Winter comes to Camp Alamo
My year in Afghanistan, Chapter 3
Publication date: 13 December 2012
By Colonel Peter Williams
Since I last wrote, Remembrance Day has come and gone. For the team here at Camp Alamo, it was significant for two reasons: first we were graced with a visit by the Honourable Peter MacKay, our Minister of National Defence, and second, all the contingents assembled for the Remembrance Day ceremony, including our Afghan National Army colleagues.
During his short stay with us, Minister MacKay found the time to meet senior representatives from all the many national contingents at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC), speak to the troops, give out awards, join a ball-hockey game and even score a goal, and eat supper with the soldiers. By coincidence or not, supper was one of the dining facility's specialties: home-made hamburgers. (The ones with the jalapenos are best!) We were glad for the presence of our Afghan colleagues at the Remembrance Day ceremony they even wore poppies for the occasion, and they laid a wreath. All in all it was an 11 November with a difference and one that I'm sure we'll remember for a while yet.
The "relief in place" (RiP) of Operation ATTENTION is now complete, so the Canadian contingent here at KMTC is all new faces except for me and Regimental Sergeant-Major; we are here for a year. The new rotation comes mostly from Canadian Forces units in Quebec, so the Newfie count here at Camp Alamo has accordingly reduced to two, I'm told.
One of the treasures of camp life is a rock band called the Alamo Phyve, originally formed by a group of U.S. contractors. Whenever we have a major turnover of people, there is concern that the new group will not be musically inclined. We had no fears with the current Canadian contingent, however, so Minister MacKay was treated to some tunes notably material from Stevie Ray Vaughan during his visit. The minister even signed a few guitars for the band members. The Alamo Phyve play weekly sets if ever you're in the neighbourhood.
The capacity and capabilities of our ANA colleagues continue to progress, which is the main reason why we're here. We have reduced the number of training advisors as the ANA increasingly demonstrate the ability to carry on in our absence. KMTC is one of the most-visited ANA installations in Kabul, and more and more the Afghans are organizing these visits from start to finish themselves, rather than let us do it, as was past practice. And so, at very short notice, KMTC hosted a very successful visit by journalists from the Los Angeles Times. A pity they didn't bring their weather with them as the mornings here are starting to get a bit chilly!
Likewise, when KMTC recently suffered a power outage, I was impressed at how our Afghan colleagues handled it. After first receiving assurances that critical functions such as the clinic or the kitchen would not be affected, I decided that the KMTC Training Advisory Group would do nothing, and let the ANA respond. And respond they did, with improvised indoor lighting, so their weekly Commander's Conference could proceed uninterrupted, and we all continued to have chai at our first meeting in the morning. With no help from us, the KMTC staff achieved full restoration of power in a few days. A small thing perhaps, but for the largest ANA training centre in Kabul, and one which will have to be self-sustaining by the time we leave, I thought this was a good sign for the future.
Snow is starting to appear on the surrounding mountains, and we're already thinking about which member of our Alamo family will play Santa Claus.Col Peter Williams is currently deployed on Operation ATTENTION as commander of the KMTC Training Advisory Group.
This story comes from Operation ATTENTION
Kabul, Afghanistan; [18 November 2012] Pay parade at the Kabul Military Training Centre: ANA recruits pick up their pay in cash. Bank cards are issued later in their training cycle. (Image number AT2012-T142--025 by MCpl James Nightingale)
Kabul, Afghanistan; [20 November 2012] Afghan soldiers unload a cargo of fruit delivered to the dining facility at the Kabul Military Training Centre. (Image number AT2012-T144--26 by MCpl James Nightingale)
Kabul, Afghanistan; [22 October 2012] Col Peter Williams presents Col Amin, Commander of the ANA School of Artillery, with a Canadian Forces forage cap fitted with the white cover and scarlet band that identify an Assistant Instructor in Gunnery of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. From left: interpreter, Capt Marshall Gerbrandt, Col Amin, Col Peter Williams, Maj Paul Pickering. (Gary Hengstler)
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