The homecoming was dissimilar to what most U.S. Soldiers experience after deployment. COVID-19 measures caused demobilization to be cut short. Before arriving in Alaska, the Soldiers underwent mandatory quarantine for 14 days in El Paso, Texas, at the Army’s Fort Bliss after returning from Kosovo.
Every returning Soldier must follow COVID-19 precautionary measures, including an additional 14 days of quarantine in their Alaskan homes.
The Kosovo mission began in the gruelling Texas heat at Fort Bliss during the 1-297th’s pre-mobilization. From there, the unit departed on an 8,000-mile flight to Europe, where it would support a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo that began in June 1999.
“With Kosovo’s history of ethnic conflict, it’s important for the U.S. to have a visible presence to deter hostilities,” said Lt. Col. Samuel Scott, 1-297th IN commander.
One of the battalion’s primary tasks in Kosovo was to monitor the country’s administrative borderlines and ports of entry to provide freedom of movement and a safe environment for the people of Kosovo. Soldiers worked with Kosovo law enforcement to combat illegal activity like smuggling and sex trafficking.
Unit accomplishments included 56 enlisted Soldiers graduating the Army’s Basic Leadership Course required for promotion to a noncommissioned officer. Approximately 70 Soldiers were also promoted in Kosovo. Physical fitness standards improved battalion-wide, reaching as high as 100 percent.
Community relations were a vital part of not only securing information but developing relationships and helping the surrounding municipalities with local projects like building churches and food distribution.
“It was a great first deployment for me, and our guys worked very hard,” said Spc. Trae Curtis, an infantryman, North Pole resident, and University of Alaska Anchorage student from Alpha Co., 1-297th. “Working with our NATO partners and building relationships with the people of Kosovo was a truly rewarding experience.