Sudbury Northern Life Reporter Bill Bradley
UPDATED - Warrant officer Gaétan Roberge of Sudbury was killed along with another solider in Afghanistan Dec. 27 when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device just outside Kandahar city.
The other victim of the attack was Sgt. Gregory John Kruse from the 2 Combat Engineer Regiment of Petawawa.
Roberge's death marks the first time the 2nd Battalion of the Irish Regiment of Canada, based out of Sudbury, has lost a solider in combat since the Second World War.
Roberge was serving with the Police Operating Mentoring and Liason Team.
Rob Hobbs, deputy commanding officer of the Irish Regiment, said Roberge was 45 years old, and this was his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. He started his tour in August.
He enrolled in the Canadian Forces in July 1981, and upon the completion of his basic training was posted to the Royal 22 Regiment, the Vandoos. He served with them and the Canadian Airborne Regiment. His previous tours included Germany and Bosnia.
“Roberge was with us for the last seven years. I knew him in the year and a half I was here. He was a very professional soldier, very dedicated, a real soldier's soldier,” Hobbs told Northern Life.
Roberge is survived by his parents, his wife, two children and two step-children.
He was proud to be a soldier.
“He was proud to be able to help the Afghan police to be better at their jobs so they could do their job on their own in the future. He was with the Afghan police on patrol when the event happened,” said Hobbs.
“He was someone who cared about the soldiers and really looked after their welfare (as part of his job). He could have a gruff exterior, but he had a nice personality underneath. He was really respected as a non-commissioned officer by his fellow soldiers,” said Hobbs.
Lieutenant Colonel John Valtonen of the Irish Regiment said in a release that his thoughts and prayers go out to the soldier's family and friends.
“He was a valued member of our regiment and an experienced, fit and proud Canadian soldier who gave his life doing something he truly believed in. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him and worked with him,” said Valtonen.
Currently there are 120 members in the Irish Regiment, said Hobbs. Six are serving in Afghanistan.
“We had members of our regiment serve in 2006 and they have also served in other areas like Bosnia and Cyprus. Most of the regiment was involved in WW II. That is the last time a member was killed in action.”
Despite the tragedy, life goes on for the unit.
“People are saddened by this loss, but we are professional soldiers with jobs to do,” he said.
“We are still recruiting. Being a reserve unit, people will leave to continue with their civilian careers. Our fall recruiting campaign was a success. We had 16 individuals join up.”