Members of the North Dakota National Guard have begun their tour of duty as part of a multi-national peacekeeping force in Kosovo. Brig. Gen. Alan Dohrman, of the state Guard, took over as commander of the joint operations on Nov. 14. He leads about 2,000 soldiers from 40 states and several countries, including 650 soldiers from North Dakota, on this Kosovo mission.
North Dakota Guard Commander Maj. Gen David Spryczynatyk recently returned from Kosovo, where he visited troops, and reports that members of the Guard are doing well. That allows many families and friends of deployed soldiers a small measure of comfort.
While we take pride in the contributions soldiers from North Dakota make to world peace, we worry about their safety and pray they return unharmed.
This is the largest single deployment of members of the North Dakota National Guard in 50 years.
Peacekeeping forces have been in Kosovo since 1999 and the situation on the ground has become more stable each year. The challenge is to help the people of Kosovo build community infrastructure.
For the people in Kosovo, North Dakota soldiers offer more than peacekeeping. The citizen soldiers from our state represent skills from a large range of crafts and professions, and have experience in helping communities respond to crisis. The North Dakota winter and related spring flooding have given the National Guard plenty of hands-on experience in working with communities building and maintaining schools, utilities and roads.
Sprynczynatyk also visited Djibouti on the Horn of Africa where the Bismarck-based Detachment 42 of the Guard's Operational Support Airlift unit is stationed.
Of the nearly 700 members of the state uard stationed overseas today, about half have served multiple deployments. The nature and the role of the North Dakota National Guard has evolved from primarily an in-state role to one of a global nature.
These soldiers missed Thanksgiving with their families, and they will miss Christmas at home. For that we feel regret. There are a number of programs based in North Dakota that aim to help members of the Guard celebrate the holiday and to make the absence from home at this time of the year less painful. Please, your assistance would be welcome.