ROANOKE, Va. –
Senior leaders from state government and the Virginia National Guard, family, friends and fellow Soldiers bid farewell to the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team at multiple departure events May 14-16, 2016.
Approximately 450 Soldiers from the battalion, also known as the Red Dragons, began serving on federal active duty May 13, and the mobilization is expected to be for about 12 months. They are scheduled to replace the Virginia National Guard’s Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, also known as Task Force Normandy, currently conducting security operations in Qatar.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Col. William J. Coffin, the commander of the 116th IBCT, shook hands with Soldiers May 16 in Roanoke before they boarded a plane to their mobilization station in Texas.
“On behalf of every citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia and our nation, thank you for your service,” McAuliffe said. “We are all so proud of you and all you have done.”
Departure ceremonies were held May 14 in Christiansburg and Bedford and May 15 in Lexington and Lynchburg to honor the men and women of the battalion as they begin a federal active duty mobilization.
“We just celebrated the Virginia National Guard’s 409th birthday, and you carry on the legacy of the Citizen-Soldier,” Williams told Soldiers in Lexington and Lynchburg. He explained how one hundred years ago, their predecessors in the National Guard deployed to the Southwest border of the United States for the Mexican expedition that served as the road to prepare for World War I, and that spirit of service continues today.
“What you are doing resonates and is so important not just to us here in Virginia, but across the nation,” Williams said. “You are a key part of our nation’s defense, and Virginia is the second largest contributor to the warfight in the United States. I have supreme confidence in your leadership, you have trained well, and I know you will do a phenomenal job when you get overseas.”
Williams also thanked the families for their support.
“You are the key component,” Williams said. “Without you, their Soldier can’t do their job. While they are deployed, if you need anything, just raise the flag and we will be there. What you are about to do is just as hard, if not harder, than what your Soldier is about to do.”
The next step on the battalion’s journey is to report to Texas for approximately 30 to 45 days of additional mobilization training. From there they will deploy to Qatar, and they are expected to operate as a security force for several locations essential to the U.S. interests in the region.
“I stand before you today to simply say thank you,” said Virginia Delegate T. Scott Garrett in Lynchburg. “Thank you to the men and women who will deploy, and thank you to the men and women and children who will be here when you return. I thank you for your courage, and I thank you for being bold. Freedom is never free.”
Soldiers conducted training at Fort Pickett for about three weeks to accomplish a number of administrative and field training tasks to prepare for the mobilization including weapons qualification, equipment issue and medical evaluation.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion last served on federal active duty from March to August 2010. They operated out of Contingency Operating Base Adder in Southern Iraq with the mission of securing resupply convoys along the main supply routes in the central, southern and northern sectors of Iraq in order to prevent anti-Iraqi Forces from disrupting theater sustainment operations.
In October 2013, the battalion received the Walter T. Kerwin, Jr., Readiness Award recognizing them as the most combat-ready Army National Guard battalion in the country by the Association of the United States Army.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion have also conducted numerous state active duty missions supporting the citizens of the commonwealth. Most recently, more than 100 Soldiers from the Red Dragons provided mobility assistance in January 2016 to get first responders through heavy snow to complete emergency calls.