1710th Trans. Co. heads south for final training phase before Afghan deployment

Soldiers of the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company bid farewell to their families and depart for the airport April 4, 2013, in Emporia. Approximately 160 Soldiers in the unit entered federal active duty April 1 and will conduct their final training at Fort Hood, Texas, for approximately 45 to 60 days before heading on to Afghanistan, where they are expected to conduct transportation support operations and convoy security for military and host nation convoys. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers of the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company bid farewell to their families and depart for the airport April 4, 2013, in Emporia. Approximately 160 Soldiers in the unit entered federal active duty April 1 and will conduct their final training at Fort Hood, Texas, for approximately 45 to 60 days before heading on to Afghanistan, where they are expected to conduct transportation support operations and convoy security for military and host nation convoys. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

EMPORIA, Va. – Along with approximately 160 Soldiers of the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, family, friends, and senior leaders from the commonwealth and the Virginia National Guard packed the Greensville County Elementary School auditorium April 3, 2013, for a departure ceremony, held to bid an official farewell to the Soldiers of the 1710th. The 1710th entered federal active duty April 1, and departed April 4 for Fort Hood, Texas, where they will train for 45 to 60 days, before heading to Afghanistan.“This is it – this is the threshold we talked about so many times,” said Maj. Geoffrey Oneill, commander of the 529th CSSB, during his remarks. “For some of you guys this is your first mobilization and for some you it’s your second, third or forth one. Regardless, for all of you, you’re about to cross over and do a very important and historic event.”

Soldiers of the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company bid farewell to their families and depart for the airport April 4, 2013, in Emporia. Approximately 160 Soldiers in the unit entered federal active duty April 1 and will conduct their final training at Fort Hood, Texas, for approximately 45 to 60 days before heading on to Afghanistan, where they are expected to conduct transportation support operations and convoy security for military and host nation convoys. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers of the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company bid farewell to their families and depart for the airport April 4, 2013, in Emporia. Approximately 160 Soldiers in the unit entered federal active duty April 1 and will conduct their final training at Fort Hood, Texas, for approximately 45 to 60 days before heading on to Afghanistan, where they are expected to conduct transportation support operations and convoy security for military and host nation convoys. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The Soldiers of the 1710th are expected to perform transportation support operations while in Afghanistan and began training on the U.S. Army’s Palletized Load System in preparation for the deployment last August during their annual training period. The company continued training on the PLS at Fort Pickett in February while also focusing on several battle drills, including react to contact and evaluate a casualty. Along with the PLS, the Soldiers will also operate Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, during their deployment.

“I know most of the people in the 1710th – I’ve observed them training down at Fort Pickett, and I’m real proud of you all and what you’re about to do,” Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., Adjutant General of Virginia, told the departure ceremony crowd. “Just so you all know, the Virginia National Guard is known as one of the best in the nation and so this is the best of the best that we’re getting ready to send out.”

The mobilization is planned to last 12 months, including the time the Soldiers will spend training at Fort Hood.

“We are all so proud of the good work that you are doing,” said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker. “You all do a tremendous job. We want you to be safe. We want you to know that we have your back and we’re thinking about you while you’re away.”

Several members of the Virginia General Assembly joined Virginia Guard senior leaders in sending off the 1710th from Richmond International Airport, April 4. State Sen. Bryce Reeves, R–Spotsylvania, and Del. Rich Anderson, R-Prince William Co., co-chairmen of the military caucus in the General Assembly, and Del. David Ramadan, R-Loudoun, shared their appreciation and words of encouragement for the Soldiers.

Reeves stressed the importance of Soldiers using their chain of command and the resources available to address any family needs in Virginia while they are deployed. “Your safety and your mission awareness is critical for you to stay alive and do your mission, and we need to make sure we take care of you the way you take care of us,” said Reeves, a former U.S. Army officer and Airborne Ranger. “Serve each other well, and don’t let your guard down. The most important job you have is to make sure the person on your left and right make it home.”

