Hokies help draw down Iraq
Story and Photo by Spc. Naveed Ali Shah
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Twenty five years after the commencement, 6,000miles away from Blacksburg, Va., two Virginia Tech Hokies meet again.
Col. Gary Toney, chief of staff with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and Dillwyn, Va., native, and Col. David DeMartino, mayor of Joint Base Balad and commander of the 332nd Mission Support Group, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and a Lorton Va., native, were part of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets in the mid-1980s.
During their tenure at Virginia Tech, Toney was part of the Virginia Tech Regimental Band, also known as the Highty Tighties, and DeMartino was the commander of 2nd Battalion.
Though they weren’t friends in school because they were in different cadet units, they had a few mutual friends.
“We have a friend, Col. Jan Hooper-Smith, and I worked with her my senior year and she was in the band with Col. Toney,” said DeMartino, who graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s in civil engineering in 1986.
Upon deploying to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, they quickly formed camaraderie based upon their shared history.
“We did not know each other very well in college, but the closeness of working together here built our friendship,” Toney said, who graduated with a degree in education from Virginia Tech in 1985.
The job of coordinating support for thousands of personnel falls to the leaders of the Army and Air Force units here, including Toney and DeMartino.
“Taking care of 25,000 — providing food, billeting, roads, public works, logistics readiness, supply and a myriad of other day-to-day things — is not an easy task,” DeMartino said.
With the upcoming responsible drawdown set to begin, the logistician’s job is all the more complicated.
“We have to continue supporting 25,000 personnel while trying to figure out how to get 6-years-worth of stuff out of here,” DeMartino said. “The biggest challenge is juggling these issues.”
Here at Balad, the 13th SC(E) and the 332nd AEW work hand-in-hand to provide for military and civilian personnel.
“Over the course of this deployment, our actions have certainly left a mark in U.S. and Iraqi military history, providing command and control to Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, spread across Iraq, (and) ensuring our forces receive world-class logistics support, as well as moving over 90,000 people out of Iraq,” Toney said.
With the stage set for the president’s drawdown plan in Iraq, the 13th SC(E) is preparing for a battle hand-off to the 103rd Sustainment Command this summer, when the 13th SC(E) will redeploy to Fort Hood, Texas.
Following redeployment, Toney, an aviation officer, will be moving on to an assignment at the Pentagon as the Army G4’s Aviation Division Chief.
After more than 12 months here at Balad, DeMartino, an engineer officer, will be moving on to an assignment in San Antonio.
They said no matter where they go, they will take their friendship and brotherhood as Hokies and service members with them.
Col. Gary Toney (left), chief of staff with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and Dillwyn, Va., native, and Col. David DeMartino, mayor of Joint Base Balad and commander of the 332nd Mission Support Group, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and a Lorton Va., native, were part of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets in the mid 1980s. During their tenure at Virginia Tech, Toney was part of the Virginia Tech Regimental Band, also known as the Highty Tighties and DeMartino was the commander of 2nd Battalion. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Naveed Ali Shah, 13th SC(E) Public Affairs)