Military Police Functions in Kosovo
by LTC Richard W. Swengros, Cdr, 793d MP Bn, 18th MP Bde
As an MP soldier,
you know that new "hot spots" in the world will cause soldiers
somewhere to receive a call to train, prepare to deploy, deploy,
and then operate in that "hot spot." The 793d MP Battalion,
18th MP Brigade, received such a call the first week of June
1999 and then quickly deployed to Kosovo on 12 June in support
of Task Force (TF) Falcon to stabilize and then restore peace
to the war-torn province of Kosovo. The 18th MP Brigade was
to form an MP battalion with three companies. The HHD, 793d
MP Battalion, 630th MP Company (793d MP Battalion); 127th MP
Company (709th MP Battalion); and 1st MP Company (1st Infantry
Division) were to deploy to Kosovo in support of TF Falcon.
The following is a summary of the MP actions, some lessons learned
(and relearned), and some food for thought gleaned from the
Spartan Battalion's quick move from various communities in Germany
to Camps Montieth and Bondsteel, Kosovo, in support of TF Falcon.
When the 793d MP Battalion received the call to begin preparing
for deployment to Kosovo with one company and the battalion
headquarters, the opportunity to excel was enormous. The battalion
had just completed a major training exercise at the MOUT facility
in Hammelburg, GE. Also, the battalion had one platoon deployed
from the 212th MP Company to Sarajevo and one platoon from the
212th MP Company and three platoons and one company headquarters,
615th MP Company, deployed in Tiranes, Albania, supporting TF
Hawk. Therefore, the deployment of the 630th MP Company and
the battalion headquarters was a "come-as-you-are" deployment,
made much more difficult because of the deployments already
underway and the fact that the battalion still had its community
law-enforcement commitments in nine communities.
Two readiness preparation programs significantly enhanced our
deployment capabilities: our officer professional development
(OPD) program and our quarterly deployment conferences. We use
a portion of our OPD program as the key to gaining knowledge
of an area of responsibility (AOR). While our OPD consists of
the "typical" METL-related topics, it also includes an S2 briefing
to open the session. The S2 briefing familiarizes the officers
with the EUCOM AOR, a current "hot spot" in the AOR, or some
other significant event of the times.
In the six months leading to our deployment, we had discussed
aspects of Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Israel, and Iraq.
Our leaders knew the terrain; they became familiar with some
key political, military, and ethnic group leaders; and they
knew some of the nuances of the people of these areas. Our quarterly
readiness program reviewed the status of rail- and air-load
teams, family-support-group (FSG) rosters and programs, team
training (NBC, field sanitation, combat lifesaver), and deployment
status of individual soldiers. In essence, it was no problem
to air-load our initial-entry force and complete personnel deployment
processing (PDP) for the battalion well ahead of schedule.
When we received the order to prepare to deploy, we conducted
the mission analysis. The mission analysis is key, and analyzing
the implied tasks is as essential to our success as MP as any
other part of the military decisionmaking process (MDMP). In
the TF planning, we only recognized a need to enter Kosovo through
a border crossing. In planning, we did not fully grasp the impact
of the eventual wording in the military technical agreement
that required Kosovo Forces (KFOR) to secure the border crossings
between Kosovo and non-Serbian countries. We knew there was
a major crossing point in our AOR; we had visited it during
deployments with the UN peacekeeping mission in Macedonia. We
knew there were refugees, several hundred thousand, within Macedonia
and only several kilometers from the Kosovo border.
What we did not calculate was the enormity of the operation
to run an actual border crossing (control, customs, immigration),
move all KFOR units north into Kosovo, and then assist with
the earlier-than-expected onward movement of refugees back into
Kosovo. Once the refugees saw NATO's tenacity, and realized
the Serbia Army quickly and completely withdrew, the rush was
on to return to their villages and begin to piece together their
lives before winter set in.
What complicated our matters was there was no other feasible
route (not mined) into Kosovo; our main supply route (MSR) and
only deployment route was the one and only route available.
