VDF augments Virginia National Guard support for Hurricane Florence

Members of the Virginia Defense Force provide incident management assistance during the Virginia National Guard’s response to Hurricane Florence Sept. 12, 2018, in Richmond, Virginia. (Virginia Defense Force photo by Lt. Col. (Va.) Cotton Puryear)

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Defense Force brought nearly 50 personnel on state active duty to assist the Virginia National Guard with the statewide response to Hurricane Florence Sept. 9-18, 2018. VDF personnel provided multiple capabilities including interoperable communications, operations center augmentation, operations center liaison, incident management assistance, state-managed shelter logistics and public information.

“The responsiveness of VDF personnel to the call to state active duty was impressive,” said Lt. Col. (Va.) D.J. Thornley, VDF operations officer. “We had 100% response within 24 hours, our personnel eagerly responded to their duty assignments. They showed themselves equal to the often technical requirements and long hours their assignments required, and they conducted themselves in a high professional manner. I think we clearly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of helping our fellow Virginians in a time of need.”

In the Virginia Emergency Operations Center, VDF personnel assisted with processing requests for support in Emergency Support Function 16, the VNG’s response cell in the VEOC. Incident management assistance teams helped with mission tracking in the Guard’s Joint Operations Center and other unit locations across the state, and VDF personnel operated a mobile communications platform 24 hours a day leading up to the storm. and helped with public information support as well as providing interoperable communications and incident management assistance to units in the field.

The VDF MCP is a 7 1/2 feet by 16 feet trailer equipped with multiple radio systems for voice and data communications, and it also features a map board and work space so it can function as a mobile command post. Using an MCP, members of the VDF are able to communicate across a variety of radio spectrums with emergency response and public safety organizations as well as amateur radio operators.

The VDF is authorized by Title 44 of the Code of the Virginia as the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard, and it serves as a force multiplier integrated into all Guard domestic operations. The VDF reports to the Adjutant General of Virginia as part of the Virginia Department of Military Affairs along with the Virginia Army National Guard and Virginia Air National Guard. Members of the VDF volunteer their time for training and are only paid when called to state active duty by an authorization from the Governor of Virginia.

During domestic operations, the Virginia National Guard receives missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist the Virginia State Police and other state and local emergency service organizations as part of the state emergency response team.

In the last two years, members of the VDF also volunteered in their communities assisting organizers and law enforcement at events like the Virginia War Memorial during Veterans Day and Memorial Day, the Winchester Apple Blossom Festival, the Lynchburg Air Show and the World War II Commemoration in Richmond.