Aug. 17, 2011

Virginia Beach-based battalion holds Freedom Salute to honor service in Afghanistan

By Cotton Puryear      
Virginia Department of Military Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, gathered August 14 to conduct a Freedom Salute in honor of their service in Afghanistan. Approximately 80 Soldiers from the battalion returned to the United States March 18, 2011, after serving in Afghanistan since May 2010. The Freedom Salute recognized the Soldiers, their families, employers and organizations that contributed significantly to supporting the unit during its deployment.

 

Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker presents the Virginia Governor's National Service Medial to a National Guard Soldier from the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group Aug. 14, 2011 in Norfolk at the Freedom Salute held in honor of the unit's service in Afghanistan. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos on Flickr.

"I can say without a doubt that many of these Soldiers had experiences they will never forget in their lifetime," said Lt. Col. Michelle Rose, commander of the 529th. "Many worked with local Afghan nationals on projects aimed at improving their lives. These were the simple things that paid big dividends in fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan, like cleaning out the natural underground waterways, improving the schools, and lending a hand to a farmer whose truck is overturned on the highway with a year’s worth of crops in the back of it. It is the little gestures and infrastructure improvements that these Soldiers will remember for years to come, and they all contributed to us leaving Afghanistan much better off than we found it a year ago."

The 529th deployed to Afghanistan from Fort Hood in May 2010 and operated from the remote forward operating base at Shindand Air Base, Regional Command – West in Afghanistan where they pioneered logistical support operations as the first U.S. combat support battalion to locate in the area and conduct operations. The battalion was responsible for building an expeditionary life support complex and infrastructure for the entire airbase while providing seamless sustainment operations for supported units as well as helping improve quality of life and promoting economic development in local Afghan communities.

Working directly with Italian, Spanish, Slovenian and Afghan forces, the unit’s mission was to provide supply, maintenance and transportation support to U.S. and coalition warfighters throughout the region that covers the four large western provinces of Herat, Farah, Badghis and Ghor.

"None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the support of many friends, families, organizations and communities that surround us in this room today," Rose said. "This Freedom Salute is for you in recognition of your support to us for our year-long deployment. All of our families and communities here in Virginia and points beyond have been truly supportive of not only us but of the many missions we spearheaded in rural Afghanistan."

 

Lt. Col. Michelle Rose, commander of the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, congratulates one of her Soldiers after being presented the Governor's National Service Medal Aug. 14, 2011 in Norfolk at the Freedom Salute held in honor of the unit's service in Afghanistan. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos on Flickr.

The Freedom Salute Campaign is one of the largest Army National Guard recognition endeavors in history, designed to publicly acknowledge Army Guard Soldiers and those who supported them during the President's call to duty for Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

As part of the Freedom Salute ceremony, the Soldiers received the Virginia Governor’s National Service Medal from Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker on behalf of Gov. Bob McDonnell. The medal was created in 2005 by then-Governor Mark R. Warner to recognize the service of the men and women of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard called to active federal service since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The award was first presented Nov. 11, 2005 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.

Decker said that the 529th had special meaning to her because it was the first unit since the McDonnell Administration began where she had been able to attend both the deployment ceremony and the return ceremony.

"We are so proud of our National Guard," she said. "Many of you have gone over not once, not twice but three or four times. That is a tremendous personal sacrifice to you as well as to members of your family. We understand that, we appreciate that and can’t thank you enough. The National Guard has been a tremendous component against the war on terror, and we couldn’t do that without the support of the people in the room today."

Decker also recognized the sacrifice made by the employers and acknowledged how important their support is for the success of the Guard’s mission. "You do it for your country and you do it for your commonwealth, and we thank you for that," she said.

McDonnell’s Chief of Staff Martin Kent presented a proclamation signed by the Governor acknowledging the battalion’s many accomplishments. (Full text of the proclamation copied below)

Most of the Soldiers in the unit are from the Hampton Roads area, but about 15 Soldiers are from the Richmond area, approximately 10 are from the Southwest Virginia area, and five are from the Northern Virginia area.

