The latest chapter of Kosovo's troubles began June 10 when NATO suspended its air campaign following confirmation that the full withdrawal of Yugoslav security forces from Kosovo had begun. The first of NATO's forces for the United Nations mandated international peacekeeping force, Kosovo Force (KFOR), were deployed on June 12.
Army 1st Lieutenant Brad D. Fenske (pictured far right), son of Dallas and Patsy Fenske of Paynesville, is a part of the American contingent of KFOR dubbed Task Force Falcon, responsible for peacekeeping operations in the southeast sector of Kosovo.
The task force is comprised of more than 7,000 soldiers who monitor, verify, and enforce the provisions of the Military Technical Agreement between NATO and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Task Force Falcon soldiers patrol the streets, provide security, and help the Kosovars rebuild after their internal conflict and 77 days of NATO air strikes.
"My job as a military intelligence officer here is to inform the engineer brigade commander, staff, and soldiers I work with about criminal activity that occurs here in Kosovo," said Fenske, a 1992 graduate of Paynesville Area High School and a 1997 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. "I keep them situationally aware of the environment we're working in."
Although it will take a long time for the hatred and vengeance between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo to heal, village life is quickly returning to normal. Small shops have reopened and are stocked with everything from radios and washing machines to the latest fashions that would be right at home in a major department store.
Roads that were once crowded with refugees fleeing the country are now clogged with cars, trucks, and farmers' horse-drawn carts. Deserted schoolyards are now full of active children playing soccer. Once empty cafes are bustling late into the night. The sights and sounds of a country rebuilding fill the crowded streets.
Fenske has seen dramatic changes in the few months since he arrived in Kosovo with his unit from the 1st Infantry Division out of Bamberg, Germany.
"The mission here in Kosovo is extremely important to the people of Kosovo," he said. "We, as Americans, are truly blessed. To be able to help the people here get their lives back together and provide a safe environment is very rewarding. To see changes and improvements here makes you feel good."
To accomplish their mission, the largest single deployment since the Gulf War, U.S. forces are constructing two bases--Camp Bondsteel and Camp Monteith. Camp Bondsteel is steadily rising from former wheat fields near Urosevac and Camp Monteith incorporates a former Serb army post in Gnjilane.
Fenske and his colleagues have been working with Greek, Polish, and Russian soldiers to quell the smoldering tensions between the ethnic Albanians and Serbs. Although the soldiers here know rebuilding the ravaged country won't happen overnight, most have been encouraged by the local nationals' heartfelt smiles and determination to rebuild.
"The majority of the local nationals here are very receptive to the help and security our soldiers are providing," Fenske said. "This is evident by their continual cheers and hand waves as we drive through cities."
Although the old ethnic and religious rivalries of Kosovo don't mean much to the soldiers of Task Force Falcon, accomplishing their mission does. The soldiers here are ready to do whatever it takes to accomplish the difficult, dangerous task of bringing peace back to a country that's been living with war for too long.
(Editor's note: This article was submitted by the Army and Air Force's Hometown News Service.
Fenske is expected to be in Kosovo until at least the middle of December. He should be stationed in Germany for another couple years. His wife, Angie, and their 16-month-old son, Daniel, are in Bamberg.)
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