Archive for February, 2010

F.U.B.A.R.

Posted: February 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

It is not a soldier’s duty to die for his beliefs. It is however, his duty to make sure the other bastard dies for his

Summer of ’95. Four of us were ordered to assist four police officers who were going to arrest some cult leader. He’d formed a sort of self-styled militia in the town where he lived, composed of his followers. This was a pretty common thing around here, specially the isolated areas. They were supposed to be a civilian home defense group to counter Moslem insurgents operating in that area. We had heard of him. They had  skirmishes with the rebels in that particular area, and they actually had a few kills under their belts. But if you ask me, they just got lucky.

This is an example of a cult-based militia. Members of a cult called “Ilaga”. Translated in English, it means “mouse”. Cute name for sure, but there’s nothing cute about these guys. A lot of them are hard-core killers, and join up for the sole purpose of having the opportunity to kill Muslims, never a good reason for joining any group at all.

But the problem was, they were amateurs. And amateurs make the worst kind of mistakes. They had killed some sixteen your old Moslem kid whom they thought was a rebel sympathizer or something. And now the subject was in the shitter, because there was a warrant for his arrest on a charge of first-degree murder. Now this is the kind of crap that starts religious riots, like the ones you see in India, with Hindus attacking Moslems and vice versa. He’d just graduated from cult leader, to being a legitimate threat to the stability of the region. An enemy of the state.

So, why did the cops need our assistance? Well, the cult leader had about twenty or so armed followers, although most used machetes. And in that town the police force consisted of about six cops. That was it. And they weren’t even in shape, if you know what I mean. The rebels didn’t even respect them enough to kill them. There’s something wrong when your enemies won’t even bother killing you. It’s actually the ultimate form of disrespect.

So, tasked with assisting the four cops who were going to serve the warrant were our sergeant, Roy, me and a Private fresh out of training, Nicolas, or Nick as we called him. We were breaking him into the team. He’d been with us on 5 missions, but this was his first firefight.

Initially our sergeant had offered to do a “snatch op”, meaning we’d go to this guy’s house at night and literally abduct him. The reason for this is was we wanted to avoid any confrontation. But the police commander found it “distasteful”. And according to him, the suspect had sent surrender feelers and was willing to give himself up, so that was that. We were gonna be doing it by the book. The cop book, that is.

We approached his house, which was on top of a hill. We immediately noticed people milling around in front of his house. A lot of them. At about 150 meters or so, Sarge signaled a halt. His first words were, “This is not good. Castillo, get your binoculars. Tell me what you see.”

Getting ready for a night op

So, from my vest pocket I took out a pair of folding mini-binoculars (for short-range viewing), adjusted the focus and scanned the crowd. There were roughly about forty of them. I noticed there were some wearing white vests with inscriptions on them that I couldn’t read, but I took an educated guess that they were probably Latin. I relayed this to him. Then one of the cops spoke up.

“Count the ones wearing vests. They’re the Warriors. The Protectors.”

I looked at him. From his insignia, I could tell he was a PO1. The equivalent of a Private in the Army. He was the youngest among the four cops with us, but he was a bit too old to be a rookie. I was 22 at the time, but he looked to be around 26 or 28. And his eyes. He had hard-set killer eyes, the kind that told you he’d seen his share of shit. Not to mention done them. His name tag said “Shahid” (pronounced “Shaheed”, Arabic for martyr). A Moslem. Suddenly, it made perfect sense. The amnesty program. Former insurgents, “returnees” as they were called, were given a chance to sign up for the military and police forces. Most preferred the latter, which was understandable. It’s difficult to serve alongside former sworn enemies. They were usually assigned to the areas where they operated as rebels, because of their knowledge of the terrain and the locals.

This meant that it was possible that in the last two years, I may have fought against this guy before. We may have tried killing each other in some night skirmish and didn’t know it. Lady Fate is one bitch with a sick sense of humor.

I returned to the business at hand, and started counting the ones in vests. I counted twenty-seven. No visible weapons. Yet. Didn’t mean there weren’t any close at hand. Never assume. For to assume makes an ASS of U and ME.

