By Peter Galuszka
The rumbling started Saturday and reached a head on Sunday, resounding through the tall, loblolly pines like a distant thunderstorm that somehow got stuck in a downdraft and just wouldn’t move on.
The curiosity was that the early January sky was a bright blue with only a few high clouds zipping by at my home in rural, southern Chesterfield County. The rumbling kept on and on. A startling muffled roar came just at halftime when the Redskins were up by one point against the Seahawks.
Wondering about it, I checked, thinking it might be military maneuvers at Ft. Pickett, about 20 miles to south as the Black Hawk flies.
Indeed, turns out Virginia has been invaded by Canada, for perhaps the first time since the War of 1812. The 34th and 35th Canadian Brigade Groups, comprising 1,500 troops, are using Ft. Pickett for war games through Jan. 9. They apparently have divided themselves up into opposing forces and are treating themselves to a big time smack-down at the fort’s high tech ranges, which are operated by the Virginia National Guard.
The Canadian units are based in the Quebec Province and their motto is “Combatte, vaincre ou mourir” (“Fight, win or die .”) I guess someone let them slip across the border while we were preoccupied watching the Mexicans.
Not that it’s unusual to hear and see strange things because of Ft. Pickett. Just about everyone uses it, including the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Secret Service, State Police and embassy security people. I hear booms infrequently, usually in the summer. Once I looked above my deck and saw a pilotless Navy drone which hovered a moment before shooting off. A few years ago, the Marines were around thumping around in their huge grey helicopters from their temporary base at Pickett while they practiced urban assault tactics on an abandoned strip mall in Petersburg. There were rumors that SEAL Team Six used Pickett for a mockup of Osama bin Liden’s Pakisitani compound, but there is also contrary evidence.
Now, don’t get me down. I have worked with and like Canadians. As an American friend who reported from Toronto once said, “they are so normal.” But I did resent it when I was on an endless flight to Asia and my seatmate, an otherwise pleasant drug researcher from Montreal, started talking about how Americans “deserved” 9/11. They do have this jealousy streak.
So, I guess they’ll continue to pop off rounds until midweek or until Blackstone runs out of Molsons.