SANDSTON, Va. — Members of the Virginia Defense Force conducted a 24-hour communications exercise March 4-5, 2016, in multiple locations across Virginia. Operating in their Mobile Communications Platform trailers in Richmond, Winchester, Lynchburg and Pulaski, VDF members used high frequency radios as well as other systems for voice and data communications to communicate with civilian amateur radio operators. The 24-hour exercise was designed to test the VDF’s ability to conduct continuous operations in the event of incident that degrades normal communications capabilities.
“This is a stress test,” said Lt. Col. (Va.) Rick Murdock, communications officer for the VDF. “With this exercise we are testing our systems and pushing their limits, so if they are going to break, we can find out now and fix them.”
After about 16 hours into the exercise, Murdock said they had already identified some problem areas and were able to fix them.
“This has been really good training,” Murdock said. “Our people have gained more experience, so whenever we are called out to support the Virginia National Guard, we will be able to do so in a professional manner.”
Providing interoperable communications is one of the many different missions sets the VDF provides as the all-volunteer auxiliary to the Virginia National Guard. That mission set, along with others like operations center augmentation and operational planning, take advantage of the wide variety of public safety, military and civilian skills that VDF members provide.
“This is the first time we have brought amateur radio operators into our communication exercise,” said Brig. Gen. (Va.) Justin Carlitti, commander of the VDF. “We continue to integrate federal and state communications systems and now add the knowledge and information from amateur radio operators to make sure leaders in the Virginia National Guard can maintain situational awareness if conventional systems are not available.”
The VDF is an all-volunteer force authorized by the Code of Virginia and organized under the Virginia Department of Military Affairs reporting to the Adjutant General of Virginia. The 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.
“I am amazed by the dedication I have seen during this training,” Murdock said. “Our people have volunteered their time to make sure our systems work properly and we are ready to go if we are needed.”
View more photos from the exercise on the VDF Facebook page: