VDF conducts training muster and supports Winchester festival

Members of the Virginia Defense Force support the Apple Blossom Festival May 3, 2013, in Winchester. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Members of the Virginia Defense Force support the Apple Blossom Festival May 3, 2013, in Winchester. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — In a busy week for the Virginia Defense Force, more than 140 personnel took part in the annual training muster at Fort Pickett April 26-28, 2013, then approximately 120 members augmented local law enforcement for the Winchester Apple Blossom Festival May 3-4.

VDF members from units across the state augmented local law enforcement by operating traffic control points throughout the city and providing mission command and sustainment support out of the Virginia National Guard’s Cherry-Beasley Readiness Center for the Apple Blossom Festival. After mustering and conducting administrative inprocessing and health checks, members of the VDF were sworn in as special deputies by the Winchester Sheriff, then deployed across the city to set up TCPs to help ensure traffic flow for an event that is expected to bring tens of thousands of visitors to the Winchester area.

“Having the VDF here eliminates a whole lot of headaches for us, and we couldn’t do it without them,” said Lennie Millholland, sheriff of city of Winchester. “It they weren’t here, it would be mass chaos. I am proud of them and glad they are here to help us.”

The organization’s annual training muster at Fort Pickett is conducted to improve their proficiency in a number of different emergency response capabilities. Personnel conducted training for Incident Management Assistance Teams and Mobile Command Post operations, and new VDF personnel conducted Initial Entry Training and received diplomas April 28. In addition, of the VDF Aviation Battalion conducted simulated aerial damage assessment missions and tested air to ground communications with the MCPs.

“We have come a long way in our training,” Maj. Gen. (Va.) John Taylor, commander of the VDF. “It used to be very basic, but now we are integrating our operations at a much higher level.”

Taylor thinks that the VDF continues to make improvements every year as the organization grows and continues to focus on quality training and developing more professionalism in the organization.

“The quality has gone up, the diversity has gone up and the standards have gone up,” Taylor said. “If you don’t have high standards, you won’t ever achieve anything. We have a strong foundation to continue building for the future.”

As part of the Virginia National Guard’s overall response capability, the VDF is assigned specific response packages that can be called up on state active duty when authorized by the Governor. Two of the primary response packages for the VDF are the IMAT and MCP. IMATs deploy with National Guard mission commanders during a response operation to assist with providing communications capability and help the commander manage information and reporting requirements to Virginia Guard’s Joint Operations Center. The MCPs provide a wide variety of interoperable communications capability that are invaluable when severe weather degrades normal communication channels.

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.

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Va. Defense Force supports Apple Blossom Festival
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VDF conducts annual training muster at Fort Pickett
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Members of the Virginia Defense Force take part in the organization's annual training muster April 27, 2013, at Fort Pickett to improve their proficiency in a number of different emergency response capabilities. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office)

Members of the Virginia Defense Force take part in the organization’s annual training muster April 27, 2013, at Fort Pickett to improve their proficiency in a number of different emergency response capabilities. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office)