Somalia Medal The Canadian Airborne Regiment in Somalia
A Soldier's Journals
Tuesday, April 24, 2018  

Somalia '93




 

Preparing for the Mission

2 September 92

This morning the rumours are confirmed as we received the official word that we are going to Somalia. We have been told to expect to be on the ground by 15 October. After last year when we spent months preparing to go to the Western Sahara, only to have it cancelled after many delays, everyone is skeptical, but underneath it all there is a strong feeling that we will actually be going. Rumours have been flying all summer and we've all know something was up.

Yesterday afternoon we received a briefing on Somalia outlining where we will be going and what we will be doing if in fact we do go. The briefing was short and we all took it with a grain of salt after the Western Sahara.

The news broke today and we were on all the local and national news programs. There had been hints and speculations before, but these treated it as fact that we are going.

3 September 92

On morning parade we were told that 2 RCR has been committed to Yugoslavia and that we should expect to leave for Somalia in three weeks. It took us months to prepare for the Sahara and they expect us to head off in a few weeks! I know we can do it, but what a logistical nightmare it will be. The Airborne Regiment can be prepared to move in a matter of days, but the rest of the Canadian Forces does not maintain our state of readiness.   We could easily end up without logistical support if we move too quickly.  I guess I shouldn't expect much free time in the next little while.

Apparently Canada now has its largest UN commitment ever, even larger than that of Korea, something like 2500 troops and it is severely straining the system. Maybe it will make them take a good look at what they have been doing to the military with their force reduction plan.  Troops are on a constant rotation of tours and it is beginning to put a strain on the soldiers' families and the forces as a whole.

Everything is changing so rapidly with this new world order. Instead of the mission of war we have been given the mission of Peace, a much more worthwhile aim in my eyes. Depending on how things go in the next couple of years, I might have to re-examine my priorities and stay in the military.

10 September 92

An intense week so far. Last Friday we had our first briefing on Somalia. Then after a needed long weekend we were back at work. Ranges, classes and more briefings, but still no concrete information.  We will be going to Bossasso in the north and the advance party will be leaving in a couple of weeks with the rest of us leaving in a few more weeks. The Provider will be sailing soon and will be supplying us for the first couple of months, but it still looks like we will be eating IMP's for awhile.

We went through the departure assistance group (DAG) today and even though it took forever I am good to go.

The newspapers are reporting that the United Nations is estimating that 2 million people will die in Somalia if sufficient amounts of food are not delivered quickly enough.  The Red Cross estimates that 60,000 tons of food are needed.  Meanwhile Somali truck drivers in Beled Weyne have parked their trucks on the airstrip in Beled Weyne turning back aid flights because they lost the contract to haul the food.

20 September 92

Canadian and German relief planes came under attack recently while delivering supplies at an airstrip near Hoddur which is about 280 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu.  Luckily Somali security forces repelled the attack, killing three of the bandits.  Meanwhile, General Aidid, one of the main Somali warlords called on the United States to withdraw the marines who are waiting off the coast.  He says that they will not contribute to peace in his country.  He also does not want the UN to deploy troops.

The aid agencies are pleading with the UN to deploy troops though.  They say that their efforts have been severely hampered by widespread looting and attacks by bandits.  Only last Friday, airlifts were cancelled to Beled Weyne after an American cargo plane was hit by a bullet.

19 October 92

We've spent the weeks watching the news, packing kit, training and listening to the excuses for the delays. More and more this is beginning to sound like last year all over again, but we are trying our best to keep moral up and keep going.  We have the day off today so I haven't heard anything, but the Recce party returned yesterday so we may hear something soon. They spent a week in Bossasso in the north.  At least things are happening.

The warlord Mohammed Abshir Musa who controls the area around Bossasso has agreed to us coming in to guard the aid shipments in that area.  Word is that Bossasso is relatively calm compared to other parts of the country, but they are anxious for our arrival.  Our equipment is in Halifax and ready to be loaded on the ships.

A Canadian and a Belgian Herc came under heavy machine gun fire as it was unloading aid a few days ago and Tommy Thomson, a UN official came under heavy fire as he left the airstrip in Mogadishu.  His vehicle was flying a Red Cross flag at the time.  Also, fighting between General Morgan (Siad Barre's son-in-law) and General Aidid has intensified. 

The defence minister, Marcel Masse, and General de Chastelain are pleading with the government for additional funding to support our UN commitments.  We have no faith in Masse though and do the best we can with what we have and hope for some relief in the future.

27 November 92

The United States has offered to send as many as 30,000 troops into Somalia.  The United Nations is considering their offer and a tough new mandate for the troops.  If this is approved, we will first secure the ports and airstrips, then key roads and food distribution points.

John Watson, the executive director of Care Canada has sent a letter to Brian Mulruney asking that we be sent to the more heavily populated south where lawless gangs have disrupted relief operations.  Watson says that the Federal Government is afraid of the political backlash if Canadian Troops become involved in fighting.  He says, "Canada is going to have to assign troops to a place where they would have to fight and kill people."

2 December 92

The UN Security Council has approved a US led force for Somalia. They feel that the peacekeeping approach they have been taking so far has failed and they are talking about sending troops in a combat role to force the peace.  Once peace is established it will pave the way for a more conventional peacekeeping force.  We are still unsure what this will mean for us, but we are watching the news and reading the papers, anxiously waiting for news.

4 December 92

We were jumping today when we found out that we were going in with the US troops. We have mixed feelings about the Americans, but moral is high and we are all looking forward to a probably much more interesting mission.  We had all been wondering why we were going to Bossasso when the problems were in the south . . .

After the repeated delays, we had all thought this was a repeat of the Western Sahara fiasco, but now it seems like a reality.  The Americans are planning a two phase operation in which we first go in and secure major ports and airstrips, then move out and forcefully disarm the militias and clan warlords.   At the same time we will be setting up relief stations, delivering food and setting up basic social services like schools and hospitals.

It is estimated that about 80 percent of the aid is currently being stolen by the warlords.  Our presence can only help get the food to the people who really need it.  We are being given a mandate which is very similar to the Gulf War.  With powers that broad, we should be able to do our job for a change instead of being crippled by typical UN bureaucracy.  This is the first time that the United Nations have intervened in a countries internal affairs with a mandate to use offensive force.  The United Nations resolution was drafted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows the use of force "to maintain or restore international peace and security."

In the newspapers, analysts are saying that this is the largest and most dangerous mission ever undertaken by the UN in Africa.  They also say that the fighting in Somalia has caused the worst man-made famine this century which has killed at least 300,000 people and left two million more on the brink of death.  They say though that only a prolonged operation can rebuild the country, and that there is no way that it can be completed in the four or five months that the US is estimating.  People are already beginning to compare this to Vietnam and Beruit.  They feel we will get pulled into a lengthy conflict with no easy way out.

The External Affairs Minister Barbara McDougall has agreed that our mandate will be to shoot first and ask questions later.  This is the first combat mission for Canadian Ground troops since the Korean War.

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