Continued from On To Baidoa.In the morning, I awoke in the 8th Gurkhas Camp (3rd Mech), before daylight broke. It was cold. I put on my equipment, grabbed my weapons and walked around. I approached the Condors, heard a sound behind me. There was one of my soldiers, who was alert. He was embarrased as he had pointed his rifle at me, my fault as I had stole around him. I felt a surge of affection as orders were being rigidly obeyed, to be very alert.
I walked up to the entrance of the camp, which was manned by some Gurkhas of 3rd Mech Indian Army. They sprung to an attention and saluted me. I reponded by giving them a sharp salute. They were behind an ant-tank Carl Gustav and a LMG (bren gun), these were weapons the Indians manufacture under license. They are similar to the ones in our arsenal, except their's is made in India.
The sun was slowly rising and the intermingling of cold and warmth brings a pleasant sensation. You want to be smothered in a blanket. Then, that was a luxury I could not afford. Soon Othman was beside me. I told him to get one section of soldiers to be on standby. The Mech Corporal was to be exempted as he would thoroughly check the Condors, before the move back. He would be assisted by the fitters from the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Corps personnell who were attached to us. The Somali truck drivers were slowly drifting in. They were allowed into the enclosure by the Indian soldiers. No one was allowed to approach their trucks.When the head of the Somali truckers verified the presence and attendance of all the truck drivers, they were allowed to approach their trucks. They started preparing their trucks for the short move to the warehouse which was a distribution center. The warehouse was within the visual distance of where we were encamped.
Left : Trucks similar to the ones in Somalia.
The Indians brought in steaming buckets of tea, chapatis and puris with thick and delicious dhall curry. I wanted to join my soldiers and tuck into the food. That was not to be, I was summoned to their Officers Mess. I went into their mess which was decorated, with items of yester year, airlifted all the way from India. I stepped on a 180 year old carpet of the 8th Gurkhas (now 3 Mech). I felt guilt as I very softly trod on the carpet, thinking of all the warriors of yester years who stepped on it. It was marvellosly maintained and cleaned. It did look new to me.
Yeah, had breakfast with the Officers of 3 Mech. Breakfast was bread with butter and jam ! Poor me. It was all prim and proper, forks, knives and spoons, silver ones at that. My lucky soldiers. Aha ! The tea was excellent though, made with a very faint taste of sweetness, just a dash. It was piping hot with milk.
My lucky soldiers with chapatis, puris and dhall. I sighed quite audibly thinking of them eating those mouth watering chapatis. One of the Officers, asked me if anything was wrong. I asked him, I hated bread in Somalia, how is that soldiers get to eat chapatis and officers get to eat, only unappetizing bread. He broke out laughing, saying something in Hindi. The soldier waiters went out and came back with trays of chapatis and silver bowls of dhall. The bread initially served was because of me being the honoured guest. After that it was plain dunking chapatis in dhall with great gusto. They stopped eating watching me, I said, "What ?". The response was, they had never seen anyone eat chapatis like I did, I made it look delicious and made them hungry.
Beakfast done, I went back to my boys. The Somali trucks were ready, so was a section of my boys. A Condor moved out of the Indian camp with a section of Rangers to take up position beside the warehouse. One more Condor with a section of Rangers was on standby with it's engine running, for immediate backup in the event the Condor near the warehouse ran into trouble. The soldiers in the Condor near the warehouse were deployed in pairs around the warehouse, while the main armaments of the Condor were manned.
There was one representative from the World Food Proram, he was a Sudanese national. He coordinated all relief for the Lower El Shabeele Region. He came over to thank me personally for the World Food program run to Baidoa. I told him about my problems, the problems with the trucks, bandits, truck drivers and a host of other problems. He promised me that he would inform his bosses in Mogadishu. His name I recall was Ibrahim. I asked him about the character of Somalis, this is what he replied, "You can do a thousand things for the Somalis, you are considered good, the day for some rational reason you cannnot meet their requirements, the one and only time, you are considered bad. This my good Captain, is a thankless job. I have even been threatened by guns.
