Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Canadian soldier killed by IED remembered as 'easy-going Prairie boy'

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A bloody week for coalition forces in Kandahar got worse Wednesday when a Canadian soldier was killed and two others injured by an improvised explosive device in the ever-hostile Panjwaii district.

Lt. Justin Garrett Boyes, 26, of 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Light Infantry based in Edmonton, Alta., was only 10 days into his second tour in Afghanistan when his foot patrol was struck by the blast 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city.

Boyes was leading a platoon tasked with mentoring Afghan National Police officers at the time of the explosion. The two other casualties were treated at the Role 3 Hospital at Kandahar Airfield and are listed in good condition.

"So early in the deployment, Justin's death is going to be difficult to accept by his brothers in arms, but will not deter any of us from continuing with our mission," said Brig. Gen. Jonathan Vance, the commander of Task Force Kandahar.

Boyes jumped at the chance to help train Afghan police in order to contribute to the "effort to provide stability to the population so we could, in concert with the Afghan government, extend basic services and humanitarian assistance to those in need."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement late Wednesday offering his condolences, "and those of all Canadians," to the slain soldier's family and friends, as well as wishing a speedy recovery on the two injured soldiers.

"The dedication, bravery and remarkable commitment of Canadians like Lt. Boyes will bring safety and stability to the people of Afghanistan," Harper said. "Their ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten."

Boyes had only recently joined the Princess Pats as a member of the regular forces after spending six years in the reserves.

His death - the first for Canadian forces in nearly six weeks, and the 132nd since Canada's Afghan mission began in 2002 - darkens what has already been a bleak several days for international forces in Afghanistan.

Also Wednesday, a Canadian citizen suffered leg injuries in Kabul when Taliban suicide gunmen stormed a UN guest house in the Afghan capital, killing 11 people.

Eight American soldiers and an interpreter were killed in separate IED attacks on Tuesday in Kandahar's Arghandab district, an area that until earlier this year had been under Canadian control.

And 14 Americans, including 11 soldiers, were killed Monday in a spate of helicopter accidents that U.S. military officials said had nothing to do with insurgents.

Vance described Boyes as someone whose Saskatchewan upbringing left an unshakable mark on a family man devoted to his wife, Alanna, and three-year-old son, James.

"He was an easy-going Prairie boy who preferred sitting around the backyard with good friends, his family and a cold drink," Vance said.

Based at the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar city, Boyes was a member of the Police Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, responsible for professionalizing Afghanistan's rag-tag police units.

Training ANP officers has proved one of the more formidable tasks for Canadian troops in Afghanistan, as the force remains beset by corruption and high desertion rates.

Their vulnerability makes them a favourite insurgent target, and they receive the brunt of Taliban attacks against the government.

The ANP, however, is seen as the linchpin of any future stability and their progress has become a matter of urgency as Canada prepares to withdraw its military presence in 2011.

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