This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Star of Military Valour Award

"The whole time I am running, I just kept wishing that my legs would go faster. We were hot. We were tired, and there were a couple of hundred Taliban shooting at us."
"The anticipated threat was from [improvised explosive devices] buried in the road -- that's what we saw as the real danger going in. We didn't expect a big contact with the enemy."
"You know when you are being shot at. This guy was in the ditch in front [of] me, maybe 20 metres ahead of me, and so I throw a grenade -- but it doesn't go off.... And so I get up again, and every time I get up -- you throw a grenade like a baseball -- I have to expose myself to this guy, and so I'd get up and he'd shoot."
"I throw a second grenade, and it's another dud. And it was kind of funny, and our heat casualty was chuckling at me. Finally, the third grenade: I get up and the guy shoots, and the grenade explodes -- and the guy stops shooting."
Sgt.Pat Tower, Charlie Company, Afghanistan deployment, August 3, 2006

"I was really surprised none of us got shot. There were bullets whizzing past our bodies. There were rocket-propelled grenades being fired over our heads ... We knew we had to get there, and get there quick."
"It was mayhem. And I could see it wasn't going to get much easier for us from that point on."
"Right then and there, it became about survival. I knew that there would be time to grieve later and that my chances were pretty slim of getting out of there, anyhow, so I had to focus on how to make the situation better, so that those of us that were still breathing might get out of it alive."
"I wanted to try and change the momentum of the battle. But Hammy [Capt.Jon (Hammy) Hamilton] talked me out of it I wouldn't be talking to you about it today if he hadn't."
"Curtis couldn't walk, he couldn't stand up, but he could crawl and squeeze a trigger, so I gave him his machine gun back and set him up to cover us. I often think about what Curtis did when I think about that day."
Sgt.Willy MacDonald, Charlie Company, Afghanistan deployment, August 3, 2006

"I had information that [the] Taliban had built a defensible base, a very large one, in that area with compounds, defensive positions and their sole job was to use that as a staging area to be able to launch attacks into Kandahar City. That was the purpose of it. There were at least 1,500 fighters in that area and they were ready to launch an attack into Kandhar City. I had enough information to say the force that Col. (Ian) Hope was launching was a lot smaller for the fight they were going into. I didn't want the operation to go through, but the decision was made to launch on it."
(former) Lieutenant-Colonel Harjit Sajjan, intelligence specialist, now Canadian Minister of Defence
Courtesy Patrick Tower
Courtesy Patrick Tower   Patrick Tower's section with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

The men of Charlie Company were finishing up their final two weeks of a seven-month deployment in Afghanistan. A message had come through: "If you don't get us out of here, we're all going to die"; a desperate call for help from a group of fourteen of their company earlier dispatched from Charlie Company to a school complex located in Pashmul, Afghanistan. The school had been built by American combat engineers, a reconstruction project geared to winning the compliance of the local population against the Taliban.

The Taliban are notorious for destroying schools, leaving Afghan children, particularly in the more remote areas of the country without the opportunity to attend school; girls' schools in particular were a target for them. To destroy not only the schools but their teachers' lives. This school, however, was given special treatment, transformed into a defensible position for the Taliban. It was used as a haven for Taliban passing through the area from the border with Pakistan.

The Canadian military experienced a tug-of-war contest with the Taliban over possession of the school. Whenever Taliban fighters would occupy it, Canadian soldiers would come along to rout them. And the mission of August 3 was one of those events. When the troop was informed a dozen Taliban were in the area and dispatched to once again rout the Taliban to restore the schoolhouse to Canadian control. On arrival they found themselves hugely outnumbered and under siege.

Which led to another group of Charlie Company dispatched to their aid, planning to approach the village from the south, but the plan went awry when a Canadian light armoured vehicle was blown up by a remote-controlled roadside bomb mortally wounding one, concussing another soldier. Another LAV-3 succumbed to a second IED, but this time no one was killed, three soldiers wounded instead. They abandoned their original plan, to advance on foot the remaining 400 metres to the school.

Running at first with 30 kilos of gear strapped to their backs, they changed to a slow forward creep on coming in contact with the Taliban shooting at them. They were hours trying to reach their target area, taking cover where they could; ditches, mud walls, dry creek beds in 63-C heat. They remained stationary, they covered fire, they moved, they shot, moved again and eventually approached the school outbuildings where their comrades were trapped.

The men were trapped in outbuildings of the schoolhouse, with the gunfire volume intensifying while others in the group were simply succumbing to heatstroke. They had come abreast of a full encampment of Taliban and the fourteen Canadians were encircled. A rocket-propelled grenade slammed into one of the outbuildings, and then another. Men were wounded and screaming. Those not injured were in disbelief.

Sgt.Vaughn Ingram, his stomach ripped open, his leg akimbo was trying to bandage Cpl.Bryce Keller who was already dead. And then, so was Sgt.Ingram. Sgt. MacDonald came across Cpl.Eric Curtis Qualtier, horribly wounded, with tourniquets staunching blood pouring from all points on his body. Despite which, he asked for his machine gun back, and he provided the cover that those who were still whole needed to make their stand.

Sgts. Tower and MacDonald formed a defensive position with those in their command who could still fight, and at that point aid arrived with LAVs roaring into view to rescue both survivors and the dead. The wounded were loaded into the vehicles first, then the dead. The heroism of Sgts. Tower and MacDonald during this conflict was formally recognized in time for Remembrance Day, each awarded the Star of Military Valour for their courageous actions.

Ramp Ceremony for 9 Platoon. Sgt V. Ingram's casket. Sgt P. Tower rear left, Sgt W. MacDonald front right. DND

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