VDF Headquarters training focuses on professionalism and readiness

Members of the Virginia Defense Force conduct function checks on communications equipment in a Mobile Command Post trailer April 28 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Approximately 150 members of the Virginia Defense Force Headquarters gathered at Fort Pickett April 27-29 for their annual spring field training exercise that focused on professional development, diversity and safety.

“The primary focus for the weekend is based on the Adjutant General’s vision of the VDF continuing to develop into a quality and professional force,” said Maj. Gen. (Va.) John Taylor, commander of the VDF.

Taylor said that training was planned at all levels from new members of the VDF receiving basic leadership training to the first-ever First Sergeant Course focused on professional development for senior noncommissioned officers. Senior officers were also taking part in staff planning and operations, and a safety officer course was also conducted.

“We have incorporated diversity training in every course that we teach,” Taylor said.

Everyone attending the training was there in a volunteer status, Taylor explained. The only time VDF members are paid is when the Governor of Virginia calls them up on state active duty as part of a Virginia National Guard response force. Taylor explained that the VDF is very similar to the volunteer firefighters and rescue squads that operate in communities across Virginia.

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.

Taylor explained that the VDF focuses its training on being able to provide pre-scripted response capabilities packages like Incident Management Assistance Teams that help provide command, control and communications support for the Guard during disasters or security packages provided by the VDF’s military police battalion.

“Every member of the VDF should be training on a response package and will be able to meet specific standards to provide a needed capability,” Taylor said.

In addition to the headquarters personnel training, all four of the VDFs Mobile Command Post trailers were consolidated at Fort Pickett to conduct maintenance and operations checks. Members of the VDF’s MP battalion also were at Pickett to conduct crowd control training for the Defense Support to Civil Authorities mission.

Members of the VDF Auxiliary were also part of the weekend’s training. During their muster, auxiliary members provided information about their civilian skills and experience that could be called upon if needed during a state response mission.

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. The VDF is organized into a headquarters with four brigades and units at 32 locations across the commonwealth.