Somalia Medal The Canadian Airborne Regiment in Somalia
A Soldier's Journals
Wednesday, July 18, 2018  

Somalia '93




 

Back to Patrolling

11 February 93

Viau and Okerlund were promoted to Corporal last night, so they each bought 48 beer and passed them around. Added to our 2 beer ration, we managed to get fairly drunk for a change. At midnight, still half drunk, I went out for my two hour shift at the front bunker. On my way, I stumbled across the one of the senior NCO's, drunk and crawling on the ground trying to stalk up on the bunker. He muttered something unintelligible that I ignored, then went on his way.

A little while later I got a call on the Matel from the back bunker. The drunk had also tried to stalk up on them, so they warned us to keep an eye open. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later I looked behind me and there he was, sneaking up on us. I should have fired a warning shot his way, that would have taught him. Instead, I said hello to him and he started talking about something I never really got - Cyprus war stories. Sitting talking and slurring, he would occasionally fall over, barely catching himself. Finally he stumbled away leaving us in peace.

I woke up this morning at six after less than four hours sleep. I packed up quickly and headed out on patrol with 31C. 31 isn't coming out until this afternoon and Charlie needed the extra manpower because some of their troops are on R&R. We drove about 5 km's south of Treejante where we pulled off the road and set up an OP on a high feature. The day was spent reading or writing and pulling shifts on OP.

31A came under fire this afternoon and are searching for the gunmen. Luckily, the rounds only came close and no-one was hurt. The day drags on for us though, all is quiet. Our OP is on a hill overlooking the main road to Mogadishu. It is just after noon and the sun is beating down on us. I am covered in sweat. We are watching for armed vehicles travelling into our AOR. They won't come until tonight though, preferring to travel under the cover of darkness.

Below me is a vast open plain, stretching out flat to the horizon. The rocky, sandy expanse is broken only be stunted trees and thorn bushes, most of which are dead. Along the eastern edge of the plain is a row of short hills which the road to Mogadishu follows. Every once in awhile a huge spinning 'dust devil' goes flying by. They are like weak tornadoes up to a couple hundred feet across and hundreds of feet high. It is a harsh, inhospitable environment, but somehow the Somalis manage to survive and in some cases even thrive. The country does have a sort of rugged, wild beauty.

Down south here, away from Beled Weyne, most of the towns and villages have no water supply other than the river which is often many kilometers away. Each morning they set off for the river on donkey carts with 50 gallon drums to fetch water. It is a long trip for something we get from a tap. Living here for awhile, or even in Nairobi, you realize how extremely lucky we are to live in Canada and just how much we take for granted.

There is so much here that I have never seen before; the twisted bodies of lepers, whole villages of diseased, retarded and crippled kids, other villages burned to the ground by passing bandits or soldiers. It is often too much to deal with and your mind just shuts it out. Instead you try to dwell on the good; the young girls in brightly coloured dresses shyly smiling and waving then giggling and hiding behind their veils when you wave back, the animals, baboons, camels, wild boars, birds, etc., or the smile of gratitude of a father when you bring his starving family food. . .

The sniper fire and mines are easy to deal with, you can understand and face that. The despair, disease, and poverty are something else. They leave you feeling powerless and helpless and prey upon your sanity.

As I was writing this, movement caught my eye. Looking up, I found myself face to face with a large sand coloured snake. Remembering that most everything here is poisonous, I slowly put this journal down in front of it and backed off. It turned and slithered away as I called for help and we chased it, trying to kill it with sticks. It was quicker than us and got away.

Later in the evening I walked up the hill a short way and ran into the snake again. I grabbed another stick and chased him further up the hill hoping he would not come to sleep with me tonight.

12 February 93

Before dawn this morning, Sgt Mercier took a patrol out to search a hut in the distance, but found nothing.  We spent the night as an early warning for the roadblock bravo section had set up to the north.

At 6:30 this morning we mounted up and met the rest of the platoon at our old hide south of Beerxaano.  On the drive we passed two hyenas then two of those small deer.  Once the callsign was assembled, we headed up to the town north of Beerxaano where we headed down the track towards the albino village.  Near there we set up another OP and spent the day watching for traffic.

It is only 8:30 p.m. and already it is dark and the sky is filled with bright stars.  Day and night come so quickly here.  At six in the morning or evening the sun races past the horizon bringing night or day with little twilight.

After a good night's sleep last night and slumbering in the shade all day, I cannot sleep.  I have gone from four hours of sleep a night to this, what a contrast.  In the distance someone is singing or praying, but it sounds more like the lonely howl of a wolf.  The night is filled with sound, crickets, goats, camels and birds.

