Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Sgt. Grady Bentley, 58th MP Co. a dog handler, instructs Britt to search a cement truck for explosives prior to the truck entering Bagram Air Base. The K-9s serve as an addition to the force protection efforts conducted daily by MPs. They are also trained to participate in combat patrols. Picture taken by: Staff Sgt. Monica R. Garreau
PATROL BASE WILSON, Afghanistan — Troy Herbst knew something was fishy when his partner Casio began scratching excitedly on the wall of an abandoned residential compound during a Canadian patrol earlier this month. For one, the empty home’s normally rock-hard building material consisting of mud and straw was peeling off with ease under Casio’s paws.It was a Taliban weapons cache — 900 rounds of armour-piercing .50-calibre bullets, hidden for future use by insurgents, possibly as part of a spring offensive feared by some. The crates of Russian-built rounds, capable of slicing through a LAV III troop carrier, were stacked up where a doorway had once been and then simply plastered over. “It would have been a bad day for Canada if those had been used,” said Herbst. Casio and his handler tag along on foot patrols with members of the Canadian Forces battle group operating in the former southern Afghan homeland of the Taliban. When confined to camp — a Canadian forward operating base plunked on a key route west of ambush alley leading out of Kandahar City — they do roadside sweeps, checking vehicles for any explosive contraband. As his reward for discovering lethal ordnance, Casio, a lovable German shepherd away from work, gets to play with his favourite tennis ball. Herbst and Casio make up one of several explosives-sniffing teams who work for American K9, which is contracted to the Canadians serving in Op Athena, Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan. Casio’s canine sidekick at Patrol Base Wilson, Sabat, has found a number of weapons caches since arriving here in late summer. He and his handler Dolf Niemand were called out after a convoy ambush in August that resulted in six Afghan drivers being killed. German shepherds are the preferred war-zone explosives dog because of their intelligence, good noses, longer concentration spans and ability to learn quickly, said Herbst, who lives in South Africa. Casio is “just an over-sized lapdog,” said Herbst. He’s frequently mauled by adoring soldiers. “Every Wednesday and Saturday we get steak — and the dogs get three. It’s very unfair,” said Herbst.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Relatives of the latest group of soldiers heading to Afghanistan say they're proud of their loved ones, but they are deeply concerned about what awaits them in the war-weary country.
There were tears and hugs as 120 troops gathered in a drill hall at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown on Monday for a last goodbye before starting their six-month tour of duty. Some 1,200 soldiers from the New Brunswick base will be part of the current troop rotation, involving close to 2,500 soldiers.
Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters told reporters they support the mission to restore peace and stability Afghanistan, but they are afraid for the soldiers' safety.
Parents are confident the troops have been well trained.
Verna Caul travelled from Newfoundland and Labrador to say goodbye to her 23-year-old son, Cpl. Stephen Drake. Caul said her son decided to join the Canadian military after the 9-11 attacks.
"I'm very proud of him," Caul said, as tears rolled down her cheeks. "I pray he comes back safe. We can only pray."
The soldiers are heading into uneasy times in the Kandahar area of southern Afghanistan.
There is speculation the Taliban is preparing a spring offensive against the NATO mission.
Lt.-Col. Robert Walker, who will assume command of the battle group in the Kandahar area, said he is guardedly optimistic about the mission.
"I really have no apprehensions about what we're going to do," Walker said in an interview.
"Yes, we are anticipating a spring offensive. To what extent, I'm not sure. They (the Taliban) took some hard defeats through the summer and fall." Walker said that although the situation in southern Afghanistan is fragile, he believes life there is improving and residents are feeling more secure. He said two weeks ago, 3,000 Afghan villagers returned to their homes.
Master Cpl. Stephen Mills, 33, said the possibility of a spring offensive by the Taliban is on the minds of the soldiers. But he said the troops are ready. "We've had numerous briefings on the threat there," Mills said in an interview. "It's no surprise what we're getting into. Everyone knows what to expect. As far as what we can expect from them, who is to say? ... But whatever they give us, we'll handle it the way we've been trained."
