A group of 100 anxious Canadian soldiers waited in anticipation yesterday morning, prepared to board a plane bound for Afghanistan.

“It feels a bit like before a hockey game — especially a big game,” said Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance. “I think most people just want to get on with it and start that mission that we've been preparing for, full-time since August.”

The soldiers, who hail from different Canadian hometowns, will be running military operations, and co-ordinating government operations at joint-task force headquarters in Kandahar on the six- to 10-month mission.

Soldiers will also help develop a large irrigation project, begin a polio vaccination program for children and build 50 schools in the war-torn region.

“It would be a complex job helping Afghanistan get back on its feet, even if it wasn’t an insurgency. This is a nation that’s been shattered by three decades of war,” said Vance, adding that he hopes his soldiers will boost the continuing resurgence of confidence of the Afghan people, instilled by Canadian troops.

Soldiers on their first tour to the country are given a clear understanding of the current issues facing the Afghan people, and the nature of the mission before stepping foot on foreign soil, Vance said.

“I'm excited, anxious, nervous, and it’s going to be a long tour,” Cpl. Megan Canam, preparing to deploy for the first time. “I hope to see a different aspect of the way the world is.”

Though success is measured by the support and co-operation from Afghanis, Vance said, support from civilians at home has been paramount to success for troops deploying, and those coming home.

“Canadians have a strong affinity for their soldiers, and it’s tremendous for Canadians to understand the missions and see progress through the eyes of their troops.”

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