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Monday, May 15, 2006

Sudan Deployment list and Important Information for Military Observers

For all new MILOBS from South Africa coming to Darfur; this is a complete list of what you will need. I have set up this list on my own from my experience after two months in Darfur. It contains all the information I wish I had before I came over here. If you would like to contact me with a query simply leave a comment under this post and I will definately get back to you.

1. Sleeping Bag. You will probably receive a blanket, two sheets and two pillow cases on arrival. This should be sufficient, but do not take a chance. In general the AU is not that well organised.

2. Pillow (Optional).

3. Uniform. At least two sets. I took along Fuel boots as worn by the Air Force, SAPS and medics. You can also order for yourself waxies (half combat boots) from Tarzan Shoes in Tulbach. The telephone number for them is 023 2301083. You simply pay the money into their account and they send the boots to you. In Sudan you want boots that breathes. Make sure you walk the waxies in before you get here.

4. Wide bush hat. The cap does not help much against this sun. You may arrive here and find there are no berets, arm bands or beret badges available.

5. Civilian clothing:

a. PT shorts (Only to be worn inside base).
b. Knee length shorts (For going to town).
c. T-shirts.
d. Sandals or slip-slops.
e. Hat.
f. Trousers (Optional).

6. Multi adaptor plug for Sudan three-point plugs with a two-point plug (SA) that fits the mains. SA two-point plugs fit any Sudanese wall socket, even the Sudanese three-point wall sockets. All tents for MILOBS are two-man tents with two power points. Each power point takes a SA two-point plug.

7. Soap powder. All clothing except for socks and underwear is washed free of charge inside the wash room. Soap powder can be bought in most shops.

8. Clothing pegs (Clothing gets dry quickly).

9. Extra toilet paper. PAE (Pacific Architects and Engineers) provides toilet paper in all bases, but if you arrive in a toilet where the toilet paper is finished you have a problem. Toilet paper is not that readily available in shops, but you can buy anything in Sudan if you are willing to pay for it. In all bases there are European style and Arabic style toilets. The showers are also up to standard.

10. Money. The exchange rate for Sudanese Dinars is $1 US = 210 Sudanese Dinar. You will need money for luxuries and the meal coupon system for meals. For $90 US you will receive 25 meal coupons. Each coupon is valid for one meal. It is always a good idea to have extra money anyway. The AU payments are not on time. Hopefully this will change in the future, but for now people wait two to three months to get money.

11. Entertainment and communication:
a. Laptop computer. Do not come here without one. You can use it to e-mail, chat and Skype your families and friends. You can play games, store photos, listen to music, watch movies and even do work on it. Bring along extra peripherals like power cable, mouse, etc since these are not easy to find in the mission area. Also bring a pillow case or something else with which to cover the laptop inside your tent for when you do not use it. Theft is not a problem here.
b. Books to read. There are almost no books in this place and those you will find are in Arabic.
c. Cell phones work over here if you are in a reception area and if the service is available. The local service provider is Mobitel, but they are extremely unreliable. You have to buy a Mobitel smart card to use the service. Sometimes in a reception area there is just no signal for days and even if there is a signal you struggle for hours just to send an SMS. You can buy a Thuraya satellite phone for about $1000 US from any outgoing person looking to sell his. These have communication anywhere. They are slightly expensive to use, but their SMS function is very cheap. They have the extra feature of giving you your location like a GPS. These phones are also available from a company called “Blue Sky Satellite” in South Africa.
d. Consider buying a PSP game console. These are perfect for keeping yourself entertained for hours. The battery life is also quite good. I was told the batteries last for three hours.
e. Camera. With a camera you can take photos to send your friends and family as well as for investigation reports.

12. Toiletries. Bring along what you need. Whatever you short you can buy here. The tents do not have mirrors so bring one along. Over here you might not be able to get Dark Brown shoe polish so bring enough with. I also brought with Ceplaton multi vitamins (generic for Pharmaton). You may not get the nutritional value out of this food that you need so do not take chances.

13. Medical. Bring Rennies with (heartburn sufferers). The sickbay may be able to help you, but why take the chance. The rest is up to you, but consider a good sunblock. I brought with, but never use it. The sun is white-hot, but I have not yet been sunburned and I do not wear a hat.

