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05/01/2010

Inside Canada’s “Hurt Locker”

For Canadian soldiers asked to clear improvised bombs in Afghanistan, every step may be their lastPhotographer Louie Palu spent five days on patrol with Canadian soldiers searching for hidden bombs in Afghanistan. He captures their mission and the endless fear.

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Pvt. Kris Winther has an early morning cigarette before going on patrol searching for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED's) planted by Taliban insurgents in the village of Kairo Kala in Panjwaii District west of Kandahar City. This area is one of the most volatile and IED riddled areas in the country. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

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Pvt. John Howard eats breakfast while an exhausted Cpl. Adam Hilton mans the radio before patrolling in the village of Kairo Kala, searching for deadly Improvised Explosive Devices planted by Taliban insurgents.
 (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

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Canadian soldiers live in a compound in the village of Kairo Kala, west of Kandahar City, during patrols searching for deadly IED's. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

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A Canadian soldier searches the village Malick, also known as the tribal leader, in the village of Kairo Kala in Panjwaii District west of Kandahar City during a patrol searching for deadly IED's planted by Taliban insurgents. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

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A Canadian soldier, part of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, disposes of a explosive device set by insurgents. The bomb, made of 60 kg of home made explosives and shrapnel, was found in the village of Kairo Kala during a patrol searching for deadly IED's. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

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Sgt. Derek Johnson and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team member blast and destroy an explosive device set by insurgents in the village of Kairo Kala, found during a patrol searching for deadly IED's. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

  

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A Canadian soldier reads his standard operating procedures before patrolling in the village of Kairo Kala in Panjwaii District, during a several day patrol searching for deadly IED's planted by Taliban insurgents. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

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Pvt. Shawn Blatchford passes a young Afghan boy of the Noorzai tribe in the village of Kairo Kala in Panjwaii during a patrol searching for deadly IED's planted by Taliban insurgents. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

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Canadian Mcpl. Joel Van de Vorst rests in an abandoned building on an overly hot day in the village of Kairo Kala, during a several day patrol searching for deadly IED's planted by Taliban insurgents. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)


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Afghan children of the Noorzai tribe in the village of Kairo Kala, west of Kandahar City, during a patrol searching for deadly Improvised Explosive Devices planted by Taliban insurgents. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

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Canadian soldiers (left to right) Cpl, James Riley, Mcpl. Joel Van de Vorst and Sgt. Derek Johnson take aim at a suspected Taliban "trigger man" who may set off a remote controlled bomb in the village of Kairo Kala in Panjwaii District west of Kandahar City. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

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Canadian Mcpl. Joel Van de Vorst prepares for a night of watching for insurgents who plant bombs targeting his unit in the village of Kairo Kala, west of Kandahar City. This area is one of the most volatile and IED riddled areas in the country. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

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A Canadian soldier searches the village Malick also known as the tribal leader in the village of Kairo Kala in Panjwaii (aka Panjway) District west of Kandahar City during a patrol searching for deadly Improvised Explosive Devices (IED's) planted by Taliban insurgents. This area is one of the most volatile and IED riddled areas in the country.  (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

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Canadian pvt. John Howard, seen after almost 5 days of searching for Taliban bombs in the village of Kairo Kala in Panjwaii District west of Kandahar City during a patrol searching for deadly Improvised Explosive Devices planted by Taliban insurgents. This area is one of the most volatile and IED riddled areas in the country. (Louie Palu/ZUMA Press)

Comments

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Brave young men, may they all come back home safely............

How sad to see these young men, on this very dangerous mission, in the hot, dry weather and they must wear all this heavy gear.

I sincerely hope that all of our soldiers will be home very soon,
God Bless all of them for risking their lives.

These photographs by Louie Palu, are wonderful, he has really captured the situation, the look on the childrens faces says it all.
Congratulations to Louie Palu,for his fine work.

