Read Sword Point Online

Authors: Harold Coyle

Tags: #Thriller, #Military

Sword Point

To A. A. Stovall: “When do I get to meet the company commander?” and Tony L. McLain: “Thanks, Dad.”

Wars may be fought by weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.


Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive one; it is the man and not the materials that counts.



War is the realm of chance. No other human activity gives it greater scope; no other has such incessant and varied dealings with this intruder. Chance makes everything more uncertain and interferes with the whole course of events.


This is a story about a war and the people fighting it. The time and place of the war are unimportant. What is important are the people, their roles and their experiences.

It is easy for modern man to focus on the technical aspects of war and seek solutions and resolution through science and technology. Science, after all, is logical and predictable. Technology is understandable and controllable. The Soviets, comfortable with science and technology, approach warfare and combat in a scientific manner. The ideal military system, from the Soviet viewpoint, is one that can deliver predictable results by using proper force ratios and other such definable inputs. Hence they establish norms and place high value on conformity and discipline so that actions in battle are a predictable constant, not an unknown. Doctrine in the Red Army has the same weight as regulations, and orders to subordinates are detailed and restrictive.

The United States, on the other hand, places its trust in the ability of the individual soldier and his leaders. A great deal of freedom and discretion is afforded the American small-unit leader.

Doctrine is often viewed as a guide. Initiative on the part of the commander at all levels is expected, allowing commanders to issue what are referred to as mission-type orders, orders that leave the details for the subordinate commander to figure out.

Both systems of doing business have their merits and are based on the national character of the military that uses them. More important, properly used, both systems will work in war. Many examples from past wars support this. The Soviet Union, the victor of the greatest land wear ever waged, proved time and again in 1944-45 that its system worked. The United States also can point to its campaigns in that war and subsequent wars and state (that its system works. The interesting question is, What would happen if these two systems were pitted against each other? The answer would be determined not by the weapons and not by the cause for which they were being employed. It would be the people, not the system or the weapons, that determined the outcome.

Though weapons and tactics are important, they have the same thing in common: people. It is therefore the people that this story concerns itself with.

The war discussed in this novel takes place in the Islamic Republic of

Iran. An invasion of that country by the Soviets is not out of the question, since they have already “intervened” militarily in Iran twice-once in August 1941 and once in March 1946. Today, securing its southern border, squashing the spread of Islamic fundamentalism before it overflows into the
, preventing any military alliance between the Gulf states, and controlling the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the

West’s oil flows, are very real national objectives for the
, especially if it is unable to turn that region into a neutral zone-that is, one free of Western influence. At the same time, containing the Soviet

Union and keeping the Strait of Hormuz open are part of the United States’s national policy. The concept of a limited confrontation in Iran is therefore far more realistic today than that of a general war in Western Europe.


This book is neither a textbook nor an attempt to predict the future.

The doctrine, tactics, plans and policies discussed do not reflect current or planned U.S. Army doctrine, tactics, plans and policy. Nor are the characters in the story based on any people, living or dead.

Any similarity between the characters in this book and real people is purely coincidental.

Many people will find fault with some of the actions and decisions of the characters. Some of the weapons effects and employment are equally open to criticism. This is, however, a novel, and the author uses his literary license, often.

Politics and strategic and operational plans and decisions are not discussed in detail except where they are important to the story and its characters. The reader should find himself in the same situation, limited to the immediate and narrow world in which the characters of Sword Point live, lacking a full understanding of the “Big Picture.”

Times used throughout the story are local times and Greenwich Mean Time (
); Iranian time is three and a half hours ahead of
, accounting for the unusual differences between time zones reflected in this book.

All events are sequential.

All unit designations in the novel are fictitious, but their organizations and equipment allowances are, in general, in accordance with current tables of organization. All information on weapons effects and characteristics as well as information on Iran are from open source materials available to the general public. The author has never had access to contingency plans concerning operations in Southwest Asia or participated in simulations concerning Iran or the Gulf states. The scenario depicted here is pure fiction.

A Glossary of Military Terms will be found at the back of the book.

Chapter 1

To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving the peace.


Fort Campbell, Kentucky 1655 Hours, 24 May (2255 Hours, 24 May,
) A casual glance would have revealed nothing out of the ordinary. The sandy track running east to west disappeared into a pine forest, where it was lost from sight as it made a sharp L turn to the north. The tall grass and the branches of the trees were motionless in the stillness of the late afternoon. The only sign of life was the occasional lazy buzz of an insect flitting about. Sergeant First Class Donald Duncan and the men of the 1st

Platoon, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 503rd Infantry, had spent hours making sure that that was all anyone would see.

