PANJWAII -- Canadian troops in the war-torn Panjwaii district rolled out the 42-tonne Leopards yesterday in the first combat deployment of Canadian tanks since the Korean War.
Hours later, they rumbled down the streets of the village of Panjwaii in an impressive show of force on their way to the nearby forward operating base (FOB).
Residents of the village of Panjwaii rushed from their homes to watch the biggest display of foreign firepower since their war with the Soviets in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
It also caused tremendous excitement at the FOB, where battle-weary Canadian troops couldn't contain their glee.
"Merry Christmas to the Taliban," said one soldier, echoing the sentiments of his comrades.
"It's time to open a can of whupass," said another.
The tank crews, members of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) armoured regiment based in Edmonton, were excited to be finally joining the fight.
"This is definitely going to send a serious message to the Taliban," said Trooper Ian MacDougall, 30, of Burlington, Ont.
"Everybody likes the tanks. It's the first combat deployment since Korea. It's pretty interesting to be part of that."
Military officials will only say the Leopard tanks are there to "augment the efforts" of the battle group in this region, which is surrounded by mountains, fields of opium poppies and a former stronghold of the Taliban.
Moving the tanks through the village was no accident.
"I'm confident the sign of these tanks showing up will demonstrate to all the people around here and probably the Taliban as well the resolve of the coalition to bring security to this area," said Maj. Trevor Cadieu, commander of the squadron.
"Introducing the Leopard tank into this theatre will certainly beef up our firepower and protection.
"We're dealing largely with an insurgent threat that chooses to fight us with small arms and RPGs (rocket propelled grenades).
"We now have the ability to reach out to several kilometres with a 105-mm cannon."
The Leopard's firepower is the most potent weapon in the Canadian arsenal in Afghanistan.
Trooper Matt Dube said he saw a few smiles on the faces of residents of Panjwaii.
"It's going to be great because (with these tanks) we're really going to be able to help them solve this problem once and for all," Dube said.
He said the Taliban won't know what hit them when they eventually go toe to-toe with the Leopards.
"Nothing on the ground right now can compare to this kind of firepower. "This is 10 times more powerful than anything on the ground," said Dube.