I fly a helicopter in South Sudan: a bullet flies from the crowded crowd

I fly a helicopter in South Sudan: a bullet flies from the crowded crowd

The following passage comes from the diary of today’s narrator Wei-Eu on July 8, 2016. Less than 48 hours after he typed this text on his mobile phone, the South Sudan Civil War broke out. Wei’ao, who was flying on a local mission, experienced a unique moment of life and death in his life. He and his colleagues heard the sound of a heavy machine gun fired one after another.

I fly a helicopter in South Sudan: a bullet flies from the crowded crowd

In order to explain why Wei-Yu appeared in this remote African country at that moment five years ago, we need to turn the time back to an earlier moment. At the beginning of the story, Wei-Yu is a national defense student who graduated from a certain aerospace university. He had a dream of flying since he was a child and joined the Chinese Air Force after graduating from university, where he worked as a mechanic for one year and political work for several years.

one

My name is Wei Ou and I am 36 years old.

I had a dream of being a pilot since I was a kid, and joined the Chinese Air Force after graduating from university. Because I didn’t have the opportunity to become a pilot when I was in the Air Force, I went to a German flying school to learn how to fly a helicopter after retiring.

In 2015, after the end of the semester, my original plan was to work as a flight instructor at the Chinese branch of this company, but I didn’t expect this branch to be able to land because it didn’t find a suitable partner. At this time, the company just won the bid. The International Red Cross project is to provide them with a one-year flight service to assist them in carrying out humanitarian relief work in South Sudan.

For me who love flying, this is a very rare opportunity. First, I can accumulate considerable flight time and flying experience, and second, I can help others and get a meaningful life experience. So I submitted an application to the company.

I fly a helicopter in South Sudan: a bullet flies from the crowded crowd

Wei-Yu and his colleagues are waiting for boarding

But in fact, I knew almost nothing about South Sudan at the beginning. I only knew that it was in Africa, so I started to check the information online after signing up.

South Sudan is located in northern Africa, about 10 degrees north of the equator. Because it is in the tropics, it has high temperatures above 40 degrees all year round.

This country was established on July 9, 2011, after a long period of war, it became independent from Sudan. The reason for the division is ostensibly religious. North Sudan believes in Islam, and South Sudan believes in Christianity. The deeper reason I learned later is that the region where South Sudan is located is rich in oil resources, in order to compete for this part of the resources. Into war and division.

When I went, South Sudan had only been established for more than four years. This is the kind of underdeveloped country you can imagine. The products are not rich, but most of the animals are fierce. Even in the center of the capital, huge lizards, cockroaches and geckos can be seen everywhere.

There is no clean tap water system in the local area. For foreigners, bottled mineral water is also needed to brush their teeth, because the water there may cause serious health problems just by importing it. In the same way, local salads and meatloaf are not suitable for outsiders.

The modernization of the entire country is very low, the infrastructure is weak, and there are only a handful of asphalt roads in the country, making it one of the poorest countries in the world.

I fly a helicopter in South Sudan: a bullet flies from the crowded crowd

Local houses

Of course, such a country does not issue travel visas to foreign countries. Those who come are usually staff members of the United Nations and various NGO organizations. International organizations such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders have offices here. Local humanitarian relief work is carried out. Because the local transportation is very inconvenient, the transportation of staff and materials needs to be completed by helicopter, which is why the Red Cross publicly recruits flight service providers.

My position in South Sudan is the flight operations coordinator, responsible for arranging the flight plan according to the mission requirements of the Red Cross, and when the crew pilots encounter safety or physical problems unable to fly, I will also act as a temporary rescue pilot. In addition to me, there were three colleagues who went with us-a captain, a mechanic, and a customer relations director.

Before we set off, we had a general understanding of the local situation, and most of us had experience as soldiers or police.

two

The day we arrived in South Sudan was November 23, 2015. Viewed from the plane, the capital Juba is a large area of ​​yellow land, dotted with trees and small houses with blue roofs. The houses are also dilapidated. Most of them are the primitive ones built with cow dung and straw. Soil house.

I fly a helicopter in South Sudan: a bullet flies from the crowded crowd

View South Sudan from the air

As the cabin door opened, I smelled the peculiar smell of South Sudan, mixed with the rustic flavor of sand and plants, and was engulfed by the heat wave.

After arriving at the residence for a short break, we started the formal work. The main content of our work is to transport people and living materials to various cities near Juba. Because there is no industry in the local area, living materials are basically imported, such as washbasins, tables and chairs, clothes, pens, etc. In another case, we transported five Shanghai Phoenix 28 bicycles. In such an environment, I felt strange and proud to see the domestic products that I have been familiar with since childhood.

We are said to be pilots, but in fact our role is very much like a courier, except that our daily work is carried out in a more extreme and dangerous environment.

I fly a helicopter in South Sudan: a bullet flies from the crowded crowd

栯擕 on a mission in South Sudan

I still remember the day when we first flew.

We drove out of the hotel in a four-wheel drive vehicle assigned by the Red Cross. It took about three to four minutes. We were about to turn from a small dirt road to a main road. As soon as we turned, we saw the road on the side of the street. There was a man lying on the pavement. He was wearing a white shirt, gray trousers and leather shoes. The crowds who came and went were completely blind, almost stepping over him.

