“Fear is one of the best friends a champion has.”

— José Torres, world light heavyweight champion

The three of us are picking through the desert hardscrabble, collecting the packs another platoon stashed here earlier, when we hear a sound. We turn and look up at the ravine toward the dirt road where we parked our truck a few minutes ago. A crowd of maybe 50 Afghan guys is standing up there, seven or eight yards away, looking down at us. A crowd of Afghan guys with guns. A crowd of Afghan guys with guns, who don’t look happy.

It’s early 2002, just a few months after 9/11, and we are in northeastern Afghanistan on a search-and-seizure operation, looking for bad guys. We wonder if maybe we just found some.

We wonder if maybe some just found us.

Now they’re moving closer. Now they’ve surrounded us. A few have hung back by our truck, and there’s nothing in the sweet wide world stopping them from climbing in and driving it away, leaving us stranded with their armed and very pissed off friends.

I feel something shifting inside. Certain blood vessels constrict, others dilate. My palms suddenly feel cool, yet moist with sweat. Tiny hairs on the backs of my arms and neck stand at attention. My mouth is dry, my hearing suddenly more acute. I can practically feel the release and surge of epinephrine as my adrenals fire off their liquid torpedoes. “Fire one! One’s away, sir! Fire Two!” My face doesn’t show it, but in my mind, I smile. I know what this is.

This is fear. And I’m about to use it.