Friday, December 24, 2010


Bill Twatio, National Post · Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010

As Christmas 1943 approached, Canadians read in the newspapers of a fierce battle being fought by their troops in Italy for "a key Adriatic port."

That port was Ortona, a picturesque place dominated by the cathedral of San Tommaso and a castle perched on a cliff overlooking the sea. The town had boasted a pre-war population of 10,000, but few were left by the winter of 1943.

Neither the Germans nor the Allies considered Ortona an important military target. But the more Ortona was defended, the more bitterly it was attacked. As one Canadian military historian put it: "The struggle for Ortona assumed a public relations importance out of all proportion to its military significance."

Since mid-July, the 1st Canadian Division, part of Montgomery's Eighth Army, had been slogging through Sicily and southern Italy, Churchill's "soft underbelly of Europe." "It is going to be one of the greatest marches in history," an enthusiastic civilian in Cairo told the American novelist Irwin Shaw, then a sergeant in Mark Clark's Fifth Army. "A long narrow green country, full of handsome people who have been enslaved for 20 years and now are being liberated and know it. You will be greeted like water in the desert, like a circus on the Fourth of July, like Clark Gable at Vassar."

That was news to the footsore Canadians. It had been very tough going indeed, but they had at least maintained some sense of freedom of movement. Now, as they closed on Ortona, the front became crowded and confined and conditions brought to mind Ypres and the Somme of the First World War.

To reach Ortona, the Canadians had to cross a deep gully to gain the Orsogna-Ortona highway. The Germans would contest every step of the way through a tangled wilderness of wire and vine, mud, ruined farmhouses and mangled trees, reeking with the stench of cordite and decomposing bodies. "What followed was what men dream about in after years, waking in a cold sweat to a surge of gratitude that it was only a dream," Farley Mowat, an officer with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment wrote. "It was a delirium of sustained violence."

The battle for Ortona itself began on the morning of Dec. 21, 1943, when the Seaforth Highlanders and Loyal Edmonton Regiment moved into the outskirts.

The German paratroopers who held Ortona were determined to keep it. The harbour had been wrecked. Houses were fortified and booby trapped. It became a house-to-house battle of platoons, sections and sub-sections as the troops could not spread out, nor could movement be easily co-ordinated. Covered by Bren guns, two or three men would rush a house, kick in the door and lob grenades.

The Canadians became adept at "mouse-holing," moving under cover from house to house by blasting through the walls. A section might storm its way into a house at the end of a block, clear it to the top, then blow a way through at roof-level into the adjoining house, which it would clear to the bottom. The Germans placed demolition charges beneath the houses in the line of advance, firing them as the Canadians moved in. A platoon of Edmontons was wiped out this way with the exception of a corporal who was pulled out of the ruins after being buried for three days.

A soldier described the battle as "an intimate affair." "You tried a little game," he said. "If it succeeded, your opposite number was dead; if it failed you were dead."

Some companies were soon reduced to a third of their strength as the battle raged through Christmas week. "Four more killing days to Christmas," the troops joked sardonically. "Three more killing days ...."

Christmas Day dawned overcast and cold and the fighting went on. But for the Seaforths there was a brief respite in the ruins of the Church of Santa Maria di Constantinopoli, a Christmas miracle of sorts produced by the regimental quartermaster. Seaforth padre Roy Durnford describes the scene:

"Preparations for Christmas dinner were well advanced when I arrived ... The companies came in rotation ... The men looked tired and drawn, as well they might, and most of those who came directly from the town were dirty and unshaven. 'Well,' I said, 'at last I've got you all in church.' The floor had been cleared and tables set up, and it was a heart-warming sight to see the white table cloths and the chinaware which some of the boys had scrounged from houses we had occupied, and the beer, cigarettes, chocolate bars, nuts, oranges and apples laid out as extras. For the dinner itself, there was soup to start, then roast pork with apple sauce, cauliflower and mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy. Christmas pudding and mince pies for dessert ... Plates were heaped high, as much as any man could eat.

"So the tables filled and emptied and were filled again all day ... What a concert of noise it was! As the sense of relief took hold, the talk became louder, and shouted greetings and jokes were exchanged from one table to another. Up behind the altar, in a ruin of church furnishings, the company cookers hissed and sizzled, and the plates clattered as they were cleared from the tables and piled high on the altar itself ... In one corner, the battle still being in progress, the signal bell would ring urgently and there would be shouted snatches of conversations on the radio sets. Above the din one could hear the chatter of machine-gun fire and the whistling crump of shells landing not far from the church. And through it all the visitors came and went ..."

At each sitting, Padre Durnford held a service with a few short prayers and carol singing. "I have talked with many men in the course of the day, most of them, I'm sure, fearful of what lies ahead, but they are fine men and I know they will give the best that is in them," he said. "My heart grieved to see them turn their faces again to the battle."

Across town, the Germans sheltered in a railway tunnel and sang Silent Night around a Christmas tree decorated with candles.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cpl. Steve Martin is shown in a Canadian military handout photo. Cpl. Martin, 24, from 3rd Battalion Royal 22e Regiment, was killed by an improvised explosive device, or IED, while on foot patrol in Afghanistan, early Saturday afternoon, Dec.18, 2010.

CFB TRENTON, ONT.—The remains of a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan just before his 25th birthday will be brought back home Tuesday.

Cpl. Steve Martin, from 3rd Battalion Royal 22e Regiment, was killed by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol Saturday.

He was going to turn 25 Monday.

Martin arrived for his second tour shortly after burying his grandfather in his hometown of Saint-Cyrille-de-Wendover, about 115 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

Fellow Canadian soldiers bid him farewell Sunday at a ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield and the military plane carrying his casket is set to return to Canada on Tuesday.

Dignitaries such as Governor General David Johnston and Defence Minister Peter MacKay are set to attend a repatriation ceremony at 2 p.m. at CFB Trenton in eastern Ontario.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vets lose tiger in their corner


Last Updated: August 17, 2010 7:22pm

They appointed him as the first veterans’ ombudsman on Remembrance Day 2007, and they’re firing him on Remembrance Day 2010.

“They” is the Harper government, and the ombudsman whose appointment is not being renewed is retired Colonel Pat Stogran, who commanded the first Battle Group (Princess Pats) to serve in Kandahar in 2002.

So why is this exemplary soldier being bounced, whose dedication to the troops is unquestioned? Good question. The answer: Because he took his terms of reference seriously and fought hard and loudly on behalf of veterans.

When the government announced the role in 2007, it said the ombudsman was to be “an impartial, arms-length and independent officer with the responsibility to assist veterans to pursue their concerns and advance their interests.” Pat Stogran seemed a perfect fit. A field commander, somewhat outspoken, he is on record as observing that government tends to regard wounded veterans as accident victims, which is a cop-out and justification for doing little.

As the watchdog on behalf of veterans he’s been relentless, ruffling the feathers of some by his concern for vets who fall through the cracks, are homeless, whose nature is not to complain, but who may be casualties from their service.

Those wounded in war, be it from physical or mental injuries, are special because they were damaged in the name of the country, and their country (or those who run the country) have an obligation to honour their future well-being.

Authorizing a lump sum payment to wounded vets in Afghanistan of some $250,000 instead of long-term pensions, seems more cop-out by government than a gesture of gratitude.

It’s seen as an abdication of future responsibilities, while supposedly compensating veterans for whatever disabilities they have sustained. In other words, they are on their own. That’s a continuing issue of contention in Canada.

If not, it should be. It worries Stogran.

As a battalion field commander, Stogran had a “warrior” mentality that dictated he look after his men, and do what he could on their behalf. With the Princess Patricias in Afghanistan, he won the regiment the respect of American allies, and Canada an esteem that was often missing during the dog-years of passive peacekeeping.

Our efforts in Afghanistan have vaulted Canada back into the ranks of consequence. Canada and its soldiers are taken seriously. But the government seems to be backing off — and the reluctance of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) to renew Stogran’s mandate as ombudsman, seems symptomatic of the Canada’s shift away from the military, and Afghanistan.

Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn is hardly a tiger on behalf of vets and is unlikely to defy DND or the PM if they want a noisy advocate like Stogran sidelined and silenced.

If Blackburn were to protest the replacing of Stogran in a manner similar to his protestations when airport security confiscates a bottle of his tequila, perhaps the vets could be assured or a spokesman on their behalf.

To his credit, Stogran is more soldier than politician. A battalion commander is, arguably, the highest rank that thoroughly understands the rank and file.

General officers tend to be more political, with one eye ever-open for promotion. Battalion commanders deal directly with soldiers and the enemy.

Canadian Press says news of Stogran’s dismissal “went off like a bombshell” among veterans. It’s true. Veterans can read the signs and feel how the political wind is blowing. In Ottawa these days, it’s about saving money.

Rudyard Kipling said it best: “It’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the Brute!’/ But it’s ‘Saviour of ’is country’ when the guns begin to shoot.” The shooting hasn’t stopped: They got Pat Stogran – and all veterans.

Monday, August 16, 2010

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Villagers in a key rural district near Kandahar City are "fed up with conflict" and with what they perceive is a standoff between Canadian forces and the Taliban, says Canada's top military commander in Kandahar.

In an exclusive one-on-one interview with Postmedia News, Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance said people in Panjwaii district feel "despondent" over what seems "like a tie every day" between a despotic insurgency and Canadian troops promising to help deliver freedom, resources and good governance.

Keeping to those commitments has been a challenge, acknowledged Vance, commander of Task Force Kandahar.

"We need more forces to hold effectively what we've got," he said, adding that "more are coming" in the weeks ahead. It has been reported that operations in Panjwaii could intensify in September, after the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan.

The Canadian military's focus has already shifted from central and western Panjwaii — where its troops were pulled from hard-won territory last year — to the eastern part of the district that's closer to Kandahar City and to Kandahar Airfield (KAF), the largest ISAF base in southern Afghanistan.

Giving a candid assessment of present conditions in eastern Panjwaii, Vance described an atypical battlescape. He discussed at length a village of 3,000 called Nakhonay, just 15 kilometres west of KAF.

"There are Taliban sympathizers and Taliban in town. We're in town. The Afghan army is in town, the police are in town. So we're all there together, and it's at that point where it feels the worst."

Nakhonay's population is "fed up with conflict," he added. "It doesn't necessarily have any intrinsic trust in government because it hasn't felt government in a very, very long time. Neither good nor malign, (government has) just been absent."

The situation is at a tipping point, he suggested. About 70 per cent of the village has recently been cleared of insurgents. People are now inviting Canadian soldiers into their homes for tea, he said.

What's more, "the lens of the international community is focused a little more tightly on Kandahar than it ever has been," something he finds "gratifying." He gave as an example a recent biannual United Nations report on civilian casualties. It described in stark terms specific atrocities by the Taliban in Kandahar province: an alarming increase in insurgent-directed assassinations and targeted killings, including murders inside mosques and executions of children.

"The insurgency is gradually, more and more, being seen for what it really is," said Vance. "I think people are seeing more clearly what we've known or perceived here for quite some time. Given an opportunity, the insurgency has demonstrated a willingness to kill what we would term as innocents. They don't perceive them as innocents. They perceive them as being on the other side."

According to the UN report, victims include children as young as seven, who are accused by the Taliban of spying and then hanged.

While public perception of Canada's task at hand is important, more vital are resources, especially boots on the ground.

The American troop surge into provincial districts formerly under Canadian command has allowed Vance to concentrate his troops in Panjwaii. Holding the easternmost part of the district must not fail, he said. If it does, the insurgents will be huge step closer to their biggest objective: taking Kandahar City.

"We're trying, we're getting there, the forces are flowing in and we're gradually moving," Vance said in the interview.

Nakhonay and other villages in eastern Panjwaii are just starting to benefit from a reworked ISAF and Afghan formula that's meant to bring security, governance and development to war-impacted communities. The same formula was used under Vance's direction last year in Dand district, which lies directly east of Panjwaii. It is sometimes called the "model village" approach.

Dand "was about to fall" to the Taliban last year, said Vance. Insurgents had toppled Dand's district centre, its point of local government.

Canadians and Afghan counterparts pushed in and began applying the reworked counter-insurgency formula. Security rings went up around villages and population clusters, and infrastructure was rebuilt to facilitate better economic development and governance. Dand's district centre is being restored, with funding from Canada and guidance from Canadian military engineers, and a courthouse has just been built inside the district centre compound.

"They're actually dealing with the finer points of political assembly in Dand right now," said Vance.

Returning civil discourse and stability to Panjwaii remains a bigger challenge.

The district has been central to Canada's military mission in Kandahar since it began. Canadian soldiers prepared for and led Operation Medusa in September 2006, in the district's middle. Medusa was the Canadian military's largest combat operation since the Korean War. During the two-week offensive, 12 Canadians were killed. There were hundreds of Taliban casualties, and their leadership was either killed or left the immediate area.

Canadian and Afghan national security forces then pushed further west in the months that followed, into the so-called Horn of Panjwaii, an insurgency hotbed. But they weren't able to hold the area. In 2008 and 2009, three Canadian-built patrol bases — they were also called strong points and police substations — were dismantled in the Horn of Panjwaii and troops were drawn back.

The area reverted to Taliban control. It remains in their hands. If there is a plan to return to the area, Vance did not mention of it.

"We didn't have enough resources" in western Panjwaii, he explained. The Canadian presence was "too risky. No use. No value. An island of ANSF and ISAF that had a 300-metre patrolling radius, and every time we did one of these river run convoys we risked losses. For what? Nothing."

"It wasn't a very practical military thing to be doing either," he added. "Where you purport to put security in place, if it's so porous that the population has no confidence in you, or in fact you're experiencing that daily tie in the backyards, then you're not seeing it happen . . . you don't put a little pocket of nothing out there. (So) we pulled back."

Canadian military posts in the central part of the district have held but the Taliban are in close proximity; they continue to have success planting IEDs around these small bases, making troop movement dangerous, especially on the ground. Even air transport can be interrupted; last week, a Canadian Chinook helicopter was brought down by small arms fire less than two kilometres from Bazaar y Panjwaii, a village nestled beside a well-established Canadian forward operating base.

The focus is now several kilometres east, and on communities such as Nakhonay. Canadian soldiers arrived in force there last year. The immediate area is now dotted with small Canadian patrol bases. While these are closer to Kandahar Airfield than other Panjwaii installations, the environment is still thick with insurgents.

Securing the area remains a struggle.

"It's not open warfare," said Vance, "but in the last couple weeks we've reinforced, because we're having a real challenge with our own force protection."

The situation is improving. Vance was in the village earlier this week, and said he noticed some "unclenching."

"It's nothing big, but I've got to tell you, I walked into the town, and election posters are up in the town for the parliamentary elections coming up in September. There's actually a couple of posters up, of candidates."

Campaigning didn't happen in Nakhonay during last year's presidential election, he noted. The village was the seat of the Taliban's "shadow" government that issued directives for the province.

"I'm not trying to make more of it than it is," said Vance, "but (the election posters are) indicative of the population's desire. They want security. And they'd rather there not be a tie in their backyard."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Canadian soldier, Sapper Brian Collier, was killed by a bomb in Afghanistan today.

Collier was killed while on a foot patrol in the village of Nakhonay, in the eastern part of Panjwaii District.

He had dismounted from his vehicle near Nakhonay, about 15 kilometres west of the city of Kandahar, when he was killed by the improvised explosive device.

Collier, 24, was born in Toronto and raised in Bradford, Ont. He was a member of the 1 Combat Engineer Regiment based at CFB Edmonton and was serving in Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment.

Collier, who was on his first deployment to Afghanistan, was previously injured in a separate IED blast.