This repatriation was also the first realization at the ground
level that the United Nations High Com-mission for Refugees
(UNHCR) and KFOR had not developed a plan to keep refugees from
returning to Kosovo until after KFOR completed the initial deployment
The Army tends to deploy forces to these type peacekeeping
operations based on force cap, not necessarily by what mission
analysis reveals is necessary to accomplish the mission. This
was the case for our deployment. We took three companies at
current strength (about 66-percent strength; we could fill two
of three squads in every Corps MP unit) and were only "allowed"
a small initial-entry force package.
Our initial-entry force package consisted of a small battalion
element (battalion commander, S3, S4, signal officer, battalion
maintenance NCO, and some operations personnel from the S3),
a small company headquarters (operations, communications, company
commander), two MP platoons, one PSD squad for the TF commander,
one K9 team, and one CID agent. Our experiences in Bosnia and
Albania showed us that if the 05-level commanders don't get
on the ground early, the deployment of the rest of the unit
is much more difficult.
Leaving the battalion XO to deploy the forces works well and
allows the battalion commander and key staff to set the stage
early for reception, staging, onward movement, and integration
(RSOI) of MP forces. The dividends paid during this deployment
were significant as the S3 and battalion commander were able
to influence deployment sequences from the intermediate staging
base (ISB) into Kosovo -- the land we were to occupy for our
portion of the base camp, communications, and other significant
elements necessary to ensure early operational success.
The initial-entry forces flew into Macedonia, which was a relatively
smooth process. We took the typical equipment necessary for
initial operations and survival. The follow-on forces shipped
out by rail from home stations, and then supercargo accompanied
the equipment by ship to Greece for road movement through Macedonia
into Kosovo. The units that kept radios, gun mounts, and squad
boxes secured in their vehicles for this sea movement were ready
(and thankfully so) to begin operations immediately upon arrival
The other units, concerned about pilferage during transport,
placed everything except their individual weapons in MILVANs.
Needless to say, there was a time delay before these units became
operationally ready. There was no major pilferage on the sea
movement; items were locked and tied down using cargo straps
or banding material.
Soldiers are eager to accomplish real-life missions.
Leaders step forward, soldiers perform superbly, systems click,
and Murphy generally becomes a nonissue. In our deployment to
Kosovo, MP came very close to conducting corps rear-area
operations as you might expect to perform in a major land
war. We had paramilitary forces still operating, refugees, criminal
elements, minefields, enemy equipment that had been destroyed
and damaged cluttering the battlefield, and a non-functioning
In the six months of operations
in Kosovo, the battalion logged over 532,000 miles, apprehended
and processed over 1,257 detainees, responded to over 2,354
incidents, assisted in the return of over 280,000 refugees,
and performed over 560 security-related missions. We operated
one main MP station, seven substations and one information center,
one detention camp, one jail facility, one impound lot, one
captured-equipment site, one captured weapons MILVAN, and several
evidence containers. We conducted over 3,000 squad-sized patrols
in seven major cities or large towns, over 2,300 square kilometers
in our AOR, and over 400 kilometers of MSR. The following is
a recap of the battlefield functions MP encountered in this
MANEUVER AND MOBILITY SUPPORT OPERATIONS (MMSOs)
The battalion performed in an outstanding manner in this facet
of the operations. One of the key tasks we had to conduct was
keeping the MSR clear for all KFOR units to move from Macedonia
into Kosovo. We used two platoons at peak capacity at the border
entry point in the town of Djeneral Jankovic. For the first
two months, this border crossing was the only crossing open
into Kosovo from Macedonia.
Our biggest problem was congestion -- a result of the massive
numbers of convoys entering Kosovo, the unexpected early and
large numbers of refugees entering Kosovo, the large number
of contractor vehicles, such as gravel trucks for Brown and
Root operations, and the numerous humanitarian-aid vehicles.
At times, we operated a defile up to six kilometers in length.
Our communications and mobility were superb and allowed us
to accomplish the mission. We took control of a nonfunctioning
cement factory and former UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army) strongpoint
and turned it into a large vehicle-holding area as we quickly
found out that the Macedonia Border Control operations were
using manual methods to log and track every vehicle (nonmilitary)
and person entering and departing Kosovo. There were waits of
up to 36 hours to enter Kosovo and Macedonia yet, to the credit
of superb platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, and MP, KFOR military
convoys were never delayed at the border for more than five
or 10 minutes.
