Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A WALK IN THE WOODS~

            The following is copied directly from one of my travel journals. I have not performed a grammar check, this is raw copying, direct from the journal.  I have however added a few edits removing certain comments, names, locations, equipment and or event that are not for public dissemination.  All right reserved © 2014 by Newt Livesay. No parts of this post can be used without expressed written permission from author. 


 A WALK IN THE WOODS~

This event took place a few years ago.
…………………. (edited)

Aug. 8 (edited) 2330 hrs. Landed at (edited) airport, and met by other SOT members.
           
            Aug. 9 (edited) 0700 hrs. Chow call at Group 5 base, still a little druggy from flight. Spent the afternoon in the barracks, sleeping, trying to acclimate to the humidity.
           
            Aug. 13(edited) 0800 hrs. Just spent the last two hours working out with men half my age and twice as strong. Damn good thing I am wiser and meaner. Showered.  Time to eat some breakfast and meet some other people.
0900 hrs.  Mid-morning, hot as hell. Class room, all day. Can’t wait for a cold shower.  

Aug. 14 (edited) 0800 hrs. Another day of instruction, looking at satellite photos and area familiarity of AO. Getting up to speed on bad guy photos as well. Got briefed on what I could do and not do while in country.   
  
            Aug. 15 (edited) 0630 hrs.  More damn running. Even though I was the oldest person to go through the (edited) military (edited) survival school, these young pricks are kicking my ass. Told the (edited) sergeant at finish line, {I was last man in.} If he saw my ass dragging up later to tell it I was in the barracks taking a shower.  No cold beers for me today. I am going to suck down nothing but water and Gatorade.  {I remembered those last few days. The heat and workouts were sweating the fun out of me like by the quarts}
0800 hrs. Off after breakfast until 1500 hrs.
1500 hrs. Been checking my gear. Sign some paperwork, release papers, secured personnel ID with (edited). Issued new ID, including a (edited) passport. Checked out rattle gear.  Packed and repacked, (edited) personnel checked our gear. Repacked it again.  I want to take a (edited) but really do not want the extra weight. Check and repack, tighter, lighter. Thinking about what I have got myself into, “Shit, I getting to old after all this.  I have kids, grandchildren, two ex-wives who both send me Christmas and birthday cards, a 23 year old girl friend and I am still running around in the woods.”  {I remember smiling that day.}

            Aug. 16 (edited) 0830 hrs. Ate the last hot chow for a while, boarding a couple of Russian helicopters. I was told they were Mi-171A2.  This is my first flight on one of these helos.
            1030 hrs. Landed on a mountain top improvised fire base. {There were a lots of guns there.  Heavy (edited) military presents. Some earthen works. Even with the heat, balaclavas’ everywhere.}  Everyone hydrated and caught a snack or took a piss break while helos were refueled.  Forty-five minutes and we are back in the air.     
            1215 hrs. Just passed the one hour mark. Orange light comes on. DZ coming up fast. First helo touching down, I see men running, taking defensive positions.  We hit the ground, green light comes on, and gravity was still working. {About half a meter drop out of helo’s belly}  The rapid combat drop by the helo had caused my stomach to churn.  {I am not into this roller coaster shit.  I was thinking about puking, but don’t want or need the embarrassment.}   Both helicopters have unloaded, and it gets very quiet as their engines fade over the distant jungle. (Looked at my watch) Less than a minutes.  We move out quickly from the drop zone moving north. Quickly and quietly everyone faded into the foliage. It is humid and hot inside and under the canopy.
            (edited)

            1630 hrs. Met up with two natives guides. We moved out and humped the jungle for about another hour and a half.  The word was passed down that we were not to move any further today, it was time to dig in.  Adding these two Indigenous men, the (edited) officer makes eleven of us. Each depending on our own skills and those of the others. 
            1715 hrs. The last rays of sunlight cast shadows over me and the improvised camp, streaming through the thick veil of leaves and twisted limbs. A distant sound of thunder rolled high up in the jungle's canopy harkened the coming rain. It would come soon washing away the dust, pollen and most of all our footprints and our existence. It will give the jungle a new lease on life, water the creator and the taker of life.  Soon the rain will give the jungle a new lease on life. Slowly at first moving as a trickle, but filling the streams, gorging their banks to capacity. Water the giver and the taker of life ever flowing towards the river.   
            Myself and a (edited) sergeant whom I will call Manny, paired off with other. We are taking turns peering into the darkness, ears tuned for that snapped twig, switched clusters of leaves all the time sharing combat naps.
            0340 hrs. It has started to rain again.  At first it was a single heavy drop here and there, then a heavy torrent began to fall, soaking everything.  It was a constant pounding that started high in the canopy of the larger trees before making its way to the ground.  (A million tiny rivulets of moisture, combining before cascading over the edge of one leaf, growing and cascading over another before becoming spiraling orbs that rushed headlong towards the leaf litter. All the time laughing at the moisture spreading on the ground unbeknownst this was its fate.)
           
