Chokepoint

Chokepoint

Posted on March 9, 2024 at 9:05 pm by Steve Solex

February 1st, 2002
0630hrs
Helmand Province, Afghanistan

“Sir, we’re about done at this COP,” Solex said, as he sat back with his tan Oakley combat boots kicked up on the desk of the COP (Combat Outpost) Commander, CPT Rocco.

CPT Rocco smiled, his Copenhagen stained teeth peeking out from behind his scruffy red beard. In garrison, Rocco was always clean shaven and as squared away as they come, but when you’re deployed to the most remote COP in Afghanistan…well, who gives a shit, right?

“You think so?” Rocco asked, as he knocked Solex’s boots off his desk. “Let me tell you what I think, Staff Sergeant.”

Solex smiled knowing that Rocco only called him that when he thought he was about to ruin his day. But Solex enjoyed the suck, the idea of going on another mission with his guys tickled him pink, so he just placed his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair. He thought about putting his feet back on Rocco’s desk, but thought better of it. It’s fun to joke around, but at the end of the day, Rocco was an officer, and Solex had the utmost respect for that.

“I think there’s still a lot of work to be done here, and we need this supply route cleared before you and your guys think about going anywhere. The minute we can get some good chow and a regular supply of clean water in this shit hole, then you guys can cut sling load and move on to bigger and better shit. But for now, this is where you’re gonna be staying,” Rocco said as he walked around to the front of his desk.

He stood in front of Solex with his arms crossed, with a stern look on his face. His forearms bulged, he had that deployment muscle that most guys get when they’ve got nothing better to do in the evenings than pump some iron.

“Where’s the supply route?” Solex asked, completely unphased by Rocco’s hostile posture.

“Alright, hot shot,” Rocco said, like he was straight out of an 80’s military flick. “It’s about 20 clicks east. I’ll get your guys all the logistics you’ll need, including air support…if it turns out you’re not as badass as you think you are.”

Solex chucked at the remark and pulled a watermelon flavored Blow-pop from his pocket. He took it out of the wrapper, in about as obnoxious a manner as you’d expect from a young, hard charger, and threw it into his mouth, securing it in his cheek. Rocco rolled his eyes to which Solex childishly grinned.

“What about the tank unit?” Solex asked. “What if we need to fuck shit up in a hurry? I need the QRF ready to go.”

“You got it, slick,” Rocco quickly replied. “Go see Lieutenant Davis, he’ll brief you in and he’ll be point on this.”

Solex scoffed, “Yeah, right.”

“Yeah…right. He’s the man on this one, don’t fuck with him. Put his ass in the lead truck, the turtle shell, and don’t let him out of your sight.  Capiché?”

Solex responded with a casual salute before getting up from his chair and heading out of the office door.

35 minutes later…

“We have a chokepoint up ahead, 500 meters,” Solex said into his headset from the vehicle commander’s seat of his doorless humvee.

Solex and his crew had been patrolling this area for three weeks, but this is their first time down this road. It was hard to see through all of the dust that the lead vehicle was kicking up, but the driver of the lead vehicle pumped the brakes twice, signaling Solex that they’d be stopping in a second.

“Alright, slow it up,” Solex said to his driver, his voice calm and collected.  “We’re going to dismount and check this thing out before we go any further.”

“Roger that,” the driver, SPC Howard, said with a giant dipl of wintergreen Skoal packed tightly in his bottom lip.

Solex looked down and pulled back the charging handle on his M4, just enough to double check that he had chambered a round. The brass of the 5.56 millimeter round reflected off the hot desert sun and quickly Solex released the bolt forward. He gave the 30 round magazine one tap on the bottom, ensuring it was held tightly in the magazine weld, just as the vehicle came to a squealing but slow stop.

“Let’s go, boys,” Solex said as he and the two soldiers in the backseats dismounted the vehicle. Solex brought his gas powered rifle up to his cheek and quickly scanned the area, looking through the close combat optic firmly mounted on his M4.

“How’s it over there, Reg?” Solex asked, shouting over the roar of the three vehicle convoy.

“Clear,” SGT Kruze, affectionately known as Reg to his operator teammates, responded instantly, not missing a beat.

“Jimbo?” Solex asked, referencing the Soldier directly at his six.

“Clear,” Jimbo calmly replied.

“Alright, grab the binos, and fall in around me,” Solex said as he let his M4 loose, letting it swing freely from the sling that was hooked to his plate carrier with a D-ring. “Howard, shut’er down and get out here.”

Howard smiled wide and quickly scrambled to remove his seat belt and shut the humvee down and step one foot out. It’s not that often that Howard got to dismount with the boys, he was pumped.

