Chapter 18 – An Offer You Can’t Refuse

… continued from Yesterday

An Offer You Can’t Refuse.

Bangkok, 9 December 2015, 08:25

The_GodfatherThe Godfather series of books and movies are a work of art! Not only do Puzo and Coppola offer characters that are vivid and well-developed to the level of reaching iconic status, they also have an unmistakably all-too-human characteristic of being 100% convincing. That’s the point, isn’t it? How many of us have been made offers…that we couldn’t refuse?

My humble opinion, that this is THE greatest movie series that has ever hit the silver-screen, may be a bit bias but it is also underscored by my own, all-too-frequent experiences of those situations.

As a continuation of yesterday’s blog post, my crew of ever-so-willing stagehands have been busy since early. As promised, further introductions are in order. The little lady in the mini-skirt is Ms I Ponder. She is new here but incredibly resourceful. Her assistant, Rumi Nate is actually also her live-in lover (and maid). See…I have no problem with LGBT staff! More about my imaginary helpers later…

South Africa, Kimberley, circa 1984

Some people would require a bit of background on the BIGGER picture of what was happening in South Africa during those years. This is only in relation to MILITARY INTELLIGENCE. For those that are reading this as an “intellectual challenge“, I am happy to oblige..

It’s important to know that the Department of Military Intelligence (DMI ) was considered the senior military intelligence component and was responsible for strategic intelligence. Each of the arms of service had their own intelligence compartment and they were responsible for operational and tactical intelligence. The army structure was based on General Staff (G S) compartments as follows:

GS1 Personnel. – GS2 Intelligence. – GS3 Operations. – GS4 Logistics.
GS5 Finance.

It was secretly (now well publicized) accomplished that DMI officers regularly met with members of the USA Defence Intelligence Agency at the beginning of President Reagan’s term of office and relations with the USA had now improved from an exchange of information” (read yesterday’s post about foreign participants in the course) point of view.

Relations with Britain also improved and both the USA and Britain assisted with information and diplomatic communications with Zambia, Angola, Tanzania and Mozambique. DMI established itself in northern SWA (South West Africa, now Namibia) and made close contact with UNITA. Soon DMI was responsible for the training of UNITA soldiers in a variety of tasks ranging from intelligence work to infantry operations. Support conduits were established for the supply of equipment and information so that UNITA could conduct operations. DMI headquarters were established in central Pretoria and offices were opened in the Western Province, Durban and other major centres in South Africa to facilitate the activities of the formation. DM1 fell under direct command of CSADF and its commander was known as Chief of Defence Staff Intelligence (CSI).

Yeah, I know…a lot of shit to try and get your head around! But that info was essential to include here because I was blissfully unaware to even the slightest bit of the above “shit” at that time. Most of the above highlighted in bold tidbits were about to become a very very prominent and prolonged part of my life. For those that need a comprehensive look at the particular terminology and slang, used in South Africa, visit THIS site. The main term, as relates to my experiences concerns Burger Sake (Afrikaans word): Civic Action. An attempt to win over the local population. Similar to a “Hearts and minds” campaign.

At SAINTS, things are going well for the recovering hero of the run. God’s attempt at humor has allowed me to discover that I did not have to dig through a wall with a toothpick, I could simply choose to go in another direction. Not that I had much choice at the time, but that’s precisely what today’s post is about.

—-> fast forward… three months later

“Your choice”… these were the last words spoken by the base commander at SAINTS before he dismissed me with hardly a movement of his head, and eyes, pointing at the door. There was nothing more to be said, it had been communicated in a  startling display in the use of the unknown art called “economy of words”. My exit from his office was closely followed by another set of eyes that had not swayed, maybe not even blinked, for the duration of the short “chat” that I had with officer commanding.

<—- rewind… three months back, at the start of the SAINTS Officers course

THE RUN was not such a great victory. Yeah, I certainly felt like a hero but the truth was much less attractive. A short while after that day, a great tragedy befell the unit. A SAMIL, if memory serves me correctly, returning from a trip to town and filled with jubilant troops, had overturned. The resulting loss of life and investigations caused the whole base to enter a surreal state of subdued activities and very frequent changes of plans by the officers.

