Hundreds of troops from Canada and other nations lined the tarmac at Kandahar Air Field in the soft twilight and bagpipes played mournfully as Corp. McCully's flag-draped casket was loaded on to a Hercules transport aircraft.
The 25-year-old was killed on Friday after stepping on a roadside bomb in the early moments of Operation Hoover, an offensive aimed at flushing out Taliban insurgents from the Zhari district.
He is the 55th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan since 2002.
Corp. McCully was a signals operator with 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signals Squadron based in Petawawa,
|Canadian soldiers carry the casket of Corporal Matthew McCully during a ramp ceremony Saturday in Afghanistan. (Murray Campbell/Globe and Mail)|
Ont., near Ottawa.
He was a signaler and communications specialist working, like 70 other Canadian troops in the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, with soldiers of the Afghan National Army. An Afghan interpreter was slightly injured in the blast.
“Matt McCully was a tremendously professional soldier,” said Major Peter Sullivan, acting commander of the OMLT.
“Certainly I found him to be a mature young man and his company was enjoyed by all so he will be greatly missed.”
The OMLT is in charge of upgrading the skills of Afghan soldiers so they can assume responsibility for Afghanistan's security and allow the nations in the International Security Assistance Force to leave.
Maj. Sullivan said the Afghans are “without a doubt fierce fighters” but that the mentoring program is designed to teach the rules, regulations and tactics of a modern army.
He said Corp. McCully will be “sorely missed” but his death will not affect the mission.
“He was a professional, he was a young man with a lot of potential but he was a professional soldier,” Maj. Sullivan said.
“And as a professional soldier we all understand and know that regardless of what happens the mission must continue, the mission must carry on. Matt understood that, he would have expected that and demanded that we move ahead and do things that we came here to do.”
He said Corp. McCully would leave a legacy in Afghanistan.
“He was a soldier, he came here to soldier, he did exactly that,” Maj. Sullivan said. “So in my mind, if we could say that he left a legacy he left the one that he came here to leave and that was one of a Canadian and a professional soldier.”
The ramp ceremony was also attended by Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, commander of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, and Arif Lalani, Canada's new ambassador to Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, in Kandahar today, a suicide bomber on foot attacked a government vehicle killing himself and wounding five police officers.
As well, a British soldier was killed and four wounded in neighbouring Helmand province during an attack on Taliban positions.