August 14, 2008

Hampton Roads area Soldiers conduct Freedom Salute

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Hampton Roads area gathered Aug. 10 to conduct a Freedom Salute in honor of the service of 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment in Iraq and Kuwait from September 2007 to May 2008. The day before, they conducted a family picnic and other activities that were part of the first-ever Virginia National Guard Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach.

“We owe each of you a tremendous debt of gratitude for your service, but we also have to recognize and honor the families,” said Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District at the Freedom Salute ceremony. “Families are critical to our success, so I want to thank the families for their tremendous sacrifice.”

Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, echoed Scott’s praise for the families and recognized the unique contribution of the Soldiers of the squadron.

“These wonderful Soldiers that went in harms way, I can’t thank you enough,” Newman said. “You are a very unique group of men, and you have chosen a different calling. What you do on a daily basis is awe inspiring. Not only in your service to your country, but also to your commonwealth we appreciate and thank god that we have young men like you who are willing to serve.”

The Soldiers that took part in the Freedom Salute were assigned to the Portsmouth-based Headquarters Troop, the Norfolk-based A Troop, the Suffolk-based Troop B and the Virginia Beach-based C Troop.

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.

The Freedom Salute will recognize the Soldiers, their families, employers and organizations that contributed significantly to supporting the unit during its deployment.
 
As part of the Freedom Salute campaign, each Soldier received an American flag in a wood display case, a Defender of Freedom certificate as well as commemorative coins and medallions. Newman presented each Soldier with the Governor of Virginia’s National Service Medal.

The goal of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is to help family members with the homecoming of their Soldiers, and to inform them on what they can do to make this transition as easy as possible. The program has been established to increase the Soldier and family member’s knowledge of the reintegration process, and to provide resources to them as they go through the steps of reintegration. 

The Yellow Ribbon program brought representatives from a wide number of military support organizations into one location to answer questions and provide information about services available to Soldiers and their family members. Some of the areas covered were health care, legal assistance, education benefits, veteran’s assistance, employer relations and tax assistance. Representatives from the state chaplain office were also on hand.

The program also featured briefings on reconnecting with children after deployment, anger management, substance abuse prevention and compulsive behavior prevention.

During their deployment, Soldiers from 2nd Squadron conducted route reconnaissance and route security in southern Iraq and conducted over 950 combat patrols to ensure passage of over 2,000 coalition convoys conducting resupply for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit logged 105,000 miles on Humvees while ensuring route security.

No Virginia Soldiers from the squadron were wounded in action. Two Soldiers from the Colorado National Guard’s 140th Signal Company were wounded and returned to duty within 24 hours. The company was assigned to the squadron for the duration of the mission.

The squadron stood up “Task Force Sorrel,” a joint task force that conducted route repair and road construction in southern Iraq. The inspiration for the name of the task force was Stonewall Jackson's faithful horse “Sorrel.” 

The task force was comprised of Soldiers from the Squadron as well as about 40 Navy Seabees, and four British Soldiers based in Basra, Iraq. Task Force Sorrel successfully constructed a ramp in the Basra province of Iraq that connected two main supply routes in Iraq. The ramp eliminated a dangerous chokepoint and ensured the free flow of convoys throughout southern Iraq. 

Soldiers from 2nd Squadron conducted several civil-military operations in Iraq and Kuwait- conducting medical capabilities programs (MEDCAPS), delivering humanitarian items and gifting sheep to local nomads.

The squadron also coordinated with adjacent units in southern Iraq to establish joint battle drills for coalition forces in southern Iraq. They also conducted joint patrols with Iraqi Customs Police and Iraqi security forces, conducted joint training with Kuwaiti commando units to teach rappelling and sniper training.

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