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My Disappointment In The Military: A Soldier’s Experience In Michoacán

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July 31, 2013

I stayed waiting for Adolfo for more than 40 minutes in a well known plaza located in the south of the city.  Twenty minutes later I saw him arrive.   I almost didn’t recognize him; he had changed from his military uniform to comfortable cotton pants and his face transmitted serenity rather than stress in regards to the busy days in combat, the few weeks after his withdrawal had made him well.
Adolfo (as requested to be called by, by his admiration for Adolf Hitler) told me one of the unofficial versions of what happened on the 8th, 9th, and 10th of December in 2010, when the city of Apatzingán was engulfed in flames because of two clashes between the Federal Police and elements of the Mexican Army against the criminal group known as La Familia Michoacana.
-How long were you in the military?
It was around 5 years; I enlisted in June 2007 in my native state of Hidalgo and decided to leave in 2012…
-What was your occupation during your stay?
A paratrooper, I had to take two accredited parachuting courses.
-Where did they train you?
I was in various places, like the 4th Military Zone located in Hermosillo, Sonora.  In the 16th District in Sarabia, Guanajuato, in the 38th in Tenozique, Tabasco, and in garrisons such as Agua Prieta located in Sonora and Ciudad Acuña in Cohuila, to name a few.
-And Coalcomán?
No; there we had to implement the training that we had previously taken in order to combat guerillas and organized crime.
-How was your arrival in Coalcomán, Michoacán?
My companions and I had to walk for five days, we could’ve gone by helicopter or by vehicles, but the colonels didn’t deem it necessary.  The roads to reach there are not suitable for transportation, not even for the army.
We climbed a very steep hill; finally after a little less than a kilometer, we found out that the base was on top of that mountain in Coalcomán, the most hated place in Michoacán since it was so difficult to get to.  Things began to get difficult when two companions fainted from heat exhaustion and no one in the platoon had a single drop of water left in their canteens to revive them.  At that moment, our sergeant ordered us to stay to care for our companions while the others would return with a medic, only like that were we able to rest.
-Was life hard in the base?
Not so much.  The following days in recovery were spent shut in all the time.  The clothes were kept clean, we were able to bathe daily and a mattress free of scorpions and mosquitoes were the most important amenities that the battalion gave us.   Our cell phones were rarely able to get any signal, but when they did, we took advantage of it; by calling our families.  Usually at the end of our daily training, we had free time to play cards or watch a movie on the DVD of the Lieutenant.  This is how we lived like for about a month.
-What happened?
On the morning of Thursday, December 9, the Lieutenant woke us up telling us that we had 10 minutes to prepare our team and be armed.
Everything was a mess out there.  The vehicles were lined up in the driveways being checked out by the mechanics, I found out that the battalion would leave in a few hours but they never told us where, in any case, the company looked for a place to form in the esplanade in order to do the honors to the flag.
When the ceremony finished, the Colonel informed us of the clash that occurred on the previous night against the narcos in the 43rd military zone located in Apatzingán, Michoacán where even various elements of the Federal Police participated in.
 When we heard “fall out!” we ran to the vehicles, the engines fired up and we went to the rescue to the two military zones of Michoacán.
-How did they find Apatzingán when they arrived?
Fucked.  When we arrived, it was eight in the night.  There were several trucks burned at the entrance to the town and no inhabitant dared to go out, only military forces, of the Special Forces and the Federal Police were out circulating, as well as navy troops sent in from the naval area of Lázaro Cárdenas.  There weren’t any dead, because they had already been picked up.
I went to the cafeteria of the Special Forces, the Special Forces Airmobile Group (GAFE); they made fun of the cowardly work of the Federal Police not being able to fend off a small amount of hitmen.  They even made fun of the cowardly work of the Infantry battalions who weren’t able to assist them during the battle.
At a table I found a friend who belonged to the 51st Battalion in the 43rd Military Zone.  Talking with him, he said: “This war is bullshit, yesterday the first to get fucked were the pefepos (the Federal Police) we never got the order to reinforce them, we let them die like dogs.”
-And did your friend inform you of anything else about what happened the day before?
Sure.  It happened on Wednesday, December 8, in the 51st infantry battalion, our companions performed their services within the 43rd Military Zone.  The previous morning, units had been deployed in effective areas to be present in the inauguration of their new commander.
During the welcoming the General of the 43rd Military Zone gave a speech in which he said: “The Drug War is a fight amongst brothers, we won’t be tolerant, but don’t forget that we are all Mexicans.”
Precisely that night shortly after 20:00 hours, the first shots began to be heard, for some time the soldiers thought it was a clash, but several high leaders told them that it was just fireworks.   But shortly after 21:00 hours, they were ordered to move into Apatzingán.
The reaction force of the 51st Battalion along with a section of the 97th Battalion went out after 21:30 hours, it was expected that by the time they went out, they wouldn’t find anything; they gave the order to a few 10 companions to take rounds through some streets of the city and to return 30 minutes to the battalion.
During the rounds they saw many elements of the federal police stationed in the county seat in fear of being attacked again.  They told them that that same evening, they had asked for help from the 43rd Military Zone and that General García had promised them support, but reinforcements never arrived and it led to a massacre.
