August 3, 2003, 21:53 EST

Units test incident response plan

By Lt. Col. Chester Carter, III
Public Affairs Officer

The Virginia National Guard units assigned the mission to perform as an Incident Response Force (IRF) put their plan to the test this weekend with exercises at Fort A. P. Hill and the State Military Reservation.

A squad leader gives instructions to members of his squad as they secure their objective at Fort A. P. Hill during the IRF exercise. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office) Click HERE to see more photos from the exercise.

The Virginia Guard has a long history of supporting civil authorities and law enforcement agencies. But it was clear to Maj. Gen. Claude Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, that to be relevant to the needs of civil authorities and law enforcement the Virginia National Guard must be more responsive than ever before. So he “raised the bar” for unit performance.

He identified two units that, in addition to their other missions, would concentrate their effort on being able to rapidly support and augment law enforcement activities. While other Virginia Guard units will continue to train for and be prepared to support law enforcement activities, the IRF would receive additional training and preparation to respond on very short notice.

The soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 111th Field Artillery and 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry received training earlier this year to prepare them for their new mission. But the plan to implement this mission had not been tested. That changed on the first weekend in August. The telephonic alert went out from the Emergency Operations Center of the Virginia State Area Command to the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 111th Field Artillery and 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry at 2 o’clock in the morning on August 2.

Soldiers of the 116th Infantry received a mission to secure a location at Ft. A. P. Hill, Va. Soldiers of the 111th Field Artillery received a similar mission and traveled from their home stations to State Military Reservation outside of Virginia Beach. The soldiers learned not only how to secure a site in support of law enforcement agencies also about the communications, logistical, and operational activities necessary to conduct the mission in this very unique environment.

Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Price, who helped with the development of the exercise, said that its purpose was to validate the Incident Response Force plan. He was observing the exercise at Ft. A. P. Hill as events unfolded throughout the morning. He said that even early on the exercise had identified parts of the plan that would need to be modified to better support the mission.

As soldiers from the 116th Infantry conducted refresher training and prepared to leave the assembly area out side of the Ft. A. P. Hill armory and move to the incident site, Col. Mike Harris and his staff worked to put the finishing touches on the plan the soldiers would carry out.

All the while similar activity was taking place at State Military Reservation. Col. James Ainslie directed the efforts of the 111th Field Artillery soldiers. Maj. Charles Chappell was assisting with the evaluation of the operations plan at State Military Reservation. His comments and thoughts echoed those of Sgt. Maj. Price. Maj. Chappell said the plan certainly had areas that could be improved upon, but notwithstanding that it was very good as it was.

In addition to exercising command and control, communications, logistics and operations at the senior level, the exercise also provided the opportunity for training at the unit level as well. Capt. Walter Patrick, commander of B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 111th Field Artillery said this training provided him with the opportunity to review vehicle load plans and force protection issues. He said his soldiers may rather be shooting artillery rounds but “this is the mission we have been given” and they would do it in a professional manner.

There seemed to be a consensus: The hard work and effort that has gone into the plan to stand up a responsive, relevant Incident Response Force has yielded an exceptional product. The soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 111th Field Artillery and 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry demonstrated the skill sets necessary to deploy on short notice in support of a law enforcement agency. The plan necessary to support this mission, while needing some adjustment, is in place and has been demonstrated to be effective. As the After Action Review of the exercises continues and the lessons learned are incorporated at all levels of the organization, the Virginia National Guard continues to improve on its preparedness to meet whatever contingency may come its way.

The Army and Air National Guard are unique among the components of the United States military in that these organizations have both a state and a federal mission. The Virginia Army and Air National Guard are constantly preparing for these missions in order to be prepared to respond to contingencies that may be presented by either the Governor of the Commonwealth or the National Command Authority. The events of September 11, 2001 taught us to be prepared to respond to any number of potential threats, both overseas and at home.

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