The twin rotor blades on the CH-47 helicopter slowly, almost lazily, began to turn as the pilots cranked the engine.

The forward operating base at Tarin Kot, Afghanistan was stirring, slowly at first, but more and more Multi-Cam clad Special Operations soldiers began to arrive at the airfield.  They carried an assortment of weapons and kit but all Special Operations soldiers basically looked the same at this stage in the war.  They had all worked together, shared tactics, shared experiences, and even shared grief when they lost their own.

Although they wore almost identical uniforms and equipment, the tribes of Special Operations often spoke different languages.  From Polish, to Italian, to Danish, they hailed from across the Western world.  Perhaps the one thing they had in common was the belief that they were the only thing holding their societies together.  Although they were not American, the tribe arriving at the airfield spoke English.

One of the operators set his M4 carbine on the hood of the white land cruiser he had driven to the airfield while he readjusted the plate carrier he wore.  His helmet also went on the hood.  He wouldn’t bother putting it on until they were ready to board the CH-47 Chinook.  The Americans were prone to sarcastically calling it the shit-hook.  His unit just called it the heli.

The Special Operations soldier then snapped on his belt which had his pistol, extra magazines, and a few other tools of the trade on it.  He slapped at the pouches, brushing off the fine layer of dust that was still there from the last mission.  As he moved the belt around until it was comfortable, one of the younger soldiers in his unit approached.

“Hey, mate,” the other operator began.  “What’s that on your belt there?”

“Oh that?” he said, looking down at his hip.

“Yeah, is that a hatchet?”