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NEWS | Dec. 12, 2022

Governor tours Fort Pickett, visits DMA state employees

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Virginia National Guard senior leaders hosted Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and retired Maj. Gen. Craig Crenshaw, the Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, Dec. 8, 2022, for an overview and tour of Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett, Virginia. 

Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, Brig. Gen. James W. Ring, the VNG Director of the Joint Staff, and Col. James Shaver, MTC Fort Pickett garrison commander, provided the governor and the secretary an overview of MTC’s capabilities and missions and a tour of the installation, where they observed training at multiple live-fire ranges.

“It’s been fantastic to be here this morning, and to have the chance to tour some of the most important missions that happen here at Fort Pickett,” said Youngkin. “We have at the end of the day a range of capabilities here and it is the breadth that makes Fort Pickett so special. It’s been demonstrated whether it’s supporting 10,000 Afghan refugees all the way through to making sure that our Virginia National Guard is well-prepared. That breadth of capabilities makes Fort Pickett so unique.”

The visit provided MTC leadership a chance to showcase the facility’s benefits to the Virginia National Guard as well as customers from other states, organizations and services. 

“I began working on getting Governor Youngkin to visit Fort Pickett as soon as I heard he was making his rounds to the military installations across the commonwealth this past year,” said Shaver. “We needed to showcase the unique character of his only Army National Guard training center, which sets us apart from the vast collection of DOD assets here in the state. He was able to see firsthand the value Fort Pickett provides to the national security of the nation, as well as to the multitude of other supported organizations and the local communities.”

Fort Pickett sits on about 41,000 acres and is operated by the Virginia National Guard, which took control of the post in 1997. It features a combination of open-terrain and wooded maneuver areas, more than 20 ranges capable of training on nearly every Army weapons system, a rail spur and a C-17 capable airfield. It also boasts a forward operating base, multiple training villages and a Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, Fort Pickett’s urban operations training facility. 

While it wasn’t possible for Youngkin and Crenshaw to see every asset on the installation during the brief tour, Shaver said they were still able to highlight the impact the facility has on the readiness of the units who train there. 

“We showcased as much as we could in a short period of time to include live fire capabilities, tenant diversity, and recovery efforts from Operation Allies Welcome,” said Shaver. “I’m thankful we had this opportunity, pleased that he got to visit with the amazing full time staff, and optimistic that he now better understands some of our challenges to support our sustained operations and future growth.”

While at the installation, Youngkin was able to visit with Department of Military Affairs state employees as they gathered for their holiday and employee appreciation luncheon at the Fort Pickett Officers’ Club. There, he thanked them for their hard work and dedication to their mission. 

“I want to thank the DMA team for all that you do. The reason why this installation runs so well is a combination of leadership, and on top of that, all of you,” said Youngkin during his remarks. “Everything here has to work, and it has to work at a professional level to meet the expectations of all the men and women who come here to train. That’s everything from the barracks all the way through to the weapons systems to the ranges, to the vehicles. If they’re not working at the level that’s expected, then the preparation that is needed can’t be delivered. I’m very, very proud to serve the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I’m very proud also to be associated with all of you, with the work that you do, and to be associated with Fort Pickett and the Virginia National Guard. It is such an honor.”

Retired Brig. Gen. Walt Mercer, the DMA Chief Operations Officer, and Williams also presented service anniversary awards to state employees who reached milestones in their DMA careers during the event. Mercer said having the governor thank the team after a successful year was nice way to recognize their efforts.

“The DMA team has done amazing work in 2022, and despite the volume of work and projects we have exceeded all mission requirements and provided superb support to the Virginia National Guard,” said Mercer. “Having the chance to gather to celebrate at our holiday social, have a meal together, and present service awards was a great event made even more special by Governor Youngkin’s visit. His willingness to take the time to visit and speak to the DMA team meant a lot to all of us and really made this event special for us.”

While the mission of the DMA state employees and the installation won’t change, the installation’s name soon will. In May 2022, the Congressional Naming Commission recommended Fort Pickett be renamed Fort Barfoot in honor of Col. Van T. Barfoot. Barfoot enlisted in the Army in 1940, later receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions as a technical sergeant in the Oklahoma National Guard 45th Infantry Division in May 1944 in Italy while fighting against German soldiers and tanks.

He remained in the military for 34 years, including tours in Korea and Vietnam. Barfoot served two different times as an advisor to Virginia National Guard units. In the 1950s, he served as an advisor to the 116th Infantry Regiment and later was the Senior Army Advisor to the Virginia National Guard. Those jobs brought him to Fort Pickett for training with VNG units on multiple occasions. On his retirement, the Virginia National Guard awarded him the Virginia Distinguished Service Medal.

After retirement, Barfoot settled on a farm in Amelia County. He returned to national prominence in 2009 when his desire to be able to fly the American flag in front of his home in Henrico County was challenged by the local home owner’s association. Barfoot received support from many national leaders and organizations, eventually prevailing in his efforts.  

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