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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Friday, August 24, 2012

EXECUTIVE OUTCOMES: FOUR BALL ONE TRACER


For many years, Executive Outcomes was – and still is - the target of a web of lies, deception and blatant disinformation by those who were deeply concerned that we might prevent countries in Africa from imploding and whose sole interest was the destruction of the continent for economical and other gain.

A quick Google search will reveal just how many lies are out there on the company.  Granted, the media did finally publish an apology for being the mouthpiece of a massive disinformation campaign but it was a little too late as far as I was concerned. Some of these despicable, lying, self-serving members of society who jumped on the bandwagon under the banner of “journalist” had, however, effectively played their role in ensuring the longevity of terrorist groups and insurgents – at the cost of many hundreds of thousands of lives. They also very successfully contributed to the bad name many true journalists have to endure.

When I finally wrote my account of Executive Outcomes (EO), it was primarily to give my version of events – a version which unlike the media’s and the intelligence services’, was based on company documents, interviews as well as video and audio recordings of many of the men who were part of EO or senior government officials who EO had worked for.

After my book was published, I continued to hope and wish that someone who was at the forefront of EO’s operations in the field would follow suit and document their version of events – the good and the bad. After all, as I was trying to run the company whilst fending off the liars, intelligence agents and BS artists who overnight had become “specialists” on EO, I could seldom even visit our AOs, let alone spend much time on the ground.

Rudolph van Heerden, known to many within EO as “Ruff” or “Roelf” finally put pen to paper and along with Andrew Hudson wrote a perspective on EO as seen through the eyes of one of the commanders who was on the ground. I was excited at the news as I believed that it would fill in many of the gaps my book may have left. And I believe the book will do just that.

I was keen to lay my hands on Ruff’s book and when I finally managed to get a copy, - its title is “Four Ball One Tracer” - I was enthralled. Roelf tells the story of EO from the day he signed up to join the company, the nightmare that was Soyo and until the end of the Sierra Leone campaign.

Roelf discusses a lot of things – the training, the tactics, the hardships and the laughs. He tells his story as he lived it – straight and to the point. He also pays tribute to the many good men who served in EO and used their skills and knowledge to bring about positive change in war torn countries.

I do not want to spoil anyone’s anticipation but I would recommend Roelf’s book to anyone who is interested in a lot more detail about EO’s operations.

It is a very good read.

Well done Roelf and thank you again for your service in EO.

27 comments:

michael b said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alex said...

Can't wait to get my hands on a copy! Hope it means more people will come to appreciate what EO actually achieved, and maybe get them thinking a bit about the background to the company and the events that surrounded it.

Regards,

Alex

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I must admit that I found it a very good read, Alex.

Roelf made some mistakes (as did I in my book) but it in no way detracts from his story. However, as I was not privvy to everything happening at the operational and tactical levels, so too was he not privvy to what was happening on the other levels and the home front. Such is the fog of war.

He gives a lot of detail in terms of planning and tactics which I enjoyed. I am really pleased that someone who spent a lot of time on the ground also put their story to paper.

Rgds,

Eeben

michael b said...

Hi Eeben, is it not at all possible to get hold of those powers that be that hold the rights to your book hostage to make it available in online digital format on Kindle?

Surely those that are imprisoning your work want more sales? I bet that if your book were "Kindleised" or what ever you call it when you commt to kindle will immediately see a renewed flurry of purchases in the digital format. In all reality, honesty and things literary the digital route is the way to go after publishing a real book.

Availability "problems" no longer become a hassle or issue.

I hope that Roelf Van Heerden will consider going online with a Kindle version sometime.

I look at it this way. Due to my 'roving" nature of late between provinces it is near impossible to travel with suitcases full of books but my lap top kindle edition goes everywhere and regardless of how many books i collect on it, my lap top stays the same weight and dimension. I have two Kway kit bags and they are filled to the brim with my belongings and there is just no place for physical books.

Regards: Mike

Herbert said...

mantsceEeben,

Just today I received my copy of the book. I look forward to the read.

By the way, I've never been able to lay hands on your book.

Rgds,
Herbert

Tango said...

Hi Eeben,
Hope you are keeping well.
The latest true story published .
We salute you and all the brave men mentioned in the latest book published as stated below.
Hard to believe that this is now part of our history !

The Terrible Ones

The Complete History of 32 Battalion (two volumes)

Piet Nortje

The soldiers of 32 Battalion were so feared by their enemies that they were called ‘Os Terriveis' - ‘The Terrible Ones'. Founded in utmost secrecy from the vanquished remnants of an Angolan rebel movement, they were forged into an effective fighting machine that took on guerrilla forces and conventional armies alike. Undefeated in 12 years of frontline battle, the ‘Buffalo Soldiers' became the South African Army's best combat unit since World War II.

