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NEWS | April 6, 2010

Senators visit U.S. KFOR troops in Kosovo

By Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hagburg North Dakota National Guard

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo - Five U.S. senators paid a visit to KFOR (Kosovo Forces) Soldiers stationed here on a NATO peacekeeping mission on Easter Sunday.

North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan led the delegation and was joined by Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso.

The senators' stop at Camp Bondsteel was part of a multi-nation trip to review cooperative threat reduction programs in the European region. The senators traveled to Camp Bondsteel to show their support and personally express their thanks for the work and the sacrifices made by U.S. Soldiers deployed to the Balkans region and around the world.

"Kent and I were both there when we had the departure ceremonies in North Dakota and we're proud of the North Dakota National Guard," said Dorgan. "We've heard you all are doing great work over here. We knew we were going to be in this region of the world and we wanted to come and say hello to the Soldiers."

The bulk of the North Dakota Soldiers arrived in Kosovo in late October as part of a deployment with KFOR-12. North Dakota also has Soldiers in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Heidelberg, Germany.

The senators began the Sunday visit by meeting with Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann, Bismarck, N.D., commander of the Fargo-based 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the U.S.-led Multi-National Battle Group-East (MNBG-E) at Camp Bondsteel. That meeting was followed by a command-level briefing about the current situation in Kosovo, given by MNBG-E senior staff members.

"It's a very interesting mission, because it's in a region of the world where we have had so many unbelievable things happen," said Dorgan. "We have gone from trying to keep populations apart to trying to reintegrate them. It's a delicate task, but I think that the North Dakota National Guard and the other Soldiers here are doing a great job at it."

MNBG-E is made up of National Guard and Army Reserve units from 13 states and the Virgin Islands. In all, nearly 40 states have Soldiers represented in the task force.

The senators wrapped up their visit by sharing Easter brunch with Camp Bondsteel Soldiers. A special guest at brunch was Sgt. Samuel Hemphill, Bismarck, N.D., who has been nominated for the NATO Meritorious Service Medal for the actions he took to save the life of an injured Kosovo resident in December 2009. To honor Hemphill's actions Dorgan and Conrad, assisted by Dohrmann, presented him with a flag that had been flown over the United States Capitol.

Conrad said he was impressed by his visit and by all the Soldiers' excellent work.

"The morale here, the can-do spirit, is exactly what you'd expect from North Dakotans and people from across the United States who have made the commitment to our country," he said.