By 1LT Jamie Mason
“The experiences that you will encounter over this next year will certainly be highlights of your military career,” said Brig. Gen. Murray E. "Gene" Holt while talking to a group of Soldiers on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.
Holt, the West Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General – Army, and Command Sgt. Maj. Chadwick Moneypenny, the West Virginia Army National Guard’s command sergeant major, recently traveled to Fort Bliss, Texas to visit the troops of the 111th Engineer Brigade as they prepare to deploy to the Central Command (CENTCOM) Area of Operations in the coming days.
During his visit, Holt and Moneypenny had the opportunity to dine with the Soldiers, have a roundtable discussion with the unit leaders, and get a mission overview in order to have a better understanding of the mission the 111th will be supporting over the next year.
The 111th Engineer Brigade, commanded by Col. Robert Kincaid, will be deploying in support of Operation Spartan Shield and will serve as the Theater Engineer Brigade.
“For the past couple of years, the 111th has been training and building readiness for this mission,” said Holt. “Knowing how hard the Soldiers and leaders have trained, planned, and worked in preparation for this opportunity, I am confident that as soon as they arrive overseas, they will immediately begin to make a difference.”
The training for the 111th Engineer Brigade hasn’t stopped though, despite being days away from beginning the 24-hour flight overseas.
For the past month, the Soldiers have been finalizing their deployment validation requirements, including weapons qualifications, small arms firing familiarization, basic engineering skills, and overall medical and wellness verifications.
“I am so proud of each and every one of you and the training you have completed to get to this point,” said Moneypenny. “A great team is built on a foundation of leadership with a cornerstone of discipline – and that is what this unit is.”
Holt and Moneypenny also met with Task Force Thunder, who serves as the validation authority for the 111th, during their visit.
“According to Task Force Thunder, the 111th has raised the bar in terms of how brigades should look when they come through the validation process,” said Holt. “The 111th has knocked it out of the park. A lot of this is attributable to all of the efforts of the Soldiers prior to mobilization.”
The sentiment of proudness and appreciation for the mission and challenges the 111th is about to encounter is echoed throughout the entire West Virginia National Guard.
“On behalf of the Adjutant General (TAG) Bill Crane, the West Virginia National Guard could not be more proud of the 111th Engineer Brigade,” said Holt said. “The 111th has developed an extremely strong team by bringing in subject matter experts throughout the formation. They truly all support each other.”
Holt and Moneypenny, in addition to the entire West Virginia National Guard leadership, are no strangers to deployments. Although there will be challenging times and struggles throughout, with the support of the families, both the National Guard family and the families of each individual Soldier, they believe that the members of the 111th have the best support system waiting for them back home.
“We look forward to seeing this unit, who are part of our family, come back and see just how much each Soldier has grown throughout this experience,” according to Holt. “The 111th will always have a special place in my heart, as well as in the heart of the TAG, and we look forward to seeing the great things that they will do throughout the CENTCOM area of operations.”
On behalf of the WVARNG leadership, “we want the families to know that the leadership of the West Virginia National Guard truly recognizes the sacrifices that both the Soldiers and the families are going to make over the span of this deployment and that we can’t thank them enough.”