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N.D. National Guard general cites security gains in Kosovo

FARGO The North Dakota National Guard general who recently took command of a large peacekeeping force in Kosovo said Wednesday that he sees "a noticeable improvement" in the area's security since he was last there in 2005. Brig. Gen. Alan Dohrman...

FARGO

The North Dakota National Guard general who recently took command of a large peacekeeping force in Kosovo said Wednesday that he sees "a noticeable improvement" in the area's security since he was last there in 2005.

Brig. Gen. Alan Dohrmann of Bismarck took responsibility for the 2,200-member Multi-National Task Force East on Nov. 14.

The group, which includes 650 soldiers from North Dakota who deployed in August, is one of four NATO member task forces in Kosovo. Its mission is to maintain a safe, secure environment for the province, which declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, 2008.

Dohrmann said conditions on the ground were "quite calm" this week as the U.N. International Court of Justice began to hear arguments on the legality of Kosovo's declaration, which Serbia rejects. The United States is among 63 countries that recognize Kosovo's independence, The Associated Press reported.

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Dohrmann previously served in Kosovo in 2005 as a legal adviser with the Ohio National Guard. At that time, forces in the area were still on edge following a period of intense rioting in March 2004, he said.

The province now is "much more secure," he said.

For example, there was little civil unrest during Kosovo's first self-run municipal elections on Nov. 15, demonstrating the maturity of Kosovo's government and police force, he said. Voter turnout also was strong, as more Serb minority members joined the ethnic Albanian majority at the polls than in the past, he said.

"So, that was another good sign that the goal of having a democratic, multi-ethnic society here in Kosovo, it's not there yet, but they're moving in the right direction," he said.

The task force has 1,300 U.S. soldiers from 37 states, as well as soldiers from five other nations - Armenia, Greece, Poland, Romania and Ukraine.

They keep the peace by going on regular patrols to maintain a physical presence and by interacting with government leaders, local officials and citizens to offer help where needed, Dohrmann said.

Morale among the North Dakota soldiers has been "outstanding," he said.

Many of their missions are fairly routine, so it's a challenge to keep the soldiers actively engaged, he said. Three hundred soldiers have enrolled in college programs, and they have opportunities to further their military education and training, Dohrmann said.

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A flag football championship and turkey dinner helped to keep morale up over Thanksgiving at Camp Bondsteel, he said.

Holidays are a difficult time not only for soldiers serving abroad, but also for their families living back home, said Dohrmann, who left his wife and four young children behind in Bismarck.

"If you want to look at challenges, I think that might be the bigger challenge right there," he said.

The North Dakota troops are scheduled to return home in late July or early August.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

Related Topics: BISMARCK
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