SUROBI, Afghanistan — When members of the Task Force Kabul Field Engineer Squadron were called out in mid-May in support of the Kabul Multinational Brigade Reconnaissance Squadron operations, we were expecting to do vehicle route designations only.
However, due to operational requirements, Sergeant Mathieu Allard and I were also tasked to do route designation on foot with a section from the Canadian RECCE platoon and the Slovenian long-range reconnaissance platoon – a challenge of mountainous proportions.
The patrol easily finished the few kilometres of the patrol and dropped off the Canadian RECCE section to act as a radio relay station with Camp Julien. The plan was for us to lead the Slovenian contingent around a 22 km route that would circle back to the radio rebroadcast point. We departed just after midday and continued south, searching for a suspected passage through the mountains.
After about 13 km, we found the passage. To our dismay, it led directly up a mountain, meaning we would have to travel up a very steep trail to finish reconnoitering the route. As night quickly approached, we reached the summit, a dramatic 3400 m above sea level.
The group savored a short halt and then we began a treacherous descent down the backside of the mountain, gradually shifting our direction back to the north.
The sun had gone behind the mountains when we ran into the next obstacle.
The valley into which we had descended led to a steep ravine of jagged rocks and limited visibility. Undeterred, we backtracked in order to find an alternate route only to be successful when it was completely dark.
Another challenge appeared — the group lost contact with our radio relay station.
At 3:30 a.m. we linked up again with the Canadian RECCE Section and walked back another seven km to the safety and relative comfort of our vehicles. This last portion was taken slowly with frequent rest stops and water breaks. It enabled us to witness a spectacular Afghanistan sunrise drastically enhanced by the snow on the local mountaintops.
The team completed its task at 8 a.m. and returned to Camp Julien for hot food, medical attention for sore feet and a well-deserved rest.
In the end, the patrol was almost 24 hours worth of physical and mental endurance over 34 km of some of the world's most grueling and unforgiven terrain.
Through it all, Sgt Allard and I lived up to the Engineer Corp's motto – "First in, last out."
Article by Corporal Darrel Horton
Photos by Lieutenant Klem Mijatov