The move back to Mogadishu could not be done that day as the trucks unloading at the warehouse were taking a long time. There was a slight commotion at the warehouse, I saw from a distance some of my soldiers pointing their rifles at a Somali, he was armed with a AK47. He was raising his hands with the rifle held high up. My soldiers disarmed him. It was a misunderstanding. He was the warehouse's guard engaged by the WFP. Well, no one informed us. Lucky for him, he was not shot. The unloading took the whole day, the empty trucks, not all of them came back, only a few came back. They parked them in the Indian compound. They were to join us the following day, for the move back to Magadishu.
I was summoned to report to the Indian Army's 3rd Mech Officer's Mess for lunch. First I was served appetizers, ice cold beers from India in bottles, held by silver intricately designed bottle hoders which were at least a 150 years old. They were poured into chilled beer mugs. We stood on ancient 180 year old Persian carpets and poured the beers down our throats.That standing on the ancient carpet made me think of warriors past, those times, of the Indian Mutiny. The conversation was that some Somalis were shot up, would not that be you, I was asked. I just said "Bandits"." Good of you to do so, our rules of engagement suck," they responded. The news does indeed travel fast. Yes, that's the life. I was already into my fourth beer, when the Mess Sergeant, stomped into the Mess, with a thundereing voice said, "Good afternoon Saah, lunch is seved". All these comforts in the field, so steeped in tradition. The Indian Army Officers know how to live. Apart from a few bad points.
I was informed that I could carry my beer to the dining hall. I was torn for choices the beers or the food. Anyway the food was okay. Okay, because the food is no where near the exquisite taste of Malaysian Indian food! Anyway, being the beggars we were in Somalia, for some spicy Indian food, I tucked into the food with relish. Would anyone believe it, in the the Malbatt Mess we converted spaghetti to fried "mee", noodles with the limited condiments we had, by itself was a miracle and an abberation. Anyway I enjoyed myself. The favourite topic of the Indian Army at that time was about the Pakis. Hey, I was eating their food. I of course concurred with them on every point. Anyway after the 3rd of October 1993 incident I did not have much respect for the Pakis, the reason being the Pakistanis tanks turned tail and fled during the rescue of the US Rangers, whereas the Malaysians plodded on. The Malaysians suffered 1 dead and 9 wounded.
Anyway after lunch I took off to see the unloading of the trucks. The bags of grain with US markings were neatly piled inside and outside of the warhouse.
Food lines also formed up under the supervision of the Indian soldiers. Here you see all the women and children queueing up for the food to be rationed to them, according to the size of the family. The Indian soldiers carried rifles and canes. They used the canes for crowd control. Their standard rifle was the SLR and for NCOs and Officers they vary, either a Polish AK47 or an Indian sterling sub machine gun. Some of their Officers carry a Browning 9mm pistol for their sidearm.
In Malaysia the Browning pistol is no more used as it is considered obsolette. The rifles carried by the Indian soldiers are attached to their bodies by a chain, similar to a dog leash. I carried a HKP9S riding on my thigh. I do not detach it at anytime, it is like part of me. The M4A1, yes I could leave it at an arm's length, not the pistol. That's the furthest I leave my rifle. I have two M73 grendes with me at all times.The threat is always there. You have a pistol on the thigh, not because it's the fashion, it enable one to make a quick draw. The cowboys got that right.
Right : The HKP9S, which rode on my right thigh, most of the time.
It uses 9mm rounds, has a 9 round magazine. I beat a US Special Forces A Team Leader who was using a Beretta in an unofficial shooting competition by 3 points. Yes, we used 2 magazines, loaded with only 6 rounds each. The Beretta's magazine holds 15 rounds. The shoot was coducted using the Figure 11/59 target, at 25 meters under 25 miles per hour wind conditions along a beach in Somalia off the Indian Ocean. The bet was for a case of Macabee beers (Israeli). Captain Dan Maroun of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, if you are reading this, you still owe me ! I beat one of West Point's best. To be continued.........