A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.....the following may have happened
Or maybe not…
A beautiful sunny day in the Department of Nariño, Colombia. A normal day would show the area covered to 500 ft with 50-mile cloud banks. These banks move like roving sharks, instantly devouring entire regions. If you happen to be conducting an operation at the time, this shark leaves you stranded in FARC country with no rescue and no air cover. We move thru the blue skies in 4 Huey and 2 Blackhawk helicopters.
We approach the target and fly up the canyon. Imagine the Grand Canyon in the US, but at altitudes of up to 12000 feet and covered in jungle. That is Nariño. We are informed that the LZ is at 9000 feet with high winds, so the first Blackhawk will drop its load of troops off and come back to get us. Our landing at the LZ several minutes later feels like a controlled crash, and the pilot is straining hard with the controls. When we offload, we are a total of 17 men on the ground. We are then notified that there will be no other lifts for the time being due to the winds and altitude. We are also without the informant and his controlling officer to show us the way. We set off in spite of this, with Col. DD of the CNP leading the way. The gringo patrol is about midway in the line, and we can see Col. DD about 100 yards ahead. We must walk with 10-20 yard spacing between each man, so that any enemy mine or ambush will only get a few.
As I look ahead, I notice the Col talking with 3 campesinos that have stopped their work to let us pass. When I next look up, one of the campesinos is now walking in the front of the line. The Col. has obviously persuaded him to lead us to the lab. His ability to enlist cooperation was aided by the very steep cliff we had just scaled.
Very appropriate. Because that is exactly what we are scaling. This route is so steep that a slight imbalance could send any one of us tumbling to our deaths.
We are all humping 40-60 pounds of gear, as well as this being a movement behind enemy lines. This means that you cannot simply look at your boots and trudge upward. You are constantly with rifle at the ready, scanning every bush. Doing this in a domestic raid for 10 minutes is nerve racking. Doing it for hours is downright exhausting.
As we scale the mountain, we pass thru intermittent jungle and prairie, meaning constant threat from snipers. This is one of the FARC´s favorite tactics, because they operate as guerrillas and play hit and run. The other is that the way we are approaching the objective has left the guerrillas nowhere to run. To run down, they run into us. To run up is to meet a closed canyon with 500 ft cliffs on either side. Their only option is to fight or hide within close range. Right about this time the 50 Cal mini guns from the Blackhawk begin their music. This means the Helos have spotted some type of suspicious activity on the ground near us. If you have never heard a 50 Cal mini gun, go off in combat, you should.
-Nothing reminds you of your mortality quicker.