CAMP MARÉCHAL DE LATTRE DE TASSIGNY, Kosovo- The sound of loud music pierced the air as a group of unruly and angry protesters taunted a group of Hungarian soldiers who stood forming a barricade.Irritated by the presence of the Kosovo Force Soldiers, the protesters bounced signs in the air while chanting, "You're not welcome here."When the signs weren't enough to express their frustrations they turned to violence. Water bottles, mud and other debris rained down indiscriminately on the formation of soldiers.For the small group of Hungarians, who served as role players acting as the Kosovo Police, the intensity of the crowd quickly escalated beyond their control.It was at that point the Kosovo Force, led by the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, was called in for backup.Once on scene, Company A, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, alongside a team of their Polish counterparts, met the intensity of the rioters with unified forward advancements. Equipped with riot control shields and batons the multinational front used brute force to push the rioters back.Understanding they were losing their foothold, the rioters, role played by the Germany contingent, reverted to throwing smoke, and at times, their own bodies at the U.S.-led formation.The multinational team of peacekeepers was too much for the rioters as they pushed the rioters passed a man-made barricade that had once impeded hypothetical traffic.For a curious onlooker the scene resembled a cinematic battlefield, however, for the Soldiers on the ground it was anything but.The scenario was part of an exercise, deemed Operation Stalwart Strike, meant to replicate a bad day in Kosovo and aimed at honing and improving the unit's quick reaction force and crowd riot control techniques. Unlike previous training exercises, this operation held, April 16, at Camp Marechal De Lattre De Tassigny allowed the unit's to operate in the run phase of the crawl, walk, and run training campaign.
"This training is a lot different for us because we have had a lot more skills and team building training," said 1st Lt. Nick Shearin, platoon leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment. "We have gotten a lot of our tactics and techniques nailed down and we have also practiced integrating a lot with the other countries. We've had a lot of the crawl and walk phase and now when we got to the run phase I think we were a lot more prepared."Integrating with the other Kosovo Force contingents has been a focus of Shearin and his Soldiers since their arrival to Kosovo earlier this year and was challenged heavily as the U.S. Soldiers partnered with the Hungarian, Polish, German, Italian and Ukraine contingents throughout the exercise.The multinational soldiers are serving alongside one another as part of NATO's KFOR peace support mission, dedicated to ensuring safety, security and freedom of movement in the region.It is important for the units to work together so they can better understand each other during training and real world scenarios, said 2nd Lt. Peter Jankiewicz, platoon leader for the Polish contingent.The communication between Multinational Battle Group-East, Kosovo Police and European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), is the foundation for success of the KFOR mission as the KFOR serves as third responders who provide support when requested.
According to Shearin this exercise also helped strengthen that foundation."This improves our working relationship with the KP and EULEX, which enables us to work with them when they need us but also enable them to retake control of a situation when they need to," Shearin added. "We are here when they need us."Although the day was filled with times of success and failure, Shearin said his team is looking forward to improving their capabilities with the help of their multinational counterparts and feels the unit is ready to respond if they are called upon.