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NEWS | July 12, 2023

Year-round operations keep SMR buzzing with activity

By A.J. Coyne | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Summertime is a busy season for Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen throughout the state, but for the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, it’s business as usual. The small installation is packed all year long by a variety of Department of Defense personnel, community programs and civilian organizations.   

SMR is a state-owned, 328-acre installation, located in Virginia’s Hampton Roads, one of the most military-dense regions of the state.  SMR’s primary purpose is the on-site training of Virginia National Guard personnel.  One third of Virginia’s National Guard strength is located within 75 miles of SMR, making it an ideal and convenient training center for the organization’s personnel and equipment in eastern Virginia, as well as for active duty and reserve units from around the country.  

Virginia National Guard units based at SMR include the 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer, or RED HORSE; the 329th Regional Support Group; 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion; A Troop and C Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment; 1173rd Transportation Company; D Company (-), 429th Brigade Support Battalion; 576th Engineer Utilities Detachment; and Recruit Sustainment Program 9.   

The post features administrative buildings, conference facilities, barracks, classrooms, dining facilities, a live-fire qualification range and nine different virtual trainers as well as a chapel, fitness center, running track, soccer field, confidence course, distance learning center, wooded training areas, helipad, land navigation course, airfield damage repair training site, beach and amphibious landing site.  

SMR also currently hosts the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy, a unit from the Virginia Defense Force, the Navy Military Working Dog Training Program, and the Coastal Composite Squadron of the Virginia Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.   

The FBI, Virginia Beach Police Department, Virginia Beach Fire Department and the Virginia Fire Marshals Academy can often be found conducting training at SMR and the installation hosts community events attended by thousands of people throughout the year.   

“We have a strong relationship with the City of Virginia Beach, as well as the Navy,” said Lt. Col. Emily Huffman, SMR commander. “Because we have so many different organizations that train here, we strive to maintain healthy relationships with all of them.”   

Since taking command, one of Huffman’s main focuses is robust communication, which is important considering the breadth of organizations who use SMR or call it home.
Also, because of the mix of organizations that use the installation’s facilities, Huffman has pushed for an increased emphasis on using the Range Facility Management Support System to coordinate and schedule facility and field training area use. RFMSS is a standard, integrated system designed to efficiently schedule and manage firing ranges and training areas as well as track training utilization trends.   

Units can utilize RFMSS to request unit training and track the status/approval of those requests once submitted. Huffman hopes that an increased use of RFMSS, which doesn’t require a Common Access Card, by both military and civilian organizations on SMR will help streamline and deconflict usage of some  of the more popular training areas and facilities SMR has to offer.   

Several of her civilian employees have been at SMR for a while, which is helpful because the knowledge of SMR and its complex relationships is very intricate.   

For instance, detailed agreements with local military units concerning the size, duration, and number of monthly/annual training exercises they are allowed to stage at SMR is vital to the successful and equitable management of the usage requests from other units and organizations. At such a small installation, space is limited and the demand is constant.   

Knowledge of the installation’s relationships and history is also important when it comes to the status of many of the buildings and training areas on SMR. Huffman found she needs to balance plans for the upgrade and refurbishment of SMR facilities with its historical designation. SMR was initially planned in 1911 and constructed in 1912 as the Virginia State Rifle Range. The installation was federalized during both World Wars and, on Sept. 26, 2005, was designated a historic district and listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) both nationally and for the state of Virginia.  

Although these designations do not prohibit development of SMR, any construction requires coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office. 

But that doesn’t stop improvements and construction from occurring. Huffman listed several of the current projects.   

A new access control point is scheduled to be completed before the end of the calendar year. A new fuel point is in the final stages of completion. Three barracks buildings are slated to be completely renovated internally, one at a time. And maybe the project that will have the biggest impact on the community is the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.  

The CVOW project consists of 176 offshore wind energy turbines located approximately 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, projected to generate 2.6 gigawatts - enough energy to power up to 660,000 homes. The project will come ashore at SMR and run through the installation. Trenching work will begin in the fall and is expected to take place around the clock.   

Plans are also underway to replace the closed rifle range near the beach with an indoor range. A new indoor range will allow Army and Air personnel in the Hampton Roads area to qualify locally, without having to travel all the way to Fort Barfoot.   

Alongside all the construction, military personnel bring a variety of aircraft and vehicles to the installation for training. Because of all the construction and constant training, Huffman explained the facility will continue with its current limited access policy.  The SMR gym, beach and fishing access are only open to current members, employees and retirees of the Virginia Army National Guard, Virginia Air National Guard, Virginia Defense Force, and Virginia Department of Military Affairs, unit personnel from any component conducting approved training at SMR, and guests with valid reservations to stay in SMR cottages, trailers, apartments, or billeting.  

“Because we have the fuel point, access control point and CVOW, plus already robust scheduled training, I’m not going to open the doors to anyone beyond who needs to be here,” Huffman said. “It’s just not a risk I’m willing to take because there is so much going on between training and scheduled construction.”   

For more news about SMR, please visit  

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