VDF displays capabilities at Coast Guard Auxiliary Conference

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Members of the Virginia Defense Force displayed communications capabilities to members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Feb. 24, 2018, in Williamsburg. Virginia. VDF volunteers staffed a recruiting display, deployed a mobile communications platform trailer and presented an information brief to provide better understanding of how the VDF supports the Virginia National Guard’s domestic mission to attendees at the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary District Five Southern Region Conference.

“VDF Commanding General Brig. Gen. (Va.) Justin Carlitti’s goal is to reach out to other emergency services organizations across the commonwealth, and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is one of the most visible agencies and is very interested in our communications interoperability,” explained Lt. Col. (Va.) Nicholas Christoff, the VDF’s operations officer. “It was a brilliant move to combine a MCP display with informational VDF recruiting and capabilities briefings to Auxiliary and active U.S. Coast Guard leadership. This reinforced the strong relationships between our two agencies.”

Christoff said that many conference attendees toured the VDF area and interacted with VDF members including four Auxiliary commodores and three U.S. Coast Guard captains.

“They were impressed with what they saw, especially the high caliber of our personnel and what capabilities the VDF deploys to an emergency event,” Christoff said. “We now have their full approval to plan and execute upcoming joint VDF/Coast Guard Auxiliary training exercises.”

According to their official web site, the Coast Guard Auxiliary was established by Congress in 1939 with the mission to promote and improve recreational boating safety, provide trained crews and facilities to augment the Coast Guard and enhance safety and security of our ports, waterways and coastal regions and to support Coast Guard operational, administrative and logistical requirements.

The VDF MCP is a 7 1/2 feet by 16 feet trailer equipped with multiple radio systems for voice and data communications, and it also features a map board and work space so it can function as a mobile command post. Using an MCP, members of the VDF are able to communicate across a variety of radio spectrums with emergency response and public safety organizations as well as amateur radio operators. In the event of severe weather like hurricanes or heavy snow where traditional communication systems could become disrupted, the VDF MCPs would provide a vital communications capability for the Virginia National Guard as it conducts operations to assist with keeping citizens of the commonwealth safe.

The VDF is authorized by Title 44 of the Code of the Virginia as the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard, and it serves as a force multiplier integrated into all Guard domestic operations. The VDF reports to the Adjutant General of Virginia as part of the Virginia Department of Military Affairs along with the Virginia Army National Guard and Virginia Air National Guard.

Members of the VDF volunteer their time for training and are only paid when called to state active duty by an authorization from the Governor of Virginia.

Most recently, members of the VDF were part of the Virginia National Guard’s support to the inauguration of Virginia’s 73rd Governor in January 2018 and provided communications support and assisted with marshalling all the march elements for the parade.

In recent months when severe weather struck the commonwealth, VDF personnel worked in a number of different capacities. In the Virginia Emergency Operations Center, they assisted with processing requests for support in Emergency Support Function 16, the Guard’s response cell in the VEOC. They also assisted with mission tracking in the Guard’s Joint Operations Center and helped with public information support as well as providing interoperable communications and incident management assistance to units in the field.

During domestic operations, the Virginia National Guard receives missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist the Virginia State Police and other state and local emergency service organizations as part of the state emergency response team.

In addition to current mission sets like interoperable communications, operations center augmentation, incident management assistance and public information, the VDF plans to train personnel for more general support to civil authorities and emergency response capabilities using such standards as FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Teams. Training will include basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations.

The VDF is also growing cyber defense capabilities and has assisted with numerous Virginia National Guard network security assessments for Virginia localities in a state active duty status.

The VDF plans to conduct four three-day training assemblies at Fort Pickett this year that will focus on professional military education, small unit leadership and headquarters staff operations as well as refresher training on communications equipment and initial entry training for new members. Operational readiness evaluations will also be conducted to ensure personnel and equipment are ready for possible state active duty response missions.

In the last 18 months, members of the VDF volunteered in their communities assisting organizers and law enforcement at events like the Virginia War Memorial during Veterans Day and Memorial Day, the Winchester Apple Blossom Festival, the Lynchburg Air Show and the World War II Commemoration in Richmond.

The VDF traces it origins back to World War I when the Virginia State Volunteers were created to support civil authorities during the 1917 federalization of the Virginia National Guard. Soon renamed the Virginia Volunteers, the group guarded bridges, waterways, fuel storage areas and public buildings and facilities during the war years. A total of 1,300 Virginians served in the Virginia Volunteers from 1917 to 1921.

In 1941 with the National Guard federalized for World War II service, the Virginia Protective Force was authorized and assumed the in-state missions of the Guard. In 1944 the General Assembly changed the name of the Virginia Protective Force to the Virginia State Guard, and a total of 16,885 Virginians served in the Virginia Protective Force and Virginia State Guard from 1941 to 1947.

The first units of the new Virginia State Guard were created in 1985 with same mission as its predecessors: support of civil authority. In 1989 the General Assembly renamed the Virginia State Guard the Virginia Defense Force. The motto of the Virginia Defense Force is “Virginians Helping Virginians,” and its dedicated volunteers consistently demonstrate that they embody the spirit of selfless service in their communities across the commonwealth.

The Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force traces the heritage and traditions of citizen service to the founding of Jamestown when Capt. John Smith organized the colonists for defense. Since the colony’s founding on May 14, 1607, there has not been a day since without a military presence in Virginia to protect citizens at home and defend freedom overseas.