sneak into Mahud's room, quickly and decisively capturing him. Everything was rapid and simple, but that was only on paper. Anything could happen on the mission, anything.

That's the thing about the SEALs; We're always lucky.

We had a saying that it was better to be lucky than good. Basically meaning straight skill and discipline could only get you so far. It wasn't going effect the possibility of getting shot down, or not getting ambushed. Sometimes it was better to be lucky and to be proud of your good fortune that got you out of sticky situations.

Kit for this mission was generally light. We were going to be extremely rapid and we weren't planning on any engagements, so we didn't armor down as much. I had my fourteen inch '416, and my HK45C attached to my belt. I only wore a tan, moisture-wicking Under Armour tactical t-shirt with my 6094 plate carrier, this time in coyote brown. The shirt had a backwards American flag patch on the right sleeve, and a Blue Squadron logo patch, which was a pirate skull and bones, on the left sleeve. I threw on my snakeskin Ops Core and for this particular mission, I decided to wear the old-school Crye DCU combat pants.

Yes, in honor of Griffin. No doubt. These pants had been through so much, and I felt like it was my duty to wear them one more time in his honor. They were tight, and much of the fabric had been wrinkled and worn out over time, but they were wearable. That was all that mattered. I just wanted to do it in memory of him.

Other guys carried mostly MP7s, and my team was saturated with guys kitted in all AOR 1. I was the only exception, making me stick out somewhat. They didn't care of course. They cared about Griffin just as much as me, that was what mattered. We all cared and loved him as our leader and as our brother, and we'd forever remember the ultimate sacrifice he paid. That's what we cared about.

It was 0315 now, meaning we were on the choppers on our way to the target. The helicopter was crowded and I felt cramped as fuck. I looked out through the open door at the deserted streets and dark horizon through the green hue of my night vision goggles. It was a little chilly, around sixty degrees, as the air was dry; There wasn't any humidity and it was quite windy. I cursed myself in my head for not putting on one of my full-sleeved combat shirts, as I sat next to Luke who was on my right.

His night vision goggles were flipped, and he was looking out of the chopper at the city we were passing through below. His face was completely straight, and he had the eyes of someone who wanted to win. He looked like an athlete before a championship game.

The fading trees and cityscape reminded me about Iraq, literally eight years before. It looked like a night raid in Fallujah. Except Fallujah's buildings and areas weren't so nice, and were mostly completely destroyed during my time there.

Only fourteen guys were on the op. Marc, Pete, and the rest of the troop was at base watching everything occur on a drone feed. Jonathan's squad was undermanned because of the two guys who'd gotten hit by the IED a week before, making them a team of seven Rangers. His squad had to go on the operation however, as the other squad had already conducted an op with us the day before and It was Jono's time up.

He didn't mind at all. As long as he got to do an op with me for the last time, he was happy about that, and so was I.

To my left was Brady, reading an instruction manual about maintaining the helicopter, and on his left was Styles resting his head against the side of the helicopter. The two door gunners, who were also the crew chiefs, scanned through the cityscape. They looked bad ass, wearing large flight helmets with night vision goggles and skull-printed face shields.

"Five minutes!" One of them said to us.

We were about to land. It was a quick ride, about twenty minutes or so as we were about thirty miles south of Kandahar City, almost at the border of the Daman District. Behind me were the rest of the guys in the team, also riding in the chopper with the door open. Anderson was our pilot for this mission and I was glad to see him. He was calm and flew the helicopter with ease.

"Shits going to be fun," He had said before the chopper ride. "First mission I've had with you guys in three days, I'm really excited for it."

It was really chilly. The wind was starting to pick up considerably and it didn't help anything. It was starting to get colder as well. Usually around this time of the year Kandahar was still pretty warm. The cold climate was to begin around mid-November, but the October nights were already starting to get cold as time went by. I didn't have my gloves on, either, and I rubbed my hands together, trying to get some circulation through my fingers.

I looked at my caramel skin, and the muscle in my thick forearms; Flexing my bicep, as I then looked at my rifle cradled in my arms. I shifted my eyes towards my legs, looking at the brown stretch panels above my knee pads, and the pocket on the top of each thigh. My legs hung out the door, wobbling as the helicopter continued to sore through the air.

"Two minutes!" The door gunner said. I turned my head to the left, peaking it out to the cockpit as the co-pilot cracked a joke to Anderson.

"This freakin' guy we're getting looks like the motherfucker from Slum Dog Millionaire, what the fuck." He said, and Anderson snickered. The co-pilot's name was O'Conner.

Luke flipped down his night vision goggles. He was ready for the target. Brady put down the instruction manual and also flipped down his NVGs. Guys began flipping the safeties off of their weapons and performing a last check on their gear as well. I also wasn't nervous about anything. I'd done missions like this numerous times, and it was nothing new.

I was hungry. I wanted scrambled eggs with turkey bacon and pancakes. Blueberry pancakes. I promised myself I'd get that when I went to the mess hall in a couple hours for breakfast. My mind started to shift to the thought of Crystal before I heard the door gunner speak again.

"One minute! Get ready!" He said. It was go time. I shifted my mind to the task at hand and how things were going to occur. As I gripped my rifle closer to my chest, Anderson began to radio the other chopper with the Rangers, call signed 'Dagger Two', that we were beginning to get into position above the roof of the target. Anderson put the chopper into hover mode, as it positioned aboved the roof of the three story, squat building.

The target we were hitting was in a poor, low-income neighborhood deep inside Kandahar City. The area was mostly paved roads and large clusters of squat buildings everywhere, with alleyways here and there. They were usually flushed out with garbage, and the area looked pretty desecrated with poverty. It was nothing compared to the rich and wealthy areas in the northern part of the city. As it was early morning, the area was also pretty much deserted, thankfully limiting our profile considerably. I looked at my watch and It was about 0320 hours.

Luke began setting up the fast rope bar, moving it into place and tugging at it to make sure it was stable. He leaned out and took a good look at the roof. After a little while, he leaned back in and gave a nod to the crew chief on the door gun.

"We're set, let's do it!" He said.

The helicopter hovered even closer to the roof and the guys behind me began to turn into the direction we were fast-roping. I could feel Prig's knees digging into my back, as he manuevered in the cramped up chopper, being directly behind me, facing my direction.

"Sorry bro," He whispered in my ear, as he tried to keep his knees off me the best he could. After about twenty more seconds or so, Luke finally threw down the rope out of the chopper and onto the roof.

"Go go GO!" The door gunner yelled and we were on our way. Luke went down first, followed by Brady, and Styles. I stayed behind, fitting on my fast rope gloves that were thick and heat resistant against the friction of sliding down the rope. Prig was impatient and after I fitted on my gloves, he shouted at me.

"Get your fuckin' ass out!" He said, nudging me with his knee. I quickly gripped the rope with my hands, and then feet, beginning to slide down the thick braided rope until I finally reached the roof. The rest of the guys began to slide down, and I saw the other chopper to the left of ours at a much lower position, with the Rangers fast roping onto the pavement below. After about fifteen seconds, everyone was on the roof and the chopper was gone.

The Rangers were also in front of the house, and the other chopper was gone with ours too. They needed to refuel, so they went to the Kandahar Airport meaning for now, we were on our own.

I took off my gloves and shoved them into one of my pouches, as they weren't practical for shooting. My hands were now exposed again, as I didn't have my assault gloves, so I rubbed them together to continue the circulation. I saw Hamilton give me a thumbs up through my night vision goggles, as we regrouped and did our final checks on gear.

After that, we began racing to the roof door. I was point man as usual, and this morning Spencer was going to breach the door with a thick battering ram. He'd ditch his machine gun for a MP7 and the battering ram during today's mission, as we needed to be quick and light. We quickly got to the door, as I moved to the side, and he got into position with the large tool. After ten seconds, Spencer swung it considerably, hitting the door with a large thud, as it swung open with a large amount of force.

Spencer put the ram back on his back, as Styles then gripped my shoulder. I began to advance through the door, into the building. I started down the stairs, as the rest of the guys began to follow me, moving steady and slowly. Luke whispered on the radio to the Rangers that we had moved through the roof door and it was time for them to assault. I turned my laser sight on, scanning corners as I reached the end of the stairs, moving into an anteroom. As I moved into the room, I heard a thud echo below as the Rangers began to breach the front door.

"Keep moving," Styles whispered to me, who was second in line.

The anteroom had paintings on the walls, and folded chairs on both sides of the walls, with a table to the right of the walkway that had cups of what smelled like Afghan chai. It looked sort of like a lounge or get together place that Mahud and his family probably often ventured in. At the end of it, lay a wooden door leading into the main room, or what I thought was the main room. I continued to move through the anteroom, passing by the chairs and the table, reaching near the end that led to another flight of stairs that went to the second floor.

I continued on, and got into position by the door leading into the room with the rest of the team. I gripped my rifle a little bit more, as Styles gripped my shoulder again, giving me the signal to move in. I tried the door, and it was unlocked. I then slowly and smoothly pushed the door open inward, with the barrel of my gun continuing to point into the room through the creak of the door, growing larger as the door continued to open. I eventually fully opened the door, and it was revealed to be a storage room. On it's far left, it opened up to two other storage rooms with wooden doors.

The room had everything you'd expect in a storage room; Extra tools, containers, cardboard boxes, and the place even had canned food. Everything was cramped up, and much of the canned goods had spilled all over the place creating a large mess. It made me wonder what was behind the two other doors, which we began to proceed in.

I veered off to the left, as Styles, Luke, and Brady followed me. The rest of the team also veered off to the left, but to the other wooden door leading into one of the rooms. As I reached the door, I heard shouting and thuds from the floors below.

"Fuckin' Rangers man," Styles muttered.

"Don't worry, they have it under control." Luke said.

I proceeded in, and again, the door was unlocked. I figured no one had been in the storage room for quite some time, as there was a mess everywhere and the two other doors we were entering were opened. However, literally as soon as I peeked through the opening of the door, I saw a line of AK-47s stacked next to each other. An entire line of at least ten rifles, just laying there looking like someone with OCD had organized them. It was pretty astonishing.

Things like chest rigs and hand grenades also paraded the corners of the room, as rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) stood up against walls all over the room as well. It was ridiculous how much firepower was here. The whole room could fully arm at least twenty fighters at a time, and it was crazy to look at. I wasn't even sure whether Mahud's family knew of this huge weapons cache.

"Holy fucking shit, jackpot." Brady said quietly, with a face of amazement.

"I can't believe it either," Styles answered.

The other guys also found more stuff in the other room, which was filled with bomb making materials such as pressure cookers, containers, wires, and plastic explosives everywhere. No one believed it, we did not expect such a huge find. No one even knew Mahud was bomb making too. It was always interesting to see how things could drastically unravel during each of our ops. There was always surprises, some good, some bad. But like I said, it's better to be lucky than good.

"Okay boys, we need to get downstairs and clear through with the Rangers. Time to go." Luke said. We regrouped, and then Prig was on the point this time, while I was now third in line. Luke radioed Jono, who said they were finished clearing the first floor and were now approaching the second floor just like us.

The Rangers had used plastic handcuffs to detain a group of men sleeping in one of the rooms on the bottom floor, most likely staying in the house as guests. It was more than likely these guys were probably working with Mahud, and he had allowed them to stay in his residence while he worked out plans to leave the province.

We began to move down the stairs silently, as we reached the second floor of the house. My hands were sweaty, most likely due to adrenaline, and I was losing tight grip of my rifle. I wiped my hands on my pant leg, and took a deep breathe. The major lack of humidity was hell, and breathing in the air was a little difficult.

Prig was on the point with Luke in front of me, Spencer behind me, followed by Brady, Hamilton, and Styles. We took each step with extreme carefulness, being mindful of not tripping on anything and keeping our steps as quiet as possible. I looked at my watch as I walked down the steps and It was 0340. Fuck, about twenty minutes had already passed. Shit had only felt like five minutes the whole time, but things had flown by quickly and we needed to get Mahud ASAP.

After about a whole minute of slowly traversing the long flight of stairs, we were on the second floor. We moved through the main walkway, before finally regrouping with the Rangers by one of the bathrooms.

"We found an entire weapons and bombs cache up there," Luke said to Jono. "They were probably planning on something big perhaps. Maybe to re-establish operations somewhere, I don't know."

"Fuck," Jono muttered, and he looked at me, thinking. "That's some crazy shit. What are we gonna do now?" Jono said, as he told one of his guys to pass him a bottle of water. Luke shrugged, as Jono began to continue talking.

"We still haven't gotten this dude. The whole first floor was filled with adult guys sleeping together, huddled in the guest room around the living room. We cuffed them and bagged them, and I don't got a doubt in my mind that they're working for him. I'm just trying to figure out if he could possibly be armed. We don't know if his crazy ass has weapons in his bedroom." Jonathan exclaimed.

"Well we're just going to have to find out. Let's move." Luke said. Jonathan looked at him confused for a second before he shook his head and agreed to it. We didn't have an option. Mahud could well know we were in the house, he probably did by now. He could've gotten enough time to set up a potential ambush, a suicide vest, or anything of that nature. But it was the fate we accepted. If we got killed or wounded, we accepted it. And that was a risk we were going to take.

"Stay safe bro!" Jonathan whispered to me, as we moved down the walkway. I nodded at him in return.

The end of the walkway lay the last flight of stairs leading to the first floor, with the guest room and living room. On the near left side of the walkway towards where we came from the third floor, lay a wooden door, leading into another room. On the far right side that was more towards the stairs leading to the first floor, lay another door. We continued to slowly move, being weary of not making any sort of noise on the tile floor. Prig led us to the first door on the left, as the Rangers veered off to the door at the far right side.

We had realized that Mahud and his family were surely in these rooms without a doubt. We stayed calm and stayed focused. Don't get too excited, cause things could change very quickly.

After about ten seconds or so, Luke said something on the troop net and the command net which could reach the Rangers.

"Nice and easy." He whispered, and it was go time. He gripped Prig's shoulder, and Prig began to push the door open inward, very slowly. Nervousness began to consume the pit of my stomach, but it was only because we were getting a HVT and I didn't know what the hell was going to happen next.

Prig fully opened the door, finally advancing in; As Luke, me, and the rest of the guys followed. Prig began to shout, and I could see Mahud's wife screaming in fear as she laid in her bedroom. An AK-47 lay against one of the mirrors to the far left, as Mahud suddenly arose from under his bed and began to dash for the weapon.

"Stop it, stop it right there!" Prig yelled in Pashto, and miraculously, Mahud stopped dead in his tracks. He was literally seconds away from Prig shooting him dead, and he changed his own destiny in a fucking split second decision. Prig moved his rifle around, and quickly ran to the woman, pinning her against the bed with his hands as she began to go wild and scream all over the place.

"Relax, calm down. Relax." He said this in both English and Pashto, and after a little while she finally regain control of herself.

Meanwhile, Luke and I quickly subdued Mahud, pinning him to the floor, and placing a bag over his head. Luke handcuffed him with plastic cuffs, and then Prig came back over to him, reading him his rights and how he was under U.S. custody now. The wife silently weeped, laying down on her bed, as the other guys tried to comfort her and cleared the rest of the room. After a little more time, Luke radioed the choppers.

"Dagger One, Dagger Two; This is Bravo One, over. Mission success and HVT has been seized."

I checked my watch and it was 0350 hours. We had successfully completed the mission in a little under thirty minutes, and I was glad. Really glad. Luke got Hamilton and Brady to lift up Mahud, and held him as we walked, while the Rangers were coming out of the other room. We saw them through the walkway, and from my night vision goggles, they were grinning.

"That's fucking A1!" One of the Rangers said, smiling.

"What happened in the other room?" Luke asked Jono.

"Nothing, it was his two children. His ten year old son and seven year old daughter sleeping in two beds. They were scared as shit expectedly, but everything's under control now." Jono said nodding.

"Alright, good job." Luke said, finally smiling.

He then popped a chemlight on the walkway, signifying we had cleared this floor. We rounded the kids and the wife up, and began to move out. The Rangers would take the kids, the wife, and Mahud, and move back down to the first floor placing them all in the guest room with the group of five men. Our team would go back up the third floor, and round up the weapons and explosives cache.

"Good fucking job, man." Hamilton said, and slapped me a five, as we started up the stairs back to the third floor.

We reached the third floor after a little while, and began consolidating the weapons together. We would have to call a Chinook, for Mahud and the other five men in the guest room since our Blackhawks wouldn't provide space for them. The Chinooks would also hold the large assortment of weapons and explosives we'd captured, that we would then turn over to the Afghan National Police later during the day, along with the captives.

After we rounded up the weapons, we went back up on the roof and began to wait for the choppers. It was about a half moon this night, and the wind began to blow considerably again. I had a large mesh sack filled with ammo and two AK-47s, which was at least twenty pounds, and I tried to keep my balance with the heavy sack. The Rangers were on the net, talking about how residents from other houses were coming out to see the commotion.

I raced with Styles to the edge of roof, and I looked down at the street below. Civilians were shouting, as another Ranger who could speak Pashto told them to calm down and that a security operation was under way. I could see Jono standing in front of the front door, just shaking his head with an annoyed look on his face, watching his teammates try to get the situation together. Styles and I laughed.

"Those sorry motherfuckers don't look too pleased with them screaming." He said.

"No shit," Was my answer.

We regrouped with the team and Luke asked us what was going on.

"Civilians heard the helicopters, came out and started shouting. Rangers trying to keep them back in." Styles answered.

"I don't know what we're gonna do with them," Luke said, talking about Mahud's family. "We've gotta let those Rangers know to make the residents keep them until the police arrives. We're running out of time."

"Right," Prig added on. "We have the cover of darkness for boutta' hour or so, before dawn begins." I looked at my watch and it was 0400 hours, 4 AM. He was right. We had already long lost our element of surprise and our profile was being raised by the shouting residents. We needed to get out and do it quickly.

The residents eventually got the deal, and the Rangers brought out Mahud's family to the other residents. On the net, I could hear Mahud and the men screaming and shouting as Mahud's family left, with the Rangers telling them to shut the fuck up constantly. Sooner or later, at around 0410 hours, the choppers finally arrived. The Chinook, which had Alpha Team inside, made a spectacular move, landing with only it's tail end on the roof and unloading it's ramp. The Rangers had reached the roof with us by this point, with Mahud and the five other captives.

Kaz and his team quickly took the captives from the Rangers as the Chinook, call signed Buffalo Three, hung onto the roof. The rotar wash was ridiculous, with dirt and grit flying all over the place, smacking into my night vision goggles.

"Fuck this sucks!" Spencer yelled.

"You guys need to extract now!" Luke shouted to Kaz and Alpha Team, as the captives went into the chopper and the team began to take the weapons we had consolidated. I handed Garcia, the sniper from last time, my large mesh sack as he raced back to the chopper, piling it with other sacks filled with weapons and explosives.

"SHIT!" Jono added.

After a little more time, Luke radioed the pilot that the rotor wash was intense, and that we didn't have a lot of time. He decided to forget about the Blackhawks and for everyone to extract in the Chinook, citing a need for time and our profile continuously being raised by the noise of helicopter.

"Hold your position, hold your position!" He shouted on the radio to Dagger One and Dagger Two. The Chinook was beginning to wobble as it hung off the edge of the roof, and we began sprinting towards it. Spencer tripped multiple times due to the large battering ram he carried and the large rotar wash. He cursed at himself, as I helped him up and he kept moving again.

We eventually reached the chopper, hopping and stumbling onto the ramp as fast as we could. One of the Rangers nearly fell out, as the chopper began to lift off and the ramp was beginning to close, with Jono and I quickly pulling him back him. He thanked us, and after we all got seated down, we were on our way back to base.

The captives were silent. Everyone was silent. I was just so glad we were finally extracting. It was a good mission, and everyone had done what they had to do. I sat down, and felt a burning sensation on my left arm. I didn't see any noticeable wound or anything, but then I turned it over, and saw a large scrape, literally five inches long and one inch wide. Much of the skin was gone, and it wasn't very deep, but it began to bleed. I figured it had happened as I stumbled into the chopper, scraping my arm hard against a sharp piece of the metal ramp. The Ranger medic who looked like Zac Efron happened to sit next to me, and he saw the wound.

"Damn bro, need any help? That looks pretty bad." He asked.

"Yeah." I said and he bandaged it up, putting alcohol on the wound. It burned horribly but it would keep it from getting infected. I looked at my watch and it was 0420 hours. I thought of Crystal again.

She loved football just as much as me. We always bonded over it, watching football games all of the time. Her favorite team was the Giants, which was well anyone from New York's favorite team, but we still had great times together. She also had a wide variety of music she liked, such as modern R&B stars like Rihanna and Beyoncé, to old school musicians from the 60s such as The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Doors, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones.

As I slowly licked my lips and the dry corners of my mouth, I could just taste the way she used to kiss me. I just could feel it, and I could just think it. Her soft, thick, pink lips and her bright smile was the only thing I could feel and think while in the chopper. Then the thought of me fucking things up, and not being there for her when she really needed me, and her always trying to comfort me when I came back home from deployments raced through my mind like a pack of NASCARs on a speedway.

I didn't wanna stay awake, I didn't wanna indulge on the thoughts any more. But I couldn't sleep. A lot of the guys used Ambien, a sedative pill, because our sleeping schedules were usually fucked up due to the vampire hours we operated in.

I took out a little bottle of Ambien, and got a bottle of water from one of the Rangers, as I drunk a couple of pills. A minute or so later, I began to doze off and then I was fast asleep, as the chopper continued to move through the dark sky, heading to our base.

Chapter Ten - ConsistencyEdit

1500 Hours (3:00 PM) - 1600 Hours (4:00 PM)

October 16, 2012

FOB Goldberg, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

We just came back from PT and the range. I was sweating profusely, with my chest rig and my AOR 1 Cryes' on. This last week has been slow, and we've been trying to keep up the pace with constant training on the range and kill house. Guys have also been constantly using the gym, and keeping their bodies into shape. The relatively slow pace of operations has limited the amount of vampire hours we got, so most of us were awake training at this point.

But like I said, everything is constant. It's the speeding train. If you're not operating, you're training. If you're not training, you're operating. If you're doing neither, then you're probably preparing for both. Consistency is key.

Mahud was taken by the CIA, which was a little surprising. The police ended up turning him over after a couple of days, and now he's in CIA custody. It's crazy cause he's probably getting tortured or interrogated on an aircraft carrier or something. Maybe he's even getting sent to Guantanamo Bay. I don't know. We just haven't gotten any word from the agency yet, so we don't necessarily know whether he's been talking or not.

We probably won't anyway.

The police kept the other five captives however. They're probably in a prison somewhere in Kabul, also suffering similar fates.

It wasn't our problem though. It was our job to do the dirty work and capture them, that was all. We didn't do the other side of the bargain. Interrogation and torture were things not under our control, and were ways you expected them to be treated anyway. After all, Mahud has committed mass atrocities in Helmand, with numerous suicide bombings and mass shootings being linked to him and Zawahiri's chain of fighters. I didn't know about the five other captives, but you could presume they were probably doing the exact same things.

I hoped Mahud's family was okay. I didn't think they chose that way of life, but their careless father had put them in such danger and such high-risk situations. I hope they'd be alright.

The Rangers left later that day when we had captured Mahud. I said goodbye to Jono, and I told him to keep his head together and always remember that was he was like a brother to me. We gave each other big hugs and promised we'd see each other sometime during our leaves. And that was it. We were back to our own respective works, and we still had jobs to do.

Another thing I should mention is the hostage we rescued back in Somalia, Matt Edgerton, has just been released from the hospital about a week ago. He left it with his wife who was by his side, and he received a standing ovation. What made me happy however, was that in an interview conducted right after he left the hospital, he said he would like to thank the brave and courageous men of the U.S. special operations forces who rescued him and gave him a second chance at life. He also thanked Griffin, for sacrificing his own life just to save his.

It really put a smile on my face. It was really emotional. You felt like you were really making a difference and saying lives, and it was a good feeling. Every dude on the teams felt that way. We all felt good. But at the end of the day, we knew it was just another day at work when we rescued him.

Like the Navy SEAL motto says, The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.

Now, I just finished using a shotgun on the range, as training today was mostly close quarters and presenting lethality, with Charlie Team using the kill house to do CQB. The shotgun was sometimes placed in my gear locker, because I rarely went out on ops with it, but I loved to use it during breaching in CQB training or just shooting it on the range.

It was a heavily modified Remington 870 MCS (Modular Combat Shotgun) like the one I mentioned before that Spence used. Our armorers gave it a ten-inch sawed off barrel, with the stock cut off and replaced by a high quality pistol grip. I had rails installed on the top and sides, so there was a mini-holographic sight on it, a laser sight, with the entire gun being spray painted AOR 1, including the pistol grip and the gun's attachments. It was totally beefed up, and held little to no resemblance with the original shotgun.

It kind of looked like a bigger version of my pirate gun.

DEVGRU armorers were the best in the business, no doubt. They took pride in providing us with such great weapons, which was nothing standard issue to the rest of the military. They could put whatever we wanted or almost any individual modification we wanted on our weapons, and it allowed us so much flexibility with the guns we used. No one's weapon looked exactly the same, everyone had their own preferences and the armorers loved to demonstrate that.

After all, the armory at Virginia Beach has a sign that says, "You dream. We build."

I went to the mess hall afterwards, trying to get a nice meal after my long period of training. Currently, they were serving lunch. Or, what were the remains of lunch.

The mess hall was old and rusty, filled with wrinkled pictures of the food groups that had been around for decades. The stench of the greasy food also surrounded you everywhere. The food was served in long stainless steel-buffets, like the ones you'd see in the 'States, and most of it didn't look good, as I expected. The cooks who provided us the food seemed bored and agitated, like they hated their jobs.

The french fries were thick and soggy, saturated with oil and fat. Grill cheese sandwiches dripped from grease, as the processed cheese melted in awkward angles. Clumpy mash potatoes splattered as they were scooped onto plates. It didn't matter though, I didn't care. I was hungry, and it provided the energy we needed to constantly train and do the missions we were assigned. I didn't expect restaurant quality food.

I took some fries, and some clumpy mash potatoes. There was a little table around the buffets that had extra seasonings and sauces, such as salt, pepper, gravy, mayonnaise, ketchup, etc. I poured the thick gravy and sprinkled pepper on my potatoes, and took two ketchup packets for my fries. I then went over to the grill, where another cook was cooking up steaks and hot dogs. He had an apron and a hat like the other cooks, but what caught my eye was the large number of tattoos on both of his arms. He was also tall and stocky, and had crystal blue eyes and blonde hair.

This dude looked like a heavyweight UFC fighter, I thought. What the fuck was he doing behind a grill cooking greasy slabs of meat for guys in the field? In fact, he looked like he should be IN the field himself.

I went over to the short line of guys, and waited before it was my turn to order. Lunch was mostly over, but the mess hall was still open for guys like us who were training before.

"Sirloin steak," I said, as I reached the cook. "Medium done please." He looked at me and nodded his head.

"Gotcha," He said. I was the last one on the line and everyone else was eating, so I decided to spark up some conversation.

"Bro, you ever thought about BUD/S? I mean you look like a heavyweight fighter to me, but..." I said with a grin, and he laughed.

"Yeah you're a SEAL right? Team Six too?" He asked, as he flipped my steak and a couple of hot dogs.

"Sure am, but I can't answer about that Team Six thing," I said smiling. "You just got the look, man. You shouldn't be behind a grill and shit, you look like you'd fit good in the teams. What's your name by the way?"

"Weiss." He answered.

"Nice to meet you Weiss, just call me Lance." I reached my hand out and he shook it, with a firm grip, a really firm grip.

"Shit motherfucker, that's a strong grip!" I said, and he laughed again. "But seriously, you should really consider it. It's hard, It's really hard, but it taught me a lot."

He flipped my steak one more time.

"See, I would," He said. "I love challenges. I've heard about BUD/S before. But the thing is, it wouldn't happen anyway. I've got a record, a whole felony."

"Drugs bro." He shook his head.

"Growing up in Cleveland wasn't easy. I kinda' went on the wrong track, and the military was the only thing that got me out. Because of the felony, being a cook is the only thing I can do."

"Damn bro, try to get a waiver," I said. "There was a SEAL guy named Adam Brown who suffered through drug addiction and crime, and was KIA two years ago. He was happy in the teams, and had a whole family before he passed. Him overcoming all of that is fuckin' resilient." I said, and we kind of went silent for a little.

"My point is, you have to keep yourself together. Be hopeful and never quit. Trust me, try your hardest and you'll eventually get a waiver. Make the most of it, okay?" I said and patted his shoulder.

"Thanks bro," He said, placing my steak on my plate. "I'll be sure to remember that. Seriously. Now, sit your ass somewhere and eat that slob of shit!" We laughed and I said goodbye to him.

Adam Brown was a Gold Squadron operator killed in action on deployment to Afghanistan two years ago. He was well liked by everyone, literally everyone, in the teams and he was extremely well respected. Griffin had told me all about him before the deployment, and how he'd died covering his team during an assault on a compound, and how he'd met Adam during training a couple of times. He also told me how he had overcomed all odds, fighting his drug addiction and criminal record, then joining the Navy and starting a family, serving for twelve years until his death in 2010.

His story was as resilient and courageous as you could get and it weighed on my mind sometimes. It also still weighed on my mind heavily, that him and Griffin's names were on the second deck. The second deck is a place at Virginia Beach where only DEVGRU operators work and are allowed, and the entrance is paraded with pictures and memories of our fallen brothers. Tens of names; Of guys we knew, had drinks with, laughed with, deployed with, trained with, and sacrificed so much with. It reminded you so much of the sacrifices team guys made everyday and of the luck you truly had.

I took my plate, and then walked back to the stainless steel buffets. I took another plate, and on top of the counters that held the buffets, were lines of cakes and pies. I took two slices of red-velvet cake, which was my favorite. The desserts were always good. You could never go bad with cake. I also took a pint-sized carton of orange juice.

I looked at the long rows of tables in the dining area. They were mostly empty, with team guys here and there murmuring about things and munching on food. I spotted Brady and Spencer sitting at a table in the far back by a couple of trash cans, and I walked over and took a seat next to them.

I told them hello and they returned the favor. They both looked at me and grinned sheepishly.

"Joke?" I asked, "Besides, why the fuck did you guys decide to sit in the worst seats here? I don't wanna smell garbage, and I can't even see the flatscreen from here."

There was a large, fifty inch TV attached to a corner of one of the walls, high up in the mess hall so we could watch television and have a little entertainment. The television was giving a well-known war movie called Full Metal Jacket. It was old school, and was made in the late 1980s. It was about a squad of Marines through boot camp and through the Battle of Hue City in the Vietnam War. I had watched it numerous times, and it was one of my favorite war films. It wasn't the most realistic war film out there, but it was very entertaining.

"Hey asshole," Brady said grinning, bringing back his popular shit talking. "Have you noticed you're still wearing your plate carrier and headset?" Spencer snickered while chewing on pieces of fruit.

I grinned and flipped him the bird.

"You were in such a rush for shitty chow you forgot to take it off? God-damn Lance, you're taking L's everywhere!" Spencer said and we laughed. We called losing or losses, "L's." Whenever you looked dumb in a situation, been proven wrong considerably, or have just actually loss in something, then you've taken an L.

"Yeah yeah, suck my dick pussies." I said, "Brady don't bring up the time we caught you jacking off in the hooch with a tub of Vaseline." Spencer burst out laughing, spitting the fruit out of his mouth, as Brady giggled and nodded, aware that my comeback was too good for him to go against. The funny part is, it was actually true.

"Alright alright, you got it bitch." Brady said, and we laughed some more. I finally took off my headset and armor, and laid it down on my side of table, as Spencer grinned at me.

"So how's the food?" Brady sarcastically asked.

"Eh, better than usual. I don't think I'm gonna be fucking shitting bricks in the porta potty this time." Spencer said, referring to his first day on base. I stuffed some fries in my mouth.

"Yeah it's okay, hope my steak is good." I said, as they began looking at my plate.

"Right, it looks good bro." Brady added.

"Food is okay, but I'm wondering when we'll be back in the shit again." Spencer said, changing the topic to our operations.

"I don't know bro." Brady answered, "Things have been slow but Master Chief has been keeping up the pace with this training. I checked the weight scale at the gym today, and I've already lost five pounds."

"Yeah man. I finished a whole box of 5.56 ammo for my rifle yesterday, just shooting and training." I added on.

"Exactly, we're training our asses off but things are getting slow again. I'm waiting for something good. This deployment ends in two and a half weeks, we need to get things heated up." Spencer signed. He had grown his beard out, and his hair. He had jew fro like Jonah Hill in Superbad, and a large, viking beard. A backwards San Diego Chargers cap laid on his head, where the curls snuck out the sides.

I laughed as he took a sip of his milk, dripping all over his beard.

Brady looked at me and saw what I was laughing at, and began laughing too.

"Joke guys?" Spencer asked, staring at us.

"Milk is dripping on your beard, you look like a New York crackhead. Have some damn respect for yourself." I responded, and we bursted out laughing. Spencer flipped us the bird, and shook his head.

"You assholes could eat the shit out of a hajji's ass. That's why my dick is big and I got the best shot on team, fuck outta here!" He said with excitement, and we laughed some more.

"I'll eat the shit out of a hajji's ass once they stop playing these damn 'Nam films we've seen countless times." Brady shook his head, staring at the television far away.

"Right I've seen that three times, it gets old. Like seriously, Joker and Gunnery Sergeant Hartman can eat a bag of dicks. We all know they're the reason Pyle killed himself." I said, and Spencer grinned.

"You guys heard about Zero Dark Thirty?" Spencer mentioned.

"Yeah," Brady said. "I know it's about the Bin Laden op, but I can't wait 'till those motherfuckers get everything so wrong, man."

"I don't know bro," Spencer said. "I saw a couple of trailers and the guys playing the SEALs were wearing AOR 1 Cryes and the night vision goggles we used. It was fascinating."

"Eh who cares," Brady answered. "Can't get the way we operate right."

"I honestly don't care too." I chimed in, "Just as long as most of it is accurate and they don't make us look like robots or some shit, I'll watch it." We settled on that.

We talked and laughed some more in the mess hall, but then sooner or later, we were back at the hooch. I scarfed down my food, and my stomach was full by the time I got back. I had also actually enjoyed the clumpy mash potatoes, and I didn't know when I was gonna eat again. Much of the guys were knocked out when we got back, but the three of us, plus Styles, were awake.

They started talking about irrelevant things, like who was gonna win the NBA championship during the upcoming season, or whether Jennifer Lopez had a better ass than the infamous Kim Kardashian.

I didn't care. I took out my cell phone, an iPhone 4S, and started bumping music. My iTunes playlists were mostly filled with hip hop artists, such as Eminem, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Tyler The Creator. Gangsta' rap artists such as Chief Keef and Lil' Durk from cities like Chicago also had places in my playlist. The rest was mostly a lot of alternative rock, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Keane, and Coldplay. All and all, I had spent at least $150 on just songs and albums itself.

Yes, I could just download apps to listen to music for free. But being constantly deployed and being all over the world, cell phone service and wireless internet wasn't always guaranteed. It was better to just put the music directly on my phone.

Coldplay was my favorite band. They were four dudes from the U.K. who had sold millions of albums, had won and been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards, and were one of the best bands in the world. I had been listening to them for about twelve years, since their debut album, and I had all of their albums on my phone, with multiple B-sides as well. Currently, I listened to the song 'A Rush of Blood to the Head' from their eponymous album with the same name, released in 2002.

I always liked the more melodic and emotional style of rock, so they fitted what I liked perfectly. I could listen to them over and over again, and never get tired of them.

I bumped, and the guys continued to talk about pointless things. I switched my song to 'Otherside' by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I wanted to eat more even if I was full, but I didn't feel like going back to the mess hall. Besides, it was probably off limits since we were the last ones in there anyways. My mind began to wonder as I finally took off my headphones, and I started to think about the first time I took another human life.

I remember the date. November 17, 2004 at around 0900 hours. I was a young Marine back then, only twenty years old, and I was ranked a Lance Corporal. We were doing door kicking and room clearing ops early in the morning, deep in the streets of Fallujah during the big offensive we'd launched to drive the insurgents out. My squad leader had split us into fireteams, and I was with my team of four guys, led by our team leader, Corporal Ross.

We were walking up a flight of stairs in a large apartment complex, going up to the third floor, after the rest of the squad had cleared the first two floors. I was point man, as I usually am now, and we reached an apartment. Most of the place was clear and deserted, but we were just making sure no insurgents were in any apartments or rooms secretly hiding to ambush us on sight. I reached the apartment, and yelled if anyone was inside. No one wasn't, so Ross made me kick the door in, and we all proceeded in. We peered off to different directions, and literally as soon as I reached one of the bedrooms, a hidden insurgent began sporadically firing his AK-47, under the cover of the bed he'd flipped over.

I was scared, fucking scared out of my mind, because he was literally ten feet away from me.

The rest of my team got to cover, and the only thing that protected me was the wall a couple of feet away from the bedroom door. I was scared shitless, and Ross kept screaming at me to fire back. After about thirty seconds of sporadic firing, there was finally silence. I realized the insurgent was going to pin us down and we needed to get the fuck out, and eliminate him quickly.

So I did some crazy shit. I don't even know what I was thinking, but I rushed him. I ran into the bedroom, popping off rounds from my M16 into the flipped mattress he was hiding behind, hearing him aching and moaning as the bullets went through the mattress. I just kept shooting and shooting. Even after he stopped moaning, I flipped the bed back down, and shot him at point blank range.

I lost my cool, I just went on a rampage. I wasn't even clearly thinking, the only thing on my mind was that I had to neutralize him in whatever way it took. That was all.

He was dead for sure, hell he was desecrated. I had shot his whole body all over the place. Bullets riddled his chest and legs, and the top part of his face was just blown away. It was horrific to look at, and a river of blood began to soak up my boots. Ross ran over to me and saw what I had done, looking at me with a huge face of awe.

"Holy shit, bro! Look at this motherfucker!" He said, smiling with surprise. "You finally popped your cherry, good work!"

We cleared the rest of the apartment, and Ross told the rest of my squad. Guys began to congratulate me on my first kill, and how I'd done such a good job, and this and that. One part of me felt happy, happy that I'd made my squad proud and I had gotten my first enemy, my first kill. The other part however, tried to fully make sense of what I had done. My morals and sanity kicked in. My mind raced in patterns all over for the rest of that day, thinking how I'd really taken another human life and how I'd really shot him to death. How this was an actual person, who could've had a family, friends, a life before the war, and much more.

It weighed on my mind heavily, until I realized that it was all about survival. I had killed him to keep my own self alive, and the rest of my squad alive. He was putting our lives in danger and I was going to stop that. That was how it always reasoned in my mind. Better him, than me. My life over his life. And after awhile, it started to wear off. It started to be routine. Going into a housing complex and killing a couple of insurgents, it just started to be routine. And the killing doesn't really worrying you anymore.

But until this day, I vowed to never lose my sanity. Never. I would always do what was right, and I'd only kill if I had to protect myself and my brothers around me. That was that. Anything else, it was just bullshit. I didn't join the military just to take any human life; Yes, without a doubt that's still a very difficult and horrible thing to do, taking another human life. But then you realized, your life, and your teammates lives depended on it. It was your job, and you had to do it to stay alive.

