The Wolf’s Den, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
This is a classic night-op raid. Dress your best, and get evil gentlemen.
Those words echoed in my mind, as I moved to my locker room, where thousands of dollars of gear awaited my selection. It was a featureless room, like so many others on the FOB, with strong, plain wood for walls, and black caged lockers that stored all my various weapons and war-fighting kit. I didn’t bother doing much to decorate the place either, just placing a flag in the corner and a picture of my squad mates on the central locker to greet me when I walked in. In total, I had 10 lockers, all with different equipment to address any situation I was going into. Other elements of the army, navy and air force would kill for this much access to the latest equipment.
I chose my standard assaulter collection, a dark olive green jacket over my tan BDU, with dark woodland camouflage assault pants, that had a pair of tan knee pads strapped over the top.
Plucking my body vest off the rack, I tucked in IR strokes, and 4 spare magazines for my primary, as well as checking my first aid kit strapped to the front. I inserted the heavy ceramic plates that would cover my vital organs last, after securing the vest to my chest.
All operators like myself were OCD about our equipment. We triple checked everything. We never used anything that wasn’t tried and true. All our gear had been through multiple fire-fights and allowed us to survive. We were paranoid about our equipment, because they were the one thing that we could control.
Next came my war-belt, with 3 spare pistol magazines, an emergency hip reload for my primary and various pouches for radios, miscellaneous notepads and markers.
For the final piece of kit that fleshed out any decent assaulter’s load-out, I picked up my tried and true helmet and balaclava option. Weighing in at nearly 2 kilograms, the helmet was loaded down with a penlight, spare batteries, IFF strobe, a large headset with a throat mic and the latest quad goggles for night vision. Flicking them down, I checked the battery life in the NODs, and moved my head to ensure they were a tight fit.
I always left my weapons for last. I looked after them more than I did anything else in this room. This was a classic night op raid. Which meant CQB weapons.
I took a Sig-Sauer MPX, the latest upgrade on the iconic MP5 platform, and began checking the various attachments: laser, flashlight, suppressor, magazines and optic on the submachine gun. Pleased with the small dot on the small unobtrusive sight, and that the IR laser on the platform was working in conjunction with my NODs, I placed the MPX aside and picked up a pistol.
The Glock 19 was small, compact and easy to draw. I hadn’t done much tinkering to the gun, just swapping out the sights for night ones, replacing the trigger for a faster, lighter version and adding a flashlight to the bottom. I didn’t bother suppressing the weapon, like I did with my MPX, as I knew if I had to draw my pistol, things were fucked anyway.
Attaching the pistol and holster to my right thigh, I did a few strafing movements in the limited space of my locker room, and satisfied that nothing was loose or needlessly moving around, I clipped in my radio to my headset, slung the MPX around my neck and under my arm, and walked out, several kilograms heavier and deadlier.
Outside, the FOB, night had already well and truly taken over, so the entire helicopter landing pad was lit up with harsh floodlights, that glinted off the black metal of the four MH-6 Little Birds that taxied up. These small, skinny helicopters were the Lotus Cars of the aviation world, able to turn, in an instant, park in the tiniest places and accelerate away faster than a terrorist could aim a RPG. They had some bite too, with rocket pods and miniguns hanging underneath tiny stabilising flight struts.
Tonight, I was part of Bravo Squad, so I was to go on the second helicopter, tasked with landing on the roof and assaulting my way down through an abandoned 5 storey building. Alpha would land on the street in front and work their way up. Charlie and Delta would land on neighboring buildings, securing their rooftops for sniper support on the target building.
We were to rescue the hostage, eliminate all hostiles and then radio in the Little Bird for immediate evac. A platoon of U.S. Marines would wait until we finish, then come in and begin securing the area, with intelligence indicating that a HVT would be in the vicinity. Once the hostage was secure, we would fan out if the Marines needed support and slowly begin clearing buildings in the immediate area, extending ourselves out only by a single city block. Otherwise if no support was needed, we would wait for extraction via a BlackHawk.
The Marines were the drag net, ensuring no one escaped in a 5 block radius, clearing their way in, and be our QRF if any of us got bogged down at any time. The Little Birds would hover around and provide close-air support if need be.
