War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Wainwright

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ring around my bathtub as the one I had tonight after I got home from Wainwright… it put Saturn’s to shame with it’s multicolour hue, its width, its sheer grit…

home from 48 hrs. with the Royal 22iem Regiment, Bravo Coy. an experience somewhat truncated due to illness (again,) up front… still, 48 hrs. with a section of 19 – 27 year olds, most of which was spent in the belly of a LAV, was incredible… fascinating to see the contrast between these guys and their long time “rivals,” PPCLI… a rivalry mitigated by the shared purpose and duty of Afghanistan…

also fascinating to hear individual stories… always grateful that they will share with me why they became soldiers, what they will do with it, what their fears, hope are…

also, amazed at how ready they were to find a cot for me to bunk in with them the first night, and to “bivvie” in the field the next… and for two in particular, to always be looking out for me… was I warm enough, hungry, were my eyes bothered by smoke…

my french, rusty, was good enough to gain me at least a bit of an opening into the world of 7 young guys refining the art of infantry… with their smattering of english, and my fundamental french (it always takes me a few days to rev it up again), we managed to travel through the depths of Wainwright in a LAV, go on patrol, sleep in a leaguer, share hard rations and hours of smoking (them), joking, chatting and perfecting that particular infantry skill of sleeping whenever and wherever you can…

I’ve been around the infantry enough to know that when there’s no “action”, one puts one’s head down (or back or on the next guy’s shoulder or…) close your eyes and go for it… last night was no exception

at dusk we rolled into a broad bowl of land in the gorgeous Battle River Valley, formed a leaguer, and jumped out of the back of the LAV. a couple of guys got out the propane camping stove, put on a big pot of water, cracked open the shells of hard rations and plopped the main courses into the water to heat… meanwhile, the others raised pup tents… our dinner eaten standing around the LAV’s ramp… the lucky guy got macaroni and cheese, another lucky one got macaroni and tomato sauce… I drew the short straw with something called Navarin which resembled Miss Mew or one of those foil kitty meals… my lunch earlier, some turkey and sauce number actually smelled like Miss Mew and had those suspicious identically formed cubes of “meat”… still, food is food, and the guys quickly got out the bread and began making toast… the perfect food…

later, I wandered over to the engineers’ LAV and had a cappuccino at the leaguer “starbucks”… I have discovered that next to Admin. Coy of a battalion, that generally speaking, the sappers, or engineers, seem to have things worked out… and why not, they’re experts at making things (like building bridges) and blowing things up (like detonating unexploded ordinance etc.)… so of course they can swing a little fancy coffee, even in the middle of a war zone…

dusk on the prairie is gorgeous… amber and shiraz and lavender… last night the stars, the universe so present, making all of this seem so impermanent…

at 7:30 pm we crawled into our sleeping bags inside the tent and went to sleep… we knew an unbroken night’s sleep impossible… that’s not the infantry way… sure enough, 10 pm, the guys on either side of me, had to get up and do patrol… I dozed a little smuggly… they had asked me if I wanted to go on patrol but I declined…

at 1 a.m., “Suzanne, Suzanne, get up, the Sergeant wants to see you at his LAV… we’ll escort you,”… it was the section commander…

I’ve hung around these guys long enough too, to understand that when you are asked to do something, you do it, RIGHT NOW… so I dressed (and it was freezing) faster than I’ve ever in my life, and headed out into the dark, starry night with the young soldier to the Sergeant’s LAV.

“Come on up,” was the invitation. I climbed the LAV in the near dark, another soldier beside me always, to make sure I was safe, and lowered myself into one of the LAV’s hatches where the Sergeant was waiting. A focused man with a passion for ice fields and mountain climbing, I spent the next hour and a half with him on duty, and we chatted about big things, kept watch, had a really interesting time, an experience I shall write a poem about soon (it’s bubbling), an experience I shall actually remember all of my life (I don’t want to write about it until I write the poem)…

all the while the warm hum of the LAV, the green lights of it’s interior, the starry night ringing quietly above


4 Comments (Closed)

Alex VanderWoude

I think the word you mean is “laager”, not “leaguer”, although the latter can be used if you’re camping outside a castle or something that you intend to capture. That nitpick aside, I’m glad I followed the link from Small Dead Animals to your site. So far I like it very much.

Sorry to be such a word weenie.

Oct 29 2008 · 10:41

sms

a leaguer is a defensive formation of vehicles… somewhat reminiscent of “circling the wagons”… thanks though, glad you are checking out the site

Oct 29 2008 · 11:57

herringchoker

Ah Wainwright dust! There’s nothing like it. A month from now you will sneeze into your kleenex and ask “Where did that come from?” Wainwright, that’s where.

Consider yourself lucky to have a whole bath to yourself. Those Vandoos likely made due with a five minute shower when they got back to the shacks; and half of them had cold showers, if the plumbing at Wainwright hasn’t changed much in a decade. (Do transient units still live in quonset huts, or have they constructed honest to goodness buildings for them? There was a lot of construction going on the last time I was there in ’96).

BTW…leaguer and laager are the same word. “Laager” was the Voortrekker term for “circling the wagons”, a technique that the British Army borrowed during the Boer War. “Leaguer” is just the anglicised bastardisation of the term.

Nice site. I’ll make sure to check in more often.

Oct 29 2008 · 13:20

rebarbarian

I read right thru to the bottom and noticed your comment about writing when dead tired. Keep doing it cause you are “dead on”

Oct 29 2008 · 14:29

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Wainwright. It was posted here on October 28, 2008.

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