One of them stepped forward, looking right at us. Big guy, 5’10 or so. It was Him. Our Tango. He raised a hand and beckoned to us, like he was asking us to come closer. Fat chance, motherfucker. Distance is my friend. When Sarge saw this, he made a very deliberate and big show of hawking, then he spat on the ground. The guy obviously saw the insulting gesture, his face turned into a kind of dark mask of anger. Then he turned to his men, and was talking to them. Definitely not a good sign. As this was going on, Sarge started laying out his own plan to us.

“Listen up! I don’t like this at all. I smell an ambush. I know you do, too. They think bullets can’t touch them. Let’s prove them wrong.”

“Wait.” said one of the older cops. “You’re still planning to go up there?”

Sarge turned to him with a nasty look. You know that look. The kind you give to a disgusting-looking beggar on the street. That look.

“So I take it you’re not staying, huh? That’s okay. You and your men can go. We’ll finish your mission for you.” I loved it whenever he talked like this. He drips sarcasm like it was venom. But the arresting team’s leader just wouldn’t let it go.

“You do see that you’re outnumbered almost seven to one, right?” Not something you wanna point out to a Ranger.

“Just seven?”, retorted Sarge. “Obviously you’ve never worked with Rangers before. We ALWAYS start the fight outnumbered. That’s how we fight. Ask your man Shahid. I’m sure he’s encountered some of us before.”

To this, Shahid responded. “Yes. One time. We were a twenty-man platoon and ran into a Ranger squad of eight. We lost five men killed and three wounded. We wounded two of them, I think.” The cops’ team leader didn’t seem to know how to respond to this, so Sarge ignored him and continued our briefing.

He made us move back another 70 or so meters. I could see why. The actual spot we were standing on was roughly 50 meters across and it was open ground. 20 meters behind us, this narrowed dramatically to about 30 meters due to the natural contour of the terrain. On our left was a treeline with thick vegetation behind it. On the right was a rice paddy. If they were going to attack, this 30-meter wide area would become a bottleneck, forcing them to bunch up a bit. This would make them vulnerable to what I like to call “accurate and devastating rifle-fire”. The plan looked good. Simple. Brutal. Effective.

So I guess you’re wondering why we were doing this, right? Why not pack up and leave to fight another day? Call for back-up maybe?

First of all, it would give them the impression that they can get away with anything with impunity.

Second, back up was hours away. That would give our bad guy time to get away.

And third, we had our own set of orders regarding the man we were after which the cops had no need to know. If he were to resist, there was no need for us to take him back alive. Those were our orders. So for us, there was no turning back from this. Mission first.

For Rangers, the mission always comes first.

He had placed himself at the head of a group of fanatical men willing to do his bidding. That is a dangerous kind of power to have. Does the name Ampatuan ring a bell? Combine his egotism with religious fanaticism and this man we were up against is the result. A crazy asshole. And the sarge wanted to give him a lesson in humility. Ranger style.

“Castillo!” barked the sarge. “Take a look again. What are they doing now?”

I looked through the binocs. Shit. I was seeing machetes now. The big guy was whipping them into a frenzy. These people by the way were part of a tribe called Bila-ans. They had their own dialect which none of us spoke. But what’s to understand about a machete-wielding mob anyway? No matter where in the world you are, it’s never good news.

Their leader picked something up from the ground. It was a… what the fuck? A World War 2 Thompson submachinegun. Damn thing’s a museum piece. I started seeing other guns now, as if they were popping out of thin air: 3 M1 Garands, an M1 carbine, a .45 cal. greasegun and one guy had the most high-tech weapon in their arsenal. An old Vietnam-era M16A1 assault rifle.

M1 Garand Rifle, 30.06 caliber

M1 Carbine, .30 caliber

.45 caliber M3 sub-machinegun (greasegun)

.45 caliber Thompson sub-machinegun

Now, make no mistake. The weapons may be ancient, but if they worked, they’re real man-killers. The M1 Garands alone had bullets much bigger and more powerful than ours and could take down an elephant. Okay, I exaggerate. A rhinoceros.

