|Snapshots From the Mind of a Soul Collector
Author: l337 r0cX3r PM
The only thing constant in life is change... Nothing ever stays exactly the same. He carries an ace of spades tucked in his helmet. On the back is an endless series of tick marks that represent all the souls collected over the years in Vietnam.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Chapters: 15 - Words: 28,734 - Reviews: 3 - Updated: 03-05-13 - Published: 03-06-07 - id: 2329607
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
May 25, 1965
The early morning sun was just breaking over the tree tops at the edge of our camp that had been cut into the thick jungle. I looked wearily out at the faces staring blankly back at me. It was going to be a long day. I was never meant to advise… especially in a foreign country where most citizens couldn't speak English.
Nathan McNeal stood silently to my three in a relaxed at ease. Henderson and Mag along with half of our platoon sat along the far sandbag wall laid out in front of us. On ground immediately before me were twenty or so South Vietnamese Army recruits, bestowed on to me personally as Advisory Group personnel for rifle training, by our beloved Cap. Swothmyer. We were gathered loosely at the firing end of our makeshift range.
"This isn't funny." I finally muttered.
Nate broke a smile. "We could have stayed at home. You chose to come back Fish. You knew we were coming back as Advisory Personnel."
I felt my shoulders sag. "I hate you."
The corners of his mouth pulled up again, he was fighting to hide his smile. I cleared my throat and took a step.
"My name is Staff Sergeant Fischer. The marine to my three is Sergeant McNeal." I started, "We were sent here as advisory personnel from the USA to teach you to defend your country from the threat of communism."
I could hear Nate stifling a snicker beside me. My platoon was whispering amongst themselves already and I knew I was coming off like a fourth grade teacher.
Nate grabbed my shoulder firmly and pulled me hard against him dropping his head down next to mine.
"Alex… try and remember what we're doing this for... Do a good job and there is leave involved."
I stood for a long moment staring at the young recruits… I couldn't do it. I could not blather to these kids what the Corps had scripted us to say.
"Let's start over ok? I'm Staff Sergeant Fischer. This one is my partner in crime Sergeant McNeal. You can call me Fischer, you can call me Fish, you can call me Alex, or Sarge, or hey you. Whatever is easiest for you, same goes for McNeal."
The recruits nodded absently insinuating to me that most of them didn't speak enough English to understand what I was saying. Another suggestion for the brass, want me to teach get me a translator.
I pointed down the range toward the paper targets hanging from sandbags. "The key to being a good rifleman is accuracy, because it's never fun to be shot back at."
The platoon giggled in the background.
Nate shot me a hard glare. "That's not what we were taught."
"I know it's not… but it's the truth. Honestly, out here it'll probably keep them alive." I shot back.
Nate fell loosely back into his at ease position. "Carry on."
I turned back to the recruits. "Boys you'll be doing most of your fighting at close range with some sort of semi-automatic machine gun. My particular specialization is long range marksmanship. Specifically McNeal and I belong to the US Marine Corps division of Scouting and Target Acquisition. I'm a sniper, McNeal is my spotter. I'm the shooter he's my eyes."
They all nodded enthusiastically as if I'd just shared the secret of life with them. I was now positive most of them didn't know English.
One of the younger boys from my platoon stuck a hand in the air. "Sgt. Fischer, are we allowed to ask questions?"
Nate and I exchanged a suspicious glance. Our boys should already know this stuff, we were all trained as riflemen in boot camp.
"Sure kid, go ahead." I said hesitantly expecting whole heartedly to get a smartass question.
"Sgt. Fischer, how do you get into that… I mean, how do you become a sniper? Or a spotter?" He asked cautiously.
"We don't have time for this." Nate sighed. "Can we please move on guys?"
The kid let out a long breath flopping back against the sandbags. "Sorry Sgt. McNeal… I was just curious."
I watched the kid for a long minute. "I think he's serious Nate. Anything has to be better than this."
McNeal rolled his eyes. "Goodbye leave… I was really looking forward to some really R & R you know."
"Shut up and roll with it." I said turning back to the platoon and the recruits. "To become a US Marine Corps Scout Sniper or part of a sniper team you have to qualify as an expert marksman in boot camp. Next you apply to sit the INDOC for Scout Sniper School, there are of course strict PT and health requirements that must be met. You cannot be draft into service as a sniper, they only take volunteers. After successfully completing the INDOC there are several other tests the recruit must pass before moving on to the actual training program that includes survival and the stalk."
I nodded we were in my territory now. "Yes. The stalk is comprised of a course the length of this range or one thousand meters. The objective is to create a ghillie suit effective enough to blend into the natural environment of the course and move from one end of the course to the other without detection. Twice, once within 150 meters of the instructors, the recruits are required to fire blanks from a rifle without detection. There are two instructors that sit atop a platform watching for recruits. They are also accompanied by two watchers that patrol the course watching for recruits. You are allowed three attempts to complete the stalk course. If unable to complete the stalk without detection you'll be dropped. If you pass you move on to become part of one of the best schools of scout sniping in the world."
