The Patrol – Seven Days in the Life of a Canadian Soldier in Afghanistan


FGM Regimental Sergeant Major
Mar 14, 2021
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Eastern Townships, Quebec, Canada
The Patrol – Seven Days in the Life of a Canadian Soldier in Afghanistan by Ryan Flavelle, 251 pages, published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. 2011 (Military, First-person)

As the title announces, ‘The Patrol’ is a boots on the ground memoir recounted by a reservist volunteer in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) during his 2008 tour in Afghanistan where he served as a signaller assigned to Bravo Company II Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment (PPCLI) patrolling out of FOB Sperwan Ghar.

More specifically in this memoir the author recounts the tumultuous feelings and emotions encountered during a particular Afghan seven-day patrol outside the wire, and as is captured in a blurb of the book by acclaimed author Farley Mowat provides “As good a look into the swirl of memory and emotions in a soldier’s head as any I know.”

As an interesting glimpse into the life of a soldier in the modern day CAF in a war-zone, capturing the frustration, boredom, humour, fear, pride, comradeship, uncertainty, ridicule, derision and the occasional absurdity of a war zone, coupled with the harsh reality, tension & danger of patrolling in the extreme heat and unforgiving terrain of the country, and of the long-hours carrying pack mule weight with his kit and equipment on his back, the author allows his experiences to be expressed without romanticizing, apologizing or making himself into either a warrior or hero. And in that objective, the book accomplishes its mission.

However, for anyone looking for the flash & bang intensity of a running fire fight or major engagement, they may need to look elsewhere. While the patrol does mid-way through its orders get engaged in a brief firefight, its depiction covers only four and a half pages of the book’s narrative. Rather this book, like the war itself, simply moves along, much like the patrol itself, putting one foot in front of the other, and always in the footsteps of the man in front, while observing and contemplating the life of an ordinary soldier.

Rating : 5 out of 10

Ryan Flavelle joined the CAF reserves as a signaller in 2001, and in 2008 volunteered to go to Afghanistan. Upon his return, he enrolled in the graduate program at the Centre of Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary. At the time of publication, he was working towards his PhD at the University of Western Ontario.
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