FORT PICKETT, Va. – The Virginia-Beach based 329th Regional Support Group can finally take a breath after managing the complete administrative in-processing and out-processing of over 2,500 Virginia National Guard Soldiers supporting law enforcement in Washington D.C. from Jan. 8 to Feb. 12, 2021.
The administrative process, known as reception, staging, onward movement and integration, was a short-notice event that saw the 329th RSG process and send over 2,100 Soldiers to Washington D.C. in early January. During RSOI, Soldiers must go through several administrative and medical stations to ensure they are fully prepared and equipped for the mission at hand.
In total the Virginia Army National Guard sent over 2,500 Soldiers to Washington D.C., all of whom needed to go through similar administrative and medial stations during reverse RSOI before returning home.
“Reverse RSOI was a lot more challenging. There were a lot more people,” explained the 329th RSG administrative officer, Maj. Jay Jennings. “We missed a bunch going out due to the short notice call out but we’ve caught nearly everyone coming home.”
The list of challenges to plan and execute the reverse RSOI was not short. Jennings explained the Virginia Guard had not self-mobilized at this scale before and the 329th RSG staff did not know what reverse RSOI needed to look like to ensure Soldiers did not have pay or medical issues when they returned home from state active duty.
The planning meetings between the 329th staff, the Virginia Guard staff sections, the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute and Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett were hasty, but Jennings and Col. Todd Pegg, the 329th RSG commander, had nothing but praise for their higher level counterparts.
“The teamwork between the 329th RSG, RTI and MTC allowed us to validate, RSOI, and send forward over 2,100 troops in just four days, and then reverse RSOI and out-process over 2,500 at the end of the mission. It's an incredible accomplishment and represents the best of what our Citizen Soldiers can do when called upon,” Pegg stated.
In addition to the many administrative stations already set up for the initial RSOI, the reverse RSOI saw the late addition of family readiness stations. As Jennings explained, after Soldiers arrived in Washington D.C., several Soldiers ran into medical benefit issues with their family or financial issues which required staff assistance.
To help alleviate these unforeseen challenges, the 329th staff added reverse RSOI stations specifically focused on medical benefits and availability of financial counselors. They were also able to provide returning Soldiers the option to receive their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
There were other unexpected successes as well.
Jennings detailed the story of a Soldier going through the retention station who was planning to separate from the National Guard. The Soldier offered that if a general officer could administer his oath, he would gladly sign up for another 6 years of service. Jennings made a few calls and Brig. Gen. K. Weedon Gallagher, the VNG Land Component Commander, drove to Fort Pickett to administer the oath to Staff Sgt. William Johnson.
Additionally, Jennings was able to secure extended, long-term orders for three of his staff members to help work through the residual paperwork remaining from the reverse RSOI.
To Jennings this was a win-win. “[The Soldiers] will get to learn their military job but also gain additional skills they could use to find [better] civilian employment.”
As they did with the initial RSOI, the 329th RSG staff came together and successfully completed the monumental task of creating and executing a reverse RSOI from the ground up. They ensured the 2,500 Soldiers of the Virginia Army National Guard called to support the presidential inauguration returned home safe and worry free.