Mag stuck his hand up. "What about McNeal? He's your spotter."
Nate sighed heavily, resigning to the fact that he was part of this conversation now.
"All members of the sniper team are trained snipers. I have the same expert marksman rankings as Fischer. We both completed the same INDOC, the same stalk, and range tests. Every graduate of the USMC School of Scout Sniping is a highly trained well-honed sniper, equipped with deadly accuracy. One shot one kill." Nate explained.
I nodded in agreement. "McNeal is as much a sniper as I am a spotter. Everyone that graduates the school is equipped with the skills to complete both jobs. It varies from instructor to instructor who becomes which. Personality, accuracy, it all plays a factor."
"Most spotters are placed with their sniper more as an apprentice. The sniper is the team leader on the squad, is generally a higher rank, and makes the important decisions regarding the objective or mission. After working with a sniper for an allotted amount of time they graduate to the role of sniper themselves and move on to form a separate team… However, Fischer and I are and always have been a horribly dysfunctional family of sorts. I'm no apprentice and I'm not going anywhere. We are where we are because we work well together. Sgt. Fischer is my best friend and we can communicate without speaking. It's a well-oiled machine… You don't question why it works; you just let us work our magic." Nate continued.
For the first time since we started one of the South Vietnamese recruits feebly raised a hand.
"What is the hardest part of sniper school?" he asked in surprisingly articulate English.
Most marines would give the same answer I was about to.
I smiled. "The dime shot."
The recruit's face contorted with confusion. "Dime shot sergeant?"
I pointed down the length of the range. "The dime shot is a requirement for completion of the USMC School of Scout Sniping. Recruits are required to place three consecutive rounds in a target in an area the diameter of a dime… at a thousand meters."
The young Vietnamese recruit blinked astounded. "That's impossible Sergeant."
I couldn't help but smile. "It's not easy kid, but it's not impossible. Nathan please fetch me my rifle."
Nate appeared at my side quickly with my rifle case. I dropped to the small berm and started assembling my equipment.
"Do you always have to be a show off?" McNeal asked as I worked.
"No," I answered curtly, "because you're going first."
I turned to our audience. "Sgt. McNeal is now going to demonstrate the concept to the recruits… Pick a target Nathan."
"You hand me a loaded firearm and then do things like this to me Alex… and still you expect me to not shoot you." Nate said shaking his head. "I will get you for this."
I gave his shoulder a shove. "Get in position marine… and don't get sand in my scope."
"Range live rounds. Going loud." I yelled.
Nate took a deep breath and shoulder my rifle sighting the target carefully. BANG… Reload… BANG… Reload…BANG.
"Magnet bring me Sgt. McNeal's ruck sack. Double time soldier." I ordered.
Mag jogged over and handed over the ruck. I fished Nate's binoculars out waving Mag back to his post.
"Let's see how ya did Nate." I said sarcastically as I looked down range. "Nice grouping McNeal but it's not a dime shot. Do we need to spend a little more time at the range? I think you're losing your touch."
"Fuck you Alex." He muttered shoving the rifle hard into my chest.
"Oh no, we're not done here, I out rank you. Hit the deck sergeant because you're gonna try this again." I said shoving the rifle back at him.
I dropped down beside him.
"What? Are you going to help me sight now?" he asked gruffly.
I shook my head as I dug through is ruck again. "No I want you to empty your pockets."
"How the hell is that going to help my aim?"
I took his belongings one by one scanning them carefully deciding their importance: his wallet which he never kept anything important there, his picture of Sophie which I knew better to mess with, and his zippo.
"Henderson fall in." I yelled.
Henderson jogged over obediently. I was starting to like this little exercise.
I pulled a roll of olive drab duct tape out of Nate's ruck and handed it to Henderson along with the zippo.
"Henderson take this and duct it to the target." I said snatching Nate's cover off his head. "Here, this too."
McNeal's eyes were huge. "Not my zippo… Alex I brought that from home… No, not my cover. That's my only eight point cover. I just got that cover."
I patted Nate reassuringly on shoulder. "Then don't shoot them."
The demonstration was brought to an abrupt close with the arrival of our gallant leader Capt. Swothmyer. The high powered rifle shots ringing across the camp instead of the expected pop pop of automatic fire had apparently turned some heads. The recruits both American and South Vietnamese argued on mine and Nate's behalf. They insisted they learned more than they expected and they wanted McNeal and I back to teach the rifleman course again. I wasn't so sure Nathan was up for that.
I was carrying Nate's ruck sack along with my rifle case out of pity as we walked across the compound to the hooch. Nate was very delicately fingering his zippo… or what was left of it.
"I told you not to shoot it."
I could feel the daggers coming out of his eyes piercing my soul. Magnet and Henderson were loping along just behind us. Magnet kept poking his fingers through the two freshly made holes in the front of Nate's cover and wiggling his fingers.
"Sgt. McNeal you want your cover back?" Mag asked.
"No its ok Mag, you can keep."
Mag's eyes lit up, "Gee whiz, thanks sergeant."
"No problem Mag…"