Virginia National Guard Soldiers to return home

Photos edited and story by 1st Lt. Angela Fry
and 1st Lt. William P. Wilson
256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team public affairs
13th Sustainment Command (Expenditionary) Public Affairs

Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq — After a quick mobilization and an Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment much shorter than originally expected, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expenditionary) out of Lynchburg, Va., will return home to their Families and friends this summer.

The battalion, first alerted for deployment in October 2009, arrived at Contingency Operating Base Adder in March of this year.  Assigned to Task Force Overlord with the 256th IBCT’s 1st Bn., 141st Field Artillery Regt., their primary mission was to provide convoy security in support of the upcoming responsible drawdown of U.S. Troops and equipment from Iraq.

“We first heard rumors of the curtailment affecting our brigade when we got to Kuwait,” said Lt. Col. E. Scott Smith, commander of 1st Bn., 116th Inf. Regt. and a Lynchburg, Va., native.  “It was just a rumor, but the issue has been circulating throughout our time here.  

The change is consistent with a long-announced plan to bring an end to all combat operations in Iraq and reduce troop levels to about 50,000 by Sept. 1.  and United States Forces – Iraq plans for a responsible drawdown of U.S. troops and equipment.

“The mission in Iraq is changing every day and the convoy security mission we are currently running will be going away,” Smith said.  “It was inevitable that some of our strength would be reapportioned.”

While the deployment is much shorter than first expected, actions of Soldiers in 1st Bn. have played an important role in setting the conditions for troop withdrawal, he said.

“Since we came to Iraq, we have run more than 100 escort missions and safely escorted thousands of tons of fuel and supplies over thousands of miles of supply routes throughout the country,” Smith said. “We have executed our mission expertly and it’s this success that makes it possible for the drawdown to process.  We can be really proud of our contribution to this historic effort.”

While the Soldiers look forward to rejoining their lives and Families back in the states, the command of the 1st Bn. acknowledged that the shortened deployment may cause some difficulties for their troops.

“We are certain the Families will welcome the news that their sons are coming home,” Smith stated.  “But many of our guys had also made plans based on what we told them at the time.  As Guardsmen, they asked their employers to hold their jobs for a year.  It may be a hardship for them and I have promised that they will do everything we can to take care of them.”

Many of the battalion’s Soldiers attending college planned to miss the fall semester, said Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Braziel, command sergeant major of the battalion and a Lynchburg, Va., native.

“We plan to do everything we can to get these guys back home in time to start school in the fall and we are doing outreach to the universities to help ease the transition and set these guys up for success,” he said. “When the country asked them, they dropped everything and headed off to war. We owe it to them to get this right.”

First Bn., 116th Inf. Regt. has deployed Soldiers in every major conflict since World War I, where they earned the motto “Ever Forward” on the battlefields of France, including the D-Day invasion and beach landing at Omaha Beach.

 

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A convoy escort team with A Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expenditionary) out of Bedford, Va., pauses for a prayer June 2 before departing on a mission to provide security for a convoy out of Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by SPC Robert Allen)

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Soldiers with a convoy escort team from 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expenditionary) conduct pre-combat checks and inspections before departing on a mission to provide security for a convoy out of Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by SPC Robert Allen)

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A view from the gunner's hatch during a Virginia National Guard convoy escort team's mission to provide security for the transportation of equipment and supplies to various military installations across Iraq. The 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Lynchburg, Va., is currently deployed with the Louisiana National Guard's 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to assist in setting the conditions for the responsible drawdown of U.S. Troops and equipment in Iraq. The unit will return home sometime in August to support the president's mandate to reduce Troops to 50,000 by Sept. 1. (U.S. Army photo by SPC Robert Allen)

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A convoy escort team with 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 256th infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expenditionary) provide security for a convoy June 3 out of Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by SPC Robert Allen)