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Old 11-28-2004, 21:49   #2
Basenshukai
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: The Woodlands, Texas
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"FID" Series (Part 2)

North, to our rear, we heard the clanking sound of a metal gate. In the darkness, about 200 meters away, we saw what seemed like PN military personnel escorting another Toyota Hilux through an access point. Between us and the approaching vehicle were a number of single engine aircraft and behind that, further from us, stood what appeared to be the main airport building – the only airport building. To our east, there was a fenced-in area and beyond it were several OV-10 Bronco aircraft followed by several Bell UH-1 helicopters. “Those are the other ‘gringos’ in this AO,” said Patrick. But, there was no activity there either. The other “gringos” were from a civilian contract agency that took part in some counter-narcotics activities. Many of the employees were former special operations personnel whom have worked this far south before. As part of the rules set by their employers, as well as for safety, the men were never allowed to wander into the town unless it was a very critical matter and they were escorted by a PN police convoy. I took a mental note of the place and decided that I would stop by in a few days to coordinate with them and get on the same sheet of music regarding FP matters.

All was quiet and dark, and except for the approaching blacked-out vehicle, there was no activity. We were expecting to be met by one of only two active-duty military Americans in the area. Their job was to advice and train the PN units and to report all activities to the US Embassy. However, due to the fact that the PN leadership rarely paid any attention to the suggestions that were given them, the team of two Americans was really acting as the eyes and ears for the US Embassy in any matters that the PN made visible to their advisors. The white Toyota Hilux approached us slowly until it was about one vehicle length from us. The driver stepped out and spoke in a conversational tone, “Captain?” He said with a very heavy Hispanic accent. “What’s up, brother …” I replied as I removed the NVG and head harness and put them away, “are you with the advisor team down here?” I asked. “Yeah, my captain could not make it. He left for ‘R and R’ and will be back in a few days. Anyway, why don’t you ride with me while the boys handle that pick-up truck? I’ll give you a quick orientation of the area while we drive.” I retracted the stock of my M4 and shoved it between my legs in the front passenger seat of the front cab of his vehicle and un-holstered the M9, put it on safe and placed it on my lap. I learned that the NCO was an E-7, or Sergeant First Class (SFC) from the US Army’s Southern Command (USARSO). He was actually from a National Guard Unit in Texas and was activated for the next year. His background was mechanized infantry. His accent was heavy like that of the Tony Montana character in the famous “Scarface” motion picture. Better still, he actually had a near-vertical two inch scar on his face on his left cheek. In my mental Rolodex he was placed in the “M” section for “Montana”; that’s how I remembered him. SFC “Montana” drove us through the urban center of the city and showed me areas of interest: where to buy food, where to get cleaning supplies, where to get building supplies, the local entertainment, and the “no go” areas. The town reminded me of similar places in Puerto Rico with the same multi-level home and business concrete architecture and pastel colors. Yellow seemed to be predominant the color of choice.

Most roads in the center of town were improved (asphalt) while many of the side streets were unimproved red clay. I could tell from the amount of red clay residue on the asphalted roads that the rainy season caused occasional flooding. As we drove the last stretch towards the PN military base nearby, SFC Montana pointed-out some flat expanse of land to the west, my right. “You see those hundreds of acres of land there?” He asked. I nodded an affirmative. “The left wing guerrilla group used to attack this very battalion once a week just four years ago.” I found that comment quite interesting. Did these attacks spur forth an offensive response on the part of the PN? “Well, what happened four years ago? Why did it stop?” I asked. “Well, the right wing paramilitary group moved in for the cocaine profits and visited the center of town … well; they visited for a while and then became permanent. Shortly after their visit many bodies could be seen floating down the river towards the east. They would gut them and the piranhas would eat them by the time they traveled four klicks. Support for the left wing group died right quick after that.” We arrived at the main gate of the military base only to be waved through. We were not scrutinized. Yellow flood lights bathed the area around the main gate. The soldiers looked poorly equipped with 5.56 mm Galil rifles that were so old that the bluing had worn off and they shined unsightly silver in the dim light. Their web gear looked pretty well torn apart and there seemed to be no one in charge at first glance. We continued up hill away from most buildings in the base while we passed a large HLZ that could accommodate some 15 helicopters. “So the army didn’t cause the change in the town? This was all affected by the paramilitaries? So, who runs the town?” It was more of a rhetorical question on my part. I knew the answer already. “Who do you think?” He answered, “the paramilitaries run practically everything here … the army doesn’t even ruffle their feathers too much.” He continued, “The guerrilla’s have no respect for the army, but they fear the paramilitaries.” he added. “Why is that?” I was curious for his analysis. “Well, the paramilitaries don’t follow rules in this war. You could say they are pretty ‘unconventional’. When the paramilitaries attack the guerrillas, they show no quarter. No one survives and many bodies are mutilated.” He briefly stopped the car, looked over at me, took a second or two, and finished his thought; “Anyway, the paramilitaries are effective in fighting the guerrillas. They also have a strange policy of breaking contact whenever they encounter the government forces. It’s like a strange unofficial, unwritten mutual agreement. The PN military don’t really mess around with the paramilitaries too much either.” It was an eye opening statement. SFC Montana changed gears and slowly drove the vehicle to a halt just ahead of us.

We arrived at the officer quarters were Montana, and his captain, had their place. “Just park your vehicle here and, I guess, you want to bring your sensitive items inside.” He recommended. There is an actual technical explanation as to what a sensitive item is, but, generally, sensitive items are those things that are of high tactical value, usually expensive in nature, and hard to replace. Essentially, everything we carried was a sensitive item except our clothes. We entered a cul-de-sac surrounded by three homes. The whole area was bathed in darkness except for the city lights in the distance. We were on high ground with respect to the rest of the town. It was obvious that the military base, occupied over sixty-years ago, sat on dominant key terrain. Patrick was driving our pick-up and followed right behind us.

He slowed down as he closed-in on me and I raised my left index finger and motioned in a circular fashion. That was the hand-and-arm signal for ‘park the vehicle but give us an out’. He parked the vehicle such that, if we had to leave in a hurry, we could leave unhindered. “Capi, we take all the gear inside?” Kirk asked. The men called me “Capi”. It was short for “capitan” which was Spanish for captain. In 7th Special Forces Group the term was used similarly to the term “skipper” in the Navy. “Yeah, let’s carry all that inside and get comfortable for the night.” I instructed. Kirk and I carried a large black plastic gear box with sensitive items while Patrick carried loose bags and other items. We were done in a few minutes and claimed our spaces for the night in the Spartan-like quarters. The place was largely devoid of furniture and the walls exhibited a very old yellowish coat of paint. Each bedroom had a standard-issue green cot. We pulled extras from an overstuffed closet full of miscellaneous equipment. The living room was dominated by a SATCOM radio and a new 27 inch television complete with satellite reception. We were glad to have a roof over our heads for the night. We were in a relatively safe area but slept with our weapons by our sides.

(To Be Continued)
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Last edited by Basenshukai; 11-28-2004 at 23:05.
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