KFOR contingent – “crown” in the military in Kosovo: life in the container


The Austrian armed forces have been deployed in Kosovo for 24 years. The soldiers live in their own city, Camp Film City. Commander Colonel Berthold Sandtner gave the “Krone” an insight into this life.

“crown”: HErr Colonel Sandtner, you are the commander of the 48th Austrian KFOR contingent. This mission lasts 24 years, how long have the Austrian Armed Forces been involved in this mission?
Colonel Sandtner: The Austrian armed forces have been involved in this NATO-led operation since its inception in 1999. The legal basis for the mission is UN resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999. The Austrian force was up to 500 soldiers, currently there are about 300. Besides the mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the mission in Kosovo is the second operational area of ​​the Austrian army in the Western Balkans.

With what types of weapons does the Austrian army participate in the KFOR operation?
We are currently participating with an infantry company, a reconnaissance company and, together with Switzerland, a transport company. In addition, we provide staff officers at KFOR headquarters and some specialized elements such as explosives clearers and members of parliament. Parts of it are integrated into the international KFOR structure, but there are also purely national elements that serve, for example, to ensure the connection supply from Austria.

From which federal states do the soldiers of the 48th KFOR contingent come?
The 6th High Mountain Brigade from Tyrol was responsible for setting up KFOR. Soldiers of Jäger Battalion 26 from Spittal an der Drau form the core of the national leadership element. The soldiers of the infantry company are supplied by the guards from Vienna and those of the reconnaissance company by the 4th reconnaissance and artillery battalion from Horn. Many of the transport company’s soldiers are from Styria, we also have a soldier from Vorarlberg in the area of ​​operations. It can therefore be said that it is a matter of an all-Austrian contingent.

What does the daily life of an Austrian soldier on a mission look like? Do the soldiers also have holidays?
A foreign assignment usually takes 6 months. But there are also military personnel who extend their deployment or remain in action for only 3 months. In principle, all military personnel are on duty here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, although there are of course rest periods. If the order situation permits, Sundays will also be kept free as much as possible. With a standard deployment of 6 months, the military personnel have more than three weeks of vacation, which is usually taken in two or three installments.

Are there women in your contingent?
Yes of course. I currently have a total of 10 women in my contingent who are just as exemplary in their work as their male comrades. You work here in various functions. From HR clerk to military police.

How do soldiers spend their free time?
There are, of course, certain limitations here. You can’t just leave the camp and go shopping. However, there are restaurants and shops for daily shopping in the camps. Many soldiers exercise regularly, which can be measured by the fact that they improve their personal condition during the deployment. Some learn a foreign language, others read a lot or watch a lot of TV. There is also a strong emphasis on camaraderie and community. This ranges from brunching together on Sundays to participating in sports competitions as a team. There are also many social events. For example, the German, Swiss and Austrian contingent recently set up a maypole together. My family gave me a 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle to complete on assignment. So far I’ve had moderate success with it.

Do the soldiers on foreign missions earn better than at home?
Yes of course. There are corresponding foreign surcharges. These are based on the climate in the area of ​​operations, the part of the world where the deployment takes place and the degree of danger to which the soldiers are exposed and the position in which they serve. However, it can be assumed that the salary will approximately double.

Does the mission in Kosovo have military added value for the development of the Austrian armed forces?
The mission has changed a lot in 24 years. In 1999 it was a much more robust bet. Since then the tasks have changed. For the military, however, posting abroad is always an experience gain. They have the opportunity to perform their duties under operationally comparable conditions. They improve their skills and thus make an important contribution to increasing the operational readiness of the Austrian armed forces. A very important aspect, however, is that interoperability, ie the capacity for multinational cooperation with other armed forces, can only be thoroughly tested and further developed in the context of such operations. As far as I am concerned, that is where the greatest added value of foreign missions for the Austrian armed forces lies.

You have already been deployed to Kosovo. What made you decide to come back here?
The opportunity to work in a military leadership and commanding role in a multinational environment. It is a rewarding job to be in a military leadership position. That’s why I joined the army.
Thanks for the interview, Mr. Colonel Sandtner.

Source: Krone


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