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NEWS | March 2, 2023

Thunder Soldiers honored for federal service

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, received the Governor’s National Service Medal Feb. 25, 2023, in Hanover, Hampton and Norfolk, Virginia, to recognize their federal service in Iraq from December 2021 through November 2022.

“I’m incredibly proud of everything that you’ve done. This battalion is near and dear to my heart since I spent four years in command of it,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, during the medal presentation ceremony for Soldiers assigned to the Hanover-based Alpha Battery. “It was a hugely consequential mission that everyone went out and accomplished. Thanks for all that you’ve done. Please also go back and say thanks to your families as well. They bore the brunt of some heavy lifting.”

Virginia, Brig. Gen. James W. Ring, the VNG Director of the Joint Staff, helped present medals to Soldiers in Hampton. Brig. Gen. K. Weedon Gallagher, the VNG Land Component Commander, Lt. Col. David P. Coyle, commander of the 1-111th, Command Sgt. Maj. Rhonda Williams, Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett command sergeant major, who deployed as the 1-111th command sergeant major, and Rep. Jen Kiggans helped present medals in Norfolk. 

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.

The Thunder Battalion officially ended their short-range air defense mission for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve during a transfer of authority ceremony Nov. 12, 2022, at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. Soldiers assigned to the Indiana Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 163rd Field Artillery Regiment, known as the Redhawk Battalion, assumed responsibility for the mission.

While deployed, approximately 330 Soldiers were tasked to provide short-range air defense against unmanned aerial systems and rocket artillery and motor attacks, protecting more than 10,000 coalition forces and critical assets throughout the Central Command area of operations in the Middle East using the Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar System, or C-RAM.

The C-RAM was developed to defend against and defeat enduring Indirect fire threats. C-RAM capable units identify, intercept and destroy those threats mid-flight. Although not part of the unit’s normal equipment, the Soldiers completed an extensive pre-deployment training at Fort Sill prior to their departure to Iraq. 

Throughout the deployment, the 1-111th successfully engaged two UAS systems and multiple rockets with kinetic defeat systems and more than two dozen UAS systems with non-kinetic systems. They were also responsible for upgrading and expanding counter UAS operational capabilities. 

Command Chief Master Sgt. Kelly Reich, the acting Virginia National Guard senior enlisted leader, also thanked the Alpha Battery Soldiers during the medal presentation. 

“We’re happy to be here to be able to welcome you back, to thank you for all that you’ve done,” said Reich. “You’re just one part of that larger team with your families, your employers, your friends, everyone that supports you for you to be able to go out and serve and to defend our homeland. Thank you so much for your selfless service.”

Over the last year, more than 2,000 Virginia National Guard personnel have mobilized on federal active duty overseas, the most since 2007. 

VNG Soldiers provided mission command for multi-national forces in Kuwait, a security response force in the Horn of Africa, air defense site security in Iraq and conducted NATO peace support operations in Kosovo. VNG Airmen supported a short-notice air superiority support in the United Arab Emirates.

Since September 11, 2001, more than 18,500 VNG Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized across the globe and here in the United States for homeland security missions.

Read more about the 1-111th’s C-RAM mission on at

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