The Hercules gains speed. I put my feet strongly on the metal floor. The engines are roaring, the hull trembles. We lift off from the airfield and gain height quickly. Take off goes without a hitch. I’m getting farther and farther away from the place I spent the last 4 months. The special forces base and the field of operations. I’ll have to learn everything from the beginning in another theater of war.
Someone came up with a good term. Roles are set, there is a “director” and the crew, the hero and the villain, and even the audience – sitting safely in front of their TVs.
Even during the campaign you can find stability, get used to everything, and follow a routine. We had everything “set” in the base we’re leaving now. Everyone had a bed and a roof over their head. Three sections in brick-built buildings and two in large tents. We were located in the buildings and had an easier time during the mortar fire on our base (one or two attacks every 2 or 3 days). Around 60 series of mortar fire went by and probably 60 more to go, if we go back to the country as planned. Right next to my bed I have two crates of gear, both covered in dust. On the bed there’s a sleeping pad (green), a thermal mat for protection against cold surfaces which we’re using for padding (silver), sleeping bag (green), and two small pillows (navy blue). Hanging above is a mosquito net (green, although there are also blue ones). Everybody has these kind of cocoons where we hide when we fall asleep (which is rarely at night) or when we rest and wait for another combat operation.
Some turbulence breaks us out of our boredom for a while. It’s close to 03:00, fatigue and sleepiness are hitting us hard. There’s a semi-darkness in the cabin, only a few lights on the wall. Hunter 2 corrects his MP3 earbuds, which he put inside his headphones. Hunter 1 is sitting with his headlamp on, reading something. The rest are asleep or trying to fall asleep. Automatically, I do this regularly and unconsciously, I check the safety on my weapon with my right thumb. We have a rule that when we leave headquarters the safety on our weapons is on and the first round is in the chamber. In the end, we’re soldiers, this is the tool of our trade and has to be ready to use immediately when the need arises. We don’t put our finger on the trigger if we don’t need to. The safety is on our rifles and in our heads.
I drink water from a bottle. The camel pack is for later. I turn the radio off to save the batteries. It could be useful when we leave the plane.
The on-board technician hasn’t given us a sign that we should prepare for landing. The flight we be a bit longer. The assault soldiers have put their sleeping pads on the floor and are sleeping. This team has a lot of experience. It’s not the first mission and it won’t be the last… well, at least not the first.
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