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NEWS | July 13, 2015

North Carolina brigade takes lead of 20th chapter for US forces in Kosovo

By Story by Sgt. Erick Yates 200th Military Police Command

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – National Guard Soldiers from the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, out of Clinton, North Carolina, took command of the Multinational Battle Group-East from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, stationed out of Fairbanks, Alaska, during a ceremony July 9 at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.

MNBG-E oversees a team of multinational units as part of NATO’s peace support mission in Kosovo, known as KFOR. The 30th ABCT’s assumption of command marks the U.S. Army’s 20th rotation of forces into Kosovo since the late 1990s.

During the ceremony, U.S. Army Col. Clint J. Baker, the 4-25th IBCT (Airborne) commander and a native of Hamilton, Texas, transferred authority of MNBG-E to U.S. Army Col. Vernon Simpson, the 30th ABCT Commander.

Leaving MNBG-E and officially wrapping up the KFOR 19 rotation, the 4-25th IBCT (Airborne) leaves behind a firm foundation for the 30th ABCT to step into. 

“It has been an extremely rewarding nine months,” Baker said. “I can say without reservation that our lives are richer for having had the opportunity to serve in Kosovo.”

As Baker said farewell to the Battle Group’s multinational forces, he also thanked Italian Maj. Gen. Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, the KFOR commanding general, for his support and guidance.

“Gen. Figliuolo, I want to thank you for your superb leadership. Serving in your command has been a positive experience. I have learned more from you than you can imagine,” Baker said.

In his remarks during the ceremony, Figliuolo acknowledged that under Baker’s command, KFOR 19 came to a successful end. He also acknowledged that the 30th ABCT is taking on a good opportunity while significant developments and challenges are occurring in the Kosovo region.

“Today marks an important day for both commanders,” Figliuolo said.

The NATO peacekeeping operation has been maintained over the past 15 years in order to secure stability in the region. Armenian, German, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Slovenian and Turkish, and U.S. soldiers work together to provide a safe and secure environment and ensure freedom of movement for the people of Kosovo.

The multinational troops serving with 4-25th IBCT (Airborne) spent their time in Kosovo focusing on the mission, building relationships with the local community, and conducting multinational training events in order to further strengthen partnerships. On top of remaining ready to respond to any threats to a safe and secure environment, 4-25th IBCT (Airborne) held community relations events in and around Kosovo’s major cities, performed airborne operations across the Balkan horizon, and destroyed more than 200 pounds of recovered explosive hazards alongside Kosovo’s law enforcement agencies.

Figliuolo made note of the strong partnerships that had been built during the previous rotation, and said he looks forward to the many assets the 30th ABCT has brought to MNBG-E to assist in Kosovo’s peace and stability.

The 30th ABCT is a brigade headquarters from the North Carolina National Guard, marking the National Guard’s return to MNBG-E’s leadership after several rotations of active-component Army deployments. Most of the 750 U.S. Army Soldiers now serving with MNBG-E are citizen-Soldiers from the Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, hailing from across the U.S., to include Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

In a press conference before the ceremony, Simpson said these Soldiers are ready to accomplish their KFOR mission.

“It’s an honor to be part of the KFOR mission by leading MNBG-E,” Simpson said. “I look forward to building our relationship over the coming months.” 

Simpson, a 27-year U.S. Army veteran, has spent his military career as an Army National Guard Soldier assigned to the 30th ABCT, to include nine years as an enlisted cannon crew member and forward observer. After joining the officer ranks, he completed a combat deployment to Iraq in 2004, and later spent time as a battalion commander and brigade deputy commander before assuming command of the 30th in 2013. 

“We represent not only NATO and the United States Army, but also the Army National Guard as members of Multinational Battle Group-East. Each of us is looking forward to using the skills and experiences from our military and civilian careers to share ideas and build relationships,” Simpson said.

As a part of the overall KFOR mission, MNBG-E conducts peace support operations in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and the Military Technical Agreement in order to provide a safe and secure environment and allow freedom of movement throughout Kosovo.