Interview with Capt. Jace Rivard, KFOR Regional Command East Public Affairs Officer, conducted by Editor in Chief

Sir, we are very grateful to have this special occasion with you. Thank you for accepting the invitation. 

Q 1: The United States has been continuously supporting Kosovo by all means of political, diplomatic, economic assistance as well as military contributions in the multinational NATO-led KFOR mission. Could you give us the posture of the U.S troops in this mission at the current time?

U.S. Soldiers in Kosovo are currently supporting NATO’s KFOR Regional Command – East which is one of two regional commands postured beneath KFOR higher headquarters. The mission continues to be ensuring a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo.

And what battalions, National Guards, Army Reserve, and Active Duty are parts of this mission?

KFOR Regional Command-East is currently led by Commander, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), Col. Brey Hopkins. The Brigade Headquarters is from the Vermont Army National Guard and is currently deployed to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. The aviation Task Force supporting KFOR RC-E at Camp Bondsteel from its normal headquarters in Connecticut and is constructed of units of 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, with the Connecticut, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico and Maryland Army National Guard. The KFOR RC-E Maneuver Battalion is led by Commander, 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry Regiment (Mountain), Maj. Zach Fike. This Vermont headquartered unit is currently deployed to Camp Novo Selo and Camp Nothing Hill in Kosovo.  There are a multitude of enabling units to include an Active Duty medical support company from Fort Bragg, N.C. as well as a detachment from the 29th Military Police Company with the Maryland Army National Guard.

Q 2: One of the crucial exercises of KFOR since 2012 has been the annual exercise ‘Silver Sabre’. In what areas of training this exercise places its objectives?

KFOR conducts the annual Silver Sabre exercise in conjunction with Institutions in Kosovo (IiK) to include the Kosovo Security Organizations with the aim of testing and training in the area of emergency response. Recently KFOR has taken a step back and allowed the Iik to plan their own emergency response exercise and publicly display their capabilities as KFOR helps train and coach.

And what role and contribution has the U.S Army in this multinational military event?

KFOR Regional Command-East assists with the event as advisors and coaches while the Institutions in Kosovo and Kosovo Security Organizations plan and execute Silver Sabre.

Q 3: The U.S Army and National Guard have been also leading the demolition Operations and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) in Kosovo. How important do you see and assess the efforts invested in these crucial areas?

Since the inception of Kosovo Force (KFOR) in 1999, the U.S. and multinational partners have provided EOD support to Kosovo. Over the last 20 years great strides have been made to ensure Institutions in Kosovo have the capability to manage calls for unexploded ordnance (UXO) and during our deployment we’ve witnessed the local institutions capable of handling calls for UXO on their own with oversight by our KFOR Regional Command-East EOD personnel.

Q 4: In early July this year, Vermont National Guard was deployed to Kosovo and since then it has been a key component of the KFOR. Could you tell us in what missions, tasks, and operations the Vermont NG is participating during this deployment?

Our mission under NATO KFOR is derived from the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 from 1999, to provide a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo. We continue to provide support when needed to the local institutions through regular patrols along the Administrative Boundary Line between Kosovo and Serbia as well as Liaison Monitoring Team patrols amongst the population to gain atmospherics and situation awareness. 

Additional: ‘SILVER SABRE’ – KFOR Exercise on Emergency Response Restarts, NATO 

KFOR soldiers test readiness at Silver Saber, U.S Army

News from:  U.S KFOR Regional Command East

KFOR Regional Command East Religious Support Teams                              NATO-KFOR

Acknowledgments: Image 1: Members of Kosovo Force Regional Command-East from Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the United States, in multinational training ‘Combat Lifesaver Course’ hosted by the U.S. Army KFOR 29 Soldiers, Medical team of Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry Regiment (Mountain), Vermont Army National Guard. Camp Novo Selo Kosovo, Aug. 19, 2021. Image ©U.S Army/2nd Lt. Isabelle Motley. The Interview is subject to Copyright Law.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit by U.S Army Chaplain KFOR Regional Command – East

                                         Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit                                                                                        By: U.S. Army Chaplain (Maj.) Eric Stuepfert, KFOR Regional Command – East Chaplain.

