July 31, 2008

Defense Force trains with Virginia Guard on civil disturbance response

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs


Members of the Virginia Defense Force trained along side Soldiers from the 229th Military Police Company July 19 and 20 in Virginia Beach. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Members of the Virginia Defense Force’s Petersburg-based military police company conducted joint civil disturbance training with the Virginia National Guard’s Virginia Beach-based 229th Military Police Company July 19 and 20 in Virginia Beach. It was the third year in a row the two units came together to share different techniques for effective crowd control.

Civil disturbance training and employing different non-lethal crowd control techniques is an annual training requirement for the Virginia Army National Guard, explained Capt. David Sutton, commander of the 229th. Sutton is a Williamsburg native who works as a police lieutenant in Newport News.

“We invite the Virginia Defense Force because they have a similar mission,” Sutton said. “We like working with them because if we get a state activation, they have certain assets that we don’t have in the area of communications and extra manpower.”

The 229th also has a detachment in Roanoke, and those Soldiers were training with members of the Defense Force as well. The first day of the training focused on formations and movement techniques for crowd control, and the second day featured a scenario where the two units had to push back a simulated crowd of rioters. During the training, the 15 members of the Defense Force stood side by side with Soldiers from the 229th.

“If we every get called to support the Virginia National Guard, we want to be on the same page,” said 2nd Lt. James Stanley of Richmond, a retired Henrico police officer and the platoon leader for the Defense Force members conducting the training.

The Virginia Defense Force is an all-volunteer organization, so the members who participated in the training had to coordinate time off work from the civilian jobs. Training with the Guard is a real motivator, said 1st Sgt. Alan Grandis of Hanover County, a retired Richmond fire captain and former marine.

Both leaders agreed that people join the Defense Force out of sense of service.  “My country is at war, and I think there could be some danger to the homeland,” Grandis said. “I think the defense force has a role to play to help defend our homeland, and I can’t sit by and not be a part of that.”

Many members of the Defense Force have experience with crowd control techniques, and they eagerly shard their experience with the Soldiers. “They brought a lot of new techniques and new formations,” said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Sims, a platoon sergeant who has served in the 229th for 15 years. “They were really motivated along with us, and that makes great training."

The Virginia Defense Force plans to form additional military police and security companies in the near future, with one planned for Fredericksburg and another in Richmond. The current strength of the Defense Force is about 780, and the senior leaders are shooting to grow the strength to 900 by the end of the year.

For more information about the Virginia Defense Force, call 866-791-9164 or visit their web site at http://www.vdf.virginia.gov
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