“I just wanted to take pictures,” I whined, wiping the worthless sweat from my face with my sleeve. I say worthless because the heat was oppressive and the wind nonexistent; in the furious midday Texas heat, it was as if I could feel the entire volume of Earth’s atmosphere concentrated into a burning hand pushing me into the gravel.
My body armor was a tight, heat-absorbing corset – being black and green instead of desert tan, it has special powers of solar energy collection. My heartbeat thumped in my ears, pounding at twice my normal resting rate from the exertion of laying down. To touch any metal part of my weapon or the tripod meant instant pain, the black steel becoming dangerous just by existing under the glare of the sun.
I just wanted to go take pictures, in my role as UPAR (Unit Public Affairs Representative – my new title instead of PAO), but they made me take my SAW – and a tripod – instead.
On the plus side, I got to zero my MGO. It’s amazing how long it takes a bullet to travel 800 meters; looking through the optic, one can see the tracer leave the barrel, then hurtle in an arc downrange to hit the target some second or two later. The view through the sight was reminiscent of World War II gun camera footage, where the vibration of the guns firing would turn tracers into squiggly lines on film.
Then, of course, we fired at night, which was too easy with the illuminated reticle – just line up the target on the appropriate range marker and squeeze the trigger. Though it was made more difficult considering we didn’t shoot until about 0300…once again delerium and live ammunition combined in a fury of firepower!