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Also Staffed (such as it was) Berbera, Somalia

Many thanks to George Rice, Fuels Superintendent on Diego and at Berbera for these photos.
Sadly, George passed away on September 2, 2009.

George on the phone at the fuel pier at Berbera, phoning in the story of Somalia, and here it is:
     I was the Fuels Maintenance Super, From 1985 to 1988 at DG and Berbera, Somalia. I was the last US at Berbera to get on the plane when they pulled us out Dec 1991 and then closed the Navy annex and Base at Berbera.

     I was also one of the first US to go into Somalia at BERBERA in June 1984.  The Contractor was there doing his thing, small fuel tank farm, 25,000 BBL Storage Tanks at the Fuel Farm, about 8 NM from the airfield.  Storage tanks at the airfield and buildings were built.  No hot water, wash clothes in cold water and hung on bush to dry.  FEBROE sent us in, 5 TCNs and two US, not much. For three months once our good AF would not land at BERBERA we ran out of food, lived on spare ribs , rice, onions, and fish from the Red Sea, that's if we could catch them.  It wasn't a very safe place to be, but the pay was 50% more, so we liked that part.  I arrived in Somalia at 196 LBS, and arrived in Diego Garcia at 138lbs.  Good.  Ha.

    It was a mess getting out of Somalia, I had back to back tankers picking up Jet Fuel, me and one TCN, each ship, one day apart, up 72 stright hours on each, the other guys.  Not the In-Country Manager, he never did a thing.  Packed up what we could, C-5 came in two days after X-mas of 90.  The Air Force would not get off the runway to refuel, said he had enough fuel to get back to DG.  No runway lights, power units on A/C, took off after dark.  Had most of high value items on the A/C.  Not the Fuel farm items -  we where given 10 days to pack.  Me with one guy to work, no way for the farm.  I left over 400,000 gals of jet fuel there at the tank farm and at the air field, could not get it out.  Back in '84, I told the Navy Rep., that if they ever had to pull out, they would not be able to get all the fuel out because of the pipe line set up.  The pumps and all were left at the tank farm and the same at the Air field.  I bet IPAC and the Navy left over $3,000,000 worth of fuel and equipment there when they pulled out.  If they had sent me in 5 people I would have been able to get almost every thing out.

      We would go to the airfield at night and hear the mortors going off, all night long.  One day me and my TCN left the tank farm at the end of a long day, TEMP that day 125, we were pooped, and wanted something to eat and a cold shower, we locked the gate, and received 5 shots from a AK-47 over our truck, so thing were getting bad there.

     I ended up spsnding over 6 years at DG and Somalia.  I really enjoyed it.

Here's some updates (Feb 2008):

Question 1.  Were there other Europeans or Americans in the Berbera area?  Where did they live?

People in Berbera:  ICRC, Red cross workers were Europeans.  Were not there on my first tour of duty at Berbera, found a lot of them there when I went there in 1990.  They had a Pilot and A/C & went in to some areas that a truck could not go to.  Both Guys and gals.  Some good looking ones too.  Our Doctor, a Sp. Forces Retired Medic named Carl Pilkington, married one and now lives overseas in Spain, I think.  We had one UN pilot in and out all the time.  I made several trips to the capital with him.  (editor's note:  Carl passed away January 14, 2009)

Question 2:  Did many of the natives speak English?

Yes, most of the natives that I had dealings with spoke English.  We had one Somali working for us that spoke both English and Local language.  School kids often would stop me when I was on the way to the Tank Farm and ask for "CANDY"  IN ENGLISH!  Most of the Somalia Army stationed there knew some English.

Question 3:  Were there things like restaurants or bars or anything in Berbera?  Did you ever go to them?

Restaurants, Yes, one of the pics that I am sending will show you what one looks like.  BARS never seen, just like in Saudi.  Never went shopping in Berbera - we were told to stay out of the town.  At the base camp , 2nd time, we had a navy type slop Chest with cokes or BEER or what ever you ordered to be brought in on the next resupply trip.   First time we had nothing.  We lived better in Viet Nam.

Question 4:  Did you ever drive up to Hargesia or anyplace else in the Country?

Hargesia - here I go.  Went there twice.  The first time just after we got the new van.  We had to take 2 Passports there to get a stamp put on and pick up drivers permits for every one.
     While there we lost all the money that we had, plus the passports.  Our Admin Asst. was the driver, sitting in the drivers seat , facing the right door.  Bag with every thing in it on dash in front of Steering Wheel, A black arm went in, UNSEEN, picked up bag and was gone!  3 weeks later police returned most of what was in bag, NO MONEY of course.  Some pics of town on the way also. A place to eat?  Not for me, maybe you.  This town was a big place.  While all but me were in a store, I was in van, some young kids came by, talked to me, Ask if I was French, I told them no, from the United States, & they left.  So I guess there was some French still here.
    On the way back off the mountain to Berbera, it was after dark, and we had to go through several Military Check Points.  I do not know if they were good or bad guys, but they checked us over real good and sent us on our way.  I did not like this & had a hard time going to sleep for a week.  I think every one did.

