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MCpl Muir deploys to Afghanistan

MCpl Muir on patrol in Afghanistan

My time in Afghanistan was a surreal experience to say the least. From the exhausting heat, endless patrols, and even the camel spiders it is hard to find a word to define my tour. I joined the military in November 2005 and wasn’t too sure where it would take me. I would occasionally meet Veterans coming home from Afghanistan and every time I did I felt the urge to sign up for tour. Once I did, I knew I was in for an experience that would change my life forever. I left Canada on April 21st to embark on the most dangerous and ultimately life-changing experience of my entire life

My job overseas was Weapons Detachment Commander for Oscar Company, 3RCR. Once all my training was complete and I had said my goodbyes to my loved ones, I was on my way to the other side of the world. I arrived in Afghanistan with an eager attitude to serve my country and to do something I could only achieve through hard work and the most dedicated sense of worth. My platoon was positioned North of a town known locally as a breeding ground of Taliban forces. We knew we had our work cut out for us. Our first stronghold was an old abandoned schoolhouse that was no larger than a small gymnasium. It had a hole blown in the side of it from some sort of explosive and provided as much cover as a small house but it was the best we had at the time. Our first patrols were the most interesting of our new experiences because they allowed us to see first hand the culture and livelihood of the Afghan population. From April to the middle of June we encountered nothing but IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) including one that was found in the middle of our schoolhouse. It had been there for a few years and the detonator was ineffective but it reminded us to be careful.

MCpl Muir and his section in Afghanistan

Due to the increasing threat of the enemy and the lack of cover that the schoolhouse provided, our Company Commander decided to move us to the NE corner of this town. This would be where we would live until the completion of our tour. This new location was basically centre of four mounds of dirt pushed up on all sides. Living conditions had gone from bad to worse as there was no way to shower, wash clothes, and going to the washroom meant putting a bag over a bucket and hoping for the best. A month and half later, without the ability to shower, tour seemed like it would never end. That is until we encountered our first firefight. This reminded us of why we were there. We now knew our purpose in Afghanistan as a platoon. Thrilling as it was our first firefight was not our last as it quickly became a daily occurrence. We adapted and we improved. The Taliban did anything they could to deny us entry into the town but we never stopped coming up with new tactics and methods to accomplish our mission.

Since I was weapons detachment commander, my position required me to command and control firepower that was dealt by our platoon’s most powerful weapons which including a C6 General Purpose Machine Gun, a 60mm Mortar, or an 84mm Rocket Launcher. The use of any of these weapons was essential in the success of our goals and the elimination of the threat in our area. Due to the increasing dangers the Taliban provided us, there were three operations held in our area in order to drive back and control the enemy. These operations were all held in cooperation with the U.S. Forces. The most interesting thing about the American forces was hearing stories about other parts in Afghanistan and the ability to exchange stories. The Americans came and left our battlefield once their work was complete and we went on to continuously wrestle for control of the town. We began to go North into other local towns to gain relationships that would hopefully assist our efforts to eliminate the Taliban threat. We succeeded in this and we now had a strong foot on the ground with the communities in the area. We would go on patrols with the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. I specifically remember one day when we were halted during a patrol and I noticed a wire sticking out of the ground where I was standing. I immediately notified the engineers and knew I had to get away from it. Out of nowhere one of the Afghan soldiers walked up beside me and grabbed the wire with his hand and ripped it out of the ground. The scariest thing about this was he was surprised that there was nothing on the other end. I am pretty sure this even took about ten years off of my life. The platoon of Afghan soldiers that we had were incredibly devoted to the job. I sometimes think that they truly defined what a good soldier really is. Throughout all of our firefights, IEDs and endless patrols, they were always ready for a fight and not once did they back down.

In early September, I woke up one day to the inability to sit or stand up straight. I told the medics who sent me into the main base to be checked. It turned out I had a pilonidal cyst and I would have to undergo surgery. After three surgeries including one in Germany, my tour came to an unfortunate end. I would recover three months later at home. It was not the glorious completion that I dreamt of. I would feel disappointed in myself for leaving the soldiers under my command. I would watch the news from the moment I woke to the moment I slept praying nothing would happen to them. They all returned alive to their loved ones in November of 2010 and I was relieved to know this.

After all is said and done, my tour was a roller-coaster of highs and lows. I learned more in six months overseas than I have in six years in Canada. I think about some of my experiences every hour of my life. I thank the Lorne Scots for allowing me to serve my country. I thank the 157 Fellow Canadian Soldiers that have paid the Ultimate Sacrifice for Canada. We will remember them.

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