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NEWS | Dec. 15, 2021

Ceremony marks official start of TF Thunder mobilization

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team marked the official start of their federal active duty mission at a deployment ceremony Dec. 13, 2021, in Norfolk, Virginia. They were joined by family, friends, fellow Soldiers, state and federal elected leaders and senior VNG leaders. During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Donald L. Bailey II and Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy G. Perry, the 1st Battalion command team, cased their organizational colors to signify the start of their deployment. They will uncase the colors when they arrive to their duty location and officially begin their mission. Approximately 300 Soldiers will deploy on federal active duty to the Central Command area of operations in the Middle East to provide personnel and site protection using the Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar System, or C-RAM. The battalion also has units based in Hampton and Hanover. “I am here for two reasons,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “One is to say thank you to the men and women who wear the uniform and also your families, and also to wish you safe deployment, and more importantly, a safe return back to Virginia.” Northam expressed his appreciation for the VNG’s support through multiple natural disasters, periods of civil unrest and the COVID-19 response assisting with testing and vaccinations. “I could not be prouder of what you have done,” Northam said. “Not only for Virginia, but for this country.” Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia and former 1st Battalion commander, recalled the battalion’s first mobilizations for critical infrastructure protection in the United States soon after 9-11 that marked the beginning of the Global War on Terror and the steady march that lead up to the unit’s current deployment. “As we gather today, you’re standing tall as a well-trained and well-led battalion,” he said. “Your deployment starts with time at Fort Sill where your combat skills will be honed ensuring that you’re ready for any challenge, and I have every confidence that you will be very successful in your deployment.” Williams explained this mobilization is another in a series of overseas missions that will result in the larger number of VNG Soldiers deployed since the Iraq surge of 2007. With the addition of units from Maryland and Kentucky, it is the most 29th Infantry Division Soldiers mobilized since World War II. The 1st Battalion Soldiers join the VNG's Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division and Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group already serving on federal active duty in the Middle East. More than 1,000 Virginia and Kentucky Army National Guard Soldiers just began their federal mobilization as Task Force Red Dragon under the command of the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. They will provide a security force in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, and it is the largest VNG single-unit mobilization since World War II. “Thank you to the Soldiers seated before us today,” Bailey said. “You have stepped up to take on a critical requirement at a critical time for the nation’s interests in the Middle East. The nation, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Army and the National Guard are depending on us to succeed. You cannot lose sight on how truly important this opportunity is. I have no doubt you will rise to the challenge and perform well.” Bailey said the ceremony marks the start of the first overseas deployment behind the battalion’s colors since 1942 and referred to it as a “genuinely historic moment.” Northam, Williams and Bailey also acknowledged the important support from families and employers. Northam thanked the families and asked the attendees to give the families a round of applause along with the Soldiers as well as employers, and he acknowledge how important it is for them to take care of things on the Homefront. “Your mission is just as important as the men and women in uniform,” Northam said. “The road to today has already been a long and often times tough journey and through it all we couldn’t be here if it weren’t for two key groups: your employers and most of all your families,” Williams said. “A heartfelt thanks to you and all that you’ve done for your Soldier, your communities, our state and our nation.” Williams encouraged families to reach out to the state Family Programs team if they ever need assistance. “As Soldiers we receive a lot of acknowledgements for our service but our families and our communities serve right alongside us,” Bailey said. “Thank you for your courage and sacrifices in the defense of freedom for current and future generations. Be comforted knowing that these Soldiers are well trained, well equipped, and well led and that though we are often focused on the mission at hand you are always foremost in our minds and hearts.” Bailey told the families they should know the battalion cannot do their mission without their whole hearted support and they are “absolutely essential to our success as you are why we fight.” He encouraged families to monitor communications on social media for updates on the deployment and actively communicate with the Virginia National Guard Family Programs office and remain connected to the unit family readiness groups. “Soldiers stay ready,” Bailey said. “I am proud of what you have already accomplished, and I know we will accomplish yet greater things in the near future. I ask that you stay vigilant, resilient, and lean on each other throughout the next 12 months. We will not fail!” The Troutville-based 29th Division Band provided music for the ceremony, and members of the Virginia Defense Force volunteered their time to assist with traffic and parking.

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