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The Evacuation (Part 1)

by Broady771


Summary:

This story follows Mike Kelson, a U.S. Army staff sergeant from 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as he and his 9-man squad were inserted into the United States embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, to assist in the evacuation of personnel from the embassy during Operation Allies Refuge. 

Writer’s Notes

In light of recent events occurring in Afghanistan and elsewhere, I want everyone reading this to know that this entire story takes place in an alternate universe, where evacuation points were conducted via helicopters from the rooftops of diplomatic buildings and aircraft via the Hamid Karzai International Airport. Hence, with respect to all those who have served and given their lives in Afghanistan, everything in this short story is fictional (including the names) and I apologise if I accidentally offend any veterans or military nerds out there due to my negligence with some military jargon or information which I wrongly included (I try to keep the story as realistic as possible). Also, to make this short story as “family-friendly” as possible, I tried my best to remove as many vulgarities as possible. Oh, and I almost forgot. For easier reading when navigating through some military jargon that I included in this short story, I added a glossary right at the bottom of this page, so hopefully it helps! With those aside, I hope you enjoy “The Evacuation”, and feel free to leave some reviews so that I can improve on my next short story! 

Note: Currently I'm preparing for my year-end exams so the next part of the story wouldn't be out too soon. I expect there to be a total of probably 3 parts, hopefully. I apologise in advance if you have to wait for quite some time before you can read it.

Prologue

Hi there, I’m Mike Kelson, a US Army Ranger from 3/75th, and overall commanding officer of Squad Athena, 1st Platoon, Alpha Company with the rank of staff sergeant (E-6). It has been more than a month since my last combat deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan, where I was involved in the evacuation effort of Operation Allies Refuge to rescue as many civilians and Afghan helpers as possible from the country after the Taliban swift victory. It was… a rough deployment, I have to say, possibly the roughest one in all 4 of my combat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq. I’ve lost many good buddies and friends there, and seen what most of you wouldn’t be able to see on live television, or even on YouTube. Plus, after this failed evacuation where we left hundreds of Americans behind, I decided I had enough with the military, and resigned, along with many of my buddies. Now, we go for weekly meet-ups, and usually have mass gatherings with our families too, and I’m now currently working as one of the gunsmiths at the local shooting range just down the street. Till this day, we still mourn those who gave their lives to save us all, and make our country great. Anyways, here’s my story of what happened on my last deployment in Afghanistan, and hopefully, you’ll get a better understanding of what happened during those periods of time in Afghanistan as we made a hasty and reckless withdrawal from that dreadful wasteland. 

The Evacuation

Close to midnight, in the skies over Kabul, Afghanistan, Squad Athena, 1st Platoon, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment 

“We will be touching down in 10 mikes!” Harry S. Miller, the pilot of our bird, code-named Oliver 6-1, called out, his voice barely audible over the loud noise of the helicopter blades slicing the air.

Mike gave the pilot a thumbs-up, and looked out of the MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. They were klicks away from the destination, and the sight of the city of Kabul was just breathtaking. Bright, yellow and white lights dotted every area beneath him, while few, tall skyscrapers penetrated the city’s skyline. Thousands more sources of lights dotted along the hills and mountain tops at the outskirts of the city. From the Blackhawk helicopter, he could even see the silhouettes and tiny figures of people and vehicles moving about in the city of 4 million.

Just another usual day for them, he thought to himself, until he saw the streets being jam-packed with vehicles, people and their belongings, desperately trying to find their way to the airport and other diplomatic buildings to get out of the country. Jesus, that’s how long the crowd has stretched? How many people are trying to get out?

“Jesus, there’s so many of them. How the hell are we going to evacuate that many people in 5 days?” Mike thought aloud.

“Sir, are you alright?” Lionel K. Johnson, private first class, one of the squad’s 4 riflemen, with the nickname “Lion”, asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine, Lion,” Mike replied, sighing. “Just look down there, there’s so many people trying to get out. With the Taliban swarming everywhere, how can we safely get those people out in 5 freaking days?”

