WINCHESTER, Va. — Members of the Virginia Defense Force operated traffic control points and provided mission command support May 3-5, 2019, at the 92nd Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia. Members of the all-volunteer VDF from units across the state assisted local law enforcement in keeping traffic moving and operated TCPs during a variety of events. The VDF also took advantage of the mission to train on multiple communication systems and rehearse administrative, mission command and logistics procedures they would use if they were called to state active duty to augment the Virginia National Guard.
“Thank you for your willingness to serve our community during the events this weekend,” said the Honorable Terry H. Whittle, clerk of the Winchester Circuit Court, before he swore in a group of VDF troops as special deputies. “Every year I have been here, all I have heard has been praise about the work you do. Without your participation, without your willingness to serve this community, this event doesn’t go on. You play a major role, and on behalf of the citizens of Winchester and Frederick County thank you for that service.”
He also said that he knew the VDF would conduct themselves in the professional manner they always do, even if there was rain during the weekend.
“In today’s environment, it is more important than ever that we are out helping law enforcement keep people safe as they attend the events this weekend,” said Lt. Col. (Va.) Thomas Cooke, commander of the VDF’s 2nd Regiment and officer in charge of ABF support. “In addition to making sure that traffic flows correctly, we are also the eyes and ears of the police, fire and rescue.”
The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival is a series of more than 30 events held in Winchester and Frederick County including band competitions, dances, parades and a 10K Race. Crowds in excess of 250,000 attend the festival each year,
The VDF is authorized by Title 44 of the Code of 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 National Guard and Virginia 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.
The VDF recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, and Del. Debra Rodman of Virginia’s 73rd House District presented General Assembly Joint Resolution No. 864 celebrating the 35th anniversary of the VDF to Brig. Gen. (Va.) Justin P. Carlitti, Sr., commander of the Virginia Defense Force, May 4, 2019, in Richmond, Virginia.
VDF history traces back to the Virginia Volunteers in World War I and the Virginia Protective Force and Virginia State Guard in World War II. The Virginia State Guard was formally reestablished on April 18, 1984, and is recognized as the birthday of the modern VDF. The Virginia General Assembly amended the Code of Virginia March 1, 1986, to change the name of the Virginia State Guard to the Virginia Defense Force.
In addition to community support events like ABF, members of the VDF conduct regular training to hone the skills that could help their fellow citizens in times of need.
Nearly 200 VDF 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 during a multi-day training weekend at Fort Pickett in March.
The VDF took part in the “Perfect Storm” statewide amateur radio emergency communications exercise in January in Richmond and Lynchburg, Virginia, and they were among the nearly 80 amateur operators and agencies registered for this annual event. In Richmond, VDF personnel trained on amateur radio systems and built partnerships with amateur radio operators who support the Virginia Department of Emergency Management at the Virginia Emergency Operations Center. In Lynchburg, VDF members used the equipment in their mobile communications platform trailer to make contact the operators across the state.
In November 2018, VDF members conducted a point of distribution exercise during a multi-day training assembly based at Fort Pickett where they also conducted evaluations on communication and incident management teams as well as set up and operation of mobile communication platforms. Instructors also taught a variety of professional development sessions for officers, noncommissioned officers and enlisted personnel. The exercise and professional development are part of the VDFs ongoing transformation and training focus to better support the Virginia National Guard.