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NEWS | May 21, 2020

VNG continues to support state COVID-19 response

By Mr. Cotton Puryear

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia National Guard has more than 530 personnel actively working or ready to support the Commonwealth of Virginia’s COVID-19 response as of May 21, 2020. VNG Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force are conducting numerous missions including sample collection for COVID-19 testing, N95 respirator mask fit testing, test kit transportation, material handling support and planning in multiple Virginia Department of Emergency Management regions.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our Soldiers, Airmen and VDF personnel and the support they are providing to our state partner agencies and localities in the fight against COVID-19,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We are stepping up in so many ways to help and putting our skills and experience to work, and we are also innovating to help improve the operations we are supporting. Now more than ever, our fellow Virginians need our assistance, and we are making a positive impact each and every day.”

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam visited VNG Soldiers and Airmen May 14 during their mission at a long-term care facility in Charlottesville to thank them their support to the state’s testing effort. VNG personnel are providing additional capacity to help meet the state’s testing goals.

“We are grateful and indebted to the Thomas Jefferson Health Department and the hard-working volunteers in the National Guard whose dedication to testing vulnerable populations will make a meaningful difference in our battle to defeat this virus,” said Westminster-Canterbury President Gary Selmeczi in a statement.

As of May 21, VNG personnel have collected more than 12,500 samples for COVID-19 tests, conducted nearly 1,700 mask fit tests, distributed more than 60,700 pounds of food, driven nearly 49,000 miles supporting supply and delivery missions and provided more than 22,100 hours of planning augmentation. The VNG has support 41 state agencies and county-level emergency operations centers.

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. They received training to be able to assist with teaching personnel on the proper employment of PPE as well as how to take samples for COVID-19 tests when provided with kits.

Personnel have been conducting training and collecting samples at multiple locations across the state including long-term care and correction facilities.

VNG Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team have also joined the CERFP in conducting community and drive-thru sample collection and mask fit testing at multiple locations across the state.

VNG Soldiers assigned to the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group are providing mission command for numerous operations all over the state including mobile testing site support in Blacksburg, logistics planning to VDEM, general material handling operations in VDEM Regions 1 through 7, food bank support in the Fredericksburg area, courier service support for COVID-19 testing and N95 mask fit testing operations.

VNG Soldiers teamed up with the Virginia Wing of the Civil Air Patrol in order use CAP air transportation capabilities to increase the capacity for sending kits to testing sites and delivering completed tests to labs for evaluation.

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. In addition to supporting operations at the main warehouse, the 229th has also supported pop-up food distributions at various locations in Central and Northern Virginia in support of the food bank’s community parters. During the pop-up distributions, Soldiers set up and staff a drive-thru for citizens need. At a recent distribution at a church in Caroline County, Virginia, the Soldiers placed boxes of food into nearly 200 vehicles, helping feed families across the region.

VNG Soldiers assigned to the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team began supporting mobile testing sites March 30, 2020, in the New River Valley and Roanoke areas. They 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.

Members of the Virginia Defense Force are providing staff augmentation to the VNG and VDEM sections including the situation awareness unit as well as public information support.

Photos from missions:

VNG Soldiers, Airmen support distribution of PPE
Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assist in the distribution of much-needed personal protective equipment to localities, state agencies and area health districts May 20, 2020, at a warehouse in Chesterfield County, Virginia. To date, the Soldiers and Airmen working there have received, sorted, packaged and loaded approximately 225,000 pieces of PPE.

Civil Air Patrol, VNG team up to transport COVID-19 test kits
Airmen assigned to the Virginia Wing, Civil Air Patrol load COVID-19 test kits for air transport to the Eastern Shore of Virginia May 17, 2020, in Chesterfield, Virginia. Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group helped the Airmen load the kits and provided coolers for the return trip. After samples are collected, the Civil Air Patrol will transport the completed kits to the laboratory for evaluation. The addition of the CAP increases the capacity of the VNG’s ongoing mission to transport test kits to different locations across the state.

Senior leaders visit VNG COVID-19 test sample collection mission
Commonwealth of Virginia and Virginia National Guard senior leaders visit Soldiers and Airmen collecting samples for COVID-19 testing at a long-term care facility May 14, 2020. Governor Ralph Northam, Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins, Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Brig. Gen. James W. Ring, Director of the Joint Staff, thanked the troops for their hard work and dedicated service. Williams also presented his challenge coin to recognize individuals for particularly outstanding duty performance. VNG support provides additional capacity and by the end of the day May 15, the VNG will have collected samples for more than 10,000 tests.

VNG Soldiers prepare for N95 mask fit testing missions
Virginia National Guard Soldiers learn how to perform N95 respirator mask fit tests during a training session May 13, 2020, at the Petersburg Readiness Center in Petersburg, Virginia. The class was led by Chief Warrant Officer 5 William Lyles, the VNG state safety officer, and Rebecca Moses, the state safety and compliance specialist for the Virginia Department of Military Affairs. VNG Soldiers and Airmen have completed more than 850 mask fit tests for employees at long term care and other facilities during COVID-19 response operations.

VNG supports drive-thru COVID-19 testing on the Eastern Shore
Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assist with a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site run by the Virginia Department of Health Eastern Shore Health District May 8, 2020, at the Eastern Shore Community College in Melfa, Virginia. VNG personnel collected samples for 729 total tests during the day, and VDH will have the kits evaluated and notify citizens of the results. Volunteers from the Eastern Shore Medical Reserve Corps assisted with initial screening prior to the sample collection.

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