Traveling With The Guard: The Importance Of NATO In Kosovo

Out of 400,000 people who live in the capitol city of Pristina, News On 6 found a Kosovo Albanian who lived much of his life in Oklahoma. He says it’s so critical to get help from NATO, America and some of Oklahoma’s Own.

Friday, April 12th 2024, 3:31 pm



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News On 6 traveled 6,000 miles to Kosovo, giving a firsthand look at the Oklahoma soldiers deployed there.

"We get a sense that they want us here,” said Specialist Childers, who is one of about 50 Oklahomans in Kosovo until the fall.

Out of 400,000 people who live in the capitol city of Pristina, we found a Kosovo Albanian who lived much of his life in Oklahoma. He says it’s so critical to get help from NATO, America and some of Oklahoma’s Own.

We met with Andi Bytyqi at one of Pristina’s many cafes, and he tells us his time in Oklahoma started as a high school exchange student and then he went to college at the University of Central Oklahoma.

“Found a job, started working, created a family, 28 years later, here we are,” said Bytyqi.

After those nearly three decades as an Oklahoman, the lure of family and familiarity now has him back in Kosovo.

But we had to ask the big question: are you an OU fan or an OSU fan?

"Oh man, you’re going to do that? I’m an OU fan,” Bytyqi laughed.

Bytyqi is also a huge fan of NATO and its peacekeeping presence in his home country. He followed the violence, strife, and sense of helplessness in Kosovo in the 1990s when its split from Serbia led to violence.

“Having NATO here, I think, gives people some peace, especially with what’s happening in Ukraine,” said Bytyqi.

Bytyqi says having a NATO presence in Kosovo has helped to build one of Europe’s youngest countries.

At one point, more than one million Albanian Kosovars fled the country, but over the years, thanks in large part to NATO and its peacekeeping mission, that's changing, and more people are moving back and contributing to the country's economy. Kosovo is a developing country with an upper-middle-income economy. It has experienced solid economic growth over the last decade.

This is Sergeant Shifflett's second deployment to Kosovo.

"I love knowing our presence here brings comfort to the people here,” he said. “With its mission of peace, it affords people like me to think about also living here.”

Bytyqi hopes it will lead to more educational and employment opportunities for his children. Stability leads to security. Peace leads to prosperity.

"I was shocked to come here and see how much they want us here, and it's an honor to be here,” said Oklahoma soldier Sergeant Galbraith.

“They’re doing the right thing by being here. They’re preserving the peace in this part of Europe,” said Bytyqi.

Bytyqi is proud of his ties to Oklahoma and the role Oklahomans are playing internationally during their deployment.

"I thank them as an Oklahoman, and as an Albanian Kosovar as well,” he said.

The deployment for this group of Oklahomans to Kosovo lasts until this fall. 

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