May 23, 2009 – It was a nice quiet evening with a good breeze to keep us cool, which was nice because temperatures were already reaching 40 degrees Celsius in May and the sun was setting slowly. All we were hearing on the ICOM (a small two-way radio used by our interpreter to listen to the Taliban’s conversations) through our interpreter was that they were finally done with the poppy crops, and were talking about getting ready to start the fighting season.

The fighting season normally starts right after the spring crops, and it ends normally around October/November. It is during that time that the Taliban will fight the “infidels,” aka NATO troops. The Taliban were getting organized somewhere to the south of our strongpoint. A strongpoint, called combat outpost (COP) by the US military, is normally the first line of defense against the Taliban. These strongpoints (SP) can be as close as 100 meters from the enemy. We were eight Canadians and 50 Afghan National Army soldiers on ours. It was a square of about 100×100 meters protected by four guard towers and hesco bastions (barricades filled with sand to protect from small arms fire). The third wadi (wadis are ditches dug by the Afghans to contain the rain water that they use for irrigation during the crop season) was to the far west, so they were probably around that area, approximately 700 meters south. We knew they were moving weapons, ammunition and all the things they needed to do what they do the best: IEDs.

I was sitting in the C6 pit on top of our small tower, wearing my frag vest and my helmet, with Roberge, enjoying the view and having a nice Redman chewing tobacco dip with a Nescafe 3-in-1 coffee. The Redman dip was something I started using when I got in Afghanistan. It kept me alert and steady, even though I knew it was very bad for my health.

The pit had a perfect view over the south up to about 400 meters and was a good place to go and seek Taliban movement. I could see some of the ANA soldiers playing soccer inside the strongpoint and having a lot of fun, especially that some of us were playing with them and they really were kicking our asses. Other soldiers were also playing volleyball a bit further alongside the Afghan civilian workers we had. The ANA had a “mandatory” sport session everyday where they would play both soccer and volleyball. We were told that it was good for their cohesion and to take their mind off the constant stress they had. The civilian workers were building some barracks for the ANA, but they worked so slowly that they weren’t even done before we left seven months later.

Suddenly, a loud muffled sound came up from the north, followed by an echoing boom. As I looked up to see what it was all about, I could see a dust cloud going up. I immediately thought of a mortar attack and I started yelling at the ANA to go get cover. At first they didn’t even care, until a second round hit inside the strongpoint near their playground. “Holy fucking shit, they are accurate now!” I said to Roberge, who was with us for a few days. Roberge was normally with 71B but he was on a transition to his team through us.

71B was at Lakokhel, a strongpoint that was about 5 km from us right in the middle of a field. They had a rough one as well, let me tell you. The ANA was finally getting some cover in their bunkers and all of our guys on the ground were donning their frag vests and helmets to get into position. I told Roberge to stay on the C6 and to scan to find the firing point, while I would go downstairs and tell the captain that they were zeroing our position really quickly.

Foggy immediately took his C7 and got up inside the tower, on the second story, to take a firing position, and also scan to find where the rounds were coming from. Poirier, who was smoking a cigarette on our balcony, ran inside the RG31 on the southern run-up and also started scanning with the RWS (remote weapon system) equipped with our .50 caliber HMG. I can tell you that he was scanning madly and if he would’ve seen someone with a weapon, that guy was done.

Another round landed inside the strongpoint and it was getting closer to our CP. Up until now I was feeling a bit anxious as we didn’t know where we were getting fired from, but I knew the guys outside were working hard to find the sneaky bastard. Another round, again getting closer as I could judge by the sound. Captain RG called in the contact report and asked for chopper support to try to spot the firing position, which was quickly refused. We were convinced that it was mortar shells that were falling on top of us.