            Aug. 17th.  0613 hrs. As quick as it started the rain has stopped, the first rays of a false daylight shown above.  In the distant sulking Parrots called “Lores” in Spanish, squawked loudly about their wet feathers and the miserable night, monkeys also howl and chatter as they jump from tree to tree looking for something to eat.  The parrots raspy sounds gave us added assurance no humans were in that area.  They and the monkeys are the jungles early warning system like hounds being used by moonshiners, and Pit Bulls chained to the front porch of drug dealers.
            0630 hours.  The sun begin to break the darkness of the jungle night was replaced it with a gray morning, slight wisps of fog scurried across the ground finding depression and ravines to call home. Manny and I, hovered underneath a spreading Achote tree, some underbrush  and a clump of towering Paper trees like unborn butterflies in our wet rain-gear, suspended between the mud below and the heavens above in abject misery. Waking Manny, my eyelids drop from the monotony and in moments I am asleep, assured of my safety by my armed companion.  (Illegible writing blurred from wetness) I think I slept less than thirty minutes before Manny woke me. He gave me a snack from his MRE packet. {I do not remember what it was but I am sure I like it}
           
            Aug. 18th.  Made our way through heavy jungle, the ground is wet, sucking my boots with every step. Fucking mosquitoes are terrible. I had been plying myself with heavy dosages of B-Complex for over a month. It seemed to work somewhat. Bathing in DEET would have been great, but the chemical odor was a no, no.
            1215 hrs. We made it to an area where a small creek ran through the jungle. Water is black, moving slowly. Two speed boats with muffled engines sit waiting for us. We travel downstream most of the day before coming to the (edited) river.  Damn it is wide, strong current. Met up with two more Indians who had been watching the area. They paddled canoes made from dug out logs. The canoes have fishing nets, and spears on board to camouflage there true reason for being on the river in this particular area.  The two Indians who were supposed to be fishing were actually our eyes on the IP.
            1230 hrs.  We quickly made our way across the (edited) river, and faded up another small unnamed stream. We traveled upstream, slowly for about half an hour before leaving the boat. Slipping into the jungle and humping another kilometer or a kilometer and a half before stopping to make another cold camp for the night. We keep a tight camp tonight.  I am dead on my ass. Ooooh!

            Aug. 19th. 0630 hrs. We quickly eat what we can before slinging our gear on weary shoulders.  I took my place and fall in the formation as it snaked further into the jungle. The day was uneventful, cloudy and gray as we moved further from our insertion point, all the time climbing higher and higher. Sweating like a one legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Damn this is putting my puck in the dirt.  The sunless day grows short with darkness pushing into the high jungle faster than normal. The shadows grew deeper as darkness came. Not as bad as the lower jungle.   
Finally made it to the (edited) point. (edited) ranger had been out front with one of the “indigs” and was waiting for us. We took a position on a tree covered hillside about one kilometer above a primitive dirt road.  (edited) and his indigs had already taken a look. He said there had been some vehicle and foot traffic going both ways. Nothing in the last hour.  The wetness of the vegetation we had walked though all day, and the high humidity had soaked all of us to the bone so to speak. Wet socks, wet pants, wet shoes all became apparent as the temperature began to fall. Each movement pressed the wetness against ones skin, I shivered. 
            It is night again, and one cannot imagine the darkness of a primeval rainforest, the brightness of the stars when you can see them through the tree canopy is awe inspiring. I took first watch, again bunking with Manny on the far left flank of the position. A fire would be nice, but the smell of burning wood, the flames or smoke would give away our position. I awaken Manny, and he takes second watch, I find sleep easily even with a swarm of mosquitoes looking to suck my body dry of blood. If it were raining it would drive the vast majority of them into hiding, it seems like I had just closed my eyes when Manny awakens me, and I pull myself up taking watch.
            I actually feel somewhat better being awake now, the short combat nap helped. Manny had already gone to sleep and we would exchange our positions four times over the night. I sat with a folding stock Kalashnikov rifle across my lap, my palm, flat over the trigger assembly guarding the trigger itself. The night was cold. The rifle's metal feels warm against my palm. The darkness covers you like a thick blanket, my line of sight was only about one and a half meters at most.  There was five other firing positions to my right, each about ten meters apart.
           
