By Steve Marshall National Guard Bureau
DOWNLOAD HI-RES / PHOTO DETAILS Virginia National Guard soldiers assigned to the Staunton-based Headquarters Company, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, stage with the Verona Fire Department to be ready for possible winter weather response operations in Verona, Va., Jan. 22, 2016. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chris Martrano
DOWNLOAD HI-RES / PHOTO DETAILS Soldiers and Verona Fire Department personnel prepare for winter weather response operations in Verona, Va., Jan. 22, 2016. The soldiers are assigned to the Virginia Army National Guard’s Headquarters Company, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Virginia National Guard photo by Army Sgt. Chris Martrano
ARLINGTON, Va., January 23, 2016 — As much of the East Coast hunkered down today in the midst of a ferocious winter storm, National Guard citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen were poised to assist local and state emergency agencies.
National Guard Bureau officials said more than 2,200 National Guard personnel from 12 states are supporting state and local authorities affected by the storm.
Governors in at least 11 states declared states of emergency, which enabled resources to be positioned to assist when the snow and high winds struck. Those states include: Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
National Guard soldiers are assisting Virginia State Police troopers and local emergency organizations in getting through heavy snow to respond to vehicle crashes and to evacuate residents who need medical assistance, and they also have helped to get equipment to a house fire.
400 Personnel Staged and Ready in Virginia
As of this morning, the Virginia Guard had about 400 personnel staged and ready in various portions of the state.
“I am extremely proud of how well our personnel are working as part of the commonwealth’s multi-agency response team,” said Army Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, Virginia’s adjutant general. “After we received the authorization from Governor [Terry] McAuliffe, we aggressively moved our forces into place so they would be ready to go when needed. It is great to see how the skills, experience and resources of our soldiers, airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force are able to assist the statewide effort to protect the citizens of the commonwealth.”
The Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is providing mission command for the response operations in the field and is working almost 25 mission requests from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to provide support to several localities as well as the Virginia State Police in Northern Virginia and along the I-81 and US 29 corridors.
“The Virginia State Police is fortunate to have the National Guard as an additional resource to aid us in our storm response efforts,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent. “When every second counts in an emergency situation, having the ability to respond as swiftly and safely as possible is essential for our troopers.”
The Virginia National Guard also has soldiers, airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force on duty in Richmond, Sandston and Fort Pickett, where they are providing mission command, administrative and logistical support for the overall mission.
McAuliffe authorized up to 500 personnel for state active duty in his initial emergency declaration, and then he increased that number to 700. The Guard could bring additional personnel on duty if needed, officials said.
The Nation’s Capital, Delaware, New York
In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser was emphatic to residents: “It has life and death implications, and (people) should treat it that way,” she said. “People should hunker down, shelter in place and stay off the roads.” The National Guard deployed 100 personnel in 30 Humvees to transport essential employees throughout the nation’s capital.
Further north in Delaware, soldiers and airmen were busy with storm response.
“We are in constant communication with [the Delaware Emergency Management Agency] and all first responders in the state,” said Army Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, Delaware’s adjutant general. “Pre-positioning our soldiers, airmen and vehicles allowed us to be the ready and reliable force we are.”
The Delaware National Guard has about 200 soldiers and airmen positioned around the state to support the citizens of Delaware throughout the storm. In coordination with DEMA, they conduct support missions ensuring that Delawareans are transported to safety and first responders and medical workers arrive to work safely.
The New York National Guard has pre-positioned 40 vehicles and 95 soldiers and airmen in the New York City and Long Island areas who are available to respond to aid local governments if directed by the governor.
Arkansas Response Winds Down
Guard personnel in Arkansas wound down their storm response yesterday. Initially, the Arkansas National Guard deployed six truck teams and three command and control support cells for 27 Humvees and 54 personnel.
Yesterday’s mission closures sent truck teams back to their readiness centers. The next step for these Guard members is to refuel, resupply and prepare the equipment to stand ready for the next mission.
Each truck team consists of four Humvee vehicles and eight National Guard service members.
During the early hours of the winter storm, the Arkansas Guard truck teams reported treacherous road conditions as sleet and snow rapidly began to accumulate across the central and southeastern regions of the state. The overnight roving patrols logged over 1,000 miles and located 18 abandoned vehicles, transported three stranded motorists to local gas stations, transported three state troopers and worked several accidents involving 18-wheelers.
(The Delaware, New York and Virginia National Guard contributed to this report.)