Researching The Royal Canadian Regiment

Letters from Afghanistan

By MCpl Sheridan Taylor, Wpns Det Comd, 6 Platoon, November Coy, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment; while deployed on ISAF, Kabul, OP Athena Roto 0; August 2003 - February 2004

These letters were received by RHQ May 2006, from MCpl Taylor with his permission for any use for Regimental purposes. Since Op ATHENA, MCpl Sheridan has rebadged to the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and is currently (2006) serving with their 3rd Battalion. MCpl Sheridan's work is presented here without editing revisions.

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may Allah smile upon you all
Khoda hafez

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Man, I love night operations! Tonight was especially fun. Driving down the streets of Kabul, almost no illumination, in a two-jeep convoy, weapons bristling out of everywhere, with the cool night breeze blowing the sweat away from under your helmet. Damn, I love this shit!

Walking point down dark, deserted streets, with an M203 over/under combo, 300 rounds of 5.56 ammo, 6 High Explosive 40mm grenades, 10 inches of scalpel-sharp high carbon steel, total infrared night vision superiority, and a bad attitude. (Hey, all I've ever asked out of life was an unfair advantage. Well, that and a hot blonde chick. Whattaya know! I got that too! Life is good.) It's especially good when you're the baddest dog on the block, with the biggest teeth. heh, heh, heh. "Yea, though I walk through the shadow of the Valley of Death, I shall fear no evil...for I am the meanest sumbitch in the Valley. Thy automatic rifle and thy grenade launcher, they comfort me."

I get a little weary of hearing people back home say that Canada has no business in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or anywhere else. I grow weary of hearing that soldiers are war-mongering baby-killers. (Yes, I've actually been called a baby-killer. Me. A baby-killer.)

Soldiers hate war. Any soldier who has seen war or the effects of war, hates it. He hates what it does to a proud people. He hates what it does to the cities and fields. I have seen what war does. But, I serve my country's interests in foreign lands that those same effects never happen in my country. If we do not stop evil away from our borders, we will have to deal with it within our borders. And I do not want to see Canadian citizens living under these conditions.

If you were living surrounded in poverty and squalor, at the non-existent mercy of selfish and greedy men, with no hope of succour, wouldn't you want someone, anyone, to come help you?

These people need us. Ever since ISAF came to Afghanistan, crime has taken a dramatic drop in the streets of Kabul. Ever since the Americans freed the nation from the Taliban, the people have flourished. They smile now. They love Canadian soldiers especially, because we stop and talk with them. We listen to their problems. We try to find ways to help them and lighten their burden. Canadians are natural-born peace-keepers. It's in our breeding. We talk to people. We're curious about their customs, and respectful of their ways. And when shit turns bad, we kick ass like nobody's business. Canadians are fierce fighters. Always have been. It's what happens when you finally get a calm, tolerant person really pissed.

I like these people. They are a reflection of their country. You look at the mountains and desert and think this is the most inhospitable, bleak place on earth. Then you find an oasis, and it's a paradise. The city is a maze of high walls, with narrow windows, and barred doors. Then when you enter the people's compounds you find exquisitely-tended gardens and orchards. When you enter their brown, mud-walled house you find an explosion of colour. Rugs, carpets, tapestries, cushions, and pillows. All hand-made, and a riot of colour and texture.

The people are the same. They appear grim and unapproachable, but they will take you to their heart in an instant. Humour is in everything they do. (I suppose when your life is this desolate, you HAVE to laugh that much more.) They are poets by nature. Lovers of music and art. Friendly to anyone who shows them the same.

Hospitality is one of their three pillars of social convention. (Along with Revenge and Sanctuary.) When a man who has no food offers you his last meal, how can you think he is anything but generous?

They are warriors. Their strength in the face of deprivation shames me as a North American. I see what these people have, and more importantly, what they do NOT have and I feel embarrassed to be Canadian. Look at how we deal with strife. A snowstorm in Toronto and the Army is called out to shovel the sidewalks so that the beautiful people won't get their shoes damp.