Back in the hooch, the guys started playing video games. They were playing Battlefield 3, a well known first-person shooter with very realistic graphics and fun mechanics. Styles played, while Brady and Spencer encouraged him and peppered him with insults whenever he fucked up during the gameplay. It was 0340 hours now. I went outside the hooch, wearing my tactical shades and my FDNY cap flipped backwards, drinking a bottle of Gatorade.

A Chinook helicopter began to land at one of the HLZ's (helicopter landing zone) in the base. A truck that cleaned the shit out of our porta-potties passed by. I could smell the chemicals it contained from far away as it went by. Support personnel walked around in kit, most likely back from the range. I took out a pack of cigarettes and had a light. I rarely ever smoked, but right now I just felt like I needed to. I don't know why.

I inhaled, taking in all of the toxic and thick smoke of the cigarette, then exhaling. I took another strong inhale, and I almost started coughing heavily. Fuck this shit, I thought. I don't even really smoke, fuck it.

I threw the cigarette on the ground, and took another sip of my Gatorade. Spencer came out of the hooch and saw me standing by the wall, looking like one of the dudes from Duck Dynasty with his thick beard.

"You okay bro?" He asked.

"Yeah sure, I'm just a little tired. Want to be back in the shit again." I answered.

"Righttt. Wanna come back inside? We can play 2K or Madden if you like." He said, trying to bring up my spirits and hopefully entertain me.

"Nah I'm fine bro, go enjoy yourself." I answered. For a second we were silent.

"Alright. You sure you're okay?" He asked again.

"Yeah don't worry about it!" I smiled, and he returned it, going back inside.

I was okay. There wasn't anything really wrong. But things were starting to become a drag again. I honestly just wanted the deployment to end already. I hated the pace. One minute we're in the shit, next minute we're at our hooches playing video games and doing nothing. And if we're doing none of that, we're training our asses off for operations that might not even come around. But at the end of the day, it was all for the right reasons; The training of course. You just sucked it up and kept going.

You can never slow down the speeding train, I thought.

As I stood by the hooch, my mind began to spin with different thoughts again. Whenever I'm bored, this usual course of indulging in thinking happens over and over again. I started thinking about my biggest fears in the SEALs and how I overcame them.

Let me start off by saying I'm not a big fan of heights, and my first HALO/HAHO jump was not that great. It also wasn't easy learning how to rock climb, and rappeling out of helicopters high up in the air. Swimming wasn't also so fun at first either. But my biggest fear, without a doubt, was IEDs. Improvised Explosive Devices that insurgents absolutely loved to use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I had seen what an IED could do to someone all the way back during my deployment to Iraq with the Marines. And as you know, I definitely saw what it could do to the Rangers on the op' couple of weeks ago. It wasn't irrational fear, but more of a straightforward fear that any person could possibly have.

The effects of an IED. That was the fear.

Losing limbs. Possibly getting disfigured from severe burns. Losing my SEAL career. It was all things that scared me to death, and I wouldn't know how I'd deal with it.

But after a while, once I realized that SEALs had a lot of luck and it was better to be lucky than good, it stopped weighing on my mind so much. And once better technologies started arriving to defeat IEDs, It just wasn't something I could worry about so much anymore. Yes they're still around considerably, but it's the risk I take; Hell not only me, but it's the risk the TEAM takes every time we go on operations.

So I push it away and only affect what I can affect. That's all you can do.

I continued to look at the rest of the base from my position in front of the hooch. I spotted a dog handler and his K-9 walking back to their hooch, in full kit back from the range. The dog handler looked at me and smiled, flashing me the middle finger. I happy smiled back and returned the favor. My mind flashed to Carina's blowjobs, and then I realized I should probably stop indulging on the thoughts by this point, walking back into the hooch.

The guys stopped playing video games, after Luke and Hamilton awoke and told them to shut the fuck up. Everyone was at their mini rooms now and I was tired. I was still hungry. I popped open an MRE from one of my backpacks, which were the shitty individual rations we were given to eat when we were in the field. I fixed up my food, and ate a really bad Sloppy Joe. I didn't care, it filled my stomach up and that was all that mattered. I also had some fruit which were pineapples, some trail mix, and the MRE came with a drink mix that tasted a lot like Gatorade. The dessert was some typical ass, strawberry Pop-Tarts.

I finished my food, and I popped a couple of Ambien, going into deep sleep at around 1600 hours.

Chapter Eleven - Uncertainty.Edit

1700 Hours (5:00 PM) - 2435 Hours (12:35 AM)

November 1, 2012

FOB Goldberg - Arghandab District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

Another two weeks have passed. The days just fly by like nothing. Our deployment ends in two days, and we still haven't captured Zawahiri or gotten any new leads to him. Guys were tired, and most of us had a careless attitude about a lot of things by this point. We just wanted the deployment to be done and over with.

Mahud had finally started talking, and he gave us a lead on a compound all the way up in the Ghorak District, just south of the Oruzgan Province. It was a decent sized op, and a team of Afghan National Army Special Forces (ANA SF) accompanied us as well. They were much better than the regular army, and they had been trained, equipped, and taught skills by our own Green Berets.

There was only one fear I had with the ANA guys. Over the last months, there had been a large spike of green-on-blue attacks by Afghan police and military forces against coalition troops. Green-on-blue attacks were basically the Afghan forces turning on us, and going rogue for their own reasons, attacking our forces and putting us in unnecessary danger.

Now guys were getting killed and wounded not even by the enemy itself, but by an 'allied' force we were trying to help, often disguised as the enemy. It was so stupid, and every time I thought of it, it made me question if our presence in Afghanistan was worth anything.

Like, how do you expect us to help if you're going to turn your back on us? If you truly don't want us here?

"You see any of these motherfuckers even look at you wrong or face their rifle towards you, light them up like a lightbulb." Marc had said before the mission, joking around. But we still understood his point. It meant we had to be extra careful, and to have heightened awareness around the ANA troops.

So, our troops raided the compound three days ago with the ANA SF, which was in a dense village. It was going okay until we were only to be confronted by angry villagers who had no idea who we were after. After a lot of screaming and hostility from the villagers, we finally aborted the op. It wasn't worth it. Not to mention one of the ANA SF guys fucking beat the shit out of a man in the village. The ANA guy was trying to force him out of his house, and things got really hot real quick.

The villagers complained to a local ANP commander about the raid and the guy who'd gotten beaten up. This person then told a high-ranking Army Ranger Lieutenant Colonel, who almost started an investigation. We almost got in real deep shit, because of some faulty intelligence from a fucking guy who refused to talk and to instead endure torture and ruthless interrogation from CIA officers. None of it was worth it, none of it.

The past two weeks have also picked up a little, but the pace was relatively still slow. All in all, our troop alone has conducted nearly sixty combat operations in just three months. Fucking three months! And the deployment still wasn't over either. Anything could happen in these last couple of days. I also grew out my beard, and my hair.

I looked crazy. I had a mini, curly Afro, and a thick beard that reached my Adam's apple. I rarely ever grew out my hair in such length unlike everyone else, but now I looked just as much as a cavemen or viking like the rest of the guys. We would probably have to shave after we returned from the deployment however, but that was fine with me.

What was also interesting was that we went on an op with the elite British Special Boat Service (SBS) a week ago. They were one of the UK's elite Tier 1 special operations forces, besides the famous SAS (Special Air Service), and specialized in maritime counter terrorism, just like us. They were essentially the UK's SEAL Team Six, the same way the SAS was basically the UK's Delta Force. In fact, Delta Force was created based off of the SAS and it's history. They were part of the British Navy and the majority of the guys in the SBS came from the British Royal Marines.

We did basically the same things, and they were fun guys to be around. They carried P226 pistols just like us, and had L119A1 carbines; Which was their designation for the C8 carbine (Canada's version of the M4). They also had L96 sniper rifles, 870 shotguns for breaching, and MP5 sub machine guns for CQB. Their designated marksmen even had the HK417s that we also used.

Their gear was also very similar; They wore Crye's AC combat shirt and pants (which they mismatched often like us), Crye Precision Airframe and Ops Core helmets (few of them had older MICH 2000/2001s), and various types of plate carriers and body armor.

They even did the body armor over t-shirt style that we loved to do as well.

The SBS guys' C Squadron were on a deployment to Afghanistan, and had a troop in the far west of the Panwayi District, near the border of the Helmand Province. They had finally found leads on a HVT they'd been after for months, and they decided to launch a night raid on his compound, with assistance from us.

The operation had their whole assault troop of sixteen operators going, plus my team and Charlie Team going as well, totalling at around thirty one assaulters for the mission. The compound was guarded by multiple Taliban fighters all around, and we would have to be quick and decisive to get the job done.

It went pretty well actually, and we ended up eliminating both the HVT and all of the fighters in a matter of ten minutes. And thankfully, with no casualties sustained of our own.

"Great fuckin' job!" Their troop leader had said, some guy we called Shanahan. He was old and ugly, and was like five foot five, with a thick English accent and great sense of humor. He was the kind of guy you felt comfortable with as soon as you met him.

"Since you've helped us out, you blokes want some fish n' chips and free pornography? No rubbish mate, we have the highest quality sluts for offering!" Shanahan had said to us after the mission, looking more ugly as he grinned. We all bursted out laughing, waiting for the Chinook in the middle of the night.

Now, fast forward to the present. At the moment, we were at our hooches. Most of us had just awoken from a long period of sleep, because we were on vampire hours again, and I had awoken an hour and a half ago. I was on my bed, listening to music, yet again. This time, bumping a couple of songs from Eminem, particularly The Real Slim Shady and The Way I Am, my personal favorite. I was bumping until one of the guys started to speak up.

"Fuck man, it's brick dick and hard nipples right now!" Styles said, and some of us snickered at his hilarious choice of words.

He was right though. It was the beginning of November, and it was starting to get really cold, especially during the evening. It was the start of sunset now and it was about forty degrees. The winter was incoming, with the temperature expected to decrease steadily in the next days and nights.

Thankfully, Kandahar has a very dry climate, so we don't expect much precipitation. Guys were already wearing their Arc'Teryx jackets and hooded sweaters in the hooch, trying to stay warm. I was wearing my crocodile brown, soft-shell combat jacket. I had nothing on my legs expect some briefs and field pants, laying on my bed.

"It won't get any better bro," Hamilton chimed in. "It's only gonna get colder. You're fucked either way."

Styles sighed, "I know but it just sucks right now. I'll suck it up though."

"I mean it isn't that bad," Luke said across the hooch. He was chewing gummy worms. "Back home in Idaho, we liked this time of year as it wasn't too cold. To me it was always way better than the shitty tornado season we suffered in the spring."

"It always sucked in Jersey. I only appreciated the winter when it snowed and I had no school, fuck the cold." Brady added, with some discontent.

"Cold or not, it didn't matter." Spencer chimed in himself, "In San Diego, I'd just go to the beach and go surfing any time of the year. There wasn't any cold, winter didn't and still doesn't existence in Cali."

"We know and we don't care." Brady said with a sarcastic grin, and Spencer shook his head at him.

"Wait aren't you a little too big to be surfing?" Styles asked Spencer, trying to be smart.

"Aren't you a little too small to be in the SEALs? I thought jacked up leprechauns weren't allowed?" Spencer snapped back, and we cracking up, along with Styles. The jokes were all part of the fun.

"ANYWAYS," Luke said. "I don't know about you guys but I'm fuckin' hungry, let's go get chow. The mess hall closes in thirty minutes."

"Sounds like a plan." Prig said. His guitar was beside him on his bed. He looked totally relaxed with himself.

"Those cheap motherfuckers better not fuckin' have roast beef and mash potatoes again, or I'm super kicking a cook. On some Shawn Michaels shit!" Brady said defiantly, and we laughed some more.

"I heard they have it again, good luck doing wrestling moves on a cook who probably spits in your food." Hamilton said, and then we laughed at Brady.

Eric Hamilton, his full name, was from a small town in Massachusetts (I don't remember the name). He was thirty one years old, and had been in the SEALs for eleven years. He earned his SEAL trident a little after 9/11, and has been on over ten total deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan since. He finished Green Team in early 2007, and he's a Chief Petty Officer. Like I said, Hamilton is a pretty cool guy, and he used to drive go-karts and dirt bikes as a kid, with original plans to become a race car driver before the military came his way.

He's average height and pretty average built. He looks ordinary and you'd never think this guy was apart of one of America's premier counter terrorism teams, having gotten a lot of bad guys in war torn countries. He's going to be a team leader eventually, and probably has a deployment or two left before he gets the bill.

Back in the hooch, Brady answered Hamilton.

"Fuck that I'll eat a salad. I don't know what SEAL eats a salad, but fuck it." Brady shrugged.

We went to the mess hall at around 1730 hours and as expected, one of the entrees was indeed roast beef and mash potatoes again. I skipped the entrees, and went to the snack bar. It was mostly junk food, but it'd provide the energy I needed. I took two cheeseburgers, and threw on lots of fries and got a nice can of Diet Pepsi. We all ate up quickly and I was pretty full by the time we got back to the hooch around 1800 hours. We talked some more and wasted some more time in the hooch before around 1830 hours, we went out on the range and some guys peered off to the gym.

Alpha Team had the kill house today, cause we'd use it yesterday. It sucked, but it was okay. The kill house was so fun because it simulated CQB so accurately. Made up of hallways, rooms, and corridors, the kill house was a purpose-built small building used as a realistic test for CQB. Many times we'd do PT right before going into the kill house to make ourselves tired, and to simulate the stress of a real mission.

It was so accurate because everything was a split-second decision, the same way there were split-second decisions in the way we assaulted compounds. It heightened your nerves and stress, and you had to always stay calm and alert, or else you'd fuck up and miss a call or a target.

The one on our base was nothing compared to the ones at our training sites back home, but it was still fun to have.

The range was okay. I did a little long range shooting with my sixteen inch '416, and shot a couple grenades from my M79. Our targets today were from three hundred to six hundred meters out. It was fun as hell not only firing off rounds off your weapon, but watching the other guys have some fun. Spencer was just desecrating targets with his MK.48, shooting it with powerful, continuous bursts of fire. The thick 7.62 rounds kicked up the dirt in rhythm, and absolutely shredded the wooden targets we had set up. Kane, the RECCE sniper from before, was hitting targets with almost perfect accuracy from his HK417.

Other guys like me were shooting our HK416s with our own modifications for long range firing, and we finished thousands of rounds of ammunition.

We finished our training in about an hour and it was 1930. After another half an hour, Peter alerted us to get set for a mission, and that we'd go after a target in a couple of hours. He led us into the briefing room, and turned on the PowerPoint. Apparently, this time we were after an Al-Qaeda facilitator, who had traversed into Kandahar from Pakistan, mixing in with Taliban fighters. He was now leading a column of fighters through out the Arghandab District.

ISR drones had tracked them down the last couple of hours, and had figured they were going to reach a bed-down location any time soon now. It was our job to find them quickly, presumably before reaching their location, and eliminating them with no hassle. It was going to be one of our last good missions during the deployment, and everyone was excited for it.

As of course, Peter was staying behind at the hooch. That's the thing about the officers at the command; They're rarely going anywhere. Officers are usually at base commanding what's going on the field, and doing pre-mission planning and debriefing. If you wanted to be kicking doors in DEVGRU, you had to be enlisted.

You wanted to be sipping cups of coffee and switching PowerPoint slides, you became an officer. That was the way it was. Officers usually went out on the big ops, or when we really needed that kind of guidance or leadership down in the field, which was rare.

Peter was cool though. He was in his late thirties and has been a SEAL for around fourteen years. He saw most of his combat as a platoon leader in SEAL Team Five, going on multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11, and trying out for Green Team in 2007, getting selected in 2008. He's been a troop commander ever since, and he's expected to become the squadron commander after some Green Team instructing and a little more time as a troop commander.

This is the second troop he's led, since officers don't stay for long with the enlisted men. After this, he's leaving the troop sometime around 2014, and joining another; Or most likely becoming an instructor for selection and training.

He's a lean guy, and he's pretty tall, reaching my height. He grew up in Nevada, and was a wrestler in high school and college, eventually earning his degree and joining the Navy as an officer. He's also a family man, and has been married as long as he's been in the Navy, also having four kids. Peter is really a well rounded guy.

After the briefing, it was 2030 hours, and we got our gear ready. Then, we waited in our hooches for the green light, in what seemed like endless time; Pure endless fucking time. It wasn't until 2200 hours, literally an hour and a half after the end of the debriefing, that we began the operation. The drones had spotted the fighters finally stopping their positions, around a farm in front of a village, and we finally got the go ahead.

We went out in two Blackhawks, our team and Alpha Team. Marc had also tagged along, and he rode in the chopper with us. A dog handler and Bruno the dog also went on the chopper with Alpha Team. So all in all, there were about seventeen guys and the combat assault dog. There were only about ten fighters, so we didn't need to be large in numbers today. Anderson was with us again, and my team was in his chopper. Another chopper, callsigned Dagger Three, flew with us and had Alpha Team and the dog handler.

Charlie Team stayed at base as a QRF (quick-reaction force), in case things got hot.

We landed four miles from the target in a little over twenty minutes, and it was about 2225 hours. The plan was to patrol all the way to the farm near the village and hopefully catch the fighters off guard, who seemed to be hiding near or in a barn situated in the farm. There was a cluster of squat houses around the farm that probably housed the farmers, and we didn't want to alert them and possibly compromise our positions. We had to be quick and deadly.

It's 2310 hours now, about ten minutes after eleven o'clock. It was cold, really cold. It was around forty degrees during sunset, but the temperature had further dipped around ten degrees as the hours passed, and it was pretty cold now. For this op, I was wearing my Arc'Teryx combat jacket, the same crocodile brown one I was wearing all day. I had my regular assault gloves, and nothing extra on my legs. Everything else was just all AOR 1, including my pants, plate carrier, and helmet. The plate carrier I carried tonight, my Crye CPC, wasn't as comfortable on top of my jacket, and it was a little harder to get used to.

Most guys had worn Multicam, with some mismatching with AOR 2, as the fields we patrolled through were thick with different types of vegetation. Only a few guys like Spencer and I for example, were saturated in AOR 1. A couple of guys also wore Arc'Teryx's Gore-Tex pants, which kept your legs very warm and insulated against rugged weather, but could be very uncomfortable if not used in the proper environment.

Personally, I never wore them. I always got too hot in them.

We were patrolling through a river bed, and Prig was on the point, with me fourth in line behind Luke. My feet sunk in the thick water, and it felt weird as shit looking at the water through my night vision goggles. It was cold, and the bottom of my trousers and boots began to get soaked up. I nearly tripped over a rock under the water, with the sling of my HK416 hooking a thick tree branch behind me, pulling myself backward and keeping me on my balance. Brady snickered behind me, and unhooked my sling from the branch.

"Watch out before you end up getting hurt by a tree first instead of a hajji." He said, grinning.

We slowly continued to walk toward the target. After about ten minutes, we finally reached the end of the river bed. We then transitioned onto an irrigated field, that was about a whole mile long. As we patrolled the large field, to my two o'clock, was a large cluster of squat houses and compounds in the distance, which were probably the village nearby. Eleven o'clock in front of me, was another cluster of squat houses which was probably where the farmers lived.

To the far right of them, was a thick timbered house, almost directly in front of us. We had no doubt that was probably the barn. The farmers had been putting in work during the summer and early fall, irrigating the whole field leading up to their farm.

There was little to no precipitation, but with the river bed, the farmers could farm with relative ease. Surrounding the squat houses and almost near the barn, was a tree line.

We patrolled in two formations, with Marc leading our team being second in line, and Alpha Team patrolling on our right flank. The wind chill was starting to suck, it made it feel much colder than it actually was. We were silent, and kept our movement very slow and quiet. It was all one step at a time in the field. Don't run to your death. I had my sixteen inch '416 today, with about five magazines, and my suppressed P226, with about three magazines. I could hear Spencer grunt all the way in the rear while carrying the MK.46 with it's large belts of ammo.

As expected, his MK.46 Mod 0 was heavily modified like the rest of our weapons. It was painted all AOR 1, but sometimes he painted it other colors depending on the environment we were in. The carrying handle, magazine insertion well, and vehicle mounting lugs had been removed to save weight. Picatinny rails were fitted, where Spencer had put a laser sight, a flash light, a foregrip/bipod combo, and he had put an EOTech holographic sight with a 3x zoom magnifier.

There were Mod 1s, which were MK.46s with the carrying handle back, smaller Picatinny rails, and a heat shield, but Spencer preferred the Mod 0.

He also replaced the fixed buttstock for a collapsible stock, and had a sixteen inch barrel on it. All in all it was around fifteen pounds, which was light for a machine gun, but the belts of ammo added weight and could make it a hassle.

Ten more minutes passed, and we finally reached the perimeter of the barn. The plan was for Alpha Team to assault directly into the barn from it's entrance, and for our team to assault from the rear exit at about the same time, seizing our element of surprise. The plan was as simple as it could get and we had no issue having to execute it. Marc had me, Brady, Garcia from Alpha Team, and one of the dog handlers with Bruno provide outer security around the barn. I was kind of disappointed that I wasn't going to be directly assaulting with everyone else, but I had to keep my eyes and ears open, and to make sure our position wasn't compromised.

We began to move to our positions. My security team moved to the left side of the barn towards the front entrance, facing the cluster of houses where the farmers lived.

"Security team set." Garcia said on the net.

I didn't know much about him. He was a Hispanic dude from LA who had fiery tattoos on his arms. He looked like he could fit in the Bronx working at a bodega or some shit. All I knew was that he was a sniper and had been in DEVGRU for three years.

The other teams got into position, as I watched my team with Marc move to the rear of the barn and Alpha Team move to the entrance to the right of us. The barn was fairly large, and I'd assumed the guys would throughly search for the fighters hiding inside.

Kaz and his team got in front of the entrance, and we watched them. One of his breachers pulled out a large sledgehammer, and got in front of the door leading into the barn. Kaz said something on the net, and after about thirty seconds or so, I believed he received the affirmative to proceed the assault. The breacher took the hammer by it's extendable handle, and wacked the strong metal knob of the wooden door, snapping it out of place after a few blows.

As he moved out of place, Kaz gave his point man the signal to proceed, and the team proceeded in the barn. Simultaneously, my own team entered from the rear door on the other side.

I held my gun tight, taking a knee down, as I aimed at the cluster of houses we were facing. I looked through my scope, and I couldn't see much or anything that was a threat through my night vision goggles. After about a minute or so of complete silence, suddenly we heard suppressed shots in the barn. The dog began barking and the dog handler shouted at Bruno to shut the fuck up. Me and Brady were quiet, and Garcia looked back at the barn. After a few more suppressed shots and the muffled sounds of fighters aching due to the impact of the bullets, it was silent again.

"Clear!" I heard Kaz say on the troop net, and after another minute, both of our teams arrived out of barn, unscathed. One of the Alpha Team guys said we had gotten the Al-Qaeda dude, and we smiled.

"Shit that was quick." Garcia said, as they came out of the barn.

"We're not done yet." Marc said when he was out of the barn. "I'm getting info from the ISR that we've got movers coming from the cluster of houses, and they're armed. Let's go!

Shit!, I thought. It could've been just a bunch of farmers who had somehow heard or seen the commotion, or a bunch of other Taliban fighters who had just managed to bed down at another location near by. Either way, since they were armed, we weren't going to take the risk. We were going to defend ourselves as necessary.

As we all began facing the cluster of houses, I started to see little figures through my night vision goggles, running towards us. Marc got Alpha Team to maneuver just in front of us towards the cluster of houses, as we all began getting into position. The thick soil of the field felt cold against my jacket, as I went prone. I placed my bipod down and surveyed the area in front of me. I did this for about half an minute, until suddenly an RPG round discharged and landed right in front of us. It sent dirt and shrapnel everywhere.

Simultaneously, the fighters began to open up on us, and then all hell broke loose. It suddenly became two firefights, with Alpha Team proceeding closer to the squat houses. They were engaging a dozen fighters hopping out of windows and hiding behind the cover of the houses, about one hundred meters away. In the second firefight, my team decided to stay behind in the field, engaging another dozen fighters from another squat house to the right. They were running right towards us trying to flank our position, about two hundred meters away.

I clipped on my thermal sight, and picked off two fighters trying fo flank our position from the cover of the tree line on the far right, killing them with rapid accuracy. Spencer was spraying bursts from his MK.46 towards the fighters, hitting the guy with the RPG. Through the black and white hue of my thermal sight, I saw him tumble onto the ground. He fell near the tree line, as the RPG fell off his backpack. I thought he was down, until suddenly he started crawling towards the RPG, and slowly cocked it back with the little force he had left. He was trying to aim it at us.

Spencer was about twenty meters away now firing at another position, and I didn't think he'd hear me through the loud gunfire. I got on one knee, and began popping rounds towards the fighter's position.

The rounds impacted his throat and chest, as he flopped backward and the RPG fell out of his hands for the final time.

Luke saw what I did and smiled at me. Meanwhile, barrages of gunfire around us. Tracers flew all over the place, and Marc finally told the Alpha Team JTAC to call for air support.

Alpha Team continued to advance forward towards the cluster of houses on our far left flank, firing at the remaining fighters hiding in the houses, as we stayed back and fired at the fighters headed toward the tree line. As I began getting up to move a little closer towards the tree line, suddenly I heard a small, POP! I turned my head around, and felt a burning sensation on my hand and realized I had been grazed by a round. It was thick enough to penetrate my gloves and put a thick gash on the top of my hand.

"Shit I'm hit!" I muttered on the troop net, and Prig ran over to me through a hail of fire. He looked like a damn track star, as he threw himself into a prone position after reaching me. He rapped a thick bandage around my hand, and told me to keep pressure on it.

Marc yelled on the net for Alpha Team to hold their positions, as the hail of fire finally began to calm down. Alpha Team was about one hundred meters away from us, fifty meters from the cluster of houses. My team had moved up and we were about one hundred and fifty meters from the tree line. It was an L-shaped formation or assault we had. On the vertical part of the L was Alpha Team all the way towards the houses, while the horizontal part had my team facing towards the squat house to the right of the cluster, and the tree line.

"Shit bro you okay?" Brady crawled over to me.

"Yeah man, it just grazed and it cut open a little deep. It'll be fine, even if it burns a little." I said, showing him my hand.

"Good." He answered, and I knuckle touched him. I looked at my watch and it was 2400 hours. Half an hour had already passed, fuck. It was midnight already.

After five more minutes, the remaining couple of fighters somehow opened up again. We fired back rapidly, and thankfully, our air support had arrived just in time. We all ran back towards the barn, as two AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from an army aviation unit in the district provided CAS. The helicopters fired multiple Hydra 70 missiles from their rocket pods onto the fighters for a good amount of time.

It wasn't over, as they also shot two Hellfire missiles with thermobaric warheads at the cluster of houses, completing destroying them.

The sound was incredible, fucking incredible, and the shockwave and impact hit the floor like a giant fist from the sky. A large fireball billowed with smoke into the air from the now destroyed houses, as the tree line and field near the houses was scorched with fire.

Witnessing the explosions was surreal. It was like witnessing the atom bomb explosions you saw on TV in person. It reminded us of how powerful our military could really be, and the shit and type of damage we could do when necessary.

Marc decided to take our team and head to the tree line and destroyed houses. Alpha Team stayed in position, providing security in case there were more incoming fighters around. As we got to perimeter of the tree line and houses, I could already feel the intense heat from the fire consuming my body. Even if it was cold and the wind chills were bad, the fire didn't discriminate. I started to sweat considerably as I reached the tree line. Meanwhile, Prig, Hamilton, Styles, and Luke checked out the smoke billowing into the air from the remains of the squat houses. Marc, Brady, Spencer, and I would stay around the tree line.

The tree line looked like one of the huge forest fires that tended to happen in the west coast back in the 'States. Large craters were everywhere where the missiles had landed. Charred trees teared apart by the fire and impact laid everywhere. The fire burned intensely throughout the whole tree line, creating a large green blur in my night vision goggles, making it nearly impossible to look at anything. I flipped them up, and flicked on the flashlight attached to my helmet, staring at the huge fire burning through the rest of the tree line, along with the other guys.

If I had a mental picture of what hell looked like, the scorching tree line would probably fit perfectly.

"Look for bodies!" Marc said on the troop net.

We started to look around the tree line, and I saw Brady stop dead in his tracks. The illumination of the thick fire had made our vision pretty decent and I could see his face staring at some sort of figure. I jogged over to him and saw what he was looking at. It was the charred remains of a dead fighter, the one with the RPG. His body twisted awkwardly on the schorched ground, as his whole body was burned and charred, being completely black. I could see the definition and shape of his skull, as I looked at the skin that was burned off his face.

Beside him, was the empty tube of the RPG, with smoke steaming from the red hot steel. The entire wooden area of the tube was also charred and burnt.

"This motherfucker is toasted...." Brady said, sighing, almost sort of petrified by the dead fighter.

I was disgusted. The smell of the body was horrible. The smoke was starting to engulf the tree line, and the heat was making me sweat intensely, and I was having difficulty breathing.

"Fuck man, let's get out of here. This guy is fuckin' done, let's look around for others and get away from this shit." I told Brady, and we walked some more around the tree line. There were no other bodies. Just charred limbs and whatever looked like identifiable remains.

I caught Spencer vomiting after seeing a pile of limbs. It was a grim scene.

After a couple of minutes, Marc couldn't take it anymore either and we put a couple explosives on whatever weapons we found and blew them into place. Then we walked away from the tree line, closer to the barn.

I flipped my NVGs back down and looked back towards the rest of guys near the rubble of the destroyed houses. The fire there had finally calmed down, and the guys were just looking through the debris for whatever remains or weapons they could find, blowing them into place, creating further debris. After about ten minutes, all of us were back around the barn with Alpha Team. Then we piled up the weapons in there, and blew those up too.

It was about 2430 hours now and the guys were silent. There was nothing to be said. We weren't necessarily traumatized, but we had seen some horrific shit and there was no easy way to just act like it was nothing. We realized it was part of the job and you would see a lot of crazy things over deployments, but they didn't just go away quickly.

I was cold again. The fire had warmed me up but now the wind chill started to pick up, and most of the heat I had gotten from the fire was gone. The choppers were gonna be here in five minutes, and we waited in our perimeter around the barn.

"You okay bro?" I asked Spencer.

"Yeah, I just couldn't take it anymore. The heat and the smell was overwhelming, and I just puked all over the place. Plus it reminded me of this one deployment man...." He said, shaking his head.

"Damn, feel better. Don't dwell on it bro. It's all part of the job, the shit we see and go through. Always keep your head together." I said to him, patting his back, and he nodded.

A couple of more minutes later, the choppers arrived. We all hopped and stumbled inside the Blackhawks, and we were on our way. The crew chiefs slid the doors closed, and I sat with my head against the door, cramped up with the rest of the guys. I was tired, all of us were tired, and I flipped my NVGs up, and closed my eyes.

I fell asleep in the pitch black inside of the helicopter, as it continued to race towards our base, making this probably our last good operation of the deployment.

Chapter Twelve - Cross TrainingEdit

0800 Hours (8:00 AM)

December 12, 2012

Satory, France

It was about a month and ten days after our deployment ended. As expected, we didn't get Zawahiri, and hopefully the squadron that replaced us would get him. I sure hoped so. We had busted our ass that entire deployment and there was no way Zawahiri could get away from us another time. No way.

We received two weeks off before returning back to Virginia Beach and beginning the whole cycle of training and deployments again. The command has a policy of having to meet with a psychologist for thirty minutes after the end of each deployment to determine our psychological state of mind and how we were dealing with combat stress.

Before, the Navy had began trying to address combat stress in previous years, by allowing us to spend extra days off duty in Germany after our deployments. This was due to the alarming news of PTSD showing up among returning veterans. It was for us to decompress the shit we'd done and been through, and get back into the rhythm of civilian life when we went on leave.

It eventually back-fired because our families were getting pissed off. It made our deployments three days longer than they should have, which they weren't happy about, making the Navy bring in the policy of psychiatric meetings.

This particular meeting, I had went alone. The thirty minute session was to address any issues we were having, and most of the time, we didn't take the sessions seriously. It just became another thing to get done and over with after a deployment, but it was still very important.

It went well. Really well. The psychiatrist was a middle aged woman who looked tired and as stressed as I did, and did not look pretty. She seemed like she was a good look in her younger days, but her job and things she'd been through shaped her appearance. I cracked jokes with her and she thoroughly enjoyed my sense of humor. The session went quick, and didn't feel like a drag or anything. It actually felt refreshing to tell about some of things I indulged about and laughing at stuff with her.

Honestly, humor is the only thing that really got me through the stuff I've been through. I've been like this my entire life, cracking jokes and just having a laugh has always helped me getting through tough times. I remember my platoon chief at SEAL Team Four had put I had a "larger than life" personality on his recommendation for me to screen Green Team, and the instructors had mentioned that during my interview.

I'm not special; I'm not better than anyone else or cooler than anyone else because of the things I did or what I did for a living. I just like living a happy life, and enjoying myself. Humor allowed me to do that. Being funny and positive certaintly allowed me to do that. Not everyone was like this, which was understandable, but it sure made everything easier for me.

We prided in the SEALs, especially DEVGRU, as being humble guys about who we are and the things we did, and it being all about the team. The command was no place for being self-centered. We liked to use analogies, that we were no better than a doctor who performed surgeries that saved lives. Both professions saved lives and both professions were very respected. Yes they're different, but none is better than the other.

This is just our job, and we really fucking enjoy it. That is all. That's exactly how we felt about it.

After the meeting, I finally got the opportunity to go on leave and I went to New York, receiving a decent welcome home from my parents and my friends, Dave and Brian. I started to go on the usual rotation of partying, drinking, and sex on occasion, but I quickly stopped because Crystal was the only thing on my mind. I missed her so much. My friends completely respected it as the good friends they were, and allowed me to be alone and do the things that I wanted to do.

I called her the first couple of days, to be rejected constantly. It wasn't until I miraculously ran into her while in Manhattan, and she looked completely different. She had chopped off her long curly hair, making it short into a hairstyle that was very similar to the singer Rihanna's hair earlier in her career. She also looked severely stressed, with dark bags forming under her eyes, and her face fully red as if she had been crying. She also had a septum piercing, and two small hoop earrings.

I didn't even recognize her at first. It was remarkable to see how different she looked after only a month and a half of not seeing her. It appeared as if all of the happiness she had was sucked out of her. I began to greet her, but she simply looked at me and literally walked away as if I was a stranger. No emotion, no talking, no arguing, no facial expression; Just shaking her head as I tried to say hello, and walking away without saying a word.

And then at that point, I knew I had fucked up. I had caused insurmountable damage and pain to her. I stopped trying to call her. I stopped texting her, and inboxing her on Facebook. I stopped looking at her social media pages. I just stopped everything.

In a way, you could say she was selfish. In the fact I had just returned from a deployment, and she could completely ignore me like I was a stranger and worried only about her own feelings. That she didn't necessarily understand what I did and what I had gone through, and tended to blame it on me even if I tried to not fuck up. But those things didn't matter. Regardless, it was over.

The rest of the leave was boring. I played video games and went to a gym in the city. Regular society seemed so uninteresting to me, especially with the fact I didn't have a nice family or any real relationship, unlike many of the guys at the command. I was just itching to get back with the guys, and begin our deployment and training cycle again.

We eventually returned to Virginia Beach, and spent a couple of weeks there before starting our training rotation, which was a month deployment around the globe, particularly to Europe. We were there to cross train with a number of special operations units, as training for yet another deployment to Afghanistan right afterwards.

Thanksgiving at base went well. We had a huge turkey dinner in the dining hall, with everything you'd expect at a Thanksgiving dinner. I called my parents on a blocked number and I got to talk to them, saying I'm thankful for them and how much they meant a lot to me. It was real fun, and I ate like a damn pig. Besides that, President Obama got re-elected during November. We didn't really care cause we tried to keep the politics away from our work, but we still were aware of it. I didn't think much of it either, but I found Obama more likeable than Mitt Romney, his Republican opponent, so I was sort of glad. I don't know.

I just want him to end this war right, that's all. We've sacrificed way too much over the years, and he needs to do his part, and let us do ours. That's it.

But yeah, we were there in Europe to train for yet another deployment. Like I always say, the pace never ends. The speeding train never runs out of fuel. Training, deployment, decompress, repeat. It was a non-stop cycle. We spent eight to ten months every year far from home, in locations all over the globe. We couldn't tell the command no, but we could always tell our families and friends no. They would eventually have to understand the things we did and the things we went through, so they could deal with having us absent all of the time.

Some couldn't quite get a hold of it, however. Some couldn't quite understand the things we did and the sacrifices we had to make, and couldn't deal with us being absent all of the time. Instead, they distanced themselves from us when we returned home and ended relationships with us because they couldn't deal with it. And Crystal was a perfect example.

I think about it, and honestly I can't blame her. Because that would be unfair. A lot of people would feel the exact same. It's not anyone's job to support or understand what we did. But it was the way it was, the way she felt.

The last day at Virginia Beach was extremely tough, December 9. It was early in the morning and I had been looking at Griffin's photo in the small memorial on the wall, at the entrance of the second deck, and the words of respect we had written next to it to honor him. His photo was a throwback picture of him and his wife on their wedding day, and they just looked so happy smiling, madly in love. Then my mind flashed to his wife now crying, and grieving over his lost, and her being a widow with his two sons. It was very emotional, and Kaz had saw me staring at the wall.

"You okay, brother?" He asked me, patting my shoulder. I stared at him, my eyes beginning to water, and began shaking my head.

"Not at all. It's hard man, it's really tough. I can just remember him being with us like it was yesterday, and now he's gone forever." I answered.

"I totally understand. But don't ever think you're in this alone. Don't ever think you're grieving alone, because we all feel it. I knew Griff for ten, long years. We sacrificed so much. Griff just happened to pay the most ultimate sacrifice." His eyes began to glisten with tears, and he started to choke up, before telling me a Red Squadron operator had just been killed yesterday. He walked away without saying another word.

The operator was a Petty Officer First Class from Pennsylvania named Nicolas Checque. He was twenty eight years old, and was on a hostage rescue mission to get an American doctor kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan, when he was shot and killed. I didn't know him, but many guys in the troop knew him, including Kaz, and they were devastated. What made things worse was that Checque was already the third SEAL killed in the month.

For the rest of the day until we boarded the plane to Europe, we grieved and mourned over our fallen brothers. It didn't help morale, and the atmosphere of the troop was absolutely at It's lowest point I had ever seen it. We usually were cracking jokes and saying stupid shit before boarding flights to deployments and rotations, but it was absolutely silent this time. Silent.

Nothing was said until we reached Europe, which is where we are currently. His death reminded me that even the toughest aren't invisible, and death doesn't discriminate. It was the same when Griffin died. You just had to keep in mind to not be scared of it, however. It was part of the job. Of course no one wanted it to happen, but when you're an operator, you're giving it all in and all out, and sometimes you may just give your entire life. We weren't afraid of death, and we accepted the fact it could happen at any moment; Whether during our high-risk training or missions, it was something that became part of us. An ultimate sacrifice that we were all willing to pay for our brothers besides us. That's all it is.

