Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Operation Enduring Blogger

Rudyard Griffiths, the giant brain who founded the Dominion Institute, snapped this picture. He suggested that the caption read VOTE MERCER STRONG ON DEFENCE 2008

He might be on to something. With that caption, this photo and the right team I could go on to win my father’s old seat on the town council in Middle Cove Outer Cove Logy Bay.

I have just returned from a week in Afghanistan. Now I am back in the office and somehow wrapping my head around creating a new TV season. The Jet lag is a bit nutty though so I keep ducking under my desk for power naps. Nobody bothers me in this position; they just assume I am management.

It would be near impossible to sum up the entire experience in Afghanistan but a personal highlight was reading online from Kabul that the Minister of Defense stated “emphatically” that we weren’t in the country. Finger on the pulse that one.

Here are a few observations.

I would make a terrible soldier.

There are lots of rules in the Canadian Forces. A very simple rule is that you must have your flack jacket and helmet with you at all times, and when you are not wearing them you must know where they are. This is pretty important. Camp Julian in Kabul was the target of a rocket attack just days before we arrived, as was the Canadian embassy. If you’re going to hang out in these places it makes sense that you know where your armor is. This does not seem to be a problem for most soldiers; I know this because when you look around the Canadian camps you don’t see abandoned flack jackets or helmets without owners. Well actually last week you might have because I was there, and try as I might to keep track of my things I kept laying mine down and then inevitably I would see something shiny or get talking to some soldiers who would then bring me elsewhere to meet other soldiers and eventually I would be on the other side of the camp with no idea where I left the bloody things.

On one occasion, as I was once again wandering around looking for my helmet, a soldier asked me sarcastically if, in my other job, I was used to having people follow me around to keep track of my clothing. In fact I do. It’s called the wardrobe department. I chose not to pass this on, as it seemed a bit unmanly to admit.

The other problem I would have is the briefings. They love to give briefings in the army. A briefing is a bit like school. At least it seemed like school to me because more often than not I didn’t have a bloody clue what anyone was talking about.

Also there is the matter of cowardice. Perhaps I shall write about my overall cowardice in great length at another time.

Guy Lafleur is a great Canadian.

On the second last day of the trip Guy woke up and played ball hockey with the soldiers first thing in the morning, then put in a full day that ended with a four hour flight to another camp in a Herc. When we arrived Guy went and played another full game of hockey 9:00 that night. He signed literally hundreds of autographs every day and seemed to accept that many men serving their country overseas were Leafs fans. I shared a room with Guy on a stopover at an airbase on the way in and out of the country; having to wake up Guy Lafleur at 4: 30 in the morning so we could go get on a Herc was one of the most surreal moments of my life. Guy…Guy…Guy…wake up! Rapide comme une Bunny!

Low Arsehole Ratio.

Arseholes are a fact of life but, as God is my witness, I never met any on this trip and I met about 700 people. This must qualify as a statistical anomaly.

A Changed Country

This was my second trip to Afghanistan and the capitol city of Kabul has changed dramatically since Canada showed up. Kabul looks and feels like a city on the mend. New construction is everywhere, the stores are crowded, there is fresh produce in abundance and women are seen everywhere on the streets -- many without Burkas. Canada has played a huge part in this transformation. Now things start to get real tricky. The bulk of Canada’s troops will soon be stationed in Kandahar. This is the Wild West. Kandahar is, bottom line, far more dangerous than Kabul. If you wanted to drive home this fact all you have to do is take a look inside the front gates of the Canadian camp. Inside the gate sits a British armoured vehicle that was recently hit by a suicide bomber. Because of the armour everyone walked away from that attack.

Canadians on patrol in this area drive now similar vehicles made by Mercedes.

The Kids are all right.

In Kandahar we were lucky enough to go along on a foot patrol. The kids go crazy for the Canadian soldiers and mob them wherever they go. They want high fives and pens. The pictures speak for themselves.