VNG supports VDEM efforts at primary supply distribution hub

Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group provide logistics support at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s disaster logistic warehouse April 2, 2020, in Richmond, Virginia. (Virginia Defense Force photo by WO1(Va.) Jake Crocker)

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia’s Covid-19 response efforts continue across the commonwealth with the support of Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airman as well as members of the Virginia Defense Force. These efforts include statewide distribution support at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s disaster logistics warehouse in Richmond, Virginia.

Since March 23, 2020, six VNG Soldiers assigned to the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, under the command of 1st Lt. Thomas McFadden, have been providing logistics support at the newly established disaster logistics warehouse operated by VDEM.

“I signed up for the National Guard to fight for my country, but in the Guard you can fight for your country and also make a difference in your own community,” said Sgt. Kenneth Wilson. “Us being called out to do this is something that I wanted to do because I knew it would make a difference. At the end of the day, it’s knowing you contributed to society and that what you did made a difference to help save lives.”

The warehouse is serving as a hub for statewide distribution of medical gowns and coveralls, bottled water, cots, Meals Ready-To-Eat, hand sanitizer and N-95 respirator masks.

“As a team we’ve just had to come together and had to put a lot of resources, expertise and talent together to figure out who’s better at what, and what ideas can we bring to the table to make this work,” said Wilson, who has served seven years with the VNG following his prior service in the U.S. Navy. “We have a team of Soldiers who were overseeing incoming shipments, taking accountability of the incoming materials, inputting it into the database and placing them into the warehouse in time to ship.”

Richmond-based Estes Express Lines has been the primary transportation resource at the disaster logistic warehouse, with drivers on stand-by at the warehouse coordinating with VNG and VDEM personnel. These supplies are being distributed throughout Virginia to medical centers as well as local fire and police departments. MREs have been distributed to seven different food banks. Additional distribution was also contributed by UPS, whose freight division is based in Richmond. Small shipments of supplies were coordinated directly with the U.S. Postal Service.

Virginia-based companies that have provided supplies for the COVID-19 response efforts include bottled water from Mechanicsville-based Artisan Bottling Company. Purcellville-based Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, a manufacturer of spirts, shifted their resources into the production and contribution of hand sanitizer. Toilet paper brands Feather Soft and Blue Mist from von Drehle Corporation were provided by Dumfries-based Abel Industries, Inc.

The 180th’s Soldiers concluded their mission April 13, 2020, and are awaiting new assignments. For the new Soldiers in the group, the mission reaffirmed some of the reasons they wanted to join the Guard.

“I just graduated from Advanced Individual Training in February, this was going to be my first drill, but I got called up a few days early,” said Pvt. Lewis Dawson. “I’m always excited to help with my community and make a difference.”

The VNG conducts domestic operations as part of the coordinated multi-agency state team. During COVID-19 response operations, the Virginia Emergency Support Team provides the taskings to the VNG based on the capabilities requested by localities. The VNG does not directly respond to requests for assistance, and all localities should send the resource requests to the VEST.