In 30 Days
United Republic of Tanzania (Swahili: Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a country in East Africa in the African Great Lakes region.
Human settlement in what is now Tanzania began around 8,000 B.C., when hunter-gatherers settled along the Gregory Rift south of the Olduvai Gorge.
The Uganda–Tanzania war (usually referred to in Uganda as the Liberation War) was fought between Uganda and Tanzania in 1978–1979, and led to the overthrow of Idi Amin's regime. Idi Amin's forces included thousands of troops sent by Muammar Gaddafi, and some Palestinian support.
The Tanzanian Army acquired Soviet BM Katyusha rocket launchers (known in Uganda as saba saba), which they started to fire on targets in Uganda. The Ugandan Army retreated steadily after that. Libya's Muammar Gaddafi sent 2,500 more troops to aid Amin, equipped with T-54 and T-55 tanks, BTR APCs, BM-21 Grad MRLs artillery, MiG-21s, and a Tu-22 bomber.
As usual, it seems the FFL (French Foreign Legion) was always late to attend the party, but party we did.
In 1979 a new strategy was to be used, a combination of land and air attack at the same time. What a wonderful idea.
1,000 of our land and air troops were landed in the main coastal city of Dar es Salaam which served as the country's political capital. The supplies for the land troops were formidable while the Para went 'light'. (3 days of supplies, 5 litres extra of water, 500 rounds, 4 bang-bangs with a hope and a prayer too.)
The previous campaign between the countries had already lasted a might longer than anyone had imagined, then they called us in. We 300, a Para Force of the FFL and 7 units of regular Legionnaires (100 per unit), were successful by first taking the Entebbe airfield after some fighting, and then taking Kampala itself on 10 April 1979. Few Ugandan or Libyan units gave us some resistance there, then we did mop up until the end of May. As far as we were now concerned, the fighting was over for us.
It was for me too, my 'second tour' had ended with me taking a bullet where the 'sun don't shine' and we all had a fine laugh about it until it never healed right and my new start in my 6th year with the Legion and now finally as 'Para' was over at the 7th. (You need 5 years as a regular Legionnaire even before you can try to get in to Para), in fact, the wound I got was healing so poorly the FFL suggested that an early retirement would be in order, and asked if I have anything or anywhere I wanted to go in mind.
One of the benefits in lasting long enough in the Legion was you were assured of a new name and a new start. I knew that, but never imagined it would be happening to me so soon.
The remainder of that summer I tried to heal. My exit interview was in Paris. The office was in a section in the city that had those famous cobblestone walkways, small stanchions that held lengths of chain with openings to enter a shop, Bistro or an Inn. No cars, horses or mules, mind you, just walkers.
Off in the distance you could see the Eiffel Tower. That part of the city was way lower than where we were staying at. At night from there, you could see the little light at the tower's top. At times, it was lost though in a backdrop of stars shining in the nights' sky. In many ways, it was good to be back as a civilian, in others, old memories had been brought to the surface, things I would rather forget.
I told Marcel where I absolutely did not want to go. He laughed, saying since it was not in France or within a French possession, then chances were good it would not be a location he would even consider to send me to. I had some R&R time due and he would need a few weeks anyhow to arrange everything for me, a job, new name and papers that I would need in France.
Paris was a spot some chose to retire in, not me though. Nice, way down south on the coast, seemed more appealing. Even in the Fall the weather should still be warm but most people on Holiday would be gone. That suited me fine, those nude beaches there had no bearing on my thinking.
Marcel handed me a few brochures of Paris, Nice and Biarritz, saying that he 'would take care of me'. Yeah right, I had heard that before. Memories of the past came back. I was a fool to believe it when she said it though. I wanted to believe her.
It is strange how things happen. My life back home might have appeared over to me but now a new life was found, a new 'family' was also found with the Legion. Was it easy? Hell no! For almost 5 years, I was the lowest of the low. A 'Legionnaire' was ranked just below that of a rock. When my first Tour (5 years) ended that rock was left behind. They started talking training and re-enlistment. What I did not realize at the time was this was by their choice not by mine.
Being selected to Para was a career only 1 out of 5 could have. They could also have said fatal casualties in an engagement were 1 out of 5 too. Oh well!
A few days later I got a bit of news on my career. Strange news; although, at the time, I did not realize the implications. I was not a 'crip', not many obvious marks or scars and I was 'too' young to be considered for a pension as a way of life.
