CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — The NATO mission in Kosovo involves bringing together military units from dozens of countries to work toward a common goal. These countries do not operate independently but rather as a single entity under a common command structure.
One such command is the Maneuver Battalion of Kosovo Force’s Regional Command East, comprised of elements from the U.S., Latvia, Turkey and Poland — all under the command of a U.S. battalion headquarters from the Kentucky Army National Guard.
“The multinational forces the [battalion] works with are top-notch and the best of the best,” said Sgt. Maj. Anthony T. Hughes, the operations sergeant major for the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 29th Infantry Division, and Kosovo Force Regional Command-East’s Maneuver Battalion. “Language barriers are broken through by using a common knowledge of Soldier skills and expectations that our NATO partners are excellent in demonstrating.”
Maintaining and building upon their relationships with multinational partners is an ongoing effort for the leaders of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment — not just for senior battalion leaders but for all the Soldiers in the battalion.
“The battalion conducts multiple cultural briefs where each nation is invited to learn about the next through open discussion and food that represent the country,” Hughes explained. “Multiple training events and competitions are scheduled throughout the week to build esprit de corps amongst Soldiers from each country.”
The mission of the Maneuver Battalion, headed by the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment, the “Mountain Warriors,” is to “conduct peace support operations in [Regional Command-East] in order to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement while supporting institutions in Kosovo, civil agencies, and humanitarian efforts to maintain conditions for continued civilian dialogue towards a political resolution,” Hughes said.
Leading peace support operations in Kosovo is unlike operations the infantry battalion has conducted in the past, which typically focused on counter-insurgency operational areas such as Iraq. Now, their mission involves ensuring a safe and secure environment is maintained as well as safeguarding the freedom of movement for the people of Kosovo.
“This mission requires a different skill set than what a traditional infantry unit is accustomed to,” Hughes said. “Training on crowd riot control, mounted and dismounted patrols and key leader engagements was a must prior to mobilization to ensure a baseline of the operational requirements were established and Soldiers were able to quickly adapt to mission sets upon arrival to Kosovo.”
Hughes said his battalion’s preparation for their Kosovo mission required a shift from their traditional tasks to a more specific skillset needed for the unique nature of their Eastern European deployment, which started with the unit’s annual training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, last summer.
“The battalion also, conducted two separate pre-mobilization annual training events, one in October and one in December,” Hughes added. “Each period allowed the battalion to focus on mandatory tasks along with the [Kosovo-specific] focused training.”
Now well into their Kosovo rotation, the “Mountain Warrior” battalion headquarters has coordinated and led multiple named operations in preparation for events that could have degraded safety, security, and freedom of movement.
“These repetitions have allowed the battalion and each of its [companies] to [solidify a] concept of operations and refine strategy without being overburdened,” Hughes said.
Furthermore, “multiple instances of illegal activity on the [administrative boundary line] have been pursued and resulted in arrests to establish a pattern of dedication to [a safe and secure environment] and [freedom of movement].”
Hughes credits his battalion’s success thus far to his Soldiers’ ongoing hard work, dedication and adaptability while operating in such a unique environment.
“Mountain Warriors are skilled practitioners of their craft and have been strengthened by the addition of Latvian, Polish and Turkish Soldiers,” he said. “These Soldiers demonstrate a commitment to each other on a daily basis. This level of commitment has only been met by the attention to detail and a sense of urgency to the people of Kosovo.”