Take care everyone,
May Allah smile upon you

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Well, ya'll

I gotta tell ya, I am some kinda sick and tired of fixing or repairing jeeps. The Iltis is junk. It seems to be the major part of most of my days. It' not that it's complicated, they're just jeeps after all. But it's never-ending. And monotonous. Every day something new goes wrong with one of our jeeps. And I can't just have it taken to the mechanics, because they're so back-logged I'd never get the damn thing back. Then my Platoon would be down a vehicle, and we only have 3. By rights, we're supposed to have 9. There are no parts in theatre, so everything is held together by gun tape and 550 cord. Good thing I'm hillbilly/white trash and am used to this sort of thing.

I've been into town a few more times now, and have made arrangements with a buddy to go along on his patrols as well. I'm here for a purpose. I stir the pot because that's how you get results. I dig for Int because that's what patrolling is for. The CO needs Intelligence. So, as a Recce patrolman, I'm gonna get it for him. My buddy, Chevy, is also a paratrooper and a Recce Patrolman. We kinda have the same ideas, except I'm sneakier, and he's more aggressive. But, we get results, and we work well together. Good cop/bad cop sorta deal. He can be a scary little bastard, make no mistake. I come across a friendly, lazy ol' hound. 'Til they piss me off. Then I bite, and it's actually more un-nerving for them. Especially since I'm twice the size of the average Afghani. Hell, in all my kit, I'm almost 300lbs, and I stand over 6'2" in my boots.

The storms here are awesome. Yesterday, I stood outside and watched a curtain of sand blow over the camp. It came over the wall like a wave, and you couldn't see 20 feet. The wind was blowing tents over, and the poor little locals and Nepalese workers couldn't stand upright. I couldn't stop grinning. Then the thunder rolled like the world's biggest kettle drum. It echoed off the mountains, and reverberated through your body. And then came the lightning. It seemed to flicker from cloud to cloud before striking earth, like a laser-light show at a rock concert. And then came a downpour that only lasted minutes, but drove into you with the force of hailstones. All at the same time. Dust storm, thunder, lightning, and rain. Visibility was nil, and I stood outside giggling and howling into the fury of nature, totally awestruck.

Even the storms are cooler than in Canada.

I love this place.

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I will not:

Geez, try and have a little fun around here.

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'kay, first of all, I'm fine. Nobody got hurt. No matter what you may have heard or read, no Canadians were hurt in the so-called 'rocket attack'. They launched rockets at Camp Warehouse, Camp Julien, and Kabul International Airport (the unfortunately nick-named KIA). They hit with one rocket at Camp Warehouse, missed with the other, hit KIA, and missed us. They launched two at Warehouse. One hit a sea container, the other missed entirely. We put our fighting order on, and went back to sleep. They missed us by 5000 meters. Yes, I said 5 kilometres. Idiots. I think these morons were trained by Boris Badanoff and Natasha. Next thing you know, they'll be out looking for Moose and Squirrel.

They tried to get us with a bomb last month. Blew themselves up. we know there were at least 2 involved, because we found three legs. heh, heh, heh.

They tried a car bomb last month. Blew themselves up.

They tried a rocket attack last month. 12 rockets misfired. Duds. The 13th, missed by a half a kilometre. Somebody got an ass-whuppin' for that one, I'm sure.

Maybe they should just go buy a huge anvil, and try the ol' "drop it from the cliff" routine. They'd have better luck.

I think we couldn't even go looking for these guys. If we kill them, they might find competent terrorists, and I'd lose sleep.

I gotta tell ya, I am very proud of my boys. They behaved like true professional infantrymen. They woke up, moved to a safe location with their fightin' and dyin' equipment. Then went back to sleep. Out-Fucking-standing. Not a man panicked. Not a man flinched. Good boys, every one. Damn fine boys.

The civvies in camp, however, were a mess. Panic. Terror. It was hilarious. I wanted to take a box of rations down to their part of camp, drop 'em off, and say "Ya got two hours to make it to the airport. We're buggin' out. This is all the food available. There's no transport. You're on your own. Godspeed." But, I was too tired. One dumb chick grabs O.B. and says, "I'm not used to this, what should we do?" He said, "I dunno, put your helmet on? See ya." She sat down and cried. I laughed my ass off.

