OC and SSM C Squadron - Final Update
6 February 2008
Let us first begin by apologizing for not keeping our promise to write you monthly, but as you can imagine we are trying our best. Where we will not fail is our commitment to make them do all their drills, wear their kit, and look after one another. We have told the soldiers that they must as good in the first period as they are in the last. This will be our last letter to you as our tour begins the “third period” as we are fond of saying here.
The Holiday Season came and went for the Squadron. Christmas definitely did not feel the same for us but we made the best of it and your soldiers ate themselves nearly sick with all the food and Christmas goodies we received from individual families and the Taste of Home ladies. The support was overwhelming and many photos of bed spaces heaped with packages were taken. The cooks are great here in the FOB and we had traditional meals on Christmas Day and News Years Eve complete with 0.5% beer.
We have all but completed HLTA and all of the soldiers were unanimous in declaring how quickly the time passed while they were with you or abroad travelling. We have tried to give them a few days in KAF for rest and relaxation since they got back from HLTA as the days pass quickly here, but the weeks can be long. The Squadron has not enjoyed any respite in its tempo and we continue to be “popular” in the Battle Group. The weather has turned a bit nasty on us by Afghan standards and we have had some rain, a touch of snow, and hailstones the size of small marbles just the other night. All this pales in comparison to the winter you at home are suffering through without us.
The planning for the Squadron’s return to Canada is nearly complete. We have told all of the soldiers what day we are tentatively returning to Canada. I say tentatively because the Squadron has no control over aircraft serviceability or the weather for that matter. The Regiments will do their best to keep you informed of the exact date and time as our reunion with you draws nearer. We are governed by the regulations concerning operational security and thus we cannot communicate the exact date to you in this letter, or on the internet or over the phone, so please do not put any pressure on your soldiers to make them tell you. What we can say is that we will be home in Canada around mid-March.
Prior to our arrival in Canada, every Canadian soldier deployed on this mission must go to Cyprus for “decompression.” This is not leave for your soldiers. They undergo a series of activities that are designed to physically and mentally prepare them to reintegrate back into your lives. They will be given a series of briefings and have a chance to sleep in a bed, eat three fresh meals, and socialize together as the group called C Squadron for the last time.
Our Squadron has gone through a lot. We have seen more combat than we imagined. With that we have suffered a significant number of casualties that have been repatriated and even higher number of soldiers who were banged-up or slightly injured, but eventually recovered and remained in theatre. Most significantly, we lost a great soldier and friend in Corporal Nathan Hornburg. We are truly brothers in arms and we will need this time in Cyprus to put all that we have gone through into perspective and ensure that we are ready to be part of your lives again. You will very much be a part of this process and should note that the soldiers will arrive with some pamphlets for you to read to help you understand what we are going through as well.
Once we are home, we will all enjoy about four to six weeks of leave after some half-days at work initially to get our administration in order with our Regiments. For the soldiers serving in the Strathconas, we have made, with the permission of the Commanding Officer and Regimental Sergeant-Major, the attendance at Moreuil Wood voluntary. We will both attend and we would encourage you to do the same if you are in the area. We would really like to meet you if we have not done so already or just catch up with and find out how everything is going now that we are all home. For the families that are not in the Edmonton area we will make a cross-country trip (Victoria, Vancouver, Vernon, Calgary, Shilo, Petawawa, and Valcartier) in late May or early June to see all of you or meet you (if you wish) and check on how your soldiers are doing.
When the Squadron returns to Canada we will not have the opportunity the address you personally, so we will close by expressing a few thoughts here. You are married to, friends with and related to - some of the best soldiers that our nation has. They are great soldiers and have executed the difficult mission that is Afghanistan. They have been the most professional, competent, and easiest group of men and women to lead that we have ever had. They are passionate about being soldiers and we will categorically attest to the content of their character. We have nothing but great things to say about them. You should be very proud of their service and equally your contributions in supporting them. These are truly momentous days for our great nation and your soldiers who serve it. Please accept our sincerest appreciation for the dedication and support you have given our soldiers and ultimately for the sacrifices you have made.