TF 3-09, KPRT, 28 October 2009: Lt Justin Boyes

I met Lt Justin Boyes halfway through our work-up training in 2009. He was part
of the Police Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (POMLT) that was getting ready to
deploy on Task Force 3-09 (TF 3-09). The POMLT had just been regrouped under the
Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT), which is why we were training
together. My men and I were training to deploy as a Force Protection (FP) platoon,
which would be divided in half. One half would fall under my platoon’s second in
command (Pl 2IC), then WO Cecil Parris, and be operating in Kandahar’s DAND District
along with our company’s headquarters (HQ). I would be taking the other half of the
platoon to Panjwayi to be co-located with Justin’s team. Between training, Justin and I
got to hang out at the mess or during down time in the field. We got along great, and we
often spoke about out families. He told me about his wife Alanna and his little boy
James. I picked his brain about fatherhood because my wife and I were expecting our
first child. He gave me some great “daddy tips” and I could tell he really loved being a
dad, and I could tell his boy meant the world to him.
It was Justin’s calm demeanour and easy going personality that was key to his
success as a leader. This came in handy when all the POMLTs were re-organized right at
the end of our training. To minimize concerns Justin worked quickly to bring his
Military Police (MP) team members up to speed on infantry tactics. Working in a small
nine person POMLT you can not spare a single person, so he needed all his personnel
ready for anything. Justin also had the experience of deploying to Afghanistan as a
reservist in 2004. Prior to transferring to the regular force in 2007, he served as a soldier
with the North Saskatchewan Regiment.
I deployed first on 20 September 2009, and six days later half of my platoon and I
were in Panjwayi conducting our hand over with the Vandoos. Justin and his team
arrived in Panjwayi on 24 October 2009, and it was great to see another familiar face. I
did not see him too much for the first two days, even though our compounds were only a
hundred meters apart, since he was conducting his hand over with the outgoing POMLT
On the evening of 26 October 2009, our compounds were attacked with a rocket
that had been setup on a timer by insurgents. Justin and I met up between our compounds
to make sure everyone in our teams were alright. The rocket had skipped off the road
directly in front my compound and tumbled through the air right over the outer walls. It
did not explode and we found it shortly after. Since it was late, and with nothing else
occurring, Justin and I told our guys to stand down for the night. When we met back up
outside the compound walls we found the Panjwayi District Leader, Hajji Barron, had
gone and picked up the unexploded rocket and brought it inside Justin’s compound to
show to the Afghan National Police (ANP) commander. We found Mr Barron holding it
and we immediately stepped away from him and asked him to take it back outside.
However, the District Leader wanted a photo of us with him holding this thing before he
would take it back outside. I am not sure what happened to the photo, but there is a

picture of Justin and I on either side of Hajji Barron as he holds this rocket. I am sure the
look on our faces tells you what we were thinking about Hajji Barron’s actions.
We had full day patrols planned for 27 September, and the Battle Group (BG)
engineers where going to come out and exploit the launch site and our rocket in the
morning. However, they become tied up with something else that day and did not get the
chance to do either. Hoping there would still be some evidences left behind I planned to
go find the rocket launch site the next morning. Justin was also planning a patrol that
morning to conduct a recce to an ANP outpost outside of Forward Operating Base (FOB)
Masum Ghar. I was going to move on foot to look for the launch site, which was
estimated to be about fifteen-hundred meters East of the village that Justin was heading
to. That night Justin came over to talk after dinner. He had just finished talking to
Alanna on the satellite phone and he told me how she and James were doing. We
coordinated our patrols a bit more and then he headed back to his compound. That was
the last time we spoke.
The next morning I saw the POMLT vehicles roll out just as my ten man patrol
stepped out of the gate. I led the patrol that morning, taking with me a medic, my
interpreter named “Hell Boy”, and seven other soldiers from the platoon. We found the
launch site, took pictures and grids, but of course there was nothing left behind. We
started heading back when the sound of the explosion ripped across the ground. We took
a knee and to our West we saw the tall and skinny mushroom cloud jutting out of the
earth and moving towards the sky. Instantly, we heard small arms fire erupt from that
direction and it was clear to me it was an IED-ambush. We took cover by a wall and I
radioed in what I knew to higher. After my report the POMLT vehicle crews, who were
parked at Three-Tank-Hill, started saying they lost communication with Justin’s group
who were on foot in the nearby village. Justin’s crew could not be reached by radio and
they were also out of range for their small personal radios. I listened to the radio chatter
from TANGO-2 and heard that the Masum Ghar Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was out on
another task and would be about an hour before they could get another call sign to that
location. At that point I was twelve-hundred meters away with a medic and working
radios. I looked down the wall at my men, the looks on their faces told me they were
ready to go. It had only been a few minutes since the IED-ambush and the small arms
fire could still be heard. I quickly made the decision to move my small force West, and
radioed in that my call sign, 51, was moving toward the contact and would provide
security and eyes on the ground. Here is the excerpt from the incident report that was
compiled and submitted from that day:
On 28 Oct 09, 57A (Justin’s call sign) conducted a patrol through the village of
HAJI HABIBOLLAH to Three Tank Hill. The aim of the patrol was to gather information
on the possibility of moving vehicles onto Three Tank Hill IOT support the AUP Check
Point with optics and direct fire. The composition of the patrol was 2 x LAV RWS, 8 x
Canadians, 1 x interpreter, and 8 x AUP. The patrol moved to an AUP checkpoint and
dismounted for the patrol to Three Tank Hill, leaving 4 x Canadians with the vehicles.
They reached the hill, conducted an assessment and began moving back to their vehicles.
Traveling down a back alley the AUP point man and MCpl Mattews-Pestana (3 PPCLI)

saw a motorcycle dropping off a passenger. As soon as he saw the patrol, he did a U-
turn and sped off. The AUP officer and MCpl Mattews-Pestana were moving towards the
passenger to question him when the AUP officer began to run after him. MCpl Mattews-
Pestana followed briefly but stopped, realizing that he was too far ahead of the rest of the
patrol. He decided to hold in his position and watched as the AUP was engaged and
returned fire. A second AUP officer ran past MCpl Mattews-Pestana and joined the
engagement. The remainder of the patrol caught up to MCpl Mattews-Pestana and he
led them in the direction of the AUP to give them fire support. As they were running
forward, Lt J.G. Boyes (3 PPCLI) stepped on a PPIED just behind MCpl Mattews-
Pestana. The explosion knocked him forward and both Kenny the interpreter and Sgt
Murray (MP) backwards. As the dust settled, Sgt Murray moved forward and checked on
MCpl Mattews-Pestana who had some hearing damage. Cpl Nicoljasen (MP) returned
fire in the direction of the enemy. When the contact ceased they began to search for Lt
Boyes as he was no longer in sight. Due to the lack of communications equipment, they
had only one radio on patrol and could not contact higher as Lt Boyes was carrying it.
MCpl Mattews-Pestana took control of the patrol and began to search for Lt Boyes. They
realized a short while later that he was knocked over the three metre wall that paralleled
the trail. MCpl Mattews-Pestana pushed security out and, with Kenny in the lead, he
went over the wall with Sgt Murray behind him. Cpl Nicoljasen remained on the other
side of the wall as security with the AUP. They discovered Lt Boyes in an orchard on the
other side of the wall. He was obviously dead. MCpl Mattews-Pestana immediately tried
to call higher with Lt Boyes’ radio but it had been damaged in the blast. MCpl Mattews-
Pestana was trying to figure out how to get Lt Boyes back over the wall for extraction
when Kenny advised that they should stay off of the trail. Kenny called the Chief of
Police on his cell phone and MCpl Mattews-Pestana asked him to have the Chief of
Police relay to FMG of the incident, which he did. MCpl Mattews-Pestana sent some
AUP to find a cart to move Lt Boyes out to an HLS.
CS 51 led by Lt Hartwick (2 PPCLI) heard the explosion and began moving
towards the blast. A few hundred metres from the site, 51 was engaged by heavy small
arms fire believed to be from the INS breaking contact away from 57A. Lt Hartwick
controlled the fire from his patrol until the firefight ceased. With the lull in fire they
attempted to move forward but were engaged again. While taking fire, 2 x SHAMUS call
signs came on station and the enemy fire ceased. Lt Hartwick attempted to bring
SHAMUS onto the enemy position but was initially unsuccessful. He then marked his
position with smoke and directed the helos onto the enemy position, using the smoke as a
Hearing the helicopters, MCpl Mattews-Pestana shot two penflares into the air
mark his location for support from SHAMUS. He then received his Zulu LAVs over PRR
who informed him to throw smoke so that 51 could locate them.
CS 51, moving in the direction of the explosion again, saw the penflares and
smoke and moved directly for them. Lt Hartwick directed SHAMUS onto 57A’s patrol
and they began to scan around the IED site for any threats. When 51 arrived at the site,
they swept the area for enemy and established a cordon. MCpl Mattews-Pestana gave Lt
Hartwick a detailed description of all of the events, allowing him to get a hold of the
situation immediately. The medic with 51, Cpl Densmore moved to the casualties for
assessment checking both MCpl Mattews-Pestana and Lt Boyes. Lt Hartwick called in a

