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(Tribune News Service) — Some 300 members of the Indiana National Guard are headed to Kosovo for a nine-month mission focused on ensuring safety and security for Kosovars living in the former Yugoslavia.

The 38th Infantry Division's 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which includes approximately 20 soldiers from Northwest Indiana, departed Camp Atterbury on Saturday as Task Force Nighthawk and initially stopped in Germany en route to Kosovo.

When they arrive in Kosovo, the task force soldiers will lead Regional Command-East under NATO authority in support of Operation Joint Guardian, a multinational mission that's maintained freedom of movement for all Kosovo citizens since 1999.

"The men and women of this brigade will work to ensure that Kosovo's independence and sovereignty will remain strong, and that our collective goal of independent, multi-ethnic states in society coexisting peacefully in the western Balkans is realized," said Maj. Gen. Dale Lyles, Indiana's adjutant general.

"Our deployment demonstrates America's resolve to defend the sovereignty of free and democratic nations like Kosovo," he added.

The Hoosiers are the 31st rotation of United States military forces based at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.

Troops from Poland, Latvia, Switzerland, Turkey, Slovenia, Greece, Hungary and Italy also are serving in Regional Command-East.

Col. Chris Mabis, leader of Task Force Nighthawk, said during a departure ceremony Friday that the Indiana National Guard soldiers "represent the best the United States has to offer."

"Everyone sitting here is an ambassador of the United States and a representative of the Hoosier State. I can't be prouder of this team," Mabis said.

Mabis also thanked the soldiers' families for allowing their family members to represent Indiana and the United States, and serve people in need, far from home.

"You're a vital part of Task Force Nighthawk, and your job is the most important. Rely on each other and help each other out; that's the strength of our community-based force," Mabis said.

Prior to heading overseas, task force members participated in training at Camp Atterbury, near Indianapolis, on weapons, non-lethal weapons, liaison monitoring, patrol operations, traffic accidents and how to interact with governmental and nongovernmental entities.

(c)2022 The Times (Munster, Ind.)

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The 38th Infantry Division’s 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which includes approximately 20 soldiers from Northwest Indiana, departed Camp Atterbury on Saturday as Task Force Nighthawk and initially stopped in Germany en route to Kosovo.

The 38th Infantry Division’s 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which includes approximately 20 soldiers from Northwest Indiana, departed Camp Atterbury on Saturday as Task Force Nighthawk and initially stopped in Germany en route to Kosovo. (Joshua Syberg/U.S. National Guard)

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