CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti – Virginia and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, ended their nine-month security mission for Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa this month.
Task Force Red Dragon conducted a transfer of authority ceremony Sept. 19 to Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, known as Task Force Wolfhound.
Approximately 1,000 Soldiers from across Virginia and Kentucky began serving on federal active duty Nov. 27. With their mission complete, they return to Virginia and Kentucky.
Col. Jim Tierney and Command Sgt. Maj. Doug Wolfe, the TFRD command team, cased the battalion’s colors, signifying the end of its deployment.
“Our accomplishments here are a direct result of the leadership of the junior officers, NCOs, and Soldiers of the task force,” Tierney said. “Their sense of duty, selfless service, and dedication to mission success is inspiring.”
The mission of CJTF-HOA is to conduct operations to enhance partner nation capacity, promote regional peace and stability, dissuade conflict, and protect U.S. and coalition interests.
Maj. Gen. Jamie Shawley, CJTF-HOA commanding general, addressed the ceremony attendees about the importance of the security mission in Africa.
“It’s a geostrategically important place,” Shawley said. “Molded by competing forces of prosperity and poverty, peace and conflict, plenty and famine, good governance and corruption. It’s challenged with instability caused by violent extremist organizations and by our strategic competitors, which continue to weaken the rules-based world order, and Red Dragon, you have stood in the gap this whole time.”
Tierney welcomed Task Force Wolfhound and expressed his gratitude to the Soldiers of Task Force Red Dragon and their many partners.
“We came together as a task force to fight and to win,” Tierney said. “We sharpened our edge by partnering with some incredible teammates. Our Soldiers walk away from this deployment as experts in their profession. It’s rewarding to see the growth of the team over this past year. Red Dragons, you are truly the next generation of leaders for the 29th Infantry Division and the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.”
Task Force Red Dragon provided security forces throughout the Horn of Africa, maintaining a presence in Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya. This defensive mission included 24/7 perimeter security of military installations, safeguarding U.S and partner forces and civilian contractors. The task force also provided security for multiple U.S. Navy port calls, enabling refueling and refit operations for U.S. ships operating in the vicinity of the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb strait.
Additionally, TFRD provided the ground component of the East Africa Response Force. The EARF conducted monthly emergency deployment readiness exercises to respond quickly to crises within East Africa.
During the deployment, the EARF supported Department of State missions in Nairobi, Kenya; Mogadishu, Somalia; and Durban, South Africa. The EARF also conducted two emergency deployment readiness exercises to rehearse the reinforcement of contingency support locations in East Africa.
“You directly supported our mission by working as our local first-responders, our 9-1-1,” Shawley said. “For our embassies and our outstations, working as the East Africa Response Force, Red Dragon conducted numerous readiness exercises to ensure the safety and well-being of U.S. personnel across not only East Africa, but literally all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Your accomplishments and sacrifices only add excellence to your already distinguished heritage. There is no doubt that you brought great credit upon your unit, the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, the United States Army, and the United States.”
From weapons ranges to exercises with foreign military partners, TFRD Soldiers conducted a wide array of training while deployed. These training opportunities included medical evacuation and mass casualty exercises at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and other locations; participation in the U.S. Marine Corps Corporal’s Course for TFRD E-4s; testing for the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge; a Spur Ride for the task force’s cavalry troopers; and the 18.6-mile Norwegian Foot March. Forty-nine TFRD Soldiers earned the GAFPB, 27 earned their cavalry spurs and 123 earned the Norwegian Foot March badge.
Foreign engagement was a prominent feature of the task force’s deployment. TFRD conducted more than 75 combined operations and training exercises with the French, Kenyan, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and Djiboutian armed forces.
The task force maintained an especially close relationship with the French Armed Forces in Djibouti, participating in Exercise WAKRI March 13-15 — the largest annual French-led exercise in Djibouti — and Operation Sunrise Strike in August. That combined arms live-fire exercise validated the task force’s ability to operate in a joint and combined environment with its French partners.
In addition, more than 20 task force members graduated from the French Desert Commando Course.
The following Virginia and Kentucky Army National Guard units mobilized as Task Force Red Dragon:
- Lynchburg-based Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Bedford-based Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Lexington-based Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Pulaski-based Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Lynchburg-based Golf Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Suffolk-based Bravo Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- Charlottesville-based Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
- The Kentucky Army National Guard’s Somerset, Kentucky-based Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team