Trying to Keep Your Cool in KAIA
Oddly the weather in Kabul during autumn is not all that different from the weather in Wainwright during the annual STEELE SABRE Fall exercise. Instead of your face being sand blasted by the dirt/sand coming off of your right track, it is instead simply being whipped into your face off the ground. Some may say, "Sand in your face is sand in your face," however, I cannot think of many things out there than can replicate the taste of the Afghan "dirt."
Of all the Strathconas on the 3rd and final ROTO of Op Attention, only three of us found ourselves stationed at the Kabul International Airport (KAIA), under ISAF Joint Command (IJC). Being stationed at KAIA has some very obvious perks, including the fact that it is about the closest thing to being at home as you can get in Afghanistan (shocker, it's an Air Force base...). The roads are paved, the NATO quarters are brand new, and you really cannot complain about the food selections on base. There are of course some minor drawbacks which include walking past an American General Officer roughly every 15 paces, and constantly being asked, "What's going on today, EHHH?." Surely Canadians get that everywhere.
Corporal Justin "Weapons always ready" Wry worked as part of an internationally flavored drive team as a member of IJC MOVECON. As a driver, he spent nearly every day on the road, shuttling ISAF personnel to any number of the many different locations. At last count he had completed over 120 missions in his short time here. Of course, with over 120 missions under your belt, you are bound to have encountered some problems along the way. On a regular morning his team headed out. Mixed with traffic were donkeys everywhere. Out of nowhere a donkey with its cart comes charging into the traffic circle. Without even thinking, Cpl Justin "I'll pit maneuver anything" Wry proceeded to perform a blocking maneuver on the donkey and his cart. The donkey was not harmed in the block but the same cannot be said for the cart.
Captain Tim "Jack of all positions, master of none" McHugh, had an interesting introduction to KAIA. After being told repeatedly that he was not staying at KAIA, and a short period of limbo, he was confirmed to be stationed in KAIA by some fellow Strathconas in Camp Phoenix. He found himself working in ANSF Development where he spent most of his time filling in for Americans while they were on leave. After running out of useful things to accomplish, Captain Tim "Sun tanning is PT" McHugh was moved over to be an Aide de Camp for a British General, Brigadier General Neil Marshall, the head of ANSF Development. After a few weeks of excitement travelling with a General all over Kabul, Capt McHugh was off to yet another assignment - working as a Deputy with Colonel Denis Boucher, the Director of ANSF Ops.
Captain Ryan "I advise a Major General, no big deal" Lee also had an odd introduction to work at IJC. Following a 2 day stint working in ANSF Development he was moved to a position on an American advisor team at Ground Forces Command (GFC), which is the Operational Command element of the ANA. Upon his introduction to GFC he was put in the position of Military Advisor to the G-33 Current Operations Officer and the GFC JOC. Despite his limited staff experience, he was able to form excellent relationships with his Afghan counterparts, Major-General Jamaluddin and Colonel Amir Mohammed, with the assistance of his civilian mentor counterpart Colonel (ret'd) Rick Brock. In an environment where change can take years, there were some substantial goals achieved. Although, he likely learned a lot more than he taught anyone, his overall time at GFC was great until the arrival of a new British lead advisory team, when he was replaced by a British Major.
Despite many trials and tribulations along the way, the overall experience of those stationed at KAIA was a positive one. The relationships that the Strathconas were able to make with their brothers in arms from many different Coalition countries are sure to last a lifetime. The reputation of the Canadian Army, and specifically the soldiers of LdSH(RC), has continued to grow positively in the eyes of our coalition partners, members of the ANSF, and the people of Afghanistan.