June 4, 2009

VDF, Virginia Guard team up in Winchester

By 1st Lt. David Garner
3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Battalion

  Apple Blossom Festival

Capt. Edward McMichael of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team assists the Virginia Defense Force during the 2009 Apple Blossom Festival. (Photo courtesy of 3-116th Infantry Battalion)

WINCHESTER, Va. — Soldiers of the Virginia Army National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team supported the Virginia Defense Force’s Black Horse Brigade during its recent civil support missions for Winchester’s Apple Blossom Festival April 24- May 3.

The VDF provides support to the City of Winchester by manning traffic control points. VDF personnel are sworn in as deputies to the Winchester Police Department for the duration of their missions. This year, 3-116th Soldiers assisted the VDF by providing staff and logistical support as well as supporting local Veteran’s Groups participating in the parade with military vehicles and drivers.
“The Apple Blossom Festival provides our units a unique opportunity to work together in support of a large-scale community event. The interoperability helps us to exercise capabilities that would be even more critical during a local or regional emergency,” said Lt Col Bill Zana, 3-116th battalion commander. 

“The 3-116th has historically participated in this event but has not been able to in two of the last four years due to deployments,” said Zana.

“The VDF brings a host of great capabilities to the table with trained and experienced personnel available for a variety of missions. We feel that the Guard and the VDF working together provide significant resources to our local first responders and the Virginia emergency management team,” said Zana.
Capt Richard Bever, personnel officer and Headquarters Company commander for the local VDF unit, was a key planner in organizing and employing more than 140 VDF Soldiers this year.

“The mission required the participating VDF troops to perform all the elements of a major activation, to include preparation of a detailed plan and operations order, personnel and equipment staging, supply, communications,  medical, command and control and recovery. It was great for the 3-116th staff and leadership to see the planning and execution capabilities of our unit and as always we enjoyed working with our Virginia Guard counterparts,” said Bever.

The VDF 33rd Battalion and the 3-116th have both focused on building a cooperative relationship between their units, emphasizing mutual support capability, interoperability, and seeking opportunities to work together. 

“This year’s Apple Blossom support enabled the two battalions to more fully understand each others capabilities and how we can best leverage those capabilities in support of the people of Virginia,” said Lt. Col. Gary Butler, VDF 33rd battalion commander.

Butler, Zana and key members of their staffs meet regularly to explore training and support opportunities for them to work together. They have several joint training missions planned later this year and spoke of even greater cooperation in the future. 

“Our guys are really proud of their roles in civil support missions across the commonwealth - this is truly Virginians helping Virginians,” said Zana.

The week-long festival’s major activities included large parades, family events, musical performances, and much more, drawing nearly 200,000 visitors to the area. 

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