Oct. 7 , 2010

Virginia Defense Force Trains at Fort Pickett 

By 1st Lt. Henry C. Howells
Virginia Defense Force Public Affairs        

BLACKSTONE, Va. — Fort Pickett served as the area of operations for the Virginia Defense Force’s field training exercises from Oct. 1-3. The division-wide exercise involved over 500 volunteers from all areas of the Commonwealth who came to hone their emergency management skills.


Virginia Defense Force personnel trained on a system providing real-time video feed for aerial reconnaissance missions during their annual division-level field training exercise held at Fort Pickett Oct. 1-3. More than 500 members of the all-volunteer organization were on hand for the training that focused in improving the organizations emergency management skills. (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.

Maj. Gen. John D. Taylor, commander of the VDF, described the broad training mission as continued development of “support for the Virginia National Guard by aiding in the relief of suffering and injury to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia during times of disaster.”

The Lafayette, Highland and Black Horse Brigade personnel had specific training duties in support of field operations while also attending simulated exercises like medical triage.

Further, the brigades supported the communications exercise being conducted by Division Troop Command’s Signal Battalion. During this exercise the aviation battalion was testing the Geospatial Information Interoperability Exploitation Portable system, a system that provides real-time live aerial video to ground command.

The mission was to monitor the Riverine Detachment’s movements during their water-based operations. Piloting the aircraft was 2nd Lt. Steve Walton of Accomack County, Va. This was his sixth mission using the GIIEP system, and personnel from Company A from the Signal Battalion supported him in flight. The Riverine Detachment used the mission to not only sharpen its multi-unit communication capabilities and response time from aerial reconnaissance, but also to qualify team members, test equipment and evaluate capabilities for craft launch in limited development areas.

Through the use of demonstrations on less than lethal security and a field exercise, Oleoresin Capsicum “OC” spray training, the military police battalion continued developing personnel in crowd control techniques. Pfc. Tessa G. Smith, a JROTC student at Patrick Henry High School, celebrated her 18th birthday by learning how to fight through OC induced ‘blindness.’ She stated her confidence was “due to training by the skilled instructors before going through the experience.” Working to obtain a West Point Academy appointment, Smith saw this training and the VDF MP certification as an opportunity to “build [her] skills and provide an experience to differentiate [her] from other applicants.”


The VDF's Signal Battalion conducted a communications exercise during the field training exercise conducted Oct. 1-3 at Fort Pickett. (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.

With this year’s emphasis on expansion of VDF force size, almost 20% of the personnel at the weekend’s FTX were engaged in Basic Enlisted Leadership Training or BELT. The training covered the VDF’s mission, drill and ceremony, VDF history, as well as other fundamentals of being a VDF member. Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, spoke with the BELT troops about the importance of their mission while recognizing their volunteer commitment. Spc. Chavis Carter said of his experience, “The BELT program helped me to further understand the mission of the VDF and what we stand for. Throughout the program I met others who shared the same level of patriotism and honor to serve the commonwealth as I do. Knowing that there were other people my age, older, and younger that shared similar principles as me helped push me to continue to move forward. I have gained a new level of pride to wear my BDU and serve the Commonwealth with the VDF.” 

During final formation, two brigade command changes were announced. With the retirement of Col. Gerald S. Vintinner, command of the Norfolk-based Lafayette Brigade was assigned to Col. John R. Fortune, Jr., also known as Swift Fox of the Rappahannock Tribe. A native of Richmond, Va., Fortune spent 26 years active duty with the Virginia Army National Guard and has completed three combat tours. Command of the Roanoke-based Highland Brigade was assigned to Col. Chad Wheelus. 

Taylor summed up the weekend’s FTX by capturing the sentiment of the troops as having, “a positive attitude, great morale and high level of excitement about dedicated missions.”

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