As I remember, the “official” training plan was supposed to be according to the below table. If anyone can help with a better rendition, I need some info about the (needs fact edit) parts

  1. To start, we had to redo basics (Basic training) and get into shape.
  2. Then we were supposed “go to the bush” for 1 month. This was to do 2nd phase, platoon weapons and Tein Ops.(terrain orientation course)
  3. After that we would return to Kimberley, complete Tein Ops’ 2nd phase and then start a language course for 3 weeks (needs fact edit)
  4. then a drivers course of 2 weeks (needs fact edit)
  5. then do “vasbyt” (Read below for an explanation)
  6. finally an intelligence course.
  7. The result was that some of the course members would end up as 1 liners (corporals)  and others as loots (Lieutenant)…the rest would be discarded and sent back to where they came from.

The Corporals and lieutenants that pass the course are then placed in various posts, throughout the country. This is the “National Service”plan…

The official plan never happened, as often happens in my life. God likes his daily dose of humor, straight up his nose and I seem to have caught his eye as a steady supplier.

An undeniably tough and incredibly stupid part of the SAINTS course is called VASBYT or in English GRIT…not the lovely stuff that rednecks eat, the GRITting of teeth! Our Vasbyt was named “Operation Winter Witch

Having managed to avoid the two pressing problems of EDUCATION and G4K3 medical classification to a large degree, all was about to change. My happy-go-lucky self was not aware just how big the change was going to be. The daily lectures, exercises, meaningless marching and even my inclusion into “the silent squad” – we went all over doing silent marching oxpo’s-, was starting to get to me. The physical side, though excruciatingly painful was not the reason. By now you must know that I don’t function well in school, any kind of school where others try to teach – what they think should be taught.

Winter Witch was upon us and endless false alarms ensued. Being woken up at various times of many many nights, only to be told to get back to quarters. My mind rebelled against this needless crap. If you’re going to do something bad, just do it and get it over with! My wish was soon granted and Vasbyt dawned…at dawn of course! We assembled with our impossibly heavy kit and it started …. Full Kit, 2-day-or-so, 200 km outing on foot and then a 6.5 km run, with innumerable surprises en route… A veritable walk in the park – NOT!

The first day went so-so. My butterfly webbing was laden with an extra “gift” – a big white stone- added by a corporal who found my hidden stash of cigarettes, shoved into the frame. My reward was summary and applauded by the corporal’s mates, all drinking beer and having a braai (barbeque) at the first checkpoint. Unbeknownst to us, we would encounter many of these delightful encounters along the way.

By strapping the webbing very tight and limiting its movements, It was actually helping me get this little chore done. My back was practically immobilized by the frame so the pain caused by my broken vertebrae was reduced a lot. Reaching the first rest-stop, I didn’t even remove my kit, afraid that the movement would cause some unwanted reaction. Though I describe it as a rest-stop, it was actually a place for the instructors to get close and personal with us. They taunted and cajoled, teased and annoyed, all for the purpose of getting you to give up. “You don’t need this to become and officer” – “There’s the Kwevoel (truck), we won’t tell your mates” – “Here chomma (mate) have a beer, you look like you could use it”

Their insistence’s and continued blaring music..MUSIC? Ok, to be more precise…They were incredibly disturbing sounds of babies crying, people screaming, shouts, gunshots, explosions… etc – Think of a Sci-Fi movie audio bank, all rolled into one production called “killing of the brain“- was having a very bad effect on me. I had no idea if I could make this trip but I sure as hell wanted to know! Not for them…for myself. If they would all just fuck off and leave me to concentrate on ignoring the pain!

The rest stop behind me, I was drudging along a very faint path. The icy cold weather (WINTER witch) was almost a relief because it dulled most of the pain into a throbbing and acceptable companion. By concentrating on it, embracing it and nurturing it, I could ignore my tired limbs and everything was going just swell. The question point manned by another beer-swigging corporal was passed just an hour or so ago. His question didn’t make any sense at all and I was, even now, thinking about it. “Hoeveel propellers op die windmeul daar?”…pointing at a windmill and asking how many blades were on it. FUCK…my answer was wrong…He asked about PROPELLERS… NOT blades! …shit…shit…SHIT! I had counted the individual blades and told him my answer. He replied with a shake of his head and a smirk, then pointed with all the fingers of one hand, in a direction I was to take. It meant that an additional 4-5 kilometers was added to my little hike in hell!