Marcel said to 'trust him'! That really got me to worry. The last time someone had told me that was before the judge ... Aw, you don't really want to hear that. Let's just say those were not words endearing to my heart and mind.
He also told me to take the next few weeks and try to look more like a 'civi' rather than some FFL castoff. 'What did he mean by that' I asked myself'? That bothered me more than my bleeding butt. I went back and asked him "What did you mean by saying to look more like a 'civi' Marcel"?
He shook his head, reached up a might to my shoulders and marched over to a looking glass on the far wall. "Notice anything that stands out?"
Before me was an image a might like hundreds of others I had seen these last few years. "Yup, a lean, mean fighting machine. Just a little haggard and starting to put on a few pounds here and there."
"Look closer Mon Ami."
I squinted, stepped up closer and looked again. "All I see is someone who used to be me but now knows the score."
"Unless I set you up in Marseilles, on a dock or some boat crew, you'll last less than an hour before you kill someone just for looking cross at you. You are not 'going to a battle, there is no 'rest' for an ex-Para and you need to start learning to 'adjust' to regulars. Do I need to lay out a few scenarios for you or can you see the difference in your Para life versus what you need to become in a new one?"
I took a look once again at myself. Saw what I had become yet did not then realize what I saw before me. I heard him say that I would understand more later.
He sent me off to some cabin outside the city. I was liking it immediately. I was not very comfortable in the city. At the cabin I was introduced to an older couple, 'no names today', I was told. There I would stay to rest, heal up and to learn. Each day I faced the image before me. In time, I began to see things that I had not been able to see before.
I told the couple that. "Yes, but what you see of yourself is only a small part of what 'others' will. You must learn to not stand out, to blend in and not make people think you are about to snap their necks off if they say things you do not wish to hear."
"You are not French. You are not like those who you will meet. You do things now by instinct, without thinking. You have learned to react even before you give thought. You have been taught how to survive. Now there is much you will need to 'un-learn'. It took time for you to become what you are. Now you have been given an opportunity to become someone else, someone you were not before. It will not be easy."
I left there without many answers and a lot of questions. I again saw Marcel. "So are you ready to 'start anew?"
I looked at him and said, "No!"
"Ha! Then this trip has had some success. You were one of a few. Trained to kill, not think, not to feel emotion, and to endure the pain and suffering that most others would cause them to give up and quit. Now we ask you to change all that and be more like the 99% who could not do what you did. We ask you to think, to feel and look to yourself rather than the man next to you. It will be difficult. It will take time. Most importantly, you still do not know what you need to do."
For almost six months I struggled with trying to find out just what being a 'civi' meant. I must have been getting better at it because one day that I reported in to Marcel, he told me that "it was time!"
"Time for what?"
"Time for 'Jean Paul Marceau', you, to begin his life as a 'Frenchman'!"
He handed me a suitcase, some papers, money and instructions to find the room I would be staying in. Following 'orders' was something I could easily do. If I had a better idea of what was ahead of me though, I would have chosen some other 'prize door'.
The saying about a 'Lamb and a Lion' did not even begin to describe what I would be going through. My easy choice was the warm Southern Coast of France. Of course the nude beaches there had nothing to do with my selection.
In the style of almost every government on the planet, what I wanted had about as much influence as an ant did on a picnic. I looked at the papers Marcel had given me and the address of where I would be living, at least until I got settled.
123 Rue d' Vin Rouen, France. It was just about as far North as you could get and still be in France. It was the capital of Normandy. With well over 100,000 population, tons of sea trade and so close to Belgium, Germany and England mixed cultures were quite common. I should fit right in. My job was a sort of Handy Andy at the Chateau. It was undergoing extensive renovations and the need for a 'local' to watch over all those foreigners working there was falling into the hands of, you guessed it, yours truly. Someone in Paris was having a good laugh.
Notre-Dame and the home of Joan d'Arc might be the most visited spots in the city, but with the new EU work rules, tradesmen from all over were going here to work. Having me, a non-Frenchman watching over them was like the fox being in charge of the hen house.
The fact that I spoke French, German and English and interfaced with so many cultures gave me the perfect cover for a few lapses of my 'French' background now and then.
