Mission in Iraq

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Eating slightly stale Cheerio’s with Sarah meant that I was startled when a squaddie came up to me and told me to go to the Major’s office. Top level meetings didn’t happen often for me because I was only a Staff Sergeant, and this made me wonder whether I’d done something wrong. Then my mind flashed back to the previous night and the soldier walking in on Sarah and I sleeping together. Oh God, he hadn’t blabbed had he? The chair in the Major’s office looked inviting and I wasn’t disappointed as I sank down into its bed-like comfort.

Glancing around at the photos on the walls, I turned back round to see whether I would be offered a biscuit or just left to stare at them. Years before, I had discovered that if you were offered a biscuit, it was usually a good sign. Phew, he offered me one. He hardly let me take a bite before he started on why I was here. “Right Nick, I’m not going to beat around the bush here, I need you to go out to Iraq. Tonight. ” The adrenaline starting pumping as soon as he said Iraq and as soon as I was dismissed from the Major’s office I immediately went to Sarah’s room to tell her that we were going to Iraq together.

She had been told the day before. She smiled and hugged me and I felt a great sense of warmth erupt. I wanted it to continue but, like all good things, it ended almost before it began. As I approached the helicopter, my hair was tousled by the wind from the blades. I passed my bag to the loadie and climbing in to the helicopter I briefly greeted the Captain before slumping down onto the floor of the cabin. Before long the gentle hum of the engine lulled me into a doze. I abruptly woke, as without warning the engine fired up.

I hadn’t even realised that the engine had been switched off – I’d obviously been in asleep for some time! I checked my watch and found to my amazement I’d been asleep for half an hour. But where was Sarah? I was tempted to text her, but all of a sudden, tiredness sprang over me like a thick fog. I closed my eyes and instantly fell back into a deep sleep. Thud. I woke up with a start and felt disorientated for a moment. Where was I? As soon as I looked out of the window at the desolate land I remembered. Iraq. The helicopter must have landed because the crew were getting out and unloading supplies from the hold.

I rubbed my eyes and stared at my new home, but being stiff after the six hour flight I stumbled out of the helicopter and found myself blinded by the scorching midday sun as well. Then I saw her. Stood 300 metres in front of me with her fake Prada sunglasses was Sarah. I’d temporarily forgotten about her after my sleep, but now I remembered why I loved her so much: the curly brown hair that bounced over her shoulders, eyes that glistened in the sun, and a smile that would light up even the darkest room. I spoke to her and then asked how she had arrived here before me.

I was shocked to find that they had chartered a private jet, as these were normally reserved for top brass only. But then she dropped the bombshell: her husband had walked out on her. Now I understood why she had been given the private jet. I stood speechless for a couple of seconds and then muttered my apologies. What a hypocrite! I was secretly pleased, as surely she was, and it meant that we could be together, but that was where I made the mistake. As soon as I said it, I knew it was wrong and I stood bracing myself for the inevitable shouting match.

I hadn’t been expecting the slap though, it exploded onto my face causing it to burn with pain. She ran off swearing and shouting at me and I was left looking like the idiot I was in the middle of the runway with mountains of kit. After what seemed like hours of walking in the blistering midday heat, I arrived at the main nerve centre for the British operations. A welsh lad of only about 18 welcomed me with a couple of jokes, but to be honest I wasn’t really paying attention. I sat down on a cheap, plastic seat that creaked every time I moved and picked my fingernails.

Whilst I was staring into space, the Colonel arrived for the briefing and I followed him into the makeshift office. I was under the impression that Sarah would still be coming on the mission but when I came out of the briefing that opinion had changed. I was doing it on my own. Getting the plan into my head was difficult as I had never done anything like this before. Being told that in 48 hours time, you are being deployed to Basra to destroy the largest bomb making factory in the country is not something that happens regularly.

I felt scared and wanted someone to turn to, but I knew that I had no-one. The rest of Tuesday, and most of Wednesday passed without event. At 4pm I was sent to collect the equipment from the store and I filled my bergen to the brim with anything that I could think of: water, food rations, sachets of coffee, explosives by the kilo and an old dusty radio that weighted a ton. I was scheduled to leave the base for the mission at 9pm under the cover of darkness, so I decided to have a big supper in case I didn’t get to eat for a while.

Chicken curry was my favourite meal so I piled my plate as high as I could. Sitting down, I then realised how important this mission was, so I was determined to get it right. After a brief goodbye with the Colonel, I set off in the battered Land Rover. There was sand everywhere although it was hardly surprising as most of Iraq was desert like. Somehow, I had managed to get some between my big toes and it was rubbing me like shards of glass. After several bumpy hours I arrived at the location where I was going to hide the Land Rover and almost silently hid it in a large thorn bush.

Stupidly, I had managed to forget my fighting knife and consequently had deep, bloody scratches from forcing my way back through the bush. Walking for 3 hours with a huge blister on your foot isn’t the most enjoyable experience at the best of times – especially not when you’re about to blow up a bomb factory. I approached the warehouse with caution because I didn’t know who or what was around. After a check around the outside, I started to plant the explosive. It felt like plasticine and I started to remember school days making models all day long.

After warming it up it my hands, I moulded it into a long, thin snake and carefully placed it along the edge of the warehouse. Suddenly, in the corner of my eye I saw a torch and automatically threw myself to the floor. My heart was in my mouth as a watched to see if there were any more beams of light. After waiting for twenty minutes without event, I decided to get up off of the freezing cold ground. Creeping around the warehouse, still wary of any sounds or light, I started to set the detonator wire.

By the time I had finished setting the detonator wire and had hiked back to the Land Rover, it was 6:30 am. I got the Land Rover out from the bush (this time without grazing my arm) and retrieved the remote detonator. Getting it out took seconds, and as soon as it was ready, I pressed the red execute button. Only a few moments later there was a huge ‘boom’ and I knew I had achieved the aim. I allowed myself a quick smile; another bomb factory destroyed. Mission accomplished.

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