This night’s patrol had been a wasted effort. Three hours of carefully scripted maneuver through enemy terrain had resulted in nothing but fatigue and sore muscles. The squad moved through the darkness on a invisible tether, each man marking the distance from his buddy as if a hidden hand moved them closer or farther away depending on the cover available. Now they were working across a wide ridgeline stepping over or around boulders and scrub pines that impeded progress.
The soldiers were particularly alert now because they knew the enemy’s habit of ambushing returning patrols just out of machine gun range from their patrol base. Perhaps the enemy knew the night was too quiet, the patrol schedule too routine, the temperament of the men too focused on hot food and the security of walls and wire and the fortified outpost that awaited them just a mile or two away.