B Squadron Christmas Message
By Maj TJ Cadieu
12 December 2006
When I last wrote in October 2006, B Squadron had just arrived in Afghanistan and had initiated preparations for operations with the 1 Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group. The men and women of this squadron have achieved considerable progress since my last transmission, and I am extremely pleased to report they are now integrated fully into combat operations with this team.
The month of November was a hectic one as we received the balance of our tanks and prepared them for battle. The soldiers and technicians of B Squadron displayed remarkable innovation and initiative as they maintained the entire Leopard fleet serviceable in spite of initial teething problems with spare parts and tooling. We took advantage of our time at the Kandahar Airfield to train for operations in this counter insurgency environment. The Squadron spent countless hours during this period conducting rehearsals, training with other arms deployed currently to Afghanistan, and institutionalizing the lessons that have been hard learned by this battle group in combat. The work paid off.
B Squadron complete deployed in late November on a number of operations outside the airfield to become familiar with the terrain over which we would operate and to conduct tactical ground reconnaissance of mobility corridors suitable for tank movement. During one of our initial forays, the Squadron found the hard way an unmarked minefield left behind by the Soviets that was unknown to engineers and forces that had patrolled the area extensively. The incident demonstrated that B Squadron soldiers were ready for battle. Every crew responded precisely as trained and we conducted in conjunction with battle group engineers a deliberate minefield breach that had been seen before by our soldiers only during training in Wainwright.
The soldiers of B Squadron advanced in darkness on 2 December over 70 kilometres through territory not previously traversed by coalition forces in order to link up with the battle group deployed. Some of the terrain we moved through was a tanker’s dream – wide-open desert – while abandoned grape fields and ditches were made short work of by our dozer blades and ploughs. Within hours of linking up with A Company, B Squadron introduced to the Taliban the capabilities of the Leopard tank, as we engaged successfully a mortar base plate that had fired on to our Forward Operating Base. The tank squadron has since engaged on several occasions, with lethality and precision, the enemy who want nothing more than to bring destruction and instability to this region. Friends and family can be confident and proud knowing that all soldiers have conducted operations with the professionalism and calmness our Regiment is well known for. The Squadron is deployed with an impressive and experienced battle group, from which we have learned many lessons. We will continue to work closely in combat with all members of the combined arms team – including infantry, artillery, engineers, and logistic trades – to bring greater security to the region and with it, progress towards the eventual reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Our friends and family are never far from our minds, especially as we approach the Christmas season. I am convinced through my many chats with B Squadron soldiers that it is the support from the home front that has kept us motivated and focused on this challenging task. We are eternally grateful for the unconditional support, compassion and understanding from our family members in Canada. We are equally appreciative of the support offered by serving Strathcona’s and members of the ‘Old Guard’. Your example and experience has served us well on this deployment. As we are deployed forward, access to email and telephone services is more limited than what is available at the airfield. That said, we will ensure every soldier has an opportunity to call home during the holiday season.
On behalf of all ranks of B Squadron, Master Warrant Officer Walt Laughlin and I wish you the very best over the holiday season and a great 2007.
B Squadron in Afghanistan
By MCpl McGarity (A.K.A Ma-gar-nic-al)
Let me start by saying I'm still in shock that we're here as a tank squadron. I owe the Squadron Clerk, Pte Evan Arsenault, money because he said that the Squadron was going and I disagreed. I've been on tanks for 11 years and the Leopards have not gone anywhere, except to Kosovo in 1999 (which my 'surly' Troop WO keeps reminding me). It is a great time to be an armoured crewman.
The OC, Maj Trevor Cadieu, and SSM, MWO Walter Laughlin, welcomed the Squadron to a hot and dusty Afghanistan. There was the typical camp brief complete with rules of our new 'home away from home'. The Squadron quickly set up the living quarters. It looks like the new white sprung shelter behind the Harvey Building but is a quarter of the size and filled with four rows of 25 beds down one side. In the days to follow, the BC, Capt Mark Lubiniecki, ensured that we conducted the theater-mandated training. Classes consisted of combat related first aid, a threat brief, Improvised Explosive Device Defeat, the ever-entertaining call for Close Combat Air brief from C/S "Shocker", the AH 64 Apache crew, and extensive ROC drills/rehearsals for the leadership of the Squadron. Without wasting a second, it was off to the 25 m range to do some small arms shooting and zeroing. Then it was finally time for the firing of 105mm. The move to Tarnak Farm gave us a first hand look at what it is like outside the wire, rolling with a Squadron at action, rounds up the spout, and C6 machine guns readied. The tank range was a success.
The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), Gen Rick Hillier, visited the Squadron on the 1st of November to give us his support, check out the work of our team, and answer some questions. Before leaving, he presented Tpr Nick Brownrigg and Tpr Curtis Romkey with their hooks and his coin to remember the occasion. The Squadron has also been visited by Commander Task Force Afghanistan, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Commander of the Army, Commander Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, and Associate Deputy Minister (Material).
