CAMP BONDSTEEEL, Kosovo – The Virginia National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, officially ended its mission in Kosovo as Kosovo Force’s Regional Command-East welcomed the Soldiers of their new aviation task force during a transfer of authority ceremony Oct. 11.
The battalion mobilized as Task Force Pegasus and relinquished responsibility for all RC-E’s aerial operations to the 1st Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment, Alabama Army National Guard, mobilized as Task Force Yellowhammer.
As part of the ceremony, leaders from Task Force Pegasus cased their unit’s flag, or colors, officially signifying the culmination of their nine-month mission in the region, followed by leaders from Task Force Yellowhammer uncasing their unit’s colors, representing the beginning of their mission in Kosovo.
“I think before we left, we wanted everybody to come back with three things they could say, which were that we made ourselves better, made the unit better, and made Kosovo better. And I think after our TOA (transfer of authority), we can look back and say that everyone is coming back better off than they left,” said Lt. Col. Matthew C. Lewis, the Task Force Pegasus commander. “The unit is much better trained than we left, and Kosovo is a better place because we were here. So, I think looking at all those things and then collectively we take a step back, this is something that they will be able to take with them for the rest of their lives.”
Over 1,700 flight hours and 275 aerial missions were completed during the rotation. There were five multinational multi-ship flights and 14 medevac missions.
Lt. Col. David G. Goodall, Task Force Yellowhammer commander, said members were excited to start the mission after 25 months of preparation.
“In the past five years, we have completed two (National Training Center) rotations and one (Joint Readiness Training Center) rotation, as well as deploying to Albania, Bosnia and Greece in support of Defender Europe 21,” Goodall said. “In summary, this is a proven team, and I am confident they will succeed at this mission just like they have the others.”
During the ceremony, the commander of RC-East, Col. Christopher Samulski, reflected on the accomplishments of Task Force Pegasus and welcomed the new aviation task force to the region. Samulski relies heavily on his aerial assets to quickly transport troops and supplies and conduct medical evacuations throughout the region.
“Task Force Pegasus has some of the finest Soldiers with which I have served, and I feel honored and blessed to have had this great organization as part of my command,” Samulski said during the ceremony. “To Task Force Yellowhammer: Welcome to Kosovo and Regional Command-East. I look forward to working with all of you, and I am confident that this unit will continue to carry the torch of professionalism and expertise that the aviation task force has maintained in this region for the past 23 years.”
KFOR RC-East includes 10 NATO partner nations working to ensure a safe, secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities in Kosovo as mandated by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999.
“I was not prepared for just how big of an impact that we have here in RC-East, and how our mission makes such a difference,” Lewis said. “I think that this has been one of the most rewarding things in my career, knowing that our presence here as part of NATO has helped in providing stability for the region. It is a worthwhile endeavor that I’m proud to have taken part in.”