When I told the sarge this, all he said was, “Good. At least no one can say it wasn’t a fair fight. Pick your targets. Kill-shots for the ones with guns. The ones with blades, it’s your call. We don’t have to kill them all. But if you have to, do it. Semi-auto only until they get close. Watch your background, remember there are civilians behind them. And the big guy? He’s mine.”

We were checking our weapons when Shahid walked over and said he wanted to stay with us and that we would need an extra gun. By rights, he didn’t have to. He wasn’t part of our chain of command, so not even Sarge could make him stay if he didn’t want to. And Sarge pointed out that we couldn’t answer for his actions if he got killed. His reply was, “If I get killed then that is Insh’Allah.” God’s will. Sarge looked him in the eye for about three seconds, measuring the man. He must have liked what he saw because he finally gave his nod of approval.

“Alright, we’ll form a skirmish line right here. This is our perimeter. Fifteen feet apart. Shahid, I want you on the right in between Castillo and Cristobal. No matter what happens, we stand fast and hold the line. You’ll just die tired if you run.” (I’ve been with him for two years already, never once did he ever refer to any one us by our first names. Well that was okay, since we never called him by his. Just “Sarge”.)

Training on perimeter defense with American Special Forces “operators”. This was the type of defense we used when we were attacked.

We removed our rucksacks, placed them on the ground, then lay flat on our stomachs. This would make us smaller targets and harder to hit. Our rucksacks would serve as our firing platforms so we could put more accurate shots on target.

In the distance, our tango and his men had also arrayed themselves in a staggered line. It was like a scene from a Civil War film. Lines of men facing off against each other.

They were moving forward now. I looked through my binoculars again. Our man had his Thompson in his hands and he was rallying his men forward. His men responded by shouting and waving their weapons above their heads. I was looking at a sight that I had only heard about from my grandfather. About how the Japanese would conduct banzai charges against their lines. If you’ve never experienced anything like this, then consider yourself lucky. Even from this distance, you could feel the menace. It was like an energy flowing through the air, hitting you in waves.

I shit you not when I say that on that day, as I lay under the scorching heat of the sun, I actually believed I was gonna die.

An instructor (All our instructors were combat veterans.) once told us something. And I believe this, because these words even came out in the movie Band Of Brothers. Almost word for word (only his words were in Tagalog). And this was way before the movie was made. And it’s based on a true story, so what he said to us goes all the way back to World War Two, and beyond it even. I wouldn’t be surprised if back in Caesar’s day some Centurion was telling his legionnaires the exact same thing in some mud-ridden trench in Gaul or Germania.

He had told us, “We all get scared in battle. And when you’re scared, the tendency is to hide. Or run. Or cry for your mama. That’s because you think there’s still hope. But you know what? Your only hope is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function. Without mercy. Without compassion. Without remorse. That’s what war is all about.”

So, on this day, I accepted it.

I took out all my ammunition and magazines and lay them beside me so they’d be easier to reach. My grenades too. They would be my last resort. We were on open ground, and we might hit ourselves with our own shrapnel if we tried using them here.

I reached into my rucksack for my player and put one of the earpieces into my left ear. The song was already pre-selected. If I was gonna die, damn it, then I’m gonna die with “Welcome to the Jungle” blaring in my ear.

Welcome to the jungle
We got fun ‘n’ games
We got everything you want
Honey, we know the names
We are the people that can find
Whatever you may need
If you got the money honey
We got your disease

They were getting closer. 120 meters. I checked on Nick, our FNG (Fucking New Guy). He had seen what I was doing, and pretty much did the same, taking out his magazines from his pouches and putting them next to him. Good man.

100 meters. I looked to my right. Shahid and Roy were similarly deployed. Both were waiting for our attackers to get inside the kill zone. I could see Shahid muttering something to himself. I’ve seen it before, and knew it for what it was. Prayer of the Dead. When they commit their souls to Allah, knowing that they are about to die. This guy must be one helluva fighter. I wondered how many times he’s probably had to say that prayer, only to live then do it all over again the next day. I wasn’t the praying type myself. Wasn’t brought up like that. Every man dealt with moments like this in their own way. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. I had always heard growing up that “God helps those who help themselves.” So if that’s the case, then why bother the man, right? I dealt with it by telling myself, “It’s nothing.” Does that sound strange? It’s just my way of telling myself that whatever’s gonna happen will happen. Whatever happens next won’t really matter. It’s how you deal with it when it happens that counts.

