“In combat, the soldier who takes point; the soldier who assumes the first and most exposed position in a combat military formation; the lead soldier/unit advancing through hostile or unsecured territory”
Lima Company, 42 Commando, Royal Marines
I was 21 years old, about to turn 22, in Afghanistan at the front of 130+ fully armed Royal Marine Commandos deep in Taliban held territory. My role as point man was to get us from A to B, sounds simple. In front of me was either open desert, compounds and rat runs, the green zone, civilians, Taliban, IEDs. My focus was always to the front. It’s lonely, you forget about everyone else behind you, almost forget....
If I miss an IED and somehow don’t trigger it, any one of the men behind me will; it was my responsibility to make sure that didn’t happen. I came to accept that any step I take could be my last: either instant death, a lingering death, or a life with a few less limbs. A lot to think about, but you put it out of your mind.
Left foot, right foot, scanning, left foot, right foot, scanning....on and on for miles.
*Disturbed ground* “this is Two Two Charlie, possible ground sign 10m to my front.”
Down I go, slowly, if I have the Vallon (metal detector) then I break it out to sweep the area, if I don’t....then it’s my commando dagger and hands. I slowly sweep the dirt away, prodding the dirt at an angle so if I hit anything it hopefully wont be a pressure pad. All clear....just an old bit of debris, I walk on.
Being point man also meant navigating the route to a new target area, day and night, all weathers. On the first operation we reached a crossroads, I went ahead to check it out. A predator drone in the skies above placed an Infra red beam of light down onto the crossroads, through my NVGs turning night into day. All I see is this beam coming from the skies, it was awesome; surreal.
Point Man often meant first off the helicopters on the many air assaults we took part in; I’d be sat on the tail ramp watching the lights of Kandahar airfield or Camp Bastion disappear into the distance, alone in my thoughts. Rushing off the ramp into a mix of dust and rocks, you can’t see anything, can barely hear anything. Looking out into the unknown until the dust settles.
We are about to breach a compound, my weapon is up and facing the entry point, be it a doorway or where we are about to blow a hole through the wall. I never look behind, always forward down my rifle sights, you know that the rest of the boys are behind, also ready. But again you feel lonely, Mind set on what’s going to greet us on the way in.
Ten years on from all that I only really notice the loneliness and implications of the role, would I do it all again?