Visor pulled low, I glanced across the crowd of people on the verge of rioting. Amassed, in the middle of the ocean of folk, stood one lone man on the hood of a beat down Toyota truck. He was armed with a gas mask, bullhorn and righteous indignation.
In Arabic, he shouted for us to go home. The ocean of people swelled with the chant, and they trudged in our direction. Like mindless zombies, they drew closer and closer to our position. I shoved a riot control grenade into my grenade launcher and took up a position away from the rest of my team. The lone man, whom I nicknamed Toyota, charged out of the sea of people and confronted me. He gestured wildly in my direction, while he lifted the bullhorn to shout more threats. The crowd roared with his chant and tempers flared with the desert heat.
“Do I feel threatened? Well, yes I do.”
Without a word spoken, I lifted the grenade launcher and shot the ringleader in the chest. The rubber grenade flew true and hit Toyota in the torso. He crashed to the ground; tiny shards of bone protruded from his robe. I walked over to him and knelt beside him. Groans escaped his lips, and I waved at him.
“You okay, man?”
“Hey dude, are you okay? What happened?”
He brushed my hand away and continued to groan. As a trained combat lifesaver, I started the steps of evaluating and treating a casualty. I treated the instigator for shock and loaded him in a vehicle. The medic checked my work and gave me a nod.
“We’ll take it from here.”
The crowd had slowly dispersed and only a few diehards had stuck around to see what else would happen. In the distance an angry Lieutenant stormed toward my team and me.
“What in the name of all things holy, do you think you’re doing?”
I snapped to attention and whipped out a professional salute.
“Sir, I prevented a full-blown riot from occurring by shooting the instigator.”
“Are you brain dead, Sergeant?”
I removed my helmet and tapped the side of my head. Then, I made a show of asking myself questions and answering my queries.
“I don’t think I am allowed to answer your question, sir.”
Angrily, the Lieutenant stepped close enough for me to count his nose hairs. Nostrils flared, he jabbed two fingers into my chest plate.
“You wounded a man on our first mission. Do you realize your action jeopardized all our lives?”
“The Rules of Engagement stated if I felt threatened; I have the right to defend myself, sir. Therefore, today I felt threatened. I defended myself and my team. The riot ended before it ever began. You’re welcome.”
Without a word, the Lieutenant spun around and stomped off. I took several deep breaths and composed myself. As the sun dipped in the western horizon, I walked back to my team.
“Well, that was intense. It’s going to be a long fifteen months.”