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    Canadian N.S.E. unsung heroes of the mission

    Canadian N.S.E. Unsung Heroes of the Mission

    Photo By Canadian Forces Sgt Craig Fiander | Corporal Marcel Ouellette from 3 ASG Maintenance Company, CFB Gagetown ground guides...... read more read more



    Story by Kristina Davis 

    National Defence Canada

    By Kristina Davis
    National Defence Canada

    KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — She's got a name a mile long. And a now a nifty "handle" - D-14.

    From Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, Corporal Tania De Lasablonnière (count the letters) is a driver with the national support element (NSE) at the Kandahar Airfield (KAF).

    Cpl De Lasablonnière says she didn't much like school—she doesn't mince words—but she did like cadets. So she found a home with the army, and just the right mix of adventure and job security. Plus, she likes to drive.

    It's a family thing, she explains. "My family's all in construction," she says. "They all drive whatever's big." And it's true: her dad is a heavy equipment operator, while her mom drives a school bus. And Cpl De Lasablonnière? She drives everything from a 16-tonne to a tractor.

    Regularly outside the wire on re-supply convoys, she says they do any and all maintenance at Kandahar Airfield. "We need to make sure we don't break down on the road." So from oil to tire changes, they look for every little mechanical hiccup that could turn into a problem.

    Once the mechanics have been ironed out, the crew rests. They'll need it. While en route, Cpl De Lasablonnière says she tries not to be paranoid or think too much. "Any distraction," she says, "could get you off the road."

    Plus, she adds, the days are long so it's critical to simply shut everything out, except the task at hand. Up for close to 24 hours, she and her co-driver chat. And while it might mean repeating the same story three times in one night, it keeps her awake.

    She measures success once she's arrived back at KAF and has delivered much-needed supplies. "If the 'guys' are getting what they need and if they are happy, so are we," she says.

    And what of her family back home? Cpl De Lasablonnière says she tries to strike a balance. "You try to tell them as much as you can, without telling them too much," she explains. And while that's likely easier said than done, she also advises that they not focus too, too much on the news.

    Outside the wire, she gets a first-hand look at local villages. She admits she gets a lot of stares. "The locals are surprised to see a girl, especially in a big truck." But she takes it all in stride. She's also not the only one—there are four other women in the transport section.

    The children often amaze her. Cpl De Lasablonnière can't believe how small they are and the responsibilities they carry. She mentions one small boy, she estimates he was six years old, herding sheep. A six-year-old in Canada is starting school.

    And being a driver, she notices the roads, many of which are in dire straits. "At least in Canada we have paved roads," she says with a laugh. "Sometimes they are crappy, but they are paved."

    Back in the headquarters building at KAF, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Mathé, commanding officer of the NSE, says their role is critical. "They count on us keep them going."

    So from drivers to maintainers to the behind the scenes specialists like supply clerks and even civilian employees from the CF Personnel Support Agency, the list of personnel at the NSE is long and varied.

    Sometimes the unsung heroes of the mission, LCol Mathé says their role is no less dangerous. On the day we chatted, he had close to 140 personnel outside the wire.

    It's necessary not only for re-supply missions; it's also fundamental to understanding what soldiers at the forward operating bases are experiencing. When you get a supply request at 3 a.m. for mosquito netting, for example, he explains, and you've been out there and you've been bitten, you better understand the operational conditions of those you are supporting.

    "Everybody, from the CO to the private, goes outside the wire," he says.



    Date Taken: 07.16.2007
    Date Posted: 07.16.2007 13:32
    Story ID: 11302
    Location: KANDAHAR, AF 

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