June 2, 2010

Spirit of D-Day lives on with Virginia Soldiers serving in Iraq

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — As the service of the 29th Infantry Division and 116th Infantry Regiment will be remembered June 6 on the 66th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion that helped bring the end to World War II, Soldiers from the Virginia Guard’s Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment are serving the cause of freedom in Iraq.


Lt. Col. Scott Smith, commander of 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, attaches a 29th Infantry Division patch on the right shoulder of Capt. Miguel Lickliter, commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, during the "combat patch" ceremony held with the battalion's Transfer of Authority Ceremony April 9 in Iraq. (Courtesy photo)

“As we pause to remember the incredible sacrifices of the greatest generation on D-Day, I can assure you that we need no reminders here about the courage and character of Virginia’s sons,” said Lt. Col Scott Smith, commander of 1st Battalion. “I am privileged to serve with them. Their dedication and commitment to this mission makes for a daily reminder of the character of today’s military men and women.”

After mobilizing for federal active duty with just over 70 days advance notice, the battalion, also known as Task Force Overlord, conducted a transfer of authority ceremony April 9, 2010, to officially begin their mission of convoy security for logistics convoys consisting of food and fuel. The battalion serves with the Louisiana Army National Guard's 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

“Our missions consist of escorting commodity vehicles of food and fuel to and from major U.S. operating bases within Iraq,” Smith said. “A typical convoy consists of approximately 30-40 tractor trailers and fuel tankers, and every day Soldiers from Task Force Overlord conduct convoy security operations with the shortest route spanning over 200 miles one way.”

Smith said a normal day lasts between 18-20 hours when executing a convoy security mission, and on average a Soldier conducts one of these missions every five to six days. When the Soldiers are not on the road they are preparing and maintaining their vehicles and weapons for the next mission, he said.


Lt. Col. E. Scott Smith, commander of the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, givies a speech about the unit that served on D-Day and it's current mission. (Produced by Staff Sgt. Christopher Jelle/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Despite the grueling hours, morale in the task force is high. “I've traveled several times with our convoys, and I'm always impressed with the steadfast professionalism and focus of our units and their Soldiers,” Smith said. “Laughter and a sense of humor is another indicator of the morale of a unit and we have both in spades, and all this in spite of the sand storms and temperatures in excess of 100 degrees.”

The battalion has collectively traveled more than 30,000 miles and delivered over 1,500 trucks to various locations without incident.  

Smith said that each mission is treated like it is the very first time to ensure everyone stays focused. “Great care is given to preparing the security vehicles for the lengthy move and ensuring all systems are operating as they are intended to ensure the safe delivery of both the cargo being escorted and the Soldiers manning our escort vehicles,” he said.  

One of the biggest challenges for the unit has been maintenance on the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Soldiers drive on a daily basis, and mechanically-inclined Soldiers were identified to form a makeshift maintenance team. “To date they have maintained our vehicles to a standard that has exceeded other units with qualified and trained Army mechanics,” Smith said.  

Support from family, friends and communities back home has been a key element of the unit’s success by organizing food drives, preparing and sending morale packages and keeping family members informed.  “Our Family Readiness Group and State Family Programs have provided a world-class support program for our Soldiers and their families,” Smith said.

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