Ice Cream? No Thanks!
I rested my rifle on the wall of the Hesco. ‘What time are they due in again?’ I shouted over my shoulder.
’9:30. About 10 minutes’ came the reply from the young lad who’d been talking to Heli-Ops on the radio – he was literally young enough to be my son; at 19 only a few months older.
I scanned the horizon through my rifle sight. On the ridge on the far horizon – at the most 3km away I would see the sands of the desert ridge, and on that ridge I would make out 3 squat black shapes. Vehicles.
By their shape they looked like Jackals. Fast and manoeuvrable over the open ground, and capable of carrying some heavy fire-power to support the rest of the infantry Company that had been dropped into a complex of compounds just behind the ridge earlier that morning in an Operation to search a site that suspected of being an Insurgent half-way house and supply stores.
That operation had finished and it was time to extract the lads back to our base. Again, I was part of the Helicopter Landing Site security team, providing cover to protect the helicopters when they returned to land and drop off their cargo of troops.
I looked around again and my attention was drawn over to the right of my ‘arc’. Three choppers. Two Chinooks and a Merlin flew in to view at low level.
Next I saw orange smoke rise from behind the ridge and the helos dropped and landed, fanning out slightly as they did so. As they touched down I could just see the tops of the rotors over the top of the horizon ridge.
Quickly the helos rose again, one after the other, the two Chinooks turning away into the desert, and the Merlin swinging round and heading low in a sweep over towards us.
”Merlin inbound’ I shouted, and the young lad behind me near to the center of the HLS threw his own smoke grenade. After the pop and crack of the grenade firing, green smoke poured forth to mark our own spot and the chopper flew in low and fast, swinging round to the right of my position.
It approached over the village, and near to the partly built school, it’s nose flared up and it braked, slowly coming into a hover over the markers in the middle of the gravel site. It rotated gracefully round and dropped gently, landing and lowering it’s loading ramp as it did so.
The first wave of troops ran off and went to stand in a line by the side of the Hesco wall. Then, more power and noise and the Merlin lifted off again, heading off to the north. I scanned the horizon again. The Chinooks were nowhere in sight. The lads deposited by the first chopper trooped back to the Check Point, and as I faced outwards again a child, about 9-10, stood in front of me, his thumb in the air, smiling.
’Helicopter good.’ he said. I copied his gesture and smiled back. He turned to his left and pointed ‘Ahhhhh’ he shouted. He’d seen the first Chinook swing in over the horizon and it was heading towards us….
But look at me now and how time has changed me. Here I am standing on a road in 40 degree heat, outside the Check Point, with body armour and helmet. Rifle loaded, hanging from a clip on my body armour. My mouth salivating at the thought of some ice cream or a cappuccino. How had I gotten myself into this situation? Oh yeah. I’d volunteered. But if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have just witnessed the display of power and skill that I had just seen….
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