"He fought hard to overcome his injury in order to get back to doing his job with his comrades," Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance, commander of Task Force Kandahar, said in a statement.

"Always quick to smile, Brian had an easygoing nature and a great sense of humour. Brian was an enthusiast of fine automobiles, and loved to spend time with his Audi," Vance said.

"Any Canadian who could have seen Brian in action would have been proud of him and proud of our country for the work being done with and for Afghans."

In another statement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper commended Collier's service, and extended condolences to the soldier's family and friends.

"The bravery and remarkable commitment of Canadians like Sapper Collier are bringing safety and stability to the people of Afghanistan," Harper said.

"Every day, their dedication and work protect our interests and values here at home and around the world. Sapper Collier's sacrifice will not be forgotten."

Collier's is the first Canadian death in Afghanistan since June 26, when Master Cpl. Kristal Giesebrecht, 34, and Pte. Andrew Miller, 21, died after the vehicle they were in was struck by an IED.

The latest death brings to 151 the total number of Canadian soldiers who have died as part of the Afghan mission since it began in 2002.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The honour of Capt. Semrau

Lorne Gunter July 9, 2010 – 7:49 am

Canada doesn’t send monsters into combat. Our soldiers are not bloodthirsty killers eager to “off” as many enemy as possible. They are as intelligent, thoroughly trained and compassionate as any soldiers in the world.

We should be proud of men such as Capt. Robert Semrau — even if it is true, as prosecutors allege, that he killed a fatally wounded Taliban captive on the battlefield to put the man out of his misery.

Were any of us in his boots?

In October 2008, Capt. Semrau had just finished leading men — successfully — through a lengthy ambush in Helmand province, which was at the time the most violent province in Afghanistan. His unit consisted of a handful of Canadians and several Afghan National Army officers and soldiers.

After a brief firefight, a U.S. Army Apache helicopter was called in to clear the Taliban out of the area Capt. Semrau’s troops were patrolling. The gunship blasted an insurgent out of a tree. An Apache fires rounds the size of a man’s thumb, several of which ripped through the enemy combatant, cutting off both his legs. According to eyewitness reports, the man had lost a lot of blood. One Afghan said “there was no blood in his body.”

There was no chance of saving the man, even if a medevac flight could have been arranged to airlift him to a field hospital. In any case, with the ongoing battle, there was no chance a medic and helicopter could reach the site. A man in Capt. Semrau’s position, then, had two options: Leave the man behind in agony or put him out of his misery and move his men along to safety as quickly as possible.

He was responsible for his men’s lives. He was anxious to get them out of harm’s way. Even if he shot the Taliban soldiers — which has not been proven in court — he didn’t snap and perform the action out of spite or revenge.

Would it have been better if he had used the situation as a teaching moment for the benefit of the Afghan soldiers who accompanied him? Sure. According to reports, they were hitting and spitting on the wounded Taliban fighter. They should know not to abuse their prisoners, no matter how detestable their actions. But such lectures are not a realistic option in the heat of battle.

Still, Capt. Semrau is on trial. A four-officer panel will now decide his guilt or innocence. If they find him guilty, he could face a life sentence for murder.

Let’s just hope and pray his judges act honourably — as honourably as Semrau did, even if it is the case that the charges against him are proven in court.

National Post

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The bodies of Canada's latest fallen soldiers in Afghanistan are expected to return home Tuesday afternoon.

Master Cpl. Kristal Giesebrecht, 34, and Pte. Andrew Miller, 21, were killed Saturday when their armoured vehicle was struck by an improved explosive device in Afghanistan's Panjwaii District, about 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City.

The two medics from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa - about 160 kilometres northwest of Ottawa - are the 149th and 150th Canadian soldiers to be killed in Afghanistan since Canada entered combat there in 2002. They were the sixth and seventh medics to die in Afghanistan and the 11th and 12th Canadians to die there in 2010.

Giesebrecht, who was married and leaves behind a stepson, is the third female soldier to die while deployed for Canada in the war-torn nation. She was serving her second tour in Afghanistan.

Miller, who was from Sudbury, Ont., was with 2 Field Ambulance, while Giesebrecht - who called Wallaceburg, Ont., home - was from 1 Canadian Field Hospital. Both units were based in Petawawa.

He is survived by his mother, Wendy Miller, his father, Raymond Ealdama, two sisters, a brother and his girlfriend, Staci Jessup - "his soulmate."

In a statement released Monday, Miller's family said he was "proudly following in his father's footsteps, initially into the military and then by deploying to Afghanistan."

Miller's father, a member of the Greater Sudbury Police Service, served in Afghanistan in 2008 as part of the Canadian Civilian Police training contingent in Kandahar City.

"Andrew believed strongly in the mission and went to Afghanistan knowing he was making a difference for the Afghan people," the statement said. "Andrew loved his job and died upholding his beliefs and values in the service of his country."

Another Canadian soldier was injured in the blast, but was listed in stable condition.

At the time the soldiers were killed, Giesebrecht, Miller and other Canadian troops were responding to a call for help from an Afghan family whose doorway had been rigged by the Taliban with an improvised explosive device.

The repatriation ceremony is scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.

In addition to the families of the two fallen soldiers, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk are also expected to attend.

© Copyright (c) CW Media Inc.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sgt. James Macneil of Glace Bay, N.S., was killed Monday, July 21, 2010 while on a foot patrol in Nakhoney, 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar.

Macneil was a combat engineer with 2 Combat Engineer Regiment of Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ont. A 10-year army veteran, the 28-year-old Cape Bretoner was two months into his fourth tour in Afghanistan.

The sapper, who was known to his comrades and friends as "Jimmy," was patrolling with other members of the Royal Canadian Regiment battle group in Panjwaii District, when he was killed by an improvised explosive device -- a homemade landmine.

He is the 148th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan since 2002.

"Insurgent forces use improvised explosive devices to instil fear in the local population and restrict the efforts of those attempting to aid and protect that population," Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance said in announcing Macneil's death near a memorial honouring all those Canadians who have fallen in Afghanistan.

Eight other NATO soldiers were killed in militant attacks and a helicopter crash on Monday, the second deadliest day this year.

Three Australian commandos and a U.S. soldier were killed when their helicopter crashed in southern Kandahar province -- the single worst loss of life for the Australian military in the nearly nine-year Afghan war. It was not known if it was due to hostile fire.

Another U.S. soldier died in an explosion elsewhere in the south, the power base of the Taliban militia that is fighting an increasingly deadly insurgency against Western troops.

Three more American soldiers were killed in other militant attacks, a NATO spokesman said.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN – Sgt. Martin Goudreault was looking for a stockpile of insurgent weapons shortly after dawn yesterday when a makeshift bomb detonated, killing him.

On his third tour of Afghanistan, Goudreault would have been more aware than most of the dangers leading such a patrol.

But he wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“Sgt. Goudreault died what he loved doing best: leading his section from the front,” Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance, the commander of Task Force Kandahar, told a news conference Monday at Kandahar Airfield.

“If your way of life was in peril, you would want someone like Sgt. Martin Goudreault to show up and offer to help.”

The 35-year-old Goudreault died Sunday after an improvised explosive device went off at 6:30 a.m. near the village of Nakhonay in the Panjwaii district, about 15 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city.

“Insurgents hide their weapons and IEDs amongst the civilian population and soldiers like Martin, both Canadian and Afghan, are working each and every day to find and eliminate these weapons caches,” Vance said.

The native of Sudbury, Ont., known as “Marty” to his friends, was a 15-year veteran of the Canadian Forces and on his fifth overseas deployment when he died. Deployed about a month ago, he was a member of 1 Combat Engineer Regiment based at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton, serving with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group.

“Recognized early in his career for his leadership, Sgt. Goudreault was a model soldier, someone the soldiers in his section could look up to and emulate,” Vance said.

“His subordinates and superiors alike will remember him as a tireless leader who was passionate about his work.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his condolences to Goudreault’s family and friends.

