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

Somalia '93




 

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 recognize.

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 Weyne.

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 road.

26 January 93

We 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 bush.

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 them.

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 carriers.

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.

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