FORT PICKETT, Va. – Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from multiple units came together on extremely short notice Jan. 6, 2021, to help support the enormous request for help in Washington, D.C. ahead of the 59th Presidential Inauguration. An expedited response from VNG Soldiers assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group and Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett helped establish a reception, staging, onward movement and integration processing station at MTC for thousands of Soldiers heading to the nation’s capital.
The 329th RSG reacted quickly, with only hours to plan, pack and travel from Virginia Beach to MTCFP to start in-processing troops called to help assist civilian law enforcement in D.C. protect property and provide a safe environment for citizens to exercise their right to peacefully assemble and protest.
The RSOI process transitions military personnel and equipment into prepared and available resources for federal or state missions. During RSOI, Soldiers must go through several administrative and medical stations to ensure they are fully prepared and equipped for the mission at hand.
“Typically the RSOI process is 72 hours to prep and set up and then begin executing. Then at the end of the next 48 hours you’ve produced 650 troops ready to go,” explained Col. Todd Pegg, commander of the 329th RSG. “We had 24 hours of notice and prep. The next day and every day after we produced 500 Soldiers a day.”
Pegg also explained only about 60% of his staff was available to support the RSOI mission due to the short notice nature of the mission.
“I’ve got people unavailable due to work, due to travel, stuff like that, so to get it done faster than usual with only 60% of our people, I’m very happy with that,” he said.
MTC Fort Pickett provided the facilities and staff from their Directorate of Logistics, as well as the Directorate of Plans, Training and Security, to help support the RSG’s RSOI mission.
“DOL and DPTS were heavily involved in the in-processing,” said Col. Paul Gravely, the Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett garrison commander. “It was very professional work done by MTC to help support the mission of the 329th and the overall mission to get everyone to the National Capital Region.”
Once the stations were set up, the 329th’s mission immediately grew to include specialized training, weapons qualification and COVID-19 tests for Soldiers going through the RSOI process. Despite the last minute changes, the available staff worked to quickly obtain the necessary resources, locations and personnel to conduct the new RSOI requirements.
With Soldiers expected to arrive on a rolling basis over four days, the staff took on the difficult task of creating daily, rotational group schedules. Their precise timing and coordination ensured every group successfully completed each station with maximum efficiency and limited wait time. With all stations and schedules set, the 329th welcomed and began processing the first wave of Soldiers roughly 24 hours after being notified of their mission.
“I am floored at how successful we’ve been. It’s been ugly and there’s been pain for our folks to try and get it done quickly and do more than they usually do but the numbers are there,” said Pegg.
Medical support for the RSOI process was also crucial. Soldiers processing through MTC received COVID-19 tests with the help of the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team as well as the VNG’s COVID response task force.
“Their efficiency and professionalism with the testing process, as well as their positive relationships with the labs were instrumental in the turn-around time of the results,” said Maj. Lisa C. Beach with the VNG’s Joint Medical Advisory Cell.
Army and Air medics also conducted health checks for troops assigned to support law enforcement in D.C. The JMAC is coordinating these health efforts and will continue to do so as units return from their service in the nation’s capital. The cited the support of Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Brig. Gen. James Ring, the VNG Director of the Joint Staff for their success.
“This has truly been a joint effort across the entire Army and Air components,” said Col. Frank Yang, the State Air Surgeon. “Health protection of the force has always been a priority of Maj. Gen. Williams and Brig. Gen. Ring. These senior leaders have fully supported efforts by JMAC and the entire VNG medical forces.”
The VNG had about 2,400 troops on the ground in D.C. for inauguration support, and approximately 1,000 remain on duty at the request of civilian law enforcement and are expected to return to Virginia in early to mid February.