SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan – Faded, well worn uniforms, clean-shaven faces and form-fitting colored berets all combined to signal the conclusion of the combat deployment for 45 Albanian special operations forces’ soldiers here July 15. A transfer of authority ceremony and awards presentation marked the end of their deployment.
Commanded by Lt. Col. Behar Mara, soldiers in Team 4 of the SOF received the Non-Article 5 NATO Medal for their six months of service in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force.
During the ceremony, Mara had the honor of casing his unit’s red and yellow colored guidon, signifying the completion of a successful tour. This furling is the final act by the commander as his unit heads home.
“I had no idea of the loyalty, dedication, skills and camaraderie of the Albanian army until I came to Spin Boldak,” said Lt. Col. Timothy C. Davis, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment and Combined Task Force Buffalo. “The dedication to the mission and team is unwavering. They accept every mission with confidence, never complain, and can always be counted on.”
During their tenure at FOB Spin Boldak, the Albanians participated in multiple joint patrols, several intelligence gathering operations and numerous air-assault missions. The SOF unit was also instrumental in providing security for officials at the Spin Boldak District Center and acting as the personal security detail, or PSD, for visiting general officers and other dignitaries.
“They are expert trainers in tactics for reconnaissance, PSD and direct action. Their field craft is exceptional,” Davis said. “Their understanding of the human terrain and dimension is a constant asset. The Afghans, our soldiers and I have learned a great deal.”
Despite their relatively small force, they accomplished a great deal with respect to their training mission with the Afghan Uniformed Police, said Australian Brig. Gen. Chris Field.
“The weapons, mortar and medical training you provided will endure with the Afghan National Security Forces long after the SOF teams redeploy to Albania,” said Field, the deputy commanding general of force development for Regional Command (South). “It’s that type of partnership that allowed RC (South) to become the first area in Afghanistan where ANSF have assumed responsibility for security efforts.”
During their tour, the Albanians participated in many multinational operations that focused on building ANSF tactical proficiency. The operations ultimately improved the safety and security for the people of Afghanistan, said Field.
“These efforts resulted in the AUP becoming a more professional fighting force capable of protecting the Afghan people,” Field said. “You, in partnership with your Afghan counterparts, successfully denied insurgent freedom of movement throughout the area of operation.”
The unit’s success did not come without sacrifice; they lost one of their own, Capt. Feti Vogli, who died Feb. 19.
The incoming Albanian army SOF unit replacing Team 4 is Team 5, commanded by Lt. Col. Ekland Dauti. Team 5 arrived in Afghanistan earlier this month and is slated to serve a six-month rotation.