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News | Dec. 21, 2020

Iowa National Guard trains with Ukrainian forces

By Zachary Zippe Iowa National Guard

Soldiers with Troop B, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, Iowa Army National Guard, conducted obstacle and barrier removal training with the Ukrainian Freedom of Maneuver Detachment on Dec. 16. Freedom of maneuver training is essential to the mission of Kosovo Force, a NATO-led peacekeeping organization dedicated to stability in the region.

U.S. and Ukrainian troops assigned to KFOR's Regional Command-East remain prepared to maintain a safe and secure environment within Kosovo by being ready to respond to real-world scenarios.

"We worked well together, and it was good training," said Demcheynko Vasyl, a staff officer with the FOMD who helped lead the exercise.

Members of the 1-113th enjoyed the opportunity to work with their international partners.

"They were absolutely a pleasure to work with," said Capt. Dustin Hagemann, a planning officer with the 1-113th assigned to the RC-E Maneuver Battalion. "They do this all the time, so they knew exactly what needed to be done. They assisted in planning and coordinating all the training. It made our job easy."

The FOMD is equipped with a BAT-2 armored tracklayer to remove barriers, and the 1-113th provided security throughout the training exercise.

"The U.S.'s job is to provide the (crowd riot control) portion," said Hagemann. "We also provide protection for the convoy. For instance, when an incident occurs in RC-E, the U.S. or one of the other countries would provide the CRC and the protection to go out and remove the barrier."

The Ukrainian FOMD trains U.S. forces throughout each KFOR rotation. They also train with many other multinational forces that serve in KFOR.

"Any unit that comes in has to go through that training in order to familiarize themselves with how other multinational units conduct freedom-of-maneuver training," said Hagemann.

KFOR is capable of responding to conflicts in Kosovo with over 100 troops on short notice, said Capt. Alexander Keller, commander of Troop B, 1-113th. The Kosovo Police are first responders. If a situation is escalated, then the European Union Rule of Law Mission responds, with KFOR troops only called to respond if absolutely necessary.

"It was a very simple, but very important, portion of what we do here, how we work in partnership with other nations," said Keller. "Integrating the FOMD felt fairly natural. My guys were plenty ready, well briefed, and well prepared. At the end of the day, it's how we integrate the FOMD into our operations in crowd and riot control."

The 1-113th has been training for crowd riot control throughout the past year, starting in Iowa and then in Germany. Now, they have arrived in Kosovo and continue to sharpen their skills.

"They did great," said Sgt. 1st Class Joshua McCaffery, platoon sergeant of 3rd Platoon, Troop B. "Between our training in Germany and our rehearsal beforehand, the mission itself wasn't complicated. The Ukrainians did a good job of letting us know what they wanted from us."