St. Albert veteran lands national honour
Kenneth André Corbould receives Meritorious Service Cross for work in Afghanistan
Saturday, Feb 22, 2014 06:00 am
A St. Albert man has won one of Canada’s highest military honours for leading some 25,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Retired brigadier-general Kenneth André Corbould of St. Albert received the Meritorious Service Cross from David Johnston, Canada’s Governor General, at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall Tuesday.
The cross is one of the most prominent awards for military merit available in Canada, and recognizes a military deed or activity that has been performed in an outstandingly professional manner that brings great honour to the Canadian Forces and the nation.
Corbould, 46, says he actually got the award back in 2012 but wasn’t able to get to Ottawa to receive it until this week due to scheduling difficulties.
He got the award for his work as deputy commander of Regional Command (South) Headquarters in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011 – a job that saw him directing the combat and reconstruction efforts of some 25,000 multinational troops.
“Working within a diverse battle space and across multiple lines of operations, he created a clear and direct path for his organization to move forward,” his citation reads. “Brigadier-General Corbould’s efforts were critical to multinational success in Afghanistan, highlighting Canada’s role in bringing stability to the country.”
Leading from the front
A self-described “army brat,” Corbould says he grew up on military bases in B.C., Ontario and Alberta. He joined the army in 1984 and graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada with a degree in civil engineering.
Corbould went on to serve tours in Kuwait, Bosnia, and East Timor before doing three stints in Afghanistan.
In 2010 a surge of American troops started entering Afghanistan, Corbould recalls. It was the first time the Americans had been in southern Afghanistan (where Canada had been active for years), so they wanted a Canadian to help lead their efforts.
“We had a pretty successful year in those southern four provinces of Afghanistan,” he says.
In addition to doing border patrols and training local security forces, troops worked with locals to build roads, train lawyers, start businesses, create chambers of commerce and export pomegranates.
“It was all about sustainable development,” Corbould says.
Corbould says he spent much of his time in the field working with troops and locals, especially on border security.
Corbould had a reputation for flying out to remote outposts to hang out with front-line soldiers – a rarity for someone of his rank, says friend and fellow retired soldier Malcolm Bruce of Sturgeon County.
“He was the kind of guy that wanted to keep in touch with ground troops and be seen by soldiers as sharing the same risks,” he says. “They trusted him, had confidence in him and, quite frankly, they admired him.”
Corbould’s mission was not without risk – about 105 soldiers died during his last tour.
Corbould was also involved in a suicide bomb attack on a convoy in Kabul that claimed the lives of six soldiers and 12 Afghan civilians, including Canadian Col. Geoff Parker.
“We were over there doing reconnaissance,” Corbould recalls.
The bomber detonated a van load of explosives next to the convoy, obliterating the Jeep in front of Corbould and killing its occupants.
It was the first and only time he ran into an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, Corbould says.
“I walked away with a few bruises and scratches, so I was lucky.”
Afghanistan certainly isn’t a perfect place now, but it’s moving in the right direction, Corbould says.
“The difference between 2003 (his first tour) and 2010 was huge in terms of how normal things had gotten,” he says.
He saw substantially more students attending school, for example, and many more shops and bazaars open. Better roads and bridges have reduced the drive from Kabul to Kandahar from four days to just five hours.
Afghanistan now has a properly trained army, a constitution, and many other governance structures it didn’t have before, Corbould says.
“I think they have a really good chance to be successful.”
Bruce praises Corbould as “an incredible leader” who listens to others and gives credit where credit is due.
“Alberta’s lucky to have kept him.”
Corbould is now the assistant deputy minister of the province’s flood recovery task force, working to rebuild Alberta after last year’s floods.
It’s nice to be appreciated, but this was a team effort, Corbould says of the medal.
“It’s been a great honour of mine to serve with Canadian soldiers and our allies to help people out.”