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Homeland Security

National Guard troops assisting civilian authorities during Mid-Atlantic winter storm

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard March 14, 2017

SANDSTON, Va. - The Virginia National Guard has nearly 200 personnel staged and ready for duty today at key locations across Northern Virginia to assist with the state's multi-agency response to possible heavy snow.

Elsewhere, Guard personnel were on duty in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, with nearly 1700 troops in place, according to figures from the National Guard Bureau.

Expected missions for the Guard include using Humvees and light/medium tactical trucks to provide transportation for first responders through deep snow or help evacuate citizens in need of shelter as well as providing debris reduction teams with chain saws to help clear roads if needed.

"Once again our Soldiers have demonstrated their ability to safely and rapidly position troops and equipment at key locations so they are ready to assist citizens of the Commonwealth during times of hazardous weather," said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the adjutant general of Virginia. "Our emergency response partners at the state and local level count on our capabilities as part of the overall response plan, and we continue to demonstrate that we are a force that will always be there when we are needed. We also owe a special thanks to our families and employers for their support that is so vital to our success."

Additional Soldiers, Airmen and Virginia Defense Force members are on duty in Richmond, Sandston and Fort Pickett providing mission command, sustainment and public information support. The VDF also has incident management assistance teams supporting Guard units at multiple field locations.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency March 13 and authorized state agencies to assist local governments as they prepare and respond to the winter weather. In a news release, he urged Virginians to prepare for this major winter storm which could dump up to a foot or more of snow in northern regions of the Commonwealth.

"Virginians may have enjoyed milder temperatures for the past several weeks, but the forecast is calling for winter weather to return to the Commonwealth this week with what could be a major winter storm for northern portions of the Commonwealth," said McAuliffe. "With this forecast in mind, all Virginians should take the necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period."

In declaring a state of emergency, the governor authorized state agencies to identify and position resources for quick response anywhere they are needed in Virginia.

"We anticipate that localities across Northern Virginia will need high mobility transport capabilities, and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management requested we stage resources in those areas in order to rapidly respond if needed," said Col. Thomas L. Morgan, III, Virginia National Guard director of joint operations. "The key to a rapid response is getting our people and equipment in place before the snow hits, so we are moving people Monday night and plan to be ready to support localities after midnight if needed."

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 and is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, Morgan said.

"If you are in a dangerous situation and need assistance, please contact your local dispatcher or call 911," Morgan explained. "If you let them know you need help, they will determine the most effective emergency services response for your situation. They will contact the Guard if it is appropriate for us to respond, and we will follow up as quickly as possible."

The Virginia National Guard last served on state active duty Jan. 7-9, 2017, when nearly 200 personnel were on duty in the Hampton Roads area with less than 12 hours notification. Soldiers were staged and ready the morning of Jan. 7, and their assistance included recovering a fire truck in Newport News and helping Virginia State Police clear abandoned vehicles in Accomack County.

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