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Shared in accordance with the "fair dealing" provisions, Section 29, of the Copyright Act.


Meet Teddy Zaremba: he's battling the Taliban and his own misfortune

Lee Greenberg, Can West news service, Ottawa Citizen, 25 Nov 06

Article Link


ZHARI DISTRICT, Afghanistan - Meet Bombardier Teddy Zaremba _

a hulking artillery soldier who was once mistaken for a bear during

a military training exercise. He's the Unluckiest Guy in NATO.


Although more than 40 Canadian soldiers have died in the war-torn

country since early 2002 _ making Zaremba's misfortune seem trivial

_ that is what his section mates call him, anyway.


And Zaremba's inclined to agree with them.


"If I'm not cursed, I've definitely got the worst luck ever," he

says. "If something bad's going to happen, it's going to happen to



Since embarking on a cursed six-month stretch in Afghanistan, he

has fallen down a flight of stairs, tripped over a tent wire, broken

his $500 camera and been given the only ration pack known to come

with a hole in the bottom.


On his second day in the field, the Regina-born, Calgary-raised

Zaremba slammed his fingers in the hatch of an armoured vehicle

while fleeing what he mistakenly believed was a mortar attack.

Commanders had merely called for a "stand to", or a heightened state

of alert, not panic.


"The medics told me you're lucky you've got fat fingers or you

would have lost them," says Zaremba, who tips the scales at 113.4



Those same medics proceeded to botch the stitching job and, forced

to seek treatment elsewhere, Zaremba became a passenger on three

successive convoys that were ambushed twice, suffered a flat tire

and had one vehicle rollover.


Unbelievably, things went downhill from there.


The mini-UAV _ unmanned aerial vehicle _ his section had trained to

operate crashed in a series of tests and authorities ordered it

permanently grounded. The troop has, instead, spent nearly four

months performing gate duty at a tiny patrol base in the heartland

of the Taliban-led insurgency.


Members of the troop compare their new task to prison.


Zaremba is taking the equipment failure in an intensely personal

way. More often than not, he was the one who was flying the tiny spy

plane. He is firmly convinced he's jinxed.


"He's taken it to heart," says Sgt. Tony Tullett, Zaremba's boss.


Tullett says the 30-year-old artillery soldier's guilt is

misplaced. Without Zaremba, who section mates describe as a

"computer whiz", the mini-UAV project would never have gotten as far

as it did, he says.


Tullett, nevertheless, adds: "If there was a coffee cup in this

room, Teddy would trip on it and hit his head against the wall."


He has done that, too. Several times.


"I'm always hitting my head on (stuff)," he says. "I'm not a

graceful man."


He has been awakened from a dead sleep to find himself launched

almost one metre in the air by an incoming helicopter.


"He was just screaming 'What the hell? What the hell?'" his

neighbour, a South African dog handler, says howling.


"I've never seen anything like it."


Is it any wonder Zaremba's taken up smoking again?


That he is given to suddenly declaring: "I'm getting out (of the



"He's one smart guy," says Master Bombardier Rick Atkinson, who is

based at CFB Petawawa, near Ottawa, with Zaremba. "Incredibly smart.

He's just the clutziest guy in the world _ klutzy and unlucky."


With just under three months left in Zaremba's six-month tour, the

dark cloud that seems to hover over his perpetually crooked helmet

shows no sign of lifting.


He returned from a two-week holiday in Germany last week with news

he had been robbed.


The encounter ruined his vacation.


Then, on his first shift back on gate duty, Patrol Base Wilson came

under mortar attack. It was the first such attack in months.


His section mates were not surprised.


"Hey, that's Teddy," said Atkinson, smiling.

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