Executive Outcomes was light years ahead of it’s time. Founded by Eeben Barlow, EO conducted operations against UNITA rebels in Angola, RUF butchers in Sierra Leone, and even mounted a successful, if little known, hostage rescue mission in Indonesia. Sadly, South African, British, and American intelligence agencies didn’t take too kindly to EO successfully pulling off combat operations on a shoe string budget. No, they preferred that their own Private Military Companies or UN Proxies failed at the same job for twenty times the cost!
Tag Archives: Executive Outcomes
Please introduce us to your background, where did you grow up, what were your aspirations as a young man?
I grew up in Singapore, and was fed a steady diet of twigs and leaves, with the odd serving of milk and steroids. This allowed me to reach adult proportions faster than some of my other peers.But seriously, my parents were both graphic designers, and well respected in their field, which I would presume gave me my interest in art and design. As a kid, I was very much inclined like most other kids to be a Police officer ( I liked the look of the uniform) or a Fighter Pilot (Sadly our airspace is very limited)….but alas, they were not to be but I ended up in a career that I love nonetheless as a digital artist.
You served your mandatory national service in the military of Singapore. Were you able to decide which unit you went to or were you “voluntold”?
Yup, thats right: 2 years plus of national service. Unfortunately, no we are not given the choice to choose which unit we go to after Basic Military Training, although we are given the option of showing an interest in a vocation, such as armor, infantry, airforce, etc. In the end, while I was originally selected to go into an MP unit, I ended up in the Guards formation. Our Guardsmen are basically elite infantry/ Heliborne assault troops, and a tier above regular infantry, and one tier below the local Commandos.
Was there was a selection process for your Recce unit, if so what was it like?
Unlike regular elite units in the US Armed forces where one might apply for a selection into a specific unit, our selection is much simpler, if crude: You simply get posted to the vocation, and if you cant make the cut during training, you are dropped. This is a conscript army after all, and I would assume looking for volunteers for a tough and demanding unit may not have the same number of keen participants like in the US, where most see getting into elite units as a form of personal pride and challenge. So, basically after 2 months plus of Basic, I was posted into the Guards formation. This in itself has another further 8 week training course, with phases and tests including weapons handling, squad based tactics, navigation and rappelling and heli-rappelling. And lots of hassling! I had a platoon sergeant ‘C’, who was the devil during our course. He was a compact and rather short dude, about 1.6+ meters of height but could the man go. He would routinely drill us for PT and kit turnouts, nothing that was up to his spec was given a severe dose of PT and hassling. He was often seen training by himself at night past lights out jogging around the camp with his fieldpack filled with sand. That said, he was one of our best commanders and highly respected. Last I heard, he was in the Special Operations Force, our local equivalent of Delta.
Upon successful completion of the Guards Conversion Course (GCC), my unit was then awarded our coveted khaki colored beret, and sent for BRCC (Brigade Reconnaissance Conversion Course). This was another 8 week or so of heavy lessons in bike riding (off road scramblers), terrain navigation, small unit tactics, and other tests like our 72klick navigation exercise. Once this last bit of training was successfully completed, we were awarded a boonie hat with the ‘Recon’ tab, and finally christened as full fledged ‘Recce Troopers’.
What was your unit’s official designation and what was it’s primary mission?
We were simply ‘HQ 7 Singapore Infantry Brigade – BRC’, and our primary role was for behind enemy lines observation and reconnaissance.
What type of training did your unit conduct?
We conducted lots and lots of PT back then, among other stuff like Engineer Recce training (learning to assess soil and terrain for intel), unarmed combat.
Did you unit engage in any live patrols along the border?
Fortunately never! We never have to conduct any border patrols since the country is at peace and an island and thus surrounded by water. Thats the Navy’s problem!
What weapons and equipment were typically carried on patrol?
We were usually on bikes, to get from one area to another, but once in the AO, we stashed the wheels and continued on foot to the OP. My usual loadout as the designated radio dude would be our indigenous SAR-21 assault rifle, signal/radio set with battery, 2x extra batteries, thermal imaging device (bloody thing weighed a ton and we never ever took it out for use!), NVGs, rations and personal equipment like extra uniforms n kit, helmet (although we always wore soft covers) and other personal items. All in all, the pack would weigh about 40 odd kilos (about 88 pounds). Throw in the webbing, and rifle and you were looking at almost 50 kilos of extra weight per man. Oh, and canned food. While we were not allowed to bring them along, we always snuck a can or two out for any overnight exercises into the jungle. The rations, well, were mostly for shit, with green curry rice being the bane of any soldier unlucky enough to have landed it. Granted though, that a small bottle of tobasco sauce did wonders to make certain items edible. Tobasco, the saviour of foods.
What was the average day like as a Recce?
Average day in camp was pretty simple: Wake up, PT till lunch, break, lessons, PT somemore, dinner. Short break, and then usually some night PT. On outfield/jungle excercises, we would kit up, get a briefing and then ride out to a holding area for further mission briefing. When we were finally let loose, we would ride to within 5-7 klicks of the OP and then hoof it on foot, after camouflaging the bikes. Reach the OP, establish security and comms and we were in business.
What duty position(s) did you hold during your military service?
I was a corporal/radioman in my team of 4 men, and that was basically it! Unofficially, I was the company line photoshop guy, so anything to do with graphics or stuff, I was the one fiddling with the computer. Camp pass photo touchups a specialty. Whats that sir? Remove the pimple from the Colonel’s face? No problem. Occasionally, I would remove the mustache from a certain regimental major or warrant officer…this often led to interesting encounters with the individuals who then saw the result.
Any tips or tricks of the trade that you can share with us?
I would think I would have much to learn from the other personnel serving in other armed forces across the world who are faced with much more immediate threats and dangers to their country. Ours is very much a peacetime armed forces, and only the regular career soldiers are sent into combat zones.
When did you begin to take up an interest in art? What are your inspirations?
Probably as a child, my earliest memories were of drawing aeroplanes, and tracing those old transformers box art. A sheet of paper and a pencil, and I was happy. Aeroplanes eventually turned into robots and tanks and superheroes, pencils became markers and brushes. Eventually, with the advent of the digital medium I eventually got into this line of work professionally.
I might actually say it was the other way around: that my interests as an artist is closely intertwined with my background of national service! If you may recall, I was originally aspiring to be a pilot when I was a kid but at some point and I collected and built scale models of planes and helicopters (the F-14 was my favourite!). But one day I thought I would try some soldiers for a change, and i happened upon a kit figures depicting US Special forces during the Somalia ‘Black Hawk Down incident(this was in 1995, 2 years after the event). They really struck a cord in me for some strange reason, and since that time, I have taken a very strong interest in Special Operations units. You will find that I have quite a few pieces of work depicting, or at least related to special ops units. While no longer having to serve full time in the military, I enjoy the occasional game of milsim paintball/woodsball when I can.
Similar to my question about the weapons and equipment you had in the military, what tools to do use as an artist?
Originally, I had started with the traditional pencil, paper, ink, paint etc. And then, with the introduction of computers, Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter, I started drawing with a mouse, tedious process that it was but it was new to me. That was before I learned of something called a ‘tablet’ which is basically a digital ‘pen and canvas’. Currently, I am using the Wacom Intuous 3 for my illustrations.
Could you describe your process of creation? How does your final art work come into being?
Depending on the requirements of the client and project, generally the process starts with an initial sketch, which is given to the client for preliminary edits and comments. This then moves into a refined sketch or illustration, with constant updates to the client for any edits and changes that maybe required. The constant updates are crucial to prevent any miscommunication and to keep the work accurate to what the client wants. At some point, the work will near its final stages, whereby final touches and edits are made with one last update to the client. Upon approval, the client is then given the final copy of the work, usually a softcopy file. Normal ‘Go to Woah’ time is a week or two, sometimes stretching up to a month.
What have you been up to since leaving the military? Are you a full time artist
After I left the army in 2006, I started work at an illustration studio: Imaginary Friends Studios (you may check them out @ www.imaginaryfs.com) for about a year and a half, before I stopped work to pursue my further studies at RMIT in Melbourne Australia. I graduated with a degree in Animation and Interactive Media in end 2009, and stayed for another year (its a beautiful city!), finally returning home in late 2010. I resumed work at my old studio as a full time digital artist, and am now churning out more works of art, hopefully some of which you may soon see at your local comic store or videogame shop. Anyhow, thank you for reading and I hope you guys enjoyed this simple little insight to my memories of military service.
