Kandahar Diary
Sent: 21 March 2006 10:55
From: Iain

Subject: What I've Been Doing

I guess I've been delinquent telling you all what I've been up to so I'll try
and catch up.

I drove north in a Romanian
BTR-70, a Soviet-era wheeled APC.  The
irony was not lost on me.  We were part of a Canadian convoy heading
up to our "Platoon House" that you may have heard about.  After several
hours we travelled many miles and also travelled back about 200 years in
terms of development.  After we left the river valley (called the Green
Zone in the Soviet days) the land became quite barren and mountainous,
but in each little valley we would come across a tiny village that relied on
a stream of some sort.  Kids would come out to see us, and most held
their hands out. Many just wave and are exited to see us.

When we arrived at the Platoon House I found myself in a walled-villa
occupied by Canadian soldiers.  Troops were test firing their weapons
out back.  It had a casual yet very business-like feel.  An army on
campaign.  The toilet facilities out back consisted of a trench and a
wooden hut with a 55 gallon drum. Diesel fire was used to burn it off.  All
in all a pretty fascinating place.

A Sgt saw that I was new and asked what my job was.  I explained that I
was with Lessons Learned and for the next two hours I recorded many
pages of observations from him and a dozen other soldiers and NCOs.  It
is a good bunch and I am delighted to have finally gotten out to talk to
them and collect their experiences.

We had gotten to everyone's favourite subject: guns. I had just been
handed a tricked-out C8 carbine with a grenade launcher and a fancy
sight when we heard a "BOOM" up the valley.

"That wasn't me."

"Crack, Crack Crack, Whump, Whump, Whump" and the the sound of
small arms follow.

"That's the real thing!  Stand to!"

The courtyard erupts into soldiers running for their gear and equipment.  
I succeed in kicking my supper across the yard before scrambling up the
ladder to the roof where I had placed my kit.  I begin to thrown on my frag
vest when
Lisa LaFlamme comes out of a tent. She's here as an
embedded reporter.

I tell her what little I know and she puts her own flak vest on.

I head for an unoccupied section of sandbag wall on the roof and take up
position to scan the nearby orchard and mountains.  I am joined by
another soldier and we sort out our arcs.  I'll admit that it was exciting, but
at the same time I was worried for whoever was out there.  The radio
reports that an IED had gone off, but there were no casualties or
damage. We stand down and I search for my supper.

The padre, who was visiting for a few days, announces that he will now
have mass.  I join a dozen soldiers in a mud-walled room in the villa for
the multi-faith service.  It is conducted by lantern and flashlight. We
conclude with Communion.  I took a picture for the padre of his unique
service.  He is a friend of mine, and I am sure that this service will be one
that he remembers.

There is no room at the inn, so to speak, so I sleep under the stars on
the roof.  I am quite happy to do so and have the best sleep of the tour
so far.

That's all for now, as my minutes are winding down.

Love,

Iain
BTR-70
Louie Palu Photo
Globe and Mail
After a 'Stand To' order is called Lt. Jerome
Patry, centre, of the 1 Combat Engineer
Regiment runs for his rifle as other
soldiers quickly man their positions at the
Gombad safe house located in a remote
location outside the city of Kandahar after
an improvised explosive device (IED)
exploded near a convoy enroute to the safe
house in the district of Sha Wali Kot in
Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
Louie Palu Photo
Globe and Mail
Canadian soldiers sleep in the early
morning hours by their kit which includes
their rifle, body armour, boots, insoles,
socks and backpack at the Gombad safe
house located in a remote district of Sha
Wali Kot in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.