A lone Blackhawk hovers low over the trees as the eleven man squad descends to the jungle floor. As the last soldier releases from the descent cable the helicopter lifts and moves on. A crewman pulls the four descent cables back into the helicopter and close both doors.
The squad is quickly on the move. It is not long before the jungle thins and the warriors are able to see the nearby mountains. The point man chooses a landmark on their course and moves on. His speed is increased because of the visibility and the squad members spread out left and right, increasing the distance between them. After the sun passes the daily apex, a wolf crosses the lead soldier's path turns and sits. The soldier's hand rises in a fist and the other soldiers stop. Each warrior finds concealment as the squad leader moves up to the lead soldier.
“What...” the lead soldier silences the squad leader with a finger across his lips.
The wolf stands watching to the warrior's left. A cartel guard steps into view and the wolf is gone. The warriors watch as the guard passes. The warriors remain hidden giving the guard time to clear the area. As the lead warrior rises the wolf trots in the direction the squad is traveling. The lead soldier follows still alert for anything out of place in the area.
The squad reaches a small lake as the sun settles in the east. The soldiers take a moment to fill their canteens and eat part of their MRE. A stream flows from the lake and the warriors follow it. The wolf runs through the stream without making any splash. The wolf stops and looks back at the warriors. The lead soldier's fist rises and the eleven soldiers slide into the underbrush.
A patrol of three cartel guards approach up the stream. They pass within inches of the hidden warriors and continue on.
Less than a mile from the target, a rock spur rises above the trees. The squad leader motions at the lead soldier then points to the top of the rock spur. The lead soldier and his fire buddy break from the group and climb the rock face. At the top of the rock spur, the two soldiers settle in for a long stay. They set up a shade with a poncho and camouflage net. Under the shade the lead soldier unpacks and readies his sniper rifle while his fire buddy readies a camera.
As the glow of first light illuminates the target, the two warriors observe a truck enter the target area and enter a large warehouse. Two guards are posted at the gate. Three more guards patrol the fence line. A Wasp scout helicopter circles facility. As the small helicopter passes over the shade, the camouflage net and poncho ruffle unseen by the helicopter pilot or the guards below.
Though the warriors had often been in similar situations, muscles tense. This position though well covered from below has no cover from the air and the only concealment is the flimsy shade.
“Paladin, are you secure?” the squad leader's voice sound in the lead soldier's ear through the short range squad tactical radio.
“For now,” the lead soldier responds.
“Hold position. We go when there is less activity.”
The lead soldier does not respond but keys the radio twice.
After an hour the warehouse doors open and the truck emerges. It passes through the gate and departs down the road. The helicopter follows the truck. A dozen workers exit the warehouse and enter a nearby building. The soldiers wait for night's veil to cover
“Paladin, can you take out the guard closest to my position.”
Two breaks of squelch on the tactical radio are the only response. As the second squelch break sounds, the guard nearest the squad leader's position is spun violently and thrown to the ground. Three warriors approach the fence. A specialty designed knife makes short work of the wire fence and the three warriors slip through the hole. The last warrior through attaches an elastic cord to the fence, pulling it together so at a distance the fence appeared intact. The three warriors take shelter beside one of the buildings. Using a periscope they peep through the windows.
The wolf digs around what might be a dog house or small pump house. The soldiers rig hand grenades with trip wires at each door and move to the next building. They repeat the peep and booby-trap on each of the buildings.
“No joy. They must not be here.” the squad leader reports.
“Check the pump house.” The lead soldier responds.
The three warriors move to the pump house. Finding the roof of the pump house hinged, they open it. Inside to men in torn flight suits are held with not enough room to stand fully and not enough room to sit.
“Americans,” the squad leader whispers.
“Thank God,” one of the prisoners responds.
Each of the prisoners is lifted out of the hole and the pump house is closed. The prisoners are helped by two of the soldiers and the third runs ahead. The one guard between them and the fence is spun and thrown to the ground. By the time the soldiers with the prisoners reach the fence, the third soldier has cut a hole and the five pass through.
“Goego, I've got cover. Rally one.”
Two breaks sound on the radio.
As the two warriors wait, covering the withdrawal of the others, a flash and thunder clap reports one of the building doors opening. An alarm sounds around the compound followed by more explosions.
“Paladin, we're holding the road crossing for you.” The team leader, covering the road, reports.
“Negative. Play through to the 18th green.”
The sniper quickly removes the barrel from the sniper rifle and stores both sections in the carrier. Once down from the rock hiding place, the two warriors sneak away. The wolf leads them across another creek. The two soldiers carefully leave extra foot prints in the soft mud. As they get farther away from the rescue element they break branches and crush undergrowth leaving behind a trail that can easily be followed.
The wolf stops and starts to circle. The two soldiers set a claymore mine beside a tree and conceal it behind some underbrush. With the claymore in place they continue on their path clearly marking their path for one-hundred meters then backtrack. Once back at the claymore the two warriors follow the wolf in another direction, concealing their tracks.
About sunrise, the two warriors pass under a bridge on the road. As they travel the wolf stops a few more times and the warriors hide as cartel patrols pass them.
“Charlie two four this is Charlie two four three.” The lead soldier calls shortly after dusk.
“Lightning” is the only response.
“Yogurt” the lead soldier counters.
“Paladin, where can we meet?”
“Two-thirty – 18th green.”
Less than an hour later, a lone Blackhawk settles into a clearing. Two soldiers, helping the two prisoners enter the clearing. As they climb into the helicopter the other nine soldiers run out of the woods and scramble into the helicopter. With the seats folded up the thirteen new arrivals sit on the floor. The last soldier on each side has the feet dangling out the door as the helicopter lifts out of the clearing.
Back at the base, the soldiers go through debriefing. After the reporting is done the lead soldier and his fire buddy walk toward the mess hall.
“How did you know about all those patrols and where the pilots were being held?”