RICHMOND, Va. (Oct. 26, 2012) -- The Virginia National Guard has been authorized to bring up to 300 personnel on state active duty for possible severe-weather recovery operations from Hurricane Sandy.
The Virginia Guard will begin staging about 50 Army Guard and Virginia Defense Force, or VDF, personnel in the Eastern Shore area in order to be ready to support potential response missions, and all personnel are scheduled to be in place by Saturday evening.
Additional personnel have been alerted for possible duty and will be held in reserve for possible future missions. About 50 Virginia Army Guard, Air Guard and VDF personnel are also on duty in Sandston at the Guard's Joint Operations Center for mission command and sustainment support as well as Fort Pickett and the Virginia Emergency Operations Center.
"The key to rapid response is positioning personnel and equipment in key locations before the severe weather hits," said Col. Jim Ring, director of joint operations for the Virginia National Guard. "We want to have our personnel staged and ready to go if we are needed by the citizens of the commonwealth."
At this time, the Virginia National Guard has not received any specific mission requests. Possible missions in the wake of heavy rains and high winds include debris reduction, route clearance, transportation of equipment, personnel and resources, commodity distribution and reconnaissance and security patrols in direct support of the Virginia State Police and other local and state agencies, Ring explained.
Governor Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency in Virginia Friday morning to begin staging Saturday in preparation for possible Hurricane Sandy recovery operations and authorized bringing Virginia Guard personnel on duty as part of the coordinated state-wide response plan. A state of emergency is declared under state law so that state resources can be made available, and according to the governor's statement, the emergency declaration ensures a fully coordinated state response to support local initial recovery.
"We are issuing this state of emergency today as a precautionary measure in order to ensure that we are ready for any potential effects of Hurricane Sandy in the commonwealth," McDonnell said. "Weather forecasters are predicting significant weather impacts across much of Virginia, and a long duration event. Due to the track of this storm, and the fact that it will be a hurricane transitioning into a more nor'easter-like system, we could see severe weather lasting for 48 hours or more in the state. Now is the time for all Virginians to prepare for those possible power outages and disruptions to public services. Virginians should make sure their family members, friends and neighbors are prepared for this extended weather event. I encourage all Virginians to gather batteries, blankets, water, canned goods, and other necessities prior to the anticipated onset of storm conditions late Saturday and early Sunday."
The declaration allows the Virginia National Guard to position resources at key locations in advance of severe weather hitting the commonwealth.
The Virginia Guard receives their missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist state and local emergency response organizations and is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, Ring said. "If the severe weather creates any conditions where people need assistance, they should request assistance through their local dispatcher or 911 service, not directly to the Virginia Guard," he said. "When appropriate, the request for assistance will be forwarded to us for action.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 15,000 Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized on federal active duty for combat operations, peacekeeping and homeland security missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and other locations around the world. Those mobilizations have increased the level of experience, maturity and ability to make sound decisions in our troops, Ring said.
Recent Virginia National Guard state active duty missions
The Virginia National Guard brought more than 200 personnel on state active duty from June 30 to July 4, 2012, to support recovery operations in the wake of severe thunderstorms that struck across Virginia and caused wide-spread power outages. Soldiers distributed water and ice in Bedford, conducted reconnaissance patrols in the Fredericksburg and Lexington areas and Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force provided mission command and sustainment support in Sandston and Fort Pickett.
The Virginia National Guard brought more than 350 personnel on state active duty to assist in the commonwealth's response to Hurricane Irene from Aug. 27 to 31, 2011. The Guard began staging forces Aug. 26 at readiness centers in Bowling Green, Emporia and Sandston as well as co-locating with Virginia State Police personnel in the Eastern Shore Region of Virginia near Onancock, and from there Soldiers worked with the VSP to clear nearly 350 fallen trees during the hurricane as well as in the immediate response after the storm had passed.
Virginia Guard engineers from the Bowling Green-based 189th Engineer Company, the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company and the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company cleared debris fields along the I-64, I-81 and I-95 corridors and in the Eastern Shore area, and transporters from the 1173rd Transportation Company performed commodity distribution and were on standby for possible high-water transport.
Soldiers from the 189th and 237th used chain saws to clear trees that had trapped 10 motorists for more than seven hours on Route 5 near the Richmond National Battlefield Park, and Soldiers from 1173rd delivered sandbags in Franklin and moved commodity items in Suffolk.