CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — Fourteen U.S. NATO Kosovo Force soldiers from Multinational Battle Group East got together June 11 to play volleyball and develop new friendships with a high school volleyball team from Kamenice/Kamenica, Kosovo.
About a dozen girls from the eastern Kosovo municipality came to Camp Bondsteel’s North Gym to play five games of volleyball with their KFOR counterparts. Afterward, the girls and soldiers sat down for pizza, popcorn and fellowship.
Army1st Lt. Karl Altenburg, Fargo, N.D., a member of Liaison and Monitoring Team 1 in Kamenice/Kamenica, said the idea of putting on a Kosovo/KFOR volleyball match was brought to him by a local player in the municipality.
“One day at our LMT field office in Kamenice (Kamenica), Agim Abdullahu, a local coach, approached us and asked if it was possible for the girls of the Kamenice (Kamencia) High School volleyball team to come to Camp Bondsteel and play a few games.” said Altenburg.
From there he took the idea to Army 1st Lt. Janet Masseth, Bismarck, N.D., of the Regional Liaison and Monitoring Team staff, who did the research, collected the necessary information, and submitted
the paperwork to get the volleyball team on Camp Bondsteel.
Her role was not all work, though; she also got to play as one of the members on the KFOR volleyball team.
“Most of the players have different missions with KFOR (Kosovo Forces) 12, this game gives them a unique way to meet some of the locals”, Masseth said. “For some of the soldiers who work entirely on Camp Bondsteel, it gives them a wonderful opportunity to actually meet local residents for the first time.”
To prepare for the event, they called on a coach from MNBG E’s Turkish Company, Army 1st Lt. Gorkem Durak, and his eight years of volleyball experience.
“It is a pleasure for me to coach them, because this was my first time working with soldiers from another country,” he said.
Masseth said that during their free time the ladies held several practice sessions to get ready for their upcoming game. The practices served a dual purpose, as it also helped them improve physical fitness.
They played five matches on the big day, with the Kamenice/Kamenica high school team winning four of them.
“It was really fun, the girls were awesome and hard hitters,” said Army Staff Sgt. Danelle Tate, Grandin, N.D., about the high school team. “We didn’t stand a chance, but we had a great time.”
The local players had a good time interacting with their new KFOR friends, as well.
“It was great and a joy,” said Fitore Ahmeti, Gnjilane/Gnjilan, Kosovo, a member of the high school team. “I got a chance to meet soldiers here and I hope they invite us again.”
Ahmeti’s teammate, Vjosane Hoda, Kamenice/Kamenica, Kosovo, agreed.
“I feel very good about it,” she said. “I like it here because I met soldiers and had a chance to talk with them.”
The U.S. players hope the event has a lasting effect that spreads out and grows new and stronger relationships.
“For us, it is really important because it gives us a chance to meet more people out in our area. We now have 14 more people that know us and feel much more comfortable talking to us, which helps us build better rapport,” Altenburg said.
Multinational Battle Group East is a U.S.- led unit, commanded by Army Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann. This Battle Group is comprised of nearly 1,200 Soldiers, including Task Force Hellas and Task Force POL/UKR (Polish/Ukraine) and Turkey. The charter mission of MNBG-E is maintaining a safe and secure environment and providing freedom of movement for the people in Kosovo.