My first reaction at the time was that this person might be sick, so I just lay there motionless, and discussed with my colleagues whether to get off the car and see him. But at that time, our customer director colleague, who was in his 50s, gray hair, and very social experience, suggested that we should not get off the bus first, because we could not delay the flight mission, and we didn’t know enough about it. , In case this is a scam, we may be at risk of being robbed.

I fly a helicopter in South Sudan: a bullet flies from the crowded crowd

On the streets of South Sudan

So instead of getting out of the car, we used the on-board intercom to inform the Red Cross base camp of the situation. After the mission of the day was over, we received a reply from the Red Cross stating that the person had actually been stabbed to death the night before, and that he might have been robbed.

At that time, I just arrived in South Sudan. This whole incident shocked me. My first impression was why South Sudanese are so indifferent to life? A dead or injured person fell on the side of the road, and everyone turned a blind eye? But when I learned more, I understood the root cause of this phenomenon. This kind of reaction is caused by the environment . People here are witnessing death every day. Such cruel scenes have become accustomed to them. 

Violent incidents, local riots, and regional wars can happen at any time, and no one knows for sure whether they can live until the next day. Therefore, not only the treatment of other lives, but also their own lives, many people’s attitudes are very indifferent.

One thing that impressed me was that when the war broke out in 2016, we were trapped between the warring parties, bullets were flying all over the sky, and we were going to retreat to a UN refugee camp. At that time, there was a South Sudanese civilian not far away. We asked him to come and hide with us to a relatively safe place, but to our surprise, he actually refused.

He just lay there motionless and told us: “If God wants me to die, then take my life. I won’t move anyway. If the bullet hits me, then hit me…”

three

The South Sudanese view of life and death is largely due to the bad social environment. Although this country became independent in 2011, the domestic situation has always been turbulent. The contradiction between the two largest ethnic groups, Nuer and Dinka, has always existed.

In 2013, Nuer leader and Vice President Machar launched a military coup in an attempt to overthrow the Dinka leader and the government headed by President Kiir. After the failure of the coup, Vice President Machar went into exile overseas, but in many places There are still local armed organizations belonging to different forces.

In addition to the worrisome security situation , South Sudan’s economic situation is also very bad. There is only limited agriculture in the country, and almost all industrial products rely on imports. The country’s only important economic source is oil. Many people in South Sudan are out of work, and can only sit in a shed on the side of the dirt road looking at the sky every day. Coupled with severe inflation, adults and children are hungry, so robbery and violence often occur in the city.

I fly a helicopter in South Sudan: a bullet flies from the crowded crowd

A local kid asking for food outside the hotel

Even for civil servants in this country, the salary is pitifully low, with an average monthly salary of only about $10, and even since 2016, they have gradually been unable to pay wages.

The laws of modern society are no longer valid here . The spread among the local Chinese is that the police and soldiers are actually the initiators of many cases. They go to work during the day and go to robbery after taking off their uniforms at night. What’s more, they will use their jobs to make some extra money during the day when they are on duty.

And not long after I arrived in South Sudan, I was blackmailed by a policeman.

Four

Not long after I arrived in South Sudan, their traffic management was chaotic. My driver’s license was bought on the black market and I was not very familiar with the local road conditions.

I drove to the market that day to buy things. That road is one of the few roads with traffic lights, but there are no straight roads and turning lanes on the ground, so I parked the car in the right lane and waited for the red light. At this time, the car behind Obviously I’m not happy anymore. I have been honking the horn, but the red light hasn’t turned green yet. I’m in a dilemma and can only stay still.

At this time, a traffic policeman suddenly emerged from the side of the car. He knocked on the window and motioned me to get off. At the same time, the red light turned green. I thought that there was no marking line on the ground, and I did not violate the traffic rules, and I didn’t want to deal with the police, so I stepped on the oil and drove away.

However, what I didn’t expect was that the policeman stopped a small motorcycle and chased me all the way until the next traffic light intersection, he chased me and knocked on the window again to signal me to get off. This time I was persuaded, rolled down the car window, and replied in English very politely, “Sir, good morning! Is there anything wrong?”

The traffic policeman said seriously, “Did you know that you violated our traffic rules just now? And you escaped after you violated? In view of what you did just now, I will now send you to South Sudan for national security Supervision center. After you get there, you will first be fined 5000 South Sudanese pounds, and your violations will also be recorded, which will affect your subsequent entry application.”

When I heard his exaggerated tone and content, I probably had a spectrum in my heart. The staff of the Red Cross have had a similar experience before. We have reported the principles for handling such incidents: 1. Don’t give money; 2. If you give money, you need to ask for an invoice; 3. According to local traffic laws, fines are generally fine. Will not exceed 30 South Sudanese pounds.

So when I heard him open his mouth and said 5000 South Sudanese pounds, I knew there was something tricky about it. This was just a pretext to scare me. Sure enough, he immediately said, “However, we have another solution. You give me 1,000 South Sudanese pounds, and I will let you go. You will not leave any case records, as if nothing happened. “As he said, he curled his mouth, clapped his hands and made a gesture of non-owe to each other.

