Chapter 17: Chapter 4, Episode 1: Sahel
“Damn it! Why are you f*cking mad at me Go scream at Gaddafi!” Miguel grumbled inwardly.
The SAM-7 was a solid surface-to-air missile employing an infrared guidance system. It wasnt a very good missile, but it was deadly to low-flying aircraft. Helicopters hopelessly crashed when they were hit by a single 1.15-kilogram warhead.
“Gaddafi purchased 1500 aircraft from the Soviet Union. It is estimated that 10 percent of that went to FROLINAT.”
“What! That means they have over a hundred shots. F*cking hell.”
If that was the truth, then their air operations north of Lake Chad, in an unsecured air defense region, were going to be a major threat. Philip held his head, realizing that their movements had been further restricted. The operation was being dragged into the swamp by a water ghost.
Restrictions on the use of helicopters would inevitably make the elite team operation even more dangerous. On top of that, their mobility would be severely restricted.
“Okay, this operation,Racoon Hunting, will prepare four squad units. The main sniper commando will create the best formation to assist Black Mamba. Take personnel from any regiment. Pief, you should consult with the operations officer. Three snipers will be selected from each company. Sh*t, everyone has been watching too many movies.”
The long meeting was over. They concluded that the sniper unit would be formed with Black Mamba at its center. The three airborne units were to distract FROLINAT and provide confusion surrounding the operation.
It was Captain Philip who nicknamed Makumbo “Raccoon” because Americans skin raccoons and use their pelts for fur hats and clothing.
Philip hated Makumbo and often said that he wanted to skin him. The nickname was also because of Makumbos tendency to stick to the winning side depending on who he wanted to skin along with Phillips hatred of the United States, which, to him, was as disgusting as Makumbo.
Philip is also the one who came up with the call name, “Black Mamba.” Considering that Philip was an old soldier, he had a decent knack for assigning names.
The flight control station on the fourth floor of the Clemenceau began to move. The signal officer, dressed in yellow, started to wave the flag vigorously.
The people on the flight deck moved about quickly. The heavy C-130 sprung from its catapult and left the deck. As soon as it left, the sluggish tilting quickly settled as it balanced and flew towards Cameroons skies.
138 members of the 4th Squadron, a sniper unit, were aboard this huge aircraft.
Legion Etrangers base was on the banks of the Chari River, just outside NDjamena. The base had just been completed by the engineering corps a month prior.
NDjamena was a planned city with a radiating city center. It was located at the vertices of the Chari and Logone rivers and had several veins that parted from those two rivers. It was built by the French whose culture lingered around the place.
Legion Etranger was located in the Staboru district, on the outskirts of the city. It was a 100 paces from headquarters to the Chari River.
The members of the Deuxieme Rep were very pleased with their base along the Chari River. The flowing river and lush forests compensated for Chads barren heat.
The Chari Hotel was 3 kilometers from the base. The pride of the hotel was the ebony female “legion.” The mercenaries were satisfied with their surroundings and became more satisfied with the hotel where the call girls were stationed.
The regimental headquarters controlled the soldiers movements outside the base, but Burimer and Black Mamba went to the Chari River whenever they felt like it. Black Mamba thought that he could take outside trips thanks to Burimer, but that wasnt the truth. It was Burimer who had borrowed Black Mambas name to take outside trips since Black Mamba had no restrictions and was allowed to move independently. He still had not realized the power of his call name.
The Chari River originated from the highlands of northeastern central Africa and flowed northwest, 1200 kilometers into Lake Chad. Its banks were cool and could be enjoyed when the midday heat could be ignored. The unpolluted river was full of all kinds of fish. The flock of birds flying along the river did not fear humans.
The happiest person of the Deuxieme Rep was the 4th Companys Sergeant Burimer. He cheered at the osprey and the spoon-billed stork that traveled along the river.
