When you’re downrange, things that go bump in the night may be an enemy combatant trying to kill you. However, what does it mean when you scan with night vision, and thermals, but see nothing? We teamed up with Tales From the Grid Squares to bring you 5 testimonials that still haunt the minds of the warfighters who lived them.
The Invisible Man
“My second deployment to Iraq. We were doing a nighttime Small Kill Team ambush in a house we took over while overwatching an intersection commonly planted with IED, trying to kill the idiots who emplace them.
Dawn was coming up. We were just ready to pack up and call the QRF platoon to drive up and pick us up when we spotted a lone dude carrying an arty round. It was too bright for any night vision, still a bit dark for eyes, but we positively ID'd as a hostile threat, and I had my sniper, with an M110, kill him.
One-shot, only about 175 meters, easy shot. Upper chest, I was on glass and saw the bullet impact, watched him crumple and drop in the grass on the side of the road. He was a skinny f*cker wearing a tight athletic shirt. He didn't have body armor to stop 7.62 NATO at that range.
I called QRF to pick us up and reported to Co. TOC about the kill. As they were driving up, my SKT team, an infantry fireteam plus a sniper team, left the house to check the body for intel, and since we had to bag them and drop them off at the local Iraqi police station, if possible. But nobody. WTF?
We walked around for like 20 minutes, in ever-enlarging circles. Not a f*cking single piece of evidence he was there. Nobody, no blood, no crawl marks, no IED, no nothing. We looked like idiots because I'd reported the shot on the company network and nobody. Caught an endless amount of sh*t about it. But weird sh*t happens in war.
A few years later, I ran into a dude who served in the unit we relieved in place, they left, and we took over the area of operations. We were at a bar, putting drinks away and trading war stories about the neighborhoods and sh*t. Then I brought up that area we dropped the "invisible man" (what I'd called him). I didn't tell the story. I just mentioned the frequency of IEDs at that intersection area.
Then he tells a story. About an SKT who killed an IED emplacer but didn't find the body. No f*cking way! Now he wasn't there, but it was another platoon in his company whose squad was out and reported they'd smoked the guy. So he knew part of their story. He didn't have a description of his appearance. But in his version, many dudes had opened on the emplacer, a few M4s, an M249, and an M240, and they were so sure they got him. No way someone survived that barrage. They dumped nearly a hundred rounds at one dude.
What are the chances of two dudes with lousy luck who have been mortally wounded in the same place a year apart? Shot but not killed instantly. Shock hits them, but no pain. Clothes absorbed the blood. The low crawl away to some dead space we can't see, where they get up and make it a few blocks before dying—just a coincidence. No evidence was found, no IED, etc. That has to be it.
Otherwise, was it a ghost? Did we all hallucinate? Sometimes I can't sleep because of the Invisible Man. If that was a ghost, then there is an afterlife. And what happens to me when I go? Will the Invisible Man be waiting for me?”
- Anonymous US Army Soldier
“Don’t come in”
“Helmand. British Army. So we were on watch, the camp was down a valley so our picket was up on a ridge, we pull our rover up next to this old barn or whatever it was, we had a deal he sleeps, I watch, and we switch.
So right as I'm about to wake him up to switch, something slams into the rover, he bolts up and asks me what the fuck is going on, I tell him we hadn't moved. This was like someone rear-ended us.
So we get out, see nothing, no damage, nothing and then hear someone kicking the walls of this building from the inside. It's this old tin thing so we go to check. The door is chained up and rusted as f*ck so we can't figure out how someone got in. I tell my man to get the bolt cutter.
We call out about three or four times, hear nothing so get ready to cut it, then hear something whispering, "don't come in" over and over again, I look at my pall, he nods, and we leg it.
Get back, we tell our base commander we heard something but also heard a voice saying don't come in, we wait until morning and EOD guys come out. They cut through a wall and find what they described as a slaughterhouse, bones everywhere and the mine wired to the door, they disarm and we leave.
A few days later I talk to one of our Afghan lads, he tells me that place was always off limits, supposedly the Russians butchered a village there. I start to think maybe just maybe that voice was someone wanting us to find them but not die doing it, my hairs stand up as I write this.”
- Anonymous British Army Soldier
The Paktika Incident
“This was an incident I encountered when in the Paktika province of Afghanistan in 2010. We had been there about 90 days and were comfortable patrolling most of the area into the southeast portion where this story took place. We had been tasked to support a battalion op and set up a screen to scoop any squirters during their operation. The night of the mission comes and we are ready to go. Everything is normal until we convoy out to our designated point. My BFT began experiencing issues but before I was able to pass off navigating duties it righted itself. Wonderful. Lowest bidder to the rescue!
We continue moving but as I recheck my BFT I have the feeling our points have moved for some reason. I recheck grids and confirm we are correct and I shake my feelings and we move on. We are near the area we are supposed to set up and I can't shake the feeling that the grid is off. The terrain isn't matching up with my map recon but everything is still reading good so I again shake off the feeling after confirming higher. We set up vehicles, radio and a handful of dismounts push out with the JFO. I ask the JFO about the grid and for a 3rd time I confirm our location and that it was correct. We begin to set up our positions and as I pull out my IR strobe to mark our position my skin begins to feel like it's humming.