My friend told me that the backup units were ordered not to interfere in matters that would endanger their lives, before reaching the conflict zone, they hid behind a cemetery.
I left my friend in the cafeteria.  When I left, I ran into a federal policeman, his eyes were full of fear and disappointment, I couldn’t see him; I went back with my companions.
-How did the rest of the day go?
During the rest of the morning, more Marines began to arrive as well as Federal Police reinforcements.  At 12:30 we began to hear gunshots at close range, we found out that it was an ambush against the reinforcements, all of the soldiers climbed into vehicles in order to go and help but they gave us the order to say, the only ones who came out to support were the Federal Police and some Marines.
Soon after, the Lieutenant Colonel of the 51st Infantry Battalion (the new commander) came out with a few elements of the section 51 of the Special Forces to an unknown location.
Shortly after we were given a new order to help out the pefepos, we reached a town (I don’t know what it’s called) near Apatzingán shortly after 4:30 pm.  We saw many vehicles of the federal police on the dirt road, behind them the policemen were sheltering from the snipers that were positioned on top of a hill.
Our companions began to deploy on the ground because the Special Forces were already on their way.  At that moment, communications from the gunmen were intercepted by our radios: “The greens (military) have arrived and they’re coming this way.”  “Don’t worry about them; just keep shooting at the blues (Federal Police), that’s how the toads walk, there’s no problem”
We were ordered to reinforce the police but we were greatly outnumbered compared to the narcos, the support we gave them was shit, even so, we thought we could be a distraction for the gunmen, as long as the GAFES would come from behind to fuck them up.
The rest of the afternoon and all night the Federals remained stationed in the car, leaving only to evacuate their wounded comrades and returning immediately.  We heard that some policemen had disappeared in the confusion of the battle.
At dawn, the few soldiers who stayed with the federal police, entered the sector in which the GAFES should have fucked up the hitmen, but what we found was shameful: remains of cartridges and radios, bearing traces of blood leading to a path marked by tire tracks, and two pefepos dead.
The majority of the hitmen had fled hours earlier, GAFES were never sent to that place.
-Was there any reaction from your teammates upon realizing this?  How did the people of 
Apatzingán react?
There was a lot of discontent among us, about the shameful actions of the GAFES.  The next two days were hell for everyone, the federal policemen would look at us with disappointment because of their fallen comrades, the other companies told us that we had no balls.
To make matters worse, the Michoacanos made a protest in front of the battalion demanding that the Federal Police leave Apatzingán and accused them of being murderers, at that time I hated those people.  On Decemeber 9 and 10 much of the army remained stationed in the 51st battalion while the feds confronted the hitmen.  People forget that they too were people, they had families and children who they wouldn’t be able to see anymore; while members of the Familia Michoacána were in their homes in Apatzingán, Tepalcaltepec, and the same in Coalcomán.
It infuriated us not being able to do anything, upon our return to the base, the rest of the troops booed at us for failing to be useful and for letting the Federal Police be massacred.  At that time we couldn’t say that it wasn’t our fault, but rather the orders of the 43rd Military Zone.  That’s when we all started to be disappointed by the army; well it was the same generals who were the ones who helped out La Familia Michoacána.
-Was that when you decided to desert?
No, that was in early June 2011.  After the incident of May 24 in Apatzingán.  At that time the Federal Police worked with the Mexican Army again, they clashed with Los Caballeros Templarios.
At that time I was on break, I learned from one of my companions that when the army entered the conflict zones, the radios (like last time) intercepted the communications of the hitmen, they said: “Do not shoot the greens (Military), they are our allies.  To the blues (Federal Police); give them everything you’ve got.”
In the only support for the Federal Police by the army, a military helicopter went down to support them, but the Commander of the 51st Battalion immediately notified the General of the 43rd that they were in position to shoot down the gunmen in an ambush, he responded by radio: “What the fuck are you doing there?  Retreat. My friend, several military comrades and policemen heard these words.”
The feds were left alone when the helicopter ascended, they were also riddled with bullets.
The next day the Marine Captain presented himself directly to the Commander of the Federal Police to offer them support, and just like that, the army was completely excluded and all we did in the following days were to take the abandoned trucks of the cartels to a pound, go into safe houses to scavenge for cartridges, weapons, and drugs to later be presented to the media.
It was this news that made us desert from the army, to several comrades and I.  But it wasn’t until mid June of 2012 when I was able to submit my formal resignation.
-Briefly, what are your thoughts about your time in the military and this war on drugs?
I think that both the military and federal police are just cannon fodder of this government.  The truth is; many of these offenders are protected by high commands.  If for our misfortune we were to catch someone who was protected by a big fish, we are the ones who get fucked.  There have already been several of our comrades who have disappeared in a war that was pure theatrics for Calderón.  It hurts me knowing that some of my comrades are still in the military, exposing their lives, and then they are the ones paying for the bullshit.  The bad thing is that people forget that a soldier is just following orders.
Source: Nuestra Aparente Rendición

About Doc

Spreading the word about the dangers of methamphetamine.

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