This was a classic night time raid.
Checking my watch, I noted the time, 2200, and felt a tap on my shoulder. My buddy, Kyle, was handing me a hot cup of coffee. Nodding my appreciation, I took the hot cup and wrapped my hands around it, pulling my balaclava down to take sips here and there.
We both stood in silence, watching the flight crews perform refueling on the Little Birds and the pilots going through their flight checks. At precisely 2215, our squad leaders yelled for us to mount up.
Tossing our cups into nearby bins, we dashed under the spinning blades, the rotor wash and strong smell of aviation fuel forcing our heads down. Kyle sat next to me, securing a strap of bungee cord to the hook on my vest, while I did the the same for him. We both gave each other a strong tug and were satisfied the cord would hold, if somehow we fell off the chopper.
On the other side through my peripheral, I could see Bravo Leader, John, secure the bungee cord to the green new guy, a SEAL named Walt, who was going on his first raid with the SAS.
In our unit, we didn’t care who or where you were from. As long as you did the work, watched your sectors and had our backs, all was forgotten.
I, myself had been on secondment to the DEVGRU, the Polish GROM, German KSK (where I was the smallest guy there) and our cousins in Australia, and every time, the moment I had landed, I was treated like any other guy on the Teams. We all did the work and were in the fight together.
Differences in nationality, accents, training, gear … it all faded the moment we were going into combat.
My feet felt weightless as the Little Bird throttled up and immediately gained speed, lifting off so quickly, it felt like a roller-coaster ride. Little Bird rides were always like this, the roughest, scariest and wildest ride, out of all the military birds we flew on. They loved to go up, down, left, ride, cant 45 degrees to the left, then jinx to the right … the pilots loved being sadistic in their attempt to induce vomiting in us.
But there were no-one we trusted more. American pilots in the Nightstalkers, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, were the absolute best in the world. They were all master aviators, and the sky was their kingdom. No weather was too rough for these men, no night too dark and no mistakes afforded.
They could park their helicopters on a street, hover exactly to the metre above a target and rescue us in any conditions.
Checking my watch again, I settled in for the hour long flight to Jalalabad, where the target building was located. Nicknamed J-Bad, it was one of the larger cities in Afghanistan, due to its proximity to the Torkham border with Pakistan, and a crucial hub for all NATO forces in the region. Despite the heavy military presence, somehow this cluster of buildings was where our hostage was held.
We didn’t like it at all. We had a gut feeling that the entire compound was rigged to blow. Kyle voiced his opinions about all this during the briefing. Command had simply shook its head and told us to do our jobs.
There were no complaints, despite our foreboding. After all, we were getting paid to take risks. Maybe it would be OK. That somehow the enemy had so much faith in their hiding ability and the balls to risk holding a captured team of 3 Western journalists from CNN, right under our noses. Stranger things had happened in war.
As I pondered about these things, I looked across at the other Little Bird, which had Alpha squad. Squad Leader Murphy saw me and as the Little Birds crested a mountain ridge, that littered the Afghan landscape, gave me the bird.
I returned the salute with double digits and continued to scan the dark foreboding landscape of ‘Stan, still entranced by the snow, the green and the sand that still came through in the half moonlight, despite my 7th tour here.
Then finally, in the distance, I started to see city lights. Then the pilot’s voice came through the comms.
“ETA to LZ, 15 mikes out!”
There was a flurry of movement, as we began our final checks. I could hear the clicks of optics being switched on, see hands patting down body armour, pouches and holsters, memorising where everything was placed. PEQ-15 laser units being switched on, and as my NODs were flicked down over my eyes to begin acclimatization, I saw lasers stretch off into the distance, some pointed downwards, and others in front of the helicopters.
It never got old.
“5 mikes out.” said the co-pilot in a monotone, the strain in his voice evident as he began his descent.
My legs flared upwards as the Little Bird began to throttle down and looking inside, I could see the pilots mouths move in unison as they spoke to each other, looking like bug-eyed aliens with their oversized flight helmets and NODs.
“3 mikes out”
Kyle undid the bungee strap, as I did the same for him. We both held onto the helicopter bars inside the fuselage as the lights of the city shone through underneath us, blurry and indistinct as the helicopter sped past and my NODs were unable to keep up.
