Guard Bureau Chief Visits Soldiers in Balkans
By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service
PRISTINA, Kosovo, Feb. 10, 2009 The National Guard's support of NATO peacekeeping operations in southeastern Europe is making an important contribution in helping the citizens of Kosovo, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said here Feb. 4.
Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, left, and Army Capt. Shannon Dean Holiday, commander of Multinational Task Force East’s Thunder Bravo battery, walk the streets of downtown Pristina, Kosovo, during a presence patrol with the Missouri Army National Guard. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley visited Missouri National Guard soldiers deployed to Multinational Task Force East at Camp Bondsteel after walking the streets of downtown Pristina, the capital city.
"I can't tell you how impressed I was walking through those streets and seeing the faces of the men and women of Kosovo who appreciate what you are doing here," McKinley said in a town hall meeting.
American forces have conducted peacekeeping operations in Kosovo following Operation Allied Force in 1999. Nearly a year ago, the United States and other European nations formally recognized Kosovo as an independent nation.
As McKinley walked a few miles in a presence patrol with the Missouri military police soldiers, he was greeted by Kosovars as he passed markets, shops and schools.
"It's a great thing when our leaders come out here to talk to the soldiers," Army Capt. Shannon Dean Holiday, commander of the task force’s Thunder Bravo battery. Holiday, who is deployed from Bernard, Mo., said the soldiers who make up the American task force serve nine-month deployments to ensure a safe and secure environment and assist in a transition to civil authority.
Missouri's soldiers patrol one of the more populated areas of the American missions in Kosovo. Holiday said they have a great relationship with the Kosovo police forces, which are growing.
"We come from so many walks of life back home,” he said. “Whether you are in education or law enforcement, we can directly relate to some of the same problems they are dealing with. That's one of the great things the Guard brings here."
The Guard assumed command of the task force in November 2007. The Missouri Guard members here will return from their deployment shortly and hand their mission over to citizen-soldiers from California.
McKinley thanked the Guard members who have supported the NATO peacekeeping operations and asked them to extend his thanks to their families as well.
(Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves at the National Guard Bureau.)