UPA (Utanian Press Agency)
Release: August 20, 300 AP.
Special report: I'ana seizure
A special report from Franck Lubyek of the Utanian Press Agency, who was aboard the
UDK Armadillo, a transport ship involved in the recent I'ana archipelago seizure. He explains
what he saw and heard.
The waves crashed on the bow of the transport as it powered toward the shore. The sky
was almost entirely light now, though the sun hadn't yet risen. Some stars could still be
seen, and the eastern sky behind us was showing a brilliant orange. Four platoons of heavily
armed men were aboard the four landing craft that were speeding toward the shore. I was with
them, and their commander, Colonel B'jont, to witness for the Utanian people who couldn't
also be present the first military operation of their fledgling country.
As we got nearer the shore, four large helicopter transports, carrying another four
platoons of troops, roared overhead. Their objective was five or so kilometres further north
of our landing point. They were accompanied by another three assault helicopters, one of
which zoomed ahead to the shore we were landing at to check for resistance. It was a loud and
powerful roar from the seven helicopters above, as the Colonel gave the final orders: hit the
beach if they encountered any resistance, and stay low - they were to secure a beachhead
until the next lot arrived, not take the whole island themselves.
As the four landing craft crashed on the shore and opened, all the training these men
had received went into action. They were a well-oiled mechanism of men charging left and
right, securing the beach before them. Once done, they began setting up a perimeter, with
mortars and machine gun nests, so that any enemy counter-offensive could be more effectively
repelled. This took these one hundred-plus men a mere fifteen minutes to have several
defensive positions put in place, before the Colonel radioed that the beach was secure, and
patrols of the immediate facinity would begin.
Over the next hour, another nine platoons arrived, immediately being set to work of
expanding the defensive perimeter and moving further inland on I'ana island. It was now 7am,
and I managed to get a few moments with the Colonel to ask him the burning question in my
mind: What resistance had they been anticipating? Colonel B'jont was very matter-of-fact
about the mission commanders' expectation that there could be up to 1000 "enemy" personnel
already on the island. Their mission was to find all the enemy personnel and force their
surrender by sheer numbers of the Utanian force, but not to take the enemy positions by
force, he emphasised. What if the enemy refused to surrender? Then, the Colonel replied,
they would contain them, but fall back to a "non-threatening position", and then allow
President Hope to begin negotiate with the nation in question.
B'jont was then drawn away by the arrival of another four platoons, under Major
Bolger, who was to move into the village itself which some three kilometres north of us. If
there was any resistance on the island, I heard the Colonel remark to his men, it would be
there. The men who had been flown in by choppers would move south from their position and the
two regiments would meet in the middle.
Yet, my recollection is that the only "resistance" encountered was curious, local
inhabitants, farmers on their morning rounds, who suddenly found at 7:30am some 600 men on
the eastern bay of the island. I also noticed several trucks were stopped in the morning
along the main road that travelled south from the main village. They were asked whether they
knew of any other military occupants of the island, and asked to stay within the occupied
perimeter of the Utanian force until lunch. Despite their meek protests, they could only
comply. Besides, none of the drivers appeared to be in any particular hurry, such is the pace
on the island.
The operation, I recalled, had begun the previous day, before I arrived at Agraam
Naval Base. The base was alive with troops, vehicles and trucks, hundreds of trucks, moving
around the two main transport ships, the UDK Armadillo and UDK K'yama. These were two
enormous ships whose sterns had completely opened up to reveal enormous cargo holds into
which travelled trucks, unloading the munitions and food supplies, plus several armoured
vehicles. Thousands of troops had already been loaded aboard not knowing exactly what the
"training mission" they were on, known as Operation Deftsword, was about. I was stowed with
the junior officers, and none of them knew either.
The troops had lights out at 8pm because they would be up for briefing at 4am. I
stayed awake, unable to sleep with the amount of activity going on outside in the base. It
slowed by 10:30, when the ship's great deisel engines started. The ship vibrated heavily as
the great stern doors closed, and then the ship moved out into the bay away from the dock. It
was then that I saw the other ships in the fleet that would accompany these two heavily-laden
transports. I recognised the UDK Krysaror, the massive battleship/flagship of the Utanian
navy. With smaller gunboats pulling out around it, the warship was made to look twice as
large. It was truly enormous. Several other destroyers and missile cruisers were also
beginning to move away from the dock and soon their was a flotilla of some twenty or thirty
ships moving out into the dark night seas, leaving behind the familiar shores of Utania. While
I could never have guessed where we were heading, I knew we were heading south, at least for
now. It was about midnight.
