Red Dragons recognized for federal duty, training excellence

Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Col. Scott Smith, commander of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, present the Governor’s National Service Medal to Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT May 21, 2017, in Roanoke, Virginia, in recognition of their federal active duty service conducting security operations in Qatar from May 2016 to April 2017. The battalion and several companies also were recognized with national- and state-level training readiness awards.  (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

ROANOKE, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team received the Governor’s National Service Medal May 21, 2017, in Roanoke, Virginia, in recognition of their federal active duty service conducting security operations in Qatar from May 2016 to April 2017. The battalion and several companies also were recognized with national- and state-level training readiness awards.

Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Col. Scott Smith, commander of the 116th IBCT, presented Soldiers with the GNSM. Created in 2005 by then-Governor Mark R. Warner, the GNSM 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.

Williams also recognized the battalion, also known as the Red Dragons, as the recipient of the Milton A. Reckord Trophy for 2016 training year. The National Guard Association of the United States presents the Reckord Trophy each year to the Army National Guard battalion that achieves the highest state of readiness in the country. The unit will receive the trophy later this year at the NGAUS National Conference.

For the Milton A. Reckord Award, the battalion must have demonstrated superior performance in the areas of personnel strength, retention, duty MOS qualification, individual and crew served weapons qualification, the Army Physical Fitness Test, drill weekend attendance and annual training attendance. The battalion, along with its organic units, must have demonstrated a commitment to the welfare of its members and their families and to its communities during the training year for which being nominated.

The Christiansburg-based Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment was recognized as the recipient of the Eisenhower Trophy as the top company-level unit in the Virginia Army National Guard.  The award is presented to the unit that ranks the highest in areas of assigned personnel strength, percentage of personnel qualified in their duty position, attendance at monthly drill weekends and annual training, individual weapons qualification scores and physical fitness test scores.

The Bedford-based Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team received the state-level National Guard Pershing Trophy and Certificate of Victory for achieving the highest marksmanship scores in the Virginia Army National Guard in annual qualification with assigned individual weapons.

Alpha Company, the Lexington-based Bravo Company, Charlie Company and the Lynchburg-based Headquarters Company also received the Virginia Army National Guard Excellence in Training and Superior Unit awards.

To earn the Superior Unit Award, a unit must maintain an assigned strength of 95 percent of authorized each month of the training year for which being nominated, maintain monthly drill attendance of 95 percent, attain annual training attendance of 95 percent, have 95 percent of all assigned personnel qualify with their assigned weapon and have 90 percent of all assigned personnel pass the Army Physical Fitness Test.

To earn the Excellence in Training Award, a unit must have 90 percent of all personnel qualified in their military occupational specialty, have 95 percent of all personnel present for annual training or receive constructive credit for AT attendance, maintain monthly drill attendance of 90 percent, have 95 percent of all assigned personnel qualify with their assigned weapon, have 95 percent of all crews qualify on their assigned crew-served weapons, have 90 percent of all assigned personnel pass the Army Physical Fitness Test and pass the Organizational Inspection Program in all training categories.

As part of their security mission in Qatar, Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion searched more than 100,000 vehicles and 303,000 individuals, and they conducted more than 900 security patrols.

“The leaders and Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment ‘Red Dragons’ performed exceptionally in support of Area Support Group-Qatar and U.S. Army Central Command,” said Lt. Col. Christopher J. Samulski, commander of the battalion. “Their actions were essential to protecting vital national interests in the region. The Red Dragons improved the defense of key strategic locations, continued to build the partnership with the Qatari Land Forces, and conducted complex live-fire training exercises to maintain a level of readiness required to support ongoing contingency operations. The professionalism of these Soldiers was in keeping with the legacy and traditions of one of the most decorated and historic battalions in the United States Army. It was a honor to lead and serve with each and every one of these great Americans!”

Soldiers were also able to take part in challenging field training opportunities. Every Soldier in the battalion qualified on their primary weapon and took part in short range and advanced rifle marksmanship training. The battalion was also able to conduct a mortar live-fire exercise, followed closely by a squad-level live-fire exercise utilizing crew-served weapons, mortars, field artillery forward observers and Javelin missiles.

In early January 2017, Soldiers conducted a a Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise at Al Ghalail Range where they established an area defense integrating indirect fires with mortars and forward observers, anti-tank capabilities with Javelin teams and direct fire capabilities with M240B machine guns, M249 squad automatic weapons and other small arms. The combined arms live-fire exercise was the first time that Javelin missiles have been launched in Qatar, and came after rigorous training for 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Javelin gunners provided by support from Kuwait.

“Even deployed, there is no greater priority than maintaining readiness,” Samulski said. “These leaders and Soldiers integrated multiple weapons systems, in both planning and execution, against a tough and realistic threat to evaluate the battalion’s ability to conduct offensive and defensive operations. I couldn’t be more proud of the results and the overall performance of the battalion.”

Soldiers were also able to take advantage of educational opportunities and earned college credits and completed military education courses, including Combat Lifesaver training, as well as Army Level 1 Combatives training.

Photos:

Photos of the award presentations on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157681116639694

Photos on the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/VaNationalGuard/posts/10155310805133560

Photos from the April 1 return on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/albums/72157678806539053

Photos from the April 1 return on the Va. National Guard Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/VaNationalGuard/posts/10155133350303560

Raw video from the April 1 return on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/VaNationalGuard/videos/10155133322553560/

Photos from March 25 return on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/albums/72157681736744436

Photos from March 25 return on Va. National Guard Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/VaNationalGuard/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10155111553528560

Raw video from March 25 return on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/VaNationalGuard/videos/10155111577928560/

View photos from the transfer of authority ceremony on the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/1stBattalion116thInfantry/posts/10154401032197060

About the Virginia National Guard:

The Virginia National Guard is a unique dual-status force with a federal mission to provide an combat reserve to fight our nation’s wars and a state mission to provide a response force that answers the call of the Governor to defend the commonwealth.

Nearly 1,500 Soldiers and Airmen served on federal active duty in 2016, and Virginia Guard units conducted a wide variety of missions including mission command, military-to-military partnership building, security and rotary wing flight operations and maintenance. Nearly 400 personnel are still serving on federal active duty in the Middle East, and they join the nearly 15,000 Soldiers and Airmen who have mobilized for homeland security missions, combat operations and peacekeeping and stabilization missions since September 11, 2001.

More than 900 Va. Guard personnel served on state active duty in the last 18 months in response to severe weather events as part of the state’s multi-agency team. Soldiers transported first responders through heavy snow and high water, helped get citizens to safety and used chain saws to help clear debris and open roads after tornadoes and hurricanes. Soldiers, Airmen and Virginia Defense Force members also assisted with mission command, logistics and public information support.