Nov. 16, 2009

First wave of Richmond-based Virginia Guard engineer battalion returns to Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. — Approximately 85 Soldiers from the Richmond-based 276th Engineer  Battalion returned to Virginia Nov. 15 after serving in Afghanistan since February 2009. The group was the first wave of Soldiers from the battalion to return to Virginia, and two more groups will return to Virginia in the next 10 days.

  276th Engineers come home

A Soldier from the 276th Engineer Battalion poses for a group
photo at the unit’s welcome home in Sandston Nov. 15. (Photo by Maj. Nevin Blankenship, 116th BCT Public Affairs)

“This was a tough mission, and you accomplished it with the highest skills and dedication to purpose," said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. "You made Virginia proud.”

Approximately 75 Soldiers returned to the Virginia National Guard Aviation Facility in Sandston and approximately 10 Soldiers returned to Tri-Cities Airport in Blountville, Tenn.

“We commend you for a job well done,” said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety John Marshall. “Without a doubt you have made a difference in Operation Enduring Freedom and ultimately in ensuring our freedom in this great nation.”

The Soldiers arrived safely Nov. 10 at their demobilization station at Camp Shelby, Miss., and conducted a number of different administrative activities to transition from active duty back to traditional National Guard status prior to returning to Virginia. The battalion mobilized for active federal service Nov. 28, 2008.

The 276th Engineer Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. James Zollar, is comprised of two companies from Virginia, the Headquarters Support Company and Forward Support Company, three National Guard engineer companies from three different states and one active duty engineer company. Both Virginia companies are made up of Soldiers from all over the state, including Richmond/Petersburg, the Hampton Roads area and Northern Virginia. Approximately 20 Soldiers from Southwest Virginia deployed with the 276th Engineers.

The battalion, also know as Task Force Pirate, conducted a variety of missions to include route clearance patrols, route security, route reconnaissance, combat logistics patrols, area clearance and recovery operations as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

While mobilized, route clearance platoons from the Task Force Pirate cleared more than 70,000 kilometers of roads while conducting more than 1,070 missions.  They were responsible for removing over 15,000 pounds of explosive hazards from Afghanistan.

Soldiers from the battalion also trained French soldiers and members of the Afghan National Army Corps on route clearance operations and provided support to the second-ever Afghan National Elections.  Route clearance platoons provided safe routes for the transport of election officials, election security forces, election materials and completed ballots.

Three Virginia Guard Soldiers were wounded in action, but their injuries did not require medical evacuation outside of Afghanistan and they were returned to duty. No Virginia Guard Soldiers assigned to the unit were killed in action.

The battalion headquarters provided command and control, logistics and maintenance support for five engineer companies: the 951st Engineer Company from the Wisconsin National Guard, the 1431st Engineer Company from the Michigan National Guard, the 235th Engineer Company from the California National Guard, and the 541st Engineer Company, an active duty unit from Germany.  The 541st Engineer Company was replaced by the 41st Route Clearance Company from Fort Riley, Kan., in August 2009.

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