“Just kidding, get your ass back in the truck and keep that motherfucker running,” Solex quipped with a shit eating grin before Howard’s second foot came anywhere near in contact with the sand beneath the humvee.

“RAMROD!” Jimbo and Reg shouted in unison, making an obvious reference to the movie Super Troopers.

Solex and the dismounted troops shared a laugh as Howard muttered, “Motherfuckers” under his breath as he pulled his feet back inside of the truck.

Solex looked over at his driver and in a light hearted tone asked, “What’s that?” 

“Roger, Sergeant!” Howard shouted back, covering his tracks.

Solex smiled, he enjoyed these patrols with his troops. It was back in garrison that Solex despised the Army, these times with his guys is what he signed up for and he soaked in every single second of it.

“Here you go, boss,” Jimbo said as he slapped the binos into Solex’s hand.

Solex took the binos, dropped to a knee and held them up to his eyes, looking down the narrow road.

“Alright, boys. I think we’re about to get some. We’ve got three military aged males, all carrying AK-47s, and I got one guy digging a hole on the side of the road. Before we get down there, we’re going to need to call in EOD to diffuse the 155mm round he’s got cabled up. Jimbo, make that call,” Solex said, his tone dramatically shifted into seriousness.  “Reg, get comms with the lead truck and let them know. We need to move on this now. Mount up, boys, we have work to do.”

Both Reg and Jimbo tapped into their headsets and relayed the information, before they both confirmed to Solex that the information had been relayed. Out of nowhere the sound of machine gun fire tore through crisp morning air.

“Hot damn!” Jimbo hollered from the backseat, as he raised his M4 and swiftly surveyed his sector, looking for the source of the attack.

“Reg, light up that radio and tell that cherry fuck, LT, that we’re taking enemy fire!” Solex barked, his voice barely cutting through the echo of gunfire.

“Roger!” Reg shouted back as he went to work.

“Spartan 6, this is Bulldozer 1. We are taking enemy machine gun fire and we need QRF now,,” Solex shouted into his headset. His demeanor was calm, but he had to shout above the chaos. Spartan 6 – CPT Rocco’s call sign – was quick to respond, “Check. Roger. Out.”

As the bullets whizzed by, Howard expertly navigated the road with no instruction from Solex.Howard wanted out from behind the driver’s seat, but this is exactly why he was where he was. He was the best goddamn driver in theater.

Jimbo, eyes sharp and focused, spotted the machine gunner in the distance.

“There he is! Contact, 2 o’clock!” He shouted as he began to fire his M4 in that area. 

Solex followed suit and began to fire his M4 as well. Reg, disciplined in his focus, continued to scan his area of responsibility. Suddenly, the roar of Apache helicopters began to fill the air. The distant sound signaled that reinforcements were near.

“Cover fire, boys!” Solex shouted.

Howard, seizing the opportunity to really showcase his skills, slammed down on the gas pedal, pushing the humvee to its limits, swerving and skirting around debris and potholes, while maintaining a safe distance from the lead vehicle.

The Apaches began to unleash their might on the enemy position. The sound of their machine guns was deafening and shook the Earth. But in a few moments, it was over, and everything fell silent. A relentless assault from the Apache formation laid waste to the enemy and suddenly, everything was clear.

“Slow ‘er down, Howard,” Solex said calmly, his voice steady and smooth.

“All clear,” Solex said into the radio.

“Roger,” Rocco responded from back at the TOC (Tactical Operations Center).

The lead vehicle slowly came to a stop, and Howard followed suit.

“Well, boys…we just had a near life experience!” Solex bursted out, quoting Tyler Durden from Fight Club – a common occurrence back in these days..

Solex began to laugh hysterically, and all the guys in the truck joined in as they began to celebrate the day’s victory.

WE ARE NOT THE SAME

This week’s Chaos is a choke point for you Stevens, and you have no idea how to get out of it. You’re out of your fuckin’ league, and this is way above your pay-grade. You’ve crossed into enemy lines, and there’s no way out now. You’re surrounded, and barring some kind of fucking miracle…you’re dead.

You might be a former World Champion, and I’ll give you all the respect in the world for that, but that will only get you so far. You and me, we are not the same. We are cut from a different cloth. The two of us exist in a state of dichotomy. My victories aren’t won in the ring, they aren’t won in front of an arena packed with fans. There are no belts or trophies for the shit I put myself through. My victories are earned in solitude, under the darkness of the early morning, where it’s just me and the cold iron of the gym and the unrelenting cadence of my boots pounding the pavement. While you’re sleeping, I’m putting in the fucking work. While you’re spending time with your family, I’m lifting the weights that you neglect and putting in the miles you never will. I say again, we are not the same. When it’s cold and wet, when I’m tired and exhausted, when I just don’t want to do it…

I FUCKING DO IT!

