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Soldier would serve in Afghanistan again

Published in the Barrie Advance
19 March 2008

If there is one word that describes Jordan Webb, it would be modest.

The 24-year-old Beeton resident and corporal with Barrie’s Grey & Simcoe Foresters completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan last year with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group. While some may call him a hero for volunteering to go into the war-torn country, Webb insists he was simply doing his job, nothing more.

Born in Newcastle, N.B., Webb comes from a long line of military men. His father Chris was serving as a fighter pilot at CFB Chatham at the time. Webb followed his father on subsequent postings to Winnipeg and California, where his father released from the Air Force and went on to become an engineer.

Although Webb had previously served in both the Army Cadets and Air Cadets, he wasn’t necessarily considering a military career. “Growing up, I always wanted to be like my father until I was about 16, when I realized I wanted different things,” says Webb.

In February 2001, Webb joined the Grey & Simcoe Foresters as a part of a co-op program which allows participants to gain five credits towards their high school diploma. He found school boring, but admits joining the army was a way to graduate high school. Since Webb had grown up in a military family, he knew what he was getting himself into and a love of the outdoors convinced him the infantry would be the way to go. This made him the first member of his family to join the Army instead of Air Force.

As a result of entering the co-op program, Webb saw his marks go from the 50s to the 90s. “I enjoyed what I was doing, so I applied myself”.

After completing basic training on weekends at the Barrie Armoury, he attended CFB Petawawa for infantry training. Over the next five years, Webb rose to the rank of corporal and qualified as a small-arms coach.

When the opportunity came up to serve in Afghanistan, Webb didn’t hesitate. He always wanted to serve his country on an overseas tour, having seen friends go on previous UN and NATO tours.

Like many veterans of the past conflicts, Webb says a sense of adventure and a desire to travel to distant places were two of the reasons he volunteered. However, Webb also had another reason for wanting to go: “It’s like playing hockey or baseball, but all you do is practice and practice and practice, but you never get to actually play the game,” says Webb.

“I knew if I didn’t go overseas, I would regret it”. Quite simply, it’s what soldiers like Webb train to do every day they put on a Canadian Forces uniform.

Webb was sent for pre-deployment training at CFB Petawawa. Although you can’t train for everything that you will experience, Webb found the pre-deployment training does train you to react and be able to do something.

“When in a combat situation, the natural reaction is to duck and hide, but the training helps you to overcome that initial reaction,” says Webb. However, the training can only do so much for you; the rest you pick up once you are there.

Despite the high stress environment, Webb took it all in stride. Webb found everyday life back home can get boring sometimes, but in Afghanistan, every day was an adrenaline rush. Thus the first six months back in Canada took a lot of getting used to as he was not always on that adrenaline rush.

The daily routine while in Afghanistan consisted of rotating duties of camp security and to mounted or unmounted (foot) patrols of the country. Unmounted patrols would entail wearing about 36 kg of equipment, sometimes including a shotgun, rifle, tactical vest, claymore mines, trip flares, water, food, extra ammunition and warm clothing. Some days, Webb’s duties would consist of doing security escorts for VIPs to the towns, hospitals or to police stations.

Webb played an active part in Operation Medusa, the Canadian-led offensive against the Taliban in the Panjwayi area, 30 kilometres west of Kandahar City, which resulted in more than 200 Taliban fighters being killed. Webb’s platoon was the only one not to sustain any casualties.

However, four soldiers in other platoons were killed, including two of Webb’s friends: Pte. William Cushley, killed on Sept. 3, 2006, and Pte. Mark Graham, who died the next day when two American aircraft mistakenly fired on his platoon.

In dealing with the possibility of being injured or worse, Webb kept things in perspective. He had a job to do and kept focused on it.  “You sit down, think about it and keep going. If you keep stressing yourself out, you were more likely to do something that would get you killed, so they would joke about it. The more you worry about it, the worse it will be for you.”

As an added dose of reality, Webb further states, “pretty much 80-per-cent luck that you aren’t killed. There is only so much that you can do.”

Webb described an incident that could have turned deadly, when a car rapidly approached his convoy, a frightening scenario that is one of the indicators of a suicide bomb attack. Webb, riding in a G-Wagon, kept his C-6 machine gun trained on the car, prepared to fire.

What actually lasted only a few seconds seemed like minutes as Webb prepared to pull the trigger, which under the rules of engagement, he would have been justified in doing. However, remembering his training, he observed that the car contained what appeared to be a family, not the one or two males driving a blacked-out car that might indicate a suicide bomber. Webb let the car pass.

However, even in war, there is time for humour and laughing about situations. Webb describes being out on patrol one day; a long day with little time for meal breaks. When he finally did get a chance to grab some food, a Taliban patrol started firing on his platoon.

All the soldiers were safely behind one of the many solid block walls that dot the country, so there was little chance of being shot. Instead of returning fire, Webb decided to finish eating his ration pack first, figuring at least he wouldn’t die hungry.

Reflecting on his time in Afghanistan, Webb says the experience has made him a lot more content in life. He more that ever appreciates what he has in life and realizes there is a lot that we take for granted. Most of the country is without electricity, running water and homes are heated with whatever small shrubs a person can gather during the day.

Canada’s generous social safety net is also something for which to be grateful. Webb described a particular day while out on patrol: he watched an older man with no legs, dragging himself along the side of a major highway. Although he never spoke to the man, Webb figured that he was probably on his way to work. This man was eventually given a ride by a cabdriver who happened along the road.

In Afghanistan there is no health care, no welfare or other social services. In Afghanistan, in you don’t work, you don’t get paid.

Webb found Canadians are well received by the Afghanis, who were always friendly to the troops. The locals got to like the Canadians and feel safe with them around. The locals knew that if they came to the Canadians for help, food or supplies, they would be taken care of.

The culture took a little getting used to, as the Afghani language is a very aggressive language. Even the act of saying hello may seem aggressive by our standards.

Webb and his fellow troops were very appreciative of the support Canadians have shown back home. Things like Red Fridays were small but meaningful things that helped boost morale. “It makes our job easier having people support us,” says Webb.

Having a Tim Hortons coffee shop in camp was also appreciated, although Webb didn’t get to enjoy it too much as there were always long lines. Apparently other nations appreciate Tim Hortons coffee as much as we do.

Webb realizes it’s best to live life to the fullest; plan for today and don’t put things off until tomorrow. Remembrance Day certainly means a lot more to Webb now, whose experiences are similar to those of the veterans we honour each year.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/soldier-would-serve-in-afghanistan-again/

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