Virginia National Guard meets challenges of busy 2016

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 January 2016 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 is a dual-status military force with both a state and federal mission, and it effectively balanced the demands of those missions through 2016 in one of the busiest years in recent memory.

“I am incredibly proud of the dedicated service and tremendous duty performance from our entire force in 2016,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We also owe a special thanks to their families, loved ones and employers because we couldn’t perform our mission without their critical support.”

Read the Virginia National Guard’s top stories of 2016 at http://go.usa.gov/x92dA.

The National Guard’s federal mission is to provide the combat reserve forces to help fight our nation’s wars, and nearly 1,500 Soldiers and Airmen served on federal active duty in 2016. Virginia Guard units conducted a wide variety of missions including mission command, military-to-military partnership building, security and rotary wing flight operations and maintenance. Nearly 850 personnel are still serving on federal active duty in the Middle East, and they join the nearly 15,000 Soldiers and Airmen who have mobilized for homeland security missions, combat operations and peacekeeping and stabilization missions since September 11, 2001.

Maj. Gen. Blake C. Ortner, 29th Infantry Division commander, and Command Sgt. Major Ronald Smith, 29th Inf. Div. Command Sgt. Major, uncase the unit colors during a transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait Dec. 19, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Hubbard)

Maj. Gen. Blake C. Ortner, 29th Infantry Division commander, and Command Sgt. Major Ronald Smith, 29th Inf. Div. Command Sgt. Major, uncase the unit colors during a transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait Dec. 19, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Hubbard)

“This has been one of our busiest years in terms of number of people mobilized for federal active duty, and our personnel have met and exceeded every challenge,” Williams said. “In particular, I look at the great work of the Soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division as they prepared for a mobilization on very short notice, and now they are leading more than 18,000 personnel in the Middle East. That’s the largest number of people they have led since World War II, and they have a great team in place to make sure the mission is successful.”

The Guard’s state mission is to answer the call of the governor to assist citizens of the commonwealth during times of need, and more than 900 Virginia National Guard personnel served on state active duty this year in response to severe weather events as part of the state’s multi-agency team. Soldiers transported first responders through heavy snow and high water, helped get citizens to safety and used chain saws to help clear debris and open roads after tornadoes and hurricanes. Soldiers, Airmen and Virginia Defense Force troopers also assisted with mission command, logistics and public information support.

“Once again this year we demonstrated our ability to quickly respond when called by the governor after severe weather hits Virginia” Williams said. “In some cases our personnel were staged and ready to respond in less than 12 hours, and that is no easy task when you have to leave work and family. But the Guard is a critical part of the state’s response capabilities, and our personnel are dedicated to meeting the demands of the mission to help keep our fellow Virginian’s safe.”

The Virginia National Guard consistently ranks at the top in the nation in readiness indicators tracked by National Guard Bureau, and it received national recognition for renewable energy, maintenance, marksmanship and military education. It received a Secretary of the Army Energy and Water Management Award in the Renewables and Alternatives category, and the Fort Pickett-based Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site was selected for a 2015 Army Award for Maintenance Excellence in the Army National Guard Table of Distribution and Allowance Category. Virginia National Guard Soldiers took first place in the U.S. Army Service Pistol Team Championship and excelled in numerous other team and individual categories at the 2016 All-Army Small Arms Championship. The Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute was awarded “Institute of Excellence” status by U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and evaluated as full accredited.

“There are so many examples of how our uniformed personnel and state and federal workforce are exceeding the standard,” Williams said. “We are so fortunate to have such a great group of dedicated people who won’t settle and want to be the best.”

Members of the 4th Regiment, Virginia Defense Force test multiple communications systems and response capabilities Nov. 5, 2016, in Lynchburg, Virginia. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Members of the 4th Regiment, Virginia Defense Force test multiple communications systems and response capabilities Nov. 5, 2016, in Lynchburg, Virginia. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

The all-volunteer Virginia Defense Force continued to improves its capabilities and build expertise in interoperable communications. These dedicated professionals bring significant civilian expertise with them and help make sure the VDF can provide critical communications when needed, and they also a force multiplier for the Guard providing operations centers augmentation and public information support. In addition to their role assisting the Virginia National Guard, they also volunteer their time to assist in their communities.

“Our VDF troopers are great volunteers, and we have them integrated into all of our domestic operations,” Williams said. “They bring a wealth of civilian, military, law enforcement and first responder experience with them to their jobs, and we would not be able to perform our state mission so well without them.”

As all branches of the military and the civilian sector build on the cyber capabilities, the Virginia National Guard is leading the way. The Virginia Air National Guard will stand up one of four new cyber operations squadrons at Langley Air Force Base, adding to Virginia’s growing cyber capabilities. Soldiers and VDF troopers conducted more than half a dozen cyber assessments in a state active duty status for localities across the state to help them strengthen their network’s security.

“Effective cyber defense is critical to our security at the state and national level, and we are helping led the way in the development of cyber forces and capabilities,” Williams said. “We were very excited to be able to put that great expertise to work this year with our first-ever state active duty cyber assessments, and we look forward to continued partnerships with Virginia localities and helping them defend their networks.”

Senior officials from state government, the Virginia National Guard, Defense Supply Center Richmond and the Guard's construction partners break ground on the new state headquarters facility Aug. 16, 2016, at Defense Supply Center Richmond in Chesterfield County, Virginia. The 102,000 square foot facility will be built on a 13.6-acre site in the northern section of DSCR, cost approximately $30 million and construction should be completed by February 2018. It will provide workspace for the Adjutant General of Virginia, the Virginia National Guard Joint Staff and Air National Guard Staff currently located at Mullins Readiness Center in Sandston. Read more at http://go.usa.gov/xD3y5. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Senior officials from state government, the Virginia National Guard, Defense Supply Center Richmond and the Guard’s construction partners break ground on the new state headquarters facility Aug. 16, 2016, at Defense Supply Center Richmond in Chesterfield County, Virginia. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

The Virginia National Guard traces the history and traditions of Citizen Soldier and Citizen Airmen service to the founding of the Jamestown colony and celebrated its 409th birthday at Jamestown on May 14, 2016. And for the first time in its history, the Virginia National Guard will have a new facility built specifically to serve as a headquarters. The 102,000 square foot facility will be built on a 13.6-acre site in the northern section of Defense Supply Center Richmond, cost approximately $30 million and construction should be completed by February 2018. It will provide workspace for the Adjutant General of Virginia, the Virginia National Guard Joint Staff and Air National Guard Staff currently located at Mullins Readiness Center in Sandston.

Looking ahead to 2017, Williams identified readiness and growing the Virginia Guard’s force structure as two key strategic objectives.

“We all have the responsibility to ensure that we meet all individual federal mobilization requirements, including the standards for height and weight, physical fitness, and military education,” Williams said. “The Army and the Air Force are counting on us to bring our organizations up to a level that can meet any global requirement, and it is up to each of us to reach and maintain that standard.”

Williams said he would like to see the Guard’s force structure grow by 2,000 Soldiers and 1,000 Airmen.

“I may be biased, but I truly believe that our state is blessed with the best Soldiers and Airmen in the country,” Williams said. “With that in mind, I plan to advance Virginia as a key player in the National Guard. Our strategic plan includes setting the conditions to grow force structure in Virginia. Achieving this goal will take time and everyone’s hard work to remain laser-focused on meeting and exceeding all standards, effectively setting an example for the rest of the National Guard to follow.”

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