We were flying extremely low and fast now, my feet almost brushing antennas of houses and buildings below, the pilots bobbing and weaving the Little Birds up and down to avoid any potential locks from missiles.
“1 mike out, approaching LZ now.”
The target building was exactly as the satellite imagery had presented. A squat, rectangular building that was 5 storey tall. It was dilapidated, old, ugly and reminiscent of many poor construction sites that were abandoned after the Taliban occupation. What windows were left, were dusty, grimy and mostly smashed in. It was a structure devoid of any personality, war had stripped it of any unique features, because it was never completed. The only decorative element was crude Arabic graffiti protesting NATO occupation.
Another abandoned dream, in a land that had seen combat since prehistoric times.
Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires …
My gloved hands wrapped around the barrel of the MPX, as I thumbed the pressure switch and activated the PEQ-15 laser and gripped the small hand-stop underneath. My heart rate was going up, the fear spiking a little, but discipline, training and experience snuffing it out instantly.
My trigger hand gripped the helo’s hand-bar hard and I braced myself as the Little Bird came to an sickeningly abrupt stop, flared up and to the side and in the span of 5 seconds dropped atop the target rooftop and the landing skids made a imperceptible thud.
Kyle and I immediately jumped off and within nanoseconds of us disembarking, the pilot was heaving on the flight stick and throttling away into the night, disappearing into the gloom.
As we had rehearsed, the four of us immediately made for the rooftop door, a tiny shack like entrance atop the roof. To our left, we saw the Alpha Little Bird rise from the street, and spray dust everywhere as it begun its chase after its sister, Bravo, into the dark.
We stacked up to the door and John whispered “Bravo 1, going dark” over the radio. Hearing the call, a tech at J-Bad’s NATO base, triggered an EMP blackout on the surrounding area of the target building.
Immediately all lights, electricity and power got cut, granting us total darkness for 2 minutes. Kyle took out a sledgehammer from the pouch on his back and smashed the door in, my MPX’s stubby can taking point.
As I aimed the weapon down the flight of stairs, I moved slowly and cautiously, my concern about booby traps paying off, when I saw a thin wire run across the open doorway that would lead to the 5th floor.
Lifting my support hand in a fist, I waited a second for the squad to acknowledge with a squeeze on my shoulder before kneeling and taking out my multitool from my body vest. Running a finger along the wire, I saw that it was attached crudely to a grenade.
Relieved that it wasn’t some huge building explosive, I snipped the wire, and resumed my point man duties, pocketing the grenade.
The hallway ahead mocked us. There were about 5 rooms on each side. It would take at least a few minutes to clear.
John and Walt peeled off to the right. I moved left. Kyle covered the hallway from the booby trapped door on the North side.
Testing the knob, and seeing it was unlocked, I swept the MPX inside and checked every corner. Empty but for a few pieces of trash. It was devoid of furniture. Thankfully the rooms, if all were similar, were not multi-room issues. We were already stretched thin as it was. If we had to do multiple room clears for one hallway door, we risked losing the element of surprise. We were doing things quietly for a reason.
As I came back out, throwing an IR beacon behind, I whispered into my throat mike “Bravo 2, room clear.” Kyle, hearing this, moved forwards and cleared the next left-side room. He encountered no resistance: “Bravo 3, room clear.” We continued to leap-frog each other to the end, each search turning up empty rooms.
But John had heard from the support squads, Charlie and Delta who were covering the North and West side of the building that there was movement on the floor below.
Motioning for me to take point, I moved to the South side staircase, as John relayed to the sniper teams our position.
Peering around the corner, my laser coincidentally landed on a bearded face, the man climbing the staircase who was mirroring my action, his AKM sweeping up to me.
I placed two shots into his face, the MPX spitting flashes in my green-tinted world, and he crumpled.
I moved onward, ignoring the pool of blood that began to run down the stairs, moving a bit quicker now, our element of surprise nearly gone. Walt, who was the rear guard, spiked the AKM, by removing the magazine and emptying the chamber.