I had a room, like in a private B & B. The lady who ran the place seemed to be expecting me. My 'Boss' too, seemed overjoyed to finally have a French citizen with which to commiserate with. The FFL if nothing else seemed to settle us in exactly the right spot. In my case, it was unusual to consider work for someone my age. I was not even 25.
For 5 years my pay amounted to $67.83 a week. In Para, that about doubled. I guess this was costing somebody a lot more. I had a feeling that the FFL were doing something special for me. It looked like this was going to be a real job, not some cover. That notion seemed to get some credence the second week on the job. My 'boss' had me join him for a meal.
He started. "I never thought I would say this, but I was wrong about you. I had been asking for three men, one for each language spoken. I expected my task was to have them all working on the same thing. You made that simple. I just wanted you to know that you have my job here and for the next 5 to 7 years if you want it. I took on the building of the new dock and harbour. We are on-schedule, under-budget and you seem to have the respect of your people. You run this job and back me up on the docks and everyone will be happy."
I could have told him I had a lot of experience breaking rocks and moving them from one side of the base then back again, so this was a breeze.
He told me to see the paymaster, I would oversee this set of budgets and also have access to his larger accounts as his alternate. I still had no idea what I was being paid, they, the FFL, had assigned me a Paul Evreux to pay my bills and such.
The place I was staying was run by a single mother who had a daughter. Everything was clean but simple and I had to assume it was not an easy life for either of them.
Giselle was mid to late 30's I guessed. During that first week or so, I noticed Michelle, the new teen seemed to want to consider me her 'big brother' or one to give her some male guidance. That was fine with me. I never had a sister so it was a learning experience for us both.
One thing they never told you was that there is a period of adjustment from the military life to a civilian regime. That goes more so once you got used to life as a FFL Para. We took no 'prisoners' and in most of the places in Africa and the Middle East, you did not leave your own men alive. I think that 'harshness' became evident the first time or two my teams did not follow orders. The good ones stayed, the bad, well, let's just say they didn't.
Giselle knocked on my door one day. I told her my door was always open to her. She seemed to blush a might.
"There is a mistake on you account I am afraid!"
"What, Paul forgot to pay you?"
"Oh, no. He paid too much. What should I do?"
"Ahh! I forgot to tell you. My job got better; I got more money so I asked Paul to start giving you extra. My 'sister' may be needing some more things now that she is 'growing up'. Oui?"
"She is growing up, Oui. However I think she no longer thinks of you as a 'brother'. Ahh, young girls dream sometime. It is your fault too. You treat her as though she was an adult. Have you any idea how that can 'affect' a young girl?"
"Giselle, I treat her the way she acts. Every time we talk she acts the young woman not a little girl, so that is the way I treat her. In some of the places I have been, children much younger than her act as adults."
I started to say too much, perhaps. What I had seen were kids carrying AK-47's, Molotov Cocktails and ball-bearing bombs strapped to their chests, boys and girls as young as 6 or 7 could kill as much as a 20 year-old. To listen to a Michelle talk as a person was like a breath of fresh air to me. I wondered if I would ever get married and have kids. If I did, I wished they were like Michelle was. Her Mama had raised her well.
Work was going along very well. Sure we had the new recruits coming up or trying to just do enough to not get booted, but that did not last long. My work teams themselves weeded out the 'slackers'; they had, by now, seen the benefits of being trusted to do a good job. Better work meant more money and they were all for that.
Summer came, school was out and I found myself with a 'helper' wanting to learn what I did. I talked to her mother who told me that I had no one to blame but myself. What else did I expect from my 'mini-adult' but to want to keep being treated that way.
"She has a 'crush' on you. A bad one. You are the father, brother, male influence she never had. She wants more I fear, so be warned. Do not 'hurt' her."
It should have been easy to make her choose to not go to work with me. Just tire her out, give her boring and tedious things to do, maybe let the work crews ignore her 'orders'(mine) to them. Nope, if she was not so damn helpful and the guys would have ignored her that would have worked. But no, we both left to go work together, came home together and even the work crews were looking forward to her visits. I had to admit too, that it saved me a lot of time and energy. She became my personal 'gopher'. Jeannette, who Michelle started validating timesheets for, asked me what I was paying her and would she be working after school started?
