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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visits Bulldog soldiers in Afghanistan

By John Ortiz Sgt., 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

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LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (February 10, 2012) — Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, known as Task Force Bulldogs,  were treated to a visit from the top. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey visited his old unit – this time in a different war, where the snow-capped mountains instead of the deserts form the main backdrop.

“First I’m glad to be back with the Old Ironsides and the Bulldogs in particular,” said Dempsey, a former 1st Armored Division commander. “I am a member of the family; the Bulldogs where with me in 2003 in western Baghdad. I have a lot of respect for this organization, and now for you in particular, for what you have done.”

Dempsey spoke of family, physical and mental well-being, and mentorship to a crowd of more than 100 soldiers, many with cameras out, hoping to capture the highest ranking U.S. military officer in a photo.

“Whenever you are talking to your family members, whether it is mom,  dad, spouse, or kids, tell them thanks from me personally,” he said.  “Many of you are not on your first tour of duty in combat. This is what we do and what we volunteer to do. But our moms and dads and spouses don’t volunteer for that, they stand with us because they love us.”

Dempsey soon turned the topic to 10 years of war and the strain it has on the military.

“Take care of yourself,” Dempsey told the veterans of Afghanistan. “I’m 59, a man of great wisdom and good looks, but we don’t understand the cumulative effects of repeated deployments and what 10 years of war has done to us. We are going to figure that out over time, but you have a responsibility to take care of yourself. We, the institution have a responsibility to you, but so do you.”

Following his talk to the soldiers with the Bulldog Brigade, he turned his attention to eight soldiers standing at attention in formation in front of the soldiers.

Awarding a Bronze Star Medal, four Army Commendation Medals with “V” for Valor, one Army Commendation Medal, and two Combat Action Badges,  Dempsey talked to each one individually while pinning their awards.

Dempsey started off by pinning a Bronze Star Medal to Czech Republic Staff Sgt. Michal Novotny, a native of Olomouc, Czech Republic and a medic with the 102nd Reconnaissance Battalion. Awarded for heroism throughout his deployment while assigned to the Czech Republic Provincial Reconstruction Team as a medic; he is credited with saving the life of a U.S. soldier after an IED explosion.

Novotny, a seven-year veteran with the Czech Republic on his second deployment to Afghanistan said, “it felt great. I don’t think anyone else from my country or a NATO country has had a chance for [General Dempsey] to give them an award, so just to be there was amazing.”

“It was an honor to represent my country to [General Dempsey] and a real honor when everyone was thanking me, especially all the generals.”

Awarded an Army Commendation Medal with “V” for Valor from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was inspiring for Pfc. Cory Cox. “I didn’t know the chairman actually went into warzones, and seeing how this was the first time I ever received an award, it was amazing. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.”

Cox, a native of Humble, Texas was recognized with the award for maneuvering his vehicle to provide covering fire and for dismounting and running ammunition to another vehicle when his unit was attacked during a patrol.

“It speaks volume about [Dempsey] to come to Afghanistan, to visit with the troops, and give out awards,” said Cox.

Finishing up the ceremony, Dempsey spoke to the Bulldog soldiers one last time.

“I am proud of you, this unit, and the fact that you wear the same patch on the right sleeve as me,” he said. “Stay safe, get the job done, and give your family members the best from me.”