Griffin's death was on my mind however, because he had a profound effect on me in such a short period of time. Yes, I had lost guys in previous deployments, which was also very hard, but nothing like Griffin. I'd literally known him for around three months before he passed, literally sense I joined DEVGRU. I'm still one of the relatively new guys, and the way he did things and the way he led us is something I'll never forget.

Griffin was almost like a parent to us, always being there when we were at our lowest and bringing us back up when we needed it. He always kept us on track too, which allowed us to constantly operate under great demand. I have a strong feeling if not under his leadership, we probably would have sustained much more casualties during the first month of the deployment.

As of now, we're in France, training with the GIGN. After a week, we'd go to Belgium to train with their Special Forces Group, then Germany to do maritime training with the commando frogmen, and finally Poland to train with the elite GROM. Afterwards we'd return back to Virginia for a couple days, then deploying to Afghanistan. Anyway, the GIGN, which is the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (or in French, Group d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale), is France's well known, elite counter terrorism unit.

The GIGN has been around for almost forty years, and was started after the 1972 Munich massacre at the Summer Olympics, as France needed a unit that would respond rapidly to terror attacks and hostage situations. Since it's creation, the GIGN has been part of over a thousand missions and has saved over five hundred hostages, which is honestly remarkable.

The GIGN is trained basically at the same level as DEVGRU, with a demanding selection course that has over a 90% washout rate. They also have police capabilities as well, as they came from the National Gendarmerie.

Gendarmeries are essentially military forces charged with police duties among the population, and basically, the GIGN is the special operations unit of France's Gendarmerie, making them a paramilitary unit as well.

The GIGN is split into three groups for different purposes, with it's intervention group being the combat element filled with operators. They were the guys we were training with of course.

The GIGN is also very small, with it's total size being about four hundred and twenty personnel, and the intervention group having less than a hundred operators. It made sense however. The French military is of course much, much smaller than ours, and not to mention only the best guys got into the GIGN, making it's small size understandable.

The gendarmeries were all clad in balaclavas of different types, masking their face, as the French government has a policy of protecting their identities for operational and personal security. They took it even more seriously than us and liked to stay in the shadows, the same way we did. I really digged it though, and I thought it made them look even more badass and menacing. They were dressed in navy blue coveralls, with black plate carriers (many had shoulder pads), black boots, and wore black Kevlar helmets with thick visors to protect their face against bullets and shrapnel. This was their basic and most used loadout, so of course this varied.

Some operators wore combat shirts and trousers in the French CCE camo (few mismatched with British DPM) with olive green balaclavas, plate carriers, and MICH 2000s. This loadout was primarily for deployments overseas however (such as in Africa or Afghanistan), so you didn't see it much around their base.

They didn't have any of the special night vision goggles or expensive Crye Precision or Arc'Teryx gear we had, but their weapons were mostly up to par with us and they made the most of what they had.

The operators had an extensive arsenal of weapons. Their primary rifle was a HK416, just like us, with some operators using SG 550 and 551 rifles, and a few with G36Cs. These rifles also had extensive individual modifications, just like us as well, and many were spray painted different colors. They also had sub machine guns primarily for CQB, preferring the older MP5 and the newer P90 which was a direct competitor to our own MP7s. They had shotguns for breaching, preferring the 870, SPAS-12, and M3 shotguns.

These guys also had the most biggest variety of sidearms I've ever seen. At DEVGRU, we were issued primarily the HK45C and P226 with a few other pistols for other purposes, but the GIGN had so much variety I lost track. They primarily used the MR-73 revolver, which was possibly the best revolver in the world, and also had Glocks, Five-Sevens, with P226s and '228s just like us. The gendarmeries had a variety of sniper rifles too, preferring the HK417 and Accuracy International's Artic Warfare rifles in different calibers. They also preferred the M320 grenade launcher, typically used standalone.

We were with an entire troop of twenty operators, literally a whole fourth of their intervention group at their headquarters in Satory. We had awoken early in the morning at the barracks at around 0600 hours, and had eaten breakfast in one of their dining halls. The base also had much of the regular Gendarmerie and French Marines, with the GIGN's headquarters secluded from everyone else and the dining halls being top par. Spencer, Brady, and I were with three operators named Sebastien, Marcel, and Philippe. It had only been three days since we were in France and two days since being at Satory, so we had already gotten to know them pretty well.

It was funny to look at them without their menacing balaclavas in the dining hall. They just looked like regular guys who liked to have a good time, which they were, but were capable of so much and had a unique mindset. That's basically what sets all special operations units apart from regular units. We all have the same sense of purpose and mindset. All in, and all out.

All or nothing.

Being above the norm, even when we're just regular people ourselves. Willing to do remarkable and high risk things for the right purposes, and doing the tough jobs that no one else was willing to do. And most importantly, being all about the team. One team, one fight. That's what made us who we are.

The GIGN guys all spoke English pretty well, as part of the language training they received, with thick French accents. We were munching on the food, which was top notch and much better than the shit we received in our own military. I had a bunch of fruit (grapes, strawberries, and pineapple slices) on one plate, and my breakfast on another. There wasn't any of the heavy food saturated with carbs and fats the way we ate breakfast back home, and there was no meat either, which we found hard to get accustom to. I had two small slices of toasted wheat bread on my plate, covered with butter that was melting into the bread, and a croissant with strawberry jam. I also had a large cup of coffee with milk and sugar as a drink.

Even if we didn't have the bacon, ham, sausage and eggs that we loved, the food was at much better quality than the food we received in our own military. None of it was greasy and fried, and it all felt light and healthy to eat. Still, we weren't used to it, so it was weird for us and wasn't as good as it should've been.

"Man, where's the damn bacon? How don't you guys have bacon??!" Spencer said, staring at his bowl of whole grain cereal.

The GIGN guys laughed, as they thoroughly enjoyed their food.

"You Americans love all of the greasy and big plates of food, all at one time. That's why most of you are very big and fat, and walk around like big animals wherever you go." Sebastien said, as we all laughed.

Sebastien was one of the team leaders in the troop, and was thirty three years old. He was from a working class neighborhood in Paris, and had been in the GIGN for five years. He has a ten year old son, and a girlfriend back home, and has been in hundreds of combat operations over the years. Hell, his troop had just returned from Afghanistan two months ago.

He had a brown faux hawk with a stubble beard and was a little under average height.

"Haha, eat shit, bro. I just want some bacon that's all. A damn bowl of cereal won't full me up. This shit isn't even sweet." Spencer said, sighing. Sebastien grinned, and pulled out sugar packets out of his pocket, and tossed them to Spencer.

"This isn't even enough, how y'all operate without collapsing during one training routine? This shit isn't gonna give enough energy." Brady asked, as the operators grinned at each other.

"It does, you're just used to the greasy bullshit that makes us want to vormir {French word for 'vomit']. Like seriously, you Americans are the only ones I know who eat so much fucking eggs in the morning!" Sebastien said and we laughed with him.

"Man fuck y'all," Brady said. "Don't you all eat snails? What the fuck?"

"Yes we do," Philippe said, snickering. "We call it, escargots. It's very good." He made a fingertip kiss gesture and directed it to Brady, which was a gesture that meant something was good or beautiful. Brady frowned and shrugged.

Philippe was twenty nine years old and had been in the GIGN for four years. He was tall, around six foot three, and had grown up pretty poor in southern France. He eventually joined the Gendarmerie and excelled for five years, before trying out for the GIGN and successfully completing the training. He had piercing dark brown eyes, like Prig, and a medium length Caesar haircut. Him and Sebastien got along well, and he seemed to be his right hand man.

"You guys are gross." Spencer said, shrugging.

"Least we're not fat fuckers!" Philippe said, and we snickered.

"Philippe is right. Besides the lunch is good, and the people here give us wine." Sebastien said. I hope he wasn't fucking lying. Wine sounded nice.

"I like the sound of that." I grinned at him.

"Guys, just keep eating," Sebastien said. "It may be hard to get used to, but it's really high in nutrients and it's good for you."

"You sound like my mother telling me to finish my vegetables, shut the fuck up." Brady said smirking, and we all burst out laughing. It had only been two days and the jokes were already getting started. I knew I was gonna like these guys.

After a little bit more laughter, we changed the topic.

"So who is the best shooter on your team?" Marcel asked. He was sipping his coffee and crunching on a piece of toast.

"Probably Spence," I said, pointing to Spencer, and Brady nodded his head in agreement with me. Marcel smiled at Spencer.

"Yeah, Spencer has got the best shot and carries the big machine guns. We always tell him to get some additional training and become a sniper, but he likes staying deep in the shit as an assaulter." I added.

"I see," Marcel said. "How accurate can you shoot at around five hundred meters?"

"I don't know, but almost 98% percent of my rounds hit the targets, as far as my instructors used to tell me. The thing is though, back in San Diego, my father was a police officer and we used to go out on ranges when I was a kid. He taught me a lot about firearms and all that, and by seventeen, I could shoot a fully automatic rifle with relative ease." Spencer said, sipping on his coffee.

"Fuck man, I knew you were good, but I didn't think you were that good??!" Brady was in disbelieve, and we giggled.

"That's great, maybe even good enough for the GIGN." Sebastien said, trying to be smart.

"Yeah okay." Was Spencer's answer, sarcastically.

"We will settle it on the range." Marcel smiled, and winked at Philippe who was beside him.

Marcel was one of the newest guys in the troop, having arriven to the GIGN just four months ago. He looked young as hell, and was only twenty five. He had grown up in an upper middle class section of Lyon, France, and had a relatively decent childhood, according to him. Apparently he joined the Gendarmerie because he wanted to be more than just a college kid drinking wine and partying around, and wanted to serve his country. He then joined the GIGN because he also felt the need to be unique and found the special forces as what was right for him, eventually going through the crazy selection process and training course, leading him until now.

Behind the menacing three hole balaclava he wore typically, he was just a youth-looking motherfucker with spiky blonde hair, and crystal blue eyes, with average height. I thought he could fit well in a surfing magazine; He belonged in California or some shit.

What made him more interesting was that he spoke the best English out of all three of them. Like his accent was so small, many times he even sounded like us Americans. He told us it was because his father, who was an American businessman who immigrated to France and married a French woman, taught him English from an early age, almost just as much as French.

"We're kicking your asses." Brady said to them.

"We will see. If you can shoot just as much as you eat, maybe you can beat us." Philippe grinned, as we laughed.

"Watch out bro, I'm going to have you shitting snails after the range." Brady said.

That was breakfast with the GIGN in a nutshell. Having a good time, and enjoying some good ol' shit talking. After breakfast finished at 0700, the GIGN troop leader and Peter alerted us we were going to start training in about an hour or so. I got dressed in full kit, wearing all Multicam. I took out my fourteen inch HK416, and my P226, and got ready with the guys in the barracks. The GIGN operators threw on their body armor, balaclavas, and helmets, and got their loadouts ready. It was going to be fun, as we were also training with their own different weapons, and they'd be training with our own different weapons as well.

After all, that's what cross training is all about. Learning different tactics, skills, and lessons from your other counterparts around the world to be a better operator, hopefully using them in a combat zone.

We all got into two large groups around the range, our entire troops, as our commanders began to brief us. Then at 0800, which is now, we went to work. It was a huge outdoor range with a dirt field and vegetation everywhere. The weather was relatively nice, as France has pretty warm winters and cool summers; Literally the perfect variation of climates in the seasons. It was a bright sunny morning, at only about fifty degrees, with the only thing feeling even remotely cold being the wind chill.

The range could be configured to shoot many type of targets and whatever kind of crazy things the GIGN operators came up with. There were targets from fifty to four hundred meters and we all lined up, as guys began firing their weapons. The snipers from our units were up first, as nine GIGN snipers and five sniper qualified guys from my troop got set into position with HK417s, and Arctic Warfare rifles. They fired at wooden targets that had been set up with rapid accuracy and speed. In fact, the GIGN operators often shot in synch, which was pretty remarkable.

What got really crazy and exciting was when we started doing confidence drills. The GIGN typically do these drills to note the level of trust they had with each other, and how they could remain calm no matter what situation. The GIGN troop leader asked for a couple of volunteers for the drills, with Luke, Brady, Schultz (Charlie Team's leader), and two guys from Alpha Team volunteering themselves. It was crazy, it was really exhilarating.

The drill is simple but extremely dangerous, with the GIGN snipers firing live ammunition at balloons surrouding the volunteer all around, inches away from the volunteer, as the volunteer stood in front of an emplacement, typically a door with stacked boxes all around the door. The boxes also had the balloons attached, and the volunteer was around one hundred meters from the sniper.

Brady was confident as fuck when he was shit talking the GIGN guys during breakfast, but now he felt like shitting bricks as the first volunteer up.

"Aw fuck, what if the bullet fucking sways to the right due to this shitty wind? Fuckkkk!!" He said, nervously.

"Bro relax, we've been through scarier shit than this. Just have trust. You'll be fine." I said, trying to be encouraging. He smiled awkwardly.

"I hope so," He answered. To his right I could see Sebastien and Philippe snickering at him, as they walked over to us, pulling their balaclavas down.

"So it's harder than you think? How much balls do you have now?" Philippe said giggling, and I began to laugh with him. Brady flipped him the bird, as the troop leader called him over to walk into position, and the other operators behind me began to watch him walk over to his position. Guys began to get quiet, and carefully observed Brady eventually reaching the door, standing in front of it. The stacked boxes with the balloons surrounded him, with four on his left and right, and one box with a balloon stacked on top of the door, literally right above his head. There were nine balloons, as there were nine GIGN snipers.

Marc had heard Brady was nervous as shit about volunteering, and he was trying to relax him down on the radio, as Brady wore his headset. After a couple of more minutes of waiting and the GIGN troop leader giving a couple more directions to his snipers, they finally received the green light.

There was about a ten second count down in French, and I could actually feel my own self getting nervous, and excited. I was nervous because I knew anything could go wrong and I didn't want Brady to be hurt. But at the same time, those very same dangers excited me, and I felt badass for being able to witness such a thing.

As the ten second count down finally finished, a split second later, nine precise shots rang out in perfect synch. Another split second later, and all of the balloons were exploded, with Brady being perfectly unscathed and the snipers not missing one round. It was one of the most badass things I've ever seen.

We erupted in claps and cheers, as Philippe, Marcel, and Sebastien laughed in happiness as Brady finally had went through it. They probably also felt Brady had uttermost confidence in them, which was the point of the drill in the first place. They were giving him handshakes and slapping backs with him, as Brady played it off and acted like he wasn't ever nervous to begin with.

"That was hard? I got no balls?" Brady said, frowning in disbelief. "You guys been smoking crack, I'm a bad motherfucker!" They laughed and let Brady off, just proud he manned up and went through with the drill.

After Brady, the other volunteers went. One by one as the balloons continued to be set up, the GIGN snipers successfully completed the drills with ease, with near perfect synch on their shots. It was so fascinating and interesting to watch them get the job done, over and over again. We all clapped like crazy for them after the last volunteer went up, as we really appreciated the things they did. These GIGN guys were no joke.

The confidence drills were done, so it was back to our regular weapons and shooting them. I lined up with my team and Sebastien's team of five that had him, Marcel, Philippe, and two other guys I didn't know about. Another GIGN team of five lined up with us, and we started to fire our weapons. Wooden targets were set up and we shot at them for awhile. I was having fun, and put my HK416 on automatic, shooting entire magazines in full-auto at wooden targets, hundreds of meters away. Spence was back at it with the machine gun, firing bursts with his MK.46.

The GIGN guys fired their rifles as well, moving with smoothness and speed, doing Matrix-style moves as they went prone, crouched, and ran through the obstacle course that was in the range itself. We did the same, climbing ten foot walls, balancing on logs, crawling under barbed wire, and etc. I heard from Philippe that the guys often had competition as to who could finish the course the quickest, and whoever was the fastest, got free bottles of wine for a month. That sounded nice.

I eventually ran out of ammo on HK416 as I reached the last targets on the course, pulling out my P226 and shooting the targets rapidly.

What was interesting about everything, was that we were of course in full kit and body armor. It was to accurately simulate the real stress of being in the field and traversing through rough terrain, and it spiced things up in our training. We had around sixty pounds of body armor, while the more hunkered GIGN guys had at least seventy to eighty pounds of armor, making quick and precise movements that much difficult. We also had to stay on the right paths as we moved through the course, because we were all moving and shooting at once, and we were all close together. You didn't want to hit someone with friendly fire.

After all of us finishing the obstacle course, we moved back toward the main part of the range and started switching weapons with each of our units. Since the GIGN's P90 is the direct competitor to our MP7, we talked our shit about which gun was better and then we switched. The MP5s were much older than both weapons, and besides, both of our units have used the MP5s in some sort of way before, making the comparison obsolete.

We began to line up on the range and fire our weapons. The P90 was pretty decent. Although quite larger than the MP7 and the bull-pup design being something to get used to, the larger fifty round magazine was fun to have. The rate of fire was also faster than the MP7's and you could benefit from the slightly larger round as well. However, I could still see the reason we preferred the MP7. It was lighter, and had better control than the P90 due to it's smaller size, and it was more practical for the missions we used. Sometimes I thought of the MP7 as almost a machine pistol.

Not to mention both of the weapons were fun in their own right. They were both designed to pierce armor, and had rapid rates of fire close to a thousand rounds per a minute. It didn't really matter which weapon was better, but both served their own purposes and were fun to use. That was all.

It was just that the MP7 better suited us, especially because it was the lighter weapon. As we always say, light is right.

We trained, and switched out some more weapons. I got to shoot a SG 551, a carbine version of the SG 550, which was fun to use. It had a slightly smaller rate of fire than the HK416, and didn't have the control or accuracy as it did either; But had never shot one before and it was interesting to see how the gun operated. I had one fitted with a holographic sight, a foregrip, two laser sights, a suppressor, and painted in this special snakeskin camo.

I also shot a G36C. It held many similarities to the HK416, as the G36 was the rifle the '416 was based on as well as the M4. The G36C was the compact variant of the G36 rifle, therefore having a smaller barrel, receiver, and being a carbine. They shot very similar, but I still preferred the HK416 because it still had the same look and feel of the M4 series of rifles. The G36C was a gun of it's own kind.

I also shot HK417s, some from our guys, others from the GIGN. We spent about an hour and a half at the range and it's obstacle course, until we went back to the barracks. It was 0930 hours, and the rest of the base filled with regular Gendarmeries and French Marines were beginning their work day. We were exhausted. Rings of sweat were under my neck, and my whole body felt soaked with fluid under my gear and body armor. I caught a couple of French Marines looking at us and the GIGN guys as we walked to the barracks. The GIGN operators, clad in their balaclavas, didn't even turn to look at the French Marines smiling at us.

These guys were probably used to the attention, and 'fame' to sort of say. They didn't care, and we didn't care either, so we said nothing to the Marines smiling.

As we reached our rooms in the barracks, guys began soaking up Gatorade and energy gels. I was burnt, I just drunk whatever I could find. I finished two water bottles, and a whole 16 oz. bottle of Gatorade. We needed rest too, because we were going to get lunch at around 1300 hours, and begin a shit ton of PT at 1330 hours. That'd finish our day of training, and we'd mostly rest and do chores for the rest of the day, fortunately. I took off my kit and gear, and began falling asleep with my whole combat shirt and trousers on. I didn't care, I was tired and didn't feel like changing.

I rested my head against my bed, on the lower level of the bunk beds we were on, to the chatter of the rest of the team reflecting on the training we just did. I thought about how fun this had been so far, and how the training with other units would probably be just as fun too. What crossed my mind too however, was the fact we had another combat deployment right after the training. I had to make sure to learn whatever I could from these other units we trained with, to make me operate much better and efficiently in the field. I had to listen carefully to whatever I was told, and follow directions.

And then the deployment would come around, and I'd be on my own with my troop. I hope the deployment would go well. The deployment we had just finished was mixed with highs and lows, and it affected a lot of guys. This next deployment, we wished to complete all of our assigned missions with ease and no casualties. Of course, that's perfection, and perfection is nearly impossible, but we were going to give our all. It was our job and duty, and like I said before, all or nothing. All in all the time, performing at your absolute limit and best when your team and your country needed it. That's what we did and what we were going to continue doing.

As the thoughts finally disappeared from my mind, I took out some Ambien, you know the drill. I then slowly fell into a deep sleep, curious of what the next weeks and month had in store for me.

Chapter Thirteen - Second DeploymentEdit

1600 Hours (4:00 PM)

January 16, 2013

FOB Checque, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan

New year, another deployment. Shit we had been here for only a week, and things were slow. U.S. troop withdrawals were steadily increasing in the country, and we were the only ones going on constant deployments. This time, we were a little up north from Kandahar, to the east in Ghazni Province, bordering Paktika Province. We were in a small forward operating base up in the Nawur District, surrounded by hills and valleys, as we were going to conduct stability operations for the next weeks and months.

The rest of December was decent. Christmas went well, spending time with the Belgian SFG we were training with and also having a huge dinner with them as well. Of course, Brussels sprouts were included.

My birthday went nice too, which was on the 17th. Then New Years Day was nice with the GROM, and we drunk a shit ton of beer. I thought I was gonna fucking die, I got drunk as hell. And of course, a couple of days after finishing work with the GROM, we went to Virginia, and then deployed here. It's winter now.

Winter deployments were usually very slow. The harsh climate and weather forced most of the fighters to warmer neighboring provinces and Pakistan, leaving us with uneventful work days. We didn't expect to see much this deployment, but we still had to be alert all of the time. Missions could simply come up out of the blue often. For an example, you could think the day was over, but all of a sudden, you get alerted that the ISR drones have been tracking a cluster of fighters, or something of that type. Being alert was the key to success.

I liked being back on the deployment, being back to work. Working with the foreign units had been really fun, and we had learned unique lessons and skills from them that could be really helpful in the field. I'll probably never forget the GIGN's badass confidence drills. I'm just glad to be back in the shit, however.

Ghazni Province was in a precarious situation. It hadn't received the real blunt of the fighting and insurgency that Kandahar and Helmand have been receiving throughout the war, but that's mostly due to the political expediency and the way NATO hasn't really had focus on the province unlike others. Recently, attacks have been keeping up, and the Polish forces in the area, who were the main force in Ghazni, were trying to fight back the movement of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants throughout the province.

In fact, we've only been here for a week and we went on an op with a team of Polish GROM operators on the second day of the deployment to eliminate a cluster of fighters patrolling through a valley.

For this deployment, we also got some new gear. Much of our HK416s were now fitted with Geissele SMR and Remington RAHG handguards; Which replaced the regular rails of the weapon we've been using for years. A few guys had already started to use the Remington rails during the last deployment, but right before this deployment, the armorers fitted nearly everyone's rifles with those rails; A few of us getting the Geissele.

They were nice but awfully expensive. I mean, DEVGRU was under a contract with Remington and probably with Geissele, so it was fine with me. I wasn't paying for shit.

Things were a little different. My fourteen inch '416 was no longer fourteen inches, as I decided I preferred the look and agility of the ten inch barrel pretty much everyone else used. Beside the rail and barrel length, the attachments and everything else about the weapon was exactly the same. The gun also had a fresh new coat of AOR 1 camo paint, which was necessary in order to paint the new handguard. I was happy with the gun.

My sixteen inch '416 stayed the exactly the same, although it'd probably get the Geissele rail after the deployment as the command received more in different lengths.

However, I couldn't think of that though.

Because right now, it was cold. Extremely cold. No, this wasn't the cold that we had on the mission of my last deployment, but fucking bone chilling cold. It was around ten degrees today, with even colder wind chills, making it feel like it was zero degrees entirely. There was also snow falling currently, and the precipitation had been going on literally for the last five hours straight. As you looked out the base, the land and hills were steadily turning into snowy wastelands, as the snow continued to fall consistently.

I sat on my bed in the hooch, as most of the other guys were laying down as well. I had brought along all of my Arc'Teryx jackets, all eight of them (four soft-shell combat jackets, and four hard-shell Alpha jackets), for this deployment. They would actually be very necessary for the very harsh and cold climate we'd experience throughout the deployment, and as I said before, the Arc'Teryx stuff is the best outdoor gear out there, hands down. Plus, I had two hunting jackets, which were popular in the command. They were both Under Armour Barrier jackets, with Scent Control technology. One was in a Realtree Xtra camo, while the other was in Mossy Oak Treestand.

Besides that, I had also gotten another pair of Outdoor Research Overlord gloves in the same colors, after I of course had my previous ones shredded due to the bullet that grazed my hand. Interesting part is, I then received the second Purple Heart of my career, with the first one all the way back in Fallujah.

To complement all of that, I had these thick, Arc'Teryx winter gloves and two cold weather balaclavas in tan and white. They would be vital to protect my face against the hazardous snow and strong wind gust, also being able to keep my face warm as well.

Now, I was trying to stay warm on my bed. This hooch was a little different, and we had bunks instead of the 'mini rooms' we had last deployment. We had brought the TV and video games again, and thankfully, we had electricity. We had the wooden door locked shut, so none of the cold air or snow would get inside. Guys had just awoken about a two hours ago, and it was the middle of the workday for the rest of the base, meanwhile it was morning for us. We woke up and got food at the mess hall, walking through the heavy snow.

After that we started shoveling snow off of our vehicles, also helping the SOAR guys shovel snow off of their helicopters. We shoveled for around half an hour, through the extreme winds and relentless snowfall, until Peter told us to get back into our hooches as the snow wasn't going to decipate any time soon. Therefore, we've been chilling around in the hooch for about an hour now.

It was 1600 hours. I had shaven my facial hair and hair consistently over the last month, but since it was cold again, I had let it grow out the past week. My beard was short now, a little larger than a stubble, and my hair was steadily starting to curl up as it grew. The rest of the guys had already gotten their long hair and huge Viking beards going, so they were okay. I had on my AOR 1 combat jacket, with some long johns and thick briefs under my field pants.

I also had my Arc'Teryx beanie on. I didn't listen to music or anything on my headphones, and also didn't use my laptop because I didn't have internet connection.

The satellite on the base that provided us with wireless connection could obviously not function in extreme weather conditions. Guys were getting nothing but one bars and no connection at all, so it was pointless to even attempt trying the connection.

We had another satellite, which of course provided us with the American Forces Network, that let us saw cable television. The accumulating snow and ice also made the reception bad, and we were mostly getting a lot of static and errors on our TV. Therefore, we had little to do. I was bored as hell, and wanted the snow to freaking finish already.

Did I mention the base has no heat? Yep, it does not.

"Hey Styles, remember when you were complaining last month about the temperature? Ah, now look at this shit now." Hamilton said to Styles, from across the room. Styles looked at him and sighed from the top of his bunk.

"Can this shit fucking end already? Like god damn, what if I wanna watch my morning cartoons?" Spencer said, chiming in, and we giggled.

"You're not gonna see SpongeBob anytime soon," Luke added.

"Man, I never saw this shit in California. Ever. I'm not used to this cold. Yeah, we trained in it during BUD/S and SQT, plus Green Team, but I've never been in an actual combat zone like this. It sucks ass, we don't even have heat. Now I know how Styles feels." Spencer looked annoyed, and I could see him sip on the cup of coffee he had made from his MREs.

"Well, better suck it up, man. It's not getting better. Not to mention, you'll be wishing we're here in base if we get an op during this shit." Luke answered.

"Fuck, I can barely feel my fingers. I already want the summer back." Spencer said, placing his cup of coffee down and fitting on his thick winter gloves.

"I want pasta." Prig said, randomly.

"I want pussy," was Brady's response.

"I want you guys to shut the fuck up." Styles said, smiling. He was then attacked with a barrage of jokes from Brady and Prig about how he was a midget and a leprechaun with a gun, and how he looked like a penguin in the snow. Of course, he laughed and had his own comebacks, and the jokes were all part of the fun. We did almost anything to entertain ourselves or have fun, we were bored. The shit talking was just part of it.

As the guys continued to talk about dumb shit, I stayed silent and my mind began to zone out to memories of being in the snow as a kid in New York. Having snowball fights with my friends, missing days of school, drinking hot chocolate in my house, and overall just enjoying the scenery, was all fun at the time. As I got older and matured, the snow began to have less appeal to me and it became an annoyance as it is now. There's one particular memory about being in the snow I'll never forget however.

I was sixteen years old, and it was February 2000, my junior year of high school. It was the day after a moderately large snowstorm, and I was set to seeing a friend to attend a sweet sixteen party with named Rick. I had known Rick for a little while now, about three months, and we attended different schools, but we had gotten a little close over a period of time.

The thing is though, I was suppose to see Rick all the way in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, one of the most violent and poverty stricken neighborhoods in the borough. Every time you went there, housing projects surrounded you, with drug dealers and gang members roaming the streets during the night. Grafitti and garbage were in and around many of the homes and buildings as well. Train stations lay littered with the same things, and were often filled with crackheads, junkies, and other kinds of crazy people during the nights; A few times during the morning too. Murder, rape, robbery, and other violent crimes were usually at high numbers in the neighborhood.

In other words, Brownsville was never a place you wanted to be in. It wasn't a place you wanted your children or anyone you cared about to be in, and you always had to watch your own back. Never get caught at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that was exactly what happened to me. Granted, I can't be completely bias. In New York, there's always a little good in everything bad. Brownsville almost seemed like any other decent neighborhood during the day, but once night came; It became a whole different demon.

Rick was a known drug dealer. I had known this and didn't really associate with the things he did, but I still kept him as a companion. Now in my life, I don't know why I did so. He would've brought me to the complete wrong path and I'd probably be a convict right now. I was glad what happened that day happened. It was a real lesson learned, and it's one of the things that made me who I am today.

I departed my house in Flatbush at around 9 PM to link Rick in Brownsville. After a couple of buses and trains, I finally reached the neighborhood after about an hour or so. All I can remember is being extremely nervous that day. I was well aware of the area, and what happened there, and I felt completely uncomfortable from the jump. Nothing seemed right at all. I was anxious, and just wanted to see Rick and attend the party.

Long story short, I finally met Rick, and apparently he had to make a drug deal. I remember being angry at him for not telling me, and putting me in his bullshit, and also him trying to calm me down, and constantly reassuring me everything was going to be okay. I can remember the look on his face; Him smiling with almost one hundred percent assurance that he had my back, and wouldn't put me in anything that risked my safety.

He went off into a trap house around the corner I was standing on, which is a slang term for the abandoned homes that drug dealers do business in. Many people were still outside, as it was only 10 PM, and I felt very uncomfortable standing on the corner, as bystanders observed where Rick was going, and observing me watching him. An old black woman, who seemed like she had been in the area for around her entire life, actually said something to me.

"Young man, please go home. I can see it on your face, you don't want to be here and I don't want you to be here. This is not a safe place. Go home to your parents, please." I'll never forget her words. It was almost like she knew exactly what was going to happen. It haunts me sometimes, because I didn't even know her incoming tragic fate that was going to occur in less than three minutes. Being the dumb teenager I was, I shooed her away, and she shook her head, continuing to slowly walk down the sidewalk.

Literally thirty seconds later, I heard rapid POP! sounds in rhythm from the trap house, and in came out Rick, with a .45 caliber handgun in his hand. It was literally like it was in the movies, a drug deal gone horribly wrong. Instant fear filled my stomach, as Rick began screaming at me to disappear from the area, and I ran for my life, as well as other bystanders around me. I ran down the end of the long block, where I could already here the sirens of incoming police towards the crime scene. The old woman could barely even walk properly, and I spotted her on the sidewalk, trying to scurry away from the gunfire.

"Lady, get the fuck out of here!" I said, shouting at her. She didn't say anything to me, she simply grimaced in fear and continued to scurry away. The police were beginning to arrive, and Rick had also reached the end of the block. I quickly left the old woman, something I sort of regret until this day. I had no idea about her fate, and I was only worrying about my own safety. I turned into an alleyway filled with graffiti and garbage, and sprinted down, as I heard more shots being fired in the distance.

I didn't see It happen, but apparently Rick had been met by the police towards the end of the block, literally right after I sprinted into the alley. He began popping off rounds from his gun towards the police cruisers, hitting the old woman in the crossfire, fatally wounding her. By the time he had shot her, he then turned into the alley himself and began sprinting down it, trying to get away. Thankfully, he tripped on snow, and the police finally caught him in the middle of the alley. They subdued him, and by this point I was across the street, still sprinting towards another block, being aware of the thick snow and ice on the street.

The thing about this story was that the old lady didn't die instantly. She, her name being Felicia, fought for her life, a long three weeks. Felicia's literally the only reason and the only eyewitness as to why I wasn't charged as being part of the crime. She told the police she told me to go home in her bed at the ER, and that I told her to get to safety after the first shootings. I'll never ever forget her. Felicia literally gave me my second chance. I love her to death. I don't know what she saw in me until this day, but she literally gave me the second chance I didn't know I deserved.

She died on March 12, 2000. Her health began to improve, until she began suffering massive brain hemorrhages due to the gunshot wound to her head, and she eventually passed away at seventy one years old. I remember her friends and family always visiting her at the hospital, with her husband and three adult kids being there by her side towards the end. It was so crazy too, because her kids were very successful, and they had said she had retired, and lived in a nice neighborhood in Bay Ridge with her loving husband, who happened to be a Vietnam Vet.

In fact, Felicia was only in Brownsville to go to her favorite hair salon. Out of all things, her favorite fucking hair salon! That was the only reason. It was so tragic. She had no parts of that environment and didn't deserved anything that came to her.

Rick was charged with two counts of first degree murder after shooting two junkies in the trap house who hadn't paid their dues to him at the time, and multiple counts of attempted murder towards both Felicia and the police, with the first attempted murder charge being upgraded to first degree murder after Felicia passed. I hated him so much after. He had turned his back on me and put me in such a precarious situation, taking multiple lives in the process, including an innocent one. There was so much overwhelming evidence towards him, I didn't even have to testify. The absolute worst part about this story, was that he had no remorse. I remember looking at him in the court room during his trial and seeing him smile often, and having literally a straight face after receiving his sentence.

He's been in prison since. He's serving three consecutive Iife sentences. He was eighteen when he committed the crimes, and he's been serving in an adult, maximum security prison somewhere in upstate New York, is what I've heard. He's going to be eligible for parole in around ten more years. I pray to god that his time in prison has turned his life around. I really hope so.

That whole situation taught me a valuable lesson. Never fully trust anyone. Never fully consider those around you as real friends. People turn against you in a split second, and will selfishly endanger your life and well being for their own personal gain.

It also taught me to never ever fall into a life of crime. Never hang around people who had no ambition or future for themselves. After that, you'd never catch me hanging around in a neighborhood like that at night. I sticked to myself, and my small circle of real friends, who actually had ambition and goals like I did. They motivated me, and never pressured me into doing something I didn't wanna do. That's why until this day, I still fuck with Joseph and Brian. We trusted each other with our lives, and even if I was the only actual SEAL between us, we all shared the same brotherhood that SEALs have as well.

In fact, they're one of the first people I told, before the whole situation received news coverage. Since then, I haven't told anyone else, except Crystal. It's been a story that has been long forgetten by the public, buried into the shadows by other violent crimes and stories in the city.

I'll never forget that day, though. Ever. Like I said, it's shaped who I am today, and it's one of the strong reasons I joined the military; To just get the fuck out of my environment. I couldn't take the violence and poverty anymore. My life wasn't worth any of it. It really wasn't. So indeed, that is my most important memory of being in the snow. Even if it's horrific, this memory has shaped who I am and made me into a better man. It's unforgettable.

Back on my bunk, the guys were arguing about whether the Patriots were going to beat the Ravens to go to the Super Bowl, and whether the Falcons deserved to win the NFC championship game against the 49ers. It was crazy all of the shit we talked about on a daily basis. You named it, we talked about it. Porn, sports, food, work, family, politics (we preferred to keep politics out of the discussion but it came up anyways) religion, celebrities, etc.

One minute we could be talking about whether or not cheeseburgers were better than tacos, another minute we're discussing the best categories on the RedTube website, then another we're discussing how our families are doing back home. And finally, we could be in the operations center getting detailed about a mission to eliminate a high level Taliban commander or something.

It was a lot of socializing, and just discussing things. After all, there wasn't much to do with our time but talk. It kept our minds refreshed, and it allowed us to freely express our thoughts. I didn't want to talk though, I just wanted to be in the shit again. I was never quiet, and was usually always putting much input into discussions, but this particular day, I was silent.

"Lance you good bro? You're always the first motherfucker to spark up some dumb shit to talk about. You know, besides Brady." Hamilton said to me, grinning.

"Yeah you okay?" Luke asked, with a serious tone.

"I'm good, thanks. Just been thinking a little. I wanna be in the field, man." I answered, sighing.

"Even in the snow? Wow, iceman, your balls must be steel then." Luke said.

"Eh who cares. These winter deployments are usually slow anyways. We're all itching to see at least something. Fuck the weather." I responded.

"I feel you brother. Just keep patience." He said.

I was hungry. I wanted a Subway sandwich. Lettuce, no tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, onions, banana peppers, turkey and bacon, with Swiss cheese. Yum. I always had it on Italian herbs and cheese bread, with some chipotle and barbecue sauce. It was like the perfect combo of toppings, and I always had that sandwich with some chips, cookies, and a beverage as a first meal after a deployment. Sometimes a tuna sandwich with a little different toppings, but Subway was where it was at for me.

The meal served as a decompression into regular society. I don't necessarily know how or why, but whenever I bought Subway right after my deployments, I always felt like I was at home right after. It blurred the line between the combat and things I had done, and getting back into regular society. It just made everything feel normal. Of course, here in Afghanistan, there's none of that bullshit. MREs were bad, and the food at the dining hall was barely anything better. I still wanted that damn sandwich though.

So much time is also passing. It's hard to keep track of everything. I turned twenty nine last month, which is pretty crazy. In just under a year, I'm going to be thirty. I can still remember my days in high school like yesterday, and now I'm about to be thirty in some months. Everything is so rapid. What's even more crazy is that we're scheduled for another deployment a couple of months after this one. But I honestly don't have much faith in that, as I'm not going to stay in the teams.

I have been active in the military for nearly twelve years straight, and constant training and deployments have taken their tolls on me. Not to mention the war is slowing down considerably, and deployments were now becoming drags. I had sacrificed so much, and I'm not completely certain now if I'm ready to sacrifice anymore.

I want a family. I miss my parents. I still love Crystal. With all my heart. I still love the Navy, however. It's probably going to be the hardest decision I'll ever make.

I remember the one of the most adrenaline and thrilling moments I'd ever experienced with the guys. The funny part is that it was something so simplistic. It was on our last deployment, and we were on a routine mission to get a Taliban facilitator in the Maywand District in Kandahar; Sometime in September. I was very excited that day, because everything had gone perfectly fine, and my spirits were high. We were on a Chinook, and this particular time, the chopper crew had a large audio speaker that played music connected to one of their phones; Located in the cockpit. It was one of the different Chinooks we usually were in, and this time, we were with a very energetic and enthusiastic crew. They seemed all about fun, while still getting the job done.

