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. The VNG traces the history and tradition of Citizen-Soldier service to the founding of Jamestown in 1607, and there has been a military presence defending Virginia ever since.
The VNG’s current strength is 7,200 Soldiers, 1,200 Airmen, 300 Virginia Defense Force members and 400 federal and state civilians, and they bring more than $250 million in annual income into the commonwealth.
VNG facilities are valued at more than $1.6 billion and in the last four years have brought more than $325 million worth of military construction and facility improvement projects into the state. VNG has more than $1.8 billion in military equipment, much of which is available at no cost to the commonwealth for use during emergency response operations across the state.
Nearly 1,500 Soldiers and Airmen served on federal active duty in the last 24 months, and VNG units conducted a wide variety of missions including F-22 fighter jet air dominance, cyber, mission command, partnership building, sustainment, security and rotary wing flight operations and maintenance. They 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.
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. The VNG also mobilized personnel for security operations in Charlottesville in August 2017 and 2018.
The VNG staged more than 1,500 personnel Sept. 12, 2018, at key locations across the commonwealth to support local and state emergency management officials with possible response to Hurricane Florence. Additionally, the VNG sent 40 Soldiers and 20 light medium tactical vehicles and the Virginia Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team to North Carolina to support with recovery efforts where the hurricane caused widespread flooding.
Primary Warfighting Capabilities
VaARNG: Light infantry and cavalry, towed field artillery, rotary wing aviation, combat engineer, sustainment and cyber
VaANG: F-22 fighter jet air dominance, civil engineer, cyber operations, weather forecasting and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
Primary Domestic Response Capabilities
VaARNG: High mobility transportation, rotary wing rescue hoist, cyber network defense, urban search and rescue, HAZMAT detection and decontamination
VaANG: Civil engineer, imagery analysis, incident awareness and assessment, weather forecasting, medical triage
VDF: Operations center augmentation, civil support security, interoperable radio communications, regional liaison, incident management assistance
Virginia Department of Military Affairs
The Virginia Department of Military Affairs is the state agency that provides leadership and administrative support to the Virginia Army National Guard, Virginia Air National Guard and Virginia Defense Force. DMA plans, coordinates, maintains situational awareness and employs VaARNG, VaANG and VDF forces for homeland security and homeland defense in order to respond to any incidents within the commonwealth.
Virginia National Guard Sergeant Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense Supply Center Richmond: The 102,000 square foot, $30 million building meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold requirements and is the first structure purpose built to serve as a headquarters for the VNG in its more than 410-year history. The headquarters houses a state-of-the-art Joint Operations Center and work spaces for collaboration with agency partners and mission command support during routine and domestic response operations.
Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center near Blackstone: more than 225 full-time state and federal employees provide support to tenant and training units on approximately 41,000 acres featuring a combination of open and wooded terrain maneuver areas and 21 ranges capable of supporting almost any weapons system in the U. S. Army inventory with barracks to support more than 5,000 personnel as well as an Army airfield operation.
State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach: More than 20 personnel full-time state and federal employees provide support to tenant organizations and training using at the state-owned, 328-acre installation for National Guard units, as well as all other DoD, active duty and reserve units and public safety organizations with facilities including a live-fire qualification range, nine different virtual trainers, wooded training areas, helipad, airfield damage repair site, beach and amphibious landing site.
Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston: provides full-time support to aviation units including flight operations, safety, maintenance, standardization and training. Approximately 120 full-time employees at the AASF and the annex at the Chesterfield County Airport support a number of aircraft including 18 UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, three HH-60 medical evacuation Black Hawk helicopters, four UH-72 Lakota light utility helicopters and a C-12 twin turboprop passenger and cargo aircraft.
Fort Pickett Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site: More than 100 personnel assigned to the MATES provide maintenance support for 112 units and more than 500 combat vehicles and other equipment positioned at Fort Pickett including M1 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, howitzers and a variety of other tracked and wheeled vehicles. In addition to VNG vehicles, MATES personnel maintain equipment assigned to the North Carolina, West Virginia and Pennsylvania Army National Guard which is drawn when units from those states come to Fort Pickett for training. In addition to vehicle maintenance shops, MATES also contains supply areas and repair shops including vehicle painting, body work, communications equipment and small arms.
