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10 August 2009
Daily dramas unfolded, including the bangs, booms and small-arms fire that punctuated the times. At 1800, I was preparing to go to orders with 1 Platoon, A Company of 2 Rifles, when shots from a large-caliber rifle began cracking low over base. I passed by sniper, Kris Griffith, and said, “Hey Kris, why don’t you grab your rifle and go shoot that guy?” Kris replied that two other sniper teams were on it. “He’s close,” I said, and Kris answered, “About 600 meters.” Then we went our separate ways.
Orders were given and then the soldiers performed final checks on their gear and tried to fall to sleep in the sweltering evening heat. Some nights I would go to sleep using the sleeping bag as a pillow, only to wake up with it drenched in sweat.
The alarm was set for 0213 hours, but at 0211 I sat up and turned it off before it could wake the soldiers who were not going on the mission. I had nineteen minutes to pull on my boots, body armor, and small rucksack, before I had to get to breakfast, engage in final conversations, and then show up for the mission at 0310.
The following series of photos were taken during the early morning hours of August 2nd . The conditions were “red illume,” meaning there was less than 10 millilux of ambient light and it was too dark for most helicopters to fly, even while using night vision gear. It was plenty dark.
Soldiers and section leaders did “final check” after “final check” of their gear, and talked quietly among themselves while last-minute updates came over the radio.
In red illume, the soldiers used dim red lights that were harder for the enemy to see. Red light also preserved our night vision. By showing up a half-hour before departure and sitting quietly, our eyes and senses had time to adjust and tune in to the battlefield. The battlefield was a thirty-second walk away.
Some soldiers smoked cigarettes before stepping out into the wild zone. Most were quiet. There was little talking during the last ten minutes.
My section assembled…
…While another section waited.
The first section moved out nine minutes before the mission for my section began.
Six minutes to departure.
Final red lights were out. Our mission started three minutes early.