Pastor Major Sniper Sailor Excerpt
‘Jesus will get you through’
(Mark 10:27) “…And Jesus looking upon them said, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible…”
Leah had chosen the perfect firing position on high ground just outside the village, but as expected, we were too late. A bandit group had taken up residence and from what we could make out, Arabella had been hiding under a porch-front in the middle building. From my vantage point, I had an easy and clear line of sight and so far Leah had counted eight bandits, five sleeping and three wandering around. I settled myself down and continued to look through my powerful rifle sight at the wandering bandits, but every so often, I turned my attention to Arabella. I couldn’t see her except through the thermal imaging, but it was clear she was in a cramped space for some time. I could see her moving her legs to stretch, then all of a sudden, another figure came into view. “Leah a small boy is moving towards Arabella’s position” “Rodger that sir…looks like…he’s trying to give Arabella food and water without the bandits noticing.” Damn, I tensed up, if this little boy gave away Arabella’s position too early, we’d have a problem so I immediately considered my route for going in on foot and ditching the sniper rifle. Within moments, our fears were realised. Two bandits began shining their lights under the porch and that was it, they dragged her out and off towards a tin hut. It was time to move, I got up and started running along the trail and kept going. We’d just have to make it up as we went along.
“Leah, talk to me” “Building to the north, five men asleep, door open facing you…Dad, get to her, get to her.” I ran along my pre-planned route and Leah was doing an excellent job of calling out what the ground looked like but she was also very emotional and I needed her to think clearly. I knew once I’d lobbed three grenades into the building that five bandits would be down, leaving three for me to deal with in the room where Arabella was being held, I just hoped I’d get there in time. There was nothing else for it though, no plans, no covert move, I was just going to fight my way in and fight my way out if needs be. “The room is twenty feet by fifteen feet, suggest three grenades.” I was getting closer to the edge of the village now and Leah knew I couldn’t talk. I needed to get to the building quickly. Just a few more feet on the track and then I headed up the small embankment to the building with the sleeping bandits. As soon as I got close, I threw my assault rifle to my back and pulled three grenades. As I got to the open door, I lobbed each one into the darkness with varying distances for maximum damage, but there was no time to see the fireworks so I pulled my sidearm and kept running, knowing that Leah would assess the damage. There was no one around and with no concerning warnings from Leah, I made straight for the small tin hut where we knew Arabella was. “Daddy, they’re all around her…em…one bandit in front of her and two to the far right.” I had no time to talk back to Leah, I could hear the emotion in her cracking voice because she could see what I couldn’t, but now, I was focused on entering this room and dropping these bandits without injuring Arabella, it was going to be tight.
The grenades began to explode inside the bandit building and it would obviously alert these guys to the presence of an issue, but before they could react, I entered the room and immediately dropped the two standing bandits. The other was already on top of Arabella and was now turning to look at me, I couldn’t risk dropping him with my sidearm, so I dropped him by hand. With all three down, I had to make sure the area was secure, so I pulled up my assault rifle and got down on one knee to cover Arabella and awaited Leah’s report. “Dad, is she okay?” “LEAH!” “Sorry, the five bandits are not moving, the others in the village look like they’re remaining inside, I’ll continue monitoring the area. “Good girl Leah, well done.” As I turned, I saw Arabella in tears, on her side, pulling her trousers up and my eyes immediately welled up, then pure fury at what these bandits were about to do, but at least she was safe, at least we’d made it in time. I leaned over and brushed the hair from her face and I could see that she was in a state of shock. Not only that, she hadn’t eaten or drank properly for two days. I was concerned about moving her quickly from where we were, so for now, Leah would have to be my eyes and ears as I attempted to treat Arabella.
