Canadian logisticians adapt to ever-evolving NATO force in Kosovo

Three soldiers kneel for a better view of a simulated explosive device and discuss explosive awareness training.
Lieutenant-Colonel Pierre Ouellet and personnel from the Joint Logistics Support Group work on explosive awareness training in Pristina, Kosovo on Operation KOBOLD, Canada’s contribution to NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR).

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By: Ashley Black, Canadian Joint Operations Command Public Affairs

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) logistics personnel deployed on Operation KOBOLD are leading by example as members of the Joint Logistics Support Group in Pristina, Kosovo, part of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR). Occupying key positions in KFOR, the deployed CAF members are contributing to freedom of movement, new infrastructure, and safe roads in Kosovo.

KFOR was established on June 12, 1999 by the United Nations as an international security force to build peace and stability in Kosovo. The NATO-led KFOR remained in the country following Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from the Republic of Serbia. Primary goals identified at the creation of KFOR included deterring hostilities, maintaining ceasefire and ensuring public safety. Today, KFOR’s mandate has evolved to maintain a safe and secure environment in Kosovo and freedom of movement for all.

Canadians are integral to the Joint Logistics Operation Centre and greatly impact the logistical support to KFOR. Lieutenant-Colonel Pierre Ouellet is the Commanding Officer of Operation KOBOLD as well as the Chief of the Joint Logistics Operation Centre in the Joint Logistics Support Group. “As Chief of the Joint Logistics Operation Centre, I lead the KFOR organization that provides transport services, explosive ordnance disposal operations, engineering support and freedom of movement,” he explains. He is closely involved in all of the logistics centre’s projects.

The Deputy Chief of the Joint Logistics Centre assists Lieutenant-Colonel Ouellet with overseeing the centre; the Chief of Movement and Transportation coordinates and advises on the movement of personnel and equipment in and out of Kosovo; the Chief of Information Security is not a logistician, but supports logistical projects by monitoring the computer systems used in KFOR; and finally, the Chief Clerk is responsible for custom clearances of KFOR material transiting in Kosovo. All of these roles are occupied by Canadians.

As the KFOR mission has changed over the years, so has the logistical support of the operation. Lieutenant-Colonel Ouellet says as violence becomes less of a challenge for the mission, KFOR’s goals become more delicate and multifaceted. “KFOR has goals of ensuring a safe and secure environment, supporting the international community, building capacity of the Kosovo Security Force, and supporting the development of a democratic, multi-ethnic and peaceful Kosovo.”

The deployed CAF members on Operation KOBOLD contribute to three major activities undertaken by the Joint Logistics Operation Centre that directly support KFOR’s mandate.

The Freedom of Movement Detachment contributes to the safe movement for all in Kosovo. It is equipped to remove obstacles from roads using armoured vehicles

The engineers contribute to the safe and secure environment in Kosovo by building bridges, roads and other construction projects for KFOR. They are also responsible for assisting with community projects and helping with natural disaster recovery.

Finally, the Joint Logistics Operation Centre conducts explosive ordnance disposal support, working with the Kosovo Security Force to dispose of unexploded remnants of war and ensure a safe and secure environment.

The deployed CAF members on Operation KOBOLD are skilled professionals in the Joint Logistics Support Group, and they are also willing to lend a helping hand when their partners need support. As English is the second and often third language for the vast majority of KFOR contributing nations, there can sometimes be language barriers. According to Lieutenant-Colonel Ouellet, the deployed CAF members have taken the initiative to review internal work publications to ensure that the English is clear and effective in explaining KFOR procedures. This is one way that CAF members have exceeded expectations in order to better support the mission.

Deployed CAF members also play an important role as representatives of Canada on the mission. “Canadians have taken the lead on voluntary activities,” explains Lieutenant-Colonel Ouellet. “They invite all nations to participate in social and sporting activities. It’s a natural thing for people to gravitate towards nations with common languages, but Canadians are good at being inclusive and ensuring that other nations bond together,” he says.

This inclusivity goes beyond just team bonding, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Ouellet. The Canadians’ value of inclusivity is well received in Kosovo and demonstrates how a successful multi-ethnic society can thrive, which is a goal that Kosovo continues to work towards.

“Canadians’ reputation as a successful multi-ethnic nation is opening doors. The people of Kosovo see us as a diverse society based on more than just tolerance of all races and religions,” he says. “It’s a positive credit of inclusivity.”

Nearing the end of his deployment, Lieutenant-Colonel Ouellet says he looks back and is proud of the work that Canadians have made in KFOR.

“I would say that Canadians are well suited to excel on this mission. For me, I think Canadians are leaving a very positive mark here in Kosovo.”

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