Life in Afghanistan

Brodie Thomas
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Port aux Basques native driving tank for Forces

While most on the southwest coast are content to drive cars, ATVs and snowmobiles, Trooper Corina Skinner, 21, maintains and drives a Leopard 2A6M tank.

Trooper Skinner is a former Port aux Basques resident now stationed in Afghanistan with Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) based in Edmonton, Alta. She is the daughter of John and Janet Skinner of Port aux Basques.

Trooper Corina Skinner, a Port aux Basques native, is currently stationed in Afghanistan where she drives and maintains a Leopard 2A6M tank, pictured here. Submitted photo

While most on the southwest coast are content to drive cars, ATVs and snowmobiles, Trooper Corina Skinner, 21, maintains and drives a Leopard 2A6M tank.

Trooper Skinner is a former Port aux Basques resident now stationed in Afghanistan with Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) based in Edmonton, Alta. She is the daughter of John and Janet Skinner of Port aux Basques.

The Gulf News recently had the opportunity to send Trooper Skinner a list of questions by e-mail.

Q When did you join the Canadian Forces?

A I joined the Canadian Forces in September 2006 and have enjoyed the experience; however it has been a large learning curve and has been very hard on me being away from my family for the first time. I volunteered for an overseas deployment to Afghanistan and have been here since September 2009. I have enjoyed the opportunity to serve Canada and to help out the Afghan people.

Q How's the weather over there?

A The weather in Afghanistan is very hot during the day and it gets cold at night. It feels much worse than it actually is due to the drastic change in temperature between night and day. It is also very dusty around here. Everything gets covered with dust. It feels like walking around in talcum powder all the time and when we go to sleep and lay on our beds, a big puff of dust blooms from our beds when we sit on it. It is difficult to get used to but we all try to deal with it as best we can with all the hand sanitizer we can manage.

Q What do you do in your spare time?

A Spare time does not come that often so when I get some I'll try and call home or go on the internet computers that we have on camp. I also have a laptop computer were I watch movies and play games to pass the time more quickly.

Q Have you seen any strange animals?

A We have a pet mongoose here named Sketch. He looks cute and sweet but really he's not. We feed him random mice (alive or dead) that we catch in our bunker were we sleep. There are also a couple dogs around here that we have to help control the rodent population and scare away the jackals. We also find white scorpions crawling around everywhere and sometimes even the odd snake. It's kinda cool because I had never seen a viper snake before I got here.

Q Has Afghanistan been a culture shock for you?

A It has been a pretty big culture shock for me, seeing how the locals live and their way of life, and how it's completely different from our lifestyles. I find the locals here are sometimes happy to see us. Some kids wave and smile to us. Others like to throw rocks or any random thing they can find and they have a good laugh about it. The older people don't really do much. They just watch us go past them. It seems like we are the local TV for these people because when we roll by they watch us for hours - just sitting there on their rock watching us for hours. I guess it is their kind of Survivor show.

Q What is a normal day like for you (if there is such a thing)?

A A normal day for me would consist of getting up early in the morning and going out to work on my tank before the heat of the day melts us. The maintenance on a tank is very hard work and all parts are very heavy and require a lot of maintenance. Even thought there is always maintenance to do on a tank we still have to go out on tasks at a moment's notice to help other members of the task force should they need heavy armour support, which is quite often. The days are very long and hard work but I am managing quite well and am still enjoying myself here.

Q What is it like driving a tank?

A Driving a tank is very interesting. I currently drive the Leopard 2A6M. It's the new tank we got from Germany. This tank is almost like driving a car, expect bigger. The max speed you can go is around 80-90 kilometres an hour, or even faster depending on the ground and the task we might be going on.

Q How do you see where you're going?

A When I'm driving I look through these mirrors that connect to episcopes, they're not all that big. There are three of them, one on the left and right, and one right in the center. At night we have light amplification device that we put in so the driver can see.

Q Do you get to fire the tank's cannon?

A My job is driving the tank. We have a gunner and loader and a crew commander, and they take care of the firing. I also do any maintenance that needs to be done, for example changing road wheels, checking oil levels and making sure the track is tight and it's going to keep running. I spend most of my time either working on my tank or driving it.

Q Is there any part of your job you dislike?

A One thing I really don't like about being in a tank over here is I have to learn how to use the bathroom in a water bottle, us girls who are here have this device called a "she pee." I haven't had the nerve to use mine yet, and sometimes we're in that tank for about eight or nine hours at a time. My crewmembers like to think this is very funny.

Q What is the most difficult part about being away from home?

A The hardest time I have had here so far and I think it will be the hardest time for my whole tour was when my grandfather (Jack Skinner) passed away. I really wish I could have been home with my family for that, but unfortunately I couldn't. My troop helped me get through it here, but it definitely wasn't easy. I think what I miss most about home is being able to see and talk to my family whenever I want - and of course the sleeping in.

Organizations: Canadian Forces, Gulf News

Geographic location: Afghanistan, Port aux Basques, Edmonton Canada Germany

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Recent comments

  • Frank
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    I am very impressed to see our youth being so touched and concerned about all of our Canadian troops overseas. They are reaching out to our Veterans here at at home who are talking more about WW1 and WW11, their experiences on the battlefields, in the air and on the sea. In sharing their experiences our youth are
    showing us more that they do care for their soldiers and our country. They also care about those in other countries that our troops are protecting.

    We must remember that only our troops know how others are suffering, innocent people like you and me. We are all very proud of our troops who have a challenging mission and they are doing their jobs well.

    Trooper Skinner, we can go to bed at night knowing that you and all of our men and women in uniform are protecting us from terror.

    Frank M. Blackwood;
    Formerly of Wesleyville, B. Bay

  • Emmanuel
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    i am very proud of her. she doing a great job.keep safe.

  • Ingo
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    I'm very proud of you and our soldiers - god save you. thank you for everything - and 1000 greetings from Berlin / Germany to you and your crewmemebers.

  • wayne
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    thank you gulf news for doing such a feature as this. i hope to see more of our young men and women serving over there in the future in the gulf news. thank you corina,were proud to have you serve us!keep safe.