“Arabella…look at me…Arabella…Arabella, Jesus sent me, I’m here because Jesus told me to come.” I knew pushing Christian buttons would make more sense to her than anything else and as I looked into her eyes, I could tell she was responding to my words. She lay there, staring up at me, I couldn’t, not even for a moment, hide my emotions as I looked into her beautiful but shocked face. Before long, the tears were streaming. I’d rescued so many hostages in the past, I’d expected her to be hysterical, but she wasn’t, she lay there looking up at me. I had to try and pull myself together, but it was difficult. “Arabella, my name is Major Paul McLaughlin, of the Scottish Defence Force Special Air Service, you’re safe, those men are gone…you’re em…you’re safe…are you injured?” “No…I’m.” She just kept looking at me and for whatever reason my mind was blank. I didn’t know how to comfort her or make her feel better so I dug down deep with a silent request to Jesus, to give me what I needed. “Arabella I am so, so sorry…I got here as quickly as I could, as soon as they found you…did they, em?” “No, no they didn’t Major…you…you got here in time, I am not injured.” She had a lovely voice as she spoke English with her French accent and it was clear from her new voice tones, that she was calming down. So, I did only what I knew to do, and pulled her up to hug her tight. It was strange, she was so quiet and it was me that was almost bubbling like a baby, she was recovering quickly, which was a good sign.
I pulled my tear soaked face away from her, she put her hand on my cheek and looked into my eyes with an expression of thanks, but this had knocked me sideways, I felt like I was the one needing the comfort. “Major, this is Leah, do you copy?” “Rodger Leah, go ahead” “Some of the villagers are beginning to venture out of their homes, I suggest you remain defensive.” Leah had been listening to everything and I was glad she’d interrupted. We were still in a vulnerable position, so it was time to get my military head back on and get Arabella out of there. “Arabella, can you walk?” “Yes, but I am so weak Major, I’m so tired” “Arabella, we need to move, I need to take you back to our military base okay, we need to move” “What about the villagers Major? The bandits will be coming.” Arabella’s face had now changed to a look of concern, as she thought of the villagers being left behind, but I’d just have to be straight and to the point with her. I couldn’t fight my way out with all these people, no matter how much I wanted to. “Arabella, listen to me, I am here all alone. I’ve come here to rescue you, I cannot take on these bandits alone Arabella, we need to go, we need to go now.”
There was no doubt that the group of bandits to our south, would have heard the explosions and gunfire in the night and they’d be coming soon. I had to get her out. She could see the look on my face and all of a sudden she began to shake her head slowly. “No…no Major, we cannot leave these people behind, the bandits will kill them…you know this…you killed their men, they will kill them” “Arabella, I’m not only a Major, but one of the Lord’s Pastors, I don’t want to leave these people behind, but I can’t defend them all, I just can’t” “Yes you can Major, you can…Major, you are the famous SAS…you can.” Arabella was beginning to plead and my mind was racing, she wasn’t in a good physical state for the journey and the route ahead was difficult enough to navigate safely, but I could tell this was now going to be an issue. “Arabella please, I am a Special Forces Soldier but I cannot fight these men alone” “Major you wouldn’t be…Jesus will see us through…Major, Jesus will see us through.” Now she was pushing my Christian buttons and as she spoke, my mind focused on Jesus. I knew He’d agreed with His girl. I took a gulp and looked at my feet for a few moments. If His orders were to take them all, then I was taking all the villagers. “Leah, do you copy?” “Yes Major” “How many heat signatures in the village?” “Forty-two, including you and Arabella” “How many people will a Montagu Harrier carry?” “Thirty, at a push Dad” “Okay Leah, begin to plot a route ahead to a safe landing zone. Contact Maggie McLean and let her know the new plan…we’re extracting them all.”
I could hear a bit of a gasp in my earpiece and as I looked at Arabella, I could see a peaceful smile come across her face. I only wished I was at peace! I knew these were the Lord’s orders and He’d get us through, but this was going to be a big journey and if we were going, we’d need to go now. “Arabella, you know these villagers well, can you get them all together? Can you tell them to come together?” “Yes Major…Major, I am so weak…where will we go?” “We’ll take them through the northern forests to a safe zone, but we’ll have to walk all the way.” “Major, Major I cannot, I cannot walk” “I know…I’ll carry you Arabella.” She looked at me with a surprised expression, but she smiled, nodded and headed off outside to speak to the villagers. She was about five foot ten and slim, so she’d be no great weight for me to carry but it did mean I’d need to lose some of my equipment to take her. If we were going to move, each individual would need to carry only the essentials, like clothing, water and food. We’d need to walk single file through the route and I’d need to brief them on the journey ahead with some basic military training in traveling at night and what to do, if we came across any bandits. So in true military style, I formulated my little speech to be as brief and to the point as possible, making sure each one knew how essential it was, to follow my orders.
