“I was feared, and I was scared but at the end I was geared”. Some experiences in our life we understand only after we feel the Pain!
“Dear Deployment - No Struggle, No Strength“!
After a nice Christmas break and annual holidays I just got back to my Base in North Bay. My Chain Of Command (COC) asked me to see her. My reflection was something exciting! But COC told me, “Prepare for deployment – Operation BOXTOP Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert in February, next month”.
In February, deployment in Arctic region after a great vacation! Not sure how to respond to the command!! I heard about CFS Alert - the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world with a very small First Nations population, and quite isolated from rest of the world.
I checked the weather during January & February - severe cold with 24 hour’s night throughout the winter time! It sounded very dry & scary and without any motivation!!
After hearing the deployment news, I couldn't sleep a few nights; I sensed that “nightmares and bad dreams were following me”. My Inside voice kept asking me “can I survive and be able to come home safe after deployment”!
For deployment preparation, I got some survival trainings and finished medical assessments to make sure I was ready for the deployment. DND Logistics Supply Department issued proper arctic clothing and resources as required for training and exercises during the tour. Then I received a notification date & time for deployment accordingly. Base Transport Department drove me to CFB Trenton and I stayed there overnight with the other crew. These fellow soldiers came from different Bases who were also ready to fly with me the next day.
Early in the morning we took off by F18 Super Hornet Fighter Jet to CFS Alert for “Operation BOXTOP”. Flying in a war plane is not same as flying in “Air Canada” what I was used to all my life! Very rough journey in the flight and also seating accommodations were hard-hitting. It took us a very long day with a lot of difficulties to reach our destination.
“First time in CFS Alert gave me different types of life Alerts”! “Born in (+40*c) East Indian culture and now experiencing (-40*c), 180* life turn! “Completely new living experience that I never ever dreamed”.
It took me some days to be prepared with the new situation and I got some new knowledge/tips from fellow soldiers who were already there. Then we started our deployment work schedule, “some days I worked late at night, some days I worked early in the morning and some days I worked during the day, this was easier said than done with the 24/7 night cycle”!
Little by little we became familiar with the location, surroundings, and also noticed different kinds of arctic animals and creatures –
Packs of Wolves and others!
I saw the “Arctic Ocean” in Hollywood movies but “now seeing the massive ocean in frozen condition, was attention-grabbing”. I have also been to Middle East and experienced the dry sandy desert environment. “Now Arctic Ocean looks like a white desert with cold snow” it reminded me of my Middle Eastern memories. We walked and drove through the huge frozen Arctic Ocean many times.
During our time there we met some First Nations people. Their life experiences were gloomy and dark when you talked to them. Mood and/or anxiety disorders, drug addiction, alcohol use and lack of self-worth were part of their daily life. Extreme weather, remote location and the environment made them very depressed. Now I know why suicide rate is so high in First Nations community in the region.
For safety reasons we were never allowed to walk alone outside our living quarters. But after some time wild animals used to see us regularly and became a little bit friendly. We also enjoyed the “Northern Lights”, what I call “Arctic joy” in the North Pole. The Northern Lights made me celebrate “Canada Day” every day.
In our return trip, we stopped by the world's largest Island “Green Land” which is part of Denmark. We stayed there for a few nights to adjust to the transition period. I heard about “Green Land” and saw some documentaries in YouTube videos. But in reality the world's biggest island close to the Arctic region is not GREEN, which reminded me the Black Sea in Europe is not BLACK!
After I returned to Canada from the tour I went through some rough and tough times – “Sleep Insomnia, Cold weather adjustment, and Mental Health difficulties which cost me a good amount of time and required good medical attention”!
Now I look back and realize the deployment “How much it hurt me or how much it helped me and where is Biplob Mazumder today”! I learned from deployment, “how to cope & survive in difficult situations, and not to break but to be brave”.
My understanding - Life never gets better by chance but it will get better by change when we make our Choice! At the end, I am very thankful to difficult people, difficult situations, & difficult times. They give me the courage "who I want to be or whom not to be”! And it could be demanding sometimes but at the end very rewarding.
“SO BEAT THE HEAT AND FEAR COULD BE FUN”!