More predators meant more prey. The Chari River did not disappoint. The variety of unknown fish lined up to be caught; they were as dumb as Chads warlords. Burimers excitement increased whenever the yard-level Nile rod was raised. He used every spare moment to pick up a fishing rod and head down to the Chari River. Burimer used Black Mambas training as an excuse every time he went outside.
Black Mamba also liked the Chari River. At sunset, without fail, he appeared along the river. The river in the setting sun was peaceful, regardless of the humans struggles. Fish bounced into the air showing off their silver scales, hippos and crocodiles roamed the islands, and riparian marshes formed the heart of the river.
The sand on the banks glowed golden in the setting sun, and rodents ran around. On the towering rocks, several storks rested their tired wings.
High granite rocks, some four meters high, were located at the rivers core, seven meters from the banks. It was Black Mambas exclusive resting place like the Song Ha Am of his youth. Black Mamba leaped from the bank and climbed a rock.
The sound of the water, wind, birds, and swimming fish put Black Mamba quickly at peace in the dreamy scenery. Malice and slaughter were mans work, but nature remained the same. All acts of hate, contention, and fighting were in vain. He sat on the rock until the skies darkened and returned to camp only then.
NDjamena had fallen into the hands of the government and the military, but its security was still weak. Libya and FROLINATs spies roamed around, and shootouts took place in daylight. The Deuxieme Rep scouted the city three times a day. Black Mamba, who was out on a Jeep scouting the city, sighed. The place lacked too much to be called the capital city of a country.
The city was filthy and dusty.
Except for the French-styled buildings, there were no buildings taller than three stories. Many of the residents homes were made of five or six pieces of furniture inside a fence surrounded by reeds. Women wearing dirty clothes lined up in the vacant lot or square with large buckets so that they could get water.
Several buildings had been destroyed by the conflict between the governments army and the rebels. The native people disappeared as the day darkened, hiding in their houses. When the day turned dark, no traces of humanity remained.
Other inhabitants houses were made of walls created from clay mixed with sand and roofs created with reeds. They were houses that would collapse with a single kick. What cover could some reeds possibly provide Nevertheless, people saw it as a haven and a refuge. They were pitiful like the priests who shoved just their heads underneath Buddhas alter hoping to remain protected from harm.
Will was bound to disappear where strength lacked.
The fourth squadron commander of the regimental base and the other commanders gathered at a rectangular table. Commander Pief, Chief of Operations Lieutenant Colonel Louis, Operation Chief Lieutenant Pedang, four platoon leaders, and operational correspondents were knocking their heads together to compromise on which members of the special forces would head into the Bodele region.
The three squadrons from the airborne division were easily put forth from each of the commanders. The problem was in constructing a rescue team to assist Black Mamba.
The operation was simple. Helicopters could only operate towards Mondo, which was being controlled by Habres Army. The others could drive in from Mondo to search for Makumbo hiding in the Bodele region. It was very simple. But as always, how it would be done caused another debate that revealed a whole string of problems.
Lieutenant Pedan, the joint operations chief of staff, summarized the situation.
“There are three difficulties in the operation. The first is the number of FROLINAT guerrillas in the area. The FAP estimates that there are more than 5000 FROLINAT troops stationed in Kanem and Boruku at the Sahel Belt. The second is a means of transportation. As you may already know, there is no pavement in Chad. There is no railroad. The mid-northern region only has a dirt road that is located inland. Rescue teams have to travel off-road for thousands of kilometers. Third is the geography and climate. The temperature has dropped a bit since its November, but the Sahel belt and desert areas are still over 30 degrees Celsius. Plus, its going to drop below 10 degrees Celsius at night. Longer operations will lead to endemic diseases and medical problems. ”
“Did they find a gold mine in the middle of nowhere Why are so many rebels there”
“There is an oil field in Kanem that is worth more than a gold mine. Pief, you cant look down on the FAP. The desert is their home. Looking down on them just because their equipment is weak will bring you down with a single blow. They received a lot of support from Gaddafi this time, from handheld anti-aircraft missiles to the Stellar and bikes. The team that will assist the Black Mamba must be configured with people that have the best desert warfare experience.”
