Celebrating Afghan Independence Day by recognizing Soldiers
August 30, 2013
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - It was a large open room filled by a mass of green uniformed service members. More than 200 Afghan and American personnel sat and stood in any available space. The many generals, sat behind a row of tables in the front of the room; as the ranks filtered down to the junior soldiers sitting on tables in the rear of the room, before spreading out to line the rooms walls.
They all gathered at Forward Operating Base Gamberi for an event that some, in the room, had been waiting years for.
"Today is the 28th of Asad," said Afghan National Army Lt. Col. Abdullah Himdeh, deputy commander, personnel section, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, "which is Afghanistan Independence Day."
Once a year the Afghan National Army, promotes or officially recognizes its soldiers. In the ANA's 201st Corps there were 892 soldiers to recognize on this day.
Due to the large number of awardees and the time it would take to recognize them all, not everyone was present.
An officer must serve for three years in his current rank before he is even eligible for promotion.
"Luckily I [was] promoted after three years. I was so surpised," 1st Lt. Timor Shah, deputy mobilization officer, 201st ANA Corps. "It's an honor for us to serve our country and we are proud of it."
For the ANA's 201st Corps, there were 750 officers alone set to be promoted.
While this was a happy day, Afghanistan is still a nation with elements who wish it harm, something ANA Col. Qurban Nazar Hameedi, commander, personnel section, 201st Corps, reminded his fellow soldiers.
"I want to talk about the enemy attack on one of our outposts," said Hameedi, referencing an attack that had taken place earlier that morning. "About 200 Taliban attacked [our] ANA outpost and planned to overrun [it]. The ANA responded ... bravely; they [received] support from other ANA units in the area and pushed the enemy back. This show[ed] the bravery and the love of country [our soldiers have]."
Then the Corps staff, subordinate commanders and other honored guests assembled in the front of the room to present the awards and promotions for those present.
There were a lot of awards that were presented with 750 officers who received their scheduled promotions and 12 officers who were promoted early because of their performance.
"The [Ministry of Defense] agreed to give 12 special promotions to [the] 201st Corps," said Hameedi, "we asked the brigade commanders to send us your special and good officers."
Twenty five officers received certificates in appreciation of their recent performance and 45 sergeants received certificates in appreciation of their recent performance.
"It was an honor for me," said 1st Lt. Hakim Kahn Rahimi, deputy manager, non commissioned officers, 201st ANA Corps, "I was very proud."
One by one the names were called; each soldier marched to his commander, saluted, was presented with his award or promotion and had a bright garland placed around his neck.
One thing that was different from a U.S. Army awards ceremony was the recognition awarded to 60 soldiers.
For these soldiers, there were no medals or certificates. Instead their commanders gave them something that they felt would be more useful, 20 days salary.
"In [the U.S. Army], you have medals, which mean ... much to your soldiers," said Hameedi, "In our military the soldiers are [very] poor and the money means more to them than [a] medal. They can't use the medal to buy something, but [with] money they can solve some of their [financial] issues."
Whether it was a promotion, a certificate or a financial award, after they received their award; each soldier then turned to the audience, held his award over his head and proclaimed, loudly, for all to hear that he would continue to serve the people of Afghanistan.