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In Depth

Afghanistan

Atlantic Canada's role

Last Updated Jan. 29, 2007

With snow blowing around their heads and settling on their boots, more than 2,000 family members and friends of Atlantic Canadian soldiers lifted red placards over their heads hoping to form the largest human flag ever made.

Image Text Roughly 2,000 people holding red placards stood in the snow to create a human Canadian flag outside CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick.(CBC)

The crowd, which gathered at CFB Gagetown on Jan. 12, just one week before the first planeload of soldiers was set to depart for the conflict in Afghanistan, wanted to show support for the 1,160 troops from the Atlantic region joining the NATO-led mission.

The deployment also contains a large group of reservists - approximately 240 Atlantic Canadian volunteers - who have put their professional and personal lives on hold to join the conflict.

Capt. Neil Whitman is among 710 soldiers based at CFB Gagetown preparing to ship out, and he said Friday´┐Żs rally helped make the goodbyes easier. "It's really nice to have the community behind you, when you are going off on something like this. It feels good to know that people support the mission and the troops."

The Atlantic troops will replace those already serving in southern Afghanistan.

The bulk of the soldiers come from New Brunswick, but many are also based in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

They will deploy over several weeks in late January and February, spending six months away from their families, to join an increasingly dangerous and uncertain mission.

Image Text Soldiers listen to speeches at a rally held at CFB Gagetown. Approximately 700 Gagetown troops will depart for Afghanistan during the next several weeks.(CBC)

Many of the soldiers will join a battle group in Kandahar, where they will help the Afghan government take back the south of the country from Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

Many others will be based at the Kandahar airfield and Kandahar City, providing security, defence, medical and ambulance services.

Some will provide training to the Afghan army and police forces, and others will provide health services to Afghan soldiers and civilians.

Others will join the Provincial Reconstruction Team, which provides military security while working with local leaders in rebuilding courts, schools, and police forces in the shattered southern provinces.

Forty-four Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since joining the conflict in 2002. Of those, 36 died in the last year. Many of the soldiers killed were from Atlantic Canada.

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