“Jesus will get you through” “What’s that Leah?” “I’m saying Jesus will get you through Dad, this must be the mission” “Yeh, it looks like it doesn’t it, anyway, I’ve got you lighting my way as always love” “How are you planning to carry Arabella Dad?” “I’m going to rip apart my bergen backpack and make some sort of a harness, but I’ll need to get some fluids and food into her first…how’s the route looking?” “It was tight with just the two of you, but forty people Dad, phew, we’ll need to be on our A-game…it looks like this journey could take two nights due to all of the people involved, so I suggest we move soon, sleep tomorrow and finish the journey tomorrow night em…Dad what are we going to do, the harrier will only take thirty tops?” “Well, me and the strongest members will make for the coast…I’ll find my own way home.” I could tell Leah was now going through every scenario in her head, she was a brilliant girl and I knew she come up with the best routes, it took a load off my mind, I needed to get these people ready to move. “It means the Task Force will be gone, you really will have to make your own way home. Okay Dad, let’s do this…she’s very pretty isn’t she?” “Leah, what are you like?” “I’m just saying Dad, you know, I saw the way she looked at you” “Ha-ha, yes…she’s very pretty but I’ve kind of got a lot on my mind right now and so should you little missus…you need to get me out here alive” “Ha-ha, you know I will” “Rodger that love.” This was typical Leah but I was glad she was keeping things light and confident as this was going to be some journey.
Once I’d finished tearing my bergen apart, making it into quite a nifty harness, I headed outside to see Arabella and the Elders. She was sitting down while the others stood and I could tell she was drained so first things first, I needed to get some fluids and food into her before we left. Everyone in the village was now around us, so it was time for me to talk, explaining what was happening and where we were going. They all seemed happy, mostly due to the fact that the main bandit group was probably on its way, but I needed to make sure they followed all of my instructions because one mistake could mean a firefight. “Okay, you all understand so far….we will travel by night, we will all walk in single file. When you’re walking, you’re to keep checking on the person in front of you and behind you every minute or so, to make sure they are still there…are there any men here who know how to fire a weapon? Good, you three men will be at the rear of the line, making sure everyone is still walking….we leave no one behind. Okay, get some mud and cover your faces and your hands. We will be sleeping during the day, so we need to stay hidden in the forest. If we are found, stay where you are and do not move…let me deal with the situation.” I continued a little while longer to make sure everyone knew what I meant, but this was a thrown together brief, I just hoped they’d all listen.
Twenty minutes had passed since the contact and the people were all heading off to grab clothes and food from their houses. There were a few old folks and some kids, but most seemed quite fit and energetic. So, the vulnerable ones would need to be upfront with me and Arabella, with the others taking up the rear. “Arabella, I’d like you to drink some of this glucose drink and eat this energy bar okay? Let’s try and get your strength up.” She smiled as I handed her the food and drink, so I sat down next to her and buttoned up the rest of my equipment. “Major, I know you are a big man but…are you going to be able to carry me?” “Well Arabella, I do have a secret, in that I’m an Armour Infantry Corps Soldier so I’m pretty strong, I’ll be fine, I’ll make this as comfortable as possible” “You are really a Metal Soldier Major?” “Ha-ha, yes Arabella and it’s Paul okay…how are you feeling?” “I do not know yet, but em…thank you….thank you for saving me….thank you for saving these people” “Well, you can thank me when I’ve actually saved you okay?” “Hmm…you will…I know you will” “Well, we’ve got Jesus watching our backs haven’t we? Yes Leah, go ahead” “Dad, we’ve got a drama, there’s a small convoy of vehicles turning off the main road, three kilometers away and moving quickly up toward the village. Do you require air support?” “How many vehicles Leah?” “Four but one seems to be a truck with personnel on board” “Negative Leah, I don’t want to give Maggie any unnecessary risks. I’ll ambush the convoy alone” “Yes sir” “Arabella, eat some food, drink slowly okay…make sure everyone is ready to move in ten minutes, okay?” “Yes Paul, we will be ready.”
