A few hundred Alaska-based soldiers will be visiting a new deployment region later this year, as Army officials announced their upcoming nine-month deployment to join European peacekeeping forces in Kosovo.
According to a U.S. Army Alaska statement, members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division will join the NATO-led Kosovo Force’s Multinational Battle Group-East, alongside troops from Poland, Ukraine, Armenia, Slovenia, Germany, Turkey and Hungary.
“A small contingent of paratroopers assigned to the headquarters element of the 4/25th and several hundred paratroopers assigned to 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment will deploy in late September,” Army officials wrote.
Soldiers will first travel to Hohenfels, Germany for about two weeks of acclimatization training to prepare them for Kosovo, after which they will be deployed in-country at separate postings.
“From Germany, the Spartans will travel to Kosovo where the 4/25th headquarters element will assume command and control duties as MNBG-E at Camp Bondsteel, located outside the city of Ferizaj,” Army officials wrote. “The element from 1-40th Cavalry will move to Camp Novo Selo, outside the capital city of Pristina, to conduct joint, multinational peacekeeping operations as part of MNBG-E.”
U.S. Army Alaska spokesperson Lt. Col. Alan Brown says about 300 to 400 soldiers are expected to be part of the deployment, the 4/25’s first to Kosovo since its reactivation as a unit in Alaska. He says there’s no way to compare the deployment to the 4/25’s previous, far more hazardous work in Afghanistan.
“You have two completely different situations, two completely different missions,” Brown said. “This is definitely a peacekeeping mission to assist the country as it continues to stabilize.”
Maj. Adam Hallmark, the main spokesperson for the 4/25, says no American service member has died in Kosovo in at least the last five years, emphasizing the NATO-led theater's break with the intense fighting which has characterized the unit's previous deployments.
"This mission is nothing like what we've done in Iraq and Afghanistan," Hallmark said. "We're not even the main effort here."
Hallmark says the Spartans in Kosovo will function as a tertiary backup force, called in to domestic situations like riots only if Kosovo's national police and European law enforcement groups can't resolve them.
"The U.S. has sort of taken a step back," Hallmark said. "We're essentially trying to stay in the shadows and let Kosovo run itself."
According to Brown, a recent rotation through the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. has prepared the soldiers slated for the mission to take on a role more fully devoted to nation-building.
“It’s certainly one that 4/25 is certified and mission-capable for,” Brown said. “This Kosovo mission is just one mission set that’s been in our kit bag.”
The Army has been part of peacekeeping forces deployed to Kosovo since the U.S. intervened to protect Kosovars from Serbian aggression in a 1999 bombing campaign, and Brown says the 4/25 is up to the task.
“It does get to highlight just how flexible and adaptable Alaskan soldiers are,” Brown said.
After relieving U.S. units based at Fort Hood, Texas upon their arrival in Kosovo, the Spartans themselves will be relieved before they return to Alaska in July 2015.