Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel (left), International Security Assistance Force Command Senior Enlisted Leader, and Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Grippe, U.S. Central Command Senior Enlisted Leader, discuss changes in Afghanistan in the past 10 years while flying over Kabul on their way to Bagram Airfield to visit with service members April 11. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kristopher Levasseur)
KABUL, Afghanistan (April 16, 2012) — The top enlisted leader for U.S. Central Command visited Afghanistan, April 11-14, to personally thank the men and women serving on the front lines.
During his four-day visit, Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Grippe, U.S. CENTCOM senior enlisted leader, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel, International Security Assistance Force senior enlisted leader, met with service members at Bagram Airfield, Kandahar Airfield, Forward Operating Base Masum Ghar and several other locations, presenting coins to deserving service members and addressing issues facing the military today.
Sgt. Steven Moore, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division patrol leader, received a coin from Grippe during the visit. Moore’s job, like many of the Soldiers at FOB Masum Ghar, is to perform dismounted patrols throughout the region, sweeping for improvised explosive devices with sophisticated detection equipment.
“It was good to see our leadership come out and talk to us,” he said. “Command Sgt. Maj. Grippe got a good look at what we do here and a better understanding of how we do it.”
During the visit to Kandahar Airfield, Grippe had the chance to tour several organizations run by Marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors.
“I was glad I had the opportunity to meet with the CENTCOM command sergeant major,” said Senior Airman Tanya Schroeder, a 651st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron medical technician who also received a coin from Grippe. “It is always good to know that your leadership appreciates what we are all doing out here.”
Part of Schroeder’s mission is to help military doctors safely transport service members wounded in combat to more permanent medical facilities in Germany and the U.S.
According to Grippe, the visit not only gave him a chance to recognize superior performers, it also allowed him to witness the mentorship between coalition forces and their Afghan partners and discuss the future of the Afghanistan campaign with senior enlisted leaders throughout the nation.
“Partnership is our main effort out here,” said Grippe to a group of senior enlisted leaders. “There are a lot of enemies out there, and we need to continue to pressure the terrorist cells. It is you and the Afghan service members who are going to make it happen here.”
Grippe added that an enormous responsibility rests with the senior non-commissioned officers here in Afghanistan to keep service members safe and the mission moving forward.
“The downsizing process in this country has begun,” said Grippe during a dinner with senior enlisted leaders. “We are going to withdraw service members from every branch here and set the Afghans up for success, but it is going to take each and every one of you to make it happen. It is your responsibility to keep training and mentoring our younger NCOs to accomplish the mission.”
Both Grippe and Capel expressed pride in the work the U.S. service members are doing with their Afghan partners. According to Capel, that work is invaluable to the American people.
“Millions of American people are doing what they want to do today and are enjoying their freedom because of what you are doing out here today,” Capel said. “Our families back home are living in a free country because you raised your right hand and put your boots on the ground here. We cannot thank you enough.”