Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Village Elder or Village Idiot?

Master Corporal Mike Wooley, an excellent soldier, accomplished photographer and former comrade from 4RCR, was kind enough to direct me to a cache of photographs maintained by 31 Canadian Brigade Group. I investigated the other day and was pleased to discover some photos of an Exercise entitled Maple Storm 1, which ran at the training base in Meaford, ON in April 2008. The point of the EX, as I recall, was to train reservists on how to conduct security operations in a potentially hostile environment while respecting and assisting the local civilian population (if you think this sounds a bit like Afghanistan, you're right).

The EX required a number of interactors to play the civilians, and lavishly equipped them with as much second hand clothing as the local thrift stores could provide. The result was a group of some twenty "villagers" who, as my former CO observed, looked vaguely like refugees from a 1960s communue. Given my silver hair, I felt that I should be the village idio ... I mean, elder. Froma chaplaincy point of view, it was a great opportunity to spend quality time with the troops while contributing to the success of the EX.

On a warm Saturday afternoon we occupied cement buildings at the Ortona Range FIBUA (urban combat - Fighting In Built Up Areas) as our "village", which the troops came and occupied. This is me as the approaching troops saw me (and yes, that's CF ballistic eyeware, and I'll tell you in a moment why it came in handy):

I thought the umbrella was a nice touch.

Waiting as the troops approached. I don't mind saying that I was a little nervous:

This is why I was nervous:

To put this last picture in context, some of us "civilians" were indeed planted as bad guys, and the troops were tasked with discerning who was whom while maintaining their security. It was a good lesson for all concerned about the ambiguities of the modern theatre of war, where the OPFOR doesn't wear uniforms and you have to defeat the bad guys while winning local hearts and minds. This ambiguity is precisely the reason why we're still in Afghanistan.

As for the ballistic eyewear, I'll limit myself to saying that it came in handy later on, right, Private Shipman?

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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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