“The lives of the Afghan people are better due to the efforts of Canadians like Sgt. Goudreault who provide security and stability,” Harper said in a statement.

“These are the cornerstones that will allow the country to rebuild and grow into the future.”

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Goudreault’s death was another example of the daily risks faced by the men and women of the Canadian Forces.

“Sgt. Martin Goudreault’s sacrifice will not be forgotten and it will not deter us from continuing to help Afghans rebuild their country,” he said in a statement.

The latest death brings to 147 the number of Canadian military personnel who have died since the Afghan mission began in 2002.

It comes less than two weeks after Trooper Larry Rudd of Brantford, Ont., was killed by an IED, also in the Panjwaii district.

Known as the birthplace of the Taliban, the district has been a bloody battleground for Canadian troops since they arrived in Kandahar province in strength four years ago.

Dozens of Canadians have been injured or killed in the restive region, and while villages and towns have been repeatedly cleared, the Taliban has quietly reasserted itself in parts of the area.

IEDs have been the single biggest cause of death among Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

Seven out of nine Canadian deaths this year were the result of an IED blast. In all, 88 of the 147 Canadian fatalities in the eight-year-old Afghan mission came about from IEDs — roadside bombs or some other type of explosive, according to the Department of Defence.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trooper Larry Rudd is the latest Canadian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan.

Rudd, 26, died yesterday while on a resupply patrol to deliver supplies and equipment to Canadian soldiers near the village of Salavat, about 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City. He was killed by an improvised explosive device.

A native of Brantford, Ont., Rudd was with the Royal Canadian Dragoons based at CFB Petawawa in Ontario.

Rudd was "a go-to soldier who always put the needs of his family, friends and fellow soldiers before his own," said Col. Simon Hetherington, Deputy Commander of Task Force Kandahar.

Rudd never complained, regardless of the hardships he and his crew endured, and was mature well beyond his rank and experience, demonstrating enormous potential, Hetherington added.

"He was dynamic and motivated; generous and outgoing," Hetherington said. "And despite his intimidating size, he was considered the Gentle Giant within his squadron, within the armoured corps and certainly within his regiment."

He is the 146th member of the Canadian Forces to die in Afghanistan since the current mission began in 2002.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

CFB TRENTON, Ont. - As the C17 Globemaster military aircraft carrying the body of Col. Geoff Parker drew closer on the tarmac, tears flowed down the cheeks of some of the hundreds of onlookers as they pressed up against the fence of the air base to catch a glimpse.

Upon arrival, Parker's wife walked to the hearse with her son and daughter, and placed a tall can of Heineken on her fallen husband's flag-draped casket. The three then said goodbye to the 42-year-old father and husband with a military salute.

Parker, a member of the Royal Canadian Regiment, was killed Tuesday when a massive car bomb hit his convoy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Canadian military officials said the battalion commander was in Kabul to interact with international organizations, in an effort to prepare his team for their upcoming mission.

Five American soldiers and 12 Afghan civilians were also killed in the explosion.

Parker is the seventh Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan this year and the 145th since the mission started eight years ago. He is also the most senior NATO soldier to die in the conflict.

Among the approximately 300 people who gathered along the fence to witness the repatriation ceremony was Ian Stock, who served with Parker several years ago.

The pair met in 1995, when Parker was a regular support staff officer with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment in Belleville, Ont.

Stock said the Oakville native, showcased signs of an "excellent officer" throughout all their encounters.

The two men met again a couple of years later when they served in Bosnia.

"Even though I wasn't a close friend, to hear of rising star passing, it just hits everybody," he said. "Close friends or not, we are all a brotherhood."

Five members of the U.S. Army's Fort Drum base in New York State attended the repatriation ceremony to show their support. The Fort Drum's unit lost two of their soldiers during the attack.

Parker was posted to the military's headquarters at Downsview. This fall, he was expected to take up a posting with NATO's Regional Command South.

- With files from Jerome Lessard

Friday, May 14, 2010

Canadian Soldier Killed near Kandahar City

A Canadian soldier who was two days away from finishing his tour in Afghanistan has been killed by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol southwest of Kandahar city.

Pte. Kevin McKay, 24, was born in Richmond Hill, Ont. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton.

McKay was killed around 8 p.m. local time Thursday while on patrol near the village of Nakhonay in the Panjwai District, about 15 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city, military officials said.

Until recently, Taliban insurgents walked the streets in the community openly and armed, CBC journalist Darrow MacIntyre reported. But over the past several months, Canadian soldiers — including McKay — have established a strong presence in the area, driving most of the Taliban out of the area.

Despite the progress, the area is riddled with roadside bombs, and Canadian soldiers find them on an almost daily basis, MacIntyre said.

"His platoon brothers and friends will remember Kevin, better known as Mickey to his buddies, as a dependable and generous man with a quick wit and great sense of humour, which was exemplified by his awesome moustache," said Col. Simon Hetherington, deputy commander of Task Force Kandahar.

"He was a highly skilled soldier who loved his job and whose positive outlook spread to all those around him."

McKay's death brings to 144 the number of Canadian Forces members who have died in the Afghan mission since it began in 2002.

In a statement issued Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said McKay served the country valiantly, and "deserves the gratitude and respect of his nation.”

"There are risks to our mission, but the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces are showing leadership, alongside our international partners, in standing up for something that is just: helping the Afghan people achieve peace and stability and rebuild their country and its institutions," Harper said.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Saluting Our Warriors

Yesterday marked another painful day for Canadians as the body of Petty Officer 2nd Class Craig Blake returned home to Canada.

The 37-year-old father of two is the 143rd member of the Canadian Forces to die during the Afghanistan mission, but the numbers don’t diminish the sadness of this solemn event, or the sympathy we feel for Blake’s grief-stricken family.

Blake was the first Canadian sailor killed in Afghanistan, which lent an element of mourning to ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of Canada’s navy on Tuesday.

The centennial, plus the throngs who turned out in Holland Wednesday to honour and remember the Canadians who liberated their country from the Nazis in 1945, remind us of our nation’s proud history of stepping into the breach when the need arises.

Tomorrow, Saturday May 8, 2010 marks the celebration of VE-Day and 65 years after the end of the Second World War, our men and women in the Armed Forces are still putting their lives at risk for the cause of freedom.

The gratitude expressed by the Dutch people, who were starving and desperate when the Canadians marched in to save the day, is heartwarming.

That conflict, a clearly delineated fight between good and evil, stands in vivid contrast to the more nuanced battle our troops confront in Afghanistan.

Government corruption and a culture of religious oppression and gender discrimination pose a daunting challenge for our soldiers in their quest to bring peace and freedom to the people of that country.

These complexities make it difficult for some Canadians to lend their unwavering support to this mission.

They should try to imagine the plight of innocent Afghans and the impact to reconstruction efforts without the presence of our soldiers — who refuse to abandon the country to chaos and tyranny.

The death of Petty Officer Blake is a reminder of the price paid in blood and tears for this tenaciousness.

Questions may linger in the minds of Canadians about the complicated quest to bring peace to Afghanistan, but the dedication and sacrifice of those who serve there is unassailable.

Through our anguish and frustration, we must never lose sight of that.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Canadian sailor killed in Afghan bomb blast

Petty Officer Second Class Douglas Craig Blake, 37, was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated. He was on foot around 4:30 p.m. Monday May, 3, 2010 near the Sperwan Ghar base in Panjwaii district.
Photograph by: Handout, Canadian Forces

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — A member of the Canadian Forces has died in a Taliban bomb blast next to Canada's front-line base, bringing to 143 the number of Canadian troops killed in the Afghan war.

Petty Officer Second Class Craig Blake was on foot around 4:30 p.m. Monday near the Sperwan Ghar base in Panjwaii district when an improvised explosive device detonated.

Blake, 37, of Simcoe, Ont., was an explosives-disposal operator, tasked with defusing IEDs. "At the time of his death, he and his team were returning to camp after a successful IED disposal near the village of Paye-e-Maluk," Canadian Forces Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard said Tuesday.

