Approximately 300 Indiana National Guardsmen with the 38th Infantry Division's 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Lawrence, said goodbye to family, friends and peers during a ceremony at Camp Atterbury, Friday.
The Hoosier soldiers deployed as Task Force Nighthawk and will be led by Col. Chris Mabis, from Columbus, and his senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Joshua Brown, from Greenwood.
"You soldiers represent the best the United States has to offer," said Mabis during his ceremony speech and to his soldiers. "Everyone sitting here is an ambassador of the United States and a representative of the Hoosier State. I can't be prouder of this team."
Mabis also thanked the soldiers' families for their support.
"Thank you for letting your solider be a part of this experience," said Mabis to the families in attendance. "You're a vital part of Task Force Nighthawk, and your job is the most important. Rely on each other and help each other out, that's the strength of our community-based force."
While deployed the task force soldiers will lead Regional Command - East under the command of NATO in support of Operation Joint Guardian, and will be the 31st rotation of United States military forces based at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. Their mission is to provide a safe, secure environment and ensure freedom of movement for all Kosovo citizens, per the mandate of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999.
Indiana's Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Dale Lyles also spoke at the ceremony and commented on the importance of the soldiers' mission.
"The men and women of this brigade will work to ensure that Kosovo's independence and sovereignty will remain strong, and that our collective goal of independent, multi-ethnic states in society coexisting peacefully in the western Balkans is realized," said Lyles. "Our deployment demonstrates America's resolve to defend sovereignty of free and democratic nations like Kosovo."
Yet America does not stand alone in Kosovo. Troops from Poland, Latvia, Switzerland, Turkey, Slovenia, Greece, Hungary, and Italy serve in Regional Command-East.
For the Nighthawk soldiers training has consisted of weapons qualification, non-lethal weapons training, liaison monitoring team training, patrol operations, traffic accidents and how to interact with governmental and non-governmental entities.