70 meters. I could see their faces clearly now. Our sergeant gave his last instruction, “Fire when I fire. Get ready.”

60 meters. They were approaching the bottleneck. The first shot came from them. Guy in red corduroy pants. God, I hated those. He was armed with an M1 Garand and shooting it from the hip. You couldn’t hit the side of a house shooting like that. I decided I would kill him first.

I called it out. “Red pants! Mine!” (You can call out your target when there’s time, that way two guys wouldn’t be shooting the same one and waste ammo. You never see THAT in the movies, do you? It’s like shooting pool, when you say “Eight ball, corner pocket.”) I planted my cheek on my rifle’s stock, feeling the warmth from the metal that had been heated by the summer sun. It stung, but was bearable. I lined him up with my M4’s rear and front sights.

50 meters. I heard Sarge’s rifle crack as he fired. I squeezed the trigger on mine. Everyone did. I don’t remember hearing my shot. I just felt that familiar nudge as my shoulder pocket absorbed the recoil and the barrel rose a bit. I reacquired, and saw that Red Pants was down, the ones behind him stepped over his body as everyone started jockeying for position. One down.

Welcome to the jungle
It gets worse here everyday
Ya learn ta live like an animal
In the jungle where we play
If you got a hunger for what you see
You’ll take it eventually
You can have anything you want
But you better not take it from me

Everybody was shooting. Not really the fast-paced fire you would come to expect if you were watching an action movie, but single, deliberately aimed shots. The next one to catch my attention was the one with the M-16. He too, was firing like an idiot. He was running straight at me from about 40 meters. We locked eyes. He fired before I did, on fully automatic. And he almost got lucky. His first few rounds actually landed in between me and Nick, but closer to me and I was getting sprayed with dirt from the ground-bursts as the rounds impacted about 4 feet away. I aimed at his torso. I wasn’t going to risk double taps yet because I might miss and hit the civilians a hundred meters behind these guys. I was about to squeeze the trigger but someone beat me to it. I saw him pitch backwards like someone had sledge-hammered him in the chest. He wasn’t getting up any time soon. I scanned for another one, looking for the ones with guns.

You know where you are
You’re in the jungle baby
You’re gonna die
In the jungle
Welcome to the jungle

Out of the corner of my left eye I saw one guy who was armed with two machetes. Good enough. I took aim at his chest and fired. Since he was running and his body was bobbing up and down, my shot hit him in the side of the throat instead. I tracked him as he fell down. He was trying to get up again when I fired another round into his left temple. The sunlight was on him at an angle, so when the bullet exited the other side it produced a big pink-red mist. Two down. Fuckin’ outrageous. That action almost cost me.

As I turned back to the right one of them was almost on top of me. I had gotten target-fixated on the last one, and now I just knew I wouldn’t be able to turn in time to address the new threat. This one had a short scythe and was less than 12 feet away from me. I started to turn on my side so I could bring my M4 to bear on him. I was looking right into his eyes when his face exploded. I got hit by some of the blood spatter and felt something rolling down the side of my face. I wiped it off with the back of my hand. It was blood mixed with pink and gray bits of flesh. Brain matter. Damn. It’s nothing.

I found out later that it was Shahid who had gotten him with a single shot to the back of the head. Right now, it didn’t matter. This was getting too close. I got up on one knee, in case this thing became hand-to-hand, and scanned the area in front of my position.

I was just in time to see one of them picking up a weapon from one of the bodies. It was the .45 cal. greasegun. I was focused on the weapon, and as I brought up my rifle and looked up, I realized it was a woman. I wasn’t sure if she was part of the charge, or one of the civilians in the back and had maybe followed her husband all the way here or something. But I hesitated. She was holding it pointed down at the ground. Damn it.

Now, I’ve never raised my hand to a woman before, much less shot one. So seeing her there with a weapon came as a bit of a shock. She wasn’t looking at me, but to my left. I don’t know how many seconds I was looking at her, but time seemed to slow down at this point. I didn’t want to shoot her, and I think I was wishing that one of the other guys would do it, but it seemed as if no one else was noticing her. (Or maybe they did, but were all thinking the same thing I was.)

