Nov. 4, 2007

Task Force Normandy heads for overseas duty

Spc. William Byram spends time with his daughter Alexis before leaving on a yearlong deployment with the 3-116th Infantry. (Photo by Sgt. Jackquiline Herring, Task Force Normandy)

By Capt. Nevin Blankenship
Task Force Normandy

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. – The 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry, also known as Task Force Normandy, held its departure ceremony on Sept. 12 at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Center’s Dogwood Lake.

The battalion, which was mobilized for active federal service on June 23 rd, had been training at Camp Shelby since late June and recently completed an 85 day training cycle prior to deploying to Kuwait and Iraq.

Units from the battalion are based in several northern Virginia communities with the headquarters being in Winchester. Locations of other armories include Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Woodstock, Warrenton, Leesburg, Manassas and Fredericksburg.

The 3-116 Infantry is the largest battalion-sized element to deploy from the Commonwealth of Virginia thus far in support of the Global War on Terror. Altogether, the battalion will field over 800 Soldiers.

The battalion commander, Lt. Col. John M. Epperly talked about the significance of the deployment.

“It’s an historic moment for us,” Epperly said. “This is the first deployment for the battalion since we reorganized as part of a brigade combat team. We have the whole team for this mission to include our Forward Support Company, Foxtrot Company of the 429th Brigade Support Battalion. This is a watershed event in the history of both the battalion and the Stonewall Brigade.”

Upon arrival in theater, the battalion will relieve the 2nd Battalion, 142nd Field Artillery from the Arkansas National Guard and assume control of all security force (SECFOR) operations in southern Kuwait. The mission in Kuwait will provide force protection to strategic assets such as the deep water ports used as the conduit for supplies coming into theater. The battalion will also conduct numerous other missions in conjunction with the Kuwaiti Ministry of Defense.

Lt. Col. John M. Epperly, the 3-116th battalion commander, presents Lt. Col. Chuck Jackson, 3/349th LSB batalion commander, with a copy of the battalion colors for his hard work and training support. (Photo by Sgt. David Begley, Task Force Normandy)

In addition, three companies from 3-116th will be sent north to provide security to convoys traveling in Iraq. A, B and C companies will be the units moving north into Iraq and they will remain there throughout their tour of duty. In fact, A and C companies departed from Camp Shelby early due to needs in theater.

The training at Camp Shelby was long and arduous in the Mississippi summer heat. The units of the 3-116th Infantry trained for both convoy security as well as force protection missions. The Soldiers also spent time learning about the language and culture they would encounter in Iraq and Kuwait.

According to Command Sgt. Maj. Alan M. Ferris, the training was very useful. “I’m very happy with the training support we received from Camp Shelby and 1st Army,” Ferris said. “We were able to complete a great deal of training in mounted operations which was a challenge for us since we are dismounted light infantry. I’m so proud of our Soldiers and how they have performed.”

That sentiment was echoed by Spc. Andrew Foglesong from Fredericksburg.

“The training was hard, but I learned a lot,” Foglesong said. ”I especially liked the HUMVEE roll-over trainer. I never realized how hard it was to get out of an overturned vehicle. I think that training may save someone’s life.”

During the ceremony both Maj. Gen. Robert Newman, the Adjutant General of Virginia and Epperly noted the storied history of third battalion. They remarked that in the 265 year history of the battalion, the unit had earned 39 campaign or battle streamers.

Most recently, the unit deployed to Afghanistan where it fought as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004 and 2005. Two members of the Headquarters Company — Staff Sgt. Craig Cherry, 39, of Winchester, and Sgt. Bobby Beasley, 36, of Inwood, West Virginia. — were killed in action during that deployment.

Following the ceremony at Camp Shelby, 3-116 Infantry departed once again to earn their 40 th campaign streamer and make more history in support of America’s Global War on Terror.

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