Thank you for a great interview! Marc did the cover of “Reflexive Fire” and definitely knocked it out of the park. I would highly recommend his services to others. You might want to hit him up for some work now, this guy has some talent and I think it’s only a matter of time before he gets picked up to do graphic novels or comic book covers for DC or some other major publisher. You can view more of his art at http://rub-a-duckie.deviantart.com/
Today, I have for you another exclusive interview, this time with former Executive Outcomes trainer and adviser, Wayne Bisset. Wayne was kind enough to tell us about his time with the company, Angola, and what life was like out in the bush. He also rightly has some fun with me due to my naivete of how warfare is waged in Africa! Check it out:
Please introduce us to your professional background. Were you in the military and/or police before signing on with EO? What was your employment prospects after the end of apartheid before finding work with Executive Outcomes?
I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness and it was assumed I would sit for three years in DB as a conscientious objector, my childhood friends did this. I did not like the religion and jail was not for me, I need space, Gypsy that I am. My father kicked me out the house when I went to the SADF. I landed in 7 South African Infantry. It was a very well respected unit. I did the basic training and then did platoon weapons, ending up as a 81mm mortarist. Then we went to “the border” and I got my combat experience.
How were you recruited into EO? In your blog you mention setting up an appointment at “the house”. Was this Eeben Barlow’s residence? Who did you meet with there?
I went to my local pub and was surprised to bump into an acquaintance from 10 years back, 7 SAI. He told me about this “job up North.” The house was not a residence as far as I could tell. Office and some guys may have slept over. I met a few guys but do not recall seeing Eeben. I was interviewed by a few chaps that I really can’t recall their names. A Sergeant Pelsa did the paperwork.
What was spelled out in your contract as far as the type of work you would be doing and did this accurately reflect your experience with EO?
Must admit did not read the contract that much, I just wanted to go on an adventure. I stated our pay structure and we would train troops. I do remember been told all our needs would be met and just bring a pair of civvie shorts and sandals…. The first few months we did not really have stuff, like a plate or a spoon, we shared! The rest? We had a whole Brigade to train.
What was the nature of the contract you signed with EO? Duty position(s), responsibilities? How long did you work with EO (duration in years)?
The contract said we were to train troops and for 6 months we did just that. My job was to give basic infantry lessons and then train guys on platoon weapons. From those guys a few were selected and I trained them on the 82mm mortars. I then was put in one of the Rapid Deployment units.Sometimes I ran the canteen when the regular guy was on leave. I believe I spent just over a year with EO.
When and where were you stationed with EO and in what capacities?
I was based at Rio Longa and then went to Suirimo. The above answer tells you what I was doing.
Did you receive or conduct any pre-mission training prior to your deployment?
Most of us in EO were highly trained before by the SADF and we did not do any formal re-training. Mainly we just familiarized ourselves with the Russian/Chinese weapons. We spent a lot of time on the shooting ranges.
Describe your infil into the AO you worked in? What airframe(s) did you take, who did you fly with? Were the pilots also EO employees?
Here I hope I do not speak out of turn. In and out of South Africa a company called Capricorn Systems flew us. They were obviously civilians and I think contracted to do just the flights from Lanseria airport (SA) to Caba Ledo airbase (Angola) I flew in a HUGE Russian aircraft to Surimo and those pilots were Russians.
What was intake into your unit like? What weapons and equipment were you issued? Do you know how these materials were procured by EO?
Arriving in an army camp is always much of a muchness, got your heavy okes and bullies. Never mind. I did not have much trouble at all. We did have a problem with getting our personal weapons. I managed to “procure” a beautiful old AK with a fixed folding bayonet and wood stock. Later Eeben came up to Longa and he and the FAA Brigadier sorted out AKs for all. We had old mortars, the ammo was dated 1952! That we used for training.
What did your day to day life look like as a EO employee? Both work and recreation!
The day started off with coffee, then we would jog up to the training grounds and try find our troops. That done we would teach them until 11am. Angola has siesta until about 2pm. We would then eat and just lie around, the heat is very bad. Maybe do some washing or swim in Rio Longa. Then it was back up to the training grounds till about 5:30pm. Then time for beer and supper. We had a TV and video rigged up to a generator so sometimes watched movies. A few of us had books posted up and we read when we could. On some Sundays we would walk to the beach and have a braai. Longa is in the middle of no where!
When you arrived in Angola did you already have a Program Of Instruction (POI) to guide you as you began to train the indigenous soldiers? What tasks were you to train them in?