To accomplish the border mission, as mentioned, we made extensive
use of our manpack SINCGARs. We requested and received tactical
satellite (TACSAT) radios (one each for the border crossing,
the battalion and company headquarters, and each of our MP stations).
The TACSAT was literally a lifesaver several times as it was
the only communications we had between the border and the base
camp. We used the TACSAT for routine reports, MEDEVAC requests
for civilians who had stepped on land mines in the area, and
other requests for assistance. Timely information is always
important to commanders and this was the case for the border
operations as well.
The remaining MMSO tasks were the more "routine" reconnaissance;
route regulation and enforcement; straggler-control operations;
and responding to, and clearing scenes of, traffic accidents,
explosions, and other incidents disrupting the flow of traffic.
The lessons learned included the need for TACSAT. As hard as
we worked it, the AM communications gear simply did not work
We also found that our training program before deployment was
on target and the STXs in the new MTPs adequately prepared us
for MMSOs in Kosovo. The equipment we have is appropriately
suited to complete this type of mission as well. As the manpack
radios are somewhat inconvenient to pull out of the vehicle
and wear, the battalion later relied on "secure hand-held radios."
The range decreased, but the soldiers could operate more easily
with these radios.
AREA SECURITY OPERATIONS
Securing dignitaries, up to and including the President of
the United States; securing facilities; and providing security
of convoys or along routes were tasks that we performed routinely.
The TF received over 300 visitors in the six months we were
in Kosovo (no dignitaries the first 30 days or so). What Kosovo
did provide both the combat arms and our MP battalion was the
realization that area security is much more difficult than we
see in training areas or in computer simulations. In computer
simulations, we hear the guidance, "Kill the SPF, every one
There was a group (actually we believed there were several
groups) in Kosovo that fired mortars at Serb villages. The mortar
man, as he became known to KFOR and citizens, was very successful
at targeting only Serb populations and then evading capture.
With the MP and scouts, the TF could saturate an area and prevent
firings. The other mortar men had many targets and more patience
than we did. If we left an area, the mortar team would move
in with a vehicle or hay-covered wagon, fire the shells, and
be gone within minutes, often sliding right into a nearby town.
There were never any witnesses. Our general perception became
that there was no such thing as an Albanian witness to a crime
against a Serb.
The field artillery unit had
a lock on the firing point one time and could not get the permission
in time to counterfire. Does this sound familiar to those of
us who routinely operate (or train to operate) in the rear areas?
Sure it does. As our joint planning and response times improved,
we did find one complete mortar tube and another baseplate.
We did capture one group but were ordered to release them by
the Albanian magistrates as they declined to prosecute one individual
and released the others on their own recognizance, pending a
We did find a small cache buried in a yard and did find some
mortar-related pieces in a barn during one of our many hundred
house searches, but we never struck gold. We learned very quickly
that finding a cache, or picking out a covert paramilitary-type
force in the rear area, was about the most difficult mission
any of our troops (to include scouts, long-range reconnaissance
teams, special forces) had undertaken. The only sure-fire way
to stop the mortar attacks for us was to saturate the area with
Although in some ways very similar, internment operations in
Kosovo were quite difficult and different than EPW operations
for which we train. The engineer unit built the holding facility
right from our Field Manual (FM) 19-4, Military Police Battlefield
Circulation Control, Area Security, and Enemy Prisoner of War
Operations. Our first detainee was a murder suspect. We
thought of this facility as a rather temporary facility as we
heard very early on that UN police would be arriving soon and
taking over many of the police functions. Believing this, we
had the engineers build a small rudimentary triple-stranded
concertina facility to hold about 48 detainees (four GP mediums,
administration area). Very shortly, we realized that the UN
would not be on board as quickly as anticipated, nor would the
courts and jail facilities be established as quickly as anticipated.
With no judicial system and no theater-holding facility as
you might expect to see in a war, we were left to keep detainees
on a long-term basis. Using the FM for guidance, we had the
engineers build a larger facility to hold up to 130 detainees.
The facility soon had an inflatable/portable shower. We had
the administration/processing tent, a visitor's tent, an interrogation
tent (for both the CI personnel and our own MP and CID investigators),
a lawyer tent and courtroom tent for what we would label as
a pretrial hearing, living areas (Tier III GP mediums), porta-potties,
guard towers, and a supply area.