Day two and the gifted stone had been dumped ages ago. Reaching the summit of a small hill, I could see a small caravan (like an american RV, but not motorized) and two flags . It was still too far to make out the designs and colors of the flags. THE END…YES!…FUCK THEM…I knew I could do this!

My walk, if that is what you call what I was doing, sped up and the sloping downhill aided in reaching them in a little over 20 minutes. My “black-is-beautiful” (black war paint) camouflage was pouring down my torso and little remained on my face, except in dirty streaks. Two days of hell-on-earth was ending and I felt like a super human. There were many guys that had finished before me, all sitting around and looking like they were in a trance of some kind. The expected chatter and congratulations were conspicuously absent. I even managed to get a reasonable interpretation of a smile on my face as I reached the caravan…. Only to be told that there was another 6.5 km RUN to be done!…NOW… OK, that explained the look on everyone’s face.

Were these people totally bereft of any humanity? Did they even start to comprehend what we had just been through? Were they God’s little helpers in his next episode of the toothpick joke? Not having answers for you, I leave the questions for your own pondering.

On the UP-side, because every dark cloud DOES have a silver lining, we were allowed to do the run without any kit and without the “staaldak” (hard hat). I started to remove my kit and at that very same time heard an -all-too-familiar sound. As I bent to put my webbing on the ground the same “SQUEEEEK” sound, from yesterday’s chapter, announced itself. This time, loud enough to hear and notice. A corporal, not as inebriated as the rest, was within arms length and almost caught me as I fell, face first into the cold dust. I know it was cold because that is all that I could do…FEEL. My extremities had met in secret and their decision was unanimous. STRIKE! STRIKE!…any union leader would have been proud of them. The corporal moved my face sideways and started asking the weirdest set of questions that I had ever heard….. “Kan jy my sien (can you see me) – Waar het jy pyn (where is the pain) – wat is jou naam en magsnommer (What is your name and force number)”…I think those were some of the hundreds of questions… As much as I tried to answer or move, I could simply blink at him stupidly.

He eventually realized that I was not answering his questions and I was whisked away by a medic crew. My kit…My kit…was all I could manage to say at that stage. The medic was pushing needles into me and strapping me to a stretcher with a million bandages. Whatever was in those tubes started working and I drifted into nothingness.

Bloemfontein – Military Hospital – Waking up in a hospital bed is weird. It is made all the more weird if you have no idea where you are or how you got there. I couldn’t move and I had every conceivable concoction of medicine being pumped into my veins through three butterfly needles, attached by tubes to an ever-changing series of plastic bags and nurses that smelled nice. I was trying to wake up, like one would from a normal sleep. Those efforts were hampered by the strapping at my feet (I only saw them later, when I had a mirror above my head. It was added to my bed, so that I could see what was going on)

Hunger Alert: Though only 11:15, I’m suddenly hungry. Not wanting to let you wait too long, I’ll go for a quick snack and be back as fast as my scooter allows, then continue this post. I know you’re dying to know if I got a bed wash!

Make you a deal, if you contribute to my fundraiser HERE, I’ll tell you 😉 So get your credit cards warmed up and ready to spend a WHOLE DOLLAR!…lol

 As promised, I had a quick bite and I am back… sorry to keep you waiting.

Lying in a hospital bed in Bloemfontein, my very uneducated self didn’t know what was happening. My body was not my own, I was just using it to lie there on the bed. The only part that I had any control over was my mind. Constant erections, not caused by anything sexual (I know what dirty thoughts you had about my bed washes) were becoming a joke in the ward. “Hey, he must be awake, parts of him are getting up!” “Are you getting ready for camping?” those and many more jokes were flung in my direction. All were the result of (I know it now, then it was a mystery) THIS condition…

Please note, I don’t have ANY idea what that page says, but I know that penile is my dick!

Besides my dick, other parts of my body eventually started to respond and after a week, I managed to convince a doctor to let me get back to the unit. He signed me off and I was put on a train back to Kimberley. There had been a whole squad of doctors visiting and signing stuff…pointing, prodding, pulling and twisting parts of my body… and they all had something to say about just how lucky I was not to be dead. A few days after reaching Kimberley, I started to disagree with them and wished that I was…dead, not lucky!

