The Canadian participation in the NATO mission in Afghanistan changed dramatically in 2005, with immediate consequences for the LER. Until early that year, Canadian participation had been small scale and centred in Kabul in the relatively peaceful north of the country. The American-led International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan had since 2001 been involved in small-scale fighting with scattered Taliban forces. The Canadian contribution to the conflict consisted at first of snipers from JTF 2 and the PPCLI working with American Units, less than 100 soldiers in all. The rest of the Canadian contingent was employed in support of civilian aid efforts and training Afghan forces. Even training in Afghanistan could be a dangerous business as Canadians discovered in April 2002 when four members of 3PPCLI were killed and eight injured in an accidental bombing by American aircraft.

By 2005 the situation in the south around Kandahar was deteriorating. American preoccupation with Iraq allowed the Taliban to recover from their initial defeat and resume the offensive. In February 2005 Canada’s Defence Minister announced a doubling in the number of troops committed to Afghanistan from 600 to 1200. By the end of the year the commitment had nearly doubled again to a battle group of 2300 personnel. More significantly, the Canadian Force moved from the relatively quiet environs of Kabul to take over the leading role in the multi-national brigade that was attempting to stem the Taliban revival around Kandahar. The changed situation in Afghanistan had immediate consequences for the LER.

The Regiment was asked to supply a Defence and Security Platoon for 1PPCLI when they deployed to Afghanistan at the beginning of 2006. Selection and training for the Platoon, which eventually comprised 21 soldiers from the LER and 12 from the Calgary Highlanders, began in April, 2005. On May 2 the Platoon officially stood up. They spent the summer on ELOC (Essential Level of Capability) training at Wainwright and from September to the end of the year engaged in Theatre Mission Specific Training in Edmonton.(44)

The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum.

Troops carry out final equipment checks prior to departing on an escort task.

 
The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum.
     

An RG-31 Nyala armoured vehicle at a halt during an escort mission.

The Defence and Security Platoon, under the command of Lt Robert Gliddon of the LER deployed to Afghanistan at the end of January, 2006. Contact with the enemy started almost immediately while the Platoon was undergoing operational training in Kandahar. A convoy in which they were travelling to familiarize them with the routes was ambushed on 28 February, 2006, and came under Rocket Propelled Grenade and machine gun fire, fortunately with no casualties to the Canadians. From March to August the Platoon was responsible for more than 160 convoy escort patrols from Kandahar Air Field to various Forward Operating Bases in the area. They used G Wagons and RG-31 Armoured Vehicles for these tasks. These missions were always dangerous, with frequent attacks by Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices. On August 3, 2006, Lt Doug Thorlakson, for many years a sergeant in the LER and now a platoon commander of the NEC Transport Platoon was wounded by shrapnel when he saved a patrol by opening fire on and exploding an Afghan vehicle intent on attacking his column. Sadly, just days before the deployment ended, a Platoon G Wagon was involved in a collision with a civilian truck that resulted in the death of Master Corporal Raymond Arndt and injuries to Corporals Gagnon and Van Leeuwen. This was the Regiment’s first death on operations since the end of the Second World War.

Part way through the deployment the Unit was renamed the Force Protection Platoon and acquired additional responsibilities. The main one was to secure the Ammunition Supply Point (ASP), a huge dump of sea containers located outside the defence perimeter of Kandahar Air Field. This was a tempting target for the Taliban and came under attack numerous times by rockets, mortars and machine guns. When not involved in escorts or ASP security duties, members of the Platoon augmented other elements of the Battle Group. At the end of August the Platoon returned to Canada.

The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum.
     

MCpl Ray Arndt seen working on camp improvements.

In 2007, twenty-six members of the LER were starting their training for a rotation (TF 1-08) in Afghanistan. The members left for Afghanistan in February of 2008, where they became part of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team Force Protection Company. Duties on this rotation were much the same as those the LER contingent had experienced two years before. One new task that some members of the Unit were involved with was helping to train members of the Afghan National Army. On 4 August, 2008, Corporal Tyler Myroniuk, who had been Mentioned in Dispatches for an engagement that took place 25 March, and two other Canadian soldiers were part of an ANA patrol that was caught in a Taliban ambush in the Panjwayii district. The patrol came under heavy attack from about thirty insurgents which wounded the ANA Sergeant Major and pinned down the rest. Corporal Myroniuk and Warrant Officer Robin Crane from 1PPCLI kept up a heavy fire and used hand grenades to cover the evacuation of the wounded soldier and the rest of the patrol. Both were awarded the Medal of Military Valour for what the citation called their “courageous and decisive action.” During the same period, another twenty-two LER members began training for the next Afghanistan deployment.

Tyler B. Myroniuk.

MCpl Tyler Myroniuk, LEdmn Regt, and WO Robin Crane, PPCLI, who were awarded the MMV for their actions in an ambush in August 2008. Both soldiers had earned a Mention in Dispatches for separate actions earlier in their tour of duty.

Late in 2009 twenty-five members of the Regiment deployed to Afghanistan as part of Task Force 3-09. This time the inherent dangers of operating in and around Kandahar caught up with the LER contingent. On December 30, 2009, Corporal Zachery W. McCormack, a member of the Regiment since 2006, was killed when his LAV struck an Improvised Explosive Device near the city killing three other soldiers and a CanWest reporter. Just six weeks later, on February 12, 2010, Corporal Joshua C. Baker was killed during a live fire training exercise in Kandahar. With the end of Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan in 2011, reserve deployments in that country were very much reduced. Over the course of the Afghan Mission the LER sent a total of 86 personnel to the country, three of whom paid the ultimate price.

 

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