I suddenly have a sense that something is above us and I look up to see the full night sky and stars blacking out as something moves in front of them. It felt like a stadium that was closing its dome, the size of it was that big. We had helos on station, but not in our immediate area and no fixed wing either to include drones. Whatever this thing is it's moving at an impossibly slow rate. I grab my mic to radio up and that's where time ends for me. When I 'come to' I'm now in a mud hut, it's daytime and I've lost a lot of time. In my hand is the IR strobe I'd pulled out to mark that position, my DAGR is f*cking loopy (what's new) and my MBITR is zapped (again, what else is new).
No one else seems aware of what just happened...whatever that was. Everything has gone to plan and we load back up. My truck crew also appears to have no idea like everyone else but checking my BFT we are a full grid-square from the briefed mission. No one is upset by this or thinks it's wrong. It's as if everything went as planned. I was spooked.
For weeks afterward, I would sporadically see unexplained lights in the sky (which others saw) which brought the same 'humming' feeling under my skin but with no loss of time. Years later when I'm doing my retirement out processing I'm sent for x-rays to explain something in my right forearm. I'm told it's probably shrapnel from an incident years prior.
They find in my right forearm what appears to be an object about the size and shape of a grain of rice with 2 dark ends. While it appears to be made of plastic I'm told it's metal....probably. While it's in the same place I often have trouble locating it to share with others. I have no explanation for what happened. I never encountered another situation like that in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else.”
- Anonymous US Army Soldier
“I was in the Marine Sniper Platoon deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. The Marines went to the city in April of 2004. I operated as a sniper and was attached to the Quick Reaction Force. We roamed the outskirts in gun trucks to enforce safe movement for civilians out of the city. Then on the 2nd day, we got the word that we will be moving into the city that night. At zero-dark thirty, Marines patrolled on the city streets ready to fight.
I had a day pack on my back and my M40A3 with a Day/Night scope slung on my body. We made our way through the streets and heard a small shootout with enemy forces but we kept moving. That enemy got defeated. We made it to the south edge of the main highway that cut the city in half. (North/South) We climbed up on a one story building and set up our sniper position on the roof ledge.
A gunship was circling above. We had a fireworks show and we had front row seats. The Gunship's ordnance hit weapons and ammo cache which caused a huge fire. I was scanning across the street through my night scope which was less than 100 yards across the street.
Then I saw a shadow figure dancing on a small wall of a building in the light emitting from the fire. It was the shadow of a crouching enemy that had an RPG slung over his back. As I see this guy through my night vision scope, I put my crosshairs on the right side of his head and start putting pressure on the trigger. Right before my trigger broke, the guy made a quick head movement forward and I missed right behind his head.
So I quickly shot a few rounds of 7.62 into his body. He was hit hard but not good enough to die instantly. So I just watched him roll around in agony as he slowly bled to death. This was about 0330. As we watched him, we heard him moaning and crying but his friends didn’t come to get him. As the sky started to turn blue, the morning prayers came on.
There was singing through the loudspeaker as we watched this wounded enemy roll around on his stomach. Still moaning and crying. Just as the prayer was on its last note, I saw this wounded enemy pick his head up and looked right at me through my scope. I felt his glare which caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. I swear he saw me. When the song ended, so did his life. His head dropped right as the prayer ended. What a trip! I was telling my observer that this guy saw me through my scope. He just brushed it off and said to look for more targets.
The battles went on throughout the month with great success on my end. As the Marine and Army Battalions were told to leave the city of Fallujah, the QRF Red Cloud was the last one to exit. We get back to base, turn to personnel and gear accountability and let the dust settle. It is now 0200 back on base as I make my way to the head for a long shower. I get back to my hooch and lay down on my rack.
I check the time and it’s 0230. I fell asleep right away. After a little while, I woke up to someone or something slamming their hands on the bed right near both of my feet! I start to get sleep paralysis. I’m trying to fight the feeling as this person starts crawling hands and knees on top of me! Then it sits on my chest while holding my arms down. My heart is racing out of my chest!
I could not move and this pissed me off! So I fight the sleep paralysis and push this person off of me. I quickly get out of bed and turn the lights on! I looked around the hooch and didn’t see anybody. All the five guys in the hooch yelled at me to turn the lights off. So I did. I brush off the encounter and lay back down.
But I knew who it was. It was the spirit of the first enemy I killed on that first night...”
- Anonymous US Marine
Black Triangle Over Afghanistan
“I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013 and was manning the front gate with one other guy who also witnessed this. The pictures are taken by my buddy GoPro through our night vision. What we saw was three lights hovering silently above a traffic circle for several minutes.
And when I say silent, I mean that it did not make a single noise even though it was maybe 200 meters away and 250 meters high. And at this point in our deployment, we were very familiar with what various aircraft would sound like, as they would provide support during our patrols.
It was also invisible to the naked eye and we could only see it under our night vision. As soon as we decided to take pictures, it flew off. I recently looked at a map of where we were and approximately measured the distance it covered. It moved about 5-6 miles in maybe 10 seconds.
I believe the three lights were part of one object. These pictures are taken from my phone off my computer desktop.”
- Anonymous US Army Soldier
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