Week-long exercise tests Virginia Guard’s ability to respond on multiple levels

More than 300 Virginia National Guard personnel took part in a week-long command post exercise July 23-27 to test the organization's ability to respond to planned and no-notice events, (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. — More than 300 members of the Virginia Department of Military Affairs from throughout the state tested the organization’s ability to respond to several simultaneous events during Commonwealth Guardian, a week-long command post exercise July 23-27.

“The purpose was to exercise the DMA’s response to a ‘noticed’ event and a ‘no-notice’ event,” said Col. Paul Griffin, director of the joint staff. “In the exercise we wanted to identify gaps in our processes and procedures so we can in turn fix the gaps.”

When the Virginia Guard supports a noticed event, months of planning takes place to make sure the Guard is ready to provide the required support. A no-notice event requires the Guard to be able to rapidly respond to unknown circumstances to provide support wherever it is needed in Virginia.

The no-notice event part of the exercise included a winter snow storm that hit the Southwest portion of the state. So in the scenario, while DMA was busy supporting Virginians for a scheduled event, they also had to plan for and call up other units for state active duty in response to the winter storm.“Exercises are important because as an organization we learn,” Griffin said. “At times exercises can be frustrating and stressful, but it is a necessary evil. It assists us in improving individuals’ knowledge and understanding of DSCA (Defense Support to Civil Authorities) operations.”

While the bulk of the personnel participating in the exercise were from Joint Force Headquarters and were based at the Joint Operations Center in Sandston, other members of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard and Virginia Defense Force took part at Fort Pickett and at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management headquarters in Richmond. The 29th Infantry Division Headquarters had command and control of the “white cell” at Fort Pickett, which involved role players from each service and from major subordinate commands.

“I was very pleased with the exercise, and it did everything we wanted,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. “There was a lot of good learning going on, and we have identified the gaps that we need to fix in the coming months.”

As part of the exercise scenario, Soldiers from the Blackstone-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute deployed one of their three remote reception teams in support of Joint Reception, Staging, Onward movement and Integration (RSOI) training July 24 to Front Royal. During the training the 183rd welcomed West Virginia’s Saint Albans-based 35th Civil Support Team.

“The conduct of the exercise went extremely well,” Griffin said. “It was of a Warfighter Exercise quality. We did find gaps in our plans and procedures, but the Virginia Guard and DMA as a whole performed extremely well. “

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