By Jon Connor (Regional Support) NTM-A, CSTC-A)November 30, 2010
CAMP STONE, Afghanistan - For one airman, you can get your award and eat Turkey too.
Such was the case for Senior Airman Brandon Bednarski when Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal at Camp Stone in the Herat province in western Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day.
McGuiness is the deputy commander for Regional Support, NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan.
Bednarski was in a group of a dozen U.S. military and Afghanistan personnel awarded in an outside ceremony near the flagpole under a bright sky. The other military members received achievement medals and local personnel were given certificates of appreciation. Bednarski's was the highest award given in recognition of his tour coming to an end.
"I'm just stoked," the 27-year-old Hampton, Va., native said. "Been proud to be here. I take back a lot of memories."
Bednarski served a seven-month tour assisting in the management of the Regional Support Command-West budget. "I handle the Army's money," he said.
I have "a better semblance of what we're doing here," Bednarski said looking back. Ultimately, he said, the Afghans will manage the entire Regional Support Command-West budget.
Soon he will head back to his home base - MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. -- in early December. Awaiting there will be his wife of nearly five years and their two children.
As it turns out, military life has meant Bednarski and his wife have not spent three of their anniversaries together - in October -- thanks to advanced training in his specialty, pre-deployment training, and this deployment. But, the silver lining now is that he will be home for Christmas.
Numbers are what Bednarski likes as he has already completed his associate degree from the Air Force's own Community College in accounting and finance. This accomplishment and others will help him get promoted to the next rank of staff sergeant in early 2011, he said.
Looking ahead, Bednarski said he's about 30 credits away from a bachelor's degree in finance and accounting.
After the midday ceremony, McGuiness, assisted by other camp leadership, began serving Thanksgiving meals to those at Camp Stone.
But first McGuiness spoke to those attending the ceremony afterward wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving and thanking them for their service.
"You chose to be here," he said. "That says a lot about you and your character. You all do a phenomenal job. Thank you very much and have a Happy Thanksgiving."
The first person in line was Army Spc. Justin Fuller, 27, of Company B, 2-22nd Infantry Regiment. He received a lobster tail from McGuiness, complemented by mashed potatoes and rice.
Nearly five hours after the dining facility opened its doors for the festive meal, nearly 750 people had passed through, the headcount showed, with 15 minutes left to serve. Most all left stuffed with traditional holiday food.
The mission of the RSC-West is to provide directive authority and oversight to coordinate and synchronize the operations of NTM-A/CSCT-A elements in the west region to build Afghanistan National Security Force (ANSF) capacity and support RSC-West, a command slide briefing stated.
This ANSF capacity consists of sustaining and advising during a transition to a professional, accountable, credible, self-sustaining ANSF capable of providing enduring security to the government and populace it serves, briefing slides stated.