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Veterans’ Tales by Allen Nessa

I got to my first unit in July of ’88, 4th Battalion 27th Infantry “Wolfhounds.”  I spent four years humping sleestack-ridden gulches in the dark of night with nothing but a set of cat-eyes from the man in front of me to guide on.  By the time I left in ’92 the phrase “We own the night” was normally uttered while being helped back to your feet after a particularly heinous slip, trip or fall.  Often involving multiple Soldiers.

Team Leaders and above had PVS 5’s but the rest of us had to follow them, sometimes by feel.  I can remember slipping out from under my helmet and holding at head level in one hand.  Knowing the guy behind me can’t see anything else, then drop the helmet down to waist level and tactically whisper ouch!  He’d start tapping an extended foot trying to feel the drop off.  Then you’d speed up for a couple steps worrying him that he would be the cause of a break in contact.  That was cause for a serious scuffin, don’t be the dumbass who causes a break in contact.

I remember walking along the edge of a gulch, the mortar bipod was scraping the wall from its perch on my alice pack.  We were walking along a path maybe a foot wide and it was steep enough that you’d fall clean out of sight if you slipped.  Unless you get lucky and smack onto a strong tree and only get a medical profile[…]

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Photo: U.S. Army Soldiers awake in their hasty fighting position after a night patrol in the mountains near Sar Howza, Paktika province, Afghanistan, Sept. 4. The Soldiers are deployed with Bulldog Troop, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment. Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith