By Bill Graveland

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - Chief Warrant Officer Robert (Bobby) Girouard once helped other soldiers cope with mourning for fallen comrades before getting them battle ready again. Cpl. Albert Storm mused about retirement the day before he died.

Both were killed Monday when a suicide bomber attacked their Bison armoured personnel carrier outside Kandahar city. Both had come across Cpl. William Gus in their long military careers.

Guse, a medic originally from Victoria, said he feels for their families but won't allow himself to grieve while still in Afghanistan. That's something he will do when he returns home.

But with a catch in his voice, he spoke warmly Tuesday in memory of Storm and Girouard.

Storm, 36, a Fort Erie, Ont., native, was a decorated soldier who had served in trouble spots around the globe. He was just three years from retirement from the armed forces.

Guse served with him over 14 years ago. They met and had a chat on Sunday.

"I bought him a coffee and we talked about the past and what we had done in the past," Guse said.

"We kind of reminisced a bit and he was talking about planning for his retirement."

"He was a soldier. He died doing what he wanted to do. He thoroughly enjoyed the army. He enjoyed it as much as he enjoyed planning for his retirement too."

Guse didn't know Girouard as well personally but said Girouard was his platoon warrant officer in battle school. In Afghanistan, Girouard, 46, of Bathurst, N.B., was a regimental sergeant major.

"He had a definite hand in shaping me as a soldier and a man. I can honestly say that," Guse said. "I'm a better soldier for him having been my platoon warrant in battle school."

As regimental sergeant major, Girouard played a pivotal role in ensuring the troops are disciplined and battle ready. One of his duties was to guide them through the difficult mourning process when fellow soldiers are killed.

"It's a 24-hour process," Girouard said in an interview with The Canadian Press in September, when the Canadians were taking many casualties.

"The soldiers are upset, angry, but we know that time is critical. They have 24 hours, then they have to get back into operations and back to support their brothers," Girouard said.

"That's how much time they have. That's what myself and my sergeant majors do to motivate my soldiers and have them ready for battle within 24 hours."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among those extending condolences, saying Girouard's and Storm's "resolve and courage" represented Canadian values and beliefs.

"We stand united in pride and pledge to remember their sacrifice," the prime minister said in a statement from Ottawa. Harper said Canada would "not be deterred from the mission to assist the Afghan people achieve greater stability and security."
Violence continued unabated on Tuesday.
Another suicide-bomb attack on an armoured vehicle in the Panjwaii district west of Kandahar city slightly injured a Canadian soldier. Canadian and Afghan troops were involved in a shooting incident that resulted in the death of an Afghan civilian who allegedly was acting "irrationally" and had failed to stop after warning shots.
Storm's older brother George remembered him as someone who loved the service.
"As a soldier, he was proud to be one," George Storm said from Kenora, Ont.. "As a person, he was the best. He would do anything for anyone."
George Storm said he was informed of his brother's death "in the wee hours of the morning" when a colonel from the 116th Battle Regiment knocked on his door. He had the unhappy task of informing their elderly father, sister Beverly and another brother Frank.
"I'm the eldest. It was my job."
Girouard, a father of three and a 29-year military veteran, had been with his family in Bathurst just last week, finishing a three-week leave, said his brother Peter.
"His mood? It is depressing over there. Any war is, I guess, depressing," Peter Girouard said.
"Last week he was with his family and he was probably heartbroken he was leaving his family again."
The family had celebrated an early Christmas, knowing Bobby wouldn't be with them on Dec. 25.
"It was a celebration week before he left to go over, not knowing it would be his last week."
Peter Girouard described his brother as a serious man who loved his native province's expansive woodlands where he went for walks. He also loved to fish.
Storm and Girouard served with the Royal Canadian Regiment based in Petawawa, Ont.
The death toll among Canadian troops in Afghanistan since 2002 now stands at 44, along with one diplomat. Thirty-six of them died this year.

Copyright 2006 Canadian Press