Kinshasa is the capital and the largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Maybe 8 or 9 million people and as many diamonds.
The heat and humidity were really getting to me there. OK, that was not the only reason to leave, but when the average temperature is 88 and the humidity usually higher that can wear a body down. Do you have any idea how much work it is to care for your weapons properly in that mess?
I guess if things were a bit better there, I/we would not be here.
What was wrong, well let me just say a few things, not PC you understand though.
Kinshasa was rated as one of Africa's most dangerous cities in terms of crime.
Street children are often the orphans, like many across the Third World. They are subject to killing, torture and abuse by the police and military. Police squads regularly round up street children, to kill, sell or turn into slaves, not unlike some other countries. It has been striving to recover from disorder for a while now, with many gangs hailing from Kinshasa's slums. Muggings, robberies, rape, kidnapping and gang violence are relatively common. It was the main reason we were there. No one trusted anyone. So bring in some mercs. Seventy responded. It was Biafra all over again, when it came time to pay.
If that sets the stage some, the most horrendous crime done to us, most of us rather, is we were not being paid. Hell you say! Yes, we had to put some of them there. Nevertheless, we got our due, maybe a tad bit more, and then left for greener pastures.
Who was I? Who were we? Just say we could be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just pay us what and when we all agreed, in full and on time.
Therefore, from one Hellhole to another a few of us went. The smart ones, those just starting out mostly, went home. Six of us though hopped in what seemed like a plane that was old 50 years ago. What lay ahead was beautiful, downtown Sarajevo. Yep, also better known for the War in Bosnia. Although in the 1990's, the Serbian idea of a 'Freedom Fighter was not quite defined to us as it later became apparent to all.
Their idea of a war was an ethnic cleansing campaign included confinement, murder, rape, sexual assault, torture, beating, robbery and inhumane treatment of civilians; the targeting of political leaders, intellectuals and professionals; the unlawful deportation and transfer of civilians; the shelling of civilians; the appropriation and plunder of real and personal property as compensation; the destruction of homes and businesses to ensure that a 'scorched earth' policy was complete. In other words, your average run of the mill conflict. Those Serbs leaned a might to lessons learned from 'hanging Joe Stalin' I imagine.
That kind of fun might have worked for the poor 'slobs', in this case, 'Slavs' who got off on raping young girls and killing old men and women, but for us we only did what was agreed upon and for what we were paid. We did not sign up for the things that turned on the Serbs.
Early on, we also got a rude awakening to their idea of what justice entailed.
Our team had a SIS guy, Mac, a South African, Ian, both who were shooters, one tracker from Kenya, Marcus, a point man, Serge' from someplace out East, a heavy weapons guy, former Chilean 'Buzzards', Raphe, and me, a home-growed Detroit area misfit.
I think there were several reasons why we all left that 'Shit Hole' to go to another one together. Basically, we all just did not care what happened to us. I guess when you only have each other to depend on, in this business, you hate to lose that. Yeah the money was good but, in reality, where else could we go except to some other 'assignment'.
We all had our own reason, moral or immoral code and beliefs we lived with. I think that one day we 'experienced' what exactly the Serbs considered a 'pacified' village we all wanted to kill the 'SOBs'.
Keep in mind, we all knew what war is, we know what happens when the 'Red Mist' takes hold. We saw it many times in Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos and the DRC, but this was even something beyond that.
Then again, how many times do you have to see the torn bodies of pregnant women, raping of young girls, babies tossed on high then split open, bodies burnt, buried alive or skewered on stakes. Guess things really had not changed much after-all.
When she came running out, wailing her fool head off and grabbed me around the knees, screaming for it to stop, it got my attention, the boy's too. To see another child's head blown off and the laughing, half-naked Serb soldier just did not set right. The fact he tried to yank the little girl back and to shove me away, sort of made things personal now. About the time Ian blew him away, I had separated his head from his body with my ax/knife thing. Serge' and Raphe cut our fun short, they terminated, with extreme prejudice, the remaining Serb soldiers as they came out to see what fun they were missing.
We were no longer being paid, so our loyalty was now available to the high bidders, any bidder really. What I was not prepared for was keeping the 'human growth' that was attaching herself to me. The people thought it was funny. Mac commented that the Lass was a might young, but with training would be just fine, someday. You only had to look in her eyes to see something no man should ever have to face. The look of hope and desperation of someone that had even less than you had. That pretty much described what I was seeing.
Damn, just what I needed. Maybe it was. She looked like she hadn't eaten for some time, and what she last had was not too nourishing. Inside the house were the bodies and parts of bodies of what must have been her family. They were all dead or near dying. Ian put the two out of their misery.
