Feb. 12, 2010

Virginia Defense Force an invaluable asset during state snow emergency

By Capt. David Garner
3rd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team

WINCHESTER, Va. — The Virginia Defense Force is always eager to support the Virginia National Guard during civil support missions. When the Virginia National Guard was placed on state active duty in response to a snow storm on Feb 5, the Virginia Defense Force’s communications and command sections were already in action, setting up communications links in Winchester, Warrenton, and Harrisonburg.


Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force Soldiers work side by side during state emergency snow operations. (Photo by Sgt. Oswald Bracero, Virginia Defense Force)

The communications links they established provided redundancy as well as a contingency if any of the primary phone lines or internet circuits went down due to inclement weather. 

 “I am honored to provide support for the Guard and if there is anything we can do to help you then we will do it,” said Sgt. Tom Martin, the communications chief for the Virginia Defense Force’s 33rd Battalion. “My goal is to provide the Guard with a permanent radio capability for local emergencies,” he added.

Martin is only one of many Virginia Defense Force Soldiers who share that same belief. 
“The VDF provides us connectivity to the public internet, have civilian radio capability that we don’t have, and they have a great working relationship with civil authorities throughout the valley,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kristian Kindoll, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the communications section for the Virginia National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team. “Bottom line is they have been an invaluable asset for us during these types of missions.”

The interoperability of the Guard and Defense Forces communications sections is only one example of how the two work together during state emergencies. The operations and intelligence sections provided topographic software and assisted in making maps and overlays. VDF Pvt. Amber Becker’s knowledge of the software and her eagerness to serve added value to the operations and intelligence sections during snow emergency operations. 

“We had a command and operations presence in the emergency operations center who are both former active duty military personnel with experience in military and civilian emergency operations,” said Capt. Richard Bever, the operations chief of the 33rd Battalion. Additionally, VDF Soldiers assisted in snow removal operations at the Winchester armory, which enabled the guard to not have to dedicate a Soldier to that task.

Emergency snow operations is just the latest endeavor where the 3-116th BCT and 33rd Battalion Soldiers have worked together. Both entities worked closely together during the January 2009 Presidential Inauguration and in July 2009 during a mass casualty exercise at the Winchester Airport. 

“We have an exceptional working relationship with our Virginia Defense Force counterparts,” Lt. Col. William Zana, the commander of the 3- 116th BCT said. “They bring a lot of experience and resources to assist us in completing our civil support missions. In the snow emergency response, their communications and operation center assistance allowed us to move additional Soldiers into forward mission locations.”

The Virginia Defense Force is made up of volunteers who donate their time and expertise to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Their support and knowledge during civil support operations is vital to overall mission accomplishment, and they are a true asset to the Commonwealth, Zana said.

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