Field Maintenance Shops: More than 100 personnel work at the 13 Field Maintenance Shops spread out over different locations throughout the commonwealth with the mission to provide field maintenance support for surface equipment that is beyond the capabilities of supported VNG units. The FMS maintains authorized repair parts and supplies, and it provides contact teams to repair equipment and return it to the unit to conduct operations and training. They also provide maintence support to VNG units conducting domestic response operations.
29th Infantry Division
Known as the Blue and Gray Division, the 29th Infantry Division is an Army National Guard operational-level headquarters located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, which consists of Soldiers primarily from Maryland and Virginia.
The 29th ID conducts multi-domain operations at the division level in order to sustain training proficiency during Training Year 2020. The division’s focus will remain on continuously developing as a division staff in order to deploy world-wide conducting expeditionary decisive action in support of multi-domain operations in Training Year 2021. The 29th ID remains continuously postured to execute National Guard Civil Support on minimal or no-notice while integrated with joint and inter-agency partners.
The 29th ID command group and personnel from the division staff and their subordinate units attended the 75th anniversary commemoration of Operation Overlord D-Day landings early June 2019. The Blue and Gray division paid tribute to their brothers in arms who stormed Omaha Beach to retake Europe from Nazi Germany.
29th ID personnel also attended the 75th Anniversary of D-Day at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. There they escorted World War II veterans, honoring their sacrifice and those who gave it all on that day of days.
In preparation for the Division Warfighter, 29th ID staff and Headquarters Battalion conducted Command Post Exercise 2 and 3 in June 2019 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. This event trained the division staffs’ ability to exercise mission command from their tactical command posts and included response cells and JCATs simulation for added realism.
In order to assist the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment training in preparation for Joint Readiness Training Rotation 20-08.5, staff elements of the 29th ID served as higher command during the brigade’s eXportable Combat Training Capability Rotation 19-04.
The 29th ID Headquarters completed the culminating training event at the division level in Warfighter Exercise 20-01 in October 2019. Warfighters exercise the division staff’s military decision-making process in a realistic combat scenario to enhance the division’s ability to make rapid decisions in a stressful environment. This included multiple “TOC Jumps” by the division headquarters element as they honed their expeditionary mission command skills.
Sgt. 1st Class Bosserman and Spc. Alger competed in Virginia’s Best Warrior Competition for the 29 ID in February 2019. Both Soldiers placed first in their respective category, senior NCO and enlisted, at the competition.
The 29th ID Band received the Superior Unit Award for training excellence during Training Year 2019. (Updated Dec. 11, 2019)
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116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
The 116th IBCT is authorized approximately 3,500 Soldiers and is the largest major command in the Virginia National Guard. The 116th has units throughout Virginia from Winchester to Pulaski along I-81, from Staunton to Virginia Beach along I-64, from Danville to Lynchburg to Warrenton along Route 29 as well as Fredericksburg, Manassas and Leesburg. An infantry battalion based in Barbourville, Kentucky, is also aligned with the 116th for training and readiness oversight. A brigade combat team is the basic deployable unit of maneuver in the U.S. Army and carries with it support units necessary to sustain its operations away from its parent division. The 116th consists of three infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron, a field artillery battalion, a brigade support battalion and brigade engineer battalion.
The 116th IBCT conducts echeloned collective training up to company level in order to sustain company/troop/battery training proficiency during training year 2021. The brigade’s focus will remain on the mission essential tasks of Movement to Contact, Conduct an Area Defense, as well as Conduct an Air Assault in order to maintain preparedness to deploy world-wide to conduct expeditionary decisive action in support of multi-domain operations in training year 2021. The 116th IBCT remains continuously postured to execute National Guard Civil Support on minimal or no-notice while integrated with joint and inter-agency partners.
In preparation for the eXportable Combat Training Center rotation and the Division Warfighter, the 116th IBCT conducted a command post exercise in January 2019 at FT Pickett, Virginia. This event exercised the brigade and battalion staffs’ ability to exercise mission command from their tactical command posts and included response cells and JCATs simulation for added realism.
Virginia and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 116th IBCT and enabler units from Guard units in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana and New York honed their combat skills during the eXportable Combat Training Capability Rotation 19-4 July 13 through August 2, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.
Soldiers in the brigade took part in nearly 490 iterations of platoon-level situational training exercise lanes focused on mission essential tasks such as attack and defense, movement to contact, area and zone reconnaissance, security screen, emplacing obstacles, building individual and vehicle fighting positions, tactical resupply, vehicle recovery and mass casualty response. Soldiers conducted more than 40 lane iterations at the company level.
