BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Running a range is serious business.

The first priority is safety followed by assisting in accomplishing the mission of the guest unit visiting the range to fire its ammunition to sharpen its skills in marksmanship.

NATO units who have been to Maholic Range know that it's a topnotch range and the person running it has their best intentions at the forefront. In fact, the range officer, Stephen Eger, Area Support Group-Afghanistan, was awarded for his work by the Czech Republic for running such a range at BAF.

"This recognition is special because our partners noticed the value of our NATO relationship and decided to include me in their appreciation. It is an honor to have been recognized by the warfighters from the Czech military and from their country's minister of defense," explained Eger.

While there is no one reason for this award, Egers said he believes that spending seven straight months, multiple times per week, facilitating training and serving as a subject matter expert for weapons and a tactical consultant for the Czech unit, led to its leadership recognizing him.

Eger said he has received various medals, awards and gestures of recognition throughout his Department of the Army career. But, he said, this one is different because of the coalition partner aspect of it which cannot happen when working back in the U.S.

"When they came to the range to train, they knew that they were not only embraced as professional warfighters, but were allowed to test their skill craft and push their abilities to remain sharp while on the battlefield," Eger said. "Moreover, they also found a familiar face who believed in their mission and supported them as a brother in arms!"

Eger said there are three ranges at BAF. Maholic Range is managed by the Area Support Group-Afghanistan. Maholic Range is a 25-meter range with 18-fixed firing and target points. The other two ranges are managed by Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan.

The range is named after Army Master Sgt. Thomas Maholic, a Special Forces team sergeant, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), who was killed in action June 24, 2006 in Afghanistan. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal, the Armed Forces' third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat.

"There is always opportunities for unit commanders to elevate their training to a more advanced level if done so safely and tactically sound," Eger said. "The Area Support Group is responsible for facilitating training, scheduling and managing Maholic Range but most importantly to ensure that our units have a place to sharpen their combat edge here in Afghanistan."

Eger was officially awarded the Czech Republic's Medal for Service Abroad in a ceremony Oct. 3. It was presented to him by the Force Protection Company 10 company commander, Capt. Viktor Patia, and the company first sergeant.

The certificate, however, signed by the new Czech minister of defense, Labomir Metnar, states instead The Foreign Service Medal.

Metnar became the new defense minister June 27.

Normally this medal is given to active-duty soldiers and civilian employees of the Czech military for outstanding performance of duty with United Nations peacekeeping forces and other international military bodies, or during peace and humanitarian missions with the international community, or for significant contributions in support of Czech military deployments abroad, stated a Czech Republic defense document.

The medal can also be awarded to foreign nationals, both military and civilian, for outstanding cooperation and work in support of the armed forces and the Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic. The medal is made of bronze.

"I am proud to have received it because I know that we -- The FPC10 Czech military and myself -- spent countless hours together trying to ensure that they were trained in marksmanship to become an unmatched lethality on the battlefield," Eger said. "I am proud of their success and accomplishments! They are the units that conduct patrols outside of the T-walls and are the only thing between us and the bad guys trying to get in. Therefore, it was a pleasure to help them become battle-ready."

The Czech defense forces are part of a broader coalition of 39 NATO nations in support of Freedom's Sentinel and the Resolute Support Mission. The Czech military is responsible for the force protection and base defense mission at BAF.

And while the award is special to Eger, he said it is "nothing compared to the bond and friendship that was formed through a common goal to protect the world from terrorists and to help contribute to Afghanistan's future success.

"The individuals whom are responsible for me being presented this award have gone home, some however, did not make it, but for me the award is for the blood, sweat, tears and memories of the fallen that connect all warfighters' service together. The award is just a reminder of what we do daily that is a collective result of mission dedication."

(Editor's note: Adriane Elliot, public affairs officer, Area Support Group-Afghanistan, assisted in the interviewing for this article.)