The Malaysian Chronicles (Part III)

 

I was thinking “we gotta be close.” My land navigation skills are sufficient and via pace count and time I knew we were in the area. We had been moving through the jungle for close to two hours. We were being relatively quiet – not bad for close to 25 guys. The Malaysians carried next to nothing and the Americans had their standard fare – roughly 65-90lbs of equipment. As I alluded to in my last chronicle, our standing joke is 3000lbs of light weight gear. I had on Night Observation Devices (NODs). They were second generation so wipe all that Zero Dark Thirty equipment out of your head. These were monocular and did not adjust to depth, meaning that if you wanted to look at your map you had to reach up and adjust them, then readjust them for moving. And when moving they worked for longer range looking vice what is happening at your feet. I saw some serious headers taken by guys wearing NODs. And you haven’t really lived until you’ve fallen with your ruck on, driving your head into the ground whilst wearing said NODs.

We had sent out the Landing Zone (LZ) link up team hours earlier. Just before dark Sgt. Johnny had come back confirming the link up point. Earlier in the afternoon we finished drying out, ate (including some delicious wild mangoes and papayas) and finalized our plan. As Early Evening Nautical Twilight – EENT came on (because saying “dusk” is so arduous) we rucked up and started moving. The Malay’s tactics were fast and light and they moved OUT. We slowed them down as our tactics are slow and deliberate. There is a debate to be had about this but this is not the time nor place.

The link up point was the north side of a bridge and we were crossing over a small river in SE Asia, so we are not talking about the Brooklyn bridge or the Golden gate here. This is a simple footbridge in the jungle and usually sketchy for the “heavy” Americans. I took a look through my NODs and spied a fairly nice footbridge. Three plus feet wide, slatted, even had rails and it came and went. We walked approximately another 300 meters and moved toward the river.

As we approached the Malaysians started gingerly moving up a cement “bridge” to the other side. It was on like Donkey Kong. Since they were moving up I had to as well in order to not lose face. This bridge was three slabs of cement. Each slab was approximately 12 inches square and 8-10 feet in length. There were two cylindrical pillars at the ⅓ and ⅔ points as you’d cross the river. The first slab from the near side elevated up to the first pillar @ 6 feet, then another horizontal slab to the next pillar, then the final slab down to the other bank. Soooo, there I was wearing my extra heavy ruck due to the commo equipment I had onboarded in the dark balancing my way up this fiasco. I successfully made it to the first pillar and I was now a solid 10 feet above the water. All I could think was that I would fall into the river and get stuck in the mud at the bottom of the riverbed. Then unable to move I would drown 6 inches below the surface. Despite myself, I successfully crossed the horizontal piece, it was not pretty, and scampered down the final leg to sweet mother earth. I was utterly perplexed as to why we did not use the previous bridge.

I got to the bottom and searched out the good Sgt. Johnny.
“Hey why didn’t we cross at the other bridge?”
“That was not the bridge on the map!” He said seriously.
“Stick to the plan Ranger…” I said sarcastically and I am sure it was lost on him.

We moved into the jungle and waited for the other team to arrive. Around midnight we conducted a successful link up with the other team. We rallied the leadership and said we’ll RON here then in the morning send out a recon team to the target to get “eyes on” and confirm our plan. Prior to their arrival we had made a perimeter and now adjusted so they could take half from 12 to 6 and we had 6 to 12. The Malays with the other team moved to their positions and the next thing I knew it looked like the lightshow from Close Encounters! Not a red lens in sight white lights going all over the jungle, normal talking, it was a regular party. Again, I was dumbfounded. First all of it was grossly tactically unsound. Second, if the locals are that afraid of the jungle maybe I should a little more uneasy.

The next morning we sent out the recon team and they returned mid-afternoon. Now in the tactical world of the Army we have what we call terrain models or colloquially known as a “Sand Tables.” This is a small mock-up of the target area made as close to scale as possible and realistic as possible. In the good ol’ U.S of A we have little bags of “stuff” we use to do this. Army men, tooth picks, etc. Well, about 90 minutes after the recon team returned we moved with the Malaysians to their sand table of the target, it was unbelievable. Using materials all found in the jungle they had built this incredible mock-up. Little huts – all the same size, roads, jungle surrounding the target, vehicles, water obstacles – I was speechless. It was a work of art, truly.

