STRATHCONAS IN AFGHANISTAN
By Cpl Jay Cunningham
31 January 2006 marked the deployment date for four Strathconas bound for Bagram, Afghanistan to work in the Combined Joint Task Force 76 Headquarters, 10th Mountain Division (USA) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. LCol Dwayne Parsons, Major Chris Adams, Cpl Jay Cunningham and Cpl Melissa Dobbs all left Edmonton Garrison looking forward to the professional challenges that would exist in a Divisional Headquarters conducting war-fighting operations.
34 hours after departing sunny Edmonton we landed in Camp Mirage (Canada’s version of Area 51), and were greeted by Sgt John Dunn and his welcome wagon. LCol Parsons hastily left the three of us to fend for ourselves as he was whisked away to VIP accommodations and a welcome basket. In Camp Mirage we were issued ammo, found our expertly bundled weapons and ballistic plates, then came the 4-hour CC-130 Hercules flight into Kandahar airfield (KAF). We were met there by the camp Sergeant-Major and moved off to our temporary quarters for the two-day wait for our flight to Kabul. For any of you that were in Kandahar in 2002, it is still a giant dust bowl, and the sewage lake is bigger and better than ever. February 2nd we finally arrived in Camp Souter (Kabul 100) and were driven to the Bagram Airfield (BAF), except for LCol Parsons who was once again whisked away this time in a Blackhawk. During this drive Cpl Cunningham and Cpl Dobbs got their first taste of the American military in the sense of LCol Shawn “Lowen” Braue. All that can be said about LCol Braue is that he is unique, and Bobby Boucher’s clone. Upon our arrival into BAF we met one of our own, LCol Steve Cadden of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. He greeted us and led the way to the accommodations and the gravy supply. Once we got settled in LCol Parsons and Major Adams jumped right into the fray of the battle in the Div Joint Ops Centre. LCol Parsons found himself double tasked as both the CJTF-76 LO or as the Americans put it LNO and the ISAF LO. Major Adams’ dreams of being in a Forward Operating Base (FOB) with 3rd Bde 10 Mtn in Salerno were crushed as he found out that he and Cpl Dobbs would be staying at BAF. Both Cpl Cunningham and Cpl Dobbs have become familiar with BAF and the Coalition gym as well with the marvellous food in the DFAC… Trust me when I say that we don’t know how good we have it with our Canadian cooks!! As I close with this article, all I can say is that it has been a very interesting journey to this point and I am sure that there will be many more exciting tales to share in the near future with all of our fellow Strathconas.