Texas guard unit’s training time in Germany prepares them for what may come in Kosovo
Stars and Stripes June 15, 2023
HOHENFELS, Germany — Texas National Guard soldiers who are spending two weeks at an Army training facility in this Bavarian town have seen their upcoming Kosovo mission magnified by a string of violent flare-ups and renewed political hostility.
The 450 troops from the 143rd Infantry Battalion arrived last week at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center to begin preparing to replace counterparts from the Indiana National Guard on a rotation in the increasingly restive Balkan country.
On Wednesday, a combination of American, Italian and Macedonian forces took part in Operation Bronze Shield, an annual event simulating a peaceful protest that devolves into a riot. The goal is to break up the melee and de-escalate without using deadly force.
“We're not exactly replicating the environment as a knee-jerk reaction to things we see in the news,” said Maj. Nick Kane, a battalion-level trainer at the facility. “We try and predict and forecast the most likely environment they will encounter.”
The training comes on the heels of an attack two weeks ago in which three Kosovo Force soldiers were shot and injured by a Serb-led mob armed with guns, grenades, pipes and other weapons.
Several civilians also were injured in the violence, which stemmed from Serb anger over the election of ethnically Albanian mayors in several municipalities.
Wednesday, Kosovo officials claimed that Serbs had kidnapped three police officers, and Serbian media outlets countered that the officers had been arrested while operating on Serbian land.
But despite the instability in Kosovo, Hohenfels trainers can look out for predictable events, such as elections, to prepare incoming troops, Kane said.
“We send personnel to Kosovo between rotations,” he said. “They are able to get the latest trends and get a better sense for the environment.”
During the training, joint forces closed in and broke up a simulated riot outside a municipal building. The rioters, played by the in-house 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment opposing force, used rocks, Molotov cocktails and flash-bang grenades to disrupt the troops.
Medical evacuations of injured personnel were another aspect of the incoming group’s training that recent events have brought to the fore.
“It was a whole new experience; it showed me new ways to operate,” said Staff Sgt. Devin Rodriguez, a squad leader from the 143rd Infantry Battalion.
However, the training won’t stop once they leave Hohenfels next week. More is in store for the Texas-based unit after the soldiers arrive in Kosovo.
The unit will be heading to the Eastern Region of the Country. Primarily focused on providing a safe and secure environment for the people of Kosovo.