Homecoming for Afghan Officers

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 2:16 p.m. December 16, 2013

Const. Todd Parker made it out of Afghanistan unscathed after 13 months only to break his leg in Germany, where he and six other officers were in transit on their way back home after being part of the International Police Peace Operations Program.

A group of people young and old behind a banner reading welcome home Johnny
John LoBianco's extended family welcomes him home

“I just slipped and fell,” said the 43 Division officer.

“It was a freak accident, but I am just happy to be back home with my family.”

Based in the western city of Herat, Parker was a human and gender rights adviser and mentor.

“Based on the feedback from Afghans, Toronto Police are doing a fantastic job in that country,” said Parker, who joined the Service 15 years ago.

“They are very impressed with our professionalism and the dignity and respect with which we treat the people there.”

Parker’s wife – Tonia, and their three children – Harrison, Katelynn and Melanie – were on hand at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Dec. 7 to welcome their husband and father home.

“We met him in Europe while he was on vacation, but it’s nice to have him back with us for Christmas,” said Tonia Parker.

“We Skyped last year, but this year he will join us with family and friends at home.”

Const. John Lo Bianco’s daughter was born while he was deployed. He met her for the first time, in France, where the family vacationed for three weeks last spring.

“While I relished my time in Afghanistan, I am glad to be back with my wife and two young kids,” said Lo Bianco, who retired as a 16-year military reservist just before he was deployed 13 months ago.

A member of the Service for the past 13 years, he was attached to the International Policing Co-ordinating Board in Kabul.

“My job entailed co-ordinating training, assessing the local police and developing plans to build capacity there,” he pointed out.

The Lo Bianco family stood out at the airport with their large “Welcome Home John” sign.

“It has been a long and difficult 13 months for us, but I am happy to have him back,” said his wife, Kerry.

“We did a lot of Skyping and Facetime, but that is no substitute for having him with us, live, in person.”


Four people posing for photo in a line
Const. Todd Archer and his children Harrison, Katelynn and Melanie

D/Const. Jodi Mitchell is looking forward to spending the first Christmas in three years with her husband, Capt. Lockey Williams, who has served in Bosnia and South Sudan.

“He was gone the previous two years and I was away last year,” said Mitchell, a military reservist since 1993.

“It’s nice to be spending the holidays together at home.”

The couple reunited last February in Thailand, and in Europe in July, while she was on vacation.

Based in Mazar-e-Sharif in north Afghanistan, she was assigned to the European Police Union Mission.

“Being in Afghanistan was an amazing experience and I would have liked to stay longer if I could,” Mitchell added.

“I really enjoyed the people and my work there.”

Other officers returning on Dec. 7 included Const. Greg Boltyansky, Det. Ruth Moran, S/Sgt. Grant Burningham and Insp. Arthur Little – who was stationed in Kabul at the NATO training mission embedded with the United States Army at Camp Eggers.

Chief Bill Blair, Deputy Chief Mark Saunders and several senior officers were on hand at the airport to welcome the returning officers.

Saunders recently spent a week in Kabul visiting the Toronto officers.

“That visit provided me with a better perspective of what our officers are doing there and why their services are valued in that country,” said Saunders, who attended a medal ceremony where 33 Canadian police officers were recognized for their service, during a medal presentation ceremony at the Canadian embassy in Kabul.

“Think of a country with about 30 million people and no intervention crisis,” he said.

Armies are designed to protect communities, but there is nothing there to build communities and that’s where policing comes in

Other officers returning on Dec. 7 included Const. Greg Boltyansky, Det. Ruth Moran, S/Sgt. Grant Burningham and Insp. Arthur Little – who was stationed in Kabul at the NATO training mission embedded with the United States Army at Camp Eggers.

Chief Bill Blair, Deputy Chief Mark Saunders and several senior officers were on hand at the airport to welcome the returning officers.

Saunders recently spent a week in Kabul visiting the Toronto officers.

“That visit provided me with a better perspective of what our officers are doing there and why their services are valued in that country,” said Saunders, who attended a medal ceremony where 33 Canadian police officers were recognized for their service, during a medal presentation ceremony at the Canadian embassy in Kabul.

“Think of a country with about 30 million people and no crisis intervention,” he said.

“That’s Afghanistan. There are lots of military which is fine. Armies are designed to protect communities, but there is nothing there to build communities and that’s where policing comes in.”

The Canadian police mission in Afghanistan ends in March.

People posting for photo in a line, two holding young children
Const. John Lo Bianco, his wife Kerry and their two children with Chief Bill Blair
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