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Soldier in Kosovo gets another chance to serve

A narrow and winding road leads here - a small village nestled in the mountains off the administrative boundary line between Kosovo and Serbia. For Spc. Shane P. Spieker, it's a 90 minute drive by Humvee from Camp Bondsteel, the U.S.-led NATO headquarters in Kosovo.

The place reminds Spieker, a squad member with B Co. 231st Maneuver Task Force, a little of home in North Dakota. And the work he's doing now is a lot like what he was doing nine months ago, maintaining safety and security in his flood-ravaged state.

In his civilian life, Spieker, West Fargo, a squad member, in B Co. 231st Maneuver Task Force, works as a correction officer at the Cass County Jail, in Fargo.

During the spring floods of 2009 in North Dakota and Minnesota, he was called by Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney to help patrol rural cities. His service was not as a citizen-soldier, but as a sheriff's deputy.

Though he wanted to help as a guard soldier, his duties with the sheriff's office took precedence.

"All licensed correctional officers became a sort of 'reserve' to help augment the force and provide more emergency responders," Spieker said. "I felt a bit disconnected from my 'guard family', but I was doing something I really enjoyed. I am working as a correctional officer at the county jail, but I want to be a patrol officer."

The presence of the sheriff's deputies added security and comfort for the citizens of the rural communities in Cass County.

"I patrolled Hunter, Arthur, Tower City, and Page, N.D., to ensure the people had what they needed to survive," Spieker said. "I would drive about an hour, which is very similar to my duty in Kosovo."

His ties to the guard soldiers helped with coordination to better serve the citizens of his home state.

As in Kosovo, the role of the National Guard during the flood was to work with the civilian organizations when and where requested. Now Spieker is getting his chance to do it as a soldier.

"I relate this to my time patrolling in the rural cities in North Dakota, the cities are rather self-sufficient, our presence on the streets is enough," Spieker said.

Spieker, who deployed to Iraq in 2003 as a mechanic with the 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion, based in Fargo, said many soldiers he served with in Iraq are still in the guard and play vital roles at home and here in Kosovo.

Soldiers work with the people here to solve many issues on patrol; they get an opportunity to meet the local citizens and share their thoughts through the use of translators.

"It's soldiers, such as Spc. Spieker and his partners in Multi-National Task Force-East, who optimize what it means to embrace change and carry on with selfless service, no matter what uniform they might be wearing or in what capacity they might be serving - civilian or military," said Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann, commanding general of MNTF-E. "I admire Spc. Spieker's respect and pride for his military family back home and here in Kosovo."

The times on patrol often remind Spieker of his two children back home in West Fargo.

"I often get time to think, and when I see the young kids playing in the street I think of my children, what I am missing in their lives and what we have shared together. I look forward to seeing my kids soon," he said.