Episode 03 - The White School

Canada’s soldiers engage in sustained combat throughout Kandahar and Helmand Provinces – and Canadians learn that Afghanistan is not peacekeeping.

In early 2006, southern Afghanistan is in turmoil. The Afghan government forces barely exist, the Americans are busy in Iraq, the British and Dutch have not yet arrived, and alone among NATO troops, a few hundred Canadian combat soldiers are on the ground. As those soldiers engage in sustained combat throughout Kandahar and Helmand Provinces – losing 17 men and women killed in action – the world learns that Afghanistan isn’t peacekeeping – it’s war.

Task Force Orion, the Canadian Battle Group, built around 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Ian Hope, arrives in Kandahar in February 2006.

The troops immediately get to work throughout rural Kandahar, eager to help the country rebuild from decades of war. The shocking assault on Captain Trevor Greene and numerous other attacks swiftly shift the mission to combat. In July and August, the Canadians are in a prolonged firefight with a determined enemy.

The pivotal moment comes on 3 August, the assault on the ruins of the Bayenzi White School, a fortified Taliban staging area outside Kandahar City. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) take the life of Corporal Chris Reid and slow the advance, but a small dismounted infantry force under Captain Jon Hamilton and Sergeant Vaughan Ingram soon rushes the school. Despite the intense heat, the Afghan National Police running away, and the complete lack of heavy weapons or air support for an attack on a “school,” 14 Canadian soldiers reach the fortification’s outbuilding. Heavily outnumbered and pinned down by recoilless rifle and RPG fire from multiple angles, the Canadians are forced to retreat after losing 3 men killed in action.

In the aftermath of the White School, the Battle Group returns home, but the Taliban remain.