Dec. 30, 2010

Virginia Guard personnel assist stranded motorists in the Virginia Eastern Shore area

By Cotton Puryear
Virginia Department of Military Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers on state active duty assisting Virginia State Police and local emergency response organizations in the Virginia Eastern Shore area rescued six people Dec. 27 while conducting Humvee-mounted route patrols. A total of eight Soldiers from the Portsmouth-based 2d Squadron, 183d Cavalry Regiment operating in four Humvees departed the Virginia Guard readiness center in Norfolk late Dec. 26 for the support mission.

 

A Virginia National Guard vehicle departs the Norfolk readiness center Dec. 26 as a severe snow storm dropped a record amount of snow on the Hampton Roads area. Approximately 100 Virginia National Guard Soldiers were staged and ready to provide support to emergency response organizations in the area Dec. 25-27. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs Office)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

Since early morning on Dec. 26, approximately 100 Virginia National Guard Soldiers were staged and ready to provide support to emergency response organizations in the Hampton Roads area after being authorized to bring up to 250 personnel on state active duty starting Dec. 25. Virginia Guard personnel began staging personnel in the evening on Christmas Day and conducted maintenance checks of their equipment in order to ready to respond early Sunday.

“I'm glad we went over there (to the Eastern Shore),” said Staff Sgt. Jason Hobbs from Troop B, 2d Squadron, 183d Cavalry Regiment. “If you're going to miss Christmas, you want it to have a purpose and feel like you accomplished something. All the guys I went with were happy to get out there and it was great to drop that family off at the hotel and see them safe and sound.”

 

Virginia Guard Soldiers from the 2d Squadron, 183d Cavalry Regiment conduct a mission briefing Dec. 26 prior to departing the readiness center in Norfolk for duty in the Virginia Eastern Shore area. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs Office)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

At approximately 4:45 a.m. in the Cape Charles area, Virginia Guard Soldiers transported one adult and two children stranded on a side street off Route 13 to a local hotel, and they were also scheduled to transport emergency services personnel to work at a local hospital.

At about 6:30 a.m. in the Onancock area, Virginia Guard Soldiers rescued three citizens trapped in their car for more than four hours and transported them to a local shelter for further assistance.

Virginia Guard Soldiers also conducted mounted route patrols overnight in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach and assisted several motorists free their cars from being stuck in the snow.

An additional 50 personnel were on duty in Sandston, Richmond and Fort Pickett to provide command and control, maintenance operations and other logistical support. Additional personnel have been alerted for possible duty and will be held in reserve for possible future missions.

 

A Virginia National Guard Soldier conducts a check of his radio equipment Dec. 26 prior to departing the readiness center in Norfolk for duty in the in the Virginia Eastern Shore area. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs Office)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment; 2d Squadron, 183d Cavalry Regiment; and 429th Brigade Support Battalion provided personnel for the operation. Soldiers were staged at the Hampton and Norfolk readiness centers.

Governor Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth of Virginia Dec. 25, a step authorizing state agencies to take precautionary action to prepare for any potential impacts of significant snow accumulation in the region.  The declaration authorized the Adjutant General of Virginia to call up those resources he thinks necessary to ensure the Guard can fulfill its mission to provide snow recovery operations.

“While this event was smaller in scale than the winter weather duty required a little more than a year ago, your response clearly demonstrated to the citizens of Commonwealth that the Virginia Army Guard, Air Guard, and Defense Force are a ready and reliable public safety asset that can quickly answer the Governor’s call to duty,” wrote Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker in a letter to the Virginia Guard dated Dec. 30, 2010.

“This Administration understands that it was not easy for you to leave your family and friends on Christmas Day to report for duty, and your sacrifice is greatly appreciated,” Decker wrote. “We owe a special debt of gratitude to your families for their support of your mission. Whether our Virginia Guard personnel are serving overseas on federal active duty or on state duty coming to the aide of their fellow Virginians, we know that you could not do the great things you do without the support of your family.”

 

A Virginia National Guard Humvee departs the readiness center in Norfolk Dec. 26 for duty in the Virginia Eastern Shore area. Virginia Guard Soldiers rescued six people early Dec. 27 while conducting Humvee-mounted route patrols on the Eastern Shore. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs Office)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

On Dec. 26 Soldiers conducted route reconnaissance patrols in Humvees to assess road conditions in the Hampton Roads area, said Col. Gerald T. Catrett, joint operations officer for the Virginia Guard. Other typical Virginia Guard missions for this situation would be transporting emergency services personnel through heavy snow or high water, transporting citizens to shelters, assisting stranded motorists and transporting supplies, he said.

"The key to rapid response for this event is having personnel in place and ready to respond before the snow begins falling in the region,” Catrett said. “By calling in Soldiers Saturday night while the roads were still clear, we were able to have a force in place and ready to respond Sunday morning.

The Virginia National Guard receives their missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist state and local emergency response organizations and is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, Catrett said. "If the snow storm causes any conditions where people need assistance, they should request assistance through their local dispatcher or 911 service, not directly to the Virginia Guard. When appropriate, the request for assistance will be forwarded to us for action," he said.

A little more than a year ago, Virginia Guard personnel were authorized for state active duty to assist state and local authorities with the response to a major winter storm that began Dec. 18, 2009. At the peak of the response, the Virginia Guard had nearly 700 Soldiers and Airmen on duty along the I-81 corridor from Winchester to Danville, and also conducted support operations in Lynchburg, Stafford and Charlottesville. Soldiers continued to operate in the Southwest Virginia area through Dec. 24.

Click HERE to return to the top of the page ~ Click HERE to return to the news directory