CAMP McGREGOR, N.M. –
With almost 1,000 Soldiers on the ground, Task Force Red Dragon has finished its training and is now ready to deploy to the Horn of Africa after completing a Culminating Training Exercise, which began Dec. 13, 2021, at Camp McGregor, New Mexico.
During the CTE, Red Dragon Soldiers were tested on a myriad of vital Soldier skills. From administrative to operational, Red Dragon Soldiers were challenged with and succeeded in validating the Task Force for the next step in their journey, the Horn of Africa.
Red Dragon Soldiers conducted mounted and dismounted patrols, manned entry control points, stood guard in towers, conducted mortar live-fire as well as company-level attacks. They were tested how well they handled receiving Red Cross messages, as well as what to do if a casualty is taken. They finished up with a Combined-Arms Live-Fire Exercise, which included air assault, scout snipers, mortar fire, gun trucks, infantry and two AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.
“Conducting a Combined-Arms Live-Fire Exercise is one of the most challenging things an infantry company can do,” said Lt. Col. James Tierney, commander of Task Force Red Dragon. “You must be able to synchronize direct and indirect fires, aviation and other non-organic assets in order to accomplish the mission.”
Virginia units from Bedford, Charlottesville, Lexington, Pulaski and Suffolk, as well as a Kentucky National Guard unit from Somerset, Kentucky, are mobilizing as Task Force Red Dragon under the command of the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, to provide a security force in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. It is the largest VNG single-unit mobilization since World War II.
Tierney said the CALFEX trained the Soldiers to trust the Soldiers on their left and right who are shooting with live ammunition and to gain more confidence in their own abilities.
"It's a great opportunity to train as we fight," he said. "The teams are conducting a helicopter insertion, maneuvering against an objective, then delivering direct and indirect fires while unmanned sensors provide real time information and integrating attack helicopters to help in the attack. It's a training level we don't get to very often in the National Guard.
“This is a great opportunity for the Task Force,” Tierney added. “It prepares us to be able to respond to any problem set that we may face on the Horn of Africa.”
The task force is trained and equipped to accomplish a wide range of missions throughout the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility, but its primary objective is to provide security for the various forward operating bases maintained by the Department of Defense to build partnerships with host nations and improve safety and stability in the region.