After writing a novella about the Rhodesian Bush War, I had a number of interesting people get in touch with me. One of them was Auddis Ward, an interesting fellow if ever there was one! Auddis served in the Vietnam War before catching a one way flight to Rhodesia and taking part in the Bush War, and even served in the famous Selous Scouts towards the end of the war. I had to take the opportunity to pose some questions to Auddis for our readers at Kit Up! and continue my effort to draw more attention to the Rhodesian Bush War and the soldiers involved. As an American (some would call him a mercenary, although he served along side native Rhodesians for equal pay as a soldier in their military) Auddis provides us with a perfect lens for outsiders like us who wish to learn more, cut through the crap, and understand more about what really happened in Rhodesia all those years ago.
Tell us a little bit about your experiences in the Vietnam War. What types of operations were you involved in during the war?
My MOS was 11B, Infantry, and I served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which I am very proud of. My first two months in country were in a place called the An Do valley. We were on pacification, protecting the rice farmers in that valley from the VC/NVA. The only problem was that this valley was an R&R center for the VC, and most of the valley was controlled by them as well. This is the place where I went on my first of many daytime and nighttime patrols and ambushes. I also was involved in a covert operation in the mountains overlooking the valley. This is where I first had my experience of meeting a real live spook, a black CIA agent who arrived in an unmarked black Huey helicopter and gave us intel on what was going on in the valley. The South Vietnamese local militia that we were working with had been infiltrated with VC, boy that made us feel good!
I was also involved in snatch and grab ops which never came off because of the betrayal of the local militia. A few times we were left by ourselves, the indigs we worked with would cut and run as soon as they heard gunfire, early in the morning in a VC controlled village and we were sent running for our lives.
All this experience would come back to play in Rhodesia and on the streets of Memphis as a Police Officer.
What on earth made you decide to travel to Rhodesia and enlist in the military, especially after your experiences in Vietnam?
After the war, I wanted to go back to Vietnam and become a medical missionary. I felt this is what God would have me to do. Yes, I have a lot of bad memories, but I fell in love with the country; it is a very beautiful place. I went to Bible college in Springfield, Mo, at Central Bible College majoring in Missions. In Vietnam, I had several medics as friends and went with them on MedCaps. I told myself if I ever go back into combat I would be a medic. Then Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos fell in ’75. After college I enrolled in Nursing school here in Memphis. It was challenging but not fulfilling; there is a difference. In ’75, Soldier of Fortune magazine came out on the market and every issue was about Rhodesia. I never had a desire to go to Africa before then. Rhodesia was in the news a lot and I began to read articles about Americans serving in the Rhodesian Army. I completed my first year of school and in the summer of ’78 I did not work. For the first time in my life I took it easy. I ran and pumped iron in the gym and worked on my tan. Then in Oct ’78, I bought a one way ticket to Rhodesia and the rest is history. I had never been the same since I came back from Vietnam; I missed the rush of combat and the camaraderie of being with soldiers, plus I had learned a skill, and that was how to take care of myself in dangerous situations.
When I arrived in Salisbury on a Wed. morning, two old guys in immigration did not want to let me into the country. They did not like foreigners in Rhodesia. Lucky for me, there was a young chap who saw me looking depressed in the terminal and called the recruiter, and a Major Johnson came to the airport a few minutes before they kicked me out of the country and told me, “You have five minutes to sell yourself to me.” He offered me the positions of infantry officer or combat medic. I asked why medic and he stated that Rhodesian forces were getting killed at an alarming rate. I do not remember what I told him, but it worked, and on Friday morning I was sworn into the Rhodesian Army.
The Selous Scouts have a kind of mystique attached to them to this day. When did you first hear about the Scouts and what was your impression of them before joining?