A competing triathlete and peewee hockey coach, Blake was a married father of two. "Craig was a family man who was often heard telling glowing, heartfelt stories about his wife and two sons," Menard said.

Blake arrived in Afghanistan last month for his first tour of duty in the country.

Though Blake was a navy "clearance diver" serving with the Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic in Halifax, "he effortlessly adapted to the rigours of land operations," Menard said, adding that Blake was "incredibly fit, with a backbone of steel."

Blake's fellow troops dubbed him "The Poker Pirate" for his skill in card games, Menard said.

Paye-e-Maluk's compounds begin within 200 metres to the west of the Sperwan Ghar base, 25 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City. Canadian soldiers patrol through the village regularly. Just over a week ago, a group of insurgents was spotted at night laying wire to plant an IED under the road that passes Paye-e-Maluk and leads to Sperwan Ghar, but were interrupted by a salvo of Canadian cannon fire from an armoured vehicle atop the Sperwan Ghar hill. No killed or wounded Taliban were found at the scene. On Thursday, Canadian soldiers and Afghan troops searching compounds in Paye-e-Maluk found a bloody makeshift stretcher.

Insurgents in the area place IEDs that can be triggered by remote control or by the pressure of a footstep or vehicle. Taliban are also increasingly using "directional" IEDs that blast shrapnel out of a concealed spent cannon shell or length of pipe. The Canadian military has not revealed which type of IED killed Blake.

The Canadian Forces did not report whether any soldiers were injured in the explosion that took Blake's life, as per a recently imposed policy of refusing to make public any information about wounded soldiers except in an annual report.

Eighty-seven of the Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan were killed by IEDs.

Most recently, Pte. Tyler William Todd, 26, died April 11 from an IED blast while on foot patrol near the village of Belanday in Dand district near the border with Panjwaii.

Tuesday morning, Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean said the death was tragic news for Canadians.

"Petty Officer Second Class Blake, like all of his comrades deployed to Afghanistan, demonstrated extraordinary commitment in providing assistance to the Afghan people and helping in the reconstruction of this devastated country. He offered the best of himself and we salute his tremendous courage, his generous spirit and his commitment to excellence in the line of duty.

"Our thoughts are with his mourning parents, his fellow sailors and his friends. We can only imagine their great suffering and grief. On behalf of all Canadians, we offer them our sincerest condolences," the Governor General said in a news release.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: "Petty Officer Blake was a brave Canadian who made the ultimate sacrifice while proudly serving his country. Thanks to Canadian Forces members like Petty Officer Blake, we are making progress in Afghanistan in creating a better future for the Afghan people. On behalf of the Canadian people, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his family and friends during this difficult time.

"This is a loss for Canada and the Canadian Forces — but it was not in vain. With the help of the international community, Afghans are rebuilding their communities and improving their lives," Harper said in a news release.

"Let us never forget Petty Officer Blake, who died trying to make life better for others."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Another Canadian Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- One Canadian soldier was killed and another injured when a blast from an improvised explosive device hit their foot patrol this morning southwest of Kandahar City.

Pte. Tyler William Todd, 26, a member of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, 1st Battalion, was the 142nd Canadian soldier to die in the Afghan war. He was killed in an area considered vital terrain for NATO's upcoming Kandahar province offensive.

"Tyler was a practical joker: he would often hide rocks and candies in other soldiers' bed spaces," said Canadian Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard. "He never allowed the small things to get to him and was often the rock that other soldiers could depend on. He was a dedicated soldier and excelled in all the positions in which he was employed. His enthusiasm and strong will were inspirational to the platoon."

The injured soldier was taken for medical assistance, but was reportedly conscious and talking after the explosion.

The blast occurred around 7:30 a.m. local time, within what the Canadian Forces consider to be the "ring of stability" around Kandahar City, a densely populated area where Canada is focused on solidifying NATO and Afghan-government control.

Patrols such as Sunday's are part of Canada's effort to prepare for NATO's major Kandahar summer offensive by identifying threats and local needs while putting forward an Afghan-led NATO presence.

NATO's counter-insurgency strategy for southern Afghanistan relies on such tactics to try to counter Taliban influence, and they are intended to reduce the need for fighting during the offensive.

Pte. Todd, born in Kitchener, Ont., and posted in Edmonton, was killed near the village of Belanday, eight kilometres southwest of Kandahar City in Dand district

"The patrol was part of the battle group's effort to learn more about the people of the village and their needs," Brig.-Gen. Menard said.

News of the soldier's death shook those who knew him from his time in Alberta.

"He was a very focused and strong young man who wanted to serve his country," said a tearful Marlene Peters, a relative in Calgary who hosted the young soldier during his summer training stint in Edmonton.

"We were just so proud of him."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences to family and friends of the dead soldier while expressing hopes for a quick and full recovery for the injured Canadian.

"Canada is grateful for Private Tyler William Todd's sacrifice. We are all saddened by this loss," Mr. Harper said. "The courage demonstrated by the Canadian Forces in this mission speaks to their dedication of creating a better future for the Afghan people. Canada's commitment to this goal is not diminished by this incident."

In a statement, Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean offered the family "our most sincere condolences and deepest sympathy" noting the death "occurred just days after a national commemorative ceremony to mark ‘The End of an Era,' during which thousands of Canadians honoured the brave contribution veterans made during the First World War."

Dand district, where the Canadian "model village" of Deh-e-Bagh is located, had been considered relatively safe until four Canadian soldiers and a Calgary Herald journalist working for Canwest News Service were killed by a road bomb there in December. Pte. Todd died very close to the border with Panjwaii district, where many Canadian soldiers have died.

Canadian Lt.-Col. Simon Bernard nine days ago described areas such as Belanday as "key terrain" for the early stages of the offensive, planned to be NATO's largest-ever in Afghanistan.

Pte. Todd's death came 22 days after Cpl. Darren Fitzpatrick, 21, succumbed to wounds suffered on a March 6 foot patrol hit by an improvised explosive device.

Such homemade bombs -- usually booby-trapped munitions or plastic jugs full of fertilizer and diesel oil, have now killed 86 of the 142 Canadian soldiers lost in the war.

East of Kandahar City on Sunday, four people were killed when medics arrived at a site where a Demining Agency for Afghanistan van had been hit by an improvised explosive device, and another IED went off. Mirwais Hospital in the city received 16 wounded, some of them in critical condition, a doctor said. The anti-mine team had been travelling to a mine-clearing site, said Zalmy Ayoubi, spokesman for Kandahar province Gov. Tooryalai Wesa.

In Kandahar City, additional U.S. civilian staff have been brought onto the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team to bolster co-operative work on governance and development in Kandahar province as Canada prepares for a military pullout in 2011, and the U.S. is sending thousands of additional troops to southern Afghanistan.

Canwest News Service

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Fallen soldiers' parents call for troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2011

Ethan Baron, Canwest News Service

Published: Saturday, April 03, 2010

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - After an emotional Easter-weekend ceremony to honour nine Canadian soldiers who have fallen in recent years, parents of dead sons called for Canada's troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2011.

While military brass continue to assert Canada's mission has made significant headway toward stabilizing Afghanistan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeated as recently as Tuesday that all Canadian troops will leave the war-torn country by the end of next year, to be replaced by diplomatic and aid workers.

"Mr. Harper, you've still got to have security," said Myles Kennedy, whose son, Pte. Kevin Kennedy, was killed on Easter Sunday in 2007.

Withdrawing all the soldiers would "send the wrong message to the world," said Mr. Kennedy, a high-school teacher in northern British Columbia who came to Afghanistan with his wife, Kay, and attended Saturday's ceremony.

"If you look at our history, we always went in with strong moral causes, and we went in to do a job," Mr. Kennedy said.

"Our job will not be complete if [Harper] pulls out the whole group. We have to maintain some type of military presence for security, and . . . to let the world know that we haven't really abandoned this mission."

