President Mattis chewed this over with his cabinet, then followed up on the decision to share this bit of news with the heads of NATO countries and the UN. By the time the fleets arrived off South Africa’s coasts, it was decided to proceed with the rescue mission as previously decided, then see what could be done about extracting the whites. Most countries began to fret about what that meant, considering the logistical, financial and finally national implications of taking in an estimated 4.000.000 whites, but in the end it was decided to split them equally between North America and Europe, which reduced the load to about 20.000 per country. A pain in the ass to be sure, but better than it happened with the Syrians and Libyans years earlier. Another thing the heads of state had decided was that the best way to pull this off was to make contact with the whites under siege in the Free State, because they didn’t yet have good surveillance and knew even less about what was going on. By far, the best people who could do this were the U.S. Special Forces, specifically Delta. They had done it before, in the early days of the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, when they infiltrated small teams which pinpointed enemy positions and directed air strikes. That talent had never been lost by Delta because those guys made sure to pass on the skills to the next generation of warfighters, and it was time to put them to use again. James Mattis agreed with this and passed it on to the Joint Chiefs, who sent down a rocket to SOCOM. Again language was a problem, but unlike the ridiculous situation of the early war in the ‘Stan, Special Forces asked the Army to first look in-house for Afrikaans and other African language speakers. Thanks to computers, a couple of dozen South Africans in both active and reserve forces were identified, the majority of whom spoke Afrikaans.
One of them was sergeant Willem van Aswegen of the 75th Rangers. Delta didn’t play games. They first put four of their guys on a plane and only after that did they call the chief of SOCOM, who called the Chief of the Army, who in turn called the Rangers’ CO and told him Delta were sending down a sergeant major and three guys who needed to see sergeant Willem van Aswegen ASAP. As much as he was tempted, the colonel knew better than to ask what those guys wanted one of his men for, so he found out from his secretary what the sergeant’s platoon was doing and ordered that he be dragged from the route march and brought before his CO immediately and never mind the cherry on top or pretty please. A Hummer was dispatched about 20 miles away and eventually found the sweaty and now puzzled sergeant humping a pack alongside his men. After a quick word with the eltee, the sergeant was ordered in the vehicle, and they sent a shower of mud on the jealous Rangers as they headed back to HQ. Less than an hour later, he was called to the CO’s office. Just outside the office door, sergeant van Aswegen saw three bearded but muscular guys who were dressed like civilian hikers but packed pistols under their shirts, though he didn’t think much of it. After all, there were always strange characters passing through the unit and Rangers were used to not sticking their noses where they weren’t invited. He went into the ante-room and came to attention in front of the major who manned the desk, then saluted. The major gave him a quick look, stood up and saluted, then led him to the door, where he knocked and announced the sergeant. The colonel waved Willem in and without preamble told him “Sarge, this is sergeant major Smith from Delta. He wants to have a word with you, now excuse me” and he left in a big hurry.
Sergeant major Smith took a look at him, then said “Sarge, Delta needs you for an op, but it’s voluntary. You can decide to join now based on this, or you can ask for a hint. However, if I give you that hint and you still decline, the three guys you saw outside will take you with us to Fort Bragg, where you’ll be kept in quarantine for the duration of our op. There’s no prejudice in this, and nothing will happen to you during the quarantine or afterwards, but you will be incommunicado for anything from weeks to months and sworn to secrecy for the rest of your life. Now what’s it gonna be?” Sergeant van Aswegen thought for three seconds and said “Gimme that hint, sergeant major.” The sergeant major pulled out a piece of paper and handed it over. Willem looked down and saw “We need you for an op due to your training, fitness and especially language skills”. That’s when the light bulb went on and Willem realized it meant either southern Africa, where Afrikaans was spoken, or South Africa itself because of what was happening there. Without further hesitation he said “Alright, sergeant major, sign me up.” The sergeant major stood up and called the CO back, then gave him a nod. Seeing that, the colonel said “Sergeant, I don’t know where you’re going and I’m never going to ask why. The traditional thing to say to a departing Ranger is ‘Rangers lead the way’, but I doubt you’ll be leading these guys. Tag along, do your best not to make this unit look like assholes and come back in one piece. Good luck and Godspeed. Dismissed!”
Sergeant major Smith and Willem came to attention, saluted, then left. They joined the guys waiting outside and while hesitant, first went to Willem’s apartment on base, where he sought his passport and took a colored cloth bundle which he stuck in his pocket. Without another word, they went to the airport, where the jet waited for them and they took off for Fort Bragg. Once there, van Aswegen was issued South African uniforms, a M-4 rifle with all the bells and whistles, and everything else he needed, then found himself assigned to a team of four guys he’d never seen before. Later that day, they were given briefings, where it was explained they were to fly to Botswana, then infiltrate South Africa on buggies they would be issued, where their job was reconnaissance, painting targets for aircraft and if possible, to make contact with white South Africans trying to get out. In that regard, they were supposed to direct refugees towards Namibia and inform them things were in motion for an international rescue plan.
At first the seasoned operators on Willem’s team teased him a little, but they soon got to know he was a treasure trove of information about South Africa, but more so about the Free State, where he’d grown up before emigrating to the U.S. with his parents as a teenager, and coincidentally, where they were going. Within a couple of hours, he was putting together voice recordings of common phrases in Afrikaans which he then loaded on everybody’s note pads and explaining what he knew of South Africa’s people, their politics and customs. He was in good company. Three of the guys were veterans of Middle Eastern operations and thus used to life in arid conditions. The fourth was an Air Force FAC- the famed Forward Air Controllers, men who could dive, shoot, loot and scoot while directing aircraft to their targets and thus sending even more enemies into the afterlife. Their team was called Papa Two Seven, phonetic radio speak for P or Patrol 27, and they were going to have fun…
End of Part 17. To be continued…