'I'm not used to this." Gee, that's odd, I get rocketed all the time back in Canada. Idjit.

I am firmly convinced that somewhere in my Section's AOR there is a secret bio-engineering lab. We have an animal in Camp that is not a cat, and not a dog. It's Catdog, and we think it's in league with Satan, but we can't prove it. And I have things in the alleys I patrol that are not monkeys and not cats. They're monkey cats. They rule the universe. Probably where Osama is hiding out. In the lab with Igor.

Actually, he's in Camp. He signs into the mess hall every day. Dunno how he does it. Really pisses the Kitchen Officer off, though.

gotta go. take care, everybody.

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ok, damage control. I don't know what the papers are going to say, but everyone here is fine. There was a pre-emptive move by Pesident Karzai to dissuade some plotters of attempting a coup. He got wind of it early, and ISAF rolled. Well, most of ISAF rolled. Canada's forces in Kabul just sat here, because we have no vehicles, and our leadership are morons. There was some mortar fire, but nowhere near us. So everyone can be cool.

So, anyway, there I was yesterday, in the back of the jeep, feet spaced wide apart to brace myself against the backs of the seats, acting as rear security. I got a C8 carbine, a 12 guage riot gun, and I'm feeling pretty damn cool about myself. "Yep, I am the shit, baby. Oh, yeah, Rambo, Audie Murphy, with a dash of Magnum P.I., that's me."

Chevy: "Ready to roll?"

Me: "I got two guns, 320 rounds of ammo, and a half a tin o' dip. Let's roll."

Chevy: "Roger that."

That's when I notice the female driver for the CIMIC officer is behind us, and looking at me with a smile on her face. Why not? I am gorgeous, and looking oh-so hard, right? So, I turn on the "Hard-Guy" routine. Watching my arcs, weapon at the ready position, my very best Sgt Rock face. Oh, I am COOL! She follows us for a while, then peels off on her task, still with that smile. "Oh, yeah. I still got it. Chicks dig me. I can't help it."

So, I finish the patrol, go out on two more, and a drop-off that evening. Then, when I'm taking my pants off, I realize the entire crotch is torn out, and little private what's-her-name was simply laughing at my not-so privates.

Oh, yeah. I'm cool.....

Bye, ya'll. Be good.

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Letter to a young schoolgirl from me

22 Oct 03

Hello Grace,

Before I truly begin, I must apologize for typing this letter. It's kinda impersonal, I know. However, if you were to actually see my handwriting, you would understand, believe me. My wife is the only person I know who can actually decipher the hieroglyphics I call writing. (Chicken-scratches are a more accurate term.)

I am a soldier in 6 Platoon, November Company, 3RCR. It's an infantry battalion. I'm currently posted to Camp Julien, Kabul, Afghanistan, in the ?heart of the mysterious Orient?.

Although I come from a small immediate family, with just my little sister and I, I have many, many cousins, nieces, nephews, and about a bazillion dogs. We get together every chance we get and spend as much time together as we can, so I can relate to a chaotic family life. Besides, I've been in the army for somewhere around 8 or 9 years, and we excel at chaos.

In your letter, you asked what it's like to be so far from home. Well, I spend most of my life away from home, but you never really get used to it. It doesn't much matter whether you're in south-West Asia or just in the woods around CFB Petawawa, you're still 'away', if you know what I mean. You're still out of contact with your loved ones and away from the creature comforts we all take for granted. (I tend to spend the first 2 days back just staring at the TV. Oohh, pretty colours, moving lights.)

As for your questions about what it's like to be in a place where people don't want you, and to live under the threat of attack. Tough questions. Well, first, you called them "dumb questions". There are no "dumb questions". The only way we learn is by asking, right? I mean, if you don't know the answer, then the question isn't dumb, is it? (There are, however, dumb answers. I get a lot of them myself, and have even given a few.)

