The Provincial Destruction Team: A Sqn 2006-07
By: Capt P.E. Leonard
27 November 2007
Finally back to work, the soldiers of A Squadron are starting to get a chance to catch their breath and reflect on their accomplishments of the past year. Every soldier in the Squadron has a story of enduring austere conditions, of staring down enemy fire and giving it back in spades and the emotional lack that accompanies time away from loved ones. Here, though, we want to present a few shots of the lighter moments of the six and a half months we spent in Kandahar in an effort to show how a good sense of humour can help a guy through some tight spots.
A Squadron tried very hard to win the hearts and minds during our deployment, but the Leopard tank is an unforgiving machine that did little to project the “nice” side of the Canadian mission. So, when Sgt Trent Hiscock steered his driver, Cpl Trevor “I hate you old man” Scott into the door panel of a van one dark night in April, Capt Paul “frankly I think we owe it to them” Leonard was happy to dismount to check on the health of the two young men who were in the stricken van. The side door of their van was by now still attached to a tank plough and on its way to Ghunday Ghar, but to everyone’s relief, these two young Afghan men were fine. Lt Peter “the Leader” Beitz was faced with much the same situation after he watched MCpl Steve “more chips than HESH in my tank” Connauton shear the tires off a jingle truck and had to reassure the terrified driver and direct him to the local Shura for compensation.
The stresses of life in a combat zone can take their toll on the individual. Some of the troops, like Cpl Mike “Faceplant” Reid, variously reacted to incoming rockets by feeding their face to their tent door or the rocks on the ground. Others will do the right thing: jump in their tank and get ready for action. Cpl Jay “Texas Pete” Suggitt did this too, only he broke an entire bottle of hot sauce on his crotch and spent the next few days nursing his wounds. Rockets don’t always come at the most opportune time either; just ask Cpl Nole Reid who, while in full squat beside the ARV in a leaguer, was promptly rocketed and forced to mount mid way through his ritual.
One would think, though, that in such a group of battle hardened warriors, the Seargent-Major would stand out as a model of fortitude. This is more or less true, unless you introduced SSM Bill Crabb to any sort of spider, the sight of which would send him screaming like a girl out the door of his tent. Snakes were also a source of concern to a few of our troops, and none more so than Cpl Doug “Viper” Headrick. One night while going to take a shower, he actually spotted and killed a venomous snake on camp; following this incident he went around proclaiming his new nickname of “SNAKEKILLER.” This name stuck until a rocket attack sent him scrambling for his tank and Cpl Headrick felt a sting in his ankle. He immediately reported to MCpl Shane “the Taliban don’t want to fight” Parsons that he had been bitten by a snake. MCpl Parsons loaded the injured soldier into a gator and ferried him to the UMS where the PA was good enough to diagnose his wound as attributed to the rare but deadly rock viper – Cpl Headrick had scraped his ankle on a rock. At this point, we all knew our nerves were shot.
Traumatic though these events were, they didn’t deter us from enjoying what little comforts we could, when we could. Our maintenance crew, while deployed forward to Kakriz with the OC, 2nd Troop and some US Special Forces, got the luxury one night of enjoying a hot tub. It seemed the coalition had some ordnance they needed to dispose of and decided to blow it up in the riverbed. Following the explosion, they proceeded to use the blast site as a makeshift hot tub; MBdr Jay “Donkey” Spricenicks was the first in, and deservedly so after spending the previous day entertaining his peers by showing them his prowess on an Afghan donkey. Speaking of farm animals, MCpl Carey MacAtasney gained the admiration and respect of the locals in Kakriz by introducing them to his very own goat. In a gesture of largesse, he later donated his goat for the benefit of the community.
Life in and around a tank can be difficult, and while most of us get used to it, some of us have a little more trouble. Tpr Peter “Muffin” Koro found this out the hard way when, in the middle of the day, he somehow lost his bearings on the tank and walked straight off the back deck. Fortunately he did a faceplant into a box of muffins which prevented any serious injuries … except to his pride. Others had a hard time coming to grips with the capabilities of the tank; take Capt Kristian “Bob” Reiten who thought his tank could push both a bus and a wrecked car off the road. He wound up throwing his track and getting his mine plough stuck in the body of the bus. This story is akin to that of our OC, Maj Dave “Contact, Rockpile” Broomfield, who was somehow misled into believing that his tank could drive through a grape drying hut (Capt Leonard helped him out with a HESH round, but that’s another story). WO Darryl “Bananas” Peters and his gunner Tpr Aaron “Bullseye” Hodgin proved their marksmanship when they couldn’t hit a motorcycle at 50m with their main armament.
While these stories can be told with a flair for the dramatic and humour, the fact of the matter is that the Squadron performed admirably and the Taliban came to respect and fear our presence. Six and a half months after deploying, and following a well earned decompression in Cyprus (the events of which I am not divulging), the Squadron finally returned home to Edmonton on 11 September 2007. The reunions with family and loved ones were long anticipated and needless to say, more than a few tears were shed. Now, back to work from nearly two months of leave, the soldiers who deployed as A Squadron have been thrown to the Regimental winds; some have remained in A Squadron and are beginning to prepare to redeploy late next year, some are posted and others have taken up new positions in different Squadrons. Still no one will forget the challenges we overcame, the battles we won and the team that we became.