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NEWS | Aug. 10, 2010

Virginia’s Task Force Overlord prepares for Iraq departure

By 1st Lt. Patrick Wilson | 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

A sandy windswept parking lot makes an unlikely backdrop for military pageantry, but the Soldiers and leadership of 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment from Lynchburg, Va., did their best to uphold the finest traditions of the Army at their End of Mission and Colors Casing ceremony Aug. 8, 2010, at Contingency Operating Base Adder. The ceremony marked the end of Task Force Overlord’s formal mission in Iraq.

The ceremony was attended by Col. Lisa Costanza, commander of the 224th Sustainment Brigade, and Command Sgt. Maj. Vickie Dunlap-Jones, command sergeant major of the 224th Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command. Costanza was presented with a Task Force Overlord Guidon embroidered with a tribute to the 224th. 

“Col. Costanza and the entire 224th Sustainment Brigade have given us outstanding support during their time here in Iraq,” explained Lt. Col. E. Scott Smith, TF Overlord commander. “We were lucky to get their help at a critical time in this mission shortly after we found out we would be curtailed as a part of the responsible drawdown of U.S. forces.”

In addition to recognizing “Heroes” of the deployment, Costanza praised the battalion for their outstanding safety and combat record. The 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment has been in Iraq since March of 2010. In that time TF Overlord completed over 278 convoy escort missions and logged over 172,000 miles. Convoy escort teams from TF Overlord traveled to Joint Base Ballad, Camp Taji, Victory Base Complex, Kalsu, Scania and other points in throughout Iraq. Quite significantly, the battalion experienced zero MRAP roll-overs, zero negligent discharges, zero casualties or serious injuries while conducting combat operations. 

“We had one of the highest utilization rates in theater and we kept our CET’s out on the road every day, despite the challenge of not having our own organic mechanics or motor pool section,” said Maj. Christopher Samulski, battalion operations officer and a native of Knoxville, Tenn. “In a way, we did what every Guard unit [does], we took advantage of the fact that many of our riflemen have civilian training as mechanics. Despite the fact that none of them had ever worked on an MRAP before, we ended up with a 90% OR rate during our time here. This is an amazing accomplishment and I am very proud of the work they have done here,” Samulski added.

During the ceremony, the battalion leadership hung the Army Superior Unit Award, given for the 1st Battalion’s service in the Serbian province of Kosovo in 2007. 

“We were notified that the unit had earned the award just prior to our mobilization,” said Maj. Michael Peterson of Burke, Va., the battalion executive officer.  “Since we have quite a few Kosovo veterans on this deployment, we wanted to present the streamer during this formation. As one of the Soldiers who served in Kosovo, I think it was appropriate that we do so.”

The 1st, 116th is expected to depart theater before the end of August and conduct its demobilization at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Mississippi before returning home to South West Virginia. The headquarters of the battalion is in Lynchburg, Va.

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