FORT PICKETT, Va. — Virginia Defense Force response teams deploy to multiple locations in the commonwealth Sept. 23, 2017, for Purple Guardian 2017 MayHem, an exercise designed to simulate the support the VDF provides to the Virginia National Guard during state active duty. Teams providing operations center augmentation, high frequency radio communications and incident management assistance as well as mobile communication platform trailers were deployed to Fort Pickett, Sandston, Lynchburg and Culpeper for a scenario-driven evaluation of personnel and equipment to include set up and exercise of organic communications equipment.
Teams were evaluated on their operational proficiency in voice and data communications in order to ensure readiness for possible emergency situations in the future. The VDF is authorized by the Code of the Virginia as the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard and serves as a force multiplier integrated into all Guard domestic operations.
“For the first time in recent VDF history PG17 evaluated a select suite of National Guard Civil Support communications capabilities along with a comprehensive headquarters primary staff evaluation of key civil support tasks,” explained Lt. Col. (Va.) Nicholas Christoff, operations officer for the Virginia Defense Force. “The initial concept was patterned after a Virginia National Guard exportable exercise package first used several years ago. It was updated with three real-world scenarios that included a truck bomb, a rogue liquid natural gas tanker and a train chemical derailment taking place at different locations across the commonwealth.”
Christoff said the exercise required state active duty-qualified Mobile Communication Platform, High Frequency Radio and Incident Management Assistance Team communications teams to independently demonstrate operational proficiency in voice and data modes in a graded, go/no-go evaluation. Evaluation ensured full operational crew readiness and proficiency for upcoming emergency contingencies as directed by VaNG. PG17 comprised deployment, execution and re-deployment phases.
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.
“Team evaluation was continuous, only halted if administrative or safety issues arose,” Christoff said. “In addition to communications teams evaluation, the G1 personnel, G3 operations, G4 logistics and G6 signal sections of the headquarters staff was evaluated based upon a task, condition and standard civil support task list construct. The CSTL was cross-walked to existing service documentation to assist in preparedness training.”
Evaluators provided on-the-spot feedback and took extensive notes that is currently being evaluated to provide constructive feedback to the teams, but the overall exercise had significant accomplishments, he said.
The reference to “Purple” in the exercise name stands for MayHem’s joint interoperability aspect, and “Guardian” stands for its communications-centric nature, Christoff explained.
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.
VDF members bring a wide variety of military, law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical services, network security, radio communications and other civilian skills to mission sets including emergency communications support, operations center augmentation, resource management, operational planning, incident management assistance, cyber defense, access control and public information.
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.
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