June 17, 2005
Governor approves Virginia Army Guard restationing plan
By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Army Guard Public Affairs Officer
Virginia Gov. Mark Warner has approved the Virginia Army National Guard's restationing plan that will transform the Army Guard in the Commonwealth to help it better meet the challenges facing today's military. Under the restationing plan, Virginia will change where some units are located and what kind of units are in each armory location as new units are created, some existing units are reorganized, and some units are eliminated.
The transformation in Virginia is part of a larger transformation process taking place throughout the Army as it converts its force structure to the Army's Modular Force. The change is taking place both among active duty and reserve component organizations.
"The important thing to know in all of this transformation is that every Soldier in the Virginia National Guard has a home," said Maj. Gen. Claude A. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. "A Soldier might have to train for a different specialty or in some limited cases drive to a different armory, but there is a space for every face in the Virginia Guard. This transformation is a great opportunity for the Virginia Guard, and I am confident we have the leadership in place to take advantage of these new opportunities."
According to Col. Mike Coleman, the Virginia Army Guard's senior operations and training officer, the Virginia Guard developed a state command plan for how to reorganize the units in the state based on guidance and directives from National Guard Bureau and the United States Army. That state plan was then used to develop a restationing plan to determine the most effective way to position units and personnel within the state.
Coleman explained that a number of factors were taken into account when the State plan was developed. The Guard wanted to have units in the right places to continue to recruit and retain quality Soldiers, and wanted to provided a variety of options for female Soldiers since certain units and jobs are not open to them. It was also of critical importance for the Virginia National Guard to be able to accomplish the second part of its dual mission to provide military assistance to Virginia's civil authorities in times of need.
Among the key unit changes are the addition of military police units, the creation of a transportation battalion headquarters to oversee Virginia transportation assets, and a robust logistics organization to provide the necessary support functions for the numerous types of units throughout the state. Also, one of Virginia's infantry battalions will convert to a reconnaissance organization, and there was no significant loss of engineer capabilities.
Engineer and military police personnel can be especially helpful with Virginia's mission of military support to civil authorities. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Isabel, the Virginia Guard deployed personnel into the Tidewater area to clear roads, provide traffic control assistance and increased security to help protect communities and business plagued by power outages.
The transformation will provide additional opportunities for Soldiers in the Virginia Guard in a number of ways. For example, Williams said that there will be Guard jobs in military police and engineer units that align with civilian careers in law enforcement and heavy construction equipment.
Williams acknowledged that the transformation will create a certain degree of turmoil as units move and Soldiers begin the process of training for a new specialty area. According to Col. Kim Dillon, senior military personnel officer for the Virginia National Guard, a special personnel transition department has been established within the military personnel office to address the many issues associated with this transformation.
Coleman said the transformation is going to take some time to accomplish, and it is still too early to have exact start and end dates for when the transformation will take place. "By Sep. 1, 2006, our goal is to have our final unit organizations in place, Soldiers reassigned to their new units, the training identified for those Soldiers and the necessary equipment ordered," Coleman said.
Senior leaders in the Virginia Guard have been working on the plan for months, and it has involved a great deal of negotiations between Virginia and the senior leadership at National Guard Bureau. Williams said he was very pleased with the end result, especially since Virginia did not see a reduction in their overall personnel end strength. Virginia will also keep all of its armories open, except for one in Pennington Gap. Use of the armory there has dwindled in recent years, and any personnel assigned to that armory will be able to attend drill in nearby Gate City.
Authorized personnel force structure for the Virginia National Guard is a constantly changing figure, Dillon explained. The needs of the Army changes on a frequent basis, and as a result, the necessary number of personnel to meet that force structure changes to meet those needs.
Under the new force structure system taking effect with the transformation, the Virginia Guard is authorized to have 7,586 personnel, and the Guard actually has a goal higher than that.
"We are supposed to exceed our authorized strength in order to maintain our units at the highest state of readiness possible," Dillon explained. "We will always have a pool of Soldiers not available for mobilization because they have not completed basic training, their job specialty training or have medical or some other issue."
The end strength goal that the senior leadership of the Virginia Guard has established is 7,700 personnel, and that is what the Guard sets as a benchmark for its training, recruiting and retention efforts.