Adjutant General COVID-19 Update: May 6, 2020
Virginia National Guard Team:
I joined Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia Emergency Support Team for their update brief May 6, 2020, and the full transcript of my remarks is copied below:
Good afternoon. I’m Maj. Gen. Tim Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. I am here today representing the more than 9,000 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, members of the Virginia Defense Force and our state and federal civilian workforce.
Before I get into the update on how our personnel are supporting the Virginia COVID response, I would like to provide an overview of our organization.
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. We trace our lineage to the very founding of our Commonwealth in 1607.
We are a community-based force with readiness centers and training, aviation and maintenance facilities in more than 50 communities across the entire state.
Here is a quick snapshot of our federal missions: Nearly 1,500 Soldiers and Airmen served on federal active duty in the last 24 months in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations across the globe. Our units conducted a wide variety of missions including F-22 fighter jet air dominance, cyber, partnership building, sustainment, security, rotary and fixed wing flight operations. These 1,500 personnel join more than 15,000 Soldiers and Airmen who have mobilized for homeland security missions, combat operations and peacekeeping and stabilization missions since September 11, 2001.
Here at home, since 2001, we have mobilized more than 13,600 Soldiers, Airmen and members of the VDF 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.
And now our personnel are working diligently to support local, state and federal efforts to mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus. While this is not currently the largest call up of our personnel, it is certainly one of the longest.
Today, we have approximately 570 personnel actively working or ready to support Virginia’s COVID response. Our mission is to provide additional capabilities and expand capacity for lead agencies like the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Department of Emergency Management who establish the priorities and assign the localities where we work.
Our top priority is providing additional capacity for COVID test sample collection and mask fit testing at long term care and correctional facilities which are some of our most vulnerable population. We also have personnel transporting testing kits at different locations across the state as well as providing material handling support, commodity distribution and planning.
When the Governor declared a state of emergency we immediately began assisting with operations, logistics and medical planning in multiple VDEM regions across the state, and those planning efforts continue. So far, our personnel have performed more than 22,000 hours of planning augmentation.
About 100 VNG Soldiers and Airmen with extensive experience with the proper employment of PPE and operations involving hazardous materials and health protection protocols received training from VDH and are supporting COVID sample collection and N-95 respirator mask fit testing.
At multiple locations across the state, we have collected samples from more than 2,700 people using provided kits and conducted mask fit tests for nearly 450 staff members at long term care facilities as well as delivered more than 730 sample collection kits.
This week we have personnel supporting testing in the Central and Northern Virginia areas. We will deploy personnel to support the Eastern Shore Health District in conducting drive-through testing on Friday and Saturday with the ability to test up to 1,000 people each day. VNG personnel will collect samples for the tests, and the health department will provide health protection information.
While supporting the testing effort is our top priority, we have personnel on duty and helping in a number of other ways.
Our Soldiers are supporting food bank operations by assisting with preparing food boxes in the warehouses, as well as helping with food distribution and supply deliveries in Fredericksburg and Roanoke / New River Valley areas. We have assisted with the distribution of approximately 50,000 pounds of food in our local communities.
Across the seven VDEM regions, we have personnel assisting with material handling operations to get much-needed supply packages on trucks for delivery. Guard personnel have handled more than 500 pallets and assisted with the distribution of more than 200,000 N-95 masks, 150,000 surgical masks, 69,000 pairs of surgical gloves and 720 bottles of hand sanitizer.
All of these missions are a result of our ongoing coordination with VDEM and our operations are part of the coordinated multi-agency state team. VDEM provides our taskings based on the capabilities requested by localities so that we ensure a coordinated state response. Localities should send any requests for assistance through their local emergency managers.
As is the case in everything we do, we wouldn’t be able to conduct our missions without the support of our families, employers and communities. With Military Spouse Appreciation Day coming up on Friday, it is important to recognize how much we rely on our loved ones when we are away from home on missions for long periods of time. Most of our personnel on duty right now have full-time jobs other than the National Guard, and our employers are great patriots for their patience, flexibility and unwavering commitment. Now more than ever we all need to come together and work as a team, and I thank them all for the important contributions they are making.
I am extremely proud of the great work from our personnel supporting Virginia’s COVID response, and I know we are putting their skills, experience and knowledge to good work where it is making a difference. We will continue to work with localities and our state agency partners supporting all efforts to move Virginia forward.
Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams,
28th Adjutant General of Virginia