My KFOR8 Rotation and Camp Bondsteel Kosovo Experience

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.

The Base

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.

The Food

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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The Mission

Our mission in KFOR8 was to provide a safe and secure environment to the Kosovo people.  Camp Bondsteel

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.

My Job

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.

Once our unit received an Warrant Officer from CONUS, I transitioned to the Bulk Fuels Officer position.

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.

The Experience

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.

kforDay 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Thank you.

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Thanks for Your Service,

Chuck Holmes

SKYPE: mrchuckholmes
(352) 503-4816 home office
Email: chuck@part-time-commander.com

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17 thoughts on “My KFOR8 Rotation and Camp Bondsteel Kosovo Experience

  1. Pingback: The Ricky Chicken Award | Citizen Soldier Resource Center

  2. Cotiaux

    I’m currently at Camp Bondsteel as part of the KFOR20 rotation with 30th HHC ABCT. What you’ve written for KFOR8 can literally describe the situation taking place during KFOR20. Working with multinationals is a great opportunity but 2 weeks in and I’m feeling that Groundhog Day.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: How to Prepare for a Army National Guard Deployment | Citizen Soldier Resource Center

  4. Michael

    Hi Chuck!
    I was google searching info on 59A positions, and ran across your YouTube message. Man, you’re awesome! I recall first meeting you on the KFOR 8 leaders sync. You were talking about writing books and getting active in business. And, here you are! Well done Brother. Great to see everything is working out so well :)
    Best, Michael

    Reply
  5. Mark Dailey

    Chuck, I was on that same deployment, B 1-182 26 ID serving under the command of the 29th ID, we were in north town, But unlike your job we rolled outside everyday, and ran into a whole lot of crazy things, form Albanian and Russian organized crime to radical Islamic fundamentalists groups posing as NGO, also we would do sinc patrols on the ABL with the serbian army guarding the crossing point, we had many a clash with Serbians running our VCP at 4am, it was a wild lawless place in the outside world, I could on and on about what I ran into but end result I loved it every second, and the people were the best.

    Reply
  6. Jeff Ferry

    I was also involved with Kosovo during one of the many earlier wars. I was stuck in western Turkey at an abandoned base so it wasn't exactly a great time. We did end up spending some time at Aviano AB in Italy which was a great place. I only ended up being there a couple of weeks as the cease fire was signed and we were sent home.

    Reply
  7. Candace Ginestar

    I wish I could go to Kosovo, this is one mission I’ve always wanted to do! One of my old aviation FSMTs just came back, and even though I am happy to see them return, it looked like they had a great mission.

    Reply
  8. Paul Smith

    Just read your post, I was the SHRNCO with Task Force Patriot (the Massachusetts boys), pretty much the same experience as you, enjoyed the people and thought we had rewarding experience.

    Reply
  9. Rick

    As a civilian, it is interesting to see behind the scenes of what things are like on deployment. I always imagined the food to be gross, but it’s good to hear that it wasn’t that bad. Sounds like the meals repeat on the roster so there is not a lot of variety. Did you have a favorite meal that was served?

    Reply
  10. Emily

    I am in the present KFOR 15 in what is now called Multinational Battlegroup – East (MNBG-E). We arrived in November 2011. We are the 157th MEB (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) from Milwaukee, WI. There are units that support us from (I apologize to the ones I miss) Vermont, Georgia, North Dakota, North Carolina, Wyoming, and New Jersey.

    Multinational units (Maneuver COYs) that support us are from Poland, Germany, Greece, France, Italy, Turkey, Ukraine, Moracco, among others.

    The Mission

    The MNBG-E mission is to provide a safe and secure environment (SASE) and freedom of movement (FOM) for the people and institutions in Kosovo (IiK) in support of NATO and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

    Training

    Camp Atterbury, Indiana (CAIN) is a closing installation which we did start our Title 10 orders at. We continued through Hohenfels, Germany. They like MILES gear so much they have a statue that wears it.

    MWR

    The effectiveness of any program is based on the command emphasis of said program, and funding. There are are two gyms, volleyball courts, basketball courts, stages, pool tables, entertainers (comedians, musicians) darts (mostly broken), horseshoes, tug-of-war, movies, books, fun runs, tournaments, Bataan Memorial Death March (not to full length), among others, and whatever entertainment you make for yourself. Many individuals and sections have grills and cook out during all seasons.

    The Base

    The amentities haven’t changed much. The installation is “drawing down” in size, function, and financially. All staffs are significantly smaller to include the quantity of Local Nationals that are employed by the government.

    The Food

    Anything is better than the C-Rats they feed you in Hohenfels. CAIN has a newer dining facility (DFAC) that did very well for iteself. The contractors had a variety and it usually tasted good too. Plus, there was the Club that had fast food and breakfast items with extended hours.

    Meals are still on a 28 day schedule with the monthly “special” meal. What we get is dependent on the ability of the food to be refrigerated in transit. We’ve gone lengths of time without chicken, ice cream, and other items.

    Due to a change in contracts the locals went on strike at the DFAC a few months ago. It was all remedied quickly and we only had to eat a few MREs, that is if you didn’t get all you could from the PX and other AAFES dining locations before they ran out.

    R&R

    We will be the last rotation in “theater” long enough to qualify for Rest and Recuperation (R&R) Leave during our tour. Offices must all be open 12 hours a day unless granted an exception to policy. Workloads vary significantly between offices.

    My Job

    Working in a branch immaterial position sometimes feels like you are wasting your time in the job and it isn’t helping your career progression or your development as a young leader.

    Living Conditions

    The living conditions have not changed.

    Social Media and news

    flickr.com/photos/MNBG-E
    facebook.com/KFOR.MNBG.East
    youtube.com/MNBGEast

    Reply
    1. chuckholmes Post author

      Thanks, Emily. This is some really good information about Camp Bondsteel. I guess things really haven’t changed all that much. I hope the rest of your time goes by quickly. Come home safe. And thanks for your service.

      Reply

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