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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- A group of Fort Bragg Green Berets on Wednesday became the first non-Canadian military unit to receive that country's highest team recognition.
Seventy-four members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group were presented the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation for their participation in a major 2006 battle near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
A Canadian-led NATO mission called Operation Medusa cleared a Taliban stronghold in a district near Kandahar during several days of September 2006. More than 1,400 Taliban held the district, using schools to train insurgents.
The commendation is Canada's equivalent of the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation.
Special Forces Lt. Col. Jared Hill remembers a call during the battle describing the large opposing force, using the code word "predator."
"We've got predator up, and we can't count them all," Hill was told, but the soldiers persevered. "These kind of men get beat up, yet volunteer to go back in the same fight the next day."
The mission was the largest operation of the war at that point and was seen as a possible turning point in Afghanistan.
"It prevented the fall of the city of Kandahar to the Taliban," said Lt. Gen. Stuart Beare, commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, who presented the commendation to the soldiers during a ceremony Wednesday at the John. F. Kennedy Auditorium on Fort Bragg.
The U.S. soldiers who participated in the operation helped flank the Taliban and gain high ground that allowed troops to call in air strikes, clear insurgents from the area and pave the way for government services to take root.
The gains made then are still evident today, Beare said. Afghan civilians have moved back into the homes they deserted when the Taliban held power, he said.
American, Canadian, Dutch, Danish, British and Afghan troops participated in the operation, which ended the lives of an estimated 500 insurgents. Twelve Canadian troops and three Afghan soldiers died.
The Canadian commendation has only been awarded six other times since 1992. It recognizes any unit assigned to Canadian command "that has performed an extraordinary deed or activity of a rare high standard in extremely hazardous circumstances."
The award includes a gold-embossed scroll, a pennant and an insignia bearing a lion.