Wow - Thank you for posting such important photos. I just watched 'The Hurt Locker' last night, and then to see the actual Canadian soldiers doing the very same job, the world isl indebted to these men who put their own lives on the line every day in Afghanistan......

Seeing these photos of such young and dedicated soldiers breaks my heart but, I am so very proud of them. Thank you from the very soul of my being.

Very interesting front-line story, well written. My interest is in the insight it provides to front-line activities vis a vis CIED technologies. Without a doubt these soldiers are accompanied by CIED ECM, which creates a bubble of protection around the jammer - no radio controlled IEDs can be detonated inside the protection bubble. The catch: the bubble is invisible, and its size and shape depends on the environment (among other things).


For three years I have been working on technology to make the protection bubble visible. It works. Patents filed worldwide, awarded UK and AUS, US next, Canada, etc. The concept: troops at risk carry a miniaturized device, which works like a pager, and has (for example) 3 lights on it: green, yellow, red. Green = safe, yellow = may not be unsafe, red = probably unsafe. Yes it works, I have done field trials, this is not a joke or quackery.


This is half of the ECM problem, and right now it's completely ignored. We're sending troops - like the guys in this article and in these photos - out with CIED jammers and have not provided them any way to know if they are actually safe from radio controlled attack. It doesn't do anything for the other kinds of IEDs, but it's essential technology for the radio controlled type.


3 years and most of a million dollars later, I can't get anyone to listen. If anyone reading this has a connection that can help bring this to a fielded product, e-mail me.

This is my brother platoon- really wish they had a picture of him...really longing to see him. Really glad that they did this story though- he doesn't say much when we chat, just says he is "fine"- wish we could see and know more! 22 days guys!!!

Outstanding story. Louie is one of the best reporters when it comes to covering what is really happening over there. I spent 7 months over there and Louie was the only journalist that was brave and dedicated enough to come out with us and document and experience what it is really like to be there. My personal opinion along with many others i was with was that is one of the only ones worth listening to and following when it comes to Afghanistan.

Thank you for writing such an amazing story. My son is in this section and this is the first time I have been able to see what the conditions for him are like. I am so proud of all of them, they are doing a job that only a select few are willing to do .As a Canadian I want to thank all that do this job, you are amazing and your courage inspires me, as a mom come home safe boys can't wait to see you all in May.

The saddest part of it all...these soldiers give up their lives so that corporate control and financial hegemony remain unopposed.They've given so many reasons for occupying Afghanistan, except for the truth. The US engineered this war, and we jumped on the badwagon. It wasn't until they wanted to invade Iraq as well, that Canada started acting of its own accord.

I truly wish that our soldiers were more educated about geo-political strategies concerning resource control and wealth management. Because i'm pretty sure most of the soldiers signed up to defend our country and the ideals on which it was founded.

A message for all who would join the military: DON"T. You will end up fighting for corporate control, you will end up dead, maimed, traumatized etc. If you want to make a difference in the world, join humanitarian organizations, go on trips abroad to build schools and dig wells. If you want to defend our country, join a local militia (in case you haven't noticed, we haven't had an attack on our borders in 200 years). But understand, violence begets violence. You cannot bring peace through war.

This is also my brothers platoon. The last picture is him (Pte. John Howard). It's heartbreaking to see him looking so tiered and dirty. Thye will be home soon, safe with their families.

I too would like to thank you for writing this article it made me and my mom and family so very proud of my brother, Sgt. John Wayne Faught who was killed by an IED on January 16th these were his "guys" and he would be so very proud of them. We especially love knowing that he will forever be remembered by them as we know what a "character" he was and also what an exceptional leader he was for these guys. Our hearts go out to them in witnessing his death but want them to know that their work and committment does not go unnoticed by Canadians and we are so very proud of all of them. Get home safely, know that my brother is watching out for you!! Can't wait to meet you all you make us proud.
Once again thankyou for this article seeing it touched my family very much.
Shawna Faught

My question is why on Earth are the members being ID in public especially since there might be a threat to their safety.
The other issue is that from experience that IMP supposed to be stored frozen , properly heated to the right temperature before consumption otherwise could potentially cause gastrointestinal issues as well from experience they could be expired. What is going on?