SITREP, a 9 liner, a MIST and a 10 liner and guided QRF onto the site. The casualty
was moved to an HLS and the helo was brought in, picking up Lt Boyes and dropped off
an NIS officer. EOD and the NIS pers exploited the site and concluded their
investigation. They then moved to the QRF vehicles and to FMG. The FMG UMS called
in a medevac for MCpl Mattews-Pestana and Cpl Densmore. MCpl Mattews-Pestana
injuries included hearing loss and a possible spinal injury. Cpl Densmore had sprained
her ankle enroute to the blast site.
Here is what occurred with my patrol on route to link-up with Justin’s team.
There was a large open field between where we were and the village. We moved quickly
across the open terrain and breached the East side of the village. By this time the firing
had stopped and over the radio all that could be heard were the POMLT drivers trying to
raise Justin’s crew over and over again. We entered the east flank of the village and I
kept wondering about the size of the enemy that had ambushed the team; what were we
walking into and had I made the right call? The place was deserted and music from a
small radio that someone had left on a wall could be heard as we moved deeper into the
village. We pushed forward, knowing full well something was very wrong, but we had to
get to the POMLT, I felt that they needed our help. In an instant the silence vanished and
was replaced by chaos. CRACK, CRACK, CRACK, CRACK! We returned fire without
hesitation, took cover, and I radioed in the contact. I knew we had run into the insurgents
who had fired on Justin’s POMLT who were either trying to move out of the area or were
preparing for another attack. The firing slowed and we started to bound up an alley in the
direction of the POMLT. I was about to step out into a lane when dust kicked up in front
of me from small arms fire. My signaler, Pte Doug Ryan (2 PPCLI), pulled me back
against a wall and we were pinned down again. After a while a message came over the
radio saying that helicopters where inbound. When they arrived the firing slowed and
then stopped once the birds started their sweep. As mentioned in the excerpt it took some
time to get the helos to sweep over the blast site. The pilots reported no enemy seen and
could not confirm if there were any casualties. We pushed forward steadily with caution
and closed the last few hundred meters of ground between us and the POMLT in a few
minutes. The first people I saw were the ANP and I ran up to them with Hell Boy. I
remember Hell Boy saying “He says the commander is gone!” I asked “Canadian or
Afghani?!” Hell Boy replied with “He says the Canadian commander is gone.” I was
exhausted and I did not believe what the Police Officer was saying, so I pushed by him
looking for the POMLT members. I can remember seeing the hole in the earth where the
IED had exploded, and I remember coming around the corner of a mud wall and seeing
Justin. His body shrouded in a big thick blanket the guys had found. I called up the
medic I had with my patrol and another soldier to assist, and I told them to check Justin
over and prepare a 9-Liner. One of the POMLT members, MCpl Mathews-Pestana from
3 PPCLI, came towards me and gave me a debrief on what had occurred. He yelled the
entire thing at me. He yelled it because he had been so close to the blast that it ruptured
his eardrums and they were bleeding. Years later back in Canada, Sgt Murray and MCpl
Mathews-Pestana were both awarded a Mention-in-Dispatch for their actions that day.
The remainder of the incident was covered in the above excerpt. However, before
the helicopter arrived to take Justin away I sat beside him as I wrote out my radio

messages, and many thoughts crossed my mind. I looked at Justin, lifeless and wrapped
in a blanket, and anger flooded my senses. Anger clouded my mind for sometime after
that day, and it took me a while to recalibrate my thoughts. Because of the situation the
local people were in, they were afraid to come forward. Justin and many others, ISAF
and locals alike, died because the local people were too afraid to act due to fear of loosing
their own lives, or worse, the lives of their loved ones. Remembering this helped me
make sense again of the place I was in.
The insurgent who was responsible for the IED that killed Justin was later
identified and captured. In early 2010, South of Kandahar city, the insurgent was caught
by a call-sign in Stability Company A with the PRT who were responding to an IED that
had been called in. The IED had been found by locals who had reported it to the local
Police. While on the scene, a man on a motorcycle was observed moving around the area
watching as the Canadians disarmed the device. Sgt Tom Dressen (2 PPCLI), a Section
Commander with the PRT, noticed this and had his soldiers stop the man. A quick test
revealed he had explosive material residue on his hands and he was taken into custody by
the local authorities. Even though I was not there when they caught him I felt relieved.
The spread of fear caused by that insurgent ended that day because of someone brave
enough to stand up and report that IED to the Police. Sgt Dressen received a PRT
Commander’s coin for his actions prior to the end of the tour.
May Justin, and all our fallen, rest in peace.