Lion stayed silent, not knowing what to say, but felt sympathetic for those trying to flee a country from the rule of tyrants.

It was August 25th, nearly past midnight, and 10 days into the evacuation of Afghanistan. After the Taliban swept through Afghanistan and the central government capitulated, foreign troops were called into Afghanistan to protect and evacuate their citizens, other foreign nationals and Afghan helpers which assisted them in the war. With 5 days left till the end of the evacuation, tens of thousands, and probably more Afghans and foreign nationals were still stranded in the city of Kabul. Hence, Mike’s unit, along with dozens of others, were now being inserted into various diplomatic buildings where they have been turned into evacuation points to evacuate personnel out of Kabul via helicopters to neighbouring Pakistan.

“Hey, Duck, you good?” Ron B. Browns, private first class and 1 of the 2 squad machine gunners, patted his buddy’s shoulder, sensing that his buddy was feeling uneasy. “Man, you look like you’re gonna puke!”

“Nah, I’m good,” Donald Richardson, private first class and one of the squad’s riflemen, with the nickname “Duck” (named after the famous “Donald Duck”), answered. “I’m good, man. Haven’t felt this great in a long time.”

“Stop joking with me, man. I know you’re not feeling good right now,” Browns pressed on, before wrapping an arm around his friend. “We will be fine, man. We’ll be home on time for your son’s birthday.”

“You know my son’s birthday?” Duck asked, turning to look at his buddy.

“Of course man, what kind of buddy would I be if I didn’t know your kid’s birthday?” Browns chuckled. “Don’t worry man, we’ll be back home real soon. I bet Martha can’t wait to see you again.”

“Yeah. I can’t wait to taste her cooking, and be with her again. It must be really tough on her these days,” Duck agreed.

“I hope she didn’t fall for another dude,” Jenny J. Keller, private first class, and the squad’s second machine gunner, chipped in.

“Hey, you stay out of my personal business,” Duck glared at her. “I don’t need your stupid and useless comments.”

“If you say so, snowflake,” Jenny replied sarcastically. “Can’t you see I’m joking?”

“Yeah, a lame one which isn’t even funny,” Browns snapped.

Checking his watch, which was barely illuminated by the Blackhawk’s interior lights, Mike saw that they were nearing their destination. The helicopter banked right, going for a full circle to get their bearings right before landing right at the centre of the American embassy, which was a large compound the size of around 4 football fields, and had plenty of empty spaces on the ground and on the rooftops to conduct a helicopter evacuation.

“Guys, we will be landing in 5 mikes!” Harry called out once again.

“Everyone, listen up!” Mike turned to his squad, and yelled, so that everyone could hear him clearly. “Check your equipment, weapons and NVGs, we will not be boarding the same Blackhawk out of here!”

Almost instantaneously, everyone reached for their weapons, ejecting their magazines to check if they’re full before slipping them back in, and making sure their NVGs (Night-Vision Goggles) were fully functional, since they would be spending most of the night maintaining security of the embassy. Equipment-wise, all of them were wearing ammunition vests, FAST helmets, with additional pouches for grenades, flares, and wearing hydration packs filled with water.

Once they completed their checks, they waited in silence, having lost the mood to joke or converse anymore, since they were nearing “danger zone”, where any jokes or negligence could potentially cost them their own lives.

The Blackhawk angled itself to the left, before slowing down and then coming to a full stop, hovering over an empty patch of paved concrete right below them. Being guided by a fellow aircraft marshaller on the ground, who was giving instructions with the two self-illuminating wands in his hands, the Blackhawk slowly descended and landed smoothly on the ground.

“Alright boys and girls, here’s your destination, have fun out there!” Harry called out once again, but this time a middle-finger was raised in his direction. “Jesus, I was just kidding! Good luck out there!”

And with that, all 9 soldiers filed out of the helicopter, taking in their surroundings, while their helicopter quickly ascended into the air with dust kicking around and disappeared out of sight.

“Athena, this is Argon, do you read me, over?” James Brady, second-lieutenant and commander of 1st Platoon, called out over the radio.

“Argon, this is Athena, C-O. I read you loud and clear, over,” Mike replied into his radio.

