The Nation Building We Did will Stay in Place

afghan Patrick Farell, 31 years old - The Vancouver Sun - May 9, 2013

Rank: Sergeant Hometown: Vancouver Service Record: Canadian Forces 12 years. Deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 as a reservist from 39 Canadian Brigade Group. Served as an infantry soldier. Member of The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada — one of four infantry regiments within 39 Canadian Brigade Group in Vancouver.

Canadian Forces Army Sgt. Patrick Farell had been working for four years as a reservist when the call came for volunteers needed on the front line in the war in Afghanistan.

It was 2006 and the then 23- year- old felt he was ready to be deployed and put his training into practice.

“Afghanistan was a huge eyeopener for me. I had never been to a country so poor. You have to remember there had been 30 years of war beforehand,” said Farell, who accepted the challenge issued by the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, located in Edmonton.

“A country like this needs everything from the ground up. They do a lot with very little. The average Afghan doesn’t make much but they manage to do incredible things with what they have.”

Farell said his battalion did a lot of outreach work in villages that were little more than groups of people living in a few decrepit buildings. They would talk to the elders to see if villagers had been harassed by the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan, and to try to gain intelligence on the Taliban’s location. Another goal was to find out the villagers’ needs and let them know about the restructuring going on in their country.

The other half of Farell’s time was spent on local security and combat patrols.

“Our focus was to create a security bubble so the people could get on with their lives. They ( the Afghan people) were just done with conflict,” he said. “When my battle group moved in and took over operations from the Americans, the American soldiers were impressed with how Canadians had an instant rapport ( with the local people). Our approach was based on years of peacekeeping service.”

Farell said when he looks back on his time in Afghanistan he feels pride in having been involved in the operations there.

“It was a continuation of what the Canadian Army has been doing — going to places and helping them get over conflict and redevelop. They needed people to go there and were willing to use force, if they had to, but with the aim of making that place better.”

Farell said he would love to return to Afghanistan in 20 years to see how the efforts to redevelop the country have improved the lives of the people.

“A lot of people don’t know about the mission. A lot of the dialogue ( in Canada) was about whether we should be there or not and didn’t focus on what we accomplished,” he said.

“After the combat mission ended, Afghanistan fell out of the news. But it’s important to mark that soldiers went and sacrifices were made. There were soldiers wounded and killed. The country needs to know when we volunteer there is a price, but to have a conversation that this was worth doing.”

Josh Muir, 38 years old

Rank: Corporal Hometown: Living in Vancouver since 1997 Service Record: Canadian Forces 13 ½ years. Deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and again in October 2009. First tour served on the force protection unit that provided escorts to the reconstruction team. Second tour was as an infantry soldier. Member of The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.

Two weeks ago, Corp. Josh Muir became a father for the first time at the age of 38 to a son named Max.

He’s looking forward to the day when Max is old enough to go with him to visit Afghanistan and learn about the sacrifices made by Canadians to help the country move forward.

“That would be amazing. A reunion tour in 2025,” he said.

Muir was one of the Canadians on the front line during the war in Afghanistan and his partner was one of the thousands of Canadians left behind for long periods of time. Muir was deployed twice — first in 2008 and then again for a winter tour in 2009 to spring 2010. Both tours lasted six to eight months. Training, before being deployed to active duty, took an additional year.

“I genuinely wanted to serve my country. I got to see a lot of what happens behind the scenes ( escorting civilians performing restoring work like road building and school construction). I went back immediately for a second tour because I felt we were performing a necessary service. It doesn’t get much worse than the conditions that existed in Afghanistan at the time,” he said.

“I remember the first day I left the airbase and was blown away by the absolute lack of any infrastructure. Their roads were dusty tracks and 80 per cent of the homes had no running water or electricity.”

He said that ultimately, the people of Afghanistan wanted the same as people living in North America, which was the ability to have a peaceful life and make a living for their families.

“Most were sick of war and sick of worrying about whether their kids would be blown up on their way to school. The Taliban was constantly attacking schoolchildren. It was despicable.”

Muir said he’s proud to be a Canadian and he’s proud of the role Canada played in Afghanistan. But he doesn’t agree with the view that Canada should not have been directly involved in the war in Afghanistan and instead should have sent relief money.

“The money would have been siphoned off to corruption and ended up going to a few top ruthless warlords. At the time, there was no peace over there. It was chaos and insurrection at every level. Without enforcement there would be no development,” he said.

“The nation building we did will stay in place and I hope it will remain a stable country.”