Marines return from Kosovo

29 Aug 2002 | Cpl. Allan J. Grdovich

Reserve Marines and Sailors serving in the war-torn province of Kosovo began their return here Aug. 28 after providing support for the ongoing Operation Rapid Guardian.

Approximately 225 G Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment troops concluded their role in the United Nations-controlled region after more than eight weeks of providing assistance for the ongoing humanitarian aid operation.

Since July 12, the company teamed up with NATO and other allied countries to assist policing areas surrounding Leskovica and Drenova Glava. Their mission included, but was not limited to, checkpoint operations and traffic control points, which helped deter a rampant black market of weapons smuggling and other contraband, said Executive Officer Maj. Alex Waugh.

During the first weeks in Kosovo, the company seized several illegal weapons and numerous rounds of ammunition after performing routine searches, he said.

To keep a good repertoire with law-abiding locals, the unit also organized several medical civil-action teams to help villagers in nearby towns and provided Red Cross care packages to those in need, according to Staff Sgt. Jay Hunter, platoon sergeant, from Clifton, N.J. 

In recent years the region has experienced a turbulent past leaving many citizens in the Southern Yugoslav province homeless. The conflict is largely due to the geographical location of the region, which is home to three major religions. To the north lie Orthodox Christians, who are proud of their Serbian heritage and the former ruling power in the region, said Waugh. To the east and south are Muslims, mainly ethnic-Albanian, and to the west are Roman Catholics, he explained. In the late 1990s, the ruling Serb government of Yugoslavia attempted to forcefully remove ethnic-Albanians to repopulate the area with Serbians. After a period of what seemed like outright genocide, the United Nations intervened and allied countries conducted a 78-day aerial attack forcing Serbs to retreat back to the present day Republic of Serbia, according to Waugh. The conflict left tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes and hundreds of minefields scattered across the area.

"The legacy has left the indigenous population torn with neighbor hating neighbor, religion versus religion," said Waugh.

The operation seemed ideal for G Company, the executive officer said. He said many of the unit's Marines are police officers and firefighters in the civilian world, making them well suited for the task in Kosovo.

"Our Marines did a terrific job," said Col. Thomas Brandl, 25th Marine Regiment commanding officer. "What they accomplished is a perfect example of how we can integrate reserves into real world operations."