By Bo Wriston
West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs
The West Virginia National Guard welcomed home 120 Soldiers from the 111th Engineer Brigade, headquartered in Eleanor, who have been deployed since late February 2021 to the Middle East in a homecoming ceremony at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, Charleston, West Virginia, Dec. 11, 2021.
“We are so happy to have our Soldiers back into the arms of their families, especially right as the holiday season begins,” stated Maj. Gen. Bill Crane, The Adjutant General of West Virginia. “Deployments are always challenging, for those serving and those left behind on the home front. We are thrilled to have all our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, moms and dads, back home safe and with loved ones after a mission well done.”
During the deployment, the unit was headquartered at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, while providing personnel and subject matter expertise for four named operations throughout the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations: Operation Spartan Shield, Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Freedom Sentinel, and Operation Allies Refuge.
Unit operations spanned nine countries, to include: Kuwait, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.
111th personnel completed over 500 total missions, including troop labor and survey missions, and provided base hardening and force protection support to forward operating bases (FOBs), base camps, and additional infrastructure sites.
Unit personnel also conducted multiple subject matter expert engineering training exchanges with Allied nation partners to include vertical engineer, design engineer, route clearance, survivability, and weapons of mass destruction operations.
Perhaps the most historically significant portion of the deployment came when the 111th was tasked with supporting the evacuation of thousands of vulnerable Afghans during Operation Allies Refuge.
The 111th designed and constructed “Freedom Village,” a holding and processing encampment which supported 5,000 vulnerable Afghans in Kuwait. The 111th planned and oversaw the village construction to include constructing lodging, medical, dining and in and out-processing facilities.
The unit further assisted the out-processing of over 5,400 Afghans through the village, including issuance of Special Immigrant Visas, as well as providing command and control, medical, logistical, and public affairs support.
“I could not be prouder of the successes of the 111th Engineer Brigade while deployed,” stated Col. Robert Kincaid Jr., brigade commander. “Every Soldier played their role in accomplishing all our missions and I will be forever grateful for their commitment and dedication. The Soldiers of the 111th Engineer Brigade are extremely grateful to have been given the privilege of assisting those in need during Operation Allies Refuge, and to being there for them at such a crucial time. Serving as the brigade commander of the Central Command’s Theater Engineer Brigade has been the opportunity of a lifetime and I could not have done it without the Soldiers of this unit.”
During the deployment, 18 members of the 111th were promoted, and more than 140 awards and citations for exemplary service were awarded.