I'm half way slogging through my first draft about MCpl Sean Chard and his experiences with the RCD in Shah Wali Kot. It's always a struggle for me to get going on a chapter, but this one is coming together - as long as I can keep up the pace.
Chard was in one of the first chalks to arrive at KAF on D Squadron's tour. He wasn't overly excited about going to Aghanistan since it would be his fourth overseas tour. But as he exited the C-17, the smells from the smoke hanging over KAF immediately reminded him of his last tour in Kabul - - "Aaargh, I'm back!" But this time he was a crew commander in a Coyote and looking forward to the new responsiblity.
In a couple of days he arrived in FOB Frontenac and within a week was on one of his first patrols with a make-up crew, since all his own crew had not yet arrived. It was then, as they were going cross-country to avoid the series of four culverts they called "The Four Bitches," that they got channelled into a ravine before he could correct their course. That's where they hit it.
He recalled that there was no sound - they must have been over the "X" of the IED. The Coyote was hit with a great jolt and came to a dead stop. He later recalled that he had heard on the radio that the UN had declared this to be the International Day of Peace. What irony.! It was also the day for Transfer of Command Authority for D Squadron. Not the way they would have wanted to start their rotation.
I’ve just finished several impressive interviews with MCpl Sean Chard with some follow-up from MWO Shawn Mercer. The RCD recce squadron deployed to Afghanistan in the fall of 2008 to cover the northern reaches of Kandahar Province during its tour. For me, it’s a great story of a small group of Canadian soldiers who carried out a challenging mission on their own, while the bulk of the battle group was tied up in the main fighting zones of Panjwayi and Zharey. In their area of operations they became the target of a deadly insurgent IED cell and suffered, but carried on with a dedication to duty that made Mercer proud of his men and women. I am readyto tell this story through the Chard’s eyes, but must first suffer through transcribing the interviews which I find painfully slow.
I've just found that all the decorations for military valour for the Afghan missions, that can be announced to the public, can now be considered approved. That means that I can finally complete the work for the revised edition of my book Courage Rewarded, which will have a full chapter on the Afghan missions. This has frustrated me for a year and a half, but now I can get back to finalizing it.
At the same time, it is a bit conflicting because it will draw me away from the interviews and writing that I am immersed in for my new book which will deal exclusively with Afghanistan. I'm just about to begin writing the chapter that will deal with D Squadron of the RCD in Shah Wali Kot in late 2008 and, in particular, with MCpl Sean Chard.
T. Robert Fowler, author, Canadian military history