Thank you Louie Palu for a great article on how it really is on the ground. My grandson is in this platoon - to see what he sees, to have it detailed, although wrenching, is the kind of contact that is meaningful while he is in harm's way. Thanks again.

Funny how the MCpl has his rifle pointing to the ground while hes resting. Could get into shit for that.

Also if theres a NBC attack they're all screwed. They havnt shaved.

we are proud of all young men serving there

Some of you who have decided that posting comments with regards to IMP's, which way a rifle is pointing, and telling people not to join the Military need a reality check......this is not the forum.....freedom of speech is a wonderful thing but you need to consider what you are saying

Very brave men.May God send them safe and sound to their homes and families.

From a soldier who has conducted the same type of operation, and possibly in some of the same areas pictured in this photo essay - welcome to the reality of what our soldiers do each day in a far away land. Yes they're unshaven and look dishevelled, that is the reality of these Canadian heroes. If you have not been there, you have no grounds to comment on how we look, what we eat and how we place our weapons. On the battlefield you sleep, wash and eat when you can, as the mission is the first priority. To the comments of showing the faces of the soldiers, please note that the author took great care in the photo showing the 3 cylindrical IEDs to NOT show the face or any identifying features of the EOD Technician. To the author – I commend you for your courage to accompany these humble heroes into the fray and tell their tale.

If you are thankful for your freedom, thank a Canadian Soldier! Please be respectful for the enormous service they provide for this country, and the help they render to less fortunates. God bless our Canadian Soldiers. Those that have negative comments, keep them to yourselves. My son is a Canadian Sodier, Combat Engineer. My hope is that he never has to go and deploy IED's, but that is his job. They are not just in Afghanistan, but many other countries. How quickly we forget the great works of Princess Diana in her crusade to put an end to land mines. Be grateful for our Canadian Military cause thay protect our Freedom. Wonderful article, I applaud it, thank you!

If you don't like your government, why did you vote or not vote for them, so they get in on acclamation? Why is anyone chastising our Military for caring about the less fortunate countries, something we have always done, does anyone remember WWII, we were involved, and a very strong force, forget about the USA, we were a predominant influence! Grow up people and pay your respects on this to those very brave men and women who gave up their life so you can lead a free one! 9-11, don't think Toronto wasn't very afraid they might be next on the hit list. Relish in the fact we have EMS, Police, Fire Fighters and Military Personnel willing to lay down their lives for YOUR FREEDOM, ARE YOU PREPARED TO DO IT?????????? If not shut up and support those people that do!

All Canadians should be extremely grateful to the brave men and women who are protecting our freedom! Don't think that just because we are far away from the "action" that it couldn't one day be in our backyard.....if it weren't for these brave souls! I agree that war is a terrible thing, but sometimes there is no other way. It is obvious in dealing with the Taliban (and their kind) there is no respect for life. They don't think the way we do, or have the same values. There is no reasoning or negotiating with people who believe the way they do. If they aren't stopped, it won't only be Afghanistan that is in crisis. With that in mind, what other option is there? As for whether the soldiers have shaved, how they are dressed, what position their rifle is in, or what they eat...........those who criticize need to "walk a few feet (never mind a mile!) in their shoes. What would you be concerned about - your appearance or your survival and that of your comrades? Be grateful for the dedication they have and the job they do so that the rest of us can sleep comfortably in our beds at night! May God be with all of our soldiers and their familes, who are supporting them and concerned for their loved ones. I pray " Lord, please help the soldiers end this war soon, and bring our people home safely."

thx for these photos my class and i are doing a project on it

Thx for the amazing photos! The solders there in afghanistan are very brave for what they do!

thankyou for putting these photos on the internet, they realy evoke a sense of empaty from the viewer. may all the men fighting in afghanistan come home safely and un-hurt.

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