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Kosovo a revealing experience for Guardsmen

By Staff | Oct 17, 2008

Kosovo may not be quite on the other side of the world but it could just as well be, considering the difference in culture.

Staff Sgt. Jeff Blum told Estherville Rotarians Thursday about the local Guard unit’s Kosovo deployment. Guard members returned this past July 11 after a one-year deployment as part of a multi-national peacekeeping force.

Sgt. Blum said Kosovo is about the size of New Hampshire. During their deployment, two platoons of Guardsmen served 1,500 mission, driving 75,000 miles.

Their mission was to ensure freedom of movement and to continue their military training. The 1,600 Americans at the base where the Guardsmen were stationed included a variety of people serving in many capacities.

The Guardsmen left Estherville a year ago July and spent their first 60 days in Indiana before going to Germany then to Kosovo.

During his presentation, Sgt. Blum showed a number of photos of the people of Kosovo, a land of contrasts with the very rich and very poor. Some of the photos he showed included children in a mountain village who were very glad for the toys and other gifts the Guardsmen gave them. He described how primitive conditions were, with animals living in the lower level of buildings and people above who stayed warm from the livestock below.

There were tense moments, too, when some of the Guardsmen helped with riot control during Serbian demonstrations.