The last day of preparation finally came. It’s already 0500H. There was an early morning drizzle. The tent city was a muddy mess. For the past months, we had to wear our combat boots every time we go outside of our sacred domiciles. I looked around the vicinity. It was still dark. Silence was deafening. There were no significant changes. Still, there were more or less 40 tents within the perimeter of the Scout Ranger Training School. Our tents were originally owned by the previous class. The previous owners of our tents already graduated. Fortunately, they graduated without any casualties. Their Tango Mike or Test Mission was conducted at the Province of Samar. During that time, the place was infested by Communist terrorists. They hunted NPAs like monsters. We looked up to them like our older brothers. They gave us encouragement during the first phase of our training. We had great memories. Our dilapidated tents were their living remnants. Now, they were all gone. They probably went back to their units. We’re all alone now, I thought to myself. Only mud and rainwater existed in the surroundings including the tents they left behind.
I noticed that some of my fellow Musangs were still lurking inside their tents. Most likely, majority of the members of the class were already awake but just waiting for the call. There were no more rules that day. The RIs authorized us to use our mobile phones. We were good as graduates as long as we survive the Test Mission. The early morning breeze made me shiver. It was really a cold day. I breathed heavily. Nobody went out. Suddenly, I craved for skag. I went inside my tent. My buddy gave me a cup of coffee and a skag.
Usually, each tent is occupied by two scout ranger students regardless of their ranks. They call each other “buddy”. My buddy was a Private First Class. His name is PFC Julius Navarra. He’s a native of Negros. He’s organic to the First Scout Ranger Regiment. He’s the automatic rifleman of my team. He carries our lifeline, the M60 machine gun. We were great buddies since the start of the second phase. We were both the same. We were skag addicts. I could still recall the time when we were almost caught by our RI. One night, the RI stealthily inspected our tent but he failed to catch me and my buddy because we placed early warning devices outside our tent. We dug a hole inside our tent and placed an empty square cookie can and put all the skags there. It wasn’t discovered by any of our RIs. If caught, the punishment will be severe. You will eat every cigarette stick and you’ll get demerits. Every students are given a 50 demerit allowance. If we incurred more than 50 demerits, it will be one of the grounds for us to be disqualified to continue the course.
“Hoy Ranger! I could smell both of you. You were skagging, right?” the RI challenged us. “Yes Sergeant! You smelled us but you didn’t catch us. Remember, there’s no violation if you didn’t see us skagging” I told him. He just smiled. We were never caught. He told me there will be a time of reckoning. He was smiling when he left us.
After several months, he truly gave me something that I couldn’t forget for the rest of my life. During the Echo Echo or Escape and Evasion Training, he was the most evil of all evils I’ve known! I wished him dead that night but it was part of our training. It was the hardest part of the Scout Ranger Course. I never thought I could survive that night. They gave us one morbid lesson that we won’t forget, a scout ranger never surrenders. It’s harder than hell to be captured by the enemy. It’s better to be dead.
I finished my skag and coffee.
“Humanay! 1-2-3..” the marcher shouted. We went outside our tents. We brought our weapons with us. We formed in the field. The RIs gave instructions. We will be given passes for the whole day. There was heaven after all.
(To be continued)