Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Greetings from Our Soldiers

Canadian Forces Combat Camera now have Holiday video messages available for download from personnel deployed in Afghanistan. The messages feature personnel from Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories. Generic messages from personnel where no hometown is mentioned are also available. The video messages can be downloaded from the following site on
Combat Camera

Pictured here: Melissa W. a medic with 2 Field Ambulance makes calls home on a satellite phone on Christmas 2006 Combat Camera

Monday, December 20, 2010

Clearing the Way ~ Combat Engineers in Kandahar

This is the story of the men and women of 23 Field Squadron - Op Archer Roto 2, comprising soldiers, sailors and airmen drawn from across the Canadian Forces and beyond. The intent of this book is to mesh their very personal stories with the Squadron War Diary, all within the framework of the overall 1 RCR Battle Group mission. This mission was accomplished by the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) operators, heavy equipment operators, armoured engineers, geomatic technicians, combat engineers and various support and headquarters staff that were 23 Field Squadron.
This book can can be ordered or purchased through:
23 Field Squadron
University of Waterloo
Coates and Laser (Petawawa)
And at Participating Kit Shops:

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Clearing the Way: Combat Engineers in Kandahar will be donated to the Sapper Mike McTeague Wounded Warrior Fund.

"Clearing the Way" includes accounts of members of 23 Field Squadron who took part in Operation Medusa. A fierce battle in Afghanistan in which Canada paid a heavy price is the inspiration for a new book authored by some of those who fought the Taliban. - Winnepeg Free Press

Tanks are a standard asset within the Canadian battle group, but did you know that the first time they deployed en masse from Kandahar Airfield, they were caught in a Soviet-era minefield? Do you know how Route Summit got its name, or how it came to be in the first place? Or what happened to forward operating base Zettlemeyer? Or how a “Mad Max-ed” yellow bulldozer played an integral role in Operation MEDUSA? Or that, after surviving a roadside bomb that destroyed his vehicle and kit, a petty officer, second class defused an IED using only his bayonet?
Clearing theWay answers these questions and more, and provides an intimate glimpse into the reality on the ground in Kandahar Province during late summer and autumn 2006.
Corporal Matt Austin was interested in writing a few short stories about the soldiers in 23 Fd Sqn, an idea fully supported by Major Mark Gasparotto, the officer commanding the squadron on Roto 2. “I told his section commander,” says Maj Gasparotto, “that we should look at interviewing all the members in the squadron and putting together a small book.”
Back in Canada in April 2007,CplAustin got to work, travelling through Ontario and making dozens of calls to various parts of the country.“The real challenge,” he says, “was to interview all persons involved in the TICs [troops in contact] or significant incidents. Naturally, soldiers sometimes forget things they may have said in the past, or events in detail.” Realizing this,Cpl Austin cross-interviewed troops at different times to verify the narrative and root out what were, essentially, simple lapses in memory.
Another challenge he did not anticipate was the emotional impact that revisiting these events would have on those he interviewed. “Many men,” he says, “would stop and only continue with the support of other section mates.”
After writing four highly detailed chapters, Cpl Austin was placed in a section heading back to Afghanistan, forcing him to hand over his research. “[He] ran out of time to cover everything that deserved to be written about,” says Maj Gasparotto.“That’s when I decided to write the squadron war diary and invited other members to share their stories.”
The book includes the war diary written by Maj Gasparotto, the chapters by Cpl Austin and first-person accounts of various actions that stood out during the tour.
- Forces.gc.ca

"For the most part it's the individual soldiers' account of what they're seeing and a lot of it is candid and it's repeating conversations that people had during certain events," said Busbridge.
"It's a more personal account of what happened during that time."
- Canadian Free Press

Collaborative work
After he had written four lengthy, highly detailed chapters, Cpl Austin was placed in a section heading back to Afghanistan, forcing him to hand over his research.

“[Cpl Austin] ran out of time to cover everything that deserved to be written about,” explains Maj Gasparotto. “That’s when I decided to write the squadron war diary and invited other members to share their stories.”

