About 330 Iowa soldiers who are serving in Kosovo are said to be safe, despite several days of violent demonstrations from those who oppose Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia. Thursday, Serb rioters stormed and torched the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade.
First Sergeant Duff McFadden is a spokesperson for the Iowa National Guard. He says Lieutenant Colonel Matt Pitstick, who’s in charge of the Iowa soldiers, reported everyone is doing fine. "He told us the Iowans are safe, in good spirits and morale is high," McFadden said. "We immediately sent a message out to the family members of the Kosovo troops to let them know that."
The Iowa soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery are part of a Multinational Task Force, which is responsible for maintaining security in Kosovo. McFadden says they’re located in the southwest portion of the former Yugoslavian province. "It’s approximately 200 miles from where the trouble is in Serbia," McFadden said. "Colonel Pitstick says that things are a little tense, but the area of operations is relatively calm and stable."
McFadden says Pitstick added that he does not anticipate any military action in the area where the Iowans are located. "If it does come to that, they’ve had ample training in crowd riot control procedures," McFadden said. A send-off ceremony for the 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery was held in July of last year. The soldiers are expected to return to Iowa this spring or summer.