The hospital had been in communication with the unit and expected answers.

Why, on God’s green earth, were they allowing a G4K3 classified soldier to do the stuff I had done? Not having been asked to produce my medical card, I had not been very honest….ha, an understatement…and the training officers and NCO’s really were taken aback by this question. My arrival at the unit was eagerly awaited and even the boom guards knew something was up because they had my name on a list… “Go straight to the Unit HQ, don’t even bother going to the bungalow. There’s somebody that will meet you at HQ

As I have encountered the occasional red-carpet-treatment before, I knew that there was a shit-storm about to break. If you have had experience of these situations, you will know the feeling of impending doom that accompanies it. You just KNOW that the invitation to meet will not have a good ending!

THE OFFER –  The “Your choice” ending in the earlier conversation was not all that was said. It was preceded by a reading of charges, then a few examples of what the results of those charges would be (None of them sounded very appealing) and then an offer.

  • Write and sign a letter, stating that you want to leave the course and that you were dishonest about your medical classification. (OK, they knew I was G4K3)
  • In addition, write a separate letter, stating that you had lied about you education and that you are willing to accept the consequences off your actions. (SHIT, this might become a problem)
  • You will immediately pack your kit and report to the guard room, where you will be taken into custody, further action pending. (FUCK! … IT HAS become a problem)
  • You will add clauses to both letters, stating that you do not hold the unit or of the any staff liable for the medical situation that you find yourself in. (No problem, because I don’t blame anyone for my stupidity, ever!)

Those were not the exact words or my own exact thoughts… I know… But that was the message and my general reaction to it.

This was then followed by a very complicated series of sentences with codes and dates and designations and names and what-the-fuck-else. What I think I remember hearing was to the tune of… If you comply with these things, you will be allowed to continue your National Service. You will be transferred to a SAMS unit in Pretoria. The decision about charges will be deliberated and the outcome communicated in due course.

“YOUR CHOICE”

WHAT FUCKING CHOICE? What was there to decide about? Did he even offer an alternative? Well, yes he did! …..He didn’t say it but I heard it… If I didn’t do EXACTLY as he said, I would basically rot in a cell for the remainder of my National Service…maybe longer…he had a lot of codes and many big words!

As I left his office I knew the game was up. God’s toothpick joke was not a joke after all. It had turned serious and I was also not laughing. The quietly-looking guy that was in the office with the Commanding officer didn’t even enter my addled thoughts. I saw him, yes…But I didn’t SEE him. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if he was really there…lol

Without having the luxury of doing exactly what he said, I was met by two MP’s….. They didn’t even say a word and just fell in step on either side of me. They knew exactly where I was supposed to be going, so there was no need to have a chit-chat about it. We reached the guard house and I was locked up. A reasonably decent meal was brought to me and the clang of the door was the last I heard for quite a few hours. Sounds abounded, but they were all in my head and mostly consisted of expletives and deranged thoughts of what to do next…. You see..There’s ALWAYS a next part. Guards bringing food came and went…and an occasional look through the cell to inspect it. I had a lot of time to think

Pretoria, South Africa

A few days later, my CHOICE was made and I was dutifully put on a train to Pretoria. My transfer orders indicated that I was to report to a Major J.P . Human (Later referred to as Jaap Human), at 1 Military Hospital in Voortrekkerhoogte.

Some of my kit had survived and somehow people figured out who it belonged to. At least I didn’t have a charge about lost Military Issue or kit to worry about. Arriving in Pretoria, I called a duty officer’s number that I was given and was  picked up at the train station. On my shoulders I was still wearing the white CO bands, indicating that I was a candidate officer. The little Toyota stopped in front of the Officers Mess, located just past the immensely large I Mil Hospital and the driver helped me with my balsak (duffel bag). I found my quarters and settled in.

Rising early the next morning, I didn’t even do the needed inspection of my new surroundings, I just ironed my browns and tried to look as respectable as a disgraced soldier could try to be. My new post was within walking distance and I took a quick walk to 1MIL hospital. The night before had been reasonably quiet but the same thoughts racing through my mind then, still twirled around. OK, I wasn’t locked up but what is going to be the outcome of this new adventure? The answers weren’t too long in coming. They presented themselves in the form of little clues, from the moment I met Major Jaap Human. He was the Security Officer and I had assumed, rightly so, that he was to see to it that I was working directly under his watchful eyes. What work?…who knows…what did I know about what happens in a Military Hospital.

