by Keith Nordstrom
BY CRAIG BORGES / SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
"Kossovo, more than
any other historical site I know, arouses desolation. It
spreads peacefully into its vast, gentle distances, slow
winds polishing it like a cloth passing over a mirror, turning
the heads of the standing grain to the light. It has a look
of innocence, which is the extreme of guilt. For it is crowded
with the dead " - Rebecca West from her 1940 book "Black
Lamb and Grey Falcon, A Journey Through Yugoslavia."
they didn't have all this war crap going on, Kosovo would
be one beautiful place." The words, spoken by a Blackhawk
helicopter crewmember, are barely audible because of static
and numerous conversations taking place on the KFOR air
traffic control frequency. But how true they ring.
From the window of a Blackhawk
flying high over the American-patrolled sector of the Yugoslav
province, Kosovo's natural beauty unfolds. Sharp snow-covered
mountains break through the clouds. Rolling bright-green
hills that are dotted by picture-postcard-like towns made
up of whitewashed buildings topped with clay-colored roofs
surround the mountains.
Dirt roads are the norm
and asphalt is seldom seen. Rivers wind through the valleys,
and forests fill the spaces not turned over to agriculture.
Asphalt is rare. There are no strip malls, no parking lots
or clogged six-lane highways. There is just beauty.
But this masterpiece by
mother nature is not without its flaws.
Entire sections of towns
and villages are destroyed, victims of Serb and NATO bombing
during NATO's 78-day war with Serb troops in 1999. Trenches
and gun positions can be seen carved into hillsides. Craters
caused by bombing and shelling, now filled with water and
mud, speckle the fields. Entire sections of fields are surrounded
by long white strips of cloth - a telltale sign that the
area has been mined.
Entire blocks of homes and
buildings sit in ruins, their shattered roofs and walls
looking like so many crushed eggshells from above.
The beauty of Kosovo is
When the United States set up Camp Bondsteel it did so with
power in mind - lots of it in fact.
The military units that
make up Task Force Falcon and call Bondsteel home include
armored divisions, infantry, engineers, field artillery,
aviation, military police, airborne infantry, signal battalions,
civil affairs and support groups.
Apache attack helicopters
can be heard leaving for, or returning from, patrols late
into the night. Heavily armed crews in humvees roam the
camp's streets and leave the base regularly for patrols
in the sector's villages and towns. Medical helicopters,
as well as Blackhawks and the large Chinook transport choppers,
come and go on a regular basis.
The camp serves as headquarters
for various satellite bases set up throughout NATO's Multinational
Brigade East, which is more commonly referred to as the