In my mind, I was willing her not to do it. Don’t do it, don’t do it bitch, you’re just gonna die. I thought that she might still decide to put it down. Then she looked at me. She probably thought I wasn’t going to shoot her.

We were both wrong.

She jerked the weapon up so quickly that my timing was off by a millisecond. Her first bullet was probably out the barrel by the time I pulled the trigger. I didn’t realize that I had switched my selector from SEMI to FULL AUTO. So I was surprised when my rifle unloaded on fully automatic. My rounds stitched her from belly to clavicle, splitting her open. She was knocked back, but her finger, in death reflex, was tight on the trigger. She fell back, still firing. I must have fired half a magazine (15 rounds) into her. For a moment I just looked at her body, stunned. It’s nothing. Three down.

I could still hear gunfire, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her torn-up body. Someone was screaming. The voice sounded familiar. To my left. I looked, and saw the new guy, Nick, writhing on the ground clutching his face. Shit, the woman must have hit him with her last burst. The sarge was right by his side already. It was later found out that a bullet had hit the front part of his rifle and sheared off the top of his left thumb. The bullet also fragmented and pieces of it had hit him in the face. I covered them both. I could see that we had broken the attack. There were maybe a dozen of them left, and most were retreating. I could see some of them limping. One of them still held a rifle. I was debating with myself whether to kill him or not. He was running away, but he still had a firearm on him.

A lot of things were still running through my mind. The guy who’d gotten his head blown off, and still had his blood and brains on me. The woman I’d cut in half. Damn them. Damn them all for putting me in this position. I decided to follow my orders. I took aim. He stumbled. If he drops the weapon, I won’t shoot. He got back up, still holding on to it. Shit. Some sixth sense must’ve warned him, because he looked back and saw me aiming right at him. In my head I was going, “Just drop that weapon, and I will let you live.”

But he didn’t. He must know by now that he was going to die. Good. At least he had that. I fired. He fell like a sack of bricks. There was no one left standing, except for those who were running away. Four down.

I looked to my right. Shahid and Roy had gotten up and looked as stunned as I probably did. Stunned probably because none of us could  believe we were still alive. For the first time, I saw the extent of what had just happened. Bodies everywhere. At first glance, you would have thought they’d been mowed down by machinegun fire. Until you looked closer and saw only about one or two rounds in each body (except for the woman I’d shot.)  Five were almost right in our perimeter. If the others hadn’t run, we would have been fighting hand-to-hand. This was what only four Rangers could do, and we weren’t even really trying all that hard. Fortunately for us, their resolve broke. They realized they weren’t bullet-proof after all. Bastards.

Nick was okay, which was good. He wouldn’t be going on any missions for a while though, on account of his severed digit. Aside from him, no one else was wounded. At least not physically anyway.

Of the twenty-seven that attacked us, we took down  sixteen. Of those, ten were dead. We had one only one wounded, plus the mental scars that we would have to bring with us for the rest of our lives.

Even to this day, when I’m in a public place like a mall, I’d be walking amidst a sea of faces and from time to time I would get a glimpse of one in the crowd that would seem awfully familiar. Sometimes I’d wrack my brain thinking where I’d seen that face. Because I’m good with faces, though Im bad with names. Then I’d realize where I’d seen some of those faces. I left them on that bloody field on that awful summer day.

So when someone tells me about having “a bad day at the office.”, I don’t get it, but I get it. Get it?

Oh, and in case you were wondering…  F.U.B.A.R. (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition) Love it? I know I do. Hehehe…

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Flashback

Posted: February 4, 2010 in Uncategorized

I was at a mall the other day with a lady friend of mine when she spotted a gun shop and asked me if I wanted to take a peek. I said sure, and we went in.

As I came in through the door, the first thing I saw was this man asking the sales rep about a pistol, which he was holding in his hand. Right next to him was this little 8-year old girl, who looked like she could be his daughter. (Because I try never to assume.) Seeing them standing there, him with the pistol in his hand and his daughter standing beside him, gave me a sudden flashback.

