VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 576th Engineer Utilities Detachment, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group marked the official start of their federal active-duty mission at a deployment ceremony April 19, 2022, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Brig. Gen. K. Weedon Gallagher, the Virginia National Guard Land Component Commander, Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald H. Smith, the Virginia National Guard Command Sergeant Major, Virginia Del. Karen S. Greenhalgh, Virginia Del. Shelly A. Simonds and Gene Garland, military liaison for U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, joined families, friends and fellow Soldiers to bid farewell to the 576th.
“To be able to deploy a unit to test their months and years of training, to challenge leadership skills, to challenge their personal doubts and fears and to be able to perform a true engineering mission is a special opportunity,” said Col. Michael Waterman, the 329th Regional Support Group (Rear) commander. “There are many units who deploy and don’t get the same opportunity to perform the actual mission they’ve been trained on.”
Reflecting on his overseas deployments, Waterman commented on the things he learned and gained during those missions.
“I learned the most important things about teamwork, how a unit handles stress, how to solve complex problems and how to focus on the task at hand,” he said. “Mostly I learned valuable lessons about myself- strengths and weaknesses, learned from what I screwed up, learned the limits of stress and how to use it, and very important, I learned the value of family and how we take that for granted on a daily basis.”
Waterman also offered thanks and guidance to the families of the deploying Soldiers.
“You are just as important to the mission’s success as they are,” he said. “A supportive family is as much a combat multiplier as the supplies, equipment and training they’re provided.”
Waterman reminded the families not to hesitate to seek help when they need it.
“It’s not easy to see a loved one go and it’s definitely not easy to be left alone to handle things when your Soldier is gone. But we want you to know you’re not alone,” he said. “Your Guard family is here to help. Please don’t hesitate to ask for help.
“Thank you again for your tremendous support and know that you are part of this team and important part of their success.”
Capt. Shane McNamara, commander of the 576th, reminded those in attendance that it was on that day in 1775 that the American Revolution began at the Battle of Lexington, creating the opportunity for the writing of the Constitution of the United States. The end result of that are the “brave, smart, passionate” Soldiers sitting among them.
“We will deploy to the Middle East to support American interests and we will bring your Soldiers home fit, with a story to tell and a little walking around money,” he said.
Theirs will be distinguished service to the commonwealth and the United States. Thank you all for getting us to this point and we’ll take it from here.”
The command team then furled their guidon to signify the official start of the mobilization. They will unfurl their guidon when they arrive in the Middle East and officially take responsibility for their mission.
Members of the Virginia Defense Force volunteered their time to assist with traffic and parking for the ceremony.
It will be the first overseas mobilization for the 576th, which stood up in 2017. After several weeks of training in Texas, the 576th will deploy to the Central Command region in support of Operation Spartan Shield. A unique, multicomponent operation which maintains a strategic military and humanitarian posture throughout Southwest Asia and the Middle East, the objectives of Operation Spartan Shield are to strengthen defense relationships and partner nation capacity.
The Soldiers of the 576th will support a variety of Task Forces and facilities throughout the region by providing engineering support in the form of carpentry, masonry, electrical, plumbing and road maintenance and repair.
The Virginia National Guard’s 29th Infantry Division recently completed a nine-month deployment as the headquarters of Task Force Spartan, which exercises command and control of Operation Spartan Shield.