More than 600 Va. Guard personnel staging across Virginia to support possible Hurricane Sandy recovery operations

Soldiers from the Fredericksburg-based Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conduct chain saw refresher training Oct. 27outside the Fredericksburg readiness center. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. — Approximately 630 personnel from the Virginia National Guard will be staged and ready to respond at locations across Virginia by late afternoon Oct. 29 to assist state and local emergency response organizations conduct recovery operations related to Hurricane Sandy. Governor Bob McDonnell authorized an increase of Guard personnel to 750 on Sunday, and additional personnel have been alerted for possible duty and will be held in reserve for possible future missions.

The Virginia Army Guard and Virginia Defense Force staged more than 500 personnel on Saturday in the areas of Eastern Shore, Hampton Roads, the I-95 corridor from Richmond to Fredericksburg and into Northern Virginia, and additional personnel began staging Sunday and Monday along the I-81/I-66 corridor from Woodstock to Winchester to Leesburg.

The Guard forces are organized into multi-function response packages equipped with medium tactical trucks, Humvees and Soldiers trained and equipped as chain saw teams that are capable of performing high water transport, debris reduction and reconnaissance patrols.

The staging locations were determined in coordination with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Virginia State Police to make sure the Guard was readily available to help augment VPS efforts in those areas, explained Col. Jim Ring, Virginia National Guard director of joint operations.

Guard personnel have linked up with firefighters in the City of Norfolk to provide high water transport capability, but have not conducted any missions as of late Monday morning. Other Guard personnel are staged and ready to begin conducting missions as directed from VDEM or VSP.

Additional personnel from the Virginia Army Guard, Air Guard and VDF personnel are also on duty in Sandston at the Guard’s Joint Operations Center for mission command and sustainment support as well as Fort Pickett and the Virginia Emergency Operations Center.

House Major Leader Eric Cantor visited the Virginia National Guard Joint Operations Center Oct. 28. “Today, I had the privilege of meeting with the men and women of our Virginia National Guard for an update on the situation and to thank them for their service,” Cantor said. “I was extremely impressed with the hard work being done to coordinate with state and local agencies for potential recovery efforts and remain confident in their readiness to respond.”

Governor McDonnell visits Va. Guard and VDF personnel work at VEOC

Secretary of Public Safety visits Virginia Guard Operations Center

Congressman Cantor visits Va. Guard JOC

Va. Guard engineers conduct chain saw refresher training to prepare for Hurricane Sandy

Photos: Va. Guard engineers conduct chain saw refresher training to prepare for Hurricane Sandy