With new tasks at hand, new tactics needed to be implemented. The Eastern border area was named Operation Hurricane. Eventually, the whole country would be divided into their own Operational Commands. As the Terrs moved into Northern Mozambique, intelligence was vital to stopping them cold. A difficult prospect, as the Tete province in the northwest part of Mozambique offered several natural routes of infiltration. SB in the area around Mt. Darwin and Centennary region in the northeast of Rhodesia started to brainstorm and offer up solutions to the intelligence problem.
Infiltrating an all-black area with white soldiers posed an obvious problem of appearance. Fortunately, the SB collected captured Terrs and several of them went to work for the Rhodesians. Loyalty was the initial worry for SB and the Army. Over the years, more often than not, the captured men proved to be very reliable in working against their former comrades.
This is a subject that is often perplexing to the modern mind in our GWOT. To find a Jihadist that is willing to turn to the infidel’s side and go into a war zone is a gem. Some believe that it is the religious nature of the Jihadist’s cause that prevents more of them from turning. In the Bush War, it was political ideology and capturing wealth that was the basis for war. The Selous Scouts and the SB were ever increasingly adept at plying the Psychological Warfare trade as well.
The SB developed a tried and true method of vetting a possible candidate for Pseudo Operations. Insurgents captured on the field of battle were immediately turned over to SB and Military Intelligence. They were whisked away from the battlefield and the harsh living conditions of the bush, which would be a shock to the system. Any type of wound was cared for just as well as any member of the Rhodesian Forces. Contrary to what they had been taught, they were surprised and relieved that they were not summarily shot. Going from the poverty of the Bush Camps to a first world environment caused the captured Terr to reassess his situation. The first person to visit them would be a proven Turned/Tamed Terrorist or TT. This man would lay out the situation to the prisoner. He could remain loyal to his Communist cause and be tried by a court of law and hung from the gallows or he could join the Rhodesian cause. Along with a much higher rate of pay, their family could be taken care of and they would also be working with some of their former Comrades. To motivate the men to work diligently and hard, a bounty was offered for each Terr that was killed or captured. Money is a universal language spoken across cultures.
Though a few went to the gallows, more often than not, they weighed their options and agreed to turn. They were quickly deployed back to the field to drum up intelligence. This test was the most important of all. When a TT helped to locate and kill his former Comrades the deal was sealed. If they were willing to help extinguish the lives of the men that he had recently fought side by side with, it was unlikely he would ever return to the Insurgency.
When going into operational areas, the TT’s would need to be led by senior ranking white members of the Army. The earliest men up to the job were two SAS men, Andre Rabie and Stretch Franklin. Both were fit operators who had the near native linguistic skills to operate with the locals. After agonizing and painstaking planning the men began operating with their Pseudo group. They gained successes that proved the idea could work in this war. Tragedy struck early on however. On a mission into Mozambique dubbed the Long Walk, Rabie was operating and called in a RLI Hunter/Killer group. Relaying map coordinates for the Terr group they had pinpointed, he called the coordinates incorrectly. The Alouette Helicopter spotted Rabie in the area the Terrs were supposed to be. Rabie, dressed as ZANLA and painted black, tried to wave off the chopper but without radio contact, the 20mm cannons set on him and killed him. It was a great loss and a blunt start to this innovation for Rhodesian Forces but the SB and Military Intelligence moved forward.
The first thing needed was a Commanding Officer of the Unit. Several men were looked at but one stood out as the type of personality that could lead a maverick unit and had combat experience behind him. This person also needed to really take the reins and make decisions. The Selous Scouts would not fall under the traditional chain of command of the Army like the RLI and SAS. They would be working more closely with the CIO and SB. Retired Major Rod Reid-Daly was tapped to lead the Unit. He had been an original member of the Rhodesian SAS and had the experience of COIN warfare from the days of Malaya under his belt. He came back into the war with terms to his liking, as he seemed to be the best fit for the unconventional nature that the whole organization would take.
Along with the TT’s, white controllers were mandatory under the circumstances. It was clear that this type of work required competent and experienced leadership in the field. From the rigors of canvassing the bush for weeks on end, to the ability to assess information gained by TT Pseudo soldiers and making decisions on what to do with that information, a Selection Course was implemented for both black and white Operators to undergo before deployment.
The men that were drawn to the Scouts came from various walks of life. Mainly from the SAS and the RAR, it also needed specialists in other areas. Hunters and Park Rangers were part of the initial selection. A special ability in tracking and sustainable living in the Bush was vital. Reid-Daily had learned from his military career that excellent bushcraft could mean the difference of life and death within a 24 hour period in the harsh African terrain. Any superb, well trained soldier could become combat ineffective or worse from dehydration in one day. Learning how to get water from the Impala or an Elephants stomach could mean the difference between life and death.
One group that drew many selectees was the Tracker Combat Unit (TCU). These were specialists in tracking down Terrs who escaped the clutches of the RLI’s Fire Force and following up on attacks against Farms and after ambushes. They had a near native ability to read the ground and find their quarry. The unit would be absorbed into the Selous Scouts as trainers and also for missions requiring their services. Those of the TCU that became Scouts were invaluable to the mission.
After receiving approval of their parent unit, men would undergo a 3 week selection course that by today’s standards would be deemed dangerous and inhumane. All exercises involved life ammunition. So intense was the Selection course, that anything beyond 3 weeks would do more damage than it would good in sorting the wheat from the chaff. Endurance hikes, pole carrying, obstacle courses and little to no food. After being starved for several days, they were treated to a ripe, rotten, maggot filled baboon. It showed the men that any meat could be boiled correctly once and still eaten. Done wrong, a person could end up with botulism. Like most of the other elite units of the world, pass rates were 10-20 percent.
The first three weeks were just basic training and weeding out those unsuited for the Scouts. The second and third phase was filled with classroom and bush exercises in survival and tactics. The in-house Tracking and Bush Warfare tactics were drilled to a level of excellence. Calling in Fire Force, Map reading and all the things that a Selous Scout would need were taught.
The fourth phase was where the Unit separated itself from others. It was called the Dark Phase and highly classified. This time was spent on learning the trade of the Terrs. They learned the culture, language, ideology and tactics of the enemy. It was designed to transform the way Scouts carried themselves in the field. Disguise of blackened faces and enemy uniforms could only go so far. They needed to learn to walk, talk and act like Terrs.
The following phases would include Static Line and HALO parachuting techniques if they had not come from the SAS. A few of the Scouts received other infiltration techniques such as Kayaking and Scuba Diving.
As the Scouts began to take form and come up to strength, they attracted a lot more attention than a covert unit should much like our modern DEVGRU. Men took the liberty of growing beards which became a dead giveaway amongst other soldiers and eventually the civilian population. The official line was given that it allowed Caucasian men to break up the outline of their face but this was scoffed at, as few Terrs wore beards. It is hotly debated whether their unique mission and success or their own bragging elevated them to ‘Legendary’ so quickly among the populace.
Jealously and animosity quickly arose with other units, especially as the OC of the SAS felt that his best men were being poached. The best men, the best equipment and logistical support went to the Scouts straightway. The heated rivalry got to the point that Major Reid-Daly agreed not to recruit amongst the SAS.
Regardless of the inter-rivalry and animosity, the Selous Scouts would go on to prove their worth time and again.
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