I tried to meditate earlier, but my mind is too cluttered and distracted.  I long to leave behind all this extra baggage that I have accumulated through the years, but can't seem to manage.  Materialism and desires continue to haunt me.  If I cannot lose them, then I will never be able to lose this sense of self, leave behind the I and become part of the whole, become one.

Why do I continue to burden myself with obligations and desires?  Instead of freeing myself from the bonds which restrain me, I continue forming more.  I want a new car, a better computer, a girlfriend, a lover, a stereo, a camera, want, want, want...  I know it is wrong and I don't want to want, but I can't break free.  Even this journal is a product of my desire, my need to express myself in a tangible form which I can possess.

Wouldn't it be nice to strip myself of my desires and belonging, to be able to wander out into the world unencumbered by the shit I tend to collect, for once to truly experience.  How can I truly learn if I persist on carrying around with me my perceived notions of life, ethics and morality.  Can I ever be truly free of prejudice, fully open minded?  Are we able to accept whatever we see, do, or experience as it is without passing judgement on it?

I am growing weary of the bonds which enslave me and that is the first step to freedom.  When though will I manage to take the next step and severe those bonds?  For how many lifetimes will I continue to walk this circle?

13 February 93

This morning we pulled out and headed back to camp early only to find that we had to go back out again on a dog and pony show for the General and the Force Sergeant Major.  With General Beno and the FSM in our carrier we headed south to Beerxaano then west to the river to one of General Habero's weapons caches.  This first cache consisted of a Soviet ZPU-4 14.5mm anti-aircraft gun and a Fiat 6614 armoured car.

 
ZPU-4 14.5mm anti-aircraft gun

We then headed north through the towns along the river to another of the General's caches.  This one was more interesting.  We found another anti-aircraft gun, a BM-21 multiple rocket launcher, a M40A1 recoilless rifle and a twin 40 mm mounted on a five ton truck.  We ensured nothing had been moved as per our agreement with Habero and then headed back to camp.

 
The BM-21 multiple rocket launcher

General Beno says we will not be out of here before the summer.  That is good, it means more money to be made if I don't spend it all on my R & R's to Kenya.

Tonight Darnel was bitten by a scorpion.

14 February 93

I gashed my shin open on a steel picket last night.  The wound is deep and has been bleeding for the last 20 hours.  I do my best to keep it clean because infections happen so easily here.

I spend the day washing my combats.  Somehow we are on garrison duty again.  Each of the other platoons did it for one day and we get it for another week.  It doesn't seem fair.

15 February 93

"Between clinging and letting go, I feel a terrific struggle.  This is a fine chance to let go, to 'win my life by losing it,' which means not recklessness but acceptance, not passivity but nonattachment."

- Pg 154 - The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen

"The secret of the mountains is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself:  The mountains exist simply, which I do not.  The mountains have no "meaning," they are meaning; the mountains are.  The sun is round..."

- Pg 218 - The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen

"All the peaks are covered with snow - why is this one bare?  To solve the illogical question would mean to burst apart, let fall all pre-conceptions and supports.  But I am not ready to let go, and so I shall not resolve my koan...

I meditate for the last time on this mountain that is bare, though others all around are white with snow.  Like the bare peak of the koan, this one is not different from myself.  I know this mountain because I am this mountain, I can feel its breathing at this moment, as its grass tops stray against the snows."

- Pg 266 - The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen

As I read this last quote something happened, like a flash.  Suddenly my mind expanded and for a brief instant I understood.  I am not ready though and it scared me deeply.  Then as quickly as it happened it all collapsed and I was left with nothing but a sense of wonder and loss.  It was a brief moment of kensho.

I called my grandfather for his birthday last night on the satellite phone and found the whole family there.  I got to say hi to everyone, but as time was limited I didn't get to say much of anything to any one person.

I'm canteen queen today which is both good and bad.  I'm really tired after only a few broken hours of sleep last night, but at least it keeps me out of the sun.

16 February 93

It was another long, boring day of pulling guard duty shifts, cleaning kit and relaxing.  Security has been increased tonight because of threats from one of the more powerful local clans.  All corner bunkers are fully manned and the grizzlies have been spread around the perimeter for what we are calling the Tet Offensive.  Nobody actually believes their idle threats, but I will still sleep with my pistol loaded just in case.

We are going out on a three day patrol tomorrow and will set up roadblocks each night.  The platoon commander is going on a 72 hour R & R in Nairobi, so the Warrant Officer will be in charge.  Maybe we will actually get something done for a change now that we won't have a moron in charge.

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