116th MET completes overseas mission

Members of the 116th Military Engagement Team pose for a group photo at their Transfer of Authority Ceremony Jan. 9, 2017, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. (Contributed photo)

Members of the 116th Military Engagement Team pose for a group photo at their Transfer of Authority Ceremony Jan. 9, 2017, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. (Contributed photo)

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – The Virginia National Guard’s 116th Military Engagement Team marked the official completion of their overseas mission Jan. 9, 2017, during a Transfer of Authority ceremony held at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. During the ceremony, the 116th MET passed the mission to the Kentucky National Guard’s 149th Military Engagement Team.

“Thank you for a job well done,” said Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, deputy commanding general – operations for U.S. Army Central, who presided over the ceremony. “You can all be proud of what you’ve accomplished.”

To mark the transition between the METs, Col. Todd Hubbard, commander of the 116th MET, and Lt. Col. Joseph Gardner, commander of the 149th MET, replaced the Virginia state flag flown over the headquarters tent with the state flag of Kentucky. This act marked the end of the 116th’s mission and the official start of the 149th’s.

During their nine-month overseas mobilization, the 116th MET was based in Kuwait, with Soldiers also training in Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Oman. The 26-Soldier team conducted 53 engagements with military members from 12 countries, including Uzbekistan, Lebanon, the United Kingdom and Tajikistan. In Jordan, team members completed more than 150 engagements with leaders of the Kingdom’s military. Collectively, the team flew more than 1 million kilometers, drove more than 100,000 kilometers and spent more than 1,200 man days on mission, traveling throughout the region and working with military members of partner nations.

“In May, I stood on this stage and told you the 116th MET was ready for its mission,” Hubbard said during the ceremony. “I’m happy to report today that we fulfilled that mission.”

During their travels, Soldiers of the 116th MET worked in small teams, often pulling in subject matter experts from other units in the region, engaging with partner nation military members on topics including infantry tactics, tactical communications, border security and control, professional development and the military decision-making process. Each engagement, no matter the location, aimed to build or enhance relationships with partner nation military members and also to identify and expand on commonalities between the U.S. military and its partners, sharing best practices and lessons learned along the way.

“The MET punches above its weight,” Hickman explained. “It really is a small group of leaders, but their impact is felt across the [region] on a weekly basis, whether it’s in Jordan going out almost daily with our partners there, or in other countries participating in training exercises or other events.”

For the 116th MET, their mobilization experience started with a few drill weekends at the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, when the team first came together. From there, the team spent approximately three weeks at Fort Pickett, the Virginia National Guard’s premier training site, working on basic Soldier skills, building their operations order and learning more about their upcoming mission. The team then headed south, to Fort Hood, Texas, where they conducted medical and administrative tasks to assess unit proficiencies for deployment, as well as other key training tasks, including a mission readiness exercise that aimed to validate the team on their ability to conduct the MET mission.

Finally, in mid-April, the team headed overseas to begin their mission. They spent the latter part of April and the first few days of May working with the North Carolina National Guard’s 30th Military Engagement Team before officially taking charge on May 8, 2016.

“What we discovered is that we can learn a lot from our partners,” Hubbard said. “Not only can you learn how to live in the desert, how to work with non-U.S. equipment or maybe just adapting to the weather and terrain, but you also learn how to assemble a team, how to do a mission brief, how to travel to a foreign country, how to lead your team through an engagement, how to use a linguist and how to return safely to base.”

The 116th MET was comprised of Soldiers from various Virginia National Guard units, all pulled together under the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Collectively, the team has more than 500 years of experience, with team members completing 45 deployments and specializing in a variety of fields including field artillery, aviation, infantry, military intelligence and engineering.

“A MET really is hand-picked,” said Hickman. “It’s 26 leaders that come in here and they’re all handpicked by the leaders coming and they’re specially trained to do this mission. They’ll take this experience working with other nations, working with other militaries and they’ll develop themselves as better leaders as they go out and accomplish other missions.”

Following their Transfer of Authority ceremony, the majority of the 116th MET packed the last of their belongings and headed back to Fort Hood for a few days of out-processing before flying back home. Several members of the team in Kuwait, Jordan and Oman will stay in county for an additional four to six weeks to ensure maximum continuity during the transition between the 116th and 149th METs.

“I know you realize how valuable this deployment was, not only for our partners, but also for you and your future readiness,” Hubbard said. “I appreciate your positive energy and your tremendous effort throughout this mission.”

Read more about the 116th MET at http://go.usa.gov/x9FcN.