529th CSSB begins federal active duty with departure ceremony

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group officially begin federal active duty with a departure ceremony Nov. 25 2018, in Virginia Beach.  (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Hundreds of friends, family members and fellow Soliders gathered in Virginia Beach to say farewell to a group of Virginia National Guard Soldiers as they began federal active duty Nov. 25, 2018.

The group of approximately 70 Soldiers assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group are deploying to the Middle East for about 10 months in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, where they will conduct planning and logistics for U.S. and coalition forces in the Central Command area.

During the ceremony, both state and National Guard leadership addressed the deploying Soldiers and their families, touching on both the unit’s readiness and the importance of family support.

“Team 529: I’m supremely confident in you, your training and your abilities,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “For those who have been there before, take the lead. Look out for your fellow Soldiers. Be the leader. Do great things.”

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam spoke to the training the 529th has undergone as a vital component of its readiness.

“A lot of what you have done prior to today is in preparation, and I don’t think there’s any better training than you all have had and have been exposed to right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Northam. “The preparation is of utmost importance and I know you all are ready and willing to serve your country.”

All of the ceremony’s featured speakers addressed the families of the Soldiers. Commander of the 529th, Lt. Col. Dennis Rohler, thanked state leadership for the family support while his unit is executing their overseas mission.

“Thank you for what you will do for our families while we are gone,” said Rohler. “We are able to deploy forward-focused on the mission because we know that in the Commonwealth there is actual, true care for our families while we’re gone. I appreciate that very much. It gives you an incredible amount of confidence to go forward and execute the mission when you know your families are being taken care of back home.”

Northam, who served in the United States Army as a physician, thanked the families in attendance, calling attention to their service while their loved ones are deployed.

“None of you, none of us, could do what we do, could not fulfill our mission if it wasn’t for our family and friends,” said Northam. “You are the backbone of this entire operation. You’re the ones that stay home and make sure that the children get to school. You’re the ones that make sure the bills are paid.”

Rohler echoed the governor’s sentiments.

“All of the leadership on this team understand that you are entrusting us with your most valuable possession: Your sons, your daughters, husbands, wives, cousins, aunts, uncles, and we have not taken that lightly,” said Rohler.

“I want the families to know that we are trained,” he said. “We are prepared. We have spent time together over these last couple of weeks sharpening our soldier skills as well as our sustainment skills. This is the tightest organization I have ever seen leave the Commonwealth for a deployment. I’m very proud of every single one of them. We’ve got this.”

Rohler also took a moment to thank the legacy members of the 529th who set bar of excellence for the unit during previous deployments.

“This is our third mobilization within nine years. We have done an incredible job in the past,” said Rohler. “What we want to let you know is we are going to continue your legacy of excellence. We will not let you down.”

The team departed the ceremony by bus after spending some additional emotional time with family and friends. They will complete some final readiness training at Fort Hood in Texas before heading overseas.

The 529th, which was only federally recognized nine years ago, has served on federal active duty twice previously. Most recently, Soldiers assigned to the 529th served in the Middle East from July 2014 to April 2015 where they planned and coordinated combat sustainment support for U.S. and coalition forces in Kuwait and the surrounding region, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

In March 2010, it operated from the remote forward operating base at Shindand Air Base in Afghanistan. While there it pioneered logistical support operations as the first U.S. combat support battalion in the area to conduct operations. The battalion was responsible for building an expeditionary life support complex and infrastructure for the entire airbase while providing seamless sustainment operations for supported units as well as helping improve quality of life and promoting economic development in local Afghan communities.

Additional background information on the 529th CSSB:

While in Virginia, the 529th has command and control of the Virginia Beach-based 1173rd Transportation Company, the Blackstone-based 3647th Maintenance Company, the Fort Pickett-based 157th Engineer Platoon and the Onancock-based 576th Engineer Utilities Detachment.

Soldiers assigned to the 529th served in Kuwait and Iraq from July 2014 to April 2015 where they planned and coordinated combat sustainment support for U.S. and coalition forces in Kuwait and the surrounding region to include Afghanistan and Iraq. During their nine months in Kuwait, the 529th adapted to an ever-developing mission set, quadrupled the sustainment capabilities of the battalion and provided ground, sea and air distribution of supplies and equipment, ammunition holding and distribution, maintenance, material handling and supply management by U. S. Army units as well as contracted support. Soldiers from the 529th operated in a forward support element in Iraq that was responsible for the sustainment support that got critical supplies to U. S. and coalition forces conducting combat operations against ISIL as well as advise and assist missions in the region.

The unit previously deployed in March 2010, when it operated from the remote forward operating base at Shindand Air Base in Afghanistan. While there it pioneered logistical support operations as the first U.S. combat support battalion in the area to conduct operations. The battalion was responsible for building an expeditionary life support complex and infrastructure for the entire airbase while providing seamless sustainment operations for supported units as well as helping improve quality of life and promoting economic development in local Afghan communities. The battalion provided command and control for more than 500 Soldiers from three active duty units- the 104th Transportation Company from Fort Benning, Georgia, the 183d Maintenance Company from Fort Carson, Colorado, and the 226th Quartermaster Platoon from Fort Stewart, Georgia. Working directly with Italian, Spanish, Slovenian and Afghan forces, the unit’s mission was to provide supply, maintenance and transportation support to U.S. and coalition warfighters throughout the region.

The 529th CSSB was one of eight units recognized as a Distinguished Unit of the Regiment during the Quartermaster Regimental Honors and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony June 5, 2015, at Fort Lee, Virginia,. The Distinguished Unit of the Regiment award was introduced in 1993 to recognize outstanding units, past and present, who have made a significant contributions to the Quartermaster Corps.

In September 2013 the National Guard Association of the United States presented the 529th CSSB with the Milton A. Reckord Award for training excellence during the 135th NGAUS General Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii. NGAUS presents the Reckord Award each year to the Army National Guard battalion that achieves the highest state of readiness in the country. For the 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.

Photos from mobilization training at Fort Pickett:

Photos: 529th CSSB Soldiers train for federal mobilization