Some of the Other Strathconas in Afghanistan
Be Capt Thomas LaCroix
Disclaimer – This article is probably going to be rather boring because, not only do OPSEC and Official Secrecy prevent us from discussing anything exciting, but most of us are staff guys who push electrons and icons around. Sgt Irving and the Tac crew might have some good stories that I’m sure they would be happy to tell in the mess someday.
Most of us in Kandahar are with Coalition Task Force AEGIS which falls under the Coalition Joint Task Force-76 (10th Mountain Division) as part of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. There are a few other black hats strategically placed in Task Force AFGHANISTAN (TFA) to keep the NCE in line and make sure that vehicles get to where they are supposed to go. We haven’t heard from the Embedded Training Team guys at all since they fall under a different formation near Kabul.
Kandahar Airfield – KAF has changed a lot since Op APOLLO. Yes, it’s still dusty and it smells funny when the wind blows from the west but I think the fact that the brigade staff is quartered in modular housing instead of tents says something. We initially wanted to get the group photo out by the former location of Tail Fin OP but the tail fin is now in a minefield outside the wire. Since we arrived, there have been a lot more coalition forces around. For those of us on our first tour it was a bit odd seeing guys walking around camp with AK-47s or RPKs and driving by on BTR-80s. Needless to say, most of us have had to explain what “LdSH(RC)” stands for on several occasions. The typical follow-on question is, “Who is Lord Strathcona?” Normally it’s a history lesson from that point on.
The Food - The stories you’ve heard are true: there is Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Subway. Like most things on KAF, it’s kind of like home but it’s only the 60% solution. There’s more demand than supply so they run out of food on occasion and have signs that say, “No burgers this week” or, “cheese pizza only.” Everyone is kind of waiting to see how the Tim Hortons turns out and whether or not it gets here before TF ORION (1 PPCLI) gets rotated home. The dining facility has steak on Fridays and lobster tail and crabs legs on Saturdays. It’s not ‘The Keg’ but at least they’re trying. The mess also has non-alcoholic beer-flavoured beverages… I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. Too bad most of the faux-brau is a year and a half past its “best before” date. I think some of the guys are stock-piling cans of the stuff in hopes that they will ferment over time.
Talking “Coalition” – Taking over from an American brigade headquarters is a lesson in language in itself. I think our multi-national members felt a bit more comfortable knowing that even we Canadians had a hard time understanding the incredible number of TLAs and FLAs (two or three and four or five letter acronyms) that our American partners use. It turns out that even though we’re all in NATO, we all still have our own lingo. The list of Afghanistan acronyms we received in our handover had over 4,000 entries. The result is an Esperanto-like mish-mash of slang, acronyms, and the odd southern drawl. “I’m goin’ to the DFAC at 0730 zee with the AEF guy to get some scoff. I’ll make sure that the SALT we got from KPRT on MIRC is posted in IWS before I go.” If you have no clue what that meant then you know how we felt our first couple weeks.
Capt LaCroix’s Hair – I think everyone here would be upset if I failed to mention that I got a haircut. RSM, I’m serious, it’s a real hair cut. It’d been so long since I had a barber use the clippers on me so I asked the Ops SGM, MWO Greg Trenholm (a Patricia), what he normally gets. I think he tricked me because my hair looked a lot shorter than his. If you ask Capt “Hogg” Mckenzie, he’ll tell you that I went to sleep that night wearing a ball cap. But I dispute that.
Moreuil Wood – We started off with good intentions for Moreuil Wood: a ball hockey game for all black hats in CTF AEGIS and TFA with an informal lunch at the dining facility. Then it got whittled down to a picture of any Strathconas who were in the wire where we joked around a bit while the picture was being taken. I would suggest that we need a KAF Mess Secretary to organize our social events but it would probably be me. Actually, since Capt Darryn Gray got the Hessin Memorial Sword (to be accurate, his wife did since he’s here), he would probably make a great KAF Mess Sec. Maybe we will get our act squared away in time for Melfa River.
In closing, thanks for all the support from the Regt. Some of us are here until at least mid-November so you can probably count on a couple more boring articles.