The sirens wailed mournfully. From a deep slumber, I sit bolt upright. Was this a drill or the real thing, an attack on the base? There had been such a precedent a year previously when SWAPO had fired 122mm Stalin Organ rockets into the base at Katimo Malilo & killed more than a dozen South African troops.
The pattern of the Border Camp was by now firmly established. Firstly a five day patrol & then guard duty around the airfield for 3 days.
I had largely solved the water situation whilst on patrol. I now carried 20 litres of water on patrol, ten in water bottles & the rest in an assortment of containers mainly being discarded plastic 90mm mortar containers. I now looked like a walking Christmas tree with containers fastened on all available hooks on the pack. On the first days of a new patrol, I quite literally sank into the soft sand under all the weight. I bore the additional 10kgs of weight stoically. Anything less than 4 litres of water per day would have had catastrophic consequences for me.
Main picture: Guard duty on the Border
Training now got under way in earnest. All the battle drills that one had last done during one’s Basic Training now had to be relearnt & practiced. Due to a lack of staff at the clinic, medical training ceased but I was still the Medical Orderly and as such expected had to attend to all minor ailments & injuries. What worried me more was the weight of the Medical Bag which contained everything required to resuscitate an injured soldier, except that I did not have a cooking clue how to use anything.
The four huge Allison turbofan engines throbbed as the Lockheed C130 Hercules transport aircraft rose steeply from the Driftsands airport in Port Elizabeth. Sitting on the rubber strap seats & back rests were 60 of the finest men of Regiment Uitenhage. We were being flown north to the Border to prevent a Communist take-over of the vaderland. Being the 22nd December 1977, we would be spending Christmas on the Border. What a prospect!