Question 5:  Was there a drivable road to Djibouti?

     Some people would not call it a road in 1984.  More like a two lane cow path.  The Cook that we had told me that I should have my Wife come to Djibouti and live while I was in Somalia.  He said that I could drive back and forth.  Of course that's as far as that went.  On the 2nd time in, We flew from Paris to Djibouti, next day to Berbera.  The contractor had a pilot and plane, Single Eng. Short flight to Berbera.  Befor we left Somalia in Dec 1990, the pilot took the plane north for Eng. overhaul, never seen him again. He went back to PI later.

Tale of the Big Swimmmmmming pool, When Turn-Key Construction Co. From Maryland came in to rehab 5 old russan fuel storage tanks and pipelines, they built a small compound in back of ours.  Upwent a fence around all their compound and ours also.  They put in a swimming Pool 15 ft by 30 ft, filters and all.  Real nice.  It took the Company several months for their work.  Most of the 10-inch pipeline from the top of the 21 ft drop to the beach was ok to work on.  The lower pipeline the company would not touch.  From the beach area to the end of the POL pier, about 5000 ft, the WALLS of the pipe line in some places was only 1/8 inch thick.  And just think we had to use this to get the fuel out before we left.  I kept the pressure low as I could.  The Navy knew this problem with the pipe line.

More Questions:   On your first tour (in the ‘80s), there were 5 FEBROIDs, 2 Americans and 3 Filipinos, right?  How many Somalis did you have working for you and what did they do?  Were there any other Americans (Navy, FEBROE, etc.) there during your first tour?

Ted, Goodmorning

At Berbera
Incountry Manager                  US
PW Supervisor                        US
POL Supervisor                       US
Doctor                                     Filipino
Admin Asst                                "
Vehicle  Technician                  "
Driver                                        "
Electriction                                "
Supply Tech.                             "
POL Sp.                                     "

At the Capital
Manager and you name it guy       US
POL Sp.                                          Filipinio

Somalia  workers
       Vehicle Helper
       POL Helper  and for who ever else need  HELP

During contruction one Navy LT lived with  the Construstion People at their compound near Berbera.  They had about 50 Filipinos working for them. The Company was out of Washington State, I forget the name.  The LT left as sone as the Base was completed.

The company that came in for the Russia rebuild of storage Tanks and pipeline was Turn-Key Co out of Maryland.  They also hired Filipinos.

Ted, Here is more:

Christmas Day  DINNER  1990

      Early Christmas me and my one helper started to work.  We were working at removing one of the two Refueling Stations.  The other was to stay in place for refuling the C-5 that was coming in to pick us up.  We worked till dinner time, looking forward to a big meal, always had one on Christmas.  Boy what a  bummer we found, can you believe this, Turkey and Bakedbeans. That's what I said.  We had every thing for a nice meal but the incountry Manager did not put anything out for the cook to fix for dinner.  So Be It.  We ate and went back to work.
     When the C-5 came in, like I said before, the Pilot would not get off the runway.  When the NAVY officer and about 5 Chiefs came up to the Admin Area, they saw that one Refueling Station was still in place.  Boy did the Officer get mad, and ask why it was not ready for shipment to DG.  I told him that we did not get the word that the C-5 was not going to refuel until just before landing,  The chiefs later removed it and it went to DG.  Fuel all over the Ramp and refueling area.
     We had a new PW guy ( US that had been living in PI ) come in in November, He was sick most of the time that he was there, His one TCN (Filipinio ) did all the work. He set in the office or his room most of the time.  And what beats all, out of the 4 US that was working for IPAC at the time, he was the only one that  they kept ate DG and sent all others home.

You’ve mentioned this “incountry manager” a couple of times.  Did he live in the compound with you?  What did he manage?

The Incountry Manager Was Mel W.  He was the Fuels manager at DG when I left in June 1988.  He left soon after.   His job was ???? I guess to see that every thing was done, that should be done.  This was the 2nd time in Berbera, for me that is.  The Admin Asst. was the Sp Forces Retired / Medical person for us.  Doc took care of all the paper work that went out of Berbera.  Mel did very little,   When we were getting ready to leave Berbera, one TCN and myself were getting things ready to ship back to DG.  Mel was setting at the Pool.  I mean to tell you that the two of us had our hands full.  When we had the two Tankers in, My Filipino (TCN) took care of the work on shore.  Mel went aboard ship.  One of the TCNs could have gone aboard Ship.  The TCN and myself were up for about 72 hours on each ship.  They were 2 days apart.  That was hard on us, because after that is when we had to take apart the refueling stations at the air field.  No help from the Manager.   He did the same thing at DG, FUEL Admin took care of all the paper work.  There we had 3 US in Fuels under FEBROE.  After FEBROE the US positions were cut back to one at the main Fuel Office and one at The AF area.  In Berbera The Incountry Manager lived in the compound with the rest of us.  (editor's note:  Mel passed away August 5, 2008).