After we had rehearsed our plan we sat in the jungle waiting to move out. It was dark. Really dark. My Team Sergeant sitting next to me suddenly made a muffled guttural tone and was grabbing at his neck. I leaned over “what’s the matter?”
“Something bit me on the neck!” He intensely whispered back.
I broke out a red lens flashlight “Let me get a look.”
I pulled his hand back and there on his neck was a quarter sized welt, it even looked red in the red flashlight.
“You did get bit. Does it hurt?”
“It’s stinging pretty good.”
Anything else? You nauseous, tingling, or dizzy?”
“Does pissed count?” He smiled back. We then all got up on our knees and looked around us, We identified nothing. The fallout of this was now we were all paranoid. Amusingly about every five minutes one of us would go full ninja around our heads thinking “it” was on me.

Approximately mid-night we moved out, again having to play catch up with the Malaysians. Our hit time was confirmed for 0600. We arrived at the Objective Rally Point (ORP) at roughly 0430, did a final recon, cross loaded equipment, finalized our plan and moved into position. We started “shooting” right at 0600 (blanks mind you), swept across the objective, actually achieving surprise the Malaysian soldiers acting as the opposing force caught off guard, many still sleeping and now having to play dead. It was a textbook raid, we cleared the objective, moved back through the ORP, and headed for the pick up zone.

Unfortunately the Pavelow’s helos were on their way to Kuala Lumpur to pack up for the exercise so trucks it was for us. We returned to camp and there was an air of consternation. I was unable to discern what had happened until I saw my company commander. He was a good man and alway had our best interests in mind. He smiled and shook my hand and asked how I was doing. I told him I was good then asked what was going on. He smiled again and said hit time on our objective was 0700. I told him we confirmed 0600 prior via comms. He said “I know, I told you to hit at 0600. Based on what was happening they were going to have the entire compound up and in position at 0700 – it would have been a slaughter, so I thought I’d give you a leg up. Malaysians didn’t care for it much.” He said grinning. I grinned back. “Now what?” I asked. “Wrap it up over the next two days then a couple of days in KL and we have a C5 taking us back home.” Well alrighty then…

We spent the next two days cleaning, inventorying, and packing our gear. One night a few of the us put the word out that we’d be at the Malaysian O’club that night and we were buying. I arrived and bought five beers and put them on the bar. No. One. Showed. Up. I truly had no response, we drank our beer and moved out. We said goodbye to our troops having established some kind of rapport despite the situation and returned to Kuala Lumpur, hot showers, and some western food. A couple of days later we headed for home via the C5 stopping overnight in Osan Korea home of the Shinjang Shopping Mall. Trinkets galore. We all moved to the flightline that day looking like gypsies we had so much stuff. I bought these heavy Korean blankets and doled ‘em out for Christmas. My sister called the day after Christmas and asked if I had another one. Her boys had literally gone to fist fighting over the one I sent here. My dad still has his.  We returned home happy to see family and friends and the whole iteration started would start again.  

And this was my Malaysian experience.  If you are interested the others are here, here, here, and here.

Thanks for reading.  

 

 

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 3 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Unfortunately the Pavelow’s helos were on their way to Kuala Lumpur to pack up for the exercise so trucks it was for us. We returned to camp and there was an air of consternation. I was unable to discern what had happened until I saw my company commander. He was a good man and alway had our best interests in mind. He smiled and shook my hand and asked how I was doing. I told him I was good then asked what was going on. He smiled again and said hit time on our objective was 0700. I told him we confirmed 0600 prior via comms. He said “I know, I told you to hit at 0600. Based on what was happening they were going to have the entire compound up and in position at 0700 – it would have been a slaughter, so I thought I’d give you a leg up. Malaysians didn’t care for it much.” He said grinning. I grinned back.

    A good plan should never call for a fair fight.

    • #1
  2. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Great story. And why should the defenders know when the attackers will show up? Truly fail for not treating the exercise seriously.

    • #2
  3. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Thanks, @dajoho.  Lots of memories, grins and cringes.

    • #3