The explosion broke the silence of the pre-dawn desert.
Our SEAL element was conducting a raid on a small village in western Afghanistan.
The date was September 15, 2001.
As soon as the towers came down on September 11 our entire unit was recalled to base. Seventy-two hours ago our friends in the agency presented a target package to command. The op was going after one of Osama Bin-Laden’s top lieutenants, to see if we can sweat them for information as to where the big man himself was.
Forty-eight hours ago, we were briefed. With no time to build a mock-up we pored over every single inch of data we could on the target location. We built a plan, and talked through it repeatedly. Once we had the plan figured out, we tried to pull it apart, looking for every weakness we could find.
Twenty-four hours ago we were informed that the mission was a green lit. Our handlers in the Pentagon were officially unchaining the dogs of war. We loaded up our gear, got on the plane, and were headed for combat.
Two hours ago we exited our aircraft at 30,000 feet above sea level, conducting a high-altitude, low-opening jump into the target zone.
We lost Peterson as we came in for a landing. Neither his main or back-up chutes deployed, and he burned right in. There was nothing any of us could do. He was the first SEAL lost in combat in years, but sadly he wouldn’t be the last.
We rounded up our remaining men, and pressed on with the mission. Two of our team members flanked the village we were going into. They found their objective easily enough. They placed a couple pounds worth of explosives onto an gas tank, then backed off.
When the explosives ripped through the desert on the far side of the village, we had a pretty good idea who was a bad guy and who wasn’t. The pressed metal of the AK-47 or the rocket launchers they carried seemed to give us a good indication, and as planned, four of the remaining six SEALs were on their long guns, dropping bad guys as soon as they came out of their shacks.
The last two members, Stevens and I moved in our M-4’s at the ready, and swept the village. Nothing. Our friends at the agency got it wrong. The lieutenant we were after wasn’t among the bodies, or hiding in the shacks.
We recovered Peterson, and retreated to our rendezvous point to lick our wounds and catch our ride out of country. We may not have gotten a chance to fulfill our mission, this time. but the bad guys now knew, the dogs of war were roaming their plains. No where was safe from us.