The brigade conducted 60 live-fire exercises at the platoon level and seven at the company level, firing a variety of weapons systems including individual Soldier weapons, crew-served weapons, mounted machine gunnery, mortars and 105mm and 155mm field artillery.
With the support of the Virginia National Guard’s Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, the brigade conducted 10 air movements and five air assault missions with aviation crews logging nearly 300 flight hours.
Integration of enabling units from other states not normally affiliated with the brigade proved to be excellent training, and units conducted sustainment operations in the field throughout the rotation. Organic and enabler sustainment units managed the more than 2,000,000 rounds expended, distributed 165,000 gallons of water, more than 57,000 MREs and nearly 285,000 pounds of ice to units. Food service specialists prepared more than 83,000 hot meals and maintenance personnel completed nearly 3,900 services on vehicles and equipment.
While XCTC was being conducted, food service specialists assigned to the 429th Brigade Support Battalion competed in the regional Phillip A. Connelly Food Service Competition with the hope of being selected to compete at the national level.
Shortly following XCTC, the 116th IBCT Headquarters provided a response cell consisting of 51 personnel to the 29th ID’s Warfighter Exercise at FT Indiantown Gap, PA.
The 116th IBCT continued its partnership with Finland’s Karelia Brigade, conducting leader exchanges and hosting a contingent from their brigade staff at XCTC. (Updated Dec. 6, 2019)
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329th Regional Support Group
Constituted July 18, 1917, in the Virginia National Guard as Headquarters, 54th Field Artillery Brigade, and assigned to the 29th Division, the unit was converted and reorganized September 1, 2008, as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 329th Regional Support Group. The RSG consists of the 276th Engineer Battalion, the 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and the 1030th Transportation Battalion.
Today, the unit deploys to provide contingency and expeditionary base operations support, with responsibilities for managing facilities, providing administrative and logistical support of Soldier services, and ensuring the security of personnel and facilities on a base camp. The RSG provides mission command of assigned units during homeland security, homeland defense, and civil support missions within the United States, to include managing the reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of supporting forces.
Since 2017, the Army has required the 329th RSG to have four Focus Ready Units fully prepared to deploy at a moment’s notice to support global contingency operations. Since assignment as a FRU, these units maintain an exceptionally high operational tempo and hyper-focused state of readiness to meet the Army’s strategic needs.
In the fall of 2019, the 329th RSG relinquished mission command of the Fort Stewart Mobilization Support Force to the Georgia National Guard’s 201st RSG. The MSF is comprised of twenty Army National Guard and Army Reserve Units from eleven states. This contingency mission provides the capabilities to respond to a rapid influx of mobilized units should the need emerge.
In 2019, the 329th supported the Commonwealth in multiple ways. During Hurricane Dorian, the brigade mobilized local Tidewater and Eastern Shore soldiers who stood ready to support localities and first responders during and after the hurricane. Following a request for Virginia’s assistance, the 1173rd Transportation Company sent soldiers to North Carolina to help in their hurricane response efforts. Since 2017, the 229th Military Police Company’s Quick Reaction Force has supported the Virginia State Police in Charlottesville, VA in response to anticipated civil disturbances. In 2019 the 276th Engineer Battalion became responsible for providing Virginia’s National Guard Response Force , the follow-on element to QRF designed to sustain longer-term law enforcement support. Additionally, the 276th accepted responsibility to provide the search and extraction capability to the Virginia Guard’s CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package.
Other significant unit accomplishments in calendar year 2019 include the deployment of the 1945th Contingency Contracting Team to the CENTCOM region and the return of the 529th CSSB from their CENTCOM deployment. Several 329th units directly supported external entities to include the 237th Sapper Company being an attached enabler to 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division during their JRTC rotation at Fort Polk, LA. The 1173rd Transportation Company also supported the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during their XCTC rotation at Fork Pickett, Virginia. The 1032nd Transportation Battalion supported Army Materiel Command by transporting various munitions from Oklahoma to Kentucky. The 1032nd Transportation Battalion also supported the Canadian military by transporting Canadian training equipment from Canada to Folk Pickett, VA. Additionally, the 237th Sapper Company and 229th Military Police Company participated in a 10-day test of next-generation Night Vision Goggles at Fort Belvoir, Virginia
In spring 2020, the 329th RSG will participate in DEFENDER-Europe 20, a joint, multi-national, U.S. Army Europe-led, U.S. European Command exercise designed to test the U.S. military’s ability to rapidly deploy a large combat-credible force of troops and equipment to Europe and integrate that force with partners and allies. DEFENDER-Europe 20 is the largest deployment of U.S.-based land forces to Europe for an exercise in the last 25 years. (Updated December 6, 2019)
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91st Cyber Brigade
The 91st Cyber Brigade was officially activated on Sept. 1, 2017, and is the Army National Guard’s first and only cyber brigade. The brigade consists of five battalions, five cyber security companies, five cyber warfare companies, and 11 cyber protection teams arrayed across more than 30 states. The primary mission of the brigade is to provide training and readiness oversight over these units, as well as operational command and control when needed.
