Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: FIZZLE (06/09/16)
- TITLE: Fizzle or Fait Accompli?
By Pat Small
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A short trip from camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu brought us close to the safe house. Intelligence told us two aides of a renegade warlord were hiding there. It was our job to bring them back. We hovered seventy feet in the air, and prepared to fast rope to the pavement. Jim jumped for his rope. I stared down into a virtual dust storm. Our rotors stirred up sand and dirt, reducing visibility to zero. I grabbed for my rope. Seconds before hitting the ground, I saw Jim prone on the pavement, bleeding from the head. I barely avoided landing on him. His body appeared crumpled. He had missed the rope, and had fallen from seventy feet.
Will landed next and joined me at Jim’s side. We half dragged him to a doorway. “Medic! Medic! We have a badly injured man here.” The medic arrived, running, and quickly inserted an IV. He worked at stopping the bleeding, but clearly this surpassed his expertise.
“Transport requested immediately. Repeat. Immediately. Seriously injured man. We have to get him out NOW.” It seemed like an eternity, but after more screaming demands, we saw a Humvee approaching. Someone pulled out a portable litter, and we ran to the vehicle, stopping frequently to shoot. Already the mobs had discovered our presence. Quickly we loaded Jim, and they roared away.
We ran to join the rest of our group. We knew a daylight mission was dangerous, but if we could get in and out in thirty minutes, sixty max, the commanders calculated it could be done. The Hawk had dropped us a block off target, a costly delay when time is of the essence. The second load of Rangers and Delta Force were already there. Quickly assuming our assigned positions, the lead team kicked in the door. We ran screaming and cursing, clearing each room. We captured several civilians and herded them to a meeting place behind the building. The motorized vehicles were not there. A mix-up in communication. Another dangerous delay.
We had the fight we wanted. Mobs of shouting, shooting militants aimed their weapons at us. As soon as we could neutralize a group, another appeared. Others shot from doorways and windows. Women, children, old men…it seemed as though the entire population was armed. One woman carried an innocuous looking basket through the street. Grenades.
They hissed and, in most cases, fizzled at our feet. We silently thanked the unknown manufacturer for the faulty merchandise the Somalis had received. I dove behind a rusty Volkswagen, giving me good protection for the moment, wiping sweat out of my eyes.
Telltale red streaks in the air told us RPGs were aimed for the Black Hawks and Little Birds who were attempting to give us cover. “Black Hawk down!” A scream rent the air. No, it can’t be, I thought. They’re invincible, built to withstand severe punishment. An RPG couldn’t have brought it down. Several men ran in the direction indicated. Others remained fighting off the insurgents.
The smell of blood mixed with gunpowder was pungent. Militants’ bullets hit areas Kevlar vests did not protect. Other, even more gruesome, injuries assailed our vision. Screams of agony echoed through the narrow streets. Men risked their own lives to drag injured comrades to the cover of doorways, eventually kicking in doors and occupying private homes.
We longed for darkness. When it came, we kicked ourselves for leaving night vision goggles behind. After all, back at camp, we had reasoned that it was daylight, and we would be back in time for mess. Using the same reasoning, many of us neglected to fill our canteens. We would give anything now for water. The heat, the dust, the stress, and the constant searching of corners and alleys in search of shooters were wearing us down.
The short mission morphed into a twenty-four hour ordeal. Eighteen men died, leaving wives, girlfriends, mothers, and sisters to grieve. Seventy-three others were wounded, many severely. One pilot was captured, but later returned. Two Black Hawks were lost, others damaged. It might seem as though the entire operation was one giant fizzle, but to the Delta Force and Army Rangers it was Mission Accomplished.
Adapted from “Black Hawk Down” by Mark Bowden. Names and dialogue are mine.
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