Monday, March 17, 2008

Bluenose Heroes

There were a few events over the weekend that I hoped to blog about once we got back home. But let's start with the most important ones first.

The Chronicle Herald carries the story of three Nova Scotians awarded medals for their service in Afghanistan.

On May 16, 2007, then Master Corpororal Gerald Alexander Killam was leading ten soldiers through a village in southern Afghanistan. According to the Dartmouth native, they knew something was up when women, children and elderly folks started leaving the village. When they attempted to do the same, they came under machine-gun fire from three different locations. A Taliban ambush. The Master Corporal ordered his soldiers into a nearby water-filled ditch to take cover and then organized them to start returning fire.

According to a citation provided by the Governor General’s office, "Although separated from his platoon, he identified enemy positions and issued clear orders that enabled his section to engage the enemy. Inspired by his leadership, Sgt. Killam’s troops fought back a numerically superior enemy with no casualties to his section." Sgt. Killam says he was just doing his job that day. His chain of command begs to differ. He will be awarded the Medal of Military Valour at a March 26th ceremony Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean in Ottawa.

28 year old Cpl. Matthew John David Elliott, also from Dartmouth, will be recognized with a Meritorious Service Medal for demonstrating versatile "and ingenious methods of collecting intelligence." The Corporal is a gunner in a light armoured vehicle. He credits his father, a veteran Mountie who worked in intelligence gathering for a decade, for helping him out in Afghanistan. But before he left for Kandahar, Cpl. Elliott used computer software to teach himself how to speak conversational Pashto, the local dialect.

Warrant Officer James Adam Hunter of Springhill, the civil-military co-operation detachment commander for Canada’s provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar last year, will also receive a Meritorious Service Medal. "His diligence, particular attention to cultural sensitivities while dealing with local Afghans, as well as his vast knowledge of the Zharey district, were instrumental to successful counter-insurgency operations in the region," says the commendation.

In the words of the Warrant Officer,
"I hoped before I came over — and I found it’s true here — that I see a physical difference as I go along where things are changing, and things are improving. It’s very small, very minute things, mind you. But it’s things that I can say, ‘I assisted with this.’ I actually did something that I can be proud of, things I can brag about, even back home."
Bravo Zulu, gentlemen.

Cpl. Matthew Elliott of Dartmouth
sits in an American Blackhawk helicopter
last April en route from Ma’Sum Ghar to
Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.

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