March 26, 2009

Virginia Guard logistics advisory teams begin mobilization training for duty in Iraq

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Four 10-Soldier Logistics Military Advisory Teams from the Virginia National Guard’s Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group conducted departure ceremonies March 15 in Virginia Beach and Gate City to mark the official start of their federal active duty tour. The mission of the four teams will be to mentor, coach and advise the Iraqi Army with professional advice on various issues relating to logistics with the goal of helping the Iraqi forces improve their ability to function independently.

LMAT departure ceremony

Lt. Col. John Costanzo gets a hug from his daughters before departing for mobilization training at Fort Riley, Kan., in preparation for a deployment to Iraq. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The two groups of Soldiers linked up at Fort Riley, Kansas to begin their mobilization training. The four teams are expected to begin duty at various locations in Iraq beginning in early June, and the mobilization is expected to last 12 months. The Soldiers conducted pre-mobilization training at Fort Pickett since early March.

“We are trying to enable the Iraqi Army to take over the complete logistical system for themselves,” said Maj. Doyle Gillis, one of the four LMAT leaders. “That involves them ordering parts, moving supplies and making sure troops out front have what they need before they even know they need it.”

Gillis said that the Iraqi Army has made tremendous improvements in their logistical system of the past several years. “Hopefully we can take them even further and make sure they are able to completely take care of themselves,” he said.

“You are off to do an important mission, one that has high visibility across the spectrum and one that I know you will complete with great confidence and great affect,” said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. “As we wind down combat operations in Iraq and moved towards the role of support, the mission of these LMATs will be vitally important.”

Newman thanked the Soldiers for their service, noting that Soldiers in the today’s Army National Guard are volunteers who raised their hand and pledged to serve the president or the governor when called to duty.

Newman also pledged the Virginia Guard’s support to the Soldiers' families while they are deployed. “We will support your needs to get your mission done, and we will support these great family members and friends that remain behind. We understand they too have a significant burden in your absence,” Newman said.

“What we see here today is a small slice of what makes America great,” said Col. Tim Williams, commander of the 329th Regional Support Group. “You are the best of our commonwealth and our nation. There is a ‘can-do’ attitude that is there, and I have ever confidence you are going to do great things.”

LMAT departure ceremony

A Virginia Guard Soldier and his family and friends gather for a prayer before he departs with one of the Logistics Military Advisory Teams March 15 in Virginia Beach. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Williams echoed Newman’s pledge to support the families of the deployed Soldiers, and said that his staff would be available to assist family members with any issues that might come up during the deployment.

Each team will be led by a lieutenant colonel who will serve as a senior logistics advisor, and two other officers will act as a logistics staff advisor and base management and engineer advisor. Highly experienced noncommissioned officers will act as advisors for ammunition supply and storage, food service, administrative support, bulk fuel and supply, equipment maintenance and medical services. An additional noncommissioned offer will serve as the team’s noncommissioned officer in charge.

“We searched across the state to find the best person for each job,” Gillis said. “We were looking for someone who is not only an expert in their field, but also for someone who has good people skills and can relate to and mentor the Iraqi Army.”

Soldiers from all over Virginia have been selected for the mission with approximately five Soldiers coming from Northern Virginia, approximately 10 Soldiers from the Richmond area, approximately five Soldiers from the Hampton Roads area and approximately 10 coming from the Roanoke and Southwest Virginia area.

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.

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