Captain Pedan was worried about such an unreasonable operation.
“The Kanem and Borku area where they are currently residing is over half the size of France. The 5000 troops are nothing more than a handful of beans in the yard. We have Black Mamba. As long as they dont engage battalion troops, there wont be a problem. The guerrilla scouts are nothing but a pre-meal exercise.”
Despite Captain Pedans concern, Pief was confident. Black Mambas stealth and rapid shooting could destroy platoon troops within a minute. That was hard to understand from Pedans average point of view.
“Black Mamba is great, but he isnt an invincible general. He also doesnt have any practical experience.”
“You can trust Black Mamba. He has no real experience, but he is a complete murder machine. Lack of experience can be made up with a seasoned sergeant by his side. As long as firepower is replenished, the operation will succeed.”
The 2nd platoon leader, Henry, was confident. No one knew Black Mamba better than the platoon leader himself. Not even the company commander knew the true power of the Black Mamba.
“How well will Black Mamba respond to the road situation and climate”
At Commander Louis question, Pief couldnt say a word. There was no special way to go around an environmental handicap. There was nothing but the ability to endure the environment with ones own body.
“Honestly, apart from faithfully disseminating the provisions, the soldiers would have to overcome the local environment themselves. A vehicle that has been converted for this operation is already in place. It is durable enough to cross the desert, and weve already reinforced the limited armor.”
“Were not going on a picnic, after all!”
When Colonel Louis nodded, all the participants in the meeting agreed. They did not bring the aircraft carrier just to have a picnic in Chad. Airborne crews are front-line combatants with the most dangerous missions; they are not administrative officers.
The elite units were put into operation because of the extreme circumstances and environments. There was no need for them if the situation was easy.
An elite crew member, who had combat experience in Africa, was selected from the Legion Etranger. To strengthen their firepower, they also selected machine gun specialists, bombing specialists, and mortar specialists.
“We also have to consider the reduced combat power due to climate and disease.”
Colonel Louis had worked in Algeria and Niger in his past. He was worried about the men who had to jump into this reckless operation.
“We have no choice but to have the operations team respond to the situation at hand. I will select a doctor and pay special attention to medical supplies.”
The area of operation was the Sahel and the Sahara Desert.
The Sahel belt had an arid desert climate. Even in October, daytime temperatures exceeded 30 degrees Celsius. At night, it fell below 10 degrees Celsius.
The difference in temperature between day and night was 25 degrees Celsius. If the operation was prolonged, there were going to be problems with the crews condition. Even the mightiest mercenary could find himself in an un-laughable situation suffering from heatstroke or freezing to death.
Also, the regions were undergoing a drought, which was now hitting three years. The grasses had died and shade had become harder to find. Flies, mosquitoes, and insect-borne viruses that had increased because of the drought were going to be a large problem.
The biggest problem was the lack of information. DGSE also failed to provide accurate information on Makumbos current location. Pedan was similarly concerned about that. Chad was too large and the social infrastructure was poor. They had to rely on people to relay information. Even DGSE couldnt receive information on time.
“Pief, has Raccoon still not been located” asked Colonel Louis.
“Yes, the last piece of information was his movement towards the northeast region of Bodele. DGSE assured me that theyd be able to confirm soon. We would have to first enter the region to check through the satellite.”
Colonel Louis had been unhappy throughout the entire duration of the meeting. He had fled after fighting Habibs forces. It was hard to believe that the well-known DGSE had tracked down Makumbo.
He was also suspicious of Piefs confidence. He had heard about the legendary battle skills of Black Mamba, but a battle wasnt fought by a single person. In Sahel, where brigade troops swelled, a handful of commandos could melt in a single moment.
Central and northern Chad was an endless, vast wasteland. Without accurate information on ones location, it was possible to wander through the desert. That could increase the distance to finding the Raccoon by a thousand miles. After reviews and recommendations, the meeting ended with a selection of 10 team members.