January 29, 2009

Virginia Guard supports 56th inauguration

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — More than 1,400 Virginia Guard personnel were on duty to support the 56th Presidential Inauguration Jan. 20, with some being very visible and others working behind the scenes and ready to respond. While there were no serious incidents that required a response from Virginia Army Guard, Air Guard and Virginia Defense Force, the mission helped the Guard improve their ability to respond to possible support requests in the future.

Virginia Guard Soldiers supporting Inauguration

Capt. Heath Phillips (left) of Elkton, Va. and Sgt. 1st Class Robert Allen (right) of Greenville, Va., pause on Pennsylvania Avenue to communicate with theirs Soldiers assisting the Secret Service with security operations along the Inauguration Parade route. Phillips is the commander of the Lexington-based B Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat team and Allen is the company’s senior noncommissioned officer for the support mission. (Photo by Army Sgt. John Slosser, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia Guard forces took part in three different support missions in Washington D.C and Virginia. Approximately 500 Soldiers and Airmen were attached to the D.C. National Guard to assist with security operations and provide specialized units for possible response to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high explosive incidents. Approximately 200 Soldiers and Airmen were on duty as Joint Task Force 29, a headquarters element prepared to command further emergency response forces if such forces had been necessary to assist with responding to any major event in the National Capitol Region outside the scope of planned Inauguration activities. Approximately 730 Soldiers and Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force were on duty in Virginia and prepared to assist the Virginia Department of Emergency Management respond if there was an event in the DC area that required additional forces or evacuation.

“Our mission execution went very well,” said Col. Rob McMillin, operations officer for the Virginia National Guard. “These missions gave us the chance to exercise several contingency plans and helped us find problems we wouldn’t have identified unless we had responded to a medium or large scale event. From here we will modify our existing plans based on our lessons learned, and we will exercise them again during training events we have planned later this year.”

Spc. William Benson, Chesterfield, Va., guides parade-goers through the exit gate of checkpoint 10 Jan. 20. Benson is an infantryman with C Co. 1st Batallion, 116th Brigade Combat Team. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs.)

The most visible Virginia Guard presence was augmenting security along the Inauguration parade route. As spectators attending the parade entered security checkpoints, the first people they saw were Soldiers from the Virginia Guard. Soldiers from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team assisted the Secret Service with the operation of security checkpoints by beginning the initial screening process and helping keep count of people as they entered the parade route area. Additional Soldiers were on standby as a quick reaction force.

After those Soldiers in plain sight, hundreds of Soldiers were on standby in the event of any sort of attack or other incident.

The Virginia Guard deployed over 200 Soldiers and Airmen of the CERF to Fort Belvoir to stand by during the inauguration. The CERF, which stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, high yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force, is a specialized unit made up of Army and Air Guard units. The CERF is trained, staffed and equipped to support hasty decontamination, urban search and extraction and hasty medical evaluation.

The Virginia Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team deployed to the nation’s capital in support of the approximately 100-person Task Force CBRN. During the four-day operation, the 16 Soldiers and two Airmen of the 34th CST accompanied CSTs from D.C. and Maryland to provide high-tech sensor and analysis support in case of a chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear or high yield explosive attack to the inauguration and events around the city.

  2-183rd Cav. supports the inauguration

Soldiers of the 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment mount up and move out from Portsmouth Jan. 19 in support of the Presidential Inauguration. (Photo by 2nd Lt. Scott E. Campbell, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment)

In Virginia, approximately 400 Soldiers from the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team staffed preplanned evacuation points that would have been put into operation in the event citizens needed to be evacuated from the National Capitol Region. At Fort A.P. Hill, approximately 160 Soldiers from the Virginia Beach-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment were on standby as a rapid response force.

The Virginia Guard also had helicopter crews from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation on standby with the capability to provide aviation support with hoist and aerial medical evacuation capabilities. Soldiers from the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regional Training Institute were ready to receive additional forces if they were called to duty, and approximately 130 Soldiers and Airmen providing command and control and logistics support were on duty in Staunton, Richmond, Sandston and Fort Pickett. Virginia Defense Force personnel were also on prepared and ready to provide bus escort security if needed.

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