Traveling With The Guard: Their Mission

Members of Oklahoma's Army National Guard are serving right now, 6,000 miles away, in Kosovo. They're part of an assault helicopter battalion on a NATO peacekeeping mission. News 9 recently went to Kosovo to see the training firsthand, and to tell the stories of Oklahoma's Own in uniform.

Wednesday, April 10th 2024, 5:05 pm



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Members of Oklahoma's Army National Guard are serving right now, 6,000 miles away, in Kosovo. They're part of an assault helicopter battalion on a NATO peacekeeping mission.

News 9's Craig Day and Reagan Ledbetter recently went to Kosovo to see the training firsthand, and to tell the stories of Oklahoma's Own in uniform.

Kosovo is a tiny country, wedged in the center of the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe. It is surrounded by mountain ranges, and home to 400,000 people. The capital city of Pristina is filled with restaurants and shops and hustle and bustle with people on the go. But, not far away, a different kind of hustle and bustle is happening as a crew aboard a six-and-a-half-ton Blackhawk helicopter is carrying out a NATO training exercise.

"It's an honor to serve both Oklahoma and the world,” said Sergeant Galbraith, who is one of about 50 Oklahoma Army National Guard members stationed in Kosovo.

In this training exercise, we observed, Oklahoma soldiers trained members of the Hungarian Army. The main mission of the 244th Aviation Regiment of the Blackhawk Assault Helicopter Battalion is the fast transfer of people, equipment, and fuel. The helicopters can also provide 24/7 medical evacuation and air assault capabilities.

"The group that we have here from Oklahoma is a stellar group of soldiers and I'm very proud to be here with them,” said Captain Norvell.

The United States is part of a 27-nation NATO peacekeeping force. When Kosovo broke away from Serbia in the 1990s, its ethnic Albanian population was subject to widespread brutality and violence from Serbian Forces. A NATO bombing campaign led by the US ended the attacks, and eventually led to Kosovo's independence. although Serbia still considers Kosovo a break-away province.

The Kosovo security force is in charge of protecting geographic boundaries and sovereignty. But, it only has about ten thousand active-duty personnel and five thousand reserves, so the role of NATO is critical.

Specialist Childers is an aviation student at Oklahoma State who has been deployed to Kosovo. "Hopefully I'll get to fly one of these one day,” he said.

He put his studies on hold, to serve his country and works as an aircraft electrician. "Being here, I'm really showing the people what Oklahoma is all about. How good we are down in the south, and the people here are just beyond nice,” said Specialist Childers.

The National Guard members each say they're happy to serve and committed to a much larger mission to maintain peace. "We're representing the state of Oklahoma, are bringing some of our own ways of life here, and I want them to know what we do here is because of their support back home,” said Sergeant Shifflett.

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