News: Gen. Austin visits southern Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Antony Lee
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – General Lloyd J. Austin III, the commander of U.S. Central Command, visited Regional Command (South), Afghanistan, Nov. 28-29, to see service members and celebrate Thanksgiving with them.
During his trip, he traveled to different bases in RC(S), including Kandahar Airfield and Forward Operating Base Lindsey in Kandahar Province, Multi National Base Tarin Kot in Uruzgan Province and FOB Apache in Zabul Province.
Austin addressed coalition forces at each stop and awarded soldiers various awards – including Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars and combat badges.
During lunch on Thanksgiving, he stood at the entrance to a dining facility at KAF and shook hands with hundreds of ISAF service members and civilians supporting the mission. He also wished them a happy Thanksgiving and encouraged them to call home and wish their families a happy Thanksgiving.
At FOB Apache, a base he visited the day after Thanksgiving, he addressed troops spoke about the growth of the base over the years.
Forward Operating Base Apache started off as a small combat outpost with one infantry company several years ago, and based upon the work of that one company, it evolved into FOB Apache, an important base for coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, he said.
“That speaks to the determination, the valor, the professionalism of our military,” he said.
He also encouraged and thanked the soldiers at FOB Apache for their commitment to the International Security Assistance Force mission and for their willingness to serve far from home.
“You are making a difference for the country of Afghanistan – for this region that the country of Afghanistan is in – and thereby, the world,” he said. “What you have done over a period of time is (train) Afghan forces that can help provide security for their country as (it) grows and matures.”
Before his speech at FOB Apache, Austin awarded several soldiers with bronze stars, combat badges and a Purple Heart – awarded to Capt. Austin Tazzia, an operations officer in 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div.
Austin noted that Tazzia is still healthy and contributing in Afghanistan.
“We still have you in our ranks… and we’re proud of that,” he said. “We’re proud of your steadfast professionalism in combat.”
Tazzia, who has been in the Army for nine years, was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained when his vehicle was hit by a vehicle borne improvised explosive device in June. He said it was a “tremendous honor” to receive the Purple Heart from Austin.
“To have someone of distinguished status travel to FOB Apache to recognize soldiers around the holidays and pay his respects is a tremendously humbling experience,” he said.
After the awards ceremony and speech, Austin and Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Grippe, the USCENTCOM command sergeant major, met with officers at FOB Apache and answered questions.
Grippe, in answering a question about the state of affairs in Afghanistan, said he is “confident the Afghans are going to do a great job” in taking responsibility of their country.
During his visit to southern Afghanistan, Austin also met with General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, at KAF after his trips to the various RC(S) bases. The two 4-star generals discussed progress in Afghanistan.