• Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin awards the Silver Star, the U.S. military's third highest military decoration for valor, to Capt. Brian Kitching, from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion Armored Regiment, Nov. 22, 2012, at Combat Outpost Zangabad, Afghanistan, for actions taken while
leading his platoon during a hostile engagement with the enemy, resulting in the unit sustaining heavy casualties. The purpose of the visit by Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin awards the Silver Star, the U.S. military's third highest military decoration for valor, to Capt. Brian Kitching, from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion Armored Regiment, Nov. 22, 2012, at Combat Outpost...

  • Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal awards Pfc. Ashley M. Beltnick, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, with the Combat Medical Badge, Nov. 21, 2012, at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan, for providing medical care under fire.  The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal awards Pfc. Ashley M. Beltnick, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, with the Combat Medical Badge, Nov. 21, 2012, at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan, for providing medical...

  • Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal personally thanks a Soldier who works with the 704th Brigade Support Battalion, Forward Surgical Team at Jalalabad Airfield, Nov. 21, 2012, Jalalabad, Afghanistan.  The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal personally thanks a Soldier who works with the 704th Brigade Support Battalion, Forward Surgical Team at Jalalabad Airfield, Nov. 21, 2012, Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The purpose of of the visit by Westphal...

  • Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal talks with Soldiers over lunch about the future of the Army at the International Security Assistance Force's headquarters, Nov. 20, 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan.  The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal talks with Soldiers over lunch about the future of the Army at the International Security Assistance Force's headquarters, Nov. 20, 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan. The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and...

  • First Sgt Mike Lavigne from the International Security Assistance Force's Joint Command Public Affairs Office listens as Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal talks with Soldiers about the future of the Army at the ISAF headquarters, Nov. 20, 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan.  The purpose of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III trip was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    First Sgt Mike Lavigne from the International Security Assistance Force's Joint Command Public Affairs Office listens as Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal talks with Soldiers about the future of the Army at the ISAF headquarters, Nov. 20...

  • Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin pins the Combat Infantryman Badge on to Sgt. Cheek in recognition of his participation of ground combat during his deployment at Camp Eggers, Nov. 20, 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan.  The purpose of the visit by Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin pins the Combat Infantryman Badge on to Sgt. Cheek in recognition of his participation of ground combat during his deployment at Camp Eggers, Nov. 20, 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan. The purpose of the visit...

  • A close-up shot of the Combat Infantryman Badge recently awarded to Sgt. Cheek by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin in recognition of his participation of ground combat during his deployment at Camp Eggers, Nov. 20, 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan.  The purpose of the visit by Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    A close-up shot of the Combat Infantryman Badge recently awarded to Sgt. Cheek by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin in recognition of his participation of ground combat during his deployment at Camp Eggers, Nov. 20, 2012, Kabul...

  • Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal personally thanks 1st Lt. Bashant for all her accomplishments during her deployment at Camp Integrity, Nov. 20, 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan.  The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal personally thanks 1st Lt. Bashant for all her accomplishments during her deployment at Camp Integrity, Nov. 20, 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan. The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of...

  • Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III (centered between flags) thank Soldiers for their participation in developing and increasing the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces at Camp Integrity, Nov. 20, 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan.  The purpose of the trip by Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III (centered between flags) thank Soldiers for their participation in developing and increasing the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces at...

  • Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin (middle) and Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal talk with military doctors, nurses, and staff at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital where about 90 percent of combat injured patients who come through the hospital return to duty, Nov. 20, 2012, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.  The purpose of the trip by Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin (middle) and Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal talk with military doctors, nurses, and staff at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital where about 90 percent of combat injured patients who come...

  • Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin meets with Soldiers from Combined Joint Task Force-1 over breakfast to discuss the professionalism of the Army as an institution, Nov. 21, 2012, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.  The purpose of the visit by Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin meets with Soldiers from Combined Joint Task Force-1 over breakfast to discuss the professionalism of the Army as an institution, Nov. 21, 2012, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The purpose of the visit...

  • Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal meets with Soldiers from Combined Joint Task Force-1 over breakfast to discuss the professionalism of the Army as an institution, Nov. 21, 2012, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.  The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal meets with Soldiers from Combined Joint Task Force-1 over breakfast to discuss the professionalism of the Army as an institution, Nov. 21, 2012, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The purpose of of the visit...

  • Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin talks with Soldiers over lunch about the future of the Army at Jalalabad Airfield, Nov. 21, 2012, Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The purpose of the visit by Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin talks with Soldiers over lunch about the future of the Army at Jalalabad Airfield, Nov. 21, 2012, Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The purpose of the visit by Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal and...

  • Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal preparing to award Pfc. Ashley M. Beltnick, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, with the Combat Medical Badge, Nov. 21, 2012, at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan, for providing medical care under fire. The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal preparing to award Pfc. Ashley M. Beltnick, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, with the Combat Medical Badge, Nov. 21, 2012, at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan, for...

  • Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin personally thanks Pfc. Ashley M. Beltnick, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, who was just awarded the Combat Medical Badge for providing medical care under fire, Nov. 21, 2012, at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan.  The purpose of the visit by Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin personally thanks Pfc. Ashley M. Beltnick, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, who was just awarded the Combat Medical Badge for providing medical care under fire, Nov. 21, 2012, at...

  • Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal greeting Spc. Russell at the Warrior Recovery Center, where the region's injured service members are treated and rehabilitated before they can head back to their units in the field, Nov. 22, 2012, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.  The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal greeting Spc. Russell at the Warrior Recovery Center, where the region's injured service members are treated and rehabilitated before they can head back to their units in the field, Nov. 22, 2012, at...

  • Close-up shot of Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III awarding the Silver Star, the U.S. military's third highest military decoration for valor, to Capt. Brian Kitching of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion Armored Regiment, for actions taken while leading his platoon during a hostile engagement with the enemy, resulting in the unit sustaining heavy casualties, Nov. 22, 2012, Combat Outpost Zangabad, Afghanistan.  The purpose of the visit by Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Close-up shot of Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III awarding the Silver Star, the U.S. military's third highest military decoration for valor, to Capt. Brian Kitching of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion Armored Regiment, for actions...

  • Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal presents a coin in appreciation of his service to a Soldier from the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, during a Thanksgiving visit, Nov. 22, 2012, Combat Outpost Zangabad, Afghanistan.  The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal presents a coin in appreciation of his service to a Soldier from the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, during a Thanksgiving visit, Nov. 22, 2012, Combat Outpost Zangabad, Afghanistan...

  • Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal (right-center) listens to Soldiers' concerns during Thanksgiving dinner, Nov. 22, 2012, Forward Operating Base Pasab, Afghanistan.  The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal (right-center) listens to Soldiers' concerns during Thanksgiving dinner, Nov. 22, 2012, Forward Operating Base Pasab, Afghanistan. The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the...

  • Soldiers look on as the Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III present awards to their fellow comrades, Nov. 22, 2012, Village Stability Platform Degobad, Afghanistan. The purpose of the trip by Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Soldiers look on as the Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III present awards to their fellow comrades, Nov. 22, 2012, Village Stability Platform Degobad, Afghanistan. The purpose...

  • Close-up shot of the Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal presenting Spc. James T. Kenny with the Purple Heart for wounds he sustained in battle, Nov. 22, 2012, Village Stability Platform Degobad, Afghanistan.  The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Close-up shot of the Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal presenting Spc. James T. Kenny with the Purple Heart for wounds he sustained in battle, Nov. 22, 2012, Village Stability Platform Degobad, Afghanistan. The purpose of of the visit by...

  • Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal presenting Spc. Cody L. Ransom with a certificate of Honorable Discharge, just before he is to be re-enlisted into the Army, Nov. 22, 2012, at Village Stability Platform Degobad, Afghanistan.  The purpose of of the visit by Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal presenting Spc. Cody L. Ransom with a certificate of Honorable Discharge, just before he is to be re-enlisted into the Army, Nov. 22, 2012, at Village Stability Platform Degobad, Afghanistan. The purpose...

  • Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin administers the oath of enlistment to Spc. Zackary Hamilton, during a Thanksgiving visit, Nov. 22, 2012, at Combat Outpost Siah Choy, Afghanistan. The purpose of the visit by Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin administers the oath of enlistment to Spc. Zackary Hamilton, during a Thanksgiving visit, Nov. 22, 2012, at Combat Outpost Siah Choy, Afghanistan. The purpose of the visit by Under Secretary of the Army...