While in the early minutes of the thirty minute chopper ride, they decided to blast rock music in the chopper until we were a couple of kilometers from the target. All I really remember was the song Out of My Way by Seether being echoed through out the chopper. Through my night vision goggles, I looked at everyone smiling, and resting their heads against their seats as the music blasted through out the chopper. Some guys were doing gestures with the hands, and nodding their heads back and forth, going along with the beat of the song.

I could barely control myself. I felt so thrilled. Adrenaline rushed through every single part of my body. My hands and feet tingled with sensation. I felt invisible. The combination of me having a great day, and playing the music at that particular moment just made everything so thrilling. It was a feeling like no other. I felt like the most baddest motherfucker alive.

Moments like those, as well as jumping out of planes, being in firefights, etc; They were things I'd always miss. My point being is, when I'm out, those are things I won't experience anymore. The thrill and the adrenaline that my job gives me is going to be the hardest thing to leave. They are feelings like no others. I live for rush and thrill. I'll have to find a new purpose in society. I'll have to find all of those things somewhere else in the real world. I can't just be unoccupied, I need some sort of excitement.

But we'll see. We'll just see. This cold weather still fucking sucks though.

Chapter Fourteen - Pure DiscomfortEdit

0110 Hours - 0330 Hours (1:10 AM - 3:30 AM)

January 26, 2013

Nawur District, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan

Currently, I feel like a fucking ice cube.

It was so cold most of us could barely feel our fingers and toes. This was the kind of cold and climate that literally made you rethink your SEAL career. There was a running joke between us that everyone loves to be a SEAL on Friday. When you're chilling with your teammates, and partying, or drinking beer of some sort. But it's a complete different story when you're out in Afghanistan on a steep mountain, with bone chilling temperatures and snow everywhere.

It's been about two weeks. The pace of operations is still very slow, as expected. This deployment is already becoming a drag. We've only went on two ops this past week.

For this night, ISR drones had tracked a Taliban leader and his group of about twenty fighters settling down into a compound in a village near the center of a valley, just south of our base. Apparently, this group was just a part of a whole platoon responsible for many anti-coalition attacks in the district, and we had Intel that possibly traced them to an even bigger chain of fighters operating in the province. This bigger chain of fighters were responsible for the death of a Polish GROM operator three days ago, which was the GROM's first killed in action in their entire existence.

The first plan was to originally bomb the compound. I mean, no one wanted to go out in the freezing cold and risk our lives if we could just bomb it, and get things over with. But then our intelligence analysts from Black Squadron made it clear that the group of fighters tended to make rapid movements at any moment's notice. It meant we had to go out in the brick fucking cold, and hunt them down when they were perhaps resting.

The Black Squadron guys had tracked the fighters moving throughout the day through the drone feed. As usual, the fighters probably used this compound as a bed down location, due to the intense weather, and would probably move out the area once the weather had calm down, which could be any time. This meant we had to get them fast while we had the cover of the snow and harsh conditions. Marc, Peter, and the team leaders had assessed whether to bomb the compound or actually raid it. We finally decided on the latter.

Even though it meant going out in the horrendous weather, we still preferred it over sitting around doing nothing. We were all itching for more operations anyways. It was a nice target, and we'd be content with eliminating a bunch of fighters who had done a lot of attacks and atrocities in the district.

For the op, I took my ten inch '416, which I used most of the time just like when it had the fourteen inch barrel. There was very low illumination this night, but the other rifle wouldn't be needed as we weren't going to engage at long ranges. It should also be noted I repainted it a digital snow camo, being colored white and different shades of gray.

It'd suck to repaint the thing AOR 1 after the op, but I didn't care. It was kind of fun.

I also brought along my HK45C as my secondary weapon. We tried to perfectly balance our gear. We didn't want to be too heavy or too hot, but also didn't the want to be too cold in the bad climate.

I threw on my white balaclava, and Multicam helmet. I mismatched my other gear, wearing my Multicam pants, an AOR 1 '6094 as my body armor, and my crocodile brown Arc'Teryx Alpha jacket. Other guys mismatched as well, with some wearing Gore-Tex bibs and pants.

But again, I always got too hot in those.

I just wore long johns and thick underwear under my pants. It was better and much more lighter than the thick Gore-Tex pants. Underneath my jacket, I had an Under Armour long sleeve shirt made for the cold. Finally, I topped everything off with the thick Arc'Teryx winter gloves, and an AOR 1 hand warmer. It's funny because even with the gloves and hand warmer, I could barely feel my fingers.

As usual I was wearing my Salomon boots but some guys had gaiters over their boots, which were leg protectors against harsh weather.

I remember looking at myself through the reflection of the mirror I had on my gear locker. I was so covered up, you couldn't even see any part of my skin at all. Even my face wasn't visible, due to the balaclava. As soon as I flipped down my night vision goggles, my eyes also weren't visible. I was completely covered from head to toe. You couldn't even identify me.

"Wait what the fuck's your name again? You with the white ski mask? You work for the enemy or us? Let me know." Brady had joked before the mission started, and the rest of the guys snickered at me.

"I'm the name your bitch screams in bed, shut up dickrider." I shot back, and he laughed his ass off. The mission hadn't even started and the trash talking had already begun. Typical SEAL shit.

We left the base at half an hour after midnight in three Chinook helicopters. It was the whole troop going of about twenty three assaulters, also including Marc and surprisingly, Peter. There were also the dog handler with the same dog from the last deployment (Bruno), an EOD tech, and an Afghan translator from the ANA SF named Khalid. He was here to deal with any villagers, and he didn't seem too bad.

The Afghan National Army had just sent him to the base earlier during the previous day, and we got accumstomed to him, hooking him up with a lot of the state of the art gear we had. He had a huge, thick beard, and jelled jet black hair. His forearms were probably just as thick.

The mission totaled at around twenty eight guys and Bruno. Peter was going out of the wire with us today, which was extremely rare. I couldn't remember the last mission he had actually went out with us. I was so used to him behind the PowerPoint switching slides and sipping cups of coffee. He'd be around to help out with the communications and assist us if we needed any precise air support.

"Hey Pete, do us a favor and don't die on the first mission you've been on since like August, okay?" Marc said.

"No promises. How does it feel to not be leading the guys this time? I'm back in business, baby!" Peter responsed with a mighty laugh.

Even though technically Peter was an officer and held more authority than Marc, they were both a team in themselves, and treated each other equally. Marc held a closer bond and companionship with the regular enlisted men due to being a senior enlisted man himself, and was more or so the real leader of the troop. He was the one leading us out on missions and etc. Not to mention Marc had been apart of DEVGRU and the troop for much longer than Pete; For nearly twelve years Marc has been in Blue Squadron. Pete has led this troop for two, and like I said, he's not here to stay.

As mentioned before, Peter was the one doing the technical things like planning, debriefing, and etc. However, as the highest ranked, he always had the final say in anything, even if he gave us a lot of freedom and independence for the way we operated. Marc was a senior enlisted SEAL, but he couldn't outweigh Pete's final decision; The commissioner officer always made it.

Basically, Peter managed us, but Marc disciplined us.

Back to the mission, there was no way we could directly land the choppers around the compound. That would create way too much attention and noise, and would surely alert the fighters and nearby villagers. However, no one wanted to navigate the treacherous snow through the miserable weather, especially through the hills and mountains leading down to the valley, just making things extra dangerous. We also could land well down the valley, and patrol all the way through to the target, which seemed like the best option.

But, there were roads and trails that ran from the top of a steep mountain that led all the way down valley. Yes it was still pretty dangerous, and even if the intelligence had stated the roads were mostly not buried with snow, there were still tons of risks into driving down those roads, such as IEDs, road blocks, and other kinds of hazards.

We decided to go through the roads. We figured it was going to be our quickest option to getting to the target, and that was honestly our first priority. Yes, we could've patrolled, but no one wanted to traverse that damn snow through the valley which would take much more time. Time was of essence, and we knew it was possible the fighters could decide to move whenever they felt like it, even through the weather. Besides, chances are no ones planting bombs in the middle of a blizzard.

That was the funny part, no one was out there. That's what made the movement of the fighters even more sketchy, and we were the only ones crazy enough to go out anyways.

We reached the top of the mountain in about twenty minutes. The helicopter ride was awful. The choppers had heaters, that never worked, so we were freezing the entire ride. We huddled together in the seats, with parkas draped over us, trying to get some sort of warmth. Spencer was sitting next to me, and I could see him through my night vision goggles shivering and chattering his teeth. Other guys were mostly trying to get any last minute rest, which was difficult in the cold temperatures.

I had spotted Styles with a thick, hooded Arc'Teryx jacket in AOR 1. His NVGs were flipped up, and he was sleeping against his seat, as his head laid onto another guy's shoulder. The guy, some assaulter from Charlie Team, grinned at me and made a blowjob gesture towards Styles' mouth, which was still partially open.

I returned the grin and casually shook my head. That didn't made sense though. I could feel myself smiling and shaking my head, but then I remembered I had my balaclava covering my face. What could the guy see of me?

Sure common sense I got.

What sucked about the ride was that the helicopter was rocking and jolting all over the place, as the amazing pilots tried to fight the chopper through the punishing weather. I was surprised some guys like Styles even managed to get some sort of rest, as they were shook and jolted around their seats. I had a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach the entire time, just hoping we didn't crash. The extreme cold didn't help that feeling either.

Our chopper landed on the top of the mountain first, at around 2450 hours. The other two Chinooks, which contained our vehicles, arrived in a little under five minutes afterwards.

The hills and mountains in the distance were all covered with thick snow. The weather was brutal, much more brutal than I thought, as my hands began to freeze considerably. I shoved them into my hand warmer, and pulled off one of my gloves, feeling the extreme cold. I adjusted my balaclava and quickly shoved the thick glove back on. Most of the other guys also now had now their faces covered with balaclavas, and other face coverings as we began regrouping on the base of the mountain.

In the distance, I could see the ridge that was on the other side of the valley, and some of the trails and roads on it that led to bottom of the valley, that were now mostly covered with snow. About one hundred meters to the right, lay the beginning of a downhill road from the edge of the mountain, that began to swerve inwards into tight corners and other paths that led down into the valley.

Who the fuck would pave roads all the way up here?, I had thought. The mountain was about nine thousand feet in the air. I hadn't this been high on land in awhile, and my feeling of altitude sickness started to increase.

The choppers were now here, and they unloaded our vehicles from the ramp. The vehicles, which were LT-ATVs (Lightweight Tactical - All Terrain Vehicles), would be crucial into helping us traverse the harsh terrain that we'd encounter down the mountain. We called them side-by-sides, and they were very maneuverable and mobile because of their small and compact size. We had Polaris MRZR-4s, the four seat versions of this traditionally two seat vehicle.

These things had a lot of cool features such as four wheel drive, infrared headlights, run-flat tires, four-point shoulder harnesses, and even a roll cage. We even had a cargo bay behind the rear seats to hold any extra gear or kit that we needed.

The side by sides stood no chance against IEDs or other explosives however, but there agility and great maneuverability was much more important at the moment. Light is right. The vehicles also had decent speed, and could reach around fifty miles per hour.

It took about another fifteen minutes of waiting in the freezing cold and rapid snow fall for us to set up the vehicles, and for all of the helicopters to finally extract. It was 0110 hours now.

There were around seven vehicles, and we rolled out in a convoy. My side by side had Spencer driving, with me in the passenger seat, and Brady and Prig in the rear seats. We were the lead vehicle in line, with Peter, Marc, Luke, and Kaz in another vehicle behind us, directing us on the troop net to traverse the right paths and directions.

God the visibility was awful.

Through my night vision goggles, everything was just a bright green hue, particularly hampered by the blizzard and the bright white snow everywhere. I kept trying to wipe the lens of my NVGs with my thick gloves to mostly no avail. It being pitch black at night didn't help either.

Spencer was driving so fucking slow in order to not crash, as the point of even driving down mountain in the first place continuosly crossed my mind. Not to mention the snow was so damn thick and high, which hampered our speeds regardless if we had a choice. Regardless, I'd still rather be in a vehicle than actually walking in this shit.

"Damn Spence, could you be any fuckin' slower?" Brady said from the rear, agitated. He let his right leg freely out the vehicle, as it skidded along the thick snow the vehicle was moving past.

"You wanna get hurt, you wanna die?" Was Spencer's response and Brady fell silent. I heard Prig giggle.

In the distance, as our vehicles traversed the tight roads and corners down the mountain, the hills and ridges in the distance began to fade as I realized we were beginning to steadily descend. I was so cold. Jesus, I don't even know how Spencer kept his hands on the wheel. I could barely feel my toes, even if I threw on extra pairs of socks this particular mission. I could still hear Spencer's teeth chattering.

God, he had so much balls, I couldn't believe it. He kept his hand on the wheel, despite the near zero visibility, extreme cold temperatures, and miserable terrain. I thanked God for Spencer's driving and the nice infrared headlights.

"You're doing great bro," I said to him, and he nodded his head, trying to focus on the snowy road ahead of us.

By this point, you couldn't tell anybody really apart.

Everyone's face was covered by the balaclavas and NVGs, and it was mostly guessing just by looking at kit and gear, which was even harder to tell through our night vision goggles. Things got shaky when one of the vehicles in the rear got stuck in the snow, and we spent like another ten minutes trying to pull it out, significantly slowing our movement. Neither Marc or Peter seemed too happy about the way things were going, and we weren't either.

It was poor judgement really. We had made a mistake. We had figured the vehicles were the obvious easiest way out, but little did we know they brought about the same issues (if not more) then simply patrolling into the valley itself. We would curse ourselves later, but we still had a job to do. It was a mistake, and everyone makes mistakes, even SEALs. The key once to learn from them and their lessons, and to further hone our skills and not make the same mistakes again.

I wonder how the After Action Review (AAR) after the mission would go.

We were all hardened veterans now, and we had learned a lot of lessons, but that still didn't mean mistakes didn't happen occasionally, such as now. We just have to learn from them and move on, it's as simple as that.

Looking at the slopes we traversed and the surrounding hills and mountains around us fascinated me. It made me think Afghanistan would be a fantastic ski resort or something if everyone just put the guns down, and wanted to have a good time. Hell this shit looked good enough for the Winter X Games. I could imagine the snowboarder Shaun White going down one of these slopes and just busting crazy ass tricks while doing so. I pictured his long red hair, and wide smile after completing his tricks or whatever, and I snickered in the vehicle.

"What's so funny?" Prig whispered.

"Nah man, this place just looks like a ski resort, that's all." I answered.

To be entirely specific, the weather was as awful as I've been describing it. The forecast we heard about before the op had stated temperatures would dip down to almost zero degrees Fahrenheit, with even colder wind gusts. There was also almost two feet of snow expected to accumulate when the blizzard was all done and over. Visibility was near zero. It was extremely dangerous, but like I said, we were the only ones crazy enough to go out there. We had jobs to do, and sitting around wasn't any fun either. Boredom is worse than danger.

Traversing mountainous roads was already difficult in itself, but the snow added a whole other dimension of difficulty. God knows how none of us crashed. We went through multiple tangled paths of roads and trails piled with snow, being extremely careful to control our speed and any slight movements we made. Every turn or movement we did in the vehicles was extremely causcious. No one wanted to get hurt.

"Man, this might be the hardest thing I've ever done." I heard Spencer say on the troop net. Marc let us know that the drone pilots were still seeing no movements from the compound or village. It meant we still had the element of surprise, which calmed my nerves a bit.

We finally reached the valley, and it's center after around forty five minutes. So much time had passed, which we didn't really expect, and now time was really of essence. We had already used like a fourth of our fuel tanks. In the distance, snowy mountains towered over the valley. We stopped our vehicles about a hundred and fifty meters from the compound, which was situated on the far left side of a village.

The village looked so poor. Squat houses surrounded by mud walls were completely covered with snow, that piled up around them. You could even see the unlit light bulbs on the front doors that seemed to haven't been lit in years. The village was literally the definition of the effects of war and poverty.

I shook my head, as we moved from our vehicles and reached the ORP. The ORP, which was the Observation Ready Post, was what we did every mission.

We stopped about a hundred meters or so from the area of a target we were assaulting, and then prepared ourselves and made any last minute adjustments before we went on with the assault. It was simple, and we did it all the time.

The team leaders, Marc, and Peter all huddled together in front of us, as they discussed the plan and any last minute adjustments they had to make. I finally took off my thick gloves, which weren't practical for shooting, feeling the bitter cold swarm and consume my hands and fingers. I finally put on my assault gloves, the Overlord ones I always wore, and rubbed my hands together. I was trying to get any kind of warmth or blood circulation through my fingers so I could properly hold my weapon and use my trigger finger.

It was 0150 hours. I took a knee, feeling the snow and it's cold sink into my pants. The rest of my teammates were doing the same, as we waited for our team leaders, Marc, and Peter to finalize their plan. The snow had finally relaxed considerably, and there was nothing more than a couple flurries falling from the sky. The wind had finally relaxed too, and now I didn't feel like my hands and feet were completely falling off.

However, the snow's accumulation was still crazy as hell, and there were still huge piles of snow everywhere. It was also still pretty fucking cold.

"We're gonna try the gate on the front of the compound. If it doesn't open, we're gonna sneak over the wall. Get your ladders ready." Peter said, quietly over the troop net. He had gotten info from the drones that there was still no movement or sleepwalkers around the compound, so now we were good to go. I could see Marc look at him and nod his head. We weren't going to do call outs, cause we didn't want any possible civilians in the compound going out into the bitter cold. This was our best option.

We began to move through the snow-covered trees, and into the vicinity of the compound. We were extremely slow and quiet, not making any noise, except maybe the crushing of our boots into the snow.

We then finally got into position around the walls of the compound. We made literally no noise, as Peter quietly whispered to the dog handler, the translator Khalid, and about half of Alpha Team to provide outer security with him, and to skirt away any onlooking villagers. They began to surround the other sides of the compound walls, as the rest of us got into position in front of the gate. A pointman from Charlie Team led the way, as Marc stood behind him. They were on the left side facing the gate, with the rest of Charlie Team behind them.

On the right side, was of course my team, with me being the pointman. I was followed by Luke, Brady, Styles, Prig, Hamilton, and Spencer, followed by the rest of Alpha Team, including Kaz.

Marc gripped his shoulder and nodded at him, signaling him to proceed. He tried the latch on the gate, and remarkably, it was open. I could feel myself smile in relief under my balaclava, as we slowly began to creep into the courtyard of the compound, walking over thick heaps of snow. I first assumed the fighters had just somehow forgotten to completely close the gate, but that didn't make sense. Out of complete luck, the hatch of the gate was loose, not being able to lock or close the gate into place.

It made the fighters extremely vulnerable to anyone like us trying to get inside the compound.

We slipped through the courtyard into the compound, with squat buildings in the perimeter. Guys began to veer off in small teams, searching the west and east sides of the compound as my team continued to move up. I led the team all the way up to the north side of the compound, taking position at the front door of a squat building. It was just the four of us; Me, Luke, Styles, and Brady as the rest of the team had veered off to other sides of the compound. Luke and I stacked up on the right side of the door, while Styles and Brady stacked on the other side. We were quiet, as Styles began to press onto the handle of the door, which was locked.

"Fuck," He whispered.

Our only other option was to take out the extendable ladder, and climb up to one of the windows on our far left side of the building, adjacent to our current positions. We would also have to smash it through, and move into one of the rooms. It was much more risky, and much more messy, but it was the only thing we could do. It was a L-shaped assault, which we hoped would corner the fighters in the complex. On the vertical part was Brady and Styles climbing up into the window, assaulting from that side. On the bottom part, was Luke and I assaulting from the front door still stacked up; Assaulting as soon as Brady & Styles climbed through.

Brady and Styles moved to their side, as Brady quickly removed the extendable ladder from his backpack and set it against the concrete wall of the building. There were two floors on the building, and the windows on the second floor weren't very high up (only twelve feet high) so we would be okay; Hopefully. We had no idea what the first floor and main room looked like, as those windows all around the building were blocked by thick mud bricks; Presumably to block the harsh snow as windows often shattered in this weather, so Brady and Styles had to assault from the top second floor windows.

Brady began to climb up the ladder slowly, being sure to not make any kind of noise and to lose any balance. The ladder was on snow covered ground, so the climb was actually pretty risky. He finally reached one of the second floor windows, and he attempted to open the window just by pushing it up with his hands. Brady had no luck, as the window was jammed shut due to large amounts of snow. I peeked my head towards the left, and I could see him trying to scoop snow away from the window with his hands, before finally giving up and deciding to smash it through.

"Hard impact," He whispered on the troop net.

Styles walked over to the ladder, and gave Brady his sledgehammer to smash the window through, as Brady began going to work.

Brady took two big swings with the sledgehammer, smashing the window with ease, as the glass began to shatter all around. He pushed some glass around with his hands, as he tried to make sure everything was cleared through so he could climb in. As he began passing the sledgehammer back to Styles, literally inches away from his head, a rifle barrel came through the window. A huge knot formed in my stomach as I realized that was an enemy fighter without a doubt.

Literally a second later, the rifle barrel began to explode with rounds being fire out of it and through the broken window. The fighter was shooting recklessly and all over the place as it was pitch black, and he didn't have the nice NVGs we had. He was just shooting to where he thought we were.

This of course caught Brady off guard completely, and he fell off the ladder onto the thick snow on the ground.

"Get down!" Styles shouted, as he threw himself into a prone position next to Brady. Brady was okay, but I know that fall was painful as fuck. The only thing that cushioned his impact was the thick snow. His moans of pain were masked by the sporadic gunfire of the fighter's rifle through the window. Luke and I also dove into cover in front of the door, peering our heads to the left to try to see Brady and Styles on the other side. About thirty seconds after the vicious barrage of gunfire, more bursts of fire now came out of the front door, as Luke and I began to scramble to our feets. We got to the other side where Brady & Styles were.

"We're pinned down!" Luke said on the troop net. We stood against the concrete walls, as we were all on the same side of the building. I looked to my right, and I could see Brady and Styles still prone under the ladder about five feet away from me. The gunfire from the window had now ended, as we presumed the fighter was probably reloading or scrambling up the rest of his friends. Brady and Styles began to scramble to their feets, moving away from the window. They started to angle their arms, pulling out grenades, and tossing them through the window.

They tossed four grenades and after ten or so seconds, I could hear the muffled sound of explosions in the building.

We waited about thirty seconds, and we couldn't hear any gunfire anymore.

"Clear!" Styles said.

"Moving!" Luke answered.

By this point, the fire from the front door had also calmed down, so then Luke and I got back to that side. We began firing bursts through the front door, trying to return any sort of fire we could. By then, other assaulters from other areas of the compound had began to reach us, and we ceased our fire. They had probably heard the sound of the explosive gunfire, and the grenade explosions in the house. Four assaulters from Charlie Team began to stack up on one side of the front door, and the rest of us stacked up on the other side. We had already alerted them about the situation, and now we were going through the door.

The wooden front door was nearly completely destroyed. A huge hole formed in the middle, surrounded by other small and sharp holes made by the fighter's gunshots and our own. Debris from the door lay shattered all across the snow that covered the entrance.

As we stacked up, I whispered to Brady if he was okay. He said he was, but the fall had been pretty painful too. He followed this by muttering a lot of curses under his breath about the fighter who had shot through the window, and that was that.

A point man from Charlie Team got the go ahead from Schultz, Charlie's team leader, to move inside. Another guy from their stack of assaulters moved around, and got into position to kick the door in. He angled his leg, and kicked the door with a hard thud, as it fell inward into the room. The point man then moved in, followed by the rest of their stack and then our own team. We entered a large living room, with two doors on either side.

A wooden table was in the center of the room, and two raggity old chairs sat on each side of the table. In front of the chairs and table, was some shitty looking, old school television set that looked as raggity as the chairs. All of the furniture and everything else sat on rugs and mats, which smelled musty and old. On the top right corner of the room, laid the entrance to the kitchen.

The entrance also had a small hallway to the left that led to a bathroom I assumed, and on the right was the kitchen. The top left corner, was the start of a staircase that led to the second floor.

From the front doorway, I could see the door on the left was open and a bunch of piled up, men's shoes lay in in front of it, leading into a room. The room had a strong 'earthy' scent, and I could tell it housed a window blocked by mud bricks. And of course, directly in front of us, lay two enemy fighters bleeding profusely, slumped against the chairs. They were wounded from the fire we had returned. Their AK-47s lay in front of them, and one of them was almost surely dead, with a massive chest wound gurling and bubbling up blood. The other towards his left was severely wounded, coughing up blood with his chest was heaving.

We began to split off into teams as usual, with two Charlie Team guys going into the left room, stepping over the shoes; And the other two assaulters being Schultz and the point man going into the right room. Suddenly, I could see the wounded fighter beginning to raise his rifle. I was the point man of my own team, so I was the first one to see him. Literally a second or two later, I raised my rifle from the hip, and fired two shots at the fighter; Gravely wounding him. The team got a little surprised, as they didn't expect me to fire, and Luke whispered to me what happened.

"He was raising his rifle," I said. "He was actually still alive."

"Holy shit," Luke muttered. "Good call. Let's continue moving through, up to the kitchen." I started hearing crying and screaming from the rooms the Charlie Team guys had entered.

Brady and Styles both nodded at me, as we continued to move toward the entrance of the kitchen, smooth and silently. I saw the fighter I had just shot slump back completely against the chair, as he wasn't moving anymore. The house was still cold as shit because the front door was kicked in and destroyed, forcing all of the cold air from outside into the house. As I led the team towards the kitchen, suddenly I heard the loud screams of, "ALAHU-AKBAR!" through the kitchen. Without a doubt I realized there was still a fighter huddled in the kitchen, waiting to ambush us.

"Shit!" Brady muttered.

Luke gripped my shoulder, signaling me to stop the team by the cover of the wall facing the kitchen. I began to peek through, and look towards the kitchen. Even through my night vision goggles, I could see the barrel of a rifle on the edge of the kitchen wall. At the bottom, looked like a foot shuffling or moving around, presumably the fighter trying to keep balance against the wall. Luke then looked at me, and nodded his head, as the fighter continued his screams.

I didn't hesitate.

I took out a frag grenade. I pulled the pin, and held it for around a second or two, before peeking my head towards the kitchen and tossing it in there. As I pulled my head back against the cover of the wall, about a second or two later, the grenade went off. I heard the muffled explosion and the showering of shrapnel all in the kitchen, as Luke patted my shoulder; Which signaled me to move.

I moved from the cover of the wall, and towards the entrance of the kitchen. As I reached the kitchen finally, I was met by a grim scene. Two fighters lay dead, with massive rivers of blood now consuming the entire kitchen floor. The one who had been on the edge of the kitchen wall was peppered with shrapnel all over his body, blood seeming to seek everywhere. His legs were nearly completely blown off, with dangles of bright colored flesh holding the limbs together. In front of him, laid a large PKM machine gun that was almost under a cabinet, now getting soaked with blood.

The other fighter beside him was also completely peppered with shrapnel, which had created deep cuts and gashes all over his body. You could even see the metal pieces stuck into his face, and into his chest. His mouth hung open awkwardly, as his lifeless eyes were still wide open, staring into nothing. An AK-47 was laid against his chest. I now started to hear muffled shots fired from the second floor.

"Damn, they won't be screaming for god no more." Brady muttered from behind, trying to be a smart ass. Styles shook his head.

"Yeah, gather up the weapons and move out. You know the drill, let's go boys." Luke said.

I didn't even bother to flip up my NVGs and actually look at the dead fighters with my flashlight. I didn't wanna see the color of the blood or the flesh. Everything looked the same through the green hue of my NVGs. I didn't want an up close examination of them. Seeing things like that always reminded me that my job wasn't pretty.

In the kitchen, the fighters had been well armed, having large belts of ammo scattered across the counters and the sink. The fighter with the AK-47 also had a chest rig with nearly twenty magazines, almost six hundred rounds of ammo. As we began consolidating the weapons, we began to hear the muffled cries of women and children back in one of the rooms.

By the time it was over, the four Charlie Team guys had shot the rest of the fighters holed up in the room Brady had tried to get through, after clearing the first floor rooms and proceeding up. It surprised me that the four grenades Brady and Styles threw hadn't already neutralized all of them.

Luke got on the command net, and started telling Peter and Marc what had happened. Schultz got on the net, and then said his team of four had gotten six fighters in that one room on the second floor. Apparently they had all huddled up together, and the family had no choice but to let them in. We counted ten total fighters, so most likely four of them took cover in the living room and kitchen when they heard Brady trying to get in from the window. The first floor rooms with the mud bricks blocking the windows, also housed the actual family. That's why there was wailing and screaming from those rooms when Charlie Team entered them.

Back to the start, the six fighters stayed in the second floor room; Being weary and waiting to have a good look at the 'intruder' (Brady) who was coming through the window. So of course, they fired through the window as soon as they saw someone or something trying to get in, which led to everything that happened afterwards. Some of them had already died from those grenades we had grown by the time Charlie Team got up there.

The two fighters in the living room probably guessed we were trying to come from the front door too, so they pinned us down and shot through the door as soon as their other friends began shooting through the window. The two other guys I got with the grenade, huddled in the kitchen, we assumed were just there to provide back up.

It was well coordinated, and the fighters were very clever, being smart to attack at near perfect timing. Without a doubt, if we were able to enter without being first attacked, for sure we would all be dead or wounded right now. Especially Brady, who created the most obvious noise by smashing through the window. The fighters would have just lured us in and shot us all, which would've been their smarter plan. But of course, every smart plan isn't perfect, and their downfall was the fact they attacked us before we got in. They panicked and couldn't control themselves.

This was a perfect representation of It's better to be lucky, than good. We had a shit ton of luck today, without a doubt. Marc alerted us that the other assaulters had gotten the Taliban leader and the rest of the fighters holed up in another house, towards the far west of the compound. They did it with relative ease, unlike us, because those fighters were still sound asleep; Also huddled up into a room, when the assaulters entered the house.

As I finished putting the weapons together in the kitchen, I walked back into the living room, and into the room on the right side. I saw Schultz and the point man in the room, filled with crying women and children, who had without a doubt heard the gunshots. The two were pulling security, as the women began to scream and cry, nudging them; Also asking them questions about what happened in Pashto. Schultz and the point man looked pissed off, and I flashed Schultz a grin, which he returned with, "Fuck off."

Peter radioed us to finish consolidating the weapons, and preparing ourselves to move out the compound. It was 0230 hours. A whole half an hour had passed. So much had happened.

We finished prepping up, moving out of the house after around five more minutes. Many of the villagers had heard the gun fire, and were now waking up, coming to the compound. As I moved through the courtyard with the guys, the adrenaline I had had in the house was now gone, and I was now reminded again it was cold as shit, with snow everywhere.

"Shit, better throw on those clunky ass winter gloves. It ain't getting any warmer." Brady said to me. By this point, most if not all of us had pulled down and removed our balaclavas, so we could see our faces finally. I removed my assault gloves, and surprisingly, my hands were sweating. I assumed this was do to the nervousness and adrenaline that had consumed me while in the house.

I wiped my hands on my pant leg, and took out my winter gloves from my right pants' pocket, then shoving my assault gloves into the pocket. I put on the thick gloves and shoved my hands into my hand warmer, as we continued to walk through the courtyard. I saw Hamilton, Prig, and Spencer slapping backs and giving fives, congratulating themselves. I flashed Spencer a thumbs up, and he returned favor.

Although it was another day's work, we were only congratulating ourselves for getting the job done in such horrid conditions.

As we reached the outside of the compound, we were met by a crowd of villagers and village elders, who seemed annoyed and angry by our presence. Even in the freezing cold and thick snow, they didn't seem to care. I saw Peter, who didn't look too thrilled talking to the translator Khalid. Khalid was probably relaying what Peter was telling him to the villagers, and for them to go back into their homes. Meanwhile, the rest of us patiently waited for everything to be sorted out.

"What the fuck man?" Spencer said, who seemed to be getting annoyed as well.

"I know right, I don't know what's going on. I asked Marc, and he just said they heard about the assault or something." Luke answered.

"Those villagers better get the fuck inside and mind their business. Fuck, it's not like we caused any collateral damage." Brady said, shaking his head.

"Yeah but it's their homes bro. Their village, their compounds; Their property. I would be pissed if random soldiers raided my house too, in the middle of the freezin' cold. But still, they need to understand what we doing. These guys we got today invaded their homes, and have been killing our own for months now. It was the right thing to do." Prig exclaimed, and we all definitely agreed on that.

After a little while, we pretty much just said "fuck it" and decided to leave the compound and it's angry villagers. Khalid wasn't getting anywhere with them, and I could tell he was getting annoyed as well. We didn't have time to waste either, and needed to exfil ASAP. The villagers eventually just went back into their homes themselves, as they realized there was little they could do. We began to patrol back into the woods, through the trees and vegetation towards our vehicles.

We reached our vehicles, and we got notice to get to the helicopter landing zone, as the choppers were on there way and coming in around thirty minutes. Before that however, we decided to take a picture as the EOD tech had a high-resolution Nikon camera. We all posed in front of our vehicles, as the snow served an elegant background.

The EOD guy took photos of each team, and one entire group photo of the whole troop. My team photo was Spencer and I kneeling in the snow grinning and holding our weapons. The rest of the team stood up behind us smiling, also flashing piece signs and middle fingers. It was a great looking photo, and we'd be sure to post it up inside the hooch, along with the three other photos we had posted up on the hooch walls.

After that, we got back on our vehicles, and rode away from the woods and village, about three hundred meters, into a large open field of snow in the valley. We got to the field at around 0310 hours, and began waiting for the choppers. We waited in the harsh cold, as the three choppers finally arrived after ten minutes. The crews helped us place our vehicles onto the Chinooks, which took around another ten or so minutes. Finally at 0330, we were out and about, racing back to base.

All in all, it was a long night of work, and we had all did a very good job. We had a lot of luck, a shit ton of it, and it was what made us through the night. Overcoming extremely adverse climate and weather conditions to still keep our heads sharp and get the job done. That was what mattered. Meanwhile I sat against the seat of the chopper, feeling relieved and exhausted from everything we had done. Hamilton sat next to me, and I gave him a knuckle touch.

A little while afterwards, I flipped my NVGs up, and I began to rest, as the choppers continued to race through the sky.

Part ThreeEdit

Chapter Fifteen - PumpedEdit

1545 Hours - 1700 Hours (3:45 PM - 5:00 PM)

March 1, 2013

FOB Checque, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan

Another month and change has passed. Of course, ops are still slow and steady, but surprisingly, downing time has been pretty decent. It isn't as bad and as boring as I'd thought it would be. We're actually sort of enjoying ourselves while not on ops.

It's the beginning of March now. The heavy snow of the first two months had mostly dissipated, but the overall precipitation was still increasing. We were expecting a lot of light snow, and mixes of rain and snow in the upcoming weeks.

The temperature had also slightly increased as we were getting closer to spring, but that didn't mean there weren't days we were freezing like shit. Not to mention some guys had caught colds recently, and were downing NyQuil and DayQuil regularly.

February was exactly how I expected It to be; Slow. We averaged literally like an op a week during that month, and maybe two if we were lucky. Regular deployments, especially in the summer, we could average around four to five ops a week. In February, we had even more snow days than the punishing January, and we spent most of our time sipping coffee and hot chocolate. We also did a lot of unproductive shit; Video games, watching TV, jerking off, etc. It was our only way to kill time.

No one wanted to fight, so we just sat back and relaxed the majority of last month. I had actually gained weight, which is pretty crazy considering deployments turned guys into skin and bones.

Sitting around doing nothing, and not moving around because of no operations made us couch potatoes. We just ate, slept, killed time in whatever we did, repeat. Maybe trying to scoop snow off the front of the hooch that contained the weight room, which was completely buried in snow most of the month. We were laid back. And like I said, it didn't even feel bad, which was the strange part.

I'm two hundred and twenty-three pounds of mostly muscle, some fat. I was two hundred and ten during the beginning of February, and I gained thirteen pounds that month. All I did was eat MREs, and scarf down food at chow hall.

So for a 6'2 guy, I'm looking pretty big right now. I'm the heaviest I've ever been. It's crazy how our weight also flunctuates, depending on deployments. 

Back in the Marines, I stayed around 200 pounds. As a SEAL, I bulked up to '220, and then after those two deployments with ST5, my weight dipped down all the way to 190 pounds; Due to eating like shit at secluded combat outposts & patrol bases. After those deployments, I bulked backed up to my normal '210, and stayed that way up until now.

It all just varies. I have a bipolar metabolism, being able to both gain and lose weight quickly. Deployments could either kill or grow my size. We eat plentiful and stay in garrison most of the time, I'll gain. We're doing op after op, and eating a MRE a day, I'll lose. Simple as that.

My beard has also became pretty thick (the shit grows faster than the hair on my head), and the only thing I kept tight was my haircut, which was in a medium length buzzcut. My teammates said I looked Muslim, which I found funny.

It really didn't feel bad, though. Being laid back was relieving actually, and now I can't wait for this month and next month as the weather somewhat improves so we can get back into the field.

I'm done with my mini-break.

Something interesting happened last month too. Because one of our medics from Charlie Team got wounded last month in one of the few missions we did, we got an Air Force Pararescueman in the troop from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron; Which was JSOC's Air Force element that is much lesser known than DEVGRU and Delta Force.

Pararescuemen, or PJs as we called them, primarily specialized in combat search and rescue (CSAR) and medical treatment of personnel in combat environments. They are one of the Air Force's special operations forces, and receive intense, if not more extreme training and selection than other special operations forces. These guys can do it all, and they're often attached to other SOF teams in the military, which is our current case.

Medical treatment wasn't their main speciality, but we were low on medics in the troop; Prig and a guy named Duchane from Alpha Team were the only medically qualified SEALs. The PJ we got was the only medically qualified operator available stateside, who could be in Afghanistan ASAP; So that's why we brought him to the troop. Besides, his added capability of specializing in combat rescue was fine with us, it just made us more efficient.

One thing I particularly liked about PJs was their amount of flexibility in the way they operated. They could wear almost any gear they wanted, usually the same gear of the unit they were operating with to blend in and not stand out. I really liked the sound of that to be honest. It made it really seem like they were just like us, they were another guy part of the team and we embraced them like any one of our brothers.

The PJ who became part of our troop for the rest of the deployment was a Tech Sergeant named Michael Sullivan. Michael or Mike as we called him, was a thirty year old from Burlington, Vermont. Most of his life was filled with skateboarding and listening to alternative rock groups like Radiohead and Nirvana. In fact, Mike didn't even graduate high school, preferring to fulfill his skateboarding career which ultimately fell short after he couldn't acquire a sponsor.

After acquiring his GED, working a string of jobs, and some more amateur skateboarding all from around 1999 to early 2002, Mike decided to enlist in the Air Force, particularly due to the events of 9/11 a couple months before.

He went to basic training which he finished with ease in mid 2002. After a year as an engineer and a lack of deployments, he decided to go for something bigger, and he worked his way into the Pararescue Pipeline. He spent two grueling years pushing himself to his mental and physical limits, finally graduating and being certified as a PJ in late 2005, getting assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron for four years.

He went on four, three month deployments during the Iraq War; One in Anbar during 2006, two in Baghdad during the troop surge of 2007, and another in Mosul during the summer of 2008. After these four very eventful deployments and a ton of combat experience, he was selected and assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron in early 2010.

