From The Top: Adjutant General reflects on Virginia National Guard accomplishments in 2011

By Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr.
The Adjutant General of Virginia

I am honored and humbled to continue my service as the Adjutant General, and I feel a great sense of pride when I reflect back on the great things we accomplished this year. Once again we continued to successfully balance the demands of our federal mission while maintaining a high state of readiness to respond to emergencies here in Virginia.

The General Assembly approved Gov. McDonnell’s budget addition of $6.7 million to repair critical facility deficiencies, and we very much appreciate their support. With federal matching funds, we turned that original Commonwealth investment into more than $24 million for much needed facilities repairs.

We completed the consolidation of the Joint Staff to Mullins Armory early this year. Not only do we benefit from having the staff together in one place, but we saved the Commonwealth $140,000 when we left the Washington Building.

We had two very solemn reminders of the serious nature of our service in the National Guard. The Air Guard’s 203rd RED HORSE Squadron conducted a memorial service March 3 to honor 18 unit members who perished in a military transport crash 10 years ago. In April, the names of five Virginia Guard Soldiers lost during combat operations since Sept. 11 were among more than 330 names on the Memorial Wall for Fallen Engineers at Fort Leonard Wood, Miss.

Fort Pickett continues to be a premier training destinations on the East Coast, and there is a strong chance even more training will be conducted in the future. The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. General Services Administration are conducting further studies to assess locating a planned Foreign Affairs Security Training Center at Fort Pickett. We anticipate the results of the study in less than two years.

Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia Guard’s 34th Civil Support Team and Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package trained side by side with local, state and federal emergency response organizations in May. The event brought together different agencies to improve their interoperability in the event of a catastrophic event within the commonwealth, whether from a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or any other emergency.

The Virginia Guard brought more than 350 personnel on duty to assist in the response to Hurricane Irene. Together with State Police we cleared nearly 350 fallen trees during the hurricane as well as in the immediate response after the storm. We also sent 20 Soldiers and six 20-ton dump trucks to Vermont to help rebuild roads destroyed by the severe weather.

Several special programs are making significant impact in the lives of citizens of the Commonwealth. The Military Funeral Honors Program performed more than 2,400 funerals attended by almost 44,000 people throughout the state. The Counterdrug Program provided support to state and federal law enforcement resulting in the confiscation of more than 37,000 marijuana plants, more than 441 arrests and the seizure of more than $136 million of narcotics, currency and weapons. The Commonwealth ChalleNGe Program intervenes in the lives of at-risk youth to produce responsible and productive citizens. Since 1994, 34 classes totaling more than 3,640 cadets have graduated from the program.

The Virginia Guard was one of 15 states to achieve all the readiness training and certification goals set by NGB for Guard Reaction Forces. The Governor and the citizens of the Commonwealth expect us to rapidly respond and provide support during a crisis. Meeting the goals for our reaction force is a important in our effort to train and maintain a ready, relevant and rapidly responding force to meet the expectations of our citizens and the nation.

We end the year with the return of more than 1,100 Soldiers from duty in Iraq during the month of December. Since Sept. 11, 2001, we have mobilized more than 14,000 Soldiers and Airmen. We should all feel a great sense of accomplishment for the great work the Guard has done in defending the cause of freedom around the world. We end the year with more than 260 Soldiers and Airmen on duty in Afghanistan and other locations across the world.

I could not be more proud of the efforts of our Soldiers, Airmen, members of the VDF and civilian workforce and their dedicated service to commonwealth and country. My thanks to your families, employers and communities for the support they provide so we may all continue our service in the Virginia National Guard. Without their support, we could not do all the things we do. We will all work together to make sure the Virginia Guard is a synchronized and unified force that is ready, relevant and rapid responding that is disciplined, professionally-led and prepared to meet the expectations of our federal and state partners and the needs of our citizens.