Other parents among the 18 family members flown here for the ceremony expressed similar views on the withdrawal.

Theresa Charbonneau, whose son, Cpl. Andrew Grenon, died in September 2008, said she wants Canadian troops to stay in Afghanistan to fight the global terrorist threat. Grenon had written a poem that ended with the words, "I fight so my children won't have to," she said.

"One hundred forty-one Canadian lives have been lost. The journalist has been lost. The diplomat has been lost. I don't want their deaths to be in vain," she said. "I don't want to see (Afghanistan) collapse. If by staying longer we can help that not happen . . . I would like to see that."

The parents' statements followed a 45-minute tribute to Grenon, Kennedy, Cpl. Stephen Bouzane, Cpl. Mark McLaren, Sgt. Gregory Kruse, Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli, Sgt. Vaughan Ingram, Cpl. David Braun and Cpl. Aaron Williams.

"It is easy to use words like service and sacrifice," Canadian Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard, commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, said to the family members seated facing the cenotaph outside the Task Force Kandahar headquarters. "As you know, it is quite another thing to live and breathe those words every day.

"Every time we step out on patrol, we know that each and every name on this monument is watching over us. I would like to highlight the effect that your presence has on the men and women in theatre. Your presence gives comfort to them, just as I hope that your time here will give you some comfort as well."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

German Troops in Firefight

This is the first incident I've heard of German troops actually shooting back at the insurgents. Previously the caveats in their ROE required them to get higher command approval to even load their weapons while under fire from enemy combatants.

March 28, 2010

German troops exchange fire with insurgents during a patrol in Kunduz Province.The International Security Assistance Force(ISAF) is a NATO-led, 44-nation military coalition with Germany securing an...
German troops exchange fire with insurgents during a patrol in Kunduz Province.The International Security Assistance Force(ISAF) is a NATO-led, 44-nation military coalition with Germany securing and pushing forward reconstruction in the northern part of the country. (Courtesy German Ministry of Defence)

Friday, March 26, 2010

82nd Airborne and The ANA

March 10, 2010

Story about how coalition forces are learning about their Afghan counterparts while living and working with Afghan security forces in the Herat province of Afghanistan and first-person live footage of a convoy of scouts being hit by an improvised explosive device roadside bomb. Provided by American Forces Network Afghanistan.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Marines! Ya Gotta Love 'em

Corporal Charly Mabry USMC (otherwise known as the 'Strawberry Bars and Bullets"guy) made this video and wrote the following words:

"Not your normal "Mot Video" but this video will make you think twice about the men and women in the Marine Corps. Against GySgt Wallgreens request I recorded his speach in secret..... the result is this awesome video with the last words we heard before boarding helos and heading into the heart of Marjeh. Have you ever wondered how Marines get pumped up? This video will show you how true leaders inspire their Marines to do the unthinkable."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Eight Imperatives of COIN

March 11, 2010

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, and the "8 Imperatives of COIN". Part 1 of 8. The other 7 parts are below. I sure would like to know who is in the room for this lecture. I get the impression that even though General McChrystal has established a school in Kabul for commanders to learn these 8 imepratives that they are not putting them in practice. The force that is practising COIN well is the Marines as witnessed in Marjah.

I had a problem with this first part stopping at the 1.54 minute mark which I hope doesn't happen here. If it does all the other parts work and should give anyone who doesn't understand COIN a good lesson in it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Farah Village Gets Electricity

March 08, 2010
The village of Kadanak receives electricity as part of a broader effort to provide security and stability and create the conditions for reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. Produced by Tech. Sgt. Elicia Summerville for American Forces Network Afghanistan.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Afghanistan Roundtable

March 09, 2010

General Stanley McChrystal, International Security Assistance Force commander, and Ambassador Mark Sedwill, NATO Senior Civilian Representative, spoke with reporters Mar. 8 at ISAF headquarters. Gen. McChrystal and Ambassador Sedwill discuss Operation Moshtarak as the effort enters a new phase. Part 1 of 6

(I apologize for cutting General McChrystal in half. That's just the way it turned out.)The remaining 5 parts are below.

Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Military

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is becoming a common wound of modern warfare. It has even been coined the “signature wound” of the War on Terror. While TBI is becoming more prevalent in wartime activity, many service men and women continue to go undiagnosed. Institutions, like Veteran's Affairs Canada and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, are working to make quick and accurate diagnoses in order to prescribe appropriate and effective treatment.

TBI is caused by forced trauma to the head, either by being shaken or hit. The severity of a TBI varies from case to case, but symptoms range from mild concussions to a debilitating state. The majority of TBI’s acquired by military personnel are classified as mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI). Initial symptoms of MTBI consist of loss of consciousness, disorientation, loss of memory, headache, and temporary loss of hearing and vision. They are often partnered with anxiety, irritability, difficulties processing information, limited concentration amongst other problems experienced down the road. While MTBI is most common amongst the men and women of the armed forces, more severe cases of TBI are happening much more frequently and often require the victim to attended specialty rehabilitative nursing centers, like CareMeridian in the United States and support from organizations like Wounded Warriors in Canada .

The most common cause of a TBI in the military is due to blasts. There are three degrees of blast injuries where a TBI is common; Primary (due to blast itself), Secondary (due to objects being propelled by a blast) and Tertiary (due to a collision with a third party object). According to the Veterans Health Initiative, active male members of the military from the ages 18-24 are hospitalized with a TBI at a rate of 231 per 100,000 and females 150 per 100,000. Based on military force projections this would mean that 4,141 military personnel are hospitalized on average each year with a TBI, and these numbers often rise during wartimes.

The best prevention for veterans to avert the long-term effects of a brain injury is to recognize the symptoms of a TBI. Once the symptoms are identified an individual should take basic precautionary measures in order to begin the healing and recovery process until a more specific diagnosis can be made.

Service men and women give so much to protect this country and they deserve to come home to a happy and healthy life. Creating awareness about TBI will help ensure their long term health. By helping our veterans, their friends and their families recognize the early warning signs of a TBI, treatment can be sought as early as possible.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Afghan VP and Senior ISAF Officials Visit Marjah

The Afghan Second Vice President, Karim Khalili, visited the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah to meet local residents. The town formed the central point of Operation Moshtarak, launched over two weeks ago. It was the biggest operation, involving ISAF and Afghan forces, since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Also in attendance today were Helmand's Governor Mohammed Gulab Mangal, NATO's Senior Civilian Representative Ambassador Mark Sedwill and Commander of ISAF General Stanley McChrystal.

1st battalion 6th Marines in Marjeh Afghanistan

Video courtesy of Corporal Charly Mabry USMC

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Interview With General Stanley McChrystal

General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of NATO ISAF, talks about his assessment of the condition of Afghanistan. In three parts. The interviewer's voice is hard to hear in parts 2 and 3.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Greta Perry Reviews Severe Clear

“Severe Clear is raw, rough, real, informative and entertaining. These components combined to make for a successful military documentary.”
~Greta “Hooah Wife” Perry~

Read Greta's full review here

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Canada's Last WWI Vet Has Died

John “Jack” Babcock — a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather — died Thursday, February 18,2010 at his home in Spokane Washington, at the incredible age of 109.

The federal government has plans to “properly and respectfully” mark a milestone in history — the death of Canada’s last veteran of the Great War. Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn said Babcock’s passing marks “the sad turning of a page.”

“More than 650,000 brave Canadians and Newfoundlanders served our country in the First World War,” he said in a statement. “Now that their voices have fallen silent, it becomes our duty more than ever to remember them and honour their great sacrifices and their great achievements. We will never forget them.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that Babcock's death marked the end of an era.

"As a nation, we honour his service and mourn his passing," Harper said in a statement.

