Officer Commanding and Squadron Sergeant-Major’s Monthly Update
1 October 2007
Dear families, friends, and fellow soldiers,
This is the first of what we hope to be monthly installments to provide to you some of our insight and comments on the life of the Squadron. It is hard to believe that a month has passed since we left Canada. The tempo of operations has been significant, but manageable. Our pre-deployment training has paid immense dividends. We realize from your perspective that we were away training for a very long time. We will both tell you that we would not have changed a thing in our training plan as all that we prepared for has come to be in our first month.
The loss of Corporal Nathan Hornburg on 24 September hit the Squadron hard. The Squadron fought determined Taliban in a battle that lasted some 13 hours, and while conducting a recovery of a tank that had lost its track, Cpl Hornburg was taken from us. Several other soldiers performed bravely that day, exposing themselves to fire and tending to the wounded. Cpl Hornburg is remembered as a good soldier and friend. He died while trying to assist the fellow members of the Squadron so that we could all remove ourselves from harm’s way that day. His loss will not be in vain, and our resolve to execute our mission in Afghanistan deepens. We would ask that you keep Nathan’s family in your thoughts as they deal with the loss of a fine young Canadian.
While we cannot divulge too much about the nature of our operations, we will tell you that your soldiers have met the enemy well at every turn. They are very confident in all their equipment. The Squadron through their deeds and not words has made a very prominent contribution to the Battle Group and the greater mission in Afghanistan. We are both very proud of how the Squadron has performed and have every confidence in every soldier. As we indicated to you the Sqn has spent very little time at Kandahar Airfield (KAF), and those soldiers that have had to return there for any number of reasons have quickly asked to rejoin the Squadron, as the life in KAF is very different from Forward Operating Base.
The Squadron is well established here in Forward Operating Base Ma’sum Ghar (FMG). We have recently left our modular tents and have occupied the newly constructed bunker that affords greater protection. Showers, hot meals twice a day, and adequate Internet and telephone services are a mainstay. The soldiers, of course, will mention that the internet is slower than the second coming! We also receive a good number of canteen supplies, so your soldiers are not without any junk food over here. Mail times have ranged from two weeks to a month and it seems that there is no rhyme or reason. Our off-time attention has turned to the hockey season and the Leafs, Oilers, Habs, Flames and Canucks paraphernalia has surfaced in the tent lines. The Squadron has grudgingly adopted a small cat named “Battle Cat.” It earns its keep by keeping the mouse population in check. We of course are taking health precautions with it and the soldiers know not to have any physical contact with it, because it is a stray and although it looks healthy we can never be sure.
The temperatures have hits highs of high 30s to low 40s, and we yet to see our first cloud in the sky. The nights are brilliant and starry and there is very little light pollution. The operating temperatures inside the vehicles are considerably higher and the chiller vests that the tank crews wear are often operating at 0730 hours in the morning. Oddly, some soldiers have been heard to comment that low 20s feels a bit chilly. Fleece and outerwear remain stowed in barrack boxes and will likely stay there for a few more weeks. The dust is pervasive and punishing here. It has the texture of talcum powder and basically invades everything.
The 3 “Vandoo” Battle Group has treated us in a manner that is both fair and understanding. Language has not been an issue, and everybody has been getting along. Our mission and sense of duty cause us to put aside the traditional rivalries between armour and infantry and like wise between English and French, we truly are a bilingual team at Squadron and Battle Group level. The Battle Group Commanding Officer and the Regimental Sergeant Major are exceptional leaders and they have done a good job in sticking-up for the Squadron and looking after it when we needed to some time to heal. We will close here, and provide you with another update toward the end of October.