The 91st Cyber Brigade was conceived in November 2016, approved in February 2017, and activated in September 2017, making it one of the fastest implementations of force structure from conception to activation in National Guard history.
Since 2017, the 91st Cyber Brigade has focused on building its assigned strength. Less than 10 months after activation, the brigade grew its assigned strength from 40% to 95%. The 91st Troop Command and the Virginia Data Processing Unit provided the initial manning for both the cyber protection battalions and the cyber brigade headquarters. Now, the brigade focuses on ensuring its soldiers are technically proficient and ready to support the continuous federal missions to which it is assigned.
In 2019, the 91st Cyber Brigade mobilized nearly 200 cyber warriors in support of three federal mobilizations while simultaneously preparing to conduct state active duty support in early 2020. These federal mobilizations support both United States Cyber Command and Army Cyber Command, supporting operations throughout the globe while defending the homeland from overseas cyber threats. The upcoming state active duty missions will provide cyber network assessments to Virginia localities in support of the Department of Technology.
Throughout 2019, the 91st Cyber Brigade participated in multiple exercises providing soldiers valuable training and experience. The brigade provided subject matter experts and participants to support the Grid Security Exercise (GridEx), a national-level energy sector exercise focusing on contingency operations in the face of a large-scale, power-related disaster. The brigade also send multiple soldiers to Cyber Yankee, a New England regional Defensive Cyberspace Operations exercise designed to enable collective training environment with industry. In addition, the 91st sent participants to Cyber Shield, the largest unclassified and premier national cyber defense exercise. Cyber Shield is the validation exercise for the 91st Cyber Brigade’s Cyber Protection Teams and is a whole of government exercise that allows defenders to train on newer technology before they have to defend it in a production network. In an effort to support external cyber elements, the brigade provided technical support to Cyber Fury, a Marine-led joint exercise. While the 91st did not provide exercise participants to Cyber Fury it did supply, operate, and maintain the exercise platform through which exercise scenarios were performed.
The 91st Cyber Brigade has three lines of effort. Those LOEs are provide and retain a ready and motivated cyber force, grow dynamic cyber leaders, and lead the nation in cyber defense/digital lethality. The brigade’s center of gravity for growth and success is talent management. The 91st Cyber Brigade is working towards these LOEs by partnering with academia, George Mason University, and industry, Dominion Energy, to develop training relationships that are mutually beneficial. (Updated Dec. 11, 2019)
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183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute
The Virginia Army National Guard’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute has a rich history and is recognized as one of the best warrior training locations due to the ability to leverage world class instructors and modern classroom facilities, as well as the extensive training resources at Fort Pickett. This allows the Regional Training Institute to enhance our Warriors’ mastery of their craft while honing their leadership skills.
The Regiment is comprised of over 100 of the finest trainers in the Virginia Army National Guard organized into three battalions. The Regional Training Institute specializes in a multitude of areas, to include the 11B, 11C and 88M Military Occupational Skill transition courses, the Air Assault and Pathfinder mobile training teams, the Light Leader and Rappel Master courses, the Virginia Army National Guard’s Marksmanship Program, and the Officer and Warrant Officer Candidate Schools.
In 2017 the Regiment was successful in training more than 500 Soldiers from across the Active Component, Army Reserve and Army National Guard. Instructors from 1st Battalion, under the command of Lt. Col. Todd Riviezzo, were focused on training infantryman and graduated almost 300 Soldiers from the courses they provided in 2017. Instructors from 2nd Battalion, under the command of Lt. Col. Corey Stavinoha, focused on transportation training courses and qualified more than 100 new truck drivers, as well as conducting additional bus driver and truck driver training to units throughout the Virginia Army National Guard.
Instructors from 3rd Battalion, under the command of Lt. Col. Robert Fitch, had the privileged mission of training the future leaders of the Virginia Army National Guard as they host the Officer Candidate and Warrant Officer Candidate Schools. This past year saw the battalion commission 33 second lieutenants. The Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of OCS Training placed second in the Virginia Guard’s Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year competition. Members of the most recent class of the Officer Candidate School won third place in the 2017 Adjutant General Rifle Matches, which is an incredible accomplishment. The Warrant Officer Candidate School produced nine newly minted Warrant Officers. While training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, Warrant Officer 1 Melissa Huntley-Bosco was named the Distinguished Honor Graduate for the course, marking the first time in 11 years that a Virginia Guard Soldier was awarded the honor.
The 192nd Wing, Virginia Air National Guard, mission is to provide a fully-trained organization of volunteer-Airmen dedicated to protect and defend the vital interests of the nation, state and community. The wing provides combat-ready personnel and equipment to support United States’ national security objectives in a federal capacity; protects life and property and preserves peace, order and safety in a state capacity; and participates in local, state and national programs that add value to the U.S. in a community capacity.
The 192nd FW is headquartered at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. In addition to state missions, the wing associates with the regular Air Force, spanning three major commands, and performs standalone federal missions. The wing is comprised of four groups assigned to specific areas of expertise required to execute the missions: 192nd Operations Group, 192nd Maintenance Group, 192nd Mission Support Group and 192nd Medical Group.
The 192nd OG directly supports the USAF’s mission in the air, space and cyber domains. In 2017, they mobilized for six months to support Operation Inherent Resolve. During this deployment, they flew 534 F-22 Raptor flights, 4600 combat hours and dropped 263 bombs, executing a critical role in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The 192nd MXG provides combat-ready personnel and aircraft maintenance to the F-22 Raptor mission. During 2017, MXG launched 5,390 sorties for more than 11,525 F-22 hours flown. They supported the 27th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Theater Security Package in Southwest Asia. Additionally, they executed a short-notice generation of six F-22 aircraft over the 4th of July holiday to bolster the 5th generation presence in the United States Central Command area of responsibility, all in support of fight against ISIS.
The 192nd MSG provides three combat-ready squadrons specializing in civil engineering, supply, security, services, contracting, personnel, communications and logistics plans support. In 2017, they supported multinational exercises including Atlantic Trident and Northern Edge. They backed Operation Inherent Resolve and processed 107 spare repairs supporting 1,200 combat air strikes and the destruction of numerous ISIS facilities. 192nd MSG defenders deployed to several locations in Southwest Asia.
The 192nd MDG ensures a healthy and mission ready force. In 2017, they supported the presidential and gubernatorial inauguration, completed a CERFP exercise with their Army counterpart and supported exercise Vigilant Guard. The 192nd MDG was rated number one in the Drug Demand Reduction Program and number two in the region for mission readiness.
Virginia Army National Guard Medical Command helps foster the medical readiness aspect of the Virginia Army National Guard, and it facilitates force health protection, medical and dental support to assure all Soldiers meet the operational, training and mobilization readiness that is required to execute any mission that is received by the state.
When directed, Medical Command provides medical assets to support units that are tasked with the protection of life, property, preservation of peace, order and public safety accomplished by National Guard Civil Support in the case of disaster response, humanitarian relief, civil disturbance, counter drug operations, and combating terrorism. Medical Command is able to execute this mission because it is staffed with all health care professionals that include, but are not limited to, patient administration, combat medics, nurses, physician assistants, doctors, surgeons, case managers, public health professionals, dental health care specialists and dentists.
Together, the assigned 72 Soldiers execute this mission every year, keeping the Virginia Army National Guard a medically ready force to “Fight Tonight”.
During the last training year, Medical Command assisted with the mobilization of Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers for different missions that included recovery support in the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria as well as mobilization for tours in the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield.
Medical Command also conducted two Medical Sustainment Courses during the fiscal year. This is a 110-hour course that focuses on the validation of skill, medical education and demonstration of the individual competence, or MEDIC, and continuing education. This course keeps our Combat Medics knowledgeable and mission oriented for critical tasks that focus on the Tactical Combat Casualty Care.