Got to love you Americans! Never seen or heard of a POI till now. lol. We just did what we were taught in the SADF, just this time we were the instructors. As we had some of the most highly trained soldiers in the world together, we each trained the troops on what we knew best. I did basics, platoon weapons and the 82mm
What was the size, strength, and disposition of the Angolan troops you trained?
There were a lot of the little buggers! A brigade. Some like my little FAA sergeant highly motivated. others shanhaaied and tried to run away all the time. They were also very young. No pay, very little food, man and horrible food at that, they were not happy chaps when we got there. Eeben got their conditions better, insisted on more food etc. Our medics sorted out their health problems and after a good few months they were happier soldiers. You must remember a lot of them were really un educated, illiterate, real African bush people.
What was your impression of the Angolan troops? What was their level of professionalism? Did they respond to the training they received from EO?
When we got there, we were given the dregs to train, not the elite troops. I met some of those guys at Caba Ledo. Ours had to be trained and learn discipline from scratch. For my part, a few months and I had a very decent bunch of infantrymen that knew the mortar inside out. They were pretty cheerful too.
What training resources did you have access too? Ranges, weapons, ammunition, ect, when working with the Angolan soldiers?
We had huge ranges, African bush is big. We had many weapons too. All Russian and Chinese. Mike mentioned the names in his interview.
What was the security situation like on the ground? How did you and your co-workers protect yourselves?
As we had FAA all around us we did not do guard duty or anything like that. We were all armed and normally stuck close together.
My experience training Afghan and Iraqi SWAT units proved challenging in many ways. One was that these troops had no concept of overhead aerial photography or topographical maps, making orientation and mission planning very difficult. Did you have any unique or special challenges facing you in training the Angolans?
I must laugh. Eish! To get these guys to keep their eyes open when firing an AK is a mission! Seriously. Again your country and Africa are very different. We don’t do the aerial photography bit. Maps they seemed to get quite quickly.
What was your opinion of the locals (civilians) in your AO? Were they hostile, supportive, indifferent? What was EO’s relationship with them like?
I did not have much contact with the civilians, just the small shop owners to get beer and sometimes the villiges at the small fishing towns. The shop owners liked our money and were friendly enough. The fishermen were simple people and we traded cigarettes for seafood. Some were fasinated by the white skin and my blond friends go a lot of attention. The language barrier made communication a problem. We met up with some French family one day on a beach, they were working for the petrol companies, again language a problem, but they saw us mercenaries as heros… ?
How would you describe EO’s support mechanisms? How did you receive food, water, munitions, and medical aide?
At first was hard. Then the logistics came right and we got things. We had two Ops medics and when I got malaria I was flown to a posh private clinic in Johannesburg. I believe that EO had a deal with them. I was a filthy mess when I arrived, just gave them EO’s name and was put in front of the que! Sorted me out and I flew back when I was better.
Furthermore, why did you guys beat up your support personnel!?!?
Yeah, Mike is going to be pissed off, but I wrote about it in the Mexican. The guys at Caba Ledo were keeping all the chow and booze while in Longa we were fucking starving! The buggers.
What was EO’s chain of command in Angola and who was in charge? How would you rate EO’s leadership?
We had a very, very lose chain of command. I thing that is why EO was so good at what it did. We all had a job and we did it. When we had a difficulty Eeben was in the camp within days, and in his quiet polite manner sorted it out. We had one REALLY mean oke at Longa, Dup, no rank or anything but he just kept things in order.
Can you describe what was the backgrounds of your fellow Executive Outcomes employees? What was their professional background? Any living legends we should know about?
Man, I was in good company. We has Rhodesian SAS, Scout or two, all the special force guys from South Africa, couple of VietNam vets too!
Some of them are legends, but in unpopular wars, Rhodesia and our “border war”
Can you shed any light on that “Portuguese commando mortar”?
I cannot. First time I saw it was the photo Mike posted.
[From a source who was there but would like to remain anonymous: Re the 60mm mortar that You refer to. It is a standard Russian 60mm. We removed the base plate. Wrapped sacking around the tube, Fitted a pies of old car tyre over the gimble to act as a base plate. This was used as a patrol mortar. Very good in contact and if You use it enough and become proficient it was deadly in fire and movement. We also put a para cord sling around the tube so it could be slung on ones back. The sacking acted as cammo as well as stopping your hand getting burnt. We could on a good day have 4 (mortar rounds) in the air before to first landed. And that was done on the run under fire. One more trick. we used a para cord sling on our AK’s as well, No rattling. As well as a para cord loop around the safety, this slipped over your thumb and allowed the safety to be taken off without any click.]
