NEWS | Aug. 23, 2021

Va. National Guard Sandston-based aviation battalion to mobilize for duty in Kosovo

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Approximately 140 Soldiers assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division will mobilize for federal active duty in early January 2022 as the aviation task force for the NATO-led Kosovo Force Regional Command-East, according to an announcement made Aug. 23, 2021, by Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia.

The aviation task force will support the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Headquarters as they take responsibility for the 30th rotation of U.S. military forces based at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. NATO KFOR troops conduct peace support operations contributing to a safe and secure environment for all people in Kosovo while healthy political dialogue continues between Kosovo and Serbia.
 
“Aviation support for troop movement and medical evacuation is a critical element for the NATO mission in Kosovo, and the 116th IBCT Headquarters is fortunate to have an experienced team of aviators and maintainers who are also their fellow Virginians,” Williams said. “The 2-224th has deployed overseas multiple times as well as supported the Commonwealth of Virginia in multiple hazardous weather situations, and I have every confidence they will continue their outstanding record of mission success in Kosovo.”
 
The task force will consist of the following units:
- Headquarters Company, 2-224th Aviation Regiment, the command and control element of the battalion
- Bravo Company, 2-224th Aviation Regiment, the UH-60 Black Hawk  flight company
- Delta Company, 2-224th Aviation Regiment, the maintenance and logistical support company
- Detachment 2, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, a medical evacuation detachment

This will be the fourth federal active duty mobilization for 2-224th, and the medical evacuation detachment previously served in Kosovo from January to November 2018. The mobilization is expected to last about 12 months.

"The Soldiers of this battalion are excited about our mission and look forward to the challenges in presents," said Lt. Col. Craig Lewis, commander of the 2-224th. "We see it as opportunity to answer our nation’s call, in the service of contributing to a safe and secure environment throughout Kosovo.  Additionally, it offers us a unique opportunity to serve alongside our NATO partners in this endeavor."

Lewis said the unit and the Soldiers and families that comprise it are no stranger to deployments.

"Many in our formation have experienced multiple deployments, but continually demonstrate unmatched commitment and dedication," he said. "It is a humbling experience to be around our Soldiers and families, and I am honored to have the privilege to serve alongside such patriots."

In addition to the aviation task force, RC-E units include a maneuver battalion capable of rapidly deploying throughout RC-E area of responsibility to guarantee a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement and an effects battalion maintaining situational awareness with local authorities and non-government organizations for monitoring and early identification of security, socio-economic and political situations.
 
Each unit supports the safety, security and freedom of movement for all the communities in Kosovo in accordance with KFOR's mandate as per United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999. Troops from the U.S., Poland, Latvia, Switzerland, Turkey, Slovenia, Greece, Hungary and Italy serve in RC-E.

Williams said the VNG is on pace to mobilize the most Soldiers and Airmen since 2007, and the 29th Infantry Division will mobilize the most Soldiers since World War II with troops deploying from units in Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky.

Current and planned VNG federal active duty mobilizations:

- Approximately 500 Virginia and Maryland National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division are currently on federal active duty in the Central Command Area of Operations as Task Force Spartan to provide leadership, command, control and in-depth staff analysis for Operation Spartan Shield.

- Approximately 80 Soldiers assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group are scheduled for mobilization in Fall 2021 to the Central Command Area of Operations under the operational control of Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve serving as the base operating support-integrator for multiple installations.

- Approximately 1,000 Virginia and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers assigned to Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team are scheduled to mobilize in Fall 2021 to provide a security force in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa.

- Approximately 100 VNG Soldiers assigned to the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Headquarters will mobilize for federal active duty in early January 2022 to take responsibility for the NATO-led Kosovo Force Regional Command-East.

Read more about the 2-224th at https://go.usa.gov/xFvwV.

Additional information on previous mobilizations as well as significant domestic response training missions:

Approximately 25 Soldiers assigned to the Chesterfield-based Detachment 2, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment returned to the United States Nov. 3, 2018, after serving on federal active duty in Kosovo since January. The Soldiers provided aerial medical evacuation support and training to U.S. and allied forces supporting Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo. Read more at https://go.usa.gov/xFvw9.

Virginia National Guard aviation crews and Chesterfield County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Scuba Rescue Team members trained on rescue hoist operations during a training exercise June 8-10, 2021, in Chesterfield County, Virginia.  The VNG aviators and Chesterfield rescue crews make up the Virginia Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team, providing rotary wing rescue hoist capabilities which can conduct aerial rescue evacuations. It’s a program that VNG and Chesterfield County has been partnering together on for years, sharpening their skills during quarterly training exercises.  During their June training, HART made use of unique facilities at the Chesterfield Public Safety Training Center to practice confined space rescue hoists from car rooftops and buildings. Read more at https://go.usa.gov/xFvwP.

Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers assigned the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment returned to the United States in early December 2011 after serving in Iraq since April 2011. The battalion, also known as "Task Force Punisher," mobilized more than 400 Virginia and Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers for duty in Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn, and they were one of the last three U.S. military aviation assets to depart Iraq. They flew more that 16,500 combat flight hours during more than 1,800 combat missions while performing split-based operations from seven different locations. The battalion executed an average of 15 missions per day and flew more than 30,000 passengers, and they planned and executed multiple direct action air assault missions that were instrumental in reducing the number of attacks on United States forces. Read more at https://go.usa.gov/xFvwg.

Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers assigned the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment returned to the United States Feb. 15, 2007, after serving a year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Soldiers flew more than 18,000 flight hours supporting Marine Aircraft Group 16. Read more at https://go.usa.gov/xFvwr.

Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers assigned the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment returned home from Bosnia-Herzegovina April 6, 2002, after serving on federal active duty for seven months in support of the NATO Stabilization Force mission. Read more at https://go.usa.gov/xFvvy.