Oct. 21, 2011

Planned withdraw of U. S. forces from Iraq impacts Virginia National Guard personnel

By Cotton Puryear   
Virginia Department of Military Affairs

SANDSTON, Va.— President Barack Obama's announcement today that the United States is withdrawing troops from Iraq will impact approximately 1,135 Virginia National Guard personnel currently serving in support of Operation New Dawn.

"In light of the President's announcement that the United States will be withdrawing all troops from Iraq, I want to thank the men and women of the Virginia National Guard who have served with distinction over the last almost nine years," said Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. "We owe a debt of gratitude to them, as well as to their families and employers. Without their support, their service would not have been so successful."

At this time, the exact time table for redeployment is not certain, so the return dates for the units currently serving in Iraq is not known, Long said. "We ask everyone to be patient as plans are finalized for bringing our troops home," he said.

In the meantime, the Virginia Guard personnel currently serving in Iraq will focus on their assigned missions.

"We still have missions to conduct in Iraq, and it can still be a dangerous place," Long said. "We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure they all return safely."

The Virginia National Guard has mobilized approximately 6,200 Soldiers to Iraq in the last almost nine years in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

Approximately 310 Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers mobilized Feb. 25, 2011 for federal active duty in Iraq with the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment. Approximately 100 Maryland Army National Guard also mobilized as part of the battalion with the mission of conducting assault and combat support aviation operations in order to facilitate combat, peacekeeping and sustainment efforts to build a secure and stable environment in conjunction with the Iraqi National Government.

The 2nd Battalion consists of the headquarters company, three assault helicopter companies (two from Virginia and one from Maryland), the aviation maintenance company and the forward support company with 30 UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. While headquartered in Sandston, the battalion is made up of Soldiers from all over the state. Approximately 110 Soldiers are from the Richmond and Petersburg area, about 50 are from the Hampton Roads area, approximately 15 are from the Charlottesville and Central Virginia area, about 25 are from the Northern Virginia area, approximately 15 are from the Fredericksburg and Stafford County area and the other Soldiers are from various locations across the state.

Approximately 825 Virginia Army National Soldiers in units based in the Hampton Roads area, Fredericksburg and Christiansburg began federal active duty June 1, 2011.  The units  mobilized are all part of the 116th Brigade Combat Team, and they came together to form Task Force 183 under the control of the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment with the mission of conducting convoy security and base defense operations in support of Operation New Dawn. The mobilization is the largest single unit mobilization in the Virginia Army Guard since World War II.

The breakdown by unit and home readiness center is as follows:

o   Approximately 435 Soldiers from the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron 183rd Cavalry Regiment with units in Norfolk, Suffolk and Virginia Beach

o   Approximately 260 Soldiers from the Fredericksburg-based Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and Company D, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment

o   Approximately 130 Soldiers from the Christiansburg-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment

A total of 10 Virginia Guard Soldiers have lost their lives to hostile enemy action since September 11, 2001, and eight of them have been in Iraq:

Staff Sgt. Craig W. Cherry, 39, of Winchester, Va., and Sgt. Bobby E. Beasley, 36, of Inwood, W.Va., died on Aug. 7, 2004 in Ghazikel, Afghanistan, when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Both soldiers were assigned to the Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 29th Infantry Division, Winchester, Va.

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Sgt. Nicholas C. Mason, 20, of King George, Va., and Sgt. David A. Ruhren, 20, of Stafford, Va., died Dec. 21, 2004 in Mosul, Iraq, when their dining facility was attacked. Both were assigned to the Army National Guard's 276th Engineer Battalion, West Point, Va.

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Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Va., and Sgt. 1st Darryl D. Booker, 37, of Midlothian, Va., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 20, 2007 when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter they were in crashed. Kelly was assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters of the Virginia Army National Guard in Blackstone, Va., and Booker was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division, Virginia Army National Guard, Sandston, Va.

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Sgt. David E. Lambert, 39, of Cedar Bluff, Va., died Oct. 26, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command of the Virginia National Guard.

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Sgt. Derek R. Banks, 24, of Newport News, Va., died Nov. 14, 2007 in San Antonio of wounds suffered Oct. 25 in Baghdad, Iraq, when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device.  He was assigned to the 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command, Virginia National Guard, West Point, Va.

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Staff Sgt. Jeremiah E. McNeal, 23, of Norfolk, Va., died April 6, 2008 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command, Virginia Army National Guard, West Point, Va.

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Sgt. Jesse A. Ault, 28, of Dublin, Va., died April 9, 2008 in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds suffered in Tunnis, Iraq, when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 429th Brigade Support Battalion, Virginia Army National Guard, Roanoke, Va.

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