Second, the vast majority of Afghani people do, in fact, want us here. I know this, because they tell us so at every available opportunity. It only stands to reason, really. These poor people have been at war for more years than you've been alive. 25 years, actually. Man, I was just a kid of eight, when the Soviets sponsored a coup in 1978, then invaded in 1979. There's been a constant state of warfare ever since. With all the horrors and terror that usually accompany Man's most tragic activity: War. On top of warfare (with the attendant rapine, pillage, disease, and poverty) the entire nation has been suffering from a six-year drought. Wouldn't anyone welcome someone who was willing to put a stop to the warlords and bandits marauding the countryside? Anyone who was bringing safety and security to the nation? I know I would. The Afghanis know that Canada is here to help and they are grateful. Heart-wrenchingly so.

Third, hmmm?. living under constant threat of attack. That's a difficult question to answer, really. Well, you fall back on your training, your instincts, and that ridiculous belief we all have that "it won't happen to me". In all honesty, I can't say that I think about it much. A sense of fatalism helps, I suppose. If your number's up, then it's up. There's a cheesy Army saying I've always found amusing (in a dark sort of way). "It's not the bullet with your name on it, it's the one marked 'to whom it may concern'. I lost a very good friend and a role model a little while ago. But that's the risk we volunteer to take, I guess. I dunno. Someone has to do it, and if we don't, who will? I'd rather face the risks myself than have someone else do it. Besides, I'd much rather stop the fighting and terrorism over here, than have to face it in Canada.

How do we deal with the loneliness and fear? Is that what you were getting at? We form bonds of friendship that are even closer than family ties. We in the Infantry, especially, use humour. (Mind you, it's a dark, cynical, sarcastic form of humour, for the most part.) I've found that laughter is usually your best defence against the darker emotions. There's always something funny in even the worst circumstances. And when you are surrounded by Man's inhumanity to Man, you either laugh at it, or spend your time crying. And that accomplishes nothing.

What's it like in Afghanistan? Totally unique. In some ways, it's like living in an Indiana Jones movie. Like stepping back in time. You can touch a wall that's stood since the time of Alexander the Great. With a satellite dish on top of it. Bizarre. I love it here, personally. I'm glad to be on a real mission. I find the people here to be a reflection of their country. It's a nation of tall, bleak mountains. Imposing, aloof, appearing untouchable. But with beautiful valleys hidden away. Their homes are the same. Stone walls, barred doors, narrow firing-port windows. But the interior is a riot of colour. Tapestries, curtains, carpets, pillows, orchards, and gardens. The Afghan people are the same. Grim and serious at first glance, but underneath they are warm, humorous, and generous to a fault.

What would I change the most? It's the children and the animals that tear at your heartstrings the most. They live a life that is horrifying by North American standards. But, they still laugh and play. What else can they do? And, with the help of the International Community, things will get better. Circumstances here improve every day. And Canadian soldiers are a big part of that. I?m proud of my boys. I'm proud to say, "I'm a Canadian soldier" again, and it feels good. We are a positive force here. We're doing a good thing.

If your teacher (what was his name, Mr. G.?) would like, I can e-mail him some pics of the city, the countryside, the people, and the troops.

So, to you, Grace M., I say "Thank you". Thank you for your letter. Thank you for taking the time to write to a stranger. Thank you for your good wishes. I hope you have a long life, full of laughter, love, and joy. Treasure your family (even when they're really annoying). Be happy.

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Holidays in Kabul

well, it's 0-dark-stupid. I'd just finished radio watch, was almost asleep, when some dumbass downtown set off a bomb or launched a rocket. Right. Wide awake again. hmmmm, sounds like fast air flying over the city.

"Peace on Earth." Hopefully, someday.

I wish everyone a truly happy holiday season. Especially those boys and girls deployed out there on the sharp end. Be safe, be careful. Those of you at home, please enjoy the silly season to the fullest. It's the best 'thank you' we can receive. To know that you folks are safe and happy, and can enjoy this time of year with loved ones is what makes this job worthwhile.

All the best of the season to everyone out there, regardless of faith.

Joyeaux Noel
Feliz Navidad
Merry Christmas.

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Pro Patria

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