American Forces Press Service
Dec. 5, 2008 - A battalion, or "kandak," of Afghan soldiers celebrated a milestone Dec. 4 when the U.S. Army decorated them for their military achievements. U.S. Army Maj. Brian Gary, an embedded training team leader, presented medals to more than 30 soldiers with the Afghan National Army's 1st Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 207th Corps, during a ceremony held at Camp Zafar in Afghanistan's western province of Herat.
The Army Commendation Medal was awarded to nine members of the unit, including the kandak's commander, Lt. Col. Raheem Khan of Khowst province. Khan has commanded the unit for the past 11 months and has seen many improvements during his tenure.
The ceremony was the first of its kind at the 207th Corps, and officials said it helped to recognize the outstanding performance of unit members and increased pride and motivation within the ranks.
"The reasons we are decorating these soldiers are the same reasons we recognize U.S. soldiers: to build up their confidence [and] show them they achieved something," Gary said. "This kandak is above and beyond their sister kandaks in this corps. They are the youngest kandak; they haven't even been on the ground for a full year. They are the best, in my opinion."
Khan said the U.S. Army awards will be a morale booster to encourage the troops to continue to work hard.
"With the cooperation of the ETTs and the corps, we stood up this kandak on its feet and they are doing well in many areas," Khan said. "Receiving these awards has a lot of value. The guys have been working really hard. Based on their performance, they are getting those certificates. This will encourage them to do better, and better in the future."
The unit has 627 members, with 250 deployed to operations in the southern region of western Afghanistan. They have performed two operations and provided security for Herat and voter registration throughout the region.
"Compared to the other kandaks in the corps, our kandak has a very high morale," said Sgt. Mahmood Mohammadi, fuel tanker driver from Baghalan. He has been in the Army for 18 months and with the unit since its inception.
"I was on a mission in Bala Murghab when we got ambushed by the Taliban," he said. "My truck was shot, but we didn't lose our morale."
(From a NATO International Security Assistance Force news release.)