Having worked in and trained combat troops in very austere conditions, do you have any tips or tricks of the trade to share with readers?
Not really. Just don’t panic and stay calm!
Executive Outcomes has been vilified by the press even to this day. Are there any misconceptions you would like to clear up for the layperson who has a bad impression of the company?
I see that. Linked with stuff that Eeben was not part of etc etc ad nauseum. No we did not eat each other and we did not hurt innocent civilians. You must remember, apart from the excellent training, most of my fellow countrymen come from a strick Calvinistic upbringing. The know right from wrong and were taught manners.
On what terms did you leave EO and what have you been doing since then?
I resigned on good terms. My Gypsy blood wanted change. Since then? I worked in some security business for a bit, hired myself to the new SANDF for a bit, ecame a hot shot businessman in the Sound industry, got itchy feet, done game guiding for a while, started a small marketing company, worked on constuction in Mozambique for a bit, got chucked into a homeless shelter for a while, oh, lots of things…..
Please summarize any final thoughts you wish to express about EO, Africa, or life in general:
I fell into EO quite by chance. I never realized what a big thing it would turn out to be. It was a privilage and an honour to have been with them. Thank you, all the chaps I worked with. Africa? It is complicated but I would not live anywhere else.
Wayne goes into much more detail about his time spent in Angola with Executive Outcomes and life in Africa in his blog, One Man’s Opinion. You can also read his unpublished manuscript at Chronicles of a Mexican Horse Thief. Thanks for providing us with another incredible interview Wayne!
I’ve got something special for you today, an interview with former Executive Outcomes man Michael Da Silva as well as some of his pictures from his time in Angola. Executive Outcomes continues to make for a fascinating case study in modern warfare, one that readers of this blog are probably familiar with by now. EO was perhaps the first truly successful commercial venture in what is now known as Private Military Companies. Much vilified by the media, Michael helps us shed some light on what life was really like while working for EO.
Michael was a logistics guy, the type of dude that Hollywood does NOT make movies about, but is none the less of vital importance. Without a constant resupply of ammunition, water, food, and fuel, soldiers on the ground will be fighting the shortest war in history.
Please introduce us to your professional background. Were you in the military and/or police before signing on with EO? What was your employment prospects after the end of apartheid before finding work with Executive Outcomes?
Michael: i was a national serviceman in the south african air force. 1987-1990 i completed two camps in 1991 and 1992 ( i volunteered for these camps to get away from civilian life dreardom and get some serious drinking accomplished) i was trained as an ops clerk and my primary tasks were tasking of aircraft, flight plans, organising casualty evacuation procedures and monitoring of search and rescue operations and monitoring of all aircraft in our sector of operations.
employment prospects were ok i suppose, tons of boring dead end jobs and loads of time to do inane everyday civilian things like coordinate ties with shoes.
How were you recruited into EO? I recall in Eeben Barlow’s (Executive Outcome’s CEO) book that he mentions doing some recruitment drives…
Michael: i was recruited into EO in a bar by Bryan Westwoods stepson gary. he(gary) by the way didnt last very long and left cabo ledo after our first beating by the operators. a very necessary rite of passage in order to define our position within the heirarchy.
What was the nature of the contract you signed with EO? Duty position(s), responsibilities? How long did you work with EO?
Michael: i signed a basic contract with basic waivers and secrecy clauses. i worked for EO for just on 7 months and decided to use the cash to jump start my own very successful private security 1 man business. thanks Eeben. i resigned and am probably one of the only employees who requested a letter to confirm that i was employed by EO. i did this as a proof of employment so i would not be scoffed at as one of the many who suddenly all worked for EO. i got very worked up one evening by a charlatan who was lying to people about working for EO.
When and where were you stationed with EO and in what capacities?
