The Routine of Patrolling
|24 January 93
We spent a quiet day refitting to go back out on patrol again tomorrow. We
replaced the rations and water we used and cleaned all of our weapons.
I was on general duties today, so I spent the morning filling
jerry-cans, but luckily I just missed shit-burning detail. We
prepared a barbecue for the troops in camp from the fresh rations that
just arrived. I sliced potatoes, carrots and onions (and my
finger.) Then I was relieved half way through cooking so that I
could enjoy the fruits of my labour.
After diner we played with the captured weapons.
There were AKs, G-3s, HK-21s, Thomson, Berretta and Sterling machine guns,
and an anti-tank gun to name a few. We practiced stripping and assembling
each of the weapons and learned to operate them all. We never know if we will have to use a captured weapon,
so this experience is invaluable. I tried to convince the Lt to let me have
an AK, but to no avail. Usually I only carry this ancient pistol they issued
me, I would feel more comfortable with a reliable weapon, even if it was captured.
There were two AK's here today, both in rough condition, but like all
AK's extremely workable. One was stamped and the other
machines. The machined one felt good in my hands, I didn't want to
let it go.
We were issued our Tilley hats today. They will be much better at
keeping the sun off of us than our bush hats designed for Canada. We
put up the mess tent today and we now have a TV and VCR, not that we are
ever in camp anymore to watch them.
25 January 93
We were up early this morning and into the
carriers for our next patrol. Doary remained behind because he is
going on R&R in Nairobi tomorrow. He is going to recce out all
the good spots and let me know for when I get to go.
We spent the morning driving south on the Mogadishu highway. I
was a wild boar near the road. They have some pretty strange animals
that look like small deer with long rabbit ears. They stand about 2
feet high and travel in small packs. The vultures which constantly
circle Beled Weyne are huge, with wingspans of about 5 feet. There
are also mongooses, dingos, cranes, vipers and other animals that I do not
After driving 85 km south, we turned east down a dirt track for a
couple of hours. We stopped for lunch near a small hamlet and sat in
the shade of the bushes. This area is much greener than Beled
During the afternoon we continued east. We travelled through land
populated only by nomadic camel herders, passing hundreds of camels and
camps on the way. All along the road were Somali graves. They
bury their dead shallow, covering the bodies in a mound of rocks or
dirt. The grave sites are then surrounded by a high wall of logs and
brush to keep the animals away.
Eventually the road faded to a foot trail which faded away into the bush
as it travelled up into the hills. We tried to get past the rocky
outcrops, but the carriers couldn't make it. We finally turned back
when the engineer vehicle got a flat tire. As we fixed the tire,
monkeys came to watch us from the rocks above. A dozen or so nomads
then came out of the bush and approached us. Apparently they had
been following us.
We continued to travel cross country for awhile, but alpha's steering
failed and required the assistance of the MRT. It turned out that it
was not the steering, but a flat front tire which we haphazardly
patched. The thorns here are amazing, punching through the inches of
rubber on the tires of our armoured vehicles. Bravo then had two
more flats and we had one badly torn front tire which couldn't be
repaired. We traded tires around and patched what we could. We
moved our centre tire to the front and put a large bison tire in the
middle and began limping back towards the main road. Alpha's tire
kept going flat and Bravo's totally blew.
We have no spares and are trying to decide what to do. We
consider limping home on the flats or scavenging tires off of the eight
wheeled bison which should be able to run on six. We eventually
decide on the first option and begin limping the 10 km back to the main
26 January 93
didn't make it. About one or two kilometers from the main road, the
sun was setting fast and we had two more flats. Charlie section and starlight showed up
with another grizzly and bison tire, so we went to work changing and patching tires while the rest of
the platoon set up a defensive perimeter.
We begin moving again at 6 a.m. and continue towards the main
road. Our carrier is running on 4 grizzly and 2 bison
tires. Even though the bison tires are 2 inches wider we are
making good time.
As we worked last night, we found two millipedes which were as big
around as my thumb and about 6 inches long. These have to be the
ugliest bugs I have ever seen!