            The trees are beginning to turn.  It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year, even for the locals.  Just weeks ago, the rolling mountains stood tall, covered in green as far as your eyes could see.  As a Vermont Green Mountain Boy, you’d think I’d be used to this by now.  The difference this year, is that I’m not in Vermont.  The 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) is currently deployed to Kosovo on a NATO peacekeeping mission named Kosovo Force or KFOR. 

 As a Chaplain, I have had the great pleasure of meeting many of the religious leaders throughout Regional Command East and have been able to observe many of the religious traditions and customs found within Kosovo.  I have visited historic sites that I read about as a child, and have seen the magnificent architecture of churches and mosques throughout the Balkans.  Recently I had the privilege of speaking at the Kosovo Center for Peace in Pristina. 

In the speech, I stressed the words found in America’s Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[1]

            Kosovo has a long history, and much of that history influences today.  Like Americans, the people of Kosovo are deeply influenced by their ethnic and religious heritages.  Like Americans, one generation informs the next generation about the past, both the challenges and the successes.  As I travel around and interact with Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbians, I see and hear this firsthand.  I have also seen the principles and values of America’s Declaration expressed.  For a people with so much history, it gives me hope to hear the ideas of liberty and respect being communicated around the dinner tables.  The belief that all men and women are created equal by their Creator and therefore have certain rights that transcend ethnic, religious, and historical boundaries is foundational to the respect that the people of Kosovo desire and deserve, both from the international community and with one another.  The more that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be on the hearts and minds of the people of Kosovo, the more the challenges of the past can be overcome through mutual respect and cooperation.

            In the future, a Kosovar may stand on top of one of their mountains that are covered in green trees.  While gazing around at the beautiful landscape God has given them, they may think that they too are in Vermont, like I myself do.  But this won’t be because of the mountains rising through the morning clouds or the green lush trees, but because of the freedoms they enjoy.  May God bless them as they strive for liberty, and may God help the United States be an example to Kosovars and others throughout the world, as we live out the principles and values found in our Declaration. 

[1] https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

Additional: An exclusive interview with MAJ. Sam K. Otto, Spokesperson of the Public Affairs, U.S. Army KFOR Regional Command East.  

News from:  KFOR Regional Command East Religious Support Teams                                          NATO-KFOR                               NATO    

Acknowledgments: Image of U.S. Army Maj. Eric Stuepfert, Chaplain of Regional Command – East KFOR29, and Imam Labinot S. Maliqi, Executive Director – Kosovo Center for Peace, lead a prayer luncheon on Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. October 5th 2021 ©KFOR Regional Command East/KFOR Regional Command East Religious Support Team.  The Article is copyrighted material

Special Edition Interview with NATO Allied Air Command

Interview with the NATO Air Command Spokesman conducted by Editor in Chief 

Sir, we are delighted to have the occasion of this interview with you. Thank you very much indeed for accepting our invitation.

Q: 1 Could you please tell us about the historical formation and the current architecture of NATO Air Command. 

  NATO Air Command spokesman: Headquarters Allied Air Command is located at Ramstein, Germany, within Ramstein Air Force Base, which has been home to a NATO Airpower headquarters since 1974. The headquarters is responsible for planning, exercising and executing Integrated Air and Missile Defence Operations within NATO’s European area of responsibility from peacetime through to conflict. The Headquarters includes the Operations Centre for Air Policing, Ballistic Missile Defence and operational control of NATO’s Airborne Early Warning and Control Force as well as for NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force. The Headquarters can also host a Joint Force Air Component to command and control allied air operations during crisis and conflict. More than five hundred dedicated military and civilian personnel, increasing to some 620 in support of the adapted structure, serve at the Headquarters, representing 25 NATO member nations. The staff is permanently augmented by representatives from three of NATO’s partner nations, Sweden, Finland and Azerbaijan. Subordinate units to the Headquarters are the two Combined Air Operations Centres at Uedem, Germany and Torrejón, Spain as well as the Deployable Air Command and Control Centre at Poggio Renatico, Italy.

Q: 2 One of the pivotal missions of NATO Air COM is to protect the Alliance’s fifth domain, by coordinating and supporting Allied space activities.  

Could you provide us an overview of this mission and what it entails?

NATO Air Command spokesman: NATO Air Power’s core purpose is and always will be the control and exploitation of the air domain to deliver a military effect for the Alliance. While this fundamental purpose is enduring, the capabilities brought to bear are constantly evolving. Modern Aircraft are the latest manifestation of this continuing evolution. These Modern Aircraft with their unique combination of low observable signature, multi-spectral fused sensors, unmatched speed and maneuverability as well as advanced logistics support take NATO Airpower to an entirely new level. When integrated with the Alliances existing fleets, these advanced machines provide NATO with a distinct advantage over any potential adversaries for the foreseeable future.

