CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo- Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe, arrived in Kosovo eager to meet and talk with cadets as well as members of the Kosovo Security Force's search and rescue team, Sept. 27, 2016.
Like his many visits throughout U.S. Army Europe's area of operations, Hodges' visit to Kosovo was carefully planned and executed with scripted meetings and welcomed handshakes.
During a press conference in Pristina, Kosovo, Hodges reaffirmed USAREUR's commitment to the KSF, as they advance closer to a potential transformation from a security force to an armed force.
"What I have seen of KSF members and leaders is very impressive," said Hodges. "These are some terrific young men and women who had other choices and yet they volunteered to step forward to become officers in the Kosovo Security Force. They have great talent and I am very optimistic about the future."
After speaking with local media and high ranking members of the KSF, Hodges traveled to their search and rescue compound, where he went off script as he turned words of confidence and trust into action.
The career Soldier allowed the security professionals to strap him into a stretcher and hoist him out the window of a two-story building and into the safe embrace of excited participants on the ground.
Hodges said he was willing to put his life in their hands because he had "complete confidence in the training and the equipment" of the KSF.
Although the visit offered the security force members a chance to demonstrate their advanced skills, and Hodges the opportunity to demonstrate his trust in the KSF, the biggest question focused on what role U.S Army Europe would play in the KSF's ability to become an armed force.
Hodges said there is no definitive timeframe but added he will continue to work closely with the Ambassador and will provide whatever resources he deems necessary within U.S. policy.
"The political support and the parliament supporting that transformation is extremely important and ultimately civilian control of the military or security forces just like in the United States is an essential part of the culture," Hodges said. "I think correctly, when it is time...when you have the necessary political parts, they will be ready."
Additionally, Hodges said NATO's Kosovo Force remains an essential mission for the stability in the region and said he is proud of what he has seen.
"The United States Army has been the most effective institution at bringing people together, at developing talent and I think, under General Rama's leadership I see that the KSF can be the same," he said. "They can bring different people together and develop talent, give people opportunities based on talent, and that's what KSF can offer."
After meeting with the local security forces and before departing Kosovo, Hodges and his team made one final stop to visit U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the Multinational Battle Group-East to thank them for their service, as they wrap up a nine-month deployment to Kosovo later this year.
(U.S. and NATO forces have contributed to the United Nations-mandated peacekeeping mission in Kosovo since June 1999.)