U.S. Army unit receives Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation for Operation MEDUSA

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Article / May 29, 2012

By Major A.E. Salloum and Staff-Sergeant Marcus Butler

The Green Berets of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) have the rare honour of being the first non-Canadian unit to receive the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation.

Representing Governor General David Johnston in a ceremony held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on 23 May 2012, Lieutenant-General Stuart Beare, Commander of Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, presented the scroll, pennant and personal insignia of Canada's highest honour for valour in combat by a military unit to current and former members of the Green Beret battalion.

Major-General Charles T. Cleveland presided at the ceremonial presentation in his capacity as in-coming Commanding General of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

"Canada and the U.S. have a long and distinguished history of working together to fight terrorism and tyranny, and to promote peace and security around the world," said LGen Beare in his address at the presentation ceremony. "This tradition continues even today. During the summer of 2006, the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group displayed extraordinary heroism and outstanding combat ability while battling insurgents in support of the Canadian-led Operation MEDUSA."

Operation MEDUSA took place between 26 August and 17 September 2006, and at the time was the most significant land battle ever undertaken by NATO. Designed to root out Taliban forces operating in Panjwa'i and Zhari districts of Kandahar Province, Operation MEDUSA was led by the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group.

Over three weeks, the combined Canadian, U.S. and Afghan force fought an enemy force estimated at 1,400 strong, and about 550 insurgents were killed. Twelve Canadian soldiers and three Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in action, and 10 Green Berets and six Afghan National Army soldiers were wounded.

Operation MEDUSA produced a remarkable tally of valour decorations, including 17 U.S. awards to Green Berets of the 1st Battalion, 3rd SFG (A), and one award of the Star of Military Valour and five awards of the Medal of Military Valour to soldiers of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group.

Forty-six Green Berets who fought in Operation MEDUSA were present to receive the personal insignia of the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation — a gold bar with the vice-regal lion in full colour — from LGen Beare's own hands.

Operation MEDUSA was a revelation to Master Sergeant Jerad Eldred, who served with the 1st Battalion, 3rd SFG (A) as senior medical advisor.

"It really shows that we can count on our partner forces to watch our back in the fight and we have theirs," he said. "The unique thing about this operation was the cooperation of each force that was involved. … Personally, I know if it was not for our partner forces in this battle, I would not have been able to make it home to see my son born."

The Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation is awarded to a military unit for acts of extraordinary deeds or activity during war or during war-like conditions. Only six awards of the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation have been made to Canadian Forces units, and the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) is the first non-Canadian unit to receive this rare honour.

"On behalf of the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces, and our nation's soldiers and our families, thank you to the professional soldiers standing before us today, along with your families and friends gathered here," said LGen Beare as he concluded his remarks. "I salute you for your heroism, valour and bravery, and congratulate you on being the first ally to receive the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation."

The citation for the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation reads: "During August and September 2006, the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), United States Army, displayed extraordinary heroism and outstanding combat ability while battling insurgents in support of a Canadian-led operation in Afghanistan. After completing their initial objectives, they willingly engaged a much larger force to secure the Canadian Battle Group's flank and prevent the enemy from staging an effective counter-offensive. Outnumbered and facing a well-prepared enemy, they were relentless in their assault and eventually captured the position after days of intense fighting.

As presiding officer, MGen Cleveland also addressed the audience and guests of honour:"Our heartfelt thanks go out to the people of Canada and our Canadian brothers-in-arms for rendering this singular honour to these American warriors," he said. "This day will not only be inscribed forever in the history of this storied unit, it will also be added as a singular achievement of the U.S. Army Special Forces Regiment."

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Maj Andre E. Salloum is the Deputy Chief Public Affairs Officer at CEFCOM Headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario. Staff-Sgt Marcus Butler is the Public Affairs Chief serving with U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

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