Even after then, he served in a special tactics team, going on another three deployments to Afghanistan; Two in Kandahar and one in Wardak. In fact, he was at the same base with the PJs who were killed in the big August 2011 Chinook crash, unfortunately. After another deployment in 2012, he planned on ending his service, before being called back to Afghanistan for the fourth time to replace our medic, leading him until now.

This was his eighth combat deployment, and I could tell he was tired. Yeah, he still loved his job and being with the guys and guys like us, but the deployments had taken heavy tolls on him. He has three Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars, one for Valor in Mosul during 2008.

He's been through multiple explosions and IED blasts, and he has a good feeling he's suffered some sort of minor TBI (traumatic brain injury). Another motivation for discharging was the fact he had a fiancée and a seven year old daughter, being on & off with her for years. He had a lot of things to lose and sacrifice, and he couldn't take that burden anymore.

Still, he's an interesting guy. He has long wavy, dark brown hair; Just like Matthew McConaughey's, and is about six feet tall on the spot. Mike is in decent shape, and a medium beard also consumed his face. He seemed to always be smiling whenever I was around him. We already had a nickname for him (Tony Hawk in reference to his skateboarding), and he was becoming very respected in the troop.

"Dude, I'm so fucking rad', I'll bust a kick flip on these Taliban, broski. They ain't got nothing on me." He said this the first time we met him with the most corniest voice I've ever heard. That shit still has me laughing until this day.

Mike had been fitted with all of the AOR 1 and AOR 2 gear we carried along with the Multicam gear he already had to blend in place with us. He had two Crye JPCs in Multicam and coyote brown, plus a Multicam CPC, and we gave him two LBT 6094s in AOR 1 and AOR 2.

We also gave him Crye NC combat uniforms, pouches, and backpacks all in AOR 1 and AOR 2. He also had his own two Ops Core FAST Ballistic Hi-Cuts, in stock tan, and even had GPNVG-18s; Which he acquired from the armory and were brand new. Plus of course, he had to get a couple of Arc'Teryx jackets.

Mike had made sure to prep himself while spending a couple days at Virginia Beach before the deployment, and we were impressed. He seemed really committed into fitting in with us, and we appreciated it.

He even got some of our weapons. Mike got a pirate gun (the custom M79), an assortment of sidearms (Glocks, P226s), and an MP7 to go along with his ten inch HK416. However, he chose to keep his SCAR-H rifle, which he let our armorers seriously beef up with all kinds of attachments and spray paint. This guy Mike had an all AOR 1 painted SCAR-H, with a sixteen inch barrel, foregrip, suppressor, a bunch of green laser sights, and an 6x zoom, Elcan SpectorDR scope.

That shit put the SCAR I had used with SEAL Team Four to shame. Complete shame! His HK416 was also fitted with a bunch of modifications too, that I don't really remember. I do know it had a RAHG rail.

I also do know certain parts of it were painted AOR 1, except the stock black receiver.

I assumed Mike used the HK416 for most missions, while the SCAR-H was for more longer ranges and better penetration due to the larger round.

Now, enough about Mike and his cool ass guns. We had went on one mission with him and it had gone well, and we're starting to really like him. He's a vital asset to us, and I hope he makes it through the deployment.

Currently, we were in our hooch, chilling and blasting music on a couple of speakers. It was the middle of the day, so everyone on the base was awake, and this was technically morning for us. The guys typically liked to blast some metal, punk, or some sort of hard rock to get everyone excited and fired up. They weren't into the soft and mostly alternative shit I liked like Coldplay and things like that, but they still listened to some fun stuff.

Besides, it pretty much depended on everyone's mood. We were excited right now. Did I mention we hung up the photo of us in the snow during the crazy blizzard mission in late January? Yup, it's there posted on the hooch walls, along with three of our other favorite group photos.

Our four photos on the walls all had some sort of flare. One was a photo of us during dawn after a successful operation, in around August of last year. It was taken in the same way as the iconic cover photo of the famous World War II miniseries, Band of Brothers. It's the picture where a whole line of soldiers are standing on some sort of mound or crest, as they pose with their silhouettes visible in the sunset.

We did the same thing, with our whole team standing on the roof of a bunker at base, posing as Kaz took the photo with a Sony digital camera. Styles stood in the center, as three of us stood on his left, and two on his right. It was our favorite photo, and there were rumors that it had somehow leaked onto Internet forums, which we never found credible evidence for. A couple of 101st Airborne guys also had a popular photo in the same style, that they took some years ago while on a deployment to Iraq. A quick Google search can find it.

But another reason we loved this photo so much was because Griffin was in it, which was very warming and uplifting for us. It was one of his last photos with the guys before he passed, and we took that very seriously. We decided to write "RIP Griff, 9/13/12" with a white marker under his position in the photo. He was always in our memories.

The two other photos also had flare. One was with the GIGN during our cross training with them, after a good day at the range. We posed and knelt into the dirt, smiling and giving thumbs up. Meanwhile the gendarmeries stood up behind us almost like statues, with their balaclavas on, staring directly into the camera.

And of course, this was the GIGN team who had the guys we befriended; Marcel, Phillipe, and Sebastien, along with two other guys who I think were called Stephane and Benoit. They looked incredibly menacing in the photo with their covered faces, and were a stark contrast to the smiles and thumbs ups we Americans had.

"Wow, you Americans in this photo look like ugly teenage girls after a Phoenix concert." Phillipe had joked after the photo was taken. Phoenix is some popular French rock band, by the way.

The last photo was the pre-deployment training we had conducted before the last deployment in the Nevada desert. It was a picture of all of us during a tandem HALO jump in the sky, and it looked so amazing. It had been taken in mid-air by a skydiving camera man, literally thirty seconds after we had all jumped out of the C-130. We're all wearing shades, and oxygen masks, and we're in our proper body positions; As the huge Nevada desert is in the distance of the beautiful, clear blue sky.  

We loved photography, believe it or not. Of course, we didn't take pictures all of the time due to op and personal security, but sometimes pictures could be very fun. In fact, probably the most popular picture in the troop is this picture of Brady and I after a mission back in October. It was early morning, after a long night of capturing two low-level Taliban facilitators, up in the Shah Wali Kot District in Kandahar. We were walking through a large open desert towards the landing zone for exfil, when we decided to take a couple of pictures before the helicopters arrived.

I'll let you know that we planned this by the way.

Brady and I decided to take off our helmets and headsets, throwing on two New York Yankee snapbacks that we had put in our backpacks. We weared them backwards, and we thought it'd be funny to take a picture with caps on, as we were the only black guys and were from low income, urban areas, AKA the hood.

You get the joke. We'd fit the "gangsta" stereotype perfectly.

So we posed, grinning and looking like hip hop stars from the early 2000s, taking multiple photos. A couple of photos had us flipping middle fingers and throwing up gang signs, which Marc told us to quickly stop doing. Long story short, one of the photos ended up becoming really famous, with guys in the troop finding it the funniest thing they'd seen in the Navy. Peter decided to hang it up in the operations center.

He still kept it, and brought it along this deployment as well. It's hung up on the front of the door in the operations center, a large foot long poster with a caption written under it in black permanent marker saying, "When even the Navy can't take the hood out of you." Until this day, everyone still finds it fucking hilarious. I look at it every time I enter the center to listen to mission planning, smiling. Brady loves it as well.

"I'm gonna show this shit to my kids one day," He jokes.

Another cool thing the guys loved was ink; Nearly everyone had at least one tattoo. It was common SEAL tradition, and because of the freedom we had compared to regular troops, a few guys were covered all over with tats. 

Guys had The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday written across their backs. Some had Death Before Dishonor instead. Many had personal tattoos, such as names of wives and other family members. Me personally, I had a large Navy SEAL trident tattoed on my upper back. Both of my arms had thick, vibrant, fantasy tattoos mixed in together. They were dragons, flames, animal heads, skulls, etc. These tattoos extended from the top of my shoulders to the beginning of my elbows. Above the trident tattoo, almost near my neck, was a It pays to be a winner tat' as well.

On the outer side of my left leg, laid my final tattoo. It was the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis, stretched vertically down my outer quad in all caps. It was of course there to remember and pay honor to my previous service as a Marine.

Tattoos had a lot of meaning, symbolizing what meant the most to us and what we valued. It also symbolized what it means to be a SEAL, and the sacrifices we paid day in and day out.

So now, back to the music. Besides the rock we played, we also blasted a lot of hip hop, especially a lot of old school gangsta rap like N.W.A., Big L, and etc. As the only black guys in the squad, Brady and I were laughing our asses off watching everyone else try to rap to "Straight Outta Compton" by NWA.

"It's like looking at five Eminems and Mac Millers' in person with a little too much facial hair." Brady had said, and we were cracking up. But that didn't matter, we were all just having a good time. The music was booming and that was all that mattered. Now, they were playing "Fight The Power" by Public Enemy, which was old.

But fuck it.

All of us began rapping the verses and chorus along, and it reminded me of a scene in the movie Jarhead, where the main characters are playing Fight The Power during Christmas in the Gulf War. It was exhilarating, and Brady even started busting some break dancing.

After a little while, we switched the music and the guys were already talking shit.

"I think the only thing as crazy as Brady break dancing is when girls on Maury find out their baby daddies cheated on them." Styles said, grinning. We giggled, and Brady smirked at Styles. A couple of other jokes were cracked, but then we moved on.

We started to blast some System of A Down, and "Bodies" by Drowning Pool, one of the most popular songs we listened to at the command. We loved to repeat the chorus, "Let the bodies hit the floor!", but with instead replacing the word 'bodies' with 'hajjis.' This was in reference to a scene in the TV miniseries Generation Kill, which was about Recon Marines during the Invasion of Iraq. We found it funny, and we still sung the song like that until this day. After that, we bumped hip hop, with some Eminem, a little Kanye West, and a bunch of other artists.

It wasn't until Luke announced he was going to play a tribute video that we stopped the music. Apparently, it was a tribute video for all of the guys in the command who had paid the ultimate sacrifice since the beginning of the War on Terrorism. Luke had literally been working on it for a year and a half, trying to pile up pictures and footage of the KIA guys all from other teammates and commanders. He had been put his heart and soul into it too, and it was of course very emotional for him as he knew many of the team guys killed over the years.

"I'm just trying to pay my respects to the guys." He said, almost quivering. "I'm sure you will all will like it."

The pictures and footage all piled up into a ten minute video that was put on a CD. We had a DVD player connected into the TV, and we all gathered around a couch in front of the large flatscreen, as Luke put the CD in and turned on the DVD player.

The CD began to play, as we were met by a short blue screen with text that said, "A special paying of respect to all of the men who have sacrificed so much in the command over the years." The screen then switched to another blue screen that said, "RIP to the fallen angels, who are also our fallen brothers." A final blue screen that said, "The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday." appeared, before the actual video began to play.

A soft, melodic guitar riff began to play, which was the beginning of the song, The Funeral  by Bands of Horses. It was a song we had all listened to for quite some time, becoming one of our favorites when we were down, and feeling emotional. The song continued as the pictures of guys who had been killed appeared on the screen, along with their names. But we didn't leave or get up to keep our composure. We just kept watching, and looking at the photos of our deceased fallen brothers.

Some photos showed guys at their weddings. Others with their newborn children. Many during deployments after missions. Some with their families, smiling and looking happy together.

The first five minutes went through with us completely silent, as I saw the guys around me sitting stern on the couch and around it, with straight faces. Luke watched stoically. Styles covered his face with his hand, trying to mask his emotion. The rest of us sat there silently, just watching. The song then finally ended, switching to Til' Kingdom Come by Coldplay, beginning with an acoustic guitar ballad, and then transitioning to the first verse.

God, Luke picked the craziest song choice. I felt very sad now.

By this point, I could see Prig's eyes begin to get red considerably. I still sat stern, trying to keep my composure. Styles covered his mouth now. Everyone else still sat stern, as a few guys sniffled with emotion. More photos began to pop up on the screen, along with more names and ages. As this continued to happen, the video finally reached Griffin. His face appeared, smiling. It was a dated photo of him after graduating BUD/S many years before. He was clean cut, and in full dress uniform. Jesus, he looked so young.

The video then transitioned to him holding one of his sons after just being born. His wife lay on a hospital bed, obviously tired and relieved smiling at Griffin, as he held his infant son in his hands, also smiling. Then the video transitioned to Nicolas Checque, the most recent fallen angel at the command, as the song began to end.

Then that was it. A whole ten minutes of just reflecting pain and sacrifice. We didn't want to talk or dwell. Luke just shut off the television and DVD player, and we got back in our bunks. It was 1630 hours. I was tired, I didn't want to think about anything. I didn't want to be emotional anymore, neither did the rest of the guys. There wasn't any time for that.

After another ten minutes of complete silence in the hooch, Spencer finally spoke up and offered up going to the mess hall, which had early supper. We agreed on that. That's also when we started talking again. The food sort of bridged us between our emotions and realizing we had to move forward. As bad or as low quality as it was sometimes, the food somehow made things better. It made us forget things. We were back in the mess hall, eating and cracking jokes just like any other time. Even Luke, who had actually cried a little. I spotted him chewing on french fries cracking jokes with Kaz.

I was glad for the food. Hell, I was even gladder at Spencer for mentioning it.

I sat away from my team, and on a table next to Mike, the PJ. We were closer to the television, which was playing an episode of the popular TV show, Friends. I was starting to really like Mike. He was pretty dope and he didn't seem to have bad vibes. That's a thing about the guys I worked with; No matter what particular special ops unit they came from, they always had good vibes. No one was disliked. It was very rare to find a disliked special operator, which was mostly bad commanders which came along sometimes. But as you know, Peter is pretty decent, so that's nothing to worry about.

And that just goes back to the common ground between all special operations forces; Particular mindset. We know how work with each other, regardless if we're actually from the same unit or from somewhere else. That bond, that brotherhood, and common ground for camaraderie, is something that is instilled in the rigorous training we've all went through. And because so, we're all like friends at a party. It's good for relationships, and it's good for getting the job done in operations, time and time again.

But back to the mess hall, today we had steak and lobster as a main entree, along with roasted chicken and mash potatoes and gravy as the second entree. I was tired of mash potatoes, so I took the steak and lobster, which was actually pretty good. Mike's fat ass had ditched the entrees and had gotten a Philly cheesesteak from the short order cook, along with french fries, a can of Sprite, and Hershey bars from the vending machine in the mess hall.

"Yo bro," I said. Mike looked up at me and raised his eyebrows.

"What's up bitch?" He answered, smiling.

"How's the cheesesteak?"

"It's pretty good, man. Not Vermont good, but I like it." 

"Yeah this lobster and steak is okay too," I said. "How you liking here so far?"

"You guys are okay. I was expecting to see a lot of shit quickly, but I guess the winter has obviously made things slow." He said, "But dude, where's the fucking skate park?" I laughed.

"You're asking the wrong person, I don't approve of that shit. Go complain to the troop commander Pete. He'll get the Seabees [Navy Engineers] to get to work and you'll be Tony Hawk in a month or two." I smiled at him, and he made a V-sign gesture with his tongue.

"Anyways, man how old are you?" He asked, crunching on a french fry.

"I'm twenty nine bro. Been in the Navy for around seven years. Been in DEVGRU for only a year though." I said. The lobster was really good.

"Oh yeah? I could tell though, you're some baby face looking motherfucker." He said, "You look young, but at the same time you don't got the vibe of a new guy. Like shit, I thought you were a Chief."

"Yeah thanks Tony Hawk." I snickered. He flashed me a thumbs up, almost like Fonzi.

"No problem. What else are you about?"

"Well there's not a lot. I've had a string of girls I've messed with, especially this girl named Crystal. I'm from Brooklyn. My dad served in 'Nam. I got a cousin in the Rangers. I also like girls with fat asses and red velvet cake. What else is there to say?" I said.

"Well, who doesn't like a fat ass?" Mike answered.

"But yeah that's cool. I saw that photo of you in the op' center with the other black guy named.... Brady? I think? That shit still has me laughing my ass off." He said, and he indeed began to laugh.

"Yeah. We planned that, that's the crazy part." I answered.

"Oh wow, really? NO WAY MAN!" He began to burst out laughing, and I laughed with him.

"How did the troop commander approve of that?!" Mike asked, shockedz "Back at my command we weren't allowed to do funny shit like that."

"Well, Pete said as long as we weren't throwing up gang signs or something, it was fine with him, and it didn't effect any op or personal security."

"Wow." Mike said.

"I know right?" I answered, smiling.

"Yup, that's pretty dope bro. I don't think anything could top that photo. Maybe of my fiancée, but you know, that's only for my eyes to see." We laughed some more and then I changed the subject. I was already almost done with my lobster, while Mike had only finished half of his sandwich.

It's 1700 hours now. I was glad we were having this corny conversation. It had let my mind off a lot of things, and I was freely able to express myself. It made things even better that I was able to do it with someone like Mike, who had positive vibes.

Besides, the steak and lobster is fucking great.

Chapter Sixteen - TeamworkEdit

0330 Hours - 0600 Hours (3:30 AM - 6:00 AM)

March 7, 2013

Giro District, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan

Theoretically, this mission was perhaps going to be kill or capture, but we all knew what we had to do. A capture wasn't an option. He would have to be neutralized.

And the guys we were with felt the same too.

We were tasked with launching a pre-dawn, joint operation in the isolated mountains of the Giro District, to capture a Taliban commander who reportedly has ties with the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani Network is an insurgent group that operates along the Afghan-Pakistan border, and has pretty much the same ideals as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, significantly working with them through out the war. The only real difference is that they've been around much longer, and are mainly based in Pakistan. They have the same ideologies of extremism, and do the same tactics and atrocities like each other.

They're cut from the same cloth. But that didn't mean shit to us. They were all the same in our eyes.

Anyway, the interesting part about this particular mission was in fact that it wasn't our mission in the first place. We weren't leading it. Apparently, a Delta Force troop has been tracking this commander through out their entire deployment, and has found him with a shit ton of other fighters holed up in a training camp. The training camp was located in low-altitude mountainous terrain, about a mile away from an isolated village, and a RECCE team had gathered intelligence that there were about twenty five fighters in that particular camp.

Yes, you bet it. We were going to work with our Army counterparts, the Delta boys.

Before the mission, I could just make out the insurgent encampment through the drone feed. It was a very large compound, with up to ten small buildings and houses making it up. About five vehicles, mostly technicals, surrounded both north and south of the compound. To left of the compound laid a long driveway, that stretched down all the way back down the mountain, and all the way up to the formation of the hill that held enemy caves behind it. Further out to the left of the driveway, were large fields and mountainous terrain that the fighters actually probably used to shoot and train in.

The fighters would train, shoot, and use explosives through out the day, taking breaks here and there. They would then finally all gather back in the compound during the night, and most likely rest for the next day. Sometimes we saw fighters going out of the area and back down the mountain, possibly going on their own operations. We weren't sure.

It didn't help that through out yesterday, drones had tracked even more fighters moving in and out of nearby caves and bunkers back up the hill. The hope was that under the cover of darkness, we could catch the fighters off guard and assault from multiple areas in the training camp, creating a diversion. If things went sideways and more waves of fighters began to appear, we had a QRF stationed at a base down south in the province.

It was half a platoon of Army Rangers, about sixteen guys.

The plan was to land about three miles from the formation of the hills and mountains; Patrolling all the way through plains and vast fields, finally veering off into the mountainous terrain. We would then patrol up into the perimeter of the training camp. Our combined force would next assault from both the front and rear entrances of the training camp, with my troop entering the front and the Delta troop entering from the rear. They would patrol about fifty more meters, and then turn in to face the rear entrance.

Just before that, we would do any last minute checks at the ORP, and split off into our own individual teams.

If all of that went well, we would then hike up pass the top of the driveway and up over the hill, doing a search of the suspected caves and bunkers that the drones had tracked. There was a good chance that the commander was there too. We were going to need a lot of skill and luck to get the job done today, due to the magnitude of the operation, and we had to stay extremely focused.

We went out in two Chinook helicopters, one for our troop and the other for Delta. Everyone was going, including Peter, so it was our troop of twenty five, along with a dog handler that had Bruno, and a EOD tech. That made twenty seven guys. Meanwhile, the Delta troop was twenty assaulters, along with another dog and it's handler, two intelligence specialists from the ISA, and two RECCE snipers, totaling at twenty five guys. The entire combined assault force was fifty two guys and together with the QRF, over sixty seven guys had some participation in the mission.

It was big. The insurgents couldn't have stood a chance against this many of us.

It was going to be weird working with Delta, which was my first time. There was this sort of 'rivalry' that the guys sometimes liked to hype up about which unit was better. We were at the top of the special operations chain of the military, and each specialized in counter terrorism. The thought was that it was always sort of a competition between both units, with even certain things like who got the better missions or who did better in drills determining this.

It didn't help that certain guys at the command had grown bigger egos towards Delta after the Bin Laden raid.

At the end of the day however, we both realized the drama (or 'beef' as we called it) was stupid. We were both at the very top, and essentially operated and did the same things. We also both got the very best gear, and we both had the same mindsets. We were all one team fighting a common enemy with the same senses of dedication and purpose. That's what mattered. All of the talk and beef was just bullshit.

I was glad as all of these things were particularly highlighted as soon as we met the Delta guys at their base. They were fun loving guys, just like us, and we treated each other the same. They're our brothers, and we're theirs. It was as simple as that. The only real differences were our branches and certain cultures, but we're all one team.

Like I said, they got the best gear just like us, as we're Tier 1 units. The operators carried HK416s with Geissele rails and MP7s, as well as the same GPNVG-18 night vision goggles we used. However, they heavily preferred Glock sidearms in a variety of sizes and calibers, over the P226s and 45Cs we carried. The most used I believe, was a Glock 19. They also had machine gunners to complement assaulters like we had. Their snipers used the SR-25 with a sixteen inch barrel, while the HK417 wasn't in use. Apparently it failed testing, but it was good enough for us.

They almost exclusively wore Crye Precision gear. Crye Precision AC combat uniforms, with G3 combat shirts here and there, as well as JPCs and CPCs for body armor; Plus the Crye Precision Airframe helmet, instead of the Ops Cores we used. The operators also almost exclusively wore all of this gear in Multicam, although AOR 1 combat uniforms and gear existed among them, here and there. In fact, they had tested AOR 1 & AOR 2 uniforms before us all the way back around 2005-2006, and had received many prototypes of them before DEVGRU adapted those camos around ’06-’07 as our own.

Couple years later and all SEALs are wearing those camos. Go figure.

Also, as it was cold too, the Delta operators had a variety of jackets. I saw everything from Patagonia PCU jackets, to Crye and Arc'Teryx jackets in Multicam and a bunch of other colors.

Anyways, for this op, I took my MP7 and M79 grenade launcher. Intel had stated we could possibly be in incredibly close range engagements, especially when searching through the caves, so the MP7 was vital. Not to mention we wanted to catch the fighters in the camp off guard, and limit as much noise as possible so any fighters possibly in caves nearby could not hear us.

The M79 was of course there if shit went south. I needed some extra firepower.

I even carried a knife, just in case we got a little too close. Our troop was saturated in AOR 1, in contrast to the Delta boys being saturated in Multicam. This was mostly done to distinguish each other and not confuse units in the midst of the fighting. Mismatching was a no-no for this op.

I had on my Under Armour jacket this time, the one in Realtree Xtra camo. It wasn't extremely cold, and none of the Arc'Teryx stuff would be needed. Besides that, my helmet, my '6094, and my combat pants were all AOR 1.

By this point, we had already flown out and it was 0330 hours. We had landed in the vast fields at around 0230 hours, and it had taken around forty five minutes to patrol all the way towards the formation of the mountain. This mountain was going to be the land form that led us to the encampment, and to it's series of smaller hills that were around it. We've been patrolling through two goat trails towards the camp, as the trails were centered by a large unpaved dirt road that twisted left, and led to the end of the driveway which went back down the mountain.

On the far left side towards the road, was the steep trail we were on that had my whole troop. The goat trail was only about two feet wide, and had vast arid and rocky terrain. On one side of the trail was the whole mountain face that towered over us, while the other side on the right sat the long dirt road that was almost a twenty foot drop from the trail. To the further right of the road, laid the Delta operators patrolling up the other goat trail. As we first walked up, the trails and the road were at the same altitude; But as we got higher and higher on the trails, the trails' altitude drastically increased.

We had to be very vigilant and careful going up there. No one wanted to fall off straight twenty feet down into unpaved terrain.

I could hear the dirt crunch under my boots as I continued walking up with the troop.

We were in a near perfect line formation, with Charlie Team that had the two support personnel leading the way. Alpha Team was next, followed by my team in the rear, Bravo Team. Peter and Marc were up front, centered in between Alpha and Charlie.

"Drone says no enemy activity," Marc said on the troop net.

Some guys had ditched the ballistic plates in their plate carriers today, due to the hike up the mountain. I wasn't one of them, however. We would probably encounter a large enemy force, and I wasn't going to take any risk. I was fully armored down with around sixty to seventy pounds of gear. I felt protected.

The weather wasn't bitter cold like it usually was, but it was around thirty degrees today. The wind was thankfully calm, and the illumination was also pretty decent. Another good thing was that it wasn't raining in the past couple of days, so we wouldn't have a hard time traversing the terrain. During these times where spring was right around the corner, torrential rain falls were rapid all along the province. It could make things very difficult, and floods could ravage terrain and villages.

We didn't want to be slogging up mud as we traversed up. No one wanted to be messy.

Both of our patrols continued through the goat trails for sometime before the trails emptied out onto high terrain above the target compound. There were two large buildings inside the structure, while a bunch of other small squat buildings made up the compound. I could see two technicals, fitted with .50 caliber machine guns, and a pickup truck parked on the middle of the driveway; Which was right in front of the compound.

The drone had made us aware that the other three vehicles were on the other side, towards where the Delta operators were arriving and by the top of the driveway. The end of the high terrain that the trail emptied us out to laid a small rocky hill that descended down to the perimeter of the compound. At the top of the hill which was our ORP, we began doing any last minute checks on gear and weapons.

"Get set. The Delta commander is about to move his troop to the perimeter of the compound any minute now." Peter whispered to us. Marc nodded at him, as the rest of us checked our kits.

I looked at my watch and it was a little over 0400 hours. We had reached the ORP a little later than expected, but everything was still going perfectly. It was still pre-dawn, and we had the cover of darkness for about an hour or so. This was going to be our best element of surprise.

Then the Delta commander radioed Pete that his teams were ready, and we began to finally descend the hill. As we got closer and closer to the compound, I could just make out the little targets and figures of the range that was to the far left of the compound and driveway. The vehicles blocked some view of the range, but I could still see it pretty clearly.

As we reached the perimeter, we stopped again, and our teams made sure we were set over the radio. I took a knee, and waited with the troop. Meanwhile, the two RECCE snipers from Delta began to climb the compound walls from their side with extendable ladders, and take over watch positions on one of the roofs towards the farther right side. They were looking for sentries, and any possible movement around the vehicles.

After about another thirty seconds, the Delta commander, Jack, said he was set. His teams had already descended to the perimeter of the compound from the end of the other goat trail, and had cut into the front of the rear entrance to begin the assault.

"Okay we're all set. Guys take it easy, nice and smooth." Peter said over the troop net.

Luke turned his head to our team, and gave a thumbs up. I nodded, and I could feel my body begin to rush with adrenaline.

Then the assault began. We slowly crept forward towards the compound walls, slowly and silently. We tracked our lasers around the perimeter, and to the doors and windows part of the structures in the compound. The front doors were metal doors with thick hinges, and we weren't going to risk our element of surprise with an explosive breach. We decided to climb the walls instead, just like the RECCE snipers. The Delta troop was doing the same.

As we reached the compound walls, we began to set up our ladders. Peter got Marc and Charlie Team to keep outer security around the compound, and to look out for sentries and other areas of the encampment. Charlie Team members began to split off to the farther left, and search vehicles, and the outer areas of the perimeter.

They teamed up with another team of Delta operators, who had been instructed to pull security with them. Both dog handlers from both troops went with the teams, most likely to throughly search through the cars and area.

Meanwhile, our Alpha Team members were already climbing up the ladders into the compound, and passing them back down one by one to us. Duchane, the medic and rear assaulter, nearly fell off the ladder like an idiot. He passed it back to me grinning and looking ugly as shit.

I climbed up into the compound, and then passed the ladder back up to the others. After about a minute or so, both teams were in the compound, as well as the rest of the Delta troop who had entered from the other side.

As of course, I was point man.

Behind me was Styles, Luke, Brady, Hamilton, Prig, and Spencer in the rear. Spence had taken his MP7 today in order to stay quiet, so we had little to no heavy fire support today. If we got into deep shit, we had to count on the sixteen Army Rangers part of our QRF who had a machine gun squad outfitted with the MK.46s and '48s.

As usual, we were in the courtyard and guys were already splitting up and veering off to the other areas of the compound. I could see the two snipers on the far right, just chilling on the roof top of the small building with SR-25s. The drones had stated there was a good chance the Taliban commander was in one of the two, large central buildings in the compound, so we approached the first building that sat in the center.

The rest of my team had already stacked on the rear door of the building, and it was just Styles and I on the front door. By this point, another two Delta operators had moved through the compound and up to our building, so they stacked up on the door with us. Styles and I stacked up on the left side, while the other two operators were on the right. One of the operators tried the door and it was unlocked. The door opened outward, so the operator pulled it just enough for me to have space to move in. I slowly slid through the small space of half open door, keeping the laser of my MP7 tracked in front of me.

Simultaneously, the rest of my team which had Luke and the others began to enter the building from the rear door on the other side. Literally as soon as I turned to the left, I realized we had entered the main room where much of the fighters were resting.

Instantly, my stomach began to knot as I realized we were in a room full of sleeping fighters. They were all huddled against each other, around ten of them, trying to keep warm under blankets that were laid on a couple of king-sized mattresses. To their far right, laid weapons scattered across the floor. AK-47s, RPGs, PKM machine guns; You name it, it was there.

The four of us and the rest of my team who had entered from the rear began to walk closer to the fighters to subdue them. As Luke and I got closer to the fighters sleeping, suddenly I spotted movement on the floor. It wasn't just any kind of movement, but very anxious and rapid. A fighter towards the top right corner of the room started to jump up from under the blankets, in an attempt to grab an AK-47.

Meanwhile, as I began to creep forward and put my laser on the fighter jumping up, I felt something roughly grip me; Tugging at my boots and ankles. Within seconds, I had tripped on the floor.

It didn't take me very long to realize it was a fucking fighter who had scooped me off the floor with his hands. I had assumed he was still sound asleep under the sheets, and was about to step over him when I crept forward to neutralize the fighter jumping up. Boy, I was wrong, and now a surge of nervousness consumed my entire body.

Now on the floor, the fighter began to jump on me. All hell broke loose, and suddenly the rest of the fighters began to rise up. Styles and the two Delta operators began to fire with rapid accuracy, literally inches away from the struggle I was having with the fighter on the floor. Luke and the rest of the team also began to fire, neutralizing the first fighter who had jumped up.

Simultaneously, the fighter on the floor was continuing to attack me. He jumped on top of me, and attempted to choke me out. My night vision goggles bobbed up against my forehead as I struggled from the fighter's firm grasp around my neck, and more shots continued to ring out. I could just make out the anger on the fighter's face, and the spit oozing out of his mouth as he clenched his teeth while choking me.

However, it didn't last long. I struck him with a couple rapid blows to the face, and his grasp finally loosened. Seconds after as I finally reached for my knife, he tried to get back on me, but Styles quickly emerged. He smacked the hell out of him with the stock of his HK416, and pressed his foot against the fighters throat as he now laid across the floor. Seconds later, Styles put a couple of suppressed rounds into the fighter with his foot still on his throat, finally neutralizing him.

Then it was over. It all happened so quick. It was literally about thirty seconds. I had been in only the third hand to hand stuggle with a fighter in my career, and now every fighter in the room was dead. Styles had also saved my life. I owed him everything at this moment.

"Bro, you okay?" He said, flipping his NVGs up. He looked at me with a face of shock, as he gave me a hand to get back up.

"Yeah man, that was fuckin' tense. Thanks for that, no doubt." I said.

"No problem brother, stay sharp." He patted my shoulder, as everyone else began to ask if I was okay.

"Styles just did some G.I. Joe shit, holy crap fellas." It was Luke's voice that cracked on the troop net, excited yet still focused.

We weren't done however. This was I believe the main and only room on the first floor. Insurgent encampments weren't like any regular compounds or houses in the country. They varied and depended on a lot of factors.

Hell, I don't even think this fucking place had a bathroom or kitchen. You'd think fighters who'd train hard to commit atrocities and kill coalition troops would have the most best conditions available, but of course you were wrong. They put more work into doing wrong then worrying about basic necessities. It made you shake your head, like a lot of the other things they did.

After about another thirty seconds, suddenly more shots rang out. I was checking on the dead fighter that Styles had killed, when I heard a large cacophony of bullets fly through the room. Literally a second or two later, I turned my head around, as I saw one of the guys go down, the rest of my teammates diving for cover.

It was Prig! Fucking Prig!

"Prig is down!" Luke shouted. I could see him drag Prig on the floor by the collar of his jacket to cover.

Styles and I then threw ourselves onto the rusty floor of the room as we realized a fighter had pinned us down from the cover of the staircase leading up to the second floor, about twenty feet in front of us to the far left. The two Delta operators, who had got behind a wall around us, began to return barrages of suppressed fire back towards the staircase, which the rest of us began doing. After about a minute of straight suppressive fire towards the staircase, we ceased our fire.

"It's clear!" One of the Delta boys shouted. Him, Weimy, and the other operator, Seth, began to advance towards the staircase with Styles, as I ran across the room to check on Prig.

Brady and Spencer were piling up weapons, while Luke and Hamilton were tending to him.

"Shit, I'm okay..." Prig moaned in pain. I knelt on the floor and looked at him. There wasn't any visible wound, even though we were sure he had been hit.

"You sure brother? Fuck, you collapsed like a damn building, I thought you took one to the neck man!" Hamilton said, and we giggled. The giggles were the only thing that could lighten up the situation.

"Yeah I'm fine." Prig said, slowly lifting his head up. I then looked at his plate carrier, a Crye NJPC, which was almost completely shredded. Thankfully and miraculously, Prig had taken all of his ballistic plates and that saved his life. He had gotten shot around ten times, and every round pierced his plate carrier.

"Holy fuckin' shit, there's just holes everywhere on this thing," Luke said, checking out the shredded plate carrier. "Today's really your lucky day."

"Yeah I'm pretty lucky." Prig had lifted his NVGs, turning on his flashlight, and I could see the thick grin on his face through the green hue of my NVGs.

We all started chuckling. Not at the fact Prig was in pain, but the fact he was almost killed and made it through it. We were so happy about that. Yeah, maybe his whole torso was bruised up due to the impact of the bullets, but he was alive. That was all that mattered.

Meanwhile, Brady was second guessing his decision to not take his ballistic plates.

"Christ," He said on the troop net, as he consolidated the weapons. "I'm gonna try my best to keep my ass in one piece this morning."

"No doubt bro." Spencer answered, "Prig and Lance have already almost gotten killed, we need to keep our asses together."

Brady and Spence finished putting the weapons in a sack. They then joined us as we moved back towards the beginning of the staircase leading towards the second floor. As we began proceeding up the staircase itself, I stepped over the near desecrated body of the dead fighter who had pinned us down and nearly killed Prig. All I saw was a river of blood beginning to drip and move with rhythm down the staircase. His body was shot to shits, and you could see some of the inner organs on his torso with a good look.

That was a good look I wasn't going to take, however.

The second floor brought along another living room that was an ammo dump filled with ammunition and explosive material for all kinds of bombs, particularly IEDs. Belts of ammo scattered the walls of the room, while bomb-making material lay scattered on two large tables in the center of the room. It was empty but we discovered two other rooms on each far side of the living room.

Spencer, Prig, and I decided to stay in the living room and consolidate the ammo, looking for intel. The other six guys, which included the two Delta operators, split into two teams of three and took each room on the sides of the living room. One opened up to a bathroom, which the fighters surprisingly had, and the other opened up to a closet filled with typical Afghan garb. Turbans, loose knee-length dresses, sandals, and etc littered the closet. The guys also found shemaghs and black balaclavas on the top compartment of the closet.

Both rooms were empty, and after a little while of searching through the rooms, Peter radioed Luke that the other central building had been cleared. Apparently our other teammates had also encountered a near exact situation as us, with all of the fighters huddled into one room. However, it was much less eventful than our engagement, and they were all neutralized without a single one of them waking up. The other small buildings and encampments in the compound were also clear.

"Man, when can we get back to base and have some Afghan chai? Everything sounds down and over." Seth said. He looked casual, like it was just another night's work. Weimy, the other operator, flashed him a grin.

In reality, it wasn't just another night. Nowadays during this point in the war, finding real Taliban commanders and facilitators was very rare. Especially one who has ties with a major terrorist network, like Al-Qaeda or Haqqani. You were stuck on low level fighters and literally street gangsters trying to make names for themselves. It all felt like just another night at work, but it really wasn't in the bigger scheme of things.

The war was heavily waning down, with troops steadily decreasing. President Obama plans to have all combat troops out by the end of next year; So missions like these meant a lot to all of us, since they were some of the last we would be doing.

Meanwhile, we got radio from Peter and Jack that we were gonna blow the whole encampment up, including the vehicles and the consolidated weapons. We wanted to make sure all of the fighters supply and resources were gone, so we got our EOD tech and two Delta operators to start planting C4 charges around the encampment and it's perimeter.

We were now all on the large open dirt field that was the fighters' range or shooting area, that sat about fifty meters from the driveway with the two technicals next to the encampment. I was talking to Weimy when all of a sudden my radio echoed.

"ISR drones are spotting a large group of movers and reinforcements coming up from the hill that's toward the top of the driveway." It was Pete.

"Oh shit, what's going on?" Weimy asked me.

"Well I guess their friends heard the commotion, and are heading back to the AO to help them out. Get ready bro." I patted his shoulder.

"Okay move, move it! Let's get the fuck down the driveway!" Marc shouted on the net, and suddenly my whole troop started to run back towards the driveway, towards it end. I looked at my watch and it was 0500 hours.

Fuck, it had already been an hour. Dawn began to creep up into the sky.

The Delta troop followed us, and within two minutes we were back at the driveway. Our EOD tech was running as fast as he could from the explosives he had set, realizing the incoming reinforcements. We all started getting set, and the two RECCE snipers took positions on top of one of the technicals.

My troop was further up the driveway, towards the top where the rear of the compound sat to the right of us and the driveway began to lead into the hill with the caves behind in. The front of the hill, along with the big boulders that sat on it, blocked our view of the uphill dirt roads that the driveway morphed into. It also blocked where they led to, but this is where our Intel came in. Apparently, they led to the caves and bunkers that the other fighters were hiding in and were now coming out as reinforcements.

The rear of the compound where we were also sat the other three vehicles; Another two technicals and a pickup truck, parked in front of it on a gravel surface.

Thirty meters back, sat the Delta troop in position towards the end of the driveway. An operator manned one of the .50 cals' on the other technical.

