"I thought I would update you on my
pre-deployment training for Afghanistan. Most people, when they take a year's
leave from TD Bank Financial Group have fun projects that they embark on, but
do they do this?!?!?!?!
My three weeks at Meaford in May went well, each day starting with an
hour of P.T. beginning at 5:45 AM consisting of a "nice little run".
This had my heart rate up to 190 plus as I kept up with the younger
dogs, but I have improved! It was very hard work, but now I am doing about 2
hours in the gym every day, plus road runs of course, so I am getting back to
my level of fitness that I enjoyed in the mid 1990s.
Most of the training was called DLOC, (Deployment Level of Competency)
which was all refresher training on the C7 rifle, C9 light machine gun, 9mm
pistol, M67 Fragmentation Grenade (hand grenade), M72 LAW light anti-tank
weapon, (shoulder fired armour piercing rocket) and its bigger cousin, the
Carl Gustaf 84 mm rocket launcher, (again shoulder fired - fun at a weight of
18 kg). We fired all of our weapons for several days, threw the grenades (from
behind very thick concrete) and of course fired the rocket launchers at old
tank hulls a few hundred meters away. Thus we spent many days on the outdoor
ranges, an activity which I have always enjoyed. My rifle and pistol shooting
are right back up to par - so I am pleased with that, since that is a skill
that will definitely save your life. All of this was review, but there is
still an endless list of things that I need to improve on - even though I
started doing this 27 years ago as of June 26th!
We also did NBCD training, (which is Nuclear, Biological, Chemical
Defense), and practiced the various stages of readiness in NBCD suits and
masks and of course, spent time in the "gas hut" being gassed with CS riot
gas, donning masks, et cetera. We were also thoroughly trained on the atropine
auto-injector, which is like a ball point pen syringe that you stick into your
thigh if you are hit with a nerve agent. In addition, we are also issued a
diazepam injector for the convulsions from nerve gas. If needed, the trick
will be to do all of this in the first minute after exposure, which means
keeping an eye on your chemical paper to see if it is changing colour to
indicate the presence of gas. Why? Because many of these nasty little nerve
and blood agents have no smell or taste! The new decontaminant gel is
fantastic and completely saves you from mustard gas, nerve agents, blood
agents and other chemical weapons. Other training included:laws of armed
conflict, preventative medicine lectures that familiarized us with the medical
hazards of urban and rural Afghanistan. (30% of the red dust in Kabul is fecal
matter that results from the open sewer system). We also learned about the
varieties of cobras, vipers and scorpions, and did a significant amount of
mine awareness training.
There are over 2 million mines in Afghanistan which were scattered
during the Soviet
invasion. Mine Awareness involves recognizing a potential minefield, and
dealing with it when you are in one. It is a lot of memory work which
concentrates on drills and de-mining methods, and situations such as getting
to a casualty who has just been wounded by a mine, and then getting you both
out. It is a long an dangerous process, especially since mine fields are
usually covered by effective fire - (people shooting at you)! Finally, we
spent a lot of time on first aid and treating battle casualties.
The administrative aspects of our DAG (Departure Assistance Group)
involved lots of shots for Typhoid, measles, mumps, rubella, menococcal
meningitis, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, TB tests, and a test to see what our
PG6 protein level was in our blood to see whether or not we could tolerate the
malaria medication. After the in-depth dental and medical exams (my
cholesterol is finally lower!!!!), we had interviews with the padre to make
sure we are stable and happy, completed or updated wills, various forms, and
drew all of the kit we will need. Everything from Gore-Tex to mosquito nets,
since our deployment is from July to February at least, and possibly longer.
Finally, we had the Battle Fitness Test. This is a nice little 13
Kilometre walk which must be completed in 2 hour and 26 minutes while dressed
in full fighting order, helmet, combat boots, weapon (C7 rifle), ammunition,
and a 55 pound rucksack on very rough and hilly roads. (I passed - did it in
tw o hours and five minutes, then did the fireman carry of someone of equal
weight for 100 meters). With all my kit, weapon, et cetera, I was at about 280
pounds for the 13 k. My feet hated me for that.
On May 26th, all 50 of us Reservists who are part of the 1,800 soldier
force going to Afghanistan went to Petawawa to join up with the Battle Group
from 2 CMBG (2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group). That is when the fun really
started - and I will tell you about that in my next email. I am fine and
enjoying the training with old friends and have made a few new ones too. All
in all a very positive experience."