RICHMOND, Va. – Approximately 30 Virginia National Guard Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force came together Jan. 21, 2015, outside of the General Assembly Building in Richmond, Va., to display some of their domestic response capabilities and equipment. The event aimed to educate Virginia senators and delegates on the unique capabilities and support the Guard can provide the commonwealth during a disaster.
“Only one quarter of the General Assembly have served in the uniform of our country and can call themselves veterans,” said Delegate Richard Anderson, co-chair of the Virginia General Assembly Military and Veterans Caucus. “It’s important that all Guardsmen convey to elected officials a sense that their Guard is ready, willing and able to deploy and prevail at a moment’s notice.”
Among those providing displays were Soldiers and Airmen from the Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package, the 34th Civil Support Team and the Virginia Guard’s Counterdrug Program, members of the Virginia Defense Force and Airmen from the 192nd Intelligence Squadron and the 200th Weather Flight. Soldiers and Airmen, along with the Virginia Defense Force members, each brought specialized equipment to the event, to better show Virginia legislators how they do their jobs.
“Taking time to ensure that we have some aspects of the Virginia National Guard’s capabilities demonstrated is tremendously important to help members of the General Assembly gain a better appreciation for the professionalism and abilities of our Soldiers, Airmen and VDF personnel,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team also donned protective equipment to further illustrate the way Soldiers assist in their communities during state active duty. One Soldier donned protective equipment, to include a bright orange pair of protective pants, required for wear during chainsaw use. Virginia Soldiers have been called upon to assist first responders in clearing roadways in the aftermath of recent hurricanes or snowstorms. The other Soldier wore riot response equipment, to display how Guard Soldiers might be called upon to assist during times of civil unrest.
“Talking face-to-face helps put that face of the Guard out there so people can see us,” explained Maj. John Monihan, Virginia Guard deputy direction of operations and the officer-in-charge of the Virginia Guard personnel participating in the event. “They see the uniform, but they don’t always distinguish us from the active component, but when we talk to them, they realize we’re a state asset, that we’re hear to help support the state.”
In addition to the display outside the General Assembly, Williams hosted a reception for members of the General Assembly that morning, while the Virginia Guard Officer’s Association and Virginia Guard Enlisted Association hosted a legislative reception that evening at the Library of Virginia in Richmond, Va.
“Thank you for what you do for Virginia,” said Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, speaking at the legislative reception. “You have a tremendously important mission, you do your mission well and make Virginia proud.”
Northam said that he and his fellow legislators rely on the Guard and the rest of the U. S. military for defending the freedom of speech that is so important to the political process.
“The reason we are able to have these discussions and say what we believe in is because we live in a free society,” he said. “The reason we can do that is because of men and women like you who wear the uniform and defend our freedom.”
He commended the Virginia National Guard for their operations here in Virginia and all over the world.
“It is honorable what the Virginia Guard does,” he said. “A lot people think that you just do things here in Virginia, but you are all over the world protecting our freedoms in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. You also took care of us during the snowstorms last year, making it better and safe for your fellow Virginians.”
In both the Virginia House and Senate, Soldiers, Airmen and VDF members were recognized for their service.
“Each of these members of the Virginia Guard family has made significant contributions to Commonwealth and country. They have earned the respect and admiration of the General Assembly, and it’s incumbent on us to assure our Guardsmen that we stand with them in the things the nation may call them to do,” said Anderson.
The Virginia National Guard has both a federal and state mission. Virginia Guard Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Defense Force conducted a variety of domestic operations missions in recent years, including supporting Governor Terry McAuliffe’s inauguration, assisting with water sampling in West Virginia following a chemical spill, assisting citizens of the commonwealth during heavy snow and hazardous road conditions, assisting with the search effort after an F-15 fighter crashed and demolishing derelict structures in Petersburg.
The Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Program places Guardsmen in support of law enforcement agencies with criminal analysts, ion scanning for drug residue on currency and aviation support. The Program also provides prevention, treatment and outreach services to Guardsmen and family members and manages the Joint Substance Abuse Program for drug testing.
The Fort Pickett-based 34th CST is comprised of 22 full-time Army and Air National Guard personnel with the mission to support civil authorities at a domestic CBRNE incident site with identification and assessment of hazards, advice to civil authorities, and facilitating the arrival of follow-on military forces during emergencies and incidents of weapons of mass destruction terrorism. The unit complements and enhances, but does not duplicate, state CBRNE response capabilities is divided into six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical/analytical and survey.
The CERFP can conduct tasks associated with incident management, search and rescue, mass decontamination, medical triage and treatment and fatality search and recovery. The force is made up of traditional Soldiers and Airmen from units based in Petersburg, West Point, Rocky Mount and Langley Air Force Base as well as the D.C. National Guard.
During domestic operations, Airmen from the 192nd Intelligence Squadron use full motion video from fixed and rotary wing platforms to provide incident awareness and assessment. The 192nd IS also provides systems interoperability for emergency managers and first responders to enable effective communication across agencies and jurisdictions. IAA synchronizes and integrates the planning and execution of various information capabilities which provide situational awareness and assessment to civil authorities in support of domestic operations.
The 200th Weather Flight provides tailored tactical combat-environment weather observing and forecasting support to the Army National Guard’s 29th Infantry Division and to the Adjutant General of Virginia and Joint Staff during hazardous weather situation in the commonwealth. With the assistance of the 200th Weather Flight, the Virginia Guard is able to anticipate the impact of hazardous weather and help determine the most effective employment locations for Virginia Guard personnel.
The VDF is an all-volunteer state military force authorized by the Code of Virginia and organized under the Virginia Department of Military Affairs reporting to the Adjutant General of Virginia. The organization capitalizes on the civilian skills and expertise of it members and trains to augment the Virginia Guard at command and control operations centers and provide liaison teams for incident management assistance as well as communications and security augmentation.
With additional reporting by Mr. Cotton Puryear.