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The story behind the squadron that “Cleared the Way” in Afghanistan

Clearing the Way tells the story of the 23 Field Squadron, Combat Engineers attached to The 1 Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group that was deployed in Kandahar from 2006 to 2007. The squadron was responsible for taming the saturated area from improvised explosive devices environment of Kandahar. The story includes first-hand account and footage from Canadian soldiers who contributed to the efforts of the Squadron in Afghanistan.

Canadian documentary producer Paul Culliton is aiming to bring to life the book also titled Clearing the Way, which was edited by Combat Engineer Colonel Mark Gasparotto. Culliton also produced the award-winning documentary If I Should Fall: A true story of the Afghan War experience. If I Should Fall recounts the life and death of 22-year-old Royal Canadian Dragoon Trooper Marc Diab. 

Culliton noted he has wanted to complete Clearing the Way for the last 10 years.

“Now that a lot of the pain is gone and the engineers are ready to talk about their story, it’s important for me to show the world what these guys have dealt with every day: the dangers, the constant fires. They made Afghanistan a safer place. I strongly believe they are the unsung heroes of the Afghan War,” he explained.

Major Anthony Robb was deployed with 23 Field Squadron to Afghanistan at the time.

“History is only history if someone takes the time to record it,” he noted. “The 15-year long Canadian contribution to the Afghanistan theatre of operations is filled with stories of sacrifice, loss, heroism and love.  While we are in no position to tell the whole story, we are certainly both capable of and responsible for telling our own story. Further, the specificity of the story told ensures that the ultimate sacrifice of Sgt Shane Stachnick, a section commander within our 23 Feld Squadron, and the sacrifices and actions of those team members still with us today–never becomes reduced to statistics.”

The film crew estimates another 160-220 hours are required to complete the documentary. It hopes to complete and bring it to the screen by next month, in time for the GI Film Festival, co-hosted by the Canadian Embassy, in Washington.

Funds collected through the Go Fund Me campaign will help advance the project. It will cover costs related to the acquisition of an original soundtrack, post-production, and promotional material as well as for soldiers to travel to the London studios. The goal is to collect some $25,000 to complete the documentary. Currently, the campaign has raised $4,336.

“Financial contribution to the effort will guarantee that 23 Field Squadron members can contribute to the Clearing the Way body of knowledge and that the production quality will be commensurate with the intrinsic value of the story being told,” explained Major Robb. 

“Additionally, many of the soldiers who have contributed to the creation of the documentary have stated that the act of telling the story has been therapeutic. Giving these warriors an opportunity to open up about their experience while simultaneously creating a product that can edify generations of Canadians to come about a story that would otherwise be untold is surely a sound and worthy investment.”

Culliton noted he would not be using the funds raised for personal use. 

“I have not and will not be taking money for myself within this fund. It will simply allow me to hire the help I need to finish the documentary quicker and to make it better. These guys deserve it,” explained Culliton.

Visit the Clearing the Way – gofundme  page to donate towards the completion of the documentary.


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Genevieve Trudeau Senecal

Genevieve Trudeau Senecal is a military wife, mother of two beautiful little boys and active member of the military family community in Valcartier, Quebec. Genevieve has a Bachelor in Journalism from Concordia University (Montreal) and has studied at the Danish School of Media and Journalism. She has worked several years as a journalist in sports car racing (Montreal) and as a radio host & journalist (near Bagotville) before marrying into the military in 2013. She is now a stay-at-home-mom and volunteers many hours weekly at the Valcartier Family Centre. Geneviève Trudeau Senécal est une femme de militaire, maman de deux merveilleux petit garçons et membre active de la communauté militaire de la base militaire de Valcartier, Québec. Geneviève est détentrice d'un baccalauréat en journalisme de l'Université Concordia (Montréal) et a étudier à l'école des médias et du journalisme du Danemark (DSMJ). Elle a travaillé plusieurs années comme journaliste en sports automobiles (Montréal) ainsi que comme animatrice et journaliste radio (près de Bagotville) avant de se marier en 2013. Elle est maintenant maman à la maison et bénévole active du Centre de la famille de Valcartier.

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