KOSOVO - The peacekeeping mission in the Balkans, especially the mission in Kosovo, may not be in the forefront of the evening news these days, but it hasn’t fallen from the attention of Maj. Gen. Michael D. Navrkal, who knows that the division has been committed to the Balkans mission since 1996.
In the last three months, the commanding general of the 35th Infantry Division, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., has made two visits to Soldiers currently serving in the Kosovo mission. His first visit was in December, when he visited with Soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, and evaluated training that the Soldiers had accomplished. He witnessed how the training was beneficial for the deployment process and what improvements for future deployments could be made.
In the third week of March, Navrkal arrived in Kosovo to see how the Soldiers were faring on their deployment. The 35th Infantry Division Soldiers are currently assigned to Kosovo Forces 18, in the Multinational Battle Group-East with the 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade from Fort Hood, commanded by Col. Charles Hensley.
The “One Team, One Fight” Total Force motto dominates both commanders’ philosophies regarding the joint service of the active duty Army and the Army National Guard.
“I witnessed the training at Fort Hood before the division Soldiers deployed,” said Navrkal, “and am confident that because of the training, they will be able to accomplish the Kosovo mission with great success. I’m pleased that the 504th BFSB seriously adopts National Guard members into its team and everyone is trained to the same standard.”
“We may have different backgrounds and life experiences, but we are all family here. I know that our National Guard Soldiers and the active duty component of the 504th can teach each other many beneficial things,” Hensley said.
Navrkal said his agenda for his visit in Kosovo had four priorities.
“First, I want to be able to be able to look at all my Soldiers in the eye and say to their families back home that they are doing well,” he said. “The Soldier’s well-being is paramount to us.”
His next priority was to evaluate what could be changed for the upcoming KFOR-19 rotation to improve the efficiency of the deployment and training.
“I want to make sure that we have the right talent for the right job in Kosovo on future missions. We need to have the best teams possible and set conditions for the next rotation,” said Navrkal.
The third priority was to gather his data and report back to the American public about the long term progress that is being made in Kosovo.
“I see many good things being done for stability in Kosovo,” he said. “This shows the commitment that the 504th and 35th Division Soldiers have in improving life wherever they go.”
His fourth priority is for the Soldiers’ families.
“This is the most important priority,” said Navrkal. “The Soldiers have to take care of our own, meaning the taking care of the Soldiers and their families is paramount for the division, and if any family needs assistance, the division will assist in any manner that it can. The Soldiers cannot get too wrapped up in their daily missions that they don’t keep in touch with their families.”
“Unlike deployments to the Kuwait, Iraq or Afghanistan, this deployment has new and different experiences for the Soldiers,” he concluded. “They will learn and hone their skills and knowledge and be an even more valuable asset for the Army after this deployment ends.”