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Virginia National Guard providing post-storm assistance

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard | February 25, 2016

SANDSTON, Va. - More than 60 Virginia National Guard Soldiers serving on state active duty assisted with clean-up efforts Feb. 25 in areas of Virginia hardest hit by severe weather a day earlier. Soldiers with chain saws organized in debris reduction teams helped clear fallen trees in Essex, Westmoreland, Sussex and Patrick Counties, and Soldiers in Appomattox assisted with water distribution. Virginia Army National Guard air crews flew two rotary wing aviation missions to transport emergency managers on an aerial visual assessment and also captured images for damage estimates.

“I am really pleased with how quickly and safely our personnel were able to get in position and be ready for duty on such short notice,” said Brig. Gen. Paul Griffin, director of the Virginia National Guard joint staff. “For most state active duty missions we have several days notice to prepare, but in this case we had less than 12 hours. We were able to get the critical response capabilities in place to provide local emergency responders with the additional assistance they needed with clean up after the storm.”

In Essex County, Guard engineers cleared a large tree that opened a roadway to allow personnel to access building for damage assessment and also cleared a quarter mile stretch of road to allow access to a home. Soldiers also assisted local Animal Control in freeing department vehicles mired in the mud, and they also participated in search missions of unaccounted for residents.

Griffin said Guard personnel are expected to stay on duty at least through Friday as emergency managers determine what assistance is still needed. Additional personnel were being brought on duty Thursday night to increase the debris reduction capabilities and be on standby for other possible missions.

An additional 50 Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force were on duty in Sandston, Staunton, Richmond and Fort Pickett to provide mission command, administrative and logistical support to Soldiers in the field.

The Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team provided the mission command headquarters for operations in the field and several 116th IBCT units along with Soldiers from the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion and Gate City-based 1030th Transportation Battalion provided Soldiers trained in chain saw operations for the debris reduction teams. Aviation crews from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment and Chesterfield-based Detachment 1, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment flew the rotary wing aviation missions and Airmen from the 192nd Intelligence Squadron at Langley Air Force Base provided imagery analysis support.

Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Feb. 24 in response to severe thunderstorms along with high winds and several reported tornadoes that impacted communities across the Commonwealth of Virginia. The declaration enabled public safety agencies including the Virginia National Guard, Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the Virginia Department of Transportation begin planning for appropriate resources needed for storm response and recovery.