Regards
Tango Romeo

NS :Sonny Cox sends his regards

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I sympathise with your situation, Mike. Whenever I travel, I have a case full of books – but as I said to a friend of mine recently (he carries his Kindle with several “books” on it), I like books despite the weight as prefer to feel the paper between my fingers. I suppose that makes me really old fashioned.

I have had many people ask me about getting the book on Kindle but unfortunately I am not the publisher and therefore cannot do anything about it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am pleased that you managed to get a copy of his book, Herbert.

By the way, if you don’t mind, please send me your email address as a Private Message.

Rgds,

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is always good to hear from old friends, Tango! Please pass my best to Sonny as well.

Piet did an excellent job with his limited edition book titled “Victory at a price” – the background and action of 32 Bn at Savate, codenamed Operation Tiro-Tiro. Although I did not partake in it, it remains part of my history as well.

I had Piet place me on the “waiting list” for his 2-volume work so I look forward to getting my grabby paws onto it. I am sure it will be a good read.

Sadly, the history of the units we served in is so political that many want to sweep it under the carpet. But, if we neglect history, we will never be able to learn from it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben:

Great article and thanks for the Van Heerdon reference. Not sure the recent mining dustup was due to poor intelligence however. Nothing much in the western media on it, no suprises there.

Beste, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Good to have you back, Alan. I was wondering what had happened and if you were okay?

I fear that Marikana was the start of things to come. However, there are many stories that have come out of it such as the strikers taking muti (witchdoctor medicine) to make them invisible and allow bullets to bounce off them, the murder of policemen and security guards by the strikers, the strikers firing first at the police from within the crowd, the strikers armed with machetes and approaching the police, etc.

On the other hand, the police here have a very poor reputation and a bad name to boot. In this instance though, they did not seem to have too much of an option but it seems the shootings were not targeted but just general firing into the crowd.

I believe it was a massive intelligence failure but those are my thoughts.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Yes, appears the miners failed to maak 'n plan. No plan survives initial contact anyway. And in other news, the Red Arch joins Obama in blaming Bush and Tony for events in Iraq. Doing well here, fully pensioned and resident gardener and rubbish hauler for the household RSM. Catching up on my reading. Just finished Bax's "Three Sips of Gin" and Mercer's "Into the Cannibals Pot". Gardening, life is good. I've at long last found my calling. Who knew?

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Good to know all well, Alan!

I recently finished reading “Four ball One tracer” as well as “Panic for democracy” – enjoyed both of them.

Gardening, huh? You are a few steps ahead of me. I suppose I will get there one day.

And your next visit to SA is when?

Rgds,

Eeben

MC said...

It was an excellent read!

Great accounts from the operational side versus the accounts given by Mr Barlow (which was also an excellent read). Clearly, extrodinary men doing extra-ordinary thing with limited resources but unlimited vision!

Thanks for giving us all something to be proud of!

With sincere gratitude and humility.

Best Regards

Mike

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Mike. I am sure Roelf would be pleased with your feedback.

They were truly extraordinary guys with unlimited vision and unmatched initiative.

Rgds,

Eeben

MC said...

An excellent read!

Very interesting to re-read the stories on an operational level, as I read your EO book forst.

Thank you for giving us such pride as South Africans.

With sincerity and humilty,

MC

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks MC. I Know Roelf will be happy to read your comments on his book. As Roelf wrote “Long live EO”. I will always remain proud of those men.

Rgds,

Eeben

Deforestation & Carbon Emissions said...

Hi Eben

Long time old friend, I was one of the very first 48 that went up , the guy with the "permed" hair you had a braai at my house in Garsfontein. I read your book loved it,nice account of the whole event and I just bought Roelf's book I read it till 5 in the morning. There is a dragon breathing around that is building up a storm and the old boys will be needed right here on home ground. Great stuff maybe we can hook up at Woodlands.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I guess it is Andre? I remember your hairdo and the braai.

Thanks for your comments on both Roelf’s and my books. Much appreciated.

What many do not seem to realise – or refuse to acknowledge – is that SA is in the throes of a low intensity insurgency. Unless something is done and strong leadership steps forward, it will escalate into a greater problem.

The “old boys” are mostly elsewhere as they are not welcomed here in the armed forces. But, having seen some of our “soldiers” recently, I doubt many would want to be part of it anyhow.