I first heard of the Scouts on a newscast on the CBS news one afternoon. They showed the training at Wafa Wafa, but I did not think anything about it. My first three days in Rhodesia, I had my own personal driver who took me around Salisbury. He was an Army territorial doing his call-up and he would explain all the different units to me. Later at the church I attended, there were a lot of RLI (Rhodesian Light Infantry), SAS (Special Air Service) and a few Selous Scouts there.
Then in August in ’79 I was involved in a tracking mission with the Engineers and the Scouts. Thirteen of us ambushed a large group of terrs on the Gwaai river and they countered and over ran our position. We ran for our lives until a Fire Force of RAR and Scouts arrived on the scene. They really made an impression on me.
What was the Selous Scouts selection course like? Could you detail the curriculum and any particularly important lessons you learned during the training?
Selous Scout selection was very physical with a lot of endurance marches. Again, everything was real. Not realistic, but actually real, as the training included combat missions in terrorist occupied areas. The rope course at Wafa Wafa was rated as one of most dangerous ones around, and at the end of it, you did a slide for life into lake Kariba where there are crocs waiting for you. They did not tell us that until we came out of the water. There was no safety factor built in. I was not only a student, but I was also the medic for the course which had never been done as far as I know. I got to know the instructors very well and they took a liking to me and showed me a great time. Lt Mavros, the course instructor, and our wives, had dinner afterward in Salisbury in a Chinese restaurant. Lt Mavros would always try to see me at the hospital when he was on base.
You had also mentioned to me that you attended the tracking course at Wafa Wafa, what did this entail?
The tracking course was the last course I did before getting out of the Rhodesian Army and leaving the country. It was a 15 day course at Wafa Wafa. The course was a basic one, and I did good except on the survival part, trying to construct snares to catch animals. I will probably starve if I have to depend on my snare techniques, since I caught absolutely nothing. We learned all the types of signs and basic tracking formations, plus the different types of plants to eat and drink form, how to make cordage, rope from bark of the trees. To graduate you had to track your instructors for several miles in the bush. They did everything to make your tracking difficult, a lot of counter tracking, and at the right time they ambushed you when you least expected it. I enjoyed it very much.
Can you detail any combat operations you were involved in during this time?
All my operational time in Scouts was spent on the selection course and the tracking course. After that, my time was spent working in the triage dept of the Scout hospital and working in the Training Wing teaching First Aid to recruits in basic training. I liked Scouts because they were very unconventional in their methods and because they were looked on with a certain mystery by the civilian population. We wore beards and had long hair which pissed off the conventional army officers. Once I became a Scout, everywhere I went people treated me different.
Sadly, we all know how the Rhodesian Bush War ended, with the mad man Mugabe rising to power. How did the war wind down for you? Can you describe this experience and course of events?
Jack, I had found my niche in life in the Rhodesian Army. I found what I had been searching for in life and what you do not find a lot in civilian life…fulfillment, camaraderie, a close knit feeling. It’s a spiritual feeling in some ways. I had started a family and was about to become a father. I loved the people and the social life that Ann and I had in our church, and my friends in the military. I had planned on staying in the Rhodesian Army for several years if the situation would have turned out better. I would have made Sgt Major in about 4 years, and I would be a Doctors assistant in the Rhodesian Army Medical Corps. I was going up the corporate ladder as they say.
We were told Mugabe would not become president, and how we were going to take out the terr leaders in the assembly points and around the country. It was very depressing for me and everyone when he won the election. On Wednesday morning in the Salisbury Herald, Mugabe stated to the news people that the Selous Scouts and the foreigners had to leave the country. Over night black Selous Scouts were getting murdered around the country. We lived in fear for a few months. All I have now are the great memories.
Once you have been in combat, and lived through violent situations, you are never the same. That’s why I would like to be a contractor down south like I was in Guatemala during the 80′s. I have the skills to survive.
Kit Up! contributor Jack Murphy is a former Ranger, Special Forces Soldier and is the author of the military thriller Reflexive Fire.
Thank you Auddis!