Virginia Guard participates in Capital Shield exercise

Members of the Virginia National Guard Joint Staff discuss the response to a simulated emergency response in the National Capital Region (Photo by Capt. Jenny Hartsock, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Members of the Virginia National Guard Joint Staff discuss the emergency response to a simulated incident in the National Capital Region Sept. 22, 2014, as part of Capital Shield 2015.(Photo by Capt. Jenny Hartsock, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. — Members of Virginia National Guard Joint Staff conducted a communications exercise Sept. 22, 2014, at the Joint Forces Headquarters in Sandston, Va., in conjunction with Capital Shield 2015, an emergency preparedness exercise hosted by Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region from Sept. 22-24.

Capital Shield is an exercise designed to ensure government agencies at every level are prepared to coordinate action to protect the public in the event of an actual disaster in the NCR.

This event exercised the Virginia National Guard’s response to a simulated explosion at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C., and subsequent explosions at the Washington Navy Yard and Arlington Courthouse.

In previous years, the Virginia National Guard has participated in exercises like Capital Shield with members of the D.C., West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland National Guards. Exercises allow neighboring states to synchronize their emergency preparedness plans and rehearse response scenarios geared at enhancing interagency interoperability, coordination and situational awareness.

Allowing staff to exercise that planning process and experiencing how the lines of communication would flow in a real-life scenario is critical to the success of an emergency response. Most notably, it allows the D.C. and Virginia National Guards to exercise the relationship and structure of the dual-status commander.

The dual-status commander allows a National Guard officer to serve in both a federal and state status. When a disaster occurs, both the governor and the defense secretary must agree to appoint a dual-status commander to manage the situation.

Brig. Gen. Wayne A. Wright, the Virginia National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, served as the dual-status commander, Col. Jed Hudson, of U.S. Northern Command, served as the federal, Title 10 deputy commander, and Col. James A. Zollar, the Virginia National Guard director of operations, served as the state active duty forces, Title 32 deputy commander during the exercise.

“We were able to have face-to-face discussions on the dual status concept and how the Virginia National Guard will establish and implement the dual status commander,” Wright said. “I look forward to continued interface with our U.S. Northern Command and National Capital Region partners, as well as state emergency response entities.”

“Recent training iterations have focused on the dual-status commander concept,” explained Lt. Col. Todd Peebles, Virginia National Guard deputy director of exercises and implementation. “The Virginia National Guard Joint Staff will continue to take advantage of such opportunities to partner with adjacent military headquarters in order to foster more effective working relationships.”

At the end of the exercise, both the D.C. and Virginia National Guard are more prepared to conduct National Guard civil support in response to a request for assistance from civil authorizes for domestic emergencies, law enforcement support and other domestic activities.