"Alright, I need two of you to drive those technicals back to the end of the driveway, the ones to our right. We need that extra fire support, as these fighters are going to be here any second." Peter said. Brady and Schultz from Charlie Team volunteered, and they began sprinting towards the vehicles.

"Just watch out for my ass, I ain't got no damn armor." Brady said to me.

As they began their movement towards the vehicles and we waited for the incoming enemy reinforcements to be at the front of the hill, my mind started to wander. I started thinking about Mike and this skateboard footage he had shown me on the DVD player one time. The footage was all the way back from the summer of 2001, before he had even joined the Air Force, and it is set to Lucky  by Radiohead.

It was mostly street skating through the streets of Burlington, and of him at a skate park. It was pretty interesting, and he seemed pretty talented at it, busting all kinds of flip tricks, grinds, and lip tricks. His hair was even longer then it is now being the eighteen year old he was back then, and he looked so young. So damn young. He seemed so full of life, bringing a surreal amount of energy into his skating with a bright personality. He was cracking jokes with the camera man and cursing at himself whenever he didn't get a trick right.

God the military takes a toll on everyone, I thought.

Just when I started to hear the ignition of an engine, suddenly I heard a large WOOSH  through the air. Simultaneously as we turned our heads at the pulsing sound, an incredible BOOM echoed through the early morning sky.

Suddenly I heard a scream.

"RPG, TWELVE O'CLOCK!" It was Peter. I spotted a fighter on a boulder on the top of the hill, one hundred meters ahead of us. He also had an empty RPG tube in his hand. Seconds later, our whole troop began to open up on him, as chains of fighters began to pop out in and around the first fighter standing on the boulder. They began to hide on mounds and boulders on the top and front of the hill, firing rounds at us in between cover.

Meanwhile, everyone else was trying to figure out who the hell got hit by that RPG. However it wasn't long before I heard Luke's command net crack saying, "We've got two eagles down, TWO EAGLES DOWN!" And it was the Delta commander, Jack.

Then I realized that the RPG hit one of the technicals. And it was the technical with the two RECCE snipers, which was now obliterated and engulfed in flames as I turned my head back, and I saw operators tending to their wounded all the way back down the driveway.

"FUCK!" I heard Brady scream, popping rounds out of his rifle. He had quickly ran out of the vehicle and back into the formation of the troop. Schultz was also back.

It was pure chaos. Guys were shooting and screaming all around. Marc and Peter were trying to direct us with our fire. Charlie Team and Alpha Team stood prone on the driveway, while my team began to sprint to the left towards the dirt field with the range. We were trying to get a good view of fire against the chain of fighters. Within minutes, half of the Delta troop was with Charlie and Alpha, with half a dozen of their combined force beginning to proceed up to the top of the driveway; Then towards the fighters on the hill. Tracers were flying everywhere, as both of our units began to mix up and discombobulate through the hellish fighting. I was popping grenades out of my M79, rounds hitting the fighters trying to descend the hill to get closer to us.

"Get those assholes running back down!" I heard Marc scream. Even though he shouted, everyone else was calm as we battled and followed orders. Focused and steady, we fired round after round after round.

As the fighters were getting beat down and some of our guys started to run towards them, a lot of the them started to turn around and run back up the hill. So then another dozen guys did the same as the first half dozen; Proceeding up to the top of the driveway, then up the dirt road that the driveway led into towards the hill. Some guys from Charlie Team, including Mike, then proceeded back down the driveway to help the wounded. Pete was already on the radio calling for the QRF. He had said before that the drones reported up to FIFTY fighters moving through out the caves and hill.

We were up for a hell of a fight.

I was with about half of my team, being Luke, Prig, and Spencer. We were still firing rounds and popping grenades up the hill, towards the fighters retreating back up. We were all crouched on the dirt field to the far left of the driveway, shooting with rhythm and trying to neutralize whatever threat our other teammates were chasing. Behind us, about twenty meters back, was the rest of my team being Hamilton, Styles, and Brady also firing rounds.

It was so many things happening at once. The fire had gotten put out all the way back down the driveway where the first RPG hit. Sadly, it was horrid news. Both of the Delta snipers were dead, and another five operators were seriously wounded, including an ISA specialist AND our only EOD tech. I saw Mike with Schultz and another operator from Charlie Team frantically helping Duchane bandage up the wounded, even through my NVGs. They were with the other half of the Delta troop (or whatever was left of it) tending the dead and wounded back down the driveway.

Other operators with them began firing back, as tracers flew above our head towards the enemy. About ten of them, as they were the only guys from the bottom of the driveway who were mobile, began to cross into the dirt field we were on.

I saw an enemy tracer hit the dirt, literally inches away from Luke's head to my left, as he began to roll himself over. He almost did it with complete ease, as he reloaded his HK416 and popped another couple of rounds out of his rifle. He fired and moved with rhythm, as Prig and I did the same and proceeded up the field.

"Prig you good bro?! Your chest okay?" I asked him. As we sprinted up the dirt, he was aching in pain and muttered curses out.

"Yeah brother just the bruises!" He said.

My boots crunched gravel as I sprinted on the dirt, with the other ten operators beginning to follow our group on the harsh terrain. They stood about twenty meters from Hamilton, Styles, and Brady, as tracers still flew around and adrenaline was pulsed through my entire body. It was now 0530 hours. It had already been thirty minutes, and I was trying to figure out how the fuck time had passed so fast. We were right in the middle of dawn now, and the sky was a vibrant indigo. Another half hour, and the sun would be clearly visible.

We were running out of time and we needed to be fast.

Everybody's radios were echoing with yelling and requests for the QRF and exfil. Pete was still back down the driveway with the wounded and other guys, directing fire towards the enemy, while Marc had followed the operators who had sprinted up towards the hill.

"Fuck where's the QRF!" I heard Brady on the troop net.

"Pete says the Rangers will be here in an estimate of ten minutes, just hold tight. There's also a MEDEVAC on the way." Luke responded.

We had sprinted so far up the empty dirt field, we were towards it's end which was blocked off by thick trees. The front of the hill where the fighters had shot at us from sat right above the trees, as the driveway looked far away from us. I figured the guys who had chased the fighters would probably have to turn in left from the dirt road, to get behind the hill; And towards the main group of combatants. The hail of fire that had been going on for around twenty five minutes straight had finally calmed down, and now we were reflecting the situation.

Fifty meters to our right, was the last operators who had moved up to the top of the driveway, which was just half. They were around thirteen guys mixed from our troop and the Delta troop, including Pete and Jack. The more than a dozen mix of operators with Marc, had chased the fighters into the back of the hill, and apparently shot them all dead. We also heard on the radio they killed even ten more fighters hold up in two caves, now looking for intel and enemy supplies.

The ten Delta operators were still around us, although around five of them had gone back to the driveway to help the other half with carrying the casualties. Those five and the others (Mike and three of his teammates) were finally starting to come up the driveway towards everyone else. Meanwhile, we began to set up the HLZ (helicopter landing zone).

I spotted them carrying stretchers, and two body bags as I turned my head behind me. They looked so tired, as they struggled to bring the guys up the driveway to Pete, Jack, and the others. Simultaneously, the other five Delta operators which include Seth and Weimy behind us on the dirt, began to link up with us.

The mission had gone horribly wrong. We had suffered very high casualties, and now we were waiting for our QRF and the MEDEVAC. This was not how anything was planned, and the price was devastating.

The QRF and MEDEVAC were finally arriving, while we were crouched in the dirt. It was now 0540 hours, and we were now in twilight, as the sky began to turn into a mixed sea of dark orange and deep blue. Sunrise was coming any minute now, and I was fucking glad the choppers were here. Our night vision goggles were also flipped by this point, and some guys had their helmets off. All twelve of us made a little perimeter in the dirt, as we waited for the radio to chatter about the helicopters finally being here.

As well as the QRF and MEDEVAC arriving, a Chinook was coming as well to bring all of us back home. I was so tired, I wanted a can of Monster Energy.

By this point, everyone on the driveway was now on the dirt field with us. The guys who had chased the fighters also had returned. This meant our whole force was together. Luke threw two red smoke grenades to signal the choppers, as they continued to get closer to us and their rotar wash began to blow dust & debris into our faces.

The QRF landed with the Rangers who began to pop out one by one, movie style. About ten feet to the right of the QRF chopper was the MEDEVAC Blackhawk helicopter.

"Hey what happened here, commander?" The Ranger said, as his troops began to surround our perimeter. I believed he was the Platoon Leader as he was a First Lieutenant. His seven man machine gun squad began to overwatch the driveway, as his regular rifle squad stood closer to us.

"A lot LT," Pete said, sighing. "We suffered heavy casualties and our Delta boys loss two good guys. We also need to get these wounded onto this MEDEVAC ASAP."

"Sorry to hear that sir," The Lieutenant said shaking his head. "We'll do whatever we can right now."

"Okay, so your men can search around this hell hole just to make sure we didn't leave any fighters hiding back in the compound. We were in the midst of fighting and adrenaline, so anything's possible. Watch your sectors and keep your weapons close. Stay sharp." Pete said.

"That's right, listen to Pete here. This is important, we can't lose anymore men. We need to get these assholes." Jack added on. He seemed very stressed, almost lost for words as to what happened to his troop.

It was racing in my mind as to why they got hurt and we didn't. It just didn't make sense, none of it did.

Pete looked at him, and I could see Jack's eyes glistened with tears in the twilight. His emotion was raw, and he just couldn't help himself. He had lost good men, great men. The elite of the elite, guys he'd probably known for years. I completely understood the way he felt, but for now we didn't have time to comfort. He couldn't have a shoulder to lean on.

The Ranger Lieutenant fell silent, as his men began to cross the driveway and move back into the compound, with our Alpha Team following them. The rotar wash continued to blow into our faces, as other guys began to push the wounded into the MEDEVAC chopper. I saw our EOD tech with two blood soaked bandages on his legs, as his weak body was pushed onto the chopper in a stretcher.

It was almost surreal. I just remembered him shooting on the range with me yesterday afternoon, and how much fun he seemed to be having. I didn't know him or communicated with him like that, but I did know his name was Charlie. And now he was fighting for his life.

Prig also went on the MEDEVAC, because he wanted to make sure he was completely okay due to the bruises he'd sustain from the impact of all the rounds he took. He also wanted to check on the wounded guys. But he quickly got off, as the pilots said they were running out of space.

He didn't seem to care. As long as his brothers who were in way worse shoes than him got out okay, or in one piece. The rotar wash continued to blow against our perimeter, as I spotted guys sitting and crouching in the dirt. I saw my team and I went over to them, as they were all sitting in a circle with their weapons and kit beside them.

Complete silence. Brady was downing Gatorade bottles, as he passed me one, and other guys were wiping the sweat off their faces with their own gloves. We were all exhausted, completely exhausted. And we just wanted to get home, just to get to base alive.

Luke was smoking a cigarette. He had Oakley ballistic sunglasses on, and his dark brown wavy hair was matted considerably. His thick beard also looked dirty, as grit and dust were all around the edges. His Arc'Teryx jacket and kit were off, and I could see the huge sweat stains that soaked his long sleeve undershirt.

"Hey brother, you okay?" I asked. He turned his head towards me.

"Yeah man," He answered. "This has just been a long morning. Everyone's tired here. But there's a question I just can't get out of my head."

He sighed and took another puff from his cigarette.

"And what's that?" I said.

"Was it worth it?" He responded.

We all sort of looked at each other, exhausted and out of breath, as we wondered if it truly was worth it. If killing that enemy commander was really worth the cost of two good men.

No one answered.

I then spotted Marc a couple meters away, by a tree, taking a leak. You could even hear it as he relieved himself after a long morning of work. I almost laughed.

By now it was 0550 hours. The MEDEVAC choppers finally departed, as the Rangers began to come back from clearing the compound with Alpha Team for the  second time. They had also planted a bunch of explosives that would blow the compound and everything it contained into place.

The pilots of the QRF chopper, who were also apart of our exfil, seemed agitated. They'd been waiting a good ten minutes for us to finish up and for the other Chinook to arrive.

But now, we received orders from Jack that an AC-130 gunship, a huge close air support aircraft fitted with heavy weapons, was gonna do a strafing run. It was on the hill and the caves that the fighters had been firing from and escaping to, just to make sure they were all neutralized. And, they were going to destroy the compound.

"Fuck, I want to get back to base. We're all tired Master Chief, what's going on?" Styles asked Marc.

"The Delta commander ordered it. Pete couldn't say anything. After all it's their op, at the end of the day we were just a supporting force even though it didn't seem like it." Marc shrugged and patted Styles on the shoulder.

"We're gonna be out of here in like ten minutes, man. That's when our exfil chopper is coming. The air support is coming in around half of that time." He added on.

"It better be." Prig muttered. Marc smiled at him, trying to be encouraging, although he was quite aware of the situation and how the op had turned out. Then he went over to speak to Luke.

Indeed the air support arrived in around five minutes. The strafing run was incredible to see. The AC-130's big 102 millimeter howitzer pounded the compound with massive force, completely destroying it in a massive fireball. It's 40 millimeter cannon then thudded along the earth with rhythmic motion. Finally, it's 25 millimeter mini-gun spat barrages of rounds all across the front of the hill, as we observed the destruction.

After it was done, billowing clouds of smoke, debris, and dust mustered into the air. Some of it landed on us, but we smiled as we knew there was no chance any remaining fighters had survived that. My ears were ringing from the large explosions, but I would be okay.

"Finally we get to go home." Hamilton said.

"Yes brother. Finally. I'm so tired." Luke responded.

Another five minutes, and now it was officially sunrise. A vibrant yellow-orange consumed the sky as I saw the sun hovering in the horizon. It was 0600 hours and our exfil chopper finally arrived. The remaining forty five men of both troops piled onto the helicopter, as the other QRF chopper with the Rangers lifted on with us. We lifted on, as the ramp of the chopper closed in slowly.

Most of us had our kit sprawled out across the helicopter floor, as we were still pretty tired and soaking up energy drinks. This was because we had to run all the way back down the dirt field towards the end of the driveway when the air support began to rain down, but that wasn't the point anymore.

We were going home alive.

I took a seat next to Mike. My helmet was off, piled on top of Mike's on the floor beside my seat, and my jacket was hanging off my seat as well. My Under Armour t-shirt was slowly turning back into it's original color as thick pits of sweats had consumed my entire underarms and torso. I stared at my plate carrier across the floor, reminding myself that it kept me alive.

I turned my head towards Mike, and he was crying. Silently. Tears just streamed down his eyes with this sort of apologetic rhythm. The kind of eyes that said they were sorry for something that was not under their control. And I felt bad.

We all felt bad. We felt terrible. The Delta guys had said little to nothing since their comrades had been killed. One or two of them were crying as well. They couldn't help it.

"What's going on bro?" I gripped his shoulder.

"I just.... I'm just... So sorry, man. For those guys man. Those guys who lost their brothers because I know how it feels. I know how it feels to lose someone who'd lay their life for you. And it fucking sucks." He muttered, as he quivered in between his tears.

"I'm sorry too. I wish it wasn't part of the job. I really wish it wasn't. But you did your best, you did your best trying to save those wounded. Don't ever feel guilty. It's not your fault." I said. He looked up at me and shook his head. Other guys around us on the chopper began to observe our conversation, but they didn't say anything.

"Sometimes I just think about my little girl at home, man. She's only seven, and she's too young to know any of the shit we see or go through. I don't want her to, and I wouldn't want her to ever lose her dad. I'm the only one she has." Mike answered.

I didn't really know what to say. I didn't know what it was like to have a kid or have someone depend on you to stay alive. I mean I had my parents, but it wasn't the same way of having child or a spouse that depended on you to come home in one piece.

All I could do now was just listen. I couldn't understand.

"Do whatever is right. Whatever is best for you brother." I patted him on the back, and then we fell silent again.

The chopper continued it's fast pace and by then too, tears were streaming down my eyes.

Chapter Seventeen - SacrificeEdit

1600 Hours (4:00 PM)

March 15, 2013

FOB Checque, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan

It's been around a week since that op with the Delta Force. We haven't been on another op since.

Besides the fact we'd suffered heavy casualties on that mission, things were still very slow. All combat forces were going to be pulled out by the end of 2014. The main war was coming to it's end. Our jobs were almost done and we understood that.

But that didn't make things any easier. It didn't make the losses, or the guys who got hurt any easier on us.

Three guys died on that op. Although the two Delta snipers died instantly from the RPG exploding their technical, our EOD tech passed an hour after reaching the hospital. Shrapnel had penetrated deep inside the femoral artery of his right leg, and doctors attempted surgery, but it was too late and Charlie had bled to death.

It was bad. These were the third Delta KIAs in around the past five months, beginning with a young Sergeant First Class who was killed in the Kunduz Province back in October. It didn't look good at all, especially because the war was waning down, and we were still losing guys who operated at the highest capacity.

I remember the day after that operation. Our whole troop stood in formation outside the operations center, in near freezing cold temperatures at around 8 AM in the morning. Large, dark clouds towered over us as it was scheduled to rain any minute then.

We had made Charlie's Battlefield Cross, a tradition that has been around since the Civil War that has been paid to honor the fallen.

His HK416 was stuck into his hiking boots with a bayonet, as his Ops Core helmet was placed on top of his rifle. This was the basis of the Battlefield Cross. Also placed on his rifle were his dog tags, and behind the cross, was an American flag draped on the side door of a MRAP vehicle; An Oshkosh M-ATV.

"Now, we must give a prayer to honor one of our fallen brothers; Chief Petty Officer Charles Carisi, who made the ultimate sacrifice yesterday morning. May we have a moment of silence." Pete said, as he stood next to the cross with Marc on the other side.

After a moment of silence which seemed like forever, Pete finally said the prayer. And then we had a chance to pay our respects.

It was a solemn ceremony. We all went up to the cross and knelt on our knees with our heads down, looking at Charlie's dog tags. We didn't cry, because we couldn't. We had to move on.

Life goes on. But Charlie would not be forgotten. Never.

It reminded me of Griff again, although his Battle Cross was at his funeral. Instead of Pete saying the prayers, it was a Navy chaplain. And we were all much more sadder because he was someone directly part of our squad and troop.

It didn't matter however; Any loss was a big loss. Every man mattered.

It was 4 PM now, 1600 hours. Most of us were still sleeping, although Styles and I were awake. I was cleaning my shotgun, wiping off dust and rust off the weapon and wiping the inner tubes of the double barrel. My laptop was on my right side, and my MP7 which was freshly cleaned was on my left.

I laid on my bunk, trying to focus on my weapon. The op was still partly on my mind.

I saw Styles on the top of his bunk across the room. He was laying down barefoot with his legs crossed, using his phone. He didn't pay me no mind.

"Yo bro?" I muttered and he looked up at me.

"What's up man?" He answered.

"How you doing?"

"I'm okay Lance, what about you?"

"Nothing, same old same old. Hey, you been sleeping?" I asked. He looked at me again, and then climbed off the top of his bunk, and walked over to my bed, sitting on the edge.

I shifted my legs to sit next to him.

"Not really.... You?" He said. His hair had grown long and shaggy instead of his usual buzzcut, and his beard was scruffy and uneven considerably.

He looked like a homeless man. The bags under his eyes didn't help either.

"Nah." I said. "Bro, cut that fucking hair off you look like a bum."

He chuckled.

"Fuck it, being in the SEALs and in the shit isn't about a beauty contest." He answered.

"Yeah you're right." Things went silent for a little while.

"Yo Patrick!" I called Styles by his first name. "Thank you brother. For saving my ass out there last week."

"No problem man. That's what we do. We're selfless, and I'm only worrying about my brothers, that's all. If that fighter got me instead of you, I would've been fine with that. Because I know you'd do the same for me, keeping my ass alive." He said.

"Thanks," I answered and I tried to smile. "You know I would too."

"Right." He smiled back.

"But I got to ask another thing.... You ever have flashbacks? Or just you know, have some of the stuff we see stay on your mind?" I asked.

By this point his smile had turned into a completely serious expression. He then sighed.

"Not really flashbacks but from time to time, some stuff stays in my mind. It's all about the way you deal and interpret things. Majority of the time we don't have the time to even think about shit." Styles said.

"But you know, certain stuff I guess is unforgettable. Or I'll always think about. I can't help it though...."

He seemed almost lost for words. As if the mere topic of stress in the field seemed surreal to him, even if he experienced it all the time, and had effects from it.

"See right now, I just can't get Charlie off my fucking mind," I said. "Seeing him go into that MEDEVAC has just been on my mind all week, and looking at his dog tags the very next day was devastating. We're all going through it, I get that, but it's bothering me. It's killing me inside."

"We're losing guys left and right, I don't know what's going on. Everything is just happening so fast. You remember when Griff died? Remember how terrible we felt? When we loss those old guys in Libya? Checque? Last month we loss fucking Chris Kyle, bro. Deadliest sniper in U.S. history. Killed by a fucking Marine he was trying to help! A Devil Dog like I was!"

"And now Charlie is gone... Forever."

I finally stopped talking. This time, I felt like crying. Styles wrapped his arms around me with a hug, and patted my back.

He understood.

"Look brother, I'm always here," He said. "You'll get through it. We've loss a ton of guys and have seen so much crap no one in their right mind would ever want to see. I'm here for you, always understand that. Those guys will forever live in our hearts for who they were and what they fucking did to get the job done. That's why they're warriors, true heroes."

"Hey I don't wanna get cliche with the shit, but just know I'm here, okay? Besides that, it's what we signed up for, it's what we accepted. It's our duty, something that we have to fulfill. Something that we carry with us. Something that we let deep in our minds and souls. Something apart of us."

"Just take it easy. Relax yourself. You got this." He got off my bed and went back on to his bunk.

If only it was that simple. Life goes on, things begin to fade and change. But the memories stay. The decisions you've made stay. The brothers you've lossed stay. The things you've seen stay. They seep into your skull, and into your inner consciousness, effecting every itty bitty part of who you are, and what you're made of.

As a son. As a lover. As a Tier 1 Navy SEAL.

And most importantly, as a human being.

My head started to hurt. I looked at my freshly cleaned 870, and began to examine the inner tubes, wiping off any bits of dust I hadn't seen before. I finally placed the weapon down. To my left on the far edge of the bed however, laid twelve gauge shotgun shells neatly lined up together. I decided to take a shell.

And I chambered it, into the shotgun.

I flipped the shotgun upward, with the barrel facing me. I began to look through the barrel. Then I looked at my finger.

Which had flipped the safety off. I looked back at the barrel. Then back at my finger, now on the trigger. Back at the barrel. Then to my finger. Back at the barrel again. And then to the trigger.

I stopped.

I unchambered the shell, and tossed it back on my bed. I flipped the safety off, and then decided to take my MP7 and 870 with both hands to bring to the arms room that housed our gear lockers. I began to get off the bed, and walk out the hooch.

I struck a glance at Styles before I was out the door. He was still laying on his bed, his phone completely capturing his attention. Everyone else was still asleep.

My eyes began filling up with tears. I had almost killed myself right then and there. I felt so weak and frustrated at myself, only thinking about the easy way out of the horror I had seen. I felt undeserving to be around those guys because they weren't having trouble dealing with things like I was. The feeling of being weak, especially as a warfighter, was the worse. We were taught to be strong, and to almost be untouchable to mental dilemmas because of our rigorous training.

But then as I walked towards the storage room, I remembered my humanity. I remembered we were still human beings and coped with stress in our own ways. I remembered that it was not my fault that I felt this way.

All I knew at that point was that I was done. I could not do another deployment. I've served honorably for more than a decade, and my mind & body were tired. I couldn't do it to myself, and I couldn't do it to my parents.

As I reached the armorer in front of the storage room, my anxiety finally dropped. I smiled.

The armorer's name is Jake, and he's a nice guy; A thirty nine year old senior chief, who had been in DEVGRU since 1999. But there was something very unique and particular about him.

He had only one leg. Jake had lost the other four years ago, while with Gold Squadron on one of their last deployments to Iraq. He was hitting a target with his troop, and long story short, him & a teammate took a direct hit from a RPG minutes into the first firefight. His teammate died instantly, while Jake who was some feet next to him was peppered with shrapnel, and his left leg was completely severed.

A very haunting coincidence was that his teammate was a support guy (also an EOD tech) killed by a RPG, exactly like Charlie. Until this day, Jake sometimes has survivor's guilt over the incident.

Jake nearly bled to death, and it took him a full two years of painful therapy & rehabilitation to prove he was ready to be an assaulter again, something very remarkable for an amputee. He deployed to Afghanistan in late 2011 as a full time assaulter, serving only one deployment because the Navy didn't want him to complicate his injury anymore than he already had. He was on administrative duty in Virginia, until he volunteered for another deployment to Afghanistan in a support role, which is the one we're in now.

He plans to leave the Navy after this deployment, after serving twenty one honorable years and deploying sixteen times. 

"What's good bro?" I said, exchanging fives with him.

"Nothing much, you need me to take care of these?" He replied, pointing to the weapons in my hands. I glanced at the 'BALOWSKI' name tape on his AOR 1 utility uniform.

"Yeah," I answered. "How's life?"

"Same old, same old. What about you? You look like pure shit." He said, and we snickered.

"I know bro, the field takes it's toll on a motherfucker. I'm just tired." 

"I hear you, let me take these inside." I handed him my weapons and said my goodbyes; I didn't feel like investing into a full conversation with him, as I started to walk back to my hooch.

I stood outside of it. I had my Arc'Teryx Combat jacket on in Multicam, with no hat or sunglasses on; Just the shape of the cigarette that protruded out of my mouth as I blew harmful smoke, in and out. My lower garment was one of my khaki field pants, now dark brown from water and mud stains, due to the lack of adequate cleaning on the base.

To top it off? Dirty Vans SK8 Hi's, in black and white. I'm the fuckin' DEVGRU fashion guru.  With all seriousness though, we were on base and I wanted to feel as comfortable as I wanted.

The base was barren, as a lot of assaulters were still sleeping, and I watched a couple of support personnel walk around. Puddles of water sat on top of the wet dirt and gravel, as rain had touched us throughout the early morning, with dark overcast clouds rising over us currently. I looked at the big mountains that towered over the base in the horizon, as I heard the splashing of water that came from guys slamming their boots into the puddles.

I was bored as hell. The cigarette wasn't doing me enough justice.

My mind began to wander like a child at a candy store. I started to think of my 2009 deployment to Kunar, probably the most violent region in Afghanistan during that time. My SEAL platoon part of SEAL Team Four was there to conduct VSOs (village stability operations), clearance, and special reconnaissance, with direct action raids here and there; Not nearly as much with DEVGRU. The War in Afghanistan was at it's height during this period, with the troop surge beginning towards the end of that year.

For most of the deployment, we were at a remote combat outpost in the Nari District and doing ops from there. That was until August, when we moved to a base in Pech that housed a U.S. Army infantry company. It was located near the extremely dangerous Korengal Valley, and we saw the infantry company suffer some losses during that deployment. Pretty unfortunate.

I'll let you know that the extravagant gear we have nowadays was in it's infancy, even if this was four years ago. Not to mention the regular SEAL teams don't have a huge budget like DEVGRU and the rest of JSOC, either.

I had two primary weapons only; A MK18 Mod 0, a shortened M4 with a ten inch barrel, that I used for close quarters, and a brand new SCAR-H with a thirteen inch barrel that I used for most engagements. However, I only had one scope available for each weapon, and I had to give my guns back after a deployment. Not to mention only one P226.

I was issued only one set of ballistic plates for my plate carriers (Three LBT 6094s in coyote brown, AOR 1, and AOR 2), which meant I always had to interchange depending on the mission. Only one Gerber tool, and one combat knife. It was a hassle relying on single sets of equipment, and a lot of guys spent thousands buying their own gear.

Crye was just beginning to become a big thing during this time, so I only had one set of Crye ACs in Multicam that I purchased myself. AOR 1 and AOR 2 was also just starting to get issued to regular SEAL teams, so I was issued a set of Patagonia L9 combat uniforms for each camo right before the deployment began; As well as the AOR 1 and AOR 2 plate carriers.

The L9s were very similar to Crye's combat uniforms, especially since the L9s I used that time had Crye Gen 2 kneepads inserted into them (Patagonia has since changed the design and made their own kneepads). The negative part of this, was that as stated, I only had one uniform for each camo. So if they blowed out or were heavily damaged, I was fucked. I had to rely on a set of old school DCUs in tri-color desert, and one other set of BDUs in M81 Woodland, both RAID modded.

Thankfully, none of that happened. The uniforms naturally wore like they were supposed to. 

As for helmets, I was issued one MICH 2001 that I spray painted urban tan, and another in olive drab that I purchased myself. And as of course regular SEALs don't have a budget like DEVGRU, I only had one pair of PVS-15 binocular night vision goggles. Decent, and nothing compared to GPNVG-18s.

I still remember the guys part of my eighteen-man SEAL platoon. Fourteen enlisted men, with two officers, and two support personnel (EOD tech, and a dog handler). My squad was Me, Jerez, McMillan, Langley, Sandoval, Monahan, and our squad leader, also the Lead Petty Officer, Kristensen. Our squad also had the dog handler, who's name was Ackerman, or 'Ack' as we called him. Top enlisted man in the troop was Senior Chief Everworth, who's probably the craziest SEAL I've ever known.

I mean this guy tried to climb through barbed-wire when he was bored on base, and hid spiders & scorpions in guys' gear. Not to mention his actions during combat, when one time he attempted to rescue a whole ANA platoon by himself, who were getting cut to shreds by cross-fire from us and the enemy fighters.

Our platoon leader was a Lieutenant Aaron Yang, probably the only Asian-American SEAL I've ever known. He was such a cool and down to Earth guy, who did everything for the men he led. The second officer-in-charge (OIC) was a Lieutenant Junior Grade on his first deployment, named Addison.

He was killed by an IED on July 7, 2009. Only twenty four years old. He didn't even get replaced until the end of the deployment.

See, I'm glad I never knew him very well. Or his death would've affected me much more than it did. It sucks and It's quite shallow to say, but sometimes it's better to lose newer guys than the veterans of a unit. Better to lose the guys you haven't trusted completely yet, or haven't connected with yet. It saved the pain and sorrow, no matter how fucked up it sounded.

I remember how I coped with loss back then, completely burying it in my mind, unlike now where I can dwell often. Hell I didn't even dwell so much on my first deployment to Fallujah back in '04, although that was the first time I saw so much carnage in front of me. It sucked during the deployments, but afterwards, I'd bury it when returning home. This wasn't always a good thing however, as this was one of the things that destroyed my relationship with Crystal in 2011.  

Regardless, nowadays it wasn't the same. My emotions were starting to catch up with me. 

I recall this patrol to a village in around September. My squad was with a platoon from the infantry company, along with two ANA translators. We were there to do humanitarian work, and to use the assistance of village elders to locate Taliban movement (which rarely ever worked, as villagers could be Taliban themselves), and to figure out what their village needed for a better future.

It's crazy how the ideals and knowledge of both the regular Afghans (and often the Taliban) functioned. I mean, most of these people didn't even know why we were in Afghanistan, especially in remote areas like Kunar where societies had probably never experienced the comformity of basic modern technologies, and ways to distribute information. You had certain villagers who had never even heard of 9/11, and some who thought our sunglasses could see through walls into their compounds. Others thought our 'magic pills' could cure any sickness.

Then you had the Taliban who often believed we had force fields to deflect RPGs. Did I mention there were fucking people who thought we were Soviets, back from the '80s? It all just became hilarious charades to us.

That's just living in a third world country in a nutshell. You don't know or understand shit that's going on. They had never seen or heard anything like the things we had. Their view of the outside world was completely out of touch with reality. It didn't help that they quite frankly had a careless government either, filled with incompetence. We always tried to help, but things never turned out the way they were supposed to.

I mean, take away all factors and reasoning. Would you like an invading foreign country to tell you how to run your own government? And again, regardless of any underlying factors or logic. So on the occasion, I couldn't even blame the government for it's lack of will to cooperate with us to help out it's own people. 

Back on point, this village patrol was a typical VSO, a.k.a, Winning hearts and minds.

It's funny as that's not even our main mission platform. Green Berets did village stability operations and foreign internal defense (FID), not us. We focused on direct action, which we weren't doing much of at all, and special reconnaissance. It just goes to show how the war had changed many units tasks & capabilities, adapting to whatever the commanders and leaders wanted us to focus on.

However, doesn't mean everyone loved it. Large amount of guys in the platoon felt uneasy about doing jobs we weren't ever trained to do, and were on edge about not always being in large firefights.

This is ignoring the fact of the terrible combat outposts that commanders loved to put us in; Typically surrounded by mountains in the middle of nowhere, where fighters built up their forces, and attacked our base routinely. Terrible bases like these resulted in disasters like the Battle of Wanat in '08, and Battle of Kamdesh in October 2009, both in Nuristan which held a very similar geography and threat like Kunar.

Regardless, that wasn't the point. Our platoon just wanted to do the job we were trained to do.

During that operation, we reached the village early in the morning, around 0930 hours after a two hour long foot patrol right out of the base. None of that treacherous terrain suited our vehicles, and choppers weren't able to reach our secluded ass outpost with speed.

Our squad led the mission, as the Army company commander asked Lieutenant Yang to do so. Yang was well spoken, and communicated well with us, so I figured he'd be okay with village elders. The village was as poor and raggitty looking as any other in Afghanistan, with mud houses surrouned by thick walls and farmers doing their daily tasks. Onlookers watched us sternly, as the Army platoon leader seperated his men into squads. The soldiers began splitting off; Greeting villagers, distributing goods, and patrolling the perimeters. Our squad began to do the same.

Meanwhile, Yang, the platoon leader, and the platoon sergeant met with three village elders in the largest house in the village. As they discussed village matters and insurgent movement, I began to seperate into the courtyard of a small compound in the rear of the village where little children began to gather with their parents. I was with McMillan, and we were happy as hell to see the kids.

There's something about children that brings out a whole different side of war. They were young, the most vulnerable, the ones who usually were vaguely unaware of the full reality of their predicaments. The ones who also made you smile, laugh, and often gave you strength through all the bullshit that combat & deployments can be. The ones who just needed a better life, and to be with their families. The ones who suffered, cried, died, and made you question if what you were doing was all worth it. And most importantly, they were the ones who didn't deserve to go through things they couldn't even fully understand.

And sometimes it made you feel bad. So fucking bad. 

McMillan and I began to hand out candy, bottles of water, and other goods to the children & their families. They laughed with joy as their parents thanked us, and even offered us food from one of the houses in the compound. We kindly accepted, even if McMillan thought they could be poisoning us. Their food was actually pretty exceptional, and I began to crack jokes with some of the older boys who spoke fluent broken English.

"Does this go boom-BOOM?" One of them said, pointing to a grenade on my pouch. I laughed and said yes. Then they started kicking a soccer ball around, and McMillan started playing with them. Their parents smiled, and some of them thanked us again.

It was all going decent, until I caught a young girl with someone who seemed to be her mother, opening the front gate of the compound, both weeping silently. Much of the children went silent, as well as some of the other parents as they saw the two walking towards the courtyard. 

"Hey man, what the fuck is wrong with them?" McMillan asked me.

"I don't know, I'm gonna go get one of the translators to see what's up." I answered. Within five minutes time, I had a translator with us in the courtyard.

He started to talk to them, although they at first resisted. Long story short, the young girl's father (therefore her mother's husband) had recently been kidnapped by the Taliban while on his way to work at a fruit market that was  in a town center a some miles away. They feared he was either death, or already forced to work for the Taliban. McMillan and I felt bad as hell, as the other families began to re-enter the compound. 

They came over to McMillan and I, very hesitantly. I could see the grief and raw pain out of the woman's eyes, and God it made her ugly. Her ugliness and pain touched me, but not nearly as much as the little girl's. Looking at her sunk deep into my soul, as if every tear she cried was like a tear of my own for the amount of pity I had for her.

I tried to be polite, and hold them with my arms, but they shrugged me off. McMillan saw this and realized they were indifferent to us. This was a representation of all Afghans; Some supported us, many were indifferent and just wanted to be left alone, others of course despised us, and then there were those who didn't even know what was going on. And they all had the right to feel that way, it was their country. Us, we were and still are, just trying to do our jobs.

So I handed them water, and whatever canned foods I had. Their tears weakened, as they quivered taking the stuff we gave them. The little girl seemed so scared. I guess with all that gear on we looked pretty menacing too, so I took it all off leaving just my combat uniform on. McMillan seemed lost for words at everything.

I asked the translator to ask the mother what was the little girl's name, and he did so, her name was Halima. She was only seven. Halima got closer to me, as I looked down at her, into her adorable yet painful eyes of fear and grief. Then she just wrapped her arms around me, holding me tight as she began crying again. Her mother watched her crying, as she too began sobbing. The sounds of their desperate and agonizing grief echoed through out the whole section of the village.

And I stayed quiet. We all did except them. Words of sorrow weren't just enough. It wouldn't have changed anything. It wouldn't have brought the father back, it wouldn't have fixed their predicaments. I just stayed silent and held Halima, until we had to move to another section of the village.

McMillan didn't say anything. He watched everything happen in front of him, but he didn't talk about it by the end of the operation. Neither of us did. There wasn't any time to dwell.

But that doesn't mean we forgot. It doesn't mean I forgot. Especially since two weeks after my encounter with Halima and her mother, they were both killed by a VBIED ignited by two suicide bombers in a pickup truck, that also killed eight other villagers, nearly a tenth of that village's population. Awful. God awful.

Halima never found out about the fate of her father. She never got to grow up and experience the world. She never got the opportunity to love and care about a special person. She never got to experience the benefits of a proper education. She never got to fully understand her predicament.

Halima never got to live. 

The thing is, I went on another deployment after that in 2010 to Helmand of course. Same SEAL platoon, same shit basically. We fought hard, barely making it out just like Kunar, and just being grateful for coming home in one piece. But the villagers, they weren't as so welcoming as in Kunar. They weren't as so supportive. A lot of them were indifferent and a whole lot of them despised us too.

Most importantly their impact wasn't anything like Kunar's villagers. Especially with Halima and her mother. Because Halima deserved so much more that she never got. Which was so unfortunate and so unfair. She'll never ever be able to understand how that one time I met her impacted me so much. How it signified the cruelty, unfairness, and suffrage of life, that didn't discriminate in it's targets that were destined for death and despair. That was Halima and her family.

And that is why I'd never ever forget her. She is my nightmare.

Chapter Eighteen - The Fighting Season Edit

1200 Hours (12:00 PM)

March 23, 2013

FOB Checque, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan 

Every year after the winter ends, the Taliban launches a big offensive across Afghanistan to mark the return of spring, and to represent the beginning of the most vicious fighting of the year. We called it the fighting season, which only meant we would be back on our asses doing op' after op' again.

We were ready. Even through all the bullshit of the winter, which was hours of boredom with seconds of terror, I was ready for all that spring had to offer.

I was on my laptop right now. Interestingly, I received an email from Crystal two days ago. A message filled with pain and sorrow, she stated how she never stopped loving me through out everything. That even when she saw me in the street a couple months ago, and pretended not to know me, she still loved me. She said that day teared her apart, as she remembered all the good times and what we had together. 

