The Virginia National Guard’s 116th Military Engagement Team marked the official completion of its overseas mission January 9, during a Transfer of Authority ceremony held at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
During the ceremony, the 116th MET passed the mission to the Kentucky National Guard’s 149th Military Engagement Team.
“Thank you for a job well done,” said Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, deputy commanding general – operations for U.S. Army Central, who presided over the ceremony. “You can all be proud of what you’ve accomplished.”
To mark the transition between the METs, Col. Todd Hubbard, commander of the 116th MET, and Lt. Col. Joseph Gardner, commander of the 149th MET, replaced the Virginia state flag flown over the headquarters tent with the state flag of Kentucky. This act marked the end of the 116th’s mission and the official start of the 149th’s.
During their nine-month overseas mobilization, the 116th MET was based in Kuwait, with soldiers also training in Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Oman. The 26-soldier team conducted 53 engagements with military members from 12 countries, including Uzbekistan, Lebanon, the United Kingdom and Tajikistan.
In Jordan, team members completed more than 150 engagements with leaders of the Kingdom’s military. Collectively, the team flew more than 1 million kilometers, drove more than 100,000 kilometers and spent more than 1,200 man days on mission, traveling throughout the region and working with military members of partner nations.
“In May, I stood on this stage and told you the 116th MET was ready for the mission,” Hubbard said during the ceremony. “I’m happy to report today that we fulfilled that mission.”
During their travels, soldiers of the 116th MET worked in small teams, often pulling in subject matter experts from other units in the region, engaging with partner nation military members on topics including infantry tactics, tactical communications, border security and control, professional development and the military decision-making process.
Each engagement, no matter the location, aimed to build or enhance relationships with partner nation military members and also to identify and expand on commonalities between the U.S. military and its partners, sharing best practices and lessons learned along the way.
“What we discovered is that we can learn a lot from our partners,” Hubbard said. “Not only can you learn how to live in the desert, how to work with non-U.S. equipment or maybe just adapting to the weather and terrain, but you also learn how to assemble a team, how to do a mission brief, how to travel to a foreign country, how to lead your team through an engagement, how to use a linguist and how to return safely to base.”
The 116th MET was comprised of soldiers from various Virginia National Guard units, all pulled together under the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Collectively, the team has more than 500 years of experience, with team members completing 45 deployments and specializing in a variety of fields including field artillery, aviation, infantry, military intelligence and engineering.
Col. Hubbard will now serve as the J7 exercise officer on the joint staff. He is the son of Iva Jane Hubbard of Meadows of Dan and the late Hampton Hubbard. He graduated from Patrick County High School in 1987 and is a 1991 graduate of Virginia Military Institute.
He is married to the former Wendy Moore, a 1988 graduate of Parry McCluer High School and a 1992 graduate Mary Baldwin College. She is a teacher with Suffolk Public Schools, and is the daughter of the late Steve Moore and Wanda Moore, and is the stepdaughter of Debbie Moore of Staunton.
Their oldest daughter, Emilyne is a James Madison University graduate and teaches in Henrico County. Their middle daughter Lauren is a junior at JMU studying hospitality management, and their youngest daughter Caroline has been accepted to JMU this fall.