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NEWS | Jan. 25, 2023

UAS detachment recognized in Fort Pickett ceremony

By Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Blackstone-based Detachment 1, Delta Company, 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team received the Virginia Governor’s National Service Medal during a ceremony Jan. 21, 2023, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger was on hand to congratulate the Soldiers, thank them for their service and welcome them home alongside Lt. Col. Robert P. “Beau” Mason, commander of the 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion.

“It’s my honor to be here today as you all are honored for the work you have done, this service you continue to deliver,” Spanberger said to the 20 Soldiers in attendance. “I just couldn’t be prouder and more appreciative of all that you do, the commitment you have both to our commonwealth and our country, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be here as you all get the honor and recognition and appreciation that you deserve.”

The Governor’s National Service Medal recognizes the service of the men and women of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard called to federal active duty. The Soldiers were mobilized in 2022 in support of the Department of Defense-approved mission assisting Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest Border. There, they operated the RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aircraft system, or UAS. The Shadow can provide commanders with tactical level reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, battle damage assessment and communication relay capabilities.

Over the course of their mobilization, the Soldiers flew nearly 300 missions and completed more than 2,500 safe flying hours.

“When I look across this formation, as small as you guys are, it shows what your capability, knowledge and dedication is, and it’s remarkable,” Mason said. “I can trust you guys to go out there and accomplish the mission, set the standard, not only for the BEB, but for the [116th IBCT], and also for the Virginia National Guard.”

The detachment operates out of a specialized facility on Blackstone Army Airfield built in 2018 at a cost of approximately $800,000. The facility provides a stable climate-controlled environment for aviation maintenance and training for unit personnel to maintain a high state of mission readiness, and the facility is available to other units training at BAAF. The airfield provides a closed runway dedicated for detachment flight operations as well as air traffic control capability allowing the detachment to fly in an airspace less restricted than other airports or installations in Virginia.

“I truly want to thank you guys,” Mason said. “Having a unit like you makes my job extremely easy.”

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