VNG among public safety organizations recognized on Virginia Responders Day in Virginia

A Virginia National Guard Soldier assigned to the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion transports a Hampton Police officer on a route assessment to identify road hazards cause by high water in the wake of Hurricane Matthew Oct. 9, 2016, in Hampton, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia National Guard is among the organizations recognized by Virginia House Resolution 646 designating September 11, 2019, as First Responders Day in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The resolution calls for the designation to continue each succeeding year.

“It is a tremendous honor to have the Virginia National Guard among the public safety agencies recognized on First Responders Day in Virginia, and we are humbled to have the service of VNG Soldiers and Airmen and Virginia Defense Force personnel acknowledged along with law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, rescue pilots and divers, search and rescue teams and others who work in the public safety sector,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Just a few days ago we were staged and ready to support first responders if Hurricane Dorian impacted Virginia, and we train throughout the year with our state and local partners to make sure we can rapidly provide the capabilities they request to help the citizens of the commonwealth during times of need. We offer a very sincere thank you to all the full time and volunteer public safety professionals for their dedication and commitment to protecting their fellow Virginians.”

Read more about past VNG hurricane responses at http://go.usa.gov/xVKVZ.

The VNG is a unique dual-status force with a federal mission to provide a combat reserve for the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force to fight our nation’s wars and a state mission to provide a response force that answers the call of the governor to defend the commonwealth.

During domestic operations, the VNG receives missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist the Virginia State Police and other state and local emergency service organizations as part of the state emergency response team. As the commander in chief of the Virginia National Guard, the Governor of Virginia authorizes VNG personnel and equipment to mobilize for emergency response operations.

Since 2001, the VNG has mobilized more than 13,600 Soldiers, Airmen and members of the VDF on state active duty to respond to hurricanes, winter storms, flooding and other severe weather events across the commonwealth as well as in neighboring states, Louisiana and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The VNG also mobilized personnel for security operations in Charlottesville in August 2017 and 2018.

Virginia National Guard aviators andChesterfield County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Scuba Rescue Team member conduct final pre-mission checks Sept. 22, 2018, in Chesterfield County, Virginia. before departing for South Carolina. (U.S. National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

One of the strongest ongoing partnerships between the VNG and local first responders is the Virginia Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team. VNG aviation crews assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division and Chesterfield County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Scuba Rescue Team members form the HART to provide rotary wing aviation rescue hoist capabilities for aerial rescue evacuation in situations where there is potential loss of life, limb or eyesight or significant property damage. The HART deployed to South Carolina in September 2018 to assist with Hurricane Florence response and to Texas in September 2017 to assist the Texas National Guard with response to Hurricane Harvey.

The HART trains at least once a quarter to ensure they are able to respond if needed. Photos from their most recent training are available at the link below:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/albums/72157709173891803

According to a news release from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs HJ 646 was introduced during the 2019 Session of the Virginia General Assembly by Delegate Michael P. Mullin (D-Newport News), and establishes September 11 as the day to remember and recognize first responders in Virginia, according to the resolution, “…for their courage and dedication to protect and aid the public during emergencies as both professional and volunteer first responders.”

In the resolution, first responders are listed as 911 dispatchers, law-enforcement officers, professional and volunteer firefighters, professional and volunteer emergency medical services personnel, emergency management professionals, search and rescue teams, rescue pilots and divers, the Virginia National Guard, and members of other organizations in the public safety sector.

The Virginia Department of Fire Programs offered a number of recommendations for recognizing First Responders Day in Virginia including observing a moment of silence for the victims and first responders who perished in September 11, 2001 at the Pentagon and New York City and saying “thank you” to first responders with cards and letters.

The also recommended promoting on social media using the hashtag #VAFirstResponderDay.

The full text of HJ 646 is copied below.

HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 646
https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?191+ful+HJ646ER+pdf

Designating September 11, in 2019 and in each succeeding year, as First Responders Day in Virginia.
Agreed to by the House of Delegates, February 4, 2019
Agreed to by the Senate, February 20, 2019

WHEREAS, throughout the Commonwealth, courageous and dedicated men and women work to protect and aid the public during emergencies as both professional and volunteer first responders; and

WHEREAS, first responders include 911 dispatchers, law-enforcement officers, professional and volunteer firefighters, professional and volunteer emergency medical services personnel, emergency management professionals, search and rescue teams, rescue pilots and divers, the Virginia National Guard, and members of other organizations in the public safety sector; and

WHEREAS, every day, first responders risk their own safety in the performance of their duties to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth; and

WHEREAS, first responders are the first and best defense against all emergencies that threaten Virginia communities; and

WHEREAS, first responders are ready to aid the people of Virginia 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of inclement weather or other hazards; and

WHEREAS, first responders are highly trained, specialized workers who contribute their excellent skills for the public good; and

WHEREAS, the members of first responder organizations undergo extensive education and training and make significant personal sacrifices in order to achieve the expertise required to respond to emergency situations; and

WHEREAS, in addition to maintaining safety and order in times of crisis, many first responders in Virginia also enhance their communities as volunteers for service organizations, churches, and schools; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the General Assembly designate September 11, in 2019 and in each succeeding year, as First Responders Day in Virginia; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates transmit copies of this resolution to the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, the Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads, Inc., the Virginia Association of Governmental EMS Administrators, the EMS Regional Directors Group, the Virginia Ambulance Association, International Association of Arson Investigators – Virginia Chapter, the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association, the Virginia State Firefighters Association, Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia Emergency Management Association, and the Virginia National Guard so that first responders in the Commonwealth may be apprised of the sense of the General Assembly of Virginia in this matter; and, be it

RESOLVED FINALLY, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates post the designation of this day on the General Assembly’s website.