The add-on armour posed a few concerns as most of the Squadron had never worked with it. A class was delivered on breaking and replacing a 2.5-ton track without removing the side add-on armour. 22A, WO Jim Hapgood, and Ops Sgt, Sgt Mark Bell, showed the Squadron some different 'cable and chain' ways to pull the track back on from their past experiences with the add-on armour. As we would find out later in the month, we were fortunate to conduct this training.
Once all training and tank preparations were completed, B Squadron soldiers were rewarded with some downtime for a barbeque and refreshments, a perk for all the hard work the Squadron had been able to complete in such a short time. Marv MacNeil received a well-deserved promotion to Sergeant and the Squadron had a photo completed around some of the tanks. This was also an excellent opportunity to give the OC, Maj Trevor Cadieu, a belated birthday surprise. We are all sure this birthday will be one he will not soon forget! Squadron members have also been able to go to the bazaar and buy loved ones some Christmas gifts, peruse the vendor stands, and engage in some friendly (most of the time) bartering.
There have been three rocket attacks on the airfield since our arrival. Luckily, however, they did not hit anything. The first one got us all out of bed late in the night (or early in the morning) and the second, launched in the early evening, had Sgt Mark Bell running straight from the shower, looking for his Personal Protective Equipment, wearing nothing but flip-flops and a smile. A helmet and flak jacket is more important than a towel one assumes.
The Squadron paraded for Remembrance Day with the rest of the Canadian contingent on camp to make up a parade of over 600 personnel, with ranks of over six deep. It was a somber event and drove home the seriousness of the job at hand.
Since our arrival at KAF, all squadron members are justifiably proud of the extensive work and coordination that has been completed to prepare our vehicles for operations. While we have successfully projected 'outside the wire' a few times, the Strathconas deployed to Afghanistan are rearing to get moving on the job that we trained hard for and were sent to do. As the OC put it, "We're like caged Leopards waiting to get out."
B Squadron in Afghanistan
By Corporal Christopher Orlesky)
October 10th, B Sqn was formed up, ready to march on and bid a formal farewell to the wave 1 soldiers who were set to head-off to Afghanistan later that day. It was then, during form-up that word arrived that maintenance issues with the plane were to delay wave 1 for 24 hrs. This 24-hour delay turned to 48, but you can't really complain when you get to spend more time with family.
It was October 12th when we finally began our journey and hopped on the plane. The flight was okay, filled with sleep, movies, and some type of food that was comparable to a fancy ration pack. Few braved the egg salad sandwich, with the notable exception of Tpr Trevor Neufeld, who not only ate his, but was kind enough to take mine off my hands for me.
We finally made it into Europe, or more specifically Istreco France, and stayed at a "three star" hotel. Some might ask "what can be better than staying at a three star hotel in France?" My answer "Almost anything, as bathrooms minus doors are never truly in style, although the French cable was okay."
Being in France, we had to explore and check out the downtown area… which would've been a whole lot more difficult if not for Tpr Nick Brownrigg acting as our translator. No translator could help later on though, as wave 1 complete, (in an attempt to go out for supper) endured a cab ride that left some of the group wondering if we were ever going to make it to Afghanistan. After departing France, we arrived in Dubai, which greeted us with such a gust of hot air as we departed the plane; it was literally like getting kicked in the face by the heat. It was a short stay however, as in a few hours we were herded on to a Hercules aircraft to finish off our trek to the 'Stan.
Day 2 in Kandahar Air Field (KAF) was one of many emotions, happiness for arriving to our mission, anxiety of the coming challenges and threats and sadness as we were immediately called to duty for the ramp ceremony to honour Sgt Tedford and Pte Williamson, both soldiers from 1 RCR.
The accommodations here aren't as nice as in France, but it's close. We moved into the BAT tents, which is short for Big Ass Tent. I guess they are so named because, one they are big, two they smell, despite our best efforts, like ass, and three well, you can figure out the rest.
Fellow strathconas, Cpl Mike "make a buck" Murphy provided entertainment with his continued bargaining, trying to get his hands on all the kit he could. Tpr Kyle Chuback was the first to test the local "water" supply when he drove through it… giving himself a bath he will never forget. WO Alan Pociuk and his call sign were also the first to test the Security Force. They gave a good demo of what tanks could do for (or to) the de-fence force.
Tpr Curtis Romkey and Nick Brownrigg had the once in a lifetime opportunity of getting their hooks from the CDS himself. Congratulations to both of you, you deserved it. So far the best part of the tour is the warm reception we are getting from our fellow soldiers, especially the infantry and engineers. I think the only emotion that surpasses their relief that the tanks are here, is they're surprised at the fact TANKS are HERE!
Wave 2 finally arrived, completing the Sqn and making us a deployable sub-unit. Now it's just time until we show people what makes tankers unique, time until we show people what we can do.