The Guard in Action

  • AFGHANISTAN DEATHS: Two members of the Virginia National Guard were killed in Afghanistan in August.

Staff Sgt. Craig W. Cherry, 39, of Winchester, and Sgt. Bobby E. Beasley, 36, of Inwood, W.Va., died Aug. 7 in Ghazikel when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

Both soldiers were assigned to the Virginia Army Guard’s 3rd Battalion of the 116th Infantry Regiment, which is based in Winchester.

They were the first combat deaths the Virginia Army National Guard had suffered since World War II.

The soldiers of the battalion entered active federal service March 1.


After training at Fort Bragg, they arrived in Afghanistan on July 15, operating in Ghazni Province about 100 miles south of Kabul. Their missions have included intelligence gathering, patrols and manning traffic checkpoints.

The battalion is part of the 1st Brigade, 29th Light Infantry Division, based at Fort Belvoir.

  • THE 276TH: The 276th Engineer Battalion, with about 525 soldiers, went on active federal service Dec. 18, 2003.

After moving to its mobilization station at Fort Dix, N.J., and completing preparatory training, the unit was deployed to Iraq.

The units making up the 276th Engineers and their hometowns are:

  • Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Richmond.
  • Company A, Powhatan.
  • Company B, Richlands.
  • Company C, West Point.

Company A is one of the oldest units in the Virginia Army Guard. Known as the Guard of the Commonwealth, the company traces its history to 1844.

The soldiers of the 276th were ordered to active duty for up to 18 months, a period that the Army may extend to a total of 24 months.

  • ON ACTIVE DUTY: Since the Sept. 11 attacks, most of the 8,700 soldiers and airmen of Virginia’s Army and Air National Guard units have been called to active duty, either at home or abroad.

More than 4,040 of the Army Guard’s 7,500 soldiers and 1,085 of the Air Guard’s 1,200 airmen have participated in operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and air expeditionary-force operations.

  • More than 1,400 Virginia Army Guard soldiers and 440 Air Guard members mobilized for Noble Eagle, the military operation supporting homeland defense.
  • More than 870 state Guard soldiers and 370 airmen have deployed for Enduring Freedom, the U.S. military actions in the war on terrorism outside of the United States, especially in Afghanistan.
  • About 1,890 soldiers are involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
  • About 275 airmen have taken part in air-expeditionary operations in Southwest Asia.
  • PROUD LINEAGE: The 276th carries the military lineage of the 1st Virginia Regiment, organized in 1652 as the Charles City-Henrico Counties Regiment of Militia.

Its 17th-century origins makes the 276th the lineal descendant of the second-oldest unit in the U.S. military, after a Massachusetts unit formed in 1636.

George Washington was the colonel of the 1st Virginia, as was Patrick Henry during the Revolutionary War and later John Marshall.

With its heritage as the 1st Virginia, the 276th also carried the lineage of the Richmond Light Infantry Blues, the Richmond Grays and the Richmond German Rifles.

It fought in the French and Indian War, and its colors carry campaign streamers from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War and World War I.

Virginia’s militia generally is the oldest in the former British colonies that now are part of the United States, dating from the armed men of the Jamestown settlement in 1607.

Florida claims its National Guard is the senior militia, tracing its heritage to 1595 and the early Spanish settlements. New Mexico and Puerto Rico make similar claims.