Task Force 183 conducts Freedom Salute for service in Iraq

Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker presents a certificate of recognition signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell to Lt. Col. William Korsen, commander of Task Force 183, during the Freedom Salute held April 15 in Virginia Beach. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Approximately 825 Soldiers assigned to the Virginia Army National Guard’s Task Force 183 gathered at the Virginia Beach Convention Center April 15 to conduct a Freedom Salute in honor of their service in Iraq. The Soldiers officially began federal active duty June 1, 2011, and they served in Iraq from August to December 2011.

Task Force 183 was organized specifically for this mission of providing convoy security in Iraq and was the largest single unit Virginia Army National Guard mobilization since World War II. The Soldiers mobilized under the command of the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment with units in Norfolk, Suffolk and Virginia Beach as well as units in Fredericksburg and Christiansburg joining them for the mobilization.

Senior leaders thank Soldiers from Task Force 183 for the service in Iraq during the unit's Freedom Salute held April 15 in Virginia Beach. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker joined Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, in recognizing the Soldiers and their families for their service. Long thanked the Soldiers and their families for the hard work and the obstacles they faced during the deployment. He also thanked the civilian employers of the Soldiers who made sure that the brave warriors had jobs to come back to after returning to the states.

“I am going to be brief because we have a long day ahead of us,” said Long. “Don’t let the brevity of the speeches be an indication of how much we appreciate what you have done. I see a lot of family members here, and we certainly want to thank them for all they have done and for their sacrifices and the great commitment they made while you were deployed for the cause of freedom.

“Most of all, I want to thank all these men and women here in uniform on behalf of the almost 10,000 folks who are in the Virginia National Guard,” Long said. “You have been a great part of securing the freedoms and the comforts that we have here at home and making sure that our young folks will grow up and have a chance just as we had.”

Echoing Long’s sentiments, Decker pointed out the hard work and the sacrifices made not only by the deployed Soldiers, but by their families as well.

“Thank you for your service to the Virginia National Guard, the Commonwealth, and to your Nation,” said Decker. “I think it is appropriate to thank all of the families who have been back here while you managed to do your job well.

“It is fitting for me, on behalf of the Governor and the entire McDonnell administration, to thank you for your service, for your volunteerism and for what you’ve done.”

Also recognizing the accomplishments of the Task Force 183 was guest speaker Col. Scott Campbell, commander of the 149th Brigade, the unit the task force was assigned to in Iraq.

“I want you guys, you folks, you Soldiers to be able to reflect on what you accomplished; it was significant,” said Campbell. “Last time I checked, we were a hundred days in since we left, and it is still a democracy over there. It has its issues, but you folks had a hand in it, so at some point when you can catch your breath, reflect on the significance of what you did.

“Your professionalism, your enthusiasm, your work ethic permeated the whole brigade. You did the nation, the commonwealth of Virginia and the 149th Brigade proud.”

The Freedom Salute recognized the Soldiers, their families, employers and organizations that contributed significantly to supporting the unit during its deployment. The Freedom Salute Campaign is one of the largest Army National Guard recognition endeavors in history, publicly acknowledging Army Guard Soldiers and those who supported them during the President’s call to duty for Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

As part of the Freedom Salute ceremony, the Soldiers received the Virginia Governor’s National Service Medal. In 2005, then-Governor Mark R. Warner created the award 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 award was first presented Nov. 11, 2005 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.

The adjutant general and secretary of public safety presented a certificate of recognition from the Governor of Virginia to Lt. Col. William Korsen, commander of Task Force 183 in Iraq. The proclamation highlighted the accomplishments of the task force while overseas and was read aloud for the Soldiers and families to hear during the ceremony.

Units in the task force drove more than 50,000 miles escorting convoys throughout their area of operations and all commodities delivered safely with no military vehicle accidents and no incidents with local population. They escorted more than 14 million gallons of fuel and more the 5,000 trucks hauling all military classes of supply like food and water, major end items, ammunition and repair parts. The supported sustainment convoys hauled commodities for all bases in Iraq, whether by direct support or handoff to other units at re-supply hubs that relayed supplies to their final destinations.

Convoy escort teams reacted to 22 enemy attacks from small arms fire, indirect fire and IED detonations. The task force had no Soldiers killed in action.

Soldiers from Task Force 183 were the last Virginia Soldiers to serve in Iraq and flew the last Virginia flag before all U. S. forces left the country. The first group of Soldiers returned to Virginia Dec. 8, 2011, and the last group of Soldiers returned to Virginia Dec. 21, 2011.

The Soldiers of the task force were stationed at Contingency Operation Base Adder and Contingency Operation Station Kalsu and conducted convoy security escort with the Headquarters Troop providing command and control and logistical and sustainment support and Troop A, Troop B, Company A and Company C organized into composite security companies.

Troop C and Company D conducted specialized security and force protection missions. Troop C conducted more than 150 personnel, convoy and fixed site security missions within Baghdad, Iraq with no incidents of hostile enemy contact.  Company D conducted security and force protection operations from 14 different mission sites for Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Arabian Peninsula and later Special Operations Task Force – Iraq as they prosecuted insurgent groups until closure of both missions in Iraq.

Soldiers from the task force earned 44 Bronze Star Medals. Seven of those were in the Headquarters Troop, 10 were in Troop A, three in Troop B, 11 in Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and 12 in Company C, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment.

Soldiers from the task force earned 18 Combat Action Badges with three in Headquarters Troop, 12 in Troop A, two in Troop B, one in Company C, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment. Five Soldiers in Company C earned the Combat Infantryman Badge.

With approximately 825 Soldiers, Task Force 183 was the largest single unit mobilization in the Virginia Army National Guard since World War II. The second largest deployment was approximately 775 Soldiers from the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment that deployed to Iraq from September 2007 to April 2008.

Additional reporting by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs

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