By: Corporal John Welyki
26 January 2010
My name is Corporal John Welyki from the British Columbia Regiment currently augmenting B Squadron of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) overseas in Afghanistan as part of Task Force 3-09 Battle Group. I’ve been in the army close to five years now. I’ve completed three workup training cycles and am currently on my first tour to Afghanistan with only 3 months remaining. It was odd to feel relieved after three workup training cycles to finally go overseas, but at the same time I also felt nervous as I boarded the bus from the Edmonton Garrison en route to the airport.
It was a long flight from Edmonton to Afghanistan with several stops along the way which made the jetlag worse. Throughout the entire flight I thought about my family and friends I left behind and wondered how they would handle things with me deployed. It was early in the morning when I emerged from the aircraft at Kandahar Air Field (KAF) after finally landing in Afghanistan. Moments later, we crowded into a tired looking bus which took us across the base to our living quarters. Our stay was short-lived, as we boarded a Chinook helicopter in KAF the next day and flew over the desert towards our new home at the Forward Operating Base (FOB).
It wasn’t more than two days before my crew and I went out on a patrol around the FOB where I saw first hand what Afghanistan was about. Much of the area was covered with seemingly thousand year old grape-drying huts and mud-walled houses which all looked the same to me. Going through a village you could expect kids waving at you while 100m they would be gesturing for a pen and paper. Sometimes, areas were completely deserted. After I returned from New Zealand on the three week leave I received in November, I was shocked at how much the temperature had dropped. Before I left it was a high of 40 degrees Celsius and after I got back it dropped to freezing at night.
So, the next time I went out on an operation, I learned the hard way the need to take both inner and outer sleeping bags with me when sleeping outside. On the second night of this operation, my crew commander recommended sleeping under the stars for the night. I have to admit that the view of the stars from Afghanistan was the best I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, with the depth of the shell scrape and the sudden and drastic drop in temperature at night, the condensation covers your sleeping bag as if it had just rained. Then this condensation freezes! Only after a quick nap I awoke to find my gunner and I frozen to our sleeping bags – we could see ice breaking when we moved around in our sleeping bags. After that night, our whole crew swore never to sleep outside under the stars again! Next time, we will definitely setup the tent.
All in all, it has been an enjoyable time and we are all glad that we have passed the half-way point of the tour.
By: Corporal John Welyki