KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division received a visit from the International Assistance Force commander, U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, at Forward Operating Base Salerno Aug. 19.

After meeting with the commander of the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division at the brigade's Tactical Operations Center, Petraeus stepped outside where he addressed the waiting troops.

"You are all in a tough neighborhood and in a very challenging environment," he said. "You are faced with extreme terrain, tough weather and tough enemies. The insurgents you face most in this area are very tough fighters, they are experienced, generally pretty well-equipped and they know the neighborhood.

"However, despite the obstacles, you have taken huge chunks out of the enemy forces, and you are making real progress in protecting the population," he said. "You should all be very proud of that. I also think we are poised on the threshold of making additional progress."

Next, the general spoke about the importance of joint operations with Afghan forces.

"I know you are partnering with a number of different Afghan elements and that is obviously enormously important to the way ahead," he said. "Over time, we will gradually hand off tasks to those elements that are capable of taking them, and we will also hand off some of the missions that you are doing right now.

"That's the way ahead, and I'm very confident in this great unit, this historic regiment, and obviously, a division that is near and dear to the hearts of all of us."

Once Petraeus finished speaking, he took time to recognize Soldiers who have been deployed 36-months or more by presenting them with coins.

Lastly, he presented awards to several Soldiers who have distinguished themselves in recent combat actions. Among the awards presented were two Bronze Star medals with combat "V" device signifying valor.

One of the Bronze Star recipients was U.S. Army Spc. Oscar F. Reynoso, mortarman and native of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.

"It was cool having the top general in Afghanistan present my award," said Reynoso. "It was a real honor for me."

Another Soldier who received the Army Commendation medal with combat "V", agreed with Reynoso.

"It was an honor for me to have a great general like Petraeus do this and show us that he is here with us in the fight," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony S. Hughes, platoon sergeant and native of Enterprise, Ala., assigned to 1st Platoon, Company C, 3rd Bn., 187th Inf. Reg., 3rd Bde., 101st Airborne Div. "I think it was a great gesture on his part."