Virginia National Guard ready for response

Published 9:36 pm Thursday, September 5, 2019

By Cotton Puryear

Virginia National Guard

The Virginia National Guard has staged approximately 60 soldiers and 20 vehicles for state emergency support duty in the Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads areas, and they are ready to assist local and state emergency agencies respond to potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian, according to a Thursday press release.

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The soldiers are staged with Humvees and light/medium tactical trucks for high water transportation and also have chainsaws for debris reduction. The VNG also has two rotary wing aviation rescue hoist crews on standby.

“Whether we are mobilizing 60 soldiers in two key locations for possible Hurricane Dorian response or staging 1,500 soldiers across the commonwealth like we did last year for Hurricane Florence, the Virginia National Guard has shown that it can rapidly respond with the capabilities our state agency partners request,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “I am incredibly proud of the soldiers who quickly responded to the call of duty and are stationed in Onancock and Hampton Roads and the joint team of soldiers, airmen, Virginia Defense Force personnel and state and federal civilians supporting them. It is an honor for us to be part of the multi-agency state response ready to keep our fellow Virginians safe.”

Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Sept. 2 authorizing the VNG’s mobilization as well as other state agencies to organize resources and deploy people and equipment to assist in response and recovery efforts.

“Hurricane Dorian is a serious storm,” said Northam. “I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure that localities and communities have the appropriate level of assistance, and to coordinate the Commonwealth’s response to any potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian.”

During domestic operations, the Virginia National Guard receives missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and responds as part of a multi-agency team with the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Transportation and other state and local emergency agencies to provide support capabilities to communities in need. The Virginia National Guard is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, so people in need should call 911 and not the Virginia National Guard directly.

If needed, additional personnel and equipment could be brought on duty to assist with response operations, William said.

Additional soldiers, airmen and Virginia Defense Force members will be on duty in Richmond and Fort Pickett to provide mission command, logistics, administrative and public information support.

Virginia National Guard soldiers assigned to the 1030th Transportation Battalion and 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group are providing personnel, vehicles and equipment staging in Onancock and Hampton Roads.

Virginia National Guard aviation crews assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division and Chesterfield County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Scuba Rescue Team members form the Virginia Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team to provide rotary wing aviation rescue hoist capabilities for aerial rescue evacuation in situations where there is potential loss of life, limb or eyesight or significant property damage. The HART deployed to South Carolina in September 2018 to assist with Hurricane Florence response and to Texas in September 2017 to assist the Texas National Guard with response to Hurricane Harvey.

The Virginia National Guard staged more than 1,500 personnel Sept. 12, 2018, at key locations across the commonwealth to support local and state emergency management officials with possible response to Hurricane Florence, but most were not needed when the storm turned farther south.

When Northam authorized Virginia’s resources could be redirected to North Carolina, the Virginia National Guard sent approximately 40 soldiers and 20 light medium tactical vehicles to support with recovery efforts where the hurricane caused widespread flooding. Virginia National Guard soldiers assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 1173rd Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group provided supply distribution capabilities as well as high water transport.

Since 2001, the Virginia National Guard has mobilized more than 13,600 soldiers, airmen and members of the VDF on state active duty to respond to hurricanes, winter storms, flooding and other severe weather events across the commonwealth as well as in neighboring states, Louisiana and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The VNG also mobilized personnel for security operations in Charlottesville in August 2017 and 2018.