Virginia Guard reaction force trains with less-than-lethal munitions

Infantrymen from the Bedford-based Company A, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fire less-than-lethal munitions from an M320 40mm grenade launcher Sept. 7, 2013, during their drill weekend, held at Fort Pickett, Va.  The Soldiers of Company A are assigned to the Virginia Guard’s Incident Response Force and train regularly on the use of less-than-lethal munitions.  (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Infantrymen from the Bedford-based Company A, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fire less-than-lethal munitions from an M320 40mm grenade launcher Sept. 7, 2013, during their drill weekend, held at Fort Pickett, Va. The Soldiers of Company A are assigned to the Virginia Guard’s Incident Response Force and train regularly on the use of less-than-lethal munitions. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Soldiers from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team trained with less-than-lethal munitions at Fort Pickett Sept. 6-8, 2013, as part of their mission as the Virginia Guard’s Incident Response Force Package, or IRFP.

“The IRFP rapidly responds to events within the commonwealth of Virginia in order to provide a wide range of capabilities in support of civilian authorities, including, but not limited to, security, crowd control, access control or critical infrastructure protection,” said Lt. Col. Mike Martin, commander of the IRFP and 1st Battalion.

The IRFP is responsible for five mission critical tasks. First, the Quick Reaction Force, or QRF, is required to maintain the ability to assemble in response to a critical incident within 8 hours of said incident with 25% of the force, with the main body following within 24 hours. Second, the IRFP must be able to deploy to and from an incident site securely. Third, the force must be able to communicate to higher headquarters, as well as with local, state and federal agencies. Fourth, the IRFP must be able to provide security in various ways, including to an incident site or to critical infrastructure, through roadblocks or checkpoints or by providing security to other Virginia Guard assets, such as the Civil Support Team. Lastly, the response force is tasked with providing support to civil authorities, including local law enforcement, to assist with saving lives, protecting people and property, ensuring safety and relieving suffering.

“The Soldiers of the 1-116th understand and embrace the importance of maintaining readiness to perform this mission in support of our own commonwealth and communities,” said Martin. “We take this mission very seriously and embrace our responsibility to be trained and ready to respond at a moment’s notice to any threat facing the commonwealth.”

Virginia’s IRFP is comprised of approximately 450 Soldiers, and is the largest response force available to be utilized by the Governor of Virginia in the event of a variety of incidents, according to Martin. The Soldiers with the force are capable of providing a range of assets as needed in the event of incident including mission command, search and rescue, medical assistance, evacuation, security and supply distribution in order to maintain order within the commonwealth.

The Soldiers assigned to the IRFP are required to maintain qualification on their assigned weapon in order to preserve deployability within the IRFP, and some Soldiers are additionally required to maintain qualification on their assigned less-than-lethal weapons system.

“It’s important to have a less-than-lethal asset,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Brady, a non-lethal weapons instructor assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment. “Any time you can use other-than-lethal force is a good thing to limit injuries and loss of life.”
Many of the Soldiers spent their September drill weekend conducting familiarization training firing less-than-lethal munitions from the M320 40mm grenade launcher. The munitions fired included both sponge grenades and crowd-dispersal rounds.

“We’re trying to get a feel for them and to see what it would be like, in action, to shoot them,” said Pvt. Daniel Shores, a rifleman assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, of the M320. On firing the weapon, Shores said, “it’s an adrenaline rush.”

Along with training on various weapons systems, the Soldiers of the IRFP are also required to periodically conduct scenario-based training to practice and sharpen various additional skills required by their assignment within the IRFP, including riot control techniques.

“We’re prepared for anything that comes out way,” Shores said.

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Photos: Infantrymen conduct less-than-lethal weapons training – Sept. 7, 2013