Fulfilled Production Standards
After days of numbingly routine patrolling, the contact was startlingly brief and typically inconclusive. Their foray was inefficient, and our sally was ineffective. The climate had picketed us with heat and the terrain had besieged us with dust, so both sides lost this pointless skirmish to the elements. The jungle was not neutral ... it was everyone's foe. What ought to have been an ambush, became an enfilading assault; and for whatever reason, when the intended result was not immediate, they didn't follow their usual practice of disappearing into the shadows. Ragged firing led to staggered maneuver, and we had no obligation to evade the ineffectual kill zone. Another atypical aspect was the fact that they were trying to attack with inferior numbers and arms. The book of combat rules is only a guide, but this just wasn't making any sense ... and I wondered if this might be either a "first blooding" training mission for some "green" troops, or was a deliberate sacrifice for a methodical diversion. Having walked as the pivotal slack patrolman, I was fairly isolated; so when a young guerrilla moved toward me in his assigned sector, I doubted that he actually saw my position. He was doing everything wrong ... his rifle was ported and he was watching his footing. Like most Asians, he was slight and appeared too young ... almost dominated by his heavy old weapon. I had time to watch, so I pointed my carbine and waited for him to notice me. The assault had collapsed, and the firing had all but ceased ... and he still came forward, as if going back would somehow be more difficult. I expected him to either panic and quit or panic and charge, but when he saw me his reactions were dogged. There was only a grim determination in his eyes to be sanctified by the "baptism of fire" ordeal, and a relentless decision on his face to continue with his assignment. We were two single individuals practically alone on the battlefield, and if anyone could've made peace on the spot, it was within our power to do so ... but we were each impelled by forces greater than ourselves. We were each individual cogs in the geopolitical machine that was presently manufacturing a very poor excuse for a war of national identities. Neither of us had any choice, but this was the first time that I'd had the latitude to interrupt the process. This was the first time that I was not under some urgent compulsion, was not myself driven by inexorable demands, was able to consider all the choices, and it hadn't changed anything for either of us. Our common sense informed us that our vaunted philosophies could produce some other results, could manufacture alternatives, could proffer viable options, but nothing changed. Both of us fulfilled the production standards of our respective factories, knowing that the product was in high-demand, and the deadly competition continued.
by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.