Somalia Medal The Canadian Airborne Regiment in Somalia
A Soldier's Journals
Monday, April 23, 2018  

Somalia '93




 

Becoming Calloused

28 January 93

It is practically a day off. All we had to do was put everything back in the carriers and restock water and rations. Then this evening we had a class in unarmed combat.  The day was actually pretty nice for a change.  It was cloudy all day which kept the temperature down and it even rained a bit before sunset.

T19C hit an anti-tank mine today.  Also, our rules of engagement have changed.  We can kill anyone with a weapon if they do not immediately surrender after a warning shot, even if they are running away.  We have also had kids infiltrating our position to steal stuff.  In return, we have set up trip flares in the concertina and have orders to shoot anyone caught within the perimeter, armed or not, if they do not surrender after a warning shot.

We will patrol the villages along the east side of the river tomorrow looking for weapons caches.  We will be taking an interpreter with us which should make us more effective.

29 January 93

We started late this morning because our interpreter showed up far past when he was supposed to arrive. When he (Abdul) finally arrived, we headed south, then east to search the large village by the river.  Finding nothing we headed south along the highway past Nuur Fanax where we stopped for lunch.

We searched a village farther south named Garesiyaani, then headed west to the village of Boauo.  It is a very large village where there was a great deal of fighting against Siad Barre's troops in the past.  A large amount of the village had been burnt to the ground.  The interpreter says there are many weapons here, but all we manage to find is a cache of anti­tank mines.

As we were driving into town earlier, a cloudburst hit us, drenching everything.  It was great!  It continued to rain all afternoon and into the evening, so when we pulled into our hide for the evening near Garesiyaani, we set up tarps behind the vehicles.  I slept there amongst the rocks.

32 had a contact today.  Near Yesouman, a lone gunman fired off a mag at them.  They returned fire with four C7's and a C9, but hit nothing and the gunman got away.

30 January 93

I sat up last night talking with Abdul about many things including his country.  He says that every household has a gun and that the only solution is to forceably disarm the entire country.  That would be quite a task.

We returned with the engineers to the town of Boauo to clear the mine cache.  While they were off, Pat and I bought some African cloth to send home.  We remove 13 TM and TMH 46 Soviet anti-tank mines from a hut in the village and take them a few kilometers out of town.  The engineers blew the mines while we watch from a few hundred meters away. 

We return to base camp to find the flags at half-mast.  Another marine has died in Mogadishu.

I pulled canteen duty this evening, so I am sitting here drinking more than my fair share of cold beer, listening to Jimi Hendrix and reading the Snow Leopard by Peter Mathiessen.  The Snow Leopard seems to be affecting me more than the first time I read it years ago.  I don't know if it is because of the situation I am in or the fact that I am at a more mature point in my life.

"Confronted by the pain of Asia, one cannot turn away.  In India, human misery seems so pervasive that one takes in only stray details; a warped leg or a dead eye, a sick pariah dog eating withered grass, an ancient woman lifting her sari to move her shrunken bowels by the road."

- Pg 12, The Snow Leopard, Peter Mathiessen.

These words speak to me.  I see so much pain, poverty and despair that my mind just shuts down, only registering the odd extreme details.  I was worrying because it wasn't effecting me the way it did when I first got here.  Am I becoming calloused to the grief I am confronted with every day?  The nightmare, no disturbing dreams, are becoming less frequent.  Is this a good sign?

Someone tried to infiltrate our position again tonight.  Last night he made it by the trip flares, but tonight we changed them from slack to tight wire and he set it off.  By the time the sentries got there, he was gone.  We have booby-trapped one of the jerry cans he has been stealing.  That will get him if we don't first.

31 January 93

I got a valentine's day card from my Mom this morning along with a letter from the daughter of the person who sent us a Christmas card. It is nice to receive these bits of mail from Canada, even if it is from people we don't know and just want to help in some small way.

Late this morning we got the word to mount up.  A Somali pickup had been stolen by 3 gunmen and we were off in hot pursuit.  We caught up with the vehicle in Beerxaano with a flat tire.  We found one guy in the vehicle with an AK, the others had fled.  Pat approached him cautiously, weapon at the ready and persuaded him to put down his weapon.  It was a brave thing for Pat to do even if every one of us had the Somalis' head in our sights and our fingers on the trigger.  The slightest twitch and he would have ceased to exist.

We searched the area, but did not find the others.  We did find some heavy weapons and anti-personnel mines though, so we called in the engineers to dispose of them.

Eventually the owner of the vehicle arrived with his entire extended family tagging along to help him tow it back to town.  We escorted him back to the police station and turned over our prisoner, probably to be released later in the day because the cells were full.

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