Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to Serve on Southwest Border

RICHMOND, Va. – Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, announced that Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia National Guard have volunteered to serve on the Southwest Border in support of Operation Jump Start. Newman said that approximately 350 Soldiers and Airmen from the Commonwealth volunteered to serve on a Virginia National Guard task force that will be supporting the United States Customs and Border Protection in Arizona. He said that Operation Jump Start is a National Guard mission to support federal law enforcement. Newman went on to say that the volunteers will begin entering duty around June 30, 2006.

According to Newman the mission for the Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia is to alert, marshal, train, deploy, and support a Joint Task Force, or JTF, made up of volunteer Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia National Guard. Once that JTF arrives in Arizona it will support Operation Jumpstart and operate under the control of the Governor of Arizona.

Newman said initially the plan was to have Virginia National Guard Soldiers deploy in support of Operation Jump Start after the hurricane season, which ends Nov. 1, but this opportunity for volunteers came up. He said that the call went out across the Commonwealth seeking Soldiers and Airmen to support this requirement. In the strongest tradition of the Virginia National Guard; Soldiers and Airmen came forward willing take this mission on.

Newman stated the Virginia National Guard will remain capable of meeting the potential challenges of the upcoming hurricane season even with these Soldiers deployed on the Southwest Border. He said when Hurricane Isabel struck in September 2003 approximately 2,000 Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia National Guard were deployed in support of their federal mission and Gov. Mark Warner was able to summon 1,100 Soldiers and Airmen to state active duty in support of hurricane recovery operations. Newman noted that these volunteers could be recalled to Virginia in the event an emergency strikes the Commonwealth while they are serving in Arizona.

Newman said there are approximately 475 Soldiers and Airmen deployed overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom with another 488 Soldiers preparing to deploy in support of the NATO Kosovo Force, or KFOR, mission in the Balkans.

Col. Robert Simpson, Director of the Joint Staff of the Virginia National Guard, said the Soldiers and Airmen will come from units throughout Virginia. Simpson said “About one third of the volunteers will begin entering duty at their home stations on June 30 where they will complete preliminary processing requirements and then travel to Fort Pickett. There they will complete various administrative and training tasks in preparation for this mission.”

Simpson went on to say when the volunteer Soldiers and Airmen arrive in Arizona they will receive an orientation and specific mission training from the Customs and Border Protection Service. He said that as a result of their previous military training the volunteers have the basic skill sets necessary to successfully accomplish this mission. The Soldiers and Airmen are currently scheduled to arrive in Tucson where they will be received by representatives of the Arizona National Guard.

Lt. Col. Thomas Morgan, the Virginia National Guard Director of Military Support, said current planning provides for the volunteers to report for duty on June 30, July 15, and July 25 and “a phased deployment by group ending with all forces in Arizona by July 30.”  Morgan also pointed out while Soldiers and Airmen will take their individual equipment with them, unit equipment such as vehicles will remain in Virginia.