Adjutant General of Virginia COVID-19 Update – March 20, 2020

Virginia National Guard Team:

We know the current situation with COVID-19 is putting huge stresses on our uniformed personnel, civilian workforce and families. There are so many questions everyone is asking, and we are doing our very best to answer them and provide regular updates as often as we are able.

As I have already stressed, Virginia National Guard leaders are taking the COVID-19 situation seriously, and the health and safety of our force is the top priority.

Most of our full-time uniformed and civilian work force is currently working remotely, in accordance with Centers For Disease Control and Virginia Department of Health guidance. The only exceptions are a few directorates who serve in critical positions to ensure we maintain our equipment and provide essential services to maintain our readiness and support our force. Special thanks to these personnel who are serving above and beyond for the Commonwealth and Nation.

The Department of Defense has instituted a travel ban. Simply put, our Airmen, Soldiers and families should not use public transportation unless deemed critical or classified as an emergency. Any Airman or Soldier who feels it is essential to travel outside of normal commuting distance for emergency purposes can request exception to the travel ban which can be approved by VNG leadership. Travel by personal vehicles within normal commuting distances is authorized.

The Virginia Army Guard will not conduct any face-to-face training during the month of April in order to prevent spread of the virus and to ensure Soldiers who might have the virus, even if undetected, do not come in contact with other healthy Soldiers. Commanders were given the authority to offer their Soldiers online training commensurate with at least two days of drill pay. This will enable our Soldiers to maintain their benefits to include Tricare Reserve Select, which many of our Guardsmen contribute to through their drill checks.

There will be no “in-person” April drill for the Virginia Air National Guard. Commanders will maximize flexibility to plan various remote options and/or execute rescheduled drills based on “Airmen First, Mission Always.” Unless specifically exempted by a commander, physical attendance at April drill is prohibited for all members of the VaANG.

All Virginia Defense Force training scheduled for April will be conducted virtually unless absolutely mission essential. The Winchester Apple Blossom Festival has been postponed, so the VDF no longer has support requirements for the event. Every member of the VDF should contact their first line leader for specific guidance for how training will be conducted and how to maintain a high state of readiness for possible missions.

There are questions about how COVID-19 will affect future training events. While this is a fluid situation and no one can predict when this will end, as of right now the 116th IBCT is still scheduled for JRTC this summer. As critical as training is, COVID-19 is what we are dealing with now. Our Soldiers and Airmen are professionals and already have the skills required to conduct combat operations with or without those training events. What is more important is protecting the force, and our families, by making common sense decisions and not allowing them to physically assemble for the next 30-45 days.

In addition to training for our federal mission and worldwide deployments, the VNG also provides support to civil authorities here in the Commonwealth.  While we are taking measures to reduce face-to-face training for federal missions, we may be asked to provide capabilities to other state agencies in our Commonwealth’s response to COVID-19. We currently have planners working with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management looking at how the VNG might be able to support the statewide response, and we should have more details about possible missions soon.

Families should prepare for the possibility their Soldier, Airmen or VDF member may be directed to report to assist with emergency response efforts. Our force works and lives in every community across the Commonwealth and have a proven track record of success supporting civilian authorities during homeland emergencies such as this. If our Commonwealth needs us, we will be there.

I hope you have heard it already, but I will say it again: Wash your hands and maintain appropriate social distancing to slow the spread. Virginia’s health is in our hands!!

Thanks to everyone for their patience through this difficult time. If we work together and follow the public health recommendations, I am confident we will see our way through.

Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams,
28th Adjutant General of Virginia