525th BfSB prepares for unique mission in Kosovo
May 23, 2013
HOHENFELS, Germany - The 525th BfSB is using this training exercise at JMRC to complete the final preparations before taking over Multinational Battle Group-East as a part of Kosovo Forces 17. KFOR 17 is the 17th rotation in an ongoing peacekeeping operation to help maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for the people of Kosovo.
Col. David Woods, the 525th BfSB commander who will be taking command of the battle group, said he understands the responsibility that comes with taking command of such a diverse organization.
"I'm humbled," said Woods, a native of Denbo, Pa. "First of all, just to be selected to command a unit in the United States Army is a privilege and honor to lead American sons and daughters, but when you add in other nations, it's a whole other level of responsibility."
But integrating these multinational partners has also come with new challenges. The battle group has been learning to overcome differences in equipment, logistics and languages. According to Woods, the key to overcoming these challenges has been communication.
"We are learning here to communicate," said Woods. "We're learning here to leverage each other's specialties against the unique problem set we have in this environment."
That unique problem set was apparent to U.S. Army Capt. Brian Fitzgerald, the commander for Charlie Company, 1st Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment. Fitzgerald said the mission may be a challenge, but his soldiers have embraced the change from the combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan to the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
"About 60 percent of my company is new to the Army," Fitzgerald, a Fort Bragg, N.C. native, said. "So a lot of people focus on the ten years of war, but that is a minority of the company. For me, it's definitely a big change, but it's good. It's all about problem solving [and] understanding the human dimension."
At JMRC, Fitzgerald and his soldiers have been able to train shoulder-to-shoulder with some of their international partners.
The training included crowd and riot control and how to properly hold a shield while moving as a unit for maximum protection. U.S. and Armenian soldiers also learned how to use their riot control shields to stand their ground or deflect striking blows from trainers and soldiers portraying rioters.
Following this training American and Armenian soldiers moved to a simulated village to polish the skills they had just learned. The scenario involved American soldiers assisting the Armenians to establish a cordon of the village while U.S. soldiers spoke with simulated protestors to try and resolve the situation peacefully.
For 1st Sgt. Eugenio Mendoza, the first sergeant for C. Company, 1st Sqdrn., 38 Cav. Regt., working with the Armenians was a pleasant surprise.
"The Armenians are real easy to work with," said the Fort Washington, Md. native. "I thought it'd be a bit harder, but their leaders are really good. Their soldiers listen to them well."
Armenian Capt. Slavik Avitisyan, an Observer/Controller with the Armenian Peacekeeping Brigade, said training with the Americans was unique yet valuable.
"Working with the Americans is a very good experience," Avitisyan said. "They do all of the pre-deployment training, and they do it like the real thing."
Despite the numerous challenges presented with building a multinational unit, Woods is confident the training received at JMRC will help prepare them to assume their mission in Kosovo.
"That's what this exercise has brought together," said Woods. "It's built a team, which in turn builds a family."