by Lieutenant Ted Howard, CD
[Then Sergeant Ted Howard of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, was awarded The United States of America’s President’s Gold Coin in recognition of his exemplary and outstanding service in Afghanistan in 2006. The coin was presented by U.S. Army General John Craddock, then Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO. He served as a producer on the Paul Gross film “Hyena Road” which recently premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.]
Hyena Road is an organic film that developed out of the dust of Afghanistan. Paul Gross who wrote, directed and starred in the film, has integrated actual footage he gathered when following me while I was working with Task Force Kandahar as an Effects Officer in 2011.
Although the film is not anchored in any specific period of the mission, Mr. Gross has sewn together a visceral and compelling story fictitious story based in cinematic realism that truly presents an accurate snap shot of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan since the places, people and events are based in reality. In particular it centers on the creation of an MSR that we built in partnership with the Afghan authorities. The road, nicknamed Hyena, is meant to achieve three main objectives. It is meant to legitimize the local government in the eyes of the population as representative of the people, it will improve the local economy and as the Commanding General in the film puts it, “drive a dagger into the heart of the Taliban.”
The story is set around three main characters, Master Sniper Ryan, Effects Officer Pete and a legendary Mujahedeen warrior, only known to the coalition forces as the Ghost. Paul used stories he heard from a number of snipers, who spent time in Afghanistan, to create the character Ryan. He is a good example of our contemporary combat arms soldiers who have been inserted into contemporary conflict zones. Ryan has been inserted into an environment that is completely foreign to him; facing an enemy that does not play by the same rules he must.
The character Paul plays was inspired by the work he saw me do during his visit. He believes Pete represents the type of soldier the new wars paradigm is creating. Part businessman, politician and soldier, he focuses on the non-kinetic elements in contemporary warfare that can turn the tide of support for the military mission with the local population and supports our foreign policy objectives in foreign lands.
The Ghost was actually inspired by an individual who worked with me in Kandahar and a significant figure in the war against the Soviets.
When I first met Paul I was very skeptical about letting him into our world and even more skeptical he could create a film that truly depicted what was going on in Kandahar. He grew on me however. He went on foot patrols in Mushan, rode the streets of District 9 in the city with me and even walked through the Bazaar. With time, I came to realize that Paul was a patriot and if the story of what my brothers-in-arms and their families sacrificed in Kandahar was going to be told, there was no better person then Paul. There are some Hollywood moments in the film but for the most part it holds true to the people and events the film is rooted in.
I have seen the film a few times now and I am proud of what our team achieved with Hyena Road since it is an honest and accurate portrayal of what happened in South East Afghanistan. In my opinion, a plaque or some sort of war memorial is nice to have on a wall but that is soon forgotten. Something like this movie will help ensure the memory of our fallen comrades and those families who have paid dearly for our time in Afghanistan will resonate within the Canadian cultural landscape for years to come.
You can read about The Queen’s Own Rifles contribution to the Afghanistan mission here.