|Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) member, WO Ouellet gives out markers to the Afghan children in the village of Nakonay.|
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Back in Oct 2001 when the first Canadian soldiers got involved in the Afghanistan operation we wore green in the desert and even had our red cross worn prominently on our left arm.
The flak vests had removable collars and annoying shoulder pads. We took those off as well. The desert boots were good but they were designed off the winter weather boots which is a slight problem in a place where it can get 50 degrees Celsius.
|MCpl Franklin (at the time Cpl) in Kabul 2003|
Things have changed in the CF
|Cpl Marc André Amyotte, a field medic, from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa on foot patrol for Operation Mutay 2011|
Posted by Paul Franklin at 9:56 PM
Canadian Soldiers currently around the world:
Please go to the combat camera website to see great pics of CF soldiers doing the job.. from Sierra leone, to Afghanistan from Libya to Quebec.
Posted by Paul Franklin at 9:39 PM
|Inside the Slave Lake inferno|
How a raging wildfire devastated the community in a matter of minutes
|Slave Lake from above... before the fire|
|Aerial photo of Slave Lake under fire|
“At 4 p.m. I was taking aerial photos of the forest fire,” says reporter-photographer Caezer Ng of Slave Lake, Alta.’s Lakeside Leader. “Based on what I saw from the air, I was fairly encouraged. It looked like there was a comfortable kilometre-and-a-half, maybe two-kilometre gap between us and the fire. By five o’clock I was on the ground in a burning town.” It was the afternoon of Sunday, May 15. In a matter of minutes, some 40 per cent of the structures in the community of 7,000 would be lost to a conflagration of unexpected speed and destructiveness. Slave Lake’s gleaming $36-million town hall, completed just 17 months ago, went up in flames almost as though it had been built out of thermite. So too did the Catholic church, the public library, and the mall.
|Edmonton fire department helps out|
The town, a fast-growing centre for oil patch activity, forestry and tourism, sits 200 km north of Edmonton at the eastern tip of Lesser Slave Lake. Like much of northern Alberta, it had been scourged for much of the previous week by dry, warm winds gusting up to 100 km/hr, winds normally much more characteristic of the province’s arid south. Duncan MacDonnell, a public affairs man for the provincial ministry that oversees forest protection, walked outside Saturday in Edmonton and immediately kissed his leisurely Sunday goodbye: “I knew there was a full day of wildfire briefings in front of me.” He was right; within the next few days, two dozen wildfires would grow out of control throughout the province and 1,100 sq. km would be scorched.
|Slave Lake |
Slave Lake’s rapid expansion over recent years had left it without much natural separation between new subdivisions and the surrounding bush. The fire that eventually ravaged the town began 15 km to the southeast on Saturday, and residents were advised to be ready to bug out on two hours’ notice. When the inferno arrived, they did not get half that. The front of the blaze leaped local highways with an ease that surprised firefighters, and hot winds spread the fire in sudden terrifying flashovers rather than picturesque tongues of flame. Propane tanks and other fuel-storage facilities exploded in a steady stream of pops as families sought out safer parts of town. The burning of the local Ford dealership, with its trucks and its repair shop full of flammables, is said to have been especially memorable.
|Town hall on fire|
No official evacuation order was issued until late Sunday, as the fire was already entering the town. By that time, there was not much means left of transmitting instructions. The fire cut power to the local FM radio station, eventually destroying it, and compromised cellphone service. Police cars prowled the streets frantically, their operators helpless and short on information. Amidst literal anarchy and destruction, the people of Slave Lake stayed calm and escaped without a single fatality. Virtually every four-wheeled vehicle in town was put to work as drivers sacrificed their own belongings, perhaps forever, to make room for neighbours.
Word soon spread that the campus of Northern Lakes College was serving as the mustering point for evacuation, and terrified victims found a welcome sign of civil authority in the person of Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen. “Be sure to tell people how awesome Pearl was,” says evacuee Roger Auger, describing how the former cabinet minister expertly coordinated disaster response on her cellphone while comforting traumatized, smoke-grimed families.
Evacuees included 29 patients from the Slave Lake General Hospital, which survived the fire. Hundreds may be homeless. Facilities in the northern towns of Westlock and Athabasca were commandeered for shelter, and Edmonton’s new 500,000-sq.-foot Expo Centre on the Northlands exhibition grounds, which was preparing to spend much of late May holding grad parties for high-schoolers, is now full of forlorn rows of cots.