14. Patrols. As a MILOB you will either go on patrols at least every second day if you are not made a staff officer when you arrive here. After a while the chances of you being made a staff officer (same pay as MILOBS if you arrive here as a MILOBS) is good, but for patrols you will need the following:

a. Pocket book and pen.
b. Camera. The chances of getting one from the AU is slim.
c. Arabic phrase book (optional). You have an interpreter for who the AU pays.
d. Small ruck sack. The large South African infantry bag is not necessary. I brought with a 35 litre capacity bag with place for a 2 litre water bladder. In this bag will be your escape and evasion kit. Hopefully you will never need it, but do not follow the example over here where the MILOBS go on patrol with a 1 litre water bottle and a beret. If you have the bag never leave the base or your vehicle without it. In the bag or on my person I have the following:

i. 4 Litres of water. 2 Litres in the bladder and an extra 2 litre bottle. A soft drink bottle or similar works well. You can drink water out of the taps in most bases.
ii. Water-purification tablets (that’s why you need an extra water bottle).
iii. Bush jacket. It gets cold at night, although it is not as cold as some people will tell you, but it could be a problem during escape and evasion.
iv. Basic medical supplies. Take with plasters, bandages, antiseptic, etc. It is best to ask an experienced ops medic what to take with. I also have an emergency blanket (space blanket). Try to get one that does not make excessive noise when you unfold or fold it or your pursuers may hear it. Anti-histamine for acid burns given to you by the Nairobi Fly and Blister Beetle. These bugs have acid for blood.
v. Basic compass, GPS or a Thuraya satellite phone. Note that the Thuraya simply indicates your position and does not indicate direction. You have to get a map here and prepare it before you leave the base.
vi. Dark glasses. Take along quality dark glasses. Cheap ones work, but they also break easily.
vii. Dust goggles and dust mask. Dust goggles can be bought in sport shops in South Africa. The best dust mask I think is one you buy from Cape Union Mart. It is an elastic cloth sleeve that fits snugly around your neck and can just be pulled up over your mouth and nose in a sand storm. This dust mask can also be configured into many different styles by folding it differently.
viii. Extra socks.
ix. Multi tool. Buy quality and ensure it has a knife.
x. Emergency rations. Buy a few cans of food to put in the bag. Canned food can be found over here, but it may not be quality or what you would like. Ensure you have a can opener. Stay away from energy boosters since they have to wear off and you may find yourself falling asleep when you do not want to.
xi. Cigarette lighter and/or water proof matches.
xii. Headlamp torch with extra batteries. There are very powerful models of headlamp torches available with LED lights. I also have a keyring LED light for emergencies and if you need light quickly. Take along extra batteries. Choose a headlamp LED torch with red and white light. Remember, red light does not destroy your natural night sight ability and is less conspicuous and –visible. Cape Union Mart is again the best place to get these items, but never write off Due South.
xiii. Insect repellent and many Malaria pills (Doxycycline). If you get Malaria you treat it by taking an overdose of these pills. It makes you sicker, but it also kills the Malaria Larvae. Consult a doctor before you follow my advice.
xiv. Toilet paper.
xv. Sleeping bag.
xvi. Mirror. Use the mirror with which to signal to attract attention. Make sure you know who you are signalling to or take a calculated risk.
xvii. Binoculars.
xviii. Fire starters. Our SANDF ration pack fuel tablet is perfect since it also does not give off a very powerful odour that could be picked up by would be pursuers.

15. Multi fuel stove. Remember that you cannot take compressed gas canisters on any aircraft. We took with us when we came here and in Addis Ababa we had to get off the plane and go to remove the canisters from our baggage and hand it over to the airport authorities. This stove is completely optional.

16. Container for washing clothes in. There are no facilities for washing of socks and underwear so either bring a container with or plan to buy a container or bucket in Darfur. These are readily available.

17. Have a copy of your passport electronically on your laptop so that you can send it to the travel agent that asks for it if you would like to go somewhere for your leave and CTO. Usually travel agents want these documents before they make any airline reservations. To scan documents here is extremely difficult.

18. Have extra passport/ID photos. I had eight, but it was not enough. These are placed on files as well by the AU and are put on your drivers’ licence and other documents.

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