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Dickinson soldier on 3rd rotation in Kosovo; had chance to serve with brother

Courtesy Photo U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Dodds holds medals intended for U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Wilton S. Gorske, outgoing KFOR chief of staff, given by German Army Maj. Gen. Erhard Bühler, commander KFOR, on July 7 in Kosovo.

When some people travel to new countries they might experience culture shock, while others seem to experience culture opportunity.

This month, it will be two years since Dickinson-based U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Dodds has been home.

Dodds is on his third straight rotation in Kosovo. He served one rotation with his oldest brother, Sgt. 1st Class David Dodds, who lives in Grand Forks. The two said being overseas has given them a chance to learn about European history and other nations.

"I have always had an international mindset," Joshua said. "I dreamed of going to these other places and learning about different cultures."

David graduated from Dickinson High School in 1991 and Joshua graduated from DHS in 1999.

Joshua has been in the National Guard for 14 years and David has served for 22 years. They have a brother, Derek Dodds, who served in the Air Force.

Joshua has not been to the U.S. since September 2009.

For the first 18 months in Kosovo, Joshua worked in public affairs as a military journalist, taking photographs and writing stories that would be released to military personnel and civilians.

David was Joshua's commander for the first rotation. Both brothers said it was an interesting working relationship.

"The time we were there together was pretty special," David said, adding that there were other brothers and sisters serving together. "It really made things special when it came to having someone to lean on and understand where you were coming from because of your common background."

Joshua said his brother was an inspiration to join the military and his brother had a lot of experience that he could learn from.

Now, Joshua is serving as an administrative assistant to U.S. Brig. Gen. Rex A. Spitler. He works for NATO Kosovo Force at Film City to ensure the chief of staff gets information to make decisions.

Film city is an international environment with 30 nations within the camp, Dodds said. There are 22 NATO and eight non-NATO nations.

German officers are working in the next office, Joshua said, and he has a good friend who is a Greek soldier.

"Working with them has allowed me to learn about Europe itself," he said. "What their situation is, their families, what they do for fun and to start building friendships."

David said that Joshua always had an interest in European history and it was a positive experience to serve.

"For him to actually get over there and immerse himself in that culture, it really motivated him," David said.

Joshua said the similarities between people are more apparent than their differences. However, both brothers said that serving in Iraq and serving in Kosovo are "starkly different."

Joshua said that when he was deployed to Iraq in 2003 the war was in full swing, whereas the war in Kosovo had ended at least 10 years ago, but the situation remains "rather delicate."

David said it is a night and day difference between the two. In Iraq soldiers are "fighting for their lives and there was not a whole lot of love for lost military," but in Kosovo it is looked at much more favorably.

Joshua is scheduled to leave Kosovo in December.

Lyle Dodds, their father, said he and their mother, Darlene, were concerned when the two were overseas, but it is a good experience.

The family hasn't been able to keep in close contact, but occasionally exchanges emails or phone calls. Lyle said they are looking forward to seeing Joshua.

"We miss the heck out of him," he said.

Joshua said that it might be difficult coming back to the U.S. because he has become so used to the customs overseas.

"I have become pretty well adapted," he said. "I would have to re-acclimate back to my home culture."