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W. Va. National Guard Brig. Gen. Bill Crane recently traveled over 7,000 miles from West Virginia to visit Soldiers from the 111th Theater Engineer Brigade currently deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield.

Crane, the Adjutant General of the W. Va. National Guard, had the opportunity on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, to have a roundtable discussion with the current leaders of the 111th TEB, receive an operation and mission overview, and meet with the Soldiers currently stationed on Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

As a former commander of the 111th himself, Crane was extremely impressed and proud of the work of the brigade. The TEB is currently operating in over half a dozen countries in the Central Command (CENTCOM) Area of Operations (AO).

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“The geographical dispersion that you are seeing with this organization is pretty amazing to be able to command and control that,” Crane said. “Col. Kincaid and the staff are doing a tremendous job. I’m glad they are a part of our West Virginia tribe.”

Crane is no stranger to deployments himself and recognizes the sacrifices that each of the Soldiers are currently making.

Soldiers from the 111th have been deployed and away from their families since starting their federal orders in late February.

“None of these successes happen without a lot of support and sacrifices,” Crane said. “The families of these Soldiers allowing their service member to go is a huge sacrifice. Their employers are supporting the service member and allowing them to go and deploy. West Virginia is such a patriotic state and the support for our military makes all the difference. The folks over here serving and those back home waiting to see their loved ones again know that the jobs they are doing are extremely important.”

Despite the sacrifices the Soldiers of the 111th are making, and the harsh conditions of the Kuwait summer, this has not stopped them from putting their best foot forward daily and accomplishing the mission.

While deployed to the CENTCOM AO, the TEB has completed work and is currently executing projects in Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. The TEB also continues to do their part in supporting the responsible exit from Afghanistan.

The high quality of work associated with the projects the TEB is responsible for is only possible because of Soldiers who go above and beyond. In an effort to thank and recognize these Soldiers, Crane presented his challenge coin to ten stand-out Soldiers during his visit.

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Sgt. Ryan Looney, a Human Resources NCO with the 111th, was one of the Soldiers recognized with a TAG challenge coin.

“When I received the TAG’s challenge coin, I felt a sincere sense of appreciation and gratitude,” said Looney. “It shows that’s my work is being noticed and I can’t help but feel accomplished.”

Although Looney was thankful for the recognition and challenge coin, he said that just having Crane come halfway across the world to visit the troops would have been enough for him.

He said that the conversation Crane had with the unit while visiting shows how much he cares about the Soldiers and the work that is being done over here.

“Brig. Gen. Crane genuinely wants to know what questions we have and urges us to ask them,” said Looney. “He goes off-the-cuff during his talks, meaning he’s not worried about being scripted or prepared. I really appreciated that. It’s almost like a discussion instead of a speech. He really wants to know our thoughts and concerns.”

Crane said that by knowing the thoughts and concerns of the deployed Soldiers, he can then lead in a way that makes them successful. This in return allows the 111th to continue to make an impact both abroad and stateside while playing their role in the ‘One Guard’ family.

“Allowing Soldiers to share their thoughts and knowledge is what truly allows us to be a successful force and accomplish the mission. It is extremely important,” said Crane. “What’s unique about the Soldiers of the 111th and the ‘One Guard’ family as a whole is that we live in our communities where we serve.”

Crane continued to say that when the Soldiers of the 111th come back home to West Virginia, the state will be better because of the experiences and knowledge they are able to bring back with them.

“These Soldiers know that they have a great support system back home,” said Crane. “When they come back home they’re going to be embraced and loved and feel like they are able to be reintegrated back into their community and families. Our ‘One Guard’ family will be whole again and be able to continue on.”

The excitement to come back home when the mission is complete is echoed throughout the ranks of the 111th.

The Soldiers believe that the experiences they encounter while deployed will allow them to accomplish anything they put their minds to for the rest of their career.

“I’ve learned more in my short time here than at any other point in my career,” said Looney. “I’m grateful for this opportunity, as it brings different challenges than what I do stateside. These experiences broaden my skill set. My time here will definitely make me a better leader, in more ways than one.”

The 111th TEB will continue to do what is asked of them in support of Operation Spartan Shield until it is time to return back home to West Virginia and be reunited with their loved ones.