Lucky escape: Shot five times and lived to tell the tale - Beaking Kenya News

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Sunday, 22 December 2019

Lucky escape: Shot five times and lived to tell the tale

Lt Beauttah Suba
On February 18, 2012, Lieutenant Beauttah Suba, an elite operator with the 20 Parachute Battalion, the bedrock of the country’s Special Forces operations, was conducting a mission deep inside enemy territory in Somalia, when his platoon bumped into an al-Shabaab patrol base.
Lt Suba and his team were conducting a platoon along the Bhadhadhe-Koday road, a stretch of thick bushes, a forest canopy and an open grassland stretching across low hills and valleys.
“As was usually the case, some of the al-Shabaab fighters began to flee, abandoning assets and colleagues, wailing and generally exposing themselves to KDF fire. A good number of the enemy fighters were neutralised,” Lt Suba recalls in the book A Soldier’s Legacy.
Believing that the danger was over, Lt Suba informed his commanding officer, Major Rashid, about the success in clearing the al-Shabaab patrol base. Unknown to Lt Suba and his platoon, the militants had regrouped and laid an ambush for the KDF men as they made their way back to the Badhadhe Forward Operating Base.
Al-Shabaab encircled the platoon and strategically deployed snipers. The ambush came with force and precision, with heavy gunfire.
“As the fighting intensified, he (Lt Suba) sensed a cold feeling in his right leg as a burst of machine-gun fire hit him. It was not painful, just numbing. He returned fire and changed cover in order to continue engaging. But the sniper shot at him yet again, this time twice in the hip, with the bullet tearing through his jungle fatigues,” the book narrates.
According to the soldiers who braved the ambush, all seemed lost as they awaited help.
Unknown to the besieged KDF platoon, a Quick Reaction Force accompanied by a troop light armour sent to rescue them got lost.
An attack helicopter also sent to rescue them could not land at the site “because the fighting was too intense and neither could the forest canopy allow it”.
To save the life of their platoon commander and themselves, the platoon had to improvise or perish.
“Amidst the hail of bullets, the runner reached his breast pocket to retrieve a first aid kit and began to dress the wound to arrest bleeding. Another soldier nearby helped Lt Suba to change cover to evade enemy fire. He also asked the officer to pray,” the book notes.
According to the survivors of that ambush, that moment allowed Lt Suba to get a better view of the battlefield and to identify the exact position from where the fire was most intense.
“He ordered the general purpose machine gun crew to zero in on the position in order to suppress the enemy. The machine gun crew, with utmost precision, silenced the enemy weapon,” the book says.
Lt Suba was finally evacuated at 6pm by an Army helicopter, with his right leg, which had been shattered by bullets, secured using an improvised wooden plank.
“His legs were bound together with splints and wrapped with bandages all through… He had been shot five times across his right hand side, right from his lower leg to the hip,” helicopter pilot Major John Njoroge recalls about the evacuation that he describes as “a delivery from the jaws of death”.
Maj Njoroge says that since the helicopter, a MD500, was not configured to carry passengers lying down, they had to take off at great risk with the doors open.
“We struggled to position him across the two backseats, with his feet hanging outside the aircraft,” he remembers.  “I got into the helicopter and as I was strapping myself, Major Kipkemoi (co-pilot) told me not to do so but instead to hang between the cockpit and the passenger compartment and continuously engage Lt Suba in a conversation in a bid to prevent him from drifting off into unconsciousness.”
Maj Njoroge also recalls that despite the MD500 lacking night flying capability, they flew at night, as it was a matter of life and death.
From the Manda Base, he was sent to the Moi Air Base in Nairobi.
After escaping with his life, Lt Suba almost lost his life, as the ambulance that was transporting him from the Moi Air Base in Eastleigh to the Defence Forces Memorial Hospital was held up in a major traffic gridlock and took a whole hour to drive through a distance of slightly less than 10 kilometres. At the hospital, doctors retrieved three bullets while two remained lodged in delicate parts of his body.
On the Jamhuri Day of 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta awarded Lt Suba the Silver Star Medal for his act of valour and a year later he was promoted to Captain.
Captain Suba was to be appointed by the Defence Headquarters as the ambassador of persons living with disability.

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