DENVER, Colo. –
Colorado Army National Soldiers from Company D, 572nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Military Intelligence) returned stateside March 10, 2022.
While deployed, the unit joined with NATO's peace support operation Kosovo Force, or KFOR, which has been operating in the Southeast European country since 1999, with intent to support broader international efforts to build peace and stability in the region.
KFOR's original objectives included the deterrent of renewed hostiles, ensuring public safety, and supporting the global humanitarian effort. With much success, KFOR continues to maintain local public safety and ensure freedom of movement for all in the region.
During the unit’s post deployment after-action review U.S. Army Capt. Max Woodfin, commander, reflected on the impacts of their effort over the tour and the unit's operation while in country.
“The impact on the community was mainly the development of a personal connection between U.S. Soldiers and citizens of all ethnic backgrounds in Kosovo," Woodfin said. "The two things that were primarily valuable to our Soldiers were the ability to implement their training in a way many have not done before, as well as being able to embed themselves in the local community and understand their way of life and social challenges."
The unit's participation with the Association of Women in the Kosovo Police was one of the most impactful opportunities for Soldiers and the local Kosovo community. The AWKP, created in 2010, helps promote gender equality in the police force by empowering female police officers to overcome challenges experienced in their work.
U.S Army 1st Lt. Megan Cooper, information collection platoon leader, volunteered to participate in cooperation with the association, a task outside of her standard military obligations.
“The invitation was first to go to lunch and listen to a speech by the highest-ranking woman in the KP force,” Cooper said. “Her speech was for the women's association was about what it means to be a female leader and talked about the challenges they face and the successes they have.”
“Next, the male colleagues talked about how they could be better allies and support women's growth in the organization,” Cooper said. “There were a ton of parallels between our Army experience to meeting with local nationals and getting to know Kosovo better.”
Cooper, a military intelligence officer, said that her participation had an impact on her leadership values.
“The biggest thing I got out of it was validation to hear similar experiences from other women in positions of power – 'I faced this challenge, and this is how I overcame it,’” she said. “It was eye-opening to see women succeed in similar experiences in a country that feels so far away. I look forward to continuing to have that forum to have important discussions like these that are supported by command.”
Cooper said she feels the impact of the collaboration between the 86th IBCT and AWKP has legacy-building potential because of the involvement of junior enlisted Soldiers, who are the future of women military leadership, such as U.S. Army Spc. Cashlin Snow, intelligence analyst.
“We got to learn important skills to pick up on from our and KP leadership,” Snow said. “It was a way that I was able to get closer to my leadership and learn from their leadership style. Kosovo was one of the first places to have a female president, and it was awesome to learn that a KP leader in one of the main municipalities was female.”
Cooper and Snow said that their participation significantly impacted their mission as it brought together two very different groups of individuals with the common goal to develop and support female leadership. From the initial invitation to Cooper to be involved to the end of the deployment, camaraderie developed that supports the goals and continued success of operation KFOR.