It was a typical fall weather; not too warm and not too cold; but you need a jacket if you weren’t keeping warm by constantly being on the move.  But on a military reservation if the surrounding area is hot, the military reservation is hotter, if the surrounding area is cold the military reservation is colder. One can imagine that a typical fall weather felt like winter in the military reservation woods. No wonder solders refer to their training base as “the land that god forgot.”

On this particular day battle buddies Specialist Pyle and  Specialist Bailey were taking part in the practical portion of a land navigation course. It wasn’t the basic course where soldiers looking to enter the Commissioned Officer or Non-Commissioned Officer corps took to show proficiency in that particular skill. This was a specialized course that was required for candidates who want to enter one of the elite units. Whether it is Search and Rescue, Special Forces, Rangers, Green Berets or be an Instructor in land navigation. Pyle & Bailey didn’t really want to be there; but their Commander volunteered them to go; if they didn’t comply they would have been on his shit list; they know it doesn’t pay to be on a Commander’s shit list.

The practical portion of the course is where the course students are given a map and compass; dropped off in the middle of nowhere and they have to find their way back to a designated point using the knowledge that was taught to them in the classroom. It was during the late evening when the course Instructors dropped off each team at different points at the edge of a large wooded area of this sprawling military reservation and told them that they have until night fall to make it to the designated point.

Pyle and Bailey went through the motions, their course leads them directly into the woods, they find the first couple of points that gave them some type of indication that they are on the right track. They could also hear the voices of their fellow students. Then as they went further in the woods, they could no longer hear the voices of their fellow students; they crossed a dry river bed, then they came across a dead animal’s horned skull. Pyle asked Bailey, do you know what type of animal is that? Bailey said it’s probably a dear, but Pyle insisted it was a cow. Bailey said if you knew it is a cow then why’d you asked me what is it in the first place.

As they went deeper into the woods, they felt a slight breeze and got the feeling that they are being watched. Pyle asked Bailey, are you’re sure that we are on the right path? Bailey said I think so; Pyle finished Bailey’s sentenced and said but you’re not sure. Pyle said lucky for us I happen to sneak my cell phone inside my boots, let’s check the GPS to see where we are and program it to get us the hell out of here. With that said, Pyle pulled out the phone; but to his dismay, there was absolutely no signal. Bailey said, damit haven’t you learned by now that there is no cell phone tower in the training areas; plus the bastards have transmitted a signal that will jam any type of cell phone, or GPS transmission to ensure that nobody could cheat. Were you asleep when they told us this during the safety briefing?  Pyle responded; Nay, I thought they were lying like they always do, you know they say things to mess with our heads. Bailey said, OK let’s not make this an issue, let’s just follow the map; Pyle said but we are lost, and I have a funny feeling that we are being watched. Bailey said nonsense!

Then to their surprise, they saw someone walking as if he is in a hurry. They shouted to get that person’s attention, but the person did not respond. They trotted to catch up with him, but as the person went in-between a small clearing it seemed that he disappeared. When Pyle and Bailey entered the clearing, and went past it into another part of the woods which looked thicker and darker then the part that they were in; if they felt lost before, now they were really lost. Plus they were careless and they dropped the compass while they were trotting to catch up with unknown person that they thought they saw. Without the compass, they cannot pin point where they are on the map; so now the map is meaningless.

Pyle looked at Bailey, and Bailey looked at Pyle; Bailey said we have to use our wits to get out of here. If we can at least make it to the reservation’s fence we can climb it and flag down a passing car on the highway. As the sun set and dusk began; they came to a point in the woods were they see some sort of carving in the trees. They heard what sounded like chanting; but there was nobody around. As darkness settled in they found that they didn’t bring their flashlights, so they had to rely on the Pyle’s cell phone’s light; which didn’t last too long. Just before the cell phone light died due to the drained battery, they came across an old trail. Bailey was in awe, he saw pictures of the old trail in a book that chronicled the area’s history. It was surprising to him that the old trail was located on the reservation.

To kill time Bailey explained to Pyle that the old trail was used as a stage coach passage back over a hundred years ago, but many travelers lost their life to outlaws robbing them on the trail. Suddenly the whole area seemed illuminated. Bailey said, I thought your cell phone batteries died. Pyle said, that light isn’t from my cell phone. As they looked up, they saw a mess of numerous balls of light floating around. Pyle got so nervous that he started to run, Bailey ran after him; hey slow down you don’t know your way out. Pyle stopped suddenly, and shouted help! Help! Bailey said what the hell you are talking about; Pyle shouted someone is holding me, I can’t move! Bailey shouted stop messing around nobody is there; as he walked up to Pyle, he heard footsteps behind him and before he could turn around to see who was there; he was grabbed from behind and put in a bear hug. Whoever bear hugged him was strong enough to pick him up off the ground and was squeezing his chest so tight he can barely breath. Pyle shouted please god help us! However before Bailey lost conscious, he put up a struggle and managed to escape the bear hug; once his feet hit the ground; he ran towards Pyle and grabbed his hand and both of them bolted down the trail; running for their lives.

They ran, and ran they don’t know how long or far they were running; but it seemed like forever; suddenly, there another set of bright lights appeared in front of them; it was so bright that it blinded them. Pyle dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands while saying, no, no please! While Bailey stopped in his tracks; hunched over and put is hands on his thighs and hanged his head down, looking at the ground and resigned himself to meet his fate which won’t be too pleasant; then they heard chuckling; then a commanding voice say “on your feet Soldier.” When they looked up in the shining light they saw the faces of the Military Police (MP) in front of them; they breathed a sigh of relief.

The MP Sargent said we were dispatched to search for you when you never made it back to the designated area. We’ve been searching for you for hours; by the way, how the hell did you end up in this area of the woods; didn’t you see the off limits sign before you went in? That area has been off limits for years; I guess you found out why.

© 2018 All Rights Reserved

For Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo


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