By Sgt. Joshua Dodds, 116th Public Affairs DetachmentMarch 30, 2010
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston visited Soldiers on the U.S.-led NATO mission here March 27-28.
Preston was accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. Roger P. Blackwood, acting command sergeant major for U.S. Army Europe.
Preston and Blackwood arrived at Camp Bondsteel in time for a lunch with Multi-National Battle Group-East Command Sgt. Maj. Jack W. Cripe, senior enlisted for MNBG-E. After lunch, Preston, Blackwood and Cripe flew by helicopter to Camp Nothing Hill in northern Kosovo to visit Charlie Company, 1-144th Maneuver Task Force.
The sergeants major then traveled to Viti/Vitina, Kosovo, to visit with Soldiers in MNBG-E's Liaison Monitoring Team and the 231st Maneuver Task Force and to tour their area of responsibility.
Preston served in Kosovo during KFOR 2A/2B in 2000-2001 while a command sergeant major in the 1st Armored Division. U.S. troops in Kosovo have declined from about 14,000 to around 1,000 in the 10 years since his service here.
Speaking at a town hall meeting for Camp Bondsteel's enlisted Soldiers March 28, Preston said that the Army's role in the current "era of persistent conflict" is to move into a trouble spot "and work our way out of a job so that we can go home."
"You have been very effective in helping us work our way out of a job here," he said.
Preston makes an annual stop in Kosovo to get a feel for what issues or concerns Soldiers may have. At the town hall meeting, he observed that, since his last visit, there has been positive change within Kosovo that sparked the ongoing move to deterrent presence.
"I am proud of your accomplishments, proud of what you've done. Even since I was down here last year I've seen a lot of change, a lot of improvements," he said.
Preston gave a slideshow presentation at the town hall meeting on changes in the Army and the importance of Reserve and National Guard Soldiers. He also answered questions from MNBG-E Soldiers.
Preston said that with more than 250,000 Soldiers deployed or forward stationed in nearly 80 countries overseas at present, which is a higher level than during the 2007 surge in Iraq, the Army is working to increase dwell time between deployments so that Soldiers and units can reset.
"Thanks for your service, thanks for what you do each and every day. I'm very proud of what you've accomplished out here and all that you continue to do. You are great role models out there and great ambassadors for the United States," Preston said in concluding the town hall meeting.
After the meeting, Preston visited units and sections on Camp Bondsteel to learn more about Soldiers' jobs. He also had an office call with Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann, MNBG-E's commander. Preston praised the "disciplined and professional" Soldiers he had seen on his visit and told Dohrmann that it was clear the battle group was "operating on all cylinders."