Another course is the Field Sanitation Team Course. This course allows the Virginia Army National Guard to send representatives from each unit to be trained on preventative measures that affect units as a whole or are beyond the resources of the individual Soldier. The Soldiers that are certified through this training are able to implement preventative measures to ensure the highest standard of health while in the field environment.
Medical Command is the one stop shop for all medical support aspects for the state. Without the mission and efforts of the trustworthy and highly dedicated Soldiers assigned to the unit, it would be impossible to organically maintain the medical readiness of the Virginia Army National Guard.
Virginia Defense Force
The VDF is authorized by Title 44 of the Code of the Virginia as the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard, and it serves as a force multiplier integrated into all Guard domestic operations. The VDF reports to the Adjutant General of Virginia as part of the Virginia Department of Military Affairs along with the Virginia Army and Air National Guard.
Members of the VDF volunteer their time for training and are only paid when called to state active duty by an authorization from the Governor of Virginia.
In recent months when severe weather struck the commonwealth, VDF personnel worked in a number of different capacities. In the Virginia Emergency Operations Center, they assisted with processing requests for support in Emergency Support Function 16, the Guard’s response cell in the VEOC. They also assisted with mission tracking in the Guard’s Joint Operations Center and helped with public information support as well as providing interoperable communications and incident management assistance to units in the field.
During domestic operations, the Virginia National Guard receives missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist the Virginia State Police and other state and local emergency service organizations as part of the state emergency response team.
In addition to current mission sets like interoperable communications, operations center augmentation, incident management assistance and public information, the VDF will train personnel for more general support to civil authorities and emergency response capabilities.
The VDF is also growing cyber defense capabilities and has assisted with numerous Virginia National Guard network security assessments for Virginia localities in a state active duty status.
The VDF plans to conduct four three-day training assemblies at Fort Pickett this year that will focus on professional military education, small unit leadership and headquarters staff operations as well as refresher training on communications equipment and initial entry training for new members. Operational readiness evaluations will also be conducted to ensure personnel and equipment are ready for possible state active duty response missions.
In the last 18 months, members of the VDF volunteered in their communities assisting organizers and law enforcement at events like the Virginia War Memorial during Veterans Day and Memorial Day, the Winchester Apple Blossom Festival and the World War II Commemoration in Richmond.
The Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force trace the heritage and traditions of citizen service to the founding of Jamestown when Capt. John Smith organized the colonists for defense. Since the colony’s founding on May 14, 1607, there has not been a day since without a military presence in Virginia to protect citizens at home and defend freedom overseas.
Counterdrug Task Force
The Virginia Counterdrug Task Force continues to be an integral part of the Commonwealth’s efforts to reduce the availability and demand for illegal drugs by supporting law enforcement agencies with criminal analysts and aviation support, providing Ion Scanning of evidence and currency for drug residue and by integrating Army and Air Guardsmen in community substance abuse prevention coalitions.
The Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Aviation Element conducted 553 hours of counterdrug aviation operations support in 2017 to multiple federal, state and local law enforcement agencies within the commonwealth. These missions included countless illegal heroin and cocaine distribution, methamphetamine transactions, and indoor marijuana grow take-downs. VANG-CDAE marijuana eradication support to the DEA and Virginia State Police resulted in the eradication of 6,782 plants with an estimated street value of $20,346,000. In addition to the narcotics value of eradication efforts, a total of $468,240 in assets/currency and 277 weapons were seized, which resulted in 171 drug related arrests.
State Partnership Program
Established in 2003, the goal of the State Partnership Program is to establish broad reaching, friendly ties between partner states and partner countries at all levels of society utilizing the National Guard as the catalyzing force and means of support. September 2016 marked the 25th anniversary of Tajikistan’s independence, and the partnership between the Virginia National Guard and Tajikistan is in its 14th year. As part of the SPP, the Virginia National Guard regularly conducts information exchanges on a variety of subjects related to security and emergency response operations. The Guard also facilitates trips from Tajikistani officials to the United States.
