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On Friday, July 1st, troops of the Colombian Army Special Forces were on the edge to capture Alfonso Cano south of Tolima. As Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President of Colombia, said when he visited the camp abandoned by the FARC leader this terrorist had slept there last Wednesday night
The Southern Tolima Joint Task Force was stretching the way of the main FARC leader. Terrorist actions were improved to provide an exit for the leader who was in constant motion, having less people around, to the west mountain ridge.
Senior commanders of the military forces and national police have a meeting with the Minister of National Defense and the President to report the new station of Alfonso Cano and the actions that might be taken to neutralize him.
In the last few years the security team of this terrorist leader had been infiltrated by military intelligence members, which helped to know his exact location. Little by little these men gained Canos confidence to have access to the information related to the exact displacements of this criminal.
In August, the illicit armed activities by FARC 6th Front continue damaging Caloto and Toribio to draw Army troops attention from the terrorist Alfonso Cano.
Meanwhile at Army HQ, senior commanders met in the operations office to prepare what was supposed to be another attempt to neutralize Cano. Everything was made under strict reserve with the participation of experts in aviation, intelligence, weapons and other specialties that might become fundamental in performing maneuvers.
The days passed by and at the National Training Center, CCOES members received training. Highest temperature and bumpy terrain are the allies of these men in performing their activities as members of this A-team.
On the training runway, commands were listened while each man was directed to the best performance in the operations area:
- Lancero, its your turn for descent. You know, soon after landing, always secure your position, said the instructor.
The days at Fort Tolemaida passed by training so hard that war would be a relax for them.
At the end of October, three groups were created to strengthen development of this operation. The strategic one led by COLMIL HQ, the Operational one led by CCOES (Joint Command of Special Operations), supported by COLAF and COLNAV; and the Tactical one led by CUNOE (Unified Command of Special Operations), supported by the Air Assault Aviation Division, deployed to conform the combined arms team for the Air Assault maneuver.
In Tolemaida, training was increased, and several aircraft were constantly flying over the city. Many of us considered this as a normal situation, as a regular training for these men. Sometimes, we have parallel training.
November 1st, 05:00 hours - Fort Tolemaida
Rainy weather, early in the morning, accompanies us these days. Temperature is much more persistent over our bodies. This is the daybreak, and my partners and I pray for successful workdays. When a soldier is to begin a new mission, the first thing he/she thinks of is his/her family and prays to complete it successfully and go to see mom, spouse and children.
All of us were duly geared and prepared. Many of us, even if we would not say so, wanted to know what kind of mission we would have. We glanced at the pilots in line with us, but nobody knew anything. We just listened to coordination commands until we got aboard to the unknown destination.
A couple of hours later, we were over the mountains of Cauca department, we began our way to the interior of the mountain ridge reinforcing security measures because some days before some terrorist attacks had taken place there.
At night, our unit commander gave us the coordinates where we should head for, and we were told about air support for the operation to be performed in accordance with the operations order that would be disclosed to us soon; for the time being, we rested for some ours and continued our trip west of Colombia.
The Final Day
It is two oclock in the morning, we begin our movement. It has been raining a lot weather is not that helpful rain and caution to avoid minefields delays our arrival to the objective. We know those are common obstacles in our career. No matter how we have to reach the coordinates as planned and at the right time so that we do not affect the work of our partners.
The trajectory show we are heading for northwest Cauca. That part of the country has a good weather; I estimate it is about 25C. Fortunately, the rain has stopped and this fact lets us go walking on a good cadence.
Even though I have seen many dawns in my military career, today has a different color and fragrance. I dont know why, but it looks strange. It must be because something great is awaiting us in this mission, maybe see my family.
We reach the coordinates our company was given; we report our position to the commander and establish the security measures. The lieutenant in charge gave the corresponding instructions and we took positions. The leading scout saw some FARC terrorists a few meters ahead. We are close to Suarez town.
- Heres something big, says the lieutenant. I dont know how far the enemies were, but we saw them clearly; however, the order was not to attack, but secure the zone. I think the lieutenant is right, I can see a lot of movement as if they were taking care of a big cheese for them.
A deafening noise makes us stunned. That noise compels us to be alert. We know we have air support. Soon after, there is a shooting exchange. We can see a Super Tucano plane and the gunfire increases. Our mission is to protect the aircraft, we shoot against FARC terrorists, and they dont know where to shoot to the sky o to us on land.
Besides the Tucano planes, we see Black-Hawk and MI-17 helicopters. I might seem strange, but all of those aircraft are working together over the same place. We see them over our heads, all at the same time. I feel like being in a movie where, we, ourselves, are the stars. We hear the enemy gunfire, but it is erratic. We continue covering not only the aircraft, but also the people getting off them, they are descending in rappel. I dont know how many men are descending, but, for sure, I had never seen so many people working together in the same operation.
The terrorists begin to replenish toward the mountain, and we begin to advance to stop them. On the radios, instructions come from several places, but everyone says the same we cannot let the goal escape.
I cannot believe what I see; we are accustomed to making this kind of operations at night. The guerrillas did not expect this and we won by surprise. From my position, I see a terrorist fallen, another company gets closer and certifies he is neutralized. We move forward to a small group going to the mountain, but I heard a deafening shot, it was made by one of my partners close to me. Another terrorist fell. He was disheveled and seemed to be the leader of the terrorists because he was very well protected, but I cannot assure that.
Meanwhile, another group searched the house where those terrorists had been, the aircraft continued flying in search for more terrorists in the area. Someone yelled: Cano was here Another one said: Alfonso Cano fell, but nobody could assure that because we did not see anybody who resembled him. Also, because we had been in many operations against the main FARC leader and he had always escaped for a couple of hours.
We stayed in the zone until night, we saw the CTI making the removal of bodies and how accurately they wrote down the seized items. A group was in charge of taking the fingerprints of the dead terrorists. Upon arriving at the Third Army Division installations, we were welcomed happily; none of us understood what had happened. We were told to be in line and the General just said: Sirs, you are the best your Fe en la Causa led us to trap Alfonso Cano.
Odiseo Operation was in honor of Lieutenant Jhon Wilmar Caro Cano, who was killed in Puerto Rico, Meta, while taking part of the Lanceros Group in Orion Operation.
Odiseo comes from Greek mythology and represents the god of perseverance in the Trojan War. The participation of this hero was decisive because of his idea of the Trojan Horse. His adventures are part of the Odyssey, written by Homer.
In Odiseo operation, over 900 members of Colombian Army took part. Only one soldier was injured during the 40 hours the operation lasted from the objective finding stage through the troops extraction phase.