March 24, 2011

Staunton-based 116th BCT headquarters ordered to mobilize for active duty in Afghanistan

By Cotton Puryear
Virginia Dept. of Military Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.— The Virginia National Guard’s Staunton-based 116th Brigade Combat Team Headquarters has received a mobilization order to enter federal active duty in Afghanistan, according to an announcement made March 24, 2011 by Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. Long said approximately 175 Soldiers will begin serving on federal active duty May 15 and will serve as a command and control headquarters for counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan.

Soldiers from the BCT headquarters will conduct pre-mobilization training at Fort Pickett for approximately 10 days before they officially begin federal active duty. Once on federal orders, the unit will report to Camp Shelby, Miss. in May 2011 to conduct training for approximately 45 to 60 days before deploying to Afghanistan.

The unit will conduct an official departure ceremony in Staunton before it departs for Camp Shelby, but the exact details have not been finalized. The unit will notify the news media and general public when those details are set.

The 116th BCT Headquarters will not mobilize with its normally assigned subordinate battalions from Virginia, but will instead provide command and control for units upon its arrival in Afghanistan. With the U. S. Army’s system of modular unit organization, a brigade combat team headquarters can be mobilized on its own and be assigned three to five subordinate combat arms battalions as well as artillery and support battalions in order to conduct operations.

The U.S. Army federal mobilization process for National Guard units begins with a notification of sourcing that identifies units to fill requirements in the theatre of operations. A unit receives an alert order after notification of sourcing to begin more focused preparations for a possible mobilization. A mobilization order is the official notification that the unit will in fact be mobilized and provides specific details about the number of personnel to be mobilized, date of mobilization, mobilization training station and expected mission.

“National Guard Bureau asked the Virginia Army National Guard to look at the possibility of providing a brigade combat team headquarters for duty in Afghanistan, and I asked the leadership of the 116th BCT to assess their readiness and ability to be able to provide that headquarters,” Long said. “After they indicated the Soldiers were ready, we reported to NGB that we could execute the mission. The 116th Brigade Combat Team Headquarters served with distinction during their last mobilization in Iraq, and I have full confidence they are ready to mobilize and will again successfully accomplish their assigned mission.”

The brigade first learned of a possible mobilization in early March and notified Soldiers and their families there was a strong chance the unit would be called to federal active duty, explained Col. Blake Ortner, commander of 116th Brigade Combat Team. The unit has made plans for training assemblies in the coming weeks for Soldiers and their families to ask questions and conduct readiness processing activities like reviewing personnel and medical records.

The 116th Brigade Combat Team Headquarters last mobilized for active federal duty in Iraq from June 2007 to February 2008 where it served as the Joint Area Support Group in downtown Baghdad. The Joint Area Support Group controlled and coordinated all security and infrastructure for the U.S. Embassy Zone in Baghdad. The headquarters also tracked operations for two subordinate battalions and two separate companies assigned to the 116th operating elsewhere in Iraq and Kuwait.

Since the unit’s return from Iraq in 2008, it has fielded a wide range of new equipment, including the Army’s state-of-the-art digital command post system.

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