Kandahar at Last
By: 2Lt Peter Beitz
The first group of A Squadron members and their families trickled into the drill hall of the Learning Training Facility (LTF) in the early hours of a cold February morning. Excited to finally embark on a new adventure, the soldiers finished their final administration requirements and then hugged and kissed their loved ones for one last time before departing for Afghanistan. At 0330 hrs in the morning, the bus departed the LTF for the Edmonton International Airport. The remaining A Squadron members departed over the following days.
The flight left Edmonton at 0630 hrs in the morning, and stopovers included Scotland, Germany, and finally Camp Mirage. Once in Camp Mirage, we boarded a C-130 Hercules and flew into Kandahar Airfield (KAF). KAF is an interesting mosaic of soldiers from different countries, sea-cans, pickup trucks, and garbage. Walking through KAF, you feel like you’re in a Mad Max movie. Our short stay in KAF was filled with receiving new kit, zeroing our personal weapons, and briefings. The briefings included Improvised Explosive Device (IED) stands, intelligence briefs, KAF rules, among other things.
Once our inclearance was completed, A Squadron flew out to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Masum Ghar in helicopters. We piled into the choppers fully kitted up with the flight engineer stacking our kit on top of us. Peering through the stockpile of duffle bags, I could see the vast landscape of Afghanistan as we flew overhead. The first impression that I had was that we were entering “jabba-the-hut” land. It felt as if we were in a Star Wars movie because of the scattered mud huts, mud walls, and endless sea of sand and dirt, which was guarded by tall, silent mountains to the north. The temperature in Afghanistan was also an eye-opener; it would vary between plus 30 degrees during the day and drop to minus 3 degrees that same night.
B Squadron was very well prepared and gave us an excellent handover. They provided us with all the lessons learned throughout their tour. As well, the leadership and soldiers of A Squadron milked B Squadron members for all the information they could get regarding vehicle maintenance, operating the tank through Afghan terrain, daily FOB routine, and much more. A & B Squadron personnel deployed on a few operations both as a terrain familiarization and to learn the ropes from B Squadron.
Traveling through the narrow build up areas proved to be to interesting and challenging for the drivers. Children would run out of their homes to wave, while other Afghanis would peer at you with ice-cold stares. As a crew commander, you are constantly on the lookout for possible IEDs and suicide bombers. Mental alertness is at 100% while outside the gate.