Michael: i was stationed at Cabo Ledo base primarily and detached to the airwing as a refueller and flight line/ runway skivvy. further duties were sentry duty at our boom within the cabo ledo base, weapon store duties( basic maintenance of small arms). hell i even took out the trash! we dumped it in the “veld” adjoining the base in what was known to be mined. when we dumped our rubbish we would await the FAA troops arrival to scramble through it for food. we called it “breakfast at tiffany`s” was transferred to longa to clear a heli pad but we never got round to it. we dug a shit load of long drop toilets! late august 1993 to early january 1994 exact dates elude me i was in cabo ledo for “the new years debacle” booze- operators- koevoet – bats all in one place saying their unit is superior led to a lot of “tension” i slept that night with a chambered round in my RPK.
What airframes did EO operate and how were they used?
Michael: EO in my time had two king air 200`s and used as taxi`s. a pilatus fighter and used as i guess a fighter. mi17 transport helicopter. and just as i left a mi8 hip gunship.
What did your day to day life look like as a EO employee? Both work and recreation!
Michael: pt in the morning, dreadful breakfast, off to the flight line and conduct a quick runway inspection. check jet a1 fuel for impurities, marshall aircraft onto the apron, refuel, search luggage and interior of plane to make sure “contraband” such as weapons werent being smuggled into south africa by staff going on leave. we went to the beach and drank. real military style.
What did EO’s logistics infrastructure look like? How were troops on the ground supplied with ammunition, water, food, and fuel?
Michael: at first we had no weapons, and food was shit. that however changed very fast and we were reasonably armed and real food was flown up to us by EO. life was good. power was always an issue due to diesel shortage.
Who flew EO’s air bridge from SA to your Area of Operation? Were the aircraft purchased or chartered?
Michael: ask Eeben. i just refuelled and minded my business. i was just a skivvy.
As an aviation specialist, what were the unique challenges you faced operating the austere conditions encountered in African war zones? Any tips and ticks of the trade you would like to share?
Michael: dont try and put in electric powered runway lights. electricity is erratic at best. dont bother with battery operated runway lights. they were constantly being stolen and nearly every FAA soldier had either a green or red landing light in his tent or bivvy. take a healthy sense of humour with you.
What was the security situation like on the ground? How did you and your co-workers protect yourselves? What weaponry was made available to you?
Michael: we were issued bulgarian ak47`s and russian manufactured RPK`s. if you wanted something more exotic you simply purchased it from the FAA soldiers. one dude bought a spanish version of an uzi? my buddy bought a couple rgd 5 fragmentation grenades and fully loaded ak magazines. simple, cash is king.
As a former Special Forces soldier myself, I know that some countries attempt to limit what type of weaponry we could bring in to train with when working with indigenous forces. For example, I know of one SF team who trained forces in a Middle Eastern country who were prevented from bringing 7.62 ammunition and weapons chambered for the same caliber into that country. Did EO operate with any such restrictions? Were any items required for your mission flown in “under the radar” to your knowledge?
Michael: ask Eeben. i didnt partake in actual battlefield readiness training. the closest i came to training was simple weapon stripping to a few FAA soldiers who had never field stripped their weapons. these soldiers stood beat with us at the guard hut at our boom.
What was your opinion of the locals in your AO? Were they hostile, supportive, indifferent? What was EO’s relationship with them like?
Michael: EO had a fantastic attitude toward the locals. we definately practised the hearts and mind approach. we were NOT thugs.
Eeben had a frikkin good group together.
Was EO’s resupply air bridge interfered with in anyway? Did neighboring countries refuse to open their airspace? Did intelligence services attempt to subvert your supply lines in anyway? If so, how did EO attempt to circumvent this?
Michael: not that i know of. if there were objections we certainly didnt know about it. we landed and refuelled in Rundu namibia when i flew for the first time in country. no one came to check on us, no one gave a shit.
I notice that you also pulled double duty as something of a unit armorer. What weapons did EO posses at this time? Were they procured locally or brought from South Africa? Please give a basic summery of what the arms room looked like and what it contained.
Michael: NO weapons came from south africa! we received our weaponry from the FAA via bulgaria or wherever. we had pkm`s ak 47`s , rpk`s ` grenades , rpg`s, 60mm mortars, dragunov sniper rifles. etc. basic weaponry. oh and in that picture, the most deadly weapon of them all cases of J&B whisky.
In one of your pictures I noticed a mortar system that is sometimes refereed to as a Portuguese commando mortar. Could you elaborate on this weapon? Is this an actual weapon system or merely a “sawed off” Russian 60mm mortar? How did you come across this weapon and it what manner was it employed?
Michael: i beleive it was a russian 60mm mortar. the operators used it and i havent the foggiest where it came from.
