Posted by: TheAuthor | 03/02/2011

A drive too far?

“Right lads; we need to dominate the area in and around the outpost in order to prevent any enemy actions while the Sanger’s and walls are repaired” The platoon stared at their boss, listening intently and silently sipping at their water bottles or mopping their tanned brows.  “Our role in this operation is vehicle based utilising three snatch land rovers…” a cheer rose from the crowd “and we will rotate within our platoon to get maximum rest…” another cheer “as this continuous patrol will last between 10 and 15 hours” silence from the audience, until a hand rose up. “Boss, err, we only have three drivers in the platoon. Are the three of us expected to drive throughout?!”.

The boss paused for a moment, the three drivers expectantly waiting for an answer and looking amongst themselves. Finally the boss retorted, “The Commanding Officer has signed a waiver, enabling you to drive for longer than 8 hours without recourse. We will be back in the outpost every few hours for 10-15minutes to swap commanders and top-cover, you can rest then”. The drivers shared stunned looks and sighed, but could do nothing but wait for dusk, bringing the start of their ordeal.

Shortly before their departure; William and his fellow driving duo dutifully donned their Kestral body armour and MK6A helmets. Grabbing their rifles they set to their landrovers, conducting their pre-checks and driving them around to the guardroom – and the exit of the outpost. Here they silently waited, for the remainder of the team to arrive, gear up and mount the vehicles.

As dusk was falling, the boss gave the nod and the lead vehicle pulled out of the outpost. William, in the middle vehicle, thought to himself quietly and planned ways of maximizing his rest once back in. It’s always good to have a plan, he thought, and I have a couple of hours to think of one.

The night was quiet, few other vehicles were on the road, as their call sign drove around the dimly lit streets. They followed no particular direction or route, just making a presence. With the 30 degree plus heat; coupled with non-breathable helmet and body armour; in a sealed off and cramped heat absorbent driving compartment;  it was a drivers worst nightmare to remain vigilant and awake. William drove along merrily to himself, talking to the commander as they went. After an uneventful few hours, they returned to the outpost for a 15 minute siesta. William and his fellow drivers, unable to retire for the evening (unlike their colleagues) stood around as a trio and began talking to one another. They were too awake to sleep for a mere 15 minutes and too full to go to the cook house for tea and toast – available 24/7.

This routine was to follow throughout the night, every now and then they would return. With the intrepid drivers catching a quick 10 minute snooze, walking over to the cook house for tea and toast – simply to keep them going. William found a flat piece of wood to lay in his passenger compartment, just big enough to lay in the foetal position and fall asleep when he decided to – instead of slumped over the wheel. The driving was laborious and slow, the night wore on for what seemed like hours. Scrunched up against the wheel; forcing arms to move within the body armour to change gear; wiping the sweaty brow beneath the helmet; and the constant feel of a wet shirt against the back became the norm for the intrepid trio.

After what seemed an eternity, dawn broke as the patrol had halted beside the road to take a pause in driving. By now the drivers where prity full on tea and toast after deciding to see how much they could consume on every break, then attempt to beat the record. As William was talking to a young boy at his window, he heard a yelling from the back of the patrol. A young boy was riding past on his bicycle, waving as he went along, some of the lads waved back to him as he went. Unfortunately, the boy in his eagerness to wave to the patrol failed to see an open door from one of the vehicles up ahead. He clattered into the door with a huge bang and plunged to the road in a heap. He got up gingerly, assisted by the commander of the lead vehicle.

The patrol came to a close for the trinity drivers, sullen eyes and full bellies. Ready to fall asleep in their beds, perfectly closed off from the world around them – besides the heat. William sat outside the accommodation sipping a chilled bottle of water, staring out into the blue skies of the day before heading to his pit. What a long night, not to be forgotten.

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