Jan. 12, 2011

Lynchburg infantry battalion recognized for service in Iraq  

By Cotton Puryear
Virginia Department of Military Affairs

ROANOKE, Va. — Gov. Bob McDonnell presented the Virginia Governor’s National Service Medal to Soldiers from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team during the unit’s Freedom Salute held Jan. 9, 2011 in Roanoke to honor their service in Iraq. The battalion returned in August 2010 after arriving in Iraq since early March.

 

Gov. Bob McDonnell presents the Virginia Governor’s National Service Medal to a Soldier from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team during the unit’s Freedom Salute held Jan. 9, 2011 in Roanoke to honor their service in Iraq. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Va. Dept. of Military Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

“I have come here today to add my thanks to you for a job well done. Your deployment was one of tremendous significance,” McDonnell said. “Most people get a little notice, but you got two months. I know that over there you did an important mission to provide convoy security all over the country in areas that were secure and areas that were very hostile.”

The battalion operated out of Contingency Operating Base Adder in Southern Iraq with the mission of securing resupply convoys along the main supply routes in the central, southern and northern sectors of Iraq in order to prevent anti-Iraqi Forces from disrupting theater sustainment operations. The Soldiers began their tour on federal active duty Jan. 5, 2010, after having just over sixty days notification about their deployment and trained at Camp Shelby prior to deploying to Iraq.

The Freedom Salute recognized the Soldiers, their families, employers and organizations that contributed significantly to supporting the unit during its deployment.

"I want to say first and foremost to you family members how much I appreciate what you have endured," McDonnell said. "You have cheerfully taken on the mission, you have had to endure a lot of hardship with your husband or your wife or your brother or sister or loved one being deployed. I especially appreciate the work Mrs. Smith has done to support and encourage and bind you together as a family. You deserve equal credit for your loved one in uniform for what you have done to help secure the nation's liberty."

 

Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell and Jackie Smith recognize Family Readiness Group leaders at the Freedom Salute held Jan. 9, 2011 in Roanoke to honor the service of the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team in Iraq. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Va. Dept. of Military Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell and Jackie Smith, wife of the battalion commander, presented special recognition to Family Readiness Group leaders for their work during the deployment.

The 1st Battalion headquarters is in Lynchburg, and the Bedford and Farmville-based Company A and the Lexington and Clifton Forge-based Company B were officially mobilized for duty. Soldiers from the Christiansburg and Radford-based Company C and the Pulaski and Martinsville-based Company D also took part in the mobilization.

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.

During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Scott Smith, commander of 1st Battalion, and Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Braziel, III, recognized the centers of influence that made significant contributions to Soldiers and family members during the mobilization.

 

Lt. Col. Scott Smith and Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Braziel, III, recognize the centers of influence that made significant contributions to Soldiers and family members of the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team during the unit’s Freedom Salute held Jan. 9, 2011 in Roanoke to honor their service in Iraq. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Va. Dept. of Military Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

"To the individuals and organizations that supported the 1-116th throughout the our journey, I give you my thanks," Smith said. "You reminded us that service doesn't go unnoticed, and there are plenty of people who don't wear a uniform who serve our country and are as proud to be Americans as we are."

As part of the Freedom Salute ceremony, McDonnell presented Soldiers with the Virginia Governor’s National Service Medal. 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 September 11, 2001. The award was first presented Nov. 11, 2005 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.

The unit was scheduled to be on federal duty until December 2010, but their mission was curtailed as they were tasked to assist in the responsible draw down of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Soldiers were organized into convoy escort teams operating Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, and the teams provided security for convoys that transported hundreds of personnel, supplies and equipment from different units in United States Forces-Iraq to other destinations such as combat outposts, convoy security centers and COBs throughout the country.

“We had one of the highest utilization rates in theater and we kept our CET’s out on the road every day, despite the challenge of not having our own organic mechanics or motor pool section,” said Maj. Christopher Samulski, the battalion operations officer.  “In a way, we did what every Guard unit [does], we took advantage of the fact that many of our riflemen have civilian training as mechanics. Despite the fact that none of them had ever worked on an MRAP before, we ended up with a 90% operational readiness rate during our time here. This is an amazing accomplishment, and I am very proud of the work they have done here.”

The battalion logged more miles than any similar organization in theatre, Smith said. Soldiers in the battalion were awarded 94 Combat Infantryman Badges, 13 Combat Action Badges and one Combat Field Medical Badge.

 

A Soldier from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team displays his end-of-tour award to a young fan during the unit’s Freedom Salute held Jan. 9, 2011 in Roanoke to honor their service in Iraq. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Rebecca Petrie, 116th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The battalion completed 278 convoy escort missions travelling more than 172,300 miles and transported in excess of 120 million gallons of fuel and 900,000 short tons of supplies without any injuries. Convoy escort teams reacted to 22 enemy attacks from small arms fire, indirect fire and IED detonations.

"Their final accomplishment, which cannot be measured, is that every Soldier returned home safely to their loved ones as a result of their training, professionalism and unmatched competence," Smith said.

The battalion last mobilized for peacekeeping duty in Kosovo from August 2006 to November 2007. Many Soldiers in the battalion were previously mobilized for duty at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from November 2002 to September 2003 when the unit was designated 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion are no strangers to stepping up to answer the call of duty. Right after the unit's drill weekend in February 2008 welcoming Soldiers back from a year of duty in Kosovo, more than 100 Soldiers went on state active duty to assist with the firefighting efforts in Southwest Virginia. Soldiers from the battalion also geared up to provide support in anticipation of Tropical Storm Hanna in early September 2008. Approximately 250 Soldiers assisted the Secret Service with the operation of security checkpoints along the President Obama inauguration parade route.

Approximately 130 1st Battalion Soldiers from Bedford, Clifton Forge, Covington, Christiansburg, Lexington, Pulaski, Salem, Radford and Roanoke were assigned to Company C, 3d Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team for combat duty in Afghanistan from March 2004 to July 2005. Other individual Soldiers from the battalion have taken part in mobilizations throughout the state.

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