The future we wanted, the family that we wanted. She remembered it all. And ended the message by saying she still wanted all of that, and that she hope I was safe.

So, I responded accordingly. I told her how I completely felt the same way and how I couldn't wait to see her. How I couldn't wait to get out of the Navy to be with her, to start a family, and so much more. I told her everything.

And I guess it all worked out. I was glad that it did. So glad. It gave me so many reasons to be fully happy again, and I loved it. We managed to put all of our problems aside, and worried about what mattered most to us. That's what I loved.

Right now I was bored as hell. Everyone was surprisingly all awake and doing nothing.

"How you guys doin'?" Prig said. We were all in the hooch. He was fiddling around with his acoustic guitar.

"Chillin' like a villain." Spencer answered. The television was on, where Spencer and Brady were watching an episode of The Office (my favorite show) on the Season 8 DVD. They laid on the couch that was towards the front door, and were munching on MREs. Brady turned the volume down.

"I'm fucking bored." I said, non-chalantly.

"Same here. At least the hajjis are back from their winter vacation to Dubai. Won't mean anything much though, we're leaving in like two weeks." Styles shrugged. 

"Hold that thought," Hamilton chimed in. "Been hearing we're getting a one month deployment extension due to the upcoming spring fighting. Task force commander needs as many bodies as he can for all that's going to happen."

"From who did you hear that from?" I asked.

"Who else?" From his bunk he glanced at Luke, who we then all started looking at.

"Yeah it's true." Luke said, and that was all he said because there was nothing to elaborate on. No one was necessarily upset, but a lot of guys in the troop had been itching for leave, and I guess it was sort of a dissatisfaction. I didn't really know how to feel though. I mean I wanted the leave and I undoubtedly wanted to see Crystal as soon as I could, but I understood everything.

It was part of the job, and there wasn't shit I could, or the rest of us could do. It was just more work needed to be done, and we were fine with that. I hoped this was still my last combat deployment, however.

"Hey man, I need some help." Luke broke the silence.

"What happened?" I heard Brady's voice all the way from the couch he was on.

"I'm trying to start a family and I need some advice." I looked at him to see if he was serious and he was. Luke was twice divorced, with his life in the military taking a huge toll on his life back home. He had never had any children (Because frankly he never had the time), and was gonna be forty in a couple of years, still without his own family.

I understood his worries. But he was just a prime example of the realities of being a SEAL. You could never put family before work, so his divorces weren't even surprising.

"You might as well leave the service, Senior Chief. Your track record is about as bad as the Cowboys' luck in the playoffs." Brady said. He was on his bunk now.

"Yeah whatever pervert." Luke responded, making Brady grin.

"But that's what I was considering anyway. I've found another woman who's really really special to me, and I don't want to risk that again." Luke sounded really sincere with his words.

"Hey man, at the end of the day it's what you want more. It's what you're willing to sacrifice. Just really think it out." Spencer chimed in.

"I have been. For quite awhile."

"Me personally. I don't know what I would be without the Navy. I think a part of me would be missing. A certain fulfillment. I don't know what I'd do." Hamilton chimed in as well.

"Didn't you used to drive race cars or some shit?" Styles response.

"Yeah so?"

"So you'd have something to fuckin' do. You'd be Jeff Gordon."

"Doubt it. I'm not as good looking."

"You could've worked on that you degenerate!" Styles said, shaking his head. Some of us started to giggle, and Hamilton shrugged.

"Hey fuck you privileged white mothafuckas'!" Brady sprung up from his seat on the couch. I was already trying to hold in the laughter.

"You all know Lance and I would be either selling ass or selling drugs if there wasn't any military for us. The hood ain't no joke." He said.

Brady could do a lot of things, but one of the things he couldn't do was pretend to be serious. Which you probably could tell by this point.

"Yo sit your fuckin' mistake pregnancy ass down, man." I said, and everyone laughed.

"Bro, has anyone ever told you you talk like you have a fuckin' dick in your mouth? And I mean 25/8? Not 24/7 but 25/8?" He responded. There was more laughter, and I applauded him for his decent playground insult.

"Hey stop being pricks. Luke needs our advice, remember?" Hamilton said.

"No thanks. I'll go ask Alpha Team. Or maybe the SOAR guys. Basically anyone else but you people." Luke seemed annoyed, which was understandable.

"There's really nothin' else to say anyway." Prig added. "The jokes have just started."

"Right on. Who's ready to call me a fuckin' midget? Or a gnome?" Styles said, chuckling at himself.

"Alright, everybody SHUT THE FUCK UP." Luke raised his voice. "I've just decided it. I'm leaving the teams for her. It's what I want. It's what I truly want."

Things went a little silent, as we let what he said sink in.

"Holy shit." Spencer smiled. "You're really doing it."

"Yeah brother. It's what most important to me right now, I can't let this opportunity go. Trust me, it'll be hard as hell to leave all of this, but it's taken a toll."

"I've been a SEAL since 1999," He continued. "I've gotten shot three times, suffered concussions, and I even fell off a three story building. You ask me how I'm still going on deployments, and I don't have the answer either."

"I want to be a dad." He sounded like he was going to cry.

"I want to be able to walk when I'm old. I want to have kids and watch them grow up, and face the world just like me. I was just a young boy who grew up on a damn farm in Idaho. There were about five thousand people in my town. I never expected to do anything like this, or have anything like this."

"I'm already a son and I've already been a husband. Now I'm ready to be a father. I think I owe that to myself. And my fiancée."

We understood. Because we knew exactly how he felt. Especially myself, as I was planning to leave it all as well.

"Brother, we understand. Always remember that we're here. We support whatever you feel you need to do." Styles said.

"That's right. Best of luck to you." Brady added.

"I can definitely relate to you, man." Brady continued. "I told you guys how shit was for me when I was little. How I never had the father that I wanted to have. And how he's been gone for six years now. It really put everything into perspective."

"Giving my kids the shit I never had. That's what's most important to me. That's why I can relate to you, 'cause it's definitely the same for me."

"Appreciate that." Luke said, looking across to Brady and pounding his chest in solidarity. Brady returned the favor.

"Man you guys are making me feel bad as fuck," Spencer said. His big frame almost made it seem like the couch he was sitting on was going to collapse in itself. Him and the couch was facing towards us now, away from the television and other electronics.

"Why?" Brady said.

"Because I grew up with a fuckin' silver spoon in my mouth. I wasn't in the hood, or was a poor farm boy. Everything came real easy. It's weird to think about. I don't know, the shit just seems unfair."

"Same here," Styles added. "Weed and partying in Seattle. I can't recall a single money problem as a kid."

"I guess what we're saying is we know you don't need pity or any of that crap," Spencer continued. "But we sort of wish we could relate. Something to add, you know?"

"Fuck all of that," I said. "It's fine. You don't need to relate with shit. We already relate with the shit we're in right now. It's not anyone's fault for the way we grew up. It's just the way things happened. And we shouldn't feel bad for ourselves either. We've grown up and have done too much already. Ain't shit to do but move on."

"He's right," Prig said. "Lance speakin' some knowledge for once."

"Yup, he hit it right on the dot." Hamilton added.

"Guess you're right." Spencer said. "On that note, I'm going to go take a shit." He got off the couch, it's shape now sunk and deflated from all of his body weight, and left the hooch on his way to a porta potty.

"And on that note, I'm going to Skype my fiancée, AKA the future mother of my children." Luke added.

"Right on man, right on." Brady said.

"Hey Prig, weren't you planning on getting out soon from now too? How's that going?" I asked.

Unlike the rest of us, Prig actually had a child. But like the rest of us, he had a strained or fucked up relationship with his spouse. He was divorced, and like he told us a while back, they were married for ten years.

"I don't know. The ex wife started to take care of my little man again awhile ago, so that's been sorted out. Whether I'll ever get back with that lady, probably not. But I'm hopeful. My contract ends in September, and I have time to decide whether I wanna reenlist or not."

"What side you leaning on?" Brady asked.

"I don't know, but I'm probably done. I love my little man and I'm tired of him growing up without me being there. He's all I got." Prig said.

"Trust me we will always have your back. He's not all you got." Hamilton answered, trying to be encouraging.

"Thanks bro." Prig nodded. "Imma' knock out now. Wake me up when we gotta kill some fuckin' hajjis."

"And Luke one more thing." He said.

"What's up?" Luke answered from his bunk.

"If you want a kid ASAP, I can give you mine for free. Just provide the pizza and beautiful chocolate women in exchange. Lemme' know when I wake up." Prig buried his head onto his bunk, as the rest of us laughed.

Sooner or later everyone else began to go sleep, but myself. Instead, I put my laptop down, went outside, and stood in front of the hooch, like I always did. It was still pretty chilly, but the thing is I hadn't put on any real clothes yet. Just some black pajamas, black Nike slippers, with white socks. AOR 2 Alpha jacket covered my torso.

Fuck it, I was comfortable. Whether in Vans, Nike slippers, combat boots; Or even Air Jordan's, I was cozy.

I didn't smoke a cigarette. I just looked at the base. Nothing new, nothing different. Quiet as usual as day time was everyone's sleep time. I just looked at mountains in the horizon and the bright blue sky, sun covering my face, reflecting off my sunglasses. I then thought of my anxiety. Or the anxiety I was beginning to have. How I would really leave everything after this. How I didn't really enjoy it anymore. The thrill wasn't worth the risk or the dangers anymore. I wanted to be home. Feeling Crystal's kiss and affection.

That was all I thought about.

Sooner or later, Brady came outside and said what's up. Unlike me, he looked much professional, and had his Crye Multicam fatigues on. Combat shirt slightly zipped down, I could see the scar on his chest from an injury he received awhile before. Beard and hair grown out, he looked like a caveman just like everyone else.

"You ain't cold?" I asked.

"Nah bro, I'm chillin'. What's up with you? Why the fuck are you out here? You always doing this."

"Shit is just refreshing. I just stand here, and think about shit. Like shit around us, and shit back home."

"Yeah whatever man." He said smiling and shaking his head. He then handed me a can of Monster Energy.

"Thanks. So what about you? How you doing?" I asked, as I cracked the can open, taking a sip.

"Not good. Found out some shit a couple days ago." He turned his head away into the distance, as wind blew his curls from side to side.

"Damn what is it?"

"Eh, Dear John letter. I didn't love shawty but, shit, I was with her since before our last deployment. It fucking sucks." He shook his head, and I patted him on the back.

"Damn that's fucked up. What did she say?"

"Yada yada, the usual crap. Couldn't handle me being away. Said she was starting to fall for someone else. Hoped we could still be friends, blah blah blah." He sucked his teeth in annoyance.

"I'm really sorry brother." I said. He smiled awkwardly.

"Eh fuck it I'll be okay. I always am. You're the only person I've told, and I'm probably gonna tell Spence' later. I mean we all close as fuck as a team, but you know talking about certain things is different between the three of us especially."

"Because we've known each other for awhile, all that shit. Thanks anyway."

"No problem. You know I always got you." We dapped each other up, and he nodded.

"Yeah same here. How you been feeling about all of this?" He asked.

"What do you mean, the deployment?"

"Yeah, and everything else. Like how shit is just going for you in general?"

"To tell you the truth man, I think I'm done. Not really sure of anything anymore. This one feels like my last." I responded.

"Wow really? Fuck; Prig and Luke, and now you?" He answered. He seemed sad.

"Yeah man. Everything is just starting to hit me now. I'm feeling like Luke; I really love Crystal to death, I can't lose her again. But it's even more than that." I took a big gulp of the Monster Energy.

"What else is it?" He asked.

"The stress. It's just too much. Like I talked to Styles about it last week, and I nearly broke down. All of the crap we've been through and seen, it's all starting to hit me now. The anxiety. It's overwhelming." I thought about telling him that after talking to Styles, I felt like killing myself due to the anxiety. But then I thought that was too much. Not now, but maybe one day I would.

Still, Brady paused, and then sighed. He turned away for a minute, and then looked back at me.

"Think it might be PTSD? And I don't mean that as a bit of a stretch, you know I'm just looking out for you." He asked.

"Thanks, but I don't know man. I don't think I want to know. I just want out of this. That's all. I can't take it anymore."

He looked back up at me, and there was a bit of a pause again. Then he reached over, and we dapped each other up again, this time forming into a hug.

"I love you brother. I'll miss you a lot. But whatever you need to do, do it." He whispered into my ear, as he patted my back.

Then we let each other go, and nodded at one another. He took his sunglasses off, and began to walk back into the hooch until I called him.

"Hey Dame, I love you too. Thanks for everything." He smiled like a little ass kid, but I appreciated it.

"And one more thing; Don't die before I marry this girl asshole." Then Brady laughed and nodded his head again, finally walking back into the hooch.

Dust blew onto my face, as I looked at Spencer in front of me coming from a porta potty with his pants barely on.

I laughed, and saluted him. He did not return it.

Chapter Nineteen - An End to a Loose EndEdit

0100 Hours - 0400 Hours (1:00 AM - 4:00 AM)

April 1, 2013

Dhale Province, Yemen

We're finally finishing up what we started. We've found Zawahiri. This was it.

Granted, he wasn't in Afghanistan. He'd long been gone out of the country, probably since September of last year. But he was in Yemen, a country that had one hundred of our advisors and held a lot of interest to us. It was probably our last and only chance, of snatching or killing the bastard.

The CIA has found him. Apparently after leaving Afghanistan, he joined AQAP; A subordinate of Al-Qaeda that based it's operations in the Arabian Peninsula, particularly in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He's quickly risen the ranks, and now he apparently leads a whole terrorist cell, part of the insurgency in South Yemen. The insurgency in South Yemen is led by the Southern Movement, a non-Al Qaeda affiliated group of separatists, with different priorities in mind. They've been leading attacks and protests in South Yemen for years, their goal in wanting secession from the Yemen government.

The relation to Zawahiri and his cell of fighters, is that they've been beginning to battle the separists throughout multiple provinces. Zawahiri kind of lost track, and began to move his fighters all over throughout the south. This is how the CIA began to track him, he was leaving too many steps in his tracks and now it was obvious what his plans were. He wanted it all, to take over the entire South just like the separatists, and was willing to do pretty much anything.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni government was in the middle of all of us this, battling both groups; AND a Shia insurgency in the north. They had a lot of crap on their plate, and I understood why they wanted us to clean some of it. To eliminate Zawahiri, which would pretty much destroy the rest of his cell and make things a little easier for the government forces. Chances are the cell would lose morale, causing division and separation into smaller groups. That was the government's part to take care of though.

And of course, the CIA always did shit on their own terms. They always wanted some glory. But fortunately, they understood how bad we wanted him. How we had busted our asses time and time again last year, eliminating anyone below him or related to him. So that's why they tasked us with doing the dirty work. It was fine with us though, it wasn't anything new.

Now, we had arrived in Yemen yesterday, literally twelve hours after finding out we were part of the operation. We were at the Al-Anad Airbase in Lahij Province, the biggest airbase in Yemen. It was headquarters for basically all of the classified and spooky shit we had going on in the country, and we would be there until we got the job done. We spent the day prepping gear and logistics, watching Zawahiri in his heavily guarded compound in a secluded location in the Bayda Province.

So as usual, we weighed out all the options. Doing a raid like we've done countless times before; Eiher jumping from a C-130 and patrolling to the target, or being sent there by helicopter. At first, this was the plan; We decided to go by helicopter, and launch a raid on his compound. It was set and stone, and we began planning on it during the day. This was until the ISR drone spotted Zawahiri moving out of the compound sometime around 1700 hours.

For about an hour or two, the drone tracked Zawahiri moving in a two vehicle convoy through the Bayda Province; The vehicles being two, black Toyota Hillux pick up trucks. It was surprising because of the power Zawahiri had; You'd expect him to be with a lot more security, but chances are he traveled small so he wouldn't put any attention on himself.

It seemed to work however. The drone spotted them avoiding police and government forces, seeming to go through checkpoints without any hassle. They even avoided a group of separatists. They knew exactly how to maneuver.

After these two hours, we finalized a plan. We had a good idea for what was going to happen. Zawahiri and his convoy were going to an insurgent camp in the eastern half of the Taiz Province, somewhere in the mountains. Based on the way they were moving we did the math and assumed they'd get there at around 0600 during the next day. They would cross into the Dhale Province, moving down there for sometime until crossing into Taiz and proceeding into the camp.

This meant we couldn't raid anything, and we obviously couldn't bomb them because we didn't know when they would stop or start moving again. We couldn't risk collateral damage. So we would snatch and grab. We would drive out of the base in our own convoy at around 2400 hours, where we would reach the Dhale Province around 0100 or 0200 hours. Based on Zawahiri's movement, we'd assume he'd be there by the time we were in Dhale. And if anything changed up, the drone and the intelligence officers were there to let us know.

We'd follow their convoy for sometime, with the plan of cornering them whenever they stopped in a secluded area. One vehicle of the convoy would corner them from behind, while another would block them from the front, preventing their escape. A third would be there for backup, and to make sure everything went as plan.

The thing is though, the CIA guys didn't only want Zawahiri; They wanted the insurgent camp eliminated as well. So after the operation, they'd authorize a drone strike towards the camp, sometime around 0600 hours where Zawahiri was expected to be there.

For the 'op, it was only our team going. Charlie and Alpha Team were busy doing another raid in northern Yemen, after launching the mission from an aircraft carrier just off the coast of the country. I believe they were going to capture the number three of AQAP, which was a big thing; Probably more important than what we were doing. Peter was on the ground, which was rare, leading that mission. Meanwhile, our own operation had my team with a CIA SAD guy attached, as well as Marc leading us and three Yemeni special operations forces operators tagging along too.

Their presence was important because if they weren't there, we couldn't just go through checkpoints with ease. Americans in a convoy, majority of them white; With beards and weapons would raise all types of questions, and would cost us time. Not to mention the Yemeni government wanted a piece of the cake too.

There were three vehicles we were in; Two white, 2011 Mercedes Benz Sprinter minivans, and a matte black 2012 BMW M5, with black rims. Apparently the M5 came from a rich Saudi businessman who informed for the CIA in exchange for safety from Al-Qaeda, and offered the car as a reward. He had given it to the CIA analyst leading the mission, a woman named Erica, and she brought it to the base. I knew it was some shaky shit and probably not legal, but I didn't ask any questions.

"Did you have to fuck him for the car?" Brady asked before the op, being an asshole as usual. He probably said it because he was still uptight about her telling him to shut the fuck up during the mission briefing, but who knows really.

"No but do you wanna fuck me for the car?" She responded and some of us laughed.

"Trust me baby girl you could never handle this." He said.

"Yeah you're right I don't like shrimp. Maybe from Olive Garden but that's about it. I'm more of a sausage kind of girl, sorry kid." She answered, frowning sarcastically. As she walked away she mussed his head, and he slapped her hand away, making her laugh.

"I see the spark." Styles said grinning.

"Same here," I added. "Have kids with her. They won't be cute, but they might be happy."

"Fuck off." Was Brady's response.

Erica was some thirty year old, five foot nine white woman from Connecticut. That was pretty much all I knew about her since I met her yesterday, but she seemed nice. A little rough around the edges, but still decent.

She was thin, with a dark blue polo shirt and khaki cargo pants, Nike Air Maxes on her feet. Nails undone with shrapnel scars on both of her arms, she wasn't very pretty and also seemed to be experienced. But her big eyes and bright smile were things to appreciate. Her brown hair which reached just past her shoulders also looked appealing, as it moved from side to side in the wind.

When we first arrived, Marc really wasn't feeling working with her and her team of analysts. He had had some subpars experiences with the agency, particularly during a covert mission in Pakistan about a decade ago. The only thing that really gave him assurance was that her team had two Black Squadron operators, who were of course part of DEVGRU.

After the debriefing and spending a little time with her, things sort of got better. He obviously didn't fully trust her, but he tolerated her. I saw them drinking a cup of coffee together just before we went out.

For the mission itself, each Yemeni soldier drove our vehicles. Hell we probably trusted them less than the CIA, but that was a whole other thing. The minivans had the entire team; Hamilton, Brady, Styles, and Me. The other having Luke, Spencer, and Prig. Lastly, the BMW had Marc and the SAD guy, with Marc riding shotgun.

Man, the SAD guy told me his name but I don't fucking remember. I think it was Cole or something. Let's just call him that.

I heard from Spencer that he used to be a Marine Scout Sniper, then joined the CIA about eight years ago. The fucker is like forty two, but looks ten years younger. He doesn't have a single grey hair on his face. Marc is one year younger and looks way older. That poor bastard.

The mission loadouts were also quite different; We basically wore no combat gear. Since we would be in regular vehicles and driving through towns and the city, we had to blend in and be as convient as we could. We all had regular clothes on. We didn't even wear body armor.

I had a white polo shirt, a Ralph Lauren one to be specific, and dark blue denim jeans on; No gloves on or anything else. Unlike everyone who wore their regular hiking boots, I had white low top Adidas Superstars. Hey if I was going to be casual, I'd better look good while doing it. Brady also followed suit with god damn Timberland boots.

As always, I had my pistol (this time the '45C) in a holster attached to the side of my belt. Guys basically took whatever weapon they wanted to use out of their kit, but I had my ten inch HK416 with me. Basic loadout, nothing different. It was just the lack of pouches and camouflage that took a little while to get used to. Sitting down into the minivan seat with magazines in my back pockets, hurting my ass cheeks, wasn't my idea of comfortable.

We also had no headsets or bone phones on. Our only forms of communication were the earpieces in our ears, which connected us to Marc and each other. Meanwhile, Marc, Luke, and Cole, were connected to us and the intelligence analysts spearheading our mission back at the base. The Yemeni guys, I don't really know, but I think they were on the same command net as those three.

So we launched the mission, leaving the base at 2400 hours as planned. We drove out of the airbase in the Lahij Province, proceeding up north into the Dhale Province. The checkpoints were relatively okay, as the Yemeni operators mentioned to the guards that we were on an operation. Some of the terrain kind of sucked, but it wasn't too bad.

At the moment it was 0200 hours. We had just entered the town of Dhale, the capital of the province. It looked just like a city in Iraq; Compounds, mud-brick apartment buildings, alleyways, a shit ton of garbage, markets, and of course, fucking traffic. As always, it was also hot as fuck. But one nice thing though, was that it was very early morning so all of the beautiful night lights were out. It reminded me of Manhattan at night, albeit if it sat right in the middle of a desert.

Out in front was my minivan, with the other behind us and the BMW being last in the convoy. I sat on on the far left side of the three back seats, quiet and by myself, looking out the tinted window. Behind me was Hamilton, Brady, and Styles cracking jokes, sitting on the floor of the van with their weapons laid out. The Yemeni operator sat alone in the front, no one on shotgun. A white flourescent light illuminated the inside of the car.

The operator maneuvered the vehicle down a dark, barren street; The van's headlights and a couple of orange street lights the only thing illuminating his field of view. Litter blew in front of our convoy, as I got up and moved toward the front to ask the operator a question.

"How far are we from them?" I asked him, as the two truck convoy of Zawahiri and his security seemed to be almost a mile away. The only thing that made them visible was their vehicles' red taillights.

"Not too far," He answered, in his mild accent. "Maybe about three long blocks. I'll put some more speed to the vehicle."

"Nice, let us know when you're close." He nodded at me and I went back to my seat.

The van picked up speed, as I continued to look through the tinted window. The vehicle turned and sped by all kinds of things; Stray animals, onlookers who were strangely outside at this time, closed down shops and mosques, as well as more litter and more buildings. I wiped my hands on my pants leg, as the vehicle stopped at a red light. I heard Marc's voice echo in my earpiece, telling us it was now 0220 hours and that Zawahiri's convoy were following a route in a suburban part of the town.

They were much closer to us now, maybe a block or two, and I could clearly see the rear truck's back windshield; As I moved to the middle seat, and looked through our van's own windshield. Meanwhile, I heard Styles call me an asshole for being quiet. I then moved to the rear cargo of the van, where everyone was sitting on the floor.

"Hey man," Hamilton said.

"What's up?" I asked. "How y'all feeling?"

"Same shit different day. Why the fuck were you so quiet?" Styles asked. He had a brown polo shirt and khaki pants. He looked swole as fuck, as his chest look like it was about to pop out of his shirt.

"Nothing to say really. I'm just glad we're finally getting him. There's nothing really else to talk about."

"We understand," Hamilton said. "We thought you were nervous or something."

"Nah man, I'm chilling. I'm just staying focused."

"Right. I hope this billy goat looking motherfucker Zawahiri looks cuter in person." Brady said and we laughed.

"Probably not. The beard is the culture. The culture is the beard." Styles answered.

"I like the sound of that." Hamilton smiled.

"Me too. Who wants to bet ten dollars that we get this asshole and his friends in about half an hour?" I said.

"You fucking idiot, you're on!" Hamilton laughed and dapped me up.

"Nah I believe him," Brady said. "Look through the windshield man. We're slowly getting closer and closer. We're gonna have that billy goat motherfucker."

"Yeah Brady YEAH!" Styles yelled sarcastically.

"I'm sitting back down, try not to jerk each other off in the mean time." I said, as I returned to my seat next to the window. They continued cracking jokes and talking about pure nonsense for what seemed like a good while.

Then 0230 hours hit, and we began to cross into the suburbs.

"We are getting closer guys, be prepared if anything." The Yemeni operator said. He seemed very concentrated on his driving. I looked through the windshield, and saw we were even closer to the convoy. Marc told us on the troop net to stick with them as close as we could, as the BMW he was in began to slow down from our convoy.

As stated before, they were only there for backup, and once they began to idle behind, it was the hint for us to commit the snatch whenever we could. It was going to happen any minute now.

Our driver then radioed our other team to prep themselves. Meanwhile, we started flicking safeties off and gripping our guns. The flourescent light in our van then turned off, putting us in darkness. I looked behind me and saw the guys, now silent; Relaxed with their weapons in their hands, faces hidden behind the shadows.

The suburban houses looked very similar to the apartment complexes downtown, albeit a lot smaller and a little prettier. The neighborhoods didn't have nearly as much lights, and the orange lights from downtown were gone. As far as I could see, the only illumination we were getting was from the moon. It didn't matter to me though. As long as I could see something, that was all that mattered. The driver then drove over a bump, which jolted us up. I gripped my rifle even tighter.

By this point, we were pretty much right behind the convoy. Strangely they seemed unbothered, driving smoothly and keeping up the same pace. I knew that was kind of sketchy and meant they could be planning something themselves, but it was the risk we would have to take anyway.

We followed them for a couple of more blocks, slowing down a little, as they made a sharp right turn. It was by then that Marc's voice cracked on the troop net again, this time urgent.

"The drone shows they've stopped in front of a road block. No one or anything else in sight. Go NOW!" He said. We all heard the message, as suddenly our minivan picked up a lot of speed, racing down the street. I quickly stumbled out of my seat and out to the rear cargo area with the rest of the guys. Brady clenched onto the rear doors, as Styles gripped his shoulder. I was behind Hamilton, with my back against the minivan, looking left towards the windshield. The van was about to make the sharp right turn.

It drastically decreased it's speed, and violently jolted to the right, as I heard the tires skid. We held on for dear life, as our driver got the thing back into a straight line, now suddenly coming to a dead stop.

Everything happened so fast. Literally five seconds after coming to a dead stop, our driver almost broke his neck as he turned his head towards us, screaming "GO!" The rear doors quickly came open, as we hopped out of the vehicle as fast as we could. Simultaneously to the right of me was the other minivan flying past us, then hard braking and skidding to the right to block any escape route of the lead vehicle in the convoy. It looked unreal, like some fuckin' Fast and Furious shit. Those drivers had a lot of balls, as that damn minivan almost hit the road block!

We quickly moved, surrounding the truck. Brady surrounded the driver's seat, while Styles was by the left back seat. Hamilton surrounded shotgun, while I was by the right back seat. I raised my rifle as quick as I could, and then I looked to see who the passenger was. Long behold in front of me, was Zawahiri. The billy goat motherfucker, face seemingly shocked and full of surprise. The suppressor of my rifle was pointed inches away from his face, as his facial expression then turned into anger. Hamilton looked towards me and smiled.

"Hands up asshole!" Brady screamed at the driver, his MP7 pointed directly at him. He then gave him a gesture to lift his hands up. After about ten seconds, shots rang out and I could see it was Brady who had fired. The suppressed rounds weren't very audible, but we could tell someone had been shot. Brady stepped a few feet back from the vehicle, shaking his head.

"The idiot tried to pull out a handgun like that was gonna do anything. So I put two in his head." Brady said, and Styles giggled. I looked towards my far right, and could see my other teammates also surrounded the lead vehicle.

"I've got the fuckin' jackpot." I said. Everyone smiled, as Zawahiri looked at me even more angrily. He spat on my shirt, making me slap him with the stock of my rifle. Blood began to ooze out of his mouth, as he looked at me again, even more enraged.

"Holy shit Lance, try not to fucking kill him." Hamilton said, a few feet beside me, his rifle tracked on the guy riding shotgun.

I had a feeling he was going to try to reach for a weapon, so I quickly forced Zawahiri out of the vehicle. Unfortunately, he wasn't complying, so I literally had to drag him onto the pavement with one hand, rifle still pointing at him with the other. His turban came off his head, as he kicked and screamed, the blood from his mouth oozing onto his kurta garment. Brady ran around my side of the vehicle, helping me restrain him. Seconds later, Styles and Hamilton forced the remaining two passengers out of the vehicle, putting them in plastic cuffs with bags over their heads. Our Yemeni driver was still in the minivan, smoking a cigar as if nothing had happened.

Meanwhile, the rest of my team arrived from the other minivan, holding two captives who were cuffed with bags over their heads as well. Spencer spotted me and Brady struggling with Zawahiri, and ran over to us.

"Need some help there guys?" He grinned, trying to make it seem like we couldn't handle the situation. We looked at him, and told him to fuck off. He helped anyway, and literally manhandled Zawahiri, forcing him to stand.

"You're welcome." Spencer said.

"You're not thanked." I responded, and he smirked, walking away to talk to Prig.

A minute later, Luke walked up to us and looked at Zawahiri for a good second. He looked him up and down, checking him out to make sure he was positively identified. After about a minute or so of doing this, he finally said something.

"Yup that's him. We got him gu---" His sentence was interrupted by Zawahiri. He spat the oozing blood out of his mouth onto Luke's face. He didn't even hesitate.

"Dirty American PIGS!" Zawahiri said, in English, as Brady and I held him up. I clenched Zawahiri by the throat while Luke wiped the spit off his face. Then with a completely straight facial expression, Luke cocked his fist back as far as he could, and punched Zawahiri right in the stomach. Zawahiri stumbled onto the ground, coughing and gasping for air.

"Marc and the SAD guy are suppose to be here any minute now. Put a bag over this sorry ass motherfucker's head." Luke said, irritated.

Brady and I forced Zawahiri up off the ground, and stood him up again. Luke passed us a bag, which we then placed over his head.

I will admit we were very aggressive with him, pretty much abusive. But he was a terrorist suspect who had led and committed hundreds of atrocities in Afghanistan, as well as facilitating drug trafficking. The Al-Vermani guy we killed during the first op of our last deployment was proof of that. There was also evidence that he had made profit off of kidnapping and selling young boys back when he was in the Helmand Province, part of a practice called Bacha Bazi. Basically young boys were kidnapped and sold to pedophiles, to be forced to wear makeup and to dance for groups of other predators. Then afterwards, they'd get sexually abused, or even worse, become sex slaves.

So someone who murdered innocent people, facilitated drugs, and who made profit off of abusing young boys didn't deserve any respect, whatsoever. Granted we didn't know the guys he was with, so we were a bit more lenient with them. They also weren't giving us as much of a fit as him.

Sooner or later, we spotted the black BMW that had Marc and the SAD guy turning onto the street. It had only been ten minutes since the capture, and Marc already knew. He was ready to see Zawahiri.

I felt a little anxious. Although it was 0250 hours and the neighborhood seemed desolate, I had a feeling residents would come out sooner or later. Everyone else felt the same as well.

"Great job fellas." Cole said, smiling, as he slammed the BMW back door. He started slapping backs and giving fives, while Marc went straight up to where Zawahiri was. By this point, the other minivan had reversed back to ours; So both minivans were side by side, with the BMW behind them. Everyone was in their vehicles, except Me, Brady, Prig and Luke, as well as Marc and Cole.

Brady and I kept security over Zawahiri, as we sat on the edge of the sidewalk in front of our vehicles. He sat in between us slouched over, his hooded head touching the pavement. Brady was trying to beat box on top of his hooded head, spit going all over the place. Prig was there to look out for locals and to patch Zawahiri up in case we rustled him a little more, standing in front of our van. The Yemeni operator who drove our minivan was still smoking cigars, as Prig knocked on his side window to give him a middle finger, which the Yemeni guy returned with a smile.

We lifted Zawahiri up, as Marc requested us to remove the bag over his head. We took it off, and there laid Zawahiri's ugly face, with his billy goat beard, looking drunk and disoriented. His whole mouth was covered with blood now, as he gasped for air. Marc smiled, his grin seeming to light up the whole neighborhood.

"Good work. The prick is ours now. " He said, and Luke nodded in approval.

"Okay so we ready to go?" Cole asked.

"Uh huh. Let's roll boys!" Marc gestured to our drivers spinning his index finger around, while Cole took Zawahiri from Brady and I. All three of them went in the BMW, while Prig, Brady went to our vans. Since we couldn't just leave Zawahiri's trucks right in the neighborhood, as well as the dead guy with it, two of us volunteered to drive them. Spencer and I decided to drive them, as we went a different route from the rest of the convoy. The vehicles also probably had plenty of intel that would be vital to catching other commanders and dismantling AQAP.

Before we left, we quickly searched them. We found a couple of AK47s in the closed trunk of Zawahiri's vehicle, as well as a couple of pistols hidden in both cockpits. Our guys did what they did as usual, consolidating all of the weapons and putting them in a bag.

After that, I quickly helped Spencer take the dead guy Brady had shot, who was really soaked from the blood leaking from his head. We threw him in the trunk of the truck Spencer was driving, which was the vehicle Zawahiri was in with the cover on the trunk. My white Polo shirt now had blood stains towards the bottom, while drops of blood were also on my white Adidas; Spencer laughed at this. As I sat in the cockpit looking through the side window of the truck I was in, I spotted a woman coming out of her residence.

"Hurry up!" Marc's voice echoed in my earpiece, as he probably saw the woman too. She didn't say anything, she just watched vigilantly.

A minute later, we all rolled out at 0300 hours. I watched the woman quickly run up back the stairs into her home and slam her door, as Spencer and I made a U-turn to be behind the convoy. We had been in the neighborhood for only twenty minutes and the most important part of the operation had been completed. We were grateful we didn't see any locals until it was already over or we would've left as soon as we saw them, forcing us to rendezvous with the BMW.

The only thing left to do was to get back to base. Hopefully there wouldn't be any issues.

As there was a road block in front of us, Spencer and I were forced to follow the lead convoy for the first couple of blocks, until we made a sharp right turn into another suburb. Meanwhile, the lead CIA analyst changed her radio frequency and got on our net, assisting us with a route away from checkpoints.

The main problem with checkpoints, was that although most of them were controlled by the government, a good chunk also served criminal purposes; Kidnapping, robbery, murder, you name it. The original route we had taken was nearly flawless, only encountering a few government controlled checkpoints; Our Yemeni drivers helping us slide through without any issue. The lead convoy would take this exact same route back to the airbase.

If we were in a big war zone like Iraq or Afghanistan, there's no way in hell we would've done that. The risk of getting attacked by insurgent fighters on the way back who'd figure our path would be too great. But Yemen, although having conflict, didn't pose much as of a threat, so it was safe to take the exact same way back.

However, since it was Spencer and I alone (or by our doley as I called it), we had to be extra careful in getting back to base. We practically had to avoid any checkpoint around us, even if it was government controlled. As stated before, Americans with rifles would pose too many questions and would cost unnecessary time. The Yemeni drivers weren't there to make things easy.

And if we tried to go through checkpoints controlled by insurgent fighters, criminal militia tribes, or even AQAP members; You know what the fuck would happen. Thankfully, all of this shit was taken care of before the mission. The route we had was solid. The issue was just whether anything could go wrong. But, I still trusted Erica. Her calm demeanor as she talked on the radio was soothing to the ear. It almost reminded me of Crystal, but let me not stretch it.

"Nice and slow boys; You know what to do." She said, trying to be encouraging.

It's funny because Erica wanted to go on the mission to make things easier herself. We heard somewhere that according to certain Yemeni customs, it was disrespectful to stop women who were in vehicles at checkpoints. But then she realized she was the best person to lead the op from base, helping us with logistics and navigation; Not to mention the Yemeni operators who tagged along to drive the convoy anyway. Two Black Squadron operators on her team were ready to take over until she made her decision. They seemed disappointed before we went out.

After an hour or two, we crossed the Dhale Province border back into Lahij. The drive has been okay, although the smell of cigarettes and mildew in the truck isn't very pleasant, as well as the blood. My HK416 is in the back seats, with my hand gripping the steering wheel firmly. I continued to follow closely behind Spencer. I had also wiped most of the blood off my hands, although some of it had dried under my fingernails.

I'm definitely gonna throw my shirt in the trash after the mission.

We're driving on a barren road, surrounded by desert all around us. It was 0345 hours. Erica estimated we would be back at the base in around an hour and change. We've only seen one checkpoint, which was a border checkpoint between Lahij and Dhale. The soldiers there, dressed carelessly with red berets with their AKs in hand, seemed tired and irritated. So granted, seeing two random trucks at three in the morning caught them off guard. Especially because they were driven by Americans in civilian clothes.

Before we hit the checkpoint, Erica had told us to relax and just follow their directions. Nothing else really. There wasn't much we could do.

The soldiers were hostile at first, screaming at us in Arabic to put our hands up. Thankfully Spencer and I's language training finally had fucking use; We understood what they were saying. It wasn't like Afghanistan where a lot of us didn't understand jack shit about Pashto, one of the main languages they spoke.

Then they told us to step out of the trucks, which we slowly did. Spencer looked pissed the fuck off, as I expected. I looked at him and grinned, reminding him with a gesture that it was all part of the job. Meanwhile, the soldiers told us to put our hands on our heads, while two of them took our handguns out of our holsters. Rifles tracked on us, all we did was comply and nod at them, while we began to wait. After a minute or so, a thin, short soldier who had bags under his eyes and a cigarette in his mouth walked up to us. He told the other soldiers to put their guns down, and then gestured us to put our hands down, calling Spencer beside me. I figured he was the commander.

Spencer still look annoyed. The commander who seemed to be no taller than my arm pit began to speak.

"So, what the fuck are you Americans doing here?" He said this in English with a thick accent, blowing cigarette smoke to the side. He seemed completely relaxed. I glanced at the moonlight illuminating us in the distance.

"Big operation," I said. "We're going back to Al-Anad."

"Al-Anad? What are you, CIA?" He laughed. He then said something in Arabic and some of his men laughed as well.

"Why is there blood on your clothes?" He asked me.

"It got rough." Was all I could say.

"How rough? Like a UFC rough?" He laughed again, his men doing the same yet again.

