‘Ambush’ by Ethan Robertson, Year 10, Thomas Clarkson Academy

There I was, sat on the scorching floor of a UH-60. I had done this too many times to count, had I become numb to the feeling of the heat radiating through my equipment and uniform; The radiant desert heat and lack of water had not helped my situation. The last supply run our company had to have been weeks ago, this fact was due to the last run… one of the birds was hit and needed to set down, after which they were surrounded by countless numbers of them… we have not heard from that squad since. Whilst we were passing a fellow FOB the men within my squad waved, it would be the last time we saw friendly faces for the next few klicks.

We were now over the supply drop area, however we saw nothing, as the company was low on fuel, we were told to set the bird down at any opportunity we got. My squad and I stepped out of the bird, within this band of brothers were 3 riflemen, a single radio operator and myself; a point man; outside of this, we had a pilot, co-pilot, and a gunner on the external machine gun. “We’re here” said the pilot blandly, at this point he had a list of missions under his belt, unknown to him or me this would not be a regular mission.

A shot crackled and hurtled through the air! It landed mere inches away from my R-O, this sound was enough to have everyone hit the deck; we were unable to pinpoint the location of the sound’s source, the dunes of the sand were everywhere and ever-moving. A second crack! From a different direction? This did not make sense to me or my R-O who had crawled over to me in the time between the shots.

“Where is it coming from!?” he said in a low whisper; he and I did not know where it came pelting at us from. There was a crack, then a whip; the streaking whistle of death was growing ever near us. I ordered the pilots to “GET THE BIRD RUNNING!” The pilots instantly complied; the symphony of engines slowly rose to a high hum as the rotors started turning; as the bird was preparing to be airborne, we spotted a group of armed assailants coming over the crest of a dune; my squad began firing, a cacophony of rifles began unleashing into the dune.

The bird was now airborne and hovering a few inches above the ground; all my squad including the machine gunner began reattaching themselves wherever they could on the bird, keeping supportive fire on the assailants who at this point inches away from the bird and subsequently us.

As we finally got airborne the gunfire ceased; the journey home was silent and scorching just as the journey there had been, apart from the wind gushing in through the open side door where my radio operator lay… dead.