Five New Zealand soldiers have received United States service medals for their contribution to the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is in New Zealand for bilateral defence talks, presented military decorations to the former Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) members on Friday.
Retired army Colonel Darryl Tracy received the US Meritorious Service Medal for his work as PRT commander in Bamyan in 2008.
"Col Tracy's motivation, unselfishness, and leadership were critical to mission accomplishment and a key to making Bamyan a better and safe province," his citation reads.
The US Army Commendation Medal was presented to Lieutenant Commander Karen Bleakley, Lieutenant Colonel James Kaio, Squadron Leader Michelle-Ann Thomson and Captain Jason Tinsley.
Lt Cdr Bleakley received her medal for service in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, in a role that involved managing the resources, budgets and facilities for nine PRTs across Afghanistan.
She also received a US Marine Corps Certificate of Commendation for her time in Afghanistan.
Lt Col Kaio served as team liaison officer of the PRT in Bamyan in 2007 and 2008, and "showed personal courage and commitment to the accomplishment of the mission in a combat zone, under the most extreme circumstances".
Squadron Leader Thomson was awarded for service during her time serving as team development officer of the PRT in Bamyan in 2007 and 2008.
Capt Tinsley served as the assistant operations officer of the PRT in 2009, and was awarded for his "motivation, initiative, coordination and leadership were critical to the mission".
Mr Panetta also paid tribute to five New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan last month.