NEWS | Jan. 4, 2022

29th ID Soldiers who served in Kosovo serve together again in Kuwait

By Maj. Scott Drugo | 29th Infantry Division

It was just over 15 years ago that 12 Soldiers who are presently deployed with the 29th Infantry Division as Task Force Spartan were part of a brigade-sized element that assumed the duties of Task Force Falcon, Kosovo Force 8, Multinational Task Force-East based at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.

These Soldiers were deployed to Kosovo in 2006 to provide a safe and secure environment where both Albanians and Serbians could live while the United Nations administered the mostly Albanian province after a NATO bombing campaign expelled Serbian forces in 1999. Task Force Falcon was made up of 1,500 National Guard Soldiers mostly from Virginia and Massachusetts with smaller elements from 20 other states and Puerto Rico.

The majority of the MNTF-E was made up of infantry Soldiers who did 24-hour operations in the area. The infantry patrolled everything from the large towns to back country roads and mountain trails. There were also eight small Liaison and Monitoring Teams made up of six to 10 Soldiers. Their job was to interact with everyone from local officials to citizens and migrant workers to gather their concerns and report those concerns to the higher headquarters in Pristina, Kosovo. As with any Army organization, there was a large support organization that was comprised of both Soldiers and a native workforce that worked on Camp Bondsteel.

With careers that span more than 15 years, these 12 Soldiers naturally have moved up in rank and taken on higher responsibilities.

“I was the Task Force Red Dragon Supply Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge and putting my Warrant Officer packet together,” said CW4 Douglas Harris. “I requested an endorsement letter from the 29 ID Senior Property Book Officer, CW4 Raymond Bowles, and he asked me what my goal was. I told him that I wanted to have his job one day. Here we are years later, I am now the 29ID Senior Property Book Officer. I tip my hat to CW4 Ray Bowles and thank him for his support.”
 
Being the only U.S. Army representatives in the area and sharing the same camp led to a tight-knit group.

"We had a softball team named The Average Joes which included division Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Jenks and our 60-year-old Chaplain, Lt. Col. William Leone,” said Master Sgt. Brad Staggs. “We had a perfect record of 0-20, which made every team afraid to play us because they didn't want to be the first to lose to us. I think the average age of the team was in the mid-upper 40s."

It was during the KFOR8 rotation that a decision to make Kosovo an independent state from Serbia was scheduled take place. In areas of Kosovo the delayed decisions led Albanian Kosovars, demanding independence, to events of civil unrest, but in the Multinational Task Force East area of operations things were civil. The decision to make Kosovo independent continued to be delayed and the 29th ID was no longer in Kosovo when those decisions were eventually made.

This January the Virginia National Guard’s Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Headquarters will mobilize to take over a similar mission at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.

It was just over 15 years ago that 12 Soldiers who are presently deployed with the 29th Infantry Division as Task Force Spartan were part of a brigade-sized element that assumed the duties of Task Force Falcon, Kosovo Force 8, Multinational Task Force-East based at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.

These Soldiers were deployed to Kosovo in 2006 to provide a safe and secure environment where both Albanians and Serbians could live while the United Nations administered the mostly Albanian province after a NATO bombing campaign expelled Serbian forces in 1999. Task Force Falcon was made up of 1,500 National Guard Soldiers mostly from Virginia and Massachusetts with smaller elements from 20 other states and Puerto Rico.

The majority of the MNTF-E was made up of infantry Soldiers who did 24-hour operations in the area. The infantry patrolled everything from the large towns to back country roads and mountain trails. There were also eight small Liaison and Monitoring Teams made up of six to 10 Soldiers. Their job was to interact with everyone from local officials to citizens and migrant workers to gather their concerns and report those concerns to the higher headquarters in Pristina, Kosovo. As with any Army organization, there was a large support organization that was comprised of both Soldiers and a native workforce that worked on Camp Bondsteel.

With careers that span more than 15 years, these 12 Soldiers naturally have moved up in rank and taken on higher responsibilities.

“I was the Task Force Red Dragon Supply Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge and putting my Warrant Officer packet together,” said CW4 Douglas Harris. “I requested an endorsement letter from the 29 ID Senior Property Book Officer, CW4 Raymond Bowles, and he asked me what my goal was. I told him that I wanted to have his job one day. Here we are years later, I am now the 29ID Senior Property Book Officer. I tip my hat to CW4 Ray Bowles and thank him for his support.”
 
Being the only U.S. Army representatives in the area and sharing the same camp led to a tight-knit group.

"We had a softball team named The Average Joes which included division Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Jenks and our 60-year-old Chaplain, Lt. Col. William Leone,” said Master Sgt. Brad Staggs. “We had a perfect record of 0-20, which made every team afraid to play us because they didn't want to be the first to lose to us. I think the average age of the team was in the mid-upper 40s."

It was during the KFOR8 rotation that a decision to make Kosovo an independent state from Serbia was scheduled take place. In areas of Kosovo the delayed decisions led Albanian Kosovars, demanding independence, to events of civil unrest, but in the Multinational Task Force East area of operations things were civil. The decision to make Kosovo independent continued to be delayed and the 29th ID was no longer in Kosovo when those decisions were eventually made.

This January the Virginia National Guard’s Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Headquarters will mobilize to take over a similar mission at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.

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