Q: 3  Could you please comment on the role played by NATO Air Command in maintaining peace, security, and stability in Europe and beyond?

NATO Air Command spokesman: The airspace over Europe sees an average of about 35,000 air movements per day, making it one of the busiest airspaces in the world. Any aircraft flying inside or approaching European NATO airspace that are unidentified, either through loss or intentional omission of communication with Air Traffic Control creates an unsafe environment, which could lead to an air incident.

NATO ensures the integrity, safety and security of its airspace by maintaining a 24/7/365 Air Policing mission, overseen by Allied Air Command.

In December 2019, NATO Heads of State and Government declared space as the Alliance’s “fifth domain” of operations, alongside land, sea, air and cyberspace. NATO Defence Ministers subsequently agreed to the creation of a space centre at NATO’s Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany during a meeting in October 2020.

Q: 4 In mid-July NATO Air and Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) had a joint exercise in the Black Sea in the framework of enhancing joint cooperation. 

What was the main strategic interest that formulated the combined cooperation as an essential aim?

NATO Air Command spokesman: NATO Allies frequently integrate Allied Air and Maritime assets to improve interoperability, build trust and enhance readiness in the Black Sea region during combined joint training events. The activities on July 2 underlined the Allies’ commitment to collective defence and to maintain peace and preserve security in this region both at sea and in the air.

Q: 5 This year’s annual exercise ‘BALTOPS50’ conducted June 16-18, involved the participation of 18 Armed Forces components of NATO member and partner nations. 

Could you detail the specific operational contribution of NATO Air Power in this exercise? 

NATO Air Command spokesman: During the maritime-focused exercise BALTOPS 50, NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Germany, is responsible for planning, coordinating and controlling Allied air forces. For several years now, Allied Air Command has entrusted NATO’s northern CAOC at Uedem with planning and executing air command and control of air activities during the BALTOPS exercise series. Participants in this multinational exercise create and sustain partnerships and practice a broad range of mission areas to strengthen the capabilities of the participating naval and air units. More importantly, this exercise strengthens their ability to operate as a cohesive joint and combined force and respond to emerging crisis.

Additional news: NATO holds Air Defence Exercise in the Black Sea

Acknowledgments: Image of NATO Air Command HQ ©NATO Allied Air Command, NATO HQ Aircom 23/Cynthia Vernat, HQ Aircom PAO, January 15, 2016. The Interview is subject to Copyright Law. 

NATO’s Support in the evacuation and relocation of Afghans

NATO is supporting the evacuation and relocation of Afghans. Elements of the NATO Response Force (NRF), commanded by Admiral Robert P. Burke (US Navy), are leading the operation and providing care, security, processing and accommodation for the Afghan evacuees.   

The NRF has robust command and control capability, ideal for a mission of this size and complexity. It provides collective defence and a rapid military response in times of crisis, but it can also perform peace-support operations, provide protection to critical infrastructure, and support disaster relief. The NRF is regularly exercised, for instance during exercise Steadfast Defender 21 earlier this year, exercise Noble Jump 19 and exercise Trident Juncture 18.    

The core element of the NRF in this operation is the Joint Logistics Support Group Naples (JLSG) that forms Task Force Noble.

More than 20 Allied nations are contributing, providing transportation aircraft, construction equipment, ambulances, medical teams, civil affairs teams and security personnel.

Around 300 NRF troops are deployed in temporary locations hosting Afghan evacuees. We are working closely with Poland and institutions in Kosovo, who have agreed to temporarily host the evacuees.  There are also hundreds of NATO personnel supporting the operation from our commands and headquarters. For instance, NATO’s Allied Air Command, based in Ramstein, Germany, has been critical to this effort, providing transportation aircraft and crews.  

We are committed to ensure a safe and compassionate transfer of the Afghan evacuees, through a series of temporary locations and on to resettlement. It is a huge effort, and Allies and partners are coming together to make it happen as quickly as possible. At this point, it is too soon to know how long the operation will take.

