RICHMOND, Va. –
Ten new members of the Virginia Defense Force marked their completion of Initial Entry Training Sept. 11, 2021, in a graduation ceremony at the VDF Headquarters at Waller Depot in Richmond, Virginia.
Family and friends could not attend due to COVID restrictions, but the Recruit Sustainment Command found many ways to emphasize the graduates’ importance as “Virginians helping Virginians.”
“You look sharp, and I’m proud of you,” said Command Sgt. Maj. (Va.) John Clatterbuck, command sergeant major for the RSC. “We want the National Guard to see we’re professionals.”
Clatterbuck also emphasized that the new VDF members are serving for the best of reasons: home and hearth for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Warrant Officer 1 (Va.) Stanley Ray, a VDF recruiter and U.S. Armed Forces veteran who served two tours in Iraq, encouraged the new Soldiers to focus on “servant leadership, serving your people.”
The graduation date itself, the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, held special significance, in light of the VDF’s service to the Commonwealth at home while Virginia National Guard personnel deployed abroad.
Eight of the new Soldiers will be assigned to their local VDF units in Richmond, Fairfax and Virginia Beach. The other two will serve throughout the commonwealth as part of the VDF Public Information Office,
These 10 individuals are the first cadre of recruits to graduate from IET under the VDF’s new training model.
“The higher tempo of VDF personnel being used to augment National Guard and Virginia Department of Emergency Management missions during this time, has caused us to look at ways to streamline basic training while maintaining recruit motivation,” said Maj. (Va.) James Stanley, the VDF’s head recruiter.
Stanley said the approach grew out of a suggestion from Command Sgt. Maj. (Va.) Tony Kegley, the VDF command sergeant major , who proposed that the VDF “jumpstart” basic training by working through Recruiting and Retention’s existing relationship with new recruits.
The intent is to help recruits complete the basic courses before joining their intended units, Stanley explained, so they “hit the ground running at their new duty stations, ready to learn new mission-critical skills and interface with their home-station mentors.”
The change also reduces administrative burdens on receiving units. Basic tasks such as ID card processing, uniform issue, and establishment of training files are completed before recruits leave IET. This is especially important in the COVID era, Stanley said, as the pandemic has significantly affected recruiting and monthly drill efforts. “With limited or non-existent in-person meetings last year, it has been difficult to meet and discuss opportunities with new interested personnel.”
Stanley and Ray are communicating with interested personnel by means of emails, phone calls, and virtual meetings. However, “the face-to-face interaction is really where new recruits get to judge whether they are going to fit into a new organization,” Stanley said.
At the graduation, several new VDF members mentioned conversations with VDF personnel as an important reason in their decision to join.
For more information, visit the official VDF website at www.vdf.virginia.gov
The new members have come to the VDF by different paths but have the same wish to serve their communities the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard.
Roll Call of New VDF Members:
• HQ Company (Richmond): Spc. (Va.) Jason Chan and PV1 (Va.) Aidan Tyndall
• D Company (Virginia Beach): Pfc. (Va.) Anita Keith-Smith, Pfc. (Va.) Ricardo Pinero, Jr. and Pfc. (Va.) Roman Ramirez
• E Company (Fairfax): Spc. (Va.) Nicholas Dwuma, Spc. (Va.) Masrur Hossain and Spc. (Va.) Waseem Thabet
• PIO (Force HQ, Richmond): Spc.(Va.) Eric Badertscher and Spc. (Va.) Nathaniel Stiefel
HQ Company (Richmond)
Spc. (Va.) Jason Chan, an IT operations director at Virginia Commonwealth University, said VDF service grew out of other volunteering. “During the past year, working from home was becoming a mundane and arduous task,” he said. “I wanted to assist the community, so I decided to join Chesterfield Community Emergency Response Team and the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps in helping out with COVID testing and the distribution of COVID vaccines. It was at these events where I bumped into SSG Chris Holstrom. This was where he introduced me to the VDF, and this was where my journey begins.”
PV1 (Va.) Aidan Tyndall said that he joined the VDF to find a meaningful way to give back to and serve his community. “Working with the VDF, I hope to continue to serve my community, and spread the word about our organization with recruiting and retention, to allow others like me to find a meaningful way to serve the community.”
D Company (Virginia Beach)
Pfc. (Va.) Anita Keith-Smith said that she joined “because I enjoy volunteering and I have a friend in the South Carolina State Guard who works with homeless veterans and families in crisis. I hope to be an asset to the community.”
Pfc. (Va.) Ricardo Pinero, Jr., said that “I volunteer with the Fire Department and Civil Air Patrol (CAP), and I always wanted to join the military. My wife is in the Navy and just returned from deployment, and I have a lot a people behind my enlistment package.” Pinero said that Sgt. (Va.) Wilmot Griffin of D Co. was very impressed by his CAP service, and he hopes to find ways to increase collaboration between the CAP and the VDF.
Pfc. (Va.) Roman Ramirez, who works in Virginia law enforcement, said “I always wanted to join the military. I come from a military family, all branches. I finished Air Force ROTC but wasn’t able to do military service because of a health condition. The VDF allows me to do this. Community is a big thing for me. As a state law enforcement officer, I want to help, protect, and educate.”
E Company (Fairfax)
Spc. (Va.) Nicholas Dwuma, a building supervisor for Fairfax County Public Schools, said he joined the VDF “because of the bravery, confidence, and having the opportunity to serve our communities.”
Spc. (Va.) Masrur Hossain, a Northern Virginia banker, said the VDF was a way to fulfill a longtime dream of military service. He had intended to join the military after high school, he had been a cadet leader in the Virginia 821st Air Force Junior ROTC unit in Arlington, “but I got really involved with my professional career.” Years later, he realized it was too late to join the U.S. military, “but I still wanted to be associated with a military-type organization and give back to the community. VDF was the perfect solution.”
Spc. (Va.) Waseem Thabet said “I wanted to join the military reserve but didn’t want to leave my family and kids. My coworker said to me that another good option is the VDF.” Thabet added that “the VDF looks like a great opportunity for service, and I’m very happy.”
Public Information Office
Spc. (Va.) Nathaniel Stiefel, currently the Deputy Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said he was looking for opportunities to serve the community, and the PIO enables him to apply his communications expertise. “While I no longer met the age requirements to join the reserve units of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Virginia Defense Force presented the perfect combination of military service, training, and community support to make the commitment worthwhile,” he said. Stiefel looks forward to learning about military public affairs “and how we can leverage different channels to best represent the Virginia Defense Force, its history, and continued service to the commonwealth.”
SPC (Va.) Eric Badertscher, a manager for The Reports and Requirements Company, part of Buchanan & Edwards, Inc., said “The VDF is fulfilling my longstanding desire for military service, while also aligning with my personal and professional interests, including freelance journalism. I especially look forward to traveling around our state and learning about the ways our units are supporting their communities. It’s about finding new ways to tell the VDF story.”