War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

end Ex Maple Guardian

Wainwright Alberta, Bison motel

yesterday, folded my burka, my beautiful chiffon shalwar kameez, my head scarves, returned them to wardrobe, bid farewell to my fellow Afghans (no duff as well as players), turned in my army cot, sleeping bags, biv bag, and headed out of CFB Wainwright perhaps for the last time. definitely bittersweet as I passed the CANEX, the Officers’ Mess, the WWII jeeps, tanks on the hill and drove out the main gate into the town of Wainwright.

one year ago, in late May, I had my first tour of “Wainwrightistan,” the training grounds, the dress rehearsal, for soldiers on their way overseas. then, the sea can villages looked like, well, sea cans sitting in unusual groupings out in the dry prairie.
yesterday, and the day before, dressed as an Afghan and was put into Nakonay and Spin Boldak, the villages came alive.

in August, I returned for a more indepth tour with Capt. S-D, had a chance to meet some of the soldiers who would be playing the “opposition” (my word), get a chance to wreak some havoc on their fellow soldiers, try to prepare them for what was coming. some of these relished the beards they were growing. others told of their wives’ disdain. many were returned vets with one or two tours under their belts. all were convinced that the training they were going to participate in, would help prepare soldiers for theatre.

later that year, October, I returned to Wainwright to spend some days with the Royal 22e Régiment. I call that my little reality check. a few days crammed into a LAV with little sleep, the constant threat of IEDs (albeit fake ones), with a bunch of very young soldiers, taught me how to listen carefully, run like hell when need be, and to grab what life there is to be had. those boys are now in Panjawaii.

then ten days ago I joined the Patricias at Wainwright, my last ex with them until Afghanistan. how lucky I was that day in August when I was taken on a tour of the Patricia’s lines. I had just attended a funeral for a fallen soldier. sobering, that grey wintry day in mid-August. somehow it seems so wrong that young ones might die in August (or any time I know). and that was the August we bid farewell to our own two young ones and the soldier’s funeral was close to unbearable.

during the tour of the Patricias, I had the amazing luck to meet their new CO. we spoke at length on leadership, what it means to be a soldier, and when I told him that I was going to Afghanistan with the infantry, he said, “come with us. spend as much time as possible with us this next year as we prepare the road to war.”
amazingly, he meant it. and this past year I have watched the Patricias prepare.

the other important thing the CO said to me was, “get to know the support trades, don’t just focus on the rifle companies.” I took his suggestion to heart and have come to see how valuable the support trades are to the infantry. this past ex. I spent more than a few hours on the cooks’ line slapping spuds, rice and vegs. onto soldiers’ plates, and I could see how important good grub, a cheerful hello is to those tired, dirty faces on the other side of the line. ditto transport, the maintainers, admin., sigs, the medics etc. etc… (if I left your coy. out, forgive me, I’m tired this morning and I’ll make amends)…

watching the Patricias, meeting them (they’re everywhere), and even dropping the P-word to good effect (guaranteed a safe parking spot, favours, loans of things, advice, treated to coffee etc. all by ex-Patricias when they heard I’m going over with them… who knows maybe I’ll get off a traffic ticket sometime if I say Patricias out loud to the cop pulling me over!), continues to be an intense and fascinating adventure.

perhaps the greatest compliment I’ve received from the Patricias is that on more than one occasion I’ve been introduced as the poet laureate (!)… this has been bested only by Sgt. Maj., Delta Coy, the WO who looks at me out of the corner of his eye from time-to-time (as in what the hell is she doing with us), and that’s when he calls me PL and orders me, “that’ll be 25 [pushups] PL” just because he can…

much, much more later about Maple Guardian, photos etc… but now it’s time to get in my truck and drive home across the Rockies, back to the wild, cold, Pacific

best,


1 Comment (Closed)

Lesley

Hey Suzanne,
Have been following your blog on my travels. Looking forward to seeing you and hearing all about your experiences when you get home.

Jun 11 2009 · 09:01

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled end Ex Maple Guardian. It was posted here on June 11, 2009.

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