Her name was Eva, she was eight years old and she was now alone. Clothes, food, water and getting her wounds taken care of then getting her to sleep was the first step. Asleep, right in my arms, now what? She had a grip that could choke a bear.
We all got the impression that our welcome in Bosnia was ending. Did I mention that unlike the Serbs, promises of land, houses, businesses and women just did not have the same appeal as gold, gems or hard cash did for us. Eva, though, was going to be a problem. Just dropping her off and leaving her in the next town or village was not going to solve anything. Did she have any relatives? Was anyone looking for her? Was there some NGO or Agency that would take her in? Her and a few hundred of thousand others made that solution unlikely. Our time in Africa pretty much answered those questions for us as to what to do next.
One thing taking Eva along was that it kept us together. Why was this important? Years of relying on someone other than yourself brought us closer to the feeling a family might get, I mean a real family. We had no one else. Now in some small way, (54 pounds of small) we all got an adopted daughter. Serge' had this friend, who had a sister, who had some cousins, well you know the story. A lot of men had been killed there. The women were pretty much trying to run what had been small farms alone. That it was within a day's journey, remote and peaceful and people there were not too fussy about who was their neighbors made this an easier decision to make.
The land outside Kyiv (Kiev) could hide a multitude of sins; it had in fact for hundreds of years. Money bought not only silence; it went a long way for a bunch of outsiders to gain some measure of acceptance. Once we got to Bucharest, then a Hind to the Ukraine, Serge' began to work his magic. Too good in fact, instead of six women who would not mind the company of some tired mercs around, we got more, a lot more. I would like to imagine they were all fit, trim and as beautiful as models, but unfortunately, they were not. Some close, not all of them though. What became a sort of retirement community atmosphere was that we did know of a few 'good guys' that needed a place to be with no questions asked. It is amazing how the grapevine can spread a message. Before you could say 'Das Vydanya' (actually Dazdarevo, a village in Bosnia) or something like that, we had us a new home with more people on their way.
1,000 Euros was more than most of our new 'friends' saved in a lifetime. Having 10 or 20 scattered around us with some money coming in; made for a nice piece of 'insurance' especially in a small village. I don't want to say we bought our new friends but it sure did help us to settle in. Eva, I must have lucked out somewhere because that girl treated me as good or better than any father could expect. My new 'wife' was not bad either. From being alone, not caring if we lived or not, about a dozen of us began to settle in and start a new life.
Language, school, home, family and everything that came with it was soon there. Jealousy, envy, responsibility, caring and not caring all were a part of what we found also. It was a new life and not everyone was ready for that. I think for the six of us it was easier to do. We ended up, as we had for so many years, depending on each other. The hard part for everyone was the boredom we now faced. Eva sort of made my conversion to fatherhood easier than most men. A few of the other guys got ready-made families too. Kids tend to make one see a new priority to life. Especially about 9 months later with some arrivals from Mr. Stork.
Financially we were wealthy men. I would like to think our goal in this new life though was to be just like the folks around us. That was not always possible. Conflict always seems to be a part of life wherever you try to go. At some point, we were asked to choose sides. It is difficult for most people to imagine just how deep a feeling one might get for a place, family, friends and a life that was only a few years old. It happens though.
One could see the signs. There had been an undercurrent of unrest for months when we made a visit to major cities. We did what we knew best. We started to dig in and fortify what we were working for. Eva was turning 11 soon. Our bought 'friends' were now becoming real friends. Our trips to the large cities resulted in technology and techniques many of these neighbors had never seen nor heard of. We were soon forming a co-operative of sorts and shared much of it with them, especially new crops and machinery.
Between those friends and us, we numbered about 150 adults and had close to 600 people working for us. That did not include the women and children. These became an important factor later on. Looking back perhaps there were steps we took that seemed unusual to the people there. Since we were paying for everything, they usually went along with it. The centralization of our people made it possible to create and maintain an effective fighting force when needed.
I said we had nearly 750 people. In a battle to protect our homes and families, that number could double(women and children over 10). At the expense of giving up the distant homes and facilities we opted for a village of sorts with 5 or 6 fort type structures all connected, each somewhat self sufficient as far as protection, food and water. Together though we created a camp with a de facto small army. HK-21 was the standard issue of choice for the men.
Children and women were issued and trained on the HK MP7, a very light and simple semi-automatic weapon to use and some on the MP2 for its ammo flexibility(Uzi). Each weapon was replicated several times at various locations throughout the complex. The younger children we instructed on how to re-supply ammunition, distribute food and water safely and care for young mothers and babies. The bulk of these arms were for show, unless the enemy was able to storm the complex, which seemed unlikely. Being armed would give a measure of comfort to those we protected at least, should it appear we would lose, that end was preferable to what the enemy had in mind.
