Virginia National Guard personnel assist in the wake of severe thunderstorms

Soldiers from the Pulaski-based Company D, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, distribute water and ice July 2 to citizens in Bedford at a distribution point operated by Bedford Fire & Rescue. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. — The Virginia National Guard brought more than 200 personnel on state active duty from June 30 to July 4 to support recovery operations in the wake of severe thunderstorms that struck across Virginia and caused wide-spread power outages. Soldiers distributed water and ice in Bedford, conducted reconnaissance patrols in the Fredericksburg and Lexington areas and Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force provided mission command and sustainment support in Sandston and Fort Pickett.

“I was extremely pleased with the entire operation from how we alerted and staged our personnel to how we actually executed the missions,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. “I think the Virginia Guard continues to be a rapidly responding and extremely capable force that can respond to the needs to the Governor and the citizens of Virginia.”

Long said that each time the Virginia Guard calls out personnel, whether for a real-world mission or for training, it makes the Guard better prepared to conduct response operations in the future. He said he was also pleased with the coordination with other partner state agencies like the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Virginia State Police.

Soldiers from the Pulaski-based Company D, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team arrived in the late afternoon July 2 in Bedford to assist Bedford Fire & Rescue personnel with distributing water and ice. The Soldiers assisted with the operation through middle of the day on July 4, handing out much-needed water and ice to hundreds of cars that came through the distribution point. Having the Soldiers on hand enabled personnel from Bedford Fire & Rescue to keep the distribution point open longer hours and during emergency response calls.

“I am ecstatic to be out here,” said Sgt. Matthew Spiker, the noncommissioned officer in charge for the Soldiers working in Bedford. “We knew there were people out there who needed help, and today we were able to come out here and do some good work.” Spiker is a native of Staunton where he works as a police officer.

Spike explained that citizens coming through the distribution point had been without power and water since Friday evening and were extremely grateful for the supplies provided in Bedford.

Approximately 110 Soldiers from the Fredericksburg-based Headquarters Company, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th IBCT and Company D, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT and the Winchester-based Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT conducted reconnaissance patrols in the area around the Fredericksburg readiness center to check route trafficability, assess damage and provide information about cooling shelters to citizens. About 30 Soldiers from Company D, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment also conducted reconnaissance patrols in the Lexington area.

The Virginia Defense Force brought 24 personnel on state active duty and deployed Incident Management Assistant Teams to Fredericksburg, Lexington and Bedford and also had IMATs at the Virginia Emergency Operations Center in Midlothian and the Virginia Guard Joint Operations Center in Sandston to help mission commanders with reporting, information tracking and maintaining situational awareness.

Units began the alert notification June 30, and all personnel were staged and ready to begin operations by early morning July 1. The majority of personnel came off duty July 3, with the final group operating in Bedford coming off duty July 4.

“The units were well-prepared, understand our intent and had gone through all the proper procedures to make sure they could execute the missions effectively and safely,” Long said. He visited personnel operating in Lexington, Fredericksburg and Bedford and assessed morale to be extremely high. “Our Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force were happy to be there and provide support as needed.”

View photos on Flickr:

Va. Soldiers assist with water and ice distribution in Bedford
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157630393371518/

Va. Guard Soldiers conduct recon patrols to assess storm impact
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157630389595448/

Fredericksburg-based Va. Guard Soldiers prep for possible post-storm recovery operations
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157630362517588/