Cana­dian sol­dier killed in train­ing ac­ci­dent


KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The body of a Cana­dian sol­dier killed dur­ing a train­ing ac­ci­dent at a range north­east of Kandahar city is on its way home.

Thou­sands turned out at Kandahar Air­field on Satur­day to bid farewell to Cpl. Joshua Caleb Baker. Four other sol­diers were in­jured in Fri­day’s ac­ci­dent.

The mil­i­tary of­fered few de­tails about Baker’s death other than to say it hap­pened dur­ing a rou­tine train­ing ex­er­cise. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion is un­der­way to de­ter­mine what caused the ac­ci­dent.

The four in­jured sol­diers were evac­u­ated by he­li­copter to the med­i­cal fa­cil­ity at Kandahar Air­field and are re­ported to be in sta­ble con­di­tion.

“ This type of train­ing is nor­mal for sol­diers in the­atre and es­sen­tial in help­ing them to main­tain high lev­els of ex­per­tise,” Brig.-Gen. Daniel Me­nard, the top com­man­der in Kandahar, said in a state­ment.

An Ed­mon­ton na­tive, Baker, 24, was serv­ing with the Loyal Ed­mon­ton Reg­i­ment.

Baker was proud to be in the mil­i­tary, his fam­ily said in a state­ment Satur­day.

“ While he was frus­trated that progress was slow, Josh was hop­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in Afghanistan. He val­ued the ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with Afghans gave him. We were sur­prised to find out he de­vel­oped a real taste for tea from his short time there.”

Baker planned to ap­ply to be­come an of­fi­cer with the Ed­mon­ton Po­lice Ser­vice when he re­turned from Afghanistan and stay in the mil­i­tary as a re­servist, his fam­ily said.

His fam­ily also pointed out a Bi­ble verse Baker had posted on Face­book — “Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dis­mayed for I am the Lord your God. I will strengthen you, yes I will help. I will up­hold you with my righ­teous right hand.”

His death brings to 140 the num­ber of Cana­dian sol­diers killed since the Afghan mis­sion be­gan eight years ago.

Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper of­fered his con­do­lences to Baker’s fam­ily, say­ing he served valiantly in or­der to build a bet­ter fu­ture for Afghanistan.

“ The courage demon­strated by Cana­di­ans on this mis­sion speaks to their ded­i­ca­tion to cre­at­ing a bet­ter coun­try for the Afghan peo­ple. Their com­mit­ment to this goal is not di­min­ished by this in­ci­dent,” Harper added.

Sim­i­lar mes­sages were is­sued by Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean and De­fence Min­is­ter Peter MacKay.

Jean said Baker served bravely and gen­er­ously to sup­port Afghans’ hopes for se­cu­rity, jus­tice and a bet­ter life.

“He mer­its our whole­hearted ad­mi­ra­tion.”

MacKay called Baker’s death “a tragic loss for Canada and for the Cana­dian Forces.”

Me­nard, the com­man­der, said Baker had a laugh that light­ened up any room.

“ Joshua had a laugh ru­moured to cure can­cer,” he said.

“No mat­ter where you were or how down you got, his laugh would find your ears and bring a smile to your face.”

Me­nard de­scribed Baker as an “ex­tremely pas­sion­ate” per­son who loved his job.

Lt.-Col. Mike Pren­der­gast, com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the The Loyal Ed­mon­ton Reg­i­ment, spoke on be­half of the en­tire reg­i­ment.

“Our deep­est sym­pa­thies go to Joshua’s fam­ily and we will grieve with them. Josh loved be­ing in the army and was avidly en­thu­si­as­tic about serv­ing his coun­try over­seas. He was an easy per­son to talk to and the kind of per­son that other sol­diers wanted to have around. His death is a great loss to the reg­i­ment and the army. We will re­mem­ber him,” he said in a state­ment.

News of the sol­dier’s death came as Cana­dian troops were tak­ing part in the largest air as­sault of the Afghan war in neigh­bour­ing Hel­mand prov­ince.

Amer­i­can, Bri­tish, Afghan and other coali­tion troops stormed the in­sur­gent-held town of Mar­jah and the district of Nad Ali early Satur­day morn­ing.

Cpl. Joshua Caleb Baker

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