"Hey man, cut the shit. We don't have the time." Spencer said, even more irritated. The Yemeni commander who was no taller than my arm pit barely reached the bottom of Spencer's chest.

"Okay okay, big guys." The commander smiled. "What else is in the vehicles?"

"Just our other guns. See for yourself." I answered. He called two of his men to search the vehicles. I hoped they wouldn't open Spencer's trunk and see the dead guy. But that was out of our control, there wasn't anything we could do. I began thinking of an excuse for that.

They took my HK416 and Spence's MP7 out of the back seats, placing them on the hoods of the vehicles. But then our fears came to light, as they began moving to the trunks. I felt the anxiety rush up through my body, as I glanced over to Spencer, who strangely seemed calm. One soldier looked through the open trunk of the truck I was in, which was completely empty. However, the other soldier couldn't get Spencer's closed trunk open.

"What is wrong with your truck big guy?" The commander asked Spencer.

"Oh, the trunk is jammed. And I can't find the key for it, sorry." Spencer answered. The commander looked at Spencer for a good minute, smiling at him. I thought he was about to scream, but then he nodded his head.

"Okay whatever you say. Now to the big things. Do you have money for me?" He said. I glanced at Spencer again and then he shrugged.

"Yeah we do," I answered. "Two hundred in total."

Each of us part of the operation had made sure to take $100 in case anything went wrong. This was the time where it would be useful. The commander then nodded his head from side to side, smiling.

"Okay. You can do better next time but tonight, this is okay." He said.

"There won't be a next time." Was Spencer's immediate answer, and he spat in front of him. Spencer was being disrespectful, but still, the commander remained calm.

Then we got our handguns back, and the soldiers put our primary weapons back where they'd found them. A minute later, we entered our vehicles and we were on our way out, which leads us to now.

"What an asshole." Spencer said over the radio.

"Facts. What the hell was up with your trunk?" I asked.

"Before I stopped the truck, I took the keys out and just stuff them in my pocket; Including the key to open the trunk. Thankfully the shithead didn't ask about them. He probably didn't care enough." Spencer said, and I laughed on the net.

It had only been that simple, but we had been so much more lucky.

Another fifteen minutes passed, as we continued to drive through the desert. I was comfortable in the driver's seat, with one hand on the steering wheel. The early morning view was beautiful; The fully illuminated moon shined all over the dark blue sky, reflecting onto the desert and road in front of us. Huge mountains toward in the distance, looking broad and intimidating, yet strikingly gorgeous. Meanwhile, Erica's voice echoed in my ear piece, as we gave her a sit rep. She then let us know that we would be at the airbase in forty five minutes.

This striking beauty was something I saw everywhere, even in Afghanistan. It's like the freezing cold mission during the snow, where the valley in Ghazni literally turned into a ski resort. It looked like the Alps. Or the mission with the Rangers to capture the HVT in Kandahar City; When I wore Griffin's pants. Sure we landed in a shit neighborhood, but the helicopter ride there was beautiful. There were lights that illuminated the city, along with mountains in the horizon.

It was refreshing to see the beauty or good in things. Even if they could be really bad. Because sometimes, that was all you needed to have hope again. That was what mattered.

More time passed, it was 0415 hours. Spencer maneuvered the truck onto another stretch of road, as I followed behind.

"The lead convoy is fifteen minutes ahead of you." Erica's voice sounded relaxed in my earpiece.

"Keep your pace and come to me in one piece boys." She added.

"Hey Erica you owe us something," I said.

"What's that?" She asked enthusiastically.

"Well it's for Brady. Since he was the first one out and the only guy that neutralized someone, you owe him a lip lock."

"Boy bye." Was her immediate response and Spencer started cracking up on the radio.

"C'mon, he deserves it. The sorry fucker has just gotten a Dear John letter recently, somebody owes him something." I added.

"And you think I'm the one that does?" She answered.

"No. But I think you can make shit better just for a single moment."

"Yeah we'll see about that." She said, turning off the frequency that connected her to us.

"You got a lot balls for that." Spencer said to me.

"Hey, I would've done the same for you."

"Right, but too bad. Fuck bitches get money."

"Bro when's your twenty eighth birthday?" I asked him.

"In two days, why what's up? You're going to help me get my dick sucked?"

"I hope she turns her frequency back on and hears you say that." I said, and he snickered.

Then we continued to drive. Even more time passed, as we continued to drive down the long desert road. Sooner or later, we saw the moonlight shine over the hangars that were apart of Al-Anad. We turned into one of the base's gates, finally stopping. After a minute or so, the Yemeni soldiers guarding let us pass through. It was 0445 hours.

We drove through the base past barracks and old tanks, until we spotted the lead convoy parked by a hangar. As we drove up to the convoy, we could see the bright fluorescent lights that illuminated the hangar, as people seemed to be in there. We could hear music being played as well, with the song "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke being heard from yards away.

"What the fuck is going on?" Spencer said on the radio, as he pulled up behind the convoy.

"No idea, but we're going to find out."

As we finally parked, turning the engine of the trucks off and stepping out; We could finally see what was happening. It looked like a damn together; Our team was chilling around with the team of CIA and Black Squadron personnel, chit-chatting and drinking Heineken. The music seemed even louder now, as I spotted a large MiG 29 fighter jet that sat right in the middle of the hangar. It was beautiful, painted in a flush desert camo as guys leaned on it while they talked and drink. On the right side of the hangar was tables of food that were in aluminum foil baking pans. On the left side, I could see more tables which had intel and weapons laid out in front of everyone. In front of these tables was the wireless speaker that was playing music, connected to someone's iPhone.

Spencer and I looked at each other and smiled, as I wondered how all of this had gotten done so quickly. Perhaps it was a surprise. Then Erica with a beer in her hand spotted us, jogging over with a big fat grin on her face.

She hugged both of us tightly, as she began to speak.

"You boys little late for the party, don't ya' think?" She asked.

"How did you do all of this?" I responded.

"Don't worry about it, it was all a surprise. Come on in." She grabbed me by the hand, and nodded at Spencer to follow her. He shrugged happily at me, as she began to jog again and I stumbled along. Then after about twenty seconds we were in the hangar, as Erica let go off my hand and we began to greet everyone.

"Hey ugly fucks." Brady said.

"Hey man fuck off," Spencer said sternly. "I had to carry your dead weight in the trunk and almost got caught for it."

Brady laughed and apologized. He passed Spencer a beer, who then took his bloody shirt off and walked away, chugging the alcoholic beverage down. He would be okay. Meanwhile, Brady started to talk to me.

"So, what's good with you? Glad to see you alright." He said, taking a sip from his beer.

"Same old. You seem to be enjoying yourself." I answered.

"Yeah bro I didn't expect any of this. Especially the fuckin' beer, I thought the shit was illegal."

"CIA you know. They always do shit on their own terms. If doesn't affect me, I'm not asking questions."

"Right," Brady said. "Speaking of CIA, that little brat Erica has been eyeing me down since we came back. You know anything about that?"

I knew everything about that, but of course I lied.

"Nah bro. Maybe she wants some BBC, I don't fucking know. Why don't you go talk to her?"

"Fuck allat' man." Brady quickly shook his head. "I don't fuck with her attitude. She says something smart to me again, and I'm slapping the fire out of that bitch."

"Yo chill out." I laughed. "And watch your mouth, she ain't that bad."

"Yeah whatever. I'm gonna go talk to Styles by the plane, I'll see you around." He patted me on the shoulder and walked over to Styles, who was talking to Prig by the cockpit of the aircraft. Then I looked around, and saw Erica, who was taking food from the tables. I walked over, and said what's up to her, along with another analyst from her team. The analyst thanked me for the mission we had completed, and then walked over to the larger group of analysts who were by the tables filled with intel. I began to converse with Erica.

"I really like this," I said. "We haven't anything like it in awhile."

"Yup, I'm glad you're enjoying it! We didn't have much time but this was the best we could do, so I'm glad you appreciate it."

"Anyway, do you want a chicken tender?" She giggled.

"Sure, but are those hands clean? You could've digged your fingers in your ass for I all know." I said.

"Oh please, are all of you fucking pigs? Gosh." She lightly slapped my chest, while grimacing.

"Nah, but Brady isn't. Most definitely the nicest guy on the team." I laughed, and she laughed with me as she caught on to the sarcasm. Then she took the fried chicken tender from the big aluminum tray, and held it towards my mouth as I took a bite. She smiled.

"Wow this is actually not bad. Better than the crap in Afghanistan." I said.

"Have some more." She held the chicken tender towards my mouth again, as I took a bigger bite and the tender was almost gone. I took it from her hand and then finished it.

"So, anyway; Have you talked to Brady yet? Have you given the favor I've asked of you?" I asked.

She smirked and immediately shook her head.

"Nope and I probably won't. He's good looking and all, but I've been watching him since he came here and every time he does or says something stupid I've just lost more attraction to him. So it's pretty much gone now."

"Besides, he probably hates me for being the usual me; Strict and uptight, with some required bitchiness here and there."

"Well shit," I laughed. "At least you're honest. But yeah he kinda does."

"Welp, it is what it is." She shrugged while smiling. "I appreciate the fact that you're looking out for him, even if he doesn't know it. We don't have a lot of those in the agency."

"No bullshit?" I asked.

"Yup. I've always sort of been on my own, doing things on my own. Whether it was the agency, or just growing up; It's always been that way. Let's go outside."

She nudged me with her hand, as she began to follow me out of the hangar, leaving everyone else inside. I'm guessing she didn't want anyone to hear our conversation. We finally got outside, as we stood in front of the hangar. I looked at my watch and checked the time. It was 5 AM. Dawn crept in the sky; A gorgeous mix of orange and dark blue in the horizon. Erica took a cigarette out, lighting it and taking pulls from it.

"You smoke?" She asked.

"Rarely."

"I see." She smiled, taking another pull from the cigarette. The speaker finally turned off, as we now only heard the murmurs of everyone's conversations in the hangar.

"Uh huh. Hey... Thanks for saying that back there. About how I look out for Brady. He's really a brother to me, so I'm glad you understand." I said, nodding at her.

"No problem. You know, you're cute. Even with that bloody shirt and those stupid Adidas, you're cute."

"Yeah that's very nice of you." I laughed, and she smiled seductively.

"You married? Got a girlfriend?" She asked.

"Yeah, we plan on doing it when I get home. It shoud've happened a long time ago."

"What was stopping you? Wait, let me guess, work right?"

"Yup. The usual stuff, she couldn't handle all the crap thrown in front of her. I plan on getting out soon."

Erica threw the cigarette on the pavement and crushed it under her sneaker. She started talking again.

"I understand. It's the same for me you know. Can't worry about a boyfriend when I've been tracking terrorists for the past ten years. Maybe one day, but not now."

"Right. Speaking of terrorists, where's our asshole Zawahiri?" I asked.

"Well the questioning has already started. Your troop chief and the three Yemeni boys are already asking them things. Just questions, but tomorrow is when the real stuff starts. We'll have them all on an aircraft carrier."

"What kind of real stuff?"

She looked at me and smiled, shaking her head.

"Do you really want to know?" She asked.

"Fuck it, I guess not. Zero Dark Thirty was enough for me."

"If you say so." She pulled out another cigarette.

"Have you heard about the others? You know, about the raid on the AQAP #2?"

"Yes, your buddies did fine. But our target wasn't found, he had already gotten away. You'll rendezvous with them on the aircraft carrier they're on tomorrow; The same one Zawahiri is going to be staying on."

"Well damn, that's nice to know. Everybody else know this?"

"Nope," She blew smoke close to my face. "But they will in the After Action Review. We're doing it right after this, and then we're launching the drone strike."

"The one against the camp right?" I asked.

"Wow, you fucking love questions," She snickered, eyes glaring at mine. "But yes."

I nodded, and looked away towards the sky.

"Hey, I'll see you in a little. I'm going to shut this little party thing down, and then we'll do the AAR. Take it easy." She threw the cigarette down and crushed it with her sneaker again. Then she looked back towards me, and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

"What was that for?" I asked.

"Hey kid, you earned it. I'd rather it you then your dickhead friend." She wiped the saliva from my cheek with her thumb, and smiled again. Then she walked back into the hangar. I smiled lightly, and shook my head.

Crystal would beat my ass if she knew some girl had kissed me, even if it was on the cheek; Carribean women don't play. But I'm sure she'd understand. Perhaps Erica was attracted to me. I didn't care though, the kiss on the cheek was just a comforting gesture. After all, this is work. And work is business.

Nonetheless, compassion was always welcomed. As well as just listening.

Thank you Erica.

Chapter Twenty - MistakesEdit

1600 Hours (4:00 PM)

April 6, 2013

FOB Checque, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan

It's almost been a week since capturing Zawahiri, and we've been back in Afghanistan since the 4th. But unexpectedly, tensions were high.

We've just had a meeting in the operations center. Not a typical one, but a meeting called a shura. It was Marc and Pete, joined by two ANA Commando commanders, and four old Afghan village elders. The remaining guys there were just three of us who volunteered to accompany Marc and Pete; Me, Styles, and Mike, our PJ of course. Why I asked to volunteer; I have no idea. I probably thought it'd be a lot more interesting.

"You're an idiot. If you wanted to see something get fuckin' nowhere, you should've just asked me about my past relationships; Ya cunt." Brady had told me this beforehand, grinning with his big white teeth in his usual smartass tone. I shrugged him off, but sadly this was one of the times when he was right.

We had this meeting because something really terrible happened. Really awful. Three days ago a troop from Silver Squadron, part of our special operations task force, launched a raid on a key Taliban bomb maker in the Andar District. They launched it from a FOB in Logar Province, flying to Andar in Ghazni, landing a couple of miles from the target compound and patrolling there. Pretty cut and dry mission from the sound of it, nothing special.

The issue was the really shitty intel. Mission planning had detailed there was an 80% chance the bomb maker was there, along with the rest of his security. They'd figure there was also no civilians whatsoever, as there seemed to be little to no movement in the compound based on ISR drone feed. Based on all of this, it sounded fine to the task force commander, who gave the approval to the troop commander to launch the raid.

But boy they were wrong. Not only was the bomb maker and his security not there, but the only inhabitants in the compound were three families in three different houses. Now I really have no idea where they got this intel from and how they arrived at those first conclusions, but Luke had said to me that an ANA commander had passed this along to them; Fully knowing it was wrong. Apparently he had been trusted by the SEAL troop and the troop commander for a long time, and what he did was completely unexpected. Go figure, when we caught on to him, he killed himself right at the FOB in Logar. Crazy shit.

His two friends were the ones at the meeting.

So as expected, the SEALs got to the target, and began their assault. If it was known that the compound was full of civilians, they surely would've done a callout; But shitty intel causes shitty effects, meaning they proceeded as usual. Long story short, the first teams found the first two houses clear as expected, with no weapons, Taliban, or anything to be found; Just sleeping families. The third was where everything went wrong.

A SEAL, some new assaulter named Rob, was with another clearing two rooms by themselves. The rest of their troop was either in different houses or different rooms, that's the only way they could've been clearing on their own. Rob found a room, with the door slightly opened. He pushed it inward like any one of us would've done, and discovered a bunch of people huddled on a king sized mattress on the floor. They were completely covered in white blankets, so their identities could not be seen. In front of the mattress, for some reason, laid an AK47 with the magazine inside of it.

It was probably used just for protection; Perhaps from the Taliban, perhaps from us, who knows.

Rob, having to make a split second decision as he already opened the door and saw the weapon in front of him, decided to move closer to the mattress. One of people on the mattress suddenly jerked forward, perhaps to be comfortable or perhaps awakened by Rob's footsteps. Instantly, probably out of fear from the sudden movement, Rob began firing consecutive rounds from his suppressed HK416 into the people on the mattress. Apparently he finished half of his thirty round magazine, making sure all of them was dead.

Now this wasn't the bad part as we all did this in the command, we never wanted to risk wounded enemies.

But after finishing his shooting, Rob pulled the now blood soaked blankets off of the dead people. It was by then he saw the innocent civilians; Bloodied and shot up, thick holes in their heads and torsos. A husband and wife, with their two toddlers laying beneath them now lay dead in front of Rob. Obviously horrified by the realization of what he had done, Rob lifted up his NVGs and apparently turned his flashlight on to look at the dead innocent; Trying to figure out if he had actually did what he had did. Around a minute later, Rob's voice screamed on the troop net.

"OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD; I SHOT A FAMILY! OH MY GOD!" Rob cried out. His teammate, who had discovered nothing in the other room, quickly rushed over to Rob as he heard his cries over the radio. Soon after, all of Rob's teammates were with him; Comforting and trying to be there for him as he began crying. The troop chief radioed what the hell happened to the troop commander, who immediately aborted the operation. Out of time and rushing to get back to their base, the SEALs left the dead family exactly as they were; Who wouldn't be found until six hours later. That was one of the saddest parts about the whole thing.

A huge mistake had cost innocent lives, and the aftermath was just as bad.

There were obvious repercussions; Villagers mourned, and held protests in the district against us yesterday. There was already some media attention on the whole thing. The task force commander found out and was now doing damage control, making operators in our task force meet with village elders to somehow try to fix pretty much irreversible damage. Apparently bringing an ANA commander or two, who were trusted by basically no one, would assist with that as well.

Meanwhile, Rob was certainly going to be out of DEVGRU, maybe even out of the military as well. A court martial was also possible, although it was highly unlikely based on the circumstances of the incident. Still Rob's career had just started, and it was already over. I felt really bad for him.

The elders flew up north from their homes in Andar to our base in Nawur, being picked up by Anderson and his Blackhawk helicopter. They arrived with the two ANA Commando commanders, one a translator, at 1515 hours. The meeting lasted half an hour.

The old men, with beards much thicker and bigger than ours, were dressed in traditional Afghan garb; Turbans, long knit dresses, along with Cheetah shoes and what Styles called, Jesus sandals. The ANA commanders had their woodland BDUs, Commando patches on their arms. Meanwhile since it was a formal meeting, we were actually in our utility uniforms, the NWU II in AOR 1; Bloused boots and all of that, SEAL trident above our branch tape. Mike wore a Multicam Army ACU since that's what deployed Air Force guys were issued; 24th STS patch on his arm.

In our back pockets, were our concealed handguns. We didn't want to risk anything; We knew about these green on blue attacks. We knew what the fuck was up. It didn't help that the ANA guys were friends of the guy who betrayed the Silver Squadron troop to begin with.

All in all, the meeting was shit. Just talking and talking with nothing being settled. As the three of us watched while standing ten feet away, we cracked jokes, whispering in each other's ears.

"I bet you fifty cents Marc walks out of the room in about five minutes." Mike whispered to me.

"Make it five dollars brokie." I said, and Mike smiled.

"I got ten!" Styles shouted, in a whisper.

Meanwhile, the elders, Marc, Pete, and the ANA guys continued to talk while seated at a coffee table. Pete, who led the way, seemed to be all about apologizing and being understanding of the village elders' frustrations and circumstances. The ANA guys felt pretty much the same, as they took responsibility for the whole thing in the first place. However, the village elders thought Pete and everyone else was full of shit. They accepted their apologies, but they thought trying to patch everything up was stupid and pointless.

In their eyes, things would always be this way. Nothing could change what happened. They quickly tried to dismiss any sort of compromise Pete and the ANA guys had, but Pete being the patient and nice guy he was, kept his composure the whole time. Marc however, wasn't the same as Pete. After saying a few words for about the first twenty minutes of the meeting, he just said everything on his mind.

"Man fuck all of this damage control bullshit." Marc said, as Pete looked at him and exhaled. He knew what Marc was going to say, but he allowed him to talk. Pete led the troop, but Marc had nearly if not just as much of authority. The ANA commanders stayed silent, as the village elders glared at Marc.

"Welp, here we go." Styles whispered.

"We know this is not going to lead into jack shit. Why don't we stop wasting each other's time and get on with the fucking day? FUCK THIS, and FUCK the task force commander."

"And FUCK all of you too." Marc finished, looking at the ANA guys and the village elders. He then walked out the operations center, as Styles and I now owed Sullivan fifteen dollars. Ironically, the meeting went on. Pete asked one of us to join him on the table, and I went. I kept my mouth shut the whole time, as he mentioned the shit he was suppose to mention; Like any possible way he could help out the community in Anwar, or if Taliban were roaming villages in the district. The ANA guys looked pissed during the last ten minutes, while the elders stared and nodded with the same blank expression on their faces.

Then it was over. We all shook hands like everything was somehow okay or would get better, and then the ANA commanders escorted the elders back into the chopper. Finally, they were out and about.

By the end of the meeting, Marc had returned, after finally calming down. However Pete was not calm whatsoever when he saw him. He asked the three of us to step out of the operations center, which left him and Marc in there. He slammed the hooch door, and sooner or later a whole argument ensued, a rare occurrence for us. Meanwhile, the three of us stood by and listened.

"What the fuck are we suppose to do huh?! WE'VE FUCKED UP, and we've fucked up BADLY. This damage control nonsense won't fix any of it. That Army colonel has got his foot so fucking far up in his ass thinking he knows what the boys on the ground should do; There's nothing TO do!" Marc yelled, his voice probably being heard from miles away.

And oh by the way, that Army colonel he mentioned is the special operations task force commander.

"Hey listen up Master Chief; I'm surprised you with all of your years of experience would be such a condescending asshole right now." Pete answered. Before Marc could say something else, he cut him off and continued.

"Feel whatever way you want, you know how it is. But orders are orders and I'm expected to follow them. That's how we do things. Trying to fucking embarrass us in front of those Afghans isn't going to establish or make anyone respect your frustration any further."

"Oh give me a fucking break with the bureaucratic bullshit Pete, I'm right and you know it! I don't give a fuck about what these Afghans think, I've been fighting in this shithole for twelve fucking years, non stop. By this point, their opinions or respect means jack shit to me."

"You want to talk about preventing shit like this from happening again to our guys, and actually getting down to business, let me fucking know. Besides that, I'm out of here."

"Be my guess." Peter finally responded, and then Marc stormed out. He saw us standing beside the hooch, realizing we'd heard everything. He didn't say anything though, he just glared at us for a bit and walked off to the gym on base. Support personnel on the base watched him walk off, as they too probably heard the commotion.

"Well that was some fucking shit." Styles shook his head.

"Marc's right though dude. Sure Pete is just doing his job, but Marc is still right." Mike added.

"Right. We can't let this stuff happen again, but the problem stems from who, and what information to trust. This just further divided us from the ANA guys; The people who we're handing this shithole over to next year. And the civilians too." I said, and everyone became sort of quiet.

"Welp, you know when we're done here there's always another war to fight. We'll probably be in Somalia or Yemen or some other shit after all of this. And if the CIA is bored enough, maybe even Pakistan. Who knows?" Styles shrugged, and continued.

"All I know is that this kind of crap will always be around. It's just who's willing to take responsibility for it."

"I'm glad I'm getting out. I'm not even supposed to be in Afghanistan but then my pager clicked, and someone needed a PJ so here I am." Mike said.

"Yeah yeah, what the fuck are you gonna do after the Air Force? Skateboard again? Be in the X Games?" I said, and Styles laughed.

"No, fuck off. I'd like to get into tactical consulting; You know, showing these cats back home how to shoot and move, basic stuff."

"That's what every retired SMU guy does." Styles responded.

"Who cares? Money is money. What skill do I have here that's gonna seriously translate into any other job?" Mike said, and we were quiet, until we started laughing again.

"Bro you can be a paramedic back home, you specialize in emergency trauma and all of that. Or a firefighter. You're fighting fires but you're still rescuing people too." I told him.

"Yeah but what's going to pay the bills? Besides, I'd like to actually see my daughter as much as I can. I don't need her or my fiancée knowing I'm in any danger again either." He said. I looked at him and nodded.

"I guess you're right bro. But anyway, I'll see you around, I'm heading back to my bunk. Styles you coming with me?" I asked, and Styles agreed.

"Alright guys, later." Mike answered, and he gave us fives before going back to the Charlie Team hooch. Styles and I went to ours, which leads us to now. It's 1600 hours. Everyone asked us how it went, and we told them everything.

"I'm glad I'm getting out of this shit," Luke said. "After this, my reenlistment contract is in August and I'm not signing anything. Nothing changes. I've had enough."

"Ain't that the truth. Now we got Marc and Pete arguing over shit that's not under our control. I'm glad I'm leaving too." Prig added.

"So both of y'all set on this?" Brady asked, looking at them and then looking at me. He didn't mention my name though.

"Even if we wanted to stay, what good reason would we have? We don't trust them, and they still don't trust us. The war is over, and we're gonna hand this shithole to their government who are probably going to lose it to the Taliban anyway. I've lost too many brothers over a war that won't be won, fighting for people that don't even want us to be here. I'm ready to move on." Luke said, and by then the conversation was over.

We tried to keep the politics out, but I couldn't help but feel that Luke's sentiments were the hard truth. Maybe some of us didn't agree, but we respected his words, and how he felt about the situation. And that was that.

The point is though, we're obviously not perfect; Mistakes still do happen. Even horrible ones like these. There's been certain instances of questionable killings, along with bad and unnecessary conduct in the unit's history too. And much of these events seem intentional. These are things many of us know about, but don't talk about.

For obvious reasons though. Soon one day, these events may be brought to the light; But that's not for me to say.

Things have arguably been worse in the past, but by this point, the command has no place for those who didn't follow the rules of war, the rules of engagement. It wasn't a place for those who were doing things they weren't suppose to do. No matter what though, there was always a few bad apples who slipped through the bunch.

The problem was policing them, and learning to not make the mistake of allowing them on the teams. We always tried our best to constantly learn from our mistakes, over and over again. You could never be perfect, so we always learned as much as we could.

However, this mistake Rob did just happened to be another one we'd have to learn from; We could never be pleased with ourselves. Regardless I know it's going to ruin him; It's going to scar him forever. Forget all the bureaucracy and everything surrounding it; On a human level, I know Rob is going be hurting for a long time. That was the worse part.

I just hope he has the support and resilience to find peace within himself. That's what I hope.

War is HELL.

Spencer's birthday, which was a day before we arrived in Afghanistan (also the same day of the civilian incident there), went fine. He is twenty eight now, but he's still the youngest one on the team. Ironically, he's also still the tallest one; Those are things that won't change. But sadly, the unlucky bastard was going to spend it on the aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea, the USS Nimitz. Interestingly enough, we somehow got another mission that day. Something cool, and something different this time. So thankfully, he didn't spend the whole day on that thing.

We ended up getting a reconnaissance mission in Somalia. I mean we were right there, right next to that country and Yemen; Basically the right place at the right time. Apparently, the intelligence analysts aboard the carrier were trying to authorize a drone strike on a vital Al-Shabaab command post that had a high ranking commander. It was located close to the shore of Somalia, meaning we could beach insert.

I found it funny how the analysts were focusing on interrogating the fuck out of Zawahiri and his friends, while simultaneously giving us another mission.

Long story short, they couldn't get a conclusive identification on the commander so that's where we came in. We would watch and observe the post until we had a positive ID of the guy. The drone strike would happen after, and then we were out and about. The RECCE teams were small, so only four of us went; Spencer and I, plus two guys from Charlie Team. It was a volunteer thing, as there wasn't a RECCE troop around at the time, so we were the best guys fit to go. It seemed like Spence and I operated in a pair often, which we found interesting.

So at around 0600 hours, at the crack of dawn, all four of us got on a combat rubber raiding craft (CRRV), a small rubber transport boat. Accompanying us controlling the boat, were two Grey Squadron operators on deployment aboard the USS Nimitz. We left the carrier and drove the boat for around half an hour to a nearby submarine, as the sun continued to rise.

We didn't have our kit or anything on, just our Crye combat shirts and pants in Multicam. Our actual kits, which was scuba and diving gear along with our weapons and comms, were in large rucksacks. We reached the submarine at 0630, running onto the top into the dry deck shelter. Then we boarded the thing, and went down into the compartments until we reached the briefing room. A senior officer from a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Team gave us a final briefing before we packed up, and went out.

We were going to insert through the use of a SEAL Delivery Vehicle; The Mark 8 Mod 1. What made this different was that it wasn't a boat or anything, it was an underwater machine; Something we called a DPV, a diving propulsion vehicle. This meant we would have to travel completely submerged and underwater, dressed from head to hoe in our all black scuba gear. The wetsuit, rebreather, fins, snorkel, diving mask; It was the whole deal, along with the cool looking gloves.

The whole thing was pretty fucking nerve racking, honestly. I hadn't done anything underwater in a particularly long time; And this time it being an actual mission kind of fessed me up. I felt dumb for volunteering, but I couldn't let everyone down; Especially Spence, it was his birthday after all.

"Just relax man, you'll be fine." He said, as we walked through the tight corridors of the submarine towards the location of the SDVs. Red lights shined on our faces, our fins flopping against the surface of the metal submarine floor.

"I fuckin' hope so. This shit feels so weird." I responded.

"Ah shut it ya' pussy." Was Schultz' response, Charlie Team's infamous leader. The other guy with him giggled.

Sooner or later, we got down into the water, and put our snorkels on. The submarine hatch opened, as we got completely submerged underwater. The vibrant blue sea surrounded us, water all around me, as fish moved passed us. Corals, rocks, and algae completely filled our view.

Schultz led our reconnaissance team towards the rear of the submarine, which had the six man SDV. The pilot and co-pilot; An enlisted SEAL and the senior officer who debriefed us, opened the canopy of the vehicle as we swam into it's tight compartment. Then finally, the SDV was out and about at 0650 hours. We traveled through the ocean for around twenty minutes, our pilots observing more marine life and environment. Out of incredible luck, they managed to see a sea turtle and a whole ass humpback whale; Luckily they avoided colliding with it.

The SDV parked about half a mile from the shore at 0710 hours. We picked the perfect spot, as we knew exactly where Somali pirates would harbor and stay around. Then we left the SDV, as the pilot and co-pilot headed back to the submarine. We swam towards the shore for about another twenty minutes, weapons in hand and rucks on our backs. Spencer led the way, his large six-six frame paddling through the water. I kept my HK416 close to my body as I swam towards the surface, trying to make sure the damn thing didn't slip out of my hands and float away from me.

Then we finally surfaced onto land at 0730, coming out of the water looking just like the SEALs in the commercials. We walked up the beach for a little while, until we reached our overwatch and reconnaissance positions. Next we took off our scuba gear and got into our combat uniforms from before, throwing on boonies and shemaghs. After that we took all of the heavy surveillance and communications gear out our rucks; Radios, headsets, binoculars, a digital camera, and our ten pound PRC-117 radio beacon, along with it's satellite antenna. Luckily, all of this shit was divided between the four of us so it isn't as heavy as you think. We established comms, and finally separated into pairs.

This whole process took some more time, so by the time we were ready to watch the post, it was already almost 0800. A whole hour had passed since we departed for the op, but fuck it, at least we were starting. Afterwards, we watched the post from two hidden positions on a sandy hill crest; About a mile away from it. The first position was Spencer and I, while the other had Schultz and his teammate. We did this for about two hours.

I'll tell you the truth, it was boring. A really slow, and just uncomfortable boredom, feeling like it was never gonna end. Jokes didn't help while sand and dust blew onto our faces, as Spencer and I waited for what seemed like forever to ID the Al-Shabaab commander. I don't know what the fucker was doing for two hours but I'm sure it had to be something big. Still, Spencer rationalized that it was better spending his birthday out in the field then on an aircraft carrier; I won't vouch for that though.

At 1000 hours, Schultz tired and bored voice finally cracked over the radio saying he had positive ID on the Al-Shabaab guy. Apparently he and his swim buddy spotted the guy coming out of a mess tent. Go figure; He just had his last meal. Spencer found that funny.

Then at 1010, the Reaper drone that had been surveilling and watching the post for the past twelve hours finally dropped the bomb; Literally. Just like other huge explosions, the post exploded with a cacophony, going up in flames into a huge billowing cloud. Unlucky for us, some shrapnel flew our way, but it wasn't too bad. Fifteen minutes passed, as our SDV arrived for us to extract. We got back in our scuba gear and packed everything up, walking back to the shore with our weapons and going back into the water.

We got back to the aircraft carrier at like 1130 hours. Spencer was a happy man. He was going to be even more happy, as during the evening, we sung him happy birthday and gave him two cupcakes; One with the number two, the other with the number eight. There weren't any cakes, so it was the best the mess deck could offer. It didn't matter though, he appreciated it.

We love that asshole.

Besides all of the crap we were dealing with right now in Afghanistan, we've still been trying to deal with something else for a week. A team guy died in a parachute accident back home on the 30th of March. His name was Shady, and he was in his early thirties.

Of course, a lot of guys knew him, and it didn't make things any easier. Sometimes it seemed like bullshit would pile on top of us; It could be one misfortune after another, one thing after the next. Even when we did good, like finally getting Zawahiri's ass, the bad never disappeared. It sucked.

I'm just really grateful. I've been Skyping and talking to Crystal on Facebook consistently recently. Everything has been going fine, and we're just trying to catch up on the time we've missed without each other. We're still planning on getting married when I get out the teams.

I've also been talking to my parents just as much, and they seem to be okay; Getting even older but they're okay. I've told them I'm getting out, and they're fine with it too. Thing is, they constantly remind me that I need a plan after all of this, so I don't go completely broke or have nothing to do in the real world.

I've been considering going back to school, tactical consulting, the entertainment industry, or if all else fails, a fuckin' desk job. But whatever pays the bills, right?

Now the problem is getting out itself; I obviously have a number of years left on my contract, my obligation to the unit. My ticket out will have to unfortunately be mentioning the issues with my mental health; I'll most likely lose my security clearance and I'll be posted at a desk job at some other command, or discharged honorably. It all sounded like shit, and wasn't the way I wanted to get out; But I didn't have a choice.

Crystal and my family meant everything to me. And just like Luke, I'm ready for that next step of starting a family of my own. We always had to sacrifice one thing for another, but this time, it was my family first.

And I was fine with that. But of course it wouldn't be easy.

As always it was that brotherhood, that sense of team and camaraderie, that I'd miss dearly. While I was going to start a family, I was leaving another. The guys weren't going to be so okay with it, especially because I'm still pretty much a cherry; I've only been at the command for a year. Brady understood, but that was mostly because he was closest to me and we had been through the same journey all together. However, it wouldn't be the same when I told everyone else.

Styles is in the hooch right now telling a story, a really good one. Apparently before he dropped out of college in 1997, he had a History professor who used to sell weed and edibles on the side, and the university never knew shit about it. Plenty of students knew, mostly the potheads like Styles, but of course they weren't going to snitch; They needed a constant supply of high grade weed.

The professor was some thirty something year old black guy, who Styles described as having a watch that costed more than his tuition. He also always had a shape up, and wore a fancy suit all the time. Despite his 'pretty boy' and classy appearance, he was really open and down to Earth. Apparently he started growing weed in his yard in 1994, after his wife left him and a long stint of depression hit him. What started as just a pure recreational thing, became a whole fuckin' business by the time Styles was a Sophomore.

Styles used to go to the dude's house all the time after classes, and buy weed from there, along with Rice Krispy treat edibles. He did this for months, even after he dropped out, until the professor started getting paranoid about authorities finally catching on to him. Right around this time was when Styles decided to enlist in the Navy (sometime in 1998), and I've already said how that went; He used one of his friend's piss to pass the mandatory drug test.

We found it hilarious how open Styles was about his past, even if it was pretty illegal. There was another story that Styles had told us from his college days, about how he'd been fucking a girl in an amusement park, and they'd gotten caught by the police. Apparently he ditched the bitch, and ran ape shit naked from the police out of the amusement park, until he was out of sight. Honestly I've doubted this was true since the first time I heard it, but knowing Styles, I wouldn't be surprised if it was.

Officially, the Navy didn't know anything about the illegal and goofy shit Styles used to do; But we did, and we'd keep our mouths shut for obvious reasons. Until this day though, no one knows what happened to the college professor; Styles did say he checked on him when he came home from graduating BUD/S and he wasn't selling anymore, but planning to enter real estate. That's the last time he heard from him. Styles says he's gonna try to find him on Facebook.

Styles always told these stories with such enthusiasm, with a keen sense for remembering the best and most specific details; Like they were things he'd always remember. He always talked about these memories like they were during a time when things in his life were much more simpler, and how he had his life ahead of him. He didn't regret anything he'd done after that, but I know those old memories gave him feelings of nostalgia.

Things like that were the things I'd always love and remember; Storytelling. And Styles just happened to be one of the best at it. I know I'd miss him dearly, along with the other guys and their stories.

He finished his story, as we all got our laughs and questions in. Sooner or later, everyone was quiet again, as boredom restruck us and we didn't know what to talk about. That was until, we mentioned pranking Marc later when he wasn't in a bad mood anymore. Then the jokes and bullshitting came along, as our plan was to jam a black dildo with baby oil in between the door of his gear locker.

I smiled and laughed with my teammates, as I realized they were the only family I've truly ever had.

Chapter Twenty One - WarriorEdit

0600 Hours - 0700 Hours (6:00 AM - 7:00 AM)

April 21, 2013

Gizab District, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan

Two more days, and my ass is home. That was the only thing on my mind. Meanwhile, the only thing I can worry about is what the fuck is going on right now.

We're on a rescue mission, because you know; Shit always gets fucked up.

A platoon of Australian commandos from the 2nd Commando Regiment had asked us for assist due to a hostage rescue operation, a real big one. About a week ago, an Australian Army observation post in the Uruzgan Province was overrun by Taliban fighters, who killed two soldiers and took four as hostages. Of course, this devastated and shocked the Australian government, who immediately told commanders to get the soldiers found as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, intelligence analysts were tracking and doing surveillance on the fighters moving with the hostages. Eventually, they were tracked down in a remote compound situated in the Gizab District, which was notorious for civilians staging an uprising against the Taliban a couple years ago. The only option was to rescue the troops, as the government didn't take the Taliban's ransoms seriously and would not accept them either way; So that's where the commandos came in.

And then of course our dumbasses came along, because the commandos wanted our assist and we were the closest nearby. We flew into Uruzgan three days ago with our kit and gear, landing at the base in Tarin Kowt. It's funny how our roles were gonna work; We were strictly QRF. The way Marc explained it to us was that the Australian task force commander wanted only his guys to assault the compound. Apparently he didn't think too highly of us and thought we'd bask in the glory if we were directly apart of the assault force, and the mission succeeded.

"'I don't want those blokes getting themselves off for saving the day once again, they're just here to clean up our mess just in case.'" Marc said, frowning his mouth and imitating the way the task force commander spoke. I laughed as I looked at him.

Pete wasn't too thrilled about it either.

"You shouldn't even have called us up then," He said, earlier that day. "We're not your fuckin' maids; We're either all in or not. The only reason I'm gonna keep my mouth shut is because I care about those boys just as much as you do." The task force commander looked at him and laughed, blowing cigar smoke towards his face. Then he walked away, while I could sense the anger on Pete's face.

This shit happened yesterday and the mission hadn't even started yet. Granted, the actual commandos were really nice and funny guys.

"Listen mate, tell your friends to not get too bunched up over him. We don't like him either, he always seems to have the army's cock up his ass." One commado had told me.

"Yeah he's definitely a wanker. He needs to cop a root or something to lessen that ego." Another guy said.

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