November 3, 2008

Hampton-based Virginia Guard troops navigate the Chesapeake during joint training event

By Staff Sgt. A. J. Coyne
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Norfolk-based Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 111tth Field Artillery load Humvees on LMC 8 landing craft from the Fort Eustis-based 1098th Transportation Detachment. After loading up at Little Creek, the Humvees and Soldiers were transported to Fort Monroe where they offloaded and conducted a short road march to their home armory in Hampton. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE to download a high resolution photo.

NORFOLK, Va. — More than a dozen Hampton-based Virginia National Guard Soldiers loaded their Humvees onto Army ships and traveled across the Chesapeake Bay during a joint training exercise Nov. 2 with Fort Eustis Soldiers.

The Guardsmen, from Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery, traveled from Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Norfolk to Fort Monroe in Hampton thanks to the Soldiers and Landing Craft Mechanized boats of the 1098th Transportation Detachment.

The hour-long trip was a chance to familiarize the Guard troops with the process of traveling across the water should the need arise following a natural or man-made disaster.

“Hampton Roads is surrounded by water,” explained Capt. Fred Moore, commander of Headquarters Battery. “If the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel or Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel is destroyed we would have to find another way to get around. If we had a category five hurricane, we wouldn’t have a bridge to use.”

LMC 8 Landing Craft from the Fort Eustis-based 1098th Transportation Detachment make their way across the Chesapeake Bay on their way to Fort Monroe. (Photo by Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE to download a high resolution photo.

The Soldiers of the battery spent most of their regular drill weekend at the State Military Reservation at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach. But Sunday morning they traveled in a convoy to NAB Little Creek, where they assembled their Humvees near the water and waited for the ships to arrive.

After the LMCs pulled in, a safety briefing was given to all Soldiers and the eight Humvees were loaded on to four boats.  

The convoy of ships pulled away from the shore and headed toward open water. Within minutes the Soldiers felt the wind pick up and the temperature drop as the Navy base faded from view.  

Soon the Chamberlin Hotel became visible through the haze and the ships steamed toward the Fort Monroe marina. One by one the boats pulled to the shore and dropped their doors as the Humvees rolled out onto the sand. From there the Guardsmen drove the seven miles back to their home armory while the LMCs headed up the James River to return to Fort Eustis

A Virginia National Guard Soldier watches an LMC 8 Landing Craft from the Fort Eustis-based 1098th Transportation Detachment as they make their way across the Chesapeake Bay on their way to Fort Monroe. (Photo by Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE to download a high resolution photo.

“It’s great to get out with the 1098th and train with them,” Moore said. “We had a great time and the more opportunities we get to train with the active duty, the better.”     

“It was pretty high speed training,” said Sgt. Richard Diver. “Any time I can get out on the water, it’s fun. We could really use these guys and their boats in the event of an emergency.” 

In addition its role as a traditional field artillery unit, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery is the command and control headquarters for a special response force known as the CERF (pronounced “surf”). CERF stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) - Enhanced Response Force. Soldiers and Airmen from Virginia National Guard units based in Richmond, Hampton, Norfolk, Danville, Virginia Beach, Bowling Green and Langley Air Force Base make up the entire CERF.

The mission of the CERF is to provide immediate response capability to the Governor. The specially trained and equipped elements of the CERF are capable of searching an incident site that includes damaged and collapsed buildings, rescuing any casualties from rubble piles, decontaminating citizens injured in the attack and performing medical triage and initial treatment to stabilize them for transport to a medical facility.

The CERF completed an evaluation exercise in June 2008 and was validated to provide support to first responders and civil authorities if the Commonwealth of Virginia was attacked with a high-explosive, chemical, radiological or nuclear weapon of mass destruction.

Virginia National Guard Humvees and Soldiers were transported to Fort Monroe where they offloaded and conducted a short road march to their home armory in Hampton. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE to download a high resolution photo.

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