            Aug. 20th.  At zero-dark-thirty hours everyone was awaken and advise that a recon team was going down the mountain and we would all move to a position closer to the dirt road. Our movement was slow and deliberate as the largest private army in South America (edited) was operating in the area and could be near us, and we dare not give away our position.  This compound was a major manufacture jungle location for the collection and manufacturing of coca paste. Stuff from here was sent to the USA and Europe by the (edited) drug trafficking organization. It begins to rain. Good as the rain ---- (Illegible writing blurred from wetness)      
            At 0045 hours a small patrol of four men moved across the road and made their way down the hill side opposite our position. It is still misting heavily. The odor of burning wood, smoke could be smelled lingering over the valley and is drifts up the hillside where we were now in. Faint glows of their fires and kerosene lights show through the mist and the jungle gave away the positions of the target we sought. {The rain keeps people inside the tents, huts or houses – good for sneaky-Pete work.}   One of the (edited) carried an electronic device with them to the target area. When activated the piece of equipment would send a 'pulse code' via a laser to a satellite.  The device’s pulse-repetition was delivered in milliseconds burst allowing for ‘intel prestrike reconnaissance' that can now deliver target information to multiply strike force platforms simultaneously.  The (edited) device manufactured by (edited) weighs a fraction over two kilos, easy concealable, weatherproof and can operate in tropical environments for over 24 days, sending target information and real time images to its satellite up-link. I was told once, the (edited) was activated, if found, any tampering would cause it to disintegrate internally. Interesting.  {The waiting is what causes the guts to eat at themselves. Sweat draws more mosquitos.  You wonder if the fucking ants ever sleep.}           
            0450 hrs. Word comes down the line. The patrol is moving back towards our lines, a radio signal follow by an electronic coded reply was send and the men came across the road on the double. A hurried sit-rap took place while Manny, myself and one other soldier concentrated on the jungle in front of us and the area the team had just came from. One of the (edited) agents gives the word, we are moving out, heading back to the river. It is a hurried, and orderly movement back up the hill with one man on point, two left guard, two right guard, myself, Manny and a rear guard.  Approximately an hour has passed since we left the road, {I was panting like a big dog} we topped the hill and were now moving down the far side and travel even in the dark was somewhat easier. {Downhill, I was getting my wind back. Feeling much better now.}  We traveled for about two more hours with only one short break. The sun was now coming up and daylight would be in full force within an hour.  Another hour of humping I feel like I am about to have a heart attack.  A clenched fist goes up, we all stop, kneel down and take a defensive position. Another sit-rap up front and a (edited) whom I will call Edgar, moved back towards our position. The sun was now breaking the tree tops, visibility was good. Edgar held up his hand, parted two fingers and pointed them towards his eyes.  “We need to move quickly and quietly as possible,” he commanded.  Edgar moved back towards the head of the squad, and motioned for the point man to move out. {There was an indig out front, point man, Edgar, another indig, Commandante, three other (edited), myself, Manny and rear guard.}  I looked at Manny, he smiled. We both knew we were heading for the river and the IP. We stopped and took turns at combat naps, hydrate. Everyone is tired.  
           
            1515 hrs. On our feet again. Still mostly downhill.  Two Indigenous Indians we picked up with the boats are taking us down the mountain on a different trail. I do not like walking on trails but the (edited) trust them. The indigs say the trail is safe.  Making a 90 degree turn towards the West we arrived at the small creek we had landed on, as it was pitch ass black. The two Indians went to work removing palm branches and other limbs that had been used to camouflage the boat against the shore. Manny and I moved closer to where Edgar, the (edited) and the (edited) Commandante were speaking in Spanish. I caught the drift of the conversation and fell in line behind Edgar and the others, making my way down the slipper mud bank to the water's edge.  All but one member of the team, a (edited) corporal, got into the boat, he pushed it from the suction of the mud and nimbly jump across the gunwale into the boat.
            1835 hrs. Looked at my watch. It was 1835 hours as we drifted free. I slid deep in the boat with only my head and weapon over the gunnels.  All guns were trained on the jungle along the river bank as the boat drifted backwards into the center of the creek. Catching the stream's current the boat moved further downstream, before the engine was started. The muffled motor sputtered slightly and came alive causing the propeller to chew at the muddy water.  With an increase in power the bow of the boat rose slightly as it turned to the port before pointing itself downstream. More power and gurgling bubbles turned to a swirly rush of water as the motor began to power up. The air coming off the water, rushing over my face was cool, it felt good, I was glad to be out of there. Word is passed through the boat, the river is coming up.
1858 hrs. There is the river.  The frontier was about 150 to 200 meters further out into the middle. (If one could determine the middle of the river)  All eyes and weapons were still fixed on the ever fading jungle of Colombia. 

-----------------------------end

FYI Glossary:

{Added as after thoughts at time of copying}

(Thoughts)

AO:     Area of Operation

DZ:      Drop Zone

IP:       Insertion Point

Indig, indigs: Indigenous people, locals, such as Indians that live in the jungles or AO.   

Kilo or Kilogram: Metric weight (1 kilogram is a fraction over 2.20 pounds.  A 1000 grams of Coke)

Kilometer: Metric distant (1 Kilometer is approximately 0.62 miles – fraction over 1/2 mile – sometimes referred to as a ‘klick’ pronounced ‘click.’ )

Meter: Metric measurement (39.37 inches) about 3-1/2 feet

SOT:   Special Operation Team

Zero Dark Thirty: 0030 (24 hour time) (12:30, 12 hour time, 30 minutes after midnight)




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