Sept. 22, 2009

Manassas-based Virginia Guard military police company returns from Iraq

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — Approximately 130 Soldiers from the Manassas-based 266th Military Police Company returned to Virginia Sept. 24 after serving in Iraq since December 2008. The unit arrived in Richmond and was officially welcomed home by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. After the brief welcome home ceremony in Richmond, Soldiers boarded buses for Staunton and Manassas for welcome home ceremonies at those locations.

  266th MP Company arrives at Camp Shelby

Col. Steve Scott, commander of 91st Troop Command, greets Soldiers from the 266th Military Police Company after they arrived in Camp Shelby, Miss. Sept. 21. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

"We're so proud of each and every one of you," Newman said. "We're happy to have you home."

"I stood with you in Manassas in October as you deployed out and I'm honored to welcome you back as you come home and to thank you for a job well done," Kaine said. "I'm very happy also to be here with so many family members and friends. Support of the unit was so critical for the past year."

"Thank you on behalf of seven and a half million Virginians," he concluded. "We're thrilled and honored to welcome you back home."

The Soldiers of the 266th operated throughout nearly the entire country of Iraq from Basra to Tikrit and into the Diyala River Valley. While deployed to Basra, the 266th served as a Police Transition Team that trained, mentored and coached more than 1,000 Iraqi Police officers and conducted more than 500 combat patrols within the city of Basra. The unit made great strides in enhancing the capacity of the Iraqi Police by helping them strengthen community relations, enhance 
the public’s perception of the Iraqi Police and train on basic law enforcement skills.

“A large part of our overall mission was to improve community relations while supporting stability” in the area, said 1st Lt. Michael Duggan of Woodbridge, the executive officer for the 266th. One of the unit’s significant achievements was helping the Iraqi Police officers recognize the importance of getting into the communities by conducting foot patrols and engaging in dialogue with civilians, Duggan said.

  266th Military Police Company returns home

Soldiers from the Manassas-based 266th Military Police Company arrive in Richmond Sept. 24 after being in Iraq since December 2008. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers from the 266th brought civilian law enforcement experience with them to the mission in addition to their military experience. Roughly half of the company has a civilian career in law enforcement, and that provided the Iraqi Police with insight on practical police operations, Duggan said.

“The civilian law enforcement experience gave our unit an advantage in conducting combat missions.  In law enforcement you are trained to respond to emergencies, react under pressure, maintain situational awareness and act on suspicious activity. These are similar behaviors in combat operations,” said Capt. Christopher Rivers, commander of the 266th.

In June the company moved north to join the 37th Engineer Battalion, Joint Task Force Eagle from Fort Bragg, N.C., where they conducted more than 80 counter indirect fire missions with no causalities or loss of combat power in support of 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Counter indirect fire missions were conducted through patrols that helped reduce the mortar and rocket attacks directed at Joint Base Balad and improved the security for more than 30,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and civilians assigned to the base. Soldiers from the 266th also conducted convoy security operations where they completed more than 30 convoy escort missions covering more than 2,500 kilometers throughout three Iraqi provinces.

Joint Base Balad has received indirect fire attacks since U.S. forces first took control of the former Iraqi air base in 2003.  In the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom this camp earned the name “Mortar-Rita-Ville,” but through the efforts of units like the 266th, attacks against the camp have been greatly reduced.

“Mortar and rocket attacks present a constant danger to personnel stationed here,” said 1st Lt. John Hinton of Newport News, a platoon leader in the 266th. “Our patrols are designed to deny insurgents the ability to conduct attacks against the base, and are also an opportunity for us to interact with the area residents.”

The daily missions were a combination of mounted and dismounted patrols that gave Soldiers the ability to investigate suspected launch sites and look for possible caches of mortars and rockets. Patrols encompassed the small villages and farmlands that surround the base. 

Soldiers from the 266th earned 21 Bronze Star Medals, four Soldiers received Combat Action Badges and one Soldier received a Purple Heart.

“The Soldiers you see standing before you today represent America’s treasure and our Army’s most precious resource, and we recognize them today for their outstanding service as Citizen-Soldiers from Manassas, Va., called to serve their nation abroad, as well as the people of Iraq,” Lt. Col. Paul Huszar, commander of JTF Eagle said at the unit’s end of mission ceremony. “I can report to you now, having had the privilege of commanding the Regulators in combat, that they represented the state of Virginia, the Military Police Corps, and our Army with distinction, completing every mission assigned to them.”

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