We stacked up at the door to the 4th floor, and heard the slow whine from below as power was slowly beginning to be restored to the building, the generator working hard to get juice back into its system. But just as the whine started, it died, and Alpha team leader, Murphy, reported their charge had been blown, still leaving the building in the dark. They were moving onto the second floor now and reported they had 6 KIA, all of them MAMs (Military Aged Males), most were sleeping when they had been shot.
That many dead, meant that there was a good chance the hostages were in this building. Charlie and Delta continued to report the most movement was on the 4th floor.
I cracked open the door and swept it to the side. The 4th floor hallway was still empty.
John whispered to us over the comms as we copied our movement on the 5th floor, Kyle covering the hallway, Walt moving right, myself going left and John on the heels of Walt.
“Charlie and Delta report they had movement in the rooms on the left. Wait for us, Bravo 2.”
As I paused outside the door, Walt and John cleared the room behind me, and noted with grim satisfaction that there were sleeping cots on the floor and that they were still warm.
“Charlie 1, Delta 1, Bravo squad will clear west side first, please pull security on east side of target building Hotel. Good copy?”
“Check, Bravo 1.”
“WILCO, Bravo 1.”
“Bravo 2, Bravo 3, take this door, Bravo 1 and Bravo 4 will take next one. Go loud.”
Reaching down, as Kyle grabbed his sledgehammer, I primed a flashbang as behind me, Walt did the same for his door, whilst John primed his bolt cutters against the door knob.
Holding up three fingers, I closed them down, in a countdown, as Kyle swung the sledge, smashed open the lock and I threw in the stun grenade.
A deafening sound reverberated through the air, and through a door an intense light shone through, a light-show we both missed, as we had our heads down and eyes slammed shut.
The MPX swept left, as Kyle’s MP7 swept right, and we both slotted two men who were keeled over, trying to rub their eyes. I paused in the furthest left corner of the room, as I saw two hooded figures prone on the floor. Resisting the urge to stop, I continued to sweep left, making sure the room was absolutely clear, before heading over to the hostages.
Kyle had found the last one in his corner and we both disarmed the AKMs that the two X-Rays held, before radioing it in.
“2 X-Rays down. 3 Hostages found. Confirming their status now.”
Over the comms, we heard HQ relay the information to the other squads, as well as the bark from John, as he reported
“3 X-Rays down, 1 HVT secured, alive. Bravo 4 and Bravo 2, secure the rest of the floor.”
I squeezed Kyle’s shoulder as he was kneeling over the hostages and he tapped my hand twice to confirm, before I moved out into the hallway and linked up with Walt.
Walt gave me a terse smile of congratulations, and I picked up Kyle’s sledge and motioned to the east side doors opposing the ones we had just cleared. There were still 6 rooms to clear, 3 on each side.
As we moved towards them, a west side door down the hallway opened and a voice issued a challenge in Arabic, a call to arms that was swiftly silenced as a sniper from Delta squad shot him square in the face.
Moving more quickly now, I smashed open the door with the sledge and Walt, not bothering with a flash-bang, charged through with his distinct MK18 carbine, my own MPX hot on his heels and we shot dead two young men, who were nervously aiming their rifles at the door, but were unprepared and forgot to engage their safeties. Walt mercilessly strafed the head of his target, to ensure he was dead and I pulled the trigger twice into the torso of mine, dispassionately noting the lack of movement.
Moving out in unison, we cleared the next west side room, adjacent to the HVT one, where we found just one guy who had his hands up. Walt looked at me, indecisive about what to do and in that instant, the man snapped his hands down. The MPX spat through the chest 5 times in response and Walt kicked the body over to reveal he had a grenade between his legs. Looking at me in gratitude, Walt rendered the grenade impotent, and we moved on.
In the next east room, second to last of this hallway, the two men must have saw or heard us coming through the door and shot blindly through the wooden door.
Walt moving quickly, ducked to the side, whilst I prepped the grenade I had found from the booby trap earlier. Walt flicked the selector switch and fired short bursts from his MK18, the suppressing weapon making dull thudding noises as it opened up the door, and created a hole for me to throw the grenade in. The explosion blew out all the windows in the room and the internal organs of the two men who tried to make a stand. We didn’t bother checking the room. Frag would have turned everything into a mush.