The nomads are pretty weird. They have no idea about the
coalition or what we are doing here. Many of them think we are
Italians from the colonial days. Whenever we stop for any length of
time, dozens of them slowly and cautiously begin appearing out of the
Last night once the work was finished, I was talking to the medic about
female circumcision (that is what the Somalis call it, I prefer genital
mutilation.) When Somali women reach puberty, their vulva are cut out,
usually with broken glass, then their vaginas are sewn shut. When they are
married, the man uses his dagger to cut her back open to his size. I doubt
many Somali women have fond memories of their 'honeymoon.'
Each time they give birth, they are cut open again. I guess all that scar tissue
doesn't stretch enough. After birth, they are once again sewn up back to the man's size.
Throughout the discussion, all I could think about was the pain the future holds for Ifraa
and her friends. I want to take her back to Canada, to adopt her and give her a better
life. But she is only one child in the midst of all this suffering.
The medic also told me about some of the things she had seen working in the local
hospital over the last month. One lady came in five months pregnant, but had miscarried a
month before and was still carrying the dead fetus. Another woman with gangrene was
waiting in the hospital for her leg to fall off or to die, apparently Somalis don't
believe in amputation.
We headed north along the highway to the town of Halgen where we
stopped and searched for weapons. We talked to an ex-officer from
Siad Barre's airforce, a MIG-19 pilot. He said that Halgen was the
safest town in the area with no bandits, guns or soldiers. All we
found was some stolen aid, not enough to worry about, so we moved on,
searching the villages to the north. Every hour or so we had to stop
to refill leaking tires.
Eventually alpha's tire had to be replaced, so we pulled into a
defensive position and cannibalized the engineer vehicle. We removed
two of its tires and chained up the hubs. We then changed one of
alpha's rear tires for the flat front one and put one of the spare bison
tires we had gained on the back. All this took over two hours and we
were not on the road again until after eleven.
We met up with callsign 32 just north of Beerxaano where we stopped for
lunch and to await a resupply of tires and fuel. We then waited for
39'er (the commanding officer) to arrive and give us new orders.
A bag of mail was stolen going through town on its way from the
airstrip. It probably contained my one and only parcel. That
would be just my luck considering I've only received one letter in the
whole month I've been here.
Our orders for tonight are to make a deliberate night raid on the town
of Yesoumon along with callsign 32. We have had several reports of
15 to 20 bandits in the town who have been setting up a roadblock to
rob passing vehicles. They apparently head for the hills whenever
our vehicles approach, so we are going in on foot to try and catch
We travel east then south on dirt tracks, moving fast and in blackout
drive. All is black around us, the drivers navigating by night
vision devices. We stop about 30 km's out for confirmatory orders
and prepare our weapons. Our turret had a power wire caught in the
gears, so Rick pulled out his AK bayonet and tried to fix it.
Somehow he touched the wrong thing. Bright sparks flew everywhere
and all I could see through the thick blue smoke was Rick scrambling to
get out of the turret with his ass on fire. He definitely earned his
new nickname, 'sparky.'
At ten we mounted up and travelled the last 30 km's south.
27 January 93
We dismounted a few kilometers out of town and
began advancing on foot. Our latest intelligence said that there
were two roadblocks now, one at either end of town.
Arriving on the outskirts of town, we set up the C6 machine gun on the
main road into town for a good field of fire. Then just as we were
preparing for the final push into town - psych - mission aborted.
The bandits had dispersed hours ago and had faded off into the
countryside. We turned around and made the long walk back to the
I slept in the back for the long drive back to base camp for
refit. Half way back we blew another tire. I said fuck-it and
went back to sleep as the others changed it.
Back at camp, the day passed quietly cleaning
cloths and weapons, then doing maintenance on the carriers. I got a
letter from Nanny today, it was a welcome diversion. Yesterday, 2
commando's quartermaster hit an anti-personnel mine which trashed his
truck. No-one was hurt, but it keeps you on your toes.