  • Soldiers of A Company, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, listen as the Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III talk about the future of the Army during a Thanksgiving day visit, Nov. 22, 2012, at Combat Outpost Sanjeray. The purpose of the trip by Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Soldiers of A Company, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, listen as the Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III talk about the future of the...

  • Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal (middle left) and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin (middle right) listen to Soldiers' concerns during Thanksgiving dinner, Nov. 22, 2012, at Forward Operating Base Pasab, Afghanistan.  The purpose of the trip by Westphal and Austin was to meet with deployed troops in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday period to underscore senior Army leader support for the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and civilian employees.

    Army leaders survey battlefield and thank troops for service

    Undersecretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal (middle left) and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin (middle right) listen to Soldiers' concerns during Thanksgiving dinner, Nov. 22, 2012, at Forward Operating Base Pasab, Afghanistan...

KABUL, Afghanistan (Nov. 25, 2012) -- The Army's second highest ranking civilian and military leaders met with American and NATO leadership at regional commands, hospitals, forward operating bases, and support units throughout eastern and southern Afghanistan, and thanked service members, civilians, and contractors for their hard work and sacrifice during a three-day visit, Nov. 20-23, 2012.

Joseph W. Westphal, undersecretary of the Army, and Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, vice chief of staff of
the Army, visited Afghanistan to gain first-hand knowledge of the conditions and status of the gradual withdrawal of troops and equipment. They also recognized exceptional soldiers and civilians, thanking them for their hard work and sacrifices, especially during this Thanksgiving holiday.

"Managing the enterprise from the Pentagon is one thing," said Westphal. "You have to get out into the field in order to understand what's going on, how things are shaping-up, and where things are moving. Talking to the troops, both military and civilians, who are on the ground you get a better sense of what is happening."

"Additionally, it's Thanksgiving and we have thousands of Soldiers and civilians throughout Afghanistan who are going to spend Thanksgiving away from the families and friends," Westphal continued. "We need to come out here and tell them how much we appreciate what they do every day."

While in International Security Assistance Force's, or ISAF's, Regional Command -- Capital in Kabul, both Westphal and Austin met with leadership at the International Joint Command, spoke to troops about the future of the Army at ISAF's headquarters, learned about the successes of developing and increasing the capacity of the Afghan National Security Force at the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, and learned about the lawful work of Special Operations Joint Command to track down the bad guys in Afghanistan.

At ISAF's Regional Command -- East in Bagram, Westphal and Austin met with doctors, nurses, and staff at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital and learned that 90 percent of combat injured patients who come through the hospital return to duty.

They also inspected and learned about the processes of the retrograde facilities of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade and retrosort yard of the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

While visiting troops in Regional Command -- East Westphal awarded Pfc. Ashley M. Beltinck with the Combat Medical Badge for providing medical care under fire.

During their visit to Zangaband, with Combat Outpost Sperwan Ghar, Austin had the honor of awarding the Silver Star, the U.S. military's third highest military decoration for valor, to Army Capt. Brian Kitching of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion Armored Regiment, from Lincoln, Neb. Kitching was awarded the Silver Star for actions taken while leading his platoon during a hostile engagement with the enemy, resulting in the unit sustaining heavy casualties.

"Being awarded the Silver Star by General Austin was a humbling and bitter sweet experience," said Kitching. "Bitter sweet in the sense that we sustained some casualties during that operation, but humbling in the sense that General Austin is a role model of mine, and it was truly an honor to have him present me with the medal."

Speaking to Soldiers gathered for an awards and re-enlistment ceremony at Pasab, Austin said, "Any time you are recognized [it] is special, especially when it's in front of your peers. That makes it more special. Being recognized in front of your peers in a combat zone is a tremendous [honor]."

Following a re-enlistment ceremony, Austin spoke to the Soldiers.

"We are thrilled to be here and spend Thanksgiving Day with you," he said. "We are grateful for all of the things you continue to do for our country. You do important work, you do critical work, and you are making a tremendous difference for this region of the world, for this country, and that difference will remain forever."

Page last updated Tue March 12th, 2013 at 13:02