KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, visited coalition troops serving in southern Afghanistan on Christmas to celebrate with them and thank them for their sacrifices.
He started off the day at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, and flew from KAF to Forward Operating Base Apache in Zabul province to meet with troops including Romanian service members and U.S. soldiers of 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, Regional Command (South) and 4th Infantry Division commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. David M. Clark, RC(S) and 4th ID command sergeant major, accompanied Dunford on his trip through southern Afghanistan.
Romanian service members, who were celebrating Christmas in their chapel at FOB Apache, sang a few Christmas songs – including "Jingle Bells," in English – upon Dunford’s arrival.
Dunford addressed them and wished them a merry Christmas before moving to another chapel at FOB Apache to meet with more deployed service members and shake their hands.
“Not only do I wish you a Merry Christmas but I just ask that you tell your families that I stopped by and that I said thanks to them as well,” Dunford said.
Some service members were away from their families during the holidays for the first time; others had served on previous deployments and were used to being away from families in December, although it didn’t make it any easier.
“I don’t want you to forget the fact that we came here in the first place to protect the American people,” Dunford said. “We came here to protect our European coalition partners.
“The sacrifices we’ve made over the last few years, over the last decade, the pressure we have put on al-Qaida, the pressure we have put on the network that supports al-Qaida, is the reason why your families back home today can have a day (when) they don’t even think about anything other than just enjoying the day, enjoying their way of life. And that’s what you’ve delivered to them. I very much appreciate it.”
He also spoke about the role Afghan forces have had in taking responsibility of their country’s security.
“You all are doing a superb job in getting them out there now in the front. They’ve had a good summer. They have provided security to the Afghan people.”
He then flew to FOB Walton in Kandahar province, where he visited and walked around the dining facility, sitting down at tables to talk to service members.
Dunford then made his way back to KAF, where he visited U.S. service members with 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Cavalry Regiment and 451st Air Expeditionary Wing.
Service members with 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, expressed their appreciation that Dunford visited them on Christmas.
“It was good to see that the leadership cares, to see how the soldiers are doing on Christmas,” said Sgt. Natasha Elusme, a door gunner with Company A, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. “You want to be home with family, but we do have our A Company family.”
Spc. Rodney Dunbar, another door gunner with 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, said he was stationed in Korea two Christmases ago but that he is currently serving on his first combat deployment. Dunbar briefly talked to Dunford as he made his way through KAF and later spoke about what it meant that Dunford visited him and his fellow service members on Christmas.
“It shows that he cares about how the troops are doing and how they’re handling the deployment and how they’re handling being away from family during this holiday season,” he said.
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This work, Dunford visits Regional Command (South) troops on Christmas, by SGT Antony Lee, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.