I abruptly awoke at 2:30 in the morning to the angry buzz of Blackhawk and Little Bird helicopters returning from another mission. Roy was on tonight’s foray and I was anxious to hear what he had to say about it. The days grew longer and longer and the nights shorter and shorter still. Shaping operations were steadily increasing and we were tasked with providing direct and indirect support to the units conducting commando missions inside Iraq.

I decided to get up and take a piss while waiting for Roy. It was about a 200-meter walk to the shitters and the air was calm but not cool. The early morning sky had a mysterious glow about it, as if an indifferent painter had used a mix of blues, grays, and reds and spackled it on the celestial ceiling at will.

As I slowly made my way through the ankle-deep, silt-like desert sand towards the porto-Johns, I caught sight of Roy running towards me in the swampy night air.

“Luke, Luke!!…get dressed man, we need your help translating a bunch of docs we just seized off the objective.”

“Gimme a sec…I gotta piss,” I replied, indifferently.

“Come on man, hurry up then…this is some serious shit. It’s time sensitive and we need it done ASAP cuz the guys are gonna do a follow-on hit based on what we got here,” Roy said in an unusually abrupt manner.

I could sense the urgency in his voice, so I quickly snapped off a deuce that had been in the door for the last two hours and then hauled ass to the ops tent. The intel section was abuzz with people coming in and out, and as soon as Roy saw me he yelled for me to come over. Apparently the fellas had seized a massive trove of documents, log books, and what looked like some military map overlays. Most of the Arabic was handwritten and Roy knew I had gained a lot of experience deciphering handwritten Arabic scratch from my temporary assignment supporting an FBI terrorist task force in the late nineties. “Luke, get on that shit ASAP!” he bellowed.

As I began to rip through the documents at a frenzied pace looking for any time-sensitive information that could be used for follow-on targeting, I thought my eyes were deceiving me. As I stopped the furious flipping I slowly plucked a single sheet of dusty, sandy and somewhat crumpled paper from its resting place between the hundreds of other documents. Summoning Roy, I asked him if I was truly looking at what I thought I was looking at. He took the parched document from me and began slowly reading the Arabic names and locations. I saw his eyes grow wider and wider as he moved across the page – a huge smile broke out.