A significant revelation for the TF was that long-term detainees
require slightly different handling than your typical EPWs where
prisoners move in and out quite frequently (at division- and
corps-level holding areas). The detention facility must provide
for visitors, lawyers, and judges. We set up the visitation
program similar to that of a regional correctional facility.
Our facility had procedures for medical care, and we had training
and procedures for dispensing medications.
To keep our MP requirements to a platoon-sized operation to
run the facility, we incorporated K9 teams into daily detention-facility
operations. The handlers trained their dogs within eyesight
of the facility, a great deterrent to possible escapees. We
had K9s present for every dignitary that visited. When our detainee
population rose above 80, we had K9s patrol the facility every
evening, staying into the night. The K9 teams were superb. We
incorporated them into the detention operation in such a way
as it had minimal impact on other missions we tasked them to
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited
several times. They provided some reading material and cigarettes.
Because of the sanitary conditions and general poor health of
the detainees (we had some with active TB, heart problems),
we kept the detainees on an MRE diet with bottled water. Although
this took the ICRC by surprise, as they initially learned the
detainees were not eating the same type meals the soldiers were,
the ICRC concurred that the MRE provided the safest food source
and were best for the detainees. We had no disease out-breaks,
sanitary problems, or any other food-related incidents, and
the ICRC agreed with our policy (or at least didn't file a complaint).
As we established our detention operations, we recognized a
void in MP and TF planning concerning logistical support for
detainment operations. As these detainees were in a pretrial,
not EPW status, we afforded them certain rights that EPWs might
not receive. In doing this, we had to figure from where the
resources would come. The S4 learned quickly how to order from
military supply channels or where to buy on the economy (which
at first was nonexistent).
We provided sleeping bags, cots, blankets, personal hygiene
items, shower shoes, personal items storage bins (for watches,
belts, shoe strings), pants, shirts, jackets (winter coats),
boots, games, books, reading material, and other items to detainees
upon their long-term incarceration in our facility.
International organizations estimated that there were anywhere
from 600,000 to 800,000 refugees who fled Kosovo into neighboring
Albania and Macedonia. Several hundred thousand of these refugees
fled to Macedonia and settled into camps just south of the Kosovo-Macedonia
Border. As these refugees fled, many were reportedly beaten,
killed, or injured. Many had their personal papers and monies
stolen. We found several locations where personal documents
had apparently been burnt. Cars and tractors were confiscated
and, prior to the Serbs departing Kosovo, were stripped of most
working/valuable parts and left to rust all along the border-crossing
When U.S. and other KFOR moved into Kosovo, the word quickly
spread that the Serbs had indeed left. Knowing many houses had
been ransacked and torched and that Balkan winters would be
approaching fast, many Kosovo Albanians still in Kosovo quickly
organized and began feeding reports or traveling to Macedonia.
They quickly let families know when forces had cleared a given
town and that it was "fairly" safe to return and begin life
Within two weeks of arriving
in Kosovo, KFOR now had to deal with a steady stream of family
members in Kosovo heading south, mostly on foot or Macedonia
taxi, into Macedonia to pick up other family members in the
refugee camps. The combination of foot traffic south (most vehicles
in Kosovo had license plates removed or stolen and, therefore,
could not initially enter into Macedonia) and foot and vehicle
(convoy and civilian) traffic north into Kosovo clogged the
MSRs, as there was no other route available for convoys or refugees.
All other routes were mined, went through Serbia, or were nothing
more than treacherous goat trails through the mountains.
The greatest source of conflict three months into our operation
was the methodical threatening and then the forceful eviction
of Serbs from their houses so Albanians could move in. Many
houses and apartments were once state-owned and, as such, were
mostly occupied by Serbs. The Albanians claimed that since the
state no longer existed, the property was rightfully Albanian
property, as many had lived there before the Serbian takeover
in the early 90s. The typical pattern included verbal threats,
physical threats and assaults, hand grenades, and eventually
killings or arson. There were very few property records available,
and many that were available were skeptical, probably forged.