The west side door, where the hallway man had been shot dead by a sniper, remained opened and we heard the sounds of a woman crying and screaming in Arabic. As we entered, she looked up at us and wailed harder.
I whispered in Arabic for her to calm down, but instead she wailed louder and scrabbled over the dead man, whose brains were all over the floor and smeared across her smock. Finishing our room clear, noting its emptiness, Walt bodily moved the woman across the other side of the room, and cable-tied her to a bedpost.
There were still 2 more rooms. Over the comms, I could hear John and Kyle radioing in the Little Birds for immediate evac of the hostages and HVT. Kyle was reporting 2 were in a bad way, a male and female journalist who had suffered extreme torture and abuse, while the final journalist had not made it, an expected result, as he had been the victim of the militants’ abuse in online videos. The videos of the dead journalist that had been produced and circulated online were obscene.
Walt and I chose the final west side room first, and found it empty, except for the corpse of an abandoned woman. Looking her over, it was clear, she was one of those poor captive women who were shared among men. Death had probably been a relief for her.
Breaching the final east side, we saw three men cowering, their bodies prostate on the floor. The one closest to us, begged in broken English.
“No shoot. No shoot. Geneva. Geneva. You, no shoot.”
Walt looked over the men in disgust, his MK18’s laser hovering over their heads, and I shared his disgust, as the spokesperson kept repeating his broken phrase with a wide grin on his face.
The guy even had the nerve to get up from his position, and adopt a more regular kneeling pose. Each and every MAM in that room had on combat webbing, a brace of grenades and magazines. But their weapons were piled in a corner and there was nothing we could do.
Slamming the butt of the MPX into the spokesperson’s stomach, so he keeled over, I roughly slammed his face onto the floor and cable-tied his wrists, so tightly he squealed a little. Throughout he kept yelling “No shoot. You no shoot!” until I cuffed him in the side of the head, knocking him out.
Getting up, I motioned for Walt to secure the rest, whilst my laser hovered over their eyes, ready to drop them if they did anything.
“Bravo 1, this is Bravo 2. 4th floor secure. 3 MAMs secured, North-East corner.”
“Check Bravo 2. RV on the roof for extrac. Alpha squad will secure those 3 and the HVT. QRF is inbound.”
“WILCO. Bravo 1.”
Making a hand gesture to Walt, we filed out and climbed to the roof, to see a large UH-60 BlackHawk do the same manoeuvre as the Little Birds from earlier, flaring up and moving horizontally in the air to touch down on the roof in seconds.
It was still awe-inspiring, seeing this venerable workhorse doing what it did best, getting guys like us in and out of trouble time and time again.
As we placed the body of the dead journalist on the floor of the BlackHawk, we saw our Bravo Little Bird fly over and provide close-air cover. Simultaneously, the Alpha squad’s Little Bird swept around, hovering like an angry bird of prey and kept an eye on Alpha, as they awaited a convoy from the U.S Marine platoon to escort the HVT and 3 captured MAMs, before they too would board their Little Bird and fly back to the FOB.
Their overwatch mission complete, Charlie and Delta squads had elected to stay behind and assist the Marines, who were now doing their sweep through the city for more HVTs.
Ignoring the military hardware on display, we gently guided the two journalists and strapped them to the hard seats in the back, before stepping in ourselves and providing the thumbs-up to the door gunners.
The door gunners yelled the all-clear to the pilots and the BlackHawk vibrated as it took off the roof and hauled itself into the dark of the night. Our Little Bird escorted us, flying in tandem.
I checked my watch. The digital readout read: 0015. The entire operation had taken an hour.
Knocking my helmet back against the hard chair, I looked over the hostages, where a pair of Pararescue troopers were looking over them, busy trying to get IV drips into their arms and stabilise their patients.
One of the PJs looked over at me and gave me the thumbs up. They would make it.
Nodding back, I returned the gesture and slept the rest of the trip back to the FOB.
I opened my eyes as I felt the rotors throttle down. We were finally back to the FOB, nearly an hour and a half later, due to severe headwinds. Paramedics greeted the journalists, wheeling them onto stretchers and straight into a medical bay, whilst the dead hostage was covered up with a body bag. Tired, and silent, we filed back to our lockers.
