Roanoke, Va. –
The final groups of Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, also known as the Red Dragons, returned to Virginia April 1, 2017, after serving on federal active duty since May 2016 conducting security operations in Qatar. Approximately 450 Soldiers mobilized for the mission from the battalion headquarters in Lynchburg and units in Bedford, Lexington and Christiansburg. The first groups of Soldiers from the unit returned to Virginia March 25.
“The leaders and Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment ‘Red Dragons’ performed exceptionally in support of Area Support Group-Qatar and U.S. Army Central Command,” said Lt. Col. Christopher J. Samulski, commander of the battalion. “Their actions were essential to protecting vital national interests in the region. The Red Dragons improved the defense of key strategic locations, continued to build the partnership with the Qatari Land Forces, and conducted complex live-fire training exercises to maintain a level of readiness required to support ongoing contingency operations. The professionalism of these Soldiers was in keeping with the legacy and traditions of one of the most decorated and historic battalions in the United States Army. It was a honor to lead and serve with each and every one of these great Americans!”
Senior leaders from state government and the Virginia National Guard joined family, friends and fellow Soldiers in welcoming home the first groups of Soldiers March 25 in Roanoke. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, Col. E. Scott Smith, the commander of the 116th IBCT, and Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Ferris, Virginia National Guard Senior enlisted advisor, shook hands with Soldiers as they arrived in Virginia. Brig. Gen. Lapthe Flora, Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General for Strategic Initiatives, Smith and Ferris also greeted a second group returning to Roanoke.
The battalion conducted a transfer of authority ceremony March 14, 2017, to officially end their security mission in Qatar. Soldiers from the Missouri Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment assumed responsibility for the mission.
Relief in place/transfer of authority ceremonies are different from traditional change of command ceremonies. Instead of the existing unit commander being relieved by a new commander, the entire unit is replaced with a new unit. The outgoing unit cases its colors to symbolize the retirement of its mission, while the incoming unit un-cases its colors as it accepts the mission handover.
As part of their security mission, Soldiers searched more than 100,000 vehicles and 303,000 individuals, and they conducted more than 900 security patrols.
Soldiers were also able to take part in challenging field training opportunities. Every Soldier in the battalion qualified on their primary weapon and took part in short range and advanced rifle marksmanship training. The battalion was also able to conduct a mortar live-fire exercise, followed closely by a squad-level live-fire exercise utilizing crew-served weapons, mortars, field artillery forward observers and Javelin missiles.
In early January 2017, Soldiers conducted a a Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise at Al Ghalail Range where they established an area defense integrating indirect fires with mortars and forward observers, anti-tank capabilities with Javelin teams and direct fire capabilities with M240B machine guns, M249 squad automatic weapons and other small arms. The combined arms live-fire exercise was the first time that Javelin missiles have been launched in Qatar, and came after rigorous training for 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Javelin gunners provided by support from Kuwait.
“Even deployed, there is no greater priority than maintaining readiness,” Samulski said. “These leaders and Soldiers integrated multiple weapons systems, in both planning and execution, against a tough and realistic threat to evaluate the battalion’s ability to conduct offensive and defensive operations. I couldn’t be more proud of the results and the overall performance of the battalion.”
Soldiers were also able to take advantage of educational opportunities and earned college credits and completed military education courses, including Combat Lifesaver training, as well as Army Level 1 Combatives training.