Virginia Guard hones less-than-lethal training skills

Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team conduct non-lethal riot training April 14, 2012 at Fort Pickett, Va., to ensure the Guardsmen are prepared for any type of situation. The Soldiers faced the challenge of neutralizing a hostile crowd and getting the rioters to cease and desist. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luther L. Boothe Jr., Virginia Guard Public Affairs).

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Soldiers from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team conducted training in less-than-lethal operations April 13-15 at Fort Pickett to increase their proficiency in providing support to civil authorities in a time of crisis. The battalion is designated as the Virginia Guard’s Incident Response Force Package and will be among the first units called to state active duty.

“Today’s operation is a scenario for Defense Support of Civil Authorities,” said Capt. Scott A. Nivens, commander of 1st Battalion’s Company B . “Our scenario is that we are in Sandbridge (Va.) and the area was just hit by a hurricane three days ago and we are here to support the community. We set up traffic control points, set up some cordons and some security patrols to maintain synchronization with the local law enforcement.”

Staff Sgt. Dustin E. Claymore, 1st squad leader and non-lethal weapons instructor, 1st Platoon., Company B, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment,116th Brigade Combat Team, conducts an after action review following non-lethal riot training April 14, 2012 at Fort Pickett, Va. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luther L. Boothe Jr., Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Company B’s main mission for the IRFP is security, said Nivens. Soldiers from the Pulaski-based Company D had responsibility for establishing the outer security cordon, and Company B and Company A had the inner security cordon. As part of the outer security cordon, Company D set up traffic control points to help control vehicle entry into the area.

The weekend’s training was focused at the squad level, and the battalion is building towards a full scale training exercise during annual training in July.

To ensure that his Soldiers are prepared for “every” type of situation, the commander developed an extra scenario for his platoons of infantrymen .

“I also have riot control training going on; the scenario is that we have some locals who don’t have or haven’t had water or electricity for the past three days and they are coming to city hall to see what is going on,” he said. “It starts out peaceful and then it escalates into a non-peaceful event where I need to call in my less-than-lethal team to try and to get the locals to cease and desist.”

“(We) were going through different scenarios to be prepared for any riots or any civil disturbances that might happen,” said Pvt. 1st Class Joseph D. Wriston, an infantryman with Company B and native of Lynchburg, Va. “We are doing this for (citizens of Virginia), if we are out there and trained to keep control, (situations) will go much smoother. It will be a more peaceful setting with our presence.”

Being on the “less than lethal” team has its pros and cons, said Wriston.

“My favorite part about this training is being on the snatch-and-grab team. If there is a certain person leading the riot we will send a three or four man team out to grab them and bring them behind our line of riot shields and attempt to get them under control,” he said.

The worst part of this training is getting “qualified” to use a taser and pepper spray , because we have to experience it as part of our qualification, said Wriston.

Ultimately, for the Soldiers it all comes down to taking care of the people who they live, work and raise a family beside.

“Our (Soldiers) out here have families in these communities too,” said Nivens. “The (citizens of) Virginia should rest at ease and know that in the event of an emergency or disaster the Virginia National Guard (will) be there to support them and their families, whether it be security, food and water, we (will) be there.”

“The training was excellent for the entire battalion, and all our major training objectives were completed,” said Lt. Col. Allan Carter, commander of 1st Battalion.  “We validated individuals and squads on their specific IRFP tasks to provide security and restore public order and safety, and the Soldiers have completed training and validation on the new less-than-lethal equipment.  The battalion is set to continue with training scheduled for July at the platoon and company level on IRFP tasks.”