As for linking up somewhere – maybe one day. Times are too hectic at present.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

So I read Roelf's book again and again....outstanding read yes. But, I have one complaint, that book should have been two books. The sheer magnitude of the Angolan operation alone, was one book. Reading the book, I could see that he was leaving things out. (If I were a certain British Citizen, I'd say because I was there. But I wasn't so I won't!) I know this from reading my other books and yours'. I've been reading so many of these books and his is one of the best so far, but I honestly felt disappointed that he was limited to one book. I could almost taste the cordite and smell the sand and bushes when reading it, but man oh man, there is so much more. So when you next come into contact with him, kindly ask the man to consider carrying on with his work. There IS more. He is very good at it. His publisher should have allowed him to write two separate books. Well done Roelf, outstanding outstanding outstanding. BTW - Piet's "The Terrible One's" is out...and I have it. It's quite a book (Two books). I could use it to chock a C-130.

Regards
Robin

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is a good book, Robin and hats off to Roelf for writing it.

You need to remember that any author is limited by his publisher. I know that I lost many pages in my book and I am sure the same happened to Roelf. However, that does not detract from his account of EO.

I am busy with Piet’s 2-volume on 32 Bn and although time is often in short supply, I will keep on at it as it is part of my history as well.

Rgds,

Eeben

jobcompany said...

Eeben .... Hello .. I send you my best regards to your work with Executive Outcomes and your men ..... I send you my greatest respect, I have great respect for you ... hoping to meet you someday if you are visiting France .... Good day .... strength and honor.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks Jobcompany. Your comments and kind invitation are much appreciated.

Rgds,

Eeben

MC said...

Dear Mr Barlow

Compliments of the new year and good health to you!

I have now got the new double edition of 32 Battalion by Piet Norjie... very detailed and indepth account of the background build up and commencement of 32 Battalion. I shall let you know when I have finished both books.

I have also completed the two books written by Arn Du Randt about his Koevoet days, Zulu Zulu Golf and Zulu Zulu Foxtrot. Very easy reading and thouroughly enjoyable... However, I find it very interesting and I am sure, couched in each person's own experience and optionion, the Koevoet "view" (as it is only one man's view)on how much they contributed to the Bush War.

It seems as though Koevoet would destroy small pockets of insurgency at a time, where as the SANDF would encounter much larger groups, more conventionally and less frequently.

If I may ask; what is your opinion on how Koevoet contributed to the Bush War versus that of a specialist battalioin such as 32 Battalion?

I hope that the question does not stir up any competition between readers, but it is meerly from an interest point of view. There is no doubt that both units (SAP and SANDF) were extremely good at what they did and should be proud of the fact.

Very humble and best regards to you!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Compliments of the season to you too, MC.

Piet’s work was a monumental effort and I understand Arn’s books are also good reads.

Koevoet’s mandate was primarily within SWA/Namibia and in the latter years, they were allowed to cross into Angola but were restricted in terms of depth of their AO. The SADF battalions in SWA/Namibia were positioned to dominate area and to conduct patrols, ambushes and follow-up operations once tracks had been found. These tracks were often handed over to Koevoet and at times Koevoet did their own patrolling and follow-up operations against SWAPO. Koevoet were highly mobile in their Casspirs and this model of operations was adapted by 101 Bn’s RM teams who were equally efficient and deadly. Koevoet – despite their police roots – along with 101 Bn were essentially motorised infantry in MRAPs/MPVs.

SADF units such as 61 Mech, 32 Bn, 31 Bn, elements of the para’s, Special Forces etc were usually deployed into Angola – and spent a lot of time there. Many of the external deployments were not conventional in nature ie Special Forces, 32 Bn, etc but very unconventional. Some of these punch-ups were very big. The conventional battles were even larger, especially when enemy brigades were pitted against SADF battle groups/combat teams.

It would be a folly to try to compare who contributed the most to the bush war as the strategy at that time was essentially dominate SWA/Namibia, strike deep into enemy territory against enemy bases and concentrations and secure enemy crossing points.

Many would argue that Koevoet’s tactics created a lot of collateral damage in its wake. As I never operated with Koevoet, I cannot comment on this. The fact is they did make a large contribution to the overall efforts, especially as the war in SWA/Namibia was viewed as a counter insurgency effort and COIN is actually a police responsibility.

As you rightly point out, it was not a competition and I am sure most ex-Koevoet/SADF readers will not see your question in that light. Note that it was NOT the SANDF that operated in those years – it was the SADF. The SADF died in 1994.

I hope this helps.

Rgds,

Eeben

MC said...

Dear Mr Barlow

Thanks for your insight and knowledge on the matter. Everyone who served up there was brave and tough!

My most humble apologies for the type-o! The SADF was something to proud of and acheived so much during tough economic times. The SANDF leaves me embarrased.

Best regards

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

No problem whatsoever, MC. Typos have a way of changing what is meant. I just felt I had to make the point.

Rgds,

Eeben