Virginia aviators leave behind mural in Kosovo to commemorate deployment
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division (Task Force Pegasus) stand in front of a mural they designed and painted to commemorate the Battalion’s 9-month deployment to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 5, 2022. Painting murals on concrete blast walls, referred to as T-walls, is a longstanding military tradition that has spanned around the world for decades to identify and memorialize the time a unit has spent on a mission or deployment. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Marla Ogden, 138th Public Affairs Detachment) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – Painting murals on concrete protective blast walls, referred to as T-walls, is a longstanding military tradition that has spanned around the world for decades. The steel-reinforced walls, placed in areas where troops live and work or around high-value equipment to protect from enemy attacks, are decorated to identify and memorialize the time a unit has spent on a mission or deployed.

Five Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division (Task Force Pegasus), dedicated over 180 hours to designing and painting a T-wall mural at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, during the final weeks of their nine-month deployment.

It is said that the tradition originated from the roots of “Kilroy was here” during World War II when service members noticed the signature and figure drawing throughout various locations in Europe and the South Pacific. The art gave Soldiers comfort and strength when they arrived at new locations and saw that American troops had previously been in the area.

UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairer and crew chief, Staff Sgt. Kevin Kerr, said that painting the wall served as a morale boost while commemorating their hard work and time spent in Kosovo.

“Each T-wall is based on the unit or task force that was here and represents what was unique to them,” Kerr said. “Ours shows who was here, what we did, and what we are comprised of.”

Kerr explained that the TF Pegasus T-wall depicts every unit within the aviation battalion.

The background of the mural, the 29th ID’s unit patch, is a blue and gray yin yang, which represents the unit’s lineage of being formed by troops that fought in the Civil War. The black Pegasus, representing their assault company, is ridden by Lady Virginia, which represents their home state of Virginia. The white Pegasus is ridden by Ginger, a nurse and common figure amongst the military medical evacuation community, representing their MedEvac company.

The heavy expanded mobility tactical truck represents the support element of fuelers, who often work behind the scenes in aviation, as well as the maintenance company, represented by their company mascot, a purple dragon holding a wrench, peeking out from behind the 29th ID patch.

Kerr said that it was initially harder to represent the support companies because they operate behind the scenes in aviation; however, the battalion wouldn’t be able to function without them.

“Oftentimes, they’re overlooked behind the scenes, so it’s nice that we were able to represent them,” he explained.

Kerr said that the two black silhouetted helicopters in the background signify the aviation aspect of aviators as a whole. At the base of the wall are the company guidons with the names of the command staff for each company, as well as the names of the brigade commander and command sergeant major of TF Pegasus.

“The five of us collectively came together as a group and we started brainstorming ideas from the time that we came together to the time that the wall was complete,” said Kerr, who worked on the wall alongside Spc. Unique Moore, Sgt. Ashley Camper, Staff Sgt. Jaclyn Guerrero, and Sgt. 1st Class Karen Domingo.

Camper, a flight medic with the battalion’s MedEvac company, who worked on illustrations for the wall, said that it took a few weeks to draft a design they felt represented everyone and that each of them worked hard to ensure the final product lived up to their expectations.

“Sgt. 1st Class Domingo was really essential in getting all of the supplies,” Camper said. “She put in a lot of work and effort into that, along with Sgt. Guerrero and Spc. Moore, from Delta Company, who were a big help in formatting and painting the design. The biggest thing is that we needed to commit time to it.”

Kerr added that collectively, they spent over 180 hours, outside of their everyday duties, to complete the wall.

“It required us to all step out of our work elements and make the time to create a great project to represent us in a positive way and to hopefully leave something here for years and years to come,” he said.

Camper expressed that working on the wall was both fun and a privilege.

“To be able to contribute to something that’s going to represent the battalion when we leave is a pretty unique experience,” she said.

Kerr hopes to show future Kosovo Force rotations, especially aviators, that TF Pegasus has set a high standard and that it will give them something to try to beat.

“Not only is it a testament to the amount of effort and work that went into the wall, but it’s also a testament of how hard this battalion task force worked on this deployment to fulfill the mission that was called upon us,” he said.

Camper, who previously deployed to Kosovo in 2018, is working on a mural for the inside of the MedEvac building as well.

“All of the MedEvac rotations that come through here have a tradition of putting up red crosses for each call that you do,” she explained. “Every team wants to have more crosses than the team before them and wants to have a more impressive mural.”

Camper said that her current team has surpassed the number of red crosses than the team she deployed with in 2018, as well as the previous KFOR 29 rotation.

“We want to do better for everyone, and we’re trying to encourage the rotation that’s coming after us to beat our wall,” she said.

Kerr said that being in aviation is like being in a large competitive family.

“We help to support each other as best as we can, but there are moments where we get competitive with each other too,” he said. “I think you can see that a bit in our wall with the way the two Pegasus are placed on opposite sides of the yin yang.

“It looks like one’s coming in for landing and one’s taking off,” he added. “The mission gets done because of the effort that everybody makes.”