News: First Army assists in training active duty unit for KFOR misison
Story by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - First Army took the fight to Fort Bragg, N.C., in February to help prepare the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade to assume the Kosovo Forces mission of conducting peace support operations in support of civilian authorities. This marks the first time in a decade an active duty unit has led the KFOR mission.
In 2003, the 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, deployed to Kosovo. Over the last 10 years, National Guard units from more than 20 states have been part of the Kosovo Forces - or KFOR - mission. First Army trained those units prior to their deployments. When the mission recently switched back to the active component, First Army was asked to bring their considerable training experience to table.
"To meet today's challenges and tomorrow's uncertain conflicts, First Army ensures mobilization training is relevant, realistic and reflects the most current conditions soldiers will face in theater," said Col. John F. Dunleavy, commander of the 205th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, First Army. "The majority of First Army trainer-mentors have deployed multiple times, and commanders ensure soldiers receive periodic training to remain current."
The KFOR mission contributes to the maintenance of a secure environment in Kosovo by enforcing the provisions of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244.
As part of KFOR, the 525th BfSB soldiers will serve alongside another multinational battle group and five joint regional detachments to help set conditions for a stable, democratic, multiethnic and peaceful Kosovo. Part of the training includes a detailed story line that offers soldiers various opportunities to trouble shoot lines of communication and develop solutions to issues they may face in Kosovo.
First Army assisted in developing the training scenario and providing experienced trainer mentors. To keep the story lines and training relevant over the years, First Army stayed in contact with units after they deployed to Kosovo, conducted annual site visits, and employed a subject matter experts.
"Everything in the [training scenarios] happened in Kosovo or the Balkans," said Bill Ehrhardt, the operations principal analyst and site lead. "We don't need to make this stuff up."
In addition to First Army's experience and assistance, the recent training also included the current and incoming 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade commanders.
"Don't underestimate the power of synchronization," said Col. Dave Woods, the incoming 525th BfSB commander.
"The last decade of war has changed our culture," said Woods, who was invited by Col. Xavier T. Brunson, the current commander of the 525th BfSB, to participate in the exercise. "Ten years ago, you wouldn't have seen the outgoing and incoming commanders of conducting an exercise together. However, after ten years of war, we've learned the power of integration, the power of connection, which allows us to maximize our limited resources and opportunities to prepare for real-world missions."
Woods agreed the training is realistic, relevant, and rigorous.
"The exercise does a excellent job of replicating the environment," Woods said. "The replication is focused in the key areas which enable the commander to see if the processes are functioning correctly - from higher headquarters all the way to the subordinate formations."
Woods, who will command the Multinational Battle Group-East (MNGB-E) in Kosovo, will be the first active duty American commander for MNBG-E in a decade.
"The 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, [of the South Carolina National Guard], are the ones on the ground doing the mission; they are the experts," said Woods, from Denbo, Penn. "I look forward to meeting the 218th team and transitioning this mission and hope to sustain the excellence they've achieved during their deployment.
"We greatly appreciate the subject matter experts they've sent here to help us train and prepare for this mission."
Thirteen soldiers currently deployed in support of the KFOR (KFOR-16) mission traveled to Fort Bragg N.C. to mentor members of the 525th BfSB during its five-day command post exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Capt. Emily Lynds, the brigade battle captain for KFOR 16, said, in her opinion,the training, previously held at Camp Atterbury Ind., did more to prepare soldiers of the 218th MEB than any other training they received.
"Many of the scenarios are issues that we've faced and the rigger of the training was incredible, it made everything we deal with in country seem low key," said Lynds, from Florence, S.C. "After Atterbury, two UXO [unexploded ordnance] calls in one day didn't overwhelm us."
Lynds, who mentored the battle captain for KFOR 17, said many of the KFOR mentors let the soldiers manage the scenarios on their own to learn then provide feedback and gave examples of how they handled similar situations during the past six months they've been deployed in Kosovo.
"The main issues we deal with are Red Cross messages, UXOs, protests, vehicle recovery, and violations of the Administrative Boundary Line," Lynds said.
KFOR entered Kosovo in June 1999 in support of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244. At that time, the Balkans were in turmoil, facing the biggest military and humanitarian crisis since World War II.
A mounting conflict between the Serb-dominated military of the Federal Yugoslav Republic and the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army demanding independence from Belgrade had claimed some 10,000 lives and sparked the exodus of almost 1 million Albanian refugees.
At the height of the KFOR mission, 39 nations were contributing about 50,000 troops. Today, the NATO-led mission continues, supported by about 6,240 peacekeepers from 30 nations. The upcoming deployment represents the 17th for KFOR.