By Daniel Parrish
It’s dark—no moon, can’t see your hand in front of your face dark. The stars in the sky are uninterrupted by light pollution, thousands of them scattering from horizon to horizon. My NODs are pulled down over my left eye creating a landscape of green hues. Even with the night vision supplied by Uncle Sam that relies on ambient light to work properly, it’s impossible to see until I turn on the IR light attached to my rifle.
Our Gator cruises up and down the dirt trails looking for the fat warthogs that have been plaguing the base. Their tusks tear through fence despite the razor wire lining the bottom of the chain link. Man-sized holes are left in the wake of their destruction, a prize ripe for picking by any one of the numerous khat-fueled terrorists that are watching us, waiting for just the right opportunity to get froggy. Even worse, the pigs could wander onto the airfield and cause an accident that would leave us stranded for God knows how long. Thus, we must find and kill.
The Gator is a true piece of shit. It’s held together by spare parts, duct-tape, hopes, and dreams. The four of us riding in it say a silent prayer whenever we start it back up: “Dear God please let this thing turn over. Save us from the mile long walk of shame back to the main gate”.
We’re driving for about two hours when I get a text on my “country” phone.
“Stop. Look behind y’all. 4 or 5 of them.”
We turn around to see an infrared laser pointing to a cluster of brush about 300 meters away. The source of the laser is a FLIR camera back on base. It’s scanning the landscape around us for unwanted visitors while also assisting our hunt. We nickname it “The Eye of Sauron”. It sees all.
We slowly drive about 200 meters closer. The driver cuts the engine. One soldier and I step out to slowly creep up on a cluster of thorny bushes, the other two stay with the Gator. The laser reflects off the brush guiding us to our prize. We still can’t see any animals though. I shine my IR light at the brush but still nothing. Closer and closer we tiptoe. The world is silent. I can hear my heart pounding. Sweat is cruising down my spine. The sandy ground conceals the sound of our movement. We both take aim at 25 meters. No sense in trying to look down my ACOG scope, I rely on the zeroed in laser on my rifle.
My buddy whispers impossibly low, “Can you see them?” I slowly shake my head left to right.
We take one step closer. In response, the laser from base traverses away from us. Fuck. They’re gone.
As we return to the Gator the driver is chuckling. He spits tobacco juice onto the ground and in his thick mountain accent says, “Maybe next time boys.”
The drive back to the camp’s gate is silent. The big steel doors swing open and welcome us back home. We unload and I walk to a small building surrounded by concrete barriers. I go inside to the camera operator who’s sitting at the controls with a big grin. He’s recorded the whole thing and saved the file. I sit next to him to watch the recording. Sure enough 4 massive warthogs were behind the brush. The jokes start raining down from everyone in the room.
“Leave it to a bunch of officers to try and kill some hogs.”