Outside the Expo building on Tuesday, evacuees traded war stories and reassured friends and family, over the phone and in person. In a corner of the parking lot, humane society volunteers tended to a small menagerie of rescued Slave Lake pets. Even the evacuees whose homes escaped destruction aren’t sure when they will be allowed to return, or how bad the smoke damage will turn out to be when they do. The town will recover, but some people will just move on. “My wife and I will probably look for work here instead of just killing time at the centre,” says Auger. “We’re still not sure if our house is there. We’ve been watching the pictures on television, hoping maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of it.”
Posted by Paul Franklin at 9:00 PM
Pakistan's spies 'incompetent' Opposition leader blasts security forces for sheltering terrorist leader
Pakistan's opposition leader Nawaz Sharif asked how the world's most-wanted man could hide in his country for so long.
Pakistan's opposition leader accused the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency of negligence and incompetence Wednesday as the country's former president said rogue members of the security establishment may have helped Osama bin Laden hide for years near Islamabad.
Ratcheting up pressure on the country's military as it fights off suspicion that it sheltered the al-Qaida leader, rival India named five Pakistani army officers in a list of 50 criminals it wants extradited to stand trial on terror charges.
Nawaz Sharif, who heads Pakistan's largest opposition group, rejected a government decision to put an army general in charge of the inquiry into intelligence lapses that led to the killing of bin Laden in a helicopter raid by U.S. commandos on May 2.
Sparing the government and its leaders in his tirade over the breach of Pakistan's sovereignty by U.S. forces, Sharif blamed the "worst case of negligence and incompetence" by the country's security agencies.
"It is (a) matter of serious concern that our security institutions knew nothing when the helicopter gunships and commandos remained in our territory and airspace for so long," he told a news conference, calling for a judicial commission to lead the investigation to dispel doubts about its objectivity.
Sharif demanded to know how the world's most-wanted man could remain holed up in a compound less than a kilometre from the country's main military academy, and bemoaned the damage the matter has caused to Pakistan's reputation abroad.
"Isn't it true that (the) world considers us as a country that abets and exports terrorism?" he said.
Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, an army general who seized power in 1999 and now lives in exile in London, told ABC News that there is a possibility that rogue junior officers in the country's intelligence and military might have been aware of bin Laden's whereabouts for years.
"It's really appalling that he was there and nobody knew," Musharraf said.
"But rogue element within is a possibility. The possibility . (is that there was), at the lower level, somebody following a policy of his own and violating the policy from above."
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
Posted by Paul Franklin at 8:36 PM
A note from someone who has read the book
Hi Paul - I read the book. While his aunt may have meant this book as a tribute, it is full of inaccuracies and a hurtful mix of guessing and quick internet searches to make it appear as if she knew intimate details or even knew our guys. It is especially hurtful to some of us families whose soldiers' deaths are included in the book. Not only has she mixed pure fiction with facts, she has taken many liberties with the actual incidents that killed our guys. I have written a letter of complaint to the publisher who obviously saw the book as a quick way to make a buck - off the backs and blood of our soldiers. I feel so bad for Jeff - she has done a huge injustice to all the soldiers who served on that tour and certainly to our 9 who lost their lives 20 and 4 July 2007. May they all RIP."
To call Captain Jeff Francis an unlikely soldier is a bit like calling one of the Kennedy grandchildren an unlikely politician.
A Forward Observation Officer killed in Kandahar in 2007, Francis was the son and grandson of career military men. As his aunt and biographer, Melanie Murray, points out in this often moving tribute, he was also descended from the Dukes of Atholl, the current one of whom “maintains the only legal private army in the United Kingdom.”
On the other hand, Francis never gave any hints that he wanted to be a soldier when he grew up. As a youngster he resented the Canadian Forces. That’s understandable, given that he was toted around the country as the family followed his father from one posting to the next. He was an indifferent and often lousy student who attended his Winnipeg high school sporadically, dropping out a month before graduation.
Even when he did get his life on track, moving to Ottawa with his family and earning a high school diploma at night school, there was no sign that the military was in his future. He seemed destined for an academic career, enrolling at Carleton University and earning an honours bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and a master’s degree in Canadian studies.
It was while working on his PhD that he began leaning toward joining up. His beloved grandmother had died. Francis was nearly 30, the stereotypical starving graduate student, and he was struggling to revive the passion for academia that had sustained him through his first two degrees. Initially it was the promise of a decent salary that appealed to him. But on a trip to Virginia with his father, who was co-ordinating the Canadian military for a NATO exercise, he realized he wanted a career that would stimulate his mind and his body — and that the Canadian Forces offered that.