“Athena, you are to head to the East Wing, and link up with Beretta, over,” James said.

“Roger that, Argon, we are heading there now, over,” Mike said, and gestured for his troops to gather. “Alright, we’ll be heading over to the East Wing and link up with Squad Beretta. Let’s move!”

And with that, all 9 soldiers began jogging in the direction of the East Wing of the embassy. From their position, they could see hundreds of refugees and evacuees waiting in the embassy compound, sitting on the hard, cold concrete pavement, while American troops stood guard. Other American troops, meanwhile, were moving about, manning security, and grabbing supplies to distribute them to the refugees and evacuees. Spotting one of the soldiers’ shoulder patches, Mike immediately recognised the patch of the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, one of the most famous units in the entire Army.

In the meantime, dozens of helicopters were buzzing overhead, turning the entire place into a small airfield of some sort. Blackhawks, Chinooks and Sea Stallions were constantly landing on the rooftops and on the empty embassy grounds, offloading more troops while taking in evacuees to evacuate them either to the Hamid Karzai International Airport some 3 klicks North-East, or to airports in neighbouring Pakistan.

“Kel!” Dave Smittson, staff sergeant and overall commander of Squad Beretta, ran over, smiling. “Man, I’m glad to see you. We need additional men up there to secure the rooftop and provide overwatch. Argon’s orders.”

“Affirmative on that,” Mike replied, before adding another question. “Where are you guys staying?”

“We’re replacing a unit from the 10th Mountain soon to provide security at the East gate while the Marines screen them,” Dave replied, before checking his watch. “Which is about now. I’ve got to go man, best of luck!”

“Alright, everyone, get to the rooftop on the double, we are providing overwatch security,” Mike gestured, and everyone entered one of the embassy buildings and headed for the roof, which was just 5 stories off ground.

While climbing up the stairs, going through floor by floor, Marines and other friendly soldiers occupied each floor, using some floors as command posts while maintaining security by keeping a close watch on the activities happening right outside the building.

“Athena, this is Argon,” Mike’s radio burst to life. “Interrogative. Have you reached the rooftop?”

“Argon, this is Athena, C-O. We’re on the way, over,” Mike replied, just as they broke open the rooftop access hatch and fanned out across the rooftop, ensuring that the rooftop was clear of any personnel.

“Roger that, Athena. Set up an overwatch position and report back to me if you spot any suspicious activity. We have hundreds of civilians and security personnel down here. You’re our eyes. Do you copy?” James asked.

“Argon, this is Athena, copy that. Will do. Athena, out,” Mike then turned his attention to his squad, which was now waiting for further instructions. “Everyone, spread out across the roof, pick your position. Browns, I want your machine gun right over there, at that corner on the far right. Jenny, I want yours over there at the corner on the far left. Stay low, watch out for potential hostiles, and sound out if you see any. I have a feeling, this will be a long night for us. Any questions?”

“No, sir!” the squad replied in unison.

“Good, now move to your positions!” Mike gestured, and everyone went to their own respective positions on the rooftop.

Mike approached the Eastern side of the roof, along with the rest of his squad, and adjusted his NVGs such that it covered both his eyes completely, flooding his vision in a field of bright green, and then began scanning the surroundings with his M4A1 carbine (which was equipped with an ACOG medium-range scope). The rooftops in the surrounding area were clear of people, which would appear as white figures on the NVGs. Right outside the gates, however, were throngs of people waiting to be let into the embassy compound, while a thin line of about a dozen soldiers from the 10th Mountain and Squad Beretta were slowly letting people in as they screened them for weapons and checked their identification.

“It’s gonna be a long night,” Mike muttered to himself, as the 9-man squad continued the watch for the rest of the night, watching out for potential hostiles, and making sure everyone else was safe.

Glossary

Bird - a military jargon for “Helicopter”

Mikes - a military jargon for “Minutes”

Klicks - a military jargon for “Kilometres”

NVGs - Night Vision Goggles

FAST - Future Assault Shell Technology (A type of military helmet)

C-O - Commanding Officer

ACOG - Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (A type of scope used on guns, usually rifles, sniper rifles, sometimes machine guns, but usually not used on pistols and shotguns)


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Thu Sep 16, 2021 12:25 am
Stellarjay wrote a review...



