The commander of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, Lt.-Col. Pat Stogran, has been awarded a Meritorious Service Cross for his "truly outstanding professionalism" in a theatre of war.
And his Edmonton-based unit, the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, has been awarded a Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation by the head of Canada's Armed Forces, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. The decorations, the first Canada has given since awarding campaign medals last fall, also include Meritorious Service Medals for naval war heroes and Mentions in Dispatches for several soldiers.
"Lt.-Col. Stogran has proven to be an excellent tactician, a determined negotiator and a tireless and inspiring leader under complex operational conditions," said his citation, posted on the Governor General's Web site on Wednesday.
"His truly outstanding professionalism on Operation Apollo has brought great credit to Canada and to the Canadian Forces."
The unit commendation was created in 2002 to recognize the outstanding service of Canadian Forces and associated foreign forces in times of conflict under direct enemy fire.
Stogran's battalion, known as 3PPCLI, served in Afghanistan between Feb. 4 and July 30 last year. It was the first deployment into combat operations by a Canadian army unit against a declared enemy in five decades.
"The battle group was deployed to a heavily mined and war-torn country for operations against an elusive enemy under the most extreme weather conditions," said the citation.
"The battle group flawlessly conducted three complex air-assault operations into harsh, mountainous terrain, contributed successfully to a fourth, and set the standard within their parent U.S. army brigade, Task Force Rakkasan, for security operations on the Kandahar airfield.
"Well-disciplined and well-led, the battle group distinguished itself in every facet of this exceptionally challenging operation. The extraordinary performance of the men and women of 3PPCLI battle group in the war against terrorism has brought great credit to the Canadian Forces and to Canada."
In addition, three members of the battle group received Mention in Dispatches - a miniature bronze oak leaf on their uniform - for "valiant conduct, devotion to duty or other distinguished service."
Two Winnipeg soldiers received the award for actions on the night of April 17, when four Canadian soldiers were killed by a U.S. bomb while on night exercise four kilometres southwest of the Kandahar airfield where they were based.
Corporals Brian Decaire and Brett Perry, both Winnipeg natives, were cited for their professionalism following the incident.
Their citations said the men, who were wounded "remained calm in the chaotic and uncertain environment".
One soldier was recognized for his efforts in securing the crash site of a downed American helicopter north of the Kandahar base.
Warrant Officer Robert Kevin Jones of Kelowna, B.C., was second in command of 1 Platoon, Alpha Company, which was dropped in a mountainous area 2.5 kilometres from the site where the Apache attack helicopter went down.
"Upon arriving in the suspected area and with darkness approaching, he quickly organized the search, located the crashed helicopter . . . and established a defensive perimeter around it.
"WO Jones' exceptional leadership and technical expertise under difficult and chaotic circumstances played a critical role in the overall success of the mission."
As well, several Meritorious Service Medals were awarded:
- Navy Lieut. Jonathan Myers of Toronto, a boarding officer aboard HMCS Winnipeg, set "new Canadian records and standards for boarding operations." He and his crew conducted 64 boardings and inspections of vessels, 162 health and comfort boardings and dispatched 77 security teams to locate illegal oil in seven vessels. In July 2001, "he led the daring takedown of a heavily fortified ship carrying 7,000 tonnes of smuggled oil." As a result of Winnipeg's achievements under Myers' leadership, the U.S. navy rewrote its doctrine for naval boarding parties.
- Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Wayne Swann of Vancouver, second in command of HMCS Winnipeg's boarding party, "displayed exemplary performance and initiative" while confronted by "angry, aggressive and determined smugglers" aboard an oil tanker last July 23. "PO2 Swann displayed sound judgment and impressive composure under considerable stress, quickly taking charge and defusing the volatile situation." The ship, and 7,000 tonnes of smuggled oil was successfully arrested.
- Sgt. Mark Pennie of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., set up, operated and maintained a reverse osmosis water purification unit for the battle group and, ultimately, for the entire Kandahar airfield. He also restored a sewage lagoon.