Rewind to 1998. By this time, I was out of the Rangers and almost on my second year with SWAT. We were called on a domestic disturbance that had turned deadly. The suspect was supposedly some drug-dealer and user who was having an argument with his wife while having breakfast. Their two kids were present as well. It all started with something trivial, but turned ugly when his probably drug-addled, paranoid mind gave him the idea his wife was having an affair. It was probably sparked by some remark she made. That’s usually how these things start.

This would have been the preferred method, but you can’t always have what you want.

Neighbors had heard them arguing and throwing things around, which they said was pretty much the everyday routine in the home. That is until they heard the gunshots. The first responders were the barangay captain and some of his men, and a patrol car also responded to the scene. When they tried gaining access throught the front door though, the guy started shooting at them and wounded a bystander.

When we got there, they also verified that the man had barricaded the door with pretty much every furniture in the living room. And there was no backdoor. This place we were in was a slum area just on the edge of the coast, along a seawall. Houses here were packed so tightly together that the alleys were only about three to four feet wide.

They tried negotiating with him through the window, but to no avail. The man admitted he had already shot and killed his wife and son. He had also shot his daughter, but she was still alive. According to him, any attempts to get in would be met with gunfire, and he would kill his daughter and himself rather than surrender. Why he never finished off his daughter in the first place, we would never know.

Doing a front-door dynamic entry even with flash-bangs in such a confined space would be a bit risky, specially since there was a little child in there. (A three-year-old, according to neighbors.) So instead of going in with a four-man team, only two men would make entry. Roy and I got “volunteered” by our commander. Our boss pretty much gave us free rein to plan the op on our own, specially since we were former Rangers and combat veterans. So Roy and I went into the house directly opposite the target building and strategized. This is how its really done. Usually, you don’t get to see this in the movies.

Here was what we knew: A. The house had four occupants. Two adults and two children, one daughter, one son. B. Argument was heard early in the morning around breakfast time followed by about three or four gunshots. C. When local officials and police tried to intervene, they were fired upon. D. Suspect has barricaded the only door. Trying to get in would take too long and would only end in him firing on us as we were trying to make entry. And finally, E. There was ANOTHER way in. The house we were in. The target house and this one both had second floors. Each had a window facing each other directly. The distance was only four feet, which meant all you had to do was stand on the windowsill of one and cross over to the other. I mean, literally, you could just step across and you were in the other house.

Next important thing to discuss was what we DIDN’T know. Since you must never assume, we couldn’t be sure he really had killed his wife and son. I wouldn’t wanna walk in there to find that his wife was still alive and he’d duct-taped a sawed-off shotgun to her head. (Which actually happened to us once. Thankfully the suspect got talked down.) And lastly, we didnt know if there was anyone else in there aside from the family. We couldn’t get anyone to verify without any doubt that there were only four people in there.

The last thing we discussed was how to deal with the tango. (Contrary to popular civilian belief, “Tango” doesn’t stand for “terrorist”. It stands for “target”. Just a little trivia for you.)

Our conversation went something like this, as best as I can recall:

Roy: Okay, how do we do this?
Me: Well, he’s killed the mom and son. Either way, he’s a dead man. Prison for life, or get killed here.
Roy: Yeah. I think the best way we can handle this will be if we can get him separated from the daughter we could try going for disabling shots. Gun arm maybe? What do you think? And what if the kid’s with him?
Me: If the kid’s with him, we kill him. No other way. If we screw up the disabling shot, he might shoot her just on reflex alone.
Roy: Okay. And if the wife and son are still alive?
Me: We use the flash-bangs. Again, no other choice. This guy’s unstable, no telling what he’ll do. And the wife might try to shield him from us, so yes, we’ll use the flash-bangs.
Roy: Alright, then. Let’s do this.

We then told our CO (commanding officer) that we were good to go. Then we asked him to have the negotiator keep talking to the man inside, preferably over his bullhorn. We would need the distraction. The negotiator already knew the game plan, and agreed with us that there was no other way to resolve this. The man was just too psychologically unstable. It wasn’t lost on us that the only way to save the daughter was to kill the father.

