Departure ceremonies this weekend for 450 Virginia National Guard soldiers headed to Qatar

Around 450 Virginia National Guard soldiers from the region are headed to Qatar.

Departure ceremonies will be held Saturday and Sunday in Christiansburg, Bedford, Lexington, and Lynchburg to honor the men and women.

The battalion is headquartered in Lynchburg, but soldiers based in Bedford, Lexington, and Christiansburg will mobilize for the mission.

The battalion is replacing a Winchester-based team that is currently conducting security operations in Qatar.

Here is the news release from the Virginia National Guard:

Departure ceremonies for the Virginia National Guard’s Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team will be held May 14 and 15 in Christiansburg, Bedford, Lexington and Lynchburg to honor the men and women of the battalion as they begin a federal active duty mobilization. Approximately 450 Soldiers from the battalion, also known as the Red Dragons, will begin serving on federal active duty May 13, 2016, and the mobilization is expected to be for about 12 months. They are scheduled to replace the Virginia National Guard's Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, also known as Task Force Normandy, currently conducting security operations in Qatar.

The battalion is headquartered in Lynchburg and Soldiers from units based in Bedford, Lexington and Christiansburg will mobilize for the mission.

Ceremonies scheduled for May 14:
- Company C, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment: 11:30 a.m. at the Christiansburg Readiness Center at 15 College Street, Christiansburg, VA 24073
- Company A, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment: 3 p.m. at the National D-Day Memorial at 3 Overlord Circle, Bedford, VA 24523
Point of contact for media coordination is Master Sgt. A. J. Coyne at (757) 541-2010 or or ngva.pao@mail.mil

Ceremonies scheduled for May 15:
- Company B, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment: Noon at the Lexington Horse Center at 487 Maury River Road, Lexington, VA 24450.
- Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment: 3 p.m. at Monument Terrace in Downtown Lynchburg at Church/Ninth Street, Lynchburg, VA 24501
Point of contact for media coordination is Mr. Cotton Puryear at 804-539-1451 or ngva.pao@mail.mil

After the departure ceremonies, the next step on the battalion's journey is to report to Texas for approximately 30 to 45 days of additional mobilization training. From there they will deploy to Qatar, and they are expected to operate as a security force for several locations essential to the U.S. interests in the region.

Soldiers conducted training at Fort Pickett for about three weeks to accomplish a number of administrative and field training tasks to prepare for the mobilization including weapons qualification, equipment issue and medical evaluation.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion last served on federal active duty from March to August 2010. They operated out of Contingency Operating Base Adder in Southern Iraq with the mission of securing resupply convoys along the main supply routes in the central, southern and northern sectors of Iraq in order to prevent anti-Iraqi Forces from disrupting theater sustainment operations.

In October 2013, the battalion received the Walter T. Kerwin, Jr., Readiness Award recognizing them as the most combat-ready Army National Guard battalion in the country by the Association of the United States Army.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion have also conducted numerous state active duty missions supporting the citizens of the commonwealth. Most recently, more than 100 Soldiers from the Red Dragons provided mobility assistance in January 2016 to get first responders through heavy snow to complete emergency calls.