Officers from the Tajikistan Ministry of Defense who specialize in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives response operations conducted an information exchange with personnel for the Virginia National Guard’s 34th Civil Support Team Feb. 21-22, 2017, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The exchange was part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program that links states and partner nations in support of mutual interests, and their visit also included a tour of the Virginia Emergency Operations Center and meeting with officials from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
Funeral Honors Program
The Virginia National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program started in January 2007, and it is composed of five teams located throughout the state which provide funeral details, not just to National Guard Soldiers but to veterans of the active Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard. They have performed more than 21,000 funeral services throughout the commonwealth and average almost 190 services each month. More than a dozen Army National Guard Soldiers from Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina completed a five-day Level 1 Funeral Honors Training hosted by the Virginia National Guard Funeral Honors Program Dec. 11-15, 2017, at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The 40-hour certification course, which included eight Soldiers from Virginia, three from Maryland and two from North Carolina, prepares National Guard Soldiers to conduct professional military funeral honors in accordance with military service tradition and covers everything from the correct wear of the uniform, to the drill and ceremony aspects of the service, to instilling the mental toughness needed to perform the ceremonies. The Virginia National Guard Military Funeral Honors conducts a Level 1 training course once a quarter throughout the fiscal year with Soldiers trainers from Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. Virginia hosts the Level 2 National Training Course and the Level 3 National Recertification Course annually..
Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy is the Virginia component of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program based at the Camp Pendleton State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. ChalleNGe is a 17-and-a-half-month program that is structured in a military-style environment designed to promote academics, attention to detail, time management, and leadership, while promoting self-esteem, confidence and pride. The program is open to 16-18 year olds, and the cadets work toward earning their GED, or multiple high school credits through the Credit Recovery program. Cadets either return to high school, enlist in the armed forces, college or trade school, once they’ve completed the five-and-a-half-month residential phase of the program, then enter a one year Mentoring phase. ChalleNGe graduated 117 cadets during a commencement ceremony for Class 50 in March and 118 cadets from Class 51 in August. More than 5,000 Virginia teens have graduated from Commonwealth ChalleNGe since it started in 1994. (Updated Dec. 6, 2019)
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STARBASE is a Department of Defense educational program, sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs where students participate in challenging activities in science, technology, engineering and math. The STARBASE mission is to expose our nation’s youth to the technological environments and positive civilian and military role models found on Active, Guard, and Reserve military bases and installations, nurture a winning network of collaborators, and build mutual loyalty within our communities, by providing 5 days, 25 hours of exemplary hands-on instruction and activities that meet or exceed the National Standards. The Winchester STARBASE Academy at the Winchester Readiness Center immerses students in a unique classroom experience where all activities are student-centered, hands-on, encourage higher order thinking, and incorporate STEM applications in the real world.
During the 2019 calendar year, STARBASE instructors provided an exciting science, technology, engineering and mathematics program to 57 classes, graduating 1,207 students from the five-day program. Out of these classes, 96% of the students were from Title I schools, serving low socioeconomic, at-risk students.
In addition to serving these 57 classes, the STARBASE staff also spent five days as guest instructors at the Clarke County summer STEM camp teaching robotics and computer-aided design programming, went to Virginia Beach to teach robotics to students at the National Guard Youth Camp and ChalleNGe program and provided activities at three local elementary school STEM nights. Instructors also ran a STARBASE 2.0 program, an after-school program for middle school students. The objective of STARBASE 2.0 is to serve students at other grade levels in STEM beyond their initial STARBASE experience in order to continue the impact of a positive STEM program. The Winchester STARBASE instructors trained the middle school students in robotics building and programming and took a team of students to the First Lego League Robotics Competition. (Updated Dec. 6, 2019)
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Family and Youth Programs
The Family Programs Office primary mission is to establish comprehensive programs that facilitate ongoing communication, involvement, support and recognition between National Guard families and the National Guard through partnership that promotes the best in both. The Family Programs Office facilitates this through education, outreach services, and partnerships leveraging resources, training, and constantly capitalizing on new capabilities, concepts, and technological advances to promote Family readiness before, during and after mobilization through effective reintegration processes.
Virginia Family Assistance Center Specialists logged a total of 3,793 cases, 49,732 quick-trackers, and 150,000 mass communications. A total of 5,325 wellness calls were provided in support to deployed family members, resulting in Soldiers and families receiving $198,000 in direct financial assistance. The Airman and Family Readiness Program Manager provided 317 formal one-on-one consults to Airmen/family members, 726 informal consults, 18 workshops and 7 outreach events.
The Yellow Ribbon team planned and organized two predeployment, three during-deployment and five post-deployment Yellow Events with over 985 soldiers and 1,175 families attending. The program also ran the first joint Yellow Ribbon Event held in the State which incorporated partnerships between Maryland and Virginia in support of the 29th ID.
