Top leaders of Slovakia paid a holiday-season visit Dec. 15 to their soldiers deployed to Afghanistan.

President Ivan Gasparovic and Minister of Defense Lubomir Galko met and spoke with more than 300 Slovaks serving in Afghanistan.

"It's like a father coming to visit," said Staff Sgt. Milan Trebisovsky, a Slovak contingent soldier deployed on Kandahar Airfield. "It's someone from home."

The president and the minister of defense toured the base and spent time with soldiers of every rank, including the men who actively guard the perimeter of the base.

"Our main task is to provide security," said Lt. Col. Peter Svrlo, commander of the Slovak contingent in Afghanistan. "We do this at the gate and provide safe and secure movements for coalition forces."

After the tour of the entry control point, Slovak soldiers demonstrated weapons proficiency to Gasparovic. He and the minister of defense saw the standard weapons used by the Slovak contingent in Afghanistan and a live-fire demonstration of Slovak infantry tactics.

Gasparovic and Galko saw machine guns, .50 caliber and dragunov sniper rifles, and customized versions of the AK-47.

"The president is a really big hunter, so he loves rifles," said a member of Gasparovic's personal security detail. "He's into all sorts of adventurous things. He's also a race car driver."

Gasparovic's security said that the president's personable nature is one the reasons for his popularity in Slovakia. He is always friendly with his fellow citizens.

Before Gasparovic left, he had an hour-long question and answer session with the Slovak soldiers in their recreation room and took a group photo with them.

Afterward, the president and minister of defense said goodbye to their troops and left them with one final gift - a Christmas tree for the holiday season.

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