Feb. 21, 2012

Virginia Defense Force tests communications capabilities at Fort Pickett

By Cotton Puryear
Virginia Department of Military Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The Virginia Defense Force tested communication capabilities and provided a critical link to the Virginia Guard Joint Operations Center Feb. 11 when more than 120 Canadian Army Reserve personnel inprocessed into Fort Pickett. The event was part of an exercise to test the communication and administrative systems needed if Virginia were to receive military personnel from out of state in an emergency response situation. Formally known as the Joint Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration, or JRSOI, the process makes sure that proper accountability of personnel and equipment is established when additional forces came into the state.

 

Members of the Virginia Defense Force operate a mobile command post with capabilities over seven different types of communication networks including digital and analog high frequency radio Feb. 11 at the Blackstone Army Airfield near Fort Pickett. Using the MCP and Incident Management Assistance Teams operating the mobile Tactical Communication Packages with wireless internet and satellite phone capabilities, the VDF maintained communications with the Virginia Guard's Joint Operations Center in Sandston to provide status reports and incident updates. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

Click HERE for more photo on Flickr.

“This is a beta test for the remote JRSOI,” said Lt. Col. David Weisnicht, Fort Pickett’s full-time director of plans, training and security. “We are simulating that we are at an airfield where we are receiving troops coming into the commonwealth.”

Fort Pickett has the mission for fixed-based JRSOI, and even though the exercise took place at the Blackstone Army Airfield adjacent to Fort Pickett, the systems tested could be used at locations across Virginia, Weisnicht said. The Canadian forces were conducting planned training at Fort Pickett, but their arrival provided an opportunity to add some realism to the exercise.

“Getting an accurate number of boots on the ground is a very difficult thing,” he said, but added that this exercise helps test the systems that need to be in place to establish the accountability.

About 16 members of the Virginia Defense Force from the Highland Brigade and Lafayette Brigade provided personnel and communications support for the exercise. The VDF provided a mobile command post with capabilities over seven different types of communication networks including digital and analog high frequency radio, as well as Incident Management Assistance Teams.

The IMATs operate the mobile Tactical Communication Packages with wireless internet and satellite phone capabilities and were communicating with the Virginia Guard's Joint Operations Center in Sandston to provide status reports and incident updates.

 

Members of the Virginia Defense Force inprocess a Canadian soldier Feb. 11 at the Blackstone Army Airfield near Fort Pickett as part of a beta test for communication and administrative systems needed if Virginia were to receive military personnel from out of state to support the Virginia National Guard during an emergency response situation. As part of the exercise, active duty and reserve Canadian Army personnel coming to Fort Pickett for Exercise Southbound Trooper processed through a reception station in order to verify personnel rosters and accountability. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

Click HERE for more photo on Flickr.

With the voice and data capabilities provided by the Virginia Defense Force, accountability information was quickly transmitted back to the Virginia Guard’s Joint Operations Center in Sandston. The test of the communications capability was also part of the Guard quarterly test of different communication resources used during emergency response operations.

The IMAT teams receive specialized training on the equipment and are required to complete four Incident Command System training courses that are part of the National Incident Management System, explained Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Taylor Wallace, a liaison officer between the VDF and the JOC. They are also required to be certified in Web EOC, the online emergency management information system used by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and other response organizations in the state.

During their monthly drills, IMAT personnel exercise the TacPaks in order to make sure they function properly and are ready for service in a state active duty situation.

Members of the VDF often bring civilian and military experience to their positions in the all-volunteer organization. Warrant Officer Jesse Bryant of Big Island, who serves as the communications officer for the VDF’s 24th Battalion in Lynchburg, has served in the VDF for more than a year and a half. A ham radio enthusiast who also served eight years in the Navy, he has experience with radios and electronics, but the VDF provides an opportunity to work with newer technology. “I am learning, and I get extra training that I don’t have to pay for when I drill with the VDF,” he said.

Bryant also said that serving in the VDF provided a bond that he enjoys and missed since he left the Navy.

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