Commander’s conference brings VDF leaders to Fort Pickett

Maj. Gen. (Va.) John Taylor, commander of the Virginia Defense Force, shares his vision for the all-volunteer organization during their annual commander's conference Feb. 4 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Leaders of the Virginia Defense Force from across the state gathered Feb. 4 at Fort Pickett for their annual commander’s conference to discuss the way ahead for the all-volunteer organization. Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, along with Senior Enlisted Leader Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Green provided an update on the Virginia National Guard as part of the morning session. Maj. Gen. (Va.) John Taylor, commander of the Virginia Defense Force, opened the conference by sharing his vision for the VDF that stressed professionalism and the importance of VDF response packages as part of the Virginia National Guard’s overall state response plan.

“We are really proud of all of you, and I am extremely pleased with the Virginia Defense Force and what you do,” Long said. “We count on you, and you are important to what we are doing.”

When the Virginia National Guard brought more than 350 personnel on state active duty to assist in the Commonwealth’s response to Hurricane Irene in late August 2011, the Virginia Defense Force was right there working side by side with the Virginia Army and Air National Guard. VDF personnel worked in the Virginia Emergency Operations Center and the Virginia Guard Joint Operations Center, and Incident Management Assistance Teams deployed forward with units prepositioned for support operations as well as provided communications capability support.

Long acknowledged that without the VDF, he would not have been able to maintain communications with personnel operating in the Eastern Shore area during the storm.

Taylor addressed the VDF leaders in front of a banner reading “Make a Difference,” and he stressed that no matter what your rank, members of the VDF could make a difference from wherever they were. He stressed to his leaders to stay positive and to “tell it like it is” to make sure they accurately reported the readiness of their units.

He reported that morale in the VDF is “great,” and emphasized the upcoming reorganization of the VDF into a civil affairs command structure. “We have to get ready for the future,” Taylor said. “If we don’t think about our future, someone else will. “

Taylor also stressed the importance of professionalism in the organization and how it was the center of gravity for the VDF. Programs like continued training in the framework of the National Incident Response System and planned officer and noncommissioned officer development courses were key elements of increasing the level of professionalism in the organization.

Setting standards was another key element to stronger professionalism in the organization, he said. “Good leaders set standards and great leaders enforce them,” Taylor said.

Command Sergeant Maj. Dennis Green, Virginia National Guard Senior Enlisted Leader, recognizes Staff Sgt. Milton Chen of Charlottesville Feb. 4 for his outstanding service in the Virginia Defense Force during the all-volunteer organization's Commander's Conference at Fort Pickett. Chen was selected as the VDF NCO of the Year for 2011. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

The VDF has been assigned specific response packages that can be called up for state active duty in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency response situation. Some of the VDF’s capabilities include augment command and control functions and providing security and communications capabilities. Over the next 12 to 24 months, the VDF will change the organizational structure to more closely resemble a civil affairs command, and Taylor said he hopes to grow the number of response packages assigned to the VDF.

Green also recognized the VDF’s NCO of the Year and Long promoted Larry Devron to colonel in the VDF. The conference concluded Feb. 5.

The VDF is an all-volunteer force authorized by the Code of Virginia and organized under the Virginia Department of Military Affairs reporting to the Adjutant General of Virginia. In 2010, the VDF donated approximately 58,850 man hours in service to the commonwealth.  Using the Virginia average of $21.45 per hour of volunteer work, this equates to $1,262,332 in support.

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