Montpelier: James Madison University Magazine

Kosovo Encounters of the 4th Kind
Montpelier Spring 2000

Matt McFarlaneWith the vast majority of JMU's alumni living across the United States, it may not be surprising to run into a fellow Duke at the local grocery store, but how about halfway across the globe? In August 1999, while on a month-long assignment in Kosovo, Stars and Stripes reporter Cindy Chamberlin ('81) was struggling to complete an assignment. "I was trying to write a story about U.S. peacekeeping soldiers and their ride-along program on city buses in Vitina, Kosovo, to help ensure that ethnic Albanian drivers were giving service to all ethnic groups," says Chamberlin.

U.S. Army Captain Matt McFarlane ('92) was in charge of the company that led the entry of U.S. military forces into Kosovo. His company secured the area that became the U.S. base camp ‹ Bondsteel. Later, McFarlane and his troops moved to Vitina. "My company's mission was to ensure that the Serbs and Albanians adhered to the terms of the Military Technical Agreement, which ended the war," he says. "We were there to stabilize the area. ... We had daily meetings with Serb and Albanian leaders in the town to try to restore local civil affairs, like trash collection, medical services, postal services and schools. One minute we would be meeting to reopen a local factory, and 10 minutes later we were running a mass casualty operation because someone threw a grenade in the market," he says.

Still having problems with her story, Chamberlin says, "The first group of soldiers kept getting delayed, and I needed the story for the next day. On my third trip to the base camp, I met the Army captain in charge of the unit. He and I began talking, and he asked me where I was from. I told him ŒVirginia,' and he asked where I went to school. I said 'James Madison.' We couldn't believe it. He went out of his way to help me with my story, which I finished for the next day's edition."

During the next few weeks, Chamberlin and McFarlane continued to see one another. "He helped me find a small Serbian village, and I went along when his unit distributed boxes of school supplies to a poor Albanian school."
Chamberlin wasn't the only JMU alum that McFarlane encountered in the Balkans. During his six-month stay, he ran into a total of four JMU grads. In Tirane, Albania, he met Capt. Jim Lock ('94), a battalion assistant operations officer whose unit helped secure the Tirane Rinas Airfield. In Vitina, he ran into Capt. Joe Leardi ('93), who was in charge of the local infor-mation operations center. And, in Vitina, he met Randal Dragon ('79), a lieutenant colonel in command of the Army's 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment.

by Kara Carpenter ('00)

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