22 XII 2016

The Defence Ministry Head Visits Afghanistan

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“You are but a few, but you have contributed so much to the entire Polish nation. Remember this during our traditional sharing of the Christmas wafer, a time when we share in the hope of Christmas. Remember about your determination, but also of the pride that you bring to all of Poland. We will never forget,” said the Minister of National Defence Antoni Macierewicz during a meeting with troops serving in Afghanistan.
zdjęcie - The Defence Ministry Head Visits Afghanistan
Photo. mjr Robert Siemaszko/ CO MON

On Thursday, 22 December, the head of the Defence Ministry visited Afghanistan, where he met with soldiers and army employees, carrying out their tasks within the framework of the Fifth Rotation of the Polish Military Contingent (PMC) under the “Resolute Support” mission in the bases in Bagram, Gamberi and Kandahar. The Defence Minister was, among others, accompanied by the Operating Commander of the Types of Armed Forces, Gen. Marek Tomaszycki. The visit was an opportunity to become acquainted with the current security situation in the region. Other discussions focused on current and future tasks that are being carried out or will be carried out by Polish troops in Afghanistan.

As the Defence Minister pointed out in his speech, it is very important that in fulfilling tasks lying thousands of kilometers away from home military structures, to not forget that the security of Poland consists of many factors. Not without significance remains the role of the service in Afghanistan, in cooperation with the armies of our Allies. The Defence Minister has repeatedly thanked the troops, emphasizing their level of professionalism and dedication. As the Defence Ministry head pointed out, the successes of among others, Afghan services responsible for security matters, is part of the success of Poles participating in their training.

“You are involved here, dedicating your lives to your fellow Afghans. Dedicating your lives for people you frankly do not know, nor have any connection with, nor any family relationship, and sometimes even hard to find any cultural ties with. But they are our brothers, with whom we want to work, to live in peace with, to be able to live safely with, so that they can rebuild their country. And at the same time, to serve Poland and cause that the name and reputation of Polish soldiers is again spoken of around the world with pride, reverence and awe. Also we in Poland, the Government of the Republic of Poland, on behalf of which I speak to you today, in the name of Prime Minister Beata Szydło, President Andrzej Duda—we are indebted to you. Just as our entire nation is indebted to you. Our nation, which, thanks to your service, can feel secure. One can say, actually, that we benefit from the assistance of our Allies. That we will be acting together and defending one another together with American and NATO forces against any aggressor. We will be pursuing this with our brothers, our fathers, with those who serve in Afghanistan, who along with the U.S. Army and other Allied forces are here present and ready to spill blood. Here they are, all ready to serve other people, the Afghan nation. You are helping them to reconstruct their army, police and administration, thus building an army, their administration, and at the same time the security of Poland. Each day and each moment, I want you to each day, and at each moment to remember, when the going gets rough, to remember that the Polish nation knows how much it owes to you," said the Defence Minister in Afghanistan.



The Thursday meeting, which occurred just a few days before Christmas, presented the opportunity for the Polish delegation to extend their Christmas wishes to the soldiers and army employees. In extending his wishes, the head of the Defence Minister said: “Christmas Eve gives us an opportunity to think about very many different questions, about many different things. Simply stated, it reminds us of our family home. But the family home of soldiers is the army. The family home is our soldier-brothers and also those who have died. (…) Christmas Eve reminds us of what is most important during the holidays. It is about hope. (...) for us Christians also hope for eternal life, but also the hope of standing up each day after every mistake made, on the strengthening of our courage, our capacity of working for our Homeland and for the benefit of others. (…) I wish you all a good, peaceful, blessed Christmas.”

The chaplain present during the meeting also spoke on the topic of peace, reconciliation and the need to serve others as befits all Christians at Christmas: “Let us remember to have this festive time bring us reconciliation, that we set aside all injuries that might be separating us from others and that this time may it bring reconciliation, love and may peace prevail in our hearts. Let hatred and anger be crushed and defeated.”



Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz in extending his wishes and thanking the troops for their service, who for many years have had been serving out their duty here in Afghanistan, recalled all those for whom this had been their last service. The head of the Defence Ministry recalled the tragic event that took place on 21 December 2011, when as a result of an explosion of an improvised explosive device, killed five Polish soldiers. On the anniversary of this tragic event of 21 December, the Day of Remembrance in Memory of Those Fallen and Who have Died in Missions and Operations, in memory of the fallen and deceased in missions and military operations outside of Poland.
 
“It is a great honor for me to be here. To be here on the day after our commemorating this very special day, a special day of remembrance of those who gave their lives for the Homeland, for those who have died taking part in missions around the world. But we well know that this commemorative day was established as a result of a tragic occurrence that took place here in Afghanistan.

I was told recently that a soldier does not die, but that a soldier sacrifices his life for the Homeland. This is true. This is true because a soldier is such a person, who recognizes that his life does not belong to him, it belongs to Poland. And that he is willing, that by not choosing some other profession, selects military service as his mission, for which he is ready to sacrifice even literally his life for the Homeland. (…) We remember all those who sacrificed their lives. We remember their faces, their fates. We remind ourselves how those events had occurred. We remember our pain, as well as the moment when we said: we will never allow for this to happen again? Why wasn't I there? Why couldn’t I have done something to avert such a tragedy? What went wrong?

One could answer these questions that come to mind in such a way: we haven’t done anything in which we could have caused anyone any disappointment. A soldier’s death is a cast of fate, one which one has to accept.
Your decision that has brought you here is such a great commitment and the greatest decision that a person can take.”

During his visit to Afghanistan, the Minister of National Defence Antoni Macierewicz presented medals “For Service in Defense of the Homeland” to soldiers for their exemplary service.

The Operational Commander of the Types of Armed Forces distinguished a few of the soldiers with congratulatory letters.



***
The Fifth Rotation of the Polish Military Contingent (PMC) as part of the “Resolute Support” mission is under the command of Colonel Marek Rakowski. His Deputy is Lt. Col. Paweł Pytko. The Polish Military Contingent consists of about 200 soldiers, mainly from the units that are part of the1st Warsaw Mechanized Brigade. The main components of the PMC are located in the following places: Kabul (national staff dedicated to the mission command structure and strategic-level advisers), Bagram (command of the PMC, along with support and security elements), Gamberi (personnel dedicated to one-off assignments and training), and Kandahar.

***
See also: video conference with the Defence Ministry head in Afghanistan

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