In February of 2000 I was stationed in Kuwait as a senior airman in the United States Air Force. I was a member of a flight of paratroopers (also known as "pj's") assigned to help enforce the No-Fly zone in Southern Iraq. Life there was fairly uneventful; most of the days were spent sweating and placing bets on mid-eastern versions of cockfights with scorpions and camel spiders. While on duty we went though life-like exercises to keep us ready for a real threat that could become a reality at any moment.
While patrolling the No-Fly zone one afternoon, a squadron of our F-15's was fired upon by Iraqi soldiers. My flight was deployed to the border of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to clean up what the jets had left behind. We arrived to find a wasteland of burning debris and vehicle tracks heading to the north and to the northeast; both lead to the border.
Our flight then separated into three teams of four men: one team to follow the north tracks, the second team to follow the northeast tracks, and the remaining team to secure that location. I headed north.
About 45 minutes later we came upon a jeep parked over a dune with three men sitting in and around the vehicle. With no more than 2 hand gestures our commander gave us our instructions and we were to surround the jeep subdue our foes. I could feel my intestines begin uncoil themselves and tie a 25 foot knot. The sweat that began to pour down my back and brow were no longer a sole product of the sun. I had endured this sort of training operation before. This wasn't even my first real life mission! For the first time, however, the teams were a...