Governor recognizes Va. Guard’s federal service on Veterans Day

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe ceremonially presents the Governor's National Service Medal to Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen representing units that recently served on federal active duty Nov. 11, 2016, at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe ceremonially presents the Governor’s National Service Medal to Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen representing units that recently served on federal active duty Nov. 11, 2016, at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe ceremonially presented the Governor’s National Service Medal to Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen representing units that served on federal active duty in the Middle East and Cuba conducting combat operations and security support. The presentation took place after the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony Nov. 11, 2016, at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, Virginia.

“I want to thank these six individuals who represent everyone we have who has been deployed or is currently deployed,” McAuliffe said. “We live, eat and breathe here in Virignia for our military, and we are so proud of all they do. These Soldiers and Airmen represent everyone we have in service to our great nation.”

Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran and Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, joined McAuliffe for the presentations.

Created in 2005 by then-Governor Mark R. Warner, the Governor’s National Service Medal recognizes the service of the men and women of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard called to active federal duty since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Virginia National Guard is a unique dual-status force with the state mission of supporting the commonwealth’s multi-agency response during times of need like hazardous weather events and the federal mission of providing an operational reserve to help fight our nation’s wars, provide stability and security and build partnerships with multi-national allies.

As the commander in chief of the Virignia National Guard, McAuliffe has seen first hand the great contribution the Guard makes supporting the citizens of the commonwealth during hazardous weather like heavy snow and flooding. He also maintains awareness of Soldiers and Airmen while they serve on federal active duty, and has been on hand for multiple unit send offs and welcome home events.

McAuliffe and Moran have awarded the Governor’s National Service Medal to personnel returning from federal active duty, and the ceremonial presentation on Veterans Day is a way to again thank these Soldiers and Airmen for their service and recognize the contributions their units have made to keeping our country safe.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 15,000 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized on federal active duty for homeland security missions and combat operations, sustainment and security support and peacekeeping in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Cuba, the Middle East and other locations around the world.

The Virginia National Guard currently has nearly 1,000 personnel serving on federal active duty conducting a wide array of missions including mission command, partnership building, security operations, Black Hawk helicopter flight operations and aviation maintenance support.

Virginia Guard personnel have conducted a wide variety of missions while on federal active duty during the last two years. Virginia Guard Airmen served side-by-side with active duty Air Force personnel when the F-22 flew its first combat missions against ISIL, Virginia Guard Soldiers helped rebuild logistics capabilities to support the warfight in Iraq, Air Guard civil engineers conducted numerous construction projects to provide combat power support, and Guard Soldiers have helped secure installations in the Middle East and Cuba.

Most recently Governor McAuliffe was on hand to send off the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division. More than 450 Virginia and Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 29th are mobilizing for duty in the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield, and this will be the largest number of troops they have led since World War II. Read more about the 29th ID mobilization at http://go.usa.gov/xkdS8.

View photos from the presentation on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157676566888855

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Background information on units:

More than 120 Virginia Air National Guard engineers reunited with friends and family Oct. 26, 2016, at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach after serving on federal active duty in Southwest Asia since March. Leaders from state government and the Virginia National Guard were also on hand to thank the Airmen for the service and welcome them home.

Airmen assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, or RED HORSE, completed 35 projects at 11 different locations in seven countries in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Inherent Resolve. While deployed, the Airmen of the 203rd RED HORSE served under the 557th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron, as part of the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineering Group, an organization made of up more than 600 personnel from the 203rd and other RED HORSE and Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force, or PRIME BEEF, units that was a mix of active duty and Air National Guard.

Read more at http://go.usa.gov/xksCy.

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Approximately 30 Soldiers assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Virginia Beach-based Delta Platoon, 229th Military Police Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group returned to Virginia Sept. 3, 2016, after serving on federal active duty at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since November 2015. The platoon conducted security operations in support of Joint Task Force – Guantanamo and its mission to conduct safe and humane care and custody of detained enemy combatants.

The platoon provided security during high-visibility missions in support of Joint Task Force – Guantanamo and conducted external security force operations where they processed more than 4,500 individuals and vehicles through an entry control point into a restricted area, spent more than 1,500 hour operating observation posts and conducted more than 2,000 mounted and dismounted patrols over rigorous terrain with no accidents. They conducted more 6,000 hours of Quick Reaction Force operations and completed more than 140 random access measures with no errors. They leveraged technological assets to increase area security and reinforced its fighting position through various structural improvements.

