FORT PICKETT, Va. –
More than 150 members of the Virginia Defense Force conducted communications and security operations training July 13-15, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The security training focused on a variety of access control scenarios, and the communications training featured a first-ever ground-to-air communications test with the Virginia Civil Air Patrol.
“The July training weekend was extremely successful, and our scheduled training weekend in September will continue to build on a regimen to gain operational readiness in a host of select skills that will culminate in our field exercise in November,” said Brig. Gen. (Va.) Justin Carlitti, commander of the Virginia Defense Force. “I am incredibly proud of the great work from everyone this week, and I continue to be impressed by the dedicated volunteer service members of the VDF.”
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 state active duty by an authorization from the Governor of Virginia.
“The VDF successfully trained more than half the active force in key civil support and security tasks, including interior and exterior guard, entry and exit from a restricted area, gate sentry duty, roadblock operations; incident reporting and operating the Statewide Agencies Radio System,” explained Lt. Col. (Va.) Donald J. Thornley, the VDF operations officer. “These tasks all directly relate to support packages the Adjutant General of Virginia and Joint Staff have assigned to VDF and further integrates us into VNG operations. We will continue to train the force in similar tasks in September, culminating in a validation exercise in November. “
After setting up their mobile communications platforms, VDF personnel established connections between the four MCP trailers and also worked with the CAP to establish ground-to-air communications with CAP aircraft operating in the area.
“Working with the VDF has been great,” said Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. James Schmidt, the deputy commander for the CAP’s squadron in Winchester. “This has been a great opportunity to build habitual relationships, test our equipment with the VDF, help them understand how to talk to one of our airplanes and gain some experience with the common chatter.”
Schmidt explained that the CAP brought four of their radios, and they were integrated into the communications in the VDF MCPs.
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.
“The joint VDF-CAP exercise was a proof of concept to test if CAP personnel and equipment could integrate with the VDF,” Thornley said. “Both organizations were pleased with the interchange, and we determined that some equipment upgrades are needed to fully interface with CAP. The joint exercise was successful, and the organizations are planning follow on joint training in the coming months to establish a familiar team. The ultimate aim is to provide state authorities with an integrated air-ground communications enterprise.”
Thornley explained that the security and communications training with CAP all point at a validation exercise in November.
“The exercise is intended to test the VDF’s ability to respond to part of the new suite of support packages the AG has assigned to VDF,” he said. “The VDF will continue the AG-directed training into 2019, until the VDF commanding general is satisfied the force is fully ready to perform any of the tasks in a real world emergency operations setting.”
Over the last two years when severe weather struck the commonwealth, VDF personnel worked in a number of different capacities. In the Virginia Emergency Operations Center, they assisted with processing requests for support in Emergency Support Function 16, the Guard’s response cell in the VEOC. They also assisted with mission tracking in the Guard’s Joint Operations Center and helped with public information support as well as providing interoperable communications and incident management assistance to units in the field.
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.
In the last two years, members of the VDF also volunteered in their communities assisting organizers and law enforcement at events like the Virginia War Memorial during Veterans Day and Memorial Day, the Winchester Apple Blossom Festival, the Lynchburg Air Show and the World War II Commemoration in Richmond.