Hello Broady,

Roses

This was a really good story! You had a great balance between dialogue and storyline which helped a lot with the flow. Also the dialogue felt natural.
“Alright boys and girls, here’s your destination, have fun out there!” Harry called out once again, but this time a middle-finger was raised in his direction.

I cracked up at this line XDDD

Buds

There were a few things you could improve on.
  1. The sentences in the story were very wordy and lengthy. It made it hard to read. Like here:
    and seen what most of you wouldn’t be able to see on live television,

    To fix this issue, you can break up the sentences. Also to deal with the wordy-ness try to condense your idea into fewer, more impactful words. (I hope that makes sense lol)
  2. There were a few areas that had a lot of repetition. Like here:
    “Nah, I’m good,” and “I’m good, man. and you’re not feeling good right now,”

    All that happens in the same 100 words. Try to mix up the repetitive words with different ones to create some diversity and to also keep the reader interested.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Your story was so cool and I can’t wait to review the next one! I hope this review was helpful and if you have any questions feel free to ask. As always keep on writing and have a great rest of your day.
Stellarjay
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Wed Sep 15, 2021 7:12 pm
SpiritedWolfe wrote a review...



Hi Broady! First off, welcome to YWS ^^ I’m here for a review on your piece today.

I’ll start by making a couple of line comments, and then move on to more general comments after.

Hi there, I’m Mike Kelson, a US Army Ranger from 3/75th ...


Andrew also talked about this, but I’d like to reiterate that it’s almost never a good idea to start off a story with “Hi, my name is...” It draws attention to the fact that I’m reading a story, and, in this case especially, it doesn’t match the tone of the story. It feels elementary, juvenile, and since this is a military story, it feels really out of place.

Related to the above point, I also don't see the purpose for the prologue to this story. It dumps a lot of information on us that we can easily find out or infer from the story and isn't necessary for us to know. If anything, it could even spoil the tension later on in the story, because we know that he survived and eventually retired after this event. If he were to be put in a life threatening situation, we, the readers, wouldn't be as invested since he know he will be fine. I just think your piece would be stronger without it and any information that is crucial in it can be told through the story.

Just another usual day for them...


I don't understand the purpose of this line. Since it's told that this story is happening 10 days into the evacuation, and the soldiers know they're going there to aid in the evacuation, why would he think this is a normal day? Clearly the citizens are scared and fearful of the events. It comes across a little insensitive and doesn't make sense for a soldier to think.

Once they completed their checks, they waited in silence, having lost the mood to joke or converse anymore, since they were nearing “danger zone”, where any jokes or negligence could potentially cost them their own lives.


This doesn't happen very often throughout the story, but watch out for putting too much into one sentence. In this instance, the sentence reads clunky and doesn't flow very well because it feels like it keeps going after it ended. It may have been better to just split this up into two sentences. So just be careful to balance your descriptions and narration with the flow of the piece, since the easier to read, the more drawn in the reader will be.

Somewhat related, I feel like we are given a lot of unnecessary information. On the one hand, you want this to feel like a real situation, with actual people, so I do think you do a good job in the beginning of characterizing people through their dialogue. However, we don't need to know the rank and job and code name of every person we encounter. Frankly, we don't really care about them. One, it's too much information for us to actually keep track of and distracts us from what is important: the characterization and set up for the story. Two, most of us don't know what half of that means. And yes it's nice you included a glossary, but it really pulls the reader out of the story to have to stop, check the glossary, find out what a word means, and continue, especially if it's not vital information. If you want this to appeal to a wider audience, I would recommend you focus less on the jargon and the ranks and such and instead slow down and spend some more time with the people. Describe the scene in a more artistic and engaging way, not just like one would in the military. Most people who would read this aren't going to be in the military :)

Also, I get that this is probably only the set up for what is about to happen, since honestly not a whole lot happens in this part, but this was kind of a bit boring. Not a whole lot happens, and it feels like once they get out of the plane, the characterization stops. The dialogue was a bit bland, just orders being thrown around. And that makes sense, as they are in the military and receiving orders, but there isn't any emotion in the narration. What is Mike thinking? What is the atmosphere like? Is he nervous and trying to keep it under control? What is he thinking about? You can add more characterization in even if a lot of plot isn't happening to keep the reader engaged with your story.

