Feb. 8, 2011

Virginia Defense Force leaders gather for annual conference

By Cotton Puryear
Va. Department of Military Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Approximately 150 officer and noncommissioned officer leaders from the Virginia Defense Force’s division headquarters, brigades, battalions and companies gathered Feb. 5 at Fort Pickett for the annual Commander’s Conference to discuss the way ahead for the next 12 months for the all-volunteer organization.

 

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, addresses attendees at the annual Virginia Defense Force Commander's Conference Feb. 5 at Fort Pickett. The conference brought together approximately 150 senior officer and noncommissioned officer leaders from the VDF's division headquarters, brigades, battalions and companies to discuss the way ahead for the next twelve months. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

“We will talk about the Adjutant General’s vision and how we can support it,” said Maj. Gen. (Va.) John D. Taylor, commander of the VDF. “We also address concerns from the field so battalion commanders and company commander can provide input to my level so we can address them face to face.”

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, addressed the gathered leader to thank them for their service and share his goals and vision for the Virginia National Guard and the Virginia Defense Force.

“The Virginia Defense Force has come a long way since I had contact with them as a battalion commander,” Long said. “We could not do what we do in the Virginia National Guard without you. I have been to response to snowstorms and hurricanes, and when I work in the door, I always see you there.”

The VDF has been assigned specific response packages that can be called up for state active duty in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency response situation. Some of the VDF’s capabilities include augment command and control functions and providing security and communications capabilities.

Taylor said the VDF’s plan is to build depth for each assigned mission support package by training Alpha, Bravo and Charlie teams to have personnel that are trained, capable and available for duty. “If we have a mission requirement for 10 people, we will train 30,” Taylor said. “If there is a disaster and we get additional requirements we haven’t trained for, then we can’t respond. We aren’t going to put anyone out there that is not trained and capable of conducting their mission in a safe manner.”

The assignment of dedicated missions is critical to recruiting and retention for the VDF, which currently has about 1,070 members. “The worst thing you can do in a volunteer organization is not train for a real mission,” Taylor said.

 

Members of the Virginia Defense Force conduct Incident Management Assistance Team training Feb. 5 at Fort Pickett. IMATs are specially trained on the web-based incident management software used by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia National Guard and other first response organizations during emergency response situations. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

Taylor also hopes that the VDF can augment existing Virginia Guard capabilities by taking advantage of civilian skills of VDF members like heavy equipment operators, chain saw operators, security and communications.

At the same time VDF leaders were gathered for the conference, about 45 VDF members were conducting Incident Management Assistance Team training. IMATs are specially trained on the web-based incident management software used by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia National Guard and other first response organizations during emergency response situations.

During state active duty missions for incidents like snowstorms or hurricanes, the VDF teams will be stationed at armories to assist Virginia Guard commanders with providing up-to-date information to the Joint Operations Center and VDEM Emergency Operations Center.

The VDF is an all-volunteer force authorized by the Code of Virginia and organized under the Virginia Department of Military Affairs reporting to the Adjutant General of Virginia. In 2010, the VDF donated approximately 58,850 man hours in service to the commonwealth.  Using the Virginia average of $21.45 per hour of volunteer work, this equates to $1,262,332 in support.

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