I have seen through his tricks, but in order to get out, I can’t directly point out that he is blackmailing me. Instead, I have to find a way to talk to him in a roundabout way, “Look, first of all I can go to the national security supervision you mentioned. Center, but I have to report to the International Red Cross before I go. Secondly, I can pay 5000 after going there, or 1000 here, as long as you can provide me with an invoice, I need an invoice to come to the Red Cross Will be reimbursed.”

He said, “I don’t have an invoice.”

Of course he does not have an invoice. So I went on to say: “If there is no invoice, I can’t pay such a fine. But look, I have a hundred and eighty South Sudanese pounds in my pocket. I have this little money with me. If you want Just take it. I don’t need the invoice for the money. I assume it’s my personal payment.”

He listened and thought about it for a while, perhaps because he felt that some openings were better than none at all. So he readily agreed. “Well, let’s make friends. You can find me if you encounter any difficulties in South Sudan in the future.”

One thing that Africans particularly value is that you have to respect him. You must not have any disdain or contemptuous tone and expression. If you coax him like a child, he will feel that he is greatly respected, and then he will feel you. He is a good man, and you are his brother.

Then he really regarded me as a brother, and he did something that made me feel very unbelievable-he turned around and walked to the middle of the road, stopped all the cars in the four directions at the intersection, and then hit me. He made a gesture and motioned to let me go first. I was really shocked at the time, thinking that no one except the president can get this kind of treatment, right?

So, I saluted him, honked the horn, and drove away in the salute of all the cars.

Fives

I arrived in South Sudan in November 2015. Although some outrageous things are happening in this country every day, the security situation at that time was generally stable. Until the beginning of 2016, there was news that Vice President Machar, who was in exile, was coming back. Under the pressure of foreign forces, President Kiir was also forced to accept this incident and promised the Vice President to come back and join him in power.

Since this news was released, the security situation in this country has been somewhat wrong. Since the vice president is about to return, many places are facing the transfer of power, and those who were close to the president must be replaced by leaders close to the vice president.

Our mission that day was to pick up a Red Cross staff member in Boll and send him to a small town called Pibor.

Because the situation in South Sudan is unstable, we will contact the destination contact person before each flight to confirm whether the local security situation can be safely landed. On the same day, we successfully picked up people in Bol and headed to Pibor. Usually there is a security officer on Pibor’s landing site to clear the site, because curious locals like to watch the helicopter landing; in addition, he will also have an intercom to contact us, which is equivalent to a mobile tower. .

I fly a helicopter in South Sudan: a bullet flies from the crowded crowd

Landing point and people watching the helicopter

When we arrived at Pibor that day, we never saw the security officer in the air, and did not reply after several calls. Then during the descent, I felt something was wrong, and when I was about to land, I suddenly saw a group of people rushing out of the tribe a few hundred meters away, crushed in darkness, and some on their shoulders. With shovels, and some holding bricks in their hands, I realized that this was definitely not the crowd who came to watch the helicopter.

At this moment, I heard a bang behind the cabin of the fuselage. My first reaction was that someone hit the plane with stones. At the same time, I also saw a local man with a gun in his hand. I quickly grabbed the steering handle, pushed and increased the speed, quickly pulled up the helicopter and left the place.

After returning to the air, I explained to the captain, “We have just been attacked!”

Because his field of vision did not see the group of people, he didn’t quite understand what I was talking about. I connected to the call with the cabin again, and the mechanic sitting in the back told us that the cabin had just been pierced by a bullet. It turned out not to be a stone, but a bullet!

After landing, I saw the bullet hole, which was in the lower left corner of the cabin door. If it was a little bit off, I would hit the Red Cross staff member. If I react more slowly, it is likely that we would have explained it there at the time.

I fly a helicopter in South Sudan: a bullet flies from the crowded crowd

Bullet holes in the plane

Later, people from the Red Cross told us that we were attacked because the local residents mistakenly thought that the new mayor, who was sitting in our helicopter, was the one who supported the president, so they wanted to assassinate the new mayor. .

In fact, when I remembered it later, I didn’t feel particularly scared. Most of our colleagues who went to South Sudan had experience as soldiers. In the thrilling situation, the inner fluctuations would not be particularly severe, and they would still deal with problems calmly.

end

Wuyu’s mission in South Sudan began in November 2015 and ended in July 2016. The stories broadcast in this episode probably proceeded to April 2016. After that, the security situation in South Sudan began to take a turn for the worse.

Through the narrative of Wei Eu, you should be able to feel that his psychological and physical endurance is very strong. His previous military experience and training experience gave him the ability to adapt beyond ordinary people, but even people like him will face him later. When confronted with real wars and conflicts, it also left a very deep psychological shadow.

This article is from the WeChat public account : Story FM (ID: story_fm) , Narrator : Wei Ying , Producer & Text Arrangement: Liu Dou

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/i-fly-a-helicopter-in-south-sudan-a-bullet-flies-from-the-crowded-crowd/
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