How did you part ways with EO and what has life been like since? Have your worked elsewhere as a private security contractor?
Michael: i parted ways by resigning and requesting a letter to confirm my employ. i worked in south africa for myself sub contracting in the security field. i drove the rolling stones and did hotel and vip lounge security for bon jovi. more of that is on my c.v online www.michaelbdasilva.20m.com
Any final thoughts you would like to share with us?
Michael: EO was a life changing experience for the better. loved it. i was always a militaristic person and working for EO was an honour. thanks once again Eeben.
Thanks for doing this Michael! In addition, Michael’s mind melting blog can be found at The Da Silva Code.
Reflexive Fire is due out sooner rather than later. As many of you know my novel is about former US Special Forces soldiers setting up a mercenary army in Kazakhstan, using so-called Third Country Nationals (TCNs) as infantry troops. These mercenaries are than deployed with their American, British, French, and South African advisers to fight dirty little wars around the globe.
A fanciful work of fiction?
We all know that Blackwater founder Erik Prince fled to the UAE to avoid the increasing legal trouble he was in, not to mention scrutiny from the media. Today, the NY Times is reporting that Prince has been hired by the UAE to set up a commando force consisting of Colombian and other foreign troops at a secret training center out in the desert. The foreign veterans of South American conflicts were apparently recruited through Thor Global Enterprises, an offshore outfit based on the island of Tortola.
The article also states that Prince feels that Muslims can’t be relied on to kill Muslims, hence the use of TCNs. That statement is so shallowly superficial that I wonder if this quote can really be attributed to him. Like him or hate him, I don’t think Prince is an idiot and a statement like this shows a profound misunderstanding of the region.
Apparently, Thor’s quality control blows because they mostly sent a bunch of kids to the UAE, some of whom had never fired a gun before. The trainers were so disappointed that they than realized that they would have to change roles from mere advisers to being combat leadership, de facto Green Berets. Between this and the drug use among the recruits, the article states that a shock unit was put together to compensate, consisting of South Africans, some allegedly being former Executive Outcomes men, the mercenaries who fought against the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone back in the 90’s.
This is also where the reporting gets sloppy, based on my research, and may call into question some of the other allegations made.
“To bolster the force, R2 recruited a platoon of South African mercenaries, including some veterans of Executive Outcomes, a South African company notorious for staging coup attempts or suppressing rebellions against African strongmen in the 1990s.”
EO fought for the democratically elected government of Angola and against the RUF butchers so I would like to see the reporter elaborate on this claim. What coup did EO participate in? News to me.
I think, that to keep all this on context, we have to also remember that very few Private Military Companies (PMCs) are actually private. Most operate with the approval of the State Department and Central Intelligence. We should also keep in mind that the New York Times has been a useful tool to certain elements on the intelligence community stretching back to the Vietnam War. I’m not saying we need to get our tin foil hats on, but please take these statement into your analysis.
Overall, even I am shocked at how similar this operation is to the one I first wrote about in my novel almost a year ago. How was I able to extrapolate the future use of TCNs and the off shoring of mercenary operations in this manner? Simple. Its what I would have done.
I’ve been browsing through it for some tidbits.
The fact that the UAE wants to bring in foreign troops is telling. The contract calls for the creation of a Light Infantry Battalion with all the necessary attachments for fighting a modern counter insurgency, including intelligence assets and enablers for Direct Action (DA) operations. It could be that the UAE is bracing themselves for the “Arab Spring” that has been tearing across the Middle East since Tunisia fell apart.
I got hooked on reading up on conflicts at a fairly early age, years before I was old enough to join the military. I was especially interesting in reading about what was at that time (90’s) considered a new phenomena, the corporate army for hire, today known as Private Military Companies or PMC’s. In today’s world of political correctness the acronyms and buzzwords change to frequently for me to keep up on, I think the term getting thrown around Washington today is Private Security Contractors (PSC’s) but the concept remains largely the same.
The most infamous group I read about in the news back in those days was called Executive Outcomes. The press portrayed EO as a Mike Hoare type group of wild men working at the behest of diamond and oil consortiums, taking contracts with African dictators in order to squash rebellions and deliver the goods into the hands of their corporate masters. I’m sure many of the articles are still up on the net and current ones making the same claims appear to this day. If you watch the Leonardo Dicaprio film “Blood Diamond” you can see a very thinly veiled Hollywood interpretation of Executive Outcomes, working for a diamond company in Sierra Leone.
