Monday, April 7, 2008

Poland Decorates Blackwater Men for Valor - First Awards to Foreigners Since World War II

The government of Poland has bestowed its Silver Star and Bronze Star combat medals on foreigners for the first time since World War II - and Blackwater security men were the recipients.

Polish Ambassador to Iraq Edward Pietrzyk (fourth from right) presented the awards on behalf of his government in a January, 2008 ceremony to recognize the Blackwater guards for evacuating him by helicopter after an October 2007 assassination attempt. Poland is one of the most important NATO allies in Iraq.

The State Department's internal State Magazine has the story in its April, 2008 issue. The award ceremony was considered so important that US Ambassador Ryan Crocker (third from right) and General David Petraeus (left) attended and posed for pictures with the contractors. The above photo, picturing some of the Blackwater men, appears in the magazine.

Here's how the State Department describes the event:

"On January 25, Poland's ambassador to Iraq, Edward Pietrzyk, honored the heroism of 18 members of the US Embassy in Baghdad's regional security office who helped rescue his motorcade when it came under attack in Baghdad in October.

"The motorcade was struck by four roadside bombs and a barrage of small-arms fire from more than two dozen assailants. One member of the Polish Special Forces security detail was killed, several were wounded and Pietrzyk was severely burned.

"During the midday attack, the Polish security detail contacted the RSO's tactical operation center, which dispatched two helicopters. The arriving personnel found the motorcade group sheltering in a residential compound and provided first aid while evacuating the wounded. Ambassador Pietrzyk was flown to a combat surgical hospital and later to Poland. After several months of treatment, he returned to Iraq.

"In the award ceremony, with gloves still protecting his badly burned hands, the ambassador pinned on the shirts of his rescuers Poland's Silver and Bronze Star medals, the first time these awards had been given to foreigners since World War II.

"Attending were US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus, commander of the Multi-National Forces - Iraq. Ambassador Crocker noted the long history of Polish-US mutual assistance.

"The award recipients are employees of the contractor Blackwater and work with the RSO to protect Mission Iraq staff."

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