A Canadian soldier who lost his leg to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan says improved training facilities for soldiers in New Brunswick could reduce deaths and prevent injuries to soldiers searching for the hidden menaces.
Master Corp. Mark Hoogendoorn was reacting to news Monday that the Department of National Defence will spend $36 million on new training facilities for identifying and disposing of improvised explosive devices and other explosive ordinance.
"When we’re called back to do things live again, hopefully it will result in less casualties and less injuries in the future," he said.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan made the announcement at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in Oromocto, N.B.
Sajjan — who trained at the New Brunswick base and served in Afghanistan — said it is part of the federal government’s commitment to ensure Canadian Armed Forces have the support they need, including safe and modern facilities in which to work and train.
"I know first−hand from my experience in Afghanistan that simulation training is critical to successfully combating these and other explosive devices," Sajjan said.
The $36 million will pay for new buildings to house the main training centre of the Canadian Forces school of engineering, and for upgrades to roads for field exercises.
Sajjan said work on the training facilities will start this summer and is expected to be completed by winter of 2017.
About 100 of the Canadian deaths during the war in Afghanistan were the result of attacks that used IEDs.
Sajjan said he has the utmost respect for crews whose job it was to look for explosives.
"Imagine the driver — what the mindset is — when you’re going down that route. They’re trained and their job is to either find it or actually set it off. Think about the level of resilience that’s needed in our men and women to do that," he said.
Hoogendoorn’s accident occurred on July 31, 2010. Despite the loss of a leg and the many surgeries that followed, he’s still in uniform and — with the help of a prosthetic leg — is eager to continue to look for explosives.
"I would still prefer me to be in that position than one of my friends. If I’m not there, someone else is going to be there. I like to think that I can do my job fairly well, so I’d prefer to be there myself instead of somebody else," he said.
The 30−year−old soldier said the work he was able to do in Afghanistan is what compels him to continue.
"If that saved just one child’s life, or one innocent person’s life, for me that’s extremely rewarding. It would be hard to find another career that would be able to compare to that," he said.
Sajjan also announced another $2.3 million for other infrastructure upgrades on the New Brunswick training base. They include upgrades to the asphalt, lighting and storm water collection system at the airfield on the base.