FORT PICKETT, Va. — Members of the all-volunteer Virginia Defense Force conducted communications and security operations training March 15-17, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Nearly 200 personnel participated in security training focused on a vehicle inspection and traffic control, and communications training featured classroom instruction and hands-on high frequency radio employment for voice and data messaging.
“We met our goals of conducting a wide variety of training focused on our communication and civil support / security specialties, and we received very positive feedback about the well-planned and professionally executed hands-on training,” said Lt. Col. (Va.) Donald J. Thornley, VDF operations officer. “Training tasks included vehicle search and traffic control practical exercises, driver training and a communications exercise with both voice and data where we were able to send email messages via high frequency radio.”
The training weekend also included several external organizations with the Civil Air Patrol taking part in the communications exercise and the VDF chaplains conducting a joint chapel service March 17 with chaplains from the West Virginia National Guard, Thornley said.
Brig. Gen. Lapthe Flora, Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General – Army, toured the different training sites March 16, and he also took part in the Office Candidate School commissioning ceremony for four new officers and one new warrant officer after completing the 15-month OCS program.
Flora promoted Mark David Bergeron, Mark Russell Royce, Hyun Namkung and Eric Brian Schrock to second lieutenant and Angela Nichole Easton to warrant officer one. Bergeron was recognized as the distinguished graduate.
Flora also recognized Sgt. (Va.) Anthony W. Midgett, Jr., the VDF NCO of the Year, and Midgett was also recognized at the final formation March 17.
Thornley said the VDF conducted additional training and development of their National Guard Support Teams that will have habitual support relationships with VNG staff functions like Emergency Support Function 16, the VNG’s response cell in the Virginia Emergency Operations Center, the logistics operations center, the joint communications section and public affairs office. When the VNG is activated for state emergency response duty, the VDF will provide personnel to work side-by-side with their designated section.
“The key point is that we need to align with National Guard and make sure we can effectively provide the support they need,” Thornley said.
The VDF also conducted training on the regional liaison resource to support VDEM’s seven regions of the state and help maintain effective information flow between the regions, the state and Guard forces positioned to provide support where there are needed.
For members of the VDF, attending the multi-day training weekend offers an opportunity to put civilian skills to use, share them with other members and take new skills back to their full-time jobs.
Cpl. (Va.) Andrews Trible said he joined the VDF for an opportunity to serve in addition to working as county deputy sheriff and to share his law enforcement experience with others in the organization.
“I really enjoy the camaraderie, the military atmosphere and the opportunity to come to Fort Pickett and train,” Trible said. “My favorite thing is to be able to put on the uniform and serve. Joining the VDF is one of the best decisions I have made, and I have met so many good people.”
Trible said that even those that don’t have experience in public safety can learn new skills and apply them to their VDF mission.
“Being able to translate civilian experience into skills you can give to other people and then they can apply those skills in the field is really rewarding and empowering,” Trible said. “I can also take experiences from the VDF and take them back to my civilian job like earning the basic certification as a Military Emergency Management Specialist.”
The VDF is authorized by Title 44 of the Code of Virginia as the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard, and they are a force multiplier and integrated into all VNG domestic response operations. 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. The VDF reports to the Adjutant General of Virginia as part of the Virginia Department of Military Affairs along with the Virginia Army National Guard and Virginia Air National Guard.