CAMP NOTHING HILL, Kosovo - U.S. KFOR Soldiers from Multi-National Battle Group-East's 1-144th Maneuver Task Force (MTF) took part in a ceremony here on March 1, signifying the beginning of their security mission in northern Kosovo.
During their time at Camp Nothing Hill, the 1-144th Soldiers will be under the command of Multi-National Battle Group-North. Lt. Col. Palle Svendsen, deputy commander of MNBG-N, was on hand as the 1-144th MTF took responsibility.
Soldiers from MNBG-E rotate to Camp Nothing Hill periodically to support security in northern Kosovo. The 1-144th MTF is based at Kosovo's Camp Bondsteel and primarily comprises Soldiers from the California National Guard from the Los Angeles Area.
One platoon from each of the 1-144th's Alpha and Charlie Companies headed up at the end of February to begin the initial Relief-in-Place (RIP) process. The time was dedicated to giving the Soldiers a familiarization of new routes and areas of interest, as well as learning how their predecessors - the Italian Army - did business.
The unit faced a big challenge right away. On the first day of the familiarization exercise, a Soldier began experiencing health problems. He was immediately given medical assistance and whisked back to Camp Bondsteel where he was later medically cleared after a mandatory 24 hours off to ensure his condition didn't worsen.
Although this real-life scenario couldn't have been expected, it became the obvious priority and demonstrated the 1-144th's ability to adjust quickly. Nonetheless, the support elements and platoons were able to get operations running within a few hours of arriving at Camp Nothing Hill.
This allowed activities to get underway, including the RIP and a demonstration by the Italians from their Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to Gate 1 along the Administrative Boundary Line.
Lt. Col. David Brady, 1-144th MTF commander, Modesto, Calif., said the Italian contingent provided a great demonstration of how the QRF should work when called.
"They got there in a timely manner and even showed some new techniques," he said.
Maj. Gerald Bradley, 1-144th MTF executive officer, Inglewood, Calif., agreed.
"The QRF went on without a hitch," he said. "The timeliness was outstanding and the formation was perfect. The Italians executed everything with excellence."
Although the QRF will be a part of the responsibilities of the Soldiers assigned to Camp Nothing Hill, it won't be the only role they play. They will also conduct patrols on routes and in neighboring cities and working at the camp's gates and towers in a force protection role. In addition to those functions at Camp Nothing Hill, the 1-144th has also assumed responsibilities as the main Tactical Reserve (TACRES) for KFOR.
"The Portuguese are normally the TACRES, but now the 144 has received the order to be both first and second layer TACRES," Brady said. "We'll have that responsibility until April."
Brady said it was important to keep the Soldiers involved in changing duties, which serves to keep the troops on their toes.
"They all rotate," he said. "We don't want any Soldier doing the same job every day."
1st Lt. Mathew Schorn, platoon leader for Alpha Co., 3rd Platoon, from Sacramento, Calif., said the RIP process went smoothly.
"We'll be cycling through roles and responsibilities," he said. "It'll be a lot better - nothing will get too terribly mundane."
Even though the many missions of the 1-144th spread it out from Camp Bondsteel to Camp Nothing Hill to Camp Belvedere to the Devas Monastery, which is a Property Designated Special Status (PRDSS), Bradley stated that it didn't adversely affect the Mustangs.
"We're a combat arms unit," he said. "Accountability is one of our greatest strengths."
Brady said the Camp Nothing Hill mission could strengthen the 1-144th even further.
"It gives us confidence as we assume TACRES for all of KFOR," he said. "The other benefit is for all the battalion to get up to the North in functions such as PRDSS security or CRC (crowd riot control).
"We'll have a lot of experience coming out of these missions and responsibilities," he added.
This isn't the first time the 1-144th has provided security. Earlier in their rotation, Alpha Co. Soldiers worked as force protection at Film City. In addition, they've done weapons ranges, mass casualty exercises, hot and cold-load training with Task Force Aviation and Crowd Riot Control training.
Due to that extensive training the 1-144th was able to hit the ground running.
"During the RIP process we had staggered movements from late February until early March," Bradley said. "This gave us time to get our force strength up and ensure our Soldiers were familiar with the area.
"What better way to bring them in than if they are already familiarized," he continued.
"Each of our squads has had a chance to go out with the Italians," Schorn said. He added that although it was busy the first weekend, they were able to get everything packed and were ready to move to Camp Nothing Hill on time.
"This has definitely been helpful," he said. "The more RIP process we got, the more prepared we were."
The "very detailed, very precise left-seat right-seat" gave the Soldiers the knowledge to complete the mission. "It got off to a great start - joint patrols with the Italians - as soon as we hit ground," Bradley said.
Spc. Guillermo Velasco, a Soldier with 3rd Platoon, Charlie Co. from Fontana, Calif., said the RIP process was a good chance to learn about the different roles: force protection, patrolling routes and serving as TACRES. "I think it's good because we work in conjunction with the Italians, so it's a great real world experience, every day," Velasco said.

Page last updated Wed March 3rd, 2010 at 08:00