The March Upcountry

Moravian security officer serves in the Balkans.

Carol J. Vogler '80, '86 will speak at Baccalaureate.While international attention has been focused on American troops in Iraq, some of our soldiers still are standing watch over a leftover conflict in Europe. The place is Kosovo, where Brandon Kendall of the campus police spent eight months with his reserve unit before he was rotated out this spring and returned to his old job.

Brandon’s photographs show a country of small villages, rough hills, scrubby vegetation. Its people, worn down by war, look the way any European agricultural populace looked about 50 years ago. Yet they, like the Iraqis, are moved by ugly forces unleashed in the 20th century. The Muslim Kosovars, at least, regard Americans as the good guys, but that doesn’t mean it’s a jolly duty station.

An affable stocky guy, Brandon and his unit were part of the Multinational Brigade (East), the American increment of a NATO-sponsored outfit that has kept the peace in Kosovo since 1999. The American sector has about 7,000 troops.

The brigade includes both NATO troops and soldiers from NATO’s Partnership for Peace allies. Multinational Brigade (North), for instance, is a French military police unit under command of a French general, but it also comprises a Danish tank battalion, a unit of armored personnel carriers from the United Arab Emirates, Russian and Belgian troops, and a Jordanian-Moroccan battalion that specializes in medical support for the population.

The American sector supplies the same services with its own troops, weapons, and equipment. Brandon says its work was to set up checkpoints, confiscate weapons from illegal caches, and patrol its area to prevent outbreaks of ethnic violence. It provided medical assistance and brought school supplies to Kosovar children.

The Kosovo conflict actually began in 1989, with the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, but ignited into civil war in 1998, when a guerrilla force from the largely ethnic Albanian population challenged Serbian troops sent by the government of Slobodan Milosevic.

Within a short time, there were more than 1,500 Kosovar casualties, some 400,000 refugees displaced when their homes and crops were destroyed, and evidence of several gruesome incidents of ethnic cleansing. NATO stepped into the situation in 1999 after U.N.-approved bombing strikes that persuaded Milosevic to withdraw his armies.

According to Brandon, the peace is uneasy, punctuated by shooting incidents, weapons discoveries, and inexplicable (to the Americans) outbreaks of ethnic hatred. There were times when he thought he could trust only the half-wild dogs who guarded the church in the nearest town. At least they seemed to consider the American troops their friends.

Brandon is under no illusions that one side or the other in the Kosovar conflict is “right.” He says when the NATO troops leave, ethnic strife will break out anew. He shrugged when it was mentioned that last year’s incoming freshman class had read The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo, with its definite anti-Serb slant. One evening on his rounds at the College, he happened to meet Borko Milosev ’04, an international student from Serbia, and they had a long talk about the Kosovo situation, agreeing that it was nowhere near resolution.

Back at the College, Brandon claims the 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. shift. It helps him coordinate child care with his wife, Barbara, now that they have a 6-month-old girl, Taylor Arwyn.

Brandon Kendall of Multinational Brigade (East) in Kosovo (above), and one of the half-wild dogs who keeps watch over an empty church in a nearby village. Also featured is a soldier with two bear cubs.

July 14, 2004

The March Upcountry
Moravian police officer serves in Kosovo.
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