Va. Guard provides mobility assistance during winter storm

Virginia National Guard Soldiers escorted or transported first responders on more than 200 emergency calls over a six-day period in support of winter storm response operations. (Photo by 2nd Lt. (Va.) Jay Haas, Virginia Defense Force Public Information Detachment)

Virginia National Guard Soldiers escorted or transported first responders on more than 200 emergency calls over a six-day period in support of winter storm response operations. (Photo by 2nd Lt. (Va.) Jay Haas, Virginia Defense Force Public Information Detachment)

SANDSTON, Va. — The Virginia National Guard returned to routine operations Jan. 27, 2016, after having more than 400 Soldiers on state active duty supporting Virginia State Police and local first responders as they assisted citizens after a historic snowfall blanketed the commonwealth.

“Across the board, everyone performed magnificently,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Working so closely with the Virginia State Police and local government emergency response officials under the guidance of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management has proven to be very effective. We also have a great team of Soldiers, Airmen and Virginia Defense Force members providing the necessary mission command, administrative and logistical support to make sure we have the right capability, in the right place, at the right time to get the job done. We also owe a special thank you to our families and employers for their critical support.”

Using Humvees and medium tactical trucks, Soldiers provided mobility support to help VSP troopers, emergency medical and fire rescue personnel reach citizens requiring assistance. The Guard transported citizens in need of medical attention, transported VSP troopers to vehicle crash sites and used vehicles to break paths through the deep snow to clear the way for emergency vehicles.

Over a six-day period, Guard Soldiers drove more than 34,000 miles in 152 vehicles with no serious accident or incidents. They conducted more than 200 response calls in support of 46 missions from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management including escorting or transporting 134 law enforcement, emergency medical and fire rescue personnel to emergency locations as well as transporting 27 essential medical and support personnel to their place of work.
“The Virginia State Police is fortunate to have the National Guard as an additional resource to aid us in our storm response efforts,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “When every second counts in an emergency situation, having the ability to respond as swiftly and safely as possible is essential for our troopers.”

Guard Soldiers also provided mobility support law enforcement personnel for non-emergency situations, transported essential medical supplies, towed fire trucks stuck in the snow and conducted health and welfare checks.

The Virginia National Guard also had more than 100 Soldiers, Airmen, members of the Virginia Defense Force as well as state and federal civilians on duty in Richmond, Sandston and Fort Pickett who provided mission command, resource management, administrative, finance and logistical support for the overall mission.
The Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team provided mission command for the response operations in the field, and Soldiers from the Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group and Bowling Green-based 91st Troop Command were also duty providing support. Soldiers deployed along the I-81 corridor between Lexington and Winchester, along the Route 29 corridor from Warrenton to Danville, as well as in the areas near Northern Virginia, Richmond, Fredericksburg and Gate City.

Governor Terry McAuliffe authorized up to 500 personnel for state active duty in his initial emergency declaration, and then he increased that to 700. The early declaration helped get Guard forces in place before the severe weather hit so they could rapidly respond when needed.

“It’s really rewarding and great to see the other side of the curtain,” said Spc. Casey Miller, a Soldier assigned to Company B, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “This is what we signed up to do in the Guard and it’s great to be able to do that.”