NWORA Remembrance Vol.4 - NE99

NE99

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Forget-me-not 76 Hey everybody! First off I apologize for the length of this email, as it contains two weeks' worth of Afghanistan fun. I am doing well and, brutally honest, I've enjoyed this last couple of weeks. Seven years of training culminating in 14 action- packed days. At first I wasn't going to write a lot of detail about what happened, because some people might find it upsetting. However, when I got back to Kandahar Air Field (KAF) and read the deplorable media coverage of the largest operation Canadians have been involved in since Korea, I really felt I had to write it all down, to give you all (and hopefully everyone you talk to back in Canada) an appreciation for what we are really doing here in this "state of armed conflict" (lawyers say we can't use the word "war." I don't know what the difference is except for it being far more politically correct.) We received word while down at our Forward Operating Base (FOB) that we were going to be part of a full-out, three day (Ha! Ha!) Battle Group operation. This was going to be the largest operation Canada had undertaken since the Korean War. When we arrived back in KAF for orders we found out that we were rolling for Pashmul in the Panjawai district of Kandahar province. That was hard for my crew to hear, as that was the same town where Nichola had died and where Bombadier Chris Gauthier (a signaller in the party before I arrived) had been injured in an ambush. Participating in this attack were A, B and C Company (Coy) Groups, both troops of artillery from A Battery, an Engineer squadron, two Companies of Afghan National Army (ANA) plus all of the ANA's attached American Embedded Training Teams (ETT), as well as a huge line-up of American and British fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Additionally, we had elements of the 2/87 US Infantry and 3 Para from the UK conducting blocks to prevent the enemy from escaping. From an artillery perspective, beyond the two gun troops, each equipped with two 155mm howitzers and 4 x 81mm mortars, we had three Forward Observation Officers (FOOs) and their parties, as well as the Battery Commander and his party, going in on the attack. On the night of the 7th, around 2200 hrs local time, C Coy Group - with yours truly attached as their FOO - rolled for Pashmul. As we arrived closer to the objective area we saw the women and children pouring out of the town - not a good sign. We pushed on and about 3 km from our intended line of departure to start the operation we were ambushed by Taliban fighters. At around 0030hrs I had my head out of the turret crew commanding my LAV with my night vision monocular on. Two rocket propelled grenade (RPG) rounds thundered into the ground about 75m from my LAV. For about half a second I stared at them and thought, "Huh, so that's what an RPG looks like." The sound of AK 47 7.62mm fire cracking all around the convoy snapped me back to reality and I quickly got down in the turret and we immediately began scanning for the enemy. They were on both sides of us adding to the "fog of war". We eventually figured out where all of our friendlies were, and where to begin engaging. We let off about 20 rounds of Frangible 25mm from our cannon at guys about a 100m away before we got a major jam in our link ejection-chute. We went to our 7.62 co-ax machine gun, and fired one round before it too jammed!! Boy was I pissed off. I went to jump up on the pintle-mounted machine gun, but as I stuck my head out of the LAV I realized the bad guys were still shooting at us and that the Canadian Engineers were firing high explosive incendiary 25mm rounds from their cannon right over our front deck. I quickly popped back down realizing that was probably one of the stupider ideas I have ever had in my life. Eventually after much cursing and beating the crap out of the link ejection-chute with any blunt instrument we could find in the turret, we were back in the game. The first troops in contact (TIC) lasted about two hours. The radio nets were busier than I had ever heard before and we realized that A and B Coys, as well as Reconnaissance Platoon had all been hit simultaneously, showing a degree of co-ordination not seen before in Afghanistan. The feeling amongst the Company was that was probably [the end of] it, as the enemy usually just conducted hit and run attacks. Boy, were we wrong! We continued to roll towards our line of departure and not five minutes later, as we rolled around a corner, I saw B Coy on our left flank get hit with a volley of about 20 RPGs all bursting in the air over the LAVs. It was an unreal scene to describe. There was no doubt now that we were in a big fight. We pushed into the town following the Company Commander behind the lead Platoon. This was not LAV-friendly country. The entire area was covered in grape fields which, due to the way they grow them, are not passable to LAVs, and acres of marijuana fields which, due to irrigation, caused the LAVs to get stuck. The streets were lined with Remembrance Vol.4 EMAIL FROM AFGHANISTAN Date: 27 July 2006 6:04 PM [Anon] [I got this note from a friend of a friend of a gunner friend of the author. The author is said to be serving as a Forward Observation Officer (FOO with 1PPCLI in Afghanistan.]

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