November 11, 2008

Afghanistan-bound 276th Engineer Battalion conducts Veterans Day Ceremony at Fort Pickett

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion took time out from pre-mobilization training Nov. 11 to conduct a Veterans Day flag raising ceremony at Fort Pickett. Soldiers from the unit assembled around the post headquarters flagpole and conducted a brief ceremony in honor of the veterans who served in the past and for those who will serve in the future, then returned to their scheduled training for the day.

Soldiers from the Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion raise the flag at the Fort Pickett post headquarters in honor of Veterans Day. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE to download a high resolution photo.

“Veterans Day is an important day for us and we wanted to come out here to remember it and keep it in these guys minds that it is important,” said Lt. Col. James Zollar, commander of the 276th Engineer Battalion.

About 200 Soldiers from the 276th Engineer Battalion have been training at Fort Pickett since September in preparation for deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

After the flag raising, Command Sgt. Maj. Daryl Plude, the battalion’s command sergeant major, gave the gathered Soldiers a brief history of Veterans Day. He explained how the tradition has changed over the years since Armistice Day in 1919 and why the day still holds meaning today.

“I think it is important that we come here today to recognize those who have come before us, those that have been with us and those that will server after us,” Plude said.

Plude pointed out that many Soldiers in the unit have already served in a combat zone, while others will be serving in a combat zone for the first time when the battalion deploys to Afghanistan. “You should be extremely proud of the things we have accomplished and the things we will do in the future,” he said. “Go forth and train hard today, and remember what today is about: celebrating veterans.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Daryl Plude of the Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion renders a salute during the unit's flag raising ceremony in honor of Veterans Day at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE to download a high resolution photo.

The 276th Engineer Battalion last deployed from March 2004 to March 2005 when the entire battalion served in Iraq. With this deployment, the battalion headquarters and the forward support company of the 276 Engineer Battalion will mobilize. Both companies are comprised of Soldiers from all over the state, including Richmond/Petersburg, the Hampton Roads area and Northern Virginia.  Approximately 20 Soldiers from Southwest Virginia will be deploying with the 276th Engineers.  

The battalion headquarters will provide command and control for the FSC and three National Guard engineer companies from other states and one active duty engineer company. Engineer companies from California, Michigan and Wisconsin will join the battalion headquarters at Camp Shelby for the final train up prior to heading to Afghanistan, and the active duty engineer company will join them in Afghanistan.

The primary mission for the unit is expected to be providing route clearance and Improvised Explosive Device defeat to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.  

Soldiers from the Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion assembled at the Fort Pickett post flagpole to conduct a flag raising ceremony in honor of Veterans Day. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE to download a high resolution photo.

Soldiers have been conducting individual Soldier skills to include weapons firing, medical tasks, communications skills and drivers training as they prepare to move to their mobilization station.  This training will allow the unit to focus on their collective mission of IED defeat and route clearance during their time at their mobilization station.

The unit will continue training at Fort Pickett until late November, when they will move to their mobilization station at Camp Shelby, Miss., for mobilization training.

The unit is scheduled to conduct a departure ceremony at 10 a.m. Nov. 30 at the Landmark Theater in downtown Richmond.

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