FOURTH MISSION: April 19-21, 2022

Gear & Equipment

20 Surveillance drones

20 Thermal imaging scopes

20 Metal detectors (for detecting land mines)

Mission Details

TRIP DISTANCE: Approximately 2400 Km / 1500 miles

LOADING:

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Finished loading and jumped in the car at about 07:30. Turned the key and “click”.

The car battery was dead. Two days earlier, I had been loading the Metal Detectors and had inadvertently switched on the cargo light.

No worries: the reason I drive a 2003 Toyota is because it’s the vehicle of choice for freedom fighters and terrorists around the world. You can always get a Toyota to go and go and go.

 

Roll-started down the driveway (standard transmission is an old and wonderful thing) and headed off into the world of European Competitive Driving.

TRUCK STOP FOOD:

On the first trip to Ukraine, I had spent one night in a Soviet era hotel in the middle of Slovakia and one night camping pulled off on a logging road in some low hills of the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Slovakia. Nothing great about the camping out; just cold, wet and dark (March 1). Just a bit spooky due to the number of patrolling police and military I had seen along the drive. 

For subsequent trips, I’ve slept in hotels. For this trip, I called ahead and booked a room in a Gasthaus near Wels Austria. Super cheap for Europe and kind of interesting that no credit card required for booking. The “Wirtin” informed me that they were closed, that my key would be sticking in the door to my room and that it is easy to find, “although some people have difficulty.”

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I always seem to fall in that category of “some people have difficulty.” I knew it would be a night time adventure, a fun finish to a long day of driving. Sure enough, google maps told me I had arrived at my destination, but I was simply in the middle of an Austrian village next to a church. Fortunately many people in Europe still smoke cigarettes (standing outside) and they can be used as local guides (if you can understand them). I approached smokers leaning out of a window and inquired about my Gasthaus. That was fun. Several of my climbing partners have been Austrians so I am able to follow the gurgling Austrian dialect. This particular old man walked with me into the street and proceeded to tell me to go 70 meters to ‘Gattmeyers Haus’ and then follow the alley a ways until I reach the Laubers. There I needed to make a sharp turn and go on until I was in front of Stenglehubbers place and look over to the right. It is always interesting to ask directions from people who have lived their entire lives in one place. Their orientation is based upon lifelong knowledge of the people and the place with very little understanding that someone wouldn’t know the Gattmeyers, the Laubers or the Stenglehubers. I thanked him and eventually made it to the Gasthaus and found my key in the door as promised.

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On Saturday afternoon before my departure, I finally had a chance to open a metal detector to take a look, but mostly to put in a double set of batteries for each one. That is when I noticed that they were missing ‘headsets’. I had been sold functioning metal detectors with no headset. I assembled one, inserted the batteries and tested. It worked just fine: bring the ‘wand’ close to metal and it made a screeching sound. I reasoned that this ‘screeching’ sound might not be so good in a combat zone, perhaps even very hazardous. I needed to get 20 headsets and twenty stupid little adaptors on Easter weekend in France. Impossible. Not even Macron, nor Napolean could have gotten that done. Holidays are sacred in Europe (which is actually kind of nice if you don’t have to buy something).

 

On my drive across Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Austria again, I stopped 6 times to buy the headsets and stupid little adaptors (usually just two or three in stock, but once I got 6). A swath of Europe is now devoid of stupid little adaptors, and Stupid Adaptor Manufacturing executives are scratching their heads wondering about the boom in sales and how to respond?

Rather than driving all the way to Lviv, I have now been working with the Ukraine SES for the 3rd and 4th missions. The SES is State Emergency Services; civil defense services (fire, rescue, emergency medical, natural and man-made disaster response). At the outset of the war, the SES sent small teams out of Ukraine to act as coordinators of supplies of humanitarian aid coming from Western Europe. They have these two person teams in the neighboring countries of Slovakia, Poland, Moldova, Romania, but not Hungary because Victor Orban is a wannabe populist dictator and is more aligned with Vladolph Putler, than with Ukraine. 