Only upon closer inspection of the tree line south of the track could the steel-blue barrels of several rifles and machine guns be seen protruding from concealed positions. Behind each weapon was a man, hunched down, his face distorted by camouflage paint, his battle-dress uniform, or BDUs, soaked in his own sweat. They lay there motionless, waiting for the signal to fire. That signal would come from one of two sources. The primary cue to fire was a booby trap on the trail. A smoke grenade with its pin removed had been placed back in its shipping tube in such a manner as to hold down the spoon that triggered it. A thin wire was attached to the grenade and stretched across the track six inches above the ground and tied to a tree on the other side.

Anyone walking down the track would be snarled in the wire, pulling the smoke grenade from its shipping tube and allowing the spoon to flip up and detonate the grenade. When that happened, everyone in the platoon would commence firing along his assigned sector of responsibility. If, for some unseen reason, the opposing force, or OP
did not trip the booby trap, the platoon leader would order the platoon to open fire.

The ensuing firefight would be short but bloodless. The men of both Duncan’s platoon and the OP FOR-opposing force-were using
, short for “multiple integrated laser engagement system.” Each weapon was tipped with a rectangular gray box which emitted a laser beam every time the weapon was fired. Every man, friendly or OP
had laser detectors on his helmet and webb gear that would detect the laser beam from another weapon. When this happened, a buzzer, also attached to each man’s gear, would go off, telling him and his buddies that he was

“dead.” The use of
ensured that there would be no doubt who won and who lost, a far cry from the days when most training exercises degenerated into screaming matches of “I shot you” and

“No you didn’t. ”

Duncan watched the track from his position. Beside him was his platoon leader, a young second lieutenant of twenty-two who had been with the unit less than three weeks. This was the first time the lieutenant had been out on tactical training, and, as a result, he was nervous and fidgety. Duncan, a veteran of nine years’ service and numerous second lieutenants, was a patient teacher. He had tactfully explained to his lieutenant everything the platoon was supposed to do and had walked him around, showing him what to check and look for. The lieutenant, visibly chafing to “take charge,” wisely accepted Duncan’s advice and coaching, asking many questions and mentally noting whom Duncan left on his own and whom 2

he micromanaged. In time he would be running the show. But not today.

Waiting to spring an ambush is, at best, tedious and nerveracking. The frenzied activity of preparing the ambush and the fighting positions was followed by hours of lying in dirt and grass. The young soldiers, used to ceaseless banter and ear-splitting music, were required to maintain a high state of vigilance in silence and almost total isolation. The same cover and concealment that protected them from the enemy separated the men of the

1st Platoon from one another and from their leaders. Each man in the platoon was alone except for the man in the fighting position with him and perhaps the men in the positions immediately to their left and right. The urge to talk and keep each other company was countered by the need to remain silent so that the platoon’s position would not be given away. Those who craved a cigarette were discouraged from smoking, because the point element advance party-of the OP
would be alert to the smell of cigarette smoke.

Each man’s ordeal was made worse by the heat and the insects that populated the pine forest. Soaked from their exertions in preparing for the ambush and from the humidity, the soldiers had sweat rolling down them from every pore on their bodies. Even if there had been a breeze, it would have been unable to penetrate the pine forest. What sweat had evaporated left large white circles of encrusted-salt stains on everyone’s BDUs. Sweat from their brows burned their eyes as it ran down and settled in their eye sockets.

But uncomfortable as this was, it did not compare to the annoyance of the insects. Bugs of every description buzzed about freely or crawled on the soldiers, biting exposed skin as they worked their way into the clothing.

Few of the men were able to fight the urge to swat and scratch-actions which, however, were mostly futile; efforts to kill or shoo the bugs seemed only to encourage them. These little annoyances did much to increase each man’s desire for combat. At least when the OP
came, he would be able to lash out at someone, with tangible results.

Duncan’s mind, wandering from one random thought 3 to the next, was brought back to the problem at hand by a report from the platoon’s forward security element, located one hundred meters down the trail.

Using a sound powered phone, they reported movement to their front.

Duncan’s only instructions to them were, “Stay alert and keep me posted.” He glanced at his watch. It was 1658 hours. Those shit-for-brains idiots really took their time, Duncan thought before he turned to his platoon leader and whispered, “Show time, Lieutenant.”

Raising himself ever so slightly from his concealed position, Duncan signaled the squad leaders to get ready. There was a slight rustling as men readjusted their positions and prepared to engage the OP
In a few seconds all was again still. They were ready.

The first sign that told them the OP
was near was the crunching of sand beneath boots and the sound of someone scurrying about in the grass and the bushes. It was the OP
point element. Two men from the 2nd Platoon, the

for that day, were leapfrogging down the track in advance of their platoon’s main body. Their job was to alert the rest to danger before the whole platoon became involved. The two-man point element worked its way slowly, in no hurry to “die.” One man would over watch ready to cover by fire if necessary from one side of the track while the other dashed ten to twenty meters ahead to a new firing position in the bushes on the other side of the track. Both men would then scan the area, looking for signs of the enemy. When they were satisfied that all was clear, the man who had been over watching would get up and dash down the trail to a new position past his partner, who would now be over watching

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