I was awoken at about 4am to join a briefing of junior officers under Colonel B'jont.
As they fixed themselves some breakfast in this medium-sized officers' mess, I grabbed
nothing more than a coffee, hoping it would bring me the equivalent of another four hours
sleep that I'd missed playing reporter in the night. The entire room, however, snapped to
attention when the main door into the mess opened. Rigid and upright within half-a-second,
it appeared it was all perfectly choreographed. General Peter Kopana entered the room,
accompanied by several aides who immediately began setting up slideshows and charts on
walls. He told the men to be at ease, and they quickly moved into seats with the best view
of the General, while I sat at the back of the small mess.
For those who do not remember him, General Kopana was an Utani nationalist hero in
293 for refusing to use his 23rd Armoured Battalion against unarmed protesters in the
Mountains province, and blocked the 44th infantry regiment from doing so. He is a consummate
soldier: professional, dedicated and with a stern glare of determination fixing on every
officer in the room. He had their full attention as he told them about the President's order
to "militarise" the I'ana archipelago, a group of thirty islands south of Utania, that
effectively connected the Utanian coast with Ptica island, making them an enormously
strategic holding. No fewer than a platoon would be dropped on an island, and they were to
secure the island checking for enemy personnel (they were always "personnel", never troops)
and reporting them, not confronting them. There was not to be, he emphasised, any running
gun battles with ANY enemy personnel.
I remembered reading about the I'ana Archipelago in Zeitgeist magazine and wondered
whether anyone else would put one and one together: Operation Deftsword and the islands.
At 9am, General Kopana's chopper landed in the defensive zone after reports had
arrived that the "capital village" (pop. 180, I was later told) had been occupied without
resistance, and that no citizens were being detained. By this stage, too, the entire eight
hundred troops (some 26 platoons) had been unloaded onto the island, more than doubling the
number of inhabitants. In addition, six armoured vehicles were being unloaded at the landing
site and would be ready to move into the small naval base by 10am. General Kopana took me
with him, although in a separate jeep, with my guide, Captain Joh'nn Argenta, the man who had
accompanied me everywhere last night and today.
Within fifteen minutes, I was watching General Kopana be greeted by the island's chief
and a dozen or so of the island's police force, all of who appeared to be celebrating the
arrival of Utanian troops to the island. In traditional Utani custom, the two "opposing"
parties sat in the middle of the village's courtyard and spoke openly and loudly about the
"militarisation" of the archipelago, and within another thirty minutes, it was agreed that
the Utanian flag should be raised (in fact, that appeared agreed within two or three minutes,
but one does not rush such diplomacy, it appears). So, at 11am, the Utanian flag was raised,
with a full police and military honour guard of 31 police and three platoons respectively.
The General saluted and the chief bowed, and the flag flapped in the mild winter air.
A table was then set up in which the Chief and his officials, including the 35 police,
signed a declaration of allegiance to Utania. Around this time, the six armoured vehicles
could be seen (and most certainly heard!!!) in the next street rumbling their way toward the
old naval base, accompanied by several truckloads of men and munitions.
By one in the afternoon, aside from the last platoons searching the small unsecured
portions of this island, the operation was complete. General Kopana had received word from
his commanders on the other twenty-nine islands that they had encountered zero resistance,
and would commence security patrols only. There was a bouyant mood now, with the officers
about the command centre on that roadside more relaxed and smiling: the operation was almost
complete, without a single casualty or shot fired. General Kopana told them, however, that not
until tonight could they be sure, and probably not for weeks before every blade of grass had
been checked. But, he concurred, they had secured the islands.
Thereafter, I was returned to the bridge of the UDK Firestorm, a missle cruiser
circling the island. There I was told the next component of the mission was to secure the
waters around the islands. This was fraught with danger because they were certain that an
"enemy naval group" could make significant damage on the fleet if it came to a firefight.
Captain Shara was confident, however, that it would neither come to that, and that the
sailors aboard these Utanian ships would fight to the last man, and secure victory before
The naval patrol, however, was eventless, save a brief moment when a school of large
fish appeared to resemble an enemy submarine and the ship's crew were put through their
paces. By nightfall, there was several hundred more men sent to shore to relieve the tired
day-soldiers, and take up night defensive positions. Utania had, by the end of the day,
secured the island archipelago and the vital strategic position they represented for Utania's
Franck Lubyek had served in the Guwimith Dependencies Security Forces reaching the
rank of Captain in the GDSF Military Reporter Battalion.
©UPA, 300 AP.
©Mike Ham, 2000. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)