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We Were Invincible

De
288 pages
Nobody really knows who these men are- men in black dropped off by a helicopter on the outskirts of a small Afghan village; wading through swamps in Croatia, intent on killing a war criminal; who ensure the protection of a Canadian General in Rwanda; who subdue hostage takers in Peru; and who prove, on-site, the Serbian disarmament lies told by President Milosevic.
DENIS MORISSET was part of the initial sixteen-member Joint Task Force 2 (JTF 2) unit from 1993-2001. His extensive and rigorous training and hardships will make more than one reader realize that his being alive today is nothing short of a miracle. Seven members of his unit have not lived to tell the tale.
Canada, for good reason, will never render justice to these anonymous combatants whose only medals of bravery are the numerous scars still visible on their bullet-proof vests.
Unlike the British SAS and the United States’ Delta Force, this special Canadian intervention unit was, according to David Rudd of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, trained “to infiltrate into dangerous areas behind enemy lines, look for key targets and take them out. They don't go out to arrest people. They don't go out there to hand out food parcels. They go out to kill targets.”
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Europe
Transport
Génocide
Idéal
Population
Information
Mine
Image
Ally
Profession
Paranoïa
Test
Hide
Machine
Prison
Domination
Death
Suicide
Innocence
Sacrifice
Intégration
Torture
Civil
Tradition
Plan
Violence
Coopération
Risk
Tête
Silence
Lie
Saguenay
Danger
Solution
Village
Assassin
Support
Model
Digital
Adaptation
Commando
Résistance
Service
Occupation
Life
Mission
FIX
Hell
Alliance
Confrontation
Désertion
Failure
Champion
Authority
DEViANCE
Planning
Live
Transition
Real
Release
Packaging
Initiation
Nocturne
Sanction
Instruction
Dangerous
Ego
Râpe
Courage
Agent
War
Secret
Possibilité et impossibilité
Force
Leader
Coulombe
Compliance
Face
Reveal
Exécution
Knowledge
Protection
Passion
Rifle
GUN
Internet
Nuisance
Enemy
Obsession
Destruction
Disorder
Shooter
Isolation
Revelation
Manuscript
Hidden
Dominator
Extreme
Terror
Descent
Discipline
Society
Collaboration
Network
Québec
Dominant
Confidence
Nightmare
Révolution
Stab
Crime
Calibre
Escape
Ballistics
Autobiography
Copé
Intervention
Family
Troop
Bullying
Seat
Morisset
Survival
Adventure
Neurosis
Forget
Control
United States
Pathology
Regret
Help
Gulf
Power
Conséquence
Reality
Guilty
Code
Murder
HARM
Honor
Care
Team
Assistance
Youth
Scandal
World
Désert
Regional
Wills
Collatéral
Détention
Invasión
Victory
Recovery
Book
Fabulous
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Invader
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Citizen
Automatic
Morbid
Truth
Author
Assault
Activism
Biological warfare
Computer science
Crew
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Documentary film
Ethics
Energy
Fear
Government
Guilt
Horror
Hierarchy
Jurisdiction
Limit
Martial arts
North America
Psychology
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Persian Gulf
Prisoner of war
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Siege
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Serbia
Strategy
Terrorism
Unit
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Eastern Europe
Superior
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Chemical warfare
Biological weapon
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Psychologist
Testimony
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we were invincible
Translation : Jennifer Makarewicz© Les éditions JCL Inc., 2011
Les éditions JCL Inc.
930, Jacques-Cartier Street East, Chicoutimi, Quebec G7H 7K9
Phone : (418) 696-0536 – Fax : (418) 696-3132 – www.jcl.qc.ca
ISBN 978-2-89431-799-0WARNING
t his is a true story. t he events in this book have been reconstructed from the
memories of a soldier who was a member of the c anadian Forces elite special o perations
Unit : Joint t ask Force 2, from 1993 to 2001.
For obvious reasons, most names have been changed in order to preserve the
anonymity of those involved.To all soldiers
who returned wounded,
psychologically bruised
and battered from missions…
and virtually abandoned!NOTE
A list of the abbreviations and acronyms used in this book is found on
page 281. All words in this list are highlighted in grey in the text.CHAPTER 1
Recruit School
Québec, 2005
Him too! I put down the phone. My throat was dry; I
could feel the trickle of ice cold water running down my
back. Unable to think, I felt myself slip into a deep and
dark abyss.
“Denis?”
I was unable to answer.
“Denis Morisset?”
