NEWS | Feb. 27, 2017

VDF conducts statewide communications exercise

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Members of the Virginia Defense Force conducted a communication exercise at multiple locations across the commonwealth Feb. 25, 2017, to test their ability to use multiple systems for voice and data communications.

“The intent of the exercise was to simulate an emergency that rendered normal communications inoperative,” explained  Lt. Col. (Va.) Nicholas Christoff, G3 operations officer for the VDF. “This challenge was  met by VDF elements located in Winchester, Lynchburg, Cedar Bluff and Richmond. Using multiple types of equipment and antennas, to include three deployable Mobile Communications Platform trailers, they were able to successfully establish dedicated and dependable communications. The exercise validated the VDF’s ability to serve both the citizens of Virginia and to provide direct support to the Virginia National Guard during natural or man-made disasters.”

The VDF is authorized by the Code of the Virginia as the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard and serves as a force multiplier integrated into all Va. Guard domestic operations.

The exercise was a culmination of weeks of planning between the VDF’s three active regiments, Christoff said. In addition to the communications training, VDF members also conducted the necessary logistical planning for the safe movement of MCP trailers.

“The exercise was successful and communications between all four locations was established,” explained Lt. Col. (Va.) Philip R. Smith, commander of the Lynchburg-based 4th Regiment. “A variety of voice and data modes were used to communicate between these locations, as well as a variety of antennas and antenna configurations were used to test the performance of each.”

Interoperable communications is just one of the mission sets the VDF provides in support of the Virginia National Guard. VDF members bring a wide variety of public safety, military and civilian skills to mission sets including access control, interoperable communications support, operations center augmentation, resource management, operational planning, incident management assistance and public information.

The VDF provided support when nearly 200 members of the Virginia National Guard were on duty and ready to assist with the state’s multi-agency response to heavy snow Jan. 7-9, 2017, throughout the Hampton Roads area. Soldiers were staged and ready the morning of Jan. 7 with less than 12 hours notification, and their assistance included recovering a fire truck in Newport News and helping Virginia State Police clear abandoned vehicles in Accomack County.

The VDF had 23 personnel on duty to augment operations centers in Richmond and Sandston, provide incident management assistance and communications support in the field as well as public information support at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s Joint Information Center.

Members of the VDF volunteer their time for training and community support and are only paid when called to state active duty by an authorization from the Governor of Virginia.

VDF members also volunteer their time to assist in their communities with access control, traffic management, parking assistance and other support.

In the past year, members of the VDF volunteered their time to assist with traffic control Nov. 11, 2016, at the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, Virginia. More than 15 VDF members were on hand to assist visitors with parking and answering questions about the event.

The VDF is gearing up for another significant support mission at the 2017 Winchester Apple Blossom Festival in early May. Las year, nearly 100 members of the VDF assisted local law enforcement in keeping traffic moving during the 89th Apple Blossom Festival in April 2016. VDF members from each of the regiments came together to form Task Force Shenandoah and volunteered their time by operating traffic control points and providing mission command support at the event.

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