November 2, 2003, 18:05 EDT

2-116th Infantry returns from Cuba mission

By Maj. Ed Larkin
29th Inf. Div. Public Affairs Officer

Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment stand by to transfer authority of the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba security mission to the 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment from the Massachusetts National Guard.(Photo courtesy the 29th Inf. Div. Public Affairs Office)

The 29th Infantry Division (Light) continues to play a vital role on the war on terrorism. For the last nine months, the 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Battalion from the Virginia Army National secured the detention area in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On September 19, 2003 the 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment transferred authority and the mission to the 1st Infantry Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

Both of these proud units are part of the symbolic Blue and Gray in the 29th Infantry Division shoulder patch. During the Civil War these units met during the Battle of Fredericksburg. Today, they are equal partners in a common goal to defeat terrorism. Both of these battalions have answered the call against the terrorist enemy, first after 9/11 providing soldiers for Operation Noble Eagle and today providing soldiers for Operation Enduring Freedom.

The primary mission for the Infantry soldiers of Joint Task Force Guantanamo is providing security and a quick reaction force to deal with any threats. The on ground force also uses the time for training and skills enhancement. “We came to Guantanamo a very good battalion and we are leaving a great battalion,” said Lt. Col. Tom Wilkinson, 2nd Bn. commander. “This a tough mission and we really pulled together as team. I am returning with the best soldiers in the Army.”

The one thing you can count on in Cuba is hot weather. During the initial right seat / left seat ride transition training the 1st Bn. experienced nothing but “Black Flag” days – a heat stress index above 115. Summer is warm in Massachusetts, but not like this. Regardless of the heat, the mission goes on.

The mission calls for around the clock operations with both mounted and dismounted patrols. The Ranger patrols (walking patrols) go all night and day. The Striker patrols (mounted patrols) also run 24 hours with a few hours of preparation and maintenance at the beginning and end of each shift.

The 2nd Bn. is leaving with knowing they have done great job and the 1st Bn. is proud to carry the flag and do their part defeating terrorism. “You should all be very proud of the excellent job you did serving your country,” said Maj. Gen. Geff Miller, Task Force Guantanamo commander.

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