We modeled ourselves after those bees we were inundated with back in Africa. Our 'stingers' were 40 or so sniper teams, consisting of 4 men each. A shooter, spotter and 2 for site protection and assistance. Closer-in artillery, land mines and claymore type devices would be ready to be activated at a moments notice. 20 heavy weapons groups, armed with HK-G-36s with the 100 round drum assault rifles and M3M machine guns were always in place covering the perimeter of the complex as a last stand. 10 advance-warning scouts were there to provide some early notice of attack.
At night, our people were equipped with the latest thermal scopes, LAM and night vision headpieces and an assault team was fully equipped with articulated body armour and selectable range weapons. We had learned a lot in our previous lives. Mixed in were several 'Dazzler', 'Vortex' and one experimental 'Cyclops' gun, enough stopping power for 400-500 men to be stopped 'dead' and these were not the NL (Non-Lethal they were not) variety, so 'dead' was an accurate description. Someone said we had taken the 'art of War' to new levels. We now considered any 'invasion' of our adopted homeland as an attack on us.
All this was expensive, very expensive, but money was something we had plenty of. By concentrating on the centre farms, we were exposing much of the feed and grain harvest. We figured the enemy would not use that for food. In those middle farms were our 'must have' crops. The vegetables, root crops, pork, beef and chickens. We added a series of fish farms and tested hydroponic farming in case we needed things like tomatoes or berries. Water was in ponds, 2 lakes, a river and cistern storage. Harvest time was something we would 'farm out' for local people to do, they could use the money and/or increased feed, and our families were now going to be trained troops. If we were under attack and part or all of the un-protected harvest was lost, it was a price we were willing to pay. We had no intention to lose even one family member.
Where we were situated we knew no real army would reasonably get this far undetected, only the roving bands and those looking to rape, pillage and loot were locals. This is who we prepared for then and insured that we had some help with the others.
Col. Netsuke Suvorov commanded a combination of regular, reserve and militia forces in that region of the Ukraine. We went to visit the camp one day. Remember in this part of the world money talks. Although officially 'neutral', Germany could be persuaded to dispose of some 'under-utilized' ordnance and vehicles. The contribution we made, as concerned and good friends now of the Col. not only gave us a secured buffer zone, the comm, medical and 'intel' they would provide now was priceless to us. It all was worth the cost we paid. It was only money anyhow. The Col. now could almost equip an entire Panzer-Grenadier Division
We also got some toys for us too. Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks, PzH2000 self-propelled artillery, Gepard 1a2 air-defence artillery guns, and NH-90 transport copters for rapid response and surveillance. Soon to be delivered were the 'Eurocopter Tiger', which is an older but deadly attack helicopter, it is also designated the EC 665 or PAH-2. Can you say, Bye-Bye Bad Guys?
Now keep in mind we did not just go out and buy this stuff at a retail store. It took some time but the good Col. had some friends, we had some friends and for the 'real' cash we contributed, these things just showed up. Sort of a 'lend-lease' like in WW II.
Serge' was the one who might have taken all this the hardest. It was a mix for him. Russia was where he had been raised. We also figured something had gone south there though, since he had joined our band of merry goofs, so his loyalty was never in question.
The good Col. had also donated some fuel, ammo, rockets, grenades and medical supplies. If you thought we were getting ready for a war, you are correct. The big stuff went to the Col. except for those Leopards, PzH2000s, Gepards and 'gotta love em', six of those 'Eurocopter Tigers' we became the un-official 'home guard' for that part of the country.
It was busy while we were setting things up. Almost 18 months had past and we had had only one house, four barns and a few hundred acres of Hay, Alfalfa, Rye and Corn destroyed. Once we sent out a Tiger. When those 'crack' troops took one look, they ran. That was good and bad. The bad came a few days later. A half dozen Hind II, III and IVs were heading straight for us. The Hind is a very formidable combination troop transport and attack gunship. It has a weakness. Once a ceramic plate is shattered, there is little protection there.
Hind pilots learned the hard way to sit on their body armour or get their asses full of holes. We had expected 'fast movers' so the Hind were just practice for the Gepard crews. Even the highly armoured Hind IVs did not get very close. What we did learn was we needed more people. Those we did have were shuttled around to operate whatever we were informed we needed. We would not always have such warning. The Col.'s troops now were engaged and civil unrest and rebel sabotage made support from Kyiv(Kiev) uncertain.
What happened next was unexpected. It took us by surprise and moved us from a passive role to an active one. The enemy started to use chemical and bio weapons. Those 'fast movers' came to drop their gifts. The Col. and our complex repelled the invaders directed at us. Many other places were not so lucky. While the 'big guys' now started to spout off speeches, protests, threats of sanction, embargos and possible troop deployments, our people were dying and dying in droves.