Jan. 10, 2010

Lynchburg-based National Guard infantry battalion conducts departure ceremony

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

LYNCHBURG, Va. —The Virginia National Guard's Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team conducted at departure ceremony Jan. 8 at the Schilling Center at Liberty University in Lynchburg to mark the official start of federal active duty service for approximately 400 Soldiers. The unit is expected to have a security force mission in Iraq.

 

Command Sgt. Maj. John Braziel cases the unit colors for the trip to Camp Shelby after the departure ceremony for 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment held in Lynchburg Jan. 8. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

“Like you Soldiers of today, we were well-trained, tough and ready to do our duty,” said Bob Slaughter, a World War II veteran who served in the 116th Infantry on D-Day. “Our country was behind us all the way, and so were our hometowns and families. We did our jobs as best we could, and to have done less was unthinkable. I know you feel the same way. You make this citizen-Soldier proud.”

Slaughter served in Company D of the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division and was in the first wave of troops to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. He was also instrumental in establishing the D-Day Memorial in Bedford. More than 10 other World War II veterans were in attendance for the ceremony.

“My message this morning is very simple: thank you,” said Rep. Tom Perriello, D-5th District. “Thank you to all of our troops for your courage, for your sacrifice and for standing up to defend the freedoms that all of us back home enjoy.” Perriello was the first of the speakers at the ceremony that included Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th District, Lynchburg Mayor Joan Foster and Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of each one of your Soldiers,” Newman said. “What these guys have done is nothing short of amazing.” Newman explained that the unit received only about 75 days notice to mobilize for the mission and he commended both the unit’s leadership and their confidence in the ability of the unit’s Soldier to be able to perform the mission.

 

World War II veterans from the 29th Infantry Division join family, friends and members of the community for the departure ceremony for 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment held in Lynchburg Jan. 8. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

“This is not an easy mission,” Newman said. “It wasn’t on your calendar, but I can tell you that we have had each one of you stand tall to make this mission a success. It increases my pride and confidence in the Virginia Soldiers that make up this unit and others throughout the commonwealth of their ability to take on any mission whether it is in Iraq or in the valley of Virginia like we did in the recent snow storm.”

After the departure ceremony, the unit reported to Camp Shelby, Miss. to conduct mobilization training for approximately 45 to 60 days before deploying to Iraq. The battalion will be attached to the Louisiana National Guard's 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team for the deployment.

Goodlatte explained that he has visited Iraq three different times and has seen the results of the work of those who have served there. “I see each time the great work to make that country a stable place, to make that country free, and your work has gone a long way to make a brighter future not only for the people of the Middle East but to make the entire world a more secure place,” he said.

The mobilization order calls for the official mobilization of the Lynchburg-based Headquarters Company, the Bedford and Farmville-based A Company and the Lexington and Clifton Forge-based B Company. Soldiers from the Christiansburg and Radford-based C Company and the Pulaski and Martinsville-based D Company were also alerted to support the mobilization.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion are no strangers to stepping up to answer the call of duty. Right after the unit's drill weekend in February 2008 welcoming Soldiers back from a year of duty in Kosovo, more than 100 Soldiers went on state active duty to assist with the firefighting efforts in Southwest Virginia. Soldiers from the battalion also geared up to provide support in anticipation of Tropical Storm Hanna in early September 2008. Approximately 250 Soldiers assisted the Secret Service with the operation of security checkpoints along the President Obama inauguration parade route.

 

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment get in their last goodbye hugs after the unit's departure ceremony held in Lynchburg Jan. 8. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

“I am not going to speak to the Soldiers, but I am going to speak on their behalf,” said Lt. Col. Scott Smith, commander of 1st Battalion. “They would say they count themselves lucky to be Americans, to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth … how blessed we are to have the support of our friends and families and communities. The men would describe to you the honor it brings to wear the uniform of the United States and serve our country. They would tell you they serve in the greatest communities the nation has to offer.”

Smith thanked the families for their support of their Soldiers. “Without you and your unparalleled support we could not do this,” he said. “Everything we accomplish this year will be  as a team and accomplish with you.”

Smith also thanked Liberty University for hosting the departure ceremony.

The battalion last mobilized for peacekeeping duty in Kosovo from August 2006 to November 2007. Many Soldiers in the battalion were previously mobilized for duty at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from November 2002 to September 2003 when the unit was designated 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment.

Approximately 130 1st Battalion Soldiers from Bedford, Clifton Forge, Covington, Christiansburg, Lexington, Pulaski, Salem, Radford and Roanoke were assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team for combat duty in Afghanistan from March 2004 to July 2005. Other individual Soldiers from the battalion have taken part in mobilizations throughout the state.

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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