UPA (Utanian Press Agency)
Release: March 19, 301 AP.

Utanian men prepare to go to Dignania - Part I

Zeitgeist Magazine reporter Julius Estobar has been selected by the Utanian Armed Forces HQ to join D Platoon of the 16th Company in III Brigade on their trip to Dignania, to report the reaction of the men, and their expectations. This is his report.

They have been given four days notice, and the 6500 men of the Heavy Infantry III Brigade are busily preparing for the adventure of a lifetime - assisting the warring Dignanian parties to divide along agreed lines their country.

Corporal Emand T. Walters was on base over the weekend so he had a little advance warning - Sunday evening a few of the enlisted men reported activity that suggested the Brigade, based fifteen kilometres outside the northern city of Charleston, would be moving out soon. He hadn't expected the type of announcement made the following morning. The assembled masses of his Battallion, the 3rd riflemen, some eight hundred men assembled in their hall at 0800 for an announcement from their commander, Colonel James Henry, that they had been selected, above several hundred other Brigades, to join the peacekeepers in Dignania to help with the transition to a peaceful partitioning of the country.

There was hoots and "Kotara"s all-round ("Kotara" is the battle cry of the northern Ujam tribe - the 'o' is short, as it "Hot"). They were told they had 54 hours to collect together their necessary belongings, say farewell to their families and assemble on Charleston Naval Base at 1400hrs on Wednesday afternoon. They were required to remain on base until 1700 this evening, and would be advised to return to their families tonight.

When asked, then men of Walters' D Platoon were unfazed by the enormity of their task. "We go, we do as ordered, we earn service medals. How much easier could it be?"

You're not afraid of being killed if hostilities break out again?

"Every soldier thinks of this, and every soldier prays it will never be him that checks out", said one soldier, "But, this is what we do. We'll serve, and we'll serve with all the training we have received." Despite their obvious bravado, the main thing that stops them thinking of this possibility is that things have been very quiet in Dignania recently - only three Utanian fatalities to date - and with the truce now, they should be even quieter.

So, within the hour, the men are busily packing their gear into and alongside their packs - automatic rifles, spare uniforms, boots, pistols for those that have them, all the clothing they can fit in their packs. Ammunition, they know, will accompany them separately, though each is required to carry three clips at all times. Someone shouts does anyone know whether it gets cold in Dignania. Another shouts back - yes, but standard issue should be enough, as it will be summer there before long. The men have each been allocated a special woolen jumper (sweater) in recent weeks making them suspicious that their superiors knew of this excursion long before they did. The timing, or lack of it, worries some of the men - "How will I get to see my mother in Shecker?" asks one.

There are several more sessions with their commanders before the day is done, some with the Platoon commander, Lt Benjamin Ramsey, who emphasises that they should remember their field training operations. At the moment, he acknowledges, it is a haze for them, but they should remember this moment, for it is the beginning of a great learning exercise. Before he dismisses the men, Ramsey calls over Shecker's son - he's arranged a transport plane to take the young soldier to Shecker and return him by 0800 Thursday if he'd like it. The grin is from ear to ear.

As the rest of the platoon, indeed the Brigade, breaks up at 1700, there is a great buzz of excitement - the adventure has just begun.

©UPA, 301 AP.

©Mike Ham, 2001. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)