We removed our body armor, over his protests, because they were just too damn heavy. They weighed close to thirty pounds with the front and back strike plates included (ceramic plates for added protection). We weren’t sure if the window sill would hold our weight with them on, this was a slum area, mind you, and houses were not built with the best materials. Plus once we stepped into the other house, the floor might creak too much from all that mass. We left our M4 carbines as well. This was gonna be up close and personal anyway, so we stuck with our .45 cal. pistols. We brought two mags each and two flash-bang grenades each.

We went up to the second floor and found the window. And directly across it was the window of the target house. We were now entering the “nerve attack” phase. That final moment before you committed yourself, there’s always that attack of the nerves. You feel nervous, jittery, stomach’s in knots, cold feet, heart’s pumping a million miles a minute. In short, it was fear. But that was normal. You never really get used to it. Fear is good. It keeps you on your toes, and your survival instincts sharp. But you can control it, and channel it into something else. As we always did, we gave ourselves about a minute or two to shake it all off. Breathe in through the nose, exhale from the mouth. Lower your heart rate. Shake your hand vigorously to get the blood flowing freely and get rid of the tremors. This was it.

Dynamic Front Door Entry, Close Quarters Combat Training

I went first. I stood up on the sill. Roy had me covered, pointing his pistol at the other window just in case the suspect suddenly showed up. This was where I was most vulnerable, since I can’t hold my gun and cross at the same time. I stretched my left leg over empty space till I got it firmly planted on the other side. Gripping the top of the window with my left hand, I pulled myself over and as I did, I also drew my pistol from my Low-Rider holster. I slowly lowered my booted foot to the floor. Damn, I hope it doesn’t creak so bad. I could hear the negotiator on the bullhorn outside, talking to the tango. I slowly placed my whole weight on my foot, and the floor did creak a bit. Once I was comfortable, I turned around and gave Roy the thumbs-up. He did the same thing as I did while I covered the door leading to the stairs. He just gave me a tap on the shoulder once he was ready.

We now moved slowly towards the door. I opened it a little, just a crack and took a peek. The stairs went straight down into a very narrow corridor. From a sketch given to us by a neighbor (which we committed to memory), we knew that going left led to the living room area and front door where the suspect had barricaded it with the couch, cabinet and whatever else he could find. To the right was the kitchen and dining area. I now started pulling the door open just enough for me to get through. Roy now had his left hand on my shoulder, his right holding his .45, pointing it right down into that corridor. We started going down one slow step at a time. He moved when I moved. It was only about a dozen steps or so, but it seemed to take forever just to get half-way. This was not the time to rush things.

And just as we got to the half-way mark, the suspect came rushing past us from the living room side. I almost jumped out of my skin. It was so totally unexpected, and happened so fast, I wasn’t even able to shoot. If he’d looked up to his right, he would have seen us for sure. Fuck, that was close. Talk about the fog of war. Because that’s exactly what just happened. In battle, sometimes enemy troops get intermingled with one another without even noticing it. Shit, even Roy wasn’t able to fire. Crazy.

We continued down, and at three-quarters of the way, I started seeing what I had hoped would not be true. Legs. Little kid legs. I hadn’t seen it earlier because the hallway was a bit dark. As I got closer, I started seeing more. Lower torso. Pool of blood. 90% of my brain did not want to see it, but the other 10% had greater pull. I had to verify it. Finally I saw the whole body. It was the son. maybe about seven or eight years old. Single gunshot wound to the back. From the amount of blood around the body, I could tell he didn’t die instantly. He had bled out. But the real shocker came when I saw the head.

There was significant blood spatter on the floor and wall. The son of a bitch had stood over the body of his own son, and executed him with another shot to the head. I’ve seen my share of dead kids when I was in the Rangers. But they were usually victims of crossfire. But nothing like this. This was cold-blooded. What the fuck did he have to shoot the kid for? I was fuming. I could feel Roy’s grip tighten on my shoulder. I looked back at him for a moment and I’m sure we saw the same thing in each other’s eyes. Rage. We both had kids. I had one. He had two. This fucker was gonna die.

