Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trooper Larry Rudd is the latest Canadian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan.

Rudd, 26, died yesterday while on a resupply patrol to deliver supplies and equipment to Canadian soldiers near the village of Salavat, about 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City. He was killed by an improvised explosive device.

A native of Brantford, Ont., Rudd was with the Royal Canadian Dragoons based at CFB Petawawa in Ontario.

Rudd was "a go-to soldier who always put the needs of his family, friends and fellow soldiers before his own," said Col. Simon Hetherington, Deputy Commander of Task Force Kandahar.

Rudd never complained, regardless of the hardships he and his crew endured, and was mature well beyond his rank and experience, demonstrating enormous potential, Hetherington added.

"He was dynamic and motivated; generous and outgoing," Hetherington said. "And despite his intimidating size, he was considered the Gentle Giant within his squadron, within the armoured corps and certainly within his regiment."

He is the 146th member of the Canadian Forces to die in Afghanistan since the current mission began in 2002.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

CFB TRENTON, Ont. - As the C17 Globemaster military aircraft carrying the body of Col. Geoff Parker drew closer on the tarmac, tears flowed down the cheeks of some of the hundreds of onlookers as they pressed up against the fence of the air base to catch a glimpse.

Upon arrival, Parker's wife walked to the hearse with her son and daughter, and placed a tall can of Heineken on her fallen husband's flag-draped casket. The three then said goodbye to the 42-year-old father and husband with a military salute.

Parker, a member of the Royal Canadian Regiment, was killed Tuesday when a massive car bomb hit his convoy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Canadian military officials said the battalion commander was in Kabul to interact with international organizations, in an effort to prepare his team for their upcoming mission.

Five American soldiers and 12 Afghan civilians were also killed in the explosion.

Parker is the seventh Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan this year and the 145th since the mission started eight years ago. He is also the most senior NATO soldier to die in the conflict.

Among the approximately 300 people who gathered along the fence to witness the repatriation ceremony was Ian Stock, who served with Parker several years ago.

The pair met in 1995, when Parker was a regular support staff officer with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment in Belleville, Ont.

Stock said the Oakville native, showcased signs of an "excellent officer" throughout all their encounters.

The two men met again a couple of years later when they served in Bosnia.

"Even though I wasn't a close friend, to hear of rising star passing, it just hits everybody," he said. "Close friends or not, we are all a brotherhood."

Five members of the U.S. Army's Fort Drum base in New York State attended the repatriation ceremony to show their support. The Fort Drum's unit lost two of their soldiers during the attack.

Parker was posted to the military's headquarters at Downsview. This fall, he was expected to take up a posting with NATO's Regional Command South.

- With files from Jerome Lessard

Friday, May 14, 2010

Canadian Soldier Killed near Kandahar City

A Canadian soldier who was two days away from finishing his tour in Afghanistan has been killed by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol southwest of Kandahar city.

Pte. Kevin McKay, 24, was born in Richmond Hill, Ont. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton.

McKay was killed around 8 p.m. local time Thursday while on patrol near the village of Nakhonay in the Panjwai District, about 15 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city, military officials said.

Until recently, Taliban insurgents walked the streets in the community openly and armed, CBC journalist Darrow MacIntyre reported. But over the past several months, Canadian soldiers — including McKay — have established a strong presence in the area, driving most of the Taliban out of the area.

Despite the progress, the area is riddled with roadside bombs, and Canadian soldiers find them on an almost daily basis, MacIntyre said.

"His platoon brothers and friends will remember Kevin, better known as Mickey to his buddies, as a dependable and generous man with a quick wit and great sense of humour, which was exemplified by his awesome moustache," said Col. Simon Hetherington, deputy commander of Task Force Kandahar.

"He was a highly skilled soldier who loved his job and whose positive outlook spread to all those around him."

McKay's death brings to 144 the number of Canadian Forces members who have died in the Afghan mission since it began in 2002.

In a statement issued Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said McKay served the country valiantly, and "deserves the gratitude and respect of his nation.”

"There are risks to our mission, but the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces are showing leadership, alongside our international partners, in standing up for something that is just: helping the Afghan people achieve peace and stability and rebuild their country and its institutions," Harper said.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Saluting Our Warriors

Yesterday marked another painful day for Canadians as the body of Petty Officer 2nd Class Craig Blake returned home to Canada.

The 37-year-old father of two is the 143rd member of the Canadian Forces to die during the Afghanistan mission, but the numbers don’t diminish the sadness of this solemn event, or the sympathy we feel for Blake’s grief-stricken family.

Blake was the first Canadian sailor killed in Afghanistan, which lent an element of mourning to ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of Canada’s navy on Tuesday.

The centennial, plus the throngs who turned out in Holland Wednesday to honour and remember the Canadians who liberated their country from the Nazis in 1945, remind us of our nation’s proud history of stepping into the breach when the need arises.

