ISSN 2330-717X

US: Dempsey Visits Soldiers In Afghanistan


By Cheryl Pellerin

At a forward operating base in eastern Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff dropped by today to meet with the leadership of Task Force Bulldog, have lunch with the troops, and present awards to eight Soldiers, including a Bronze Star Medal to a soldier from the Czech Republic.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey began the second day of his latest trip to the region with the leadership of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, the organization that generates and sustains the growing Afghan national security forces.

Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger is commanding general of the organization, in which representatives from 37 troop-contributing nations work to turn recruits for the Afghan army, air force and police into cohesive forces that will be capable by 2014 of independently protecting and defending their nation.

At 70 training sites in 21 provinces, 6,000 international trainers and advisors develop Afghan soldiers and police in the field and build institutional capacity for the army and air force with the Afghan defense ministry and for the interior ministry’s local, border and civil-order police.

After the briefing, Dempsey met up with Maj. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, commander of the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command East and commanding general of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division for a C-130 flight that took them about 60 miles south of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital.

Forward Operating Base Shank is headquarters for Task Force Bulldog, deployed in November from Fort Bliss, Texas. There, the chairman and Allyn met with Col. Mark H. Landes, commander of the 1st Armored Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, and his leadership team. The base, now surrounded by snow-covered sand fields and mountains, is in Logar province. The task force’s area of operations includes Logar, Wardak and Bamyan provinces.

After the briefing, troops gathered in the sun outside the joint operations compound while the chairman spoke to them informally from a wooden platform before presenting awards to the eight Soldiers who stood behind him.

“Back there at the Joint Staff we track your progress,” Dempsey told them. “I wouldn’t say every single day, but several times a week we’ll get a briefing about what you’re doing.”

The chairman said he was proud of the job the members of Task Force Bulldog are doing and asked them to do three more things — thank their families, take care of their own health and mentor young Soldiers.

“Whenever you talk to your family members, whether it’s mom and dad or your spouse or kids, just tell them thanks from me personally, because many of you are not on your first tour of duty,” Dempsey said.

“[This] is what we volunteer to do, but our moms and our dads and our spouses and kids don’t volunteer,” he added. “They do it because they love us, so make sure you tell them thanks for me.”

Taking care of their health is important because “you don’t really understand yet what the accumulated effect of these kinds of missions is on you,” he told the service members.

“We’re going to figure that out over time,” Dempsey said, “but you have a bit of a personal responsibility for that as well. The institution has a responsibility, but so do you, and I want you to take that seriously.”

The chairman also stressed the importance of mentoring as the U.S. military returns to being one that isn’t constantly deployed. “That’s not going to happen for a few years,” he said, “but it’s going to happen, and when it does, those who follow you will look to you to learn.”

Before having lunch with a few dozen troops, Dempsey presented awards, pinning a Bronze Star on Staff Sgt. Michal Novotny of the Czech Republic’s army.

Novotny, a reconnaissance squad leader and combat medic, rescued an American Soldier who was gravely wounded Nov. 19, public affairs officer Terry Kelley said.

On a route clearance patrol, Kelley added, some roadside bombs went off and one wounded a Soldier who was on foot. The Soldier lost both legs and a hand, Kelley said, and Novotny rushed in without security and applied tourniquets, despite the possibility that more bombs could detonate, saving the Soldier’s life. The Soldier is now receiving treatment in the United States.

Seven other awards included four Army Commendation Medals with “V” device for valorous acts, an Army Commendation Medal for a National Guard Soldier from Georgia who was part of an agribusiness development team, and two Combat Action Badges.

Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press Service

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