It’s always a little surprising when people are shocked that soldiers die. After all, the military exists because of war, and people die in wars. But Murray isn’t too far off base when she concludes that “the Canadian military still felt like a safe place to be, as it had been for Jeff’s father and his grandfathers for the past 50 years,” when Francis was sworn in on Sept. 7, 2001.
Four days later, of course, everything changed. Or, in Murray’s words, “It was the collapse of an old world order. Out of the ashes, a new Canadian military was born — a phoenix more in the guise of a hawk than a dove.”
If that strikes you as hokey, be warned: Murray loves drama and sentiment, the more overwrought the better. She particularly enjoys stretching for analogies. Early on she informs readers that her nephew’s “birth under a constellation ruled by Mars, the eponymous planet of the Roman God of war, seems like one more synchronous piece of the puzzle of his destiny.”
She compares him with St. Martin, the patron saint of soldiers, on whose Feast Day he was born.
Rarely does she pass on the opportunity to invoke the idea of myth and destiny.
Francis was born on Remembrance Day and died on July 4, American Independence Day. His grandmother, “a mother of three daughters,” died at exactly the same time as Pierre Trudeau, “a father of three sons, each leaving a legacy of love and service in their diverse yet common ways.”
Francis’s son is born at 8:38 a.m., the exact same time Francis was born. Little Ry is “also born on a day of remembrance — All Soul’s Day, the day for remembering the souls of departed loved ones.”
Get past the hokey stuff, though, and there is a worthwhile story of a young man determined to make a positive difference in the world, a man blessed with a loving and supportive family, a woman who adored him, and a baby son who will never know him.
When Murray quotes letters Francis wrote to his mother and grandmother, it’s impossible not to feel broken-hearted for his family’s loss. Of course, he’s not the only Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan. Five others died with him that day, and more than 150 have died there since 2002.
All were loved. All had stories. But Francis was especially fortunate to have an aunt who is a writing instructor and a writer herself, a woman who turned her grief into a touching memorial to a fallen soldier.
Debby Waldman’s next books, Room Enough for Daisy (written with Rita Feutl) and Addy’s Race, will be published by Orca in the fall.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
Posted by Paul Franklin at 8:09 PM
Will the US ask the new majority government to ask the CF Soldiers to stay in Afghanistan for an even greater role than just training?
Will the US ask the new majority government to tell the CF Soldiers to stay in Afghanistan for an even greater role than just training?
interesting article that explores the American need for international help in their mission in Afghanistan.
A Canadian Chinook transport carries a sea container across the desert to the Horn of Panjwaii in Afghanistan February 9, 2011, where about 800 Canadian, American and Afghan troops have taken control of one of the last Taliban sanctuaries in southern
Afghanistan. Chinooks have provided a vital air bridge to the area, transporting nearly 1.3-million tons of cargo there in December and January
John Ivison, National Post · May 20, 2011 | Last Updated: May 20, 2011 5:02 PM ET
OTTAWA — The election of a Conservative majority government has encouraged Canada’s NATO allies to renew efforts to persuade Stephen Harper to station Canadian trainers in the more dangerous south of Afghanistan, after the combat mission ends this summer.
Diplomatic sources say countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Denmark, which have combat forces in Helmund and Kandahar provinces, are pressuring Canada to move some of its trainers to the South from the more secure areas around Kabul.
“We would like to see Canada fill gaps where there is a need and where the security situation is more complicated than in Kabul — that is, in the South,” said one diplomat. The moves behind the scenes follow a public call last January by NATO’s top training commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Lt.-Gen. William Caldwell, who said trainers are especially needed in Kandahar region, where the Canadian combat mission has been based.
Peter MacKay, the Defence Minister, has said that the training mission will be “Kabul-centric,” with most of the 950 troops based “behind the wire” in and around the Afghan capital. CBC reported this week that 50 will be based at Mazar-e-Sharif in the North and another 25 at Herat in the West. Military trainers will act as advisers to Afghan forces, who will in turn train the new troops. CBC said more than half of the trainers would be drawn from the Third Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
The government announced last November that it would keep some troops in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends this summer. But, in a move designed to defuse political opposition and reduce casualties, it resolved troops would not be based in the volatile Kandahar region - a stipulation of the Parliamentary motion that extended the mission to 2011 back in 2008.
Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Mr. MacKay, said Canada’s international partners are delighted Canadian Forces will continue their presence in Afghanistan and that, working with those partners, Kabul has been deemed the best place to fill the training void identified by NATO.