Entering his office, I met a man that was no-bullshit-straight-talking and Afrikaans. He showed me to my office…what?…I get my own office…with a desk and all the shit that looks impressive! WTF is happening here? He puts a BIG stack of security Clearance applications in front of me and asks if I know what to do about them. NOT knowing what to do about them, I naturally answer him…Yes sir! He arranges for me to get a bleeper and tells me to wear it even when I go to bed.

What is happening here? Why am I being treated like a “normal” soldier? Does this guy know what just happened in Kimberley. Does he know that I tried to bluff (read LIE) my way into one of the most elite units in South African Military? So many questions and he was not going to offer answers. Just one look at his steely eyes told me that. DON’T fuck with this guy!…or better yet, don’t even think about fucking with him because he will know it!

I got busy with the security clearances and imagined I knew what to do about them. It turns out they were just a whole lot of questions, with answers from the staff at 1MIL. Pretty easy stuff to figure out. My normal duties are also filled with regular walks through all the areas of the hospital. I wasn’t wearing a leash…not a physical one anyway. But Jaap’s virtual leash (bleeper) allowed freedom to roam this incredible place of learning. Naturally curious, I started my explorations and came to know quite a lot about hospitals and how they work. There was an incredible bonus too. As you know, hospitals are where nurses work…and…OK, that’s a story for another day…

The REAL OFFER I COULDN’T REFUSE

The weeks had passed quickly at 1MIL. One day, hearing a discussion between two staff members, I decided to report it to Jaap. It wasn’t anything serious, just two people discussing that they were arranging some kind of union activities and what they were going to do. If you know anything about unions, you might know that they were secretly planning to go on strike. In the military there is no chance to strike…there were unions of sorts but striking was not something they could resort to. It turns out that Jaap thought it was serious enough to report…to someone.

Following my verbal report, he tells me to do a written one and within a few hours, I get called to his office. HOLY SHIT! The same guy that was in the office in Kimberley…the one that didn’t say anything, was there with Jaap. Damn, there goes my cushy job! Now Jaap will know the whole story and I am fucked.

The quiet one introduces himself and asks about the report. What did I hear exactly? What language were they speaking? How many languages could I understand or speak? Did I know how to use a Voice activated tape recorder?

Every question he asked was making my mind do somersaults and every answer I gave, resulted in more questions. He had this weird ability to make ME feel like the one that was planning the union strike…. I kept feeling the urge to explain…to say more…. to just let him understand that I did nothing wrong…

Jaap said nothing the whole time, he was just looking at me and his eyes warned me…DON’T LIE!… DON’T EXAGGERATE… DON’T STRAY FROM THE FACTS. He wasn’t saying those words to me but his eyes were, I swear.

My interrogator stopped questioning and said in a matter-of-fact tone. “You managed quite an impressive little display in Potch (Potchefstroom) and Kimberley, didn’t you?”

…was it a question?…was I supposed to say something? Was he just saying things to get ready to lay charges for the things I did there? I did the first wise thing in many months and shut up. I didn’t even try to have a facial expression. I tried to look as bland as the wall behind me….was there even still a wall behind me or had the earth opened up and revealed a big black hole that I was going to be pushed into?

Equally emotionless he informed me that I was being transferred, that very same day. The new unit was called “Institute of Aviation Medicine” in-between Voortrekkerhoogte and Centurion, in Pretoria. He went on to say that I would not have any official designation…no job in other words… Just a place of work. The rest of the discussion remains to be shared…for another day. But it ends with the REAL OFFER

Do you want to do something meaningful for your country?

My answer and many other entertaining anecdotes will follow in a future post. For now, I leave you with some questioning thoughts..and a little bit of advice.

  • If you are faced with adversity or challenge, what is your first reaction?
  • How far should a person go, to show others what he is capable of?

ADVICE: DON’T ever..I mean EVER think you know how something will end!

I hope you enjoyed this chapter and I hope to see you again tomorrow.

For all the ladies out there… Sorry, the erections are gone now…mostly!

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