In any case, I am now hooked up with Laroslav who coordinates supplies in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. We arranged to meet at a fire station in a small town not far from Bratislava, Slovakia.

 

Laroslav was not as ‘chipper’ as the first time I met him two weeks before. The amount of aid coming through is dropping off. He says that people in the West are ‘War Weary’. They gave aid, they sent money to aid organizations; they ticked those boxes. Now they worry and complain about the high cost of energy. ‘People outside of Ukraine now believe that this will end in a stalemate that will last years or decades. Ukraine will be crippled economically and constantly face war zone conditions’.  ‘There is nothing anyone can do to help with such a massive problem.’

 

This is the same thing I have been hearing/encountering. “I gave all of my childrens’ old toys and games at a collection point in back in March.” I gave money to support refugees. More or less saying, “I’m done, I did help.”

At the fire station, we had to open all the metal detectors and put in the stupid little adaptors and headsets.

We talked for quite a while. I needed to get a better understanding of a number of things. I now understand that [name redacted]’s job is that of a dispatcher. He receives supplies, finds out where in Ukraine it is needed and sends it there via a group of civilian volunteer drivers from various countries. I remember seeing a couple of youtube videos early in the war of civilian cars delivering anti-tank rockets (manpads, stingers, etc) to Ukrainian soldiers. [name redacted] doesn’t handle those kind of supplies, but virtually everything else that is non-lethal.

For this load of equipment we have three different military units designated, plus half of the mine detectors going to Civil Defense workers in the actual war zone. 

 

It is now clear to me that some of our equipment will be sent via civilian currier through Moldova so that it quickly reaches an Intell Unit fighting near Mikolaiv. Other equipment will transit similarly or through Lviv and to the East to units fighting towards Melitopol and towards Karkiv.

 

[name redacted] liked the Mine Detectors. He thinks they are ideal for soldiers because they are compact, collapsible and easy to understand and operate. He said the ones he had trained with were very complicated, allowing one to identify different types of metal, but requiring lots of training time. Think about that for a moment: I wonder if firemen in Western countries train with mine detectors?

At the fire station, we had to open all the metal detectors and put in the stupid little adaptors and headsets.

We talked for quite a while. I needed to get a better understanding of a number of things. I now understand that [name redacted]’s job is that of a dispatcher. He receives supplies, finds out where in Ukraine it is needed and sends it there via a group of civilian volunteer drivers from various countries. I remember seeing a couple of youtube videos early in the war of civilian cars delivering anti-tank rockets (manpads, stingers, etc) to Ukrainian soldiers. [name redacted] doesn’t handle those kind of supplies, but virtually everything else that is non-lethal.

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You're going the wrong way!

We now have 44 Drones flying with Ukrainian Forces, 23 Thermal Imaging Monoculars and 20 mine detectors.

We gotta do more.

Bill Daniels

LOOKING TO THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE:

We’ve been asked to provide all kinds of equipment; things that are in high demand by fighting units and where there is simply no supply coming in.

Many of those things are beyond our scope and outside of our Mission:

 

Our Mission is to provide pieces of equipment that serve multiple soldiers in order to keep them safer and help them be more effective. All equipment is non-lethal. And we cannot deal in the volumes of equipment needed to outfit individual soldiers.

 

I recently saw a video of Ukrainian soldiers returning from a scouting mission. They were clearly stressed and exhausted. Scouting is really dangerous work. We have got to get more “pocket drones” to more units to substitute soldiers in a scouting role. This can save lives.

 

We have been asked to provide:

  • PC Tablets of the industrial type (rugged, water resistant) for Intell Units

  • Thermal Imaging equipment; lots

  • First Aid Kits; lots

  • Range Finders for Territorial Defense Brigades; these help them range their weapons when setting up defensive positions. 

  • Metal Detectors for soldiers and civil defense

  • And there is potential to provide Tyvek suits that help mitigate exposure to hazardous substances or chemical weapon residue. These are not full-on protection against chemical weapons attacks. We can’t afford those and too many are needed.