NATO has been leading a peace support operation in Kosovo (KFOR) since June 1999 in support of wider international efforts to build peace and stability in the area.
Greece provided facilities to ease the advance of forces and means to Skopje in the context of “JOINT Guardian” Plan, approved by NAC, on the 10th of June 1999. The Multinational Force, under the U.N. auspices, was called Kosovo Force (KFOR).
KFOR derives its mandate from UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244 of 10 June 1999 and the Military-Technical Agreement (MTA) between NATO and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia. KFOR is operated under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and, as such, is a peace enforcement operation, which is more generally referred to as a peace support operation.
On 11th June 1999 the Hellenic Governmental Council on Foreign Affairs and National Defense decided that Greece would participate with a force at Brigade Level, providing assistance for the implementation of the mission. The Hellenic Force was named Hellenic Contingent in Kosovo. The mission of the Contingent was to create a secure environment for the population in Kosovo and ensure safe return of the refugees and those who had been displaced from Kosovo.
PARTICIPATION OF HELLENIC FORCES:
Following a Governmental Council on Foreign Affairs and National Defense decision, the 34th Mechanized Brigade of 1162 men was allocated to KFOR. Additionally, one (1) C-130 a/c with 10- crew members and 30 Officers and Soldiers were allocated to man Allied Staffs, HQs and Commands, as well as 157 Officers and soldiers to provide Host-Nation Support.
The Contingent comprises also one (1) Infantry Company with Engineer Elements, consisting of 60 Officers and Soldiers, as well as one Support Detachment and one (1) Facilities Detachment with a total force of 10. The Company was stationed at Communication Zone South, in Thessaloniki.
The Brigade was stationed at different camps, “Megas Alexandras” in Kosovo- Polije, camp “Rigas Fereos” at Urosevac and camp “Tobacco Factory” at Mitrovica. All above camps were constructed in a short period of time by the Hellenic Army mainly by the 34th Engineer Battalion.
The Hellenic Contingent in Kosovo conducted hundreds of reconnaissance, escorting, traffic security and control missions. It allocated personnel to man seven (7) check points and assumed the responsibility to organize and command the traffic control missions in the road axis connecting FYROM with Pristina and the border station of “Kosovo-FYROM”.
Additionally, Hellenic military personnel guarded, on a 24 hour basis, two (2) Weapon Staging Areas, for arms collected from UCK, and prepared arms transportation and destruction. The main achievement of the Hellenic Contingent was the discovery of an ammunition depot in which a great number of arms and ammunition were hidden. KFOR recognized the achievement as the second most significant and successful discovery that has been made in Kosovo so far.
The Hellenic Contingent in Kosovo destroyed more than 4.000 arms of various types and caliber, hidden in shelters by paramilitary organizations and extremist groups, which were and gathered by KFOR. The arms were destroyed by the Hellenic Army, in a furnace of a metallurgy factory.
The Hellenic Contingent guarded on 24-hour basis the Christian churches within its AOR. A worth-noting event is the rapid response of a Greek patrol team to rescue Saint Uros church from getting burned. The incident took place in Urosevac. All holy relics were rescued and handed over to the holy Monastery in Gratsanitsa for secure keeping.
The Contingent contributed greatly to the transportation, escort and delivery of humanitarian aid by “FOCUS” Organization: 160 tons of humanitarian aid was delivered to various villages in Kosovo.
Additionally, the Hellenic Contingent has contributed to providing medical treatment to the local population. The medical personnel have examined more than 2.000 people in Urocevac and Kosovo Polije.
Following Order No. 152/2001 of the Minister of National Defense, a War Cross, First Class, was awarded to the Battle Colors of the 34th Mechanized Brigade, the 501st Mechanized Infantry Battalion and the 507th Motorized Infantry Battalion. On 30 September 2003, the KFOR Commander awarded the 507th Motorized Battalion a Special Honor Distinction.
The large number of operations carried out without accidents demonstrates the excellent organization and professionalism of the personnel of the Hellenic Contingent in Kosovo.
During 2003, following a decision to reorganize KFOR in personnel and means, the Hellenic Contingent obtained a rather “light” structure, reducing its numbers as follows:
- Two (2) Mechanized Infantry Battalions at MNB (N) and MNB (E) under French and U.S. command, stationed at Mitrovica and Urosevac, respectively. The strength amounted to 700 men with a command at regiment level, and one (1) National Support Element.
- Five (5) helicopters, stationed at Stefanoviki airfield in Volos, Greece, at full readiness, to conduct MEDVAC missions and support UNMIK, if required.
- One C-130 a/c for flight route Elefsis -Skopje-Sarajevo-Elefsis.
- Manning of the Pristina airport and the allocation of one (1) vehicle.
- A Traffic Control Company (until early June 2003).
Twelve (12) Hellenic Army Officers and NCOs (eight Officers and four NCOs) serve in KFOR HQs at Kosovo.
In August 2003, following the new reorganization of the Forces in the Balkans, the Hellenic Force was reduced to:
- 12 cadres to HQ -KFOR Pristina
- One (1) Mechanized Infantry Battalions of 218 men at MNTF-N based at Mitrovica
- One (1) Mechanized Infantry Battalions of 300 men at MNTF-E based at camp “Rigas Fereos” at Urosevac
- One (1) National Tactical Command of 5 men based at camp “Rigas Fereos”
- One (1) Liaison Mission Team of 6 men at MNTF-E based at camp “Rigas Fereos”
On 3rd September 2003, during the visit of the Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff to Armenia, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, concerning the allocation of an Armenian Rifle Platoon under the Hellenic Contingent in Kosovo.
On 26th November 2003, NATO agreed on the participation of the Armenian Platoon in KFOR, under Hellenic command.
Following a decision of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, and with the consent of the Armenian Government, the Platoon is replaced by another one every six months.
PRESENT PARTICIPATION OF HELLENIC FORCES
From 31st January 2010 the Hellenic Force in Kosovo is as follows:
- One (1) National Tactical Command and the National Support Element (NSE)
- One (1) mechanized Infantry Battalion at MNBG North
- One (1) mechanized Infantry Battalion at MNBG East.
- Four (4) liaison monitoring teams
- One C-130 a/c twice a month for flight rout Elefsis -Naples-Sarajevo-Pristine.
- 12 cadres to HQ -KFOR Pristine and NIC
- 6 cadres to HQ – MNBG North
- One (1) Armenian Rifle Platoon of 35 men
- One (1) General Transportation Company to transport strategic and operational reserves to Kosovo, if required. The above Company is stationed in Communication Zone South, Thessaloniki.