June 30, 2000

Reduque Prepares to Stand Guard in Kosovo

By Elaine Tarello

Friedberg, Germany — When he joined the Army, the son of a San Diego couple figured he would spend his days training for war, learning how to shot a rifle, throw a grenade and maneuver a battlefield. He never thought he'd have to carry the shield and baton of a riot cop, face down an angry, shouting mob and duck to avoid stones and empty bottles flying through the air.

While soldiers train to wag war, Army Spec. Benjamin-jefker Reduque, son of Brigido and Marina Reduque, has spent the past three months learning to enforce peace as he prepares to enter one of the most volatile and dangerous areas in the world —Kosovo.

Army Spec. Benjaminjefker Reduque, a tank driver, checks his M-16 rifle before a training exercise. Reduque and 6,000 other soldiers are getting ready to join Task Force Falcon, the U.S. contingent responsible for enforcing peace in the southeast sector of Kosovo.

Once there, he and more than 3,600 other soldiers from the 1st Armored Division will join Task Force Falcon, the American contingent of NATO's Kosovo force, dedicated to enforcing peace between the ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs in the southeast sector of this warravaged province.

"Training has been very thorough and I believe we're fully ready for this mission," said Reduque, a 1990 graduate of Araullo University, Philippines. "To prepare, we have classes in dismount patrol, vehicle search and crowd control."

For training exercises, soldiers travel out to a site in Hohenfels, where mock Kos-ovar villages are erected and troops are exposed to scenarios ripped from today's headlines. This preparation is key, because once in Kosovo, Reduque and the other soldiers will be cast in the unfamiliar role of peacekeepers. They will be expected to do everything from police work to social work, serving as mayors, school principals and even corporate executives.

In fact, Reduque will most likely find himself doing everything but his Army specialty, a tank driver.

"My Army job is to maintain Abrams main battle tanks," Reduque said. "It's a hard job, but I try to have patience and endurance. We constantly train in communications operations as well as small arms and 120 millimeter main gun operations.

"But in Kosovo, I'll be enforcing law and order by deterring drug and gun trafficking and illegal migration," he said.

Learning a new job will be just one of the challenges confronting Reduque as he and the other soldiers struggle to keep the peace in a land divided by centuries of hate.

"My biggest challenge will be dealing with people who have different values, particularly concerning peace and democracy," Reduque said. "Aside from that, we'll also have the challenge of helping another country obtain the freedom we enjoy every day."

We three months of training and preparation behind him, Reduque said that, despite the challenges, he feels prepared for the six-month mission.

"As a U.S. force, I know we'll be successful as long as we can convey a strong message of peace," Reduque said. "I'm proud and grateful to be part of this peacekeeping mission, and to be a representative of the U.S. Army."

Reduque and the other 1st Armored Division soldiers will soon have the chance to put their training to the test. They left to join the 42,000-strong NATO led force in June.

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