Aug. 10, 2010

Virginia National Guard Airmen given Hometown Heroes Salute for federal service

By Tech Sgt. James R. Orbin
192nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Eighty Virginia National Guard Airmen were recognized for their service while deployed in support of federal contingency operations at a Hometown Heroes Salute held at London Bridge Baptist Church in Virginia Beach on Aug. 7.

Assistant to the Governor for Commonwealth Preparedness Terrie L. Suit (far left) joined senior Virginia Guard leaders in thanking members of the Air National Guard at the Hometown Heroes Salute held Aug. 7. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

Those recognized – members of the 203rd RED HORSE Squadron and the Virginia Air National Guard Headquarters – had deployed at least once between Sept. 11, 2001 and December 2008 – in support of operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Hurricane Katrina and other U.S. contingency operations.

Attending the event were many family members and fellow Virginia Air Guard members. Guest speakers at the event included Assistant to the Governor for Commonwealth Preparedness, Terrie L. Suit; Adjutant General of Virginia, Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr.; and Assistant Adjutant General for Air, Col. Zane R. Johnson. Also attending to thank the service members were Chief of Staff for Air, Brig. Gen. Wayne A. Wright and State Command Chief Master Sgt. Barry S. Coleman.

The 203rd RED HORSE Squadron, based in Virginia Beach, is a rapid-response, self-contained, civil engineering force capable of performing a full range of construction activities: heavy equipment operations, road grading and paving, facilities construction, airfield runway repair, drilling wells and setting up operational military bases in remote or undeveloped areas.

Each Airman being recognized at the Hometown Heroes Salute receives a letter of appreciation and a commemorative coin enclosed in a cherry wood case. Spouses received a Hometown Heroes Salute-engraved pen and pencil set, and their children received a set of personalized dog tags.  (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

Lt. Col. Peter S. Garner, 203rd RED HORSE commander, spoke briefly about the importance of Air National Guard family and the role family members play.

“Every Air National Guard family member has proudly served and supported the Air Guard mission,” Garner stated. “We hope that every spouse, child, and extended family member knows the important role they have in what we do.”

The 203rd RED HORSE Squadron has deployed twice in the last nine years: the first deployment to Southwest Asia was from April through October 2003, as part of the 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE Group in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. During that time unit members worked on a range of military construction projects in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Iraq and Afghanistan. The unit returned to Southwest Asia, from October 2006 to May 2007. This deployment had them dispersed across Qatar, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait once again in support of OEF and OIF.

In addition to the two deployments to Southwest Asia, the 203rd has deployed for construction, humanitarian, and disaster relief projects to locations throughout the United States and around the world. Honduras, Panama, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Azores, Spain, Germany, England, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates and South Korea are just some of the locations to which the unit has deployed.

Members of the Virginia Air National Guard Headquarters who have also been deployed took part in the event. The primary mission of the headquarters is to prepare Virginia Air Guard units for possible federal activation and state mobilization.

Each Airman being recognized received a letter of appreciation and commemorative coins enclosed in a cherry wood case.

In addition each Airman received tokens of appreciation to present to family members. Spouses were presented with a rosewood pen and pencil set, engraved with the Hometown Heroes Salute logo, and children were presented with engraved dog tags.

The Hometown Heroes Salute campaign is an Air National Guard-wide program to recognize and thank Air Guard Airmen, and those who supported them, as they carried out national contingency operations since September 11, 2001. This was the first Hometown Heroes Salute to take place within the Virginia Air National Guard. A program called The Freedom Salute honors Army National Guard Soldiers who have been deployed.

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