May 22, 2008

Virginia legislators tour Fort Pickett

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

Del. Franklin Hall and Del. Vivian Watts check out the inside of a Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle while Staff Sgt. Jack Bolan of the Fort Pickett Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site offers information about the vehicle May 13 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. - Five members of the Virginia General Assembly’s Guard Caucus toured Fort Pickett May 13 and saw first hand many of the capabilities of the Maneuver Training Center. Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Brig. Gen. Eugene Stockton, Assistant Adjutant General, Army, were on hand to escort the group.

The purpose of the Guard Caucus is give members of the General Assembly a better understanding about the mission and capabilities of the Virginia National Guard. Approximately 45 state senators and delegates of the Virginia Assembly serve on the Guard Caucus.

The Caucus is co-chaired by Del. John Cosgrove from the 78th District in Richmond and Sen. Mark Herring from the 33rd District in Loudon and Fairfax Counties.

Cosgrove was part of the group visiting Pickett, as well as Delegates Jeffrey Frederick of District 52, Vivian Watts of District 39, Joe Morrissey of District 74 and Franklin Hall of District 69. Paul Van Lenten, a staff analyst for the House Appropriations Committee and Reginald Thompson, a budget analyst for Department of Military Affairs, also took part in the visit. 

During the trip, the legislators were able to meet Soldiers training at Fort Pickett and tour a motor pool, small arms range, the urban terrain training site and the Multi-Purpose Range Complex.

Staff Sgt. Earl Wann (right) briefs members of the Guard Caucus on the procedures for qualifying on the M-16 range. (Photo by Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“The most important thing to me is the number of people who come through and get training here,” Morrissey said. “There’s a level or preparedness here that I see that makes me feel very comfortable and confident that if there’s a disaster, the Virginia Guard is equipped and ready.”

“I’m very impressed with the full utilization of the installation,” Watts said. “By sharing resources, they make full use of the facilities here.”

The trip began with a Black Hawk helicopter ride from Richmond to Fort Pickett. Following a brief slide show and overview of Fort Pickett by Newman, the group was taken via bus on a tour of the installation and training area.

Lt. Col. David Weisnicht, Fort Pickett’s director of plans, training and support, served as tour guide for the group, offerring up information and answering questions from the delegates about the facilities.

Following a stop at a motor pool to visit with Virginia Guard Soldiers from the 1030th Transportation Battalion and learn about some of the vehicles these Soldiers operate, the group then visited the Fort Pickett training area.

First they saw the military operations in urban terrain site, where Navy explosive ordnance disposal teams and Virginia Fish and Game representatives were both training.

The next stop was Range #7, where troops from the 1030th Trans. Bn. were qualifying on their individual weapons. After visiting with range personnel and getting briefed on how the qualification process works, the delegates visited the Multi-Purpose Range Complex.

Finally, the visitors from Richmond visited the Forward Operating Base, which is currently being used by the 329th Regional Support Group, during the unit’s annual training. Here they saw how Soldiers work, sleep, do laundry and eat in the field.

Their trip was capped off with a Black Hawk ride back to Richmond but not before the delegates received a valuable insight into the importance of Fort Pickett and the role it plays in training not only the Virginia National Guard, but other military and civilian organizations. 

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