By NATO military official September 2021 (Copyrighted material)

Additional: NATO Staffs work together to help Afghan refugees in Spain

U.S. Army in Atlantic Resolve

Discover the U.S Army’s support and commitment to Atlantic Resolve and NATO allies. 
News from: U.S KFOR Regional Command East                  NATO-KFOR

Special Edition, Interview with U.S. Army Europe and Africa Spokesperson (Series-4)

Special Edition, Interview with the U.S. Army Europe and Africa Spokesperson              (Series-4) conducted by Editor in Chief 


Sir, it is a great honor to have you with us in this interview. Thank you for accepting the invitation. 


Q: 1 Defender Europe 2021 has reached its final phase.

  • Please provide us a brief overview of the goals achieved and the challenges overcome during this exercise?

The U.S. Army Europe and Africa Spokesperson: Yes, U.S. forces are in the process of redeploying to the United States as DEFENDER-Europe 21 activities across Europe come to a close.

DEFENDER-Europe is an annual large-scale U.S. Army Europe and Africa-led, multinational, joint exercise designed to build strategic and operational readiness and interoperability between U.S., NATO allies and partners.

U.S., NATO allies and partners worked together throughout DEFENDER-Europe 21 to build readiness, enhance interoperability, and strengthen relationships. More than 28,000 multinational forces from 26 nations conducted nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in a dozen countries.

“Interoperability is key to alliance readiness. DEFENDER-Europe 21 is evidence of the ironclad U.S. commitment to NATO, is a prime example of our collective capabilities, and demonstrates that NATO allies and partners are stronger together,” said Gen. Christopher Cavoli, U.S. Army Europe and Africa commanding general.

DEFENDER-Europe 21 concluded with the redeployment of U.S.-based forces and equipment. Strategic readiness includes the ability of the U.S. military to dynamically project force and set the theater by mobilizing and deploying forces, sustaining them in a crisis and redeploying them when their mission is complete. U.S. service members will now clear the training areas, return prepositioned stocks, move to ports and return to home stations.

The large-scale movement of troops and equipment for these exercises involve extensive support from each of the twelve host nations.

“We owe a great thanks to the host nations, their citizens and governments, and the participating units for their hard work and steadfast support throughout the exercise, said Cavoli. “This was an extremely complex exercise with activity going on across the theater at many different locations almost simultaneously. The coordination and cooperation required for DEFENDER demonstrate our allies ally and partner commitment to European military readiness and interoperability. And, to the various units throughout DoD that made DEFENDER successful, thank you for your participation and dedication to mission success.”

Throughout the exercise, U.S. forces demonstrated their ability to successfully train in a COVID environment. Critical to this success was the detailed planning, and the strict COVID prevention and mitigation strategy implemented by U.S. and participating nations. As the U.S. military members redeploy, they will continue to follow host nation requirements, as they did when entering Europe and during training.

DEFENDER-Europe 21 encompassed several linked exercises. Linked exercises shared coordinated mission command, mutual sustainment and a mission partner environment. Exercises linked to DEFENDER-Europe 21 included Immediate Response, Swift Response, Saber Guardian and a Command Post Exercise.

Q: 2 The area of responsibility of U.S. Army Europe and Africa covers also the African continent encompassing 54 countries. The African Land Forces Summit (ALFS), inaugurated in Washington DC in 2010, has been an important annual event since with the U.S. military officials’ participation. This year the ALFS was held on May 19th and virtually-hosted by the U.S. Army.

  • Could you speak about the overall theme of this year’s summit?
  • And how can this event assist the U.S. Army Europe and Africa to develop stronger partnerships with African nations’ armed forces?

The U.S. Army Europe and Africa Spokesperson: The 9th annual African Land Forces Summit, held virtually May 19, was themed “Maintaining security in a degraded environment.” The summit highlighted COVID-19-related challenges within the operational environment and encouraged dialogue to address military pandemic responses, as well as the pandemic’s effects on current and future operations.

Following opening remarks from the Southern European Task Force – Africa commander, Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Rohling, the attendees, including 35 African land forces commanders, participated in one of four regionally-focused sessions on a virtual platform.

Each session opened with recorded speeches from Gen. James C. McConville, the U.S. Army chief of staff; Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the U.S. Africa Command commander; and Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, U.S. Army Europe and Africa commanding general. Session participants then engaged in moderated discussion, which included prepared remarks from land forces leaders from the region, on topics related to the event theme.

