Just prior to my going on leave – I planned a trip to Ghana (obviously during Movember). It is a country in West Africa that has experienced many successes with the development of its Armed Forces and can be seen as somewhat of an example for the RSLAF. I was hosted by the Armed Forces RSM (right), and his Army, Air Force and Navy Sergeant Majors. It was a very fruitful trip and upon return to SL, I quickly wrote summaries and recommendations on the benefits of nurturing the relationship between the countries on Armed Forces issues. These recommendations are already increasing cooperation between both Countries’ Ministries of Defence. One of the recommendations will likely bear fruit shortly and will see the importing of some key training programs from Ghana to Sierra Leone for Senior Non-Commissioned member training to SL
As an aside to the official business of the trip – we were invited to Novice boxing night. All Officers undergoing basic training learn a little bit about boxing and at week 16 or so, they fight each other in a tournament for two nights. The Forces RSM told me; “we need to know that they have courage and resilience and whether they can fight with their hands before we give them troops to command and lead into the fight”. Funny thing was – If the judges didn’t think either fighter displayed good motivation or courage – they carried large logs around the parade square following the fight – was very entertaining,,,,,,, and I think might be a useful program for Canadian Officers. It was during this event at the training base where I chatted with a number “base brats” (military kids – left).
Things have been quite busy since returning from leave (vacation) with Sherry and the kids. Although it is just as hard or harder leaving them a second time, it was a VERY good morale booster to be with them for a couple weeks in early December. Sherry is quite brave flying around with three kids and lots of luggage. I flew to and met them in Orlando Florida on a Thursday, where we stayed for 2 nights at a small resort. On Saturday we travelled to the Port at Canavrel and boarded the Carnvial Dream for a weeklong Caribbean cruise (with stops at Nassau, St Thomas and St Maarten). The ship was quite nice and had endless activities for the whole family. Unfortunately it wasn’t a good first intro to cruising for me – The ocean was constantly ‘rolling’ (due to high winds), and I felt ill most of the time with the exception of the days when we were off the ship. The two older
kids were sick for a day each, Sherry was ok, and the little guy had a hard time with the motion – being a relatively new ‘walker’, was bouncing off the walls and falling about. After the cruise, we flew together to Jamaica (Beaches Boscobel) for a non-motion sickness week of beach time. The evening show each day was put on by Sesame Street characters – Wesley was happy to meet his favourite (Cookie Monster), Nicole and Brady enjoyed the “XBOX 360 Game Garage”. A very nice time indeed and all in all a perfect reunion (as short as it was) with my family.......
Back to work in SL on 19 December. It was a strange experience not being with my family at Christmas time......however a couple of ‘new’ experiences helped a little, with our separation. First was Christmas Eve dinner – a few of us were invited to a local Orphanage for dinner with all the kids and staff (by Judy, the proprietor - the Canadian I wrote about last time). A Canadian donor family ensured the kids were all able to have a new Christmas outfit made for the occasion and a few small gifts to exchange. We also brought a number of small gifts and got to enjoy their gift exchange game. It was a heartwarming experience – and while it was obvious that we were not going to be home with our own families for Christmas, it was a very welcome experience to be able to spend it with Judy’s “family”.
Dec 25th - Obviously, I wasn’t able to spend Christmas day with my family either, but our often unreliable satellite based internet was working perfectly and I got to see Sherry and the kids opening gifts together on “Skype” (a video chat that has been a most excellent way to communicate to family and friends in Canada). I was also able to speak with my parents and one of my brothers as well as Sherry’s family.
One of my many responsibilities here is Camp Security - Development and drilling of Defensive plans / supervising the ‘guard’ force etc. This also includes posting a Duty Officer roster - each person on camp has a 24 shift of Duty Officer once or twice per month. I scheduled myself for Christmas Day, so the troops that were also stuck here over Christmas could “get outside the wire” for some relaxation or fun activity (squash, a movie, some travelled to a beach). While everyone was out and I was holding down the fort here - I BBQ’d a number of ‘beer butt’ chickens and made some sides, so when everyone was back, we had a Christmas day meal together – was quite nice.
Nicole and Brady (my two oldest children) have been fundraising through a program at their school for a couple years to help school aged children in third world countries. The program is called “Brick by Brick” and is under the international umbrella of “Free the Children”. The unfortunate part of these endeavours is that the kids often don’t get any feedback or understanding of the end result of their hard work – that will soon change for the kids at Ontario Street Public school in Bowmanville. We found out a number of months before I deployed, that the country they’ve been working to help is Sierra Leone. Well I contacted the Free the Children organization to see if I could find out exactly where the school was and if a visit were possible. It seems they’ve been raising money to help refurbish a grade school called St Columbas School in a town called Moyamba. At the same time, the principal of Ontario Public School, Barb Beath sent me some of her school t-shirts. The visit was scheduled to coincide with one of my up-country trips to visit some outlying Battalions’ and Brigade Headquarters. Their fundraising efforts went to build a new library – it has been constructed a number of months ago and is a nice big room – unfortunately
they have no shelves or books to fill them with.
The children were all very happy to see us and I sat in on a couple classes to see their activities.
Chief Warrant Officer
IMATT (SL) Regimental Sergeant Major
Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa