HOLDING KIDS AT GUNPOINT

By Aaron Masengale

 

It's about mid-may, in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. I'm a gunner in a really, really big truck, and I'm guarding an elementary school that my boss is in, talking to a few locals. There are kids everywhere, not because it's a school, but because kids know that gunners can, and do, on occasion, give them free shit. They stay directly in my life of sight, close enough that I can throw things at them, but far enough away that I'm not uncomfortable. There are probably twenty or so kids in front of a wall facing me, madly trying to get my attention so they can get a freebie of some kind. It's nothing out of the ordinary, until a kid unaffiliated with the group comes walking up behind my truck, only barely out of my view. I don't know if he doesn't see me, or chooses to ignore me, but he's in the I-don't-feel-comfortable zone, walking up to the rear passenger door that was left unlocked by the dude who normally sits there.

The door handle's out of reach for him, but that's what he's grasping for, or at least that's what he's grasping for, when I draw my pistol, and load a bullet in the chamber. That door being opened is a huge, huge security concern. Snipers in the area, rocket propelled grenades about, not to mention any explosives he, or any other kid might have strapped to them, knowingly or not. I'm one of two people in the truck, and I'm well within my rules of engagement to open fire. So I level the pistol on the kids face and scream at the top of my lungs in English,
"I will fucking kill you!" And I meant it, too.

He froze, and for the first time since I laid eyes on him, he looked at me. The word "terrified" doesn't even begin to explain the look he had on his face. He drops to the floor, having needed to pull himself up to reach for the door handle in the first place, and sprints faster than I've ever seen a kid that small run around a corner and out of the reach of my bullets. That shook me to my core.