War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele


in the FOB at Wainwrightistan, I spent hours and hours with soldiers on sentry duty. so many of the rifle coy. were engaged elsewhere that anyone and everyone was assigned 12 hour shifts.

one of my favourite sentry guys was a firefighter from Petawawa who let it slip to the OC that he had 17 years infantry experience before remustering as a firefighter. as soon as that info came to light, he was suddenly in charge of sentry. it was those long hours of staring out at Wainwright scrub and dusty field that got the Sgt. reacquainted with an old love of his, tobacco.

“I haven’t smoked in 10 years,” he told me, “you can take a picture of me and post it, but not with a smoke in my mouth, my kids are going to kill me.”

I took some great shots of him and will post them when I get better internet access. my favourite photo is of him and two young soldiers all holding up their favourite tobacco products – chewing tobacco (cherry is a fav.), cigars, and smokes. the tobacco chewers have this somewhat revolting but necessary trick of carrying an empty water bottle around with them, into which they spit every minute or so. Sgt. Maj. finds this disgusting and never ceases to comment on it. still, a necessary thing.

one day I spent an afternoon in a G wagon with a young Cpl. on sentry duty. I find that when I sit for hours with them, that soldiers like to chat about things and they open up to me about big things, little things. especially when there’s no action. during that afternoon, Cpl. chain-smoked, then lit a cigar and finally, put a wad of chew in. I joked and suggested he go for the full-meal deal and get a nicotine patch as well.

I’m not a smoker and have never been, but I understand the soldiers’ relationship with tobacco… companionship, a jolt of energy, something to share, stress release, and what the hell, they’re soldiers, who gives a damn about something that might kill you in 35 years when there are IEDs and RPGs within range in the next six months?

1 Comment (Closed)

Alex VanderWoude

Have you found that soldiers are generally fatalistic? Is this short-term horizon more typical of the younger ones, or do career CWOs share it? It has always been my understanding that since most soldiers are young men, they tend to believe at some level that the other guy will get hit, not them. This might also account for the lack of concern for long-term consequences — it won’t happen to me!

Aug 17 2009 · 21:48

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled tobacco. It was posted here on August 15, 2009.


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