Multi-state National Guard team assisting with U.S. Virgin Islands recovery

Virginia National Guard Soldiers operate a point of distribution Sept. 30, 2017, at St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Scott Campbell)

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands – Almost 2,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are conducting recovery operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, focusing on providing much-needed supplies to citizens and assisting local authorities with security after hurricanes battered the region.

The Virginia National Guard’s Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team serves as the mission command headquarters for Joint Task Force Stonewall, a multi-state, multi-service team providing a variety of capabilities to support the U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard and territory leadership. They are also coordinating with the more than 250 active duty military personnel assisting with recovery operations as well as civilian responders.

“We are making steady progress,” said Col. Scott Smith, the JTF Stonewall commander. “Our Soldiers and Airmen, a composite group from 28 different states and the District of Columbia, are integrated into all aspects of recovery operations to include delivery of commodities at points of distribution, traffic control, security operations, airfield operations and communications support to critical infrastructure sites with the U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard, FEMA and other territorial and federal agencies. We were welcomed with open arms by our gracious hosts from the Virgin Islands National Guard, and I am so proud of our Soldiers and Airmen who answered the call of duty to help our fellow citizens.”

Virginia National Guard Soldiers are assisting with the operation of sixteen points of distribution across St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, and they are also assisting local law enforcement with traffic control points and running the operations center for JTF Stonewall. Aviation crews from the Tennessee, Montana and Vermont National Guard are providing helicopter transport for personnel and equipment as well medical evacuation. Military police personnel from the Tennessee, New York and Kentucky National Guard are assisting with security, engineers from the Ohio National Guard are conducting route clearance and logisticians from the Ohio and Mississippi National Guard are coordinating resupply efforts for citizens as well as military personnel. Signal personnel from the Maine, Ohio, Utah, Vermont and New York National Guard are operating satellite systems providing critical communications capabilities.

Since Sept. 27, points of distribution have supplied more than 18,500 cases of water, 217,300 meals and 3,600 tarps.

“It’s all pretty impressive,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Henry Motley referring to everything the task force has accomplished in just a few days. “They’re dedicated to this mission and the resiliency and determination shown by the U.S. Virgin Islands Soldiers and Airmen is simply inspiring. They’ve taken a beating from two hurricanes and their still fighting back to help their neighbors!”

Approximately 120 Soldiers from the 116th IBCT Headquarters in Staunton are serving in the JTF Stonewall Joint Operations Center, and about 350 Soldiers from units around the state are supporting recovery operations. Soldiers assigned to 116th IBCT units stationed in Hamptons Roads, Northern Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley and the Lynchburg / Roanoke area are taking part in the mission. Soldiers from nearly every other major command in the Virginia National Guard are also providing personnel including the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division, the Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group, the Bowling Green-base 91st Cyber Brigade, the Fort Pickett-based Medical Command, the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment as well as Joint Force Headquarters-Virginia and Virginia Air National Guard.

Photos on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/albums/72157687418358303

Photos on Va. National Guard Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/VaNationalGuard/posts/10155711573838560