"His family mourns the passing of a great man. Canada mourns the passing of the generation that asserted our independence on the world stage and established our international reputation as an unwavering champion of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

The government offered the family a state funeral but they respectfully declined. A memorial service for Canada's last known First World War veteran is planned for next Saturday. Memorial services have been set for 2 p.m. Saturday Feb., 27 at Messiah Lutheran Church, Spokane, according to a notice in the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Babcock had a thick shock of white hair, a hearty laugh and steady hands well after he lived more than a century. He enjoyed daily outdoor strolls and reciting funny poems to his beloved wife Dorothy (“Dot”).

He received his pilot’s licence at 65, didn’t retire until age 89 and earned his high school diploma through correspondence courses at 95.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Afghanistan Day 14

Canadian Rations

US Air Force Tech Sergeants Ken Raimondi and Nathan Gallahan are contintuing information opertations for ISAF. Today they focus on food. Check out their complete blogHere.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hurt Locker: Canadian Style

US Air Force Tech Sergeants Ken Raimondi and Nathan Gallahan are contintuing information opertations for ISAF. They're getting better at it as they go along. This is the best one yet. They've finally done away with those annoying hard to read written questions. Check out their complete blogHere.

Interview With a Canadian Soldier

US Air Force Tech Sergeants Ken Raimondi and Nathan Gallahan are contintuing information opertations for ISAF. They're getting better at it as they go along. Check out their complete blogHere.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Leopards in Afghanistan

US Air Force Tech Sergeants Ken Raimondi and Nathan Gallahan are contintuing information opertations for ISAF. Here they interview women combat Soldiers, a Leopard tank loader and a tank driver at FOB Ma'Sum Ghar, in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Building Relations With The ANA

US Air Force Tech Sergeants Ken Raimondi and Nathan Gallahan are doing information opertations for ISAF. Here they interview a Canadian Captain (who gets seriously tongue tied at one point) and an ANA Major.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Canadian Soldier-US Air Force Nurse

“A crew from the United States Air Force spent Saturday night and Sunday morning airlifting different groups of wounded soldiers from Kandahar to Camp Bastion to Bagram, back to Kandahar, then back to Bagram, and back to Kandahar. These patients were from Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Here, an Air Force nurse caresses the head of a wounded, unconscious Canadian soldier while whispering into his ear.”

This picture was taken by Michael Yon and posted on his website on February 14, 2010. The following day the nurse wrote on Yon's Facebook page what she was whispering to the wounded Soldier.

"I am very blessed.

As the Critical Care Air Transport Team Nurse in the picture, it is truly my honor to transport these brave men and women here in theater! This brave young man was sedated but arousing, I was telling him who I was, where he was, what injuries he had and where he was going. He calmed right down. He was our team’s 70th critical care patient since being here in theater, truly, I have been blessed many times over this deployment.

God bless
Major “Lucy” Lehker
February 15, 2010”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Operation Moshtarak Day 3

Marine LT COL Dietz Talks to a CNN reporter about day three of Operation Moshtarak, a military offensive in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Operation Moshtarak. Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs. Video courtesy of DVIDS.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Generals Address Marines and ANA Soldiers

Marine Expeditionary Brigade - Afghanistan, Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson and Brig. Gen. Mohayedin, addressing Marines of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and their Afghan National Army Counterparts before major operations in Helmand Province. Includes a brief interview with Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson. Operation Moshtarak, RCS2010. Produced by Cpl. Jennifer Calaway. Video courtesy DVIDS.

About Opertation Moshtarak

Gen. Stanley McChrystal (US), Commander, ISAF, speaks at a press conference about Operation Moshtarak in Marjah, Afghanistan, where thousands of Afghan and ISAF troops are working to establish government control in the area. Produced by Mel Preen for the NATO channel. Video courtesy of DVIDS.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Strawberry Bars and Bullets

The US Marines are preparing for the coming attack on the Taliban stronghold in the town of Marjah, in Helmand province Afghanistan. The joint opertaion is called Moshtark, which means together in Dari, and consists of Marines, British forces and the Afghan National Army .

So after packing his gear US Marine Cpl Charly Mabry thought about what his father would think if he could show him the gear he will have to carry around and live out of for "who knows how long". The people in the states for some reason have this idea of Marines sitting on large bases and eating at these nice chow halls.... have you forgot about the Marines with 1/6 who live in the dirt, dont have wireless internet, dont have showers, no phones to call their loved ones? The gear Cpl Mabry shows you in this video is the gear that these Marines lives depend on. Some carry more than others... some carry outstanding amounts of ammo, weapons, and grenades.... tons of weight while trying to fight their way through Afghanistan. This isnt Iraq, this isnt Camp Leatherneck.... the Marines of 1/6 are the most bad ass Marines in Afghan right now... When you watch this... think about how you would live out of a backpack in the mud and cold for weeks on end while carrying a ton of weight.... you think you can do what these guys do?

Hat Tip: Mary Ann of Soldier’s Angels Germany

Monday, January 25, 2010

Almost Through The Door

This is a song written a while back by th UK band Cormack. They have finally got a clip together for it. Please take the time to watch it and post onto every website, friend and wall you can, then ask them to do the same to support these brave soliders that have and continue to defend......... our way of life despite sacrificing there own. Our goal is to have it viewed by over 1 million. Thanks for the support in advance.

Monday, January 18, 2010

An unnecessary trial of a fine Soldier

Soldier should not be facing charges for killing a wounded enemy

By Peter Worthington: The Toronto Sun

Last Updated: 18th January 2010, 8:19am

When Capt. Robert Semrau’s court martial starts next Monday, it will be the first time in the long history of the Canadian army that a soldier on the battlefield, in a war, faces murder charges for killing a wounded enemy.

In no way should this imply that it’s the first time this has happened.

In every war Canada has fought, things happen on the battlefield that rules and traditions forbid, but which are deemed necessary at the time. Invariably, silence prevails.

Semrau’s patrol of mainly Afghan soldiers, for whom he was a mentor and trainer, was ambushed in October 2008 in the volatile Helmand province. Two months later, he was charged with murdering a gravely wounded Taliban fighter.

When the ambush was broken, two shots were heard and it was presumed the wounded Taliban insurgent was killed. Later Semrau, 35, was charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder (odd, but one supposes this is in case the murder charges collapse). Other charges are “behaving in a disgraceful manner,” and “negligently performing a military duty” — both of which seem absurd, considering Semrau’s exemplary record of three years in the British army (Macedonia and Iraq) before joining the Canadian army in 2005 and serving with the Royal Canadian Regiment in Afghanistan.

It would seem Semrau’s choice on the battlefield that Oct. 19 was either to leave the wounded man to the mercies of Afghan soldiers, or to abort the patrol to attend to the mortally wounded man.

Aborting the patrol would have meant the ambush had succeeded in deterring the patrol. Semrau opted to continue the mission, which was his prime duty.

However the trial in Gatineau, Que., turns out, it is unprecedented and startling.

And in my view, should never be taking place.

Of course, once an official complaint was made, high command really had no choice. The soldier who “informed” on his officer is another story — and I cannot imagine him staying in the army, where I suspect he’s reviled and despised by fellow soldiers.

As one who has been in a war, been on a battlefield, faced a determined enemy, I have some sympathy with Semrau’s situation. As an officer, the responsibility for a quick decision was his alone — and a life-and-death one at that.

My battlefield experiences — apart from those encountered in journalism — involved the Korean war. I suspect I may be the only working journalist in Canada today who has been a platoon commander in a war.

Looking back, I can see myself and other field commanders reacting as Semrau may have reacted. What I would not expect — and cannot even imagine — is men I served with blowing the whistle if I had to make the sort of decision Semrau faced.

I think my reaction is pretty typical of my generation of wartime soldiers.

After D-Day, in the Second World War, Canadian soldiers shot German prisoners in retaliation for the SS summarily executing Canadian prisoners. Nothing was said, nothing done. No remorse. No recriminations. Just silence.

With no body, no identity, perhaps no credible witnesses, no tangible proof, the case against Semrau may founder. A crime may be difficult to prove.