The finished book includes the war diary by Maj Gasparotto, the chapters by Cpl Austin and several first-person accounts of various incidents that stood out during the tour.
Clearing the Way provides an intimate glimpse into the reality on the ground in Kandahar Province during late summer and fall 2006.
Read further ~Capt Edward J.H. Stewart LFAA Public Affairs

These front-line engineers are often the first in and first out of a combat zone -- clearing bombs and mines, building roads, demolishing what needs to be taken out and providing "castle-like" fortifications for protection. lfpress

Comments: Post a book review in the comments section and I'll transfer them below.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bless Cpl. Steve Martin ~December 18, 2010

It is with heavy hearts that today that we learn that a Canadian soldier has died on Saturday. Our Canadian Forces member was killed yesterday, December 18th, 2010 at approximately 12:30 p.m. local time, after an improvised explosive device detonated while on operations in the Panjwa'i district of Kandahar Province.
Killed in action was Corporal Steve Martin, serving with 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment Battle Group, based at CFB Valcartier, Quebec.
Our thoughts are with the families and friends of our fallen soldier during this difficult time. We will not forget the sacrifice of Cpl Martin.
Cpl. Steve Martin, 24, died while on a foot patrol near a major road construction project that NATO is pushing into the restive Panjwaii district of Kandahar.
Martin was just two days short of his 25th birthday when he died.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the fallen soldier during this difficult time," Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner, commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, told reporters at Kandahar Air Field. "We will not forget the sacrifice of this soldier as we continue to bring security and hope to the people of Kandahar province."

Martin was patrolling near a road that NATO forces are carving into the horn of Panjwaii when he was killed by an improvised explosive device, or IED, early Saturday afternoon local time.

The road is a key element of an offensive by Canadian, U.S. and Afghan forces into the horn of Panjwaii, an area that until recently was dominated by the Taliban and used as a staging point for attacks into nearby Kandahar City, the provincial capital.

Although most insurgents fled the area before an initial assault by coalition troops, several cells of Taliban fighters have continued to operate in the region.

They have mounted harassing attacks against the armoured vehicles and construction equipment building the gravel thoroughfare into the region, sprinkling the path ahead of the troops with IEDs.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston offered his deepest sympathies to Martin's loved ones, saying that his death brought home the weight of his new responsibilities as commander-in-chief of Canada's Armed Forces.

"Cpl. Martin displayed an admirable sense of duty to Canada, bringing great pride to his unit and to the Forces as a whole," Johnston wrote.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a written statement extending his deepest sympathies to Martin's family and friends on behalf of all Canadians.

"Cpl. Martin was a brave Canadian who made the ultimate sacrifice while proudly serving his country," the statement said.

"Thanks to Canadian Forces members like him, we continue to make real progress in Afghanistan, rebuilding the country and contributing to the peace and security of its people."

Saturday's attack shattered a period of relative calm in the Panjwaii district, where most of Canada's troops are based.

Although the onset of winter has meant a decline in attacks, the Canadian battle group in Kandahar has still had several of its soldiers wounded.

The Department of National Defence, however, does not release information on wounded soldiers and military spokesmen would not say if anyone else was wounded in the bombing that claimed Martin's life.

The bombing that killed Martin came amid a wave of attacks by Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers across Afghanistan.

Earlier Saturday, a suicide bomber attacked the vehicle of an Afghan district chief in the Canadian area of operations. A car packed with explosives tried to ram a vehicle carrying District Governor Hamdullah Nazik. The bomber missed his target and plowed into bystanders, killing two people, including a child, and wounding 11 others. Nazik was unharmed. more...

Repatriation Ceremonies - Fellow comrades say goodbye to Cpl Steve Martin as he commences his journey home to his family.

Our Fallen Soldier Returns Home
Corporal Steve Martin of the 3rd Battalion Royal 22e Regiment, based at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Valcartier, Quebec, returned home to Canada.

The repatriation ceremony for the latest Canadian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan, Corporal Steve Martin, originally scheduled for Tuesday had been delayed to Wednesday at 2 p.m. at CFB Trenton due to severe winter weather in Europe.

Where: 8 Wing, CFB Trenton, Ontario.
When: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 at 2 p.m.

Present to pay their respects were His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada; The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence; Mr. Habibullah Qaderi, the Consul General of Afghanistan (Toronto); and other dignitaries.
As this is a solemn and formal occasion, all attending were requested to dress appropriately.

