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Vignettes: War #3
“What’s Captain Price up to?”
“You haven’t heard?”
It’s good to see my friend, now that he’s back. I was just passing through and thought to drop him a line. Now we are sucking down beers in a Fayetteville bar and tomorrow we might not speak again for another two years. This doesn’t diminish things. These irregular friendships are always as easy as slipping back into a warm pool.
“Well he got into some crazy shit in Afghanistan.”
“Yeah that sounds about right. Price was a beast during train-up.”
I am not exaggerating. Price’s turnaround of Charlie company was remarkable. Everyone knew Charlie was the worst in the brigade: low PT scores, constant turnover on NCOs, soldiers always fucking off and getting into trouble, a pile of CID investigations. A shit show.
Then Price took command and changed the program. He started with a PT test, examined the scores and fired all the underperforming NCOs from platoon sergeant on down. To his new hand-picked cadre he gave one mandate: “From now on we are winners. Do whatever you need to make us the best.”
So those guys would be out doing PT from six to ten AM every day, two hours of running and two hours of lifting. In the company bays he installed olympic rings and squat racks and put the names of top performers on the wall. Within three months they had the best PT scores of any company in the entire brigade. It was really something, they were beginning to win all the shoot competitions, their guys were dominating EIB. Captain Price renamed them Tiger Company and moved into training for deployment to Afghanistan.
“He was an asshole.”
“How do you mean. What happened?”
“It was wild, man. Every time we had the gym reserved fucking Charlie would be there first. You remember how Russo got so fed up that one day he threw hands? The colonel had to get involved. There was no reason for it, they were doing it just to piss us off. Fucking Charlie.” He is shaking his head but also smiling a little at the memory.
“Okay but what happened on deployment?”
Now he gets serious. “Dude, Price got relieved. He’s lucky they didn’t charge him.”
“How do you mean? What happened?”
“Dude, Price was running unauthorized missions. He had a hand-picked crew and they would go out past midnight, dozens and dozens of missions. These were serious operations, he had the freqs for the ODA detachment a few klicks away, and the SOAR guys for air cover.”
“Yeah but he was the commander right? Isn’t that what he was supposed to do, set the missions?”
“Dude I have no idea. All I know is there was a big investigation, there were JAGs fucking everywhere and getting statements from everyone for months. He hadn’t registered any of these, didn’t even radio them in to higher when he left the wire.”
“What was he doing out there?”
My friend now takes a pause. He opens a plastic tin of tobacco and settles a deft pinch inside his lower lip.
“Price wanted to kill Talibs OK? He was just doing his job, pushing the envelope.”
“There’s something more you’re not telling me.”
“OK, but this stays between us.” Now his demeanor is conspiratorial.
“There are rumors. I’m tight with one of his closest guys, and he said it was like he was looking for something. Yeah they ran ops, ambushes, hits, but interrogations too. Search patterns.”
“What was he looking for?”
“I couldn’t tell you dude. He’s lucky none of his guys got hurt out there.”
I try to press him further but he settles back with the look of satisfaction of someone who has told an unsolvable riddle. Our conversation now drifts to family, girls we’re dating, plans for the future and other mundanities, and we say our goodbyes in the late of the evening, but the curious story of Captain Price stays with me for many days.
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