LYNCHBURG, Va. — Members of the all-volunteer Virginia Defense Force conducted training on the communications systems and security capabilities they could use during emergency response operations in support of the Virginia National Guard July 13, 2019, in Lynchburg, Virginia. VDF personnel trained on high frequency radio employment for voice and data messaging and security capabilities like access control.
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 National Guard and Virginia Air National Guard. Members of the VDF volunteer their time for training and are only paid when called to duty by an authorization from the Governor of Virginia.
The communication training utilized the VDF’s mobile communication platform trailers as well as hand-held systems. The VDF MCP is a 7 1/2 feet by 16 feet trailer equipped with multiple radio systems for voice and data communications, and it also features a map board and work space so it can function as a mobile command post. Using an MCP, members of the VDF are able to communicate across a variety of radio spectrums with emergency response and public safety organizations as well as amateur radio operators. In the event of severe weather like hurricanes or heavy snow where traditional communication systems could become disrupted, the VDF MCPs would provide a vital communications capability for the Virginia National Guard as it conducts operations to assist with keeping citizens of the commonwealth safe.
Saturday’s training is the latest in a series of training events where VDF personnel hone their communication skills. VDF personnel took part in the United Resolve multi-state, multi-agency communications exercise at locations across the state June 1, 2019, and they used equipment in the their MCPs to establish high frequency radio communications at units in Richmond, Cedar Bluff, Winchester and Lynchburg as well as state guard organizations in New York, California, Washington and Indiana, elements of the Virginia Civil Air Patrol and the Healthcare Emergency Amateur Radio Team in Newport News. In addition to voice communications, the exercise tested data transmission capabilities for text email messages and transferring digital photos.
VDF personnel recently assisted with local law enforcement with access control and traffic management at the 92nd Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester and the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.
More than 50 members of the VDF volunteered their time to assist local law enforcement with traffic flow, parking and pre-security checks for the D-Day 75 ceremony. They established a command post at the local VNG readiness center and stationed personnel at 15 parking locations where attendees gathered to board buses for the event, and the D-Day Memorial staff estimated a crowd of more than 10,000 attended. VDF personnel helped keep traffic moving in the parking lots, answered general questions and help explain the items allowed at the ceremony and the general screening procedures.
Last year when Hurricane Florence threatened Virginia, the VDF brought nearly 50 personnel on duty to assist the Virginia National Guard with the statewide response. VDF personnel provided multiple capabilities including interoperable communications, operations center augmentation, operations center liaison, incident management assistance, state-managed shelter logistics and public information.
The VDF will also train and rehearse the administrative, mission command and logistics procedures they would use if they were called to emergency response duty to augment the Virginia National Guard.
“The VDF participation in the United Resolve communications exercise and their assistance during the D-Day 75 commemoration show why they are such a vital part of our team,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We count on them to provide important elements of the Virginia National Guard’s overall response capabilities, and they are constantly training to make sure they are ready to go if needed. Their support to law enforcement in Bedford showcased their commitment to community support, and it is even more impressive when you factor in they were all in a volunteer status for both events. I continue to be incredibly impressed by their dedicated sense of service, and I thank each and everyone one of them for what they do to support the commonwealth. They are making a difference in their communities, and they continue to demonstrate they will be ready to answer the call if we need them.”
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.
The VDF recently celebrated its 35th anniversary and traces its history 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.
VDF members bring a wide variety of military, law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical services, network security, radio communications and other civilian skills to mission sets including emergency communications support, operations center augmentation, resource management, operational planning, incident management assistance, cyber defense, access control and public information.