Damn, Michelle seemed to have created herself a job. It was not of my doing, others saw value in what she was doing. I had to admit too, things were going a lot smoother. When summer was ending, I handed her a check. "You did a great job this Summer, Hon. Jeannette wants to know if you will have time to work here after school or on weekend's. Go see her and see what might work. This check just covers until today. At the least, we all want you back next Summer too."
When we got home that evening, Michelle just handed the check over to Giselle and just pranced to her room, as if to say. 'See Mom, I earned this.'
Giselle just shook her head and looked strangely at me.
I shrugged. What else could I do? The kid did earn it.
The Fall came, school started and a realization/realisation hit me square between the eyes. I missed my 'helper' and she and her Mom were becoming more to me than just people running a B & B where I stayed.
It was towards the end of October that I got an unexpected visitor. "Bonjour, Marcel! How is everyone doing without me?"
"We just about are ready to call you back. We need your wisdom and ... nope, just joking. Actually we want to know how you are doing and if we needed to try something else?"
"I don't know who to thank, but everything is perfect. It could not be better. Now I suppose you want to 'muck it up'."
"No. Your 'Boss' loves you. I know I did not mention it but everything so far has been on us, so to speak. Paul receives money from us to pay your bills and the company you work for sends funds which Paul deposits for you. As of January, you will be paying for everything from your salary plus the pension from the Army. Paul or you can do this. I hear some concern from your company though. You have 8 weeks of holiday each year but you use nothing. No Frenchman would consider such a thing. You earn enough to move into a small house or a fine rental."
"Marcel, when I said everything is perfect now, I meant it. You could not have done a better job if you tried. I must admit, adjusting to being a civilian was and is not easy. The various work crews from across the EU make it almost like the Army."
"I take it too; your 'little intern' has worked out?"
"In-fact Yes! She and her Mom have made me think of where I live as a 'home' not just a place to stay."
"That also was something your 'Boss' mentioned to me. He told me the two of you do the work of 3 or 4. He wants you to take on more work, maybe his projects even and then he can go back to corporate. He does not understand the girl is in school. Jeannette had to explain it to him. He wondered why she was no longer around as much."
"Why what Jean Paul?"
"Why the special treatment? Why are you all so kind to me?"
"Whether we told you or not escapes me, but there are more than a few people who view what Para did in Uganda as a small miracle. The results of that mission have, shall we say, opened up many new and very lucrative engagements for the FFL. We are plugging a large hole for many people. They pay us less than they must spend today, we get them results in half the time or less. No cries, calls or reports of their dead so no one cares and they are re-elected. We now need 5,000 more men. It is our small way of showing thanks. What do they say about 'not looking the gift camel in the face'?"
"Horse, Marcel, horse. I appreciate everything."
Boy was I surprised when Paul and I sat down and reviewed my financials. I was making more money than I ever thought possible. I told him that there was an up and coming person who might want to take over paying my bills, seeing as the bulk of them would now be going through to her Mom. I would let him know for sure as soon as I asked Michelle if she wanted that job and had the time to do it.
You know how sometimes kids surprise you? Well, I sure got surprised when I sat down with Giselle and Michelle to plan for the new year.
I started. "Jeannette wants you to help her in the office starting in January. I thought it would give you some practical experience if you managed my money, paid my bills and started doing what Paul has been doing for me. He will help you get started and we can use a bank near us here. I will pay you for this too. What do you say?"
"No! I mean I will be happy to learn about managing money. But you will not have to pay me anything. Instead, I would like for you to teach me German and English as well as some of that Arabic you speak, so I can do a better job for you and Jeannette."
I looked at Giselle. "Is she really 14 only or is she a clone just pretending to be 21?"
'I told you!' she mouthed to me. That statement almost drew a leap into my arms from young Miss Michelle.
It was nearing mid May when I approached Giselle with an idea. "How about if I take a week or even two off and we all go somewhere sunny and warm when school is out? I have had enough of the weather we get here."
"I think my daughter is not the only one to have a crush, N'est Pas?"
I never even had thought anything about how it might look. I blushed a bit then started to say something.
"Of course we should go. You both need to get things resolved. You both have the crush." She patted my hand.
I heard the scream in my room when she told her daughter what I suggested. I heard the sound of running feet, my unlocked door burst open and 78 pounds of female lunged up hugging and kissing me. At the door her Mom was just staring, shaking her head and whispering, "Now you are in for it Jean Paul. You both have it bad I think!"