Ironically, former U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry was awarded a Silver Star in Vietnam for killing a wounded enemy who was trying to kill him. If found guilty, Semrau faces prison. Some difference!

As a fine officer and excellent soldier, I hope the army doesn’t lose Saskatchewan-born Robert Semrau.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Canadian Soldier Killed on Foot Patrol

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- As a piper mournfully skirled Dark Isle and Going Home, Sgt. John Wayne Faught's flag-draped casket was borne by fellow infantrymen Sunday to an air force transport that will return him to Canada one last time.

The sergeant from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., was the first Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan in 2010. He was killed Saturday when a landmine exploded underneath him while he led a foot patrol near the village of Nakhoney, about 15 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City.

The 44-year-old section commander from Delta Company, 1 Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry of Edmonton was on his sixth foreign tour and his third in Afghanistan. He was the 139th Canadian and the 38th Patricia to die in Afghanistan since Canada first sent troops to Afghanistan in 2002.

"He was a leader who led from the front," said Padre Dennis Newhook of Trinity Bay, N.L. Sgt. Faught's troops have lost "an extraordinary friend who died leading and protecting them," he said.

Sgt. Faught is survived by his mother, Donna Marie, in Sault Ste. Marie, a sister in Toronto and a girlfriend in Thunder Bay.

Maj. Wayne Niven said he would remember Sgt. Faught, who served in his company, always chewing on a plug of tobacco and for his exceptional devotion to his young troops.

Before deploying to Afghanistan, Sgt. Faught, who joined the army 23 years ago, had spent a lot of time with each of his soldiers to make sure that their personal affairs were in order.

"He was known for his methodical, disciplined approach to soldiering," Niven said. "He was on point [the first man at the front of a patrol] and would never have handed off to one of his soldiers. That's why we're here today."

1000 Canadian Troops Heading to Haiti

The federal government announced Sunday that 1,000 french speaking troops from Canadian Forces Base Valcartier in Quebec would start heading to Haiti next week as disaster relief from around the globe poured into the Caribbean country following last week's devastating earthquake.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the troops would take about a week to arrive.

"There's a lot of moving parts. We have equipment going in, we have Canadians going out and we will have these soldiers, beginning early next week, flowing into the country," Mr. MacKay said at a news conference in Ottawa on Sunday morning.

He described the situation in the capital as "grave and fragile" with stress and anger creating security problems.

"There's no doubt the security situation is volatile," he said. "We have Canadian forces that are trained specifically in crowd control."

There was evidence of that instability this weekend.

Reporters for Global National came across the bodies of two men with their hands bound behind their backs. Their limbs had been hacked at by machetes and they had been shot in the head.

People nearby said police had killed the men for being thieves.

The earthquake has left prisons in shambles, allowing some inmates to escape, adding to security concerns in the region.

More than 1,150 Canadians remain missing in the devastated country, and 1,122 have been located since the 7.0-magnitude quake on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs minister Lawrence Cannon confirmed at the same Ottawa news conference Sunday.

Hundreds of Canadians have been flown back to Canada on military aircraft with another plane load arriving on Sunday morning. In total, nearly 600 people have been rescued.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Donate to Haiti Relief Through Rogers or FIDO Text Messaging

A lot of relief money is being raised for Haiti through social media. The campaign, made viral on networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, had raised $8 million by Friday, in the United States according to a Twitter message from the White House that was reposted on the Red Cross account.

Here in Canada people with Rogers or FIDO phones can also donate directly through a mobile giving campaign which enable customers to donate funds to help the relief efforts in Haiti in the wake of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010, which has left many parts of the country devastated.

Rogers Wireless and Fido customers are encouraged to help those in Haiti by donating to Partners In Health: Haiti and other Haitian relief organizations. By sending the text message "HELP" to shortcode 1291. Customers can donate $5.00 CDN to the Haitian relief efforts. Rogers is working with The ONEXONE Foundation to facilitate 100 per cent of donations in funds and goods to Partners In Health: Haiti and other Haitian relief organizations.

In conjunction with the text-to-donate campaign and on behalf of its more than 10 million customers across the country, Rogers Communications and The Rogers family together will donate $250,000 in funds and goods to Partners In Health: Haiti and other relief organizations in Haiti.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Marines Interact With Locals in New Territory

Story by Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson
Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs

HELMAND PROVINCE , Afghanistan – Laki, a village in Afghanistan, located in the southern portion of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment's area of operation in the Garmsir District of Helmand province has never had a conventional coalition force visit or even walk down its streets.

The Marines and sailors of Weapons Company and Jump Platoon, 2/2, were the first to break this streak as they entered the village and patrolled the streets of Laki Jan. 4-7, 2010, to familiarize themselves with the local populace and to begin providing security in the area.

One such patrol began in the mid morning hours of Jan. 5, as Marines and local members of the Afghan National Army set off with the hopes of meeting with the local village elders of Laki.

Their first stop on the trip across the muddied roads and fields of Laki was at a local physician's office and pharmacy where Navy Lt. Malcolm Brown, the battalion surgeon, met with the doctor to find out what kind of medical equipment and medicine he needed.

The office was a small, white compound located down a road that connected to one of the main roads that went through the village. Surgical equipment sat on a small metal tray next to the front entrance. Off to the side, in a smaller room, the doctor and Brown sat talking to one another about the hospital, what equipment or medicine it may need, and how to get it to Laki.

"I think initially he was nervous with us being there," said Brown. "Fear of the unknown from us and the Taliban a little bit."

Along with the main doctor, the office also employed a doctor who administered injections and female nurses which allowed them to also care for female patients. Having two doctors and a few nurses enabled them to see around 50 patients a day using the provisions provided by their government.

"He seemed well equipped with the exception of not many medications," said Brown. "He seemed pretty satisfied with the process of asking the central government for funding and supplies."

After the meeting with the doctor the Marines set off across the fields of alfalfa, through tight alleyways, and one-lane roads, stopping for anyone who would stop working long enough to talk to them. They eventually ended up in an open area, surrounded by compounds, where a group of men sat drinking tea.

"We're (International Security Assistant Forces) and we're here to ensure that the Taliban are not destroying anyone's way of life," said Capt. Matthew J. Kutilek, the commanding officer of Weapons Company, as he began a short dialogue with the men.

The older men identified themselves as the village elders of Laki and discussed with Kutilek the current security situation in the area and how they could help one another with the searches of the compounds.

With respect to their culture, the elders simply asked that the Marines inform them when the searches would be done so that they could call their farmers in from the fields.

"We are happy about this," said one local elder. "There was 20 to 30 years of conflict in this area. We are happy you are here."

The short conversation brought about positive results as the Marines and elders took the chance to get to know each other.

"The elders here are very strong people with good leadership skills who have the respect of the local populace," said Kutilek. The people here do not support the Taliban. They were just under their control. They don't like the Taliban."

With the hot afternoon sun overhead, the Marines passed through more alleyways and fields and talked to farmers in the fields and groups of men meeting beside the roads.

As they continued their patrol they came across an older man sitting on the road with two of his kids. After speaking to him for a few minutes he informed the Marines of a possible improvised explosive device in the road ahead because of wire he had seen laid and buried across the road.

"We've had multiple people tell us about locations of weapons caches, IEDs, and command wire," said Kutilek. "The people here have been very helpful."

After a thorough search of the surrounding area the Marines located and gathered up the command wire but were unable to find any roadside bombs. However, it showed that the locals had a willingness to help the Marines despite being in an area where Taliban intimidation was expected.

"I believe they see the U.S. as liberators from the oppression of the cowardly foreign Taliban," said Kutilek. "I think most people here desire peace and the Taliban does not offer that; they offer instability."

With one more day done, and one more possible IED found the Marines of Weapons Company will continue to establish a relationship with the Laki locals and continue to work to provide security.

"I think we're well on our way to providing security for this area because the elders have not allowed the Taliban to have a stronghold, which is a welcome surprise," said Kutilek.

Hat tip: Dawn Patrol