Story by Pfc. Nevada J. Smith
California National Guard
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo (5/19/09) -- Imagine a life in which you lived in fear of bombs falling from the sky and mines littering the ground. You would not feel very safe and would constantly worry about your home and family.
A decade ago, the people of Kosovo had these worries. That was why KFOR Soldiers placed Hercules Engineering Solutions Consortium (HESCO) barriers at the Kamenica Cultural Center in Kamenica/Kamenice, Kosovo.
Throughout Kosovo, HESCO barriers can still be seen placed around important government and cultural buildings. Now, in a safer and more secure environment, California Army National Guard Soldiers with KFOR 11 are working to remove those same barriers.
“The fact that we are taking them down is a step in the right direction,” said 1st Lt. Jonathan Key, the officer-in-charge of the LMTs operating in Kamenica. “It’s showing the community that things are much safer than they were 10 years ago and we no longer need barriers to protect the buildings.”
In late April, Soldiers with 1-184th Infantry Battalion, based in Modesto, Calif., also known as Task Force Nightstalker and a California Guard Liaison Monitoring Team (LMT) based in Sacramento participated in a mission to help clean up the Kamenica Cultural Center.
The cultural center had several large HESCO barriers that were getting in the way of Kamenica citizens who use the center.
“Now that they are no longer necessary, the community asked us to make the cultural center look more pleasant,” said Key, who added that the HESCO barriers were installed to protect the cultural center from bombs or air attacks.
Assisting the people of Kosovo is an important job for the KFOR Soldiers and the removal of the HESCO barriers was a top priority.
“It was important that we take down these HESCO barriers,” said Key. “It shows the community that we are here to help out and create a safe and secure environment.”
For many, the HESCO barriers served as a reminder of a more dangerous time. “After 10 years, it’s a nice feeling for the Kamenica/Kamenice citizens to see the barriers go,” Key said.
Helping the community does not just involve cleaning up the cultural center.
“We have other projects to help the community,” said Key, “Just last week, we cleaned up the city for earth day. We’re planning for another cleanup in the summer.”
The KFOR Soldiers are always striving to host events that will bring people together, especially at the cultural center.
“A main goal for us is creating events to bring Serbian, Albanian, Romanian and others together,” said Key. “It’s important for us, especially if we can get the kids together.”