I still didn’t react. When my wife, Julie, found me
sitting in the living room in the dark, she knew that
something had happened.
“Denis, what’s the matter?”
“A sixth one, Julie.”
“No! Oh, no! Not another one!”
Her voice trembled. She knew exactly what I was

7talking about. That was the sixth of my old teammates
from the Canadian Army counter-terrorism unit who
had found no other solution to ending profound internal
suffering than that of taking his own life. What we
experienced had left wounds so deep that my six buddies
had not found any other way out. I fully understand
them; more than once, I also thought of taking that
path. My family’s love is the only thing that prevented
me from doing so.
I held on to Julie’s hand. I talk about it now. I go back
to when I was young, years ago. A time of carefree
living, when everything was incredibly easy. Unravelling
the threads of my life helps ground me. Every moment
remembered represents a brick in the demolished wall
of my life.
In the beginning, my journey was a rather typical
one. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Disco fever swept
through North America in 1980. Discos opened in every
city and Québec was no exception. Eden, Balzac, and
vendredi 13 were the hot spots for young people who
moved to the beat on the dance foor, mimicking John
Travolta, the hottest star at the time. I was part of that
youth. At the time, I was 17 and, like many kids my
age, had no idea what to do with my life. Academics,
sports, and girls were my priority, but not necessarily in
that order. Somewhat discouraged, my father watched
me. The direction his son was heading seemed
questionable to him. He wanted to talk to me and bring me
back on what he considered to be the ‘right path’, but
he was extremely aware that kids my age did not heed
8parental advice until only much later in life. He had to
therefore be cunning. He knew about my keen interest
in well-organized groups – I had successively been a
member of the scouts, pioneers and army cadets. One
day when I stopped by my parents’ house for a quick
bite to eat before running off, he showed me an army
reserve form.
“You should try this,” he suggested.
“Uh huh,” I answered.
“It’s a job like any other; you’d be well paid.”
That caught my attention. He knew that, like all
teens, I constantly needed money. I took the form
saying I would look at it.
It was only some days later that I fnally picked up
the piece of paper and realized that it was actually a
job offer for the Québec Voltigeurs. I applied for the
job without really thinking anything of it and, to my
surprise, was promptly accepted.
That is how I ended up in the army. I can’t claim that
it was my vocation or a well thought-out and planned
career project… had my father not handed me that
form, I wonder where I would be today.
Whatever it was, it was the beginning of a rigorous
training period. I followed the drill, the very foundation
of any army. They say that it develops the body and
mind. Walking and fling by in perfect unison is no easy
task. I picked up a number of survival tricks and was
9also introduced to weapons handling. Mostly, I made
many friends with whom I partied more often than not.
I was rather content with that lifestyle.
One of our reservist group’s tasks was to serve as a
etraining unit for the Royal 22 Régiment, nicknamed the
Vandoos. We were the bad guys. I quickly realized that
I grasped military strategy with surprising ease. During
one particular exercise, I tried something that would not
only earn me a great deal of respect but some serious
problems as well. Along with two other reservists, I had
ndto plan an ambush on an entire 22 platoon. We set up
some straight branches covered with leaves and twigs,
simulating weapons pointed at them. When the platoon
arrived, one of us leapt forward and aimed his rife at
the highest in command, Warrant Offcer Pronovost.
“Surrender, you’re surrounded!”
Thirty metres away and hidden behind a tree, I then
fred a shot in the air. The third member of our trio also
fred a shot. We wanted to create the impression of
many men surrounding the platoon. Baffed and
confused, the soldiers hesitated before eventually
surrendering. I requisitioned a transport vehicle at gunpoint
and ordered everyone to climb aboard. When Warrant
Offcer Pronovost realized that there were only three of
us, he turned beet red. Humiliated, he remained silent
and sat apart from his men.
Because of that battle exploit, I immediately became
quite popular; it helped me have some good times in
10the Army Reserve. I begin to seriously think about a
military career. In my naiveté as a teenager, I decided I
would be an army recruiter. I wasn’t aware that the job
did not exist. Recruiters are actually enlisted
personnel from different military occupations who, on a
rotational basis, are sent throughout the country to recruit
new members. I submitted my application and was
accepted at the Canadian Forces Recruit School.
The tone was set on the very frst day of
training. What an unpleasant surprise when I realized that
our instructor was none other than Warrant Offcer
Pronovost. As I recognized him, he wasted no time
showing that he had not forgotten me either. He headed
straight towards me and made me stand to attention.