Youth Program highlights included one summer camp, eight community resource meetings and support to 10 Yellow Ribbon events focused on teaching resilience communication throughout all phases of deployment. They had 21 Teen Panel Members, four State Teen Panel Training Calls and two State Teen Panel Leadership Trainings.
34th Civil Support Team
The mission of the 34th Civil Support Team is to support civil authorities during a domestic incident. These incidents can include a terrorist attack or threatened terrorist attack, a natural or manmade disaster in the United States, clandestine/drug lab evidence collection, and/or an unintentional release of nuclear, biological, radiological, toxic or poisonous chemicals. The 34th CST supports the requesting agency by identifying unknown substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with appropriate requests for additional support.
The 34th CST is a joint Army and Air National Guard unit of 22 full-time specialized Soldiers and Airmen. It consists of six sections that support each other during operations. The command section of three personnel provides leadership and liaisons allowing the team to meet the objectives of the requesting civilian agency. The operations section of two personnel plans and executes all training and real world missions. The survey section of eight personnel conducts the down range operations during an incident. This section enters the contaminated area in order to physically survey and collect samples for analysis. The decon section of three personnel provides the team with an internal decontamination. The communications section of two personnel has highly specialized equipment to provide the team and local agencies with phones, internet, and radios. The medical section of four personnel supports the team with a physician assistant and combat medic for medical emergencies. In addition, it also includes a nuclear science officer who has a mobile laboratory and ability to conduct analysis and identify samples of unknown substances collected.
During 2017, the 34th CST supported numerous requests from civilian Virginia agencies. The 34th CST conducted chemical and radiological monitoring and sweeps during the Vice Presidential Debates, Governors Inauguration, Richmond Rally, and supported local counties during NASCAR, marathons and festival events. Outside of Virginia, the 34th CST supported the Washington D.C. National Guard’s 33rd CST with the 58th Presidential Inauguration. In conjunction with real world support, the 34th CST continued to hone its skills by participating in 29 exercises and numerous individual chemical based school trainings. The 34th CST continues its rigorous training and support requirements into 2018, continuing to be prepared to respond in support of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States of America.
The Richmond-based 34th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package participated in multi-state disaster exercise July 9-12, 2019, near River Road, Delaware. The exercise, aptly named “Operation Highball,” simulated the derailment of a train carrying hazardous chemicals in a populated area, causing a significant number of casualties as well as a large-scale structure collapse.
Being one of the original CERFPs formed in 2006, the 34th CERFP is a key element of the Department of Defense’s contingency plan to provide immediate lifesaving capabilities to local, regional and national emergency responders.
Prior to Operation Highball, the 34th CERFP led the National Guard by completing the first-ever new equipment fielding of the National Guard CBRN Response Enterprise Information Management System at Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center, Blackstone, Virginia. More than 200 Soldiers and Airmen conducted equipment familiarization training and other tactical-level rehearsals during the equipment fielding. Following the training, the 34th CERFP shifted into a full-scale exercise at the Structure Collapse Venue Site at Fort Pickett.
The full-scale exercise involved a response to a simulated improvised nuclear detonation outside of a fictional professional sporting arena near Richmond. Soldiers from the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company’s Search & Extraction Element located and extracted several simulated survivors. Those survivors underwent mass casualty technical decontamination provided by Soldiers from the Rocky Mount-based 229th Chemical Company that is designed to remove any chemical, biological and radiological hazards that the survivors may have encountered during the explosion.
Once decontaminated, survivors received onsite medical triage and stabilization. Highly-trained Airmen from the Richmond-based Detachment 1, 192nd Medical Group evaluated, treated and prepared over 300 survivors for emergency evacuation. Concurrently, Airmen from the Suitland-based 113th Services Flight practiced recovering human remains from beneath the rubble.
The entire process was overseen by Soldiers from Richmond-based Joint Force Headquarters, which form the Command and Control Element. The Command and Control Element manages communication between the 34th CERFP and the local incident command. Airmen from the Hampton-based 192nd Communications Flight support the 34th CERFP’s communications architecture and enable each element to independently communicate with each other and others over radio and internet.
In 2020, the 34th CERFP will undergo its seventh U.S. Northern Command-proctored mission confirmation assessment at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. This will be the first external evaluation involving elements of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Homeland Response Force and Delaware National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Assistance and Support Element. (Updated Dec. 6, 2019)
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