Jan. 12, 2010

Virginia Beach-based National Guard battalion ordered to mobilize for active duty

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia National Guard’s Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group has received a mobilization order to enter federal active service for duty in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, according to an announcement made Jan. 12 by Maj. Gen. Robert. B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia.

Newman said that approximately 80 Soldiers will begin serving on federal active duty March 20, 2010, and they are scheduled to report to Fort Hood, Texas to conduct mobilization training for approximately 45 to 60 days before deploying. Once they arrive in Afghanistan, they will operate as a command and control headquarters with the mission of planning and executing combat sustainment support for US and coalition forces. The U. S. Army uses the term “sustainment” to describe a wide range of logistics support such as maintenance, food service, fueling, personnel and cargo transportation and medical support.

“The environment in Afghanistan is incredibly challenging in many ways, but particularly for conducting resupply and other sustainment operations, but I know our Virginia Guard Soldiers are up for the task,” Newman said. “While the 529th is a new unit to the Virginia Guard, it is filled with officers, noncommissioned officers and Soldiers with tremendous experience in all types of logistical support. They have been preparing for this mobilization for almost a year, and I am confident they have the experience and training they need to be successful in Afghanistan.”

The unit received an alert order to prepare for a possible mobilization in June 2008. Since then, they conducted two weeks of training at the National Maintenance Training Center at Camp Dodge, Iowa from April 18 to May 2, 2009 and three weeks of pre-mobilization training at Fort Pickett from Nov. 2 to 21, 2009. The battalion staff also recently conducted a staff training exercise Jan. 5 to 7 in Virginia Beach.

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

“We have worked hard over the last 18 months to prepare for the possibility of receiving a mission to support the warriors in Iraq or Afghanistan, “ said Lt. Col. Michelle Rose, commander of the 529th. “I am now confident we are not only ready to operate as a sustainment command and control headquarters, but we are ready for the challenges of providing support in an austere theater such as Afghanistan. The current support infrastructure is not mature in Afghanistan as it is in Iraq, but this unit is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.  We have been waiting for the chance to put our training to test and now we will get a chance to do just that.”

This is the first mobilization for the 529th because it is a new unit for the Virginia National Guard, and a combat sustainment support battalion is a new organization for the U. S. Army. The unit was formed in December 2006 and is under the command of the Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group.

While this is the first mobilization for the 529th, many of the Soldiers in the unit have spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan either on active duty or mobilized with other Virginia National Guard units.

In the past, the corps support battalion was organized to support a specific combat unit, but now the organization is designed to provide a wide range of sustainment support to multiple modular brigade combat teams. As part of the Army transformation to a “plug and play” philosophy that provides greater flexibility, a unit like the 529th can provide a wide range of sustainment support.

  While in Virginia, the 529th has command and control of the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company and the Blackstone-based 3647th Maintenance Company. When deployed into a theatre of operations like Afghanistan, the battalion would have command and control over a wide variety of sustainment units that provide different types of support.

The mobilization orders call for an active duty period not to exceed 400 days, but the Secretary of Defense can extend tours for operational needs not to exceed 24 months or 730 days.

Related links:

529th CSSB trains on command, control tasks during annual training

Photos: 529th CSSB Soldiers conduct Army Warrior Task training - November 10, 2009

Photos: Logistics Soldiers train in virtual environment for the real world missions - January 5-7, 2010

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