News: Soldiers Honored for Service in Kosovo
Story by Staff Sgt. Billie Jo Lorius
BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota National Guard held a Freedom Salute in recognition of more than 275 soldiers who served nearly a year performing a NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo at the Bismarck Civic Center at 3 p.m. Oct. 16. The soldiers' families were also recognized for their support during the deployment.
"When it comes to the National Guard, there is no question the best is right here in North Dakota, and the KFOR 12 soldiers demonstrated that proud tradition of excellence throughout their mission in Kosovo," said Gov. John Hoeven. "Today, we recognize them and their families for their distinguished service and for making such a difference for the citizens of Kosovo."
The soldiers honored at the ceremony were part of the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the 957th Liaison Monitoring Team. The soldiers were mobilized in August 2009 and some returned in May 2010 and others in July 2010.
"You step up for our state, you step up for our country, and you do a phenomenal job and you put your lives on the line," added Hoeven.
Guest Speakers Gov. John Hoeven, North Dakota Adjutant General Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, Congressman Earl Pomeroy, and Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Job joined together to thank the soldiers for all of their hard work.
"You did an outstanding job in every aspect of the mission that was given to you," said Sprynczynatyk. "I congratulate you on a job well done and thank you for representing our state with such dignity."
The LMT operated in two-soldier teams with an interpreter to build relationships with local village, political and religious leaders. During their stay in Kosovo from Oct. 25, 2009, to July 18, 2009, the soldiers conducted more than 4,800 missions.
While in Kosovo, Brig. Gen. Alan Dorhmann, of Bismarck, commanded Multi-National Battle Group - East, which was comprised of Soldiers from 37 states and territories, as well as Armenia, Greece, Poland, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine.
"It has been a distinct honor for me to lead these soldiers, said Dorhmann. "Across the board, North Dakota soldiers impressed everyone they came in contact with. It has been the highlight of my career to deploy with so many North Dakota soldiers."
MNTF-E Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Cripe thanked the soldiers for performing in a professional manner and exceeding expectations. "You surpassed all expectations of this command team," he ssaid. "You accomplished everything that team stands for - "Together Everyone Accomplishes More."
Nearly 650 Soldiers from the NDNG participated in the Kosovo mission, more than 300 of which were recognized with a Freedom Salute in Fargo Sept. 19.
During the ceremony, more than 100 soldiers were recognized for completing their first deployment and more than 90 soldiers were recognized for completing their second deployment.
More than 10 soldiers were recognized for serving their third tour of duty for the NDNG. One soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Mitzel, was honored for serving his fourth deployment.
"I thank you for the fact that nearly half of you have deployed before, which truly shows the caliber of soldiers we have here today," said Sprynczynatyk.
On behalf of all involved with this deployment, more than 30 community members were recognized for their outstanding dedication to helping the soldiers and their families during the deployment. These volunteers were each given a gift and a certificate in honor of their deeds. Soldiers also recognized a community member or organization with an Outstanding Center of Influence Award. Awardees included Barbara Dammen, Sandy Vogel, and Lana Bergmann. Distinguished Center of Influence Awards were given to Sandy Seedorf, the Comfort Inn of Bismarck, and the full-time staff of the units who did not deploy.
"It takes everybody working together and you made it work. You set a very high standard," said Hoeven.
The Freedom Salute Campaign began in December 2003 and quickly became one of the largest Army National Guard recognition endeavors in history. It was designed to publicly recognize soldiers, and takes place about three months after troops return from a deployment, which allows time for reintegration weekends with their families.