Latvian soldiers receive valorous awards, CIBs at Saber Strike '11
General Carter Ham, U.S. Army Europe commanding general, presents the Army Commendation Medal to a Latvian army soldier. More than 30 Latvian soldiers received U.S. Army medals Oct. 19 at the Adazi Training Area in Latvia during Saber Strike 2011. The awards included two Army Commendation Medals for valor and 24 Combat Infantryman Badges.

ADAZI TRAINING AREA, Latvia - Fear is nearly universal in combat, and overcoming that fear to accomplish great things for nation, allies and comrades in arms can be the ultimate test for combat soldiers.

More than 30 Latvian army soldiers, who fought alongside U.S. and Afghan soldiers, were presented with a variety of U.S. Army awards to include Army Commendation Medals for valor and Combat Infantryman Badges Oct. 19 at the Adazi Training Area in Latvia.

The ceremony, which was held at Saber Strike 2011 and hosted by the 16th Sustainment Brigade, marked the first time in Latvian history that any Latvian soldier received the U.S. Army CIB.

Capt. Juris ViA...A!A...aEUR akovs, an operations officer for 2nd Battalion, Latvian Infantry Brigade, and several other Latvian veterans of the International Security Assistance Force were able to share their experiences at a ceremony. Although each soldier received multiple awards, the CIB was clearly the highlight for the Latvian soldiers, he said.

"I don't remember all the names (of the awards), but the most important is the CIB," said ViA...A!A...aEUR akovs.

"I appreciate it, and I'm really happy because this infantry badge means a lot," said Capt. Agris LiepiA...aEUR A...A!, an operations officer for the Latvian Inf. Bde.

While honored to receive the awards, both captains remembered the hardships they endured during their deployment to Afghanistan from July 2009 to April 2010 and the relationships they built with other soldiers during their deployment.

The soldiers earned the awards for various acts of service during their deployment to Afghanistan, marked by frequent attacks, ambushes and significant actions, according to award citations.

"We got attacked a lot, got ambushed several times together with U.S. troops and hardly survived," recalled ViA...A!A...aEUR akovs. "I think everybody cares about everyone. Mostly I was worried about my subordinates ... I worried about my counterparts - Afghan and U.S."

"It's not fear during the attack; mostly you focus on your job, what you can and have to do. You have to save yourself and save the guy next to you," said ViA...A!A...aEUR akovs. "Fear comes later when you are coming back to base, get some relaxation ... the fear comes to me, and I'm shaking, and I'm scared about what can happen, did happen and didn't happen."

LiepiA...aEUR A...A! also cited the relationships with Afghan and U.S. counterparts as critical to everyone's survival. The strong relationships between Afghan, U.S. and Latvian forces ensured that all three forces worked well together when they endured hard times and faced challenging circumstances, he said.

United States Ambassador to Latvia H.E. Judith G. Garber and Latvia Chief of Defense Maj. Gen. Raimonds Graube were there to recognize the bravery and valor of Latvia's Operational Mentor and Liaison Team 2 during its nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. During their deployment, the entire team endured constant enemy fire while at their outpost and during patrol missions.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16