My work took me to Cameroon in West Africa in 2001, to do a safety survey of a contract we were serious about performing. Cameroon is French speaking and is also a democracy of sorts. Non-military aircraft cannot fly in Cameroon without the sanction of the military which is controlled by the sort of democratic president. In order to comply with their regulations a member of the elite military force Bataillon d’Intervention Rapide, (or BIR) must be on board the aircraft to make certain we do nothing untoward and also to protect our crews. I was told during their initial training they run to the top of Mt. Cameroon, a 13,000 ft active volcano and back down again. If they break from the pack, they are disqualified from progressing. They are a very tough bunch, however when asked if I could take his photo for a painting, he broke out in a huge smile, and turned his small machine gun around onto his back as they are not allowed to be in photos.

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