RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia National Guard has approximately 100 personnel working directly to support Virginia’s COVID-19 response as of March 25, 2020. VNG Soldiers, Airmen, and members of the Virginia Defense Force are helping with medical and logistics planning as well as help prepare supplies for delivery. Additional personnel are providing mission command and logistics support for the VNG itself.
“The Virginia National Guard stands ready to assist the multi-agency state and federal team supporting the COVID-19 response to provide the capabilities they need,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Through numerous floods, hurricanes, and snowstorms, our personnel have worked side by side with the Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation and local police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. They have transported supplies, helped clear fallen trees, handed out food and water, and assisted getting people evacuated for medical care. Members of the National Guard live and work in communities across the commonwealth, and they are your family, friends, and neighbors. We are ready to respond and help keep our fellow Virginians safe during this difficult time.”
While the initial VNG footprint is small, additional personnel have been alerted and are on standby, Williams said. Once the Virginia Emergency Support Team has determined what National Guard capabilities are needed and where they need to go, personnel will be mobilized and brought on duty. Then VNG has operations, logistics, and medical planners with decades of experience conducting a wide variety of military operations at home and overseas helping out with the VEST.
“The National Guard brings additional capabilities to their state, and during times like these, those resources can help fill gaps where resources are spread thin,” Williams said.
During domestic operations, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management 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 need to send the resource requests to the VEST.
The 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 to their state during times of need, Williams explained. The governor is the commander in chief of each state’s National Guard forces, and each state employs them differently depending on their unique needs.
Virginia’s emergency declaration on March 12, 2020, activated the VNG and gave the authorization to bring additional personnel on duty. Only about 15 percent of the total VNG force is full time, the rest have jobs and families all over the state. They normally train one weekend a month and fifteen days a year, though that operational tempo has been greater for some units in recent years, Williams said.
Since 2001, the VNG has mobilized more than 13,600 Soldiers, Airmen, and members of the VDF 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.
In addition to National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, members of the Virginia Defense Force are available for duty. The VDF is authorized by the Code of Virginia as the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard. While they volunteer their time for training, they are paid when the governor activates the National Guard and authorizes state active duty. The VDF provides additional capabilities such as staff augmentation for planning and operations center support, interoperable communications, incident management, and public information.
More photos: Virginia National Guard assists with planning, logistics in COVID-19 fight