Saturday, 4th February 2023 - 2:28:14 am
Steve Kincaid decided to ride point himself. With one of the tribesmen riding with him, he started out two hundred meters in front of the main body. As before, two more Kurds guarded the rear.
There were still a couple of hours of daylight remaining when they started. The ten hour rest had benefited the horses as much as the men. Kincaid let his horse settle into an easy canter. He knew it was a pace the horse could not maintain without frequent rests, but there would be plenty of time for walking when darkness fell.
Before starting out on this leg, Kincaid had exchanged his HK-91 for his M16/203, the regular issue assault rifle with a 40mm grenade launcher in tandem with it below the barrel, just ahead of the magazine. He also exchanged the standard hand grenades he had carried for an assortment of grenades that the M-79 Launcher accepted.
To save time, Kincaid had blackened his face and hands before leaving camp. That had caused some excitement among the tribesmen when he emerged from the tent. They hadn't known what to make of it. Ahmed had to walk among them and exert all his authority to restore order.
"Another chapter of your folklore, old boy," Ahmed said lightly.
"Tell them to try some," Kincaid suggested. "It's handy at night."
"Unthinkable," Ahmed said. "If they died with it on, they'd have to face all eternity with a blackened face. We couldn't ask them to risk that now, could we old boy?"
On the trail the Kurd riding point with Kincaid gave him a wide berth. He rode ahead or behind, never alongside.
When they were an hour out of the migrant Kurd camp, Kincaid was in the lead as they approached an ideal ambush site. There was a high bank on the left side of the trail ahead. The right side was flat but littered with large boulders. Kincaid signaled a halt and dismounted. Just as well, he thoutht, the horses needed a rest.
The Kurd rode back to the main party.
Kincaid lit a cigar and sat down facing the trail ahead. Sooner or later he would have to face the problem that had been nagging at him. He brought out his high powered binoculars. Using his knees to support his elbows, he studied the sides of the caravan trail. Although he was two hundred meters away, the powerful glassed brought him right up to whatever he focused on.
He studied the rocks on the right. If anyone was there, they hadn't left their wash hanging out.
A horse trotted up the trail behind him and stopped close by.
He switched his field of view to the left side of the trail. The bank was covered with dry grass.
"Trouble old boy?" Ahmed asked at his side.
Kincaid studied the grass for signs of movement, past and present.
"Seemed like a good time to rest the horses," Kincaid said. "Which way is the wind blowing?"
"The wind?" Ahmed wet a finger and held it up. "Why it's from the east." He thought a moment and said, "God lord man, don't tell me you can smell them."
Kincaid couldn't help cracking a smile. "No," he said. "I can't smell them."
"Thank God," Ahmed said. "You're starting to give me the willies too."
"About a fifteen Kilometer wind, east to west?" He snapped the binoculars back into their case.
"Yes. I'd say so. Why does it matter?"
"Two reasons." Kincaid found a phosphorus grenade cartridge in the pouch hanging from his web belt and fed it into the M-79 launcher under his rifle. "Give me cover. I have to get closer."
Ahmed had taken one of the captured M-16s. He let Kincaid move out a little before advancing with it at the ready.
Kincaid reached the area he wanted and took cover. Ahmed joined him.
"This is extreme range," Kincaid said. "I need to loft this shot." He aimed the rifle well above the ridge on the left of the trail. "The wind will blow it to the right, so I aim left." He let the can fly.
They watched as the grenade described a graceful arc toward the grass. It started out heading for a point forty feet east of the trail, then the wind caught it and blew it back so that it landed in the grass twenty feet from the top of the bank. It exploded in a sheet of flame and white smoke.
"I say, well done."
"It curved more than I expected," Kincaid said.
"Practice," Kincaid explained.
The grass on the top of the bank burned fiercely.
"And what's the second reason for the wind to matter?"
"The fire will burn itself out. If the wind had been blowing the other way, the whole hill would have gone up."
They watched the grass burn. It was obvious that no one had been there.
With that problem solved, Kincaid could concentrate on the next.
"Will we meet Iranian Army units tonight?"
"Maybe," Ahmed replied.
They walked back to their horses.
"From what I've seen of the Revolutionary Guards so far," Kincaid said, "their tactics are good. Their execution is not so good."
Kincaid checked his saddle cinches.
"How good are the army units?"
"Poorly trained," Ahmed said, "poorly led. Some of their equipment is good. Some is not so good."
Kincaid turned to face Ahmed. "The problem it this," he said. "A good unit will let the point through to get at the main group. A bad unit will hit the point and let the main group get away. What will the ones we go up against tonight do?"
"More likely than not, they"ll hit the point."
Kincaid had it figured that way too. "How well does Yasin know this trail?"
"Better than anyone."
Kincaid looked over his shoulder. The rest of the patrol was coming up the trail. The Kurd who had ridden with him on point had let himself get absorbed into the group.
"I want Yasin on point with me," Kincaid said.
Ahmed rubbed his chin.
"He can tell me when we're getting to the hairy spots," Kincaid said.
"He is my brother."
Kincaid couldn't argue with ham because he didn't know what he would do in Ahmed's place. "It's you decision," he said. He checked his saddle and saddle bags.
"He doesn't have much combat experience, old boy. I'm not sure he'd be that much help to you."
"Fine." Kincaid prepared to mount.
"I"ll ask him."
Kincaid mounted. "Keep all the spare horses fresh. I want a fresh horse with a saddle with us on point at all times."
"As a spare?"
"You"ll see. Send one up." Kincaid put his horse into a trot up the trail.
Yasin soon joined him, a riderless horse in tow.