Anything else you need, just ask,  Maybe I should write a book  HA HA HA
Take care

One Man was in Somalia fron Aug 84 until Jan 91 - He went in when I did, I was smart and went to DG then back to Somalia, but Marshall  (BILL) Wright, I think he should be made KING of FEBROE-SOMALIA; any one that can spend that much time there has to be a little crazy.

Below:  The Grand Opening of the US Fuel storage facility at Berbera Somalia, 1984

Above:  Here's George and his crew refueling the U.S. Embassy's C-12 (Beechcraft Super King Air B-200) so the Ambassador can get back to Mog after the "Grand Opening."  BTW, Berbera is the longest runway in Africa, built by the Russians.

Below:  Jean on top of one of the three 25,000 barrel (1,000,000 gallon) fuel tanks at Berbera.

Above:  The FEBROE equipment yard and 50,000 gallon JP-5 fuel tank at Berbera Airfield, 1984.
Below:  George Rice (in chair) and Merle Bare in quarters at Berbera Somalia, 1984.

Above:  George Rice and Hassan, the interpreter, on the road to Hargeisa Somalia.  That's a terminte mound behind Hassan.
Below:  A US Navy P-3 pulls in for gas at Berbera Airfield, Somalia.

Above:  They had to go to this spring to get water - located near Berbera.
Below:  A Mosque in Berbera, 1984.

Above:  The main street of Berbera.
Below:  Town Hall, Berbera, 1984.

Above:  The road to Hargeisa, the territorial capital.
Below:  Hargeisa, Somalia, 1984.  Before the government bombed it into rubble in 1988.

Above:  Gas Station and alternative transportation, Hargeisa, Somalia, 1984.
Below:  Take the Pepsi Challenge!  The Pepsi-Cola bottling plant in Hargeisa, Somalia, 1984.

The crew "enjoys" a local restaurant in Hargeisa, Somalia, 1984.
     Received April 2001:

Dear Ted,

I was with a Company called 'Turnkey' in Berbera in the late '80's. We were rehabing the fuel dump etc. I still communicate with Carl Pinklington who is at present working with ICRC in Mongolia. I lost touch with a good friend Bill Wright when we pulled ot of Somalia. Do you happen to have any contact address for him, also Mel who was fuels manager in Berbera. I do have several photos of Berbera if you require copies.

I returned to Hargesia in 1990 to complete a UNICEF/USAID contract on the water supply and got down to Berbera in the hope of stealing a 10" valve. The place was a mess, the RO had been shot up, together with the elevated water tank. All my spare parts from containers had been placed in the pool. Upon leaving the airport, some Somali kid wth an AK47 decided I would leave a bit faster with 2 rounds into the rear of the pickup.

Best regards,
Mike Buck <>

     Editor's Note: Except probably for the C-12 at the Embassy (if it was there in those days), I have the dubious distinction of being the Aircraft Commander on the 1st U.S. Aircraft to fly into Berbera after the Russians pulled out (I was flying a C-141 during Exercise BRIGHT STAR in 1982).  We flew a Combat Control Team in from Cairo, and had a hell of a time finding the runway - no photos, no maps, no NAVAIDS, just a chart and dual INS's to find it.  When we got there, we were met by a Somali Officer who's gun crew manned a Soviet ZSU-23-4 mobile 23mm anti-aircraft gun in some bush off one end of the runway.  No body spoke anybody else's language, but we gathered from his gestures his crew had tracked us all around the pattern.  There was no ramp, just a turn out at the west end of the runway.  We dumped the CCT and left, as there were several other aircraft in the flow behind us, and only one of us could be on the ground at a time.  I guess they all go out o.k., because I never heard we'd left anyone behind.

      While I was at DGAR in '87-'88, we used to send a C-141 each month up to Berbera with food and supplies for the FEBROIDs there.  One mission "broke" there when the boost pumps in one of the aux fuel tanks would not work.  There was a procedure in the tech order for flying with fuel tanks emptied out of sequence, but it was in Section III (the emergency procedures section) and the crew refused to head back for Diego until they were fixed.  Since Berbera was in 21st Air Force's area of control, the parts had to come from the supply depot in Ramstein, Germany via commercial airliner to Saudi Arabia and then to Mogadishu and then up to Berbera, accompanied by 2 maintenance troops.  Well, they made it to Saudi, but Air Somalia was so screwed up, they sat and waited for days to get to Mog, and finally, after a week of waiting around, and getting tired of the (lack of) food at Berbera, the crew finally took off one day and showed up at Diego.  About the same time the parts arrived at Berbera, along with the frazzled maintenance sergeants from Germany!

     The only way we could communicate with the crew (or anyone at Berbera) was on a TELEX line provided by Cable and Wireless.  It cost $17 a minute to telephone Berbera, so we'd write out the message and burst transmit it to the crew, etc.  But, thanks to C&W, we had a reliable link and if Brian Mendham or any of the company mucky-mucks read this, I'm ready to make commercials for you guys, for a very small fee.......
                                         Unfortunately, George Rice passed away on September 2, 2009.

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