March 25, 2010

529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion conducts departure ceremony

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Virginia National Guard’s Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group conducted a departure ceremony March 23 at the Sands Armory in Virginia Beach to mark the official start of the unit's federal active duty service. Approximately 80 Soldiers will operate as a command and control headquarters with the mission of planning and executing combat sustainment support for U.S. 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.

  529th CSSB departure ceremony

Spc. John Butler of the Virginia National Guard’s 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion hugs his daughters following a departure ceremony March 23 at Sands Armory in Virginia Beach. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) 

Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

“We will be doing traditional command and control sustainment operations to support the warfighters in Afghanistan, but we will also be thinking outside the box,” said Lt. Col. Michelle Rose, commander of the 529th. She stressed that Soldiers in the unit will have to stay flexible in order to accomplish their mission in the tough terrain and current support infrastructure in Afghanistan.

“We are so proud of our citizen Soldiers and the job you are about to do and the time you are about to spend away from your family and friends, your jobs and leaving your lives here at home to go over and do a very important job in Afghanistan,” said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker.

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 conducted a staff training exercise Jan. 5 to 7 in Virginia Beach.

“From the beginning of your preparations in 2008, I have watched you go through your paces, and I am absolutely convinced you are ready,” said Col. Tim Williams, commander of the 329th Regional Support Group. “I am supremely confident in your training and your abilities and your talent. You are truly what makes this nation great.”

  529th CSSB departure ceremony

Col. Tim Williams, commander of the 329th Regional Support Group, shakes hands with Soldiers of the 529th as they board the bus to the airport for their flight to Fort Hood. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

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.

 “You have chosen to take a different path,” said Maj. Gen. Robert. B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Others in our society say they will let the world take them by the hand and walk them down the road, but the Soldiers of the 529th have said they want to make a difference in the world. It is a terrific honor for me to stand with each one of you today and say thank you.”

Decker, Newman and Williams all thanked the families, friends and employers of the Soldiers for their support of the mission the unit was about to undertake. “Today we also thank the families of the 529th,” Williams said. “With this deployment, you are also answering the call of duty. Thank you for the sacrifices you have made and those that lie ahead, and we appreciate all that you do.”

Rose will be the first female officer in the Virginia Army National Guard to command a battalion in a combat zone. Capt. Lindsey Hodgkins will be the first female to command a company in a combat zone when she deploys as the commander of the 529th's headquarters company. Capt. Robin Branch was the first female officer to command Soldiers deployed overseas when she commanded the 183rd Personnel Services Detachment during the unit's deployment to Kuwait in from February 2005 to January 2006.

“I am humbled and honored to be recognized as the first female officer in the Virginia National Guard to command a battalion in combat,” Rose said. “But I can assure you that I am not the one who makes this unit tick. It is the Soldiers … they are the ones who make things happen, and they are the ones who bring motivation and experience to the table. They will drive this battalion to be successful in whatever challenges come our way.”

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.

“This deployment and this ceremony is not just about those of us that wear this uniform,” Rose said. “It is about the moms and dads, the husbands and the wives, the sons, the daughters, the cousins and coworkers out in the audience today who support those fine troops. You have brought us to this point of being as prepared as we can to successfully complete our mission, and our success not only depends on the expertise of the of the leaders of this battalion but on the family and community support we have right here in the commonwealth of Virginia.”

  529th CSSB departure ceremony

Family members cheer for Soldiers of the 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion as they board the bus to the airport for their flight to Fort Hood. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

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

Click HERE to return to the top of the page ~ Click HERE to return to the news directory