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