Operation Joint Guardian
Kosovo Force (KFOR)

Tasks and Procedures

The military force had several primary tasks. The first one was to make sure that the routes of entry were safe. That meant demining, taking out booby traps, and taking explosive charges away from bridges. This was done by NATO troops, with some help from Serbs, who had maps of where the mines are. When the troops arrived they first established their own outposts, their headquarters, and camps. They then set up their protective arrangements and began to build their own infrastructure.

Early on there was, through NGOs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, some accounting done of the internally displaced people, their health, malnurichment, and overall status. NATO also began working with NGOs and other groups to begin to rebuild crucial infrastructure required to transport people back, and shelters needed upon their return.

NATO worked with people in the refugee camps to stress that a certain amount of security had to be established before it was safe for them to go back. There also had to be a certain amount of demining work done to ensure their safely. So there was a reasonable, but relatively short, delay before people could be allowed to return. This corresponded with many of the desires being expressed by refugees themselves. The refugees wanted to make sure that Kosovo was stable and secure before they returned home.

Operation Joint Guardian included forces from Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.

  • UK: 12,000 troops, included the commander of the international force, who set up a headquarters in Pristina, and the major part of the British contingent was based in this area.
  • GERMANY: 8,500 troops deployed in the southwest part of Kosovo with the HQ in Prizren. This was the first time after WW II that so many German troops are being deployed somewhere.
  • FRANCE: 7,000 troops were stationed in the western sector with the HQ in Kosovska Mitrovica. The French troops were reinforced with a contingent of 1,200 troops from the United Arab Emirates.
  • ITALY: 2,000 troops were in the western part of Kosovo with the HQ in Pec.
  • RUSSIA: Russia announced that it was preparing up to 10,000 troops to be deployed in the northern part of Kosovo, alongside the French troops, though in fact a much smaller number actually deployed.
  • USA - The United States agreed to provide a force of approximately 7,000 U.S. personnel as part of the NATO KFOR to help maintain a capable military force in Kosovo and to ensure the safe return of Kosovar refugees. The US supported KFOR by providing the headquarters and troops for one of the four NATO sectors. The US also provided personnel, units and equipment to other components of the KFOR organization. The majority of US forces are in southeast Kosovo. The sector headquarters is at Gnjilane. Approximately 4,000 US troops were part of the initial force. This included the 1,900 Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), 1,700 Army troops from Task Force Hawk and 200 soldiers from Germany to set up a headquarters for US forces. Ultimately, there were approximately 7,000 US troops from Germany as a more permanent force.

By late 1999 KFOR had reached its full strength of 50,000 men and women. Nearly 42,500 troops from 28 countries were deployed in Kosovo and another 7,500 provide rear support through contingents based in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in Albania, and in Greece. KFOR contingents were grouped into five multinational brigades. Although brigades were responsible for a specific area of operations, they all fell under a single chain of command under the authority of Commander KFOR. This means that all national contingents pursued the same objective, which was to maintain a secure environment in Kosovo. Approximately one-half of KFOR's total available personnel was directly committed to protection tasks, including protection of the ethnic minorities.

In Kosovo, the US forces were assigned to a sector principally centered around Gnjilane in the eastern portion of Kosovo. The forces within MNB(E) were referred to as Task Force Falcon, and were built around the First Infantry Division's Assault Command Post and 2nd Brigade. The 13th Tactical Group (Russian), 501st Mechanized Infantry Battalion (Greek), 18th Air Assault Battalion (Polish), the 14th Squadron Helicopter Detachment and the 37th Support Company (Ukrainian), a composite platoon from Lithuania, and a composite battalion from the United Arab Emirates completed the Brigade's operational forces. There were 5,500 U.S. service members throughout MNB East, as well as 830 Russian, 559 Polish, 429 Greek, 240 Ukrainian, 30 Lithuanian, and 115 soldiers from the United Arab Emirates.

Keeping the peace in Multinational Brigade East (MNB(E)) was a complex endeavor that encompassed a wide variety of missions, often as diverse as the region's geographic and demographic features. The brigade's soldiers patroled through both cities and hamlets scattered across approximately 2000 square kilometers. The geography within MNB(E) was quite dramatic, encompassing both mountains and open plain. The variations in ethnicity were equally dramatic. While a few towns were comprised exclusively of one ethnic group, some communities included up to five different groups. One of the best examples of this was Gnjilane, a town of nearly 70,000 people that was represented by Albanians, Serbs, Romas, and Turks. This wide variation in both the people and the land provided new challenges for soldiers every day.

As of mid-2000 the US contribution to KFOR in Kosovo was approximately 7,500 US military personnel. This number decreased to approximately 6,000 U.S. military personnel when ongoing troop rotations were completed. In addition, other US military personnel were deployed to other countries in the region to serve in administrative and logistics support roles for the U.S. forces in KFOR. Specifically, approximately 1,000 US military personnel were operating in support of KFOR in Macedonia, Greece, and Albania.