With his face only inches from mine, he spoke in a
low voice. “You, son, have just committed the worst
mistake of your life. You will pay unlike anything you can
possibly imagine. I am going to break you, humiliate
you. I swear you will drop out before the end of training.”
Charming program up ahead. I questioned my
decision in taking that path. I went through hell over
the next six weeks. When most recruits were given
special permissions after their fourth week, I had to
wait for the eighth before fnally being allowed out for
a few hours. I was named Supervisor for Assistance
in Safety and Security (SASS) for the program’s ten
weekends. As if that weren’t enough, Pronovost kept
me on as Platoon Senior, or recruit in charge of the
platoon, for nine weeks out of the ten. Because of that,
11I was given all the administrative tasks and was
overwhelmed with work during most of my training.
I was not given any break whatsoever. During the
gas chamber exercise, the Warrant Offcer made me,
as Senior, go through with the platoon’s three sections.
After the third time in the chamber, I couldn’t see a thing
– my eyes were swollen, my nose runny, and I threw up
repeatedly. Despite it all, I refused to quit the program.
I held the unenviable record of 29 charges laid against
me, with every reason more absurd than the last. But I
watched and I learned. I told myself that the day would
come when someone would realize it.
The Warrant Offcer was blinded by his obsession
to make me quit. Of the 29 offenses, the most
common one was that of leaving my locker open. And yet, I
knew for a fact that I locked it every morning. The only
possible explanation was that somebody unlocked
and opened it after I left. One morning, I made all 20
guys from my section check my locker to see for
themselves that it was indeed closed and locked. When a
new charge was laid against me at the end of the day,
I knew that Pronovost had just committed a huge
mistake. I lodged a complaint and had all 20 of my bunk
mates testify. The Warrant Offcer was reprimanded
and fned for having lied. He was furious but I had it
easy for the last seven days.
Those ten weeks taught me a few things. First –
I had leadership qualities. Second – although I was
bold and provocative (something I realize even more
12so today), I was also revolted by injustice and always
ready to fght it. Throughout my career, my rather
unconventional behaviour would prove to be as
detrimental to me as it would be helpful.
I could put up with a lot simply to prove that I could
hold my own and face challenges, but I was not made
of steel. Although I did make it through to the end of
my training, I was exhausted both physically and
morally. Since I was Platoon Senior for nine weeks, all the
guys came to me with whatever problems they had.
Admittedly, I was incapable of listening to them as well
near the end as in the beginning. I was carrying too
much weight on my shoulders. When one guy named
Bédard came to me one day saying he couldn’t take it
anymore, I could not stand the whining.
“You can’t take it Bédard? In that case, open the
window and jump out,” I answered dryly.
I didn’t think that we were on the tenth foor and that
Bédard was probably as morally exhausted as I was.
As I turned away to address the next person, Bédard
went to the window and opened it. I swivelled around
in my chair just in time to see him jump out. Horrifed, I
ran to look outside. By some miracle, he had slid down
along a ridge of snow to the fourth foor where he then
fell into a bank of soft snow. He did not have a single
scratch. When I asked if he was hurt, he looked at me
in a daze and gave me the thumbs up. We had both
never been so scared in our lives. I will never again
make the mistake of not listening to someone in need.
13*
The recruit program ended and I was promoted
along with the others. I had held on to the very end.
On graduation day, my father went to see the school’s
Chief Warrant Offcer, a man named Groulx, a distant
acquaintance. He asked how everything had gone with
the new recruits. Proud as a peacock, Groulx looked at
my father. He didn’t make the connection between him
and me.
“I can tell you they were treated like shit. You can’t
imagine to what extent.”
He pointed his fnger at me.
“Especially him there, young Morisset.”
“I know, he’s my son. But despite all of your
underhanded crap, he made it.”
My father turned sharply on his heels, leaving the
Chief Warrant Offcer dumbstruck.
*
On my eighteenth birthday, and without quite
realizing everything it entailed, I became an active member of
the Canadian Army. Since I was bilingual, I had decided
to become a Radio Operator during Recruit School. I
found myself at the Kingston School of Communications,
the shortest path, I was told, to becoming a recruiter. I
was so gullible. Once in Kingston, I quickly learned that
14there was no such job as recruiter. I made the most of
it and attacked my studies of Morse code and HF, VHF
and UHF communications with enthusiasm. I became
familiar with cryptography in all its forms.
While studying communications, I pursued military
training. I took pride upon realizing that I was a good
soldier- tough and resilient. Not to mention my unbridled
enthusiasm. However, my arrogance irritated a number
of people… in particular my career manager, Warrant
Offcer Chamberlain. Luckily, I would not have to meet
with him often since he believed that all Francophones
were pathetic losers.
