By Capt. Mikel Arcovitch
Joint Force Headquarters - Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
The 29th U.S. deployment to Kosovo Force (KFOR) is at an end, and with it comes reflection and a glance at what is next. For the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), the sky is the limit.
The KFOR Regional Command - East (RC-E) mission is commanded by Col. Brey Hopkins of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (MTN) out of Jericho, Vermont. In addition to the brigade headquarters, 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry (MTN), with units in Lyndon, Newport, Bennington, and St. Albans, is also ending its tour as part of RC-E (the Lyndon team was on a separate deployment).
“Operationally, I couldn’t be prouder of what we did here as part of KFOR29,” said Col. Hopkins. “The output we were able to create was truly remarkable. When you look at the number of patrols conducted by U.S., Latvian, Polish and Turkish Soldiers, to the women for women training we put on with Task Force Medical and our civil military engagement coordinator, to our liaison monitoring teams meeting and working across our AO, and many other coordinated efforts, you are looking at a deliberate and sustained effort by our Soldiers here in Regional Command - East.”
KFOR29 arrived in Kosovo in July, and Soldiers will be home by the end of March. During the rotation, they combated wildfires in Kosovo and participated in the Best Mountain Warrior Competition and Operation Rehearsal Exercise Level II.
“This brigade has so much potential,” said Hopkins. “The varying missions this deployment has posed across multiple combatant commands, to include significant support to the evacuation from Afghanistan, have been nothing short of remarkable,” said Hopkins. “I really could not be prouder of the efforts of all our Soldiers.”
Vermont is also home to the Army Mountain Warfare School and has played a significant role in Guerrier Nordiques — training Soldiers how to operate and survive in frigid temperatures. Both are critical elements of Army plans.
“The Vermont Army National Guard is uniquely positioned with the Army Mountain Warfare School and continuous participation in the Arctic,” said Hopkins. “Service members from across the military should take the winter phase of the warfare school. It is an exceptional school and teaches critical winter survival and operational skills that are meaningful for missions in the cold.
“The Arctic missions have Soldiers working with other military members from different services and countries,“ he said. “Given the recent publication of the U.S. Army Arctic Warfare Strategy, the 86th IBCT (MTN), as the only mountain trained and equipped BCT in the U.S. Army, is superbly postured for continued relevance.”
Soldiers from Vermont, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and many other states are poised to return home in the coming weeks.
Whether it’s COVID-19 response, federal deployments overseas, support in Washington, D.C., joint training through the State Partnership Program or with Canadian soldiers in the Artic, Soldiers from Vermont and all the states that comprise the 86th IBCT (MTN) remain ready.
“I can’t wait to see what this brigade does next,” Hopkins said.