Virginia National Guard returning to routine operations after winter storm

LogoSANDSTON, Va. — The Virginia National Guard is returning to routine operations after staging personnel at readiness centers across the state for possible winter storm response operations, and senior leaders expect most personnel to be released from state active duty by end of the day Feb, 17, 2015.

“I am extremely proud of how quickly and safely our personnel mobilized for state active duty and were ready to go by the time we established,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We realize that it isn’t easy for them to leave their families and their jobs to answer the call of duty, but I hope they realize how important it is that we were staged and ready in case we were needed.”

More than 125 Virginia National Guard personnel were on standby for possible missions across the commonwealth Tuesday morning, Feb. 17, 2015. After Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Monday afternoon, Guard personnel begin moving into place and were staged and ready late Monday evening in order to support Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation or other state and local emergency response organizations.

The majority of the personnel were Soldiers from various units of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and there were Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force located at the Virginia National Guard’s Joint Operations Center in Sandston and Logistics Operations Center at Fort Pickett. Soldiers were staged at readiness centers along the I-81 corridor from Winchester to Christiansburg as well as in Leesburg, Fredericksburg, Bowling Green, Danville, South Boston and Farmville.

The Guard was authorized to bring up to 300 personnel on state active duty by the governor’s declaration.

Soldiers were organized into high mobility and debris reduction teams driving in Humvees and equipped with chain saws. Potential missions for the Virginia Guard include assisting stranded motorists, transportation of healthcare professionals and the seriously ill to medical treatment facilities, transportation of personnel or equipment to potential heating or sheltering locations and downed tree removal, said Col. James Zollar, director of joint operations for the Virginia Guard.

While the Soldiers in the field didn’t receive any official mission taskings, the response operation was still a valuable experience for the Virginia Guard at all levels, Williams said.

“We are fortunate that the weather impact was not as severe as predicted, and the Virginia State Police and Virginia Department of Transportation had a good handle on the situation and didn’t need us,” Williams said. “Every time we go through the process of putting people on duty and conducting movement to staging locations we learn something new. Now we must take those lessons learned and apply them so we are better the next time around.”