Tomorrow, Saturday May 8, 2010 marks the celebration of VE-Day and 65 years after the end of the Second World War, our men and women in the Armed Forces are still putting their lives at risk for the cause of freedom.

The gratitude expressed by the Dutch people, who were starving and desperate when the Canadians marched in to save the day, is heartwarming.

That conflict, a clearly delineated fight between good and evil, stands in vivid contrast to the more nuanced battle our troops confront in Afghanistan.

Government corruption and a culture of religious oppression and gender discrimination pose a daunting challenge for our soldiers in their quest to bring peace and freedom to the people of that country.

These complexities make it difficult for some Canadians to lend their unwavering support to this mission.

They should try to imagine the plight of innocent Afghans and the impact to reconstruction efforts without the presence of our soldiers — who refuse to abandon the country to chaos and tyranny.

The death of Petty Officer Blake is a reminder of the price paid in blood and tears for this tenaciousness.

Questions may linger in the minds of Canadians about the complicated quest to bring peace to Afghanistan, but the dedication and sacrifice of those who serve there is unassailable.

Through our anguish and frustration, we must never lose sight of that.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Canadian sailor killed in Afghan bomb blast

Petty Officer Second Class Douglas Craig Blake, 37, was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated. He was on foot around 4:30 p.m. Monday May, 3, 2010 near the Sperwan Ghar base in Panjwaii district.
Photograph by: Handout, Canadian Forces

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — A member of the Canadian Forces has died in a Taliban bomb blast next to Canada's front-line base, bringing to 143 the number of Canadian troops killed in the Afghan war.

Petty Officer Second Class Craig Blake was on foot around 4:30 p.m. Monday near the Sperwan Ghar base in Panjwaii district when an improvised explosive device detonated.

Blake, 37, of Simcoe, Ont., was an explosives-disposal operator, tasked with defusing IEDs. "At the time of his death, he and his team were returning to camp after a successful IED disposal near the village of Paye-e-Maluk," Canadian Forces Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard said Tuesday.

A competing triathlete and peewee hockey coach, Blake was a married father of two. "Craig was a family man who was often heard telling glowing, heartfelt stories about his wife and two sons," Menard said.

Blake arrived in Afghanistan last month for his first tour of duty in the country.

Though Blake was a navy "clearance diver" serving with the Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic in Halifax, "he effortlessly adapted to the rigours of land operations," Menard said, adding that Blake was "incredibly fit, with a backbone of steel."

Blake's fellow troops dubbed him "The Poker Pirate" for his skill in card games, Menard said.

Paye-e-Maluk's compounds begin within 200 metres to the west of the Sperwan Ghar base, 25 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City. Canadian soldiers patrol through the village regularly. Just over a week ago, a group of insurgents was spotted at night laying wire to plant an IED under the road that passes Paye-e-Maluk and leads to Sperwan Ghar, but were interrupted by a salvo of Canadian cannon fire from an armoured vehicle atop the Sperwan Ghar hill. No killed or wounded Taliban were found at the scene. On Thursday, Canadian soldiers and Afghan troops searching compounds in Paye-e-Maluk found a bloody makeshift stretcher.

Insurgents in the area place IEDs that can be triggered by remote control or by the pressure of a footstep or vehicle. Taliban are also increasingly using "directional" IEDs that blast shrapnel out of a concealed spent cannon shell or length of pipe. The Canadian military has not revealed which type of IED killed Blake.

The Canadian Forces did not report whether any soldiers were injured in the explosion that took Blake's life, as per a recently imposed policy of refusing to make public any information about wounded soldiers except in an annual report.

Eighty-seven of the Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan were killed by IEDs.

Most recently, Pte. Tyler William Todd, 26, died April 11 from an IED blast while on foot patrol near the village of Belanday in Dand district near the border with Panjwaii.

Tuesday morning, Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean said the death was tragic news for Canadians.

"Petty Officer Second Class Blake, like all of his comrades deployed to Afghanistan, demonstrated extraordinary commitment in providing assistance to the Afghan people and helping in the reconstruction of this devastated country. He offered the best of himself and we salute his tremendous courage, his generous spirit and his commitment to excellence in the line of duty.

"Our thoughts are with his mourning parents, his fellow sailors and his friends. We can only imagine their great suffering and grief. On behalf of all Canadians, we offer them our sincerest condolences," the Governor General said in a news release.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: "Petty Officer Blake was a brave Canadian who made the ultimate sacrifice while proudly serving his country. Thanks to Canadian Forces members like Petty Officer Blake, we are making progress in Afghanistan in creating a better future for the Afghan people. On behalf of the Canadian people, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his family and friends during this difficult time.

"This is a loss for Canada and the Canadian Forces — but it was not in vain. With the help of the international community, Afghans are rebuilding their communities and improving their lives," Harper said in a news release.

"Let us never forget Petty Officer Blake, who died trying to make life better for others."