I took out of my pocket a little dental mirror, the kind dentists use to look around your mouth with. But I had a friend of mine at a steelworks modify it for me. I had sawed off the  mirror head and had him attach it to a retractable TV antenna. And it was painted matte gray so it wouldn’t shine. I used it for peeking around corners. I placed it near the floor and moved it around so I could see where our tango was. I saw his feet. Angling the mirror up, I saw that he was standing in the kitchen. He was facing the interior, which means his right side was facing us. I couldn’t see the little girl or the wife. He seemed to be either talking to someone, or talking to himself because he was muttering something. Maybe he was talking to himself, asking himself what had gotten him into this fucked-up situation. Maybe he was praying. For his sake, I hoped it was the latter. He was gonna need it. No way was he walking away from this. You’re probably thinking of this as pre-meditated murder, and it probably was, but not if he’s armed and already demonstrated his willingness to kill. If he can kill his son, he sure as hell can kill me once he sees me coming around that corner. Nah, this ain’t murder. The term for it is “justifiable homicide” (insert evil grin here). I retracted the mirror and put it away, then brought out one of my flash-bang grenades.

Unlike fragmentation grenades that have a five-second fuse, flash-bangs only have two-second fuses. This is because you need them to explode faster. It’s all about maintaining the element of surprise. It allows you to pull the pin, and just throw it right away. Just as I was about to do right now. I pulled the pin, then threw it at the wall opposite me, at an angle instead of just rolling it out into the hallway. It would ensure that he would be looking right at it when it blew. He’d hear it hit the wall and look. He’d follow it with his eyes as he was wondering what it was. Then…BOOM! He got blasted by 170 decibels of sound (25 is irritating already. 170 decibels puts you in the Hurt Locker.), plus the blinding flash of light. Even I felt the concussion deep in my chest. I had left my mouth open so I wouldn’t bust my eardrums. We had about ten seconds.

I came out into the hallway. Roy and I were in a “high-low” position since it wasn’t possible for us to enter it side-by-side. I was crouched in front, he was behind me standing straight. It allowed us to put two guns on target at once, and he can only shoot at one of us, not both at the same time. The flash-bang’s smoke disperses real quick because of the extreme pressure it throws out. The magnesium smell was real strong.

I saw him. He was sitting on the floor, disoriented by the grenade. When you lose your hearing from the bang, you lose equilibrium and your knees tend to buckle. He was still holding the pistol, his hand on his lap. Our pistols were equipped with Trijicon sights. They’re luminous dots on the front and rear sights. All you had to do was line them up on the target. I lined mine up on his head. Roy and I fired almost at the same time, double taps. He chose the center-mass shot. So the tango got two rounds in the head and two in the chest. He was thrown back by the impacting rounds and fell on his back. When that happened, we immediately rushed into the dining area, still keeping him covered. I kicked his gun away and checked for vital signs. There was no need. Half his face was gone from the two rounds I put in him. One had gone under the right eye socket and the other right on the bridge of his nose. His right eye had popped out. Roy’s rounds both went right into his heart. Stone dead.

We looked around, and found the little girl under the dining table, unharmed. So, he had bluffed about having shot her, thankfully. Never assume. The mother lay dead on the other end of the table, shot through the head just like the boy. On the table were the remains of what was supposed to have been their breakfast. Dried fish, rice, scrambled eggs.  The kids’ places on the table, you could tell. Plastic cups with Milo. The mom’s was right where she died, her coin purse was still there. The man’s was where the coffee mug was. He had apparently taken a bite out of his share of scrambled eggs and bread when all this happened. I remembered that we hadn’t had breakfast yet, and man, was I hungry. Don’t think less of me when I say that I took a slice of bread from the table and made myself an egg sandwich.

I took a bite and immediately noticed it didn’t have enough salt in it. It was bland. Wouldn’t it be a real bitch if all of this had been triggered because he complained about her cooking? Words got heated, escalating to her saying something that just set him off? Goddamn. A whole family destroyed because of bad cooking. What a shitty deal. And now that little girl’s gotta live her life with the knowledge that her father killed her mother and brother.

Roy looked over at me with this incredulous expression on his face. “What are you doing?!” He was referring to the sandwich I just made.

“Hey, I’m hungry. No one’s around to mind, bro. You want one?”

He looked at me and shook his head. “Why not. Make it quick.”