I don’t know how I had gotten separated and out of eyesight with my squadmates.
As my squad rounded corners and went through various buildings, we had to be super alert. The other side had shown real ability to surprise us out of nowhere. Other units had already experienced casualties during this operation, and we were determined not to add ourselves to that list. Especially so because we were all pretty green to combat, and no one wants to think about not going home someday.
So you do your assigned job, trying to remember everything the DI and other instructors tried to drill into you in Boot and afterward. Somehow, it never seemed quite real during training, during the combat drills they put you through. You eventually come out the other side of training and get deployed to a hot zone at the ass-end of nowhere along with a bunch of other guys. It still doesn’t feel like it’s real.
And of course, despite all the lessons, the training, the lectures about ‘situational awareness’ and so on — I get lost and separated from the rest of the squad. I’m all alone, moving through enemy-held territory.
I remember some movie I saw once, where they claimed something about fear being a killer or some such. I was experiencing it for real, not from the safety of a theater seat with popcorn and a soda, wondering if any second could be my last.
Finally regaining some sort of control — my heart rate going from a mile-a-minute down to maybe half-a-mile — I got my feet moving in the direction the pre-action briefing said the squad should be going if all was going according to plan. Just as it was planned that all of the squad would stay together, which didn’t happen now, did it? What a cluster.
So much for plans.
I was cautiously rounding the back corner of the third building when we saw each other at the same time. He was heading in the opposite direction…heading directly for me, and I him.
He must have been as shocked, surprised, and green as I was at this sudden turn out of nowhere. We both just stopped in our tracks, frozen for a moment by the sight of one another.
He was about my age, height, and build wearing a uniform that didn’t seem to fit all that well, but carrying a slung weapon that looked very well maintained from his shoulder. He jerked himself visibly and started to bring the barrel up towards me. I did the same.
I was a fraction of a second quicker than he was.
The weapons fire brought my lost squad from two blocks over to my position.
I was leaning against a wall where I had thrown up when they got there.
It was my first ever kill.