The U.S. Army recently selected Capt. Erhan Bedestani of 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), headquartered at Panzer Kaserne, as one of 13 company grade officers to receive the 2009 Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.
With more than 22,000 captains in the active duty force, the selection places him among the most elite who demonstrate the ideals for which MacArthur stood: duty, honor and country.
Bedestani said his leadership style involves treating people with respect, not being afraid to ask questions and trusting in his NCOs to lead.
“Leaders are created as the by-product of the time, effort and energy NCOs put into their development,” Bedestani said. “It’s pretty tough not to be a successful leader when you have a team of all-stars.”
Bedestani commands the 1/10th SFG Battalion’s Headquarters and Support Company.
Before his current command, Bedestani deployed three times to Africa and twice to Afghanistan as a detachment commander.
During the second deployment to Afghanistan, Bedestani and his team made an impact on local citizens. In the Kapisa Province, where they were based, security and governance emerged as primary concerns, especially since the provincial governor had recently been removed.
Bedestani and his team began to talk to the local people. During one visit, an Afghan man approached the Special Forces detachment.
“He was a pomegranate farmer and just wanted information about how to better cultivate his crops,” Bedestani said.
Several other U.S. organizations were already working to improve the plight of Afghan pomegranate farmers, but none of them had been to the Kapisa Province because of security concerns. Bedestani and his team organized and provided security for a massive “shura,” or consultation, in Tagab that included Department of Defense Agribusiness Development Teams and expert from the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.
The ADT provided training on improving cultivation, the State Department coordinated with a juice factory in Kabul that would purchase the pomegranates, and USAID set up export visas for growers to showcase their products in India.
Growers were able to put their products back on the national and international markets for the first time after more than thirty years of conflict in Afghanistan.
“Kinetic operations show the enemy that we can hit them hard, but in the long run, they are of limited value,” Bedestani said. “There has to be proof to the people that you’re doing something for them.”
Bedestani credits the men he has served with and the support of his family for his successes. However, it is his hard work that has catapulted him to the very top.