Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti –
Virginia and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, known as Task Force Red Dragon, conducted a transfer of authority ceremony Sept. 19, 2022, to officially end their security mission for Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, known as Task Force Wolfhound, assumed responsibility for the mission.
Approximately 1,000 Soldiers from across Virginia and Kentucky began serving on federal active duty Nov. 27, 2021. With their mission complete, they will return to Virginia and Kentucky in the coming weeks.
Col. Jim Tierney and Command Sgt. Maj. Doug Wolfe, the TFRD command team, cased the battalion’s colors, signifying the end of its nine-month deployment.
“Our accomplishments here are a direct result of the leadership of the junior officers, NCOs, and Soldiers of the task force,” Tierney said. “Their sense of duty, selfless service, and dedication to mission success is inspiring.”
The mission of CJTF-HOA is to conduct operations to enhance partner nation capacity, promote regional peace and stability, dissuade conflict, and protect U.S. and coalition interests.
Maj. Gen. Jamie Shawley, CJTF-HOA commanding general, addressed the ceremony attendees about the importance of the security mission in Africa.
“It’s a geo-strategically important place,” Shawley said. “Molded by competing forces of prosperity and poverty, peace and conflict, plenty and famine, good governance and corruption. It’s challenged with instability caused by violent extremist organizations and by our strategic competitors which continue to weaken the rules-based world order, and Red Dragon, you have stood in the gap this whole time.”
At the end of the ceremony, Tierney welcomed Task Force Wolfhound and wished them great success as they take over the mission in the Horn of Africa. He also expressed his gratitude to the Soldiers of Task Force Red Dragon and the many joint partners they worked with over the course of the deployment.
“We came together as a task force to fight and to win,” Tierney said. “We sharpened our edge by partnering with some incredible teammates. Our Soldiers walk away from this deployment as experts in their profession. It’s rewarding to see the growth of the team over this past year. Red Dragons, you are truly the next generation of leaders for the 29th Infantry Division and the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.”
Task Force Red Dragon provided security forces throughout the Horn of Africa, maintaining a presence in Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya. This defensive mission included 24/7 perimeter
security of military installations, to include manning guard towers and vehicle entry control points to constantly safeguard U.S forces, partner forces, and civilian contractors. The task force also provided land-side security for multiple U.S. Navy port calls, enabling refueling and refit operations for U.S. ships operating in the vicinity of the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb strait. Throughout this base defense mission, the task force effectively integrated their enabler units into the defensive plan by augmenting medical personnel at each site, establishing indirect fire capabilities, and continuously worked to improve their defensive posture.
Additionally, TFRD provided the ground component of the East Africa Response Force, tasked with execution of a broad range of military operations, to include crisis response and security augmentation to Department of State or other U.S. facilities, support for military-assisted departure or non-combatant evacuation operations and other missions as directed. The EARF conducted monthly emergency deployment readiness exercises to ensure readiness and preparation in responding quickly to crises within East Africa. Over the course of the deployment, the EARF supported Department of State missions in Nairobi, Kenya; Mogadishu, Somalia; and Durban, South Africa. The EARF also conducted two emergency deployment readiness exercises to rehearse the reinforcement of contingency support locations in East Africa.
“You directly supported our mission by working as our local first-responders, our 9-1-1,” Shawley said. “For our embassies and our outstations, working as the East Africa Response Force, Red Dragon conducted numerous readiness exercises to ensure the safety and well-being of U.S. personnel across not only East Africa, but literally all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Your accomplishments and sacrifices only add excellence to your already distinguished heritage. There is no doubt that you brought great credit upon your unit, the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, the United States Army, and the United States.”
From weapons ranges to exercises with foreign military partners, TFRD Soldiers conducted a wide array of training while deployed. These training opportunities included several casualty evacuation, medical evacuation, and mass casualty exercises at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and other locations; participation in the U.S. Marine Corps Corporal’s Course for TFRD E-4s; testing for the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge; a Spur Ride for the task force’s cavalry troopers; and the Norwegian Foot March, an 18.6-mile timed foot march. Forty-nine TFRD Soldiers earned the GAFPB, 27 earned their cavalry spurs and 123 earned the Norwegian Foot March badge.
Foreign engagement was a prominent feature of the task force’s deployment. TFRD conducted more than 75 combined operations and training exercises with the French, Kenyan, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, and Djiboutian armed forces. These engagements allowed for increased combined operational knowledge and the continuation of the strong partnership between U.S. forces and their military partners. These combined training exercises included ranges, combatives exchanges, medical tactical combat casualty care and maneuver knowledge exchanges. Additionally, TFRD continued to build its relationships with foreign partners through various social events and ceremonies between partner and allied forces.
The task force maintained an especially close relationship with French Armed Forces in Djibouti. TFRD Soldiers, French Forces in Djibouti service members, and staff from CJTF-HOA participated in Exercise WAKRI from March 13-15, 2022. Exercise WAKRI, the largest annual French-led exercise in Djibouti, took place across Djibouti and provided realistic training in large-scale combat operations. The task force participated in the exercise with more than 100 Soldiers executing a diverse range of mission sets including reconnaissance, maneuver, sustainment and medical.
One of the highlights of the deployment was the opportunity for participation in the French Desert Commando Course. In preparation, the task force coordinated and ran two FDCC pre-assessments for joint services on Camp Lemonnier consisting of a Ranger physical fitness test and swim assessment. The task force also provided sustainment support for the course. More than 20 members of the task force graduated from the FDCC during the deployment.
In August, the task force conducted a Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise with French forces in Djibouti. Operation Sunrise Strike validated the task force’s ability to operate in a joint and combined environment with its French partners. The training consisted of an air assault utilizing French Puma helicopters and U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and seizure of an objective using direct and indirect fires and dismounted maneuver. The exercise focused on integration with partner forces, utilization of reconnaissance and surveillance, actions on the objective, sustainment, and medical support, with the goal of improving U.S and French interoperability.
The following Virginia and Kentucky Army National Guard units mobilized 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
Task Force Red Dragon highlights