State Sen. Bryce Reeves (far right), R–Spotsylvania, Del. Rich Anderson (far left), R-Prince William Co., and Del. David Ramadan (center), R-Loudoun, joined Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, other senior leaders from the Virginia National Guard and members of the Virginia National Guard Family Program Office April 4, 2013, at Richmond International Airport in sending off the Soldiers from the 1710th Transportation Company. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

State Sen. Bryce Reeves (far right), R–Spotsylvania, Del. Rich Anderson (far left), R-Prince William Co., and Del. David Ramadan (center), R-Loudoun, joined Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, other senior leaders from the Virginia National Guard and members of the Virginia National Guard Family Program Office April 4, 2013, at Richmond International Airport in sending off the Soldiers from the 1710th Transportation Company. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Anderson, a retired Air Force colonel who spent more than 30 years in uniform, spoke to the Soldiers about the unified support of the General Assembly for their mission and all the military in Virginia. “We sincerely appreciate what you are about to do,” he said. “You are about to defend freedom in its moment of maximum danger and its moment of maximum peril.”

Ramadan emigrated to the United States of America from Lebanon in 1989, and he while he said he had not had the honor to wear the uniform of the United States military, he had a great appreciation for the sacrifices service members have made.

“It is the sacrifice that you are about to do, the sacrifice of your colleagues before you, the sacrifice of the Marines in Beirut in 1983, that gave me the honor and privilege to come in and be an immigrant who serves in Jefferson’s House,” Ramadan said. “I was a kid appreciating every member of the American armed services who came to Beirut and made sure I had the freedom, that I had the chance, to emigrate to the greatest nation on Earth. You are the symbol of the greatest nation on Earth, and what you are about to do, we don’t thank you enough for.”

The 1710th is headquartered in Emporia, but includes Soldiers from around the commonwealth.

“We have Soldiers scattered from all over the state of Virginia,” said Capt. Rodney C. Rhodes, commander of the 1710th. “We are a very diverse group, but once we get to Emporia, we are one unified team with one common goal. You make me extremely proud to be your commander.”

Many of the Soldiers are new to the unit, having joined the ranks of the 1710th during the pre-deployment phase in order to fill required positions within the company.

“We had a lot of people coming in from other units, like myself,” said Staff Sgt. Dustin Thompson, a truck commander for the 1710th. “I was with the 1032nd Transportation Company. We’ve had to get a lot of people trained up on the vehicles who have never done this [military occupational specialty] before and we’re coming together really well.”

The 1710th Transportation Company last served on federal active duty in Iraq where they provided medium lift transportation capabilities that moved critical supplies from logistical support areas out to forward operating bases from May 2008 to February 2009. The unit traveled routes throughout Iraq and conducted more than 75 missions, traveling more than 900,000 miles. They are the first Virginia National Guard unit to serve on federal active duty since Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division returned from Afghanistan in July 2012.

“Our motto is ‘You Call, We Haul,’” said Rhodes. “We’ve got the call, and now it’s time to haul.”

Senior Virginia National Guard leaders and members of the Virginia General Assembly bid a final farewell to Soldiers from the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group before they boarded planes April 4, 2013, at Richmond International Airport. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, talks with Soldiers from the 1710th Transportation Company before they boarded planes April 4, 2013, at Richmond International Airport. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

More on the 1710th Transportation Company:

Photos: Senior leaders send off 1710th Transportation Company – April 4, 2013

Photos: 1710th Trans. Co. departs Virginia, heads to Texas for final training phase before Afghanistan – April 4, 2013

Photos: Departure ceremony held for Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company – April 3, 2013

Photos: Transportation Soldiers train on IED Defeat Lane at Fort Pickett – Feb. 14, 2013

Photos: Transportation Soldiers hone battle drill skills – Feb. 14, 2013

Photos: Virginia Guard Transportation Company heeds the call, prepares to haul – Feb. 13, 2013

Photos: AG and SEL visit 1710th Trans. Co. pre-mobilization training – Feb. 5, 2013

News: Va. Transportation Company heeds the call, prepares to haul

News: Virginia Guard Transportation Company gets head start on deployment training

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