‘B’ Squadron’s Return from Afghanistan
By MCpl Lee Encinas
15 June 2007
Like every deployment made by any unit in the history of armies, the soldiers of ‘B’ Squadron look back on their experiences in Afghanistan with humour first. Even the times that sucked now bring back laughter, like discovering the Kandahar valley had 3 major wadi systems, and Lt “Wadi Joe” Boates’ insistence on pointing them out to the Squadron by getting hung up in them.
Anyway, as the last deployed sub-unit of the 1 RCR BG, we also had the distinction of being the last deployed sub-unit OUT of the country as well. We watched for an entire month as flight after flight came to take members of our Battle Group out, knowing we were the last to fly. The positive uptake on this was all the kinks had been worked out through previous chalks departing, so we were hoping for a smooth transition back home.
Things did not start well when the helicopters that were scheduled to pick us up from FOB MAS’UM GHAR landed, dropping off their human cargo and promptly took off again, leaving us on the landing pad. They did come back for us eventually and we were stuffed like luggage into the Dutch Cougar helicopters. These vehicles are great, they have lots of speed and power and more importantly they were carrying valuable cargo: my kit and me. Despite our relief once landing back in KAF and finding the SQ and friends there to cart our kit to our living quarters, we quickly realized one major problem: KAF is a far cry from home. There was still ample work to be done in the four days remaining in theatre, to include turning in our CADPAT ARID REGION kit and clearing out of various locations spread out amongst the airfield. Somehow the Squadron managed to get this done in record time and still have enough time to hit up Timmies. With our tanks handed over we actually had to walk everywhere.
That special day finally came and we all found ourselves sitting on the tarmac once again waiting for an aircraft to take us away. Things did go much smoother on our flight to Camp Mirage where we handed in some more equipment and, for the first time in four months, put on clothes that weren’t issued to us. Cyprus was calling and so was the beer. As we stepped off the bus in front of our 5 STAR HOTEL (yes, I’m bragging to all the spouses), we were met by our staff, whos job it was to arrange everything including our room assignments, decompression briefings and most importantly, recreation, which was the best part of the trip thanks in no small part to the staff. They arranged scuba diving, go-cart racing, deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, wine tasting tours, tours of ancient Greek ruins and more. Some funny moments were bound to occur, like Cpl Felix Charette mysteriously getting locked out of his room wearing nothing but a smile, or peoples’ faces finding out how much the cab ride costs because they forgot to ask the price before they got in.
Of course, not all of our time spent in Cyprus was play. Decompression briefings, the real reason behind our stay in Cyprus, were must attend events. They dealt with issues in an informal environment; such as operational stress injury and how to properly integrate ourselves back in Canada and with our loved ones. Such debriefings have been carried out on post deployments for quite a while now. They have steadily improved so each soldier may learn what common problems soldiers encounter once reintegrated back into our own society and how to deal with them.
So here are some things I learned while out and about in Cyprus:
1: Spicy Indian Food and deep-sea fishing are a bad mix.
2: It’s a wine tasting tour, the key word being taste not gulp.
3: The higher rank you are, the more doomed you are racing a go-cart
4: Tpr Walker grows a hideous mustache.
5: Ancient Greek ruins are always uphill.
6: Karaoke is fun until Tpr Manchip tries singing.
Events after Cyprus went very quickly, aside from the agonizingly long flight home. We got to the airport, picked up our kit, turned in some paperwork (again), and spent three half-days at work before being released to the wild for a month and a half.
Once back from leave we had found the pace slower than what we are accustomed to. Usually medals are awarded in theatre, but with the high pace of operations for the entire contingent this was just not possible, so of course this spells parade practice. After well over six months of hardly performing any drill we were back on the parade square trying to work out the cobwebs. Two major obstacles had to be overcome for us to be confident in our skills, which I will further discuss. The first of course being the ‘Left and Right Turn on the March’. Very few of us has done this drill in years, so hours were spent perfecting this one movement. Leading us through the paces was of course Sgt Marv MacNeill. We like looking good on parade and he likes yelling so it was a win-win situation.
The second and much more difficult obstacle was Tpr Adam Knox’s combat boots. The entire rear half of his left sole came off, making him sound like a badly shod horse. While not entirely his fault, this incident will be chalked up as a ‘Knoxism’. Our medals ceremony went off without a hitch (see photo gallery ), with not just the medals being awarded but 5 extra days of short leave from the CLS!
With all the excitement over, ‘B’ Sqn has settled back into garrison life. In a short time we will welcome new soldiers to the Squadron and say goodbye to others. With the great news of new tanks the Squadron is looking forward to kicking off again at full speed so we can get our greedy hands in only slightly used but still 25 year younger tanks! Giddy Up!!!
Photos are courtesy of soldiers from B Sqn and MCpl White, Edmonton Garrison Imaging