© Copyright 2018 by Robert Flournoy
This is based on a true experience I had in Vietnam. When the debate about women in combat was the story of the day I massaged my experience a little to try and shed some light on the reality of such nonsense.
Our platoon was strung out in a ragged line, concealed in the foliage of a hillside, with a good view and fields of fire of a large terraced farm field about 50 meters across from a trail that ran between it and below us.
It sat there, surrounded by jungle, so out of place that it was mesmerizing. We were compact enough to defend ourselves, and ready for daylight and what/who it would reveal. Invisible, totally still and silent, such was our experience in these matters.
When the first gray haze of early morning offered a misty view of what was unfolding before us, it was with sleep encrusted, sweaty, bug, and dirt grimed eyes that we
watched and waited.
Pvt. Irene Joys had sat up twice during the night, squatting to pee. The men had simply rolled over a bit when the urge over came them, hung it out, let it go, and moved out of the new muddy urine spot as best they could. Irene's need to sit up was a dangerous breach of motion security. Her female cycle had started two days before, and that was always distracting, and embarrassing, trying not to notice her tending to her needs, afterward enclosing her spent tampons in a plastic container in her ruck sack, nothing ever, ever being left behind.
None of us had bathed in over three weeks, so the filth she lived in was noxious to the rest of the unit, unimaginably
uncomfortable to her as the bugs had their way with her condition.
Some men gawked as she administered to herself, but most turned away, pretending indifference, thankful that she was the only female in the unit. There was always sexual tension when a woman was with them, but safety concerns usually trumped boyhood hormones when in a dicey situation such as this one.
Usually. It was still dark enough to see the flash of the claymore at the far left of my own position before I heard, and felt it. Flash, bang, thump. Below me, and obscured by the jungle growth in that direction, I could not see what
tripped the ambush, but the cacophony of ear splitting small arms and machine gun fire from that end of our line told me that we were into it, and there were those green tracers zipping all around, with some of our red ones floating out into the distance.
I grabbed the radio from my RTO and had six 105 howitzer rounds in the air with a quick shift 100 meters left of the pre-targeted point that I had recorded the night before. The guns had been set, and ready, so time of flight was about twenty-two seconds, during which the small arms fire continued.
My RTO popped a small red flare, telling our own troops that close artillery support was incoming and to get down, although they undoubtedly already were, as impact was going to be just over 75 meters in front of our unit. The battery was to my right, about 8 miles away, so I was not too concerned about a range error, and fired for effect.
Our enemy feared American artillery more than anything on the battle field, so when my rounds impacted, everything went silent. An eerie quiet consumed us as we lay trembling with adrenaline, on edge and ready for whatever. Our adversaries could melt into the mountains like ghosts, and that is what they did. I tore up their likely retreat routes with battery after battery of HE rounds.
We swept the area and found blood, broken rifle stocks, shredded packs. The down time afterward brought back the palpable awareness of the 20 year old attractive woman in the midst of men of equal age whose animal instincts were operating at a keen edge given the base existence of their situation, blood lust and testosterone at a very high level.
She was in a danger that petrified the young lieutenant leading the platoon in the deep, dark, isolated jungle where death sulked quietly with every breath they took.
A burden of command and control was now on his young shoulders the potential of which was oppressing, affecting the mission with every ticking minute. God forbid that his command position would be, could be, occupied by a token female officer trying to control men who had been trained to live and kill like animals for the sake of their very survival.
But for now, sullen, combat fatigued, resentful eyes would be trained on the woman in their midst with reproach, she being isolated and alone, the young platoon leader's ability to command severely compromised by his need to shield her from her own.
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