Tuesday Series :The Turbulent Dawn-16

Asser Army Camp

The sergeants had to undergo a strict training for the past seven days without sleep, limited food, and scarce water. Their limits had been challenged and on top of that Danisha, Major Arya, Major sergeant Farrooq( a combat specialist who was called in for imparting training) were creating unspeakable mental torment; the sergeants were on the verge of mental breakdown. They, dressed in military fatigues, loaded with their heavy backpacks and weapons had to take the obstacle course where they had to– cross ramps,  had to crawl on all fours through open drains which were wired and barbed, electric current flowing through them; negotiate a ladder using hands to clamber the rungs;creep through tunnels; clamber over walls;balance on bars; clamber up steps high up in the air and hurl themselves before diving into the unforgiving cold waters; swing through the air like the untamed Tarzan.

Their weapon training under the watchful eyes of Major sergeant Farooq  where they were trained in operating with Small Arms, including in-service Pistol, Carbine, Rifle, Machine Gun, Sniper Rifle, Grenade Launcher and Rocket Launcher with temporary modifications to the weapons. The Training was imparted through the 3D visualization software that contained Marksmanship module, Moving Target module, Reflex Shooting module, Field Firing module, Tactical Engagement, Judgmental Training, Annual Range Classification courses and other customized training.

After seven days, they were allowed to have full meals and a good sleep before packing them off to the wilderness to survive for a week with very limited resources. The sergeants were sent to the forest in different groups and there was no possibility that the groups would congregate owing to the vast area the forest covered.

This was really scary. Each group was entrusted with a route which they had to traverse through for four days, reaching back to the camp, after of course, braving the inclement weather, the dense foliage which harboured poisonous plants, the areas which were infested with snakes and swamps riddled with crocodiles.Each group had a co-ordinator-a specialist- who would assist the sergeants to win over their trepidation and foray into the unchartered area with aplomb. Each group was provided with a cache of arms and ammunition to guard themselves from the wild animals as well as the notorious tribal people known as ‘The Dumashagja’ who were infamous for maiming and killing people.

Bakhtiyar, Suleman, Girish, Rabia, Somya, Dully, Lalli, Daniel and their co-ordinator Ratnam advanced into the woods, taking cues from the route chart. Danisha and Major Arya had meticulously prepared it which mentioned areas where they would be bivouacking , terrains that they would conquer, survival and combat techniques that they would be needing to learn. Ratnam fished out a compass and another map which would enable them to tame the terrain with the coordinates.

Soon they were trudging along the woods slashing the thick foliage with portable saws, repelling off the side of cliffs, safely crossing a gorge with the help of a makeshift cable bridge to reach a clearing where they decided to make their tents.

Crossing the gorge was the most dreadful experience for the sergeants who were coaxed, threatened, emotionally blackmailed by Ratnam to accomplish the feat.

” My heart was pounding in my mouth.” Suleman mentioned.

” My hands were frozen.” Rabia muttered.

” I peed in my pants but it all evaporated.” Lalli said.

Girish and Daniel felt they would shit in their pants.Somya couldn’t come close to speaking a word after the torment.

” Motherfucker.Holy shit! The height was fucking me.” Bakhtiyar hollered.

” We are in the north-western part of the Boshir valley forests. Tomorrow, we will travel to the eastern region where you will learn techniques of laying  booby traps, punji traps and snares instrumental in capturing the enemy. And yes! That region has some slimy, slithery snakes,you will learn to overpower them, kill them and if you want we can cook some relishing snake soup. Drinking cobra blood is a survival technique used to maintain hydration and replenish nutrients in the hot and humid jungle.” Ratnam gave the sermon while peering at his compass.

All the sergeants had their eyes popped out.” Eeks! Is this necessary? I can go dehydrated but never drink cobra blood.” Rabia said as she found this a repelling idea.

” When soldiers are in midst of a war, with almost nill resources, they have to resort to survival techniques. When you know that your life will wane, you will try to save yourself, no matter adopting what method.

The group pegged their tents, some managing to tether their Henessy hammocks onto the trees. Bakhtiyar and Suleman lit a fire using a flint and a stone, the tiny flames initially fluttering and then giving way to raging flames that flickered their blazing tongues in the camp fire. Ratnam, Girish and Rabia had slaughtered a wild chicken before gutting, cleaning and roasting it in the fire. No sooner had the sergeants tethered the Henessy hammocks than Lalli dozed off. Dully and Somya rummaged through their bags and fished out anti-malaria tablets, some of which  they popped in themselves and gave others too.After feasting on the chicken, all of them dozed off in their green camouflaged poncho liner. However, all of them could not have sound sleep as the critters kept them awake and the mosquitoes were buzzing all night. Sometimes, they felt as if creepy crawlies were crawling all over their bodies.

The next day, the sun send patterned sunbeams, through the foliage, dancing on the moist ground of the woods. Silvery, slippery dew drops quivered on the leaves as the fragrance of white flowers of the Millingtonia Hortensis- Indian Cork tree-was wafting through the woods.

The sergeants trudged deeper in the eastern part of the forest, learning how to evade poisonous snakes and how to administer treatment in case one was subjected to a snake bite.

“Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage and keep the sergeant calm and as still as possible until he gets medical help.” Ratnam was giving his discourse while he led the soldiers to a pit.

” This is a pit where you can see stale punji sticks. Now, take out your tools and in pairs, dig pits in fifteen minutes. Mind you, you will not get an extra second.” bellowed Ratnam who looked every bit of a stern co-ordinator that he was.

In pairs, the soldiers started the tedious task of excavating mud from the womb of the earth in full throttle.

” The twists and turns that show in your sinew, scream of your brawniness. How are you so chiselled?” Rabia mumbled those satin words to Girish.

” I love working out, miss. Dig out the earth. We are left with a few minutes.”  Girish blushed.

” Dully, we are to dig the earth. It seems you are smearing butter on bread with your hori-hori( soil knife).” Somya complained.

” Me, trying mah best.” Dully gasped.

“Ok. Now, shred the wood from the trees and make sharp, pointed sticks with the portable saws you are carrying. The sticks should be sharp enough to impale your adversary.” Ratnam instructed.

The sergeants selected a small tree that their  handsaw would be able to fell. After clearing the buttresses, they charged at it with the weapon. The tree plonked on the ground with a deafening sound. They shredded the wood and fashioned many sticks with pointed tips, all of the same length. Bakhtiar hurled some more expletives at the knife which impaled his skin while he was sharpening the sticks.

” F*** These offending sticks have the audacity to stab me.” he howled.

” These sticks will kill our adversaries if there are any; they have to be demonic.” Suleman said.

” Look, I’m sharpening them with my teeth.” Lalli blathered.

” Those are not called teeth. Those are pointed icicles that you have in your smelly mouth.”Daniel guffawed.

” Sergeants, shove the sticks in the pits and cover them with leaves and grass. You can take pride in the fact that you have learnt how to conjure punji traps.” Ratnam smiled.

Everyone’s chests swelled with pride, however, soon their trance was broken as something ominious awaited them.

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