Refugees who returned home often found their furniture missing,
much of it now in Serbian homes. They began searching houses
for furniture; the KFOR could not distinguish looters from legitimate
refugees repatriating. USKFOR quickly took the lead and organized
"furniture repatriation" programs. The public was given an opportunity
to return furniture that was not their own. The TF began identifying
owners and returning property. This repatriation eliminated
a significant caseload of "stolen property" we would have had
Artillerymen and engineers helped establish a system for identifying
owners of property. Additionally, we had a problem identifying
rightful owners of land and houses. Many Serbs by now had fled,
and many more Albanians (not Kosovo-Albanian) had begun arriving
and "looking" for houses. The TF was adamant that it would not
get involved in property disputes, a mission the TF would leave
to the UN.
Resettlement operations are extremely difficult operations,
especially when local records have been destroyed. The MP were
like firemen, rushing from disturbance to disturbance trying
to maintain some relative order and peace while UN administrators
struggled with policy, attempting to address how best to get
families back into homes or shelters before winter.
POLICE INFORMATION OPERATIONS
This MP function is fairly new doctrine to the MP Corps. Kosovo
showed us just how important it is to get a good plan together,
a plan that not only addresses information flow and use inside
police channels but also flow of "police information" collected
from nonpolice units. The working relationship between the CID
and the MP was outstanding. We formed a crime-analysis cell,
initially an MP and a CID agent that sorted through police reports/cases
and did some critical analysis of the information. They worked
together daily and, within a short period, began producing significant
results. We linked them in tightly with the battalion S2 section
and eventually the intelligence-analyst cell at the TF headquarters.
The hardest parts of the information operations were collecting
information the infantry, armor, and engineer units received
from their daily contacts and patrols and then disseminating
the information in a timely and organized fashion. Collecting
information from the combat-arms units was extremely difficult
at first. These units are not accustomed to police operations
and tend to be very possessive of the land they occupy and the
information they develop.
A more pressing problem confronted everyone in the TF, assimilating
partner nations in our peacekeeping endeavor. Our soldiers worked
with Russian, Greek, Polish, Ukraine, Swedish, Canadian, British,
German, and United Arab Emirates soldiers on a routine basis.
We enhanced the police information operations with these combat-arms
units through daily personal contacts with them, sharing information
on patrols and patrol activities. Written reports and radio
contact would not suffice. When we worked closely with them
and took the time to speak face to face, the information flow
was great, and all operations were significantly enhanced.
Soon, it became routine to pass all information, and that is
the key, all information. We had to stress to these units that
even the seemingly most mundane information might be the missing
link for a police investigation. In return, the MP had to become
better at providing feedback so the combat-arms units could
not only see the fruits of their work but also use the information
we had developed in our investigations. The Police Information
Operations is truly a circuitous program that lies not only
within police channels but also, as Kosovo proved, in nonpolice
This MP function was clearly the key task we accomplished after
the two weeks in Kosovo. As the displaced civilians and refugees
returned to their homes, our job became overwhelming. Land and
house disputes occupied much of our early time in Kosovo. Tractors
with wagons full of household items clogged roads. Many suspicious
loads were stopped and, through investigation, we discovered
the loads were stolen items. Our stolen- goods storage areas
were quickly filled, and our detention center became a very
As more Albanians returned (or as new ones entered) to Kosovo,
the number of crimes against Serbs, retribution, rose sharply.
Soon we found ourselves responding to as many as 30 arsons and
several murders and attempted murders each day as Albanians
began a systematic (random but quite abundant) cleansing of
Serbs from Albanian villages or cities.
As we responded to cases, we soon found a commonality that
was quite disturbing to police operations and to the democratic
process. If a crime was committed against an Albanian, for the
most part, we could investigate the case and receive good cooperation
from citizens. If the crime was against a Serb, the Albanians
imposed a code of silence that, if broken, resulted in serious
injury or death to the Albanian. Most crimes soon became crimes
against only Serbs, and our efforts were clearly frustrated
and sabotaged by the code of silence and direct actions to taint
evidence at the scene.
For the most part, MP responded
to incidents we would expect to see in any peacekeeping operation.
