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Operation Thunder Road IV: The building blocks for success

By Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval | Multinational Battle Group - East (KFOR) | March 19, 2016

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CAMP MARÉCHAL DE LATTRE DE TASSIGNY, Kosovo -- Just two weeks into a new rotation and Soldiers of Kosovo Force 21 are already looking to refine and perfect their tactics, techniques and procedures to help provide a safe and secure environment for the people of Kosovo.

U.S. Army Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, partnered with German, Polish and Hungarian soldiers to complete their first large-scale, multi-echelon exercise deemed Operation Thunder Road IV, March 17, at Camp Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, Kosovo.

The joint operation allowed the team from Multinational Battle Group-East to rehearse their mission-essential skills and focus on unified movements while under intense pressure from the opposition.

The multinational soldiers are serving alongside one another as part of NATO’s Kosovo Force peace support mission, dedicated to ensuring safety, security and freedom of movement in the region.

To replicate a real world scenario, the operation was broken down into multiple phases: troop notification, troop deployment, blocking, clearing - and ended by restoring a safe and secure environment.

During the first phase, German soldiers responded to a street lined with Polish soldiers carrying water bottles, tires, sticks, and anything that could be used as projectiles.

Demonstrating hostility towards those on scene, the intensity of the situation quickly increased as the rioters attempted to destroy a small bridge used for common foot traffic.

As the opposing force threw debris and rammed the cohesive line of German soldiers, U.S. troops were deployed from a nearby holding area.

Once the U.S. force arrived on scene, donned with riot gear and non-lethal weapons, a second group of angry Polish role players met the MNBG-E Soldiers with a burst of projectiles.

“The most challenging part of the day was definitely holding off the rioters while they were advancing,” said U.S. Army Cpl. Sean Serritelli, team leader, Alpha Company, 1-41 Infantry Regiment.

Although difficult, Serritelli and his team exceeded the rioter’s intensity with their own firm and unwavering unified front. It didn’t take long for that strength to overcome the crowd as they quickly dispersed, only to return with small outburst of chaos.

With the rioters hanging on to their foothold by a thread, the arrival of the Hungarian contingent would be the final blow.

Sweeping in with crowd control vehicles and an unyielding front of riot shields, the team of Hungarians cleared through the remnants of the crowd as they quickly retreated behind a nearby building.

With the bridge secured and the rioters running away, the final phase proved to be the easiest as the German military police met with the opposition’s leadership and discussed the terms of returning the area to a safe and secure environment.

The two sides shook hands and the announcement to conclude the operation came over the radio as the multinational team, who had been fighting for nearly two hours, finally let down their guard, while many cracked their first smile of the exercise.

With a quick glance, the fragments of debris that covered the ground made it difficult to tell whether or not the mission, which took two weeks of non-stop preparation, was a success. However, it didn’t take long to find out the answer.

“I have to emphasize it was a great exercise, organized well, and I am very happy with the outcome,” said 1st Lt. Istvan Piedl, deputy commander for the Hungarian contingent. “I think everyone here today is prepared and ready to act in accordance with the KFOR mission.”

Serritelli echoed Piedl’s sentiment.

“I feel confident, if we need to, we can come together and continue to provide safe and secure environment and freedom of movement,” he said about the interoperability of the multinational teams.

Piedl said he hopes that the successes from Operation Thunder Road IV will carry over into other training exercises and said he looks forward to working with Serritelli and his team in the future.

Just a few weeks into a nine-month rotation, KFOR 21 will have plenty of time to strengthen their organization and build on their recent success.