FORT PICKETT, Va. – Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team spent nearly three weeks training at Fort Pickett, Virginia, July 9-29, 2015, in preparation for a federal mobilization to Southwest Asia where they will serve in support of ongoing overseas contingency operations.
“Our mission right now is that we’ll provide force protection and security for U.S. installations,” said Lt. Col. Kurt Kobernik, commander of 3-116th IBCT.
The three-week training period focused primarily on individual tasks for the approximately 450 deploying Soldiers. In the first few days of the training period, the Soldiers focused on qualifying with various weapons systems, to include the M4 Carbine, the M249 Light Machine Gun and the M2 .50 caliber Machine Gun. Then, by platoon, the Soldiers rotated through various other training events, mandatory briefings and exercises, conducting combatives training, working on Army Warrior Tasks at lanes set up around Fort Pickett and both mounted and unmounted land navigation.
“The train up has been good,” Kobernik said. He explained that in previous deployments, “we’ve had to do a lot of these tasks at the mob station,” which lengthens the duration of the federal mobilization for the Soldiers. Conducting the pre-mobilization annual training period at Fort Pickett allows the Soldiers to get validated on individual tasks before they head to their mobilization station in September.
Typically, a unit will receive no less than six months notice to mobilize for federal active duty, but 3rd Battalion received less than that, which compressed their timeline for training completion and required them to pull Soldiers from various units within the battalion and the brigade. 3rd Battalion units from Winchester, Woodstock and Leesburg will mobilize for this mission in addition to Soldiers from the Suffolk-based Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th IBCT and the Winchester-based Company F, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th IBCT.
“Team-building has been on mind as well as on my sergeant major’s mind,” Kobernik explained. “Because we’ve built this team from within the battalion and within the brigade, we have new faces and new positions and new key leaders and so getting them together and getting a shared vision of what we’re going to be doing, that’s all slowly coming together. We have some really great leaders out there that are buying into the 3rd Battalion system and it’s really helped out the overall integration with the Soldiers from other units.”
Sgt. Daniel Gibbs, a team leader with B Troop, 2-183rd Cavalry said the training conducted at Fort Pickett helped to build team cohesion.
“It’s a conglomerate of a lot of different people here, a lot of different troops, but the training that we’re being provided here is allowing us all to mesh and build some camaraderie before we head overseas,” Gibbs said.
With the short notice for the mobilization, the Soldiers of 3rd Battalion have had to rely on their employers and family members for support.
“We’ve got a great bunch of employers out there and having the support of those employers to allow these Soldiers to feel comfortable that they’re going to come back to a job is one of the things that’s really helped out this force,” Kobernik explained.
The battalion is scheduled to report to Fort Bliss, Texas, in September for the start of their federal active duty for approximately 30 days of additional mobilization training before deploying overseas.
The mobilization order called for an active-duty period not to exceed 400 days, but the Secretary of Defense can extend tours for operational needs not to exceed 24 months or 730 days.
“Our guys are all highly motivated and everyone of the Soldiers here wants to be here,” said Capt. Jeffrey Jardine, commander of Company B, 3-116th IBCT. “We’re looking forward to the mobilization and we’re proud to serve our country in the way that we’ve been told we’re needed.”
Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry mobilized for federal duty in Afghanistan from March 2004 to July 2005, and mobilized for duty in Iraq and Kuwait from September 2007 to May 2008.
Soldiers from Troop B last deployed to Iraq from August 2011 to December 2011 as part of Task Force 183 where they conducted convoy security operations in support of Operation New Dawn.