Just two years after Chris L’Heureux joined the Army in 1999, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 led to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that would define a generation of US Army service. Like so many others across the Army, Chris would go on to deploy multiple times to those war zones. But his first deployment was very different.

Shortly after arriving at his unit and taking his position as a platoon leader, Chris and his soldiers were sent to Kosovo. They were participating in Operation Joint Guardian and the NATO-led international military force there. It was a peacekeeping mission—in Chris’s words, the United States had committed to placing American service members “in between two groups of people that desperately wanted to kill each other.” In addition to these local communities, there were a wide array of actors on the ground in Kosovo. Besides the NATO forces, there were, for example, a UN police training mission, a number of nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations, and others. There was also a sizeable Russian military contingent.

When locals in the area that Chris and his platoon were patrolling accused several Russian forces of criminal violence, Chris and a fellow lieutenant were told to detain them. When the Russians fled, the young US officers were told to follow them and authorized to use force. As they did so, Chris was presented with dilemmas that few lieutenants are fully prepared to face. He joins this episode to share the story.

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Image credit: Spc. Daniel Ernst, US Army