Needless to say I presued my own military career, continuing to read as much as I could about unconventional warfare, the history, the tactics, and for better or worse, the politics. Coming full circle I discovered a treasure trove of books written about modern African conflicts by the men who lived them, such as “Fire Force” by Chris Cocks, perhaps the best first hand account of war I’ve ever read. It belongs up there with “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien and “War Story” by Jim Morris.
Click the image to buy on Amazon.com
To my surprise, the founder of Executive Outcomes, Eeben Barlow, wrote his own first hand account of his career in the SADF, the Civil Cooperation Bureau, and EO. The book managed to shock me in almost every way. Barlow wrote the book essentially defending himself and his company against the slew of misconceptions and outright lies spread about him and what EO was doing in Angola, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. I certainly can’t do the book justice in a single blog post but I hope to encourage more people to read the book itself.
Barlow denies having worked for diamond companies and states that when EO fought against the RUF and UNITA that they targeted the diamond mines first in order to cut off the guerrillas access to their funding, ending the conflict as quickly as possible rather than engaging in a long protracted war that would create even more casualties. He also asserts that both South African intelligence and the CIA were doing everything in their power to prevent him from fulfilling his contracts. Barlow identifies South African intelligentsia front man, Sean Cleary as being behind some of the most malicious stories against EO. There were also several assassination attempts against Barlow, a shooting, and a airport bombing that he believes was directed against him.
I wasn’t content to take his word for it and decided to conduct some of my own research. After being exposed to so many negative stories about Executive Outcomes I had a hard time taking the book at face value. Now, I believe most of those reports were in fact propaganda. Take for instance that the CIA was funding UNITA against the democratically elected government of Angola at that time. This appears fairly well documented, something that CIA case officer turned whistle blower John Stockwell has talked about in the past. Reportedly, the arms shipments the CIA was funneling to Angola were the second largest after the massive weapons shipments to the Afghan mujaheddin.
In “Shadow Masters” by Daniel Estulin I found another reference to Sean Cleary. After apartheid ended, Clearly apparently went on to found a company called Source Watch. Estulin also asserts that Cleary had close ties to Jonas Savimbi, the former leader of UNITA.
Another reason for attempting to subvert Barlow’s operations could have been to ensure that the UN was able to insert itself further into Africa. Many commentators state that EO cleaned out the RUF in Sierra Leone on a six million dollar contract, something the UN failed to do with billions. The amount of graft involved with UN operations in that country has been well documented elsewhere. I can only imagine the hijinx going on with AFRICOM these days.
I don’t have any first hand information to offer up as evidence, but based on my research, I believe Mr. Barlow’s account is the correct one and that EO was pursuing legitimate contracts fighting some very nasty people in conflicts most Americans are not even aware of. I highly encourage more US readers to take a look at Eeben Barlow’s book, the publisher also offers many others that contain some earth shattering revelations such as Peter Stiff’s “Warfare by Other Means.” There are lessons to be learned from the African bush wars, that in my experience, desperately need to be absorbed by American military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I had to buy my copy while I was in London, but you can order the book at http://www.galago.co.za/ It’s a little pricey for most American readers to have shipped, but worth it. Hopefully, some of these books find their was into US bookstores soon.
*Update 5FEB11: I’ve discovered some more specific information about the CIA running guns into Angola from a fascinating website called ISGP.
“The ATLAS document now mentions Abraham Shavit, and again it is ASCO that supplies the Israeli link. Shavit was a manager of ASCO at the time of Iran Contra. Besides his ties to the Israeli government and Belgian minister Andre Cools, Shavit has been described as a friend and associate of Portuguese arms dealer Manuel J. Pires.  This Pires, who “handled secret CIA arms transfers to Angola, and later to both Iran and Iraq”,  worked with the infamous Lt. Col. Oliver North during the Iran Contra scheme.”
2002, Alan A. Block (Professor of Crime, Law and Justice at the Pennsylvania State University), ‘The origins of Iran-Contra: Lessons from the Durrani Affair’ p. 59: “He [Durrani] ended up working on this project with a Portuguese arms dealer, who held a Spanish passport, Manuel J. Pires. In years past, Pires had handled secret CIA arms transfers to Angola, and later to both Iran and Iraq.”