The fresh troops from Gagetown and other Canadian bases will be replacing soldiers who endured a gruelling tour of duty as the Taliban-led insurgency intensified its attacks.
Nearly 4,000 people were killed in Afghan violence in 2006, including 37 Canadians. It was the bloodiest period since the Taliban were overthrown by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001.
According to Gen. Rick Hillier's campaign plan for Afghanistan, success is defined as establishing and training Afghan security forces to the point where they can control their own borders with guidance from their own government. Complete Story
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Medics up for challenge Soldiers eager to put skills to use in war zone
six-month-old daughter Bevyn at CFB Petawawa, where troops held a departure
ceremony yesterday prior to their deployment to Kandahar. "It's hard to leave
her," the proud new dad confesses.
It's somewhat ironic, since a live update is relaying news about U.S. operations in Afghanistan and a group of 42 Canadian medics are minutes away from leaving for the war-ravaged country.
These medics are a young, excited lot. They gather in small groups around the CFB Petawawa canteen, socializing before a long bus ride to Trenton and an even longer flight to Kandahar.
There is an undeniable sense of nervous anticipation.
"It's basically a roller coaster of emotions," Capt. Nori Bickwell confides while exchanging goodbyes. "The only thing that helps you get through it is this team. As a medical unit, we have to rely on each other."
These are Canada's military lifesavers, trained as medical specialists and combat-ready troopers.
Bickwell, 34, is a critical care nurse and one of a handful of Ottawa-based medics being deployed to Afghanistan on a six-month rotation. She joined the military to pursue a degree in nursing. Sixteen years later, she finds herself being catapulted into a war zone -- and it's at a time when critical care in the military is changing.
"The casualties we're seeing in this mission isn't like what we have seen in the past," Bickwell says, explaining that new enemy tactics, like suicide attacks, have altered how medics are trained.
Sadly, these medics predict a busy rotation.
Thankfully, patient care is what they live for.
"It's hard to refuse," Lieut. Luc Dionne says before grabbing his bag and reporting to roll call. Dionne, a 25-year-old health-care administrator based in Ottawa, only learned last month he was going to Afghanistan, but it's an opportunity he says many in the medical profession won't ever get. 'The pinnacle' Capt. Jacques Pinard agrees. "It's probably the pinnacle of my career," says Pinard, a 27-year-old health-care administrator based in Edmonton. The medics have been receiving advice from soldiers already in Afghanistan about preparation. They also received some tips on some "luxury items" to pack for the trip -- if "luxurious" constitutes running shoes, gloves and a toque. Complete Story at Ottawa Sun
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
I cannot imagine a greater compassion you have as you begin your mission to Afghanistan.
I will carry you in my heart. To friends and families, I understand your courage of letting your loved one leave. As husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a son sister, brother, a daughter a friend. I know that you have a great respect for the life your loved one has chosen and I stand beside you as together I support you and our troops.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
It was a historic day at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown on Friday as thousands of people gathered to support 1,150 soldiers leaving for Afghanistan next week. The rally was the first of its kind in Canada.Despite Friday's snowstorm, everyone made sure they were on base early enough to be part of the human flag. "It's important to show support for your peers," said Capt. Lisa Compton, a nurse at CFB Gagetown. "It's important to show support for the families that are staying behind. Even though we're not going overseas, it's a big team and you have to show everybody that you're behind them." More than 3,000 people packed, squeezed and crammed together on a snow-covered soccer field across from the base gym to create the human flag, which measured 90 metres by 45 metres.The effort was part of Red Rally Friday, an event that attracted people from all over New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada.Because of the snow, the turnout was less than the 5,000 organizers had expected.It was also due to 1,000 school children who couldn't be bused to the location because of the decision earlier in the day to close schools.But that didn't dampen enthusiasm."It was great to see everybody come and show their support for the troops," Lisa Compton said. "The atmosphere was great. It was exciting. It was good to see that everybody had such good spirit and that, here in Oromocto and the surrounding area, we can be so patriotic."Within the next year, said Compton, either she or her husband will likely be making the trip to Afghanistan.Sgt. Danny Compton, with the artillery branch of the Forces, said he was impressed by the turnout.
