Governor McDonnell signs proclamation declaring December as “Virginia National Guard Appreciation and Recognition Month”

Governor Bob McDonnell ceremonially signs a proclamation designating December as “Virginia National Guard Appreciation and Recognition Month” in the Commonwealth of Virginia Dec. 7, 2012, at a ceremony in Richmond. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Bob McDonnell ceremonially signed a proclamation designating December as “Virginia National Guard Appreciation and Recognition Month” in the Commonwealth of Virginia Dec. 7, 2012, at a ceremony in Richmond. Governor McDonnell was joined by Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker and Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, in recognizing members of the Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force.

“This proclamation, in a small way, recognizes the incredible sacrifice and service of the Virginia National Guard and the Virginia Defense Force,” McDonnell said. “For the first time since 9/11 all Virginia Army Guard and Air Guard units are home with their families and loved ones for the holidays. Time and time again the Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force have selflessly answered the call of service. As Commander in Chief of the Virginia National Guard, I have called on the Virginia Guard twice in 2012 for state active duty to respond to severe weather in the Commonwealth. Whether defending our freedoms abroad or securing our communities during times of natural disasters at home, these courageous individuals have demonstrated what it means to serve with honor. This holiday season, as we give thanks for our freedoms and families, we should remember these patriots.”

McDonnell personally thanked members of the Virginia Army National Guard, Air National Guard and Defense Force present for the signing.

“We recognize the Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force for their tireless sacrifice on our behalf who have demonstrated for us what true heroism looks like. These heroic individuals have successfully balanced both their state and federal missions while maintaining a high state of readiness to make sure they are able to rapidly respond when called by the Governor or the President. This holiday season is the perfect time to give thanks to these men and women and to honor them for their service,” Decker said.

“We appreciate the tremendous support Governor McDonnell and Secretary Decker give to the Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force and for recognizing our service with the proclamation,” Long said. “It is also important for us to acknowledge the dedicated service of our civilian state and federal workforce as well as the amazing support from our families and employers. Without all these groups doing their part, the Virginia Guard could not succeed. The National Guard has become a ready and reliable operational force in the last 10 years, and the challenge before us is to continue to resource the Guard so we can maintain the level of experience and readiness achieved through numerous federal deployments and state active duty missions.”

For the first time since 9/11, all Virginia Army Guard and Air Guard units are home for the holidays, though about six Soldiers and Airmen are still on federal active duty in Afghanistan and other locations around the world. Since September 11, 2001, the Virginia National Guard has successfully mobilized more than 15,000 Soldiers and Airmen for missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and other locations across the world as well as homeland defense missions in the United States.

“I appreciate the incredible work of the Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia Guard over the past year, and the professional way they have discharged the missions assigned to them,” McDonnell said. “I want to thank the men and women of the Guard and for what they have done in Virginia, in the United States and around the world. I also want to thank the Virginia Defense Force for their volunteer service and their capabilities which are a tremendous asset to the Virginia National Guard. It is an honor to serve with the great men and women of the Virginia Guard and Virginia Defense Force. I salute you for what you have done, but I know the Virginia Guard and Defense Force will no doubt be called again to to serve in harm’s way or to help their fellow citizens in their time of need. I know you will be ready to answer the call.”

As commander in chief of the Virginia National Guard, McDonnell called up the Virginia Guard twice in 2012 for state active duty to respond to severe weather in the Commonwealth. In June, the Virginia Guard and Virginia Defense Force brought more than 200 personnel on state active duty to support recovery operations after severe thunderstorms caused extensive damage and power outages across the state. Soldiers distributed water and ice in Bedford and conducted reconnaissance patrols in the Fredericksburg and Lexington areas. After Hurricane Sandy struck, the Virginia Guard assisted Virginia State Police and local emergency response organizations at numerous locations across Virginia, and at the height of operations had approximately 670 personnel on duty. During that time they transported 42 civilians to safety, conducted almost 60 reconnaissance patrols to assess damage and report on route trafficability and performed 10 debris reduction missions.

Since 2001, the Virginia National Guard has called up more than 7,300 personnel for state active duty to support state and local emergency response organizations as part of a coordinated state-wide response, as well as missions in Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Vermont.

The Virginia National Guard has been recognized as among the best in the nation in many important areas. Some of the significant accomplishments include:
– Virginia is one of 15 states to achieve all the readiness training and certification goals set by National Guard Bureau for National Guard Reaction Forces in 2011.
-The Gate City-based 1032nd Transportation Company was recognized as the National Guard Runner-up in the 2012 Philip A. Connelly Food Service Competition in the field kitchen category, and they competed for the 2013 title at Fort Pickett in October.
– The Maintenance and Operations Groups of the 192nd Fighter Wing were each selected for an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for their consistent, high-level performance and dedication to the mission.

