In this article, I would like to discuss my experience with the KFOR8 rotation.
In case you aren’t familiar with the acronyms or the mission, KFOR stands for Kosovo Force.
NATO entered Kosovo in 1999 with their first rotation.
It is currently a peace-keeping mission.
The 8 is for the 8th rotation.
Kosovo is the former Yugoslavia.
I participated in the KFOR8 deployment from July 2006 to November 2007.
Our unit was the famous 29th Infantry Division.
At the time, I was a new member of the Maryland Army National Guard.
We had Soldiers from about 20 different states as part of our Task Force.
We were Multi-National Task Force East, comprised of U.S., Polish and German Soldiers.
I arrived in Kosovo by air and then traveled to Camp Bondsteel by bus sometime around November 2006.
Prior to that, our unit spent time at Camp Atterbury, Indiana with follow on training in Germany, as part of our train up.
My first impression of the base was very positive.
It was like a self-sustaining, small town.
It had everything from a cafeteria, a post office, a gas station, a Burger King, a barber shop, gym, movie theater and several other amenities.
Compared to our previous two bases, it was like an upgrade from Hotel 6 to the Marriott.
Initially, the food was great.
After coming from Germany and Camp Atterbury and having horrible food, it was nice to eat in a nice dining facility.
When I first got there, I put on a few pounds because I ate so much.
To be quite frank with you, I pigged out.
However, after a few months, the food became “boring” because we pretty much had the same meal schedule each week.
All that being said, the dining facility was operated very proficiently by host country nationals.
It was very clean and well organized.
They were very professional and took great pride in their work.
They did the best with what they were given.
Like most other military dining facilities, they had a “fast food” section with burgers, fries and pizza, and they had a traditional meal section with healthier meals.
The dining facility was open 24 hours per day, so you could go in for a late night snack.
They had a section of the dining facility designed to be a “to go” section.
This is where you could get cereal, sandwiches, toast and other things after hours.
To the best of my knowledge there were two dining facilities on Camp Bondsteel.
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Our mission in KFOR8 was to provide a safe and secure environment to the Kosovo people.
I’m not sure if that mission has changed since we left Camp Bondsteel.
I feel that our unit did a good job maintaining the peace.
If anything, our presence helped keep the Serbians and Albanians from killing each other.
Our Task Force had daily patrols, strategic relationships with schools and local politicians, and established a presence in many different towns.
We worked together with the other Task Forces and NATO to conduct our mission throughout the country.
Initially, I started out the deployment as the G4 Plans Officer.
I was a brand new Logistics Captain.
I spent 6-7 months in that position and then transitioned over to run the warehouse, because we had an officer vacancy in the G4 Section.
I definitely enjoyed the warehouse (Supply Support Activity) job much more than my job as a Plans Officer.
As the Warehouse Manager, I had about 50 host country nationals working on my team.
They were competent, professional and very grateful to have a job.
I spent the remainder of the deployment in that position.
What I loved about that job is that I got to travel to Hungary and Macedonia.
It was fun to travel and get away from Camp Bondsteel.
Working with the Kosovo people was great.
They were very friendly, kind and loved the Americans.
They were hard working and were trying to better themselves.
However, I cannot say I “loved” the experience.
There were many slow days.
Sometimes I wondered why we were even there.
Sometimes I even felt like a prisoner being secured within the fences of Camp Bondsteel.
Although the day to day life was mundane, I took the opportunity to earn my Small Business Coach Certification, to write and publish one book and to teach a college class.
My primary goal was to come home safe, with more money, and in a better position than I was when I left.
I am proud to say I accomplished that goal.
The Living Conditions
The living conditions were fine.
When we first arrived at Camp Bondsteel, we lived in metal containers for a few weeks until the outgoing unit went home.
At that point, we moved into cabins.
Each building had 8 rooms.
Each room had 2 to 4 occupants.
Since I was an officer, I only had one other person in the room, a Master Sergeant.
Our rooms had Internet access and air conditioning.
They were comfortable and modest.
I had “just enough” space to be comfortable.
Day to Day Life
My KFOR8 experience definitely wasn’t combat.
In fact, it was far from it.
When we went “outside the wire” we were in full battle rattle, just in case.
But on the base we wore our soft-cap and carried our weapon with us.
We were in country 12 months.
Each day became a groundhog day for me.
Typically, I would work 8:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. five days a week, and then 3-6 hours on Saturday.
We took Sundays off.
I never got burnt out or felt overworked.
The work load was moderate at best.
To fill my free time, I went to the movie theater several times per week, went to the gym daily, did lots of reading, and even wrote a book.
I’m proud to say that I participated in the KFOR8 rotation in Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.
Although my experience there was much different than my tour in Iraq, it gave me a deeper appreciation for my freedoms and way of life here in America.
It validated how good we have it as Americans.
And it helped me realize how much I loved my wife (at that time fiancee).
I wouldn’t go back again, but I’m glad that I went when I did!
If you are (have) deployed to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo in support of one of the KFOR rotations, I would love to hear your story.
Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
I look forward to hearing from you.
If you would like, share your experience in any deployment.