I couldn’t help it; in spite of myself, I was always the
one who had to add that extra word. During a parade
in front of the Lieutenant Governor, we had to sing O
Canada. At the end of our national anthem, I couldn’t
resist loudly saying, “And now, ladies and gentlemen,
enjoy the game!”
Naturally, everyone cracked up and that caused the
Commanding Offcer in charge of the platoon to lose
his composure.
After that, even though I was not dear to the
hearts of most offcers, I progressed nonetheless.
I was soon sent on my frst peacekeeping mission
in the Golan Heights in Israel. There, like in Syria,
I discovered different cultures. Unlike many of my
comrades who preferred staying among themselves,
I enjoyed meeting the locals, sharing their knowledge
15and learning from them. To this day, I still don’t
understand why people are wary of strangers. I see it
differently – as an opportunity to learn something new.
In fact, life will teach me that most problems come
from people we know.
In Cyprus, I fgured out for the frst time that, in the
army, promotions are not necessarily based on merit.
Escorted by a captain, I patrolled the border between
the Turkish and Greek parts of the island. Everything
seemed fne; soldiers saluted us and we responded in
kind. One day, a Turkish soldier who thought he was
pretty funny waited until we came up close to him
before aiming his weapon at us. Taken by surprise, the
captain soiled his pants. He babbled a few incoherent
words, cleared his throat and ended up telling me to
stay calm and step back. His attitude emboldened the
Turk who began threatening us more overtly. Rather
than step back, I stood squarely in front of him, calmly
removed the magazine from my machine gun and
showed him that it was loaded with real ammunition.
I reloaded my weapon and this time, I took aim at the
Turk. I yelled at him to back up and drop his weapon,
something he obviously did not understand. I took a
step forward, yelling even louder. He started backing
up. Realizing that I was not going to back down, he
eventually gave up his little game.
That should have earned me congratulations or at
the very least some form of recognition, but no – the
captain was furious with me. He said I could have
cre16ated a diplomatic incident, that he would fle a report on
my behaviour, blah, blah, blah. What must have really
gotten to him was losing face. I would have most
probably forgotten about the incident but he was afraid I
would talk about his cowardice and ended up digging
himself in even deeper. I met many courageous men
during my career, whereas others did not deserve the
stripes they faunted on their uniforms.
Amidst my comings and goings all over the world,
I was based at Valcartier. In 1986, the Canadian Army
wanted to computerize its operations and launched
project ECAC. The Commanders of different units
throughout Canada, who knew nothing about
computers, delegated offcers who were at the end of their
careers or on the very verge of retirement. My
commander at the time, Colonel Roméo Dallaire, was quite
the visionary and, instead, he sent two young guys. I
was one of them. I discovered a fascinating world. My
comrade and I returned from the program totally
captivated, our minds flled with a variety of different
projects. We immediately asked the Colonel for permission
to go follow a number of other courses, most of which
were in the United States. The very moment we would
return from our courses, we wasted no time putting into
practice what we had learned. With our help, Valcartier
Base became a pioneer in computerizing the military.
For years, I did not count the number of hours I worked.
I was crazy about computers. Two years before
leaving my job at Valcartier, I implemented the Metropolitan
Area Network (MAN) with Banyan Vines in Unix
platform network. StreetTalk, a user-naming method, would
17be bought by different companies, allowing them to use
@ as an address element. It is the basis of the Internet.
Under Colonel Dallaire’s instigation, we went from 1
server on the base to 17 in less than 12 months.
When, after 12 months, I received my frst
evaluation, I was deeply disappointed! I was still with my
regular unit since there was no computer unit, and I was
evaluated according to regular, ordinary criteria and yet,
I had just spent a year which was anything but ordinary!
I decided to object in my own way in order for them to
correct the situation. Using my computer, I went through
the base network and crashed the colonel’s computer.
In a matter of minutes I was called to his offce.
“Hello, Colonel. What’s up?”
“It’s my computer, chief; I can’t do a thing with it.”
“Don’t worry; I’ll take care of it.”
As I worked on the keyboard, the colonel noticed
that I was not my usual self.
“Chief, is something the matter?”
“No, no… everything’s all right.”
“Don’t take me for an idiot; it’s written all over your
face.”
I stopped typing and looked up. I then innocently
took my evaluation from my pocket.
“This is what’s bothering me, Colonel.”
18