As usual, I wore my black panther. I brought my toiletries, towel and M16 rifle. The trail was slippery so I used my combat boots. It’s a narrow trail. I ran towards the direction of the firing range. The bathing area is more or less 300 meters away from the tent city. Normally, we were only given 10 minutes. I have to run for 2 minutes going to the river. I will take a bath for another 2 minutes, take a dump and skag for another 2 minutes, wash my black panther for another 2 minutes, then the last 2 remaining minutes to go back to the tent city. It was our 10-minute bathing time. For the past four months, it was part of our morning routine every day!
While traversing the paddy field, I saw my fellow scout ranger students stranded near the river. It looked like something was blocking their way. I didn’t mind it. I continued running. As I expected, our long-time enemies were already there. It was really bothersome. I stopped running and acted like a prey who met its predators. The two big, notorious and hot-tempered carabaos were standing in the middle of the trail. It was their favorite spot. They were munching their breakfast. Damn! I hated their masters for letting them roam near our bathing area! If they locked their eyes on you, better change course quickly or else, you might get rammed by their gigantic sickle-shaped horns. As a precautionary measure, my classmates used an alternate route towards the river. That time, I never followed them. I would like to take my chances. I moved towards the black beasts like a mad matador. Astonishingly, these creatures moved away from the trail. They never looked me in the eyes. They just bowed their heads and ate the grasses far from the trail. There was no usual chasing moment. Perhaps these animals also knew that we would be leaving. I felt something strange. I felt like I would be missing our good old times. They usually gave me adrenaline rush during bath runs. I thought that those were one of the happy moments that made me laugh in the morning.
Maybe, those water buffaloes didn’t really hate us. They were just protecting their territory. That day, I felt like they befriended me.
Finally, I’ve reached our bathing area- Rocky Madlum River.
The river was so refreshing. I always wished if I could stay there for a long time. I felt serenity. It was a sanctuary of peace. The rushing river current seemed to hypnotize me. It was the only calm place near the SRTS. There was no shouting. It was the only time I felt like a normal person during the SR’s rigid training. It felt like home. No pressure. It felt so free.
Eventually, the state of tranquility faded away. It was just a privilege. I’m an Army soldier, I thought to myself. I finished taking a bath. I went back to the tent city.
I checked my list. I’ve withdrawn 4 fragmentation hand grenades, 4 rifle grenades, 2 basic loads for my M16 A1 rifle, 200 ammo rounds of M60 Machine Gun and 1 ammo of M67 90mm RR Bazooka and a Motorola radio. I had no choice. Everybody was instructed to bring 1 ammo each for either Bazooka or 81mm mortar. I’ve chosen to bring ammunition of Bazooka.
I looked at my jungle pack. It was so heavy. I didn’t even know if I could carry all of those ammos including my rations. I observed that most officers had M203 grenade launchers attached on their M16 rifle. Based on Filipino soldier battle experiences, it’s far more reliable than rifle grenades. I had 2 personnel in my Section who had M203 GL attached to their rifles. I thought it’s already enough.
Around 1000H, we went to the town proper of San Miguel, Bulacan. We bought extra things we needed for the Test Mission. Also, we stormed a carenderia and ate delicious Filipino native dishes. It was like a fiesta. One of my mistahs was kidding and told us that it felt like it’s our last meal. Nobody laughed. After treating ourselves with heavenly boodles, we proceeded to Dau, Tarlac. We bought new bandoleers, extra rifle slings, ropes, ponchos and other important stuff. Everybody was busy looking for anything that seemed useful for the operation. We all bought bolos. We went back to Camp Tecson. Everything was all set.
(To be Continued)