29th ID teams up with partners from other states to help train next KFOR rotation

Maryland and Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division provide higher control support to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. The 29th ID Soldiers and stakeholders performed as the KFOR staff during the exercise, serving as subject matter experts, enforcing KFOR orders, systems and procedures, and working with JMRC to help the deploying troops achieve their training objectives. (Courtesy photo)

Maryland and Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division provide higher control support to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. The 29th ID Soldiers and stakeholders performed as the KFOR staff during the exercise, serving as subject matter experts, enforcing KFOR orders, systems and procedures, and working with JMRC to help the deploying troops achieve their training objectives. (Courtesy photo)

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — Virginia and Maryland National Guard Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division traveled to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany in September to assist in the training and validation of more than 1,000 U.S. and international troops preparing to assume their role as Multinational Battle Group- East in Kosovo as part of Kosovo Force (KFOR) 19. They were joined in their efforts by Army National Guard Soldiers from 29th ID stakeholder units from various states.

KFOR is a NATO-led, international peacekeeping force responsible for helping to maintain a safe and secure environment in Kosovo. KFOR consists of two multinational brigades which are ready to react to any threatening situation.

Brig. Gen. William Phillips, the 29th ID Assistant Division Commander - Virginia, speaks with Soldiers preparing to head to Kosovo as part of Kosovo Force 19. Phillips led a group of 29th ID Soldiers, as well as Soldiers from 29th ID stakeholder units from various states, to Germany in September and October to assist in the training and validation of more than 1,000 U.S. and international troops preparing to assume their role as Multinational Battle Group- East in Kosovo as part of KFOR 19. (Courtesy photo)

Brig. Gen. William Phillips, the 29th ID Assistant Division Commander – Virginia, speaks with Soldiers preparing to head to Kosovo as part of Kosovo Force 19. Phillips led a group of 29th ID Soldiers, as well as Soldiers from 29th ID stakeholder units from various states, to Germany in September and October to assist in the training and validation of more than 1,000 U.S. and international troops preparing to assume their role as Multinational Battle Group- East in Kosovo as part of KFOR 19. (Courtesy photo)

During the KFOR mission rehearsal exercise, which ran from Sept. 25 to Oct. 14, the 29th ID-led group provided higher control support to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, from Fort Richardson, Alaska, which rotated into Kosovo immediately following the exercise.

“So we not only fulfilled a training role for KFOR but this also helped with building the 29th as a staff and incorporating our stakeholder units,” said Col. Todd Hubbard, the 29th ID Fires chief.

The 29th ID Soldiers and stakeholders performed as the KFOR staff during the exercise. They served as subject matter experts, enforced KFOR orders, systems and procedures, and worked with JMRC to help the deploying troops achieve their training objectives. They provided the commander of the JMRC Operations Group with real-time situational understanding and visualization of what the training unit was doing. Their presence forced the unit to provide reports and analysis to their higher command, just as they would eventually do for KFOR when they assumed responsibility to MNBG-E.

“This exercise gave us the opportunity to come together as a headquarters and work our staff functions,” explained Hubbard, who served as the KFOR chief of staff during the scenario.

For Hubbard, a highlight was working in a role that was ‘behind the curtain.’

“I was able to see how the exercise was set up and how they controlled the exercise to make sure the unit got the most out of the training,” he explained.

“It’s a different view being on the giving end of training instead of the receiving end,” agreed Sgt. 1st Class Richard Kay, who served as the battle NCO in the Joint Operation Cell, and who deployed to Kosovo with 29th ID as part of KFOR 8 in 2006. “On our rotation (KFOR 8) we were 90% National Guard while I think this rotation (KFOR 19) was 80% active duty. That demonstrates the changes in roles because it used to always be the active duty training up the Guard units.”

Maryland and Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division perform as a NATO staff at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany in October. The 29th ID partners with Army National Guard units in Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Virginia to provide mutual support to major training events and operations. Soldiers from these units traveled to Germany with the 29th ID to help train the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, from Fort Richardson, Alaska, which assumed control of Multinational Battle Group- East in Kosovo as part of Kosovo Force (KFOR) 19. (Courtesy photo)

Maryland and Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division perform as a NATO staff at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany in October. The 29th ID partners with Army National Guard units in Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Virginia to provide mutual support to major training events and operations. Soldiers from these units traveled to Germany with the 29th ID to help train the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, from Fort Richardson, Alaska, which assumed control of Multinational Battle Group- East in Kosovo as part of Kosovo Force (KFOR) 19. (Courtesy photo)

“By us being there, the deploying unit received high quality headquarters support from a trained staff,” said Sgt. Maj. Joel Fix, the senior noncommissioned officer of the 29th ID group.

The 29th ID partners with Army National Guard units in Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Virginia to provide mutual support to major training events and operations. States enter into these arrangements voluntarily in order to build and reinforce relationships and the mission in Germany included representatives from all of the 29th’s stakeholder units.

“It was great to train and work with personnel from our stakeholder units,” said Brig. Gen. William Phillips, the 29th ID Assistant Division Commander – Virginia, who was the senior officer on the trip. “We were able to integrate them into our team and gain experience working together now, rather than in the heat of the battle.”

“It was great bringing division staff and stakeholders together, working with other player units, and having actual boots on the ground,” said Maj. Ross Brashears, director of operations for the Arkansas National Guard’s 142nd Fires Brigade, one of the 29th ID’s stakeholder units. “The human interaction is much better than being in a sterile in environment in a simulation center.”

This was the second time in a row the 29th ID participated in the KFOR mission rehearsal exercise. In January, a group from the 29th ID traveled to Hohenfels to help train and validate the 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade (BfSB), from Fort Hood, Texas. The 4th IBCT, 25th ID replaced the 504th BfSB in Kosovo.

“JMRC was really happy to see us,” said Maj. Jacob Goodine, who served as KFOR chief of operations. “We built on the good work done by the 29th Soldiers on the previous mission. We all got great training and the opportunity to work with coalition partners on a UN mission.”

“It was great to train with the active duty guys and the Hohenfels staff,” Kay said. “They had a lot of high praise for us.”

Meanwhile Phillips praised the JMRC staff for their professionalism.

“They took our advice and input and made changes based on our recommendations,” he said. “They were very professional and there was very seamless coordination between us and them.”

“There are a lot of opportunities to support missions at Hohenfels and we want to go support them so this is a win/win all around,” Fix said.