Virginia National Guard prepares for Sandy

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 approximately 50 Army Guard and Virginia Defense Force 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,” explained 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 a 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.

Virginia Guard 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.

Gov.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.

 
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