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News | Jan. 14, 2022

National Guard infantry units support East Africa mission

By Spc. Gauret Stearns, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

Throughout history, the U.S. Army National Guard’s 1-102nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain) and the 1-116th Infantry Regiment have fought alongside and even against one another. From the Revolutionary War to the Civil War and reuniting during WWI, the two battalions have once again met, this time in Africa, passing the torch of responsibility for the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa’s (CJTF-HOA) security forces mission.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Frank Tantillo, 1-102nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), Task Force Iron Gray commander, cased the battalion’s flag to signify the unit handing mission responsibility over to the 1-116th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Red Dragon, during a transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Lemonnier Jan. 8.

“We are here to recognize the tremendous efforts of Task Force Iron Gray ... and welcome the Task Force Red Dragon team to East Africa,” said Maj. Gen. William Zana, CJTF-HOA commander.

During their time in the Horn of Africa, Zana said, Task Force Iron Gray exceeded expectations, including achieving unprecedented levels of engagement with many foreign partners.

“Our relationships with our Djiboutian, French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and many African nation partners are stronger than ever largely as a result of Task Force Iron Gray’s focused engagement, effort and teamwork across all of our joint services,” Zana said. “You’ve made a tremendous impact and left an extremely positive legacy.”

As Africa’s largest single tactical unit on the continent, the task force makes up more than two-thirds of the CJTF-HOA force and is critical to providing security, crisis response capabilities and building partnerships throughout East Africa in support of U.S. Africa Command.

“We have been the multi-tool of the U.S. Africa Command,” Tantillo said. “Executing anything asked of us to a high standard.”

With approximately 1,000 Soldiers primarily operating from Camp Lemonnier, the battalion maintained and strengthened relationships with allied and partner nations.

“We could not have done this without our partners,” Tantillo said. “Our exchanges and partnerships have enriched our mission and have prepared us for the future.”

The incoming unit, Task Force Red Dragon, primarily comprises Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard, with an additional company from the Kentucky Army National Guard.

While preparing for this overseas mission, the Citizen-Soldiers continued to support domestic operations, including natural disaster relief, COVID-19 response and assisting law enforcement with security operations. The culmination of these experiences – coupled with an extensive pre-mobilization training schedule – prepared Task Force Red Dragon for the “incredibly challenging and rewarding mission” ahead, Zana said.

Lt. Col. James Tierney, Task Force Red Dragon commander, thanked Task Force Iron Gray and leadership for their commitment to improving the mission for their Soldiers and Task Force Red Dragon.

“The exceptional achievements from Task Force Iron Gray over the past year have established a solid foundation for Task Force Red Dragon to build upon,” Tierney said. “We stand ready to execute all assigned missions as we move ever forward.