I headed over to my little pile of discarded equipment, which I’d been planning to bury and fished out some explosives, Claymore anti-personnel mines and grenades to neutralise the convoy. My plan was to plant some explosive devices in the road leading up the village and place Claymores at various points and to maximise the damage. I’d throw grenades and fire at the convoy from the high ground. There was no time for a fancy set up, so I headed off quick and began planting my explosives with the help of Leah. It was really dark as I moved away from the village, so I’d be relying on her to tell me where to place and where to move, but before long, we’d set up a pretty lethal ambush. I just hoped they’d remain in the vehicles. With them only a few hundred meters down the track, it was time to find a firing position and settle down for the firefight. A lot of soldiers felt that adrenaline rush knowing that a contact was about to take place, but for me, it was time to pray. Killing other soldiers never bothered me much, I’d pretty much made a peace with my job, but still, I just wanted to acknowledge the Lord. Within a few minutes, I could see the lights of the vehicles cresting the small hill. I had to almost chuckle, if we were a full troop of SAS Soldiers, they would have been cut apart in under a minute, these guys weren’t even moving tactically.
Just as I thought all was going according to plan, the convoy stopped a few meters from my ambush point and sat with their engines idling. It gave me a good chance to get eyes on my target, but it was clear they were sending a few soldiers out on foot, in front of their convoy. This was good and bad, good in that they were definitely going to spring my trap, but bad in that they were now spread out meaning I couldn’t just lob a couple of grenades into the back of the personnel carrier. I’d need to make sure I got them all. The good thing was though, that Leah knew the drill and already she had eyes on every target, so even if they moved off into the darkness, Leah could still move me toward them and drop them. As the soldiers moved forward the convoy moved again and within a minute, my well placed explosive devices began to fire with a lethal effect. I kept my head down till it ended, but when I looked over, I could see that the first two vehicles were completely destroyed. Many of the bandit soldiers were down, but now I’d need Leah to talk me through. I began by lobbing grenades into the personnel carrier to drop the remaining seated soldiers, then opened fire on the soldiers still moving around the convoy. It was a bit of an easy contact for me as the soldiers were in complete disarray, so I calmed myself down and picked my targets, dropping bandit after bandit. With the front of the convoy clear, I moved back and away from the scene and headed off through the trees to the rear of the convoy. As I did, I could tell the soldiers were firing at my last position so this was good.
I arrived at a high point at the rear of the convoy, I picked my targets again with the help of Leah, but now, the contact was dying down and there were loose bandits still hiding in amongst the wreckage. I could see them firing, but I knew that Leah wouldn’t be able to see them on the thermal imaging due to the burning vehicles. I had to go down and clear the scene. I ran back and away from the convoy, then moved across the road into the opposite side of trees and moved back up toward the convoy from the other side. I could hear the gunfire as the remaining soldiers piled some shots up onto the opposite bank, thinking I was still there, but they were about to get a shock as I came along behind, dropping them as I moved. I could tell that the majority of bandits were down, so I needed to clear the immediate area around the convoy to make sure they were all down. This was the part I hated, even in full armour I didn’t like this mop-up job at all, I just got my head down and moved quietly through the convoy. By the time I’d reached the front, I was confident that all bandits were now down, so my mind got back to extracting these villagers before a serious group of bandits arrived. “All bandits down Major, you are clear” “Rodger that Leah, do you have the route planned?” “Yes sir, we’re ready to move.”
As I returned to the village, I could see some shocked faces as I walked through the crowd to Arabella, but there was no time, we needed to move. The plan was to head east as a deception towards the Algerian Border until we hit the river, then we’d turn back using the same track halfway back to the village, then track north. The hope was that the arriving bandits would easily find our trail and follow it to the river’s edge, then hopefully, they’d scour the banks from north to south to try and pick up a non-existent trail. This would buy me time to move the forty people in single file northward and put in as much distance, as we could, before sunrise. However, it was very dark and I could only hope that they wouldn’t spot the deception, but it was the best I could do. Once I’d ran back up to my observation post, I collected my sniper rifle and equipment I’d left on the tree line, then I raced back down to strap Arabella to my back. Once we’d got everyone in line, we headed off. The river was over a kilometer away, so walking there and doubling back a short way would take time, but it would be worth it to try and get a head start on the Hunter Force, which would be coming to track us down.