Afghanistan-A-Go-Go

A Reservist's Tale Of A Tour

Archive for October 2011

A Harsh Reminder

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It’s been enough that when people who aren’t military hear where I’m headed in a few months I always get asked “But aren’t we pulling out of Afghanistan?” and I have to provide the recap of what’s going on there.

Yesterday morning I read the initial reports on a few incidents including the one in Kabul. Before I set off for my day’s events I heard 13 Americans died in an attack near Kabul. Over brunch with my wife I heard the update that one of them was actually a Canadian.

Canada’s military is very small and playing Six Degrees of Separation is easy. Chances are if you don’t know someone personally, you know someone who does. Getting to a third degree is almost certain if you don’t.

So we all wait with baited breath to hear the name, to find out if it is someone we know, as though it’s somehow better if we don’t. We run down a checklist of who we know over there and wonder when we heard from them last.

And finally, the name comes out. You feel a brief sense of relief that it wasn’t someone you know personally. Then you realize that doesn’t matter, that the loss is still tragic because some part of the family is feeling it that close and we know how that feels, I do for sure. Been there done that.

And so we honour the fallen, thank them for taking the risks they did, and we resolve to carry on.

RIP Master Corporal Bryon Greff. Not in vain.

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Written by Nick

October 30, 2011 at 8:16 am

Some of the Silliness

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The thing about being a Reserve augmentee to a Regular Force unit is that they tend not to think of where we come from. I realized that today when I got forwarded an email about all the “family” sessions that are being run for us. They’re all being run out of Gagetown, even though of course our families aren’t there. At least, this time around, I live in a military town which has a lot more support services.

We’ve also gotten asked to provide photos in uniform – apparently, our Brigade Headquarters has some sort of “wall of honour” they want pictures of all deployed personnel on. Fair enough, but it was kind of funny that a) they want the pictures in CADPAT(AR) (desert camo) which we haven’t been issued yet and b) we’re getting portraits done before we go. They’re sometimes referred to as “hero pics”, but they’re also called “dead guy pics” because the sole use of them is news handouts.

So I guess at some point I’m going to have to go to Formation Imagery and ask them to take a picture of me. Something, incidentally, that I hate.

Written by Nick

October 24, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Starting to get to the change…

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I spent this part weekend in Gagetown on an exercise with my unit, the last full one I’m going to be on for a year. I’m not part of the Rifle Company anymore, but I offered to help them run some ranges they need to get done for their training year. It was a little bit of a disaster, but it was a learning experience like every time I go out. It perhaps contained some good learnings that will serve me well when I leave on tour.

We use a process to get just about everything called “the estimate” which can range in detail from a very quick “combat estimate” about how to carry our something as simple as a hasty attack, to extremely detailed concepts like the Operation Planning Process which is done at much higher levels to plan things like a deployment of a force to a place like Afghanistan or really anywhere.

I got involved in the planning for this particular exercise fairly late, but even at that I probably didn’t pay enough attention, and didn’t do my own really estimate on what had to happen for my part of the show. So, I got more than a little caught off guard when certain things didn’t go anywhere near according to plan, and things weren’t as efficient as they could have been. I was running some small arms ranges that should have been done around 1pm, but we wound up running three hours late. That threw everything else off.

I don’t think I could really have intervened enough to actually prevent the major cause of the problems, but regardless, there were things I probably could have done had I really thought things through and done some more thorough checking on the prep work.

The OIC – the boss of the exercise – took me aside after the day ranges and ran me through a fairly constructive exercise about what went wrong and why, and what could have been done etc. In his customary style, though, he tied it into what I might be expecting on my tour, and some of his own experiences in Afghanistan. His time there was intense, to say the least.

So as I get two weeks from go time, I’ve got lots of food for thought on how to do things better, which are best considered during training exercises rather than “over there”.

Written by Nick

October 23, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Posted in The Beginning

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What Happens Next…

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Everything’s getting close now, and it’s really bizarre because I’m starting to wrap things up at work and I’m starting to wonder what will happen next. I have some idea of course, but it’s not completely something I’m an expert on.

I’ve got sort of a strange way to get down to work up training – my unit is running an exercise that weekend so I’m basically hitching a ride with them. I’m going to play some part in that exercise (probably running some kind of live fire range) and then head off to get checked in.

