Trev’s Blog

Canada’s longest war began in early 2002 in eastern Afghanistan, when Lt.-Col. Pat Stogran led his 3rd Battalion PPCLI into battle alongside American troops in Operation Anaconda. The objective of the mission was to capture Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in the mountains of the remote eastern province of Paktia. During the operation, Cpl. Rob Furlong broke the record—twice—for the longest sniper shot in war.

The first Canadian blood to be shed in Afghanistan fell on April 18, 2002, at Tarnak Farms, the former home of Osama bin Laden. U.S. Air Force major Harry Schmidt, on a combat air patrol in his F-16 fighter, mistook a live-fire exercise on the designated range at Tarnak for a Taliban attack. Schmidt dropped a 227-kilogram laser-guided bomb on the live fire exercise. The first casualties were Sgt. Marc Leger from Lancaster, Ont.; Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer of Montreal, Pte. Richard Green of Mill Cove, N.S. and Pte. Nathan Smith of Porters Lake, N.S.

In February 2005, Defence Minister Bill Graham announced that Canada would double its troop commitment to twelve hundred soldiers. That spring, Parliament decided to move the focus of operations south to the volatile and deadly Kandahar Province, which is roughly the size of Croatia.

General Rick Hillier, then Chief of the Defence Staff, argued to keep our troops in the relatively safe areas in and around Kabul to work on the rebuilding of the airport. But by the time General Hillier returned in autumn 2004 from a stint as commander of NATO’s International Security Force, planning was already largely under way to move to Kandahar. That made 2006, when my mission began, a bad year to be in Kandahar for a Canadian soldier. The Taliban were massing there and in Helmand Province to the east in preparation for a violent spring offensive. The Taliban surged up to two thousand fighters in the area and, atypically, dug in for a conventional battle.  In heavy fighting, Canadian and Afghan forces quickly defeated the enemy and the Taliban withdrew.

But this war would become a long decade of frustrating battle against an enemy that faded seamlessly into the local villages after firefights. Finally, on July 7, 2011, at 11:18 local time, our combat mission ended in a simple handover ceremony near the spot where, nine years earlier, the members of 3 PPCLI became the first Canadian soldiers to set foot on Afghan soil.

I think the decision to redeploy to Kandahar was misguided. It’s true that our success in counter-insurgency war often surpasses that of our NATO allies and is enhanced by our extensive experience in difficult peacekeeping operations in places like Kosovo. But Kandahar’s complex web of tribal loyalties and byzantine power struggles took time to figure out and navigate effectively and, as often happens in war, we paid a terrible price for that knowledge.

6 Responses to Trev’s Blog

  1. Ambre says:

    Hi Trevor, my name is ambre and 5 months ago jan 14 2012, my spouse Jeremy was in a snowmobile accident that put him in a coma with a traumatic brain injury. We live in midland Ontario, and he was airlifted to St.Michaels Hospital in Toronto. They performed surgery to stop the pressure and brain bleed. Jeremy was in a coma for about a week and a half. During that time we were told to let go , that he would probably not wake up or have a quality of life. We have two boys together and have been a couple for 12 years. I was not ready to make that decision so soon. When they started to wean Jeremy off some meds he awoke, they asked him to show a finger, he gave the nurse the middle finger. We all knew that Jeremy was there and we were not giving up. Jeremy had broken ribs, fractured pelvis a tear in his spleen and his lungs were not the greatest. He was ventilated had numerous infections 2 unsuccessful shunt surgeries which required surgery to the brain. He had a g tube feeding tube and soon after a trechiotomy. Cat scans, MRI, daily. For the first month we heard the same he will never do this or that, will live in a facility. March came and Jeremy made it down the hall out of ICU. Most of the time he was recovering from the surgeries and drugged up. Beginning of April Jeremy had the 3rd shunt surgery and it was a success . From then on we saw a whole new Jeremy. Before I go any further my brother in law found your story around the time we thought it was the end. We all watched it which brings me to wanting to let you know that your story has a special places our hearts. Jeremy is now at our home hospital we are waiting for a rehab bed but he is coming along great. He is not speaking yet but he communicates through his hands and iPad. His right side is very weak as most ,of the damage to his brain was on the left. He is In a wheelchair and still needs the g tube. Jeremy has never been alone since jan 14. We all took turns as I also had two boys back home, so it was very difficult and heartbreaking for me to have to leave some days. Now I see him everyday and so do his kids. Jeremy is on the road to recovery I would bring him home but our home is not able to accommodate him yet so we are waiting for our insurance to help. We would like to get him out of the hospital and home while he awaits for rehab. Jeremy has a great support system his brothers have been there with me every step of the way. I will not give up. We all wish you and your family the best of luck on your recovery. Sincerely, ambre

    • Sorry for taking almost a year to answer you Ambre. I hope you, Jeremy and your boys are well. Debbie went through much the same experience that you did tearing yourself away from his side and dealing with arseholes in the hospital who feel they have to suck the hope and spirit out of family members. My rugby team stepped up for Debbie like Jeremy’s brothers I hope all is fantastic and you and your family are enjoying the shit out of the holidays.

      Have fun and breathe in the sweetness of life,

  2. In all my life, and I am 54 now, I have never given the word “Hero” a thought except in some kind of comic read, and then it was always a fantasy like story.
    You are what I would think of as a “Hero” , your experience in trying to help make this old world a better place to live, to suffer some of the biggest challanges and stay strong, proud and humbled all in one person.
    With all my heart, Thank You and your wonderful wife Debbie, for sharring such a touching tribute to what man kind some times has to go through to find what “Hope” really means.

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