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NEWS | April 12, 2024

St. Lo Soldiers conduct air assault during drill weekend

By Spc. Rhita Daniel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Virginia National Guard Soldiers with the Charlottesville-based Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conducted aviation training with crews with the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Regiment, 29th Infantry Division April 5, 2024, at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave, Virginia. The Soldiers' family members were invited to attend the training to demonstrate the rigorous routines they undergo when they are away from their families and training.
After conducting classes on how properly load and exit the aircraft, the Soldiers flew to Fort Walker where they conducted tactical operations at a landing zone and squad situational training lanes through the rest of their drill weekend.
First Lt. Grayson Taylor with 2nd Battalion emphasized the significance of the aviation training, stating, "We want give our air crews some proficiency training in multi-ship and just exposure to the units that we support."
“We are practicing conducting air assault operations, which is part of our MET, our Mission Essential Task,” explained Capt. Tim Vaught, commander of Alpha Company, who added the ongoing training is instrumental in preparing the 3rd Battalion for their upcoming annual training in Czechia later this year.
Family members of Alpha Company Soldiers were extended invitations to attend the training, aiming to provide them with a firsthand experience of the demanding training Soldiers partake in during their drill weekend.
"We wanted to take this opportunity to invite them and let them see what their Soldiers do during an IDT or drill weekend," said Vaught. "So, we have transparency, not just with the Soldiers, but with their families as well."
First Sgt. Wesley Runion, Alpha Company's first sergeant, said he initially invited his family because of his approaching retirement after 20 years of service.
"You know, I really love to get the family involved, and it's sort of tough to do inherently," said Runion. "We are in austere environments when we're training as infantrymen, so there's not a lot of opportunity for our families to observe our training."
"This is one of the first IDT drill weekends that I've had the opportunity in 20 years to work with aviation and to get in a Black Hawk," said Runion.
First Sgt. Runyan’s wife Brooke said that her husband's approaching retirement made this opportunity even more exciting for her and their children.
"We were excited because we have this whole other life that is the military that we really don't get to see any part of," she said. "So, it's really great when we get to take part and to see anything that he gets to do. And riding in a helicopter is just kind of cool."
She also discussed their daughters' having the opportunity to see their father work before his retirement.
"He's always been a Soldier to them in some aspects of their life, so we don't have many more opportunities to see him in this role," she said. "So, yeah, we take any opportunity like that we can get."

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