September 29, 16:34 EDT

Virginia National Guard commanders meet

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Senior leaders of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard gathered at Camp Pendleton this weekend to discuss the readiness of the Virginia National Guard to meet its state and federal mission. Although scheduled months before, the meeting took on added importance in light of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the ensuing military response by the United States.

Even as leaders were meeting, members of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard were responding to the call to secure Virginia from terrorist attacks. Approximately 100 airmen from the 192d Fighter Wing, Virginia Air National Guard were flying Combat Air Patrols from their base in Richmond. Approximately 60 soldiers of the 229th Military Police Company in Virginia Beach were providing security to the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Fort Pickett in Blackstone and Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach. There were six chaplains and chaplains assistants on duty at the Pentagon assisting in recovery operations as well.

Even while meetings were taking place with commanders, Major General Claude Williams, the adjutant general of the Virginia National Guard, and members of his staff were working with state and federal officials to prepare for ordering members of the Virginia Army National Guard to duty at commercial airport security checkpoints. Williams indicated that the Virginia National Guard is prepared for the missions it will receive. He said the Virginia National Guard is uniquely trained for either state or federal duty.

Williams went on to say that the men and women of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard have a long history of service to their community, Commonwealth and country. He noted the sprit that prevailed when the Allied Army invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944 and was led by the Virginia National Guard unit from Bedford still exists today. General Williams pointed out that today men and women from the Virginia Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Division were preparing to assume their mission in Bosnia as the headquarters for the multi-national task force in the war torn Balkans in spite of recent terrorist attacks. These members of the Virginia National Guard will be on duty as a part of the Balkans Stabilization Force until April of next year.

When asked what Virginians could do in response to the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, Williams said one of the things would be to serve in the Virginia National Guard or the Virginia Defense Force. He suggested that people contact a Virginia National Guard recruiter to find out more about service with the Army or Air National Guard.

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