RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia National Guard has more than 500 personnel actively working or ready to support the Commonwealth of Virginia’s COVID-19 response as of April 27, 2020. VNG Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force are supporting planning teams and assisting with logistics support in multiple Virginia Department of Emergency Management regions, and personnel are staged and ready at key locations across the state to assist with testing, personal protection equipment training and commodity distribution.
“I am extremely proud of the great work from our personnel supporting Virginia’s COVID-19 response, and I know we are putting their skills, experience and knowledge to good work where it is making a difference,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We are now posturing forces to be able to provide additional capabilities to help our fellow Virginians, and we will continue to work with our state agency partners to make sure any support we can provide will be ready when it is needed.”
Virginia’s emergency declaration on March 12, 2020, activated the VNG and authorized personnel to begin coming on duty to support COVID-19 response operations. Personnel immediately began assisting with operations, logistics and medical planning with the Virginia Emergency Support Team and in multiple VDEM regions across the state, and those planning efforts continue.
VNG Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Richmond-based 34th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package have extensive experience with the proper employment of PPE and operations involving hazardous materials and health protection protocols. This week they are conducting training to be able to assist with training personnel on the proper employment of PPE as well as how to take samples for COVID-19 tests when provided with kits.
VNG Soldiers assigned to the Fredericksburg-based 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team began supporting the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank April 22, 2020, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Soldiers are assisting with preparing food boxes in the warehouse, as well as helping with food distribution and supply deliveries.
Beginning March 30, 2020, VNG Soldiers assigned to the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have been providing logistical support to the Montgomery County Public Health Task Force’s Mobile COVID-19 testing site in Blacksburg and supporting the Virginia Department of Emergency Management Region 6 coordination center with planning support and PPE distribution to local and regional authorities. The Soldiers provided daily support at the testing location while maintaining CDC-recommended safety precautions including social distancing and also assisted with warehouse operations in the area. Soldiers have also assisted with operations at food banks and pantries in the area.
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.”
The VNG has established three multi-function “strike teams” in the east, west and central areas of the state. A strike team is a battalion-level mission command headquarters with subordinate units with transportation and material handling capabilities as well as organic medical support. These units are staffed and equipped to help load supplies and transport them where they need to go.
“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,” Williams said. “Now more than ever we all need to come together and work as a team, and the support of our loved ones and the patience and flexibility from employers is absolutely critical. I thank them all for the important contributions they are making.”
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.
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Va. National Guard personnel collect samples for COVID-19 testing