STAUNTON, Va. –
Maj. Gen. John M. Rhodes, 29th Infantry Division commanding general, presented the Governor’s National Service Medal to Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Headquarters March 5, 2023, in Staunton, Virginia, to recognize their federal active duty in Kosovo. Delegates David Reid and Ellen Campbell were also on hand to thank Soldiers for their service.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your service to our nation, to our commonwealth and the 29th Infantry Division along with your families,” Rhodes said. “Their service is as honorable as those of us who were the uniform.”
Soldiers assigned to the 116th IBCT Headquarters returned to Virginia in November 2022 after serving as the mission command headquarters for NATO Kosovo Force Regional Command-East since March 2022. As the multi-national brigade assigned to RC - East, the 116th commanded more than 1,000 personnel from 10 different nations to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement throughout Kosovo.
“It is really very important when you have done this service for the country and you are coming back that we come here and we actually say thank you in person,” Reid said. “Not only are you the public servants here today, it is also the members of your family.”
Under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999 and the Military Technical Agreement, the focus of RC-East was to provide the opportunity to resolve tensions in the Balkans through political dialogue focused on normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
“I want to thank you very much for all you have done, for everything you have done for our country and keeping us safe,” Campbell said. “Not coming from a military family, it is not lost on me the sacrifices you and your families make for us so we can live here today in this great country. I owe you a debt of gratitude. We all 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 Sept. 11, 2001.
During the KFOR 30 rotation, the 116th leaders and staff planned and executed three separate named operations to decrease tensions related to Serbian elections, License Plate Reciprocity and securing energy infrastructure. They planned and participated in multinational training events with the German contingencies to earn the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge and Schützenschnur and with the Danish contingencies to participate in the DANCON march. They also hosted the U.S. marksmanship badges for two NATO nations.
The VNG’s Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment served as the aviation task force for RC-E providing medical casualty transportation and air mobility for all KFOR troops. They completed their transfer of authority Oct. 11. Read more on va.ng.mil at https://ngpa.us/22186
Mobilized as Task Force Pegasus, they complete more than 1,700 flight hours and 275 aerial missions. Five were multinational multi-ship flights, and they also completed 14 medical evacuation missions, two of which required the use of a hoist. Aviation maintainers achieved an operational readiness rate of 89 percent, exceeding the Army standard of 80 percent.
Other units serving in RC-E included a maneuver battalion capable of rapidly deploying throughout their area of responsibility to guarantee a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement and an effects battalion maintaining situational awareness with local authorities and non-government organizations for monitoring and early identification of security, socio-economic and political situations.
The maneuver battalion was led by the Kentucky National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment and also included companies from Poland, Turkey and Latvia. The 1-149th also led the effects battalion and also included troops from Switzerland, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Hungary and Slovenia. They officially ended their mission with a transfer of authority ceremony Oct. 29.
From August 2021 to February 2023, more than 2,000 Virginia National Guard personnel mobilized on federal active duty service in the United States and 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 Sept. 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 their mission on va.ng.mil at https://ngpa.us/24352