NEWS | Jan. 24, 2022

Task Force Red Dragon takes charge of security mission in Horn of Africa

By Spc. Gauret Stearns | Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

The Virginia National Guard’s Task Force Red Dragon took responsibility for the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa’s security forces mission during a transfer of authority ceremony Jan. 8, 2022, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. About 1,000 Virginia and Kentucky Army National Guard Soldiers are mobilized as Task Force Red Dragon under the command of the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and they succeeded the Connecticut National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), also known as Task Force Iron Gray.

The 1-102nd the 1-116th have a shared past. Throughout history, the two battalions have fought both alongside and even against one another. From the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, and reuniting during World War I, the two battalions have once again met, this time in Africa, passing the torch of responsibility for the CJTF-HOA security forces mission.

Lt. Col. Frank Tantillo, Task Force Iron Gray commander, cased the battalion’s colors to signify the unit handing mission responsibility over to Task Force Red Dragon.

“We are here to recognize the tremendous efforts of Task Force Iron Gray, and welcome the Task Force Red Dragon team to East Africa,” said Maj. Gen. William Zana, CJTF-HOA commander.

During their time in the Horn of Africa, Zana said, Task Force Iron Gray exceeded expectations, including achieving unprecedented levels of engagement with many foreign partners.

“Our relationships with our Djiboutian, French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and many African nation partners are stronger than ever largely as a result of Task Force Iron Gray’s focused engagement, effort and teamwork across all of our joint services,” Zana said. “You’ve made a tremendous impact and left an extremely positive legacy.”

As Africa’s largest single tactical unit on the continent, this task force makes up more than two-thirds of the CJTF-HOA force and is critical to providing security, crisis response capabilities and building partnerships throughout East Africa in support of U.S. Africa Command.

“We have been the multi-tool of the U.S. Africa Command,” Tantillo said. “Executing anything asked of us to a high standard.”

The battalion, with approximately 1,000 Soldiers mostly operating from Camp Lemonnier, worked to maintain and strengthen relationships with allied and partner nations.

“We could not have done this without our partners,” Tantillo said. “Our exchanges and partnerships have enriched our mission and have prepared us for the future.”

While preparing for this overseas mission, the Citizen Soldiers continued to support domestic operations including natural disaster relief, COVID-19 response and assisting law enforcement with security operations. The culmination of these experiences – coupled with an extensive pre-mobilization training schedule – has prepared Task Force Red Dragon for the “incredibly challenging and rewarding mission” ahead, Zana said.

Lt. Col. James Tierney, Task Force Red Dragon commander, thanked Task Force Iron Gray and leadership for their commitment to improving the mission for both their Soldiers and for Task Force Red Dragon.

“The exceptional achievements from Task Force Iron Gray over the past year have established a solid foundation for Task Force Red Dragon to build upon,” Tierney said. “We stand ready to execute all assigned missions as we move ever forward.”

The following Virginia and Kentucky Army National Guard units are mobilizing as Task Force Red Dragon:

- Lynchburg-based Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Bedford-based Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Lexington-based Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Pulaski-based Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Lynchburg-based Golf Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Suffolk-based Bravo Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Charlottesville-based Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- The Kentucky Army National Guard’s Somerset, Kentucky-based Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

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