March 24, 2011

Virginia Beach-based National Guard sustainment battalion returns to United States from Afghanistan duty

By Cotton Puryear
Virginia Dept. of Military Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion returned to Virginia over the course of several days from March 21 to 24 after having served on federal active duty in Afghanistan since May 2010.

 

A Virginia National Guard Soldier from the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion hugs his family as he returns home from Afghanistan March 22 at Norfolk International Airport. Approximately 80 Soldiers from the battalion returned to the United States after serving in Afghanistan since May 2010. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

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

Instead of returning in a large single group, Soldiers returned to airports close to their home of record to be reunited with their families. No formal welcome home ceremony took place, and senior leaders from the Virginia National Guard joined families to welcome the Soldiers home at airports across the commonwealth including Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke and Lynchburg as well as in North Carolina and Maryland. Approximately 80 Soldiers returned to United States at Fort Hood, Texas March 18 and conducted a number of different administrative and reintegration training activities to transition from active duty back to traditional National Guard status prior to returning to Virginia. The Soldiers began their tour on federal active duty March 23, 2010. 

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 is 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.

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.

 

Senior leaders from the Virginia National Guard greet Soldiers from the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion March 18 at Fort Hood, Texas. Approximately 80 Soldiers from the battalion returned to the United States after serving in Afghanistan since May 2010. The Soldiers will spend about five to seven days conducting a number of different administrative and reintegration training activities at their demobilization station at Fort Hood, Texas to transition from active duty back to traditional National Guard status prior to returning to Virginia. The Soldiers began their tour on federal active duty March 23, 2010. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Va. Department of Military Affairs)

“I believe, beyond a doubt, that the 529th CSSB was not only uniquely qualified to establish multifunctional sustainment in western Afghanistan, but to execute the many other tasks we were asked to take on,” said Lt. Col. Michelle Rose, the commander of the 529th. “As an Army National Guard unit, we used our civilian and military skills to build a forward operating base with all the appropriate life support in an austere part of this country, and then pushed supplies out to not only U.S. troops, but also to coalition partners, such as the Italians and Slovenians.”

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 183d Maintenance Company from Fort Carson, Colo., and the 226th Quartermaster Platoon from Fort Stewart, Ga.

Some of the significant accomplishments of the battalion include:

  • 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. Established support to 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division and 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division with a transportation platoon at Herat Airfield for daily missions, supported offensive operations in Kandahar Province with Forward Logistics Elements and provided maintenance support at four different bases that included battle-loss/battle-damaged vehicle recovery; mobile refrigeration, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning maintenance; vehicle maintenance; general contracting and test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment.
  • Helped improve quality of life and promoting economic development in local Afghan communities and managed more than $700,000 of Commander’s Emergency Response Program contracts for local infrastructure and humanitarian aid projects including refurbishing an old school; clearing and fixing a permanent underground canal for irrigation; drilling eight wells throughout the surrounding villages; and coordinating volunteers and donations to provide sewing machines to local widows. The battalion 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.
  • Built an expeditionary life support complex and infrastructure for the entire airbase of more than 2,200 personnel and completed more than 450 base support missions. The battalion 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.
  • Managed more than $24.6 million in contracts for food service, water purification, fuel retail operations, Supply Support Activity, container and cargo management, and transportation operations for Shindand Air Base and managing seven construction projects worth $4.8 million for the expansion of the base’s logistical support capability and quality of life. The battalion oversaw the construction of 112,500-square foot Morale, Welfare and Recreation area that included a weight and cardiovascular facility, theater, Post Exchange, USO and barbershop.

“Our experience gained during this deployment in working with the local civilian population, such as helping to build much-needed wells, cleaning out natural underground waterways, and providing Afghan women much needed supplies and vocational training, all contributed to us leaving Shindand, Afghanistan much better off than we found it a year ago,” Rose said.

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

Capt. Jaden W. Stapleton of Sterling will be 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 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.

Additional information on the 529th CSSB:

Virginia Beach-based National Guard battalion ordered to mobilize for active duty
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/jan10/529thMob.html

529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion conducts departure ceremony
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/march10/529thdeparture.html

529th CSSB validated for duty in Afghanistan
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/may10/529thvalidation.html

529th Soldiers aid casualties in Afghanistan
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/june10/529thaid.html

Virginia Guard Soldiers making an impact in Afghanistan
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/oct10/529thupdate.html

Virginia Soldiers celebrate Thanksgiving in Afghanistan
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/nov10/529thThanksgiving.html

Sustainers from Virginia celebrate holidays abroad
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/jan11/529thNewYear.html

Virginia Guard Soldier to receive valor award for combat actions in Afghanistan
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/mar11/StapletonAward.html

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