VNG balanced demands of state, federal missions in 2019

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia National Guard 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. VNG personnel effectively managed the demands on both missions in 2019 and improved readiness in one of the busiest training years in recent memory.

“As we look back on 2019, we can see it was another incredibly busy year for everyone in the Virginia National Guard and the Virginia Defense Force,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Our Soldiers, Airmen, VDF members and the federal and state civilians who support them, have all been working incredibly hard to build and maintain readiness that is essential to mission success; I thank each and every one of you for the outstanding effort!”

In early 2019, the Soldiers assigned to the 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion began their mission of managing day-to-day sustainment operations throughout Iraq, Syria and Jordan, and returned home in November. Smaller VNG units providing contracting, chaplain and fixed winged aviation capabilities also mobilized for federal active duty during the year.

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and Airmen from the 1st Fighter Wing and the 192nd Wing deployed to the Central Command Area of Operations in July in order to defend American forces and interests. VNG Airmen train and fight side-by-side with active duty Air Force as part of the total force integration.

Members of the all-volunteer Virginia Defense Force took part in the statewide amateur radio emergency communications exercise in January and continued to improve the communications capabilities throughout the year. With historical roots dating back to World War I, the modern VDF was formally reestablished in 1984 and celebrated its 35th anniversary in April.

The VNG honored its World War II roots in multiple events during 2019. The newly-built Joint Force Headquarters was officially named and dedicated for D-Day veteran Sgt. John Robert “Bob” Slaughter in January. VNG Soldiers and Airmen greeted World War II veterans and acted as military escorts during a roll call honoring their service at the observation of the 75th anniversary of D-Day June 6, 2019, at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. Soldiers assigned to the 29th Infantry Division Band performed ceremonial music, and members of the VDF volunteered their time to assist local law enforcement. A group of 25 29th ID Soldiers joined more than 1,300 U.S. service members to commemorate the D-Day in France. 

VNG cyber warriors took part in multiple nation-level exercises, and Soldiers and Airmen mobilized on federal active duty to support cyber operations and conduct network defense.

More than 450 National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 29th ID from Virginia and Maryland, as well as Soldiers from seven other states came together to participate in a Warfighter exercise in late September and early October. The exercise was designed to test and formally evaluate the readiness of the division staff to operate as a forward-deployed command headquarters, and it increased the staff’s knowledge and improved its ability to integrate and synchronize intelligence and fires to enable maneuver in multi-domain operations.

Virginia and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and enabler units from Guard units in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana and New York honed their combat skills during the eXportable Combat Training Capability Rotation 19-4 in late July and early August. The 116th IBCT is a more combat-ready unit as a result of the training, and they are better prepared to face the challenges they could see in an overseas deployment.