Dec. 3, 2009

Virginia Defense Force trains on the ground, in the air and on the water

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The Virginia Defense Force conducted its annual division-level field training exercise at Fort Pickett Nov. 6-8 and the all-volunteer force trained on its ability to provide support to the Citizens of the commonwealth on the ground, in the air and on the water.

 

A pilot from the Virginia Defense Force's aviation battalion conducts preflight checks Nov. 7 at the Blackstone Airfield during the VDF's annual field training exercise. The exercise provided an opportunity for the all-volunteer organization to train on its ability to provide support to the citizens of the commonwealth via air, land and water. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The training scenario for the exercise focused on mock disaster drills based on the National Incident Management System including search and rescue training, mass evacuation and medical triage techniques. These ground response forces were supported by the aircraft from the VDF’s aviation battalion, and the VDF’s Riverines Detachment took to the water for the first time with the unit’s newly refurbished boat.

The VDF trained side-by-side with emergency civilian response agencies from Blackstone and Nottoway County. Nearly 600 members of the VDF took part in the training.

The Virginia Defense Force is an all-volunteer force authorized by the Code of Virginia and organized under the Virginia Department of Military Affairs reporting to Maj Gen Robert Newman. “The Virginia Defense Force primary mission is to augment the Virginia National Guard,” said Maj. Gen. John Taylor, commander of the VDF. “The average volunteer is here to serve the commonwealth.”

Taylor compared the VDF to the volunteer fire fighters and rescue squad the VDF trained with in Blackstone during the exercise. “The only difference is that we are structured as a military organization with extensive FEMA training qualifications as part of the Virginia Department of Military Affairs, and in a disaster situation, we can be called up on state active duty,” he said.

The VDF’s Lynchburg-based aviation battalion has companies in the Hampton Roads area, Orange and Danville. All of the battalion’s 15 aircraft are privately owned, and the pilots pay almost all the costs of operating the aircraft other than fuel.

 

The Virginia Defense Force Riverine boat is water-tested for the first time during the VDF's annual field training exercise Nov. 7 at Fort Pickett. The exercise provided an opportunity for the all-volunteer organization to train on its ability to provide support to the citizens of the commonwealth via air, land and water. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“Flying is fun under any circumstance,” said Maj. Raymond Matthews, Jr., one of the VDF’s pilots. “If you have a meaningful reason to fly, it is much better. We are going to fly anyways, so we might as well put it to good use.”

The aviation battalion is capable of conducting flight operations for missions such as damage assessment, aerial reconnaissance and search and rescue.

With their new boat, the Riverine Detachment is capable of conducting inland aquatic search and rescue operations as well as transport and security operations, explained Maj. Tom Guthrie, commander of the Riverine Detachment.

VDF units are located in more than 38 Virginia Army National Guard installations throughout the Commonwealth. The division headquarters is located in Richmond and there are three operational brigades: Lafayette in the Hampton Roads area, Black Horse in Northern Virginia and Highland in Roanoke.

The division currently has a total of more than 1,000 members and has the 2010 goal is to have 1,200 volunteers in four to five brigades and 12 to 15 battalions. For more information about the Virginia Defense Force, call the Division Headquarters in Richmond at 866-791-9164.

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