In their remarks, McConville, Townsend, Cavoli and Rohling each emphasized that while the global pandemic has impacted the way ahead for operations, it has not diminished the U.S. Army’s commitment to supporting its African partners in ensuring peace and stability on the continent and throughout the world.

Q: 3 NATO’s annual Exercise Steadfast Defender 2021 began on May 12 and will continue until June 22, with component maritime, land, and rapid reaction dimensions.

  • How do you see the participation of the U.S. Army Europe and Africa in this exercise, and the associated benefits for the strong U.S-NATO relations?

The U.S. Army Europe and Africa Spokesperson: For seven decades, the bond between Europe and North America has made NATO the strongest alliance in history. This bond guarantees our prosperity and security, and allows us to live our lives in freedom.

Like every year, a number of multinational exercises took place in Central and Eastern Europe this Spring. For reasons of efficiency, interoperability and costs, some of these have linked scenarios.

Steadfast Defender was a new series of NATO exercises focused on the transatlantic reinforcement of Europe and demonstrated NATO’s ability to respond rapidly to the full spectrum of threats. As part of Steadfast Defender, NATO troops participated in the DEFNDER-Europe 21 Command Post Exercise in Germany this May. The Command Post Exercise, included approximately 1,500 personnel from U.S. Army Europe and Africa, including V Corps, and NATO’s recently established Multinational Corps Southeast in Romania. The command post exercise demonstrated U.S. capacity to conduct division-level offensive operations in a multinational environment. This computer-assisted exercise simulated a response-based scenario related to declaration of NATO’s Article V.

Q: 4 What other exercises are planned in the second part of this year?

The U.S. Army Europe and Africa Spokesperson: U.S. Army Europe and Africa provides ready, combat-credible land forces to deter, and, if necessary, defeat aggression from any potential adversary in Europe and Africa. One way that U.S. Army Europe and Africa achieves this is through our exercise program, which builds readiness, enhances interoperability and strengthens relationships by providing a joint, multinational environment to prepare allies and partners to train as they fight.

A few exercises that U.S. Army Europe and Africa is scheduled to participate in later this year include:

-Agile Spirit, Georgia: Agile Spirit 2021 is a joint, multinational exercise co-led by the Georgian Defense Forces and U.S. Army Europe and Africa. The brigade-level exercise will incorporate a command post exercise, field training and joint multinational live fires.

-Justified Accord 21, Kenya: Southern European Task Force – Africa, alongside other participants, will conduct a Command Post Exercise.

-Rapid Trident 21, Ukraine: Rapid Trident 21 is the final training phase, or culminating event, of an intense and realistic annual training exercise to prepare Ukrainian Land Force units for the challenges of real world situations and deployments.

Q: 5 In each interview we focus on the importance of one special U.S-European military partnership. This time our subject matter is Denmark.

In early June the U.S. Army National Guard’s 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team arrived in Denmark to begin its rotational deployment to Europe in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence. The U.S. Army Europe and Africa announced: “….The operation reflects the ability of U.S. and Danish military forces to execute a complex logistics and transportation equipment movement on this scale.”

  • Could you give your views on the enduring partnership between the U.S. Army Europe and Africa and the Danish Armed-Forces?

The U.S. Army Europe and Africa Spokesperson: The Kingdom of Denmark and the United States have a long and close relationship. U.S. and Danish forces exercise regularly together in Europe and operate together daily across the continent.

As you mentioned, earlier this month more than 300 pieces of equipment from U.S. Army National Guard’s 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team was off-loaded at the Esbjerg, Denmark, port. This was the first time the U.S. Army and the Danish Ministry of Defense have used the Esbjerg port for an operation of this kind. The unit is currently deployed to Europe in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence.

The U.S. and Denmark also continue to cooperate to maintain the Arctic as a secure and stable region where nations work cooperatively to address challenges along existing structures and institutions. This line of effort will focus on further cooperation on domain awareness, communication, the testing of new technologies, and the exchange of experiences from operating in the Arctic.

News from:  U.S KFOR Regional Command East             

KFOR Regional Command East Religious Support Teams           NATO-KFOR

The Interview is subject to Copyright Law. ©U.S. Army Europe and Africa /U.S. Army/ U.S. European Command/U.S. NATO/NATO/all U.S Embassies across Europe and Africa/U.S Armed-Forces/U.S. Europe World Affairs. 

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