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Military officials described Sgt. Andrew Doiron, 31, as a model to his peers and a teacher to young soldiers.

The Doirons live just north of Moncton, past a stream where locals fill up containers with spring water, in a semi-rural area that features more woodland than houses.

It's in this forest that Andrew Doiron grew up, a scrawny kid who sometimes liked to wear camo gear as he played with friends, built bonfires and learned to shoot. Family members seemed destined to serve their country: Andrew longed to be in the Canadian Forces, while his sister, Lindsay, went on to join the RCMP.

For years, Andrew Doiron thought of being a paramedic in the military, according to his friends. He enlisted in 2002 at the age of 19, but his days learning to survive in the woods of New Brunswick made him a natural for the Canadian Special Operations Regiment – an elite commando-type unit made up of "thinking warriors." He joined CSOR the year it was formed, in 2006, and thrived as he went on to earn the rank of sergeant in 2014. Over the years, he served in the tight-knit group on sensitive missions in Afghanistan, Niger and Iraq.

His death on March 7 in a friendly-fire accident, however, is shrouded in mystery: His parents are still restricting their public comments on the tragedy, and the government is conducting investigations that will not be fully released to the public.

The Globe and Mail's Mark MacKinnon was blocked in his efforts to visit the site of Sgt. Doiron's death in northern Iraq despite having received approval from the Kurdish President and the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs. The reporter had been seeking a clearer picture of the deadly incident in light of conflicting accounts about who was at fault.

Recent interviews with Sgt. Doiron's friends and former military colleagues, in New Brunswick and around the country, suggest he was a "top-notch" performer and not the type of soldier to make a fatal mistake in the fight against Islamic State militants.

"When I first heard about it, my instinct was, it's not anything that he would have done wrong, it was somebody else," said Byron LeBlanc, who served with Sgt. Doiron in the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in Edmonton between 2003 and 2006.

Military officials described Sgt. Doiron, 31, as a model to his peers and a teacher to young soldiers.

"There was nothing not to like about him, and I'm not saying that because he's dead," said one of Sgt. Doiron's former colleagues in Special Operations, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The former colleague added that Sgt. Doiron was skilled at helping colleagues to "conquer their fears," which is essential in the world of parachute jumps and rappelling.

"He was afraid of nothing," the former colleague said. "If it hadn't been for him, I couldn't have completed some of our training exercises. He was a real pro."

The pain of losing Sgt. Doiron still resonates in Moncton. A family friend, whose wife babysat Andrew as a child, refused to speak to The Globe this week. "I'd spend the whole time crying," he said. Various members of the community were also hesitant to speak about the Doirons, out of respect for the privacy of the local family that has lost so much in a faraway war.

There is now a long rope in front of the Doiron's family residence, for the fallen soldier's dog, Gretel. But his parents, Ray and Peggy Doiron, do not want to be dragged into the political controversy over Canada's mission in Iraq.

"We had discussed this the day Andrew passed," Peggy Doiron said this week, her voice still pained by the tragedy. "It's a huge loss, and that is our only statement."

Still, Ray Doiron's politics lean to the right, as shown by recent postings on his Facebook page. He approves of the war against Islamic State and has stated his support for the Conservative Party. In a recent posting, he published a video that mocked Justin Trudeau's first two years as Liberal Leader, including his flippant comment against sending CF-18 fighter jets into combat to show "how big they are."

Although English was the main language in the Doiron household, Andrew went to a francophone high school. In his 2001 yearbook, he described his career goal as "antiterrorisme." The attacks of Sept. 11 a few months later ensured that he would be able to live out his dream, as the Canadian Forces took on a greater role in military affairs around the world.

"It was a fast-paced career at the time, there was a boom of hiring of infantrymen," said Mr. LeBlanc, who is now retired from the military.

He added that he and Sgt. Doiron got lucky early into their military careers, when two spots opened up to go to Fort Lewis in Washington State to learn fast-roping and parachuting skills alongside their American counterparts.

"Doiron was definitely one of the guys who wanted to advance all of the areas of his career," Mr. LeBlanc said. "Any option to do any of the sexy stuff the military does, he was right up there to go."

An avid paintballer in his youth in Moncton, Sgt. Doiron became a weapons expert. He was his unit's top shooter, and developed a passion over time for three-gun competitions involving a rifle, handgun and shotgun. He also mastered the trades that his secretive regiment plied around the world: rappelling, fast-roping, parachuting, demolition and mountaineering, among other things.

"Known for his intellect and precision, he was meticulous in thought and action," said the eulogy handed out at his private funeral. "He was a force that loomed larger than life."

Being a CSOR operator took a toll on Sgt. Doiron's personal life in Ontario, where he went through a hard break-up, a friend said. He was getting ready for a new life back home in New Brunswick. According to Department of National Defence officials, he was scheduled to be posted in coming months to CFB Gagetown to train new recruits, a move that he had already announced to friends.

During last June's shooting rampage in Moncton, in which Justin Bourque killed three Mounties and scared an entire community, Sgt. Doiron looked after friends and family who were stuck at home in lockdown. Using his dry sense of humour and his knowledge of military tactics, he offered free advice on maintaining "situational awareness" at all times.

"Take the fight to the threat… Don't freeze up," he said.

A few days later, during the regimental funeral in which thousands of law-enforcement officials gathered in Moncton, Andrew Doiron walked in the same RCMP troop as his sister, who is now serving in the North. He wore his army uniform as he paraded alongside Mounties in their red serge. It was a clear break with protocol, according to an RCMP officer, but a fitting tribute to the fallen police officers.

Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc said the death of the Mounties and Sgt. Doiron, although separate events that occurred months apart, serve as a reminder of the dangers faced by "those who protect us."

The Department of National Defence has promised to brief the family on the results of its investigations into the incident before releasing its findings to the public. Meantime, the debate over the military mission is taking a toll on Sgt. Doiron's friends, some of whom no longer want to watch the news. They prefer to remember how they all got back together for wings at pubs such as Mooser's when Andrew came back to town.

"We have to learn to live without him," a friend said. "We know that is how he would have wanted to go, with the Forces, and not something like a car crash. But not so young. He still had a lot of things to accomplish."

A former military colleague added that soldiers avoid talking about death, especially when it comes in such an unfortunate incident. "It's kind of an army-guy thing. A lot of people don't want to talk too much about it. It's terrible, it's shitty, but you can't say too much else about it," the soldier said.

These days, a select few comrades-in-arms and friends are wearing a specially designed T-shirt in honour of the fallen soldier. Some of them even put it on to conduct gruelling workouts in his honour. The back of the garment includes the phrase "Til Valhalla," a reference to a warriors' paradise in Norse mythology where the bearded redhead would have fit right in, and two dates that highlight the shortness of his life: "1983-2015."

The front of the T-shirt features the motto by which Sgt. Doiron wanted to live: "If you can't be safe, be dangerous."