- there are 3300 people in this picture
- dignitaries included General Hillier and CFB Gagetown C.O. Colonel Jestin
- these people braved a vicious snowstorm to be participate
- all schools had been closed that day due to the storm
- HAVOC was wreaked on local roads
- it was taken around 2 pm
- some supporters waited eagerly since 9:30 that morning
- the picture was actually taken while the crowd thought they were in a "practice run"
- the picture was taken while the masses were singing the National Anthem
- the "red" effect is from red briston board placards
- placards were donated by "Hilroy Canada" and local buisiness "Covey Basics"
- all dignitaries and high-ranking officials are in the back red stripe
Monday, January 15, 2007
The Ottawa Senators Hockey Club dedicated 30 January 2007 as Canadian Forces Appreciation Night. The aim of CF Appreciation Night is to recognize CF members' contribution, dedication and commitment to excellence. 1100 tickets have already been given to select CF members.
Tuesday, January 30th, 2007at 7:30 p.m.
Ottawa Senators vs Washington Capitals
__Thanks for the information JoAnne! :)
A hockey equipment company started making the sticks and donating a portion of the proceeds to military family resource centres across the country. Flarrow Hockey started nine years ago and since selling the first Support Our Troops Stick has raised about 6000 dollars for military families.
The sticks are available in regular size, junior size and a goalie model. They retail for about 25 dollars each. They are available at several different locations in the Ottawa region including:
Costco - Innes Rd.Rink Pro - StittsvilleGearhead Sports - PetawawaHome Hardware - various locations.
If you can't find one at a store near you, they are available for shipping anywhere in Canada courtesy of the Alexandria Home Hardware.
A follow up story:
New Sticks Score Points Overseas:
What started out as a plan for one family to help their son serving in Afghanistan has turned into a way for the rest of the country to support the Canadian troops.
Flaro Hockey in Martintown, longtime makers of Flarrow hockey sticks, has made quite a splash creating and selling a red recreational hockey stick with the logo "S.O.T. Support our Troops."
Owner Denis Flaro says the venture started innocently enough, with an e-mail request from Cpl. Alan Billings, a technician with the Canadian Forces Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle unit in Afghanistan, asking mom Shannon and father Jamie, who works at Flaro, if they could send a couple of hockey sticks for the troops to use in their rough-and-tumble pick-up games.
Apparently, the plastic blades on the sticks they had just couldn't keep up with the action.
After the request was passed on to him, Flaro thought it was a good idea. "That night, I got to thinking that maybe we should send more," said Flaro.
And so 50 flame-red hardwood shaft sticks reinforced with fibreglass, graphite and Kevlar and carrying the S.O.T. logo were specially made and sent off on a cargo plane from Petawawa.
Once word of the sticks got out at home, Flaro said regular customers wanted to purchase them as a way to support the troops.
"It's something that just took off, it wasn't planned," said Flaro, still sounding a bit surprised by it all.
Now, more than 10,000 sticks have been produced, and can be purchased at select stores across the region, such as Home Hardware and Don Cherry's Grapevine Restaurants.
A percentage of the profits from sales of the sticks goes to the Canadian Forces' Military Family Resource Centre, which offers support services to families of soldiers fighting overseas. A senior stick retails for about $25, and a junior for about $21.
Back in Afghanistan, the hardy Canadian sticks are standing up to all the soldiers have to offer -- and giving the Canucks an advantage in the 13-team Kandahar-based Canadian and U.S. ball hockey league.
"They've done very well," said Flaro. "Alan e-mails all the time."
The family company back home has also gotten a boost, although that was far from the goal, he added.
"It's kinda nice when you're not thinking of any good coming out of it for yourself," said Flaro.
Friday, January 12, 2007
HONOURING THE MILITARY
Vice-Chief of Defence and Lieutenant-General Walter J. Natynczyk will be among those scheduled to participate in the ceremonial puck drop.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
HEY! Do you have any ideas, item requests, suggestions, etc.?
If so, please list them in the comment section below.I will add them to the post.