Virginia National Guard Soldiers support flood response in Tazewell County

A Virginia National Guard Soldier assigned to the 1033rd Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group wades through high water Feb. 7, 2020, while conducting health and welfare checks near Richlands, Virginia. (Contributed photo)

RICHLANDS, Va. — Tazewell County officials sent Virginia National Guard Soldiers out for health and welfare checks on citizens, and Soldiers delivered water and locally-donated food to those impacted by heavy rains and flooding in the area Feb. 7, 2020. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management directed the VNG to send Soldiers with light/medium tactical trucks for high water transportation to assist local authorities, and Soldiers were staged and ready for duty with less than 12 hours notice. 

“I am incredibly proud of how quickly and safely our Soldiers responded to the call of duty on such short notice and are ready to assist if needed,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Whether we are mobilizing a small group of Soldiers like this or staging 1,500 personnel across the commonwealth like we did for Hurricane Florence, the Virginia National Guard has shown that it can rapidly respond with the capabilities our state agency partners request. It is an honor for us to be part of the multi-agency state response ready to keep our fellow Virginians safe.”

Soldiers assigned to the 1033rd Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group conduct health and welfare checks Feb. 7, 2020, near Richlands, Virginia. (Contributed photo)

Williams also stressed the importance of support from employers and families, especially during short notice mobilizations.

“These Soldiers have full-time jobs and families, and those employers and loved ones drive on when Soldiers go on duty,” Williams said. “We couldn’t effectively conduct our mission without their support, and I can’t thank them enough for the important role they play.”

Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Feb. 6, 2020, in response to heavy rains and extreme flooding in multiple areas in Virginia. Localities in Southwest Virginia were particularly hard hit by flooding, and as the storm continued to move east across Virginia, some impacts and storm damage were reported statewide.

A state of emergency allows the commonwealth to mobilize resources and position people and equipment to assist in storm response and recovery efforts, and the VNG is assisting as part of the state’s emergency response team.

“This weather is potentially dangerous, and rivers and streams can reach flood stage hours after the rain has passed,” said Northam in a news release. “I urge all Virginians to monitor forecasts, and be prepared to obey local evacuation orders if needed. We are grateful to first responders who are working to rescue people from flooded homes and keep citizens safe.”

According to the Governor’s news release, the flooding affected homes and required rescue of citizens, particularly in Southwest Virginia. According to reports from emergency officials, more than 500 residents in and around the town of Richlands, in Tazewell County, have been displaced by flooding and needed rescue from their homes. A number of roads in Southwest Virginia are closed or washed out.

During domestic operations, the VNG receives missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and responds as part of a multi-agency team with the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Transportation and other state and local emergency agencies to provide support capabilities to communities in need. The VNG is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, so people in need should call 911 and not the VNG directly.

About the Virginia National Guard:

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. The VNG traces the history and tradition of Citizen-Soldier service to the founding of Jamestown in 1607, and there has been a military presence defending Virginia ever since.

Since 2001, the VNG has mobilized more than 13,600 Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force 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.