Episode 27 - A whizzing rocket that would emulate a star

Speaking with Ben on the radio last week made me feel a lot better. After all, my friend was back on his feet, making a fast recovery at Twentynine Palms Base. Private Harvey and I were still out in the woods of the Mulberry Ridge on a reconnaissance mission, looking for unmarked trails. We spent last weekend climbing hills and writing topo maps. Private Harvey is a joy to have around, he never questions me and hardly says a word. It was Monday evening when we turned on the radio to listen to the "National Weather Service" channel. I didn't want to get caught in the middle of a unexpected snowstorm. Although a smaller system had moved out less than a day earlier, a major storm was bringing new snow to eastern side of Obispo County. After a fairly calm winter with mild temperatures, this snowstorm was bringing over 10" of snow to the region. - Brian, we're gonna have to get going soon. We are not equipped for this kind of weather. - I told Private Harvey while I checked our position with my GPS receiver. My goal was to reach the Jeep before sunset so we could drive back to Base Camp while we still had day light. We marched at a fast steady pace for a while. I went to look for my GPS receiver in my jacket's left pocket and I realized I had lost it during our walk. - Dammit! - I said irritated. We were only an hour away from the Jeep. But with the snow already covering the ground, it was going to be hard to see the trail. I lit a cigarette and stared at the woods in front of me. - Dammit! - I said it again. I looked at Private Harvey and then it came to me: - My compass! What am I thinking? - I asked myself. The snow was coming down hard now. It was hard to see the top of the trees in front of us. The magnetic needle of the compass showed me the south on the dial. - Let's get going, we're not far - I told Brian. Within the next hour we found the narrower part of the logging road and the Jeep. It was now dusk, the snow had a certain blue color. As we started to drive down to base Camp, Roy called us on the radio to warn us about the storm. - This is Pond Patrol Recon 1. I'm way ahead of you, chief! We are on our way, over and out. - I responded. Unfortunately two miles down the road, I hit a patch of ice. The Jeep slid for about 10 feet and got stuck in the snow. I tried several times to go forward but the Jeep's back wheels just skid. We then tried pushing the Jeep and I even tried to dig the back wheels out of the snow. But it was all in vain. We were stuck. If driving a car without doors wasn't awful enough in this cold weather, I couldn't even imagine walking the remaining 20 miles back to base camp. I tried to contact Roy and the sarge but I got no response. The storm was causing a lot of interference to the radio frequencies. We had no choice but to set up camp and wait for the storm to pass. Back when I attended "Combat Diver Classes", I once had to spoon another Marine to keep myself warm during a training exercise that included sleeping outdoors . A lot of the other Marines with homophobic tendencies ended up with frostbite or with severe pneumonia. Being away from our heated tents at Base Camp, Private Brian and I had to hold each other through the cold night. As awkward as it was, we stayed warm. I woke up early that morning, to find our Jeep and tent covered in snow. The sky was still covered in clouds but I could hear birds chirping away. I picked up the radio and called Base Camp. I told him we were ok but we were going to need a little help getting back. Roy laughed and said: - I'm way ahead of you, chief! I see the Jeep, maybe ten minutes away, over and out. - They were coming our way! Roy had asked the sarge if he could organize a search and rescue mission earlier that morning. Private Harvey woke up not long after I finished talking to Roy. His cheeks were red from the cold and he looked tired. I informed him about Dr. Johnson and Roy coming to bring us warm clothes and snowshoes. Shortly after, I saw Dr. Johnson's yellow jacket sneaking over the hill. I shook hands with Roy. - Man, I can't believe you guys got stuck here. Did you bring your lucky socks John? - asked Roy referring to the mountaineering socks Jill gave me for Christmas. I laughed. We talked for a bit longer, I told him what happened to the car. Again we tried to move the Jeep out of the snow packed hole with no success. Dr. Johnson then gave Brian and I winter jackets. We left our vehicle behind along with the tent. - We'll come back for that junk later, we are the only ones here anyway. - said Dr. Johnson. I strapped my riffle on my back and heard Roy say: - Let's get moving ladies! A new storm is approaching, besides I don't wanna be late for lunch! - I let Roy lead the way back to Base Camp. He was very proud of himself and I was proud of him too.

by Corporal John Harris, March 16, 2006