I think this is a decent start, but not really my type of story. If you want to appeal to a wider audience, I would highly recommend lightening up on the jargon and taking a more storytelling approach, thinking about what is the story you want to tell? [And as Andrew mentioned, it's a bit odd that this is a fictional rendition of an actual event affecting real people right now. It also comes across a little insensitive. So just be empathetic and mindful as you continue writing! :) ]

Let me know if you have any questions! Happy writing,
~ Wolfe




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Thu Sep 09, 2021 12:52 pm
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MaybeAndrew wrote a review...



Andrew here with a review! First off, a story about an event so recent is umm... bold, I'd say. Alternate history is always interesting though. Overall, the grammar and the like were pretty good, and the characters were introduced well and were likable. I'd say my biggest critique is that the writing was sometimes immature, cliche, or childish, and brought me out of the story.

But into specifics!

Hi there, I’m Mike Kelson, a US Army Ranger from 3/75th, and overall commanding officer of Squad Athena, 1st Platoon, Alpha Company with the rank of staff sergeant (E-6).

This entire prologue I would say is unessecary, but especially the "Hi there" Makes me feel like this is a children's show, and the main characters greeting me, I would advise cutting. Also, the switch from 1st person in the prologue to third person in the story is jarring, so if you decide to keep the prologue I think you should probably choose either first or third person for the story.
“We will be touching down in 10 mikes!” Harry S. Miller, the pilot of our bird, code-named Oliver 6-1, called out, his voice barely audible over the loud noise of the helicopter blades slicing the air.

I didn't know mikes were a unit of measurement.
They were klicks away from the destination, and the sight of the city of Kabul was just breathtaking

Saying 'klicks' without any reference for how many seems unessarcy. You are always klicks away from something. I'm an amount of klicks away from the moon. I'd add a number or a motipheir like "A few" or, "Still many"

Jesus, that’s how long the crowd has stretched? How many people are trying to get out?

“Jesus, there’s so many of them. How the hell are we going to evacuate that many people in 5 days?” Mike thought aloud.

Starting both sentences with Jesus seems repetitive.
“Hey, Duck, you good?” Ron B. Browns, private first class and 1 of the 2 squad machine gunners, patted his buddy’s shoulder, sensing that his buddy was feeling uneasy. “Man, you look like you’re gonna puke!”

I like the nicknames (:
“You know my son’s birthday?” Duck asked, turning to look at his buddy.

“Of course man, what kind of buddy would I be if I didn’t know your kid’s birthday?” Browns chuckled. “Don’t worry man, we’ll be back home real soon. I bet Martha can’t wait to see you again.”

Double use of buddy also seems repitive to me.


“Hey, you stay out of my personal business,” Duck glared at her. “I don’t need your stupid and useless comments.”

“If you say so, snowflake,” Jenny replied sarcastically. “Can’t you see I’m joking?”

“Yeah, a lame one which isn’t even funny,” Browns snapped.

I get what you're trying to establish here, and it's mostly well done, I feel a connection to most of our soldiers already, but in this particular instance, they seem less like soldiers and more like petty, winey kids.
“It’s gonna be a long night,” Mike muttered to himself, as the 9-man squad continued the watch for the rest of the night, watching out for potential hostiles, and making sure everyone else was safe.

This is clunky and repetitive.
But that's all just my two cents! Hope it helps!
Like I said, our characters are relatable, and your descriptions are good!
Thanks, and keep writing,
Andrew




Broady771 says...


Thanks for the review man! It's probably the first time someone has reviewed a writing of mine, so I really appreciate the feedback. I'll make sure to improve on it in the next part :D




In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her.
— Kate Chopin, The Awakening