Oct. 7, 2009

Powhatan-based Virginia Guard engineer company returns from Iraqi duty

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Approximately 160 Soldiers from the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company returned to Virginia Oct. 6 after serving in Iraq since December 2008. Approximately 30 Soldiers from the Southwest Virginia area arrived at Tri-Cities Regional Airport for a reunion with their families, and the remaining Soldiers returned to the Powhatan Readiness Center where they were formally welcomed home by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, their families and friends from the Powhatan area.


Spc. Christopher Langford of Tappahannock gets a warm welcome home hug from his five-year-old son at the welcome home ceremony for the Virginia National Guard's Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company. Langford worked as a supply specialist during the unit's deployment to Iraq. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) For more photos, please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page.

"We are glad to welcome you back," Kaine said. "The 180th has done a great job." He also commended the unit on their strong spirit, as well as the tremendous support they received from their families and the Powhatan community.

Newman told the Soldiers of the 180th their duty performance in Iraq had taken the mission to the next level. "What you did was not only the war fight, but also helped us nation build as well, and for that you should be proud," he said. "I am proud you wear the Virginia National Guard patch."

The Soldiers arrived safely Oct. 2 at their demobilization station at Fort McCoy, Wisc., and conducted a number of different administrative activities to transition from active duty back to traditional National Guard status prior to returning to Virginia.

While the company is headquartered in Powhatan, Soldiers from all over Virginia took part in the mission. Approximately 25 are from the Richmond area, about 20 are from the Southwest Virginia area, approximately 10 Soldiers are from Northern Virginia, about 10 are from the Hampton Roads area, approximately five are from the Shenandoah Valley area and about five are from the Lynchburg area.

While serving in Iraq, the 180th conducted more than 20 engineer missions, with six of them taking more than two months to complete. The missions included building or expanding small forward operating bases used for joint security patrols with Iraqi forces, unmanned aerial vehicle airstrip construction, training compound improvements for the Iraqi Special Forces, site preparation for a bridge installation and the reopening of the last stretch of Iraqi Highway 1. The unit also conducted joint missions with the Iraqi government.


Friends and family cheer on the Soldiers from the 180th Engineer Company returning to the Tri-Cities Regional Airport Oct. 6. (Photo by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) For more photos, please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page.

During their nine months in Iraq, Soldiers from 180th traveled more than 252,000 vehicle miles, executed more that 14,000 miles of combat logistics patrols, operated engineer equipment for more than 42,000 hours, hauled more than 166,000 cubic meters of fill material, emplaced more than 12,000 concrete barriers and 50,000 HESCO barriers.

Soldiers in the 180th Engineers earned 18 Bronze Star Medals and 135 Army Commendation Medal.

The unit had no Soldiers killed or wounded in action.

"I felt that the 180th conducted themselves as both diplomats for the United States as well as for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and we exemplified what it means to be a Guard Soldier," said 1st Lieutenant Lester J. Smith, III from Caroline County, executive officer for the 180th Engineer Company.

“These Soldiers have something to be proud of,” said Capt. Edward Lewis, commander of the 180th. “They have set the standard for others to follow.”

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