So much strange & crazy

One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live

Wainwrightistan, Part 5.

Here are portions of an article I wrote for the Oct. 11 edition of the Town & Country. The rest of the article basically restates what I’ve already said here, so in the interests of keeping this short I cut them out.

AFTER WORDS — OCT. 7, 2010 (date written)

The soldiers

A picture taken on the sly of one of the journalist team’s drivers.

I noticed that many of the soldiers who had been to Afghanistan had faces far older than their years. Twenty-year-olds stared out from behind the grave eyes of 30-year-olds.

I spent more than one evening in the company of these soldiers, many who did not have really nice things to say about reporters.

One particular conversation with a man in the medical field sticks out in my mind. He told me about situations involving injured and killed troops.

He said he wished reporters would work toward truth, rather hunt for death-and-blood events that sell newspapers and keep people on a particular channel.

“These are my boys,” he repeated several times. “My boys.”

Serious training

Despite all the excitement and fun to be had in what can be described as a huge three-week long play with no script, I felt there was always a somber tone in the air.

As my producer said, some of these boys and girls may not return.

The main purpose of this huge exercise was to train Canadian Forces men and women to act and react as they should in Afghanistan — from dealing with mundane land disputes to helping those injured by roadside bombs.

Each introduced “scenario” was based on something from reality, whether it was the woman who had her nose cut of by Taliban insurgents or the bombing of a little boy’s funeral.

The course could not always simulate exactly what people’s reactions would be.

“Bomber in a bucket” (if I recall correctly) is being deployed at the fake “boy’s funeral.” Here, actors and directors add the final touches to the scene as smoke, confusion and panic conceal them. To be 100 per cent clear, this is NOT a real situation.

Take the funeral bombing, for instance. After the explosion, I was taking photos as any journalist would do, and I helped the situation when asked to do so.

Some laughed when the bucket of fake body parts was dumped on the ground, but my blood curdled. This fake bombing was indeed fake, but all I could think was how it was based on a real-world situation that happens all too frequently.

In Wainwright, we practiced with laser guns and vests that recorded who was shot when and by whom. Bombs made our vests beep. People could be brought back from the dead with the push of a button.

When Canada’s troops go to Afghanistan, the laser beams turn into real bullets meant to kill. And there is no special machine to bring them back if they are hit.

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