The Virginia National Guard has made a positive impact by putting their military skills, experience and equipment to use in community service projects. This past summer, Air Guard engineers demolished derelict structures in Petersburg associated with the drug trade, Army and Air Guard engineers cleared the woods and paved roads for a Civil War park in Stafford County, and Army Guard engineers prepared the second phase of a bike and pedestrian trail in Richmond.

The Virginia Defense Force is the all-volunteer reserve force for the Virginia National Guard. During state active duty missions, members of the VDF work side-by-side with Army and Air Guard personnel providing a variety of different capabilities including mission command support, communications interoperability and sheltering management support.

In the last 10 years, the National Guard has become an operational force, as opposed to being a strategic reserve before 9/11. The Virginia National Guard has successfully balanced both their state and federal missions and maintains a high state of readiness to make sure they are able to rapidly respond when called by the Governor or the President.

Text of the proclamation can be found below and online at http://www.governor.virginia.gov/OurCommonwealth/Proclamations/viewproc.cfm?id=233.

VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD
APPRECIATION AND RECOGNITION MONTH

WHEREAS, the National Guard is the oldest component of the Armed Forces of the United States, and the Virginia National Guard traces the traditions of the selfless service to the founding of the Jamestown Colony in 1607; and

WHEREAS, for the first time in 10 years, all Virginia Guard units are home for the holidays with the Staunton-based 116th Brigade Combat Team Headquarters, Hampton-based Provincial Reconstruction Team Security Force Platoon, and approximately 30 Soldiers from the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division returning from Afghanistan this year; and

WHEREAS, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, more than 15,000 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have served on active duty in support of Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn, helping to maintain security in the United States and further the cause of freedom around the world; and

WHEREAS, this year alone the Virginia Guard activated more than 200 personnel to support recovery operations in the wake of severe thunderstorms in late June, and nearly 670 personnel supported Hurricane Sandy recovery operation in late October where they transported 42 civilians to safety, conducted almost 60 reconnaissance patrols; and

WHEREAS, since 2001, more than 7,300 Virginia Guard personnel have responded to fires, floods, hurricanes, snow storms and other natural disasters assisting citizens of the Commonwealth as well other states in their time of need; and

WHEREAS, the Maintenance and Operations Groups of the 192nd Fighter Wing were selected for an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for consistent, high-level performance and dedication to the mission; and

WHEREAS, the Gate City-based 1032nd Transportation Company was recognized as the National Guard Runner-up in the 2012 Philip A. Connelly Competition for food service excellence; and

WHEREAS, Virginia Army and Air Guard engineers from the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion and 203rd RED HORSE Squadron supported community service projects in Richmond and Stafford County, and Airmen from the 203rd also supported the City of Petersburg by removing derelict structures associated with the drug trade; and

WHEREAS, the all-volunteer Virginia Defense Force continues to be integrated into every major operation conducted by Virginia Guard and embodies the spirit of selfless service; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia Guard could not perform its mission without the support of our civilian workforce, families, employers and community; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia National Guard is recognized as one of the best in the nation in many critical areas and provides a relevant and rapidly responding force that deploys as directed by the Governor to assist state and local authorities;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert F. McDonnell do hereby recognize December 2012 as VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD APPRECIATION AND RECOGNITION MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.

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Additional information:

Photos: Governor and First Lady thank Virginia Guard personnel for their service — Sept. 11, 2012
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157631513392534/

Communications teams keep units talking during state active duty – Nov. 27, 2012
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2012/11/27/2567/

Virginia Guard completes Hurricane Sandy response operations – Nov. 1, 2012
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2012/11/01/2431/

Virginia Transportation Company competes in national food competition – Nov. 6, 2012
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2012/11/06/2462/

Virginia Air National Guard engineers demolish derelict structures in Petersburg – Sept. 5, 2012
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2012/09/05/2029/

Army and Air Guard engineers improve communities with service projects – Aug. 16, 2012
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2012/08/16/2020/

Virginia National Guard personnel assist in the wake of severe thunderstorms – July 11, 2012
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2012/07/11/1588/

Outstanding Unit Award recognizes 192nd Fighter Wing Maintenance and Operations Groups – Jan. 27, 2012
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2012/01/27/46/

Virginia Guard reaction force one of 15 states to achieve readiness goals – Dec. 2, 2011
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/dec11/NGRF.html