It was music to our ears the next morning as we heard the low whine of the duce and a half pull up in front of the military science building with our weapons and ammo. It was a cold brisk morning, and other than us, it was quiet..but not that nice quiet you get early in the morning. No, this was an ugly quiet, no birds were singing, no crunch of footsteps across campus. Nothing but the idling engine of the duce and a half and the dark red glow of our hooded flashlights as we unloaded the truck and drew our weapons.
As we drew our weapons, Captain Criese handed us a typewritten, mimeographed sheet that brought back memories of grade school. My older brother got me into studying the cold war; it was to me, a historical curiosity. I never thought this day would come. God, I wonder if he even was listening.
As I took my M-16, and half-mindedly rattled off my serial number, I thought about just how totally fucked things were. We weren't supposed to be doing this. In case of war, the MS4s were to be direct commissioned, us 3s sent to OCS and the 1s and 2s given the option to enlist. But, then again, noone had seriously given thought to what might happen to us in a "bolt from the blue" sitrep like this.
Chen drew her weapon and ammunition, and we both stood around, looking at each other and ourselves sheepishly. For the first time, we each had a full basic load of live ammunition, it was insane. But then, nothing seemed right that day.
Hamblin came out from the truck, lugging a SAW with an assault pack of 200 round and bellowed:
"LOCK AND LOAD! KEEP THE SAFETIES ON, READ THE ROES!"
I looked down at the mimeographed sheet I'd been handed earlier. It'd had crumpled unconsciously in my concern. Hell, I was damn near panicked at this point. Come on, Weiss, focus. It's go time. I got control, and read the unthinkable:
Rules of Engagement and SITREP, Cavalier CompanyAll weapons are to be locked and loaded at all times,
but with the safety on. Safeties are only to be released and
weapons to be discharged on order of a superior or to protect
your own life and/or the lives of your fellow cadets/cadre.
2. Any situation where you must use deadly force, you must first warn the person(s)
involved that you are prepared to use deadly force and will engage if necessary.
3. No cadet will travel without LBE, Helmet, Personal Weapon and
will not travel in groups of less than two.
Good luck, and god willing, we're all going to get through this.
MAJ Bordon, USA, INF
Ross waved us over "Take a knee, people, here's the drill, we're going to send patrols out in a few. We'll be going out in fireteam strength and our orders are to keep folks calm, keep them off the streets, and supplement the cops. We DON'T make arrests. If we find someone looting, raping or killing, we warn them to stop, if they don't, we fire in the air, if they don't, then we shoot to kill. If they surrender, we hold them there until the PD comes to pick them up. I'll be leading Alpha Team with Hamblin, Chen and Weiss. Cadet Captain Kiplinger will be leading Bravo with Lester, Marks and Horrocks. Draw a radio for each team, and keep your cells handy. So far, they're working, but reception sucks hard. Weiss, you read about this shit, anything to add?"
I shook my head. What the hell could I say? Nothing in those books prepared one for the reality of having to potentially lock and load on folks I would have been in class with a week ago.
"Alright, patrols go out in five, and people, fix your bayonets. Might deter trouble."
So, there we were, in light order with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets setting out into the morning fog of a shattered America. Whatever happened, I knew nothing was going to be the same.
As we set out, I shifted my LBE to be more comfortable and watched my sector. So far, things were quiet, the silence only being broken by Hamblin checking in on the radio. Reception was lousy, and limited to line of sight. Windows had broken all over campus from the reflected shock wave from hundreds of miles away. The broken glass crunched under our boots. It was the first sign as we entered campus proper that this just wasn't a normal day.
Soon, we saw people, a few at first, looking at us furtively from behind shattered windows. We soon made our way down Main Street towards the dorms. Our patrol route was to take us to the dorms, where we'd set up an OP/LP and then patrol towards the dining center, where we'd meet Bravo and assume control of the food supply on campus and keep it from being looted. Try to at any rate. None of us said a word, what was there to say. We were the only ones on the streets, there were sirens and shots in the distance, word was there were riots in Shockoe Bottom, and the cops were losing. If things came our way, well, there wasn't enough ammo in the world to hold off the angry mobs from there.
But, this time, the patrol was uneventful, and we met the campus Emergency Services Director at the dining hall. He was a portly little man named Nordyke. I'll never forget, as chilly as things were, he was sweating like it was 95 outside. He never seemed to be without his handkerchief, dabbing the sweat from his bald head.
"Gentlemen" licking his lips "Uh, we're going to padlock the dining hall until we can find enough employees willing to help us distribute the food on a rationed basis. What I need from the military science department is for you cadets to provide security for the distribution."
We didn't have enough to accomplish that mission; the dining hall was huge, it could seat a thousand students at once, with six or seven ways in. Even in the best of times, students pilfered food almost at will. And now, this idiot wanted us to secure it? Uh yeah.
God, were we fucked.