Lynchburg-based infantry battalion receives second national training readiness award

Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, presents the Walter T. Kerwin, Jr., Readiness Award to Maj. Scott A. Nivens, the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment executive officer, and Command Sgt. Maj. Irving N. Reed, Jr., the battalion command sergeant major, Oct. 9, 2017, at the Association of the United States Army Guard and Reserve Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Joining the award presentation were (from left to right) Maj. Gen. Blake C. Ortner, commander of the 29th Infantry Division, and Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Smith, Jr., the 29th Infantry Division command sergeant major. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Virginia National Guard’s Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team was recognized as the most combat-ready Army National Guard battalion in the country with the Walter T. Kerwin, Jr., Readiness Award Oct. 9, 2017, at the Association of the United States Army Guard and Reserve Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, presented the award to Maj. Scott A. Nivens, the battalion executive officer, and Command Sgt. Maj. Irving N. Reed, Jr., the battalion command sergeant major. Lt. Col. Christopher J. Samulski, commander of the battalion, was not able to attend because of his deployment with the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to the U.S. Virgin Islands where Soldiers of the 116th are assisting with hurricane recovery operations. The El Paso, Texas-based 900th Quartermaster Company received the award for the U.S. Army Reserve.

“What is common between these two units is that they sustained readiness while either on an operational deployment or during a series of exercises, and sustained readiness creates a culture of being ready all the time, not just episodically,” Abrams said. “The 116th and the 900th Quartermaster Company’s tremendous efforts are deserving to be recognized. This is the level of readiness we need across the entire Army, and these units are leading the way.”

AUSA, along with the National Guard Association of the United States and Reserve Officers Association, presents the Kerwin Award each year to the most outstanding Army National Guard and Army Reserve units. The Chief of National Guard Bureau selects the Army National Guard winner. Evaluation criteria for the Kerwin include the 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. Battalions also must have an effective maintenance program for all units and must achieve readiness objectives as outlined by U.S. Forces Command.

“The award speaks to commitment to service to our country, and that they are all in,” said Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard. “It is a tremendous organization that has served in Virginia and served overseas in Qatar, and they are who the National Guard is and what they are about. It shows what you can achieve. When you focus on it, apply the resources and have a strategy, you can achieve the required readiness at the time and at the level required.”

The battalion served on federal active duty conducting security operations in Qatar from May 2016 to April 2017, and they also conducted multiple domestic operations response missions in 2016 assisting citizens of Virginia during times of hazardous weather.

For the 2016 training year, the battalion had 99 percent annual training attendance, more then 98 percent drill attendance, 100 percent duty military occupational speciality qualification rate, 93 percent Army Physical Fitness Test pass rate and 100 percent weapons qualification rate.

In September 2017, the battalion received the Major General Milton A. Reckord Trophy for training excellence at the National Guard Association of the United States General Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. NGAUS presents the Reckord Trophy each year to the Army National Guard battalion that achieves the highest state of readiness in the country. The command team for the Bedford-based Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment also accepted the Pershing Plaque for marksmanship excellence as the Army National Guard unit attaining the highest figure of merit during annual qualification firing with assigned individual weapons.

“This award illustrates a solid training program, planned by outstanding leaders and executed by terrific Soldiers,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, about the Reckord Trophy. “It shows that the units in the Virginia National Guard know what right looks like, and we can compete at the national level. Most importantly, it shows that we are trained and ready to accomplish our state and federal mission, and it sets an example for commitment to high standards that every unit should follow.”

For the Reckord Trophy, 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.

“It was an honor to command such an outstanding unit and to accept the Reckord Trophy on behalf of the officers, NCOs and Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment,” Samulski said. Their continuous hard work and steadfast focus on training has once again made this battalion one of the best in the Army National Guard.”

Earlier this year, several 1st Battalion units were recognized for training excellence:

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.

Alpha Company 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.

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.

The Kerwin award was named for retired Gen. Walter T. Kerwin, Jr., who served as the first commander of United States Forces Command and also as Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1974 to 1978. Kerwin was a strong advocate of the “One Army,” or “Total Army,” concept that recognized the important role of the National Guard and U. S. Army Reserve. The plans and programs he set in motion resulted in a significant improvement in the readiness of reserve components.

Milton A. Reckord commanded the 115th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division during World War I and was appointed Adjutant General of the Maryland National Guard in 1920. In 1934, while still serving as Maryland’s Adjutant General, he assumed command of the 29th Infantry Division. After World War II, Reckord returned to his post as the Adjutant General of Maryland and continued to serve as Adjutant General until his retirement in 1966. During the years between the First and Second World War, Reckord was a leading advocate for increasing the role of the National Guard in the United States’ national defensive strategy. In 1933, he authored legislation that permanently gave National Guard personnel status as both state and federal troops.

The battalion also received the Kerwin Award in 2013 and in 2004 when it had the unit designation 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment.

The Gate City-based 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group was recognized with the Kerwin Award for the 2009 training year.

The Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team was recognized with both the Reckord Trophy and Kerwin Award during training year 2007.

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1-116th Infantry recognized as top Army Guard battalion in the country – Oct. 21, 2013
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2013/10/21/4546/

Gate City-based transportation battalion recognized as most outstanding unit in the Army National Guard – Oct. 28, 2010
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/virginiaguard/news/oct10/KerwinAward.html

Winchester-based Virginia Guard battalion wins top readiness award – Oct. 8, 2008
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/virginiaguard/news/oct2008/kerwinaward.html

Infantry Battalion earns Reckord Trophy and Kerwin Award – Sept. 19, 2004
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/virginiaguard/news/sep2004/reckordtrophy.html