RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Defense Force will undergo a force structure change in the coming months to provide opportunities to grow capabilities to better support the Virginia National Guard and Commonwealth of Virginia. Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, approved the force structure change after a briefing by VDF leaders Oct. 29, 2021, in Richmond, Virginia.
“Our utilization of the Virginia Defense Force in the last 18 months has been the most since they were the Virginia Protective Force in World War II,” Williams said. “VDF personnel have performed critical roles in supporting the Virginia National Guard and the Commonwealth of Virginia during COVID-19 response as well as other domestic operations. We have captured significant lessons learned we can use to grow the organization and capitalize on the skills and experience present across the force.”
The VDF is authorized by the Code of Virginia as the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard, and it also gives the Adjutant General the authority to set the VDF’s organizational structure.
Williams said the VDF has a number of unique capabilities and can provide experience and talent that enhances VNG support to the commonwealth. With the VNG on pace to mobilize the most Soldiers and Airmen on federal active duty since 2007, having the VDF available to provide trained and educated personnel is more important than ever.
‘While the focus on existing lines of effort may change, the spirit of volunteer service and helping our fellow Virginians in times of need will remain at the core of the VDF,” said Brig. Gen. (Va.) Justin Carlitti, Sr., the VDF commanding general. “This force structure change will ensure that the VDF remains a relevant force provider to the Virginia National Guard and the citizens we serve.”
The VDF will retain the 1st Regiment and Support Operations Groups, each commanded by a colonel, and redesignate two detachments to battalions.
Effective Nov. 1, Col. (Va.) Robin Phillips will be reassigned from the VDF operations officer to command 1st Regiment, and Col. (Va.) Donald J. Thornley will be reassigned from the VDF chief of staff to command the Support Operations Group. Col. (Va.) Nicholas Christoff will serve as interim operations officer and chief of staff in addition to his duties on the Virginia National Guard Joint Strategic Engagement Group until the board selects new officers to fill those roles.
The VDF’s Cyber Detachment will be redesignated as a battalion to accommodate continued growth. While all the positions in the unit’s force structure will not be filled initially, the structure will allow the organization to grow in the future.
The VDF’s Regional Liaison Detachment will be redesignated as a battalion with a structure that reflects the Incident Command Structure and adds depth and flexibility. A new Interagency Liaison Detachment will be created to facilitate outreach with the Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia to enhance planning and preparedness with external partner agencies. The RL Battalion will also continue efforts with the VNG joint operations emergency coordinator to establish an incident management team capability.
The RL Battalion will have seven detachments consisting of a commander and operations, planning, logistics and finance / administration sections, and the sections will align with Virginia Department of Emergency Management regions.
The current VDF Communication Battalion will consist of four line companies and a Mobile Communication Platform Company. The line companies will continue to provide teams capable of providing incident management assistance, high frequency radio and civil support security capabilities.
The VDF MCP is a 7 1/2 feet by 16 feet trailer equipped with multiple radio systems for voice and data communications. 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 VNG as it conducts operations to assist with keeping citizens of the commonwealth safe.
The Cyber Battalion, Regional Liasion Battalion and Communication Battalion will all fall under the command and control of 1st Regiment.
The Support Operations Group will provide command and control for the VDF’s Recruiting and Retention, Command Training Detachment and speciality sections providing chaplain, legal and medical services.
The SOG will also oversee the Command Training Detachment with the responsibility of providing civil support security capabilities such as access control and traffic management, as well as serving as trainers for those skills across the VDF.
Official announcements to fill all command and staff vacancies will go out Nov. 1, and board selections are expected to be complete Dec. 1.
By Jan. 1, 2022, new command teams will be in place and units will be reflagged, with units expected to reach full capability by March 31, 2022.