DOG 15, Kosovo – The mission of the NATO-led Kosovo Forces is to maintain a safe and secure environment and ensure freedom of movement throughout Kosovo. When achieving one goal hampers the other, however, local residents will let their opinions be heard. It then falls upon KFOR to help resolve the situation by meeting with members of the local community, evaluating the situation and planning a course of action in the best interests of all parties involved.
In that capacity, KFOR met with locals Aug. 5 near the Dog 15 boundary crossing between Serbia and Kosovo to help resolve an issue involving a barrier that was found to be more hindering than beneficial to the community.
KFOR soldiers from the Forward Command Post, Joint Regional Detachment–North and Engineers stationed at Camp Bondsteel met with residents from the local villages and the Kosovo Police from Zubin Potok to discuss the issues their vehicles were having as a result of the barrier.
Finding a balance between a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement can sometimes be challenging, said Swiss Army Specialist Officer Sven Hafliger, a JRD-N soldier, but seeing KFOR and the locals talking about it is rewarding.
“The people are talking with each other, we set this meeting up,” Hafliger, a native of Lucerne, Switzerland, said. “This is very satisfying, because it helps the people who live here on the ground and improves KFOR’s reputation towards the people here, and vice versa.”
The barriers were emplaced for several reasons, including an incident a year ago when a fuel truck toppled over the narrow road into the lake beside it. KFOR installed the barriers with the intention of allowing small, personal vehicles to pass through, while preventing larger, and potentially dangerous, vehicles from bypassing the Dog 31 checkpoint.
The locals said that the clearance between the barriers are too small to maneuver through, and are preventing personal trucks from passing by without damaging them and the barrier. The condition of the road, filled with large holes and deep ruts, was also a concern.
Because of these issues, the local residents created a petition asking for KFOR to review the plan for the barrier and possibly change its design to further accommodate their vehicles. The petition was given to JRD-N, who then contacted KFOR to ask for support speaking with the locals and designing a plan to help address the concerns.
U.S. Army Maj. Austin Marshall, the Multinational Battle Group–East Engineer, said that both sides had legitimate concerns that deserved to be heard, and that meeting with the community helped them understand each other.
Marshall, a Utah National Guardsman from Sandy, Utah also stated that the locals were handling the situation in a professional manner and showed that they were well aware of the issues for all concerned parties.
The representatives from KFOR said that they would begin working on a solution that would meet the needs of the locals while continuing the KFOR mission of maintaining a safe and secure environment for the people of Kosovo.