Yet this does not accord with the noises coming from various NATO allies, who say it is ironic that Canada has placed caveats on its operational flexibility, after years of criticizing others for doing exactly that.
Despite the Harper government’s insistence that no Canadian troops will be stationed in Kandahar, Canada’s allies will take heart from their experience last November, when the Prime Minister did an apparent U-turn on his promise that all the troops were coming home this summer. In fact, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable, Stephen Harper promised NATO earlier in 2011 that he would consider staying in Afghanistan to conduct army training.
One diplomatic source said controlling a majority government might make it easier for Mr. Harper to have a similar change of heart. He said that, while there is no doubt the Prime Minister is sick of Afghanistan and its government, any move to share the training burden in the south would be looked upon favourably by the U.S., in particular.
New Democrat Jack Harris said he was caught by surprise when the decision was made to stay in Afghanistan. “We could be taken by surprise again but it would be very unwise for Mr. Harper to start changing these things. We should be resisting what our allies want. They may have been emboldened by the majority government but it would totally contradict our current plans. Whatever the government wants, I’m sure the Canadian people don’t want it,” he said.
Posted by Paul Franklin at 8:05 PM
interesting type of art very cool.
Scott Waters has an unusual vantage point for an artist. Over the last two decades he has created a body of work that both supports and tears down the mythology of soldiering. For the three years before that, he lived it. Twenty-three years ago the artist served as an infantryman in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI).
In 1979, Waters’ family emigrated from northern England and settled in Trail, B.C. He took a rather roundabout path to the arts, joining the military out of high school. That early military experience has framed much of his work. There was clearly enough turbulence through those few years to fill a thousand canvasses. He explains, “One of the reasons I made the paintings is that I have a lot of unresolved feelings and unanswered questions about my time in the military. In one way, the paintings are just a methodology. The physical act of painting was a way to work through these incidents to try to come to some resolution about them.”
In August 2006, Waters travelled to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, N.B., to participate in the Canadian Forces Artists Program (CFAP). Thirty-eight years earlier, the Canadian Armed Forces Civilian Artists Program (CAFCAP) was created to ensure there was an artistic record of Canada’s military history. Lack of funding resulted in the program’s termination in 1995, but six years later it was resurrected as CFAP.
Waters comments on the differences between today’s soldiers and those who served during times of peace. “The soldiers I painted in Gagetown were at the beginning of their six-month training cycle in preparation for Afghanistan. I was interested in seeing how my view of the military had changed over the years, and, yes, it had changed dramatically. These soldiers knew they were going to Afghanistan, and they were not joining for a steady paycheque. There was a purpose. The mentality was different from my time.”
He paints on sheets of plywood and is increasingly supporting his images with text. “One of the reasons I do the writing is simply because I don’t think the visuals are enough…. All mediums have their limits,” he explains. The light in his final work is hard and his composition unique, with blocks of brash colour dividing the surface in flat zones. He lays on acrylic and oil using the knots and grain of the wood as elements in the finished artwork. Waters often paints extreme close-ups of the faces of infantryman. His art is graphic, powerful and sometimes uncomfortable.
These days Waters has taken a break from painting people, and says, “I hope to be going to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in April or May with CFAP…” and although he does not wish to categorize or presuppose his subject, he does have an interest in exploring still life. Waters is in the unusual position of being able to straddle both worlds, “I think I will regularly address the military in my art…. It is sometimes difficult for me. Soldiers would view me as someone who a long time ago was a soldier, but now is an artist.”
That he is.
His art is part of the Canadian War Museum travelling exhibition A Brush With War: Military Art From Korea To Afghanistan and will be on view at the museum until March 20, 2011. The exhibition then travels to Victoria, B.C., and Calgary, Alta.
Posted by Paul Franklin at 7:53 PM
|"Do you know what a soldier is? He's the chap that makes it possible for civilised people to despise war" - Allan Massie|
|Medics in action|
Posted by Paul Franklin at 7:49 PM
Its funny how I have always wanted a dog and this little Basset Hound puppy entered my life just over 2 weeks ago. I have to say I'm not sure who gets more out of our friendship him or me.
He was born on Jan 28, 2011 and is proving to be a challenge and a huge part of my life.
he is a bit of a helper dog and I challenged some friends to come up with some cool names for him.
Helper dog, companion dog, guide dog but the one that seems most appropriate is "wingman"
Also his name is Achilles as in the Greek demi god.
Posted by Paul Franklin at 7:17 PM