By Trooper Anthony Drew
24 February 2010
Hello, my name is Trooper Anthony Drew from B Squadron Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians). I am currently on tour with Maintenance Troop in Afghanistan for Op ATHENA Roto 8.
Our tour started with a long flight across the country with a few stops along the way before heading over “the drink” to Afghanistan. The Air Force took very good care to ensure that we were all comfortable and well fed the whole 30 plus hours of travel.
Once on the ground, we were issued our kit and given a few briefs concerning our time at Kandahar Airfield (KAF). There was a short break that morning before it all started again.
After a long day and a half of flying, this was actually something I was looking forward to. My wife, Captain Jennifer Drew, was on the previous tour with the Role 3 Multinational Hospital in KAF. It was a nice break to be able to stop spend a few hours shopping and have a little dinner with her before I had to head off to the Forward Operating Base (FOB). Jen showed me the facilities where she was employed and I met a lot of the people she worked with from around the world.
I have spent most of my time here at the FOB operating the Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV). My job here is to assist the maintenance personnel with repairs and keep our tanks ready for any and all tasks we are given. Canada has recently bought new Leopard 2 tanks, and they need maintenance and repairs regularly, but work magnificently here. The new tanks are larger than their previous models and so all the parts are heavier. Some days are very tiring after building track for the tanks to roll on. We are kept busy but still have time to relax often.
Being away from home is probably the worst part of the tour. Luckily there are lots of movies to watch and books to read. We also have video games and a gym to keep everyone in shape. The gym has a modest array of equipment from elliptical machines to free weights. Regardless of being in a remote locale, we still manage to get newer equipment and the older machines repaired when needed. If all else fails, there is a monster of a hill for any who wants to run it.
The Chosen Soldier Program matches soldiers with people interested in “sponsoring” soldiers on deployment. Folks back home can send a parcel out to a soldier by name. Thanks to the Chosen Soldier Program, almost every soldier receives a parcel from a family or individual back in Canada. I have received two parcels since I started my tour and they are always pleasant surprises. It is always nice to receive mail and when the mail comes in everyone is excited. There are also lots of letters and postcards received regularly from Canadians wishing to offer support and well wishes. This is all very much appreciated by everyone.
This Christmas I was here at the FOB and we had a visit from the Chief of Defence Staff and the Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer. There were some other people along, but he was the one serving us Christmas turkey! Comedian Mike MacDonald traveled here to entertain us which was a real treat. A very talented Melanie Dekker singer /songwriter also came along to help keep morale high. Along with the entertainment and good food we had Christmas presents to open up from “Santa”. The Family Resource Centre and Canex put together Christmas presents for every last soldier over here. It was really quite amazing. Inside the parcels were shirts and hats donated by Canadian industry. There was also a very handy shoulder travel bag. All in all a good haul.
Another part of my job sees me leaving the FOB and driving around the countryside in convoys assisting the tanks. There is a local school we pass and the sounds and sights of the children laughing and playing in the yard is reminiscent of any Canadian school. Aside from language and dress styles, kids are kids around the world. Every time we drive through villages, the kids come out to see us and most times we are greeted with the old “thumbs up”. The countryside is really quite spectacular here with the clear skies and fresh air. The mountains are everywhere and are marvelous to look at. Right now it is February and the landscape is mostly brown as everything is covered in dust and sand. We had a little rain but all within a short time span which led to some flooding here and there, which made things interesting! In the spring there is a spattering of color with the trees sprouting leaves and the harvest growing in full swing.
During my tour with Roto 8 here there are a lot of things that I am glad to have had the opportunity to see and do. Although I am looking forward to getting home again, I would gladly come back.
By Trooper Anthony Drew