Because of the significant violence in the cases, and the sheer
quantity of cases, CID could not respond to every case. The
MP quickly found themselves becoming investigators. While we
found the MP quite versed in basic MP procedures, many lacked
the basic fundamentals of investigations. We had to take the
time and teach many how to be basic investigators, to ask the
right questions at the right time, so we could further develop
One of the greatest contributors to our investigative process
was the MP team at the detention center. These MP would get
the case and detainee and then immediately begin to develop
the case further. We not only developed cases for court proceedings
but also saw what connections or information we could obtain
on other cases, either solved or unsolved. We found some serious
criminals by continuing investigations within the detention
All information was passed to the CID in our daily meetings.
In these meetings, we routinely discussed the information and
made daily determinations as to whether the CID should now pick
up on a case. The CID was superb, as they provided sound guidance
to all our MP, helped train them as investigators and, as necessary,
got us on the right track. They did this while handling the
significant caseload with which they had to contend.
The two most prevalent impediments to the TF policing portion
of its peacekeeping efforts were the lack of police-related
systems and the lack of the criminal and civil-court system
from pretrial, through court, to post-trial confinement. The
ethnic background of citizens could not be readily determined.
Most administrative documents and records, such as licenses,
registrations, and court and civil administration files, were
burned. We found clear evidence of that in the key cities of
Urosevac and Gnjilane.
Citizens were reluctant to talk, which also hindered investigative
efforts. Detainees often asked where we ""beat" prisoners and
where other prisoners would be executed. Once the detainees
realized they would receive humane treatment, the information
flow, as little as it was, completely dried up. All these factors
made police work extremely difficult.
While the MP in the TF will probably never investigate as many
serious crimes as they did in the six months in Kosovo, we will
receive great dividends by ensuring that our MP understand the
investigative process, questioning techniques, and evidence
collection and processing.
In July, the TF responded to some major demonstrations, rock
throwings, and statue destructions. The MP played a significant
role in reducing tensions by using superb interpersonal communication
skills; not one MP had to resort to firing a warning shot to
reduce tensions. On the contrary, infantry and armor units effectively
used warning shots (into the air) to reduce tensions and disperse
near-violent crowds. The MP were key in de-escalating disturbances
in Ranilug, Kamenica, Gnjilane, Urosevac, and Pasjane. These
demonstrations tied up a significant number of assets and blocked
the few main highways for hours.
The TF began putting out information that encouraged the populace
to air their grievances in a more peaceful manner. One method
was through town-hall meetings or mayor meetings. Mayors were
often instrumental in helping curb the violence or otherwise
reduce tension. The other method was to demonstrate peacefully
and not block the road.
While this option worked well, it still required a large number
of troops to monitor the demonstration. There were very few
major demonstrations after the town-hall meetings became routine.
The MP did provide riot-control training to TF units, although
we never did use riot-control formations to move the crowds.
The crowds normally responded with firm but fair directions.
We were ready for the worst!
Throughout the operation, we recognized a need for information
operations, communicating with the populace in an attempt to
shape the battlefield. The work of the civil-affairs teams and
PSYOP teams was instrumental to our early success. Our MP teams
worked with these teams daily, and the success stories are abundant.
Soon after establishing operations, the civil-affairs teams
helped the civilians re-establish a rudimentary radio station
in Urosevac and later in Gnjilane.
TF commanders, to include the MP, spent two hours, daily, delivering
messages to the population. Messages were public service-type
announcements and information campaigns designed to lead the
populace to desired behaviors. For the most part, the MP messages
were well received. The radio was used to help mold public attitude,
enhance roadway safety, and provide information on successes
of the TF in reducing crime.
The battalion enjoyed tremendous successes throughout the deployment.
Battling austere living conditions, the Balkan summer, and a
nonexistent civil infrastructure caused all soldiers to come
together quickly. We executed missions from every MP battlefield
function. The TF, once in place and securing key objectives,
looked to the MP often to guide them through "policing the battlefield."
Nearly every incident required MP support or action. Our soldiers
responded terrifically, a credit to their training, equipment,
and good old American soldier determination. The Spartan Battalion
proved once again it is always ready.
Editor's Note: This article was previously published in Military
Police, May 2000.
No matter the odds, our soldiers never quit!