Petawawa-based soldier killed in Afghan offensive

A soldier who was based at CFB Petawawa and born in Orangeville, Ont., was killed in Afghanistan on Friday as troops began a major offensive against the Taliban.

'We lost a good kid today... our thoughts are going out to his family right now': colonel

ACanadian soldier was killed and another was wounded Fridaywhen a bomb explodedshortly after the start ofa major offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

Cpl. Matthew McCully, of CFB Petawawa, is the 55th Canadian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan since 2002. ((DND))
An Afghan translator was also wounded in the attack.

Theslain soldierhas beenidentified as Cpl. Matthew McCully, a signals operator with the 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signals Squadron. He was based at CFB Petawawa, about 200 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

McCully, 25, was born in Orangeville, a town about 80 kilometres north of Toronto.

"We lost a good kid today," said Col. Mike Cessford, deputy commander of the Canadian contingent in Afghanistan, hisvoice breaking during a news conference in Kandahar. "We're thinking about him and our thoughts are going out to his family right now."

Col. Mike Cessford, deputy commander of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, announces the death of a Canadian soldier during a news conference Friday. ((CBC))
McCully, who was a member ofCanada's Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team,was killedby an improvised explosive device while he was on a joint Afghan-Canadian foot patrol near a village west of Kandahar city.

He isthe 55th Canadian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan since the mission started in 2002.

"It's a very sad and tragic occurrence that Cpl. McCully has lost his life," Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay told CBC News in Toronto. "It underlines again the cost of democracy and freedom and the pursuit of these values."

The wounded soldier has non-life-threatening injuries and was taken by helicopter to the main NATO base in Kandahar. TheAfghan translator was lightly wounded and remained on patrol with the Canadians, said CBC reporter Derek Stoffel, who is at the Kandahar base.

Patrolling with Afghans

The Canadian soldier was walking nearNalgham village with his Afghan colleagues around 8 a.m. local time when he stepped on the IED, said Cessford.

"He was doing what he needed to do, what he wanted to do, and he was working closely with Afghan soldiers to achieve … the right things for this country.

"This incident will not deter us from working closely together with the Afghan people."

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier said the military's priority is to return the soldier's remains to Canada and assisthis family.

"We're going to grieve with his family and we are going to help them say farewell with dignity," Hillier said after giving a speech in Toronto onFriday morning.

"We are going to show that young man all the respect, with the military pageantry, that he has earned by his significant accomplishments on our behalf."

Volatile region

The soldier was killedat the start ofOperation Hoover, which started late Thursday asCanadian tanks and infantry pushed into Zhari district, a volatile region on the western edge of Kandahar province.

The operation includes Canadian, Portuguese and Afghan infantry, with support from tanks, British air power and distant howitzer positions manned by gunners from the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.

The operation is taking place just west of the Panjwaii district, the scene of Operation Medusa— one of Canada's most significant battles in Afghanistan.

Canadians lead mentoring program

Operation Hoover is the largest and most ambitious offensive for Canada in more than six weeks, and is being led by soldiers from the Afghan National Army who have been trained bythe Canadian mentoring team.

TheOperational Mentoring and Liaison Team, theOMLT, known colloquially as the "omelette" — helps train members of the Afghan army in battle logistics.

Last week, Canadian Forces took control of the mentoring program in Kandahar province, as well as Uruzgan province in the north.

Speaking at the handover ceremony on Tuesday, OMLT commander Lt.-Col. Wayne Eyre called the change in command "the next evolution in Canada's involvement in Afghanistan."

"We're taking more mentorship responsibilities with the Afghan National Army to eventually get them to a state where they can handle security for Afghanistan on their own."

With files from the Canadian Press