RICHMOND, Va. –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to Task Force Red Dragon received the Virginia Governor’s National Service Medal Jan. 21, 2023, at multiple locations across Virginia to recognize their federal active-duty service in Africa from November 2021 through September 2022.
“Our nation is strengthened by your unparalleled courage and made safe by your conviction to protect and serve,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin at the medal presentation ceremony in Lynchburg. “It is my distinct honor to recognize and thank you for your outstanding service.”
More than 1,000 Virginia and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers mobilized as Task Force Red Dragon under the command of the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to conduct a security mission for Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. They returned to Virginia and reunited with loved ones in late September and early October 2022.
Youngkin, along with retired Maj. Gen. Craig Crenshaw, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Command Chief Kelly Reich, acting VNG Command Senior Enlisted Leader, recognized Soldiers assigned to the Lynchburg-based Headquarters Company, 1-116th and Golf Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th IBCT.
“You marched boldly into unknown territory, living and serving in settings unimaginable to the average citizen,” Youngkin said. “You did so willingly, because when our country called for her freedoms to be defended, you answered. You answered to serve the greater good, and you answered to be a part of something far greater than yourselves.”
Youngkin also recognized employers for their support.
“Virginia’s employers recognize the importance of hiring and retaining true professionals such as yourselves and understand the value you bring to their organizations, and this does not go unnoticed or taken for granted,” he said.
Williams asked Soldiers to thank their families and emphasized how important they are to mission success.
“Thank you so much for all you do,” Williams said “When you go home today, take that extra minute to reach out to your family to say thanks. We don’t do it enough. Tell your families how much you love them and how much you appreciate what they do for you.”
Youngkin echoed Williams’ recognition of families and their importance.
“It goes without saying that your family’s serve and sacrifice just as you do,” Youngkin said. “Many of you would agree that without their love and support you couldn’t do what you do. I can personally attest to that and fully understand that our families are the rock we build on and form the foundation of all that we are and do.”
Created in 2005 by then-Governor Mark R. Warner, the Virginia Governor's National Service Medal recognizes the service of the men and women of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard called to active federal duty since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
“To see the Soldiers back here, to recognize the outstanding contributions, it’s hard to put your life on hold for nine months, but our Soldiers did that in support of the country, and they continue to do that time and time again,” Col. Jim Tierney, Task Force Red Dragon commander, told reporters in Lynchburg.
View photos from Lynchburg on Flickr at https://ngpa.us/23774
Brig. Gen. James W. Ring, the VNG Director of the Joint Staff, presented awards in Charlottesville to Soldiers assigned to Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment and in Bedford to Soldiers assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment.
“It is a great honor for me to be here today to present you with a medal recognizing your distinguished service,” Ring said. “Since May 14, 1607, there has never been a time in our commonwealth’s history where we haven’t had citizen Soldiers standing for freedom in their communities. We are very fortunate as members of the Virginia National Guard to be part of a very historic lineage that predates the founding of the commonwealth and our nation. So as you receive this medal today, know that you are recognized for your role in this distinguished service.”
View photos from Charlottesville at https://ngpa.us/23773
and Bedford at https://ngpa.us/23775
Col. Christopher J. Samulski, 116th IBCT commander, presented the awards in Suffolk to Soldiers assigned to Bravo Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th IBCT.
“Your service is something that is very, very important to the organization,” Samulski said. “You got to do this job for almost a year. You got to be a professional and master your craft, and now you have to turn around and teach your counterparts who didn’t deploy. Thank you for your service. It was an honor and pleasure to serve with you.”
View photos from Suffolk at https://ngpa.us/23783
Col. Todd Hubbard, Virginia Army National Guard Chief of Staff, presented the awards to Soldiers in Lexington assigned to Bravo Company, 1-116th and in Pulaski to Soldiers assigned to Delta Company, 1-116th.
View photos from Lexington at https://ngpa.us/23784
TFRD leaders 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. Read more at https://ngpa.us/21687
. Mission highlight photos on Flickr at https://ngpa.us/21686
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 during the TOA. “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.
“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.”
More about Task Force Red Dragon:
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.
The task force maintained an especially close relationship with French Armed Forces in Djibouti. TFRD Soldiers, French Forces in Djibouti 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.
Read more about the mission at https://ngpa.us/21687
and view mission highlight photos at https://ngpa.us/21686
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