Military News

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Wisconsin Guard part of tactical operation in Kosovo

By Sgt. 1st Class Jim Wagner
MNBG E Public Affairs Office

RUDARE, Kosovo - From planning to execution, Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers helped successfully remove a roadblock on the outskirts of this small northern Kosovo town June 1, improving freedom of movement for Kosovo residents.

Badger state Soldiers are currently deployed to Kosovo as part of the headquarters element of Multinational Battle Group East (MNBG E), one of two battle groups in the region supporting Kosovo Force (KFOR), a NATO peacekeeping mission.

The blocked roadway - the main artery between the southern portion of Rudare and Mitrovica - was one of nine roadblocks KFOR officials had determined prevented freedom of movement in the region.

In addition to providing a safe and secure environment, KFOR is charged to ensure freedom of movement throughout Kosovo as part of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244.

The operation was conducted in the early morning hours, while most residents of the town were leaving for work. Soldiers from the German and U.S. contingents quickly established vehicle control points and a security perimeter so the Portuguese-led KFOR Tactical Maneuver Battalion (KTM) could bring in the heavy equipment required to remove the substantial concrete, gravel and debris barrier.

Soldiers from other MNBG E multinational contingents arrived in the subsequent hours to provide follow-on security to the area.

U.S. forces on the ground were comprised primarily of Soldiers from the Georgia Army National Guard's 3rd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment. The unit's headquarters element, located at MNBG E's forward command post (FCP) at Camp Novo Selo, Kosovo, developed the operation's course of action using lessons learned from other operations, current intelligence estimates and manning requirements.

Mission planners adapted their requirements to encompass key terrain - namely a bridge connecting Rudare with the city of Zvecan, as well as a road intersection north of the bridge - that needed to be controlled in order to ensure this mission's success.

Further complicating the operation was the complexity involved in getting more than eight different nations to execute the mission plan in a coordinated manner from several camps located throughout Kosovo.

According to Lt. Col. Joseph Lynch, FCP commander from 3rd Squadron, 108th Cavalry, concerns over potential miscues were quickly erased as the operation launched. Detailed planning and close coordination among all participants, he said, ensured the successful removal of the roadblock.

"Without the close coordination and cooperation of all nations involved, we could not have accomplished what we did," Lynch said. "We are extremely pleased that all the multinational units in this operation performed their missions with professionalism and excellence. I continue to be impressed by the level of dedication demonstrated by all the contributing nations."

"The operation was a total success, from the conception and planning of the operation to the execution on the ground by the Soldiers in this battle group," said Col. Jeffrey Liethen, MNBG E commander from the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. "I couldn't be prouder of the men and women who performed their duties so admirably."

Two KFOR soldiers were injured by gunfire during the operation after unidentified individuals in a violent crowd of protestors opened fire on security forces. MNBG E forces responded in self-defense, using tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. The injured KFOR troops were not Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers.

KFOR officials strongly condemned the violence instigated by individuals who started the escalation of violence in the first place. A NATO press release stated that KFOR would respond proportionally and "continue to do so firmly, prudently and impartially, in full compliance with our mandate. That is what our troops have been doing for the last 12 years at considerable risk to their own safety. We urge all parties to avoid unilateral moves, inflammatory statements or violent acts."

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