Irish Heritage Quebec November Conference – Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan

Irish Heritage Quebec November Conference – Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan

On Monday November 8th 2010, Major (Maj.) Maureen Wellwood, from the Royal 22e Régiment, delivered a briefing on current Canadian Armed Forces operations in Afghanistan to Irish Heritage Quebec at their November 2010 meeting. 

Prior to commencing her lecture, Maj. Wellwood was warmly welcomed by Mark O’Brien and formally introduced to the members in attendance.  

Irish Heritage Quebec's Mark O'Brien addresses the November 2010 meeting.

Maj. Wellwood began the briefing by stating that she had recently returned from a 10-and-a-half month operational tour of Afghanistan (Kandahar). 

She went on to outline Canada’s most pressing priorities in the war-torn region. These being: Maintaining a secure environment, Jobs, Education and Essential services.

 

The guest speaker informed the group of Canadian Armed Forces’ responsibilities with regards to the security of the troubled Afghan-Pakistan border. 

We learnt that Canada also trained the Afghan National Army and Police and that our troops assisted in attempts to weaken the insurgency rife throughout the region. 

We were briefed on Canada’s three ‘signature projects’ – activities that all of the troops are involved in in one form or another… 

1) A dam project with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
2) Education – rebuilding and/or repairing 50 schools
3) Health 

Major Maureen Wellwood, R22R

The guests learned that schooling over there was somewhat different to what we’d expect to see in Canada.
Maj. Wellwood explained that it was easy to build the schools (perhaps that in itself is a little hard to comprehend when thinking of Afghanistan) but more difficult to get teachers to attend and incredibly difficult to get girls to go to school. 

An audience member asked why this was so? 
Maj. Wellwood’s response was that Afghan society is vocal and that less than 20% of the population can actually read or write.
Stories abound of girls being splashed with acid on the way to school. School therefore, is associated with danger.

It’s often not that the girls don’t want to go, rather the parents who don’t want to let them because of the (real or imagined) danger. 

In our free, relaxed and equal society here in Canada, this for some, was hard to put into context. 

On the health aspect (the 3rd project), Canada is involved with eradicating Polio and promotes a vaccination campaign. 

This in itself is fraught with difficulties. The troops don’t want the campaign targeted by the Taliban and in turn, to become targets themselves (any more than they already are), so have to speak to the Taliban via a local aid agency. 

This (in theory) ensures that villagers can be vaccinated and that the village in question is safe to enter. 

Maj. Wellwood also spoke of the facilities in the Kandahar compound – a good gym, a Tim Horton’s, top quality internet service and more.

When you’re away from familiar surroundings, friends and loved ones (she’s a wife and mother of two) for a lenthy period of time, the more comforts the better whenever possible.

The Canadian Army Officer finished the presentation by showing a slide of a ‘Ramp Ceremony’ – the title given to the ceremony, performed by soldiers, when one of the team doesn’t make it home.

This poignant image, so close to Armistice Day, allowed us to reflect on the sacrifices made by our armed forces today and throughout history, so that we can live in a safer world.

Major Wellwood was thanked by Irish Heritage Quebec’s Joe Lonergan and was given a small token of appreciation on behalf of the group.

Major Maureen Wellwood with Irish Heritage Quebec members and Canadian Armed Forces Veterans Jerry O'Brien (left) and Albert Paquet (right).

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Article: Andrew Greenfield
Photos by: Andrée Lemieux and are copyright Irish Heritage Quebec.

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