The battalion provided command and control for more than 500 Soldiers from three active duty units to accomplish their mission: the 104th Transportation Company from Fort Benning, Ga., the 183rd Maintenance Company from Fort Carson, Colo., and the 226th Quartermaster Platoon from Fort Stewart, Ga.

The battalion had no Virginia Soldiers killed in action or wounded in action by hostile enemy action.

Capt. Jaden W. Stapleton of Sterling was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor for combat actions while serving in Afghanistan, and 1st Lt. Philip Lacey of Staunton and Staff Sgt. David Maw of Virginia Beach were awarded the Combat Action Badge.

The battalion held an end-of-tour awards ceremony March 11 and presented the Bronze Star Medal for Service to Lacey and Maw as well as Capt. Lindsey Hodgkins, Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Witcher and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Perdieu for exceptionally meritorious service during the deployment. More than 60 Army Commendation Medals were also awarded, and all Soldiers received the NATO International Security Assistance Force Medal for service in Afghanistan.

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WHEREAS, citizens willing to serve in uniform when duty calls have helped protect our Commonwealth since 1607.

WHEREAS, the Virginia National Guard have trained arduously and served valiantly as they are called upon to meet new challenges on the battlefield, operating as a key component in our national defense.

WHEREAS, the Virginia National Guard's 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion is comprised of Soldiers from across the state, including Richmond, Southwest Virginia, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

WHEREAS, approximately 80 brave citizen-Soldiers of the Battalion mobilized for deployment in Afghanistan to plan and execute combat sustainment support for U.S. and coalition forces.

WHEREAS, the 529th deployed in May 2010 and operated from the remote forward operating base at Shindand Air Base where they pioneered logistical support operations as the first U.S. combat support battalion to locate in the area and conduct operations.

WHEREAS, the 529th was responsible for building an expeditionary life support complex and infrastructure for the entire airbase while providing seamless sustainment operations for supported units as well as helping improve quality of life and promoting economic development in local Afghan communities.

WHEREAS, the 529th helped improve quality of life and promoting economic development in local Afghan communities and managed an Emergency Response Program contracts for local infrastructure and humanitarian aid projects including refurbishing an old school, clearing an underground canal for irrigation, drilling eight wells in surrounding villages and coordinating volunteers and donations to provide sewing machines to local widows.

WHEREAS, the 529th also coordinated movement of humanitarian assistance for flood victims in the region in conjunction with Special Forces and was chosen as the first battalion to implement and execute Afghan Transportation Network initiative to influence stability of the local and regional economy.

WHEREAS, the 529th provided communication support for the entire base, purified between 45,000 and 60,000 gallons of potable water each day, oversaw the distribution of more than 3 million gallons of JP8 fuel and 20,000 gallons of motor gasoline and maintained 257 tactical vehicles, including 77 armored gun trucks, with a 96% operation readiness rate.

WHEREAS, the 529th coordinated the use of Air Weapons Teams, Engineer Route Clearance Packages, and Close-Air Support for the nearly 1,000 convoys conducted by the battalion that covered nearly 500,000 miles traversing western and southern Afghanistan.

WHEREAS, the 529th managed more than $24.6 million in contracts for food service, water purification, fuel retail operations, container and cargo management, and transportation operations for Shindand Air Base and managing seven construction projects for the expansion of the base’s logistical support capability and quality of life – including the construction of 112,000 square foot Morale, Welfare and Recreation area that included a weight and cardiovascular facility, theater, Post Exchange, USO and barbershop.

WHEREAS, the 529th supported offensive operations in Kandahar Province with Forward Logistics Elements and provided maintenance support at four different bases that included vehicle recovery, mobile refrigeration/heating, general contracting and test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment.

WHEREAS, the soldiers of the 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion returned to Virginia on March 21st-24th, 2011 after sustaining no injuries or fatalities after over 10 months in theatre. 

WHEREAS, the Commonwealth has always benefited from the contributions of those willing to depart the comforts of home to answer the call of duty and our citizens celebrate the service and sacrifice of members of the 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion as we pay special tribute to these citizen-Soldiers for their admirable dedication.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert F. McDonnell, do hereby recognize the 529th COMBAT SUSTAINMENT SUPPORT BATTALION of the COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens. 

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