Read more at http://go.usa.gov/xZnCx

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The last groups of Soldiers assigned to the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, also known as Task Force Normandy, returned to Virginia July 27, 2016, after serving on federal active duty since September 2015. More than 450 Soldiers from units based in Winchester, Woodstock, Leesburg and Suffolk provided security for installations in the U.S. Army’s Central Command area of operations in Qatar with just 90 days notice for the mission. The first groups of Soldiers returned to Virginia July 19.

As part of their security mission, Soldiers searched nearly 140,000 vehicles and more than 303,000 individuals, and they conducted nearly 970 security patrols. Their higher headquarters praised the battalion for making significant improvements in base security plans. They also drove approximately 253,000 miles without any safety issues or accidents.

Read more at http://go.usa.gov/xKeds.

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More than 35 Virginia National Guard Airmen assigned to the 192nd Security Forces Squadron at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, returned in October 2015 from two simultaneous deployments to Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates after serving on federal active duty since April. The 192nd SFS deployed 24 defenders to Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE, and 13 defenders to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

The SFS team deployed and served with the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Al Dhafra where we performed base security duties and protected $7.2 billion worth of Air Force assets. They also performed law enforcement duties and were responsible for entry control points ensuring zero threats entered the installation.

Read more at http://go.usa.gov/xkhcw.

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Active duty and Virginia National Guard Airmen assigned to the 94th Fighter Squadron and 149th Fighter Squadron returned Oct. 8, 2015, to Langley Air Force Base, Va., after a six-month deployment to the Middle East. Approximately 200 members of the 1st Fighter Wing and 192nd Fighter Wing, operating the F-22 Raptor, were assigned to United States Central Command as part of a theater security package, providing support and stability to the region.

The Airmen were deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve where U.S. and coalition forces are conducting targeted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as part of the comprehensive strategy to degrade the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. The 94th and 149th Fighter Squadrons were accompanied by additional support personnel from Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd FW and the 633rd Air Base Wing.

Read more at http://go.usa.gov/xkhcv.

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Warner awards Governor’s National Service Medal – November 14, 2005 http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/virginiaguard/news/nov2005/vagovnsmceremony.html

RICHMOND – Governor Mark R. Warner honored 40 members of the Virginia National Guard with the Governor’s National Service Medal on Nov. 11, 2005. The new state award was created to recognize the service of the men and women of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard called to active federal service since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Governor also presented medals to the families of three soldiers who lost their lives while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The presentations were made at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.

More than 4,535 soldiers and 1,085 airmen of the Virginia National Guard have served in support of the Stabilization Force mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The majority of these personnel will receive the medal from their unit commanders at future events.

“This medal recognizes the service of these soldiers and airmen, as well as the many sacrifices they and their families have made in service to their Commonwealth and country since the terror attacks of 9/11,” Governor Warner said. “With their unique dual role of serving Virginia and the nation, we all owe the men and women of the Virginia National Guard our appreciation, and the Governor’s National Service Medal honors this commitment today and for years to come.”

Governor Warner directed the creation of the award so that he and future governors may publicly acknowledge the sacrifice and patriotism of the men and women of the Virginia National Guard who serve not only under the command of the governor but who also serve in an active federal status.

Governor Warner, Commander-in-Chief of the Virginia National Guard, presented the Governor’s National Service Medal to 40 soldiers and airmen of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard who have served on active duty in support of the Stabilization Force mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Medals also were presented by Governor Warner on behalf of the Commonwealth to the families of Sgt. Nicholas Mason and Sgt. David Ruhren, killed December 21, 2004 in Iraq, and Staff Sgt. Craig Cherry, killed August 7, 2004 in Afghanistan.

The front side of the medal features the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia, along with the words “VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD” and “FOR COMMONWEALTH AND COUNTRY,” while the reverse features a dogwood blossom and the words “GOVERNOR’S NATIONAL SERVICE MEDAL.” The ribbon and drape consist of a band of solid blue, and a band of red and white stripes, to symbolize the Virginia and United States flags.