VDF tackles training objectives during March assembly at Fort Pickett

New members of the Virginia Defense Force conduct initial entry training March 29, 2014, at Fort Pickett. The training gives new, non-prior military members of the VDF a taste of the military, including an introduction to drill and ceremony, wear of the uniform, customs and courtesies, the history of the VDF, and how to conduct basic missions. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

New members of the Virginia Defense Force conduct initial entry training March 29, 2014, at Fort Pickett. The training gives new, non-prior military members of the VDF a taste of the military, including an introduction to drill and ceremony, wear of the uniform, customs and courtesies, the history of the VDF, and how to conduct basic missions. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — More than 160 members of the Virginia Defense Force gathered at Fort Pickett March 29-30, 2014, for a division-directed unit training assembly. Among the activities on the schedule were initial entry training for new members of the VDF, state managed shelter logistics training, an instructor development course, a meeting of operations staffs, and a senior leaders meeting with Maj. Gen. John D. Taylor, the commander of the VDF.

Maj. Gen. John D. Taylor, the commander of the Virginia Defense Force, meets with senior leaders of the VDF March 29, 2014, at Fort Pickett. In addition to the senior leaders meeting, more than 160 VDF personnel gathered March 29-30 at Fort Pickett for initial entry training, an instructor development course, a meeting of operations staffs, and state managed shelter logistics training. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Maj. Gen. John D. Taylor, the commander of the Virginia Defense Force, meets with senior leaders of the VDF March 29, 2014, at Fort Pickett. In addition to the senior leaders meeting, more than 160 VDF personnel gathered March 29-30 at Fort Pickett for initial entry training, an instructor development course, a meeting of operations staffs, and state managed shelter logistics training. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The VDF conducts division-directed training assemblies every six months, according to Col. Gary Butler, VDF director of operations.“Our focus right now is on training people to support the DSCA (Defense Support to Civil Authorities) playbook,” Butler said. Another division-directed assembly is scheduled for September at Fort Pickett. “The September unit training assembly will be oriented to specialized training.”In the event of a natural or man-made disaster which requires the housing of a large number of people, the VDF will provide trained shelter support specialists for state-managed shelter operations to the Virginia Department of Social Services to assist with planning and shelter operations as well as logistics coordination.“The SMSLT training is the result of three years of working with other offices to develop skill sets required to do that mission,” Butler said. “I think this is an interesting addition to what we do and it’s become an important part of what we do.”

“We’re glad to get this mission,” said Maj. Ed Glass, the executive officer of the 4th Regiment in Lynchburg. His regiment has two possible shelters in their area of operations- one at Longwood University and one at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville. “We’re happy for the opportunity and we’ll be better prepared to conduct that mission after this training.”

In the senior leaders meeting, Taylor met with all of the regimental commanders, executive officers and command sergeants major to discuss important issues and address any questions and concerns.

Butler also oversaw a conference for VDF operations officers during the weekend. It covered the SMSLT training, short term and long term planning for the VDF, and updates to the DSCA playbook.

Members of the Virginia Defense Force conduct training on state managed shelter logistics March 29, 2014, at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Members of the Virginia Defense Force conduct training on state managed shelter logistics March 29, 2014, at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Meanwhile, just down the hall, new VDF members were conducting initial entry training. This included training on drill and ceremony, land navigation, proper wear of the uniform, military customs and courtesies, and the history of the VDF and how it fits into the Department of Military Affairs.New VDF members must undergo 24 hours of training, according to Lt. Col. Stewart Bentley, the VDF director of training. They conducted 16 hours of training at Fort Pickett and were slated to complete the other eight hours at their home stations.“This gives the non-prior military a taste of the military,” Bentley said. “It teaches them about basic missions and what to expect when they go on state active duty.”

In addition, each new member went through medical screening to ensure they are medically fit to go on state active duty when the need arises.

Photos: VDF conducts a full weekend of training at Fort Pickett