HOHENFELS, Germany — Soldiers from the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade have been conducting training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, in preparation for their upcoming NATO deployment to Kosovo.
The 525th BfSB are using their training at JMRC to make their final preparations before taking over Multinational Battle Group-East as a part of KFOR 17. The battle group will be conducting peacekeeping operations to help maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for the people of Kosovo.
Col. David Woods, the 525th BfSB commander who will be taking command of the battle group, said he understands the responsibility that comes with taking command of such a diverse unit.
“I’m humbled,” said Woods. “First of all, just to be selected to command a unit in the United States Army is a privilege and honor to lead American sons and daughters. When you add in other nations, it’s a whole other level of responsibility.“
But integrating these multinational partners has also come with new challenges. The battle group has been learning to overcome differences in equipment, logistics and languages. According to Woods, the key to overcoming these challenges has been communication.
“We are learning here to communicate,” said Woods. “We’re learning here to leverage each other’s specialties against the unique problem set we have in this environment.”
That unique problem set was apparent to U.S. Army Capt. Brian Fitzgerald, the commander for Co. C, 1st Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment. Fitzgerald said the mission may be a challenge, but his Soldiers have embraced the change from the combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan to the peace keeping mission in Kosovo.
“About 60 percent of my company is new to the Army,” said Fitzgerald. “So a lot of people focus on the 10 years of war, but that is a minority of the company. For me, it’s definitely a big change, but it’s good. It’s all about problem solving (and) understanding the human dimension.”
At JMRC, Fitzgerald and his Soldiers have been able to train shoulder-to-shoulder with some of their international partners.
One morning started with crowd and riot control training for U.S. and Armenian soldiers where they learned how to stand their ground and move as a unit with their shields raised. As the trainers and fellow soldiers crashed against their shields, they learned how to either ride the blows or stand their ground.
Later in the day, American and Armenian soldiers moved to a simulated village to polish their skills, with Armenians helping to establish a cordon of the city while U.S. Soldiers spoke with simulated protestors to try to resolve the situation peacefully.
For 1st Sgt. Eugenio Mendoza, the first sergeant for Co. C, 1st Bn., 38th Cav, working with the Armenians was a pleasant surprise.
“The Armenians are real easy to work with,” said Mendoza. “I thought it’d be a bit harder, but their leaders are really good. Their soldiers listen to them well.”
Armenian Capt. Slavik Avitisyan, an observer/controller with the Armenian Peacekeeping Brigade, said training with the Americans was unique yet valuable.
“Working with the Americans is a very good experience,” Avitisyan said. “They do all of the pre-deployment training, and they do it like the real thing.”
Despite the numerous challenges presented with building a multinational unit, Woods said he is confident the training received at JMRC will help prepare them to assume their mission in Kosovo.
“That’s what this exercise has brought together,” said Woods. “It’s built a team, which in turn builds a family.”