On its face, the idea of training someone so they can put you out of a job seems to go against everything we are taught. Of course when there is a war going on, nothing is quite as it seems.
A group of Canadian soldiers is currently in Afghanistan for a mission that, if all goes well, will lead to them being out of work.
The Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT) is a multidisciplinary task force of experienced NATO-ISAF soldiers that is embedded with units of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to provide, as the name suggests, training, mentorship and liaison services. Their ultimate goal is to get the ANA to a stage where they no longer need the help of foreign soldiers in the ongoing war with the Taliban.
One of those soldiers was a former Estevan resident - Master Corporal Adrian Lamy. A member of the military since 2002, Lamy spent seven months in Afghanistan as part of Task Force 3-09 before returning home earlier this year.
According to information on the Canadian Forces web site, Task Force 3-09 is comprised of roughly 200 Canadian soldiers who are mentoring five Kandaks, which are ANA battalions of 500 to 700 soldiers. Each Kandak mentor team is comprised of roughly 30 Canadian soldiers.
In an interview with The Mercury, Lamy said their main function was to mentor the ANA on a daily basis and go on patrols with them. He said the experience of working with the ANA soldiers was an enjoyable one.
"The Afghan soldiers, soldier to soldier, you kind of realize you are into the same sort of things," said Lamy who noted that another former Estevan resident, Chris Bayerle, was also a member of the task force.
"They are eager to learn, they are eager to accept what we have to tell them and you realize too, that they have been doing this for a lot longer than we have. There was conflict in the country long before we got there so we have to respect that as well."
Lamy, who was stationed at a forward operations base in Kandahar province during his tour of duty, said their work with the ANA soldiers covered a wide breadth, ranging from basic shooting skills to how to conduct an operation from the lowest levels to the highest levels.
"Different individuals were teamed up with a counterpart on the Afghan side so they mentor on their own little skill set, from the very basic soldier in training, to officers that were being mentored."
Lamy said although they were there to mentor and teach the Afghan soldiers, the Canadian soldiers also gained a lot of knowledge and insight to the Afghani culture from their counterparts.
"We would go over there and have supper or different meals. Their culture is very accepting and very inviting. They have their different religious holidays and they would always invite us and there would be a big feast. We would eat their food and at the same time we would invite them over to our things.
"It was a very mutual camaraderie. We always wanted to learn more about them and they wanted to learn about Canada."
Along with adjusting to another culture, Lamy and his fellow soldiers also had to adapt to a terrain and climate unlike anything here in Canada.
"It was hot for the most part, not all the time because they do have their winter months when it rains more and gets from about 15 in the day to -5 in the evening, but you kind of get used to it," he said. "(The terrain) was mountainous too, we called it Moon dust. It was very fine dirt and when you walk in it you sink down. From that to Grape fields with high walls because the farms are very different from over here obviously and there are different obstacles.
"The Afghan people, they use ingenuity by necessity so they make it work whatever way they can make it work. Different things you would see around, you wouldn't think it would work but they make it work because they have to."
Overall, Lamy described his time in Afghanistan as both eye opening and rewarding.
"It made you realize how good we've got it back here. You appreciate everything back home from family life and just being able to do what you want."
There has been plenty of debate about whether or not Canada is helping to make a difference in Afghanistan. Lamy said while the progress is slow, he feels the Canadian soldiers are helping to make things better.
"I think we are making a difference," he said. "Some days more than others, but we are definitely making a difference. You can tell if you look at how it was a few years ago in some areas, it's a big, big difference. Some areas nobody lived in, they were just vacant areas and now there is a community of people."
Currently stationed at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton with the 3 Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry unit, Lamy said he isn't scheduled to go back to Afghanistan in the near future. However he does have one important date on his calendar as he is scheduled to be married in April 2011.