William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD

THE TRIP: KABUL TO KANDAHAR

Our soldiers drive the dangerous road
whilst hauling each and every load
From Camp Julian up in the North
bravely they are setting forth

At an Airport down near Kandahar
rebuilding camp, ‘twill be up to par
Guarded by ex members of the CAR[1]
to the new destination they travel far

They have to watch each truck and car
with weapons cocked, safety ajar
the new camp’s nearer to Pakistan
where the last Al-Qaeda took a stand

Steve Noonan is the Canadian Boss
and hopefully he won’t suffer a loss
by moving all of the Mission’s F and E[2]
from Camp Julian for our Army!

Huge Canadian Army Convoys Trek Through Afghan Hot Zone

Tense soldiers keep fingers on trigger as military makes move south

Times Colonist: Saturday November 5, 2005
By Matthew Fisher: Can West News Service

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Trooper Adam Girard of the Royal Canadian Dragoons thought for a brief instant earlier this week his moment of truth had arrived.

The young soldier from Windsor, Ontario, who enlisted 18 months ago, and his friend, Trooper Daniel Michaud, 24, of Quebec City, stood and looked across a few metres of pavement at an angry Afghan soldier conspicuously carrying a rocket-propelled grenade, surrounded by a dozen more furious Afghan troops armed with AK-47 assault rifles.

The dispute was over whose wishes took priority on the storied road between Kabul and Afghanistan’s more volatile second city – Kandahar.

The Canadians blocked the highway to all traffic because one of the fighting vehicles in their convoy had broke down in the desolate sand, rock and defiles of southern Afghanistan — a situation that made them even more vulnerable than usual to would-be suicide bombers, snipers or ambush.

“This is my area. We demand to pass,” the Afghan army commander said as his posse grimly stood their ground.

After 15 minutes of hard stares and hard talk, and with the barrel of the 25-millimetre cannon on Girard’s armoured vehicle pointed menacingly in the general direction of the Afghan soldiers, the standoff ended with the Afghans stepping back a little before the Canadian convoy resumed its perilous 500-kilometre journey south.

“I think that is the most afraid that I have been all tour,” Girard said after he climbed back into the armoured vehicle. “But it comes with the job. Every soldier knows the risks.”

Such potentially explosive dramas are the stuff of everyday life for hundreds of Canadian soldiers involved in moving much of Camp Julian, lock-stock-and-barrel, from Kabul to another base that is to be fully operational at Kandahar Airfield by the end of February.

The movement of nearly 700 sea containers and 300 drab green vehicles carrying everything a lighting army needs – from toilets to tents to surgical gear, batteries, spare parts and heavy equipment maintenance sheds to far more lethal military equipment – is a mammoth operation that has been described by senior Canadian officers here as the biggest tactical mission undertaken by their army in hostile territory since the Korean War.

As Queen Victoria’s army discovered in the 19th century and the Kremlin’s Red Army learned in the 1980s, getting from Kabul to Kandahar is a serious business that requires nerves of steel and overwhelming firepower. Danger lurked everywhere during the journey that has been taking Canadian convoys as much as 16 hours to complete since they started on Oct. 18.

The odyssey began in the wild traffic of Kabul where potential car bombers constantly tested the Canadians by ignoring signs they should not drive closer than 20 metres. Mines or improvised explosive devices might be buried almost anywhere alongside, or under the country’s most important highway.

Another nightmare was the possibility of an ambush in one of the narrow mountain defiles where British and Soviet troops so often came to a bloody end.

“They will take a run at us on the convoys; that is a certainty,” said Col. Steve Noonan of Ottawa, commander of Task Force Afghanistan.

To help protect the convoys, soldiers from Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry have established temporary forward operating bases along the route and the U.S. air force reigns unchallenged in the Afghan skies.