Jan. 31, 2010

Virginia Department of Military Affairs completes duty for January winter storm response

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Military Affairs had nearly 250 Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force on duty in Richmond and throughout Southern Virginia providing assistance with transportation, evacuation and rescue operations and general support to state and local emergency response organizations in response to a winter storm that hit the Commonwealth Jan. 29.

 

Soldiers from Portsmouth-based B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment conduct preventative maintenance checks and services on their Humvees Jan. 30 as they prepare for potential missions in Emporia during a snowstorm. (Photo by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

“This is the DMA’s fourth state operation in the last three months, and with each operation we sharpen our ability to respond and to protect our fellow citizens, said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the adjutant general of Virginia. “I never cease to be amazed by our Soldiers, Airmen and VDF members and their devotion to duty and willingness to answer the call.” The DMA supported the governor’s inauguration Jan. 16 and was also on weather-related duty in November and December 2009.

Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency Jan. 28 in advance of the expected snowstorm and authorized up to 250 members of the DMA be brought on duty. By late afternoon Jan. 29, personnel were in place and ready to respond.

Soldiers in the Danville area assisted fire and rescue personnel with transportation assistance, Soldiers in Southwest Virginia area delivered cots to a Red Cross shelter and Soldiers in the Hampton Roads area conducted reconnaissance missions to assess road trafficability and look for stranded motorists. Personnel in Richmond and Sandston provided command and control for missions and logistics as well as coordination with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

 

Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the adjutant general of Virginia, greets Gov. Bob McDonnell Jan. 30 at the Virginia National Guard Joint Operations Center in Sandston. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard) Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

McDonnell visited the DMA’s Joint Operations Center in Sandston along with Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker to see first hand how the DMA planned and executed the support missions. “Both the governor and secretary were impressed with the planning and execution of the assigned missions,” Newman said. “The governor's visit was an important first and demonstrates his commitment and support of the Virginia Guard and that he takes his role as our state commander in chief seriously.”

The DMA had personnel on duty in the following locations:

  • Approximately 75 Soldiers and Airmen from the Joint Staff and the Sandston-based 91st Troop Command were on duty in Richmond and Sandston conducting planning, command and control functions and coordinating logistical support.
  • Approximately 65 Soldiers from the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry were on duty in Portsmouth, Norfolk and Emporia.
  • Approximately 25 Soldiers from the Danville-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion were on duty in Danville.
  • Approximately 80 Soldiers from the Gate City-based 1030th Transportation Battalion were on duty in Abingdon, Gate City, Christiansburg and Cedar Bluff
  • Five members of the Virginia Defense Force served in the state Emergency Operations Center assisting with command and control operations

This was the second time the DMA stood up 91st Troop Command as Joint Task Force 91 to provide the command and control for the units operating in the field. The first time JTF 91 went into action was for the governor’s inauguration. Personnel from JTF 91 made sure information flowed effectively between units conducting missions and the JOC and that all necessary logistics coordination was made to provide food and lodging for personnel on duty.

“This was another chance for us to fine tune our staff process and refine our coordination with the JOC,” said Col. Steve Scott, commander of 91st Troop Command and JTF 91. “We are going to continue to be more involved in the future and improve our ability to respond quickly and effectively.”

 

Virginia National Guard field commanders give Gov. Bob McDonnell a situation update via video teleconference Jan. 30 at the Virginia National Guard Joint Operations Center in Sandston. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard) Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

The DMA last had personnel on duty weather-related duty a little over a month ago. Nearly 700 Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen served on state active duty to assist state and local authorities with the response to a major winter storm that began Dec. 18, 2009. Soldiers and Airmen were 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.

While the DMA didn’t receive as many missions during this winter storm as it did in December 2009, the quick reaction time and ability to respond sent an important message. “We may not always be the ‘knights in shining armor’ performing rescue missions, but our presence in affected locations provides citizens of the Commonwealth with confidence in our force that we will be on hand when disaster strikes,” said Col. Daryl Francis, deputy adjutant general and director of the joint staff.

December’s storm response also provided some learning points that improved the response for this state mission. “The governor was very proactive in declaring the state of emergency.   That allowed us to put forces on the ground before the weather hit,” said Col. Rob McMillin, the Virginia Guard director of joint operations. Once the emergency declaration was made, DMA planners in Sandston and in the Emergence Support Function 16 cell at the Virginia EOC reviewed the expected weather path to determine the best location to allocate forces to be in the best position to provide support.

Soldiers from the Danville-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion assisted emergency services personnel Jan. 30 and 31 with 10 assistance calls in Brosville, Ringgold, Gretna, Chatham and Blairs. Virginia Guard Soldiers accompanied fire and rescue vehicles with a Humvee and two Soldiers to make sure the emergency response vehicles could make it to their destination, and
in several instances the EMS personnel would not have been able to reach the residents without the assistance of the Guard. In addition, the Virginia Guard Soldiers assisted with 20 vehicle recovery operations as they moved to or from the first stations or squad buildings.

Soldiers from the Gate City-based 1030th Transportation Battalion delivered 100 cots to a Red Cross shelter in Norton.

Soldiers from the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry conducted reconnaissance missions to assess road trafficability and look for stranded motorists in Portsmouth, Norfolk and Emporia

“I recognize that each state mobilization does not come without sacrifice from our Guardsmen and VDF members,” Newman said. “Leaving your families and jobs on a moments notice isn't easy, and I want to express my appreciation not only for the service of those in uniform, but also for their families and employers who support their service in this important effort.”

The Department of Military Affairs plans, coordinates, maintains situational awareness and employ forces for homeland security and homeland defense in order to respond to any incidents with the Commonwealth.  On order of the Governor, the Department of Military Affairs will provide capabilities to assist civil authorities in protecting life and property, preserving peace, order and public safety.  The Virginia Defense Force, the Virginia Air National Guard and the Virginia Army National Guard all fall under the Department of Military Affairs.

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Related stories:

Virginia National Guard staging personnel for possible snow duty
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/jan10/SADsnowduty_29jan10.html

Virginia Department of Military Affairs plays key role in supporting Governor’s Inauguration
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/jan10/inaugurationrecap.html

Virginia Guard supports winter storm recovery efforts
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/jan10/stormwrapup.html

Virginia Guard Soldiers support flood response operations
http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/news/nov2009/FloodRelease.html

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