KFOR Contributions

As of 11 June 1999:
Country Current Total Future Total
United Kingdom 7,600 13,000
Germany 4,200 8,500
United States ~1,800 7,000
France 3,100 7,000
Italy 2,300
Others 600 11,000

Task Force Falcon was formed Feb. 5, 1999, when the 1st Infantry Division(ID) was notified of a possible deployment to conduct peace support operations in Kosovo. The task force, after conducting a command post exercise and a mission rehearsal exercise during February and March, was declared mission-ready and deployed a command and control element forward to Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia. Following the signing of the Military Technical Agreement(MTA) on June 9, 1999, Task Force Falcon deployed forces from Central Region in the largest combined air-rail-sea-road movement since Operation Desert Storm. Task Force Falcon advance elements entered Kosovo on June 12, 1999, as part of Operation Joint Guardian, a NATO-led peacekeeping force. The Task Force Falcon headquarters was operational at the future Camp Bondsteel on June 16, 1999.

Forces from the U.S. and Greece composed the Initial Entry Force(IEF), with the headquarters built around the assault command post from the 1st ID and the Big Red One's Schweinfurt-based 2nd ("Dagger") Brigade Combat Team(2nd BCT). Operating under the command and control of Joint Task Force Noble Anvil and the Operational Control of KFOR, the IEF consisted of forces from the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment from Fort Bragg, N.C; the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejune, N.C.; the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment from Schweinfurt Germany, Echo Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment, also from Schweinfurt, Germany; and the 501st Mechanized Infantry Battalion from Greece. Task Force 12, built around the 12th Aviation Group from Wiesbaden, Germany, and the 16th Corps Support Group from Hanau, Germany supported operations from Camp Able Sentry.

As the VJ/MUP forces redeployed out of Kosovo in accordance with the MTA, Task Force Falcon soldiers, airmen and marines monitored their withdrawal and ensured compliance with the agreement. Withdrawal was completed on 20 June , and the focus of operations shifted to enforce the undertaking of demilitarization and transformation of the UCK, which was signed on 21 June. Additional forces arrived from Central Region, principal elements of the BRO's 2nd BCT from Schweinfurt, Germany, including the 1st Battalion, 77th Armor, the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery, the 9th Engineer Battalion, and the 299th Forward Support Battalion. Other major units were the 94th Engineer Battalion from Vilseck, Germany and the 18th Air Assault Battalion from Poland. On July 10, the 1st Bn, 26th Inf. Regt. conducted a relief in place to allow the 26th MEU to re-deploy. Throughout the next week, both the 1st Bn., 77th Armor and the 18th Air Assault Battalion relieved the 2nd Bn., 505th Parachute Inf. Regt. of portions of its sector. The 13th Russian Tactical Group relieved the 1 Bn., 26th Inf. Regt. of portions of its sector on July 28 and the 2nd Bn., 1st Avn. from Katterbach, Germany, relieved Task Force 12 on Aug. 2.

In September 1999, 2nd Bn. 505th Parachute Inf. Regt., re-deployed to the U.S. and was replaced by a sister battalion, the 3rd Bn. 504th Parachute Inf. Regt. Recognizing a need in October to increase the available combat power in the vicinity of Gnjilane, the leadership of Task Force Falcon reorganized the battalion task force sectors in the MNB(E) area of responsibility. The 501st Mechanized Greek Battalion assumed a larger portion of the Urosevac Opstina, which enabled 3rd Bn. 504th Parachute Inf. Regt. to enlarge their sector to include the Vitina Opstina. Task Force 1st Bn.-77th Armor then conducted a relief in place with Task Force 1st Bn. 26th Infantry and assumed responsibility for the Opstina of Novo Brdo and the northern half of the Gnjilane Opstina. This enabled Task Force 1st Bn. 26th Inf. to concentrate their force in the southern half of the Opstina.

Following months of deliberate planning and detailed rehearsals, KFOR 1B built around the 3rd BCT from the 1st Inf. Div., conducted relief in place operations and assumed responsibility for the MNB(E) area of responsibility on December 12. The transition saw Task Force 1 Bn., 63rd, Armor replace Task Force 1st Bn., 77th, Armor and Task Force 2nd Bn., 2nd Infantry fell in on what was Task Force 1st Bn., 26th Infantry's sector in southern Gnjilane. During this same period, Task Force 1st Bn., 1st Aviation relieved Task Force 2nd Bn., 1st Aviation, 1st Bn. 6th , Field Artillery Battalion replaced 1 Bn. 7th FA, and the 201st FSB replaced the 299th FSB. Also on Dec. 12, as part of the transfer of authority ceremony, Brig. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez assumed command of MNB(E) from Brig. Gen. Craig Peterson. Task Force Falcon continued to conduct Peace Operations in Kosovo in support of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 under the Operational Control of the NATO-led KFOR, to ensure a safe and secure environment is maintained to enable the establishment of a stable society. The Falcon, a well-trained and equipped multinational force of allies, remained ever vigilant and ready to act with all means available to successfully carry out its peacekeeping mission.

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