I placed my dirty gear away, hung up the helmet, the vest and the war-belt and put the MPX and Glock 19 aside for cleaning later. Changing into shorts and a T-shirt and sandals, I grabbed a fresh cup of coffee and sat in the debriefing room.
In terms of a raid, it was a textbook operation. No injuries, all objectives completed. But we didn’t get to where we were by slapping each other on the back and congratulating ourselves.
So instead, we poured over every detail of the operation, gave each other feedback on how smooth our room clearing procedures were and what could be tightened up and wished we could have mounted this operation sooner to rescue the dead guy.
But at the end of the day, we knew that was out of our control. HQ made the call to go in. Not us.
Retreating to the mess, and cracking open a cold lemonade, I clinked glasses with John, Kyle and Walt and we stayed up till 5am, waiting to hear that the entire squadron had made it back, no injuries were reported and the entire raid was a success before heading off.
I stayed up a tiny bit longer, watching the dawn rise over the mountain tops and wondering when this would all end before committing myself to another cycle of vampire hours where I would wake at 9pm and stay up to 5am.
Getting evil. Doing good. It was all blurred.
A request from a friend who wanted something militaristic. This is my first time writing an actual squad doing work. Before I had mostly written stories about lone wolves doing the business, but it wasn’t that realistic.
I mostly wrote this from all the books I’ve read recently about standard operations held by Special Forces solders in Afghanistan and in other theatres of war. I think it’s a lot better than my earlier work, a lot more grounded. I also chose to lessen the details of gun accessories, which don’t really mean much to a lot of people, except other gun-nerds like me.
Instead, I focused on more descriptions about actions, scenery and I think it flowed a lot better narrative-wise than what I’ve done before. It was fun writing this.
Here is a quick guide to all the acronyms and mil-slang in this short story, since I used a lot of them:
- AKM – The most common assault rifle in the world.
- BDU – Battle Dress Uniform
- CQB – Close Quarters Battle
- DEVGRU – DEVlopment GRoUp or SEAL Team Six is the elite unit within the U.S. Navy SEALs
- EMP – Electro Magnetic Pulse – A shot burst of energy that has the ability to knock out all power and electronics in an area.
- ETA – Estimated Time to Arrival
- FOB – Forward Operating Base
- GROM –Grupa Reagowania Operacyjno-Manewrowego. Poland’s elite Special Forces Unit, similar to the SEALs or the SAS
- HVT – High Value Target
- IFF – Identification Friend or Foe – A system used to ID friendly forces in an area.
- IR – Infra-Red. IR Lasers are used by Special Forces in conjunction with NODs to lase enemies, as IR are beyond visible spectrum.
- J-Bad – Jalalabad, an important military base in Afghanistan.
- KIA – Killed in Action
- KSK – Kommando Spezialkrafte. Germany’s elite Special Forces Unit, similar to the SEALs or the SAS.
- LZ – Landing Zone
- MAM – Military Aged Males. Used in battlefield reports to describe enemies.
- Mikes – slang for minutes
- MK18 – A short barreled AR-15 weapon, commonly used by U.S. Special Forces for CQB (Close Quarters Battle)
- MPX – Sig Sauer’s label for their latest submachine gun, a successor to the HK’s MP5.
- MP5 – Heckler & Koch’s submachine gun, many consider to be the best of its class.
- MP7 – Heckler & Koch’s personal defence weapon.
- NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
- NODs – Night Observation Devices or NVG – Night Vision Goggles are equipment used by military units to operate in the dark
- OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- PEQ-15 – A device mounted on guns to beam IR lasers
- PJ – slang for Pararescue troopers, soldiers who specialise in parachute jumping and medical care in combat
- QRF – Quick Reaction Force, a convoy or support unit designed to help any soldiers during a mission.
- RPG – Rocket Propelled Grenade – a common weapon used by insurgents to down any type of vehicle.
- SAS – Special Air Service, Britain’s elite Special Forces Unit, commonly regarded as the best soldiers in the world.
- SEAL – SEa, Air and Land, America’s elite Special Forces Unit, commonly regarded as the best soldiers in the U.S. Armed Forces.
- ‘Stan – slang for Afghanistan
- WILCO – WILl COmply.