The Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan (SOJTF-A) is the United States component of the NATO Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan (NSOCC-A). This division-level headquarters is commanded by a Major General (MG) and encompasses all in-country NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) and assets. This includes Village Stability Operations, a bottom-up counterinsurgency strategy that establishes expanding security and stability in rural villages, as well as training and partnering with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and special operations police forces. The commander of NSOCC-A is also dual-hatted as the Commander of SOJTF-A. The SOJTF-A mission spans the entire spectrum of special operations in a counterterrorist and a counterinsurgent environment.
Prior to 2012, the various U.S. and NATO SOF components were answering to a variety of different commands, a practice that made unified operations extremely difficult. There was the Combined Joint Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A) that commanded of most of the ‘white SOF’ (the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan or CJSOTF-A). There was also ISAF SOF who worked with various elite Afghan police units like the GDPSU and the Provincial Response Companies. And lastly there were other SOF elements that did direct action operations at night. SOJTF-A was formed in the summer of 2012 and became fully operational by July 2013, thereby unifying and replacing all previous Special Operation Commands. It is estimated that the combined NATO / U.S. military force at the start of Operation RESOLUTE SUPPORT in January 2015 was approximately 12,000 troops; of which a fraction (25%) will be SOF associated units. The efforts of SOJTF-A have not come without losses however, sacrifices highlighted in a 2015 Memorial Day message posted on YouTube where the fallen were memorialized. (Afghan War News)
Garrisoned at Camp Integrity, the first commander of the SOJTF-A was Major General Tony Thomas. He changed command with Major General Scott Miller in the summer of 2013 (a former CFSOCC-A commander). MG Miller was replaced in 2014 with MG Ed Reeder (also a former CFSOCC-A commander). More recently, in the summer of 2015, MG Sean P. Swindell replaced MG Reeder. (Global Security)
The SOF units work with a variety of Afghan units from the police and army to include the Afghan National Army Special Forces (ANASF), Afghan National Army Commandos, Special Mission Wing (SMU), Provincial Response Companies (PRCs), General Directorate Special Police Units (GDSPU), Afghan Local Police (ALP), and other lesser known highly-specialized direct action units.
MG Miller’s SOJTF-A Commander’s Challenge Coin
Semi-circular in design, MG Miller’s SOJTF-A Commander’s coin is approximately 2.25” in width and 2.5” in height. While both sides feature a gloss black field, a rope edging design in burnished bronze, and a bottle-opener cut to one side both the Obverse and Reverse utilize unique elements that set this coin above others in the unified special operations commands of Afghanistan.
The Obverse of the SOJTF-A Commander’s coin is modeled after the unit’s insignia and per the Institute of Military Heraldry its symbolism is taken as,
Black and gold are the colors used for Special Operations. The black alludes to special operation activities performed under the cover of darkness. The color yellow represents the excellence as performed by the Command in the Nation’s defense. The finial spearhead represents Special Operation Forces being the “tip of the spear” as they are a leading force in a military thrust of action. The background is separated by three segments and together representing the colors of the Afghan flag and corresponds to the three components that comprise the Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan. The olive branches symbolize victory and embody how these efforts will bear fruit for the future of the Afghanistan people. The motto translates to “Stronger Together Than Separate. (Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army)
Representative of MG Miller’s tenure as Commander of SOJTF-A, the Reverse features the three national flags representative of the joint efforts to SOJTF-A and NSOCC-A. At the bottom of the design is an American flag, adjacent to and centered is the Afghan, and above which is the NATO rose compass and colors. Across the top border in raised burnished bronze lettering is written “Presented for Excellence” with corresponding “By the Commander” along the bottom edging to represent who is presenting these unique coins. To the right of the Reverse and center is the two-star rank representation of MG Miller as Commander.
MG Miller also commissioned another set of challenge coins meant to represent him and that of his Senior Enlisted advisor. These were produced in greater number and intended to be presented on behalf of either individual for thanks from the Command Group in supporting or serving the SOJTF-A.
MG Reeder, the current SOJTF-A Commander, continued with a similar design but one that incorporates more features representative of the unit’s time in Afghanistan.
Contributions provided by Christoph Klawitter
Afghan War News. Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan. 2015. 28 August 2015 <http://www.afghanwarnews.info/units/SOJTF-A.htm>.
Global Security. Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan (SOJTF-A). 2015. 28 August 2015 <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/dod/sojtf-a.htm>.
Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. SPECIAL OPERATIONS JOINT TASK FORCE-AFGHANISTAN. 2015. 25 August 2015 <http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Catalog/HeraldryMulti.aspx?CategoryId=9529&grp=2&menu=Uniformed%20Services>.