Trooper Karine Blais. THE CANADIAN PRESS/DND HO, April 14, 2009
By Patrice Bergeron, The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A young soldier just two weeks into her first tour of duty in Afghanistan has become the latest Canadian casualty of the mission.
Trooper Karine Blais, 21, died and four other soldiers were wounded late Monday afternoon when their armoured personnel carrier rolled over a roadside bomb in the Shah Wali Khot district, north of Kandahar.
The young woman was serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment based at Valcartier, near Quebec City.
A total of 117 Canadian soldiers, including two women, have died as part of the Afghan mission since it began in 2002.
The soldiers wounded in Monday's blast were airlifted by helicopter to a military hospital at Kandahar Airfield despite a fierce sand storm that hit the area. An earlier report that the storm prevented choppers from reaching the scene of the blast was incorrect.
Two of the soldiers were being treated by medical personnel and two were released. The conditions of the two still being treated were not known.
Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, the commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, said Blais had arrived in Afghanistan just two weeks ago. He praised the young woman's enthusiasm for the mission she was about to undertake.
"She was an energetic soldier who gave 100 per cent to every challenge she faced using a unique sense of humour, based on her honesty," Vance said. "Frank and direct, she demonstrated the qualities of a future leader who was respected by all members of her squadron."
He said Blais is survived by her mother Josee, grandmother Laurette and brother Billy. Her hometown was not released.
"This young woman's life did not go to waste; she believed in her role in Afghanistan and her dedication to the overall mission is beyond commendable," Vance said.
Blais is the second female soldier from Canada to be killed as part of the Afghan mission.
Capt. Nicola Goddard of the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, died on May 17, 2006, in a grenade attack in the Panjwaii district west of Kandahar city.
Blais's death comes a day before the Royal 22nd was to succeed the 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment of Petawawa, Ont. as the primary battle group in southern Afghanistan. A ceremony is scheduled late Tuesday that will see the changeover to the Royal 22nd under the leadership of Lt.-Col. Jocelyn Paul.
Blais's killing marks the first Canadian loss since March 20, when Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli, Cpl. Tyler Crooks, Trooper Jack Bouthillier and Trooper Corey Hayes died in two separate explosions.