I live with a zero option mentality when it comes to training and focus. 

I am the fucking standard. I am the hardest worker in the room. No one else even comes close.

You, on the other hand, aren’t worthy enough to lick the dog shit from my boots.

A man like you will never understand the kind of man that I am. I am a hard working, bad motherfucker that knows how to endure when the odds are stacked against me. You will never understand that kind of mindset, you’re not built to withstand like I am. Normally, I’d put a little joke right here. Normally, I’d go for  the low hanging fruit at this moment, but the fact is, you are the low hanging fruit, and everyone above the line of mediocrity knows it. You stumble, stammer and stutter all over yourself and it happens every single time you open that cocksucker of yours. You are the most useless breed of human that exists, but for some reason, we let you stick around. Maybe it’s for shits and giggles, or maybe it’s just to piss off the competition. Just understand, we let you be here…you haven’t earned a fucking thing.

Unlike you, and don’t you even try to convince yourself of this, I enjoy the pain. I enjoy the challenge. I go hard in the paint every single time I step in the ring, while you are just trying to box people out. I will get beat up, knocked down, drained of all my blood, and that will do nothing to stop me. Stopping is not in my DNA. I only stop when I am done. I push forward until the mission is complete, no matter the circumstances. And right now, my mission won’t be complete until you are eliminated from the LBI and the World Championship is strapped around my waist. With every single fiber of my being, I am a fighter. World Championship history or not, I am something that you can never be. Not in a million fucking years. They call me The Last Man in Wrestling for a reason and it’s because I am the top of the mountain, I am THE alpha male, I am a great white shark, and I am at the top of the motherfucking food chain.

In a world of conformity, I carve out my own path. You know nothing about living that way. You are a commoner – a fucking peasant, and I sit on my throne next to the best wrestlers in the world and we’re all looking down at you. What a beta bitch like you will never realize, until its too fucking late, is that we are not the fucking same! There are 86,400 seconds in a day, and I maximize every single one of those motherfuckers.

You don’t.

You never have been and never will be on my level. You can keep touting your World Championship wins, but the fact is you beat a distracted Mike Best, a near death Mike Best, and you won a group match. That title’s prestige is 20 miles over your head, and all you’ve done is bring it down a few pegs every time you’ve won it. Thank God for Christopher America, who elevated the belt so high that not even your two-minute title reign last year could devalue it.

You’re a shit stain on the history of HOW, and the ironic part is that you’re the man who is in charge of keeping the history of this company archived. You think that saying something off cuff will get you fired or canceled, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We have had referees with more offensive names than anything you have ever said, and nobody got fired. The real reason you get fired – or canceled, as you put it – is cause you’re sorry as fuck and everyone is just looking for a reason to throw you in front of a bus.

Wrestling is your entire fucking world, and it just kills you to know that I’m better at it than you are. No matter how many fluke World Title wins you have in HOW, I will always be better than you. ALWAYS. You have dedicated your entire life to this business, and the fact that I would rather be in another country killing bad guys than be in a wrestling ring, well, I’ll bet that really drives you out of your fucking mind, doesn’t it? Being the best wrestler in the world is your dream, it has never been mine. I just happen to be really fucking good at it and you…not so much. Being a great wrestler was never my main objective in life, being the best Soldier that the US Army ever produced was, and that’s exactly what I became. But I had a life to live after the Army, and showing my dad that I am better than him in every single facet of life became an important part of that life. So, after I capped some bad guys I thought I’d give the squared circle a try, and pussies like you just kept feeding me win after win after win.

Just realize, no matter how many Public Service Announcement text messages you send me, you will never get inside my head. I can’t be defeated by you in wrestling or in life. You are a secondary act, I am the main attraction. So you’ve won the World Title, and I haven’t. You know what I say to that? 

GOOD

That makes me want to kick your ass even harder every single time I think about it. 

That motivates me to get up earlier than you, to work harder than you ever could, and to punish myself even more in the gym.

That inspires me to be more disciplined in my approach. 

If you think wrapping that piano wire around Cooley’s neck was brutal, you ain’t seen shit yet. I’ve been saving shit up for this match, Stevens. I don’t even have the words to describe the things that I’ve got in store for you. Your days in the LBI are numbered and so are your days in HOW. Maybe even in life. If you even make it to March to Glory after Monday night, I haven’t done my fucking job. Hell, if you make it to War Games, I’ll feel like the mission was a complete failure. 

I am going to absolutely crush your soul.

I’m going to close with this Stevens, because I think you need to hear it one more fucking time because I’m not sure your dumb, Texan brain understood it the first five times I said it.

W E    A R E    N O T    T H E    S A M E