Send a Letter to A Canadian Hero Today

Below, I found an article by Mercedes Stephenson posted in the Toronto Sun today informing us about what Christmas is like when serving overseas. (every soldiers' situation varies completey) Below the article, I have posted information on how to send a letter or card to a Canadian Soldier. Please, pick up your pens and let's write a letter today. Although my son is here now, I think of those serving overseas and continue writing letters and cards. (Let me know in the comment section if you have done this previously and/or today.) On their behalf, I thank you. M.M.
A Soldier’s Christmas dream
If you read only one letter over the holiday season, let this Canadian trooper’s heartfelt words be it By MERCEDES STEPHENSON, QMI Agency

This Christmas while snowflakes gently fall from the sky over Canada, rockets will hail down over our bases in Afghanistan. As we unwrap gifts, counter-IED teams will take apart bombs.

What’s it like to be on the frontlines at Christmas? Most of us are fortunate not to know.
I asked someone who does know — a Canadian Forces member who recently returned from Afghanistan. He has spent five Christmases away from his family, serving Canada.

What follows are a soldier’s powerful, heartfelt words. If there is only one Christmas letter you read this holiday season, let this be it:

Most of my thoughts stem from last year when I was in Kandahar (again). Please excuse me if I get too melodramatic — it is the holidays, after all.

I’ve been thinking of the overused Henry V quotes a lot lately: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”

Bonds formed in combat are lasting ones. They endure the passage of time, differences of opinion, changes of marital status, physical separation and everything else.

Young soldiers who spend Christmas Eve on duty in the dark, cold observation post of an isolated platoon house will never forget that Christmas Eve; nor will he forget with whom he spent it.

So what do we do at Christmas? Well, above all else, it’s got to be another day on operations because the war doesn’t stop.

Our troops are on patrol, flying helicopters, and manning operation centres. They are “doing the business” 24/7 — literally.

We try to minimize the impact of being away from home during the holidays by embracing the traditions of soldiers who have gone before us.

The Soldier’s Christmas Dinner, where the junior soldiers are served by officers and NCOs is perhaps the best example and one that endures.

Inevitably, there will be some local initiatives to make things feel like home. Impromptu “Secret Santa” gift exchanges, a decorated Christmas tree in the corner of a dusty mud hut or someone with a guitar and the occasional Christmas song.

I must say that in recent years, the remarkable, selfless outpouring of support for our troops by caring Canadians has been incredible.

The impact of those gifts and cards addressed simply to “a Canadian Soldier” is immeasurable.
The toughest part for me, is knowing just how difficult it is for our families at home. They suffer, too. They remain worried — despite what we tell them.

While we commiserate amongst ourselves about being deployed, they’re often alone and are missing a big part of their lives at Christmas.

The empty chair at the dinner table, presents that will stay wrapped until their loved one comes home (my wife and kids left the tree up for seven weeks after Christmas until I came home on leave) or the single, dark house on the street because dad wasn’t home to put up the Christmas lights (ummm ... guilty!).

Finally, for those deployed this year, although difficult, it will be tempered by thoughts of how enthusiastically they’ll celebrate next Christmas. At least that’s what helped my family and me through it last year.

This Christmas, I suspect there are thousands of troops making up for being away last year. Like our family, I’m sure they’ll be raising their glasses with their loved ones to those who are currently deployed — and sadly for those who didn’t come home.

Even though they may now be safely back in Canada with their families and friends, you can bet those soldiers will be thinking of those with whom they spent last Christmas — their brothers.
~ A Canadian Soldier

Remember a Canadian solider today. Send a letter or a card. The cost to send to "Any Canadian Soldier" is a regular stamp. (a small cost to put a smile on a soldier's face and boost their morale)
Directions to mail a letter (parcels unfortunately are not permitted due to space limitations allowing family and friend parcels, food and equipment to be transported overseas to our troops) :
Addressing :
All letters and cards addressed to "Any Canadian Forces member". Please refer to "Operational Addresses" to obtain the address information. Note that the lines "Rank/Initials/Name" and "Unit/Section" of the operational address are to be replaced with "Any Canadian Forces member".
For example, if writing to Afghanistan, the address should be:

Any Canadian Forces Member
Op Athena
PO Box 5058 Stn Forces
Belleville ON K8N 5W6

Merry Christmas to the men and women of the Canadian Forces. Your selfless sacrifice delivers the gift of freedom to Canadians year after year.