April 22, 2008

Charlottesville, Leesburg and Woodstock area Va. Guard Soldiers return from Iraq

Soldiers from infantry companies headquartered in Charlottesville, Leesburg and Woodstock assigned to 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned to the United States April 20 and 21 after serving in Iraq and Kuwait since September 2007. The Soldiers flew into the demobilization station of Camp Shelby, Miss., and will conduct a number of different administrative activities to transition from active duty back into traditional National Guard status prior to returning back to Virginia. Approximately 150 Soldiers are assigned to each company.

The units will spend four or five days at Camp Shelby, but the exact arrival date for their return back to Virginia has not been determined at this time. The Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office will issue a follow up advisory once the return date has been set.

All three infantry companies were assigned to convoy escort duty in Iraq and had numerous enemy engagements via improvised explosive devices, small arms fire and complex ambushes. A and B Companies operated in Al Anbar Province or Multinational Division West. A Company operated and in some of the most dangerous areas in Iraq to include Fallujah and Ramadi, and B Company operated in hot spots west of the Euphrates River and the far western portions of Iraq near the Syrian border.

C Company provided convoy escort in Multi-National Division North and operated in some of the more recent danger areas around Mosul and Kirkuk. Nine of the 10 Soldiers wounded in action from the battalion were from C Company. The battalion had no fatalities.

In addition to the three infantry companies, the Battalion is made up of approximately 100 Soldiers from the Winchester-based Headquarters Company, approximately 125 Soldiers from Fredericksburg-based D Company and approximately 125 Soldiers from Fredericksburg-based F Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion. These three units will return to the USA in the coming weeks. Additional information about their return will be provided once the units have landed at their demobilization station.

Additional Background Information on 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry

The 3rd Battalion, 116 Infantry, also referred to as Task Force Normandy, was alerted Feb. 3, 2007 for mobilization and overseas deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This alert came 19 months after the battalion returned from Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The battalion entered active duty in late June 2007 for mobilization training prior to leaving the United States.

In the span of four months, the unit was able to staff and equip the battalion for the mission, calling upon Soldiers and equipment from 42 different units across the Commonwealth to form the largest battalion task force the Virginia National Guard has mobilized in support of the Global War on Terror. The battalion numbered nearly 800 Soldiers when the embarked upon their mission.

The battalion's deployment was also the first time a Virginia National Guard rifle battalion ever deployed from Virginia with the new organizational structure of the Army’s new modular brigade system.

The battalion deployed with its Headquarters Company, three rifle companies, (A, B and C Companies), a special weapons company (D Company) and a forward support company (F Company).

While at the mobilization station, Camp Shelby, Miss., the battalion was unexpectedly forced to accelerate the deployment timeline for two of its six companies. Due to urgent needs in Iraq and in support of the troop surge, A Company and C Company were required to accelerate their training timeline in order to arrive in theater to begin combat operations. 

Both A and C companies successfully completed six back-to-back collective training exercises with no rest in between.

“These exercises were physically and mentally intensive ranging from mounted combat patrols to urban warfare,” said Lt. Col. John Epperly, commander of 3rd Battalion. “This is significant because the change from light infantry to mounted warfare represented a significantly new way of fighting for these Soldiers and one which they had never been trained in previously Fire teams and squads were re-organized into gun truck crews and trained in new tactics, techniques and procedures for mounted convoy escort. Under intense time pressure, both A and C companies validated for deployment and departed the United States on time under the new schedule.”

Upon departure from mobilization station, Task Force Normandy deployed to both Iraq and Kuwait. The three rifle companies were assigned to convoy escort duty in Iraq. Each rifle company was assigned to a Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and provided convoy escort to an area of operations ranging from 750 to 1,000 square kilometers. 

Headquarters Company, D Company and F Company were assigned to Security Force (SECFOR) missions in Kuwait. D Company provided protection to the strategically important deepwater port at Ash Shuaybah. F Company provided port security at Kuwait Naval Base and protection to ammunition sustainment operations and re-deploying coalition forces at Kuwait Naval Base. The Headquarters Company provided command and control to the battalion's port security missions as well as the Area Reaction Force for all of southern Kuwait, an area that covered over 6000 square kilometers of battlespace known as SECFOR South.

 “During its time in Kuwait and Iraq, 3rd Battalion was integral to the success of several operations, events and activities,” Epperly said. “The units stationed in Kuwait made significant gains and innovations in securing critical infrastructure vital to the war effort in all of southwest Asia.”

For a period of over 8 months, Headquarters Company, D and F companies, in concert with Naval Coastal Warfare Squadrons 5 and 21, provided joint security to the two strategic deepwater ports in Kuwait. “These ports were absolutely critical to the entire coalition war effort in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan since over 95% of all supplies coming into theater used these ports,” Epperly said. 

While securing these ports, the battalion searched over 100,000 vehicles and 300,000 people without disruption to the ports. The battalion's local combat patrols around the port facilities logged over 10,000 vehicle hours without a serious incident. The battalion also secured the loading and unloading of over 8,000 combat vehicles as several brigade combat teams flowed into and out of Iraq.

The Headquarters Company provided an Area Response Force for all of southern Kuwait.  Soldiers provided personal security detachments for distinguished visitors and aerial quick reaction forces for both the President's and First Lady's visits. They worked in a joint security environment with Naval Coastal Warfare Squadrons 5 and 21 as well as the Air Force's 586th Expeditionary Warfare Group.

D Company provided fixed site security and a Quick Reaction Force for the Seaport of Debarkation at Ash Shuaybah, Kuwait.  This is the theater logistics center of gravity because over 90% of supplies for the warfights in Iraq and Afghanistan flow through this port.  Delta's mission had strategic implications. They also worked in a joint security environment with Naval Coastal Warfare Squadrons 5 and 21 as well as the Air Force's 586th Expeditionary Warfare Group.

F Company provided fixed site security and Quick Reaction Force for Kuwait Naval Base. Their mission secured the Naval Base where all ammunition enters the theater. Further, they secured the deployment and re-deployment of five Marine Expeditionary Groups. They also worked in a joint security environment with Naval Coastal Warfare Squadrons 5 and 21 as well as the Air Force's 586th Expeditionary Warfare Group.  F Company worked closely with Navy Inshore Boat Units to provide seamless sea and land side security for the Naval Base.


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