Canada's death toll in Afghanistan has hit another tragic milestone with the death of two soldiers Saturday west of Kandahar City.
Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht, 34, and Private Andrew Miller, 21, were attached to a unit that was on its way to deal with a mine that had been found in the doorway of a home when the vehicle they were in detonated an improvised explosive device.
Master Cpl. Giesebrecht and Pte. Miller were both medical technicians attached to the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group.
The incident occurred at 11 a.m. about 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City.
"Although we cannot say for certain that these medical personnel were targeted deliberately, it is for certain that the threat to Afghans stemming from the influence of out of area fighters at this time of year is very serious," said Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance, the commander of Task Force Kandahar.
The latest death brings to 150 the number of Canadian Forces members to die as part of the Afghanistan mission since it began in 2002.
"Medical technicians are indispensible to the work being done by Canadian and Afghan soldiers. They participate in every Canadian Forces patrol and operation," Brig.-Gen. Vance said.
"It is because of their dedicated and skilful work, often under fire, that many Canadian, coalition, and Afghan soldiers and civilians are alive today."
A third soldier was injured in the blast and airlifted to the Role 3 Hospital, at Kandahar Air Field, where he is listed in stable condition.
Master Cpl. Giesebrecht is the third Canadian woman to be killed in a combat situation.
Trooper Karine Blais of Les Méchins, Que., was hit by a roadside bomb blast in a district north of Kandahar last April. The 21-year-old was serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment based at Valcartier, near Quebec City.
The first was Captain Nicola Goddard of the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, who died May 17, 2006, in a grenade attack in the Panjwaii district west of Kandahar city.
Brig.-Gen. Vance said Master Cpl. Giesebrecht was born in Wallaceburg, Ont., and was a member of 1 Canadian Field Hospital, based at CFB Petawawa.
He said she was married and a fit, dedicated and fun-loving medical technician serving on her second tour in Afghanistan.
"She was a mentor and an inspiration for her fellow medical technicians. Kristal loved life to the fullest. She was a wonderful friend, always opening her heart to everyone in need," Brig.-Gen. Vance said.
"Kristal prided herself on her health and fitness, although she always felt the solution to any problem could be found in a box of chocolates."
Pte. Andrew Miller was born in Sudbury, Ont. A member of 2 Field Ambulance, based at CFB Petawawa, he was serving on his first overseas deployment.
Brig.-Gen. Vance said Pte. Miller will be remembered as someone who would give his fellow soldiers the shirt off his back and was always the first to volunteer.
"Andrew was very confident in both his soldier and clinical skills. He wanted nothing more than to be part of the Health Services Unit for ROTO 9, in Afghanistan, so that he could put his skills to the test," he said.
"Called Caillou by his friends - everyone acknowledged the resemblance as soon as they met him."
Three Canadians have died in Afghanistan in a week.
Sergeant , 28, was killed by an IED on June 20th while on a foot patrol near the village of Nakhonay.
"It may seem to you that we are simply victims here - I assure you we are not. We take casualties, and we hurt, and such is the nature of war, but your soldiers, soldiers like Kristal Geisebrecht and Andrew Miller, stand as guardians between a terrible threat and the innocents who cannot protect themselves," Brig.-Gen Vance said.
"I am proud and grateful that our young men and women have the kind of soldierly courage to turn a bad day for themselves into a better future for those who need their help."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also paid tribute to the pair who died.
"These soldiers served bravely while helping to build a stable Afghanistan.
"Our Canadian Forces members in Afghanistan daily face life-threatening situations that are created by an enemy who is working to undermine the building of a democratic and self-sustaining society," he said in a statement released while he attended the G20 summit in Toronto.
"The commitment of our men and women in uniform is not diminished by these attacks. Their participation in the United Nations-mandated mission is a true reflection of our values: helping those in need and defending the interests of Afghan citizens."
IEDs have been the single biggest cause of death among Canadian troops in Afghanistan.
Ten out of the 12 Canadian deaths this year were the result of an IED blast. In all, 91 of the 150 Canadian fatalities in the eight-year-old Afghan mission came about from IEDs - which include roadside bombs and some other type of explosives, according to the Department of Defence.
Two civilians - diplomat Glyn Berry and journalist Michelle Lang - have also been killed in Canada's mission to Afghanistan.