About 330 Iowa solders got word this week that they’ll be deployed sometime soon to active duty, not in the Iraq war zone, but in Kosovo. National Guard spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Greg Hapgood says while it’s not in the spotlight, that is another critical part of the world where U.S. military presence is helping.
Hapgood says cultural and religious tension exists in Kosovo, and as a province that was part of the former Yugoslavia, it’s been a training ground for terrorists. If we can keep that region stabilized, he says, it might just cut down terrorist in the rest of the world, a major reason why it’s important to the US and its allies.
The main unit from the Iowa Army National Guard is the First battalion, 194th Field Artillery. He says the units from Estherville, Storm Lake, Algona and Fort Dodge, are traditional artillery units, deploying howitzers and doing indirect fire missions, in supporting roles for what the military calls "combat events." But he says Kosovo is a very different type of mission today.
"It is about diplomacy," Hapgood says. "It’s about soldiers reaching out to the people and letting them know that they’re there to help them and to gain the peace and stability that everyone would like to have. It’s really about ambassadorship. It’s not about guns."
Early reports said there was also a Spencer unit among those deployed, but that was incorrect. It’s not yet clear when the unit will begin its active duty, but Hapgood says they’ll do some training in Iowa before leaving, and probably spend about 9 months in Kosovo.