McKinley visits Army Guard helping peace efforts in Balkans

KOSOVO – The National Guard’s support of NATO peacekeeping operations in southeastern Europe is making an important contribution to helping the citizens of Kosovo, said the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Feb. 4.

Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley visited Missouri National Guard Soldiers deployed to Multi-National Task Force East at Camp Bondsteel after walking the streets of downtown Pristina, the capital city.

“I can’t tell you how impressed I was walking through those streets and seeing the faces of the men and women of Kosovo who appreciate what you are doing here,” said McKinley in a town hall meeting.

American forces have conducted peacekeeping operations in Kosovo following Operation Allied Force in 1999. Nearly one year ago the U.S. and other European nations formally recognized Kosovo as an independent nation.

McKinley walked some miles in a presence patrol with the Missouri MPs. He was greeted by Kosovars as he passed markets, shops, and schools.

“It’s a great thing when our leaders come out here to talk to the Soldiers,” said Capt. Shannon Dean Holiday, commander for MNTF Thunder Bravo battery.

Holiday is deployed from Bernard, Mo. He said the Soldiers who make up the American task force serve nine-month deployments. Their missions are to ensure a safe and secure environment and assist in a transition to civil authority.

Missouri Soldiers patrol one of the more populated areas of the American missions in Kosovo. Holiday said they have a great relationship with the Kosovo police forces, which are growing.

“We come from so many walks of life back home, whether you are in education or law enforcement, we can directly relate to some of the same problems they are dealing with,” he said. “That’s one of the great things the Guard brings here.”

The Guard assumed command of MNTF in November 2007. The Missouri Guardmembers will return from their deployment shortly and hand their mission over to citizen-Soldiers from California.

McKinley thanked the those who supported the NATO peacekeeping operations. He also asked them to extend his thanks to their families.

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