Today I’m about to experience something that I may never have the opportunity to do again. We are about to embark on a night patrol. As usual, our squad will take the next few hours and prepare for our mission. Included with our usual foot patrol equipment will also be chemical glow lights, a red flashlight, and night vision goggles. With few to no streetlights (let alone streets) it will be difficult to see where we are walking.
After carefully scanning through a checklist of required items for this patrol, we gathered outside and waited for our official squad formation and departure. As the light from the sunset dissipated, a cloudless and star speckled sky was revealed. While standing around outside among fellow squad members, I felt the eagerness and excitement begin to generate. “This is actually something to write home about,” I thought to myself. Who knows what goes on out there beyond the reach of our tower’s visual limitations? Having spent approximately ten thousand hours in towers all around Camp Phoenix and a third of that time at night, I know how lifeless the night can seem. Still, the unknown was still a factor.
As we all stood outside our hut waiting for the word, we could be found talking amongst each other or scanning aimlessly with our night vision. Some still could be seen taking one final opportunity to smoke a cigarette before the patrol. Relieving our ominous wait, we were given the word to move out. Having been equipped with roughly fifty pounds of equipment, I felt a sense of boldness and confidence. It is a security that coupled with the blanket of darkness made me feel like a predator. It is a feeling that is incomparable with civilian life except perhaps a specially outfitted police swat team.
The walk to the front gate was no short distance; probably more than a half mile. Along the way, Cherry, saw and instinctively followed us. Cherry was a normal size, white colored dog known to Camp Phoenix as our collective pet and mascot. Although fascinating to me, this was a regular thing for Cherry. He always seemed to enjoy escorting patrol squads. Not only would Cherry walk with us when we went on day patrols but he would bark at any dogs that would come too close to the patrol.
Passing through the front gate we began our patrol on a fairly lit highway. Soon, however, we found ourselves pulling down our night vision goggles (NVG’s) as we veered from the highway into the darkness of the fields. Soon after leaving the highway, we realized that there was not enough light for the NVG’s to magnify and it was easier to see without them, so I took them from my eyes, dismounted them from my helmet, and put them in my cargo pocket.
Our patrol took us several miles across streets, alleys, fields, and other rugged, hard-to-see terrains. After an hour or so, we could ,with some effort, see through the darkness and recognize the outskirts of our home base again. Part of our mission was to look for missing barb-wire around our surrounding borders and record where it was missing for replacement. We scanned the entire east fence of the camp before entering in. Our mission was completed with no casualties, lost equipment, or missing comrades. An after action review (AAR) was briefly conducted before we gladly showered and went to bed.