In preparation for the mission that night, we each had our specific tasks. Doug and Jackie’s job was to tape up all the vehicle lights before we left. There were two reasons for this. First, obviously, was to dark out the vehicle so the enemy couldn’t see it. If anyone who happened to be close enough would be able to hear the vehicle, but without any lights showing we’d be invisible, so they wouldn’t be able to place us or even know for sure who was driving it. (This was, after all, a vehicle we’d taken from some of their guys.) The second reason was equally important, and that had to do with our ability to see what we were doing. Night vision is so sensitive that any significant source of light renders it useless. Even a vehicle navigation light will flood you with too much illumination and make you as good as blind.

At 2:30 the next morning we were ready, present, and accounted for, our gear assembled and tied in tight. The six of us loaded up our vehicle and climbed in. We were already buzzing with anticipation. This would be a dangerous mission; inserting smack into the midst of armed enemies of unknown number and location is always a relatively freaky thing to do. We had no way of knowing how many hostiles we might encounter, or where, but we were as ready as we’d ever be, and itching to go round up all the intel we could.

Doug switched on the ignition — and all the dash lights came on. 

No one had taped them up.