Monday morning should be a “sausage factory” sort of scenario (after morning PT – which I’ve heard will probably be intense to “set the tone”), standing in a bunch of lines seeing a horde of clerks of various types to get set up to join the mounting unit. In theory, I’ll be showing up with everything I need already done, but in true military style, it will all be scrutinized a second time, because no one trusts reserve units to actually administer their people properly.

We’ll probably then have to start ordering all the kit we need for the tour – arid pattern uniforms, all sorts of things like that.

And then the actual business of training gets going. Ranges will be a big part of it, I think, apparently things like convoy drills, some actual info on the mission, the organization, and I’ll actually meet the people in my “mission element”. We’re not deploying like a conventional battle group, because that wouldn’t make sense in the context of a training mission, so there’s a whole bunch of parts to the organization. Apparently, 2RCR’s plan is to have each of its companies organize the different parts so I’ll basically wind up in one of them. No idea which, but we’ll see. I’m sure, even though I’ve done my Battle Fitness Test for the year, that we’ll have the “opportunity” to do at least one more before we go.

Work up runs until the middle of December, at which point I get sent home for FIVE WEEKS – I have no idea what I’ll do for five weeks, to be honest, I guess some kind of volunteer work, and a lot of time at the gym and yoga – because staying home all day is not going to work.

When we get back to Gagetown in mid-January, it’ll be a few more weeks of the same kind of training stuff, then we are off for a few days of embarkation leave, and then off to Afghanistan and into the job.

I’ve managed to find lots of information about Camp Eggers, which is the headquarters of NTM-A, but it’s not where I’m working, so I don’t really know what to expect – I’m trying to get some more ideas, but I guess there is some merit to the element of surprise.

Written by Nick

October 19, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Posted in The Beginning

Small steps but so much to do…

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It’s amazing the number of things that keep cropping up that I need to make sure are looked after before I go “over there” – I realized that my firearms license expires next year, so I have to renew that early. My military ID also expires next year. I’ve got to get things organized for my tenants so that they have someone to call if anything goes wrong. It’s complicated enough owning a rental property halfway across the country, managing it from halfway around the world might be a little more complicated, but I’m sure it’ll be okay. I don’t think that they have any plans to move, so that’s good.

Today I took care of the military ID issue, and I swung into clothing stores at the the Dockyard and figured I’d see about getting my desert boots to start getting them broken in. I got a pair without any problem, but they’ve got to order another pair for for because I’m entitled to two pairs and they only had one pair in my size. They should be in in a week or two. Funny enough, when I got to the counter, the guy saw my name and said “just a moment” – he quickly returned with a huge bin full of CADPAT(AR) kit – desert camouflage. Turns out it was for another person who happens to have the same name and rank as me though, I was a little surprised at first since I hadn’t ordered anything else, I was told that’d be looked after when we get to Gagetown.

The biggest challenge now is wrapping things up with my day job. The nature of what I do means I can’t really start anything new, I’m just basically waiting for some deals in the works to close up and then I will head off to start work up training.

Written by Nick

October 11, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Posted in The Beginning

And finally, on the bus…

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After a torturous few weeks, I’ve got the final word. I’m all good to go. Whatever concerns there were about the particular role I’m going over to do are now gone. I’m completely DAG Green now, and other than some last minute administration everything is good. I’ve realized that some things are going to expire in 2012 that I need to renew – my firearms license, my military ID, and so on. I’m trying to create some kind of checklist of things to make sure are done. I have to get myself taken off car insurance on renewal (by then I’ll be gone), cancel my motorcycle insurance renewal for next year (I won’t need it, naturally), and deal with some professional credential issues as well, stuff I’ll need for my day job when I get home.

Fortunately for me, one of my best friends is an Afghan vet and is giving me lots of info on what to prepare for and expect as workup nears, and I a finding that very useful information indeed.

Work – the day job – is now basically winding up. I’m at the point where I can’t really do any more business. The sales cycle for what I do as a planner is such that I won’t be around to see the deals close, and that being the case, I don’t see any value in starting much new if I won’t reap the rewards. I’m going to help get the new guy installed and then step back. The Regiment actually has one last job they’d like me to do before I leave, so I may jump into a Class A gig for a few days before I make the jump to Gagetown the first weekend of November.

Written by Nick

October 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Posted in The Beginning