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Column: Vt. Guard soldiers arrive in Kosovo

To the Valley News
Published: 7/23/2021 12:31:46 PM
Modified: 7/23/2021 12:31:54 PM

Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Greetings from Kosovo! After spending about two weeks at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, soldiers mainly from the Vermont National Guard once again packed up and moved out. We give a huge “thank you” to the full-time staff in Hohenfels for all their help preparing us for our mission in Kosovo.

As we took the beautiful bus ride back to Nuremberg, Germany, we realized we were ready to fly to Pristina, Kosovo, for our Kosovo Force (KFOR) 29 mission.

Upon arrival to Pristina, we left the plane and walked single-file across the tarmac into the welcome center. In this moment, it finally hit me that we had arrived for a mission we had prepared over a year for. After a quick break, all the bags were loaded up and we got onto a bus and headed out. Vermont soldiers are in a number of locations across Kosovo, including Camp Bondsteel, where we are now.

There was an expectation that Kosovo’s climate would be similar to that of Vermont. Instead, we were hit with humidity and an unrelenting sun, better compared to the southeastern United States, or Vermont on one of its hottest, clearest summer days. During the bus ride, we passed through populated areas, by active farms being watered with irrigation systems, restaurants with an American name and focus, and others with local dishes. There are vegetable stands and lots of construction projects throughout the area.

We arrived at Camp Bondsteel after a 40-minute drive. Looming over the camp is Mount Ljunoten, or “Big Duke,” with its high, jagged peaks that reach 8,196 feet. Standing at the top of a hill by the track, you get a 360-degree view of Camp Bondsteel and the surrounding area. Through a constant haze, you can see clusters of white buildings with red clay roofs nestled in the valley. The surrounding fields are rectangles of gold, like wheat, and lush green.

Our bags were unloaded between one of the many rows of barracks buildings while we stood in line for room keys and schedules. Everyone grabbed their gear, found their rooms and began to settle in. The rooms are either a small single or a larger room that can fit up to four soldiers. Provided in the rooms are beds, a fridge, wall lockers and desks.

At the bottom of the barracks buildings and the open fields to the south toward Mount Duke is the heart of Camp Bondsteel. There are volleyball courts, soccer and softball games, pingpong, fitness facilities and the Morale Welfare and Recreational building that hosts events helping soldiers unwind.

After settling in, we connected with our counterparts from KFOR28 and started to learn the ropes. They signed over office keys, showed us where to bring vehicles for maintenance, went over policies and procedures and showed us products from their rotation, so we could set our expectations. They provided details and information to ensure we hit the ground running.

We are excited and ready to begin our rotation. We will provide similar updates throughout our deployment, and you can always follow us on Facebook @172PAD, @86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team-Mountain and @KFOR Regional Command East.

Put the Vermonters ahead!

Sgt. Gloria Kamencik serves with the Colchester, Vt.-based 172nd Public Affairs Detachment of the Vermont Army National Guard.

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